Thursday, 31 May 2018

No Chicken In Kiev

Journalists really are killed quite frequently in Ukraine. That is what happens when real, live, actual Nazis are in charge. But when do we ever hear about them?
 
Thankfully, having done as much as anyone to open the eyes of the world to the true character of Aung San Suu Kyi, my old mate Jonah Fisher is now the BBC's correspondent in Kiev.

Internal Discipline

For advertising an unpaid internship, such as even Theresa May once promised to outlaw, Chuka Umunna should have the Labour whip withdrawn. And is a trade union sponsoring this MP? Or funding him in any way whatever? Not anymore, it shouldn't be.

Be assured that no parliamentary office of mine would contain unpaid interns. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email davidaslindsay@hotmail.com instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Corpus Christi

Two down, one to go, on getting back the proper Holy Days of Obligation, as kept by the rest of the world, including the Pope. Check his Twitter feed today if you do not believe me. He knows what day it is. Astonishingly, the Sacred Heart, the date of which is based on that of Corpus Christi, is still being kept on the right day, i.e., next Friday. Do they just not know, or something?

Anyway, to business. Do many Catholics still believe in transubstantiation? Well, if such things were ever taught in Catholic schools, then more of them might. But anyway, so what? What matters is that the Church teaches it. Catholics who dissent from the Teaching of the Church are just wrong, objectively speaking. That is all that there is to it.

Only the Catholic Church provides such objectivity, which is perfectly encapsulated in transubstantiation. It was only from Christianity in general, and from Catholicism in particular, that science acquired the idea that some propositions were just plain true, so that others were just plain false. And it was only from Christianity in general, and from Catholicism in particular, that science acquired the idea that there was an investigable order in the universe; even if that order is a law of chaos, then the point still stands.

Faced with a changed intellectual environment that denies those foundations rather than simply presupposing them, science must return to the system that first asserted them in the midst of a former such environment. That system is Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Thus, for example, while and by affirming the objective existence of the substance distinct from the accidents, transubstantiation also affirms the objective existence of the accidents, which are the objects of scientific investigation. Transubstantiation is the bulwark against the Postmodern assault on science. Nothing else is.

A Test of Credibility

By the time of a General Election in 2022, then I shall have lived in North West Durham for 40 years. I have already been politically active here for more than 20 years. By contrast, the sitting MP had never set eyes on North West Durham at the turn of 2017.

I was present when, absent from the count at which she was losing her own seat on Northumberland County Council, she was introduced for the first time, but already as the parliamentary candidate, to everyone who mattered in political life here. Despite having nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Leader in 2016, the Constituency Labour Party had been permitted no role whatever in the selection process. The extremely short list of signatories to her nomination papers included precisely one member of Durham County Council, and he had been elected for the first time mere days before he must have lent his name.

I am not a member of the same political party as Tony Blair. I have never accepted any of the Government’s claims about Salisbury or Douma. My problem with the recent bombing of Syria was not merely with the lack of a parliamentary vote, but with the bombing itself. I would force another Commons vote on the arming of Saudi Arabia. I am opposed to any variation on the Customs Union. If any of these is your view, then I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. But if you would rather have the sitting MP, then do not pretend to hold any of those views. This is a test of credibility.

I strongly support the exploitation of the vast reserves of coal in this country and in this county. That, and the extension of civil nuclear power, are the means of delivering high-wage, high-skilled, high-status, unionised jobs while securing independence from Arab oil, from Russian gas, and from coal that has been mined using child and slave labour. Horror stories about how coal was burned or mined in the Britain of the twentieth century have no relevance to the Britain of the twenty-first. At the same time, I am totally opposed to the open-casting of the Pont Valley or anywhere else, digging up hardly any coal while employing hardly anyone. If this is your view, then I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. But if you would rather have the sitting MP, then do not pretend to hold this view. This is a test of credibility.

I reject the theory of gender self-identification, I support fathers’ rights, and I fight against drugs, prostitution and pornography. None of these can possibly be the view of a person who has been endorsed as a potential Prime Minister by Owen Jones. But if any of them is your view, then I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. If you would rather have the sitting MP, then do not pretend to hold any of those views. This is a test of credibility.

I would move to expel Anne Marie Morris from the House of Commons for her public use of the n-word, which would now be career-ending in South Africa or in the Southern United States, and I deplore the imported New York practice of smearing black activists as anti-Semitic when they become so uppity as to disturb the Liberal Establishment. The sitting MP makes great play of her supposed anti-racist credentials, but no motion to expel Morris has been tabled in her name. If any of these is your view, then I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. But if you would rather have the sitting MP, then do not pretend to hold any of those views. This is a test of credibility.

My Westminster office would be a global centre for the broadly based alternative to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy, and I am both a product and a feature of the political pluralism of North West Durham, where Labour holds fewer than half of the County Council seats, the Conservative parliamentary candidate won 34 per cent of the vote last year, the Liberal Democrat candidate cut the Labour majority in half in 2010, and an Independent kept his deposit both in 2005 and in 2010. Wear Valley was controlled for a time by the Liberal Democrats, who remained numerous on it until its abolition. Derwentside was in practice controlled by an alliance between the Independents and that section of the local Labour Party which now supports my parliamentary candidacy; its Leader from that time, Councillor Alex Watson OBE, is one of my Campaign Patrons.

Therefore, I would appoint an Independent, a Labourite, a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat in each of the County Wards, ideally including at least one person in each of the former District Wards, to work with me and with local people. The price of my support for any Government would be the necessary support for a number of projects in each of the former District Wards equal to the former number of District Councillors, together with justice for the 472 Teaching Assistants whose pay Durham County Council had cut by 23 per cent.

If any of these is your view, then I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. But if you would rather have the sitting MP, then do not pretend to hold any of those views. She prides herself on her inability to conduct civilised relations with people who are not of her political persuasion, and she has appointed as her Political Advisor the man whose political advice has led the Teaching Assistants to their present, sorry state. Alex Watson has been one of the Teaching Assistants’ champions, as has my other Campaign Patron, a legendary local trade unionist called Davey Ayre. This is a test of credibility.

I can be contacted via davidaslindsay@hotmail.com. Very many thanks.

Trial Date Watch: Day 36

More than seven weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 91

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Of Interest


You check your account balance at a cash machine and what do you see? You have, say, £1,200 in your account – but “available funds” of £2,200. It’s one of the tricks used by banks to encourage us into using expensive overdrafts, and it works.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s review of overdrafts on Thursday revealed that 19 million of us use our arranged overdrafts every year. An extraordinary 13 million go further into the red, falling into an “unarranged” overdraft, where the fees rack up faster than a Wonga payday loan.

Interest on payday loans are capped at £24 for every £100 borrowed over 30 days, yet some banks could charge £179 for going £100 beyond the arranged overdraft limit for the same period, according to Which?.

The big banks scoop £2.3bn a year in fees from overdrafts, with a third of the money coming from the sky-high charges on unarranged overdrafts, sometimes £5 or £10 a day for going just a few pounds over the limit.

The consumer detriment is clear. What’s less clear is how the FCA’s package of measures will do anything to improve the situation. The “available funds” trick is to go – in future cash machine screens are likely to say “You have a balance of £1,200” but also that “You have an overdraft facility of £1,000”, so it’s only a mild improvement.

Our regulators are excessively cautious about imposing price caps, stuck as they are in classical economic thinking that if consumers are armed with the correct information (cue text message alerts and reams of paper warning us about APRs), they will make rational financial decisions.

But when Wonga exploded on to the scene it became clear that information was not enough and, thanks to  MP Stella Creasy and others there are now price caps in force, which have demonstrably worked.

In the “rent to own” sector, where your average shopper earns £16,000 a year and is already £4,500 in debt, a £300 cooker ends up costing as much as £1,500 once all the add-on charges are paid. The FCA thinks this is so obviously unfair that it is prepared to bring in a price cap – although not until next year.

Why not extend price caps to overdrafts? If you are charged £5 a day by your bank because you go £25 over your overdraft limit, then the effective interest rate is higher than using a payday lender.

We think of the US as a country where capitalism rules. Yet even there, individual states have the power to cap interest rates – and they do, at levels that campaigners here can only dream about.

In Michigan, the maximum legal interest rate is just 7%. In Alabama, Maryland and Minnesota it is 8%. In California the maximum legal rate on consumer loans is 10%, while on other loans lenders can only charge 5% above the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s “discount rate”, currently 2.25%. Only a few states, such as Nevada, have no caps on interest rates.

The FCA has no doubt had lots of legal advice that rate and price caps will result in a court challenge, such as the Office of Fair Trading’s stunning reversal in the Supreme Court in 2009. But the courts interpret laws, they don’t make them.

If we want to cut back on high cost credit, what is required is legislation such as the US’s usury laws, not timid rules from regulators.

"But Anyone Can Become A Muslim"?

Anyone can become a Jew, too. There is no form of Judaism so Orthodox that it is impossible to convert to it without any Jewish background whatever. Muslims deserve the same protection as Jews or anybody else, and vice versa. The tenets of Judaism deserve no more protection than those of Islam or anything else, and vice versa. And that is before mentioning Zionism, a secular political ideology like any other.

If Islamophobia does not exist, then nor does anti-Semitism. The Conservative Party does have a larger problem with Islamophobia than the Labour Party does with anti-Semitism. In fact, it has a larger problem with anti-Semitism as well, but its supporters have been successful in recent elections to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and its own remnant of an operation in London now trades under the assumed name, "the Jewish Leadership Council", so that fact receives little publicity.

As for Bob Blackman, he blocked the Freedom of the London Borough of Brent for Nelson Mandela, he fought through the courts to stop an acknowledgement that that proposal had received a simple majority even if not the necessary two thirds, and he now battles for the legal right to engage in caste-based discrimination, which the last Labour Government outlawed, but which this lot has relegalised. In such good causes, he serves on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, as well as on the Procedure Committee and on the Backbench Business Committee. Labour Party members have been expelled for far less than any one of those offences.

Germaine Points

The offences of rape, serious sexual assault, and sexual assault, ought to be replaced with aggravating circumstances to the general categories of offences against the person, enabling the sentences to be doubled. The sex of either party would be immaterial. There must be no anonymity either for adult accusers or for adult complainants. Either we have an open system of justice, or we do not.

In this or any other area, there must be no suggestion of any reversal of the burden of proof. That reversal has largely been brought to you already, by the people who in the same year brought you the Iraq War. The Parliament that was supine before Tony Blair was also supine before Harriet Harman. Adults who made false allegations ought to be prosecuted automatically. 

Moreover, how can anyone be convicted of non-consensual sex, who could not lawfully have engaged in consensual sex? If there is an age of consent, then anyone below it can be an assailant. But a sexual assailant? How? Similarly, if driving while intoxicated is a criminal offence, then how can intoxication, in itself, be a bar to sexual consent? The law needs to specify that it was, only to such an extent as would constitute a bar to driving.

My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email davidaslindsay@hotmail.com instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Enough Is Enough

Jeremy Corbyn should now sue Jonathan Arkush for libel and malicious falsehood. A criminal prosecution for incitement should also be considered. And anyone can report a crime.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Battle Lines

The Labour Right's candidates for their party's National Executive Committee have taken a break from their heavy schedule of attack on Jeremy Corbyn to sign a letter in today's Guardian demanding that Westminster extend the abortion law to Northern Ireland, and that Labour whip its MPs to support that move. Quite why Corbyn should listen to them of all people, they do not explain.

Meanwhile, the RMT has today voted to realign with the Labour Party, stopping short of reaffiliation so that it does not have to fund MPs such as those of whom the Guardian signatories approve, or parliamentary candidates such as several of them seek to become.

The battle lines in the Labour Party are therefore clear. On one side are those who, like most Conservative MPs and supporters, want to extend the abortion law to Northern Ireland, but who in many or most cases disagree with most Conservative voters in that they do not want to renationalise the railways.

On the other side are those are those who may or may not want to extend the abortion law to Northern Ireland, but who have no interest in whipping MPs on the issue, and who are in any case far more concerned with renationalising the railways, on which they would most certainly impose a three-line whip.

Nothing about the first lot would keep them out of any party, and certainly not out of the one that is currently in government.

Still Kicking In Kiev

Arkady Babchenko turns out to be alive after all. You know, rather like the Skripals. Who knew that Russian state assassins were so incompetent? You'd have more success if you hired a County Durham gangster to do the job. I'm not joking.

Of course, Russian state assassins are not incompetent. But the people who are trying to frame them clearly are. Like the people who are trying to frame me, for example. MI6 and all that lot, you are demonstrably as small fry as Simon Henig. And you are not unconnected to him, of course. That Oliver Kamm doesn't half get around.

Public Service Broadcasting?

They failed to convince us that the still-living Sergei Skripal, the alive and fairly well Yulia Skripal, and DS Nick Bailey who simply got up and went home after a few days in hospital, had been poisoned by one of the deadliest substances known to man. 

So last night's Newsnight was instead largely given over to the "heroic" NHS staff involved. There was, however, no mention of the parlous state of the NHS in general.

Newsnight ended with Kirsty Wark's attempt to turn Richard Madeley into a figure of fun for having shut down his interview with Gavin Williamson after Williamson had simply refused to answer the question. 

On Newsnight or the Today programme, Williamson would never have been asked anything so impertinent in the first place, he would have been allowed to blather on for 10 minutes without saying anything at all, and he would have been thanked obsequiously for having appeared. But he was not on the BBC this time.

ABC Funny?

I had assumed that even ABC had brought back Roseanne in order to monetise Donald Trump's base, since the business of business is business. But I now reckon that the network always knew that she would do something like this.

Thus, by discrediting and removing her, the people of whom and for whom she spoke could once again be silenced, and rendered invisible. Silenced, and rendered invisible, despite supporting and including the President of the United States.

Britain has the most Americanised media culture outside that country. We have been warned.

Liberal Doses

This is the fiftieth anniversary month of the dissolution of the National Liberal Party, with its proto-Thatcherite policies that had led to the inclusion of both of its remaining Cabinet Ministers among those dismissed on the Night of the Long Knives. Appropriately, it had been chaired by John Poulson.

The Conservative Party has been defined by the takeover of the largely bovine Tory machine by small but hugely influential bands of Liberals. Their success has been so complete that almost all Conservatives now assume that "free" market economics and a foreign policy of military interventionism are "traditional Tory values" that their party has always held. Nothing could be further from the case.

Such is the legacy of the Country Whigs, of the Patriot Whigs, of the Liberal Unionists, of the Liberal Imperialists, of the National Liberals (including Michael Heseltine, who privatised more of the British economy than any other Minister in history), of Alderman Alfred Roberts's daughter, of the founders and funders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and so on.

Much the same thing happened to the Owenite wing of the SDP, although most certainly not, as it has turned out, to David Owen himself. As a result, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, there were more former SDP members on the Conservative front bench than there were shadowing portfolios for the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems themselves would have been the latest such wave, if everything had gone according to plan both for Nick Clegg and for David Cameron, and there had been another hung Parliament in 2015. The EU referendum was only the most obvious of the many policies in both manifestos that were included on the strict understanding that the other partner in the Coalition would never have allowed them to happen.

Its Material Basis No Longer Exists

George Eaton writes:

The Conservative Party is enduring an intellectual and political crisis. It is absorbed by the epic task of Brexit and is dependent on the reactionary DUP for its parliamentary majority. It has seen Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which it deemed unelectable, become a contender for power. 

But more than this, the Tories are haunted by an electorate that has lost faith in Thatcherite capitalism. By an overwhelming majority, voters favour the renationalisation of of the UK’s water (83 per cent), electricity (77 per cent), gas (77 per cent) and railways (76 per cent). Forty nine per cent believe that “socialist ideas are of great value”. 

It was not meant to be this way. In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher and her allies championed what they called “popular capitalism”. According to this theory, voters would be given a permanent stake in the market through the sale of council housing and shares in privatised utilities. 

And, for a period, it worked. The sale of more than a million council homes helped transform Labour voters into Tory loyalists. In 1984, shares in the privatised BT were 10 times oversubscribed, gifted a windfall to the government and voters. The sale of British Gas (exemplified by the populist “Tell Sid” campaign), British Airways and the water companies followed. By the end of the 1980s, share ownership among the public had risen from seven per cent to a quarter. 

The revenue from privatised assets, and the North Sea oil boom, underwrote Thatcherism as unemployment spiked, and funded costly income tax cuts. But these unique circumstances cannot be repeated. As left-wingers have taken to remarking, the problem with Thatcherism is that eventually you run out of other people’s assets. 

“Popular capitalism” has become unpopular capitalism. With little left to privatise, the Tories no longer have a source of easy revenue. Voter discontent is now focused on the failures of the market, rather than those of the state. Forty per cent of sold-off council homes have been acquired by private landlords. Consumers are paying an estimated £2.3bn a year more for their water and sewerage bills than if the utility companies had remained in public ownership. The collapse of Carillion and the renationalisation of the East Coast Mainline have further dramatised the shortcomings of the market. 

But the Tories have not adjusted accordingly. Most in the party continue to speak as if Thatcherism can be revived when its material basis no longer exists. Though Theresa May and her allies have challenged “vested interests” in theory, they have rarely done so in practice. Most Tory MPs would baulk at the action required to make the market work for the majority.

The Conservatives’ historic strength has been their adaptability. Depending on circumstance, they have been Europhile and Europhobic, statist and laissez-faire, isolationist and interventionist. But the party which once reviled ideology is now trapped by it.

Trial Date Watch: Day 35

Seven weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 90

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Patience Snapped

Another "snap" General Election? Not without 55 per cent of the House of Commons. Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Caroline Lucas and Sylvia Hermon should have voted against an early dissolution of Parliament last year, and they should vote against one this year. Tell Theresa May to get back to work.

"It Was Hell"

An Offer The Scottish People Can Refuse

Conrad Landin writes:

Just when you think it’s all over, the stetsoned Texan Darius Jedburgh murmurs in the classic BBC serial Edge of Darkness, it’s only begun. The SNP’s “growth commission” has published its report at last — all 354 pages of it. 

Much of the anti-independence campaign in 2014 focused on the supposed economic catastrophe that would hit Scotland in the event of a breakaway. So it’s no wonder the Nats want to get their rebuttal in first as they prepare for the rematch.

The commission takes its starting point from the GERS figures — the annual estimate of the Scottish economy within the UK. This mechanism has regularly angered pro-independence campaigners, who say it doesn’t show the whole picture.

The acknowledgement today that an independent Scotland would continue to pay the residual Britain an “annual solidarity payment” of £5 billion a year seems refreshingly honest. It’s almost a mirror image of Alex Salmond’s claim in 2014 that Scotland would be £5bn better off after independence — a claim found to have been based on no economic modelling at all.

There was still material in yesterday’s report which allowed Nicola Sturgeon to strike a message of hope. Reducing the gender pay gap to the level of New Zealand could increase GDP by £6.1bn, the commission said. Doubling overseas exports could generate £5bn more in taxes annually. 

Though the report explicitly rejects austerity, the promise of “sensible budgeting” and £1bn savings on state spending sounds like a repackaging of exactly that. According to Michael Sharpe, Scottish Labour’s head of policy, the offering is “closer to right-wing Chicago School ‘shock economics’ than it is to the ‘build a fairer country’ vision that engaged many” in the 2014 referendum.

Even some key Nats are questioning the relevance of the exercise. “By the time there is another vote, whether that is sooner or later, it’ll be out of date in so many aspects that either significant updating or a rewrite will be needed,” former SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill wrote in the i newspaper last month. 

It is indeed a question of sooner or later, with the SNP’s depute leadership election the latest arena for this discussion. Economy secretary Keith Brown is being challenged for the job by activist Julie Hepburn and councillor Chris McEleny — who has called for a referendum within 18 months. 

Polling is not in the Nats’ favour, however. One survey in March put the Noes ahead by four percentage points — and another by 12. An activist who played a prominent part in the Radical Independence Campaign told me this week he had never felt so apathetic about the issue than in Scotland’s changed political climate. 

More and more, it looks like Sturgeon is pushing another vote to give her party a continued sense of purpose – and placate the likes of McEleny. It’s no wonder Scottish Labour’s Richard Leonard used First Minister’s Questions to call on her to “put the NHS before the SNP.” 

With two crises — over finances and mental health — in NHS Tayside, and missed targets across the picture, the new independence push is a convenient distraction for Scotland’s most treasured national asset cracking down the middle. 

Of course, Labour should be wary of making the NHS the be-all and end-all of its strategy. That mistake was made too many times by Ed Miliband, and the voting public deserve a wider, transformative vision.

But if Leonard can show that the SNP is not as competent at running Scotland as it likes to make out, he could be onto something. Sturgeon may soon find that another separation bid is all she has to offer – and it’s not an offer the Scottish people can’t refuse.

Held In Contempt

Tommy Robinson has got himself banged up on purpose for the publicity. Better than him have done that in their time. But now we'll see how large his following really is, and therefore how much attention ought ever to have been paid to him.

Trial Date Watch: Day 34

More than six weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 89

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Five Star, North Star

This is the EU's second coup in Italy in order to protect the economic order favoured by the people who were allowed to be the public faces of the Leave campaign in Britain, but who could not conceivably be elected in the areas that did in fact decide the referendum for Brexit. Here, as in Italy, we rejected that order precisely by rejecting the EU. And here, as in Italy, the EU is busily proving us right.

Time To Mutiny

Even after the events in Portsmouth, the drugs lobby is being given airtime instead of jail time.

In any radio or television discussion of drugs, one person, if that, will be in favour of the continuation and enforcement of at least the current law. All other participants, even when there are six of them and always including the moderator, will want there to be no drug laws of any kind, and will openly behave as if that were already the case, often claiming that that behaviour is fundamental to their acclaimed artistic creativity.

There is no more case for this than there would be for all radio and television discussions of child sexual abuse to feature one person, if that, who supported the continuation and enforcement of the current age of consent, while all other participants, even when there were six of them and always including the moderator, wanted there to be no age of consent at all, and openly behaved as if that were already the case, often claiming that that behaviour was fundamental to their acclaimed artistic creativity.

After all, like the drug laws, the current age of consent of 16 rather than the previous is 13 is widely flouted, that flouting is actively celebrated across elite and popular culture, that law is rarely enforced (only a footballer runs any real risk of being prosecuted for sex with a postpubsecent underage girl, and only a Catholic priest runs any real risk of being prosecuted for sex with a postpubsecent underage boy), and it is not as old as most people think that it is.

There cannot be a “free” market in general, but not in drugs, or prostitution, or pornography, or unrestricted alcohol, or unrestricted gambling. That is an important part of why there must not be a “free” market in general, which is a political choice, not a mere law of nature. Enacting and enforcing laws against drugs, prostitution and pornography, and regulating alcohol, tobacco and gambling, are clear examples of State intervention in, and regulation of, the economy.

We need a single class of illegal drug, including all of those which are currently illegal, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.

Moreover, the age of consent should effectively be raised to 18, by making it a criminal offence for anyone to commit any sexual act with or upon any person under that age who was more than two years younger than herself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon her or any third party anywhere in the world. The maximum sentence would be twice the difference in age, to the month where that was less than three years, or a life sentence where that difference was at least five years.

No different rules for “positions of trust”, which are being used against male, but not female, 18-year-olds looking after female, but not male, Sixth Formers visiting universities. And no provision, as at present, for boys to be prosecuted at any age, even if they are younger than the girls involved, whereas girls have to be 16. The law on indecent images is also enforced in totally different ways in relation to boys and girls of the same age, and even to boys who are younger than the girls. That must end.

Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, children under the age of consent can have abortion or contraception without parental permission. That is an argument for banning children under the age of consent from having abortion or contraception without parental permission. Unless they decided as adults to seek to make contact with their children, then the financial liability of male victims for pregnancies resulting from their sexual abuse ought also to be ruled out. Talk about victim-blaming. And how can anyone be convicted of non-consensual sex, who could not lawfully have engaged in consensual sex? If there is an age of consent, then anyone below it can be an assailant. But a sexual assailant? How?

Convictions under laws predating these changes ought to be annulled along with those of men whose homosexual acts would not be criminal offences today. Labour should vote against that unless it also annulled, not only all convictions in the above categories, but also all convictions and other adverse court decisions arising out of Clay Cross, Shrewsbury, Wapping, and the three Miners’ Strikes since 1970. This would set the pattern for all future feminist and LGBT legislation. Without a working-class quid pro quo, then Labour would vote against any such legislation. Alongside the DUP, the Conservative Right, or whoever. It is not Tony Blair’s Labour Party now.

But whether or not Labour or any other party would, unprompted, do any of these things, there needs to be at least one MP in the coming hung Parliament who would at least insist on putting each of them to the vote. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email davidaslindsay@hotmail.com instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Take It To The Bank?

The privatisation of RBS looks set to resume imminently. Shares are about to be sold off at a loss to the taxpayer, who bailed out RBS in the first place. Yet small businesses and local economies are crying out for investment the length and breadth of the country. This ought to be an enormous story. But it isn't. Well, of course it isn't.

Here Come The Skripals Again

Anyone would think that the Government needed to distract attention from something.

Now, ladies, and indeed gentlemen, get yourselves a dose of Novichok. Behold the Before and After.

Before:


After:


Good Morning Britain?

Perhaps Richard Madeley ought to be in Parliament? Gavin Williamson used to be the Government Chief Whip. There are people in this world who have been frightened of Gavin Williamson. And some of them are sitting as MPs. For the governing party. Give that a moment to sink in.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

"After eight years of budget cutting, Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty," writes Peter S. Goodman in this landmark New York Times article.

Monday, 28 May 2018

I Am Not Letting This Go

Oliver Kamm's fingerprints are all over the ongoing, farcical abuse of the legal system to seek to silence me politically, an attempt that is having a spectacular lack of success. In view of the "Philip Cross" scandal, I demand that the whole thing be ended with immediate effect.

The Most Distressful Country

Normally, the media in Britain barely register that the Irish Republic exists. Of course the heavy coverage of the abortion referendum, and the use of British public funds by student unions to send their members home to vote for abortion, was not really about the Republic at all. It was about Northern Ireland. As we now see.

Wreaking Countercultural Vengeance?

Peter Hitchens writes:

If anyone but The Rolling Stones publicly sang the songs Brown Sugar and Under My Thumb (look up the lyrics), they’d probably be arrested for multiple offences against Equality and Diversity. Do they get away with it because they’re basically thought to be part of the cultural revolution? Or just because they’re rich?

Well, as Kitty Empire puts it:

If the past is another country, however, where they do things differently, nowhere is the lacuna between then and now more noticeable than on Rolling Stones songs about rapist murderers, a slaver’s penchant for young African girls (Brown Sugar), and keeping women subservient (Under My Thumb, a fan selection, in which Jagger preens over what nowadays we might call coercive control). That great extended blues, Midnight Rambler, celebrates a rapist as a kind of outlaw, wreaking countercultural vengeance on the smug within their “marble halls”.

Victoria Concordia Crescit?

Trial Date Watch: Day 33

More than six weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 88

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Cross? Indeed, I Am

Oliver Kamm's fingerprints are all over the ongoing, farcical abuse of the legal system to seek to silence me politically, an attempt that is having a spectacular lack of success. In view of the "Philip Cross" scandal, I demand that the whole thing be ended with immediate effect.

Bordering On

The only county to have voted No so far has been Donegal, which contains a large minority of Ulster Protestants. The solidly "Catholic" areas are voting solidly Yes.

If you have a heart attack or what have you in Donegal, then you are taken to the hospital in Derry, and the National Health Service invoices the 26 County State for your treatment free at the point of the need. You won't be able to have an abortion there, though.

Irish Ayes

When the Pope goes to Ireland later this year, then he should visit only Northern Ireland. So much for Catholic schools. But we knew that, anyway. And so much for Catholic Ireland. But we knew that, anyway, too.

The Catholic Church in Britain and the wider English-speaking world needs to stop the cultural cringe to Ireland; tellingly, nowhere else has ever had it, or has ever seen Ireland as anything more than peripheral to the Church.

And people who wish to get on in the Irish Republic need to be told to stop writing made up misery memoirs about nasty nuns and what have you, because no one can any longer be bothered to pretend that Ireland was ever a country in which "the Church controlled everything".

These Things Happen

These things happen. See the Korean Airlines 747 in September 1983. See the case of the USS Vincennes and Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988. See Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 over the Black Sea in October 2001. These things happen, and they are highly likely to happen if you fly over a warzone.

Certain people who resemble teenagers still going on about last year's pop stars are determined to bang on about MH17. But what they are convinced is this matter of geopolitical significance is receiving less coverage than Harvey Weinstein.

Trial Date Watch: Day 32

More than six weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 87

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Friday, 25 May 2018

"And I'm Old Enough To Remember British Rail"

Aren't we all? Rail privatisation did not even begin until 1994, and it was not completed until 1997. You do not have to be the 61-year-old Anna Soubry or Dominic Lawson to remember better days.

"The Best University In The World"?

What, exactly, does that mean? Universities have very different functions in  different societies. The German system, say, or the French, is superlative at its intended purpose. But that has very little international application. And much the same is true of the Anglo-American elite system, too.

Keep In Check The Social Dumping

Prem Sikka writes:

Disgraced electronics retailer Maplin’s descent into administration should focus attention on the duties of directors, corporate governance and protection of unsecured creditors in the UK. Just look at the corporations around you.

You will see not only ownerless companies, where shareholders hold a short-term interest in the them, but also companies where shareholders, while supplying little of the share capital, enjoy 100% of the controlling rights. 

This is indicative of a new kind of social dumping where shareholders are walking away with most of the proceeds of liquidation and suppliers and employees, bearing most of the risks, are left high and dry. 

Maplin, the high-street electronics retailer, entered administration February 2018. It had 2,335 employees at 219 locations. In 2014, it was bought for £85 million by Rutland Partners, a private equity group fronting a variety of investors. 

The amount invested via share was very little. Maplin’s 2017 annual accounts show that the issued share capital was only £420,000. The shareholder investment was mainly through secured loans of £72m through a labyrinth of offshore companies. The loans carried interest rates of 15%. For 2017 and 2016 the charges came to £12.1m and £10.8m. 

The interest payments were added to the original loans and continued to be rolled-over as that offered tax advantages. The remainder of the original finance for investment was provided by banks, which also secured a charge on the company’s assets.

The significance of the secured shareholder loans is that it eliminates the downside risks. In the event of liquidation, shareholders are normally at the end of the queue of the parties to be paid out of the proceeds of liquidation. 

They usually recover little or nothing. However, by investing via secured loans they jump to the front of the queue. This way they eliminate their downside risk or more correctly shift it to unsecured creditors which include suppliers, employees, HMRC and others.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partners were appointed administrators of Maplin and their latest filing at Companies House shows that Rutland Partners will recover £102 million from liquidation.

Wells Fargo, the secured lender will recover £10.65 million to recover everything owed to it. Unsecured creditors are owed around £217 million. This includes £34.6m to suppliers, £6.2m to HMRC and £3.8m for redundancy and related payments. 

PwC estimate that unsecured creditors will receive less than 1p in the pound. Maplin is typical of the private equity business model and should encourage reflections on corporate governance arrangements and protection of creditors. 

One of the arguments advanced by the shareholder lobby is that it should have 100% of the controlling rights because it bears the residual risks i.e. it stands at the end of the queue in the event of liquidation. 

But the Maplin case shows that shareholders invested very little in shares – yet enough to acquire 100% of the controlling rights. Directors safeguarded shareholder interests by enabling them to become secured creditors. At Maplin, the downside risks were borne entirely by its unsecured creditors.

The goods and services supplied by them bolstered the company’s assets which when sold enabled secured creditors to receive their payments. Despite being major risk bearers, unsecured creditors had no say in appointing directors, auditors or choosing time and mode of administration.

There was no automatic Creditors’ Meeting to show their displeasure about administration. To call such a meeting, they would have been obliged to contribute to the cost incurred by the Administrator. 

Even that would have been futile as Rutland and Wells Fargo would have been able to out vote them all. The wealth transfer from unsecured creditors to Rutland and Wells Fargo was presented as fait accompli.

The unsecured creditors include many small and medium-size enterprises, which are unable to bear the loss of the amounts due from major customers. Their losses inevitably trigger further closures and job losses. 

Yet there is nothing in place to enable unsecured to have a say in corporate governance, or to protect them in the event of liquidation of major customer. 

The Maplin case should encourage reflections on directors’ duties. For example, Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 requires directors to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, but in doing so they are required to have regard for the interests of employees, suppliers and others.

The wording of the Act suggests that shareholders would take action to enforce director duties, but it is hard to see Maplin’s shareholders (who were also directors) taking action to enforce duties which would have resulted in a lower pay-out to themselves. 

Some protection to unsecured creditors can be offered by changing insolvency laws. For example, a substantial percentage of the proceeds of liquidation could be ring-fenced for distribution to unsecured creditors. This would reduce the amounts collected by secured creditors but lead to more equitable risk-sharing. 

Currently, secured creditors, which can be shareholders and/or banks, walk away with almost all of the proceeds from liquidation, leaving a few crumbs for others.

Maplin, like Carillion before it, teaches us that a more equitable form of risk sharing can keep in check the social dumping that is becoming all too common.

Downing

"New evidence"? The Ukrainian Government has a veto on what evidence can be released to the public in the case of MH17.


And precisely what solid evidence is there that this latest projectile had anything to do with the MH17 attack?

Trial Date Watch: Day 31

More than six weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 86

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Their Banner The Cross

Hail, glorious Saint Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan's wiles and an infidel throng;
Not less is thy might where in heaven thou art;
O, come to our aid, in our battle take part.

Lodged In The Mind

Most people in Great Britain have never taken either side in Northern Ireland.

But whereas the IRA was a long time ago, the DUP is now. And they don't like it. They don't like it one little bit. 

They simply do not see it as their own culture in any way at all. Try and imagine an Orange March down your street, and the point is made.

In any case, even the Hard Right now wants rid of Northern Ireland for the sake of Brexit. As we have already seen over the House of Lords, it will pay any price whatever for the sake of Brexit.

Except, that is, break with the Conservative Party, a party that of course exists to conserve the status quo, and which is simply not pursuing Brexit at all.

Post Facts

Those abortion pills through the post, they were not invented for Ireland. Initially, they were not even intended for Ireland.

Women in Ireland happen to have found them on the Internet. But they were there, anyway. Most of their sales are not to Ireland even now. 

So there is absolutely no reason to assume that a Yes vote in tomorrow's referendum would have any effect whatever on their use.

Cast Your Minds

Gavin Havery writes: 

A mining union is supporting campaigners opposed to the creation of an opencast coalmine in North-East countryside.

Protestors gathered at County Hall in Durham on Wednesday morning to demonstrate against the start of extraction operations near Consett, arguing conditions of planning permission are not being fulfilled. 

The Banks Group plans to remove 500,000 tonnes of coal from the Bradley site, but is obliged to create an access road so it can be transported on the A692 from the entrance, which lies between Leadgate and Dipton.

Alan Cummings, secretary of Durham Miners’ Association, said: “The Durham Miners’ Association has opposed opencast mining for many decades and support the locally lead campaign to protect the Pont Valley. 

“It damaged deep mining in the past and now threatens to ruin our environment for no perceivable benefit. Our communities have suffered enough with the decline of the coal industry and they do not need to have more injury added to insult. 

“There are deep mining projects reopening in various parts of England. So, there is little need to rip up the countryside to get coal. We are opposing Banks Group’s destructive and divisive plans to destroy the Pont Valley for its own gain.” 

Planning permission was initially rejected by Durham County Council, but the decision, which was upheld at two public inquiries, was overturned following a lengthy legal battle in the High Court. 

Campaigners, who claim an environmental crime is being committed following the claims there are great crested newts on the site, camped at the entrance to site for almost two months to delay progress on the development. The firm started working the land last week, before the creation of the access road. 

Police, who have arrested 16 people during the ongoing protests, arrested a 23-year-old woman outside County Hall, during the demonstration on Wednesday. She was arrested on suspicion of breaching court-imposed bail conditions by returning to the Banks’ opencast site on Tuesday. 

Stuart Timmiss, head of planning at Durham County Council, has said the ‘necessary monitoring and scrutiny’ had been carried out by the authority to make sure the firm met the obligations necessary to implement the planning permission. 

 Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “Work at the Bradley surface mine is being progressed in strict accordance with the requirements of its planning permission, and all pre-commencement conditions set out therein have now been discharged.”

Still Unanswered Questions

Mary Dejevsky writes: 

80 days after being found with her father, collapsed on a bench near a Salisbury shopping centre, Yulia Skripal has made a near-miraculous reappearance. She was filmed at an anonymous park-like location, reading a handwritten statement about her plight. In substance, what she said added almost nothing to the two statements issued by the Metropolitan Police in her name before. But the whole short recording was crucial in the messages it was designed to send – to the British, Russian and international public. 

It was designed, first, to reiterate the official British version of what happened, at a time when that version has started to fray rather badly. So, she said, she and her father had been the victims of a nerve agent attack; she had been in a coma for 20 days; the medical treatment had been extremely unpleasant in many respects – her tracheotomy scar was visible evidence. She was now much better, but still recovering. She did not wish to “avail herself” of the assistance offered by the Russian embassy.

But there were also conspicuous differences from the official British version. There was no blaming of Russia. There was no naming of the nerve agent. And Yulia Skripal gave no indication that she envisaged her long-term future anywhere other than Russia (contrary to an earlier British official “leak” that she and her father were to be given new identities and resettled in a third country). 

Her appearance seemed, second, intended to quash some of the more extreme speculation flourishing mostly in the social media – that the Skripals were dead; that there had been no nerve agent attack, and that even if the pair were alive, they would never, ever be seen again. 

And, third, there was a message addressed specifically to Russia, countering its charges that the UK had “kidnapped” one of its citizens and was unlawfully refusing consular access. Here was Yulia Skripal – well, let’s presume it was not a hi-tech confection or a “double” – saying, on camera, that she did not wish to meet Russian diplomats, at least not now. 

What we have here, it seems to me, is an attempt by the UK to limit the damage to its own reputation – damage perhaps it never envisaged, because it assumed everyone would “buy” the “wicked Russia” story. And the reason this had to be done, now, or at all, was that the UK’s silence – media blackout? – about the Skripals had become embarrassing; it invited unwelcome questions, and perhaps it also risked the UK’s “triumph” in orchestrating a collective Western expulsion of Russian diplomats. It is worth noting that some of the more persistent questions have come from journalists not in Britain, but in Italy, Germany and elsewhere. 

At least one of the UK’s opening assertions – that Russia was the only country to have manufactured the nerve agent in question – was challenged early, by the head of the government’s own defence research establishment at Porton Down. Since then, it has been shown that the formula was in the public domain from the mid-1990s and that both the Czechs and the Germans had access to the substance and shared the expertise with their western allies. So the presumption of Russian provenance, let alone Kremlin guilt, was always flawed. 

Questions also surround the actual findings of the chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, which sent samples for testing. Not only were aspersions cast on procedures and some actual laboratory findings, but the watchdog hardly enhanced its authority when its head vastly overestimated the quantity of nerve agent supposedly used in a statement that was subsequently corrected.

It is not just details so basic as the nature of the substance, its provenance and the quantity that are still in doubt, however, but a great deal else. Either that, of the information is being deliberately withheld. 

Here are just some of the many other still unanswered questions. 

Precisely where and when were the Skripals poisoned? Sowing confusion is often seen as a typically Russian technique to blindside and divert the enemy. But the Russians have hardly needed to sow any chaos here, because the British have helpfully done it for them. Was the nerve agent a substance or a spray? Was it in their car, in Yulia’s suitcase, in a packet of Russian cereal brought by a friend, or smeared on the front-door handle? What did a Salisbury hospital consultant mean when he wrote to The Times, saying that “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning” and only three had suffered “significant poisoning”? 

What could have been the motive for such an attack? Why would the Kremlin (or an aggrieved Russian colleague) have waited eight years to hunt down a traitor who – the Russians are on record as saying – had served his time? Why would the Kremlin have risked staging such an atrocity three months before hosting the World Cup? What of the convention that swapped spies are left alone by the country they betrayed so as not to jeopardise further exchanges in future?

Why the on-off searches and decontamination of parts of Salisbury? Why was the policeman, Det Sergeant Nick Bailey, affected, but not the doctor who administered first aid? Why has nothing been heard from either? Did the policeman, as some have hazarded, belong to Special Branch and was his task to tail the Skripals? Where were they when their GPS was switched off that morning?

Why is there no suspect, beyond “Russia”? Why was there no national or international hunt for the culprit? There was a fleeting suggestion that an individual might have fled on the same plane he arrived on; then a flicker of an intelligence intercept from Switzerland that was so general as to mean nothing. Then silence. When the national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, appeared before MPs three weeks ago, he said there were as yet no suspects. That is an extraordinary – hardly credible – admission. So high-profile an attack, such an international rumpus, and still no one, no one, in the frame?

What had Sergei Skripal been doing with his time in Salisbury, aside from joining the Railway Club? Had he done something to upset the Russians, or, indeed, British security? Had he perhaps – and this is the conspiracists’ favourite theory – maintained any connection with his former MI6 handler and neighbour? More to the point, did he have any connection, via his handler, with the ex-MI6 agent, Chris Steele, his Orbis security consultancy and the anti-Trump dossier?

Nearly three months on, and still so many questions and so few answers. Through these clouds of uncertainty let me hazard just three considerations. First, the Kremlin was not involved: the Russians were as surprised by what happened as anyone; Moscow was on something of a charm offensive in advance of the World Cup. There was no Russian interest in spoiling the international atmosphere. Could it have been a security or rogue Russian operator? Who knows.

Second, Yulia, because of her security connections (via her fiancĂ©) in Moscow and her regular travel to and fro, may have been a tempting target for recruitment by MI5/MI6. Was an attempt made? Did it go wrong? At least, it would seem from Yulia’s reappearance this week, that making a visiting Russian disappear forever is, thankfully, a step too far for UK intelligence today. Holding her against her will, however, could be another matter.

And third, I rather suspect that both the UK and Russia know more than they have told. This would help to explain both the relatively mild diplomatic response from Moscow in the last few weeks and the recent summary halt to the UK’s anti-Russian invective. Alas, we may be no closer to the truth than this.

2020 Visions

If you believe Toby Young's "two letters" story, then you will believe absolutely anything. It ranks alongside the laughable account of how Sedgefield selected Tony Blair that appears in both of the official hagiographies and in his own so-called memoirs. Young did not have the grades for Oxford, but his achingly well-connected father made a phone call, so he got in. That's it. That is the whole story.

Now, if you need Toby Young to defend you against a charge of racism, then you are in very serious trouble. He, of course, is a stalwart of the London Conference on Intelligence, along with the circle around the Ulster Institute for Social Research and the Mankind Quarterly, and along with Emil Kirkegaard, that advocate of the rape of drugged children.

Young himself is a published eugenicist, as well as being a self-confessed sexual assailant and supplier of Class A drugs. Since his media friends are trying to worm him back into public life, it is time to revisit the possibility of his prosecution for sexual and drug-related offences.

Today, David Lammy tweets that, "A lucrative market worth £6bn a year is worth fighting over. Simon Kempton @PFEW_HQ is right to draw the direct link between middle-class people buying cocaine and young, poor foot soldiers dying in turf wars in places like Tottenham. The truth hurts."

Add that to his work on Grenfell Tower, on which he is right; on Windrush, on which he is right; and on university admissions, on which he is so much more right than wrong that the other side has been has been reduced to wheeling out Toby Young; and Lammy's bid for Mayor of London is coming along nicely.

But what's this? On this week's Sputnik will be none other Ken Livingstone, by some distance the most successful Mayor of London to date, and once again free of all party constraint. Will he be making The Announcement?

Of course, just as it was perfectly possible to give a first preference vote to George Galloway and a second preference to Sadiq Khan (although Lammy or Diane Abbott would have been better), so it would be perfectly possible to give a first preference vote either to Livingstone or to Lammy, and a second preference to the other.

A contest in which each needed to win the second preferences of the other's supporters is a contest that London needs to have for its own sake, for the sake of the country, and for the sake of the world.

House of Hypocrites?

If it is hypocritical for Labour people to accept peerages, then it has been hypocritical for Conservatives to do so for longer,  since their party has been in favour of an elected second chamber for more than 20 years now, whereas Tony Blair used to pour scorn on the very idea of such a thing.

The Liberal Democrats, who maintain a very considerable presence in the House of Lords, have only ever been in favour of an elected second chamber, as the SDP was throughout its existence, and as the Liberal Party was throughout the twentieth century.

In any case, wanting to abolish something is not the same as pretending that it does not exist. While the House of Lords is there, then someone is going to be in it. Make sure that it is the right people.

Tony Benn said that you could have the House of Lords, or you could have Brexit, but you could never have both. He is being proved right. People invest the pre-Blair House of Lords with the mythology with which they also invest the monarchy.

They should snap out of it by joining the call for the lieutenancy areas to be made the basis of a new second chamber, to which the powers of the House of Lords would be transferred, with remuneration fixed at that of the Commons. In each of those areas, each of us would vote for one candidate, and the top six would be elected, giving 594 Senators in all. Ministers would no longer be drawn from the second chamber; instead, all of them, including the Prime Minister, would appear before it regularly. Its term of office would be six years, while that of the Commons would go back down to four.

But in the meantime, Her Majesty knows where I am.

A Healthy Dose

Ann Pettifor was on fine form on The Daily Politics. If there was the money to bail out the banks, then there is the money to fund the NHS.

That is in any case funded by weekly gilt issues on the international capital markets, from which are created the taxpaying jobs of the Health Service's workers.

"Jeremy Corbyn Has Annoyed Everyone In Northern Ireland"?

The people saying this never objected when Margaret Thatcher upset everyone in Northern Ireland. Upsetting everyone in Northern Ireland probably means that you are doing something right.

In any case, who is this "everyone"? In a short speech, Corbyn has annoyed every party in Northern Ireland, not at all a difficult thing to do. But there is no reason to assume that he has annoyed anyone else. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Shot Down

Is Russia trying to bury the MH17 story with its hoaxing of Boris Johnson, a story that Guido Fawkes is pitifully trying to spin in Johnson's favour? No, not really. It is just that, like the Skripals, no one is very interested in MH17 anymore.

Now, if the Russian State tried to murder Yulia Skripal and her father, or even if she merely believes that it did, then why does she want to go back to Russia eventually?

Trial Date Watch: Day 30

More than six weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 85

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Ireland and the "Ensoulment" Myth


On May 25, Irish citizens will vote on a referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution. The Eighth Amendment, which bans abortion except when the life of the mother is at risk, is the last vestige of Catholic Ireland to be enshrined in law.

The fact that it has survived so long is testament to the strength of the Church’s foundations in that verdant island. The Catholic Church has so totally conditioned attitudes toward abortion in Ireland that in order to smash the Eighth, abortion proponents have had to construct a parody Church—complete with false but plausible doctrine and a false but plausible history.

A false account of the Catholic Church’s historic stance on abortion has been in circulation for decades. There is an astroturf anti-Catholic organization, “Catholics” for Choice, funded by plutocratic foundations, dedicated to its dissemination. Legislators use its briefings, news programs interview its spokespersons, and advertising campaigns carry its expensive posters. A devious blend of fact and fiction, the false history of the Catholic Church and abortion goes like this:

The Catholic Church has not always totally condemned abortion. In the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas speculated that male embryos became ensouled at 40 days and female embryos became ensouled at 80 days. The Church came to prohibit abortion only in the nineteenth century.

This lie is peddled frequently by Patsy McGarry, the religious affairs correspondent for the Irish Times. McGarry has written: “The Catholic Church’s current position on abortion was established only 143 years ago, in 1869[, when] Pope Pius IX outlawed abortion from the moment of conception.” 

On another occasion, McGarry wrote: “For the greater part of its 2,000 year history until 1869, [the Church] taught that no homicide was involved if abortion took place before the foetus was infused with a soul.” 

Again: “Some of the greatest theologians in the Christian tradition … taught that ensoulment took place at ‘quickening,’ when the mother detected the child move inside her womb for the first time.” All this sounds plausible. But it is a tissue of half-truths and falsehoods.

The Catholic Church’s total and constant prohibition on abortion dates back to its earliest days. The Didache, which dates from the first century, contains a stern admonition never to murder a child, born or unborn.

As to the notion that abortion before “ensoulment” was considered licit by the Church: The notion of delayed ensoulment was based on the erroneous biology of Aristotle and a mistranslation of the Old Testament (Exodus 21:22). And no one in Aquinas’s day considered it an argument in favor of early abortion.

Aquinas, like Sts. Augustine and Jerome before him, opposed abortion without exception. Lacking modern medical knowledge, these doctors of the Church did not construe abortion before animation as homicide in the strict sense—but they condemned it as a grave wrong and as akin to homicide.

At the heart of the false history of the Church is the appeal to medieval speculations about the ensoulment of the fetus. This is the reddest of herrings, for ensoulment has never been a teaching of the Church. The utility of the theory in canon law was a matter of separating a gravely sinful action—early abortion—from an excommunicable sinful action—later abortion.

Hence, from 1591 until 1869, the penalty of excommunication applied to abortions procured on an “animated foetus”—that is, a fetus more than 40 days old in the case of males, more than 80 in the case of females. 

In 1869, Pius IX imposed the penalty of excommunication for abortions procured at any point, from conception onward. Prior to 1869, however, abortions procured prior to 40 or 80 days had still been considered gravely sinful. As St. Basil put it, “the woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder; with us there is no hairsplitting distinction as to its being formed or unformed.” 

The “ensoulment” myth is an example of false history and one well suited to our times—disseminated by the mendacious and relied upon by Catholics who want to have their cake and eat it too. Its persistence tells us a great deal about modern preoccupations, and nothing at all about the past.

Yulia Skripal and the Salisbury WUT

Craig Murray writes:

It was happy to see Yulia alive and looking reasonably well yesterday, if understandably stressed. Notably, and in sharp contrast to Litvinenko, she levelled no accusations at Russia or anybody else for her poisoning.

In Russian she spoke quite naturally. Of the Russian Embassy she said very simply “I am not ready, I do not want their help”. Strangely this is again translated in the Reuters subtitles by the strangulated officialese of “I do not wish to avail myself of their services”, as originally stated in the unnatural Metropolitan Police statement issued on her behalf weeks ago. 

“I do not wish to avail myself of their services” is simply not a translation of what she says in Russian and totally misses the “I am not ready” opening phrase of that sentence. My conclusion is that Yulia’s statement was written by a British official and then translated to Russian for her to speak, rather than the other way round. Also that rather than translate what she said in Russian themselves for the subtitles, Reuters have subtitled using a British government script they have been given.

It would of course have been much more convincing had Sergei also been present. Duress cannot be ruled out when he is held by the British authorities. I remain extremely suspicious that, at the very first chance she got in hospital, Yulia managed to get hold of a telephone (we don’t know how, it was not her own and she has not had access to one since) and phone her cousin Viktoria, yet since then the Skripals have made no attempt to contact their family in Russia.

That includes no contact to Sergei’s aged mum, Yulia’s grandmother, who Viktoria cares for. Sergei normally calls his mother – who is 89 – regularly. This lack of contact is a worrying sign that the Skripals may be prevented from free communication to the outside world. Yulia’s controlled and scripted performance makes that more rather than less likely.

It is to me particularly concerning that Yulia does not seem to have social media access. The security services have the ability to give her internet risk free through impenetrable VPN. But they appear not to have done that. 

We know a little more about the Salisbury attack now:

Nobody – not Porton Down, not the OPCW – has been able to state that the nerve agent found was of Russian manufacture, a fact which the MSM continues to disgracefully fudge with “developed in Russia” phrasing.

As is now well known and was reported by Iran in scientific literature, Iran synthesised five novichoks recently. More importantly, the German spying agency BND obtained novichok in the 1990s and it was studied and synthesised in several NATO countries, almost certainly including the UK and USA. 

In 1998, chemical formulae for novichok were introduced into the United States NIST National Institute of Standards and Technologies Mass Spectrometry Library database by U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Defense Command, but the entry was later deleted. In 2009 Hillary Clinton instructed US diplomats to feign ignorance of novichoks, as revealed by the last paragraph of this Wikileaks released diplomatic cable.

Most telling was the Sky News interview with the head of Porton Down. Interviewer Paul Kelso repeatedly pressed Aitkenhead directly on whether the novichok could have come from Porton Down. Aitkenhead replies “There is no way, anything like that could…leave these four walls. We deal with a number of toxic substances in the work that we do, we’ve got the highest levels of security and controls”.

Asked again twice, he each times says the security is so tight “the substance” could not have come from Porton Down. What Aitkenhead does NOT say is “of course it could not have come from here, we have never made it”. Indeed Aitkenhead’s repeated assertion that the security would never have let it out, is tantamount to an admission Porton Down does produce novichok. 

If somebody asked you whether the lion that savaged somebody came from your garden, would you reply “Don’t be stupid, I don’t have a lion in my garden” or would you say, repeatedly, “Of course not, I have a very strong lion cage?”. Here you can see Mr Aitkenhead explain repeatedly he has a big lion cage, from 2’25” in.
  So the question of where the nerve agent was made remains unresolved. The MSM has continually attempted to lie about this and affirm that all novichok is Russian made. The worst of corporate and state journalism in the UK was exposed when they took the OPCW’s report that it confirmed the findings of Porton Down and presented that as confirming the Johnson/May assertion that it was Russia, whereas the findings of Porton Down were actually – as the Aitkenhead interview stated categorically – that they could not say where it was made. 

The other relatively new development is the knowledge that Skripal had not retired but was active for MI6 on gigs briefing overseas intelligence agencies about Russia. This did not increase his threat to Russia, as he told everything he knows a decade ago. But it could provide an element of annoyance that would indeed increase Russian official desire to punish him further.

But the fact he was still very much active has a far greater significance. The government slapped a D(SMA) noticeon the identity of Pablo Miller, Skripal’s former MI6 handler who lives close by in Salisbury and who worked for Christopher Steele’s Orbis Intelligence at the time that Orbis produced the extremely unreliable dossier on Trump/Russia. The fact that Skripal had not retired but was still briefing on Russia, to me raises to a near certainty the likelihood that Skripal worked with Miller on the Trump dossier.

I have to say that, as a former Ambassador in the former Soviet Union trained in intelligence analysis and familiar with MI6 intelligence out of Moscow, I agree with every word of this professional dissection of the Orbis Trump dossier by Paul Roderick Gregory, irrespective of Gregory’s politics. In particular this paragraph, which Gregory wrote more than a year before the Salisbury attack, certainly applies to much of the dossier.

I have picked out just a few excerpts from the Orbis report. It was written, in my opinion, not by an ex British intelligence officer but by a Russian trained in the KGB tradition. It is full of names, dates, meetings, quarrels, and events that are hearsay (one an overheard conversation). It is a collection of “this important person” said this to “another important person.” There is no record; no informant is identified by name or by more than a generic title. The report appears to fail the veracity test in the one instance of a purported meeting in which names, dates, and location are provided. Some of the stories are so bizarre (the Rosneft bribe) that they fail the laugh test. Yet, there appears to be a desire on the part of some media and Trump opponents on both sides of the aisle to picture the Orbis report as genuine but unverifiable.
The Russian ex-intelligence officer who we know was in extremely close contact with Orbis at the time the report was written, was Sergei Skripal.

The Orbis report is mince. Skripal knew it was mince and how it was written. Skripal has a history of selling secrets to the highest bidder. The Trump camp has a lot of money. My opinion is that as the Mueller investigation stutters towards ignominious failure, Skripal became a loose end that Orbis/MI6/CIA/Clinton (take your pick) wanted tied off. That seems to me at least as likely as a Russian state assassination. To say Russia is the only possible suspect is nonsense.

The Incompetence Factor 

The contradiction between the claim that the nerve agent was so pure it could only be manufactured by a state agent, and yet that it failed because it was administered in an amateur and incompetent fashion, does not bother the mainstream media. Boris Johnson claimed that the UK had evidence that Russia had a ten year programme of stockpiling secret novichok and he had a copy of a Russian assassination manual specifying administration by doorknob.

Yet we are asked to believe that the Russians failed to notice that administration by doorknob does not actually work, especially in the rain. How two people both touched the doorknob in closing the door is also unexplained, as is how one policeman became poisoned by the doorknob but numerous others did not.

The explanations by establishment stooges of how this “ten times more powerful than VX” nerve agent only works very slowly, but then very quickly, if it touches the skin, and still does not actually kill you, have struck me as simply desperate. They make May’s ringing claims of a weapon of mass destruction being used on British soil appear somewhat unjustified. Weapon of Upset Tummy does not sound quite so exciting.

To paint a doorknob with something that if it touches you can kill you requires great care and much protective gear. That no strangely dressed individual has been identified by the investigation – which seems to be getting nowhere in identifying the culprit – is the key fact here. None of us know who did this. The finger-pointing at Russia by corporate and state interests seeking to stoke the Cold War is disgusting.