Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Edward Heath

Britain Teaches the World to Torture

This article appeared on Page 10 of Ceylon Today on Wednesday January 28 2015

Colman's Column3

There was a time when the British army adopted a somewhat superior attitude to the US army’s conduct after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Much was made of Britain’s experience in conducting a war against insurgents in urban conditions in Northern Ireland. To boast about that suggests either supreme arrogance or selective memory. British tactics were not successful in Northern Ireland or Basra and certainly did not have the “moral authority” to which David Cameron referred in his statement about the US Senate report on torture.

Britain’s torture laboratory in Northern Ireland

In 1971, Operation Demetrius involved the mass arrest and imprisonment without trial of people suspected of connections with the Provisional IRA. Fourteen of those imprisoned were interrogated at a site formerly known as RAF Ballykelly, which was handed over to the British Army as Shackleton Barracks on 2 June 1971. On their way to the interrogation centre in 1971, the British army hooded the men and threw them to the ground from helicopters. The captors told the hooded men they were hundreds of feet in the air, but the helicopters were actually just a few feet from the ground. Granted, this was better behaviour than that of the Argentinian junta who threw prisoners to their death from helicopters at high altitude.

The British security forces during the Irish Troubles developed five techniques of “deep interrogation”: prolonged wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink. For seven days, when not being interrogated, the detainees were forced to wear hoods while handcuffed in a cold cell and were forced to stand in a stress position for many hours. There was a continuous loud hissing noise. They were repeatedly beaten, their heads banged against the wall. The interrogators kicked them in the genitals. The treatment caused long-term trauma.

In 1976, the European Commission of Human Rights ruled that the five techniques amounted to “torture”. However, in 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the five techniques were “inhuman and degrading” and breached the European Convention on Human Rights, but did not amount to “torture”. The Court’s ruling, that the five techniques did not amount to torture, was later cited by the US and Israel to justify their own methods. Britain exported the techniques to the military dictators of Brazil.

Never again?

In 1972, prime minister Edward Heath promised to the House of Commons: “[The] Government, having reviewed the whole matter with great care and with reference to any future operations, have decided that the techniques … will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation… The statement that I have made covers all future circumstances.”

Despite Heath’s promise, the British Army used the five techniques in Iraq. As recently as December 2014, human rights lawyers sent a dossier of claims to the ICC (International Criminal Court) alleging that British soldiers abused and tortured Iraqi men, women and children, aged from 13 to 101. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs in 2005 that hooding had not been used in Iraq since May 2004. In reality, there were more than 70 cases of hooding between June 2004 and September 2008.

There were, the report alleges, dozens of mock executions; many described how dogs were used to attack or threaten detainees. There are also allegations of sexual assault or rape by British soldiers. One man who was “repeatedly beaten” and “electrocuted”, suffered “severe psychological injuries as a result of his treatment”. He set himself alight and killed himself a year after his release.
Phil Shiner, a solicitor with the law firm PIL (Public Interest Lawyers), which is handling the claims, said: “The UK mindset in Iraq appears to be one of savage brutality and a sadistic inhumanity, irrespective of whether it was women, children or old men being tortured, abused or callously subjected to lethal force. The systemic issues must now be dealt with in public.”

A long history of torture

Britain has an extensive and unlovely record of brutality in the “war on terrorism” that goes back at least as far as the Tudors. Henry VIII tried to bring all Ireland under his control to prevent its use as a base for a Catholic invasion of England or a haven for pretenders trying to depose him. His daughter Elizabeth had similar fears and thought the Jesuits might try to overthrow her. Some versions of the story of Edmund Campion (now a Catholic saint) have it that the Queen was actually present when Campion was tortured on the rack.

Obama tortured by British

Neil Ascherson wrote: “The myth that British colonialism guaranteed a minimum standard of behavior toward ‘natives’ cannot—or should not—survive the evidence of twentieth-century Kenya. In the field, the security forces behaved like Germans on an antipartisan sweep in occupied France. In the detention and work camps, and the resettlement villages, the British created a world no better than the universe of the Soviet Gulag.”

Hussein Onyango Obama, Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather, was arrested in 1949 by the British during the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya and subjected to horrific violence, which left him permanently scarred and embittered against the British. “The African warders were instructed by the white soldiers to whip him every morning and evening till he confessed,” Sarah Onyango, 87, Hussein Onyango’s third wife, the woman President Obama refers to as “Granny Sarah” said. “He said they would sometimes squeeze his testicles with metallic rods. They also pierced his nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs tied together with his head facing down.”

Mau-Mau militants killed 32 British civilians. The British killed 20,000 Mau-Mau fighters and persecuted large numbers of Kikuyu not directly involved in the rebellion. Lawyers acting for Kenyans suing for compensation documented 5,228 cases of abuses including fatal whippings, blindings, castrations and rapes.

In 2009, Kenyan victims filed a lawsuit, but the British government asked the judge to throw out the case, saying it had transferred all liability to Kenya when the country gained independence. The Kenya government denied responsibility and stood behind the victims. The three men, including one whom the British had castrated, who filed the original case made numerous trips to London to give their testimony. Britain could not deny the atrocities because there were immaculate records kept by the torturers themselves that revealed systemic human rights violations. The High Court ordered the Foreign Office to produce all relevant evidence, including hundreds of boxes of files, secretly smuggled out of Kenya ahead of independence in 1963. The British government’s defence until recently was that the statute of limitations had expired. Eventually, after four years of dogged resistance, Britain announced a £19.9 million settlement. Many of the beneficiaries, who are in their 80s, will not have long to enjoy the compensation.

Extraordinary rendition

In 1971, the British evicted all 2,000 inhabitants of the Chagos Islands from their homes in order to give Diego Garcia to the US as a military base. In his book Island of Shame, David Vine quotes military analyst John Pike telling him that the US military’s goal is “to run the planet from Guam and Diego Garcia by 2015, even if the entire Eastern Hemisphere has drop-kicked us from every other base.”

Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane disclosed the journeys of a Gulfstream aircraft, registered N379P, as part of a list of more than 3,000 flight logs. The logs show the same aircraft flew from Washington via Athens to Diego Garcia. Though there have been persistent reports in the US that detainees have been secretly held in Diego Garcia, the British government has always dismissed the claims. The then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denied that the Diego Garcia base was used for rendition and torture. “There simply is no truth that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop.”

David Miliband war criminal?

When David Miliband became foreign secretary in June 2007, there were already allegations about possible British involvement in overseas torture. Sami al-Saadi claimed that, in 2004, MI6 handed him and his family over to authorities in Libya who tortured him. Documents show that MI5 gave Tripoli reports on Libyan dissidents living in Britain.

Gareth Pierce is a human rights lawyer who had defended Giuseppe Conlon against the flawed prosecution led by Sir Michael Havers. She is dishonoured by the ridiculous caricature of her by Emma Thompson in the film In the Name of the Father. She wrote in the London Review of Books about Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian given leave to reside in the UK. “British intelligence and the Americans and Moroccans for 18 months slashed the most intimate parts of his body with razors, burned him with boiling liquids, stretched his limbs causing unimaginable agony, and bombarded him with ferocious sound.” Techniques seem to have become more brutal since the days of St Edmund Campion. As David Miliband was personal advisor to Tony Blair while Labour was in opposition and played a major role in the election victory of 1997, it seems unlikely that he was unaware of what was happening before he became foreign secretary.

As human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, who represented Binyam Mohammed, writes, Miliband cannot avoid charges of complicity demonstrated by his actions as foreign secretary. Miliband personally approved some interrogations involving countries with poor human rights records. He was a senior member of a government that later actively resisted calls for an inquiry. “He put considerable energy into defending a number of claims relating to torture in the English courts against his department.”

While campaigning for the Labour leadership Miliband was forced to confront claims that he allowed the interrogation of three terror suspects who allege they were tortured in Bangladesh and Egypt. Faisal Mostafa, a chemistry lecturer from Manchester, who was twice cleared of terrorism offences in court, was detained in Bangladesh. He claims he was hung upside down and electrocuted while interrogators interrogated him about two Islamist groups.

Britain and the US Senate report

There is no reference at all in the Senate’s 500-page summary report to UK intelligence agencies or the British territory of Diego Garcia. There is no reference to Binyam Mohamed, or to the abductions and extraditions to Libya of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami-al-Saadi. Heavy redactions to the executive summary encouraged speculation that references to US allies were deleted.

The British government commissioned an inquiry by retired judge Sir Peter Gibson to look at the UK’s treatment of detainees after 9/11. In his preliminary report, he raised 27 serious questions about the behaviour of the UK security services. The Gibson Inquiry was replaced by an investigation handled by the ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee). The ISC’s report will not, however, be completed before the 2015 general election, so it is unclear how many members of the nine-strong panel of MPs and peers will still be in parliament to complete the work. Release of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war is also being delayed until after the election.

Gareth Pierce on the UK’s hypocrisy: “We inhabit the most secretive of democracies, which has developed the most comprehensive of structures for hiding its misdeeds, shielding them always from view behind the curtain of ‘national security’. From here on in we should be aware of the game of hide and seek in which the government hopes to ensure that we should never find out its true culpability.”

Jeremy Thorpe RIP

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Wednesday December 10 2014.

Colman's Column3

The news of former UK Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe’s death surprised me. My first reaction was, echoing Dorothy Parker’s question on hearing of the demise of President Calvin Coolidge: “How could they tell?” I was surprised that Thorpe had not died long ago. There have not been many sightings of him over the past several decades but when I last saw a picture of him, he was decidedly cadaverous.


I have often noted a quality of masochistic auto-schadenfreude in some Sri Lankans. They boast about how awful things are in their own country and marvel at how wonderful things are in the motherland of their former oppressors. They will concede that there is corruption and other wrongdoing in the UK but delude themselves that wrongdoers are always brought to justice and often the culprit does the honourable thing by resigning.

The case of Jeremy Thorpe is instructive. Obituaries describe him as charismatic and witty. His jibe after Harold Macmillan sacked several of his Cabinet in 1962: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his own life.” Of Edward Heath, he said “a plum pudding around whom no one knew how to light the brandy”.


Way back in 1979, I was on secondment from the big city of Manchester to the small town of Ashton-under-Lyne. The town was decidedly working class but also conservative. I could not get my usual liberal-left Guardian and had to settle for the Tory Telegraph. This proved to be a blessing in disguise because the Torygraph had a well-deserved reputation for providing detailed reports on salacious court cases. This was the go-to paper for sexual scandal, far superior to the late and unlamented News of the World.

In 1979, Thorpe was on trial for conspiracy to murder Norman Joliffe (otherwise known as Norman Scott). Scott had become a persistent nuisance to Thorpe with his claim that he had had a homosexual affair with the Liberal Party leader at a time when homosexual acts were illegal.


In late 1960 or early 1961, Thorpe first met Scott at Kingham Stables at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, where the younger man was working for Thorpe’s friend Norman Vater. Thorpe told Scott if he ever needed help, should call him at the House of Commons. Soon after meeting Thorpe, Scott fell out with Vater and lost his job and national insurance card. On 8 November 1961, Scott went to the House of Commons to see Thorpe. Thorpe promised he would help to get him a replacement NI card. Scott claimed that a homosexual liaison with Thorpe began that same evening, at Thorpe’s mother’s home, and continued for several years.

Thorpe helped Scott in many ways, but Scott was resentful and claimed that Thorpe held on to the new NI card. Thorpe denied this and the missing card became a major grievance for Scott. In December 1962, Scott told a friend of his plan to shoot Thorpe and commit suicide. The friend alerted the police, to whom Scott gave a detailed statement about his affair with Thorpe. The police took no action but a report was added to Thorpe’s MI5 file.

In mid-March 1965, Scott wrote a long letter to Thorpe’s mother informing her of the homosexual affair. He accused Thorpe of callousness and disloyalty. Ursula Thorpe gave the letter to her son, who drafted a statement rejecting the “damaging and groundless accusations” and accusing Scott of attempting to blackmail him. Thorpe turned to Liberal MP Peter Bessell for advice. Bessell flew to Dublin in April 1965 and after that for two years Scott stayed quiet in Ireland. In July 1967, Scott returned to England. Bessell began paying Scott a “retainer” of between £5 and £10 a week and gave him £75, on the understanding there would be no further demands for a year.

Thorpe was now leader of the Liberal Party but was not an immediate success. Some of his aides, doubtful about his sexual orientation, were disturbed by his comments about his marriage to Caroline Allpass: “worth five points in the polls”.

Scott’s reappearance in November 1968 disturbed Thorpe and, early in December 1968, he summoned Bessell to his office in the House of Commons. Thorpe said: “We’ve got to get rid of him”, and later: “It is no worse than shooting a sick dog”. Thorpe argued that disposal of Scott’s body down a mine was feasible. He suggested his friend David Holmes, a party assistant treasurer and best man at Thorpe’s wedding, as an appropriate assassin.

In May 1969, Scott married. Later, when his wife could not claim maternity benefits, Scott again threatened to talk to newspapers. Bessell managed to get him an emergency NI card and Scott went quiet for a while. In 1970, Scott’s marriage collapsed; he blamed Thorpe, and again threatened exposure. Bessell kept Thorpe’s name out of the divorce proceedings, and Thorpe anonymously paid the legal costs.

In May 1971, Scott told his story to senior Liberals, who, although unconvinced, felt the matter warranted further investigation. A confidential party inquiry dismissed Scott’s allegations.

Thorpe’s first wife had been killed in a car crash in 1970 and in 1973, he married Marion, Countess of Harewood, whose former husband was the Queen’s cousin. In the February 1974 general election, the Liberals won over six million votes (19.3% of votes cast), but won only 14 seats.

In January 1974, Scott told his story to Tim Keigwin, Thorpe’s Conservative opponent in North Devon, but his leadership told him to keep quiet. In January 1974, Holmes paid £2,500 for documents Scott had passed to his doctor. Builders renovating a London office formerly used by Bessell found a further cache of papers in November 1974, which they took to the Sunday Mirror who passed the papers to Thorpe and suppressed the story.

Newton lured Scott to Porlock Moor, shot Scott’s dog, Rinka, and turned the gun on Scott, saying, “It’s your turn now”. The gun jammed several times and Newton drove away. At the trial that convicted Newton of firearms offences, Scott made his claims about Thorpe public.


In Private Eye on 12 December 1975, Auberon Waugh wrote: “My only hope is that sorrow over his friend’s dog will not cause Mr Thorpe’s premature retirement from public life”. In the 1979 election, Waugh ran against Thorpe on the Dog Lovers’ Party ticket. Waugh published his own account of the trial The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial. Most newspapers knew what was going on but covered it up. Nevertheless, as with the current situation relating to a former cabinet minister and rumours of paedophilia, journalists were firing warning shots.


Barry Penrose and Roger Courtiour, collectively known as “Pencourt”, had originally been hired by former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson after his retirement, to investigate his theory that Thorpe was a target of South African intelligence agencies. Barry Penrose returned to the story, this time in association with Simon Freeman and wrote a book, which gripped my attention when I read it at the time. (Bloomsbury Publishing brought out a new edition, 17 July 1997 Rinkagate: The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Thorpe). They believe that Thorpe probably formed the outline of a plan to silence Scott early in 1974.Holmes later said that Thorpe was insistent that Scott be killed. Through a series of intermediaries Holmes was put in touch, in February 1975, with Andrew Newton, an airline pilot, who said he was willing to dispose of Scott for an appropriate fee—between £5,000 and £10,000 was suggested. Newton always insisted that the size of his fee showed that his job was to kill, not frighten Scott.

In January 1976, Scott appeared before magistrates on a social security fraud charge, and spoke in court about a sexual relationship with Thorpe. This claim, made in court and therefore protected from the libel laws, was widely reported. On 10 May 1976, Thorpe resigned as Liberal leader.


Newton, released from prison in October 1977, sold his story to the London Evening News. He said that he had been paid £5,000 to kill Scott. A lengthy police enquiry followed, at the end of which Thorpe, and three others were charged with conspiracy to murder. Thorpe was additionally charged with incitement to murder.

Reporting restrictions were lifted, which meant that newspapers were free to print anything said in court without fear of the libel laws. Thorpe had hoped for an in camera hearing which would avoid unfortunate newspaper headlines. Scott gave clinical details of his alleged seduction by Thorpe in November 1961 and on other occasions.


Comic genius Peter Cook mocked the judge’s summing up for the jury: “You will now retire to consider your verdict of not guilty.” The real judge himself said of Scott: “He is a fraud. He is a sponger. He is a whiner. He is a parasite.”


eye acquittal

Despite the acquittal, the broader public perception was strong that Thorpe had not behaved well, nor had he adequately explained himself. He continued to be an embarrassment to the Liberal Party which blocked a return to active politics. In 1982, Amnesty International appointed him director of its British section, but after protests from the organisation’s staff, he withdrew. Not long afterwards, Thorpe first showed signs of the Parkinson’s disease that led to his almost complete withdrawal into private life in the mid-1980s.

The son of Thorpe’s defending counsel George Carman, who won the acquittal ,told The Times: “The best deal done by Carman QC was persuading Taylor QC [counsel for the prosecution] not to use any of the abundant evidence of Thorpe’s promiscuous homosexuality.”

The papers, Waugh asserts, knew a great deal about the whole affair for years, but, mostly out of cowardice and obsequiousness, declined to write about it. Many journalists knew that the scandal was potentially much bigger than just a case of a gay party leader. There have long been allegations on the internet that Jeremy Thorpe had a taste for young street boys and runaway teenagers were often brought to him. Thorpe certainly covered up the sordid activities of Cyril Smith the paedophile Liberal MP for Rochdale. There is a suggestion that Thorpe was acquitted because he threatened to expose the perversions of others in high places. Rumours of paedophile rings in government and parliament have persisted for decades and continue today.


The case of Jeremy Thorpe is instructive. Obituaries look hard for the good in him, describing him as charismatic and witty. He spoke out against apartheid and the racist Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia. He made a show of detesting inequality, but did not formulate a practical plan to improve matters. He was involved in a company that was charging 280 per cent interest on second mortgages, and when, at the end of 1973, the company collapsed there was revealed a tangled web of fraud. Rumours of ballot-rigging, clouded Thorpe’s election to the presidency of the Oxford Union as long ago as 1951.

He reacted strongly against Establishment snobbery but did not hesitate to use his connections to protect himself. An Old Etonian and Oxford graduate from a long line of Conservative MPs, he could have been a Tory. Labour politicians as well as Conservative and Liberal protected him. There has been some comment in the blogosphere along the lines of: “Thorpe was a victim of homophobia”. He was not on trial for Homosexuality. Bisexuality or paedophilia. He was on trial for incitement to murder and conspiracy to murder. He used his establishment connections to get away with it.

Sir Cyril Smith

Auberon Waugh, when writing his book, had to be careful about the libel laws. Even if he knew Thorpe was guilty, a jury had acquitted him. He explains that his book “may be read, if people choose, as a gesture of atonement for ever having entertained the silly idea that a Privy Councillor, an MP, an Old Etonian, a barrister, a friend of prime ministers, archbishops and high officials, a former client of Lord Goodman, could ever be found guilty of conspiring to murder a homosexual male model of lower-middle class background and doubtful record.”

This is England, after all!

Austerity and Hypocrisy

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 8 2012


There have recently been many references in the press, both in Sri Lanka and the UK, to Marie Antoinette. She was the wife of Louis XVI of France who was deposed by the revolting peasants in 1792. Nine months after the execution of Louis, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason and guillotined.

The French people had at first been charmed by her personality and beauty but  came to loathe  her, accusing “L’Autre-chienne” (“Autrichienne” meaning Austrian (woman) and “Autre-chienne” meaning Other Bitch) of being  a promiscuous, callous spendthrift, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.

Contemporary sources, such as Mary Wolstencraft and Thomas Jefferson, place the blame for the French Revolution and the subsequent reign of terror on Marie Antoinette. This view is summed up by the phrase “let them eat cake”. There is no evidence that she ever uttered this phrase; It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau’s putative autobiography, Les Confessions. “Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”When told the peasants had no bread the princess said ‘Why don’t they eat cake?’

Whenever I visit my local Sathosa, I see a framed photograph of Bandula Gunawardena. Judging from that picture, I would guess that he is not being compared to Marie Antoinette on grounds of charm, beauty or personality. It’s to do with the cake-eating thing. Minister Gunawardena apparently asserted that a family of three could live on  Rs. 7,500 a month. UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva responded: “Minister Bandula Gunawardene’s challenge for a debate on this matter is irrelevant, childish and a waste of time.  It is of no consequence to the people of this country that certain ministers and senior officials of this government have become the laughing stock, but what is unpardonable is that the unwise actions of such people bringing misery to the population.”

Over in the UK, The Sun newspaper, frothing for revenge over the Tories’ failure to protect Murdoch, described Chancellor George Osborne as the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century. Marie Antoinette has come to symbolise the indifference of the rulers to the sufferings of ordinary people.

Throughout the hard times of the 1970s, British citizens were exhorted by governments, both Labour and Conservative, to tighten belts and accept wages that did not keep up with inflation.

There was no evidence that the austerity was being shared across all classes. On 31 December 1973, Edward Heath’s Tory government enforced a three-day working week to preserve dwindling fuel supplies. Electricity was switched off on a rota basis between seven a.m. and midnight. Television companies switched off at 10.30pm. Energy Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, won notoriety for advising the nation to “clean our teeth in the dark”. His own house was photographed with all lights blazing.

In the UK currently, the question is not whether the masses should eat cake, but whether they can afford to eat Cornish pasties. The current coalition government have been savagely cutting public services to patch up the mess caused by greedy banksters who continue to draw large salaries and bonuses. In the recent budget, Osborne cut income tax rate for the 300,000 richest households, while 4.4 million pensioners are set to lose out by £84 a year. The strategy was to boost business and the rich by raising tax allowances – and forget about the unemployed and the lowest earners. That old ‘trickle down’ myth again.

Labour MP John Mann zeroed in on one particular aspect of the Budget and asked Osborne when he had last eaten a pasty at Greggs the bakers. Osborne was discombobulated by this and had probably forgotten that his Budget included a VAT increase on Cornish pasties. Greggs chief executive Ken McMeikan denounced Osborne as out of touch, and warned hundreds of jobs were at stake if pasty prices were raised by 20%.


One tweet suggested Osborne was then probably subjected to a Treasury presentation where he was told that pasties were “similar to mini boeufs en croute”.
The greasy spinmeisters went into action and Osborne’s fellow old-Etonian and Bullingdon member David Cameron was ready to fend off the pasty attacks from the press. “I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or one of their large ones. I have got a feeling I opted for the large one, and very good it was too.”

Indefatigable investigative reporters ferreted out the information that the West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet where he thought he enjoyed his last pasty closed two years ago. Gavin Williams, the boss of the West Cornwall Pasty Company, was not interested in Cameron’s endorsement of his product. He wanted ‘clarity and leadership’ from the prime minister.

One disaffected Tory MP reminded The Guardian that it was Osborne who brought in Andy Coulson to handle the media for Cameron. Coulson’s effectiveness was hampered by the fact that he was arrested (and has since been imprisoned) for criminal activities on behalf of the Murdoch empire.

Another said that Osborne misjudged the budget by failing to spot the significance of what has become known as the ‘granny tax’. It is not immediately obvious what is more depressing, the inane antics of the press, the ham-fisted attempts at populism by wealthy politicians or the total disregard of those in power for what ordinary people’s lives are actually like. Politicians insensitive to the suffering of ordinary people while they themselves enjoy a VVIP life-style should remember what happened to Marie Antoinette.

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