Feel the Fear

Frightened yet? You should be. They’re all piling in now – assertion upon allegation, horror upon hazard, claim upon calumny – from Brussels and London and even from the heart of our democracy at Holyrood where Danny Alexander opened his maths jotter and pointed to the page where the teacher had written Mortgages UP…

(This appeared to be a lick-the-pencil-tip exercise where you add suggestion to supposition – remember to carry the one – add it all up and add a nought…devised by a bank no-one’s heard of. Happily, it means we will all pay a nice round £5000 more for our mortgage, said Danny proudly, winking at the reporters – there’s your headline, boys. )

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The heat is being turned up, if you think Hermann von Rompuy qualifies as a heat source. Even an unrelated decision by a bank, which used to be Scottish, to base a division in London, is interpreted by the Telegraph propagandists as a snub to independence. Who’d want to base a bank in a small, independent, out-of-the-way country with funny habits…like Switzerland…or Monaco…or Hong Kong…Singapore…or Malta…or the Caymen and Bermuda…or…I give up. No, wait. I count 31 non-indigenous banks operating in Ireland – remember the basket-case economy that Jim Murphy laughed at in the Commons? GDP per head 2012: Ireland – Euros 35,700…UK- Euros 30,300 (source countryeconomy.com).  I make that one of Danny’s nice round 5000 numbers that makes a good headline. So here is one I made earlier.

IRISH €5000 A YEAR RICHER THAN BRITS AFTER SIX YEARS OF ECONOMIC FAILURE

It rather depends who and what you want to believe, does it not? Danny’s Treasury-written composition paper was based on how lenders would treat a country that failed to pay its debts. (Flaw alert incoming). Lenders – our altruistic, morally-minded “markets” are gentlemen to a fault, apart from the ones who are ladies and are regularly treated like Page Three slappers in City firms. Therefore they would view anyone with a bad credit history as a bad risk. But what if you didn’t default? What if you had no debts in the first place and someone else had publicly declared their intention to pay off those debts which they, not you, had incurred and to do so in all circumstances? If a lender sees a profit opportunity with low risk, sees a gleaming and industry-approved asset backing up the loan and a borrower with a low annual deficit, a net exporter, does he a) decide it isn’t fair that the borrower’s offer to help with someone else’s debt had been spurned and he should be punished for his audacity by being sent packing or b) give him the cash at a reasonable rate and watch how he performs?

If, on the other hand, another borrower appears with debt more than 100 per cent higher than income putting it 13th from the bottom of the world league table with the debt rising at £7000 a second, whose borrowing capacity is stretched to breaking point and buying in more products than it sells, shouldn’t it be liable for an interest risk surcharge, if it deserves any loan at all?

And, if you’re minded to believe the European Commission, (antidote pills are available), their estimate is that for the UK to come out of the EU, the cost would be £3000 each, proving that when it comes to scaring people, Westminster may have met its match.

But don’t think this kind of stuff doesn’t have an effect. In the Guardian today Martin  Kettle  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/19/alex-salmond-acting-spoilt-children turns what is a reasonable swipe at the SNP’s failure to quell doubts about currency into a rant ranging over the EU and pensions. His starting point has validity because, whatever the misgivings, a convincing alternative must find its way into the minds of the voters or a water-line leak will expand and lead to a flood. SNP protestations about synthetic politics from the Unionists are genuine and, as soon as an alternative emerges, will be revealed for what they are – a campaign gambit devoid of honesty. But there is no disguising the need for something definitive, otherwise the gambit wins. Kettle stretches the point beyond the reasonable, or even the logical, but the fact that he has given up on what little respect he had for the independence tactics, is a straw in the wind. He repeats the McTernan line about the SNP response. “It felt like a reputation destroying performance. For if anyone is guilty of bluff, bluster and bullying with which Salmond loudly charged his much better argued critics, it is Salmond himself. I’d be pretty confident that voters would see it that way too.”

Salmond can’t afford to let this caricature take hold because the trick of politics isn’t really what you say, it’s what people want to believe. If they’re minded to back independence, they will listen sympathetically to the case and if you tell them you have been obliged to seek an alternative because your opponent has acted unreasonably, they will understand. Don’t Knows who are weighing it up will appreciate the dilemma and perceive a pragmatic response – and will be much less sympathetic to a second round of attack from the opponents. In the course of the change, Salmond is seen as reasonable and accommodating in the face of intransigence and if he pulls off a clever trick with a neat solution, such as using the pound regardless, he wins again. But these decisions must be made within days, if not hours. The idea that there is no alternative takes hold quickly and an eventual reply looks grudging.

(This is where I diverge from Kettle whose lack of detailed understanding is betrayed by his unquestioning acceptance of the Barroso (latest) intervention. There simply are no independent observers who take this seriously and a journalist can’t complain when the SNP don’t either. Barrosos’s assertions are so far off the wall there is only one answer which is that he is taking us and the EU for fools. The same goes for Kettle’s belief that Gordon Brown has raised important questions on pensions. There IS clarity on pensions in the White Paper but there are remaining questions over the EU requirement on funding cross-border schemes but this is exactly where the civil service comes in – to engineer solutions, perhaps by negotiating a 10-year period over which full funding can be achieved. As this was raised initially by the Chartered Institute of Accountants, you’d think they would propose an answer – isn’t that what we pay them for? I’m afraid Kettle can’t get away with blaming the SNP for going for the man not the ball in the case of Brown. As I said yesterday he is responsible for destroying the pension value for millions of people, despite being warned of the consequences and if you don’t have a final salary scheme today, blame Gordon. Whatever the arguments over pensions, Brown has brass neck pretending to have a solution. Kettle may respect Brown, but he is in a minority).

Kettle uses a phrase that made me gape wide-eyed at the ipad. “I know a serious argument when I hear one, and Osborne and the others have been making serious arguments in the past few days. It is simply mischievous to pretend that they are not dealing with major issues which, if mishandled, could be seriously destructive to ordinary lives, communities and standards of living. Yet, faced with genuine intellectual and political challenges on big subjects, Salmond and his colleagues act like children who scream as loudly as possible in order to avoid listening to a message they do not want to hear.”

Destructive to ordinary lives? I was listening to the news on Radio Four at the time. Here are two stories run one after the other. One: “An increasing number of under-18s with mental health problems in England are being treated on adult psychiatric wards, it has emerged. And many children are having to travel hundreds of miles across the country to receive hospital treatment. Treating young people in such units should happen only in exceptional circumstances. The Department of Health had promised this would stop by 2010….‘Sometimes we have to make 50 to 100 phone calls around the country looking for a bed. They [young people] shouldn’t be shunted around into inappropriate facilities, however much the staff there try to help them,’ said Dr McClure.It may be the first time they’ve had a breakdown. They need to stay in touch with the people they know and love, and if they’re having to move 200 or 300 miles, it’s very difficult for the family to stay in touch.’ He said funding for mental health services had been cut, particularly for child and adolescent services in the community.”

A mother told of having her daughter dragged out of her arms and hearing her screaming out of a window: “Mummy, don’t leave me…”

Two: “Forty-three Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, have signed a letter urging David Cameron to ensure people get enough to eat. They argue that cutbacks and failures in the benefits system are forcing thousands of people to use food banks. The End Hunger Fast campaign called the situation “truly shocking”. It wants a national day of fasting on 4 April. But the government said it wanted to help people “stand on their own two feet” by cutting welfare dependency.

The letter comes after Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned last weekend that welfare reform was leaving people in “destitution” and labelled it a “disgrace”.

Those two routine items on the UK national news are what I call destructive to ordinary lives and if Martin Kettle imagines an independent Scottish society would permit those offences when money was available, he isn’t keeping up. It is exactly that kind of brutish, despicable, community-shredding blindness that we want to escape. People across Britain are recognizing that they don’t want to live in a society that has lost its heart and only counts money not blessings. What is the Guardian’s solution? Vote Labour? Back Ed Balls? Or is Kettle the one  putting his fingers in his ears and humming?

Our currency will be sorted out, and the debt, as will the EU, and we will keep our pensions. Britain and Scotland will never prosper by listening to Brown, Balls and Osborne. The truth is that, no matter how hard it is for southern commentators to take on board, Britain is finished. It may run on in London and the grab-it-all south east but even there insane house prices are killing communities, and everywhere else there is a powerful sense of abandonment and imprisonment in a Britain we don’t remember ever voting for. It may be at the other end of Britain but it is difficult not to feel real pain for the flooded people in the south west whose homes are ruined, who face uncertain futures and limits to insurance and whose flood defences were never rebuilt as they were promised. Three hundred of them were meant to be replaced but weren’t. This too is a symptom of a top-down, cynical political system to whom people are customers to be lured, hoodwinked and fleeced. This is from an item in Social Europe by Simon Wren-Lewis: “Cuts in flood prevention are a small part of austerity, but there are close parallels with the macroeconomic case… Just as some in government never believed in all this climate change stuff, others thought that this Keynesian idea that austerity might be a bad idea…was fanciful. (Some, like George Osborne, appear to have thought both.) When these mistakes became evident it was, with the floods, the Environment Agency’s fault, and also the last government, while with the recession it was all down to those Goddam Europeans, and of course the last government. Yet whereas the links between austerity and prolonged recessions may appear mysterious to many, the links between lack of flood prevention and flooding are all too obvious. And the real danger for the government is that perhaps others may begin to see these parallels.”

What is being called the SNP’s fit of pique is partly an expression of this deep frustration, that when you come up with promising solutions, perhaps a way out, a better way forward, the forces of authority and a complaint media work their hardest to destroy it. They are currently in full defence mode, backs pressed against the wall, realizing that they have gone for broke by legalizing the referendum and refusing a second question and are now in the hands of the Scots. As is their economic future. A decision to split would be a severe blow to hopes of closing the deficit, of shifting some of the mountainous debt, of keeping their borrowing costs low, avoiding an almighty nuclear weapons headache and diminishing them in the eyes of the world. And still the polls tighten. http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/8765-worries-for-no-campaign-as-currency-threat-halves-lead

The latest thistle in their pants is the game-changing warning that liabilities are equated with assets, a fine principle in law, and the reason they are now working overtime to suggest Scotland will suffer if it declines their invitation to load up the national credit card with their borrowings. I don’t see it. Salmond has offered to pay. They have in effect declined the offer. They are stuck with it, palms getting sweaty.

There is of course now no easy solution, they having painted themselves into an ever-reducing box. The offer should be to negotiate but they’ve thrown that one away. They can’t make soothing noises because they blew that one too. All that’s left is what they’re good at – threatening and warning…assuming you are intimidated by Danny. But a deal will be needed. London must acknowledge an agreed deal and Scotland’s negotiated departure before most of the world will accept us. So it may be that some share of debt is accepted even if they stick to the refusal to share sterling and we will begin our new relationship as we began it all those years ago, in resentful and grudging acceptance of our one-sided relationship with the grabby neighbor.

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The Guardian…of Cameron’s Little England

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We have two subscriptions to the Guardian in my house because we like to think it aligns with our world view – in broad terms – and since we have ipads, it is logical to endow them with double their entitlement in order to carry it with us. To be frank I don’t find much of Scottish interest in the paper. It has everything else I like and some great writers but I pretty much know if I want to discover something about my country I can skip it. That was ever the case. I remember their Scotland correspondent in the eighties and nineties wrote maybe one or two pieces a week and they were happy to print a retrospective item catching up with something that had been published everywhere else 24 hours previously.

He was a grand man to represent you in the Scottish capital – a little like Alex Douglas-Home to look at, always in a Harris Tweed sports jacket, drove a Racing Green open top two-seater Morgan – big house in Midlothian, place in Grantown-on-Spey – and in the Jinglin’ Geordie in Fleshmarket Close at lunchtime would order a dram of Te Bheag which he pronounced Tea Bag, only with a Morningside inflection on “bag” turning the vowel sound into “eh”. As a young reporter in a hurry I loved his insouciance. If I asked: “What are you doing on the hydro electric story, John?” He would say: “I’ll give it to them tomorrow. There’s too much other news today.”

It is one explanation why I have an affection for the Guardian all these years later but the real one is that it is the only daily newspaper published which has a social conscience and often wears its heart on its sleeve. In a sea of neo-liberal, establishment toe-kissers, it is a media oasis of alternative thinking and challenging views. It is Channel 4 News to the BBC News at Ten. it has printed writers with no connection with Scotland finding common cause with Scottish democrats protesting against the British status quo, some of whom indicate they would vote Yes, given the chance. They have seen the potential for ending the stasis that blocks progress in the UK, in voting systems, accountability, equality, social mobility and patronage that shines through the Yes agenda and they have imagined how it could be a beacon for change across the country.

They don’t do much on Scotland but what they have done has been inspiring and validating. Until today. In Saturday’s edition of the Guardian they produced a leader column that could have appeared in the Telegraph such was its casual glee at what it translates as Yes getting its comeuppance. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/14/scottish-referendum-politics-business-end  Its entire tone could hardly contain its grim satisfaction.

It was dismaying to find a UKIP-inspired Little Englander editorial which couldn’t disguise its Unionist frisson that the “panglossian’ Salmond was finding  his “smiley” version of independence challenged because, according to the author, it had gone “unchallenged” . Perhaps the Guardian has missed the 20-odd British government reports or the entire Better Together campaign or its multi-million funding base or interventions by the European Commission and the Council and the Prime Minister of Spain, the three-year histrionics at Holyrood, reports by every committee in both Houses of Parliament, CBI objections, talks at NATO and visits by half the British Cabinet. If so, did they ever replace my drinking chum with the drop-head Morgan and are utterly uneducated about events in the far north?

Salmond’s plan, backed by 670 pages of background and Q and A – many times more than any UK Government or party ever attempts – is dismissed by the Guardian as a “pretend version”, neatly omitting the fact that Salmond’s desire for independence was in his manifesto when he won a majority of seats at Holyrood, therefore it is endorsed by the people of Scotland – still inhabitants of the United Kingdom as far as I can see. Salmond’s view cannot be maintained any longer it seems as the UK gets tough. How the British and their London media luvvies revel in the idea that they have the upper hand. It sounds like they are fighting Jerry all over again,this time in the pages of the Guardian. There is no questioning of the approach or motivation of the three Unionist parties, just delight that they have changed the debate and in essence struck back, suggesting the Little Englanders at the Guardian have been quietly resenting the success of a democratic movement which they have no chance of emulating since all their eggs are in a comatose Labour basket. No, “this new toughness must be applauded”, trumpets David Cameron’s new recruits. Get tough with the dissidents, it means. Slap them down. Show em who’s boss. We’re fed up pretending to be on side for this. The truth is we’re as backward and self-centred as any Tory – just like Labour – and we don’t really want change. It’s much too comfortable down here. 

It even goes for the Daily Mail unsubstantiated personal slight. Salmond always plays the man, we’re told. Do they mean the man who was subject to calculated character assassination at Holyrood, who was likened to his face to Robert Mugabe on Newsnight, who as we have seen in recent days, has been treated like a a petty criminal by BBC interviewers? When did Salmond go for the man without the politics? This is prejudice, the seeping loathing drip-fed by the Salmond-hating tabloids, is swallowed by the Guardian and reprinted without reference or justification.

But the most telling part of this revisionist rant is this section:

Mr Osborne’s case was made politically stronger by the fact it was tightly co-ordinated with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It remains to be seen how the one in three Scots who say their minds are not yet made up will respond. The likelihood in the long term is probably that the undecideds will divide much as the decideds have done. Taken together with Mr Cameron’s speech last week, Mr Osborne’s helps give the pro-union parties more standing to make a reasoned case in the face of the SNP’s predictable sneering and occasional evasions.

 To any Scot who has followed this from the beginning, the idea that it is the Yes side that sneered or evaded will be richly humorous. No sensate human let alone a thinking journalist with an iota of knowledge could write that and mean it. It defies the facts in which Scots have been told – by their own UK government – that they can’t survive without subsidy, they can’t defend their own country,they are so useless neither the EU nor NATO will want them, they have made no contribution to their own currency and if the don’t settle the deal on time the result of their legal referendum will be ignored. Who’s sneering?

And is the Guardian really saying that the UK’s balance of trade doubling is fine? That the increased borrowing costs of this will be worth paying? That placing a frontier when none is necessary is justified? Or that business should be penalised? It would have been more courageous if the article had said this was the right economic decision and was, in the paper’s view, not just part of a political campaign and therefore ultimately, meaningless.

But the real gaffe in this student thesis is to think that bringing together the main parties as one is a masterstroke. The tight co-ordination is the death-knell of liberal politics in Britain. It says that a united campaign to resist democracy in Scotland overrides every other issue where these parties disagree. More important than welfare cuts, more important than youth unemployment, bankers bonuses, London feather-bedding and Trident replacement. On this, they stand united. On all else they disagree. And the Guardian thinks this is good news for Labour? Aligning with the Tories on behalf of the British state Guardian readers want to reform is an historic miscalculation by lightweights blinded by hatred of nationalism and not grasping its significance. It is betrayal of the roots and principles of Labour, such as they are. Now the Guardian is on side with them and with Cameron’s centralising, faux-imperial, anti-self determination zealots. Somebody, somewhere made a mistake and let out of the bag what many of us suspect that even in the metropolitan, liberal-badged London media salon, a robust anti-Scottish prejudice lurks just beneath the surface.

For the Guardian, read Telegraph…read Times… read Mail. The London media, another reason to vote Yes.

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Headless Chickens

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a theory of unintended consequences. We have to hope the No side are suffering under its effects otherwise they are doomed to ricochet off the sides of fate like one of the Sochi athletes in the Metal-Tray Downhill Helter Skelter. (Britain got bronze)

First David Cameron, proudly gripping a lectern emblazoned with the name of what is now Scotland’s only official pro-Union university – Glasgow Caley- told us he loved us (I paraphrase) and we shouldn’t leave because the people of Britain were our family and were pleading with us not to desert them. This brings to mind his declaration of loyalty to the NHS when he underwent the transforming trauma of losing his young son and numbskulls like me fought back the instinct to blub. Now I weep at the idea I fell for it as I see the NHS sold off to Mitt Romney.

It was a brave but forlorn effort by a lightweight politician moulded on the Blair template but Merry England’s response was shorn of the passion for their country that Canadians displayed to Quebec in the nineties. The truth is that nobody cares enough about Britain to get on the streets with flags unless there’s a Royal carriage surrounded by Redcoats with a Red Arrows fly-over trailing politically correct pink vapour streams. Anyway, with austerity and welfare cuts evaporating what’s left in the British purse, a Royal parade today would probably end with George and Priscilla, or it is William and Camilla, being dragged from the wagon by the mob and guillotined at Smithfield Market.

Cameron’s appeal was met with one of those embarrassing moments where we know we’re supposed to do something but nobody knows what and we look at our shoes. Asking an English guy to give us a call and talk us round?! As if…Wanker…

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It was at least an appeal to goodness, like when Christian Aid come round with an envelope for African orphans. What followed was like a scene from the Krays where the sinister bloke in a suit smiles at your face and intones: “Alright, Jock, my boy…know what I mean? You’re asking for more time to pay…I’m here to tell you the game’s up. You try that trick again and you get this…” Cue knuckle-duster. Not only did the gang leader come himself, he brought some heavies from the other mob AND he had a bent copper alongside. Message – you can’t win. Run off and tell your boss Alex.

Did they intend to juxtapose two utterly contrasting events? Did they really say in Number 10 it was a case of Good Cop, Bad Cop or was it just a mix-up? Are they serious or are they playing at politics without knowing the rules?

Then one of their thugs lets it be known – down the manor – that the rules have changed. If we don’t do as we’re told, the previous deal is off and even if we deliver our side, we’ll be denied. There will be no acceptance of a Yes vote unless we concede to them in advance. We must not only accept being shut out of our own currency and central bank but if we don’t capitulate in the talks, they won’t recognise our sovereignty. My impression was there would be no pre-negotiation. Now it’s coming thick and fast, position after position declared without consultation. Take it or leave it. Did I misread the Edinburgh Agreement or are we really dealing with political thugs?

Then tonight I read that there will be no combined offer of extra powers from the Unionists, the ones who said: Don’t vote for Salmond, we’ll give you what you want instead. Davidson is the latest one to make it explicit that while the Unionist gang can agree on telling Scotland what it can’t do they have no agreement on what it can. They have a real facility for being negative and threatening and are utterly devoid of the positive gene, almost as if they know how to put the boot in but when the time comes, they look around hopelessly for someone with first aid.

They combine to form Better Together, they bark in the Commons about shared values, they issue dire warnings together at Holyrood but when Scotland asks them for their collective, authoritive alternative, it dissolves into a dissembling mess. Unionism had one chance in this game, having blown their first golden chance at a second question. It was to work closely – as they are on denying us access to our own currency – to pull together a joint credible offer of more powers. They have now blown that too. The only thing they agree on is that Scotland must be constrained, strapped and chained and put to work to their benefit. When it comes to showing combined initiative and leadership to come up with something positive for Scotland to give us a sign of progress, they are split, confused, unprincipled and intellectually crippled.

The truth is there are no shared values, no shared vision, no cohesion, no agreement -only that Scotland must remain their domain for to set us free to soar would reveal them for the callow, self-interested, anti-Scottish, London-centric careerists they are.

This week will have frightened some, as it was intended to do. Many more will have opened their eyes to the deceit and metropolitan arrogance of Britain’s ruling elite – with Labour at its core – and without realising it yet, will have moved closer to Yes. I doubt if that is the consequence they intended.

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The Real Britain

What differentiates each side in the referendum debate is attitude towards Britain rather than Scotland. We say pretty similar things about Scotland and express the same feelings whether unionist or nationalist. It’s when we think about the meaning of Britain that we find the deepest divergence of opinion.

Most people seem to have a fairly benign attitude towards the concept of Britishness whatever petty grievances they harbour. I do not. I keep my deepest resentment for the British state, that nexus of institutions, people and mentality that entrenches inequality, salutes the class system, conspires in war and protects its own. It doesn’t seem to matter very much who is in power, the overall results are similar – politicians with a conventional, compliant, establishment-minded viewpoint who see themselves as the guardians of all knowledge and authority, something the population dispensed with sometime in the 1980’s.

When we needed a left-leaning government we got a repeat of two years of Tory spending policy, two international wars, complicity in torture, the harshest crackdown on civil rights in the post-war era and abuse of executive power. When Blair needed support to save face in the aftermath of Iraq war and the Gilligan affair he found it in a former Diplock judge in a classic establishment stitch-up. Perhaps the biggest lie in politics is the claim of Labour to be a radical party of the left. Their record in office – which contains notable advances on early learning, tax credits, minimum wage and devolution – shows them in reality to be wet Tories in awe of corporate muscle, American foreign policy and reckless capitalist economics while pushing away the unions and chasing the establishment rewards of titles and lobbyists’ hard cash.

We are in the process of uncovering some of the darker secrets of the Blair and Brown years, things we guessed at or speculated but have been unable to confirm but, as ever, it seems the establishment is working diligently to delay and diffuse on behalf of their Labour cohorts.

The Gibson Report is one such meek and self-serving operation which started out as an attempt to uncover the grisly truth about British involvement in torture and rendition and which will now be handled by the compliant Intelligence and Security Committee which spoon-fed the security chiefs ahead of their public appearance by informing them of the questions in advance.

Within weeks of the election David Cameron announced the inquiry to be led by Gibson. He repeatedly rejected suggestions at that time that the ISC should conduct the investigation, telling MPs: “I do not think for a moment that we should believe that the ISC should be doing this piece of work. For public confidence, and for independence from parliament, party and government, it is right to have a judge-led inquiry.” He added: “That is what we need to get to the bottom of the case. The fact that it is led by a judge will help ensure that we get it done properly.” That is the opposite of what has happened as the establishment realizes how damaging to it the torture issue is.

Typical of the duplicity of the British was their courting of Gaddafi and intense behind-the-scenes talks to release Megrahi while condemning the Scottish government for doing so. There is the co-operation between MI6 and Gaddafi’s intelligence agencies and the UK’s involvement in the rendition of two Libyan opposition leaders and their families to Tripoli in 2004 back into the hands of the regime who tortured them , and any role Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, played in authorising those operations. He has denied any wrongdoing, although MI6 is reported to have confronted him with documentary evidence that he personally authorised the agency’s involvement in the Libyan rendition operations…a Labour Cabinet minister. I smell more state collusion is the statement from the retiring head of the FBI Robert Muller that more arrests are expected over the Lockerbie bombing. Really? We were told as soon as anti Gaddafi forces took Benghazi three years ago that they would search the files and find the evidence that Libya brought down Pan Am 103. Since then, nothing. Speculation and visits by the Lord Advocate, but not a shred of evidence let alone a suspect. Odd, don’t you think, that if they wanted an arrest they had in their hands Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s security adviser who would surely have known the truth? But then, he was MI6’s link man in Tripoli with whom they exchanged Christmas greetings and rendition victims so they couldn’t put him on trial. If the UK conspired with the US over the war in Iraq, does that indicate it would also conspire over Lockerbie? Are they so close that they are indistinguishable or isn’t that exactly what has been proved by Edward Snowden revealing the mass collection of private data….

There have been allegations of MI6 and MI5 involvement in a series of other operations in Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and Bangladesh, as well as Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan, which have resulted in terrorism suspects suffering severe mistreatment. In some cases – the most notorious being that of the British resident Binyam Mohamed – the allegations have been found to be true, while in others the government has paid sums totalling several million pounds in order to settle compensation claims out of court…the British state at work.

Meanwhile, even as further and deeper benefits and budget cuts are announced with pride – at the same time as the government boasts of recovery – we find that British officials  “lost their nerve” in tackling tax avoidance by global corporations and have presided over a £35bn tax gap as they pursue easy prey such as small businesses and individuals, the easy meat.

In a report that highlighted how the Treasury is owed missing tax payments of £35bn, the public accounts committee added that HM Revenue and Customs has left the state with another multibillion pound shortfall by failing to gather £2.6bn of an expected windfall from Swiss banks. How easy is it to savage those with no voice but to bend the knee to the corporate kings who make their own rules and decide how much they will deign to pay in taxes…

To me this is the British state, no matter which party is in power, self-serving and contemptuous of the people it is supposed to serve.

PS When will we get the report of the Chilcott Committee four and a half years since it started?

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