Subliminal John

The intervention of John Major has overshadowed Gordon Brown stumbling out of the shadows. As dark obscure figures from the past you’d completely forgotten about, Major trumps even him.

The battle for Scottish democracy is reviving some unlikely demons from the past. Hot on the heels of the anniversary of Tiananmen Square up pops China to lecture you on what kind of political democracy you should live in. Now John Major, a figure you’d thought you’d left behind in the long-1980s reappears, with this:

“I shall campaign very hard, albeit subliminally, because that is probably the best way for me to do it for a United Kingdom.”

Will John be appearing subliminally or is this a state of mind from within? Are we to expect cones flashed onto our consciousness during tv adverts? Apart from the touching self-consciousness about his toxic failure, there’s also the memory hole of why these people were crushed at elections long gone.

It’s worth remembering that even as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John McTernan, John Reid and Brian Wilson refuse to countenance the reality of their appalling foreign misadventures and the incomparable human loss, and as the fantastic irony of Iran’s gruesome rehabilitation comes to fruition, there was a pre-Blairite history to the tragedy of what we are seeing, and poor, ineffectual Major was at the heart of it.

While it’s easy to mock him as the man with the cone, the almost cartoonishly ordinary PM, he pre-empted Tony’s Cronies with his own catalogue of political misdemeanors that contributed to the collapse of faith in Westminster rule.

From Neil Hamilton’s ‘Cash for Questions’ to Defence Minister’ s Jonathan Aitken imprisonment for perjury for dealings with Saudi Princes – Major’s reign was to become known for a previously unprecedented scale of political corruption, even before it was  engulfed with sexual scandals and the rank hypocrisy of ‘back to basics’.

Much more important than the sexual scandals though were the exposure of political-military corruption at the heart of the British State. When we talk about the need for Scottish independence, it is not just the lack of legitimacy of rule by a government we didn’t elect, it is to break with the military-industrial complex at the heart of Britain.

Blair’s Wars

Before Blair’s Wars (famously recounted by John Kampfner as five wars in six years) John Major scandals included “Arms to Iraq” – the inquiry into how government ministers including Alan Clark had encouraged businesses to supply arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, in breach of the official arms embargo, and how senior ministers had attempted to withhold evidence of this official connivance when directors of Matrix Churchill were put trial for breaking the embargo.

The Scott Report lays out in brutal tedious detail this pre-history to Blair and Browns Middle Eastern tragedy.

It was ‘Subliminal John’s’ dreadful corrupt time in office that allowed Blair to surf into office promising ‘things can only get better’. They did not and the continuity can be mapped from Jonathan Aitken to the dodgy dossier via Labour’s hasty abandonment of their ‘ethical foreign policy’ and Blair’s brutal dispatching of Robin Cook.

Today the reality of the appalling consequences of the British Foreign Policy are being played out before our eyes, and the pliant media pretend that the front line of Better Together are somehow far removed.

As Richard Seymour writes: “Tony Blair cuts a pitiable figure as he denies the self-evident connection between his violent occupation of Iraq and the barbarism being unleashed today.”

The apologists and revisionists for the Iraq debacle need to be held to account for Iraq in the court of public opinion, even if they seem immune from public prosecution (though late in the day impeachment cannot be ruled out).

As Isis forces circle Baghdad, the scale of the crisis is staggering, prompting veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk to wonder (‘The old partition of the Middle East is dead. I dread to think what will follow‘):

Perhaps only today’s Arabs (and Israelis) fully understand the profound historical changes – and deep political significance – that the extraordinary battles of this past week have wrought on the old colonial map of the Middle East.

Stronger Together

If John Major is being put forward as a figure of authority to defend the Union, then this back-story needs re-telling. The immense hypocrisy of the ex PM who became responsible for the United Kingdom’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992 lecturing people about financial stability is beyond belief.

As Nicola Sturgeon outlines the prospect of a written constitution for a new Scotland, it’s easy to trivialise this as an abstraction.

It’s not some game-playing but to enshrine sovereignty so that our government cannot go to war without legitimate reason and cannot act against the people’s wishes. We won’t have to march in vane or declare ‘not in our name’ if we create the democratic structures to control war-crazed leaders.

Nothing displays the engrained institutionalised problems of power in Britain than the parliamentary failure to control Blair. Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy’ was a naive attempt to reform the un-reformable and if we can now see backward to the roots of this crisis in the corruption of John Major’s regime, we should also see forwards to a way-out from this post-imperial hangover and its tragic consequences.

This is a crisis that can’t be allowed to fade into past-history. It remains a fundamental crisis for the Labour Party, and the individuals on the very front line of the Better Together campaign. It has been an unprecedented catastrophe. As Seamus Milne writes:

“…much of the western debate of the past week has glossed over the scale of the human and social catastrophe unleashed by the US-led war. The most recent US academic estimate of the death toll is at least half a million, while Iraq Body Count has recorded a minimum of 190,100 violent deaths as a result of the invasion – 4 million became refugees.”

Nor is it, as it is being portrayed some act of fate, or the laying out of some inevitable dynamic within Iraq. Milne again:

“That wasn’t a “tragic error”, as some claim, or a problem of post-invasion planning. It was a barbarous crime whose predicted consequences Iraqis are living with today. The idea that Tony Blair – who helped launch the war on a false pretext and now says we need to “liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this” – remains Middle East peace envoy is beyond parody.”

The subliminal message in all this is clear: Vote Yes for peace and sanity to prevail, vote Yes for a Defence policy that is actually about defending your country not creating widespread instability and chaos at an unimaginable scale.



Comments (10)

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  1. Thom says:

    Wow, thank you, so well said.

  2. Barontorc says:

    If any of these above named politicians had a scrape of self-respect they would quietly shuffle off the stage and smoke their solitary pipes; what we have however is a kind of self-deception, which tries to draw round a comfort blanket of ‘end justifies the means’ but their problem is – it ain’t ended, but got worse.

    The middle east is a powder keg, now totally unstable. The UK economy has disappeared into a huge ‘quantitatively- eased’ black hole with no hope of recovery. All of these crisis issues cling like so much merde to their political CVs and it just won’t wash-off.

    Scotland has the opportunity to disown and despise such torags and write our present and future direction. We must not let it slip away. YES and NO THANKS. Bloody subliminal indeed! They don’t even pretend they will be using every dirty trick in their putrid box of tricks – they most certainly are.

  3. diabloandco says:

    Did you have to put up a photo of the Grinch ?
    A spitting image of John Major would have prevented the rise in my blood pressure ,not to mention my breakfast.

    How we ( as in the UK government past and present) can disown the fault , debacle .lies and evil that is our involvement in not only Iraq but Afghanistan and Libya not to mention more than likely Syria ,Egypt ,Yemen ,Bahrain in efforts presumably to ” get ” Iran, is beyond me.

    I look at the mess ,the threats of further evil visited on the innocents by drone and bomb and I despair..
    I do not want my country to share a repellent foreign policy with the Westminster/Washington duo of evil.

  4. A very good article – as always, Mike Small. You can add to Major’s catalogues of failures with his being held to ransome by members of his own party over ‘the European Question’. These were the forerunners, or maybe the herald of the UKIP xenophobes which we hear so much about today. Because of these dinosaurs, the running of the Disunited Kingdumb was put on hold as the Prime Minister of the day had to keep pandering to the whims and wishes of this die-hard little Englander group. He himself referred to them as “b*stards” yet was so much in their thrall that he could not purge them. We see that they have now grown like mushrooms in the night and Farage and his cronies are now making substantial in-roads in England (and sadly, latterly, though with less success in both my home nation and in Scotland.)

    Again, to emphasize this European dimension, we should highlight the hypocrisy of successive Westminster Governments. It was Major who signed the Maastricht Treaty which embraced, inter alia, the matter of subsidiarity. Indeed, it was the British who insist on this terminology, in an effort once again to appease the UK’s anti-EU hounds of war, by saying it meant that decisions should be taken which affected EU citizens should be as close as possible to those citizens. What did those nasty, centralising, out-of-touch European Unionisers in Brussels know of what was happening in Sussex, Sutton or Sunderland? Yet, the self-same subsidiarity for the people of Scotland and Wales outwith *their* “Union” with the rest of the Disunited Kingdumb was not to be allowed – Westminster couldn’t possible devolve power outside to them; oh no, London Government had absolute sovereignty on everything and knew that what was good for the people of Carnoustie was just as valid as for the folk of Carmarthen.

    That is why these “has been” and “never was” politicians are popping up out of the woodwork now. They know that a YES vote in Scotland on 18 September will blow the lid on their tawdry, undemocratic, self-serving, tainted politics of previous decades. All the more reason therefore for Scotland to strike out and blow a massive raspberry at them all this autumn.

    In solidarity.

  5. Abulhaq says:

    The turbulence in Iraq and the Levant is just an on-going symptom of the old Arab existential crisis. This an old story. Constantin Zureiq wrote extensively on the problem. All attempts to deal with the post-Ottoman. colonial and post-colonial manifestations of the malaise have failed. Leaders like King Faisal of Iraq, Nasser, Saddam etc have come and gone but the dependency problem, among many, remains. Factionalism, clientism, poor leadership, foreign meddling, corruption are destroying a civilisation. ISIS is the bloody chimera that attempts to bring order out of this chaos. Btw. note the meddling in our internal politics, Obama, Clinton, Francis I, Li Keqiang…note our own dependency promoting “leaders”…note the demonizing of those who promote “change”…we too have an existential problem that needs fixing, albeit for some too big to see.

  6. Les Wilson says:

    A brilliant article Mike, these truths should be wide spread, there is no level of deceit the British State will not go to in order to protect their own mistakes. No mistake is safe from being spun to a positive, by a compliant media led by Westminster.

    Corruption of many kinds erodes the legitimacy of the Westminster mind set, the downfall of the state itself is in the winds that are now blowing, and nothing will save them in the end. Irrespective of a YES or a NO vote.

    We are witnessing the last throws of empire. They are desperate to hold what is dear to them for so many reasons, here now, and in the foreseeable future their demise is coming, and gathering pace.

    They reap what they sow.

    Scotland needs out, or we will be pulled into the mire with them, and we need out now.

  7. YESGUY says:

    Fantastic piece Mike

    An education.

  8. Graham Harris Graham says:

    Which is more shocking? The invasion of a country Britain previously helped arm to fight against the Iranians, the consequential deaths of hundred of thousands of people or the lies, cover ups & denial of reality by John Major, Tony Blair & all those in Westminster & Holyrood who supported the invasion of Iraq in the first place?

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