This was the week the British Government’s facile narrative over Salisbury finally fell apart. On Thursday Gary Aitkenhead, Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, pulled the rug from under Therese May and Boris Johnson by publicly confirming that DSTL could not identify the Novichok as having come from Russia. By the week’s end the British Government’s allegation was featuring on comedy programs like the BBC’s Have I Got News For You, and rightly so.
It doesn’t stop there. The Skripals, thankfully, have largely recovered. For some reason it would appear that they have been denied access to cell-phones. At any rate Yulia Skripal had to borrow a phone to ring her cousin Viktoria in Moscow. Russian TV then broadcast the call.
Some lunatic then briefed the British media that the call was faked. It clearly wasn’t, although Sky News wouldn’t accept that until they’d paid an expert to examine the broadcast. Pity they didn’t employ the same level of fact-checking for the original allegation!
The British Government, already coming under fire from even compliant pro-May/Heywood regime media outlets like Sky News and the BBC for its secretiveness, then decided go from sleazy to extra-sleazy by denying Viktoria Skripal a tourist visa. I beg your pardon? Young Viktoria’s cousin, a Russian national, survives a murder attempt by a nerve agent in England. She’s on the mend, feeling lonely, is up to receiving visitors and her much-loved cousin is denied a visa?
If they carry on at this rate people will start to question whether the Cabinet Office/British Government (in practice the latter is a mouthpiece for the former) have decided to kidnap Yulia Skripal. Russia has been denied consular access, in breach of the Vienna Convention, using the old standby of dictatorships everywhere – ‘she doesn’t want to see her embassy’. The media have been denied access to her as well, although she’s clearly up to talking and has made almost a complete recovery. Now her family have been denied the right to see her.
As reported on Freenations (http://freenations.net/hung-out-to-dry-may-johnson-exposed-by-their-experts-clintons-nerve-agent-cover-up/) blood samples were extracted from the Skripals without their consent or that of their next of kin. In order to get round British law an application was made to a High Court judge, Mr Justice Williams, who was materially misled. His Lordship was told that it was impracticable to contact the next of kin in Russia, which was nonsense, and that the Skripals had a 1% chance of survival. That estimate is now looking unduly pessimistic, thank goodness.
Then there is the odd business of Porton Down bumping off the Skripal’s cat. Knocking off pussycats is a serious offense in Britain. It’s not as bad as knocking off people, unless they happen to be burglars, but it’s serious enough. What’s more, Porton Down cremated the remains of Col Skripal’s two sweet little guinea pigs, who sadly appear to have been stroked by either Col Skripal or his daughter after they were contaminated after touching the front door at Col Skripal’s home. Naturally, this being Britain, the incident is being viewed more seriously now that it is known that two little guinea pigs were whacked. You can’t go around Wiltshire whacking guinea pigs without having your collar felt. That sort of thing will get you arrested even in Essex.
Somebody in the Cabinet Office is very obviously nervous. Clearly having the Skripals survive was never part of GO2’s murderous game-plan. (Oddly enough, according to an eye-witness into whom I happened to bump this week (as you do), Colonel Skripal is taking longer to recover, but it was his daughter who lost consciousness first.)
Did Porton Down water down the Novichok?
Gary Aitkenhead’s statement, aside from pulling the rug from under Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heyood and National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill, raises an intriguing possibility. Did Porton Down deliberately mix the Novichok precursors in the wrong proportion?
I hope it will not surprise readers to learn that Porton Down don’t let their limited stockpile of Novichok go walkies on a regular basis. In fact they take great care of their nerve agents. I know Gavin Williamson is all in favor of economies in the defense budget (idiot!) but you can’t ring Porton Down, give your Mastercard number, expiry date and the last three digits of your security code, order some Novichok and tell them that DPD will be around in the morning to pick it up.
Goodness knows what story the GO2 boys spun Porton Down, but it can’t have been all that convincing. Other than killing people there aren’t a lot of uses for Novichok. You could use it to deal with a rat infestation, I suppose, but it would be a bit unusual. I’m quite sure that GO2 didn’t tell Porton Down (1) that they were GO2, in other words German agents, or (2) that they wanted the Novichok to knock off an ex-Russian agent living in Salisbury, his daughter and a couple of guinea pigs, and shut down their nearest Sainsburys into the bargain. (Very irritating, particularly if your vouchers are about to run out!)
Like Russia and you guys, we British don’t really go in for chemical and biological weapons. (I know you guys used Agent Orange in ‘Nam, but that was when a German spy, McNamara, was in charge at the Pentagon, and it was only supposed to be targeting trees.) Gassing people and poor little guinea pigs is essentially a German thing. Our stockpiles are mainly for deterrent value and developing antidotes. I seriously doubt that there has ever been a British war plan which involved deploying Novichok on a large scale.
I had inclined to the view that being inexperienced in mixing Novichok precursors, Porton Down had got the ratio wrong. I now suspect they pulled a flanker on GO2 by deliberately supplying a non-lethal sample. It’s unlikely that GO2 tested it before trying to murder the Skripals.
It’s not that easy to test – it’s not like World War II, when the Abwehr had plenty of unfortunate human subjects to test WMDs on at Dachau concentration camp. Civil liberties have taken a knock in Britain in recent years, thanks to GO2 and the Cabinet Office, but they haven’t yet been able to set up concentration camps in Wiltshire.
The 14 questions
The Russian Government has posed 14 questions to HMG, helpfully set out by Sputnik (https://sptnkne.ws/hgcR). They are all perfectly sensible questions, which HMG have been unable to answer. Moscow wants to know about the French role in the investigation, for example, and wants details on the treatment, in particular the antidote, given to the Skripals, each of whom is a Russian national.
I suspect the British public would like to know the answers as well. I’m not sure there is a specific antidote to Novichok, as opposed to generic treatments such as atropine, pralidoxime and diazepam, but the Russian government is entitled to know the treatment plan. This applies with less force to Col Skripal, as they let him go, but Yulia Skripal is not only a Russian citizen, she is domiciled in Russia.
The British Government’s derisive treatment of the Russian Government, on the basis that Russia is guilty, rather begs the question. The police have not actually completed their investigation, pointless though it is, with respect (like most Met investigations). It’s not as though suspicious looking characters with snow on their boots have been spotted lurking around Salisbury. The Met have yet to name a single Russian suspect.
The Met, BTW, are following the usual procedure when the Cabinet Office needs the waters muddied. They are running round interviewing anyone who was in or near Sainsburys that day, or knows Col Skripal, and viewing lots of CCTV footage, none of which covers Col Skripal’s house, where the actual attack took place.
It’s all a bit Keystone cops, reminiscent of the Scotland Yard’s search for the ‘Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town’, as featured in Spike Milligan’s hilarious serial in the 1976 series of the BBC’s The Two Ronnies. If the Met actually managed to find the GO2 boys responsible, assuming they haven’t been knocked off by their own side already, they’d doubtless get a call from the Cabinet Office telling them to let them go, or have some Novichok powder put on their front entrance.
The political consequences
You heard it here first! As I pointed out weeks ago Theresa May will have to go, whether or not she knew that the serious accusation she was levelling against Russia was entirely false. Boris Johnson has pretty much ruled himself out of contention as her successor.
Jeremy Corbyn has exercised commendable restraint over Salisbury, with respect. But for the row over anti-semitism in the National Socialist British Workers, sorry, Labour, Party, Jeremy would be starting to look like a credible figure. With DUP support the government is stable and Theresa May would probably stay on as a caretaker PM whilst her successor was chosen by the Tory Party.
A sensible new Tory leader, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, would probably want to form a coalition government with the DUP, offering them seats in the Cabinet. Arlene Foster would make a very good Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
With a serious Prime Minister in Number 10 Britain could start the urgent task of rebuilding relations with Russia. Ideally this should be done before the soccer World Cup (this is a different thing from the World Series, which is unlikely ever to be staged in Russia!).
Since Theresa May would be likely to stay on as a caretaker and Tory leadership elections are lengthy battles, it’s unlikely, sadly, that we’ll be able to start sorting out this mess before the World Cup. With a grown-up in Number 10 however there would be a number of things which we could do to mend fences with Russia and get up the noses of the Foreign Office, the EU and the State Department.
Apologising, paying compensation and recognising Russia’s perfectly proper annexation of the Crimea would be a useful start. There ought be to mutual State Visits by President Putin and the Queen. I’m sure that the Russians would love to see the Queen, Who has never visited Russia. I’m equally sure that dear old Pooters would go down well over here and would make a witty and graceful speech at the Royal Banquet. He has a lot more class than Theresa May, no offense to our PM intended.
It would be lovely to see the Russian Navy making courtesy calls to British naval bases and vice versa. I have no doubt that the Royal Navy would be warmly welcomed in Russia. We should also offer participation by British troops in the 2019 VE Day Parade in Moscow, along with the Red Arrows. Russia of course was a gallant ally in World War II and sustained the heaviest casualties of any Allied nation.
We’ll need a new ambassador in Moscow to replace the current idiot, no offense intended. That nice man HRH Prince Michael of Kent would be ideal, as he lacks anti-Russian prejudice and is genuinely committed to good Anglo-Russian relations. It would be a big ask, given that he’s fully entitled to be putting his feet up after a lifetime of public service. It would be a matter for HRH of course, but I suspect that he would agree.
As well as apologising for Theresa May’s nonsensical allegation over Salisbury we should also apologise for trying to smear Russia over the Litvinenko Affair and the Sino-Ukrainian shooting down of MH17 over the Ukraine. I daresay that we could come to some sort of accommodation over Syria.
Russia is the world’s largest country and has huge energy reserves. A UK/Russia free trade deal post-Brexit makes a lot of sense. We’ve let the Germans divide us for far too long.
Richie Allen Show
For those who are interested, I was invited onto the Richie Allen Show on Thursday to discuss GO2’s failed attempt to murder the Skripals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsaFxTp5_Xs. I rarely miss a broadcast, but I’m afraid I fell asleep whilst waiting for the call from Manchester! I’m pleased to say that I’m making a good recovery from the surgery, but I’m still getting over it. It takes a few weeks before you are fully back on your feet, at my age at any rate!
The Kemerovo Fire
My sincerest condolences to the Russian Federation over the tragic loss of young life in the fire in Kemerovo. I have not covered this to date because I wanted to know more about the causes.
I was suspicious from the get-go, because of the high death toll, the timing, so soon after President Putin’s great victory in the presidential election, and the high proportion of children amongst the victims. The DVD have long targeted children, for the shock value, and have made extensive use of arson as a tactic.
Given that not only were the exits blocked but the fire alarms were disabled, my analysis is that we are dealing with something way beyond mere negligence. I suspect that the FSB have come to the same conclusion – unlike the Metropolitan Police, they’re not fools, no offense to the Met intended.
I’m not criticising the Russian Government. They’re not doing anything the British Government isn’t. Whitehall has kept GO2’s role in the 1987 King’s Cross Tube station fire, following Margaret Thatcher’s election win earlier in the year, and the 1988 Piper Alpha oil rig explosion, designed to attack North Sea oil, secret for decades. Going public with knowledge of the DVD or any of its sub-agencies would be a major strategic decision. They might even try to stop burning down Trump Tower! In my analysis, the Kemerovo fire has the DVD’s fingerprints all over it.
The Canadian junior ice-hockey tragedy
Again my condolences, this time to our Commonwealth cousins in Canada. It’s too early to call, but once again the youth of the victims raises suspicions. So does the involvement of a truck.
Trucks are great for staging ‘accidents’. The driver of a truck usually stands a good chance of surviving the incident and its mass and hence kinetic energy usually ensure that the smaller vehicle comes off worse.
I’m sure the RCMP will do a thorough investigation, but lacking specialist knowledge of the DVD they’ll be doing it with one hand tied behind their backs. I am at their disposal of course, if they’re on the lookout for a specialist in the DVD who’s still alive and out of prison, as long they don’t expect me to know anything about ice-hockey!
The Met foul up again!
The Met excelled themselves this week. On Wednesday they managed to arrest a 78 year old pensioner, Richard Osborn-Brooks, who was living quietly in London with his 77 year old wife, who sadly suffers from dementia. Two burglars, one of them armed with a screwdriver, broke into their small house in the wee hours.
In accordance with British tradition, which holds that every man’s house is his castle, Mr Osborn-Brooks courageously grappled with the intruders, very properly stabbing one, a career criminal named Henry Vincent, to death. Those clowns at the Met then unlawfully arrested Mr Osborn-Brooks for murder, even though he was unarmed and had only killed one of the burglars.
Although he wasn’t charged, thankfully, his wrongful arrest was a disgrace. The pretext used, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which permitted detention without trial for the first time in peacetime, needs to be repealed.
Steven Bochco (1943 – 2018)
Steven Bochco, who died this week, is a great loss to television. He was, quite simply, brilliant. Hill Street Blues, his most famous creation, is arguably the best cop show ever made, anywhere. Like Britain’s Z-Cars, it was ground-breaking.
That he should then go on to make LA Law showed his versatility. He didn’t just make or write great TV shows. He co-wrote the script for Silent Running, the early 70s green sci-fi movie starring Bruce Dern, with a wonderful sound-track, which has become something of a cult classic.
Not all his TV shows achieved the status of Hill Street Blues. Even HSB ran into problems with the network, probably because it was too good. The point about great creative talent like Steve Bochco however is that they take risks. You don’t have to like all of his shows, or even any of them, to recognise his sheer talent.
As it happens, I loved HSB and LA Law and tried never to miss an episode. The characters were engaging and the plots carefully woven. Leland McKenzie, superbly played by Richard Dysart, is still a good role model for any young lawyer. He emphasised probity as the first attribute of a lawyer.
Steven will be missed, but his shows will go on.
This week’s movie review: Love, Simon (2018, dir. Greg Berlanti)
Released to theaters in England on Friday, this is a charming, funny and poignant romance. What makes it a ground-breaking movie is that it’s a gay romance.
There have been romantic gay movies before, but not from Hollywood. 20th Century Fox deserve all the plaudits they’re getting. It’s been a long wait.
It’s very well made and acted. Nick Robinson, who plays the lead, the eponymous Simon, is in fact a young adult. He plays a convincing teenager, however. The young support cast all have bright futures ahead of them. Tony Hale, from Veep, is probably the best-known of the ‘grown-up’ actors and is quite amusing as the vice-principal.
It’s a life-enhancing movie, well worth watching. Thankfully, there are no sex scenes as such – it’s about romance, not sex. I think gay sex scenes would have spoilt it, and limited the potential audience. Some gay critics may be disappointed, but not this one. It addresses some serious themes and takes Hollywood into new territory.