Mr Murray Goes to Washington

After a 16,000 person petition to the State Department and letter writing and lobbying including by Jeremy Corbyn, Roger Waters and Daniel Ellsberg, I have been granted a 10 year US visa. Following my initial refusal of ESTA clearance and the offer then withdrawal of help from the US Embassy in London, it is only fair to say that the staff of the US Consulate in Belfast could not have been more pleasant and helpful, and my “interview” lasted thirty seconds. It is however a disgrace and an insult that the US issues visas in Belfast but not Edinburgh.

I will be going to Washington in a week to have the great honour to chair the presentation of the Sam Adams Award to John Kiriakou – the CIA agent who blew the whistle on waterboarding, and was jailed for it as part of the disgraceful Obama/Clinton War on Whistleblowers.

I shall also be speaking at the World Beyond War conference at American University, on the subject of peaceful conflict resolution. There are many really interesting speakers I am very much looking forward to hearing. I am sorry to say that the conference is completely sold out so it is now too late to register. But much of it will be livestreamed by the Real News.

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London Calling

London Calling, Alan Knight’s superb documentary on BBC bias during the Independence Referendum, had its first showing to a group in Lanark last week. It was very warmly received and sparked a great deal of discussion.

The plan now is for the documentary to be viewed by groups as a communal experience and basis for meetings and discussion. It really is both interesting and, at times, shocking even to me. Despite having been involved in making it, I was roused to real anger the first time I saw it all through. Local Yes groups can organise meetings to show the film, and if they want I am happy to come along as an accompanying speaker. Alternatively Paul Kavanagh I understand to be willing to do the same. Or you can just have the film and discuss yourselves.

Decent audio-visual systems for showing to a small audience are not as difficult to get hold of at many meeting venues as they used to be, but if any groups are struggling we will find a way to provide equipment as well as the film. Personally I have no problem with preaching to the converted – inspiring the troops and arming them with arguments is important and worthwhile. I am prepared to speak on Independence to pretty well anyone who invites me! I have some very concrete ideas on how to counter BBC bias come Indyref2.

The documentary will be released eventually free on the internet, but the producers are keen to use it first as a part of the popular involvement in debate that was such a feature of the Independence referendum.

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The Black Stones, and Other Ghosts of Beeston Regis

Tens of thousands of people follow this blog, direct and through facebook and twitter. I believe they mostly do so because of the posts I write which present facts the mainstream media elides, or a commentary designed to open up radical ideas for discussion. I am always very grateful that so many people are prepared to consider alternative ways of considering news and politics.

But it is also just an intensely personal blog, where sometimes I work through my own thoughts and experiences in life from a variety of motives, and in the hope that they may strike a chord with some people. Recent events have caused me to think back over my own childhood, and frankly I do not expect this next to be of much interest at all to the large majority of habitual readers. I am recording this because I want the knowledge to survive me, from a feeling that folk tradition is important.

I was looking up the postcode for Beeton Regis church to tell somebody how to get there, and in doing so came across the wikipedia entry for Beeston Regis. It includes this passage:

The strange story of Farmer Reynolds’ stone[edit]

Within the churchyard is a large stone being used to cover a grave. It is approximately 4 feet (1.2 m) long x 2 feet (0.61 m) x 18 inches (460 mm) high, being a rectangular block of granite, with circular depressions on the uppermost surface. On each side is inscribed the names of the grave’s occupants. This is originally one of a pair which stood at either side of a pathway in the yard of the farmhouse, in the grounds of the ruined Beeston Priory. The path itself led to what is now known as the Abbot’s Freshwater Spring Pond.

A local tale says that about 1938–41, when both boulders were in place, a farmer named James Reynolds often drove his horse and cart along this pathway. Several times, a hooded grey ghost would hide behind two boulders and would leap out from behind one of the stones at sunset, and try to grab the horse’s reins before vanishing. This, although terrifying the animals, seems not to have perturbed the man unduly. However, he ordered that the stone in question be laid upon his grave after his death, in an attempt at ‘laying’ the apparition. James Reynolds died in 1941 and, in accordance with his wishes, the boulder now lies atop his grave, his wife Ann Elizabeth also being interred there in 1967. There is no record as to whether or not the ‘exorcism’ was successful, and indeed, a local woman who knew the Reynolds could not confirm the story. The other stone of the pair can now be seen lying against the north wall of the churchyard.

In fact these stones were not originally in any of the places stated. The priory farm had a massive old tithe barn, right on the main Cromer road. The ancient road had become depressed through use below its hedgerows, and there was a grass verge bordering the barn, about a foot high and a couple of feet wide to the road. There in the grass and part embedded in the verge were these two large black granite boulders.

In the early 1960s we used to walk past them twice every day as we walked the mile to and from Sheringham Primary School. Legend was that they were haunted, and that after dark they would roll across to the other side of the road. This was associated with ghosts in some way that was not entirely clear, but linked to the monks of the priory. I therefore recognise the lines of the Wikipedia story. We were always scared walking past them at night and used to run past the spot.

At some point the stones were removed from the highway onto the farm itself – I believe about the time the tithe barn was demolished. At first the façade wall and great wooden doors of the tithe barn were left standing as it was contiguous with the farm wall. By the time the stones were removed from the highway I was either an adult or had an adult understanding, and was angry that these stones – which were an important part of community folklore – had been removed from the highway into the farm, as I was convinced they had been part of the highway and not on land belonging to the farm.

You have to know Norfolk to understand why these boulders had this mystic reputation. There are no boulders in Norfolk. The houses and churches are built out of flint beach pebbles. There is no source of granite for hundreds of miles. A primary school teacher whose name I remember as Donhau explained to 10 year old me that they are glacial erratics, left here by the receding last ice age, and it is undoubtedly true that the North Norfolk ridge is its terminal moraine. He also said that the apparently man made depressions in them were erosion by the ice. All of which makes sense, and it would make even more so if there were anything else remotely like them scattered around. But I see no contradiction between them both being glacial erratics and being used by the local Iceni for the sort of rituals Celts did with stones with depressions elsewhere. If they held the aura they did for the entire local community in 1960, how much more did they 2000 years earlier?

The legend of Black Shuck as recounted on the Wikipedia page is correct, although it misses out the universal belief that if you saw it you would die shortly after. But it misses the legend connected to Orban Beck. This was reputed to be bottomless, and the legend was that at night you could see a horse and cart being driven into it by a dead man. This again I am inclined to suspect was a folk memory of a Celtic chariot burial or ritual.

What I am struggling to explain to you was how, in what was then a very small and tight knit rural community, these legends were part of the everyday reality we lived in. I have been trying and failing to recall how I first learned them, but I think they were passed from child to child rather than taught us by adults, though they certainly were subsequently confirmed to us by adults. Of course they did not believe in them. But nor would they lightly scoff at them.

I am happy I recorded all that – I am still unsure of my own point, but I find the idea that this remembrance is now indelibly out there on the internet strangely reassuring.

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BBC Quietly Owns Up to Blatant Propaganda Lies

Nine months after a massive propaganda campaign based on outright lies, the BBC quietly sneaked out an admission on its website tucked away in “corrections and complaints”. As the BBC went all out to galvanise support for bombing Syria, the meme was pumped out relentlessly that opponents of bombing Syria were evil and violent misogynist thugs, bent on the physical intimidation of MPs. Leading the claims was Stella Creasy MP.

9 months after the propaganda had its effect – run on every news bulletin of every single BBC platform – the BBC published this correction, carried on zero news bulletins of any BBC platform.

Two listeners complained that the programme had inaccurately reported that a peaceful vigil in Walthamstow, in protest against the decision to bomb targets in Syria, had targeted the home of the local MP, Stella Creasy, and had been part of a pattern of intimidation towards Labour MPs who had supported the decision. The claim that the demonstration had targeted Ms Creasy’s home, and the implication that it was intimidatory in nature, originated from a single Facebook posting which later proved to be misleading (the demonstration’s destination was Ms Creasy’s constituency office, which was unoccupied at the time, not her home, and it was peaceful).

The BBC response goes on further and get increasingly mealy-mouthed, the essence of the excuses being “the other media were all doing it and we just joined in.” They also say they did eventually report – across a much more limited spread of news platforms – a more accurate version of events. But they then go on to admit that, even after this, Nick Robinson went on to repeat all the original lies in an aggressive high profile headline news interview with John McDonnell.

Former President of Oxford University Conservatives, Nick Robinson has form as a liar. The new documentary London Calling, forensically examining the appalling BBC bias during the Scottish referendum campaign, calls Robinson out as a liar in claiming on BBC News that Alex Salmond had failed to answer Robinson’s question, where the documentary has the footage of Salmond answering Robinson in great detail. Robinson’s replacement, Laura Kuenssberg, has of course continued the theme of tendentious reporting of fabricated violent intimidation by the left wing.

That the BBC took 18 months to admit to its lies is astonishing, because the information was immediately available, and indeed reported by me at the time. This article includes footage of the peace vigil outside Ms Creasy’s office which led to the BBC story – a vigil of some very nice people led, I kid you not, by the local vicar. In a delightfully circular argument, Ms Creasy complained that my article pointing out that her allegations of intimidation were false, itself was “offensive.”

UPDATE It has been pointed out to me that Stella Creasy did tell the Guardian the report was false that the peaceful demonstration had gone past her house. I apologise (infinitely faster than the BBC) for missing out that info, which I had not come across.

As for the BBC, remember whatever lies they are putting out today are likely to be very quietly disowned about next July.

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A Grammar Lesson of Experience

Speaking to a meeting organised by Edinburgh West SNP last week, people were surprised when I told them my grandparents lived for many decades in West Pilton Gardens. They were surprised because I look and sound like an English ex-public schoolboy. I appear like this because I attended an English Grammar School, the entire purpose of which was to turn out ersatz public schoolboys. So am I walking proof of Theresa May’s thesis of grammar schools being the answer to social mobility for bright people from poor backgrounds? No.

The wrench has stayed with me for 46 years of my little group of primary school friends being split up between those who were sent off to Paston Grammar School and those who went to the local secondary modern. With the best will in the world, the separation became insuperable very quickly. I am back in Sheringham now for my mother’s funeral. It is very plain that an exam at 11, which you could pass or fail by one mark, changed people’s lives forever. Simply put, the majority of people still around are those who failed the 11 plus, as a pass led on to university and much wider life opportunities. Anyone who tells you that secondary moderns do not carry a stigma is lying – and you cannot create grammar schools without creating secondary moderns, whatever you call them.

Socially it was still worse as two of us four siblings passed the 11 plus and two failed. There is no doubt at all that this exam result at 11 – which had nothing to do with any difference in intelligence or industry in the family – irrevocably affected our careers and even, to some extent, the nature of our family relationships, though we are still very close. What is more it is not a coincidence that the two who passed were the eldest two – and we both had started our primary education when the family was very well off. By the time the younger two started we had fallen on hard times in a big way, and had to move. There are numerous statistics to prove that selection favours the wealthier. I know this.

The grammar school itself was absolutely modelled on the lines of a public (which is Orwellian for private) school and I believe had been one. It had this very strange militaristic ethos, and the teachers were all men who had been profoundly affected by fighting the second world war. There was a Cadet Force where you had to dress in real military uniform once a week and fire guns and march up and down a lot, and it was plain the aim was to turn you from a rustic youth into a member of the officer class. Latin was compulsory, discipline was extreme, and teachers thought it amusing to throw blackboard rubbers – with heavy wooden backs – at children’s heads.

It was so successful in turning out ersatz privately educated pupils that I have been mistaken for one more or less since. And there is no doubt at all that this helped me get in to the fast stream of the FCO – in an intake in which I was one of only two state school educated entrants in the fast stream. There were two graduate entry streams – administrative (fast stream) and executive (slow stream). In 1984 there were just two state school entrants in the fast stream, and no private school entrants in the slow stream.

It is this plucking of hearty young yeomen and turning them into officers for which Theresa May nostalgically yearns. But I absolutely hated the school. I hated the discipline, I hated the militarism, I hated the narrow thought. I hated it so much I performed terribly – I got a B and two E’s at A Level and scraped into university on clearing. Yet once in University with much more personal freedom, I flourished and never in my entire University career came less than top in any exam I took, culminating in a first class degree. The grammar school system had almost destroyed my potential because of my reaction against its class divisiveness.

Once in the FCO, I could perhaps pass in manners, knowledge and speech patterns as one of my fellow high fliers, but thankfully I lacked their class solidarity and social codes. That is why I could be a maverick and a whistleblower, and not go along with torture and extraordinary rendition, with which the Flashmans who dominate the FCO had no problem.

Theresa May was absolutely right that there already is selection in education, and that it is selection by wealth. But those buying a private education are not actually buying a better education – they are buying admission to a social network of wealth and privilege, bonded by common contacts and attitudes. The answer is not to sneak a few people into these networks, but to dismantle the social structures that have beset the UK for generations.

Bringing back grammar schools will not increase social mobility. Abolishing private schools will increase social mobility. The State can and should insist that every child has a state education, secular and of the highest quality. Attendance at secular state school during normal terms and school hours should be compulsory for all children in Britain.

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The Significance of Theresa May’s Disgraceful Quote

Theresa May’s disgraceful quoting with approval at Prime Minister’s Questions an anti-Corbyn twitter user has been grossly under-reported – and that under-reporting is itself part of what makes this of enormous signficance. But first just consider this sample of the account from which the UK’s Prime Minister quoted:








Collins right wing laddism crosses the line into the grossly offensive and unacceptable. It is a puerile display of sexist, racist and anti-disabled hatred.

May’s folly in quoting Collins is extremely important for two reasons.

Firstly, if either Nicola Sturgeon or Jeremy Corbyn had done this they would be under simply colossal pressure from the mainstream media. Tarring by association has been the backbone of the mainstream media campaigns against both Corbyn and the SNP, and pages after page and headline after headline have been concocted around the slightest association of Corbyn, Sturgeon or Salmond with people a great deal less vile than Collins, over just single intemperate social media entries.

Will anybody attempt to deny it is true that if Corbyn or Sturgeon quoted a twitter account as offensive as this one it would be massive front page headlines?

Secondly, it is important because May’s tactic at Prime Minister’s Questions is to ignore the question asked, but reply with a pre-arranged jibe about Jeremy Corbyn. That is precisely what happened here. The “joke” quoting Lewis Collins by name was written by one of May’s political advisers – paid by the taxpayer – and then read out by her. May claimed that “Lewis’s” comment had been selected from replies to a Corbyn social media tweet canvassing public opinion. It seems to me massively improbable that this is true. Tory advisers are not sifting through tens of thousands of public social media replies to Jeremy Corbyn, and then happening to hit on this Tory commenter.

The truth is rather that Collins’ gross Tory laddism appeals to Tory professionals, and that May’s adviser who wrote the question is almost certainly a follower or fan of Lewis Collins’ output. And that seems to me to tell us something very significant indeed about this Tory government.

May needs not only to apologise profoundly for having quoted Collins, she needs to identify who wrote this answer for her. And sack them.

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Karimov Family Values

It is now important that Prime Minister Mirzieyev – who appears to be in control in Uzbekistan at the moment – produces Gulnara Karimova and shows that she is alive and healthy. The whereabouts of her daughter Iman are also obscure.

Twelve years ago President Karimov jailed his own nephew, Jamshid Karimov, for the “crime” of writing an article in a state publication which suggested modest improvements to his uncle’s economic policies. Like other prominent dissidents, young Karimov ended up chained to a bed in a psychiatric ward being pumped mind altering drugs to re-educate him.

Nevertheless, when President Karimov’s daughter Gulnara was confined to house arrest two years ago, I was inclined to view it more as protective detention than real incarceration. Gulnara was wanted on fraud and corruption charges in Sweden, Switzerland, France and the USA. The US government has demanded she forfeit 550 million dollars. Her “detention” in Uzbekistan prevented her being subject to an embarrassing trial in a foreign state. Besides her ability to tweet and send sorrowful photos from her house arrest seemed to argue against real detention. But 18 months of complete disappearance have caused me to worry. Another interpretation, to which I now tend, was that in his declining years Karimov was not all powerful and became unable to protect Gulnara from Mirzieyev and security service chief Inoyatov. Though it still remains possible that he incarcerated his own daughter to an uncertain fate – after all his funeral just took place with not even the western obituaries mentioning the existence of his eldest child, a discarded son from his first marriage.

There is no doubt that Karimov did think of Gulnara as a potential successor – or at least in that unenlightened country, in conjunction with a suitable husband. Mansur Maqsudi was a surprisingly good choice, but he proved unwilling to put up with Gulnara’s blatant infidelities and they divorced. The private lifestyle of the Karimovs got rare public exposure when the New Jersey divorce settlement awarded Gulnara, for example, her US $4.5 million worth of personal jewellery.

There was no sign of Gulnara at her father’s funeral. It is rumoured, and not impossible, she has been moved to Israel under an assumed name. On the other hand she could be dead. While I believe her to be involved in numerous crimes including corruption, sex-trafficking and conspiracy to murder, I should like to see her tried rather than murdered, and the Uzbek regime should now be asked to produce her – not least to help numerous investigations worldwide into mafia operations.

I have long expected Mirzieyev to take over as President, but I am happy to say I do not believe the corrupt system in Uzbekistan will last much longer. Uzbekistan has become a remittance economy. The highest single source of revenue was remittances from Uzbeks working abroad, mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan. The collapse in the oil price and the not coincidental crackdowns on illegal migrant workers have slashed remittance revenue from $5.2 billion to under $2 billion. Exports of natural gas, mostly to China, were Uzbekistan’s second biggest revenue source and the price has fallen drastically. So once again the state is turning the screws on forced labour for the cotton industry.

Decades of relentless propaganda had bought Karimov an artificial but real popularity. His successor has to start a personality cult from scratch against sharp economic decline. I am very hopeful the system will collapse within two years.

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Thought is Dangerous to the USA

I have been refused entry clearance to the USA to chair the presentation of the Sam Adams Award to CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou and to speak at the World Beyond War conference in Washington DC. Like millions of British passport holders I have frequently visited the USA before and never been refused entry clearance under the visa waiver programme.

Screenshot (89)

I shall apply for a visa via the State Department as suggested but I must be on a list to be refused under the ESTA system, and in any event it is most unlikely to be completed before the conference.

It is worth noting that despite the highly critical things I have published about Putin, about civil liberties in Russia and the annexation of the Crimea, I have never been refused entry to Russia. The only two countries that have ever refused me entry clearance are Uzbekistan and the USA. What does that tell you?

I have no criminal record, no connection to drugs or terrorism, have a return ticket, hotel booking and sufficient funds. I have a passport from a visa waiver country and have visited the USA frquently before during 38 years and never overstayed. The only possible grounds for this refusal of entry clearance are things I have written against neo-liberalism, attacks on civil liberties and neo-conservative foreign policy. People at the conference in Washington will now not be able to hear me speak.

Plainly ideas can be dangerous. So much for the land of the free!

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Keith Vaz

Vaz was very close to Janner and in parliament described powerful paedophile evidence against Janner as a “wicked and cowardly attack.” He lost a ministerial position for corrupt handling of billionaire passport applications.

But what he did in private with consenting adults is his own business, and there is a bad tendency to conflate homosexuality with paedophilia in much social media comment today. Nor is he a hypocrite – had he been an opponent of prostitution the story would have public interest in exposing hypocrisy. But as he supports liberalisation he is not a hypocrite, and as entitled to express his view on prostitution in parliament as he is his view on supermarkets, which he also uses.

(It has been pointed out to me that he is a hypocrite in that he has claimed in parliament not to know what poppers are. I accept this correction).

I dislike Vaz very much, have for years, for his politics and practice in public office. But not for his private life which there was no real public interest in revealing today. It is yet more prurient tittle tattle from our pathetic media. The most disgraceful thing in today’s story is that he keeps his whisky in the fridge, which is well nigh unforgiveable.

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Nicola the Haverer

Replacing Alex with Nicola set back the cause of Scottish Independence. It was a great success for the SNP as an institution, but it is now abundantly clear that the institutional health of the SNP and the cause of Independence are two quite separate things.

I have posted at intervals this last two years that I have heard nobody from the SNP argue the case for Independence since Indyref1. I still have heard nobody from the SNP argue the positive case for Independence since Indyref1. To the extent that when the tendentious GERS report came out and was splashed all over mainstream media, nobody from the SNP explained why the finances of an independent Scotland would work. (To give just one example Scottish taxes contribute £2.2 billion to housing benefit of which only a quarter of Scotland’s contribution is spent in Scotland).

Unionist propaganda is still streamed out of the mainstream media every day. If nobody counters with the case for Independence, support for Independence will never increase. The latest YouGov poll putting us back at 46% is probably accurate. The idea that you wait until support has – by magic – increased to a regular 60% before you start campaigning is self-evidently delusional.

We started the referendum campaign at – at best – 32%. Through street campaigning, new media and the people’s energy, against the concerted might of the mainstream media, we got it up to 45%. We can have that effect again. Starting at 46%, I have no doubt that we can get it well over 50% in Indyref2.

It was the Yes movement on the ground that did this, through street campaigning, town hall meetings and social media. And never forget this – while the SNP were a valued part in that, were our wedge into mainstream media, and had Alex in the debates, the official SNP were a minority in the ground war Yes campaign. It was only after the referendum that the Yes campaigners piled in to the SNP. That brought in some of the SNP’s best new MP’s, like Tommy Sheppard, Mhairi Black and Chris Law. But have you seen those great campaigners arguing for Independence in the last twelve months? No. Party discipline has silenced them.

There have been a number of ruses by Nicola to avert the desire of the membership to campaign for Independence.

*We had the promised “Summer of Independence” campaign which was simply forgotten.
*We had the avoidance of an Indyref2 promise in the manifesto through the “material change” clause
*When “material change” undeniably happened through the EUref, we had the avoidance of Indyref2 through the “panel of experts” – a body of mostly ultra-establishment people, almost all neo-liberal, including the secretary of the Bilderberg Group, who will produce an anti-Independence report.

We now have the latest ruse to put off campaigning for Independence and it is transparently thin. The idea is to keep the activists happy through till the New Year by holding – then analysing the results of – a “national conversation”. This is simply an opinion poll. Here are 80% of the questions (all I could grab in a screenshot).

Screenshot (66)

Note the “national conversation” is not one in which the party will argue for Independence. It is just a poll of what people think with no attempt to convince them, as plain in the “activists’ guide” which accompanies it to members. The SNP could simply have paid their pollsters to ask the same questions, with an unusually large sample size of say 10,000, and got a more accurate result than they will from this survey. (All party surveys/canvass returns, always, overestimate their support as those surveyed generally wish to be polite to the person talking to them).

The SNP as an institution is secure in its powerbase in its regional council at Holyrood – let’s not pretend we have a national Parliament yet when we have no say in going to illegal war – and has a lot of well paid people with their feet firmly under the table in Westminster and Brussels. From next year it will dominate Scotland’s councils. The SNP is doing very nicely thank you. As an institution, it has more to risk than to gain from another shot at Independence. Nicola’s havering to put off another effort at Independence has now become ludicrous.


* Scotland’s EU membership will be much simpler if Independence is achieved before Brexit and Scots just remain EU citizens. Leaving and rejoining will be technically and politically far more complicated. I may not be Establishment enough for Nicola’s “expert panel”, but as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw for four years my main task was Poland’s EU accession and I do know what I am talking about. That gives us just 2 years or less for both Indyref2 and negotiation with rUK. We have to fire the starting gun if we are serious
* If the SNP continue to abjure putting the case for Independence, opinion polls will never move in our favour and may slip further
* Nothing is certain in politics. At the moment there is probably a Holyrood majority for Indyref2, but in 2020 there may well not be.

People will now reply that Nicola is a brilliantly successful politician while I am just a spurned old idealist tapping alone on my laptop. But that is why you should listen to me.

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The West and Karimov’s Anti-Terrorism Charade


Hillary Clinton and John Kerry courted Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s brutal dictator, every bit as assiduously as George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.


The west is interested in gas, gold and uranium, but is still more entranced by the allure of the false gold of Uzbekistan’s “successful” anti-terrorism strategy. Karimov was courted as the strong man who held Central Asia against Islamic fundamentalism. His methods – imprisoning, torturing and killing anybody who appeared religious – were viewed as admirable. That all reputable sources acknowledge that 10,000 people are imprisoned solely for their political and religious beliefs did not matter. That young men can be imprisoned or “disappeared” solely for growing a beard, or for praying five times a day, was viewed as “effective”.

The truth is that western governments wished they could do the same thing. The very first words Karimov ever spoke to me were to congratulate me on the fact that Blair had just instituted detention without charge for terrorism suspects – a prime example of the effect abroad of western abandonment of civil liberties.

But of course banning legitimate religious expression does not halt extremism, it creates extremism through frustration. That is why there are so many Uzbeks fighting with ISIS or the IMU in Afghanistan, why it was Uzbeks who blew up Istanbul airport. Unreasonable repression creates terrorism, which is just the effect of the Prevent programme in the UK – or banning the burkini in France.

Western politicians’ idealisation of Karimov shows the attraction to politicians of the idea of absolute power, and the simplicity of their approach to the complex issues being faced across the globe. The destruction of liberty is not the answer.

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Peak Craig Murray

My mother, Poppy Catherine Murray, nee Grice, passed away on 19 August aged 85 after a two year fight with multiple myeloma cancer. She had maintained herself in her own home until the last six weeks, and when she was eventually in hospital my brothers, sister and I took turns and were able between us to make sure that somebody was always with her. I last saw her on 14 August, and she never regained consciousness after that.

We faced the agonising decision of whether to come up and run the Doune the Rabbit Hole festival from 19 to 21 August. My son Jamie is Director, I run the bars and my brother Stuart supervises security. The festival is on a shoestring anyway and would genuinely have difficulty coping at if we dropped out at the last minute. It sounds a cliche, but we had no doubt Mum would have wanted us to go ahead with it, and we did so, leaving Neil and especially Celia to look after Mum. She finally passed away at 4.15pm on the Friday and we got the news literally as the gates to the arena opened.

I am sure many of you know from your own experience what a staggering blow it is, no matter how expected. Jamie was particularly struck. But the intensity of working through the festival was helpful – as usual I got a total of 7 hours sleep in 72 and Jamie probably less. The build, festival and takedown are extremely intense and this blog always disappears for ten days at this time.

Despite appalling weather, the festival was an enormous success and extremely well reviewed. I have always described it as life-affirming, and I could not have been surrounded by better people at a time of loss. The Scotsman review I think summed it up very well:

There is little doubt that Doune the Rabbit Hole is something special; a festival which is family friendly, extremely well-programmed and bearing a strong sense of localism in terms of its suppliers and its responsibilities.

And I was glad that the Herald noticed this:

Most mainstream festivals come under fire for routinely male-dominated programming, and could take a leaf from DTRH’s Sunday night line-up alone.

After two days assisting with the takedown, I left to go down to Norfolk again to make funeral arrangements and start to sift through my mother’s things. There can be no more lonely task in life, and the pain of looking through literally thousands of photos still lingers. A mother loves unconditionally. There were moments of joyous celebration brought back to life, wonderful times with grandparents and others long gone. There was a brilliant photo of my grandfather aged six, in an extravagantly braided costume, standing proudly with his drum in a Salvation Army band, his father beside him with his cornet. There were several photos of my mother’s beloved elder brother, who died aged just nineteen fighting against fascism. But most heart-wrenching were the photos which meant something to my mother but nothing to me, long ago people and places I did not recognise, memories now forever gone. And of course I was faced with my own life, stark and unedited, detailed minutely in 57 years of lovingly collected photographs. Neglected relationships, half forgotten friends, ex partners and so many people to whom I should have been nicer or whom I could have helped more.

I think I now have got to kick on with life.

We seem to be hitting peak Craig Murray. Before the hiatus of the last month or so, 40,000 people were regularly reading this blog and some entries were being seen by hundreds of thousands on this and other sites. My brief and simple demolition of Owen Smith is one of the posts that over a million people read, was massively retweeted and I think I can realistically claim had an early impact on the leadership contest. Indeed the general upsurge of interest in non neo-liberal thinking seems to have got me “discovered” by a whole new political generation and it has been an enormous pleasure to see evidence of people looking through the back catalogue of eleven years of posts on this little blog.

The film “The Killing of Tony Blair” turned out very much better than I expected. I really enjoyed it and have been very heartened by the large number of messages of congratulation I have received on my own contribution to it. Still closer to my heart, the documentary film “London Calling”, on the shocking BBC bias in the Scottish Independence referendum, has today been completed and I hope to have distribution information for you shortly.

The film rights to “Murder in Samarkand” have just been renewed, there is a new script and we now have very experienced and top rank producers, and while I do not wish to count chickens, we are closer to the film being made than ever before.

On Friday I am giving a talk to Edinburgh West SNP at 19.30 at Munro Community Centre, Clermiston and I am happy to say that this is just the start of what looks like a busy autumn of campaigning for independence.

Over seven years of effort came to an end on Friday when I signed off the final map for my new book “Sikunder Burnes – Master of the Great Game”, which will now be published on 22 September. It is being printed right now, which is exciting.

I never did get a chance to expand as promised on my thoughts about Chilcot, but this interview in Jacobin magazine did an excellent job in bringing out the observations which I was uniquely qualified to make from personal experience. I do urge you to read it.

On 24 September I shall be in Washington DC to present the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity to John Kiriakou. It is typical of Obama and Clinton’s America that despite all Obama’s false election promises, the only man to go to jail over the CIA’s acknowledged torture and extraordinary rendition programmes was the whistleblower John Kiriakou, jailed for revealing state secrets.

Then on 20 October I have been summoned to appear before the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee to give evidence upon the same subject.

Finally, the apparent demise of President Karimov has meant that temporarily even the BBC has had to acknowledge my existence and I have a whole raft of mainstream media interviews lined up for tomorrow.

It has been a very difficult period for me and I am rebounding from it straight into peak Craig Murray. I would like to reiterate once more that everybody who participates in commenting on this blog is equally welcome and valued, and those who disagree with me are just as welcome as those who agree. The whole reason I do this is to stimulate thinking outside the Overton window, not to attempt to impose my own ideas.

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A Moment of Hope

The apparent end to the power of my old adversary Islam Karimov gives a brief moment of hope for change in Uzbekistan.

It is worth recalling that Karimov was a member of the last Soviet politburo, and was a part of the failed hard line “communist” coup against Gorbachev. His support for Uzbek independence was both a matter of self-preservation and a successful endeavour to sustain the massively corrupt system that enabled a few families to pillage Uzbekistan’s great natural wealth. Tashkent was already famously corrupt in Soviet times; Karimov increased this and concentrated the wealth in an ever smaller circle, while personal freedoms were higher in the Soviet period than now.

There is no telling if Karimov is already dead or not, but a massive stroke has with certainty ended his rule. There is much speculation on what happens next. The one thing we can be quite certain will not happen is a free and fair election of a successor.

The formal process, presided over by the speaker of parliament, is an irrelevance to the power grab that is going on and depends on control of the army, the separate Ministry of the Interior armed forces, the police and the security services. By common consent Rustam Inoyatov is a key kingmaker, and for the last two years Prime Minister Mirzaeyev has been carefully cementing this alliance. Mirzaeyev is probably the most ruthless of all the candidates – he is as cold-blooded a killer as Karimov, and I suspect this quality will bring him through.

Mirzaeyev comes from the same Samarkand power base as Karimov, but he faces a difficult balancing act in ensuring nobody else has any power to challenge him, while at the same time placating powerful Tashkent and Ferghana interests. If Mirzaeyev can gain the support of the Gafur Rakhimov/Alisher Usmanov mafia nexus he will probably be home and dry. But to emphasise how complex and vicious this will be, when the Alisher Usmanov/Mirzaeyev family relationship was due to be cemented in 2013 by a marriage alliance featuring Usmanov’s nephew and heir Babur Usmanov, the groom was killed in a “car crash” at the behest of Inoyatov. This murder was probably just a friendly reminder that Inoyatov cannot be cut out, and one Mirzaeyev seems to have heeded, but underlines the potential for it all to go violently wrong.

So how can this be hopeful? Well, quite simply things can only get better. Whoever takes over is unlikely to want immediately to rush into the arms of one of Uzbekistan’s three suitors, the USA, China and Russia. There is a reasonable chance that they will wish to portray themselves as having a reform agenda, in order to keep the USA and to some extent Russia interested. Putin never viewed Karimov as more than an embarrassment. Indeed, almost every potential President except Mirzaeyev does have an inkling that the deliberate stifling of all economic initiative and the enslavement of the country to a cotton monoculture is not a good policy.

Finally a message to Karimov, my old sparring partner. You won, you kept power and I lost, and got sacked for my pains. But then I am not dead, and when I am I shall not go to Hell. Good luck with that. Craig

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Let’s Rename Housing Benefit more fairly as “Landlord Bonus”.

So-called “Housing benefit” is of zero benefit to tenants. It is a massive flow of taxpayer cash to landlords – an incredible £25 billion per year. It plays a pivotal role in the growth of landlordism and the bubbling of house prices to well beyond the pockets of most young people.

It is argued on the right of politics that rent controls would be an unwarranted interference that would distort the housing market and prevent it operating efficiently. Yet housing benefit is itself a massive distortion, allowing landlords to charge rents far beyond what the market would ordinarily bear. If the state is to pay or top-up rents in this way, the state must also have a right to interfere in the level of rents.

For the sake of clarity of argument, I do not regard “Housing Associations” as anything but part of the landlord class, especially given the high salaries they pay their executives.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have recently argued for a rent control solution – and in Jeremy Corbyn’s case he believes it. That would certainly be a vast improvement on the present situation. But my own view is that it is illogical to boost rents by a massive transfer of taxpayer cash to landlords by housing benefit, and then seek a second mechanism to control them.

Housing benefit should simply be abolished. The results would be the collapse of the buy to let market and the bankruptcy of some of the least lovely people in the country, a crash in rents, and the pricking of the UK’s property bubble, where homes are priced in much of the UK at 8 to 12 times average salary.

The abolition would need to be accompanied by a one year moratorium on all evictions until the market settles down and rents can be renegotiated. I do not rule out rent controls as part of the new arrangements to govern the market.

It is worth pointing out that as housing benefit is taken from general taxation, and as London accounts for an obscenely disproportionate percentage of housing benefit paid, it represents yet another hidden area where London sucks the wealth from the rest of the country.

Housing benefit is not actually a “benefit” to the needy at all. Have you ever wondered why the Tories make zero concerted efforts to cut this “benefit”, when they are so keen on driving disabled people to suicide and sanctioning the unemployed?

It is because housing “benefit” is the UK’s biggest con, a direct subsidy from the taxpayers to the very wealthy.

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The Dysfunctional United Kingdom

Recently an Angus mother of three infant children was separated from them and jailed for ten months for over-claiming £10,000 per year in benefits. Meanwhile the Duke of Westminster evades £3.6 billion in inheritance tax through a transparently fraudulent use of trusts which “have the option” to give the money to someone else instead.

The United Kingdom is a socially backward and sometimes vicious polity, an island which prides itself on the state enforced conservatism which allowed it to evade intellectually motivated reform and retain a historical legacy of gross injustice and privilege.

For historical reasons land reform is an immensely popular cause in Scotland, and one of so many areas where SNP timidity is a deep, deep disappointment. The fact that they are covered in buildings does not make the vast London estates of the Grosvenors any more acceptable than the unnecessarily empty Highland estates where golden eagles are destroyed so the chinless wonders, hedge fund managers and sheikhs can blast away at tame grouse.

The late Duke of Westminster is characterised as a “philanthropist” by mainstream media even though the percentage of both his income and his wealth he gave to charity was less than most ordinary people’s mite, myself included, and I am willing to bet that what he did do, was tax-deductible. That a parasite who sat on £9 billion of unearned money in a country where disabled people commit suicide from poverty, and who got two O levels from Harrow, was Prince Charles’ closest friend, cuts through the lying propaganda about the Royal family we are constantly fed.

The political class have a deliberate will not to enforce inheritance tax on the super wealthy. They have a political will not to tackle landlordism, which as it affects both residential and commercial tenants is a fundamental malaise of the British economy. Neither problem is technically difficult. The problem is that the political class as a whole are in the pockets of the super-wealthy, promote their interests and ache to join them.

Which is why in the UK it is important that the threat to them posed by Corbyn is maintained, and why in Scotland it is essential that the SNP membership now push their own leadership into bold action on fundamental land reform and Independence. To call the current SNP approach to both issues desultory would be excessively polite.

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The Cynicism of Hillary

Hillary Clinton’s completely unfounded claim that Russia was behind the passing to WikiLeaks of Democratic National Committee documents was breathtakingly cynical. It was a successful ploy in that it gave her supporters, particularly those dominating mainstream media, something else to focus on other than the fact that the DNC had been busily fixing the primaries for Hillary.

It was however grossly irresponsible – an accusation that a US Secretary of State would hesitate to make in public even at the height of the Cold War. It raises further the tensions between the World’s two largest nuclear armed powers, and plays into the mood of rampant Russophobia which we are seeing whipped up daily in the press. With the Ukraine and Syria as points of major tension, to throw such an accusation wildly in defence of her own political ambitions, shows precisely why Hillary should never be US President.

This is all the more true as not only did Hillary have no evidence of Russian involvement, she almost certainly knows the allegation is completely baseless.

Which brings me to the curious murder of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer killed by an armed street robber who left Rich’s gun, watch, cash and wallet. WikiLeaks have offered an award of US $20,000 for information on his assassination. This does not indicate that it was Rich who leaked the emails. It does indicate that WikiLeaks are aware of profound shenanigans involving the Hillary campaign, and are putting effort and resources into piecing together the picture.

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Doune the Rabbit Hole 19-21 August

As regular readers know, this blog is intimately connected to the Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival. I always enjoy meeting many of you there in the eponymous Whistleblower bar, and this year the tremendous moral uplift I personally get from our pop-up community will be more welcome than ever, after a difficult few weeks coping with family illness.

There are a couple of short videos from last year which capture the eclectic atmosphere brilliantly. In this first one you get to glimpse Nadira at 1.34, evidently enjoying the music!

While this second one by Stirling Council I think encapsulates the extraordinary charm

I am obliged to note in passing that we are challenged financially this year as Creative Scotland have withdrawn our £15,000 grant for no sensible reason. Yet they continue to fund other far more commercial and far less artistically innovative festivals. Which is even more reason for you to come.

I shall as ever be running the bars, having found a niche in which I am competent.


If you can’t afford to buy a ticket, we still need volunteers, both for the festival dates and immediately. Please contact [email protected] It is just as much fun if you are working!

I can honestly say that nobody who has come through this blog, either just to enjoy the festival or to volunteer, has ever told me they found the experience less than uplifting. I look forward to seeing you – and don’t forget to buy the barman a pint!

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The Killings of Tony Blair

Tonight I am appearing at a panel discussion following the screening of the long-awaited film by George Galloway, The Killings of Tony Blair. I shall have the dubious pleasure of debating with John McTernan, who has never lacked brass neck but does deserve some credit for appearing to represent the forces of darkness before what I imagine will be a very hostile audience. The other panel members are Michael Mansfield and Lauren Booth.


The film has been predictably lambasted by the mainstream media. But it does include some very essential first hand evidence – myself apart, two other British Ambassadors tell what they themselves witnessed, as do Cabinet members. Noam Chomsky adds some important perceptions. This cannot just be dismissed by cries of “Oh look! George Galloway’s in a hat!! Remember when he was on Big Brother!!” The mainstream media’s response to this film has been unanimously puerile.

The Blair-loving Guardian gave the film two stars and called it “sanctimonious”. If one cannot express moral condemnation of a man who forced through an aggressive war, directly killing hundreds of thousands and destabilising both the Middle East and communities in Europe, and who then went on to make multiple millions of pounds promoting vicious dictatorships, then are we to suspend the very idea of ethics itself?

The Guardian subscribes to the world view propounded weekly by Nick Cohen, that to appear on an Iranian government TV channel is a far greater sin than to promote a war which killed and maimed countless thousands of small children. None of the many contributors appeared in the film under a mistaken belief that George Galloway is perfect. That George (whom I first met in Dundee in 1977) is not perfect in no way detracts from the evidence stated against Tony Blair. On Iraq, George was both right and brave. I would add that I did not for one moment consider refusing to take part on the grounds that George is a unionist.

Getting cinema screenings for an independent documentary film is extremely difficult. This is what is available so far.

Screenshot (80)

I assume there are plans to make it available on wider platforms later.

The Killing$ Of Tony Blair – Official Trailer from The Killing of Tony Blair – Film on Vimeo.

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