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Showing posts with label Gordon Brown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gordon Brown. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Labour’s crime – the Iraq War – and my March 2003 fears on the eve of war

I wrote this letter to the Herald on 17th of March 2003. I was then, at least still nominally a supporter of the Labour Party, as I had been all my life and as my family had been.

The war against Iraq began three days later on March 20th 2003 with the U.S. launch of the bombing raid on Baghdad - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Never in my life have I more wanted to be wrong in a prediction, but what followed unleashed unimaginable death and devastation that lasted from 2003 –2011, beyond my worst imaginings - and, in a very real sense, is not over yet.

The long slow death of Scottish Labour began in March 2003, in significant part due to their moral cowardice at that pivotal moment in history. New Labour – the creation of Blair, Brown and Mandelson seemed to die in 2010, but the rough  beast is stirring again, slouching towards Westminster.

child1child 2

My letter, published in The Herald, 17th of March 2003.

Seventeen and a half per cent of the UK population are children of 15 years of age or younger. (Source of data – CIA website)

41% of the Iraqi population are children o 15 years of age or younger. (Source - CIA website)

Therefore in any “collateral damage” to innocent civilians, 41 children will die or be maimed in every 100. (My source for these statistics - CIA website).

To add to the misery of the Iraqi children already hurt by Saddam Hussein and our sanctions will be an international crime.

Much has been made of Tony Blair’s “sincere conviction” over his stance on Iraq. If sincerity of conviction was the touchstone, the actions of any misguided politician in history could be justified. I hesitate to offer a list of those who pursued policies destructive to justice and life who were “sincere” in their conviction, but produced horrific consequences by their actions.

This coming war is profoundly misconceived and unjust, and Tony Blair is profoundly mistaken to pursue it.

He has wrecked our relationship with our European allies, damaged our international status, weakened our democratic and parliamentary traditions, has perhaps delivered a damaging blow to the Labour Party, and will undoubtedly damage our economy and our security.

As for Scotland’s MSPs supporting Blair's action by their contemptible inaction – don’t look for my vote (Labour for more than four decades) in the May elections.

I now know where the politicians of principle are – a tiny minority in the Scottish Labour group, and a majority in the SSP and the SNP. My advice to the few MSPs of principle left in the Scottish Parliament is to cross the floor now.

Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the question that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is – where were you when there was still time to stop it?

Peter Curran

Iraq

Monday, 2 February 2015

As we wait for the Chilcot Report …

Waiting for Chilcot is a bit like waiting for Godot. Idly checking back in my past ruminations on the war, I came across these comment of mine in the Guardian, circa 2008.

Guardian, comments 18 December 2008

I have been totally opposed to the Iraq war, from the lies, special pleading and moral cowardice that led up to it and throughout the horror, mendacity and ineptitude of its dreadful progress. But I am shocked at the unrealistic and superficial attitude of many of the comments on the role of the British armed forces, from armchair critics who have never been near a battlefield, have never placed themselves in harms way, and have never laid their life on the line for their country. To compare our soldiers, directly or by implication, to Nazis, is obscene and inaccurate.

The responsibility for the crimes against humanity in Iraq lies with the politicians who initiated it, to the members of Parliament who voted for it, and to the electors of Britain who continued to return them to power after the war started, and who continue to support them in government - and to the religious factions and tribal demagogues who manipulate the tortured people of Iraq, and naive - and always young - idealists from other nations, perverting their religious beliefs and the teachings of Islam to suit their evil and self-serving ends.

There have been atrocities - a minority of serving soldiers have behaved badly, and their superiors have failed by omission or commission to prevent this. But such aberrations occur in every war, and where possible, it has been exposed and punished.

But the prosecution of the war by British forces has been conducted in as principled a way as the exigencies of any war permit. An individual serving soldier may, at great personal risk, refuse to carry out an order in a specific instance that violates accepted codes of morality and international law, but to expect serving soldiers at any level to refuse to carry out their orders because of complex political argument at levels far above them is to expect the impossible. It is simplistic and brutally uncaring.

And what of the generals? Once our generals start to pursue their own agenda and their own political beliefs by confronting their political masters, we are headed for a junta. I hold no brief for Sir Jock Stirrup, and I think he should have thought, and thought again before committing his vapourings to print, but I do not believe he should have disobeyed his order.

I am a Scottish nationalist, and I fervently wish to be free of the Union that sacrifices the brave young men and women of Scotland to serve the vaunting ambition and vanity of despicable Scots like Blair and Brown, and permits them to send young men and women to their deaths, but I have never doubted the bravery and professionalism of the armed forces. In a very real sense, it is a greater sacrifice to do your job and die for your country in pursuit of a cause you do not believe in, because the majority of the people of your country have willed that act.

Place the blame where it squarely lies - with the politicians and the people who put them there. Leave our armed forces to mourn their dead and maimed comrades, and their families to cry out against those who sent them to their fate. 

Blair, Brown, Bush and Cheney attempt to justify their actions, but the verdict of history will damn them. The ancient Greeks recognised their type, and foresaw their fate.

The gods fail not to mark those who have killed many
The black Furies, stalking the man fortunate beyond all right
Wrench back again the set of his life and drop him to darkness.
There, among the ciphers, there is no more comfort in power
And the vaunt of high glory is bitterness.

AESCHYLUS - Agammenon

It is Britain's, and the Labour Party's abiding shame that two Labour Prime Ministers initiated, supported, and still defend the enormity of the Iraq conflict.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Iraq, The Chilcot Report – and Scottish Labour’s attempts to airbrush them out of GE2015 campaign

James Kelly demonstrates all the abysmal levels of debating skills, and rhetoric, plus lack of focus and absence of logical rigour for which Scottish Labour are justly notorious.

He doesn't want to be debating The Chilcot Report at all. Neither does his leader, Blairite Jim Murphy, nor his strategist, John McTernan, nor his party, Scottish Labour. The Peace Envoy wouldn't like it ...

 

Labour would dearly love to airbrush the Iraq War, The Chilcot Report, Blair and the Blair/Brown Government out of the general election debate, as Mary Fee's closing remarks show - but they can't - they have inconvenient evidence of them incarnate in Jim Murphy and his chief  strategist, John McTernan on their doorstep - and in the 'big beast' summoned to bale out Murphy's failing leadership, Gordon Brown - the banker of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, fully supportive of, and fully complicit in both.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Who ****** the UK economy 2007-2008?

CRASH CHRONOLOGY and GOVERNMENT CULPABILITY

Labour in UK Government 1997-2010.
Gordon Brown: Chancellor 1997-2007, PM 2007-2010
Alistair Darling: Chancellor 2007-2010
Labour/LibDem coalition in Holyrood 1999-May 2007.

SNP minority government under Alex Salmond: May 2007-2011

Northern Rock crisis and run on the banks -  Sept 2007 (SNP, Alex Salmond in minority devolved government for less than four months.)

RBS and economic meltdown 2008

Which party, which PMs, which Chancellors of the Exchequer, which politicians do you think ****** the British economy?

And a blog of mine from 2012 on the ineffable Alistair Darling, champion of all things British and enemy of Scotland independence - DON'T TRY TO REWRITE HISTORY, ALISTAIR!

The Herald carries a page two article today Darling lays into Salmond over his RBS judgment, and a featured interview with Anne Simpson and Darling on page 12. To say that Anne Simpson’s introduction to her piece is a little partial is probably to understate the case.

“ … Alistair Darling is not someone given to social affectations. Candour not coyness defines him. Yet why is this proud Scot, former chancellor of the Exchequer and committed fiscal Unionist so reluctant to spearhead a campaign against the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?

“So far Alex Salmond has steered the independence argument exactly to his liking. Meanwhile those who disagree with the First Minister’s plan for radical amputation are without a central figure whose gravitas could pull together a robust opposition.”

"... the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?"

What, Anne – no approving words on the First Minister’s candour, no plaudits for him as a proud Scot? No recognition that in every word, every policy statement, every media interview, the First Minister makes it clear that his vision for independence and a social union with the rest of the UK after independence is the very reverse of a ‘radical amputation’?

Well, moving on, let’s take a look at ‘candour not coyness’ Darling on ABN Amro -

In 2007 ABN Amro was acquired, in what was at that time the biggest bank takeover in history, by a consortium made up of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Fortis bank and Banco Santander. Here’s what Alistair Darling said in his memoirs about what happened at the end of 2007, just before 2008, the year when the world’s banking system fell apart.

Extract from memoirs - "time to start worrying"

On a Saturday morning, just before Christmas 2007, I answered the door at my home in Edinburgh. There on the doorstep was Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS, holding a gift-wrapped panettone.

Although it would mean not having my private secretary with me, I felt entirely relaxed about seeing him alone, at home. I was also intrigued. I had seen other CEOs of the banks alone in the past – none of this was abnormal – but I knew that his asking to see me in private could only mean that he was worried about something.

I had a great deal of sympathy with what Fred Goodwin was saying, but I asked the question: why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern? His answer was that they felt RBS didn't have sufficient capital. I asked whether he was comfortable that RBS did have sufficient capital, and his response was that he felt that it did. And yet I was worried. It occurred to me that Sir Fred had not come just as a shop steward for his colleagues. He would not admit it, but I sensed that RBS, which until that time had seemed invincible, its directors and senior staff exuding confidence verging on arrogance, was in more trouble than we had thought.

Does this sound like a new Chancellor who had anticipated anything bad in relation to RBS? His pal Fred Goodwin, the CEO of RBS. “which until that time had seemed invincible had just popped in with a panettone. He asks Fred the Shred “why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern?” Suddenly, the presence of neighbour Fred and his gift-wrapped panettone worries him.

This is the man who criticises Alex Salmond for supporting the ABN Amro deal. One might reasonably assume that Alistair Darling had a helluva lot more information about the ABN Amro deal and his pal Fred than Alex Salmond did, but in December 2007, the end of the year in which the deal was concluded. just before the world fell apart in 2008, he gets belatedly worried about Fred, RBS and his gift-wrapped panettone?

As the SNP commented after Darling ‘criticisms’ -

This is a laughable attempt to rewrite history by Alistair Darling. He was the Chancellor responsible for banking regulation and its failure at the critical time, and he was the Chancellor responsible for the signing off of the ABN Amro deal.

“Labour gave Fred Goodwin his knighthood, and Mr. Darling’s contacts with Fred Goodwin were far more extensive than the First Minister’s. Fred Goodwin was an adviser to Alistair Darling as chancellor, and was still a member of a key Treasury body advising Labour months after the banking crisis and quitting RBS.”

Here is ‘proud Scot’, ‘candour not coyness’ Darling talking to Isabel Fraser very recently. Judge for your self - Alistair Darling -- naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

As for Darling’s defining quote, the one used to headline the Anne Simpson interview -

Separation means that once you go, you go. You can’t come back.”

Leaving aside the banality of the statement, it is undoubtedly true – and none of the countries who ‘separated’, or rather secured their independence from Britain over the centuries have ever shown the least signs of wanting to come back …

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Scottish media, Falkirk, Labour and Unite – independence excised from coverage?

MY SUMMARY OF THE FALKIRK FACTS

I’ll be as brief – and objective – as I can.

A preliminary summary of events

Eric Joyce was expelled from the Labour Party for multiple instances of bad behaviour. He is still MP, but has stated his intention not to stand at the general election in 2015. (Had he resigned as an MP or been removed, there would have been a by-election.)

Labour and the Falkirk constituency selection committee must choose a candidate for what has historically been a safe Labour seat. The selection of candidates for safe seats is a matter of high significance for any political party – for a party in opposition 22 months from a general election, hoping to win and form the next government of UK, and facing a riven, inept Coalition in disarray, such a selection is crucial.

(N.B. The Labour Party must have concerns for the safety of this seat, not only because of Joyce’s past behaviour, but because, as MP for another 22 months, outside of Labour, not subject to the Labour whip, he is potentially a loose cannon politically.)

Labour policy was to have an all-woman shortlist (AWS), and members of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were surveyed on whether an all-woman shortlist should be used. (The survey was paid for by Unite.)

Candidates who had already emerged were Linda Gow, former leader of Falkirk council and Gregor Poynton. Poynton is UK Director of Blue State Digital, adviser to Better Together Campaign and husband of Gemma Doyle MP, who is deputy to Jim Murphy MP, the shadow defence minister.

Then Karie Murphy appeared as a candidate. Karie Murphy, formerly Unison, now Unite Union, is Tom Watson MP’s office manager. Introducing Karie Murphy as a candidate was consistent with Labour’s policy of all-women shortlists (AWC) but Gregor Poynton’s candidacy was not.

A sudden influx of new members was recorded in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and it appeared that the Unite Union had recruited as many as 100 members. The CLP choose the Parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, not the total Labour membership. (The idea of holding primaries, elections in which the wider electorate are involved has been mooted before the Falkirk debacle, and is much debated since it commenced.)

Allegation began to appear that irregularities had occurred in the signing up of CLP members by Unite. The Labour Party was in essence created by the Trades Union movement (late 19th, early 20th centuries) to ensure Parliamentary representation for working people. The rules of the Labour Party permit trades unions to encourage members to join the party, and to pay their first year’s subscription. But it was claimed that Unite had signed up members without their knowledge, a very serious allegation if proven. The matter has now been referred to the police by the Labour Party.

THE POWER GAMES BEING PLAYED

N.B. From here on in, I don’t pretend neutrality, and only as much objectivity as I can muster, because I am of the Left in politics and I am also a Scottish nationalist – not a SNP member or member of any party, but wholly committed to a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Labour has a long history of fights with the trades unions. Unions are by far the Labour Party’s principal source of funds through the political levy (optional) that members pay, and unions apply the funds in various ways, including sponsoring specific MPs. In return for this, they not unreasonably expect the MPs and the Party to serve the interests of their millions of members in addition to serving the whole electorate. This has always led to tensions between Party and unions. Exactly the same practices apply on funding to all political parties, with the key difference that the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, for example, get their funds from organisations and individuals, a very much smaller group of large donors in comparison to the millions of small donors of the trades unions.

The key difference is that these corporate donors and individuals operate to a large extent behind closed doors in pursuing what they expect for their money – and they all expect something – whereas the union interaction tends to occur in a blaze of publicity.

To try and contrast the two systems in a nutshell – the trades unions, an imperfect but functioning democracy representing millions of UK workers interact with a much larger imperfect democracy in the Labour Party, whereas totally undemocratic organisations and individuals in commerce, industry, armaments and interest groups not confined to the UK interact with the imperfect democracies of the Tory and LibDem parties. Ultimately, in both cases, the trades unions interact with the over-arching and highly imperfect democracy of the UK Government.

The problem of the union conflicts with the Labour Party over the last half century (e.g. Clause Four) created  - or were alleged to have created – the problem of electability, and this was specifically what Blair, Brown and Mandelson set out to remedy after  Neil Kinnock had done some of the spadework. They created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history. Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably. And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

Meanwhile, the trades unions were marginalised, and the benches of Westminster became increasingly populated by MPs who had never experienced the real, harsh world of Blair’s Britain, MPs who came directly into politics waving their PPE degrees through internships as SPADs, etc.

This great divide, this yawning chasm has widened between the trades union movement and the political machine for enriching politicians and their friends that New Labour has become. After being finally destroyed electorally, Labour was replaced by a Coalition that is almost indistinguishable in its right-wing practices from the right-wing Labour Party. As an opposition, Labour has been feeble and equivocal. The trades unions, having placed brother Ed Miliband at the helm, vanquishing ultra-Blairite brother David Miliband, have been bitterly disappointed in their choice. And now he attacks them, setting the police on Unite.

The Falkirk debacle is symptomatic of this – a war between the Blairites (led by the noble Lord Mandelson, who cannot conceal his visceral distaste for trades unions)and what is left of the Left in the Labour Party, which is mainly the trades unions – some of them at least.

SCOTTISH DIMENSION AND INDEPENDENCE

All of the above has been gone over with a relatively fine tooth comb by the UK/metropolitan media. They see the Falkirk Affair in a UK context, from a UK perspective. The fact that Falkirk is in  Scotland, that Scotland played a major role in the foundation of trades unions and the Labour Party is ancient, and mainly irrelevant history to them. This superficiality and parochialism is what Scotland has come to expect from London media. From time to time, Scotland intrudes rudely on their consciousness, and they are aware that Scottish voters are effectively disenfranchised and don’t get the government they vote for on occasion, but then, Scotland is just another region of England (sorry, Jock – UK!)

What is almost unforgiveable is that the Scottish media has swallowed this narrative whole, and conceives its duty done when they passively regurgitate it to Scottish voters. Consider the following examples -

To listen to this duo, one might think the Falkirk debacle had nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland's independence, and had no significant implications for it.
But these journalists accurately reflect a Scottish press and media that is either so locked in a UK mindset that they are oblivious to them, or are so caught up in editorial policies that don't wish to highlight them that they are hamstrung as professional journalists in telling the truth to the Scottish electorate by fully analysing a political event that is shaking up UK politics and is central in many ways to the great independence debate.

Here we have John Reid, who sure as hell knows what the battle is all about, and it has bugger all to do with Scotland, except incidentally -

John Reid: "a very important moment for the whole Labour Party"

The point at which the poisoned grip of Blairites like Reid could be loosened and the Party returned to the people it was created to serve.

John Reid:"It is at heart an ideological battle - a political battle..."

It sure as hell is - to free Labour from the men enriched and ennobled by Blair and his wars - like John Reid - while the people sink deeper into the slough of poverty and death created by Blair and Brown's ineptitude - widening the gap between rich and poor and bankrupting the nation. Men like Lord(!) Reid who deliberately wrecked the chances of a Rainbow Coalition to defeat the Tories after the 2010 election.

England struggles - and Unite struggles to give working people a real political choice with the forlorn hope that they can reform New Labour. Blue Labour, Lord Sainsbury's Labour, Progress Labour - call the beast by its many names, see its many faces - multi-millionaires Blair's and Mandelson's Labour - at best a centre-right party, but sliding towards something much worse in the global military/industrial complex that is raping the planet.

God help England - this is the only chance they have, but it is a forlorn hope.

But Scotland has a real choice - already exercised in the limited form open to it in 2007 and 2011 and yet to be made fully on 2014 - the choice of saying YES or no to an independent, socially-democratic Scotland.

The Sunday Herald had a major spread on Falkirk – comprehensive, albeit a mirror of London media analysis, despite their pride in having “broken the story …” From its front cover headline Lamont: Unite’s puppet? to its extensive coverage on pages 6, 7, 8 and 9, with Ian Bell on page 10 to its editorial on page 36, it took an almost exclusively UK perspective of the Falkirk issue, despite the reference to Lamont.  Only in the last half of the last paragraph on page 7 could I find any reference to another party that might just have an interest in all this – the Scottish National Party, the party that forms the devolved government of Scotland, elected with a massive landslide majority – the party that has delivered the referendum, the outcome of which will shake the entire UK power structure, perhaps end the 306 year-old union and remove nuclear weapons of mass destruction from Scottish soil, with ramification for Europe, NATO and the transatlantic alliance.

Here was my little exchange with Paul Hutcheon of the Herald/Sunday Herald on 4th of July. Paul was reacting to my criticisms of Scottish media coverage of Falkirk -

Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

  • @paulhutcheon It's time for Scottish Unite, Scottish Labour and trades unions to recognise where their real interests lie - in independence

    Paul Hutcheon Paul Hutcheon@paulhutcheon 4 Jul @moridura can't see the independence angle on a story about membership subs

  • Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

    @paulhutcheon It's painfully obvious that you can't, Paul.

  • And he demonstrated comprehensively his inability to see “the independence angle on a story about membership subs” in the Sunday coverage. Let me help you, Paul - and Tom Gordon and Ian Bell and the Leader Writer - to understand …

    Three political parties in Scotland – all from the left of the political spectrum, plus many other organisations also on the left, are committed to the independence of Scotland from the UK. Additionally, embryonic breakaway organisations exist of disaffected Scottish Labour members and Scottish trades unionists – including Unite members – who support independence. Some support the SNP, others don’t, e.g. Labour for Independence.

    A major think tank, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is active and influential on the left of the political spectrum (where else would it be bearing Jimmy Reid’s name?). At least one major union is not affiliated to the Labour Party, the firemens’ union. All of them are diametrically opposed to Blairism and all that it stands for. They are solidly anti-nuclear and pro-trades union. The STUC is well aware of this growing dynamic within its member unions and their lay members, together with a growing number of shop stewards, worker representatives and a few cautious full-time officers.To say that Johann Lamont is aware of this – despite laughing it off – would be a massive understatement. Effectively elected by the Scottish trades unions, I suspect it keeps her awake at nights.

    To suggest that the Falkirk issue, a frontal attack on a trade union – a civil war between the BlairitesBlue Labour, New Labour, Lord Sainsbury’s Labour, call it what you will – and the soul of the pre-Blair/Brown/Mandelson Scottish Labour Party is irrelevant to independence is, to put it at its lowest, a failure of imagination and good political journalism.

    I hope to attend a meeting of Trades Unionists for Independence this Wednesday in Edinburgh. Reflect on that title, Herald/Sunday Herald (and BBC Scotland) and on the keynote speakers – Dennis Canavan (former MP/MSP), Robin McAlpine (Jimmy Reid Foundation), Cat Boyd (PCS activist) and Sarah Collins (STUC Youth Committee) and think again about the nature of your coverage of Falkirk and Unite.

    Tuesday, 6 November 2012

    A reminder from the Brown/Calman era –March 2009 - of what will happen to us if we lose the referendum in 2014

    The Scottish unionists are singing a different, siren song these days, panicked by the re-election - with an overall majority - of the SNP and now the referendum agreement - singing a song of new powers, of devo this and devo that. They’re lying in their teeth – here’s what awaits a Scotland that rejects independence in 2014 -
    The Calman threat to Scottish freedom from nuclear power – and weapons (March 2009 blog)

    Two things come together today in an insidious coupling - an article by Gordon Brown in the Observer entitled "We are about to take the war against terror to a new level"

    and

    the news in the Scotsman from Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Editor, that the Calman Commission wants to partially reverse devolution by clawing back powers from Holyrood to Westminster, including the power of the Scottish Government to veto nuclear development.

    The ostensible reason for this is the belief that the UK's energy needs can only be met by building new nuclear plants in Scotland. If this were the sole reason, it would be bad enough, exposing nakedly what the Union really means for Scotland. But the real reason is the link between civil nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry. I covered this is some detail here on the 20th of February and I wrote to the Herald on the 21st in response to an Alf Young article.

    The Gordon Brown article in today's Observer is an exercise in naked paranoia, or more accurately, an attempt to induce paranoia in the electorate by a failing Prime Minister and a failing government. One paragraph alone should send a chill down the spine of any Scot concerned for freedom.

    “As the threats we face are changing rapidly, we can never assume that the established way of doing things will be enough. We will always make the necessary changes, whether through greater investment, changes to our laws or reforms to the way we do things, to ensure that Britain is protected.” GORDON BROWN

    Here is my online posting to the Observer today (22 Mar 200() on the article -

    Moridura
    22 Mar 09, 1:03am
    We lived through thirty years of IRA terror directed at our shores without resorting to the attack on our liberties that Brown has mounted. Every ruler whose coat hangs upon a shaky nail needs an enemy to deflect attention away from his inadequacies, and the more shadowy and amorphous that enemy is the better.
    Does Al Quaeda exist? Of course it does, as a loose grouping of terrorist cells, but not as the mighty global entity portrayed by Brown and his ilk. Does terror exist? Of course it does. Has it comes to our shores? Undeniably, but we brought it on ourselves - in all its full, inhumane, undemocratic horror - by our own ill-considered and inhumane actions in Iraq.
    People have died and are still dying to serve the overweening ambition, lust for power and vanity of Blair and Brown.
    I have never voted Tory, and I voted Labour all of my life up until 2003, but Maggie and her cabinet were the targets of a terrorist attack in Brighton, yet this did not stampede her into panic reactions. I detested Maggie, and much that she stood for, but she was not a coward, and was more of a leader than vacillating, terrified Brown will ever be.
    As a Scot, I have an option, and I have taken it, by joining the Scottish National Party. As I speak, the Calman Commission, a Unionist front, is trying to claw back to Westminster the powers the Scottish Government currently has over civil nuclear development. Since The Deadly Nuclear Twins of civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry are joined at the hip, the purpose of this is all too clear. It has little to do with global warming and a lot to do with WMDs.
    England, wake up to what this failing regime is trying to do as it desperately tries to survive.
    I have also posted on the Scotsman online comment to the Peterkin article as follows -
    This must be stopped, by legal, constitutional means, and there must be public, legal demonstrations against any clawing back of powers. This is the insidious workings of the military/industrial complex, and we should have expected it. They were never going to let a little thing like democracy or the wishes of the Scottish people get in the way of their war machine.
    There must be an outcry, and soon. I have been postponing my decision to rejoin CND after many years, but my cheque will be in the post on Monday.
    I have written of the Deadly Nuclear Twins to the Scottish press and in my blog of 20th February 2009.
    This must be stopped. They want to further pollute our country and deprive us of the right to veto further nuclear development.

    Here is my Herald letter of 21st February 2009 in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald.

    Dear Sir,
    Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.
    I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.
    The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”
    Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.
    The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be uses to stop the inspections at any time. In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.
    I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.
    The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other. Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.

    Friday, 10 August 2012

    Scotland’s soul – as perceived in 2009 –before the Faustian bargain with ‘Britishness’ and NATO began to rot it.

    Scotland's soul - before devo-max ideas, before consultants got a hold of it, before 'Britishness', before the NATO U-turn, before the removal of Trident WMDs from our waters became an ever more fuzzy concept in timing and execution, before those who had some idea of what that soul really was became described as fundamentalists and were advised to close ranks and stop rocking the boat.

    The boat being rocked is, of course, a Trident, NATO-controlled, effectively American-controlled nuclear submarine carrying a destructive power beyond the understanding of some who should know better.

    Monday, 12 March 2012

    Zip your lip, Darling! Don’t try to rewrite history …

    The Herald carries a page two article today Darling lays into Salmond over his RBS judgment, and a featured interview with Anne Simpson and Darling on page 12. To say that Anne Simpson’s introduction to her piece is a little partial is probably to understate the case.

    “ … Alistair Darling is not someone given to social affectations. Candour not coyness defines him. Yet why is this proud Scot, former chancellor of the Exchequer and committed fiscal Unionist so reluctant to spearhead a campaign against the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?

    “So far Alex Salmond has steered the independence argument exactly to his liking. Meanwhile those who disagree with the First Minister’s plan for radical amputation are without a central figure whose gravitas could pull together a robust opposition.”

    "... the man who would sever Scotland from the United Kingdom?"

    What, Anne – no approving words on the First Minister’s candour, no plaudits for him as a proud Scot? No recognition that in every word, every policy statement, every media interview, the First Minister makes it clear that his vision for independence and a social union with the rest of the UK after independence is the very reverse of a ‘radical amputation’?

    Well, moving on, let’s take a look at ‘candour not coyness’ Darling on ABN Amro -

    In 2007 ABN Amro was acquired, in what was at that time the biggest bank takeover in history, by a consortium made up of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Fortis bank and Banco Santander. Here’s what Alistair Darling said in his memoirs about what happened at the end of 2007, just before 2008, the year when the world’s banking system fell apart.

    Extract from memoirs - "time to start worrying"

    On a Saturday morning, just before Christmas 2007, I answered the door at my home in Edinburgh. There on the doorstep was Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of RBS, holding a gift-wrapped panettone.

    Although it would mean not having my private secretary with me, I felt entirely relaxed about seeing him alone, at home. I was also intrigued. I had seen other CEOs of the banks alone in the past – none of this was abnormal – but I knew that his asking to see me in private could only mean that he was worried about something.

    I had a great deal of sympathy with what Fred Goodwin was saying, but I asked the question: why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern? His answer was that they felt RBS didn't have sufficient capital. I asked whether he was comfortable that RBS did have sufficient capital, and his response was that he felt that it did. And yet I was worried. It occurred to me that Sir Fred had not come just as a shop steward for his colleagues. He would not admit it, but I sensed that RBS, which until that time had seemed invincible, its directors and senior staff exuding confidence verging on arrogance, was in more trouble than we had thought.

    Does this sound like a new Chancellor who had anticipated anything bad in relation to RBS? His pal Fred Goodwin, the CEO of RBS. “which until that time had seemed invincible had just popped in with a panettone. He asks Fred the Shred “why were the markets singling out RBS for particular concern?” Suddenly, the presence of neighbour Fred and his gift-wrapped panettone worries him.

    This is the man who criticises Alex Salmond for supporting the ABN Amro deal. One might reasonably assume that Alistair Darling had a helluva lot more information about the ABN Amro deal and his pal Fred than Alex Salmond did, but in December 2007, the end of the year in which the deal was concluded. just before the world fell apart in 2008, he gets belatedly worried about Fred, RBS and his gift-wrapped panettone?

    As the SNP commented after Darling ‘criticisms’ -

    This is a laughable attempt to rewrite history by Alistair Darling. He was the Chancellor responsible for banking regulation and its failure at the critical time, and he was the Chancellor responsible for the signing off of the ABN Amro deal.

    “Labour gave Fred Goodwin his knighthood, and Mr. Darling’s contacts with Fred Goodwin were far more extensive than the First Minister’s. Fred Goodwin was an adviser to Alistair Darling as chancellor, and was still a member of a key Treasury body advising Labour months after the banking crisis and quitting RBS.”

    Here is ‘proud Scot’, ‘candour not coyness’ Darling talking to Isabel Fraser very recently. Judge for your self - Alistair Darling -- naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

    As for Darling’s defining quote, the one used to headline the Anne Simpson interview -

    Separation means that once you go, you go. You can’t come back.”

    Leaving aside the banality of the statement, it is undoubtedly true – and none of the countries who ‘separated’, or rather secured their independence from Britain over the centuries have ever shown the least signs of wanting to come back …

    Thursday, 1 December 2011

    The morning after – strike reflections - and John Hutton

    I wholly support the public service workers in their grievance against the UK Government, and I support their decision to strike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I do not support their decision to strike in Scotland, for reasons already stated over the last few days.

    But watching the strikers on television, my reaction was that maybe it had to happen, even if the rationale was deeply flawed. It was probably cathartic, and even a little bit enjoyable for hard-pressed public servants, and it did demonstrate to the  critics of their dispute just how important, indeed vital, their roles are, and what an extended dispute, or a series of such disputes would mean.

    The complacent and doing-very-nicely-thank-you professional couples in the private sector, with joint incomes in excess of £70-100k who suddenly found that mummy or daddy had to stay home – or find a child minder pronto – were jolted into an uncomfortable realisation of what further strikes could mean. Those on more stratospheric incomes of course would be utterly untouched by it, and probably have an arms-length relationships with their children anyway, safely tucked away in a fee-paying boarding school, or with a resident nanny to handle things.

    Regrettably, there were also working couples on very low incomes and one-parent families who had to sacrifice a day’s pay, which I know from my own economically deprived Glasgow childhood could be disastrous to precariously balance finances. They are the real inevitable casualties of such disputes, as were the patients in hospitals or people in care homes who also suffered. But third parties, innocent and some not so innocent, are hurt by strikes, and that is a harsh reality. What must be remembered is that it takes two to tango, and both parties to a dispute are jointly responsible for the collateral damage, not just the strikers.

    But what I know for certain is that the strikers of yesterday will be asking themselves just what did they achieve, other than their moment on the media and exercising their lungs with a good chant and a good blow at their vuvuzelas? Post-orgasm comes sober reflection.

    Perhaps as they lie back with a post-strike fag, they can also reflect on the fact that the author of their miseries, paraded and repeatedly quoted by David Cameron and every one of his millionaire pals, was that ultimate contradiction, a Labour LordJohn Hutton, Baron of Furness.

    JOHN HUTTON

    The Bloody Red Baron has an interesting background for a Labour man. Educated at Magdalen College Oxford, where he was a member of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Associations, he became a legal adviser to the CBI before entering politics. He held various governmental posts, and was one of Tony Blair’s strongest supporters. He told Nick Robinson of the BBC that Gordon Brown would be a “fucking disaster” as Prime Minister. (He got that one right.) Nonetheless he survived and served under the “fucking disaster” as Secretary of State for Defence, the luxury coach of the Westminster gravy train.

    He decided to stand down less than a year later, and said he would stand down as an MP at the next general election. Shortly after the general election of 2010, he was made a Labour peer. In the same month (June 2010) he joined the board of US nuclear power company Hyperion. He was told he couldn’t lobby his former department, the M.O.D. for 12 months. Thereafter, it would be fine to do so.

    A year after that, he accepted the Tory/LibDem Coalition’s offer to head up a commission into public centre pensions, and dismissed speculation about his motives for doing so.

    The Labour Baron has told the unions that they have been offered a good deal on pensions. Aye, right …

    THE UK GRAVY TRAIN – a train the strikers will never be on …

    Reflect also on this, strikers of yesterday, and perhaps tomorrow – none of the main UK parties have any answers to what lies ahead, because they are embedded in a corrupt structure – the UK – and they can’t step off the rotten wagon careering towards the edge of the cliff.

    The Lords can’t step off because it would be the end for them.

    The Scottish Labour Lords can’t step off, because in addition to losing their titles, there would be nowhere for them to go.

    The Tories can’t step off because they are inherently undemocratic and wedded to greed.

    Labour MPs can’t step off because they have deserted their people and become Tories Mark Two.

    Scottish Labour MPs can’t step off because it would be the end of the Westminster gravy train and of their careers.

    Scottish Labour MSPs can’t step off because they want to be MPs and join the gravy train to Westminster one day.

    The LibDem MPs can’t step off because it would be electoral oblivion for them if they submitted themselves for re-election.

    Scottish LibDems have already experienced electoral oblivion, they face the same problem as Scottish Labour, and anyway, nobody would notice if they stepped off. 

    Only one party stand outside and above this rotten structure – the Scottish National Party. And only one thing will allow Scotland and Scots to step outside of it.

    INDEPENDENCE



    Tuesday, 13 September 2011

    Afghanistan

    More violence in Afghanistan, more confusion, more endless circuitous debates by politicians, and the brave dead continue to return, their coffins draped in the Union Jack.

    I wrote this, almost two years go in November 2009, and subsequently had my own three brushes with death. All that needs to be said has been said. Get out now.  

    MORIDURA BLOG - Saturday, 7 November 2009  

    Gordon Brown spoke for half an hour yesterday about his government's commitment to the futile Afghanistan conflict. He mustered as much passion and rhetoric as an innately dull man can in a bad cause.

    There was nothing in it that spoke of the man himself, because only a leaden mass now exists where that man once was, a man whose true destiny was to be the minister in an undemanding rural kirk, or an accountant in an old-fashioned company, or a worthy lecturer in a redbrick university.     

    He existed for ten years in the reflected glow of Tony Blair, longing for the day when he could radiate alone, unaware that he was a dead satellite, with no inner furnace to generate the his own light. Now he is polluted ground, contaminated by the nuclear waste of Blair's deadly polluted policies. He has only a half life, his power ebbing away at exponential speed. But he continues to play the old Blair and Bush tunes: his motor runs down, the tune becomes distorted, the lyric incomprehensible.     

    And those who dance to that tune stumble and twist in confusion, trying to follow a music without rhythm and words without meaning.   

    His entire case for remaining in Afghanistan rests on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain.      

    We are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige. We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.     

    Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question. We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.      

    The vacuum at the heart of Brown's position yesterday was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -     

    We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency.    

    Brown - and Britain's - behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.      

    The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date are used as a justification for continuing.      

    It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.     

    Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.     

    When the Emperor has no clothes, who will speak out, except the naive child?

     

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    A year on, remember the man who let the ConLib Coalition have power - John Reid

    With the Scottish Parliamentary election imminent, let’s remember the senior Scottish Labour figure - John Reid - who wrecked Gordon Brown’s attempt to negotiate a Rainbow coalition with the LibDems and the nationalist parties, effectively acting as midwife to the birth of of a monstrous thing - the Tory/LibDem Coalition - the thing that Ed Miliband’s Labour claims to be fighting against.


     Here’s what I said just under a year ago -

    May 10th 2010 - Moridura’s comment

    I listened with increasing incredulity to John Reid, former Labour Home Secretary and Cabinet Minister, as he calmly rubbished the prospect of a LibLab pact and a rainbow coalition just after Gordon Brown, the Labour Prime Minister had already fallen on two of his swords his premiership and his leadership of the Labour Party to permit negotiations to go ahead with Nick Clegg and his team to try and stop a Cameron-led Tory Government.

    David Dimbleby's loaded question was - Did John Reid think there was a danger of a coalition of the losers ?

    Since Reid is too old a hand at responding to BBC inquisitors - however exalted - to be gulled into an ill-considered expression of views, we must assume that every word was uttered with a purpose.

    Reid opened with a token remark that Gordon Brown was wise and dignified in saying that he would step down, but this was immediately followed with a " but I'm afraid that I think it is a very bad mistake to contemplate and to propose and I suppose, to entice a LibLab coalition."

    Don’t hide your feelings John - say what you mean …

    "I think it is bad for the country. I think it will prove pretty disastrous for both parties in it in fact, I think its bad for Gordon as well."

    He went on to say that such a coalition would be inherently unstable, since Labour and the LibDems have no overall majority and ‘would be dependent on the votes of assorted Scot nationalists’ (sic) and the parties in Northern Ireland.

    Reid went on in similar vein, coldly ignoring the fact that his fellow Scots - especially his fellow Labour voters - had just delivered a massive Niet to the Tories and to a Cameron government, having been specifically and repeatedly enjoined to do so in the Labour campaign by virtually every member of the Labour Cabinet.

    Scotland has just delivered a resounding No to a Tory government, and after Gordon Brown’s dual sacrifice of his political career and premiership, with a finely judged negotiating strategy and the support of fellow Scots, that outcome could just be achieved.

    But John Reid has his eye fixed on the national interest. By this he means, of course, the UK, not the nation of his birth, and in this definition of the national interest at least, he is squarely in the camp of his fellow Unionist and Scot, Sir Menzies Campbell.

    But why not? After all, both of them have had glittering careers courtesy of the high road to England and the British Establishment.

    Both Votes SNP

    on May 5th

    Friday, 25 February 2011

    Did Gadaffi order the Lockerbie Bombing?

    Certain things cannot be re-stated too often -

    1. Megrahi was found guilty by a Scottish Court.

    2. Megrahi was released under Scottish Law on compassionate grounds only, in the belief that the verdict was sound and that he was guilty.

    3. No commercial considerations influenced the Scottish Government: there were no negotiations over his release with the UK government: Scotland was not influenced by the UK Government of Tony Blair or  Gordon Brown.

    These are the only crystal clear facts in the whole Megrahi/Libya affair. The behaviour of the last UK Labour government was deceitful and contemptible throughout its term in office, influenced by expediency and commercial considerations.

    The hypocritical behaviour of the Scottish Labour group in the Scottish Parliament has  been beneath contempt, characterised by utter hypocrisy and political posturing.

    The behaviour of the UK Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government has been no less hypocritical and expedient. As cynical arms dealers to Middle Eastern dictatorships and suppliers of instrument of repression and death to be used against to their people by dictators, Cameron's government - driven into action by the Wikileaks revelations - has been motivated by a wish to secure short term political advantage against the Labour Opposition, and a parallel wish to smear the Scottish Nationalist government with lies about their role in the Megrahi Affair.

    In this shameful politicking, they have been aided by the Cabinet Secretary to both the previous and the current UK  governments, Sir Gus O'Donnell.

    The latest allegation by a Libyan politician,  that Gadaffi ordered the Lockerbie bombing, which to date is not supported by any facts, and may well be driven by a simple wish to gain favour in the US and UK when his political career is threatened, comes as no surprise to the Scottish Government, who believed that anyway throughout, based on the Scottish Court's guilty verdict.

    However, it is not what those who believe Megrahi is innocent wanted to hear, and they are likely to retain their belief that he was either innocent, or did not act alone.

    The majority of British newspapers seized on the so far unsupported allegation of Gadaffi's involvement with glee, and published it as a fact on their front pages, motivated by God  knows what agenda, since their thinking  has been marked by a lack of clarity and a total disregard for the facts so far.

    One can only assume that the ConLib supporting press hope it will damage UK Labour, the Labour Press hope it will damage Scotland, and both of them think it will somehow protect the rotten, failing political entity known as the United Kingdom.

    (Some prominent Scottish bloggers, who ought to know better, have also accepted the Libyan politician's unsupported allegation at face value.)

    Whatever the outcome, the central clarity and human compassion of the Scottish Government's decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, and on that alone, will remain unaffected - the only clear, principled decision in the whole sorry affair.


    Monday, 14 February 2011

    The Shereen Show - sports writers give their views on the Megrahi Release

    cynicalHighlander, a correspondent (see comments on my last blog on Portillo) called my attention to a radio show that I had not come across before - Shereen on BBC Radio Scotland - and its treatment of the Megrahi release issue yesterday, Sunday  13th February.

    (I don’t listen to radio politics as much as I should, and I remind myself that Scottish radio has almost certainly a much bigger influence on the political thinking of the Scottish voter than I give it credit for, especially because of a highly significant media audience, those who listen in the car, an audience of which I am no longer a part.)

    My first reaction was delight that Shereen Nanjiani, a broadcaster who I always liked in her long career stint (from 1987) as news anchor on STV and the first Asian/Scottish presenter in Scotland, was back. I hadn’t realised that she had re-invented herself as a radio talk show host in 2006. (I met her fleetingly in 1990 in the foyer when I was running a negotiating skills course for STV in Glasgow in 1990, but she most certainly won’t remember me.)

    Unfortunately, this show in Sunday 13th was a deeply disappointing introduction to Shereen for me.

    Shereen is no media airhead female selected for eye-candy reasons: she graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Philosophy, and her long news anchor experience has left her with a wide experience of the Scottish political scene and beyond.

    Her guests on Sunday’s show included three people who had something to say about the Megrahi release affair, reactivated by the Wikileaks disclosures about the UK and Libya and David Cameron’s bandwagon-jumping to discredit the Labour Party nationally. They were a peculiar mix -

    Sarah Oates is Professor of Political Communications at Glasgow University, a graduate of Yale and Emory (Atlanta) universities, specialising in the study of media and democracy - a highly relevant heavyweight by any standards, and well-equipped to offer a considered view on the complex web of geo-politics that the Megrahi Affair is embedded in. But she didn’t …

    Bill Leckie is a Scottish sport journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Sun. As a non-sporting person, my only knowledge of him, apart from this programme, is that he seems to excite the ire of Celtic in the Wild West of Scotland over allegations of bigotry in the game and beyond, and a sturdy response that he made to Kelvin MacKenzie’s attack on Scotland from an English nationalist standpoint. This rather contrived little spat had the feel of a gimmick to sell newspapers to me, however, I rejoice in Kelvin MacKenzie, who is exactly the kind of strident English nationalist who brings Scottish independence that bit closer every time he opens his mouth. And I fully support his wish to see an independent England again without all this British rubbish.

    Bill Leckie, in his juxtaposed reply to Kelvin, Sun staff argue for UK break-up expresses the following admirable sentiments -

    So here's the bottom line. We either make a fresh start as a proper, united land or admit it's over, air-kiss and go our own separate ways. There's nothing to be gained in us continually moaning that England treats us like the poo on their shoe. There's no point in the English giving themselves coronaries because we get free eye tests and bus passes.  Now that Scotland has a nationalist government, it's time we let the voters decide our destiny once and for all.

    One might hope from that quote that Bill Leckie might have something useful and objective to say about the Megrahi affair. One would have been wrong …

    The third guest in the discussion was Tom English, an Irishman working in Scotland as a sports journalist for Scotland on Sunday, and Scottish Sports Feature writer of the Year. (Tom English is doubtless bored rigid by jokey reference to his surname, and might well adopt the tactic of Lee Bum Suk - the Foreign Minister of Korea until his death in the  Rangoon bombing in 1983, and a distinguished UN diplomat, who used to introduce himself at conference by saying “My name is Lee Bum Suk. Please laugh now, then we can move on to serious business.”)

    Exactly what a sports journalist’s views were supposed to contribute to the Megrahi discussion I am not certain, but there he was anyway.

    What did we actually get from this odd mix?

    Shereen Nanjiani gave a brief introduction, then played Cameron’s comment on the UK Labour Government’s involvement “facilitation of an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government”, itself a simplistic distortion of what actually happened without regard to the critical time frame. This was followed by an emotional quote from Stephanie Bernstein, an American relative of a Lockerbie victim, understandably hostile to the UK government’s position.

    Shereen could  have quoted Dr. Jim Swire as a balancing view, but she didn’t. Instead, she followed with an Alex Salmond broadcast quote, in which the First Minister made the critical time distinction - that Megrahi was actually released a year later - a distinction that, however, doesn’t fit well with the shabby consensus between Cameron, the unionist press and the Labour Party, that the Scottish government was somehow complicit in the UK government’s double dealing and hypocrisy. Shereen could have had a representative of the Scottish government on her panel of guests - but she didn’t …

    I suppose that up to that point, some kind of balance was maintained by Shereen and the programme’s production team. But then the discussion and the motley guests -

    Prof. Sarah Oates, an American, jumped straight in with both feet.  “I mean, the more and more you hear about this story, the less and less likely it seems that this was a just a disinterested release due to humanitarian concerns.

    The more and more I play that remark, Prof. Oates, the less and less likely it seems to me that this was a disinterested assessment of a complex political situation from an American academic, but more a superficial assessment - an opinion rather than a considered academic analysis, and one that has been formed without looking closely enough at the timescales, the documents, the complex nature of devolved government, the Scottish legal system and the fraught relationship between the Scottish Nationalist Government and the Unionist Labour Government of the UK at that time. But I could be wrong, Professor Oates …

    Bill Leckie, sport journalist in the tabloid Sun newspaper, jewel of the News International, part of the Murdoch empire that includes the appalling Fox News in America, illegal buggers of everyone’s phone from Princes to commoners, currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police, has an opinion too, despite his apparent sympathies for Scottish nationalist aspirations in his Kelvin MacKenzie rebuttal.

    A “bugbear”  of his, Bill Leckie confidently asserts, is that he never has believed that it was about compassionate release - “I have written from day one that I didn’t think it was anything to do with compassionate release - I’ve always thought it was business.”

    This carefully formed opinion was obviously the product of deep journalistic research and reflection while on the terracing, fending off the outrageous attacks of Celtic supporters over chanting from the fans, and engaging in contrived spats with Kelvin MacKenzie.

    Leckie then goes on to a quite contemptible attack on Kenny MacAskill’s integrity in his speech in August 2009 explaining and defending his decision to release Megrahi. Leckie then predictably repeats the distorted interpretation of the Justice Minister’s remark about a ‘higher power’ as suggesting that Megrahi would be judged by the Almighty, rather than what it patently was, a qualifying statement that his life span would be determined by a higher power, not by the medical forecast.

    Tom English was then invited by Shereen to offer an opinion, from his deep sports expertise, on whether this was a compassionate release or not. Drawing on deep reserves of sporting journalistic experience and analysis, he reveals that he used to believe it, but no longer does, because “this week has absolutely changed my opinion.” He now believes that political expedience and not compassion drove the Scottish governments distinction.

    He then goes on to accuse Alex Salmond of hypocrisy, quoting Sir Augustine Thomas "Gus" O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary for the lying, expedient Brown Labour government and now for the appalling ConLib coalition, that “the SNP were open to negotiations in the release of Megrahi.” He parrots the UK line that the Scottish Government was linking the issue of the Megrahi release to legislation on prisoner compensation on slopping out.

    In so doing, Tom English unwittingly repeats and gives credence to a British Government lie - a blatant distortion and conflation of events, timescales and facts which a sports journalist, however distinguished in his field, has clearly not examined in any detail.

    A Southern Irishman, even a sports journalist, should have a least some passing acquaintance with British government lies in the bloody history of his native land. The only excuse I can offer for Tom English is that, in his well-founded distaste for the UK and BP machinations over Libya and Megrahi, he has swallowed whole and entire the desperate attempts of a failing UK political culture to embroil the Scottish Government in their shameful realpolitik and deep hypocrisy.

    In so doing, he and the other guests casually, and without a shred of evidence, or even apparently any real consideration of the evidence that exists, have impugned the integrity of two leading members of the Government of Scotland - the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill.

    Shereen Nanjiani and her producer have failed to provide a balanced debate on a critical issue to the future of Scotland - and the UK - when a Holyrood election is imminent.

    In so doing, they have also done a disservice to the Lockerbie dead and to their living, grieving relatives, who want above all, closure and justice based on the rule of law and objective facts, not on the glib and superficial opinions of sports journalists.


    Monday, 7 February 2011

    Megrahi, Labour Lies and Scotland - Iain Gray and Richard Baker knew ...

    The full, appalling, cynical nature of the Labour Government's lies about their involvement with Libya, under Gordon Brown, over the Megrahi affair are now revealed. The utter hypocrisy of their public posture is stark. But the behaviour of Iain Gray and Richard Baker in the Scottish Parliament over the release, and their public statement brings hypocrisy to the state of an art..

    They must have know what was going on, yet they huffed and puffed and postured shamelessly for political gain.

    The behaviour of the media today, however, reveals their confusion when faced with some hard facts that vindicate Alex Salmond, Kenny McAskill and the SNP Government totally. They have desperately tried to suggest, in misleading summary after summary, that the Scottish Government tried to do a deal with the UK government over the Megrahi release. This is a patent lie, and to peddle it, they have deliberately ignored dates and years, and distorted the topics of discussion that pre-dated the medical verdict that Megrahi was terminally ill that led to his compassionate release.

    We expect this from the unionist media, but even the normally impeccably accurate and objective Jon Snow on Channel Four News got sucked in. peddling the same distorted facts, and apparently immune to Alex Salmond's patient explanation of the facts, which are a matter of public record in Scotland.



    As for the US - well, they don't pretend to understand the nature of Scotland within the UK, nor do they understand devolution. This will confirm their worst fears.

    But Cameron, in releasing this information for political gain over Labour, may have scored an own goal in terms of the survival of the UK as a political entity. That is always assuming he cares, which I suspect he doesn't. After all, an independent England is likely to be a Tory fiefdom, isolated from Europe.



    POSTSCRIPT - Midnight 7/8th February

    Newsnight (despite Paxman) and Newsnight Scotland, with the sublime Isobel Fraser, went a long way to redeeming the media on this affair. But she also asked the $64,000 question - How will it play with the Scottish electorate?

    Monday, 13 December 2010

    Liberal to Labour–an appeal to disaffected LibDems by Ed Miliband

    Echoes of Pope Benedict inviting disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church. Why not go the whole hog, Ed Miliband?

    My suggested script, David – no charge …

    ED MILIBAND:  Democrats - forget the heady days of 1981 and the SDP! Abandon the Liberals to their fate and return to the one true faith! Try to ignore what we've been up to since you've been away - our mortal sins have been washed away by confessing to the Iraq crime (some of us, anyway) - you can easily be forgiven for tuition fees - a venial sin, except in the minds of the youth of Britain, and what do they know?

    If you can’t come back right now, keep in touch with Labour doctrine until you’re ready.

    PUZZLED LIBDEM:

    Why have you not confessed to wrecking the British economy and dismantling civil rights?

    What about WMDs?

    What about the fallen angel  - Blair?

    What about the Prince of Darkness, Mandelson?

    He’s still around, isn’t he?

    What about the man who wrecked the economy, Gordon Brown? Isn’t he skulking in the wings, waiting to make his second coming? Is Kirkcaldy the Labour Limbo?

    ED MILIBAND: You are in error, comrade- this is an example of, at best, distorted perception, at worse, false memory syndrome. You’ve been reading old newspapers. Once you recover your faith and accept the infallible authority of the Party, these doubts, these scruples, this heresy will be swept away. Join us in our collective amnesia – 13 years is as nothing to an institution as ancient as the Labour Party.

    By the way, is there something I should know about Gordon Brown’s intentions? Is John Rentoul of The Independent trying to rehabilitate him as well as Blair? (What is Limbo, by the way? Something to do with dancing under a bar?)



    Tuesday, 28 September 2010

    Ed Miliband's speech - Blairite reactions

    As Miliband the Younger criticised the Blair/Brown regime's record on the economy, - on civil rights, on freedom, etc. - the camera panning across the audience lingered hopefully on brother David. But just behind him sat Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy, both giving the powerful impression of sitting in an abandoned nest in their still-warm, but rapidly cooling excrement. Douglas Alexander looked much the same.

    I didn't see Iain Gray, but then, no judgement could have been formed, since Scotland's would-be next First Minister always looks that way.

    Tuesday, 4 May 2010

    Labour candidate says Gordon Brown is the worst PM ever

    Manish Sood, Labour PPC for NW Norfolk, says Gordon Brown is the "worst Prime Minister ever". Not just the worst Labour PM, but the worst British Prime Minister of any party. Who am I to disagree with him? With enemies like these, who needs friends?


    The hypocrisy of Gordon Brown and Labour

    The deep, cynical hypocrisy of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party is starkly and painfully exposed by this clip of a young girl - Tiari Sanchez - breaking down in tears as she talks of her family's poverty on a Citizens UK platform.

    Her mother is a cleaner at the Treasury - yes, the Treasury - run by Gordon Brown for most of Labour's 13 wasted years in office.

    The spectacle of Brown moving forward to comfort her, wrapping his arms around her and moving her away from the podium is deeply disturbing in the light of what we now know was the cause of her family's poverty.

     Andrew Neill is merciless with Douglas Alexander, and pitilessly destroys his feeble attempts to shuffle off Government complicity in the girl's distress.