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July 23, 2007

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Paul Flynn

Good to hear from you. We have never met. I cannot remember the details now, but I can recall some doubts. There were a lot of people badmouthing you - including Jack. As I recall he had a pretty awful time at the select committee in trying to put you and the ex-American Ambassador down. I'll try to remember what the doubts were about. The horrors you exposed in Uzbekistan were truly shocking, I was very glad of the chance to confront Jack Straw with some of them. - Thanks

Craig Murray

Hello Paul,

Let me convince you then! What isn't convincing?

Good blog, by the way. And you did a good job questioning Jack Straw, too. Pity his replies were so typically evasive.

Paul Flynn

Craig Murray stood agaisnt Jack Straw in the 2005 election. I have been in correspondence with him and questioned Jack Straw about his allegations at a Select Committee late last year.

There is no question that he had a point and Uzbekistan is a dreadful country. There is a lot in what Craig Murry has to say but I do not accept it all as convincing.

Adam

Paul Flynn's response to your question about why he didn't vote for a public inquiry into the Iraq War seems a little hard to follow, as you state it only required 38 Labour MPs to vote for it, for it to have gone through.

This is a lot less than the Labour MPs who voted against the Iraq War.

I was a little surprised to read that Flynn didn't support a public inquiry into the Iraq War, as in the past he has had a very commendable voting record on these issues. It is very disappointing.

On the subject of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Can I take the opportunity to draw to the attention of Mr. Flynn the entry on Afghanistan for July 27th on the blog of Craig Murray. Murray was the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who was subjected to a smear campaign by the government and unceremoniously sacked - the reason why? According to the Foreign Office he had "an unhealthy obsession with human rights"!

His book, "Murder in Samarkand" is well worth taking away on your summer holiday - brilliant and compelling!

http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/

Llew

I think we are obviously not going to see eye to eye.

12 Labour MPs + Clare Short voted for a public inquiry.

You could have voted for a public inquiry into the Iraq War.

You chose not to.

You say that it was "party theatricals" but all it would have taken is for 38 Labour MPs to vote with the opposition.

The public were badly served by parliament that day.

paulflynn

This going on a bit.

the vote you are talking is an opposition day one which is party theatricals that do not chnage anything.+

watch this space for an inquiry into the war. More imprtantly watch the continuing bloodshed of all sides in Helamnd Province.

Llew

Paul, I could never be a politician. For a start, I've only got one face!

You write an inquiry into the Iraq War was impossible while Blair was PM.

It was very possible. All it needed was for 38 Labour MPs (out of 300 or more) to support the motion put forward by the opposition parties. If as you say two-thirds of parliament are anti-war then it is very surprising.

You have singularly failed to give a valid reason as to why you refused to vote for a public inquiry.

If I read correctly between the lines are you saying: I support an inquiry, but I'm also a loyal member of Labour and that comes first. 650,000 people did die, but nobody can be held account for it, because Labour MPs represent the Labour party first and their constituents second.

If that is what you are saying - then it is utterly contemptible.

No surprise that Labour got the lowest vote in Wales since 1918.
Especially since Digby Jones and Gordon Brown want to slash the minimum wage in Wales according to the papers.

Also, if two-thirds of parliament are anti-war. How come Labour couldn't elect a leader who is anti-war? (I use the word elect advisedly as Labour doesn't have leadership contests anymore but corronations)

New Labour is actually to the right of the US Republican Party where you can't get on the ballot paper now for the leadership if you supported the war!

And isn't it a little odd that ALL your 6 candidates for deputy-leader voted for the Iraq War.

Paul Flynn

You really should read the evidence. It's all on the HOC website. George was treble guilty of the charges made.

of course others were wrong. they will be judged by a future inquiry. it will come - but impossible while Blair was PM.

The rest is codswallop. A third of MPs voted against the war. Probably now two-thirds believe it was a terrible mistake. Galloway's attitude to the war is irrelevant.

Look at George's past. he is no angel. I see in the ranks of hot gospellers - great oratory but ultimately vacuous

Llew

Paul you are the fantasist.
You claim to be against the war, but when their was the first full debate on Iraq in some time, you failed to support the anti-war motion! Why, because you place loyalty to Blair over representing your constituents.

You ignore that a cornerstone of the case of the Commission against Galloway was based upon the Telegraph documents. (The inquiry into Galloway by the way was instigated at the request of Indite, a US funded pro-sanctions organisation associated with Ann Clwyd)

Excuse me, but wasn't the Daily Telegraph forced to pay Galloway a £150,000 in libel money? Yet the e the committee determined that it was not necessary to prove the truth of what was stated in the documents, instead asserting that the question was whether to believe Galloway or Blair as to their provenance. It ruled: “The Committee has no doubt that Mr. Blair’s account is to be preferred to Mr. Galloway’s.”

Just as a reminder. Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, a journalist accidentally stumbles in a burn out building on doucments inditing a high profile anti-war MP - sounds pretty unlikely! And the courts thought so to - yet parliament chose to use these discredited documents!

The committee stated that its conclusions were based on the “balance of probabilities.” But a judgment that Blair’s account is more probable than Galloway’s can only be based on political opinion or prejudice in the absence of substantive proof, which is precisely what he attempted to argue.

As an article I was reading today puts it:

"The charge of bringing Parliament into disrepute is made by a body that voted for war and has ever since blocked all attempts to censure those guilty of war crimes, such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who lied to the British people to justify launching a war of aggression—the very charge on which leading Nazis were prosecuted at Nuremberg.

Whatever protestations are occasionally made on the floor, by its actions Parliament is also culpable in all the atrocities associated with the occupation—the tens of thousands who have been killed and maimed; the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere; internment without trial in Guantánamo and the rendition flights of the CIA.

It is Galloway’s accusers who should themselves stand accused—of sociocide, the deliberate and systematic murder of an entire society. Instead, they presume to stand in judgment of someone who opposed this criminal course.

Parliament’s hostility towards Galloway gives vent to the hatred of the political class, not merely to one of its number it considers to have broken ranks, but to the millions of working people who took to the streets in an attempt to prevent the illegal invasion of Iraq. Galloway’s presence in the Commons is a constant reminder of this mass popular sentiment, which it is determined to expunge.

His ejection and suspension is a graphic demonstration of how Parliament has been sealed off as an avenue through which to oppose the Iraq occupation and the pro-business offensive being mounted against jobs, social conditions and civil liberties.

During the parliamentary debate, not one of the erstwhile Labour lefts spoke out in Galloway’s defence—a measure of their readiness to go along with whatever is necessary in order to protect the government from criticism. Moreover, not a single newspaper considered it necessary to oppose Galloway’s suspension as an infringement of democratic rights. In fact, the unprecedented scenes in parliament were barely reported. This must be taken as a stark warning of the need to develop a mass extra-parliamentary movement of the working class, in opposition to all the official political parties"

Paul Flynn

None of the people you mentioned was punished BECAUSE of their opposition to the war. 1 & 2 for journalistic incompetance 3 Greg Dyke for something similar and George Galloway for being a self deluded fantasist who broke the rules.

The supsension is nothing to do with George making money. that was clear and repeated by George Young.

George Galloway is rare visitor to parliament. No one will notice when he is not there for 18 days. this man is seeking victimhood.

Paul Flynn

None of the people you mentioned was punished BECAUSE of their opposition to the war. 1 & 2 for journalistic incompetance 3 Greg Dyke for something similar and George Galloway for being a self deluded fantasist who broke the rules.

The supsension is nothing to do with George making money. that was clear and repeated by George Young.

George Galloway is rare visitor to parliament. No one will notice when he is not there for 18 days. this man is seeking victimhood.

Llew

Good article here:
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/opinion/article2780429.ece

Paul, I repeat my charge: The only people who have paid for Iraq are: 1) Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who exposed the WDM in 45 minutes claim 2) Piers Morgan, editor of the anti-war Daily Mirror 3) Greg Dyke from the BBC and 4) George Galloway, a high profile anti-war MP.

The commission said that Galloway didn't in any way personally profit from the Mariam Appeal, so how can the suspension be justified?

You just don't seem to grasp the irony that a parliament that has singularly failed to hold Blair to account over Iraq accuses George Galloway of bringing parliament into disrepute?

I saw all the Labour people giving him a standing ovation and blubbering on TV it was sickening.

Let's not forget Labour's other crimes. the late Robin Cook who supplied the weapons to committ genocide in East Timor. Jack (boot) Straw who supports the regime in Uzbekistan where the leader boils political opponents alive.

Llew

"Of course we need a public inquiry - but to call for one while Tony Blair was PM was a futile piece of political posturing."

Only because of the spinelessness of Labour "anti-war" MPs who have singularly failed to hold Blair and his cabal to account.

There are over 300 Labour MPs in parliament. If just 38 Labour MPs had been prepared to vote with the opposition parties, we would have had one.

Given that more than 38 Labour MPs voted against the Iraq War in 2003, it is difficult to understand why they refused to support a modest motion for a parliamentary inquiry.

Why didn't you vote for an Iraq inquiry? Were you to cowardly to defy the whip? You certainly betrayed your constituents.

It is the singular failure of the British Parliament to hold Blair to account over Iraq and Afghanistan that is bringing politics into disrepute.

No wonder the majority of the electorate no longer bother to vote!


Paul Flynn

Of course we need a public inquiry - but to call for one while Tony Blair was PM was a futile piece of political posturing. It was an opposition day debate and was certain to be annihilated.

As for the Speaker preventing Galloway from speaking, he was on his feet for nearly an hour an a half. The Speaker was upholding Parliament's rules on attacks on other MPs. If George has a beef about members of the committee he should have put in a written complaint. He was warned several times before he was named.

To understand George read the bit when he said he was a short sword man. He was Spartacus. We were Caesar's troops. He is a romantic fantasist with at times an uncertain grip on reality. He was laughed at for these comments

My post on the debate gave him some credit - more generous than most.

Llewellyn

Valleylad, the question is not whether you like Galloway or support his views but whether his suspension was just.

And why has he been singled out for behaviour that is obviously widespread among MPs. Hell, Douglas Hurd actually sold weapons to Saddam and they made him a Lord!

Personally, I found his BB performance imensely entertaining, but fear it damaged his credibility somewhat!

I used the phrase "show trial" because the Speaker prevented Galloway from making a proper defence as the British public will note.

Harriet Harman presiding over the proceedings.

I mean this is the woman who publicly stated on live TV that she believed the government should apologise over Iraq and then denied ever having said it!

You wonder about the mental state of these New Labour MPs.

Paul claims to support a public inquiry into the Iraq War, but in the only opportunity in parliament to vote for one he doesn't!

valleylad

Galloway lost my support when he made common cause with extreme islamic groups, we won't mention the cat of course :)

Of the 650 MP's possibly a dozen are not worthy of even total and utter contempt. Tabloid pleasing, brown nosing morons with the intellect of a damp matchstick seems to be the norm on both sides of the house.

Murphy, Harman, Dobson, Byers are just a few names the come to mind on our side of the house when I think of MP's of no conceivable value to humanity.

Llewllyn is right however on the need for a public inquiry. Someone has blood on their hands and I want to know who. Were the dossiers based on the opinion of the security services? in which case name & sack those responsible. Was Scarlett the guilty party (bearing in mind his K this looks likely) name, shame and drive into exile. Blair - try him at the Hague. I don't know who is guilty, but I'd like to see them named, shamed, and hounded to death by a tabloid witch-hunt.

Llewellyn

If you are a millionaire and you donate to Labour you can buy a place in Parliament - doesn't this bring parliament into much more disrepute?

Galloway is THE anti-war MP. On 7/7 he was the only MP who had the guts to link the attacks to UK foreign policy. The entire political class savaged him until opinion polls showed that 80% of the public took the same view and then a few other MPs timidly days later began to say the same thing, after letting Galloway take all the flack from the media.

Are you not aware that certain figures on the left such as Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill and Tariq Ali have become hate figures and smeared? For example, Scargill was accused of taking money from Gadaffi. He is also a hate figure to New Labour because he was expelled and stood against them and won.

Paul, it is you is guilty of self-deception. I read your defence of the 139 Labour MPs who voted AGAINST a public inquiry into the Iraq War and it was totally lame! You claim to support a public inquiry - but the only time a motion is put before parliament you didn't vote for it! The only reason you allude to is that the motion was put by two opposition parties.

The motion was lost by 25 votes. Only 12 Labour MPs supported it. If 13 more Labour MPs had some backbone, the government would have been forced to hold a public inquiry into the Iraq War. Who knows, if this had happened, Blair might have gone before he supported the war on Lebanon.

But "anti-war" MPs like yourself placed party loyalty over holding the government to account. This is why I don't have much time for most MPs.

I have read the report it doesn't have much credibility. For example, a whole section on the Telegraph documents that are generally believed to have been forged. Even Simon Hughes in the debate alluded to the Commission criticising Galloway for things that are usually overlooked.

As far as I can see the accusations against Galloway are:

1) That some of the donors to the Mariam campaign against sanctions may have got their money through the Oil-For-Food programme. The Commission report claims that GG knew of this, but actually produces no hard evidence. It also notes that he didn't personally benefit in anyway from this.

As GG stated in his defence - What political campaign asks it's donors where they got their money from?

2) It was alleged that Galloway may have used his parliamentary offices etc. in the campaign against sanctions. This might be an abuse, but it is certainly not criminal. And I'm sure other MPs have been as guilty as much.

3)Galloway was criticised for accusing the Commission of being politically motivated. But it almost certainly was, as other far worse crimes including lying to the entire British public go uninvestigated.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Llewellyn, I replied previously to the honourable course taken by 139 Labour MPs on the Iraq war. I wish there were a few more opposing the mission in Helmand Province.

There was a member of Plaid Cymru on the Committee that made the unanimous judgement against George Galloway.
If the 'political class' wish to be show trials against anti-war Mps, they would have 250 to take. this is not reality. All these argument were put before the house yesterday. No-one believed them. Think again. Not one of the 650 MPs supported Galloway. Please read the Committee's report. It's convincing.

Llewellyn

Do you not detect the irony that a Labour Party who lied to the public about Weapons of Mass Destruction talks about bringing "Parliament into disupute"?

The fact that not a single Welsh Labour MP was prepared to vote for a public inquiry into the Iraq War certainly shows that George Galloway has more integrity than your good self.

It has just also been conceded by a parliamentary report that the UK government lied to the public during the Iran hostage crisis. The map widely quoted as showing that the sailors were not in Iranian waters was, in fact, a fake.

Interesting that the only heads to roll over Iraq are those of Andrew Gilligan, Piers Morgan & George Galloway.

You seem pitifully unaware that to most of the public it is clear that this was a show trial of the political class in this country going after a prominent anti-war MP.

Your account contains a factual error. The Mariam Appeal was from the onset a general campaign to lift sanctions in Iraq that focused on Mariam as an example of what sanctions were doing.

Let's not forget sanctions murdered a million Iraqis.

A good statement by George Galloway himself:

"On 11 occasions the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards either acknowledges that George Galloway did not personally benefit from “moneys derived from the former Iraqi regime” or accepts that George Galloway did make many declarations of interest over Iraq (Commissioner’s memorandum pars: 281, 292, 306, 308, 315, 321, 322, 325, 331, 336 and 354).

His memorandum also finds no evidence that the sums raised by the Mariam Appeal were spent on anything other than the purposes for which the Appeal was established. This is the third report (there have been two by the Charity Commission) to find that Mariam Appeal funds were properly spent.

The Commissioner’s report explicitly exonerates George Galloway of the libellous accusation made by the Daily Telegraph that he personally received moneys from the former Iraqi regime. At par 321, it states:

“If Mr Galloway had personally received moneys, whether properly or improperly, from the former Iraqi regime, or any other overseas source, he would have been obliged to register it under category 7 of the Rules (Overseas benefits and gifts). However I have not found evidence that Mr Galloway, directly and personally, received such moneys, and this issue does not therefore arise.”

The Commissioner also directly dismisses the libellous claim that George Galloway was in the “pay of Saddam Hussein”. At par 336, the Commissioner’s report says:

“I do not think it can be argued convincingly that Mr Galloway’s stance in opposing UK government policy on Iraq and the UN sanctions arrangements in particular were motivated by that financial support. Mr Galloway’s views were consistent over many years and long predated the establishment of the Mariam Appeal. To argue that he was simply a paid-mouthpiece of those governments would be a travesty of what I believe to be his consistent views on these issues, views which I have no reason to doubt stemmed from deep conviction.”

The accusation that George Galloway was in the pay of Saddam Hussein was defamatory before this report and remains so now.

George Galloway wrote to the Commissioner’s predecessor on 5 July 1999 highlighting Mariam Appeal funding from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. He was not advised to register that in the Register of Members Interests. He did register foreign trips made on behalf of the Mariam Appeal and did make consequent declarations of interest in some debates, but not in all. There is no suggestion, given the “random” nature of these declarations, that there was any intention to deceive.
The donations to the Mariam Appeal by Mr Fawaz Zureikat were well known and his connection to the Appeal was so transparent that he was made chairman and was introduced to a plethora of British journalists and Members of Parliament. He has never been charged with, let alone convicted, of any wrongdoing in his business dealings in Iraq. He continues to do business in Iraq and travels freely in the United States. He categorically denies ever having paid any surcharges to obtain contracts in Iraq. His donations to the Mariam Appeal, taken as a whole, do not correspond to any pattern of his business dealings.
Whatever the status of the “Telegraph documents”, the information in them is untrue. For example, according to one of the documents George Galloway met a senior Iraqi intelligence official on Boxing Day 1999 and asked for an “increase” in his supposed “oil allocation”. But even the Commissioner’s own memorandum does not suggest any improper donation to the Mariam Appeal before August of 2000. There were no “allocations” to “increase”.
The parliamentary investigation has refused to consider the existence, still less the origin, of two sets of forged documents about George Galloway which came to light in the same week and in the same city as the Telegraph documents apparently did. The expert called before the Committee to attest to the authenticity of the Telegraph documents accepted that it is not impossible that they too were forged. They are, in any case, fake.
Two witnesses who gave evidence to the Commissioner damaging to George Galloway have been demonstrated in Galloway’s submission to have not told the truth. (See the sections on “Tony” Zureikat and Stuart Halford). In an abuse of the procedure an inquisitorial investigation is meant to follow, the Commissioner has ignored evidence of mendacity and chosen to give invest credibility in these witnesses. One egregious lie was an attempt to smear Galloway’s former wife, Elaine Galloway, as a forger, interfering with cheques to pay them into her account. An entirely baseless accusation. One witness – “Tony” Zureikat – has worked closely and is on first name terms with staff in the office of Senator “Norm” Coleman, who presided over the Senate hearing into Galloway in May 2005.
The majority of the Committee voted for the war on Iraq. Two of its members are former chairs of the Labour Friends of Israel. One of them, Kevin Barron MP, played a pivotal role in the witch-hunt of miners’ leader Arthur Scargill in 1990.
The entire affair is, as George Galloway put it in his submission, an argument about political funding. Nowhere does the Committee claim that Galloway should have investigated the provenance of the funds donated to the Mariam Appeal by the King of Saudi Arabia or the late Emir of the UAE. If it were to transpire that part of the Saudi King’s wealth came from kickbacks paid by the Ministry of Defence or BAe, it would doubtless be embarrassing. But no one could hold the trustees of the Mariam Appeal responsible for not knowing that at the time. Parliament has voted to back the government in halting the SFO investigation into BAe’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Yet a Committee of Parliament has seen fit to criticise the funding of the Mariam Appeal against non-military sanctions on Iraq. The partiality is blatantly political.
The claim that the Mariam Appeal benefited George Galloway in his role as a Member of the House of Commons is unsustainable. The travel expenses paid to Galloway to speak on behalf of the Appeal were to further the aims of the Appeal. No reasonable person could hold that the Appeal advanced Galloway’s career as an MP. Similarly, the charge of advocacy in the House cannot be accepted by any reasonable person. The advocacy rule relates to initiating proceedings related “specifically and directly to the affairs and interests” of a body in which a member has a Registrable interest. The relevant example given in the guidelines to the rules governing Members’ conduct is advocating a grant-in-aid for a charity or campaign a Member is a paid advisor to. Galloway was not a paid advisor to the Mariam Appeal and never once asked for it to be given public money or to receive any other preferential treatment by the government or Parliament. Speaking out against sanctions cannot possibly be considered to be advocating for the financial benefit of a campaign and any fair reading of the rules would support that conclusion.
This has been from beginning to end a political process. It began with a leak – the media informed Galloway there was a complaint against him – and it ended with a leak of the Committee’s findings. The timing of that leak and the Committee’s report – two days before the Southall by-election – could not be more political. Furthermore, the chairman of the Committee, when asked to investigate the source of the leak, chose not to say that he would do so and, indeed, chose not even to express regret that there had been a leak – an abuse of Parliamentary privilege – by the body charged with policing Parliamentary privilege. "

Paul Flynn

Thanks John. Agree with every word of your message. I am hopeful that the advisory committee will again reject a request to re-classify for the nonsense it is. then concentrate on reforms that will cut drug deaths and crime.

John

I agree with you Paul, about not pandering to the likes of the Daily express and the Daily Mail. There articles are often exaggerated and plainly untrue.

Take there stance on the strength of so called "super skunk cannabis"sic .I have seen them reporting 20 to 30 times the strength of that available in the 70's.THe recent UN report said at most 3 times yet they still repeat this rubbish.Even worse then is that not only Tory MP's but Labours MP's then repeat it.Are we going to be led by science or whipped up moral hysteria.I do hope you can rein in Mr Brown to base any Policy on the best peer reviewed science and not on the witch burning reporting of the Mail and express.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Amr. I am very grateful to you for translating my long answers so well.

George has done a great job over many years in promoting the Arab cause. Unfortunately he is virtually friendless in the House. Remembering the diversity of views in parliament and the admiration of his great gifts, this is remarkable. Not a single voice was raised in his support yesterday - including those who support the Arab and Palestinian causes.

Amr Gharbeia

Yes, probably Galloway is the best-known MP from the Commons, just like Lord Ahmed is the best-known from the Lords in my part of the World (Egypt and the Arab World in general). This is because they both share an interest in the people and the area. One gets interested, so people tend to trust. Having said that, they tend to forget his relations with the Saddam regime, the kind of thing most pan-Arabists would do.

I was your translator with the Egyptian journalists.

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