Mental Meltdown at the Mail

The terrorist attack on worshippers from Finsbury Park Mosque has led to a welcome, but I fear temporary, distancing from Islamophobia of its most ardent exponents. That is the background to this quite extraordinary leading article in today’s Daily Mail.

But it is difficult to understand what can have motivated the Mail to publish such a blatant lie which can bring nothing but immediate ridicule. Claims of a “different world view” are qualitative, although many will find them risible. The massive percentage of shared content is simple to verify. But the out and out lie is that the Mail Online and the Mail have a different publisher. Both are published by Associated Newspapers Ltd. This is an extract from their last published accounts:

I suspect there is more behind this peculiar meltdown at the Mail than just panic at their association with Katie Hopkins. But it would be a huge advance if the mainstream media as a whole were to re-assess the publicity and access they give to dedicated Islamophobes. Douglas Murray still features regularly, particularly on the BBC, despite statements like this one:

“It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively… Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”

The horrible killing at Finsbury Park has given us a few weeks’ pause. Next month, the media will be back to following an agenda on issues affecting the Muslim community which is dictated by the right wing shills of the Quilliam Foundation, Henry Jackson Society, Migration Watch and UKIP.

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Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade

Today Julian reaches precisely five years of incarceration in the Ecuadorean Embassy and I am on the train down to London for events to mark the anniversary. Given that two days ago I couldn’t make it to my balcony, I feel quite chuffed with my powers of recovery.

Yesterday I wrote that Corbyn’s advance has removed the “unelectable policies” excuse from New Labour and they have now to decide whether they are actually socialist or have adopted neo-liberalism out of belief.

Precisely the same faux-left now face precisely the same challenge over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The “sexual allegations” never stood up to five minutes’ serious analysis, but they served their purpose brilliantly for some years. They enabled the “left” of the political establishment completely to evade the question of whether they supported whistleblowers on war crimes and corruption, or whether they supported official secrecy and the spiralling authoritarianism that defends the neo-liberals.

There is now only one active question with regard to Julian Assange. Do you think he should be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges and life imprisonment for publishing the Chelsea Manning Iraq war crime revelations, and for assisting Edward Snowden to escape? Because that is now the only legal jeopardy he faces.

All the faux-left who dodged that question now have to answer it.

Assange is wanted by the Metropolitan Police for what they themselves have called the “minor charge” of missing a bail appointment. It is indeed a minor charge, normally dealt with by a fine, particularly as the extradition request relating to the bail order is no longer in force. Assange’s defence is that he did not skip bail to run away, but to seek an alternative legal remedy – the political asylum process. That this latter has priority is proven by the fact that there are numerous people granted asylum in the UK who face “criminal” charges in their home country. Fear of persecution – often by unjust prosecution – is of course the basis of asylum.

But even ignoring this solid defence, there are many thousand people in the UK today who have missed bail. Julian Assange is the only one of those thousands with a permanent roster of plain clothes detectives keeping watch 24 hours a day. Why, when there are no longer any allegations for him to face? There is no open and honest logic to it.

The answer of course is that Theresa May and Amber Rudd have plans firmly in place for Assange to be arrested and incarcerated, while extradition to the United States is quickly arranged. That is why a man wanted on nothing but a “minor charge” has more police resources devoted to him than any murderer. Again I ask – which side are you on?

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The Tipping Point

The UK currently has a Prime Minister who is held in widespread contempt by the ordinary public. It follows that the power of the mainstream media to dictate public opinion has been broken. The broadcast media reached new levels of election campaign bias, and the print media was fanatical, during the election campaign in promoting May. But the Tories nonetheless lost their majority. The press is trying to cover up its loss of power by switching towards the anti-May camp, but it is running hopelessly behind. We have passed a key tipping point where the cloud power of social media is now more important than mainstream media in shaping public opinion.

That has been crucial in smashing the surrounds of the Overton window. There were a set of beliefs which the political and media Establishment believed it was essential to hold, or you would be “unelectable”. These basic beliefs included:

1) An unwavering commitment to nuclear weapons and an enthusiasm about their use
2) Privatisation of public services including natural monopolies
3) State funded services to be provided through intermediary private organisations
3) An untrammelled free market in rents, wages and the other major factors in the life of the poor
4) Low taxes on the wealthy and corporations
5) Ever greater deregulation
6) Neutered trades unions and removal of employee rights
7) Inequality of wealth as a consequence of a healthy economy
8) Unquestioning support for Britain’s retention of Imperial possessions and for military interventions abroad.
9) Politicians must talk tough on immigration to reassure “indigenous communities”
10) Unwavering support for Israel

There are more. Every single one of these were taken as absolutely fundamental to “accepted” political thought. Anybody questioning any of these was regarded as at best an amusing eccentric, at worst a dangerous fanatic. Portrayal of Corbyn was sometimes the former, during the election campaign overwhelmingly the latter.

It cannot be said too loudly or too often that New Labour subscribed absolutely and without question to 100% of the above political orthodoxy. It is what the large majority of Labour MPs have spent their lives believing.

It was the SNP who led the way in showing that attacking this “consensus” did not make you unelectable, and the SNP smashed New Labour in Scotland from the left. Precisely two years ago I wrote a post on why left wing politics do not make you unelectable, which was read by hundreds of thousands.

The terrible tragedy at Grenfell tower has reinforced understanding that benign state regulation is an essential factor in protecting the most vulnerable people in society. It adds to a national mood which was already swinging towards more economic regulation and a bigger role for the state. My last post I hope was nuanced in explaining the situation at Grenfell Tower. Nothing can bring back those who so needlessly lost their lives. But I do hope it may lead to a period of greater social housing provision by councils, working with direct labour forces and sweeping away the intermediary bodies which bedevil provision throughout the public sector.

I am not going to worry too much about the Tories at the moment as they appear to be plummeting to earth with no chance of medium term recovery. But where does Labour stand?

The most important question is whether the Blairites are going to abandon their belief in the neo-liberal consensus and actually support the policies in the Labour Party manifesto. A week ago Peter Mandelson, of all people, gave a television interview in which he said he had no moral problem with Corbyn’s policies, he had merely thought them unelectable. So the question arises: what do these people really believe in?

Some of them really are right wingers and find left wing policies unbearable. I believe that accounts for fifty to sixty of the Parliamentary Labour Party. About the same number are genuine left wingers. But the vast majority of the Blairite remnant are like Blair himself – morally pliable. If getting on board with the Corbyn programme looks good for their money-making prospects, they will do it. They are practising their new left wing vocabulary right now before their mirrors.

Corbyn’s hand is much strengthened, but he still has a major task to strengthen his grip on the party. Compulsory deselection is the obvious way forward but may prove difficult to force through. However pending very extensive constituency boundary changes may give the leverage required. To date, Corbyn has suffered from an inability to influence local constituency labour parties, where young activists are difficult to turn out for procedural meetings and old hacks manipulate arcane procedures. In addition, Labour’s entrenched full time staff is viciously anti-Corbyn, none more so than General Secretary Ian McNicol. The truth is that before the election Corbyn was not winning in the institutional battle within the Labour Party. He needs to exploit his current strength now ruthlessly in internal battles.

In Scotland, a dreadful and unpopular Tory government dependent on the DUP, and a lurch towards a disastrous Brexit which Scotland does not want, should provide a massive boost to the Independence movement. But the SNP is failing as a leadership vehicle for Independence. Having fought a pathetic general election campaign in which it prepared to accept that the very thought of Independence is a dirty little secret that should be hidden under the bed, the SNP appears in almost as great a crisis of confidence as the Tory Party. It needs now to come out and forcefully explain why Scotland would do much better as an independent country. The purpose of the SNP is not remunerative employment for Scotland’s political class. It is, however, beginning to look like it.

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Housing Regulation

There are two separate but linked questions arising from the terrible disaster at Ladbroke Grove. One is the efficacy of national building regulations on fire and safety. It is plainly true that, if Grenfell Tower met them, they are inadequate. The second is how Kensington and Chelsea Council in particular manage their housing.

To look at the second question, I do agree with David Lammy that there is potential criminal culpability here, but I am not quite sure that he is right to describe it as “corporate manslaughter”. It seems to me that responsibility rests more with government than with corporations (though I accept that the former is a tool of the latter).

One of the most retrograde developments of my lifetime has been the wholescale “outsourcing” of delivery of public services away from direct government provision. So rather than by council employees, your bins are probably emptied and your streets swept by a private company paid to do it. Just as your utilities are supplied, your trains run, civil servants get their stationery ordered, increasingly medical services are provided, international aid projects are administered, and literally thousands of other examples.

This development was driven by the ideological belief, often fanatically held, that people employed by government are less efficient than those employed by the private sector. That ideology also depended on a rejection of the very notion of altruism; which rejection of altruism was at the heart of Thatcherism. The idea that people are only motivated by personal gain is of course quite untrue. Firefighters, who are still employed by the public, have proved that just now, beyond anything I can say, by going well beyond their contractual duty to try to help. But even accepting for one moment, for the sake of argument, the doctrine that people are only motivated by money; it plainly does not follow that public services would be more efficiently delivered by the private sector. What does follow is that public services will suffer from profiteering if run by the private sector.

But this disastrous contracting out is not always to private for profit companies. It is sometimes to what Tories call the “third sector”, meaning charities and not for profit companies. Much of the aid budget is now spent this way. Not at all coincidental, the pumping of large amounts of public money into this sector has coincided with a quite incredible rise in the salaries and emoluments of senior charities staff.

We have ended up in the situation where executive staff of charities are on over £200,000 a year, where the chief executive of Save the Children gets twice the salary of the Head of DFID, and where people who occupy what were once public sector jobs in rail, water or housing can earn ten times what their public sector predecessors were getting. At the same time wages, employment protection, conditions and unionisation for the actual workers have all been cut.

This is important because the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation Ltd is a not for profit company. No shareholders get any profits from it, and it does not remunerate its directors. This is the body which manages Grenfell Towers and did the refurbishment. Some of the (rightly critical) comment has assumed that KCTMO Ltd is a profiteering private company and this is why it has skimped on possible safety features like sprinkler systems. But it is more complicated than that.

The majority of KCTMO directors, including the chairman, are themselves tenants of the council’s housing. Three more are council appointed. The philosophy behind KCTMO Ltd is on the face of it benign – the tenants are managing their own properties. Which leads to the question of why relationships had broken down so badly between KCTMO and those apparently speaking for the residents of Grenfell Tower, particularly over fire safety issues.

Some of the answer to that may relate to social hierarchy among different types of council tenant. I do not know if anyone on the KCTMO board lived in Grenfell Tower, but imagine we would have been told that if so.

My experience of other organisations would lead me to suspect that in practice KCTMO Ltd did not operate in the way that it does on paper, and that the Chief Executive and other officers had a disproportionate influence. I have seen enough decisions in enough public bodies with a supposedly democratic structure – including universities and councils – to know that the elected representatives often find it very difficult to challenge the “expertise” of the executive officers. This is particularly likely to be true in an area like housing, where there are architectural, construction and legal issues. You quickly end up in a situation where the elected representatives are not really making decisions but only rubber=stamping the decisions of the officers. I saw various tenants who had been involved in the complaints to KTCMO interviewed yesterday, and they all referenced the Chief Executive, Robert Black, and not the tenant representative Chairman.

KCTMO’s staff costs are just over £10 million per year. I can find nothing on wage structure and what the executive officers are paid. I hope that information will become available.

But I can see no reason to believe that Mr Black or anybody else could make any personal gain from not installing a sprinkler system, for example. It appears responsibility for providing funds for this kind of capital expenditure lies with Kensington and Chelsea Council and not with KCTMO. It happens I lived for three years in Shepherds Bush and know this area very well. Ladbroke Grove is 15 minutes walk from some of the most expensive houses in the world. The idea that people in social housing were not high on the priorities of the council rings to me entirely true. In fact there is plenty of evidence that councillors are in cahoots with developers looking to demolish the social housing and build yet more massive luxury developments primarily for sale to the global “elite” of the extremely wealthy.

So much for the local picture. Nationally, it appears beyond argument that the government has failed again and again to update regulations following similar fires both in the UK and elsewhere. Yet again this is ideologically driven. Deregulation is a key principle of neo-liberalism. The government has an intrinsic belief that anything that adds costs or restriction to corporate profit should be resisted, and the idea of adding new regulation is simply anathema to them. That background cannot be ignored. The more you dig into this terrible tragedy, the more lurid a light is thrown on Neo-Liberal Britain.

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A Series of Apologies

UPDATE I am happy to say paperbacks of both Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen of Togo are now back available on Amazon again.

I am sorry I have not produced any serious articles for a few days. I have been catching up on a large number of tasks which were put back by the election. This includes a speaking engagement in Madrid I had needed to shift back and from which I returned this evening.

Allied to this, when I look at the Tory/DUP alliance, words fail me.

I have some more apologies to make. Technology has changed the publishing industry and authors have to do an awful lot of self-promotion, and even self-publishing, nowadays to try to make money from their books.

The problem is that if you are a writer and not a publisher things can go wrong with this DIY approach. Hence the following apologies.

Sikunder Burnes
. About half a dozen of the people who ordered signed copies through this website and paid with Paypal have not received their books, in a couple of cases for months. This is entirely due to a mistake by me and I will post them out tomorrow.

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo
. The new paperback edition of this through amazon self-publishing has too small a font size. I am not quite sure how this happened but it is quite hard to read. I am going to try to change it, which is quite complex. If anyone has bought one of the small font ones and is struggling, please contact me via the contact button at the top of the blog, and when a corrected version is available I will replace it for you at my expense.

Murder in Samarkand. The new paperback version of this has been pulled by Amazon who have asked me for evidence that the rights have reverted to me. I do have a letter of reversion from the publisher which I have sent them, but I don’t know how long this will take to clear.

Sorry about this general level of being rubbish!

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Murder in Samarkand Back in Print

I am delighted to say that Murder in Samarkand is once again available in print. The cover design was submitted by a reader in response to my appeal – I have not yet heard if they wish their identity revealed.

The publisher’s blurb is extremely flattering. This is perhaps unsurprising as I wrote it about myself!

Craig Murray’s classic bestselling memoir lifts the lid on extraordinary rendition and the war on terror and reveals the darkness at the heart of the Blair administration. Craig Murray’s tale of his Ambassadorship to Tashkent became an instant bestseller and is now a classic in several genres. Murray gives an unparalleled view of the British Foreign Office and gives a detailed and fascinating account of the life and work of an Ambassador. But he also thoroughly exposes the lies behind the Blair administration’s “War on Terror” and the ruthlessness of its operations. This is vital primary source material for the “extraordinary rendition” policy. But it is still more than that. This is a most detailed travel story and insight into Central Asian society. It is a narration of quite horrifying individual events. And it is the warts and all story of one man’s crisis as everything he has believed in crumbles about him. Murray makes no attempt to hide his own imperfections, which adds to the emotional impact of this quite extraordinary book.

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Locked In

Locked In Trailer 2017 from Nadira Murray on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy this brief trailer. Nadira’s debut short film, Locked In, will be having its first screenings shortly. It is a drama which examines the plight of asylum seekers placed in immigration detention. The film is based on true stories, including in part Nadira’s own experiences. She also interviewed not only former detainees, but also NGO’s, lawyers and policemen to research the story. It is filmed in a Category 2 prison, which astonishingly some of the detention centres are.

I am proud of the film. Nadira has always supported my work, including on individual cases of asylum seekers. I have given evidence before immigration tribunals in many of these, and one in particular is the major inspiration of this work. My reaction to these cases is more legal and political, whereas Nadira’s is more personal and emotional, which is why the screenplay she has written is so powerful.

The film will be screened during an event in London for Help Refugees on 18 June at 6pm. This is organised by Musicians Against Racism and Apathy and sounds quite fun. Nadira will be among the speakers at the event, which also features Roxanne Tataei and Nithin Sawhney, who contributed their musical talents to Locked In, plus many others.

If you can’t make that, Locked In will also be screened at the Euro Shorts Film Festival on 15 June at 6pm at the Genesis Cinema, 93 Mile End Road, London.

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BBC Desperately Tries to Re-Assert Old Political Spectrum

SECOND UPDATE The BBC has celebrated the lifting of election fair reporting restrictions by giving us a full morning of broadcasting that genuinely is 85% Tory. I find this astonishing. Following the Tory commentariat conversation that opened the show (see below), Andrew Neil has now done long individual interviews with three Tory MPs in a row – the Chair of the 1922 Committee, Anna Soubry and the smarmy Dominic Raab.

ORIGINAL POST

The BBC is institutionally incapable of reacting to the shift in the political spectrum revealed by the last election.

Astonishingly on Marr the papers are being reviewed by Toby Young (far right), George Osborne (right) and Polly Toynbee (Blairite right ). The old politico/commentariat bubble is entirely intact as far as the BBC is concerned. We are going to have Michael Fallon in a minute.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn will be invited on. He is the one person who articulates what half the country believes, and whose existence the BBC cannot entirely ignore. But the straining and stressing as the BBC try to heave the Overton window back into place is palpable.

UPDATE

Wow the BBC is really going for broke now with The Daily Politics and a review of events between “independent” commentators Andrew Neil (Tory) Julia Hartley Brewer (Tory) Tom Newton Dunn (Tory, Political Editor of Murdoch’s Sun) and Steve Richards (Blairite). Followed by an interview with a member of the Tory 1922 Committee. Followed by another Tory MP!

The Guardian/Observer on the other hand might be struggling to come up with some sort of readjustment towards the views of its readership and away from the worst of the truly obnoxious overpaid right-wingers who dominate the paper. They are, in their Sunday guise of the Observer, carrying another barking mad article from Nick Cohen attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Cohen of course to this day maintains the Iraq War was a good thing and is horrified anybody should prosper who does not agree with him. But, given the extraordinary amounts of money they pay him for these witterings, they are peculiarly hiding it. Their star columnist’s new column today appears nowhere at all on their massive website front page. It did fleetingly, but has been well and truly buried.

(I do realise you can’t read that. I just posted it to show I had looked through the entire thing).

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An Inspiring Day Fighting For Palestine

Eight years ago we had a massive demonstration in London of 200,000 people against the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. I was particularly proud of my speech that day.

But I am bound to note that the friends I was speaking with have been rather more successful than me in going on to change history.

I don’t think anybody had watched these videos for seven years, but nice to look back. Rather amusing to note that the Craig Murray one had 2,049 views on YouTube while the Jeremy Corbyn one got 1,325 views! The world has somewhat changed!

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The SNP Must Sell a Radical Vision, not just Managerial Competence

I have a confession to make. I kept my opinion of the SNP’s election campaign from you in order not to hurt the SNP during the campaign. I did however express it deep in James Kelly’s comments pages 12 days ago.

Yes, the SNP won the election in Scotland. 35 out of 59 seats is a clear majority. The Tories only have 13 Scottish seats. That is just 21% so there is no sense in which the Tories “won” Scotland. Do not believe the media lies.

But it remains the case that Theresa May is only able to cling on to No.10 because of the gains the Tories made from the SNP in Scotland. That is shameful and must be squarely faced.

There is a vital truth here. Support for Independence itself remains at almost exactly the same level as it was in 2015 when the SNP swept to 56 seats. Many opinion polls measured support for Independence during the campaign and their range was 42% to 54% for Independence.

So the SNP fall in MPs was not because of a drop in support for Independence. It was rather because the SNP failed the cause of Independence. Specifically they failed even to seek to present a radical and transformative view of what an Independent Scotland might look like.

In 2015 the SNP vote almost exactly equated to the level of support for Independence. Now the SNP vote underperforms Independence support by 10%.

This is not unfortunate. It is an entirely foreseeable consequence of a deliberate and wrong decision by the SNP leadership. They never once, at any time, made the case for Independence during the election campaign. Rather they fell straight into the trap laid by the unionists, of defending their government record in Holyrood.

Scotland’s lack of Independence leads to a constant drain on our resources in a massively London-centric economy. Our money is sucked down there and much of our best talent leaves to work in UK-HQ corporations and ministries based there. That is a different argument to the equally vital one that we are tied in to a neo-liberal austerity programme that prevents us from growing our economy, and to a number of completely inappropriate policies including on immigration.

Bound hand and foot by these constraints, the SNP has struggled at Holyrood – with very great skill – to manage matters as best they can to mitigate the Tory damage in Scotland, within the limited resources they are allowed. But this is utterly different to the situation if Scotland were an independent country and Holyrood a real parliament, and not what it actually is – a glorified regional council.

In this situation, where everything is stacked to ensure its failure, the SNP strategists boneheadedly accepted to fight on the enemy’s chosen ground. What the SNP offered in this election in no way stirred the blood, not even of their own supporters. The SNP did not mention the struggle for national freedom or the kind of country we will build if Independent. It rather attempts to win the support of the Scottish people by offering competent managerialism. “Don’t be scared, we are not nasty nationalists, we are harmless technocrats” is the line.

I hope the hard lesson of this election has been learned. You cannot manage Scotland with competence within the madhouse which is the Tory UK. You are on a hiding to nothing explaining that you can.

Yes it is indeed true that the media unfairly and deliberately, in every interview with Nicola Sturgeon, honed in on devolved matters irrelevant to a Westminster election. That was wrong of the media. But Sturgeon happily wandered around in their labyrinthine trap for long periods, providing lengthy and rational ripostes on educational attainment for 7 year olds. Above all, she emphasised it was not her who wanted to talk about a second referendum, it was that Ruth Davidson.

Sturgeon hotly denied she wanted to talk about Independence at all, saying only the Unionists kept bringing it up. It was a clever debating society point, but by refusing to make the case for Independence – and by appearing to concede it was a difficult area for her – Sturgeon was damaging the Independence cause and ultimately the SNP.

What Nicola Sturgeon should have done is the precise opposite of what she did do.

She should have taken every precious moment of TV time to outline the positive case for Independence, to declare her determination to achieve Independence, and to achieve it within the next Westminster parliament. She should have slammed Trident and slammed the British kowtowing to Saudi Arabia and to Donald Trump, and stated that Scotland should be an independent country with its own foreign and defence policy. She should have slammed austerity and Tory cuts and said that Scotland needs to be an independent country with its own economic policy that will look after its struggling, its disabled and its aged. She should have slammed Brexit and stated it is going to destroy the Scottish economy, and that Scotland needs to be an independent country within the EU.

Sturgeon did refer to all of these policy areas. But her entire dialogue was framed around how they should be tackled within a devolution settlement. Independence was almost entirely avoided as something that might scare the horses.

Much of The SNP campaign echoed the Tories in spin doctored meaninglessness. The pictures of activists holding up placards saying “Stronger for Scotland”, and repetition of the constant mantra about strengthening Nicola Sturgeon’s hand in talks, was just a mirror image of Theresa May. I find it worrying in principle and it was as electorally counterproductive as I knew it would be.

Nicola Sturgeon adopted a deliberate policy of being all things to all men. She ran a campaign designed to say the SNP can attract the votes of unionists and the votes of Brexiteers. She attempted a “mother of the whole country” routine. Putting out the message that anybody can vote SNP because it doesn’t believe in anything much, it is just competent. This was incredibly stupid. It did not work and it did not deserve to.

Anyone can see that there is a worldwide mood of insurgency against the neo-liberal establishment. The fantastic Yes street campaign was absolutely a part of that. Corbyn has grabbed that mood and ran an inspired insurgency campaign. A great many Independence supporters – including some of my family – voted Labour yesterday to support the Corbyn insurgency, after being active members of the Yes insurgency. They still support Independence.

But in an age of insurgency politics, for the SNP to choose to run its entire election campaign on the basis of being a safe managerial political establishment for Scotland, was such a crass decision that it beggars belief. Many radicals went to Labour, while many of those who do like a comfortable political establishment decided they would rather have the real Tory version.

I greatly fear that the SNP will now compound the error by backing away from the second referendum and pushing Independence even further to the back-burner. The SNP needs to do the opposite. It needs to rediscover the Spirit of Independence and reconnect to the Scottish people. And it needs to sack the great raft of highly paid, besuited, professional spin doctors and political advisers I see going in and out of SNP HQ every day (I live next door). They look indistinguishable from their New Labour and Tory cousins and are a class of people the Independence movement really does not need.

One little anecdote. I have a large balcony overlooking Dynamic Earth, in a very prominent position and busy area. I wandered in to SNP HQ to see if they could give me a really big banner or poster to put up. The place was absolutely crammed with besuited spin doctors talking earnestly to each other and very much looking down their noses at me, resenting my intrusion into their space. They had hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of spin doctors, but no poster bigger than a tiny A3. That says it all for me.

I voted for Tommy Sheppard. I did so with pride and I am delighted he is back in. After a period of semi-detachment from the SNP, I am going to be more active inside it to argue for a much more radical and definite attachment to Independence upfront and at all times. And to make sure that the SNP is a quick route to Independence, and not just a quick route to a political class career path. In practice, building any other vehicle than the SNP to carry forward the Yes movement would be almost impossible.

As an institution in itself, the SNP is a very successful institution. There is no denying it. But as a vehicle for actual Independence, it is stationary with the handbrake on, and as a vehicle for radicalism its battery is flat and it has become positively inert. But let’s not abandon it, let’s try a push start.

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The Bleating of the Blairites

A sleepless night and day of drama over, I should congratulate Jeremy Corbyn and his team on a fantastic job done. This really was a watershed election. I suspect that what happened is that the mainstream media realised it is losing influence, and tried to compensate by becoming so shrill and biased it simply lost all respect. This election may be the one where social media finally routed the press barons. They may in turn start to wonder if it is worth sinking millions into a newspaper if it can’t buy an election

New media beat old media, the insurgents routed the establishment, the young insisted the old also consider their opinion, hope beat fear, altruism wrestled with selfishness, and I would personally go so far as to say good stood up to evil. The result against the combined power of state and media was fantastic. We have nonetheless still got Theresa May as PM propped up by climate change denying, misogynist, creationist, homophobe, anti-abortion terrorist-linked knuckle-draggers from the DUP. But cheer up, it won’t last long.

Tomorrow I will publish an article on the SNP. It is on the stocks, but I want to look at it again when my anger dies down. But for now, let me think about the Blairites.

The Blairites hate Labour’s good result, even though it saved their own jobs. They had put so much work into preparing the ground for their next coup attempt against Corbyn. There was a fascinating campaign to demoralise Labour chances undertaken by Blairite MPs and the Blairite Westminster commentariat.

Here for example was Michael Savage, political editor of the Observer.

Here was my response.

His Guardian colleague Polly Toynbee was on the BBC on Thursday morning explaining coming defeat would be Corbyn’s fault, and her colleague Anne Perkins, the Guardian leader writer whose soul is but a shrivelled husk of right wing hate, wrote the most horrible diatribe in the Guardian on Tuesday advising “Corbyn supporters” not to hope.

These Blairite journalists and the Blairite politicians all live in the same bubble where everybody hates Jeremy Corbyn, and nobody will vote for left wing policies.

Labour Uncut, aka Corbyn Hate Central, had a wonderfully delusional piece by the ludicrous Atul Hatwal, who went and visited a lot of Blairites all over the place and published his firm conclusion that everybody hates Jeremy Corbyn.

Just over two weeks ago I posted a projection of huge losses for Labour – over 90 seats – based on dozens of conversations with activists, candidates and officials who cumulatively had sight of tens of thousands of canvass returns.
Since then, I’ve continued those conversations as Labour has apparently surged in the polls.
In every seat, canvassers are encountering lifelong Labour supporters who still identify with the party but not Jeremy Corbyn.  This group tends to have voted for Ed Miliband reluctantly and are now either sitting out this contest or ready to vote Tory for the first time to prevent a Corbyn premiership.
These switchers represent a new generation of shy Tories, located deep inside Labour’s core vote. They are embarrassed at voting Tory, sufficiently so to deny their intent to friends, families and pollsters. Some of the older Labour officials and campaigners have reported familiar doorstep cadences from 1992 – “It’s in the eyes,” one said to me.

But Hatwul is not alone in his drooling imbecility. If anything he is out-drooled by Jason Cowley, the editor who has dragged the New Statesman to the right of the Economist. Both Cowley and Perkins quote Hatwul’s “research” and Cowley on Tuesday expected a “catastrophic” loss of 90 seats. It is a shame that a magazine with a great history has come to be edited by a bigot so blinkered he has lost the faculties of perception. This is funny from Cowley’s anti Corbyn hate fest – written just three days ago:

In recent days, I have been speaking to Labour candidates, including those defending small majorities in marginal seats, as well as to activists. The picture emerging is bleaker than the polls would suggest and the mood is one of foreboding: candidates expect to lose scores of seats on Thursday. There’s a sense, too, that two campaigns have been conducted simultaneously: candidates with majorities under 10,000 are trying to hold back the Tory tide, while Corbyn is, as some perceive it, already contesting the next leadership contest – one in which, at present, he is the sole candidate.

What a stupid arse Cowley is. Do read the whole thing, he is hilariously wrong on all counts. Anybody can make a mistake. But Cowley is making a dishonest mistake. Blinded by Blairite affections, consumed by a passionate rejection of the idea that socialism might be popular, the Labour candidates he has spoken too share his Blairite outlook and they were all engaged in a circle of delusion. A circle which includes Laura Kuenssberg, who at the start of the BBC election night coverage assured us that senior Labour figures she knew had been telling her from the doorstep that the anti-Corbyn reaction would belie the opinion polls.

This was all of course intended to be self-fulfilling prophecy. The Blairites and their media fellow travellers were engaged in a deliberate attempt to reinforce the Corbyn bogeyman narrative to the public in the last few days before the election. They were deliberately trying to make the party they ostensibly supported lose, so they could take back control of it again. The Manchester Evening News claimed “Labour insiders” as the course of its nonsense story that Labour stood to lose seats in Manchester owing to its stance on anti-Semitism.

The BBC were quick today to suggest that Corbyn should use his success to broaden his cabinet and his policy platform, to bring the Blairites back onboard. They meant that if he squeezes himself inside the Overton window he may win power eventually. I remain confident Corbyn will ignore any such blandishments and go on to further develop a radical alternative to neo-liberal policies. The Blairites need to be stamped out, not encouraged.

The parliamentary boundary review will now be a top legislative priority for May as it is reckoned to be a net advantage to the Tories of 18 seats at the next election, which may be soon. That will be an interesting negotiation with the DUP as it will cost them a seat. But the boundary review provides the perfect opportunity for Corbyn to force through compulsory re-submission of candidates to members. Jeremy also needs to concentrate on seizing the institutional control of the party that he lacks to date. His enhanced prestige at the moment needs to be ruthlessly exploited.

I rather hope we will hear a good deal more bleating by the Blairites in the near future, as they are hurtled towards political oblivion.

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Tories Leap Into the Unpopularity Abyss

The official Conservative party spokesman, Laura Kuenssberg, has just announced that Theresa May will remain as Prime Minister, supported by the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. Now the DUP are probably the most unpleasant bunch of individuals in organised politics in the UK. The “No Surrender” arch protestant bigot party founded by Ian Paisley.

It is fascinating that, after an election in which the Tories and their mainstream media acolytes attacked Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity for his alleged sympathies with the IRA, the Tories have come to an arrangement with a party that was from its inception and still is the political wing of the loyalist terrorism. The mainstream media never even mentioned the existence of Loyalist terrorism during its sustained attack on Jeremy Corbyn.

The loyalist terrorists murdered 1,016 people in the period 1969-2001. They shot someone dead in a supermarket car park in an internecine dispute actually during the election campaign. In all the media attacks on Corbyn about the IRA, there was no acknowledgement that Loyalist terrorism even existed. I think we can be pretty certain that the media are not going to start digging into the terrorist links of the Tories’ allies now. But social media is going to discredit them.

The DUP are corrupt, homophobic, racist and above all religious bigots of the worst kind. The nastiest people in politics. The utterly discredited Theresa May refuses to resign and intends to continue to rule over us with the support of this ugly faction. Popular support for the Tory government is going to plunge to unprecedented levels. This gruesome malformation of a bigots’ alliance between Brexiteers is not going to last long as a government, and the popular retribution will be massive.

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Bigots United

At this moment the most likely outcome is an alliance between the Tory Brexit Bigots and the Protestant Brexit Bigots of the DUP. They might be able to scrape a bare majority between them. The consequence of this is going to be the most crazed sectarians in the UK driving a hard Brexit, that will result in a very real fenced border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The consequences of that could be appalling.

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Unpalatable Truth

Daniel Finkelstein just expressed in explicit terms what has been very obvious from the differential swings in different constituencies so far. The Conservative offer has appealed to a less educated, less cosmopolitan electorate. This is undoubtedly true. As I suspected, they have alienated much of the middle class in the process.

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That Exit Poll

Wow, that knocked me sideways. Predicting a seriously hung parliament. Also predicting a setback for the SNP but still most of the seats in Scotland. I am going to have a serious drink and then think about this. Amazing. Happy. One of the most interesting six hours of my life coming up.

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Why Britain is a Flawed Democracy

This graph tells you most of what you need to know about what passes for democracy in the UK today.

The shaded area at the right represents the period in which election law obliged the broadcasters to give fair and balanced coverage during the election campaign. The result is obvious.

Of course, it has not been that fair and balanced. We can identify four definite areas where it has been anything but. These are:

a) Demeanour towards different parties. Labour and SNP candidates were, as a matter of plain verifiable fact, interrupted far more often than Conservative candidates. That can be empirically verified eg both Paxman and Neil interrupted Corbyn over twice as often as they interrupted May. Qualitative analysis is trickier, but opposition candidates were in general treated with more scepticism and hostility, eg Keir Starmer being told by John Humphrys yesterday that he would not care about human rights if his own daughter had been killed.

b) Selection of the agenda. The Conservatives had different subjects they wished to concentrate upon, notably Brexit and security, and for the most part the media followed, in lockstep, this agenda. So Tories were quizzed mostly about the subjects on which they wished to be quizzed. Difficult subjects like the Tory relationship with Saudi Arabia were never raised. Labour however were quizzed ad nauseam about the IRA and lack of enthusiasm for nuclear holocaust, and very seldom quizzed on the NHS, education etc. With the SNP this was even more evident with a focus on almost nothing except a report on failings in the Scottish schools system, and zilch on Westminster, non-Holyrood affairs which are appropriate to this election. In the last week the media concentrated everywhere almost exclusively on security issues, as though nothing else matters.

c) Papers reviews. All broadcast media feature lengthy reviews of the national newspapers. As these are overwhelmingly owned by offshore billionaires and rabidly right wing, this gives an opportunity to further reinforce the right wing agenda

d) “Independent” commentators who are anything but. The paper reviews are one example of an area where “independent” commentators are almost always brought in to discuss the papers, and these commentators span the spectrum from UKIP to right wing Blairite. Throughout the election a very right wing commentariat was brought on to “assess” election news items. Uber-Tories like Alex Massie and Fraser Nelson appeared in this context, not allocated against Tory time share. Paul Mason is the only left wing individual I ever saw invited. This is reinforced by the appeal to the authority of right wing think tanks which are presented as independent and authoritative. The banker financed Institute of Fiscal Studies was frequently used, and we also saw bodies like Migration Watch, Policy Exchange and the Henry Jackson Society. None of this was identified as right wing comment or counted against Tory allocated time.

So the coverage was hardly fair and balanced, but despite this it was a great deal more fair and balanced than it normally is, because it was impossible for broadcasters to avoid giving a certain amount of unmediated time to Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, and even to Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood. The result of even this limited fairness was that collapse in the Tory lead.

Here is the important bit. This is not because Theresa May was below par, or Jeremy Corbyn was above par. The speeches of Jeremy I have watched have been a little below his normal standard, possibly due to overwork. May has always been this wooden. She is completely lacking in charisma and not very bright. Cameron kept her in position as a sop to the right wing of his party and precisely because he did not want a more capable right winger in high office.

No, the truth is that the media have been systematically selling us a lie for years; a totally false image they had portrayed of Theresa May’s competence and personality, and an equally false image of Jeremy Corbyn, had been drummed into people’s minds. Remember the only impression 99% of people had of either was what the media had told them. And it was a lie. It was a lie so blatant and obvious, that even the limited exposure to the truth over this past four weeks, with every attempt by the media to counterbalance that truth, has led to massive changes in the public perception of both May and Corbyn.

One reason I think Labour might do better than expected today are those likeability measures. It is the one marker which consistently goes with the winner. Blair was viewed as more likeable than Major, Bush more likeable than Gore, Cameron more likeable than Brown, Obama more likeable than Romney, Cameron more likeable than Miliband, and Trump more likeable than Clinton (that last is an extremely low bar). You can survive politically being viewed as less competent or even less honest. It is hard to win when nobody likes you. May now is viewed as significantly less likeable than Corbyn.

To return to the first graph, what we see is that political fortunes change massively when the mainstream media is obliged to give even a degree of fair exposure. But it is also evident that the sustained damage done over years of completely biased attrition, is probably too much to retrieve in a month. It further shows that the broadcast media is still extremely influential. “Independent” media is owned by offshore billionaires. The BBC hierarchy is openly Tory – the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the BBC Trust, the Head of News James Harding, Sarah Sands, Nick Robinson, Andrew Neil etc. are all open Tories.

A certain amount of free debate, and a tiny gesture towards balance, is allowed for four weeks every few years in the broadcast media. The print media does not do even that. In that four weeks, the people may start to change their views radically once the stream of propaganda carries some nuggets of reality, aided by social media. You cannot call this controlled exercise in temporary permitted dissent “democracy”. It is more a pressure valve in a system of corporate oligarchic control.

Get out today and vote against the Tories. In Scotland, SNP.

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