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‘Twas on the Good Ship Venus

Submarines don’t have much rigging, which somewhat spoils the chorus, but I am delighted to hear that sailors on board Britain’s nuclear deterrent are heavily into sex and drugs. As the North Korean diplomatic standoff shows, nuclear weapons are utterly useless even within the context of the one situation in which they are supposed to be of use. Nobody has yet argued that the solution to nuclear proliferation is to start an atomic war, so what are the things for? The notion that Putin has a secret desire to send tanks rolling up the streets of Dumfries is obvious nonsense.

However, if we are going to wreck our economy by squandering US$250 billion on a redundant weapons system, it is good that at least some people are getting some fun out of it. Mind you, for $250 billion the entire nation could get high and shag like crazy for a very long time, which would be more equitable than confining the merriment to a couple of dozen people sitting on some big bombs. Michael Fallon is one of the few people in the world who would like to see nuclear weapons actually used. He is reportedly distressed that post-coital ennui or drug induced lack of coordination might reduce operational efficiency and delay the apocalypse. I sometimes suspect Fallon must have taken far too many drugs when he was young. Certainly large parts of his brain appear to have been altered to something way beyond the normal.

It is not only Major Tom who noticed there is nothing much else you can do whilst sitting in a tin can. The problem of drug-taking submariners is actually over a hundred years old. We can be fairly confident they have been shagging that long too: the new development being that they now have the choice of shagging members of the opposite sex (though I am amused to see that in the current scandal the distinction between officers and other ranks was properly observed when it came to penis insertion).

I was talking yesterday with a Tory journalist who was exultantly predicting that the emerging MP’s sexual abuse scandal would be much worse for the opposition than the Tories – purely on the grounds that “Tory girls” would be much less disposed to “make a fuss” about sexual advances from the MP’s they work for. I find that depressing on a great many levels, but have a nagging feeling it might prove true.

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When Project Fear Shoots its Bolt

Zero companies have left Catalonia. The BBC, Sky News, France24 and Deutsche Welt have all told me repeatedly today that 1500 companies have left Catalonia. Goodness knows what the Spanish media is like – El Pais, soon to be renamed The Ecstatic Francoist, has put me off looking any further. But despite the media bombardment of fake news, actually no companies have left Catalonia at all. What have left Catalonia are not 1500 companies, but 1500 emails and forms giving a change of Head Office address. The companies and the jobs are still exactly where they were. In Catalonia.

Actually, it was very helpful for the Madrid government to initiate this process, because all those companies will need Spanish offices now their main premises are no longer in Spain but in Catalonia. They can now in addition register their Catalan premises with the Catalan state company register..

We saw Project Fear in spades in Scotland in 2014, but while they threatened that no business would remain in Scotland, they were not stupid enough to claim they had actually already left. Project Fear is a lot less effective when its bluff is called. The Spanish government has managed to call its own bluff, to shoot its bolt prematurely, and it turns out to be not a real threat at all. Now what does that remind me of?

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Europe Fails a Fundamental Democratic Test

A snap analysis of social media across Europe in the major languages, excluding Spaniards and Catalans, shows about 75% of posts are broadly sympathetic to Catalan Independence – or at least sympathetic to the Catalan right to self-determination – and about 25% support the Rajoy position. It is not possible directly to extrapolate from social media users to the entire population, but at the very least we can say that the unanimous attack on the Catalans from European governments and the unequivocal support for Rajoy plainly does not reflect the views of their people.

There is every reason to suppose that, despite the massive efforts of corporate and state media, European public opinion is sympathetic to Catalonia. As it is the corporate media and political parties, rather than the general public, who commission snap opinion polls, such polls only tell you what they wish you to know. Do not therefore expect to see the evidence of the gap between European governments and their people to be “proven” any time soon. But it is there.

Which is apposite, as the success of the Catalan independence movement is in part enabled by that general discontent of those governed which is becoming more and more evident across the democratic world. That is not only predictable, it is inevitable in a world where just eight people have as much wealth as 50% of the population of the entire globe.

There are 1,500 billionaires in the world, and their total wealth of 6 trillion dollars amounts to three times the GDP of the whole of Spain plus Catalonia, totalling 46.5 million people. The situation is getting worse at an incredible rate. The wealth of the billionaires increased almost 20% last year, as a great many individual Europeans got poorer in real terms.

Ordinary people create all the wealth from which they do not benefit, and the desire for fundamental change will continue to find expression in a variety of symptoms of severe public unrest. Some of these, like Catalan Independence, are good aims in themselves. Others, like the scapegoating across Europe of immigrants for the depressed living standards caused by the massive wealth gap, are most undesirable.

But what is becoming very plain indeed is that the political and media establishments are simply the tools of the super wealthy, to maintain the state enforced economic regulation of society which has enabled them to monopolise so much wealth. That is why the people of Europe have a very different view of what is happening in Catalonia to European political elites. We are all coming slowly to perceive that the political elites are a common enemy.

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Misdirection and Catalonia

The Spanish Government’s refusal yesterday of the offer of a 20 December election in Catalonia vividly highlights that the thing they are most scared of is any kind of free and fair vote. They wish to take over all the Catalan institutions and media, and institute a judicial ban on pro-Independence campaigning, before they allow any election – that is why they prefer a six month delay. All of which yet again highlights the outrageous lie the western corporate and state media have been repeating and repeating for weeks, that only a minority in Catalonia support independence. At the last Catalan parliamentary election the explicitly pro-Independence parties gained 48% and explicitly anti-independence parties gained 39%, while the most recent recent poll, by GESOP, indicates that would not change in a new election.

Madrid prefers its elections rigged. Albert Rivera, leader of Rajoy’s coalition partners Ciudadanos, admitted it explicitly, saying that elections in Catalonia must only be held when the government can guarantee the result.

This is no surprise as Ciudadanos and Mr Rivera have only the most tenuous link to democracy. It is well known to everyone in senior diplomatic and intelligence circles of the major Western powers, that Ciudadanos originated as a highly successful astroturf operation, funded and organised by the German overseas security service, the BND. The rise of Podemos threatened the collapse of the Euro project, and Germany realised the loss of credibility of the established Spanish political parties would not enable them to counter Podemos. It was therefore decided to produce a “grassroots anti-establishment” movement, which in fact would help impose the harsh economic austerity on Spain the German interest in the Euro demanded.

When I served as Ambassador in Uzbekistan, Germany was undergoing profound foreign policy changes which finally set aside the extremely passive overseas stance Germany had adopted after World War II. This was absolutely a conscious process by the German Government. The airbase they opened at Termez in Uzbekistan, to operate into Afghanistan, was the first overseas military base Germany had opened anywhere since 1945, which they constantly told me. Side by side went a much more aggressive approach by the BND. Piggybacking on the Termez airbase, the BND created the “Islamic Jihad Union” as their first post World War II false flag operation, to provide political cover for their alliance with the Uzbek dictatorship. That precedent, re-establishing the BND role in active overseas operations, was followed by the creation of Ciudadanos, which is arguably one of the most successful intelligence operations of all time. So when you see Rivera calling for the election result in Catalonia to be “guaranteed”, that is Merkel speaking.

Franco died peacefully, still in power. 1975 is not that long ago. I was born in 1958, and by 1975 had already campaigned actively in two parliamentary elections and organised a couple of demonstrations against the American nuclear base at Mildenhall. There are plenty of prominent Spanish politicians older than me, so some of them must have a proud record of anti-dictator resistance pre-1975, right? Err, not so much.

There has never been any reckoning with the crimes of the dictator or the vast section of Spanish establishment that collaborated willingly with him. There is an unwillingness in the West to recognise the explicit Francoist DNA in Rajoy’s political party, which was founded by seven Franco ministers avowedly to continue the Franco legacy, and which Rajoy joined not long after Franco’s death, when to do so was an unabashed declaration of Francoist belief. Strangely enough, the best exposition of the current situation was given by Jake Wallis Simons on Sky News three days ago when he related what he himself had witnessed of the non-marginal prevalence of fascism in the Spanish nationalist demonstrations, and talked of the fascist salutes addressed to the Guardia Civil in their support, which the Guardia received as a compliment.

In their desire to prop up Spain and deny Catalonian rights, every single “liberal” western media outlet of note – the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Economist, etc etc – has run an article on how Catalonian independence must be stopped or it will lead to a sweeping tide of secessionism for regions across Europe. These articles never consider that perhaps, if there really is a popular desire for smaller states, it might be good to respect it. They also vastly exaggerate the likelihood of some fringe movements making ground, and fail to distinguish between regions – which do not have the right of self determination under Article 2 of the UN Charter – and peoples, which do have that right.

But they are all an exercise in misdirection. Smaller states are not a great danger to anyone. The crushing of democracy in Catalonia, the fascist salutes on the streets and the unabashed return of Francoist doctrine, is the real danger. And it is a danger all across Europe. The far right is entering government in Austria. The AFD are returning Nazi doctrine to the German parliament. Anti-Semitic slogans are infecting Italian football support. In both Poland and Hungary, Eastern Europe’s own brand of nasty right wing authoritarianism is in power.

An independent Catalonia, or Scotland, or Wallonia, does not threaten Europe. The lack of respect for liberal democratic values threatens Europe. That threat is an extremely real one. It is epitomised by the fact that even extreme police violence against the Catalans and the suspension of their democracy draws nothing but approbation from European political establishments and the EU. These are dangerous times indeed.

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Edinburgh 2 November: A Day to Stretch the Intellect

There is a good double header of events in Edinburgh on 2 November, at venues 5 minutes walk from one another. At 2pm at the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge I shall be giving a talk on Alexander Burnes, followed by a book signing.

After retiring to Sandy Bell’s for a brief refreshment, at 6pm the W. M. Watt Annual Lecture is being delivered by Professor Nur Masalha at the Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge. The Lecture is entitled Powerful Symbols and the British-Zionist Alliance: From Balfour to the Nakba . You need to book a place via the link.

This sounds very interesting and I hope gets a good turnout. It is excellent to see an official Edinburgh University function tackling this subject, when there have been so many attempts within other universities to repress free speech around it.

On a related note, I am delighted to say that I have received the first peer review of Sikunder Burnes, in Central Asian Survey, which is the accepted academic journal of note in this area. This is very important to me as, while Murder in Samarkand/Dirty Diplomacy is to my certain knowledge taught on university courses from Moscow to Rio De Janeiro and many points inbetween, it was shunned by British and US academia; an example of the systematic marginalisation of whistleblowers. Part of the plan of Sikunder Burnes was to produce such a volume of important original research it would be impossible for academia to ignore it.

Furthermore, Alexander Morrison of New College, Oxford is one of the few academics qualified in this precise area to pass judgement. Naturally his review is far from uncritical, but I would not have wished it to be. As stated in the preface, Alexander is one of the academics with whom I cooperated in the limited sense of swapping transcriptions, and I look forward to publishing a reply to some of the points in his review in a spirit of friendly discussion. I am sorry you can’t see the entire review unless you have access to academic library login credentials.

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Banning Democracy in Catalonia

There is a fundamental disconnect between the real Catalonia and the Catalonia the political Establishment and its lackey media want us to believe exists.

All of the major Western broadcasters, plus newspapers like The Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times, have repeatedly pumped out the mantra that it is only a minority in Catalonia that support Independence. They have never attempted to explain why therefore Carles Puigdemont is President, and why the pro-Independence parties got 48% at the last Catalan elections while the Spanish Nationalist parties got 39%.

There is a vital point here. The plan of the Spanish government to force new Catalan elections in January is not obviously going to give a different result. The national spirit aroused by the 2014 Scottish referendum resulted in a huge boost for the SNP at ensuing parliamentary elections. The same is likely to apply. Plus, there are indeed societies in which people en masse which will vote for you if you send armoured thugs to bludgeon their grannies. But I do not think that the Catalans are such a society. Catalans are not likely to have been convinced to abandon their hopes by the actions of the Guardia Civil.

So what happens if Rajoy calls new elections and the pro-Independence parties win again, which is highly likely? Social media shows that a great many Catalans believe that Rajoy’s answer will be to ban the pro-Independence political parties and not allow them to contest the election.

That is not as fantastic as it seems. Spanish ministers have been briefing the media that, if Independence is declared, Puigdemont will be arrested for sedition. Two major Catalan civic society leaders are already imprisoned for the same ludicrous offence, and the Head of the Catalan Police is on trial.

One commodity of which Spain is not in short supply is corrupt, Francoist judges. It will not be difficult at all to find a fascist judge who will rule that campaigning for Independence in itself constitutes “sedition”, and that pro-Independence political parties and pro-Independence campaigning should be banned as unconstitutional, an affront to the sovereign, traitorous and other such nonsense. In fact that seems to be the inescapable logic of the Rajoy position.

Indeed, the calling of a new election makes no sense at all unless the supporters of Independence are banned from contesting it. Many other measures – all an undeniable breach of human rights – are being undertaken to try to reduce the capacity of the Independence movement to campaign. TV and radio stations are being taken over by Madrid, websites and social media communication blocked. The banning of pro-Independence parties really is not a very large step further down the road. Meanwhile Rajoy has almost certainly concluded that there is no breach of human rights so blatant that other European governments will not back it as the “rule of law”.

There is no sense in which the current hardline moves of the extremist Spanish nationalists in power in Madrid will end the crisis in Catalonia. They will merely plunge it into a much more vicious phase.

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Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence, and in choosing both in rhetoric and in court to treat support for Independence as “sedition”, the Spanish government is acting way beyond the limits of a democratic society. It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is also undertaking massive blocking of communication and censorship of the internet in a manner never seen before in a “Western” state.

To move now to suspend the democratically elected Catalan administration, which is explicitly offering dialogue as an alternative to UDI, is to escalate the crisis in an unreasonable fashion, in the true meaning of the word unreasonable. All of this is truly dreadful, without even mentioning the violence inflicted on voters taking part in the peaceful Independence referendum.

As regular readers know, the EU reaction to the peaceful movement for Catalan independence has caused me to rethink my entire position on that institution. The failure to condemn the violence and human rights abuse has been bad enough, but the EU has gone still further and offered unqualified support to Spain, with the Commission specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence, and Juncker saying straight out that the EU opposes Catalan Independence.

What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. Loss of resources to the ruling elite is therefore a catastrophe. A state is not a collaborative construct voluntarily formed for mutual convenience and protection by its people. If it were, then it would be a matter of indifference to the ruling elite which particular state units people choose to form, and how these morph and form.

The idea, endorsed by the EU, that a state is an economic construct of control, in which it is legitimate to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is surely abhorrent. The EU is become simply a cartel of power, a club to promote the sectional interest of the controlling elites of European states.

Catalonia will have a few days to decide how to react to Spanish imposition of direct rule, as that has to go through legislative bodies in Madrid. Catalonia has very little capacity militarily to defend itself against Spain. But it is difficult to see how it can be serious about Independence if it makes no effort to that purpose. Some effort at physical, if non-lethal, resistance to Spanish takeover must surely be under discussion.

More importantly, however brief the lifespan of Independent Catalonia at this stage, it must during its existence delegitimise Spanish – by which I mean pre-Independence – institutions and specifically the courts. Within Catalonia, all officers of State, and particularly judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, must be suspended immediately from all duties. They should then be instantly administered an oath of loyalty to the Catalan state and a specific abjuring of loyalty to the Spanish state. Those who do not take the oath would remain suspended, and after a week become dismissed.

The alternative will be an undermining of the legitimacy of the Catalan state by its own courts, and the many corrupt pro-Madrid judges and prosecutors they contain. This will be used to counteract the Independence narrative internationally and domestically.

Spain and the EU are hiding behind “the rule of law”. The violence of the Guardia Civil was validated as enforcing the ruling of Francoist judges. The censorship of the internet, the imprisonment of dissidents, all is in accordance with the “rule of law” in Spain.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

As a footnote, I am researching my biography of George Murray. In 1710, following the death of George’s eldest brother John with the British army at the Battle of Malplaquet, his next eldest brother William was summoned home from India. The first available vessel was bound for Barcelona. William spent some time there waiting for a ship in the middle of a war. The interesting point is that the family letters refer repeatedly to William being in Catalonia and events in Catalonia. The word Spain does not appear in the correspondence at all.

I mention this purely as illustrative – and one of many thousands of examples that might be given – that the Catalans are a people and have been acknowledged as such in Europe for centuries. The right of self-determination in Article 2 of the UN Charter is given not to geographic regions but exclusively to “Peoples”. The Catalans, like the Scots, undoubtedly qualify as a “People”, something the EU has still failed to address.

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Cocoa Thoughts

I attended a State Dinner in Accra a couple of nights ago in honour of President Ouatttara of Ivory Coast. Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo Addo made a speech which included the striking fact that Ghana and Ivory Coast produce between them 65% of the world’s cocoa, and yet receive only 5.5% of the income of the world chocolate industry.

This simple fact sums up much of the dilemma of Africa; stuck in primary commodity production and still, after decades of concentrated effort, unable to develop value added or to obtain a price for commodities – and particularly for farmers – that reflects their importance to the global value chain.

Cocoa has been one of the most successful areas of endeavour for the Fairtrade movement, but all of that has only resulted in that 5.5% figure, which without Fairtrade would be still lower. It is possible to buy Ghanaian made finished chocolate product in British supermarkets now, and excellent it is too, but it has a very small market share. Producing finished chocolate in Africa has its problems; chocolate is a much more delicate cargo than cocoa beans and reacts badly to either heat or refrigeration. Recipes which overcome this problem result in a certain harshness.

There has been some progress made in processing of the raw cocoa beans in Africa into butter and solids, but not on a scale which fundamentally affects the market.

The current Ghanaian government has made a major point of this issue. Here is Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta addressing it at the G20 Summit for Africa earlier this year. There is however no desire by the political and corporate establishment of the developed world to assist in any way.

Cooperation with Ivory Coast is obviously key to progress, but the two countries lack the financial reserves that would be required to initiate effective cartelisation; while I have to admit, against my own inclinations, that a free market in sales by the cocoa farmers has provided a much better living to them than the decades of efforts at state monopoly or various forms of price intervention. In Ghana both the Minister of Trade and the Chairman of the Cocoa Board at the moment happen to be old friends of mine and I hope to discuss the possible ways forward with them over the next week or so.

The situation is even further complicated by the hypothecation of Ghana’s cocoa revenue some years ago to repay China for the Bui Hydroelectric dam project. This was always a very poor project in terms of design and available water in the Volta watershed, and has had a number of disastrous wildlife consequences. There has been a huge amount of trumpeting of Chinese “aid” projects in Africa, but my experience has been that they are even more designed to help the “donor” country than Western aid, and almost always turn out to be loan rather than grant. As with the Bui Dam project, this is usually disguised in a lack of transparency about the underlying financial arrangements, and the Chinese surge into Africa has ramped up levels of corruption still further.

All that is true throughout Africa. There has been a further development specific to Ghana. Chinese convict labour was imported to build the Bui Dam. Many of the workers absconded into the countryside, taking the earth moving equipment with them, and started illegal gold-mining. The result was the collapse of the rule of law in much of the Ghanaian countryside, and the Chinese criminal gangs introduced the widespread use of firearms to protect their illegal workings, know in Ghana as Galamsey. Word spread back to China and thousands of Chinese gang members started to arrive to join the illegal trade – of course facilitated by Ghanaian administrative corruption. The result has been a massive expansion in illegal working in Ghana with environmental consequences which include the complete devastation of several key watersheds and the wholesale pollution of community drinking water supplies.

I have known the Ankobra river for 20 years and I can assure you that, astonishing as it may be, the change is due not to seasonal factors but to illegal mining. The Pra was also until recently limpid.

As so often, Al Jazeera produces the best documentaries.

Western involvement in Africa has been a disastrous history of exploitation over six centuries, and still is. It is therefore very fashionable, particularly on the left in the West, but also in some African nationalist circles, to hail China’s surge into Africa as some sort of redress. It has always looked to me on the ground as the arrival of yet another group of rapacious neo-imperialists to exploit Africa, and every year of observation has confirmed my view, which like most of my views is not fashionable.

A recent study concluded that Chinese aid is as effective in African development as Western aid. All I can say is, that is an extraordinarily low bar.

I don’t eat much chocolate nowadays. My alarming girth is entirely the product of the drinks industry. But the other day little Cameron gave me one of his chocolate buttons, and I was absolutely shocked by the unpleasant oily texture that instantly developed, and the lack of cocoa flavour in the overly sweet taste. I have never been a chocolate snob and always enjoyed the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk flavour. But the concoction of sugar and palm oil that so quickly developed in my mouth bore no relation to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk before Kraft/Mondolez took it over. A quick google revealed they deny they have changed the recipe.

Despite all the problems, the emerging economies of Africa continue the trend of the last 20 years of growing at a faster rate than Europe or the United States. My rather unconventional suggestion is that the African states concerned should look to their improved capital formation and ability to borrow, to buy in to the major western chocolate manufacturers in a big way. Perhaps in collaboration with China, which is sitting on trillions of dollars. It will take that sort of radical shift in market conditions for the problem Nana Addo so rightly identified, to be addressed.

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Desensitised to Tragedy

Islamophobia has become so insidious, so all-pervasive, and so powerful in media culture that there is virtually no concern expressed at the probable killing in a US drone strike of a 12 year old British child, Jojo Jones, whose short life was so spectacularly horrid through absolutely no fault of his own. Child soldiers in conflict are a dreadful problem. I tried in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo to convey the extremely powerful emotions I experienced when faced very directly with those who had seen atrocities and themselves been forced to kill at primary school age.

But nobody in their right mind thinks that the answer to child soldiers is to kill them. If it is correct young Jojo is killed, I mourn him, the childhood he hardly knew and the potential for realising the dreams of normality such children always have.

But Jojo is one of many thousands of children killed by the US in its “war on terror”, including the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only the dehumanising of Muslims that causes the near total lack of visible western empathy for the nine young kids under 13 killed this year in one US raid in Yemen alone.

All the indications are that it is US doctrine that in targeting terrorists their immediate family are “fair game”. When US citizen, 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011, the Obama administration claimed it was an accident. It as a peculiar “coincidence” that in another “accident” his eight year old sister Nawar was also killed by the Americans as one of the nine infants killed in the raid just referenced. To kill one young sibling may be a misfortune. To kill two begins to look like carelessness. It amazes me that anybody believes these actions in any way combat terrorism. Rather they inspire it.

The UK does not have the death penalty. We have now also become habituated to execution of citizens by drone with no judicial process. Sally Jones appears to have been a disturbed and deeply misguided individual, but that does not justify her planned and deliberate killing by the US government. There is no evidence she was when killed involved in an any act likely to cause the imminent death of others. But society has become so callous, there is almost no reaction to her death on human rights grounds.

Terrorism is not an existential threat to the UK. It remains the case that it is one of the least likely ways that you might die; far less probable than drowning in your own bath. Our perception of the threat is magnified by the horror of the act and the way the media portray it. Most certainly it is not a threat that justifies abandoning our respect for human rights and the process of law. The standards of society have slipped in terms of respect for the sanctity of life; or at least the sanctity of Muslim life.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Carles Puigdemont Turns the Tables on Rajoy

Before his speech on Independence to the Catalan parliament, Carles Puigdemont seemed to be in an impossible position. Declare Independence and he would be immediately arrested and direct rule imposed from Madrid. Rajoy appeared to have all the angles covered; the EU had already specifically greenlighted the use of armed force in Commissioner Timmermans’ disgraceful address to the EU Parliament. The intergovernmental side of the EU, the Council, had through its President Donald Tusk called on Puigdemont not not to declare Independence but rather to enter dialogue, in terms that accepted the Spanish insistence that the very notion of Independence was inadmissible.

So Puigdemont was placed by the right wing governments of Europe into a position where if he declared Independence he would be portrayed as an unreasonable fanatic refusing dialogue, and his imprisonment would be portrayed as justified. On the other hand, if he did not declare Independence he would appear a traitor to his own supporters, would be breaking the referendum law of his own Catalan parliament and the cause of Independence would be damaged by disillusion.

The entire World was wondering how Puigdemont would deal with this fix. His answer was peculiarly brilliant. He started off by speaking at length of the history of Catalonia’s attempts to enter dialogue on more devolution, and their constant rebuttal by Madrid. This was so reasonable and effective that the live blog of the rabidly Unionist Guardian plain refused to translate or summarise any of it (see 18.31 here).

Puigdemont effectively turned the tables on Rajoy by both declaring Independence and not declaring Independence. He proclaimed the result of the referendum and said as a consequence the parliament would declare Independence, but in the next breath announced they would seek dialogue on the way forward with Spain. All media sources are saying that he stated Independence would be declared but suspended for two weeks pending dialogue. Unless the Deutsche Welt interpreter missed it, this did not come across as I listened live and I wonder if there was a last minute change to the circulated text. But the effect of what he said was much the same.

It is Rajoy who is now in the impossible position. The World has seen a very mild and moderate Puigdemont positively pleading for dialogue and mediation. It is going to be very difficult for Rajoy to arrest him for that. More importantly, Puigdemont appears to have acceded to the request of Donald Tusk and the European Council. But he has done so safe in the knowledge that Rajoy will not enter dialogue and never had any intention of doing so.

There are only two possible outcomes of a dialogue or mediation. One is greatly enhanced powers for Catalonia in a new devolution settlement. The second is an an agreed and binding Independence referendum. But Rajoy has taken a line of absolutist opposition to either of these ways forward, which opposition is fundamental to his centralising, Francoist world view. Rajoy, having whipped up Spanish nationalism to violent fever pitch, cannot give any ground to Catalonia without substantially alienating his own Francoist core support.

Puigdemont, in short, has acceded to EU calls for dialogue and negotiation which he knows Rajoy will refuse. As it becomes ever more evident that Rajoy has no plan at all except violence, the popular revulsion across Europe against the Francoists will gather momentum.

Puigdemont appeared boxed in, but he has skipped past Rajoy and left him sitting on his arse in the mud.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Europe Hostage to the Ludicrous Hyperbole of the Spanish Constitution

Borders shift, over time, as the tides of human history and interaction ebb and flow. They always have and they always will. A Historic Atlas of Europe at 100 year intervals shows up the constant flux.

All within only the last 100 years, even a really major state like Poland has started by not existing at all, having been abolished 130 years previously, then come back into existence for two decades, then been abolished again, then been reinstated once more but entirely shifted a full two hundred miles westward from its previous incarnation.

There have been six truly major boundary and status changes to Germany in the last 150 years, the last only 27 years ago.

A glance at a historical atlas of Europe century by century shows a kaleidoscope of continuing shifts in states as they form and reform, move, merge and dissolve. It is the normal state of Europe. Nor is it in any sense slowing down; this is not a process which has stopped. Even in the short period since I left university, eight states currently members of the European Union have undergone truly drastic changes to their national boundaries or nation state status.

Even Hitler was only nuts enough to think his Reich would last for a thousand years. Spain (which incidentally was almost entirely Muslim a thousand years ago) tops Hitler for mad ambition. Spain believes its current borders will last forever. The Constitution specifies the “indissoluble unity” of Spain. This plainly mad claim is the entire basis of the “legalistic” stance of Rajoy. An excellent article today by Gerry Adams in the Guardian points out that Rajoy is making negotiation impossible by insisting on the precondition that it is illegal even to discuss Catalan independence.

I do not know how long the human race will last. I tend to the optimistic assumption that it will have a good few thousand more years to run. It is vaguely amusing that some people believe that, whatever the state of Europe and human societal organisation in 3017, there will still be an indissoluble Spanish nation with its existing frontiers. I suspect those people like to forget that in 1017 their ancestors were Muslims. They also, of course, do want to see a border change in having Gibraltar returned to Spain – something in which I always supported them unequivocally, until the Guardia Civil in Catalonia beating old women one Sunday, and the fascists marching down the street the next, gave me doubts.

I suppose if you are a right wing Catholic you are more inclined to a mystical view of indissoluble human unions that people whose life view is more grounded in reality. Nobody in their right mind believes any of Europe’s current political boundaries will last forever. The entire Western Establishment and media did not just recognise, but pushed for, their dissolution when it was Yugoslavia or Serbia in question. But they have now, for reasons of right wing solidarity, adopted Spain’s “indissoluble union” hyperbole. Even Establishment outlets like the Economist which once claimed intellectual credentials, proclaim this daft clause as though it were God’s writ.

The boundaries of Europe change, all the time. They have throughout human history. The pace of those natural shifts has not slowed. It is part of the ebb and flow of human societies on this wonderful, culturally rich continent. To attempt suddenly to freeze all national borders is not just gross hypocrisy, given the attitude of the same political leaders to other border changes and to Spain’s demand for Gibraltar. It is an effort that could only be sustained by ever-increasing use of violence.

Spain has decided to stand on the crazed idea that it is indissoluble. The logic of that is that, if 100% of Catalans or Basques were to seek Independence, it still should not be allowed. Is that really a position Europe’s politicians wish to adopt?

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Normalising Russia

There has been surprisingly little coverage of almost three hundred arrests yesterday of protestors across Russia demonstrating against Putin on his birthday. While the evidence so far is that demonstrations were not suppressed with the same level of brutal thuggery as witnessed in Spain, many more arrests were made which will have long term consequences for protestors.

I fear the reason it was not covered much is that it is unsurprising. We have become habituated to the idea that democracy has not really taken root in Russia, and probably will not. But Putin’s continued domination of Russian politics, his playing of the system to avoid the restriction on number of terms, the elimination of the opposition media and the gradual but relentless tightening of the limits of free expression, are not inevitable.

Children of the Cold War like myself were brought up to view Russia as isolated, threatening and entirely irrelevant to contemporary European culture. That of course is wrong. Russian writers, thinkers, scientists and composers are central to the very fabric of European civilisation. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Bulgakov are as central to our thought as Tchaikovsky is to our emotion.

The end of the Cold War promised to reunite Europe’s great cultural traditions. The neo-imperial ambition of the western powers, and their remorseless pursuit of the neoliberal agenda, has since again isolated Russia from the West, despite the fact that very many (myself included) have been very thankful to Putin for redressing the balance of Western foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, where the USA’s Saudi driven support for Sunni jihadists is barking mad.

One result of the neoliberal fury at Putin’s great effectiveness at frustrating their international designs, has been the McCarthy like anti-Russian phobia sweeping the USA. Today is exactly one year since the FBI announced it was investigating Russian “hacking” allegedly to damage neoliberal idol Hillary, and in that twelve months the one thing that is clear is that there is not one single solid bit of evidence to back it up. It is perfectly possible both to recognise that Trump is a disaster, and to understand that the Trump/Russia scandal is the biggest Fake News of all.

But none of that must blind us to the very real democratic deficit in Russia, and the very real failures in Russian democracy, which is going backwards not forwards. Nor must it blind us to the very nasty anti-Muslim and anti-refugee subtext to Russian nationalism, which explains some of the strange preferences of Russian media in the West. Those arrests of demonstrators yesterday ought not have happened. Russia can be better than this.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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That Mythical Pro-Spanish Majority in Catalonia

The media constantly pumps out the lie that there is a silent anti-independence majority in Catalonia, which is merely curiously invisible.

Consider this. The highest turnout ever at an election in Catalonia was the 74.9% in the 2015 Regional Election, with 4,130.196 people casting their vote. At Spanish general elections turnout is even lower, at 69%. A minimum of 25.1% of the population never vote at all. Of that 25% who do not vote, some will be dead, or moved away, but most are probably just not civilly engaged.

The trick of the pro-Spanish lobby is to boycott polls on Independence, and then claim that this minimum 25% of the electorate who never vote at all anyway, are anti-Independence and participating in the boycott. In truth there are absolutely no grounds to attribute the minimum 25% habitual non-voters as anti-independence. Particularly the dead ones.

So in fact the 2,044,038 votes cast in favour of Independence on Sunday, that survived the police and could be counted, already amounted to 49.6% of the highest number of votes ever cast in any election in Catalonia. When you add in the hundreds of thousands of votes confiscated by the police, and the voters who were deterred by the terrible violence, there is no doubt whatsoever that Sunday’s referendum would have seen a healthy majority for Independence on any probable turnout figure.

So that is the answer on the “pro-Spanish silent majority”. Many of them are very silent indeed, being dead but still on the register. Most of the others have never voted in their lives. The trick of claiming all non-voters as No voters is, frankly, pathetic. It says a huge amount about the corruption of the corporate media, and in the UK especially the BBC, that they have been pumping out this ridiculous “silent majority” narrative without ever analysing the figures realistically.

Why is the pro-Spanish majority so silent? Because it is a fiction. The very existence of the pro-Independence majority in the Catalan parliament is evidence of that fact. At the Catalan parliamentary elections, pro-Independence parties got 48% and anti-Independence parties got 39%. The other 13% went to parties which are agnostic or divided on the issue. But your career in the mainstream media is dependent on failing to notice such inconvenient fact.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Suspending the Catalan Parliament, Spain Destroys the EU’s “Rule of Law” Figleaf.

It takes a very special kind of chutzpah systematically to assault voters, and drag them from polling booths by their hair, and then say that a low turnout invalidates the vote. That is the shameless position being taken by the Europe wide political Establishment and its corporate media lackeys. This Guardian article illustrates a refinement to this already extreme act of intellectual dishonesty. It states voter turnout was 43%. That ignores the 770,000 votes which were cast but physically confiscated by the police so they could not be counted. They take voter turnout over 50%.

That is an incredibly high turnout, given that 900 voters were brutalised so badly they needed formal medical treatment. The prospect of being smashed in the face by a club would naturally deter a number of people from voting. The physical closure of polling stations obviously stopped others from voting. It is quite incredible that in these circumstances, over 50% of the electorate did succeed in casting a vote.

To enable this of course required some deviation from norms. People were allowed to vote at any polling station. The right wing German politician from the Bavarian Christian Democrats, Manfred Weber, leads the largest group in the European Parliament, which includes Rajoy’s Popular Party. He was therefore the first speaker in the EU Parliament debate on events in Catalonia, and managed not to mention police violence or human rights at all in his speech. He did however find time to mock the Catalan authorities for making these last minute changes in procedures to voting rules, which he said invalidated the result.

Weber is no stranger to using spurious “legalities” to support the jackbooted oppressor. His party has attempted to close down EU Commission programmes to build schools and clinics for Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, on the grounds they do not have planning permission from the Israeli authorities.

The obvious answer to the objection of Weber and others on the running of the referendum, is to have another one agreed by all and run in strict accordance with international standards. Yet strangely, despite their complaints about the process, they do not want to have a better process. They rather do not wish people to be allowed to vote at all.

There are however no arguments that the Catalan Parliament was elected in anything but the proper manner. Its suspension by the Spanish Constitutional Court – a body on which 10 out of 12 members are political appointees – is therefore not due to any doubts about the Catalan Parliament’s legitimacy.

No, the Catalan Parliament has been suspended because the Constitutional Court fears it may be about to vote in a way that the Spanish government does not like.

Note that it has not even done this yet. Nobody knows how its members will actually vote, until they vote. The Constitutional Court is suspending a democratically elected body in case it takes a democratic vote of its members.

This makes the EU look pretty silly. It was looking pretty silly anyway. I telephoned the Cabinet today of Frans Timmermans, the EU Commissioner who told the European Parliament that Spain was entitled to use force against the Catalans and it had been proportionate. I spoke to a pleasant young man responsible for the “rule of law and fundamental rights” portfolio in the Cabinet. I got through by using my “Ambassador” title.

Here is the thing. He was genuinely shocked to hear that people thought the Commission’s support for use of force was wrong. He stated that it had not been the intention of Timmermans to say the use of force was proportionate, rather it must be proportionate. He became very agitated and refused to answer when I repeatedly questioned him as to whether he thought the use of force had in fact been proportionate. I suggested to him rather strongly that in refusing to acknowledge the disproportionate use of force, he was in effect lying. I pointed out that Timmermans had supported use of force and said “rule of law” over and over again, but scarcely mentioned human rights.

Here is the thing. It was plain that his shock was genuine, and he had no idea whatsoever of the social media reaction to Timmermans speech. I told him to search Timmermans on twitter and facebook and see for himself, and he agreed to do so. The problem is, these people live in a Brussels bubble where they interact with other Eurocrats and national diplomats, and members of the Establishment media, but have no connection at all to the citizenry of the EU. Nor had he seen the Amnesty International report, which I subsequently emailed him.

The rule of law is not everything. Apartheid was legally enforced in South Africa. Mr Weber’s Nazi antecedents had laws. British colonialism was enforced by laws. Nor is the administration of the law always impartial. Apartheid had its judges. Pinochet had judges to enact his version of the “rule of law”.

Actually all dictators are very big on “the rule of law”.

The most sinister thing Timmermans said to the European Parliament was “There can be no human rights without the rule of law”. Sinister because he did not balance it with “there can be no rule of law without human rights”.

What Spain is attempting now to impose on Catalonia is rule of law without democracy. I am going to be most interested to see how Brussels manages to justify that. We are seeing a whipping up of hatred by a central government against a national and linguistic minority and a suppression of its freedoms and institutions.

The highly politicised Spanish Constitutional Court, in suspending a democratically elected parliament because it does not like its views, has pointed up today that it is not sufficient for the EU to simply parrot “rule of law”. Spain currently has a Francoist Party in power with a Francoist judiciary intent on closing down democracy in Catalonia.

The rule of law within the EU has to stem from democracy, and to respect human rights. Neither is true in Rajoy’s Spain.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Paedophilia and Politicians

I am genuinely confused following today’s official police report that paedophilia allegations against Edward Heath were credible enough to bear investigation. It does not surprise me that powerful politicians were protected from investigation in their lifetime. It is sad and sick, but not surprising. In the large majority of cases – Heath, Janner, Brittan, Freud, Smith, activities at Elm Guest House and Dolphin Square and more – we will never really know the full truth.

But my confusion is this.

These are not “copycat” allegations, because they were hushed up at the time. Yet there were, undeniably, a total of scores of allegations of paedophile abuse against politicians, spread right across the country, made by people nobody listened to and who in the vast majority of cases had no knowledge of each other.

Now there are not a similar tranche of historic allegations of other crimes against politicians. There is no evidence of historic shoplifting allegations, and surprising little of historic fraud and corruption allegations. Sexually, there is some limited number of historic adult rape allegations, but not nearly on the scale of the historic paedophilia allegations.

Why? It is not a rhetorical question. I genuinely do not understand it.

Paedophilia is in fact thankfully rare in society. It is notoriously difficult to estimate but medical authorities rate sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children at around 2% of the male population. But that is a figure for those who feel any kind of attraction, not for those who are prepared to act on it. That figure is far, far smaller. But it is very hard to quantify. There are approximately 20,000 convictions per year in the UK, but as the crime mostly happens within families that is certainly an understatement of the incidence. Most of the convictions also involve a family relationship.

To my knowledge, no significant proportion of the historic allegations against politicians involve their own family members. This makes them part of a still rarer group, those who set out to procure the sexual services of children with whom they have no connection. I do not see any room to doubt that Parliament had, over a period of decades, an incidence of criminals that indulged in this odious pattern of behaviour, that was very much higher than the incidence in the general population.

I ask again, why? I do not think power and impunity is enough of an answer. They were doing something the vast, vast majority of us would never do, no matter how sure to “get away with it”.

I can only think of two explanations. The first, and unlikely, is some sort of organisation of paedophiles designed to help each other into parliament. The second and probable explanation is that the desire for political power often reflects a personality disorder which leads to other aberrant behaviour, such as paedophilia.

It is rather important for society that we come to understand this, as it has severe implications for the way we organise society. Unfortunately, Theresa May, whether by design or incompetence, made such a pig’s ear of the Inquiry into historic child abuse, I fear our best chance has passed.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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The EU Doubles Down on Backing For Rajoy

The European Commission doubled down on its support for the paramilitary violence against civilians of all ages in Catalonia, in the debate in the European Parliament today. I watched in growing astonishment as events unfolded.

The Commission was represented by Vice President Frans Timmermans, who opened with a statement. He described the referendum in Catalonia as illegal and the actions of the Spanish police as justified, appropriate and proportionate to maintain the rule of law. He argued that there can be no human rights without the rule of law. I was expecting him to make the concomitant statement that there can be no rule of law without human rights, but he very pointedly did not say that.

In the “debate” the political groupings of the EU parliament got to make brief statements through one speaker each, starting with the largest grouping and ending with the smallest. It was only once you got down to the very small parties that human rights were mentioned at all, but they did it repeatedly. In responding to the debate, Timmermans ignored this angle entirely.

Timmerman said “rule of law” an amazing 12 times during his brief closing statement, and said “human rights” or “fundamental rights” precisely zero times. At no stage did Timmermans acknowledge that the Spanish Guardia Civil had viciously attacked peaceful civilians of all ages.

In fact, Timmerman’s statement and response together, with their refusal to recognise at any stage any rights of the citizen, and their forthright endorsement of the right of the state to use force, could have been uttered without altering a word by Franco or Pinochet.

The refusal of any of the larger parties even to contemplate for one moment the possibility that the Catalan people might have a right to
self-determination, was chilling. The so called “liberal” Verhofstadt, who argued that we “know” the Catalan majority is against independence so there is no requirement to actually vote, was beneath his veneer of bonhommie perhaps the most sinister of all. Only the Greens mentioned the UN Charter and the right of self-determination. Such was the extraordinary tenor of the general advocacy of crushing Catalan aspirations, that the Polish Law and Justice Party came across as more reasonable than the “mainstream” of the EU.

It was, in short, horrific. I am afraid to say that it left me in no doubt whatsoever that I have made the right choice in declining further to support membership of the EU.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Catalonia: Rajoy Moves Towards Extreme Measures

Things have taken a much more sinister turn in Catalonia, without sufficient notice being paid internationally. The leader of the Catalan regional police force has been formally arraigned for sedition by the Spanish attorney general, for refusal to comply enthusiastically with the beating up of old women. That carries a minimum jail sentence of four years. It is the first step towards major imprisonment of Catalan leaders. It is also extremely significant that this first step is aimed at decapitating the only disciplined and armed force under some measure of Catalan government control. What does that tell you about Rajoy’s next move?

This extreme action against Major Trapero is precisely in line with last night’s ultra hardline address by a man with the comic opera name of Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia. It is hard to take seriously anyone named after a whiskey, but we live in such a strange world that this unelected, far right and immensely corrupt, inbred buffoon could spout about democracy and accuse anyone who did not bow the knee to him of disloyalty and sedition. That precisely prefigures the legal action taken against Major Trapero. It can only be a precursor to a Spanish attempt to impose physical control on Catalonia and imprison its leaders. Having rejected both dialogue and mediation, I see no other direction Rajoy will take.

The Catalan government has said it will declare Independence within days. I am not, and have never been, a pacifist. A vital duty of any state is the defence of its citizens. Once Catalonia declares Independence it will be in a different position as a state than as a movement for Independence within Spain. The highly impressive and disciplined non-violence of the Independence movement will no longer be appropriate. But physically, I am not aware of any capacity to defend itself against the Spanish forces which there is every sign Rajoy will unleash immediately after any Declaration of Independence. Catalonia will also need to move instantly to dismantle any parts of the state fabric, and particularly the judiciary and prosecutorial service, which may remain loyal to Madrid,

The EU failed to draw a line in the sand when Rajoy’s Francoist paramilitary thugs beat up old ladies, en masse, before the eyes of the whole world. Rajoy will be certain to calculate that if he now invokes article 155, seizes Catalonia by force, and imprisons all the Catalan leadership for 30 years for rebellion, that the EU will continue to back him. Following the “royal” address yesterday and the extreme charges against Major Trapero today, the Francoist solution seems to me to be where we are heading, with nobody in any position of authority in Europe making the slightest effort to stop it.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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I Am Obliged to Reconsider My Support for the European Union

To my own astonishment, and after a full 36 hours of hard thinking to try and escape this conclusion, I am in intellectual honesty obliged to reconsider my lifelong support for the European Union, due to the unqualified backing of the EU Commission for the Spanish Government’s dreadful repression in Catalonia.

This is very difficult for me. I still much favour open immigration policy, and the majority of Brexiteers are motivated at base by racist anti-immigrant sentiment. Certainly many Brexiteers share in the right wing support for Rajoy’s actions, across Europe. I have been simply stunned by the willingness of right wingers across the internet, including on this blog, to justify the violence of the Spanish state on “law and order” grounds. It is a stark warning of what we might face in Scotland in our next move towards Independence, which I have always believed may be made without the consent of Westminster.

But not all who oppose the EU are right wing. There are others who oppose the EU on the grounds that it is simply another instrument of power of the global 1% and an enforcer of neo-liberalism. I had opposed this idea on the grounds it was confusing the policies of current EU states with the institution itself, that it ignored the EU’s strong guarantees of human rights, and its commitment to workers’ rights and consumer protection.

I have to admit today that I was wrong, and in fact the EU does indeed function to maintain the global political elite, and cares nothing for the people.

The Lisbon Treaty specifically incorporated the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into basic European Union law.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the Spanish Guardia Civil on Sunday contravened the following articles:

Article 1: The Right to Human Dignity
Article 6: The Right to Liberty or Security of Person
Article 11: Freedom of Expression and Information
Article 12: Freedom of Assembly and Association
Article 54: Prohibition of Abuse of Rights

I would argue that these were also breached:

Article 21: Non-discrimination
Article 22: Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Diversity

The European Commission is obliged to abide by this Charter by Article 51. Yet when the Spanish government committed the most egregious mass violation of human rights within the European Union for a great many years, the EU Commission deliberately chose to ignore completely its obligations under the European Charter of Fundamantal Rights in its response. The Commission’s actions shocked all of intellectual Europe, and represented a complete betrayal of the fundamental principles, obligations and basic documents of the European Union.

This is the result. The disgusting, smirking Margaritas Schinas of the European Commission refuses to face up to the intellectual vacuity of the EU’s position. He is also lying, because he claims to be limited in matters beyond the Commission’s competence, when he knows perfectly well that the EU Commission is ignoring its obligations under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

That video was a key factor in persuading me, after 44 years of actual enthusiasm for the EU, it is no longer an organisation which I can support.

900 people were so injured by the Guardia Civil that they had to go for formal medical treatment. Officers, in full riot gear, baton charged entirely peaceful lines of voters, smashed old ladies on the head with weapons, pulled young women by the hair and stamped on them on the ground, threw people down flights of stairs, fired rubber bullets into people sitting on the street and broke a woman’s fingers one by one.

To take the “legalistic” argument, even if you accept the referendum was illegal (and I shall come to that), that in no way necessitates that sort of violence. It could be argued the referendum’s result had no legal effect, but the act of the referendum itself is in that case a form of political demonstration. If that involved abuse of public funds, then legal consequences might follow. There was no cause at all to inflict mass violence on the voters. The actual violence was absolutely disproportionate, unprovoked and undoubtedly met the bar of gross and systematic human rights abuse by the Spanish state.

Yet the EU reacted as if no such abuse had ever happened at all, and the world had not seen it. The statement of the EU Commission totally ignored these absolutely shocking events, in favour of an unequivocal statement of absolute support for Rajoy:

Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal.
For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.
We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.
Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.
We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.

I speak fluent diplomatese, and this is an unusual statement in its fulsomeness. It contradicts itself by saying “this is an internal matter” but then adding “these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation” which is an unequivocal statement of opposition to Catalan independence.

The Commission later claimed that to comment on the violence by the Spanish Authorities is beyond its competence, a plain lie due to Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. But what was in fact outwith Commission competence was this statement of opposition to Catalan independence.

It was also extremely unusual – in fact I cannot think of another example – of the EU Commission specifically to endorse by name Mariano Rajoy, let alone immediately after he had launched a gross human rights abuse.

Condemnation would have been too much to expect; but these gratuitous endorsements were a slap in the face to anybody with a concern for human rights in Europe. Also, in diplomatese, I should have expected the mildest of hidden rebukes in the statement; I would have been annoyed by “The Commission is sure the Spanish Government will continue to meet its obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights” as too weak, but it is the kind of thing I would have expected to see.

Instead Juncker chose to make no qualification at all in his support for Rajoy.

Perhaps as a former diplomat I put much more weight on these little things than might seem sensible, but to me they are the unmistakeable tells of what kind of right wing authoritarian institution the EU has become, and why I can no longer offer it my support.

I now want to turn to the wider question of whether the Catalonian referendum was indeed illegal. This argument must always come back to the Charter of the United Nations , which states at

Article 1 (2) To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

It is worth noting that there is no qualification at all on “self-determination of peoples”. It is not limited to decolonisation, as sometimes falsely claimed. The phrase is repeated in the separate UN Declaration on Decolonisation, as the principle plainly is applicable in that context. But it is not limited to that context and appears in the Charter outwith that context.

The question of what constitutes a “people” is a thorny one. NATO were sufficiently convinced the Kosovans were a “people” to go to war for their right to self-determination, while in terms of domestic law of Yugoslavia or Serbia their independence was every bit as illegal as Catalonian independence is under Spanish law. The purveyors of the “illegal” argument, in Spain and in the EU, have never deigned to us why the Kosovans are a “people” with the right to self-determination whereas the Catalans are not.

In this limited sense, NATO and the EU were right over Kosovo. If the Kosovans are a “people”, their right to self determination under the UN Charter could not be nullified by domestic Yugoslav or Serbian legislation. The same is true of the Catalans. If they are a “people”, Spanish domestic legislation cannot remove their right of self-determination. The rights conferred by the UN Charter are inalienable. A people can never give up its right of self-determination. Indeed, those arguing that the Catalans contracted into the current Spanish constitution are heading into a legal ambush as they have already admitted the Catalans are a people with the right of self-determination.

Indeed the Spanish constitution already admits Spain contains separate nationalities. The preamble of section 2 to the Spanish Constitution reads:

Section 2. The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.

Remember, the right to self-determination is inalienable. Once you have acknowledged the existence of different nationalities, the Spanish Constitutional Court cannot legitimately deny their right to self-determination. What it can legitimately do is to judge on their constitutional arrangements within Spain. It cannot legitimately prevent them from determining to leave.

I do not see any doubt that the Catalans are a “people”. They have their own language. They have their own culture. Most importantly, there are over one thousand years of written records of their existence as a separate “people” with those attributes and an extremely long, if in some cases occasionally broken, history of their own institutions.

I do not think it is seriously arguable that the Catalans are not a “people”. It is also the answer to the frankly childish comparison, made by right wingers, to the South East of England breaking away. There is no legitimate argument that the South East of Englanders are a separate “people” in the sense of the UN Charter. The same applies to Northern Italy. Belgium, however, does include different peoples with the right of self-determination, should they choose to exercise it.

The fact that a “people” has the right of self-determination gives them, of course, the right to choose, including the right to choose to remain within their existing state. That right to choose was all the Catalonian government was seeking to offer. The Spanish government and courts are implementing a domestic law, but that domestic law is incompatible with overarching wider rights. As journalists point out in that EU Commission video above, the Turkish courts are correctly implementing domestic law in jailing journalists and academics. It is not enough for Spain to say it is implementing law when the law itself is illegitimate. Jews were “lawfully” rounded up in 1930’s Germany. Gandhi and Mandela were “lawfully” imprisoned.

I will never forget working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as the South Africa (Political) officer in 1986, when the policy of the Thatcher government was explicit that black activists jailed under the apartheid laws were lawfully detained, and that apartheid forces breaking up illegal Soweto demonstrations, in precisely the manner seen against voters in Catalonia, were acting lawfully. Over thirty years, the acknowledgement of the overarching internationally guaranteed basic rights appeared to have made progress. But the EU Commission has just turned its back on all of that.

It is not just the Commission. Macron, May and Merkel have all declared unequivocally against Catalonian independence, while refusing to make any comment at all on the state violence as an “internal affair”. This from Guy Verhofstadt is as good as EU reaction gets, yet it is still entirely mendacious:

I don’t want to interfere in the domestic issues of Spain but I absolutely condemn what happened today in Catalonia.
On one hand, the separatist parties went forward with a so-called referendum that was forbidden by the Constitutional Court, knowing all too well that only a minority would participate as 60 % of the Catalans are against separation.
And on the other hand – even when based on court decisions – the use of disproportionate violence to stop this.
In the European Union we try to find solutions through political dialogue and with respect for the constitutional order as enshrined in the Treaties, especially in art. 4.
It’s high time for de-escalation. Only a negotiated solution in which all political parties, including the opposition in the Catalan Parliament, are involved and with respect for the Constitutional and legal order of the country, is the way forward.

Verhofstadt accepts without question the right of the Spanish Constitutional Court to deny the Catalan right to self-determination, and like every other EU source does not put an argument for that or even refer to the existence of that right or to the UN Charter. He claims, utterly tendentiously to know that 60% of the Catalan people oppose independence. That is plainly untrue. In the last Catalonian assembly elections, 48% voted for pro-Independence parties and another 5% for parties agnostic on the issue. On Sunday, 55% of the electorate voted. A quarter of those votes were confiscated by police, but the votes of 42% of the electorate could be counted and were 90% for Independence. There is no reason to suspect the confiscated ballots were any different. Verhofstadt does at least acknowledge the disproportionate violence to stop the referendum, thus correctly attributing the blame. This is the only statement I have seen from any EU source which contains any truth whatsoever.

To withdraw a lifetime of support for the EU is not a light decision. I have delayed it for hard consideration, so that the emotions aroused by the Spanish government violence could die down. I am also very confident, knowing how these things work, that Rajoy had briefed other EU leaders in advance that he was going to close down the referendum, and their statements of support had been pre-prepared. Diplomatic wheels grind slowly, and I assumed there would be some rowing back from these original statements once bureaucracies had time to react to the excessive violence. In fact there has been no significant softening of the hard line.

In itself, even this incident would not be enough to make me denounce my support for the European Union. But it illustrates, in a way that I cannot deny, an argument that has been repeatedly urged on me and which I have been attempting to deny. The principles of the European Union and indeed the content of its treaties are something I continue strongly to support. But the institution has in fact been overrun by the right wing cronyism of the neo-liberal political class, and no longer serves the principles for which it ostensibly stands. It is become simply an instrument of elite power against the people.

Today, and with a greater sadness than you can imagine, I withdraw my support for membership of the European Union.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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The Gross Dishonesty of the Mainstream Media on Catalonia

Due to social media, the mainstream media can no longer hide what happens. But they can attempt to frame our perceptions of it. What happened yesterday in Catalonia is that paramilitary forces attacked voters who were trying to vote. The mainstream media has universally decided to call the voters “protestors” rather than voters. So next time you go to your polling station, apparently what you are doing is protesting. This kind of distortion through misuse of language is absolutely deliberate by professional mainstream journalists. In a situation where thousands of peaceful voters were brutalised, can anybody find a single headline in the mainstream media which attributes responsibility for the violence correctly?

This was a headline on the Guardian front page at 10.29am today. The people who wrote it are highly educated media professionals. The misleading impression a natural reading gives is absolutely deliberate.

Maintaining the Establishment line in face of reality has been a particular problem for picture editors. The Daily Telegraph has produced a whole series of photos whose captions test the “big lie” technique to its limits.

Note the caption specifically puts the agency for the “clash” on the people. “People clash with Spanish Guardia Civila…”. But the picture shows something very different, a voter being manhandled away from the polling station.

Actually what they are doing is preventing voters from entering a polling station, not preventing a riot from attacking a school, which is the natural reading of the caption.

In fact the firemen are trying to shield people walking to vote from the paramilitaries. The firemen were attacked by the Guardia Civilia shortly after that.

Sky News every half hour is repeating the mantra that the Catalan government claims a mandate for Independence “after a referendum marred by violence”, again without stating what caused the violence. In general however Sky’s coverage has been a great deal better than the BBC; Al Jazeera has been excellent.

I strongly suspect that were it not for social media, UK mainstream media would have told us very little at all. This is an object lesson in how the mainstream media still seek to continue to push fake news on us in the age of citizen journalism. They no longer have a monopoly on the flow of raw information; what they can do is to attempt to distort perceptions of what people are seeing.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

View with comments