Author: Daniel Margrain

I graduated in 2001 with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Human Geography and Social Policy. I then successfully completed my masters in Globalisation, Culture and the City at Goldsmiths, London. I am a massive fan of the musician Neil Young. My favourite book is Murder In Samarkand by Craig Murray. My favourite album is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and my favourite film is Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. I have traveled widely and fell in love with Cuba and Madagascar. My other interests include politics and current affairs and social and urban theory.

The twentieth anniversary of Radiohead’s ‘Ok Computer’. But is it any good?

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of ok computer

I stopped reading the New Musical Express (NME) not long after writers of the caliber of Julie Burchill, Steven Wells, Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray stopped writing for it. Anton Corbijn’s stunning and memorable monochrome photography added to the mix of art, politics and music that made the paper special. For many people my age, the post-punk and new wave era, corresponded to a golden age in rock music and rock music journalism.

The NME seemed to have more credibility and cache than its main rivals, the Melody Maker and Sounds. It’s music journalism was acerbic, if at times irreverent and pretentious, but as teenager and twenty-something I couldn’t do without my weekly fix.

Indicative of a great deal of what continues to pass for rock music journalism in Britain, it’s flaws were that it was probably too colloquial in its outlook and it’s praising of UK artists disproportionate to what was happening in other parts of the world, particularly the USA.

The emergence of the stupefying Brit-pop scene in the early 1990s marked a nadir for the paper. The genres iconography was as reactionary as the music was derivative and bombastic and the paper’s content began to reflect this superficiality. Among the ubiquitous genre of Britpop artists to emerge during this period were the British band, Radiohead, who unlike many of their contemporaries, the NME were largely indifferent to.

Proving to be more of a critical and commercial success outside Britain than in it during the early 1990s, it wasn’t until the release of their third album, OK Computer in 1997 that the group received widespread critical acclaim. The album initiated a stylistic shift toward a more atmospheric and melancholic sound of rock music whose abstract lyrics touched on themes of urban living, alienation, technology and modernity.

The music journalist at the NME whose words I paid close attention to more than any other during my youth, Nick Kent, wrote in Mojo about Ok Computer:

“Others may end up selling more, but in 20 years time I’m betting [the album] will be seen as the key record of 1997, the one to take rock forward instead of artfully revamping images and song structures from an earlier era.”

It’s now twenty years since Kent wrote his piece. Is his enthusiasm for the album justified? In one word, no. I listened to the album again for the first time yesterday (July 19, 2017) since its release twenty years ago. To me, it remains as tedious and overrated a recording, overall, as it did two decades ago.

The album opens with Airbag, a kind of meticulously crafted and structured post-modern form of psychedelia updated for a generation unfamiliar with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The piece, which is infused with middle-eastern influences, attempts to evoke a dark and menacing underbelly. But rather than being interesting, the piece is musically dull. It’s a theme that sets the tone for much of the album.

Paranoid Android is marked by the shift towards early Roxy-Music-esque prog-rock, hard rock and Gothic and blues elements that invoke a curious merging of Van der Graaf Generator and the Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet. Although its a step up from the opening track it’s no less pretentious.

The self-confessed attempts by the group to emulate the disturbing atmosphere of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew in Subterranean Homesick Alien fails to capture the dense and chaotic magma of that piece, but instead is closer to the relatively conventional jazz of Herbie Hancock sprinkled with the transcendentalism of Pink Floyd.

The Romeo and Juliet-inspired Exit Music (For a Film) illustrates quite a clever use of vocal, acoustic guitar, mournful choir, electronics, renaissance-sounding mellotron and distorted trip-hop bass that is quite effective in its way, but hardly innovative. Nevertheless, this solemn requiem is one of the few successful and interesting moments on the album.

Let Down is basically a trance track that overlays some of the bands David Crosby-ian influences from their second album, The Bends. The track also features a subtle use of electronica. Michael Stipe’s influence is also evident throughout the track.

With a melodic chord progression reminiscent of the Beatles Sexy Sadie, the albums sixth track, Karma Police (inspired by Sgt Pepper), transforms into a pleasant Elton John-style romantic piano motif that eventually dissipates into a black hole of effects. Again, not a bad piece, but it’s not something I would necessarily have any desire to hear again either.

Fitter Happier is a short throwaway piece of sampled musique concrete, while Electioneering is heavy rock reminiscent of the groups debut, Pablo Honey that provides much needed respite from the melancholy that preceded it.

Climbing Up the Walls is layered with a string section, ambient noise and repetitive, metallic percussion, while the renaissance-infused mournful hymn of the Beach Boys-inspired No Surprises, whose use of glockenspiel in the refrain reminiscent of a music box, is probably the most well known track on the album.

The penultimate piece is the apocalyptic, orchestral and choral, Lucky, whose languid and overblown excess is reminiscent of the worst of Pink Floyd. The album closes with The Tourist, a meandering waltz for the blues.

The album has its moments but there is simply a lack of quality in the structure of the songs and at least half of it is filler, most of it in the second half. The melodramatic dirges and vocals are too hard to take after a while and I always find myself having to take a break whenever I listen to this album.

Ultimately, Radiohead’s “art”, like David Bowie’s, is the personification of artifice in the sense that, as one independent critic, Piero Scaruffi, put it:

“it embodies the quintessence of artificial art, raising futility to paradigm, focusing on the phenomenon rather than the content…of concentrating on ‘sound’ to the expense of “music”.

The main creative force behind the group, Thom Yorke, has never hidden the fact that the starting point for Ok Computer was the “incredibly dense and terrifying sound” of Bitches Brew, the 1970 avant-garde jazz fusion album by Miles Davis.

Yorke also openly admitted in an interview in Mojo that the appropriation of other artists ideas – The Beatles, REM, Beach Boys, P J Harvey, Can and others – acted as the catalyst and provided the inspiration that culminated in the creation of the record.

There is nothing wrong in artists admitting  influences and sources. On the contrary, it is an admirable position to take. But as influential as the work of peers might be to an artist, it doesn’t necessarily follow that great art emerges from these influences. OK Computer, whose whole is not, in my view, greater than the sum of its parts, is a case in point.

That the album is regarded by many critics to be the best of the last 25 years; is included in many of the ‘best of’ lists including Rolling Stone and is even ranked by some to be the best rock album of all-time, is in my view, a gross overstatement of the albums artistic historical significance.

According to Tim Footman:

“Not since 1967, with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, had so many major critics agreed immediately, not only on an album’s merits, but on its long-term significance, and its ability to encapsulate a particular point in history.”

This kind of a subjective evaluation arguably says more about how corporate music journalism operates and the limited parameters it sets, than it does about genuine creative and artistic worth of pieces of music.

The “artistic merits” of Ok Computer relate to the extent to which the public and critics alike buy into the illusion that its production excesses are art and that these excesses don’t detract from the mediocre quality of the content.

The concept of style over substance embodied in pop and rock music can be traced back to the Beatles Sgt Pepper album in 1967 where the role of producer, George Martin (the fifth Beatle), was widely regarded as being at least an equal, if not a more important figure, than the musicians.

It’s no coincidence that Thom Yorke (who outlined how important producer Nigel Godrich, characterised as Radiohead’s “sixth member”, was to Ok Computer), cited Sgt Pepper, particularly, A Day In the Life, as a major influence on him. It also explains why Tim Footman cited above, holds both Sgt Pepper and Ok Computer in equally high esteem. 

Radiohead upped the ante. Beneath the artifice there really isn’t much substance to their “art” and precious little for critics to write about the groups songs or the competency of the musicians who perform them.

The fact that twenty years on from the release of Ok Computer, not a single corporate critic has alluded to the fact that the album is a masterpiece of “faux avantegarde”, as Piero Scaruffi put it, or that the group who made it are one of the most hyped and overrated bands probably since U2, is a reflection of the lack of good quality independent music journalism in this country and abroad,

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“Liberation” & the false flag thesis: The west’s collusion with Islamist terrorism

The scourge of inequality: Why we desperately need a change of government

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of revolution

The systematic redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, embodied in neoliberal ideology, that began with Thatcher and continued under successive Tory and Labour governments, is accelerating at a pace under Theresa May. It is an ideology that is emblematic of the symbiotic relationship between welfare retrenchment and the notion of the role of the state as facilitator of welfare handouts to the corporate sector.

Farm subsidies, public sector asset stripping, corporate tax avoidance and evasion, government share giveaways and housing benefit subsidies, are just some of the ways in which neoliberalism continues to greatly enrich the wealthiest in society. Figures reported in the Guardian indicate that the richest one per cent in Britain have as much wealth as the poorest 57 per cent combined.

Analysis by The Equality Trust found:

  • The richest 100 families in Britain have seen their combined wealth increase by at least £55.5bn* since 2010. An average increase in wealth of £653m each, or £2 million each per week.
  • Since the financial crash in 2008, the richest 100 families in Britain have seen their combined wealth increase by at least £12.57bn.** An average increase in wealth of £151m each, or £364,052 per week.
  • By contrast, median household income has increased by just £4 per week since 2010, and £10 per week since 2008***. Median wealth has increased by just £8,600 since 2010.****
  • £55.5bn is the same wealth as that held by the poorest 19% of the population. £12.57bn is the same wealth as that held by the poorest 12% of the population.

Ninety-nine per cent not sharing nations wealth

The problem has been that while figures show GDP, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years (from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016), this increase in wealth has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands.

Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, said:

“The cavernous gap between the richest and the rest of us should be a real source of worry, not just globally but here in the UK, where extreme inequality is ravaging society.”

Wyporska continued:

“While many people’s incomes have barely risen since the financial crash, a tiny elite has continued to pocket billions. If politicians are serious about building a genuinely shared society, then they urgently need to address this dangerous concentration of power and wealth and tackle our extreme inequality.”

Oxfam report

A report by Oxfam highlights the significant role neoliberalism plays in the creation of unequal societies and suggests that the most affected are more prone to conflict or instability. The report also points out that extremes of inequality are bad for economic growth, as well as being related to a range of health and social problems including mental illness and violent crime. Left Foot Forward has cited studies that indicate close correlations between inequality and unhappiness.

Instead of introducing economic policies intended to break the “iron-clad” neoliberal consensus that has given rise to increasingly high concentrations of wealth, the Conservative-led coalition government and it’s successor have, under the banner of “austerity”, deliberately and consciously continued with the same socioeconomic model.

Deficit & debt

In 2010, the coalition government said it would clear the deficit (ie how much the government borrows), by 2015/16. Having missed the target, the stated aim is to clear it by 2026. In their attempt to cover the deficit which adds to the total stock of national debt (ie the total money owed), the Tory strategy has been to borrow.

In fact, they have been the biggest borrowers over the last 70 years. This has culminated in an expected budget deficit from 2010 to 2020, of some £870 billion. This is well over the combined borrowing of Labour governments since 1945, around £490 billion.

Significantly, about 5 per cent of the government budget goes towards paying interest on the national debt which under the Tories has increased in real terms by 53 per cent between 2009/10 and 2016/17 to a huge £1.7 trillion.

The figures prove that ‘austerity’ and the attacks on the welfare state and public sector are ideological rather than an economic necessity. Relatively low tax rates for the rich, an inability to tackle evasion/avoidance, unemployment, the increase in poverty pay and zero hours contracts indicative of the rise in inequality, have all contributed to falling tax revenues and higher government debt. This has been used to justify more attacks on the poorest and weakest in society on the spurious basis that “the country can’t afford alternatives.”

Work that the Tories claim lift the poor out of poverty, is in reality poorly paid and insecure underwritten by the tax payer which puts more strain on public finances. On the same day that the bedroom tax was announced in parliament (estimated to “save” the Treasury £480 million), the top rate of tax in the UK was cut from 50 percent to 45 percent, resulting in a loss of revenue of £1 billion.

Lowest growth in the G7

With a record level of household debt and reduced levels of household spending allied to the governments lack of infrastructural investment, the GDP growth rate for the first quarter of 2017 shrunk to 0.2 per cent. This is the lowest growth rate of all the G7 nations. It doesn’t leave much scope for a government apparently committed to “living within its means,” to fund anything more than the local village fete.

The cornerstone of Tory economic policy is not to invest to stimulate the economy in order to boost growth and generate tax revenues, but to attack the welfare state and public sector which has the reverse affect.

This strategy began to take hold in a significant way following Chancellor George Osborne’s June, 2015 budget in which he announced £12 billion of cuts. This included the abolition of working tax credits to the poorest and the top down reorganisation of the NHS brought about by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act which removes the duty of the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive health service.

The punitive attacks on the unemployed, working poor, sick and disabled have been increasingly stepped up resulting in over a million three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in 2016/17. This in turn has led to increasing rates of depression, anxiety and incidences of suicides. In social care, a combination of cuts of around 30 percent to local authority budgets since 2010, increasingly restrictive eligibility criteria for services, and inadequate personal budgets are leaving millions without the support they need.

Moreover, the lack of affordable housing, the reduction in housing and council tax benefits to the unemployed and sick and the imposition of the bedroom tax, has resulted in growing rates of homelessness and/or the social cleansing and displacement of entire communities, many of them long established.

Fragmented

The existence of fragmented and atomised communities outside the confines of the workplace, the reduction in organised labour within it (illustrated by the long-term decline in trade union membership) and the lack of any safety net, means that ordinary people are increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of “market forces”.

Those affected are not just the poor and traditional blue collar workers but also the lower ranks of the middle classes highlighted by the fact that the cuts, which began to have political repercussions within David Cameron’s own Oxfordshire constituency, are now being felt in hitherto safe Tory seats up and down the country.

As Theresa May’s disastrous General Election campaign and manifesto proved, the Tories can also no longer count on the elderly demographic for their vote. In an increasingly aging society, the pressure on the social care system will become more acute as demand for its services increase. But a service motivated by profit is necessarily compromised in terms of its ability to provide a universal service of care predicated on need. The electorates rejection of the Tories “dementia tax” manifesto pledge seemed to suggest that there is a limit to which an aging population are willing to vote against its own interests.

There are other cuts to front-line services that are a potential cause of concern for traditional Tory voters. The slashing of 20,000 police and the replacing of existing officers with private security guards who have no powers of arrest, is unlikely to placate voters who real, or imagined, have a fear of crime that cannot be reconciled with the reduction in police numbers by such a significant amount.

Private security

The governments intention is to draft private security firms into communities in suburbs and villages to fill the gap in neighbourhood policing left by the budget cuts. In an Essex seaside town, more than 300 residents have effectively been forced to club together to pay for overnight private security patrols.

The implications of the drive towards a privatized police force motivated primarily by profit, are clear. The tendency would be for any crime not committed on the patch where customers pay privately for their service to be ignored or underplayed. The potential for the creation of protection rackets and vigilantism exists in situations where people who are not in a position to be able to afford for protection live near to people who are.

Many who voted for the first time under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who have suffered a decade or more of austerity and have young children of their own, are also being adversely affected by the lack of investment in education, tuition fees and the axing of housing benefit.

Media savvy

This is the generation who are increasingly becoming media savvy and are less reliant than their parents and grandparents are on the traditional corporate forms of media propaganda for their information. In addition, unlike the older generation, they are more likely to suffer the affects of extreme forms of inequality that neoliberal capitalism has engendered.

This is the alienation that Jeremy Corbyn has been able to tap into that was nevertheless overlooked by the corporate media. The truth is, the reaction of the liberal intelligentsia to the rise of Corbyn illustrated how they were caught by surprise. The fact that millions outside the elite media bubble weren’t shocked by the election result, is indicative of how irrelevant the corporate media have become and how remote they are from public opinion.

As far as the political establishment is concerned, maximizing profits for the corporations they represent is given priority over the concept of a properly functioning and accountable social democratic state. Profit has become the guiding principle for the organisation of society from which everything is judged, including perceptions of success and happiness. This is reinforced daily on television programmes and in the lifestyle sections of magazines and newspapers.

Biological determinism

What underlies these contrasting perceptions is the concept of biological determinism whose proponents posit that the social order is a consequence of unchanging human biology, rather than the result of inherited economic privilege. Thus, biological determinism reinforces the notion that inequality and injustice and the existence of entrenched hierarchical social structures of government, media and commerce are all-powerful. This helps explain why the establishment respects and values very highly evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists.

But it also highlights the artificial limits that a system driven by profit imposes. Any rejection of biological determinism and the capitalist system that reinforces it, is regarded by apologists as being the fault of the individual and not the social institutions or the way society is structured.

Thus, for evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists and their apologists, the solution to inequality and injustice is not to challenge existing social structures upon which ‘reality’ is based, but rather to alter the chemical composition of the human brain to make it fit the reality, or even in extreme circumstances to eliminate individuals altogether who challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and/or whose values are perceived to impact negatively on the ‘taxpayer’.

Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify its killing of ‘undesirables’ who, like the Tories, they regarded as a ‘drain on society’.

Social Darwinism

These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories, which adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Intellectual challenges to market fundamentalism (neoliberalism) and evolutionary psychology that is its ideological cousin, help undermine the notion that rigid social stratification, inequality, injustice and neoliberal economics used to justify them, are inevitable. Indeed, prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Dani Rodrik and Jeffrey Sachs have for a long time been raising their voices against the neoliberal experiment.

They are not alone. Venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer has said that “If capitalism doesn’t change fundamentally, it will destroy itself. If you allow wealth to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands over time, in the end it cannot be good for anybody, particularly people like me. You show me a highly unequal society and I’ll show you a police state or a revolution.”

Hanauer continued:

“If we don’t get inequality under control then it’s likely to lead to war – a similar pattern that followed the last period of massive inequality between 1925 and 1940….. From a capitalists perspective, although it may seem a good idea in the short-term to impoverish the typical family, in the long-term it’s a catastrophe.”

Whereas progressive venture capitalists like Hanaeur, economists like Stiglitz and Krugman and socialists like Jeremy Corbyn, understand that the functioning of a modern forward-looking society is dependent upon the reduction in inequality, in order to save capitalism from itself, the Tories want to take us back to the vast inequalities of the time of Charles Dickens and a return to a period before the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s which set down a maximum length for the working day.

Alternative

For the first time in a generation, there exists a major alternative credible political force in Britain, that is prepared to challenge the prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy. The Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, has shown it is serious about tackling head-on the dangerous concentration of power, wealth and extreme inequality that has been deliberately fostered by successive UK governments over the last 40 years.

Neoliberalism is a political and ideological construct that can, and must, be reversed. The transformation to a more just, humane and democratically responsive system is what Corbyn will usher in if elected next time around. It’s imperative for the sake of our children and grandchildren, that we don’t let the opportunity slip.

NOTES:

*Figures were obtained by comparing Sunday Times Rich Lists in 2010 and 2016. This £55.5bn represents a conservative figure, as 15 of the 100 richest people in 2010 fell out of the list of richest 1,000 (the full list) by 2016, and so their wealth could not be counted. The £55.5bn figure therefore reflects the wealth of the 85 Rich List figures who have remained in the Rich List from 2010-2016. Wealth was adjusted for inflation to 2016 prices.

**Figures were obtained by comparing Sunday Times Rich Lists in 2008 and 2016. This £12.57bn represents a conservative figure, as 17 of the 100 richest people in 2008 fell out of the list of richest 1,000 (the full list) by 2016, and so their wealth could not be counted. The £12.57bn figure therefore reflects the wealth of the 83 Rich List figures who have remained in the Rich List from 2008-2016. Wealth was adjusted for inflation to 2016 prices.

***Figures were obtained from the median household income in the ONS’ Households Below Average Income release, 1994/95 to 2014/15 statistical release – https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-199495-to-201415  Looking at difference between 2007/08 (£463), 2009/2010 (£469) and 2014/15 (£473) figures.

****Figures were obtained from the ONS’s Wealth and Assets Survey, this shows the median wealth increase from 2010/12 – 2012-14, the first and last releases since 2008. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/incomeandwealth/compendium/wealthingreatbritainwave4/2012to2014  

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Gods & Monsters

By Daniel Margrain

 

Image result for pics of frankenstein and god

During the pre-enlightenment before science, the earth was widely perceived as a stable force at the centre of the universe overseen by the purveyors of God who envisaged humanity as being fixed and set in stone. The appetite for tasting the forbidden fruit that intellectual curiosity implies, was widely regarded as being concomitant to bringing forth evil into the world.

Thus theologians rationalized the tendency to disobey God as a primordial human urge that had to be controlled by a deity through which wrongdoers were required to seek salvation in order to absolve themselves of their intellectual impulses. As theology eventually began to accede to scientific inquiry, this salvation correspondingly began to take root in a system of ideas embodied in the philosophical writings of Aristotle.

Dovetailed

The positions in society that individuals were perceived to have naturally occupied, all dovetailed together, according to Aristotle, to form a pattern of the universe which gave everything its purpose. Aristotlian philosophy centred on order, was to be one of the guiding principles of the enlightenment which legitimized the continued existence of uneven relations of power.

So although the enlightenment was a great leap forward from the idea that the power of Kings was historically fixed predicated on a grand purpose and design ordained by God, modernity nevertheless remained tied to the concept of progress as being that of the development of the human mind and of human nature as unchanging.

The classical economists who arose out of the enlightenment were thus able to treat the existence of private property as fixed and ‘natural’. Similar claims are made by evolutionary psychologists who reinforce the ideology that human behaviour or psychological characteristics are a biological adaptation shaped by natural selection hard-wired into the human brain.

The notion that human behaviour is genetically determined and that biology holds the key to solving social problems and the related claim that biology demonstrates the limits of social reform, has a long history going back to Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, in 1865.

Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology reinforce the ideological notion that the mass of ordinary people are conditioned to know their place within an ‘unchanging’ society even though the great changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution prove that power had transferred from feudal landlords to corporate grandees.

Commodification

By the mid 19th century, the supplanting of the aristocracy of land with money led to the transference of the great estates to commodities. Karl Marx was the first to analyse in detail the nature of the emerging capitalism in which the worker devotes his life to producing objects which he does not own or control. The labour of the worker, according to Marx, thus becomes something separate and external to him.

In the year of Marx’s birth in 1818, a young English author called Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published, in London, the first edition of the Gothic and Romantic science fiction novel, Frankenstein – the tale of a monster which turns against its creator. It’s the externalizing and uncontrollable forces Shelley describes in her masterpiece that draws parallels with the daily lot of workers.

It was precisely the lack of any control workers had in the production process during the industrial revolution that led to the Luddites smashing up the machines that churned out the fruits of their alienated labour. For Marx, alienation is a material and social process that is intrinsic to society and nature in flux.

In dialectical terms, change in nature is marked by a state of continuous motion driven by the struggle of conflicting and antagonistic forces. Since humans are an integral part of nature, they can not be excluded from the socioeconomic forces that shape it. At some point quantitative change results in fundamental qualitative change.

An acorn, in becoming an oak, for example, will have ceased to be an acorn. Yet implicit within the acorn is the potential to become an oak. Similarly, the socioeconomic system of capitalism, in potentially becoming something else, will eventually at some point – as was the case with feudalism before it – cease to be.

Transformation

The dramatic rise in popularity of the socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, could be said to be symptomatic of the beginning of this kind of transformation. At some point diametrically opposing and irreconcilable forces – in this case between capital and labour – have to break. To suggest otherwise, is to imply that capitalism which emerged around 200 years ago, will – evoking Fukuyama’s End of History thesis – continue for the rest of eternity.

Just as Dr Frankenstein couldn’t control the monster he created and the machines couldn’t contain the impulses of workers in the factories wrought by the impacts of industrial capitalism, so it is the case that the establishment won’t be able to control the anti-capitalist forces which Corbyn has unleashed.

The history of colonial and imperialist oppression has been marked by the ability of the oppressors to suppress opposition to their rule using monsters as part of their strategy of divide and conquer. However, what the oppressors rarely appear to factor in to their strategies, is the potential for both the monsters and ordinary people alike, to break free from their chains.

The brainwashing techniques of the corporate media, in conjunction with the Machiavellian politicians who sing to the tune of their paymasters intent on controlling the latter, cannot be sustained indefinitely. In terms of the former, not only are monsters able to break free from the oppressors who create and nurture them, but paradoxically, they also create the conditions in which a greater number of other uncontrollable monsters emerge.

This, for example, was the case in Afghanistan during the 1980s following Carter’s 1979 covert programme in support of tribal groups known as the mujahedin. The kinds of monsters which successive US governments have helped nurture, have managed to either strain at their leash (as in the case of the Zionists in Israel), or they have broken free from their masters grip (as is the case of ISIS in Syria).

Biting the hand

In both cases the monster has bitten the financial hand of Washington that feeds it. This has resulted in unintended, and often unpredictable, geopolitical consequences. However, there are other monsters which their creators manage to exert a tight control over.

An example, is the extent to which Washington has managed to maintain leverage over terrorist fighters in central and south America who continue to emerge from what was formerly known as the School of the Americas located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia.

The school was almost certainly responsible for training the regime that overthrew the Honduran government headed by Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009, as well as fomenting the March, 2016 coup that culminated in the assassination of the leading grass-roots Honduran environmental activist, Berta Caceres.

More recently, SOA-trained fighters, at the behest of Washington, are likely to be similarly implicated in the current attempts to destabilize Venezuela. In addition, ISIS and their various terrorist offshoots in Syria are trained and funded, either overtly or covertly, by Britain and numerous foreign mercenary forces form part of the imperialists geopolitical and regime change strategy in the country.

Saudi Arabia, who is one of the key players in Syria, has also been bombarding Yemen since at least September, 2015 using weaponry sold to them by the UK-US governments’. Faustian pacts with the devil have, largely by way of ‘blow back’, contributed significantly to the exponential spread of terrorism worldwide.

Defining terrorism

Given that the FBI defines terrorism as “violent acts …intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government, or affect the conduct of a government”, it’s difficult to rationalize how the violation of international law in this way, is not illustrative of anything other than the kinds of terrorism the Western powers accuse their official enemies of committing.

The truth is the biggest, most powerful monsters, are the establishment elite who occupy the corridors of Washington, Westminster, Whitehall and Fleet Street. If God does exist, maybe he will be at the gates of Heaven to pass judgement on the corrupt ruling class who will do anything in order to maintain their privileges in the service of naked self-interest, money and power.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has given ordinary people belief that there is a feasible alternative to endless war, poverty, austerity, climate chaos and “gushing-up” neoliberal economics. Corbyn has provided us with a chink of light in what has been a very long and bleak tunnel of hopelessness and despair.

We are getting increasingly closer to establishing the number to the combination lock that will free us from an insane corporate capitalist logic of the kind that motivates the monsters of imperial power. Jeremy Corbyn’s long-standing principled opposition to capitalist excess and the unambiguous way he linked terrorism directly to the British state, would suggest that the number to the combination is to be found in the jacket pocket of his ill-fitted suit.

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An Elite Whitewash: The Chilcot Report Revisited

By Daniel Margrain

A year ago the Chilcot report was finally released into the public domain. It is a salutary reminder to the world that the monumental war crime against the Iraqi people overseen by Blair and his New Labour government will never, and cannot ever, be forgotten. However, the report fell woefully short of offering any justice for the families of British soldiers who lost loved ones or for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who were killed.

There are three major issues that emerged from the report. Firstly, flawed intelligence assessments were made with certainty without any acknowledgement of the limitations of the said intelligence. Second, the UK undermined the authority of the UN Security Council, and third, Blair failed the Cabinet about Lord Goldsmith’s rather perilous journey after the latter said the war was legal having initially argued it was illegal having mulled over it for over a year.

The public can rightfully feel short-changed over a report whose remit was extremely limited and whose cost was stratospheric. Analysis of the accounts released by the inquiry revealed two years ago this month that Sir John Chilcot, committee members and advisers shared more than £1.5 million in fees since the inquiry began in 2009. By 2015, a massive £10 million had been spent . In that year alone, £119,000 had been shared between the four committee members and its two advisers – Sir General Roger Wheeler and Dame Rosalind Higgins.

Illegal war

For many observers and commentators, it didn’t need a seven year long inquiry, 2.6 million words and at least £10 million to be told that the invasion of Iraq amounted to what the Nuremberg Tribunal defined as the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Under the UN Charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first “seek a solution by negotiation” (Article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the UN Security Council only “if an armed attack occurs against [them]” (Article 51).

Neither of these conditions applied to the US and UK. Both governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point, the US State Department even announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection.

Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that a legal justification for invasion would be needed: “Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”

In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, told the Prime Minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case”, he said.

Bush and Blair later failed to obtain Security Council authorisation. A series of leaked documents shows that the Bush and Blair governments knew they did not possess legal justification. Chilcot repeated the lie outlined in the Butler Inquiry that the intelligence was not knowingly fixed.

Downing Street memo

The contents of the Downing Street memo is the smoking gun that puts the above lie to rest. The memo, which outlines a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington:

“Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

The memo confirms that Blair knew the decision to attack Iraq preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression. In other words, the memo confirmed the decision to attack had already been made and that the stated legal justification didn’t apply.

The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Blair. As another leaked memo shows, the UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war:

“i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent;
ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable;
iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”

Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack. What would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.” 

A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that:

“there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”

UN Security Council Resolution 1441

Apologists for Blair often claim that war could be justified through UN resolution 1441. But 1441 did not authorise the use of force since:

“there is no ‘automaticity’ in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12.”

In January 2003, the attorney-general reminded Blair that “resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council” Such a determination was never forthcoming. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reaffirmed that the Iraq War was illegal having breached the United Nations Charter.

Significantly, the world’s foremost experts in the field of international law concur that “…the overwhelming jurisprudential consensus is that the Anglo-American invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq constitute three phases of one illegal war of aggression.”

As well as their being no legal justification for war, it’s also worth pointing out that the invasion was undertaken in the knowledge that it would cause terrorism – a point amplified by Craig Murray:

“The intelligence advice in advance of the invasion he received was unequivocal that it would increase the threat to the UK, and it directly caused the attacks of 7/7.”

Nevertheless, this determination was followed by a benevolent course of action. Chilcot made clear, the process for coming to the conclusion that Saddam had in his possession WMD as the basis for Blair’s decision to go to war, was one in which his Cabinet was not consulted.

Chilcot fudged legal question

In the run up to the report being published, Chilcot said, “the circumstances in which a legal basis for action was decided were not satisfactory.” In other words, the establishment, which Chilcot and his team represent, hid behind processes as opposed to stating loudly and clearly that the British government at that point was hell-bent on going to war with Iraq irrespective of what the evidence said about WMD or anything else.

Ultimately, the question of legality was fudged by Chilcot. It’s to his eternal shame, that he didn’t explicitly say the war was illegal. Consequently, in his post-Chilcot speech, Blair was still able to dishonestly depict the invasion as an effort to prevent a 9/11 on British soil. He was able to announce this in the knowledge that those complicit in 9-11 were the Saudi elite who, in part, have contributed to his riches.

Blair’s contrived quivering voice, long pauses between sentences and attempts at conjuring-up fake tears that inferred a new meaning to the Stanislavsky method, gave the impression he is a man who is self-aware of his accusers’ ability to be able to look deep inside his soul.

Despite the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s and the destruction of their country out of which arose al-Qaeda and ISIS, a deluded Blair to this day remains unrepentant. He has convinced himself that he is innocent of all serious charges made against him. This is despite Chilcot’s assertion that he was not “straight with the nation.”

Commenting on the Iraq issue one year after the release of his report, Chilcot returned to obfuscation mode that typified his initial statements. For example, he was reported to have said the evidence Blair gave the inquiry was “emotionally truthful” but then claimed the warmonger “relied on beliefs rather than facts.” Chilcot subsequently appeared to contradict himself by stating he believed Blair had “not departed from the truth”. 

Blair impeached?

Putting these shenanigans to one side, those who have been directly affected by Blair’s illegal decision to go to war will not rest until justice is done. But what grounds, if any, has Chilcot laid for Blair’s possible impeachment?

Alex Salmond is one prominent public figure who believes that under plans drawn up by MPs’, Blair could be impeached and put on trial in parliament. A source close to the families who died told the Daily Telegraph the report provided legal grounds for a lawsuit against the warmonger.

Salmond’s announcement appears to be supported by the High Court who, in the wake of Chilcot, upheld an appeal decision at the behest of Michael Mansfield QC to consider bringing a private prosecution against Blair, Straw and Goldsmith for initiating crimes against humanity predicated on unlawful war.

After a half-day hearing, two judges reserved their judgment and said they would give their decision on whether to grant permission at a later date. The Attorney General intervened in the case and his legal team urged the judges to block the legal challenge on the grounds that it was “hopeless” and unarguable because the crime of aggression is not recognised in English law.

Another possibility is a prosecution in one of the states (there are at least 25) which have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws. Perhaps Blair’s lawyers are now working through the list and cancelling a few speaking engagements.

No lessons learned

Whatever the eventual outcome, it’s clear, despite claims to the contrary,  no lessons from the guardians of power in the media have been learned in the year since Chilcot published his report. This can be seen, for example, in their reluctance to allow the expression of dissenting voices that extend beyond the restrictive parameters of debate they help create.

In fact, given that renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has been totally shunned by the mainstream following his questioning of the official narrative in relation to an alleged chemical attack by Syria’s president Assad in Idlib on April 4, 2017, it could be argued the situation for millions of people has worsened.

In relation to Iraq, instead of Chilcot inducing any self-refection, humility or remorse on the part of those who promoted the invasion, the media have instead closed ranks. In highlighting the inherent media bias, Craig Murray astutely remarked:

“The broadcast media seem to think the Chilcot report is an occasion to give unlimited airtime to Blair and Alastair Campbell. Scores of supporters and instigators of the war have been interviewed. By contrast, almost no airtime has been given to those who campaigned against the war.”

One of the neglected is Lindsey German. The STWC UK convener pointed to the lack of balance on the BBCs ‘Today’ programme:

“It’s quite astonishing that the comments made by an authoritative figure such as General Wesley Clark who tells how the destabilization of the Middle East was planned as far back as 1991, has not been examined and debated in the mainstream media”, she said.

Perhaps just as pertinently, the media have virtually ignored the claim made by Scott Ritter who ran intelligence operations for the United Nations from 1991 to 1998 as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, that by the time bombing began, Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed”.

For the most part, the guardians of power continue to fall into line by acting as establishment echo-chambers rather than challenging the premises upon which various stated government positions and claims are made. In this regard, Chilcot has changed nothing.

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Seymour Hersh casts doubt over Assad sarin gas attack claims

Daniel Margrain

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The latest revelation by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh countering the prevailing orthodoxy that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was responsible for the alleged sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province in Syria on April 4, 2017 adds to the long list of prominent dissenting voices that include Postol, Blix, Giraldi, Porter, Parry, Pilger, Wilkerson, Ritter, Oborne, Hitchens and others.

The fact that not a single mainstream news outlet in the UK is prepared to touch a story by one of the most renowned investigative journalists in the world, is indicative of a form of censorship by omission that in the words of journalist Jonathan Cook amounts to “nothing less than propaganda in service of a western foreign policy agenda trying to bring about the illegal overthrow of the Syrian government.”

The official narrative, repeated in the Guardian, in which the Assad government is said to have “deployed chemical weapons including chlorine and sarin on a number of occasions..” is being exploited by Trump as justification for more US bombing raids inside the country. On June 28, 2017 the US warned Assad that “he and his military will pay a heavy price” if “another” attack takes place.

The corporate mass media covered the US warning extensively. But at no point have they sought to examine Hersh’s alternative account or, previous to that, the kind of testimonies highlighted in my piece three months ago. Quite the opposite. They continue to cling to the demonstrably false narrative that Hersh has belatedly helped to debunk.

Writing for a German news outlet, Hersh reiterated what many of us have strongly suspected for months. Members of the US intelligence community close to Hersh told the journalist that a Syrian plane dropped a bomb on a meeting of jihadi fighters in the rebel-held town, Khan Sheikhoun. This, according to Hersh’s sources, triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot. The explosions resulted in the release of chemicals into the atmosphere that killed civilians nearby.

As welcome as Hersh’s recent announcement is, his alternative narrative had in fact began circulating within the blogosphere three days after the alleged attack. On April 12, I published an article in which I cited various corroborated sources, some of which closely matched Hersh’s version of events, almost three months before the renowned journalist’s expose.

Tom Dugan & Patrick Lang Donald

Mentioned nowhere else that I’m aware of, I highlighted the testimony of Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan. Mr Dugan, who has been living in Damascus for the last four years, claimed one day after the alleged gas attack, that no such incident happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.”

Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:

“Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

  1. The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
  2. The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
  3. The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
  4. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
  5. We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

Lawrence Wilkerson

A third similar account was proffered by another retired Colonel – Lawrence Wilkerson, who was former chief of Staff to General Colin Powell. Here’s what he said in an interview:

“I personally think the provocation was a Tonkin Gulf incident….. Most of my sources are telling me, including members of the team that monitors global chemical weapons –including people in Syria, including people in the US Intelligence Community–that what most likely happened …was that they hit a warehouse that they had intended to hit…and this warehouse was alleged to have to ISIS supplies in it, and… some of those supplies were precursors for chemicals….. conventional bombs hit the warehouse, and due to a strong wind, and the explosive power of the bombs, they dispersed these ingredients and killed some people.”

The corroborated testimony above exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda.

Philip Giraldi

On April 12, 2017 Media Lens cited Philip Giraldi, a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, who has an impressive track record in exposing fake government claims. Giraldi commented:

“I am hearing from sources on the ground, in the Middle East, the people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence available are saying that the essential narrative we are all hearing about the Syrian government or the Russians using chemical weapons on innocent civilians is a sham. The intelligence confirms pretty much the account the Russians have been giving since last night which is that they hit a warehouse where al Qaida rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties.

“Apparently the intelligence on this is very clear, and people both in the Agency and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented what he should already have known – but maybe didn’t – and they’re afraid this is moving towards a situation that could easily turn into an armed conflict.”

Giraldi added:

“These are essentially sources that are right on top of the issue right in the Middle East. They’re people who are stationed there with the military and the Intelligence agencies that are aware and have seen the intelligence. And, as I say, they are coming back to contacts over here in the US essentially that they astonished at how this is being played by the administration and by the media and in some cases people are considering going public to stop it. They’re that concerned about it, that upset by what’s going on.”

Giraldi concluded:

“There was an attack but it was with conventional weapons – a bomb – and the bomb ignited the chemicals that were already in place that had been put in there. Now bear in mind, Assad had no motive for doing this. If anything, he had a negative motive. Trump said there was no longer any reason to remove him from office, well, this was a big win for him [Assad]. To turn around and use chemical weapons 48 hours later, does not fit any reasonable scenario, although I’ve seen some floated out there, but they are quite ridiculous.”

The only apparent difference between the first two accounts above and Hersh’s is that the US journalist insists the Syrian’s dropped a bomb on jihadi’s which then triggered a second explosion at the storage dump rather than hitting it directly. The third version (Giraldi’s), appears to be identical to Hersh’s.

Scott Ritter

Another prominent figure to have come out publicly against the official narrative is Scott Ritter. The US weapons expert who in 1998 revealed that Saddam’s weapons capability had been effectively depleted, fact-checked Hersh’s findings (and by extension Giraldi’s) and found it to be creditable. Ritter also adds some “insights” of his own by suggesting the public is being played like a violin by both western governments and a compliant corporate media.

Most of the information Ritter provides, as welcome as it is, is not new. His “revelations” about the White Helmets, for example, tread over familiar territory, as does his repeating of the chain of custody issues that surround the OPCW and the narrative of regime change. The only genuine insight Ritter presents, is the nature of chemical ordnance after it has been detonated. Ritter argues that its component parts would be easily identifiable and be deposited in the immediate environs. None of these parts have been found.

While the “revelations” of Hersh (and Ritter) are extremely welcome and add to the numerous voices critical of the official narrative, they are not, in the main, original as characterized by some social media sites and journalists. I believe it’s important to point this out in order to give proper credit to the likes of Tom Dugan and Patrick Lang Donald whose voices are less prominent but who nevertheless exposed the media lies three months before Hersh.

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The Naked Emperor

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of theresa may on a throne

After ten days of Tory-DUP negotiations, Arlene Foster returned to Belfast with a £1.5bn deal in exchange for the 10 votes Theresa May will potentially need to enable her to shore up a discredited minority government. Most of what the British government campaigned for in the election has now been junked.

The Tories, whose election manifesto closely resembled that of the BNP fascists in 2005, have aligned themselves with a similarly extremist political party in the form of the DUP, many of whose senior members are avowed creationists. The party is also linked to the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church which campaigns for creationism to be taught in schools and for museums to hold exhibitions on the subject.

In addition, the DUP are officially endorsed by loyalist terrorists; they don’t believe women who have been raped are entitled to abortions, are opposed to same-sex marriage and, if that wasn’t enough, they employed a climate change denier as an environment minister. It is worth noting that the Tory government who are propped up by these homophobes, creationists and terrorist endorsers, smeared the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, as a terrorist sympathizer.

The Tory-DUP deal, which is clearly incompatible with the Barnett Formula, will almost certainly threaten the 1998 peace accord, the Good Friday Agreement. Contained within the text of the agreement (Article 1) – the fundamental principle that lies at its core – is the phrase “rigorous impartiality”. The concept flows from the complex right of self-determination on which the current British-Irish constitutional compromise is based.

This is the notion that the future constitutional status of Northern Ireland should be decided by the people of Ireland alone; subject to the wishes of a majority of people in Northern Ireland (the consent principle). That is a choice that should be freely made and without detriment to anyone. It means that whoever exercises sovereign jurisdiction now (UK) “shall” do so on an impartial basis “on behalf of all the people” and that this:

“shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.”

It’s clear that maintaining any semblance of rigorous impartiality cannot be reconciled with the fact that the UK government has effectively favoured one party by giving it £1.5 billion to distribute within the province as it pleases in return for votes. Ireland’s former PM, Enda Kenny, warned about the possible implications of infrastructural investment that favoured one side over the other. He reminded Theresa May about the requirement of rigorous impartiality and questioned the governments ability to adhere to such a commitment.

It would appear that Kenny’s cynicism is justified. The succession of UK governments’ meddling either overtly or covertly in the conflicts of the middle east – notably in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – indicate the British establishments preference for war over peace. Thus, the Tory governments close ties with the anti-peace party, the DUP, should not come as a surprise to anybody.

Indeed, ideologically and historically the two parties are more closely aligned than is perhaps generally appreciated. Both are staunchly pro-establishment, pro-war and socially and politically regressive. Not only are the DUPs attitudes to the likes of gays and progressives retarded, but from the outset they have actively campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement.

But more than that, as far back as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, they have opposed all previous measures intended to promote power-sharing and peace. Their deal with the Tories gives them the justification they need to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and thereby re-assert the establishments hegemony over the province, and hence, the right-wing political status quo that underpins it.

No sooner had the ink dried on the Tory-DUP deal, lawyers in Ireland began to examine ways that it could be challenged. It’s difficult to envisage a situation in which a successful legal challenge on the basis the deal undermines “rigorous impartiality” could not be made.

There appears to be no historical precedent whatsoever for a political settlement that favours one side in Northern Ireland over another based on a scenario in which money has been exchanged for votes in Westminster and whose sole intention is to prop up a minority government.

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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