Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Trial Date Watch: Day Seven

Two 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 62

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.

Gala Theatre, Indeed

The loathsome Durham County Council has the gall to send me the details of this season's productions at the Gala Theatre, having cut to the bone the buses without which my disability makes it impossible for me to attend. I did not grow up in the middle of nowhere. Yet, without having moved, that is where I now find myself. 

So much for the fact that the Chosen One, so called because she spookily did not have to undergo any kind of selection process in order to become a parliamentary candidate, now really does live in Lanchester, and is no longer merely pretending to do so, as she did for electoral purposes last year.

Simon Henig has a real problem with the disabled in general. He long ago withdrew the Special Needs Allowance from those Teaching Assistants who had previously qualified for it, and he has now cut the salaries of 472 Teaching Assistants, about one quarter of the total, by 23 per cent. They are now paid less for full-time work with children, and not least with disabled children, than Councillors receive for no formal requirement beyond attendance at four meetings per year.

They are in that situation because they listened to the political advice of the man whom the Chosen One has since appointed as her Political Advisor. Had they listened to me, as I concede that Henig had made difficult by faking a criminal charge against me, then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council last year and justice for the Teaching Assistants would already have been achieved. 

But instead, they listened to Ben Sellout, who has since done very well indeed out of the Chosen One. I am not the only person who thinks that. Just as I am not the only person who has noticed that the Durham Miners' Association, previously very supportive indeed of the Teaching Assistants, has since Davey Hopper died transferred its affections from them to the Chosen One. During that period, it has also become, so to speak, strikingly less political in general. There has been a significant MI5 addition to its staff.

Justice for the Teaching Assistants would be a non-negotiable part of the price of my support for any Government in the coming hung Parliament. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Peter Hitchens Should Sue

I realise that journalists do not like to invoke the English law of libel, but he should consider making an example of this.

If You Want The Truth

On last night's Newsnight, Evan Davis blurted out that, "If you want the truth, then there's the BBC, The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph," actively admitting that they were all the same thing, something that most readers of only one of those newspapers do not realise, and taking it as a given that that single entity had the absolute right to set the parameters, not only of acceptable debate, but of accepted fact.

The same attitude is evident in the call for a new party made up of fading grandees from New Labour and the Coalition. "Weren't those people supposed to have been opposing each other for 20 years?" "Oh, you simple little peasant, to imagine such a thing!" 

For 20 years BC, Before Corbyn, we sat through staged debates about nothing, between people whom no one any longer even pretends ought not to have been in the same party in the first place. To return us to that sorry state of affairs, not least by pretending that it still exists, is now the all-consuming mission of the BBC, The TimesThe Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.

Hence the seriousness with which Yvette Cooper, of all people, is being treated on the Windrush issue. As Shadow Home Secretary, she welcomed Theresa May's Immigration Bill, calling it "sensible". The only four people to have voted against it and to remain Labour MPs were Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner.

Three of  those are now in the Shadow Cabinet, and Skinner has never done Select Committees since, having been shunted to Leader of the House, Norman St John-Stevas invented them in order to give himself something to do. Who, then, should Chair the Home Affairs Select Committee? Very obviously, the position is crying out for David Lammy. And to hell with Yvette Cooper. However much that might annoy the BBC, The TimesThe Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, not least for that very reason.

On Windrush, Jacob Rees-Mogg has also been having a good war. He was on fine form on Channel 4 News, indicating that he is nowhere near as right-wing as his putative supporters like to imagine. He did not vote against the Immigration Bill, but that is only because he has rarely or never voted against the Cameron or May Government. Like Lammy, he seems to be genuinely contrite now. And like Lammy, he favours the preservation and restoration of a Christian culture in this country. In which case, the more immigration, the better, from the Caribbean, from Africa, and from Eastern Europe.

Preservation and restoration. With the conviction of two of the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, the alteration to the law of double jeopardy has now done its job. That ancient liberty should be restored. Henceforth, as historically, no acquitted person should ever have to stand trial again for the same offence.

The erosion of trial by jury and of the right to silence ought to be reversed, and the partial reversal of the burden of proof ought to be reversed back. Conviction by majority verdict, which by definition is not conviction beyond reasonable doubt, ought to be abolished. The Scots Law requirement of corroboration of evidence ought to be extended to the rest of the United Kingdom. The Crown should have 12 weeks from charge to present its case or be told that it had no case, such that the accused ought never to have been charged. Legal Aid should be restored across the board. And very much else besides.

You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Hebrew Characters

As the Government teeters on the brink of collapse over the worst British political scandal in living memory, the BBC dutifully maintains that the main news is that Jeremy Corbyn failed to acquiesce to the jaw-droppingly arrogant and entitled demands of two entirely self-appointed bodies, one of them full of hardcore Tories and headed by a leading Conservative activist, and the other plainly and simply a front for what little remains of the Conservative Party organisation in London.

Even if the Board of Deputies and the "Jewish Leadership Council" spoke for every Jew in Britain, and that is most certainly not the case, then that would still be fewer people than voted to re-elect Corbyn as Labour Leader in 2016. The turnout at their lavishly publicised demonstration was pitiful. If that few protesters turned up to object to a road scheme in a country town, then the organisers would call the whole thing off and head to the pub. I am serious.

The local election results in London will be the definitive proof that Corbyn should simply have refused to meet this pair of joke organisations. Just as he should never have overlooked his supporters by appointing his enemies to frontbench and other positions, or allowed some of those to worm their way back in, despite their having resigned in an attempt to force him from office, or allowed a free vote on Syria when no one remembers a free vote on Iraq, or whipped an abstention on Trident, or acted against the social and ethnic cleansing of Labour Haringey but not to secure justice for the 472 Teaching Assistants in Labour Durham, or supported the Government's indulgence of the ludicrous theory of gender self-identification, or hinted at support for the Customs Union, or accepted any part of the Government's wholly baseless and now collapsed claims about Salisbury and Douma.

While Theresa May's Government is detaining and deporting British citizens based on the colour of their skin, her party consorts with some very colourful characters in the European Parliament, it restores its whip to an MP who publicly used the n-word, and it depends at Westminster on at least two MPs who subscribe to Dispensationalism, a nineteenth-century theory that, although hugely popular in the United States, is in fact of Irish Protestant origin. Among many other things, Dispensationalists want all Jews to move to Israel in order to bring on the Second Coming, prior to which they will either convert to Christianity or be killed. That is what those Evangelicals who subscribe to "Christian Zionism" believe.

Yet it is for holding the older Evangelical line, to which the idea of the modern State of Israel as a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy is as ridiculous as it sounds, that Dr Stephen Sizer is castigated by, you've guessed it, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which presumes the right to dictate who may or may not or may not minister in the Church of England, just as it presumes the right to determine who may or may not be a member of the Labour Party, or who may or may not appear on a platform with a member of the Labour Party. Stephen is a thoroughgoing Conservative Evangelical, and absolutely no one's idea of a theological liberal. Yet he is cast out for not wanting all Jews to convert or die, and Corbyn is assailed for associating with a man of that view.

In similar vein, at this very moment, Marc Wadsworth, who introduced Doreen and Neville Lawrence to Nelson Mandela, is in a hearing to determine whether or not he should be expelled from the Labour Party on the say-so of one Ruth Smeeth, who is notable for absolutely nothing apart from her allegedly having been the victim of Wadsworth's anti-Semitic abuse, which was conveniently witnessed only by herself.

If she, or the Board of Deputies, or the "Jewish Leadership Council" wanted to make themselves useful, then, as we moved towards an entirely unnecessary war with Iran at Israel's insistence, they would board a plane to Tehran, unannounced, and smartphones in hand so that one of them might tweet immediately before landing that they would not be leaving without Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. But they won't. They haven't yet, and they won't. Then again, nor has Jeremy Corbyn.

No Remorse For Hillary

Craig Murray writes:

I am hopeful that the commendable discovery process involved in US litigation will bring to light further details of the genesis of Christopher Steele’s ludicrous dossier on Trump/Russia, and may even give some clues as to whether Sergei Skripal and/or his handler Pablo Miller were involved in its contents. 

The decision by the Democratic National Committee to sue the Russian Government, Wikileaks, Julian Assange personally and the Trump campaign is an act of colossal hubris. It is certain to reveal still more details of the deliberate fixing of the primary race against Bernie Sanders, over which five DNC members, including the Chair, were forced to resign. 

It will also lead to the defendants being able to forensically examine the DNC servers to prove they were not hacked – something which astonishingly the FBI refused to do, being instead content to take the word of the DNC’s own private cyber security firm, Crowdstrike. Unless those servers have been wiped completely (as Hillary did to her private email server) I know that is not going to go well for the DNC.

I cannot better Glenn Greenwald’s article on why it is a terrible idea to sue Wikileaks for publishing leaked documents – it sets a precedent which could be used to constrain media from ever publishing anything given them by whistleblowers. It is an astonishingly illiberal thing to undertake. 

Nor is it politically wise. The media has done its very best to ignore as far as possible the actual content of the leaks of DNC material, and rather to concentrate on the wild accusations of how they were obtained. But the fundamental crookedness revealed in the emails is bound to get some sort of airing, not least as the basis of a public interest defence.

I have often been asked if I regret my association with Wikileaks, given they are held responsible for the election of Donald Trump. My answer is that I feel no remorse at all. Hillary Clinton lost because she was an appalling candidate. A multi-millionaire, neo-con warmonger with the warmth and empathy of a three week dead haddock and an eye for the interests of Wall Street, who regarded ordinary voters as “deplorables” (a term she used not just once, but frequently at fund-raisers with the mega-wealthy). 

Hillary Clinton conspired with the machine that was supposed to be neutrally running the primaries, to fix the primaries against Bernie Sanders. The opinion polls regularly showed that Sanders would beat Trump, and that the only Democratic candidate who Trump could beat was Clinton. Egomania and a massive sense of entitlement nevertheless led her not just to persist to get the candidacy, but persist to rig the candidacy. She then proceeded to ignore major urban working class battleground states in her campaign against Trump and focus on more glamorous places.

In short, Hillary was corrupt rubbish. Full stop, and not remotely Wikileaks’ fault. Wikileaks did not go out to get the evidence against Hillary. They were given it. Should they have withheld the knowledge of the rigging of the field against Bernie Sanders from the American people, to let Clinton benefit from the corruption? For me that is a no-brainer. It would have been a gross moral dereliction to have done so. It is also the case that Wikileaks can only publish what they are given. Had they been given dirt on Trump, they would have published. But they were not given any leaks on Trump.

I should put in an aside here which might surprise you. I like Anthony Weiner. I have never met him, but I watched the amazing 2016 fly on the wall documentary Weiner and he came across as a person of genuine goodwill, passion and commitment, undermined by what is very obviously a pathological illness. I realise that was not the general reaction, but it was mine.

But – and now I am going to really annoy people – I have to say that from an international perspective, rather than an American domestic perspective, I am also not in the slightest convinced that Trump has been worse for the world than Clinton would have been.

Trump has not, to date, initiated any new military intervention or substantially increased any military conflict during his Presidency. In fact his current actions more closely match his words about non-intervention during his election campaign, than do his current words. Despite hawkish posturing, he has not substantially increased American military intervention in Syria. 

My reading of the reported chemical weapon attack on Douma is this. Whether it was a false flag chemical attack, a pro-Assad chemical attack, or no chemical attack at all I do not know for sure. But whichever it is, it was used to attempt to get Trump to commit to a major escalation of American involvement in the war in Syria. 

So far, he has not done that. The American-led missile attack was illegal, but fortunately comparatively restrained, certainly in no way matching Trump’s rhetoric. All the evidence is, and there is a great deal of evidence from Libya and Afghanistan, that Clinton would have been far more aggressive. That leaves the dichotomy between Trump’s rhetoric and his actions.

Certainly there is every sign of a sharp tilt to the neo-cons, His apparent preference in his press conference with Macron today for an extended presence of France, the former colonial power, and US troops in Syria is deeply troubling. His sacking of the sensible Tillerson from the State Department, and his appointment of the odious John Bolton as National Security Adviser all appear to be terrible signs. But still, nothing has actually happened.

There is a reading that Trump is placating the neo-cons with position and rhetoric while his actions – in Syria and in what a hating political class fails to acknowledge has all the makings of a diplomatic coup in North Korea – go in a very different direction.

It is beyond doubt that Hillary, who cannot open her mouth without denouncing Russia for causing her own entirely self-inflicted failure – would be taking the new Cold War to even worse extremes than it has already reached, to the delight of the military-industrial complex and her Wall Street friends. It is open to debate, but I would contend that it is very probable that President Hillary would have launched a major attack on Syria by now, just like she presided over as Secretary of State in Libya. 

So my answer is this. Firstly, Clinton caused her own downfall by arrogance, and by failing to grasp the alienation of ordinary people from neo-liberal policies that impoverished them while the rich grew massively richer. Secondly, I strongly suspect that if Hillary were President, more people would be dead now in the Middle East. So no, I have no regrets at all.

An Inconvenient Book?

Peter Oborne writes:

First, I should state my position. I admire Miles Goslett. I came across him about six years ago when he helped break the Jimmy Savile sex abuse story that Newsnight and several newspapers were too scared to touch. In 2015 he exposed the corruption at the heart of the venerated Camila Batmanghelidjh’s Kids Company. He’s won Scoop of the Year four times.

Investigations like these, and I’ve done my share, are lonely and hard. Savile and Batmanghelidjh both had powerful protectors in the media and political establishment. Goslett had almost no resources except the art of asking difficult questions of respected people and spotting inconsistencies. It was a long, demanding job bringing those stories into the open, so Goslett demands respect.

We reporters live in a world of sharply contracting budgets where, as Nick Davies explained in his brilliant and definitive Flat Earth News, journalists are increasingly dependant on PR and government hand-outs. There are far too few like Goslett who treat journalism like a vocation, and my word we need more of them.

A few years ago Miles Goslett told me he was investigating the death of David Kelly, the government scientist who died, apparently through suicide, after he was caught up in the post-mortem into the Iraq War calamity. When it was finished Goslett asked me to read the book. I liked it, and introduced him to my publisher, Neil Belton at Head of Zeus. Neil read it, admired it and decided to publish. Some words of mine explaining the importance of the book appear on the back cover. Goslett’s work was published two weeks ago.

Within days a review appeared, written by the Times columnist David Aaronovitch. He wrote: “It stinks, really, does this waste of publisher’s, purchaser’s and reviewer’s time and money.” Aaronovitch accused Goslett of being “blinded by his desire to get another publication and another payday out of the Kelly affair.” He accused Goslett of pandering to ‘conspiracists’.

I thoroughly approve of hostile book reviews. There is much too much backscratching on the literary pages of newspapers, far too little forensic examination. However I do believe that a hostile review should be intellectually honest. This means giving the ordinary reader a fair account of the book before demolishing it. David Aaronovitch doesn’t even begin to do that in his review. Instead he describes a book that doesn’t actually exist and nobody, least of all Goslett, has actually written.

The real book written by Goslett (as opposed to the Aunt Sally created by Aaronovitch) is a notable contribution to contemporary political history. Goslett makes no wild assertions. He has as far as I can tell no political agenda. He simply examines with scrupulous care the sequence of events surrounding the scientist’s sad and tragic death.

He convincingly shows Hutton failed to call the right witnesses, or ask the right questions. As a result there remain a number of unanswered questions about the death of David Kelly which Lord Hutton ought to have addressed, but didn’t. Aaronovitch’s hatchet job disgracefully does not even give Times readers a hint of this crucial context.

This book is, however, a breakthrough moment because till now political journalists like me have tended to look at Hutton from the Westminster point of view. That has meant that we have concentrated on challenging Lord Hutton’s conclusion (in defiance of much of the evidence) that John Scarlett and his Joint Intelligence Committee produced their dossier on Saddam Hussein’s so-called weapons of mass destruction free from political pressure.

We were by contrast lazy in our examination of the primary purpose of the Hutton Report, namely his investigation into “the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly.” I was a lobby journalist at the time and we took for granted the official account that Kelly killed himself by slashing the ulnar artery of his left wrist and swallowing a large number of Comproxamol painkiller tablets. This is the territory that Goslett makes his own.

He notes first of all the crucial fact that the government cancelled the coroner’s inquest. This remains a strange decision. Both the Hutton Inquiry and the inquest could have gone on simultaneously. Evidence presented to a coroner is given under oath. Not so with the Hutton Inquiry, which was established on a non-statutory basis, meaning it had no legal powers and that witnesses could mislead Hutton without committing perjury. This may help to explain why crucial witnesses weren’t called and relevant information wasn’t brought to light.

The scientist’s former colleague Mai Pedersen, who could have told Lord Hutton that Dr Kelly had damaged his right arm and was incapable of cutting steak, let alone cutting his left wrist, wasn’t called. Lord Hutton did not call John and Pamela Dabbs, friends of the Kellys who were some of the last people to see him alive in the days before his death.

Neither did he call the so-called “boat people”, who were moored on the river next to where Dr Kelly was found the night that he died – the closest witnesses to where Dr Kelly was found. He didn’t call the police officer in charge of the investigation into Dr Kelly’s disappearance, Chief Inspector Alan Young. He did not call Sergeant Simon Morris, the police officer who led the initial hunt for Dr Kelly.

Hutton failed to discover that the knife Kelly supposedly used to cut his wrist had no fingerprints on it. Nor did some of the other items found beside the body including a water bottle, some empty pills packets, a watch, a pair of glasses and a mobile phone. All despite the fact, says Goslett, that Kelly was not wearing gloves that day and none were found with his body.

Neither did Lord Hutton call Judith Miller, an American journalist and acquaintance of Dr Kelly’s to whom he wrote on the day of his death that there were ‘many dark actors playing games.’ Nor did he call the man who briefed a team of volunteer searchers; the police photographer who could have shed invaluable insight into the position of Dr Kelly’s body; 10 people who watched the autopsy; and a forensic biologist who went to the scene of the body.

In the light of all this he makes the case there should be a full coroner’s inquest to find out the truth of what happened. In the light of a mountain of evidence showing that Lord Hutton was negligent, it’s impossible to argue with that. Pointing out all these (and many other) failures and inconsistencies seems to me to be a valuable piece of investigative journalism, but Aaronovitch leaves Times readers in the dark about them all.

Aaronovitch’s review is instead chiefly given over to vulgar abuse and smears designed to create the idea in the mind of a Times reader that Goslett is a crackpot. He does attack Goslett on a few specific points. I will deal with one of these attacks in detail as it is an example of the general dishonesty of Aaronovitch’s approach.

This concerns a strong and well-researched section of Goslett’s book which wonders how Tony Blair was able to call a public inquiry into the “suspected suicide” of David Kelly only minutes after being told of Kelly’s apparent death whilst on a long-haul flight, long before Dr Kelly had officially been declared a suicide victim, or the body confirmed as his. Aaronovitch writes:
His contention is that Blair moved suspiciously quickly, once he knew of Kelly's death, to call an inquiry into a suicide that he couldn't be sure was a suicide. Why, asks Goslett, did Blair not also consider the possibility that Kelly had "been the victim of a random assault by a psychopath"? Answers, as they say, on a postcard.
This account gives the impression to readers of The Times that Goslett is a nutter who thinks that Tony Blair should have entertained the proposition that Kelly might have been subject to a random attack by a psychopath. Except Goslett doesn’t argue anything of the sort. He is making an entirely different point to illustrate the speed with which Tony Blair reacted to Kelly’s death. This is what Goslett actually wrote.

"The wheels of power were certainly turning remarkably effectively in the Whitehall machine. But is this sequence of events really plausible? Nobody by this stage had, formally, the faintest knowledge as to how Dr Kelly had died.
How did Blair, Falconer, Phillips and Bingham know that Dr Kelly hadn’t had a heart attack while walking, tripped and accidentally cut his wrist? Come to that, how did they know that Dr Kelly hadn’t been the victim of a random assault by a psychopath? How did they know Dr Kelly hadn’t been murdered in a premeditated attack by somebody who knew him – or who didn’t know him? The answer is they didn’t know because they could not possibly have known. Yet the speed of their reaction, and the decision taken to hold a public inquiry, suggests that somebody had some advance warning before 9.20 a.m., when the volunteer searchers found his body, that Dr Kelly was dead."
So Miles Goslett is not here putting forward the theory that Kelly was killed by a psychopath, as Aaronovitch disingenuously suggests to readers of The Times. He was using the psychopath example as a rhetorical device in order to evoke the state of ignorance inside Whitehall at the time about the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death.

Aaronovitch’s review is not just misleading. It is also riddled with elementary and avoidable errors. Aaronovitch (who claims to be an expert on Kelly) says that Dr Kelly's body was exhumed shortly after November 5, 2014. It was not dug up till 2017. He says that Kelly fled to Cornwall on July 10, 2003. Yet according to the official version of events, the date on which Kelly fled his house was actually July 9.

Some of Aaronovitch’s errors strike me as malicious as well as false. He claims that Goslett is ‘cashing in’ by writing this book. Goslett and I share the same small, independent publisher. If his advance is anything like mine, it’s probably roughly the same as Aaronovitch gets for just one of his weekly Times columns.

I’ve written investigative books of this nature. The work involved brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Months and months of lonely, unrequited effort, fact-checking and considerable expense in return for a derisory publishers’ advance. Aaronovitch has been around more than long enough to know this. I checked.

The initial print run of Goslett’s book was 2,500 copies, though I am happy to learn that a further 1,000 copies have been printed in response to heavier than expected early demand. Whatever Goslett’s motive in writing this book, it wasn’t money. It really wasn’t. To claim that it was is absurd. As a fellow author I say this with a heavy heart.

Aaronovitch calls Goslett a former Mail journalist, and there are several sneers at the Daily Mail (where I write a weekly column) in his review. No problem with any of that. Aaronovitch is an expert at sneering and he can sneer about the Daily Mail as much as he likes, but he ought to have told his Times readers that Goslett worked for the Mail on Sunday.

This newspaper, as Aaronovitch again must know perfectly well but the majority of Times readers probably wouldn’t, is editorially independent of the Daily Mail. It has always had a different tone, philosophy and set of political beliefs. Aaronovitch should have explained this.

Aaronovitch casually insults the book’s publisher, saying that it is wasting money on a book for conspiracy theorists. On this front I have news for Aaronovitch. Neil Belton of Head of Zeus is one of Britain’s finest publishers, and as it happens, a friend of mine. Previously an Editor at Faber, Jonathan Cape and at Granta, he has published and edited Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel), Stephen Jay Gould (Wonderful Life), Orlando Figes (A People’s Tragedy), Will Hutton (The State We’re In), Brian Keenan (An Evil Cradling), Eric Lomax (The Railway Man), Misha Glenny (The Balkans) and James Hamilton Patterson’s Empire of the Clouds.

Neil is a hard headed as well as a decent and creative individual who wouldn’t have survived in his world for long by being intellectually mugged by nutcase conspiracy theorists. The same applies to Anthony Cheetham, chairman of Head of Zeus, and one of London’s most respected post-war publishers. Aaronovitch, if he has a scrap of decency about him, will give Belton and Cheetham an apology.

We have all noticed a new and disturbing coarseness in modern political and media discourse, marked in particular by a failure to understand or even acknowledge other points of view. This collapse into insult and caricature rather than well-informed and civilised argument damages us all. David Aaronovitch can be a good writer. I haven’t read it but friends of mine say his recent memoir is one of the best accounts of growing up in a communist household ever written – a remarkable book.

He is chairman of the Index on Censorship, a wonderful organisation one of whose objectives is to ensure that 'Everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution.' Aaronovitch should ask himself whether his snide and dishonest attack on an author whose only fault is to question an official narrative is compatible with the noble objectives of the organisation he chairs.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Trial Date Watch: Day Six

More than a week 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 61

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.

Courage Calls To Courage Everywhere

Caroline Criado Perez was positively proud of never having heard of Jan Smuts, and of being unable to pronounce his name correctly. How this person has attained the eminence that she has in our national life, I honestly cannot begin to understand.

Still, the statue of Millicent Fawcett is welcome in itself, as was the restoration of the vote to wealthy women after an 86-year hiatus. But this year's centenary was of the enfranchisement of working-class men, and that because they had threatened to take it by force if they had not been given it.

That has gone unmarked, as will the centenary, in 2028, of the enfranchisement of working-class women. Won't it?

Race To The Bottom?

In the midst of the Windrush Scandal, is Theresa May a racist? No, of course not. Nor is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite. And nor is the suggestion that he is one any kind of news story, having attracted to its heavily trailed demonstration far fewer people than some of us have often seen demonstrate against road schemes, building proposals, school closures, fracking or open-casting.

An ombudsman appointed by, and answerable to, the Board of Deputies and the "Jewish Leadership Council"? In that case, the Conservative Party needs an ombudsman appointed by, and answerable to, Unite and Momentum. Indeed, Momentum has no formal relationship with the Labour Party, whereas the "Jewish Leadership Council" is plainly and simply the remnant of what was once the formidable Conservative Party organisation in London.

Corbyn should have refused to meet either of them until the London local election results had established how much support they did or did not have. On the basis of those results, he could then have refused again, since it would have been clear that they spoke for practically nobody. It very soon will be.

The broadcast of the Stephen Lawrence documentary in the middle of the Windrush Scandal, but featuring Theresa May, was more than a little poetic. Her Stephen Lawrence Day strikes me as a trifle kitsch. But that could be overcome if the first one, 22nd April 2019, were to be the day on which the ancient protection against double jeopardy were restored, so that the State might no longer pursue the acquitted to the grave or until it got the result that it wanted. That anniversary would then be justly celebrated ever thereafter.

Viewers will also have noticed Marc Wadsworth introducing Doreen and Neville Lawrence to Nelson Mandela, the landmark meeting that won the case national attention. Wadsworth is currently suspended from the Labour Party because he is allegedly anti-Semitic. Many statements of Mandela's on the Israel-Palestine conflict would also now have secured his suspension or expulsion from the Labour Party, of which he was an Honorary Member, using the definition of anti-Semitism that is insisted upon by the Board of Deputies, by the "Jewish Leadership Council", and by their party within a party on the Labour benches in the House of Commons.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Happy Saint George's Day

Like Saint Andrew's Day, Saint David's Day and Saint Patrick's Day, this ought to be a public holiday throughout the United Kingdom. Away with pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday.

Yes, that was a Labour manifesto commitment last year. I am very glad that it was. But I have been saying it for more than 20 years. Admittedly, that was also true of several other things that were in last year's Labour manifesto.

It is amazing how many people assume that because there is a legend about Saint George, then he himself must be a purely legendary figure. He is not. Although the Tomb of Saint George at his birthplace, which is now known as Lod and which is the location of Israel's principal airport, has become a shadow of its former self.

It was once a major focus of unity between Christians and Muslims in devotion to the Patron Saint of Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt before, and as much as, the Patron Saint of England. But three quarters of those who practised that devotion were violently expelled in 1948. On what remains, see here.

Trial Date Watch: Day Five

More than a week 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 60

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.

Capita-l Punishment

Another one.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were right all along.

The Third Way?

Allocated a gender at birth and weighed in imperial measures? The Royal Family do not check their emails, do they?

But it is no joke that the third child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will enjoy the financial support of the State while the third children of anyone else will no longer do so.

This amounts to a policy of compulsory abortion, and it is rightly opposed in trenchant terms by the bishops of the Church of England, of which this newborn's grandfather, father and brother at least aspire to become Supreme Governor in due course.

The birth of the new Prince is an occasion to address this issue with the utmost seriousness and urgency.

Speaking The Unspeakable

Am I serious about keeping Harriet Harman out of the Speaker's Chair on account of her past links to the Paedophile Information Exchange? Utterly. To the marrow of my bones.

No one has done more on this issue than I have. No one. Not only would I oppose her election, but, were she already in post, then I would oppose her re-election at the start of the next Parliament.

You would not get that from anyone else. Anyone. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

A Monumental Opportunity

Millicent Fawcett is all well and good. But there ought to be a triple monument to the working-class Suffragettes who fought on for another 10 years after 1918, to Women Against Pit Closures, and to the County Durham Teaching Assistants.

The Durham Miners' Association should commission and erect that, to be unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn, quite possibly as Prime Minister by the time that it had been completed. Or else I, as the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, would do so.

If the DMA, which has slid back very publicly on support for the TAs since Davey Hopper died, had failed to do this, then it would only be giving you yet another reason to do everything possible to get me elected, including by voting for me if you happened to live here.

Bored of Deputies

A glorified golf club and a front organisation for what remains of the Conservative Party in London should have been told to get lost in the first place.

The "Jewish Leadership Council" is not even a subtle attempt at astroturfing. Nor will it prove a successful one. And the Board of Deputies, like the Chief Rabbinate, is a throwback to a completely different age.

The first should be laughed out, while the second and third should no longer be treated as any more important than anyone else.

An Open Door, Indeed

Either the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary will be lucky to survive in office. It turns out that immigration really was a big issue after all.

Specifically, it turns out that public opinion bears no resemblance to that of the people who for 10 years were permitted to set the agenda by means of pseudonymous comments on certain websites. Representative of the type was the sage who regularly complained that the BBC had once again ignored his complaint that it had interviewed a black or Asian person on the news.

No one challenged them. No one challenged their assertion of the ineligibility of half the acts on Britain's Got Talent. No one challenged their ludicrous claim that Britain had an "open door policy", with no immigration controls whatever. (Has any such arrangement ever existed, in all of human history?) No one challenged their absurd suggestion that English was no longer spoken on the streets of London.

No one challenged their wild overestimates of the nonwhite population, which even now is only 13 per cent of the total, and that is including those of us who are half-white. No one challenged their insistence that a country of some 60 million people was being "swamped", as if 70 million immigrants had turned up, or were remotely likely to do so.

And no one challenged their assumption that their hobbyhorse was the Number One political issue in the country, not even after the Conservative Party that had sought to placate them had failed to win two out of three General Elections outright and had barely won the one in between, and not even after a Labour Party that had on that middle occasion been more hardline than the Conservatives on immigration had unexpectedly gone down to defeat.

Well, that is all in the past now. The Windrush Scandal is already reframing the debate. It will now be between the immigration policy that is favoured by big business, and the immigration policy that is favoured by the trade unions. The latter is better.

In order to pursue and promote that, then Labour needs to secure for one of its supporters the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee in place of Yvette Cooper, who has Shadow Home Secretary called Theresa May's Immigration Bill "sensible" rather than vote against it alongside Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and David Lammy. Ah, yes. David Lammy.

A Question of Identity

Like checking nationality before extending NHS treatment, voter ID means identity cards, the Political Class's solution in search of a problem since time immemorial. How could it not? Don't fall for it, on either count.

If, "They have had it in Northern Ireland for years," because they need it there, then what, exactly, is so British about Northern Ireland? That is not a rhetorical question.

Battle of the Billionaires

Michael Bloomberg is running for President, then.

It is up to the supporters, and possibly to the persons, of Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul to decide whether or not he and Donald Trump should be the only viable candidates on the ballot.

Index On Disgrace: A Hostile Environment For Yulia Skripal

Craig Murray writes:

An interesting facet of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy, aka institutionalised racism, is that Yulia Skripal will have to pay for her NHS emergency treatment because she was admitted to hospital.

When the government announced its clampdown on use of the NHS by foreigners, including migrants and overseas students, it ended the provision of free emergency treatment for non-citizens in the UK, at the point of hospital admission – which in a real emergency is often required.

I could see the argument for charging “aliens” for attending A & E with a broken thumb, but not charging them for a massive heart attack. But the Tories do it the other way round. It is worth noting that in Scotland the Scottish government, which controls the Scottish NHS, has not implemented this Tory policy.

This policy was instituted in April 2015 directly as a considered part of the “hostile environment” for migrants. Reciprocal public healthcare agreeements with Russia and 16 other countries were cancelled unilaterally by the Tory government in 2016. 

Of course, I do not doubt Yulia Skripal – whose whereabouts and freedom of action are unknown and who patently did not write the police statements issued in her name – will not be charged for her treatment, unlike others admitted in life-threatening situations. 

But think for a moment of the dreadful cases of heartache to other individuals and families that must have been caused by this cruel policy, all in the name of “discouraging” migrants. As with the case of the Windrush generation, I do not doubt there are scores of unheard stories of the effects of Tory callousness waiting to come to light. I am glad the Skripal case gave me the chance to highlight the issue.

Meanwhile in Salisbury we are going to have a great propaganda theatre of destruction, as places which people were allowed to frequent for weeks after the attack are demolished, to eradicate a strange liquid that is ten times more deadly than VX but at the same time ineffective, and is liquid but cannot be diluted, except its dilution was why it did not kill anybody, and which cannot be washed away, except if you got it on your clothes you are perfectly safe if you wash them, and which made hundreds of people sick except there were only three of them. 

All of those contradictory statements are from the official government narrative on Salisbury as delivered over the last couple of months through the state and corporate media. It is beyond me how they expect anyone to believe their utterly incoherent nonsense.


The second half of my life has been a continual process of disillusionment with the institutions I used to respect.

I suppose it started with the FCO, where I went from being Britain’s youngest ambassador to being sacked for opposing the use of intelligence from torture, at the same time having an insider view of the knowing lies about Iraqi WMD being used as a pretext for invasion and resource grab.

I still had some residual respect for the BBC, which respect disappeared during the Scottish independence referendum where BBC propaganda and disregard for the truth were truly shameless. 

My love of the universities was severely tested during my period as Rector of Dundee University, when I saw how far the corporate model had turned them from academic communities developing people and pursuing knowledge, to relentless churners out of unconsidered graduates and financially profitable research, with nearly all sense of community gone. 

My respect for charities vanished when I discovered Save the Children was paying its chief executive £370,000 and had become a haven for New Labour politicos on huge salaries, which was why it was so involved in pushing a pro-war narrative in Syria.

When Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox – both massively salaried employees who came into Save the Children from the revolving door of Gordon Brown’s office – were outed over sexual predation, that seemed a natural result of “charities” being headed by rich party hacks rather than by simple people trying to do good. 

As for respect for parliament, well the massive troughing expenses scandal and all those protected paedophiles… It has become difficult to hang on to respect for any institution, and that is unsettling. 

Which brings me to last week’s annual awards from Index on Censorship. The winners of the awards – from Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and Egypt – all seem worthy enough, and there is even some departure from the neo-con narrative in recognising a human rights problem in Egypt. 

But the Chairman of Index on Censorship is, incredibly, Rupert Murdoch lead hack David Aaronovitch, and he presided over the awards, in the very week in which the newspaper for which he writes produced this appalling attack on freedom of expression:

Inside there was a further two page attack on named academics who have the temerity to ask for evidence of government claims over Syria, including distinguished Professors Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. The Times also attacked named journalists and bloggers and, to top it off, finished with a column alleging collusion between Scottish nationalists and the Russian state. 

That the Chairman of “Index on Censorship” is associated with this kind of attack on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of research is sadly unsurprising. The guest list of the Index ceremony had a distinct right wing tinge including A C Grayling and Sara Khan, as well as a good smattering of the BBC, which was also represented on the judging panel. The irony of the state broadcaster being part of a panel on freedom of expression is plainly lost.

I realised something was very wrong with Index on Censorship when I contacted them over a decade ago, when Jack Straw attempted to ban the publication of my book Murder in Samarkand, after it had passed successfully through the exhaustive FCO clearance process over a time-consuming year. I tried to interest them again when my second book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo was dropped by my publisher following libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer of Aegis/Executive Outcomes/Sandline.

On both occasions I was told that then Chief Executive of Index, John Kampfner, did not regard these attempted book bannings as incidents of censorship. Presumably because they weren’t somewhere like Cuba or Zimbabwe… 

The truly appalling Times attack on academics was part of a coordinated and government-led campaign to delegitimise anybody doubting the official narrative on Salisbury and Syria. The BBC weighed in with this horrible effort:

The government then issued a ridiculous press release branding decent people as “Russian bots” just for opposing British policy in Syria. In a piece of McCarthyism so macabre I cannot believe this is really happening, an apparently pleasant and normal man called Ian was grilled live on Murdoch’s Sky News, having been named by his own government as a Russian bot.
The Guardian uncritically published the government’s accusations in full, and astonishingly seemed proud that it had made no attempt to investigate their veracity but had merely published what the government wished them to publish:

The Guardian naturally was just as reliable as the BBC in driving home the message that anybody who doubted the government’s word on Syria was a flat-earth denier of the truth:

Mr Freedland is of course a perfect representation of an interesting fact. Those who are most active in telling us that we must attack Syria, and that anybody who questions the government’s pretexts is insane or evil, are precisely the same individuals who supported the war in Iraq and attacked those who doubted the existence of Iraqi WMD.

Indeed these people – Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm, Alan Mendoza, Andrew Rawnsley, John Rentoul, Nick Cohen – are the leaders of the tiny, insignificant number of people who still believe that the invasion of Iraq was both justified and beneficial in its result.

Yet these people of proven terrible judgement, they and others of their media class, are the arbiters who are allowed to dictate the terms of what is and what is not an acceptable public utterance on the situation in Syria.

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the opposition, one of two things had to happen. Either the Overton window had to shift to allow for the reflection of views held by the leader of the official opposition and his myriad supporters, or the leader of the opposition had to be castigated and humiliated as an unreasonable lunatic. 

Corbyn’s rational scepticism on British involvement in the conflict in Syria is a key moment in this process. Despite the fact Corbyn’s scepticism is supported by a wide swathe of diplomatic and military opinion within the UK, it has to be portrayed as fringe, extreme and irrational.

We thus have the extraordinary spectacle of a coordinated government and media onslaught on anybody who doubts their entirely fact free narratives. Those who were demonstrably completely wrong over Iraq are held up as infallible, and given full control of all state and corporate media platforms, where they deride those who were right over Iraq as crackpots and Russian bots. 

Meanwhile public trust in the state and corporate media hits new lows, which is the happy part of this story.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Trial Date Watch: Day Four

More than a week 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 59

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.

Bad Korea History

Ah, yes, North Korea. Wasn't Korea supposed to have been Labour's good war? No. In order to pay for it, Gaitskell had to introduce NHS eye and dental charges.

Thereby, he breached the principle of the NHS free at the point of need, causing Bevan to resign from the Cabinet. Admittedly from ingredients that had always been present, that in turn created the Right and Left parties within the Labour Party.

Those have been battling it out ever since, for 67 years and counting, and not least at the present time. It all goes back to the Korean War, which caused the first breach in the principle of the NHS.

The Whip Hand?

"In this country in 15 or 20 years' time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man." So said Enoch Powell, 50 years ago yesterday. The latest point at which that should therefore have become the case was 1988. In this country in 1988, did the black man have the whip hand over the white man? Well, there you are, then. What with that, and the fact that Powell more or less admitted to having made up the war widow with the guesthouse, the speech deserves to be completely forgotten.

Along with its author, come to that. His claim to have swung one or both of the 1974 General Elections for Labour cannot be proved and never rang true, he always denied Margaret Thatcher's claim that he had influenced her economic policies, his proposal for  the "total integration of Northern Ireland into Great Britain" never made any sense in view of the existence of more than one legal system in Great Britain, his noble enough advocacy of a Labour vote in 1987 in order to be rid of nuclear weapons was scarcely even noticed and certainly had no effect, and his grounds for opposing what became the EU bore no resemblance to the reasons for which the areas that eventually did so voted to Leave in 2016.

Nor did that referendum result have much to do with immigration. The Leave vote was concentrated in the wrong places for that. And after this week, it is clear that popular opinion on the subject is not at all as those who would wish it otherwise would have us believe. If a Bill to provide for the status of EU nationals in Britain after Brexit ever did see the light of day, then it would provide for them all to stay forever, and for as many as fancied doing so to keep coming, again in perpetuity. Few people would notice, and even fewer would mind. There would in any case be no meaningful way of voting against it.

This week has also marked something of a swansong for the Commonwealth, which it must be said that Powell always despised. As one last favour to the Queen personally, Prince Charles will be permitted to succeed her as its Head. But over half of its population already lives in India, which is already its largest economy by some measures, and which will easily be so by all of them by the time that Charles III dies. The problems over British visas for Indian nationals make the Windrush Scandal look like very small beer indeed.

All in all, William V can whistle for the position of Head of the Commonwealth. At which point, what will the Commonwealth be for, since it and the British monarchy seem to exist in order to give each other something to do these days?

House And Home

Jeremy Corbyn's and John Healey's proposals to tackle the housing crisis are good as far as they go. But they do not go far enough.

We need the Land Value Tax. With the Universal Basic Income. Set within Modern Monetary Theory, so that the Jobs Guarantee guaranteed the bargaining power of trade unions.

We need a minimum of 100,000 new homes every year for at least 10 years, including council homes, with an end to the Right to Buy, with the capital receipts from council house sales released in order to build more council housing, and with councils empowered to borrow to that end.

We need a minimum of 50 per cent of any new development to be dedicated to affordable housing, with affordability defined as 50 per cent of average rents, with rent controls, and with action against the buying up of property by foreign investors in order to leave it empty.

And we need a statutory requirement of planning permission for change of use if it were proposed to turn a primary dwelling into a secondary dwelling, a working family home into a weekend or holiday home.


The Fisk-baiters have probably never heard of him, either, but the great Patrick Cockburn writes:

During the bombing of Baghdad in January 1991 I went with other journalists on a government-organised trip to what they claimed was the remains of a baby milk plant at Abu Ghraib which the US had just destroyed, saying that it was really a biological warfare facility. Walking around the wreckage, I found a smashed-up desk with letters showing that the plant had indeed been producing “infant formula” milk powder. 

It had not been very successful in doing so, since much of the correspondence was about its financial and production problems and how they might best be resolved. It did not seem likely that the Iraqi government could have fabricated this evidence, though it was conceivable that in some part of the plant, which I did see, they might have been manufacturing biological weapons (BW). 

I was visiting a lot of bombed-out buildings at the beginning of the US-led air campaign and I did not at first realise that “the Abu Ghraib baby milk factory” would become such an issue. I was more impressed at the time by the sight of a Cruise missile passing quite slowly overhead looking like a large black torpedo.

But, within hours of leaving Abu Ghraib, the true purpose of the plant there had become a topic of furious controversy. The CNN correspondent Peter Arnett, who was on the trip, had reported that “whatever else it did, it [the plant] produced infant formula”. He saw a lot of powdered milk and, contrary to the Pentagon claim that the place was guarded like a fortress, we could only see one guard at the gate. Arnett did not deny the US government version that the place was a BW plant, but he did not confirm it either. He simply reported that “it looked innocent enough from what we could see”. 

Even such mild dissent from the official US version of the bombing turned out to be unacceptable, producing an explosion of rage in Washington. Colin Powell, the US chief of staff, expressed certainty that the Abu Ghraib plant had manufactured BW. The US air force claimed that it had multiple sources of information proving the same thing. Arnett was vilified as an Iraqi government stooge by the US government. 

“This is not a case of taking on the media,” said the White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. “It’s a case of correcting a public disclosure that is erroneous, that is false, that hurts our government, and that plays into the hands of Saddam Hussein.” US news outlets, none of which had correspondents in Baghdad, vigorously toed the official line. Newsweek derided Iraq’s “ham-handed attempt to depict a bombed-out biological weapons plant near Baghdad as a baby-formula factory”. 

It took years for the official version of the bombing to fall apart. Even though I had been in the plant soon after it was destroyed, I could not prove that it did not produce biological weapons, though it seemed to me highly unlikely. Media interest waned rapidly: the best study I could find about how the destruction of the milk factory was spun by official PR is a piece by Mark Crispin Miller, from which the quotes above are taken, published in 2003. 

Proof came slowly, long after public interest had waned. A Congressional report in 1993 on US intelligence successes and failures in the Gulf War revealed the shaky reasoning behind the US air force decision to bomb the site. It turned out that “mottled camouflage” had been used on the roofs of two known BW facilities. The report said: “at the same time, the same camouflage scheme was applied to the roof of the milk plant”. This was enough for the US Air Force to list it as a target. 

Confident official claims about multiple sources of intelligence turned out to be untrue. One has to burrow deep into an unclassified CIA paper on Iraq’s BW programme, to find a sentence admitting that another plant, which was the real centre of Saddam Hussein’s BW effort, was unknown to the US-led coalition and “therefore was not attacked during the war, unlike the Abu Ghurayb (sic) Infant Formula Plant (the Baby Milk Factory) that the Coalition destroyed by bombing in the mistaken belief that it was a key BW facility”. 

The story of the Abu Ghraib baby milk factory is worth retelling because it underlines – in the wake of the US, British and French air strikes on alleged Syrian BW sites on 14 April – the need for permanent scepticism towards claims by governments that they know what is happening on the ground in Syria or anywhere else. 

But government duplicity is scarcely new and denunciations of it may obscure an even greater danger. Look again at the attack on Peter Arnett’s story by the White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater who was wrong – and Arnett was right – in saying that it contained “a disclosure that is erroneous, that is false”. But he adds correctly that it was a disclosure “that hurts our government and plays into the hands of Saddam Hussein”. 

So it was in a minor way and this brings us to a toxic attitude towards those who question the official version of events increasingly common in Britain and the US. It is overwhelming freedom of speech in Hungary and Poland and has already triumphed in Turkey and Egypt. In all cases, opinions diverging from those of the powers-that-be are branded as disloyal and unpatriotic and “false facts” are being spread by “useful idiots”, to use two ghastly clichés much in use. 

Marginalisation of dissenting is followed by its criminalisation: Turkey once had a flourishing free press but now any criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or words or actions of which he disapproves can be labelled as “terrorism” and punished accordingly. 

There is much tut-tutting in Britain by the commentariat about the spread of authoritarianism in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but less so about the growing limitation on what can be freely expressed at home. Increasingly, anything less than full endorsement of the government line about the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury or the suspected gas attack on civilians in Douma in Syria is characterised as support for Putin or Assad.

A telling instance of this new authoritarianism is the denunciations of a party of Christian clergy and peers who have been visiting Syria to meet church dignitaries and government officials. This is an understandable mission for concerned British Christians because Christians in Syria can do with all the solidarity they can get as they are forced to flee or are kidnapped or murdered by Isis, al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood. Like many Syrians, they see their choice as not being between good and bad but between bad and worse. They generally prefer survival under Assad to likely extinction under his enemies. 

Visiting embattled members of the depleted Christian community in Syria is a good thing to do. And, yes, it could be said that the presence of British Christians in Damascus is very marginally helpful to Assad, in much the same way that Peter Arnett’s truthful report on the baby milk in Abu Ghraib must have pleased Saddam Hussein. The Foreign Office said the Christians’ visit was “not helpful” but then helping the British state should not be their prime concern.

None of the arguments currently being used in Britain and the US to smear those sceptical of the governmental and media consensus are new. The Bolsheviks used to denounce people who said or did things they did not like as “objectively” being fascists or counter-revolutionaries. When those being denounced, often only a preliminary to being shot, replied that they were no such thing, the Bolsheviks would reply: “tell us who supports you and we will tell you who you are”. In other words, the only thing that matters is what side you are on.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Speak Up And Speak Out

I have spent more than 20 years, since I was (just) still in my teens and had never seen the Internet, trying to get the story out about Harriet Harman and the Paedophile Information Exchange. I have paid a terrible journalistic and political price for it, but I have no regrets. 

Media that always knew about it simply ignored the whole thing, banning me from their websites and what have you, until a period of no more than two weeks when they needed to distract attention from Patrick Rock. Normal service was rapidly resumed, and it has continued ever since. 

And now, the plan is advancing to make Harman the next Speaker of the House of Commons. The only outside chance of stopping that is to put the only person who would dare to mention her past, me, into the House of Commons. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Kill The Weed

Today is apparently “Weed Day”, leading the Adam Smith Institute to style itself “the Adam Spliff Institute” on Twitter. Its position is perfectly logical and consistent. 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, 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.

You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Trial Date Watch: Day Three

More than a week 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 58

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.

Customs Post

Never mind the Customs Union. Four amendments need to be tabled, and put to the vote on the floor of the House of Commons.

To secure the extra £350 million per week for the National Health Service. To restore the United Kingdom's historic fishing rights of 200 miles or to the median line, in accordance with international law. 

To seek a trade agreement with each of the BRICS countries while remaining thoroughly critical of all five of their current Governments. And to seek the integration into the Belt and Road Initiative of all four parts of the United Kingdom, of all nine English regions, and of all of the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.

These ought all to be proposed as a single amendment to the Liaison Committee's motion on Wednesday. But that will not happen, because there is no one there to make it happen. Make it happen. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Identifying The Enemy

We now know that the operational decision to destroy the landing cards was made in October 2010, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, and not in 2009 under the previous Labour Government, as she falsely claimed to the House of Commons. We now know that May was so involved in the Go Home vans that she came back from holiday in order to toughen up their language.

And we now know that Albert Thompson is not yet receiving treatment, so that was another lie. Pity poor Amber Rudd, who is going to have to carry the can for all of this. Still, she knew what May was like when she agreed to work for her.

But lo and behold, the solution is apparently identity cards, the Political Class's solution in search of a problem since time immemorial, and a useful wedge between those Labour MPs who know what it is like to be from a visible ethnic minority, or to be at least locally well-known as a left-wing activist, or to be more than an armchair trade unionist, and those, the great majority at the moment, who do not.

Don't fall for it.

Checked Off

Three years ago, if any event were addressed by Owen Jones, then he himself was the event. But he has since joined the long list of old "left-wing" star turns who resent having been made into supporting acts by a man whom they had spent decades assuming to be the cloakroom attendant, yet who turns out to have a popular appeal beyond their wildest dreams.

It is downright spooky that, when a Corbyn-led Labour Party can have 600,000 members and 40 per cent of the vote, Jones's is still the only "left-wing" voice allowed on. As with the Chosen One, so called because she was spookily not required to undergo any kind of selection process in order to become a parliamentary candidate, and whom Jones has endorsed as a potential Prime Minister, I think that we can all see what is going on here.

By the way, Little Owen's extremely right-wing ex-boyfriend is also in trouble today, for abusing Diane Abbott. Although at least he really did it. Unlike Jess Phillips, who made it up in order to become famous, secure in the knowledge that no one would check, and who has built an entire career on that lie.

Understand All Ye Nations And Submit Yourselves

A Statement Issued by the Patriarchates of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek-Melkite Catholic Damascus, 14 April 2018 

God is with us; Understand all ye nations and submit yourselves! 

We, the Patriarchs: John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Joseph Absi, Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, condemn and denounce the brutal aggression that took place this morning against our precious country Syria by the USA, France and the UK, under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.

We raise our voices to affirm the following:
  1. This brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the UN. 
  2. It causes us great pain that this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way. 
  3. The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.
  4. The timing of this unjustified aggression against Syria, when the independent International Commission for Inquiry was about to start its work in Syria, undermines of the work of this commission.
  5. This brutal aggression destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications.
  6. This unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.
  7. We call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to play its natural role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars. 
  8. We call upon all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.
  9. We salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provide security for its people. We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded. We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people.

We offer our prayers for the safety, victory, and deliverance of Syria from all kinds of wars and terrorism. We also pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, and call for strengthening the efforts of the national reconciliation for the sake of protecting the country and preserving the dignity of all Syrians.