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Saturday, January 07, 2006


I wished to make a statement this afternoon having, as I said yesterday evening, reflected over the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

When I made my personal statement on Thursday afternoon I said then that I thought it was only fair to give our party members their say over my continuing leadership.

Accordingly, I requested the opening of a leadership election - which the party's Federal Executive will put in train at their meeting on Monday evening.

Since then it has been open to any other Liberal Democrat MP to announce their candidacy and to stand against me.

None have decided to do so.

In the recent weeks and days I have been inundated by messages of support from Party members and activists throughout the country. It means a great deal to me-which I have appreciated enormously.

Many, many of them have made the point to me that we fought for and founded this party on the fundamental principle of one member - one vote.

I urge them to stick with us and to exercise that right in the leadership election which now follows.

However, it is clear now, that such support is not reflected strongly enough across the parliamentary party in the House of Commons itself.

In all of this the interests of the party have to come first. That is where my personal, political and constitutional duty lies.

Accordingly, I am announcing today that when nominations open for the leadership of the party I shall not now be putting my name forward.

And I am standing down as leader with immediate effect.

I have been in politics for far too long to be overly sentimental about this sort of moment.

However, I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to the many colleagues and friends who have helped sustain me through my years as party leader in parliament and outside.

And with whom I look forward to continue working in politics for very many years to
come - at constituency level and at national level.

They are far too numerous to mention individually, save one - and that person is Anna Werrin. A finer friend and colleague you could not wish for - throughout my first 23 years in politics!

Personally and politically the support of my wife, Sarah, and our respective families remains beyond adequate tribute - but they know the sincerity of what I am saying today.

Now, there are very important elections in front of this party and it is essential in my view that a new, democratically-elected leader is in place as soon as possible to take the party forward.

And that new leader can be assured of my loyal support as a backbench Liberal

Democrat MP.

That new leader - and the party - also has some serious internal political issues to address further and to resolve.

And I want to say a few words about that process today.

As I have acknowledged before, there is a genuine debate going on within this party -
somewhat crudely caricatured at times as being in rather redundant terms as between
left and right; in rather simplistic terms as between social liberals and economic
liberals; in rather misleading terms as between traditionalists and modernisers.

I have never accepted that these are irreconciliable instincts - indeed, quite the opposite.

And I believe that unity remains fundamental to our further advance and success.

It should be a debate driven by ourselves.

It must not be allowed to become dictated by others who do not share our long-term hopes and goals.

We must stand and argue - politically independent and intellectually self-confident.

And it must be based on time-honoured, sound philosophic liberal principles - principles which have stood the test of generations and remain not just as relevant to but even more essential in British politics today.

The leadership personalities change from time to time in politics, but principles should not. Civil liberties; justice and rule of international law
; Britain again seen as a force for good in the world, through our unique amalgam of roles within Europe, the United Nations and the Commonwealth; a far greater regard for our environmental challenges today and what we bequeath to future generations; and a far fairer social deal for the have-nots in our society.

I look forward to continuing to contribute to that ongoing debate in due course.

My sincere parting advice as leader to the party is to keep that debate within the parameter of these principles - and not to get unduly distracted by the machinations in other parties or what the vagaries of the British voting system may offer-up at a future general election.

That route will blur our identity and turn away the very voters who are still looking to us - rightly so - as their best hope for the future.

It is to that future which I will continue to work with enthusiasm.

First, for the people of the Ross, Skye & Lochaber constituency - whom I am privileged to serve.

And also for the continuing progress and success of our liberal democrat values - values which, when best expressed, give voice to the many who might otherwise be insufficiently heard.

A new leader inherits a party with the largest House of Commons representation in the liberal tradition in over 80 years.

We secured a million more votes in our support at the last general election compared with the one before.

We are established as serious players in the changing reality which is three-party politics across Britain.

I believe that to be a good inheritance and a great opportunity.

One in which I look forward to continuing to play my part.

Thank you,

You will be missed. bold is mine where I think it deserves emphasis.

Incidentally I have no idea who Anna Werrin is but I cannot imagine Blair or any of the cardboard cut-out politicians taking time out to thank somebody the media didn't recognise.

Friday, January 06, 2006


I rather approve of Charlie, he is no policy wonk but has good instincts & didn't blink over Iraq while the Tories ended up on both sides - in favour of the war while saying Bliar lied over WMDs.

1) Has he cured his alcoholism: No. 2 months is not long enough for anybody to say that. On the other hand it is clear that he has gone quite a way.

2) Can a controlled alcoholic do the job: Yes. On this we have a lot of hypocricy. Asquith, LLoyd George, Churchill, Eden (ok Eden was crap) & far more people than we like to admit have substance problems & still do good jobs. The sight of journalists & MPs claiming to be unaware of this is non-credible.

3) Did he lie: Yes, undoubtedly, & despite all the guff about him bravely coming clean he did so was just a few minutes before ITN were about to out him. On the other hand there are some personal matters for which it is somewhat impertinent for the media to expect a straight answer. On the third hand while this is a personal matter it is not purely so. In general I find it difficult to say he should have gone public from the start. I actively don't like the idea that politicians have to be saints. Human beings of well above average competence & integrity should do.

4) Can the party be credible with such a leader: I think so. The days when a Temperance candidate could beat Churchill in an election are gone. When the press ragged him on not knowing community charge rates a few hours after the birth of his baby the public thought it was the press who were being stupid. Equally when the Sun reported that Paddy had committed adultery years previously the public said "so what" (heh I don't approve of him but not for that).

5) Can he do the job if his shadow cabinet openly call for him to go? - No.

& perhaps the strongest argument in his favour

6) Who can replace him? - Nobody. Hughes is to lefty, Oaten is to pro-market (not for my taste but for most LDs) & Campbell is to old & cares only about foreign policy. More importantly only Hughes has even a trace of his charisma.

If I was running it I would tell the rest of them to "shut up & soldier" & see how it goes. There is no pressure from an immediate election. Cameron can be given a bit of time to hang himself. Either he will do a good job now or he will screw up & a replacement will have been given time to emerge & even if that happened the party would at least be seen as having behaved like the good guys of politics.


Pete North has sent me this incredible email from reporter Elizabeth Tadic, with whom he has been arguing over the way she waxed enthusiastic about putting a balanced report on Yugoslavia & dropped him when it was obvious he knew to much to be painted as a nut.
Dear P.R. North,

Thanks for your New Year wishes for Dateline. You may be delighted to
discover that my contract has not been renewed this year with Dateline, and
so you will need to find some other shit-kicking, hardworking journo to

Now I wish to start my plate clean this year, and maybe even open up your
eyes to your wasteful, nasty emails. I am not sure I should even bother, but
if I can somehow knock some sense into that brain damaged head of yours,
that would be a tiny achievement.

I once asked you for your telephone number so that we could speak and
discuss your story ideas like civilised people. You never gave me your
telephone number but I trustingly gave you mine, as I was keen to hear more
from you. But you never called me. At the time, I believed you were an
intelligent person who cared about finding out a deeper truth. Instead, you
have abused my trust by posting my telephone numbers, thus giving me no
option but to change my numbers, and writing me countless emails like some
crazed peodophile stalker. You are sick.

Your postings on the web are filled with inaccuracies and falsities, the
first one being that that I am not a Serb. I have already told you this and
yet you continue to print your bullshit. Not that my nationality should have
any bearing on the matter, as I am not nationalistic at all. But at least
have the decency to check your facts before declaring some warped truth of
yours Don't you have better things to do with your life than write untruths
about journalists you have never met? I am a mere cog in this wheel (just
like you although you have major fault defects) and thus have no influence
on what stories get commissioned. I have no power in this regard. In fact,
my contract with Dateline has not been renewed for this year, and your false
ramblings have not helped my situation.

In the Balkans, you are what is called, a coward. It's so much easier to
blame and curse those with little to no power than to actually challenge the
real powerbrokers who make the decisions. I was serious about investigating
your story proposal and did actually push for it as hard as I could. But in
hindsight, after receiving your countless emails, I am glad it was never
commissioned, as it is no doubt filled with your distorted reality on truth
rather than any fact. If there was any substance in your claims, some other
reputable media outlet would have picked it up.

From your emails, I am guessing that you are an old and decrepit man who has
obviously had a shit life. Usually people who have had shit lives and
believe they deserved better, try to make other peoples lives shit. Or
you're a wanna-be journo, or simply a few beers short of a sixpack.
Otherwise you wouldn't waste your time targeting a honest, hardworking,
young journalist who has always cared for the underdog and fought so hard
for human rights. I am only a cog in the wheel and have no power over what
stories are commissioned and am easily dispensed with.

I suggest you either apologise for your false accusations and remove my name
from the post, which would help redeem yourself. Or, if you really want to
have a civilised debate etc than I would be more than happy to speak with
you over the phone or meet you in person. But I think you are too afriad to
meet me and confront me, as you are a coward. You probably even beat your
wife, girlfriend or daughter.

If you cannot realise your foolish ways, than I suggest you get some
psychiatric help. Make amends now by correcting your post and removing my
name, or go to the grave an angry, mean, old man who did nothing for this
world but try to hinder the work of a kindhearted, caring, humanitarian.
What you are doing is like attacking the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Gandhi or
Nelson Mendela - as they are my role models. I will continue my fight for
the poor and disenfranchised, to expose injustices, reveal truths and give
voice to the underdog!

So long to Dateline and crazies like yourself!

This is my last email to you. I really hope you do something about your
nasty streak and don't die a mean old twerp.

I can't take any personal joy in her firing. On the other hand it is clear that it is at least partly because Pete stood up to be counted & that is quite something. It is good to find that the media are touchable, at least in Australia.

Although she characterises herself as a "kindhearted caring humanitarian" comparable to Ghandi, Mandela & the Dalai Lama & accuses Pete of "falsities" the only thing she actually disputes is that she is a Serb (he actually said of Serbian extraction which is not the same). From my knowledge of the subject, which is fairly extensive, nothing he has said about Yugoslavia has been wrong.

I wish to draw particular attention to "If there was any substance in your claims, some other reputable media outlet would have picked it up" which not only suggests that she never checked up anything but links closely to the "if it had happened it would be on the news" in an earlier post. Both assume that the people who make decisions, to whom she is a "mere cog", are in some way honest.

The corolary, of course, is that if there is substance to what we say then they aren't in any way honest.

PS Pete has confirmed that the "private" phone no she complains about him misusing has been available on a website for years.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


The media have been having a fair old time telling us how dreadful the Russians have been in holding Ukraine to ransom over gas costs:

The Daily Telegraph, 3 January 2005

MosNews, 2 January 2005

Reuters, 2 January 2006

Financial Times, 2 January 2005

Allan MacRae

The Times, 3 January 2005

The Daily Telegraph, 3 January 2005

Indeed. Let us all rally round & object to the Russians refusing to subsidise Ukrainian gas. Next thing Germany will be refusing to sell us their cars at a special price.

For years we have told them that they should all be good free marketists & that they should treat the Ukrainians as a fully independent people. When they do so we do everything short of threatening invasion. Basically the Russians did subsidise Ukrainian gas, to such an extent that for years Ukraine sold some of it on at market rates. This was done to keep the relationship going.

On the other hand we provided "democracy building" aid to the orangists & on the 2nd go, got the present incumbents elected. This led to Putin's decision not to allow western NGOs, usually funded by western Gs, to have free reign for his next election. Thus proving, at least to the satisfaction of our media, that Putin is undemocratic & Russia's media, biased. The fact that 2/3 of people voted for him & nearly 2/3rds voted against Blair only goes to prove ..........

You can legitimately say that putting prices above international levels is interference, or indeed that subsidising them is, but selling at the market rate isn't.

Once again the media are pushing their agenda. No report on Russia today seems to be complete without a quote from Andrei Illarionov who has quit becuase the pace of economic reform is to slow for his taste. Now I have a lot of sympathy for that. When he said that Russia's economy is growing to slowly at 6% & that they should be able to grow at 10% like China (or even 12% because they have so much oil) I would tend to agree. On the other hand so should & could we but you won't see criticism of our government.

A joke from Laugh-In many years ago - In our country (US) we are free to criticise our government - Is same in my country (USSR), we arealso free to criticse your country.

You aren't going to see many in the UK media exercising the freedom to criticise our government for things they criticise the Russians for.

Another example of what Richard dawkinsonce referred to as the media's ability to turn on or off the microphone depending on the acceptability of what he said.


(but that was Europe's idea all along ...)

RBC, 6 April 2005

Moscow 13:23:03.The Russian President's economic advisor Andrey Illarionov believes that the Kyoto Protocol is affecting the interests of those countries, which ratified it, as he told an Internet press conference organized by RBC. According to Illarionov, the restrictions on greenhouse gases emissions, such as carbon dioxide, means artificial drawbacks in energy industries and thus hamper industrial output and economic growth.

Anybody remember seeing interviews with him back when he was telling Putin that Kyoto was rubbish? Me neither. Of course Putin already knew perfectly well that Kyoto was a purely political lash-up with no measureable effect on climate (there is a theoretical effect but it is to small to measure) but decided it was worth doing for purely political reasons of buttering up western Europe - a bit like giving Ukraine cheap gas actually.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


The first motion listed for the forthcoming Scottish Lib Dem conference is that:

"Conference reiterates its opposition to the construction of new nuclear power stations"

There is a lot of stuff behind it & the title is Managing Radioactive Waste but that is the point of the motion. I believe the title & rest of the wording is to provide weight & to keep the debate moving in the "right" direction.

As drafted the motion is clearly expected to keep out of debate any mention of the fact that when Hunterston & Torness close (2011 & early 2020s respectively), along with much coal-fired power (due to new emission controls) we are going to have massive blackouts. The fact that UK nuclear currently costs 2.3p a unit, & France & Canada produce it at 1.5p whereas offshore wind is over 7p would also not be expected to be mentioned in a debate about waste. (1)

Unfortunately it seems extremely unlikely that I will be able to speak on this because the executive have voted to expel me from the party (although a 2nd vote is required on 21st January - hint). The reason given for this is that I have written letters to the papers which are alleged to be "illiberal" (which I firmly dispute) although they have, so far, refused to say what specific remarks I have made that are "illiberal". Since the only letters I had published immediately prior to the expulsion were 4 letters, 2 in the Herald & 2 in the Scotsman, advocating nuclear power it seems likely that this is at least a primary cause.

Last time nuclear was debated I, along with Steuart Campbell, were the only ones to speak against. Despite that & the fact that Jim Wallace spoke for it in his leader's speech & that Ross Finnie made a very fine speech entirely about not embarrassing the leadership & guaranteeing that they would not allow blackouts, about 40% of you had the courage & open mindedness not to vote against nuclear electricity. I regret that I will not have the chance to speak again.

It seems likely that this motion is to pre-empt any popular attempt to change direction. Last time I tried to introduce an amendment on the subject I was informed that mention of nuclear power would "unbalance" any debate on electricity production. I would have liked to propose 3 amendments:

1) Delete the first line.

2) Amend section 2 to read "Radioactive waste is divided into 3 classifications - Low level radioactive waste (LLRW), Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste (ILRW) & High Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW). LLWR is less radioactive than natural background radioactivity in some places such as parts of west Cornwall. Much ILWR, is not much worse. HLRW from reactors is extremely dangerous - however to be highly radioactive it has to have a short half life, such is the nature of the universe, so that HLWR is turned into ILWR in 50 years & LLWR in a few centuries."

3) (conference) welcomes the offer of the Australian government to set aside a few hundred acres as a world nuclear storage site & would accept it so long as the cost is less than storage under UK regulation."

24,000 UK pensioners die unnecessarily each year because of fuel poverty (a Chernobyl every 4 hours of the winter months) & we are building only the most expensive & unreliable generating capacity.(1)

When we have massive blackouts the death toll will be far higher. Decisions have to be taken now. It may already be to late to have new power in place before Hunterson closes.

I do not believe the Scottish people would, or indeed should, forgive a party responsible for death on such a scale.

I have been, on & off, a Liberal activist since I delivered leaflets for my father 36 years ago. I challenge anybody to show on what point my views are clearly less firmly in line with traditional liberal values than those of the current party.

Neil Craig

(1) 2.3p figure from Royal Academy of Engineering. 1.5p from - figure given in cents

(2) Help the Aged figures

(This is a copy of an email I have sent to all the Lib Dem MSPs, Scottish MPs & many councillors & activists - this will obviously not do me personally any good but we are killing people & will kill more)

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