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Showing posts with label SSP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SSP. 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

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Let’s make it a really Happy, Labour-free New Year in May 2015

A guid New Year tae ane an a’ when it comes – an’ mony may ye see!

Campaign for – and vote for – an independence-supporting party in GE2o15

**a YES party**

best wishes,

Peter

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

2014AR: The way forward and the new role of the SNP

WHERE ARE WE AT?

1. YES lost the referendum – NO won it – decisively.

2. Turnout 84.6% – highest since 1910 (when women didn’t have a vote).

Glasgow and Dundee had lowest turnouts but voted YES.

East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire and Stirling were each over 90% turnout.

4. 3,619,915 Scots voted.

YES – 1,617,989 votes. NO – 2,001,926 votes. 44.7%/55.3%Winning margin – 383,937

5. The polls probably had it right all along, YES probably was never ahead at any point, and final polls were close to the result. The bookies called it right all along.

COMMENT

The above facts are the core reality, and they contradict the fantasies entertained by many YES supporters, fed by some online YES commentators, but almost certainly never believed by politicians, core YES strategists or hard-headed YES commentators.

It was always an unfair contest – a fast, fit lightweight against a heavyweight who was so out of condition that he had to call in other heavyweights and the Establishment Mob – and offer a last round bribe to win.

Pyrrhic victory is usually a sour grapes overstatement by losers, but as applied to the NO win in Scotland’s referendum, it increasingly looks like a devastatingly accurate assessment.

Labour in meltdown, Tories entering their conference in chaos, HRH pissed off at her PM, UKIP cackling maniacally, a rush into a third ill-conceived 21st century war and the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their faces against the Big Bribe offered by a  Tory/LibDem/Labour front led by Gordon Brown(!) to try and appease rebellious Scots.

If we add to that a massive and quite unprecedented surge in SNP membership (75,000)  a  re-energised, confident  YES campaign, and mass demonstrations at Holyrood, then Pyrrhic victory seems a rather apt description.

The YES Campaign (as distinct from YES Scotland) is a strange and fascinating construct – one large, long-established, highly disciplined Scotland-only party, the SNP with  its raison d'être independence, the Scottish Green Party with  its raison d'être environmental, with independence for Scotland being one means to that over-arching, worldwide goal, the Scottish socialist parties – small, recently riven by faction and the actions of one charismatic leader, and a plethora of other groups covering almost every conceivable interest group one could think of, across party, sex, artistic, religious and demographic lines. Added to this rich mix are those of no party or group affiliation whatsoever – the individual activists committed only to YES.

There are the think tanks and the theorists (e.g. the now split Jimmy Reid Foundation and Common Weal), National Collective, Radical Independence, Business for Scotland, Labour for Independence, Women for Independence – I could go on, ad infinitum.

From another perspective, however, I see a still inchoate democracy of newly-politicised, organised, enthusiastic but mainly politically naive voters reaffirming their core commitment to YES, but searching for a new focus and looking for leaders.  They are wide-open to three kinds of approaches –

1. the new leader (or old leader re-cycled) approach

2. the crowd-fund new initiative approach (often old initiative repackaged)

I see real dangers in the first two but real opportunity in the third.

3. radically new approaches to YES organisation - as yet in embryo stage - in this new 2014AR era.

The balancing factor in this may well be the great surge in SNP party membership (and to a lesser extent Green and SSP membership).

This can be interpreted as simply a massive thank you to the party that delivered the referendum, put Scotland on the world stage, yet still managed to govern competently for seven years in the face of shrinking budgets and a wall of hostility, or it can be seen as a recognition that single focus campaign/protest politics has now entered a more complex phase, and the time has come to commit to traditional political structures.

But it can also be seen as a wish to reclaim politics from the political anoraks and careerists, by  engaging with party politics in a radically new way while retaining the local autonomy, fellowship and focus of individual YES groups and  all their democratic dynamism.

I hope to explore this latter approach in some more detail, but first I will outline what I see as the dangers of the first two.

THE NEW LEADER and crowd-funded initiatives.

The YES Campaign presented an opportunity to those outside of conventional party politics to gain a platform and a profile, indeed it almost demanded that such figures should emerge, and they duly did,  some prompted, some invited, and some simply stepping uninvited on to the new platforms offered.

In fact the process had already started well before the official YES Campaign was launched, initially with the election of the 2007 SNP Government – and many have forgotten just what a jolt that event was to Labour complacency – then with the defining event of the 2011 landslide, which effectively guaranteed the referendum would take place.

The first significant bloggers emerged, then the YouTube pioneers, then the social networkers on Twitter, Facebook, etc. A seminal event for many (including myself) was Pi-Camp, an alternative media workshop in Edinburgh mounted by Mick Fealty of the influential Irish blog Slugger O’Toole.

Other big figures, out of mainstream politics at that time, such as Jim Sillars and Dennis Canavan, cautiously stepped back into the arena, and later becoming central figures in the YES movement. Of course, political opportunists sniffed the new political air, and the likes of George Galloway popped up, complete with hat, to try and find a niche in newly-politicised Scotland.

With the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012 and the official YES Scotland structure, the YES Campaign acquired a kind of co-ordination, but made many fundamental mistakes initially, before learning hard lessons about the incompatibility of traditional organisation structures with the radically different needs of a newly empowered grassroots movement, without parallel or precedent in modern politics.

But when a large number of people become gripped by an idea, a cause, an enthusiasm, whether it be religious or political, such enthusiasm creates a hunger for a focal point, new leaders and a wish to demonstrate allegiance by tangible contribution.

These processes throughout history have produced transformational political movements, political parties, and the great world religions. The consequences have been sometimes positive, sometimes destructive and all too often exploitative.

An inevitable product of a nation gripped by an idea or by perceived injustice is that such a situation is  instantly recognised as an opportunity by people who want power or money – or both. The reasons they have for seeking power or money may be admirable or venal, but in both cases, the process involves surrender of control and autonomy by the people.

Organisation is subordination – an inescapable fact.

The essence of the great grassroots YES movement was and is democratic self-empowerment in small groups. Try to keep it that way, but with the freedom to liaise dynamically with other individuals groups in networks and events.

Radically new approaches to YES organisation in new 2014AR era.

It’s early days, but the most hopeful development I’ve seen so far is the recently formed YES Alliance. I don’t do Facebook because of security reasons (and other reasons) so this limits my involvement with them. I don’t know enough to endorse them, but I like what I read and see so far, especially their flexible, rotating leadership concept.

The key dynamic of YES groups and YES collectively in the new era in my view will be the parallel relationship with the political parties committed to independence, and by political parties I mean those parties with an existing discrete identity as a party, e.g. SNP, Greens, SSP etcetera, not groups of supporters within a UK party committed to independence, e.g. Labour for Independence,  not sub-groups of YES, e.g. Women for Independence, and not aspirant groups who might like to form a new party at some point.

I make no value judgement on the latter non-party groups, and certainly don’t challenge their democratic right to try and found a new party – my advice is based on the stark fact that the new seminal event, the 2015 UK General Election is just over seven months away (7th May 2015), the UK Parliament will be dissolved on Parliament will be dissolved on Monday 30 March 2015, in less than six months time, and to all intents and purpose, the UK parties are now in unofficial, but deadly serious and bitter campaigning mode in one of the most unpredictable and uncertain political climates I have witnessed since the 1945 General Election.

There just isn’t time for new grand initiatives and the formation of new parties – we’re now in a deadly serious mega game in which a key player will be the combined Scottish political parties committed to independence fielding candidates – and that means the SNP, the Scottish Greens and the SSP, but backed up by a giant YES grassroots organisation who have put their money on, and their commitment with political parties and party membership on an unprecedented scale.

(YES Alliance seems to understand this in a way that the other groups that mushroomed in the strange atmosphere following 19th September don’t appear to. (Some of them seem to be trying to re-invent the Referendum Campaign, or are in pursuit of worthy but completely unattainable objectives in the short term.)

THE SNP MEMBERSHIP SURGE – IMPLICATIONS

One senior Scottish politician – Nicola Sturgeoninstantly recognised - with her usual acute political insight - the implications of an SNP membership now comprising 75,000 plus members, more than two-thirds of whom are new members, many with little or no political experience other than YES activist campaign work, and a significant proportion of whom are likely to have little understanding of how political parties work in a democracy, or even of how UK’s partial and  flawed democracy actually works.

HERALD: “The Deputy First Minister, who has no plans for a fresh referendum, said if the members and leadership were out of step it could cause issues for "the next couple of years".

However, Sturgeon - who is almost certain to succeed Alex Salmond unopposed as SNP leader and First Minister in November - said she would far rather deal with this issue than the exodus of members she believes is facing Labour.”

That’s one issue. The other key one surrounds the right of members to vote on the selection of candidates for local elections, UK Parliamentary and Holyrood Parliament. The new members would under existing rules be time-barred from voting for candidates for the 2015 General election, however, I understand that a rapid change of the qualifying period is now planned to permit them to do so.

There is another dimension to the new membership surge – the actual experience of Party branch structures. Without in any way wishing to sound negative about the committed activists who have often devoted a large party of their lives and energies to branch activities, participation and attendance is low in most branches, and the branch ability to promote – or even their enthusiasm  for promoting maximum membership involvement in the selection of delegates and candidates for election may also be low in many instances.

The new dynamic from the new members and new structures of YES groups – e.g. YES Alliance – is going to be, shall we say, interesting …

POLITICAL EDUCATION

Since our schools do it so badly – or not all – I see an urgent need for basic courses in the mechanics of democracy for YES activists and new party members, and I think this should be driven and provided by the YES movement, obviously with the involvement of the political parties but emphatically not by the political parties. I can see a clear role for Business for Scotland in this key task.

SUMMARY

So that’s my very tentative take on where we’re at. I had great difficulty with this blog – I feel it’s scrappy, incomplete and not exactly what I wanted to say, but it’s the best I can do in a situation that is changing by the day, if not by the moment …

Saor Alba!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Alternative views of an independent Scotland – the reality of independence negotiations

A number of comments on my YouTube videos – and in the wider debate reflect different views on key policies in an independent Scotland, e.g. on currency, EU, monarchy, etc. This is because the YES campaign is broad-based and contains many views and many political parties – and those of no party. However, some supporters do not seem to have grasped the key dynamics  of what follows a YES vote and the current political realities and time scale.

Here is my response – and my understanding - offered to one such commentator offering multiple scenarios for independent Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

PETER CURRAN’S REPLY TO COMMENT

The independence negotiations will be conducted by the negotiating team selected by the Scottish government and on the basis of its White Paper policies. It will remain the government until May 2016, and an independent Scotland's position vis-a-vis the EU will therefore be determined by the outcome of their negotiations with EU.

Their policy and intent is to remain in the EU, and to negotiate terms of entry as an existing member under UK until independence day. All the options you detail are therefore academic - they will not form part of the negotiations.

Although the YES campaign is a widely-based campaign containing other parties (and those of no party) who have differing views of EU membership (and other issues), they will not influence that policy. The 2016 election campaign will commence March 2016, and all parties are then free to include in their campaign manifestos whatever policies they like, and the Scottish electorate will decide the Government of independent Scotland.

Whatever the outcome of that election, I would hope that the new government - if it is not an SNP government - will not start by wholesale repudiation of major agreements just reached with rUK and EU, nor with a rash of referendums. Such actions would sit very badly with world opinion.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Sheridan: Yesterday the verdict – today the inquest

I would categorise the polarities of the reactions – media and individual - to the verdict in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial as follows -

1. Justice has been served – he brought it upon himself.  Sheridan was undoubtedly guilty. Perjury is a serious offence, and has the capacity to seriously damage the criminal justice system – it must be feel the full force of the law and be punished severely. It was not a political trial – it was public money well spent.

2. It was a political trial – a show trial – designed to satisfy News International, Rupert Murdoch, those who detest socialists of whatever ilk, and it was also a valuable smokescreen to cover the much more serious questions hanging over Andy Coulson, former editor of the NotW, now a senior advisor in the ConLib Government, over the phone tapping scandal by the News of the World. Tommy Sheridan is innocent of all the charges brought against him. There was a wide-ranging conspiracy to bring him down, one that included most of his former Scottish Socialist Party colleagues, News International, the Scottish Police and the Scottish justice system.

The truth, as always, probably lies somewhere in between, and that is the area I find myself in, much as I would like to be absolutely clear-cut in my view.

Let’s try to nail a few things down …

Did Tommy Sheridan bring it upon himself?

Leaving aside for the moment the question of his guilt or innocence (the Law has spoken but in a free country we may express our doubts over its verdict), Tommy Sheridan faced two crucial decision points – one when the News of the World’s made allegations about his private life, and the second when the Crown Office launched a prosecution for perjury against him and his wife, Gail Sheridan.

The original choice was to either ignore or contest the NotW allegations. To ignore them would undoubtedly have cost him his leadership of the SSP, and perhaps ultimately his parliamentary seat, but he could have survived that, diminished but not destroyed. His enemies would have claimed that his failure to contest the allegations was tantamount to an admission of guilt. His wife, the staunchly loyal - and in my book, wholly admirable - Gail Sheridan, would have stood by her husband. He could have rebuilt his career, perhaps with a new, Jack-the-Lad dimension to it, and could even have enhanced a media profile.

THE ORIGINAL CHOICE

If Tommy knew the allegations were true, he was extremely unwise to pit himself against the Murdoch empire, and in choosing to do so, he was following the paths of Aitken and Archer, both of whom destroyed their political careers and were imprisoned as a result of their choice. Only cynical self-interest, the instincts of a gambler and vanity could have led him to contest allegations that he knew were true.

If Tommy was innocent of the charges, then given his personality and the core of his political convictions, he was inevitable going to engage in the fight, even though the risks were appalling.

My advice to him, regardless of his guilt or innocence of the charges would have been – don’t do it, Tommy.

Nobody expected him to win, and there is some evidence that he did not expect to win against such a powerful adversary. Although he trumpeted his win in typical barnstorming, populist style, he must have known the inevitability of what would follow. The die had been cast, and a 21st century tragedy was about to unfold.

THE SECOND CHOICE

The second choice was whether or not to defend himself against the perjury charges laid by the Crown. Here, in my view, he had no real choice, whatever his private knowledge of guilt or innocence – he had to defend himself. To suggest as some have done, that he should not have defended himself to save the public purse the expense of a trial is utter nonsense. It is the legal system and the nature of the police investigations that create these enormous costs, estimated at £1m for the police investigation and £4m for the trial.

Sheridan was facing the inevitability of prison and crippling costs that would lead to bankruptcy. In my view, he had to fight, guilty or innocent. Most importantly, it would have been a betrayal of his wife’s unflinching loyalty and commitment to give up. There was no way back.

 

SHOULD THE PROSECUTION HAVE BEEN INITIATED AND HAS JUSTICE BEEN SERVED?

I say no to both questions. It should have been left to News International to decide what their remedies were after losing the initial civil action for damages.

Perjury, an offence that is committed countless times in every court daily throughout the land, is almost never prosecuted, and the egregious exceptions to this have been political – notably the Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer (Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare) perjury prosecutions.

In both these case, the prosecutions were justified by the rationale that these were powerful politicians and public figures – both Tories – who could not be seen to flout the law. Jonathan Aitken was seen as a future Prime Minister: Archer was a life peer and had been Chairman of the Conservative Party.

The same arguments and justification have been applied to the Sheridan prosecution. Why therefore was it wrong to prosecute him?

My answer is that in the Aitken and Archer cases, only they had been accused of perjury – in the first Sheridan trial, the Crown believed that many witnesses must have perjured themselves, but they only chose to prosecute Tommy and Gail Sheridan? Why not the others? Why not the ones who had testified against Sheridan? Why was a police investigation launched that appeared to focus solely on the Sheridans?

Secondly, the context in which a prosecution would have to be launched implied a political witch hunt, and some would say, a political smokescreen for the much more serious allegations against Andy Coulson, the former editor of the NotW, and now an influential man in Government, right-hand man to the Prime Minister.

All of this was taking place against a background where the very foundations of British democracy had been shaken by the expenses scandal, and were arguably being undermined by the concentration of power and influence in one media empire, News International, one that was seeking to extend its grip over news media by the BSkyB taekover.

And who would be the central players in a perjury prosecution against Tommy Sheridan?

News International’s flagship paper, the News of the World, and its former editor, now ConLib Government spinner-in-chief, Andy Coulson.

Where did the public interest lie under these circumstances, and where did the other, shadowy interests lie? In a time of economic stringency, was it wise or prudent to divert substantial police resource to investigating allegations of three-in-a-bed sex? To incur a cost of millions to the public purse for a long-drawn out show trial?

I close with a clip from last night’s BBC documentary on the case – a police interrogation of Gail Sheridan. These interrogation tapes appear to have been freely released to the BBC by the police, with what motive I cannot fathom.

But this excerpt is both damning and shaming in my view. It shows Gail Sheridan, a young mother, devoutly religious, deprived of her rosary beads, trying to act on the advice of her lawyers to exercise her absolute right not to answer questions.

Faced with her quiet determination to remain silent in the intimidating circumstances, after years of intolerable pressure on her and her family, in a bare room, the police interrogator virtually accuses her of having been trained in terror suspect techniques to avoid looking at the interrogator.

He refers to people “just like yourself” who have been held under the Terrorism Act for a period of seven days, “and that is the kind of activity I would expect from them. It is a recognised PIRA, IRA whatever – form of terrorism technique.” He waits, then asks “Who has trained you in the technique?”

And they say this was not a political trial …