Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fission Chips

The Guardian ran a very funny story the other day which shared with the whole world some of the favourite jokes of UK scientists.

Here are my two favourites, but isn't it great to know that Britain's brainiest boffins have such a ridiculous sense of humour.

An electron and a positron go into a bar.

Positron: "You're round."
Electron: "Are you sure?"
Positron: "I'm positive."

I think I heard this on Radio 4 after the publication of a record (small) measurement of the electron electric dipole moment – often explained as the roundness of the electron – by Jony Hudson et al in Nature 2011.

Joanna Haigh, professor of atmospheric physics, Imperial College, London

What is a physicist's favourite food? 
Fission chips.

Callum Roberts, professor in marine conservation, University of York

Symbols of Hate

Nicolas Anelka is a well travelled, highly paid, professional footballer and a recent convert to Islam apparently, so he has no excuses for making offensive anti-Semitic gestures.

Yet in a televised football match the other day Anelka celebrated his team (West Brom) scoring a goal by making a salute known in France as a 'quenelle' - its inventor being a controversial French comedian called Dieudonne who has been fined six times for insulting behaviour towards Jews. 

Despite the fact that more than 70,000 French Jews died during the Second World War and many more in the Nazi death camps, Dieudonne seems to think it's funny to describe the remembrance of Holocaust victims as 'memorial pornography' - an act of hateful stupidity for which he was fined 6,000 Euros in 2008.

Maybe the French authorities should threaten to lock him up and take away his liberty for a while if he continues to behave in this way and while Dieudonne claims that his gesture is anti-establishment not anti-Semitic - it's hard to see how this less well known Nazi salute can be interpreted any other way.

Presumably the French authorities agree otherwise he would not have been fined on so many occasions, but in any event Nicolas Anelka was dumb enough to follow Dieudonne's example - influenced by the fact that he calls the comedian a friend.     

West Bromwich Albion's striker Nicolas Anelka - photograph: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

Anelka's club, West Brom, failed to condemn their player's behaviour but the French minister for sport, Valerie Fourneyron, wasted no time in putting the boot in describing Anelka's behavious as "disgusting" and tweeting the following comment on Twitter:   

"Anelka's gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting. There's no place for antisemitism and incitement to hatred on the football field."
Dieudonne making his 'quenelle' salute.

Unsurprisingly, Jewish groups have made their views known as well with Dr Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress saying that it was "sickening that such a well-known footballer would make such an abusive and hateful gesture in front of tens of thousands of spectators".

"This salute is merely a lesser-known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute.This salute was created by a well-known extreme antisemite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering."

Now I am not a religious person, but presumably Nicolas Anelka is - if the footballer's recent conversion to Islam is anything to go by and perhaps his chum Dieudonne as well.  

Yet I can imagine the violent reaction that would take place in parts of the the Muslim world - if a similar, calculated insult had been directed towards Islam.

Ruled from the Grave

I enjoyed this opinion piece by Oliver Kamm which appeared in the Times recently and it struck me that the same things is happening in Venezuela where the creation of a personality cult around the former President, Hugo Chavez, is in full swing. 

But I suspect the Chavez cult will be less successful because, unlike North Korea, Venezuela is not shut off from the rest of the world.

Nightmare of a necrocracy that refuses to die

By Oliver Kamm

While other regimes fall, a nuclear North Korea survives with unrelenting tyranny

Even experienced analysts of North Korea are confounded by the purging of Chang Sung Taek, the country’s second most powerful official. It may indicate instability in the regime or it may cement the monolith. Nobody knows, for the absoluteness of North Korea’s tyranny is its defining characteristic.

It’s also the key to its survival long after other communist autocracies have collapsed. The tell-tale heart of the world’s most secretive state was exposed in a National Geographic documentary called Inside North Korea (2007). A Nepalese eye doctor entered the country and operated on hundreds of patients blinded by cataracts. When their bandages were removed and the patients emerged from darkness, every one of them gave effusive, weeping thanks — not to the surgeon but to Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader, and Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader.

The personality cult of the leader isn’t just extreme: it’s unlimited, and it’s the only culture North Korea’s people have. The regime has survived for 65 years — through war, famine and economic collapse — not by skill in statecraft but by enslaving its subjects in mind as well as body. Only a people without access to books, films, news, the internet and travel would find unremarkable the institution of necrocracy, rule by the dead. That is literally what North Korea has. Despite having been a corpse for 19 years, Kim Il Sung remains the country’s “eternal president”.

The regime’s longevity is in part fortuitous. North Korea’s 900-mile border with China gives Beijing an intense interest in ensuring that the regime does not collapse and spark a refugee crisis. The closeness of China, diplomatically and geographically, also preserves the regime from external intervention.

North Korea’s main support, however, is internal: terror plus nukes. On the evidence of their unrestrained adulation of the country’s dynastic tyranny, North Koreans are psychologically broken. There is no samizdat literature. Few accounts of those who have escaped have been published overseas. Long Road Home by Kim Yong, a former senior army officer who was consigned to a hellish prison camp in Hamgyong, tells of inmates who practise cannibalism in order to live. In a country where famine killed a reputed three million people in the 1990s, the struggle for survival is formidable outside the camps too. The few who make it to South Korea have found their lives still blighted by being physically stunted through poor diet and emotionally drained. There are credible reports that whole families in the prison camps have been gassed to death in glass chambers.

Why would such a state be treated as a negotiating partner by Western governments? Because it has conducted three nuclear tests. Neither punishment nor incentive has dissuaded the regime from its pursuit of a nuclear capability. It violated the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiated with the US under which it agreed to suspend work on graphite nuclear reactors. It has ignored sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in 2006 after its first nuclear test.

It would be fanciful for Western governments to imagine that North Korea is capable of abandoning its nuclear ambitions. South Korea’s Sunshine Policy of unconditional aid has likewise not deflected its neighbour. Pyongyang ploughs on because it cannot be other than what it is: an outlaw regime whose sole claim to legitimacy is an implicit nuclear threat.

What can the West do to defuse it? Very little, except wait. North Korea’s autocracy may crack when its subjects can no longer be completely insulated from the outside world. Some 70,000 mobile phones entered the country in 2009 — for the elite, and without the ability to call outside the country, but the technology may one day enable younger North Koreans to become proficient in texting and the internet. Sanctions on luxury goods may deplete the resources with which Kim Jong Un can buy the loyalty of his senior cadres. And Western nations can make human rights in North Korea central to their diplomacy in the region.

Symbolism is not nothing; the Helsinki Final Agreement with the USSR in 1975, with its declaratory commitment to human rights, gave heart to dissidents in the communist bloc. When, one day, North Koreans’ long nightmare is lifted, we will find one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in history. Planning on how to meet it can’t begin too soon.


I enjoyed this piece in the Private Eye which  drew the curtain on the sorry saga of Gordon Brown, the Labour Party and Damian 'Mad Dog' McBride.

Literary Review

In an effort to wring the last desperate drops of publicity out of his memoir, Damian McBride featured in the 16 October edition of The Week picking his six favourite books. Of particular note was what he described as his "desert-island book": Thomas Pynchon's 1997 epic Mason & Dixon.

For those unfamiliar with the work, its two main characters comprise a joyless man prone to suffering from paranoia and sudden rages, and his loyal, if boozy, assistant. 

What could Mad Dog see in it?

In fact, Pynchon's Mason is virtually a template for McBride's Brown. Upon discovering he has been passed over for the top job of Astronomer Royal, Mason's response is thus:

"Ahrrhh! Ruin! He pulls his Hat over his Eyes, and begins to pound his Head slowly upon the Table."

Compare and contrast with Brown's reaction to Cherie Blair upstaging his latest conference speech:

"He suppressed a roar of anger, but slumped sideways into the makeshift wall with a force which made me worry it would collapse."

Either that, or a book about two men who draw a line chosen by a man who regularly crossed it was too tempting to resist.

Royal Plonkers

I would not wish to belong to any club or group where women friends and family members are not welcome - but that mind set is not shared by these ridiculous plonkers from Edinburgh who have voted that their little golfing society would remain a 'men only' affair.

What an embarrassment to Scotland that such anti-women attitudes can still exist in this day and age - so well done to the Scotsman newspaper for highlighting the issue. 

So, I hope the pressure grows for all such clubs to be named and shamed - and removed from consideration of holding prestigious golf events because that will get up the buggers noses.  

Royal Burgess votes against allowing women members

Royal Burgess Golf Club, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford


THE oldest golfing society in the world has scrapped proposals to admit women members after less than a third of its membership supported it in a referendum.

Royal Burgess, the Edinburgh club which has been a male bastion since its formation in 1735, canvassed its membership over changing its stance.

But less than 30% of those eligible to vote were in favour of allowing women to join their ranks, with “no further action” planned over the issue.

A move to welcome women by the Royal Burgess, one of only ten royal golf clubs Scotland, would have brought pressure to bear on the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to follow suit, after this year’s Open Championship at Muirfield took place against a backdrop of controversy due to its men-only policy.

However, results of the poll among just over 600 members eligible to vote have been revealed privately to members on the club’s website after the referendum period closed last weekend.
The Scotsman has learned that the move to break down the male-only barriers at the Society, which was founded in 1735, is no longer being considered.

It is believed that 418 votes were cast in the referendum, which only took place after gaining narrow support - 69 votes to 64 - at an informal members’ meeting at the end of October.

That represented a turnout of 69%, with members answering a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the “possible change to our rules to allow ladies admission to our Society.”

Of those who took part in the poll, 43.3% voted ‘yes’ but a ‘no’ vote of 56.7% meant that only 29.8% of the members eligible to vote were in favour of the change.
The move required support from at least 50% of those balloted for the possible change to the club’s rules to then come under consideration at the next AGM.

There, it would have needed to receive a two-thirds majority for women to be admitted to the capital club.

Revealing the referendum result to members, club captain John Jarvie has admitted on the website that the matter is no longer up for consideration, stating: “Council have therefore determined that they will take no further action.”

It is not the first time that the subject of admitting women members has been raised at Royal Burgess, whose members include Jack Nicklaus, only to be quickly dismissed.

It is understood an ad hoc committee had previously “researched the subject of girls and ladies’ membership” on the back of a new mini section being approved at the 2012 AGM.

But, although a referendum of all eligible members of the society was recommended, the council at the time decided that no further action should be taken.

It is believed that an annual rates bill of £38,000 – the society had its rates relief lifted by the City of Edinburgh Council in 1998 due to its single-sex status – was part of the reason the matter was raised once again.

“Ladies caused no end of issues”

However, the referendum result comes on the back of some members threatening to resign if women were permitted membership. “Ladies caused no end of issues,” claimed one existing member at the aforementioned October meeting.

Graham Callander, the general manager of Royal Burgess, said yesterday that the referendum was an internal matter for the club, and it would be making no comment.

Shona Malcolm, chief executive officer of the Ladies’ Golf Union, the encompassing body for ladies’ amateur golf in Britain and Ireland, said: “It’s encouraging that 43% voted for change. If you went back ten years, I don’t think you would have anything like that voting for. We’re in a period of evolution. We don’t want to be forcing things, decisions have to come from within the clubs, and I’m sure there will be other single gender clubs that will ask their members the same question. Some may well change and some won’t.”

“I think it’s encouraging that clubs are taking this issue sufficiently seriously and are going to their members to give them the option. I very much respect the decision from the membership of any golf club, because if we didn’t have the members, we wouldn’t have the clubs themselves.”

She added: “We have quite a number of ladies clubs affiliated with the LGU and there seems to be very little appetite to bring in gentlemen members, so it works both ways.


The family of British doctor, Dr Abbas Khan, blame the murderous Syrian regime for his untimely death which I can well understand because while people do sometimes die in custody - it is unusual for such a terrible thing to happen on the verge of a person's release.

Dr Abbas Khan was not a combatant - the 32-year old orthopaedic surgeon went to Syria to help save not take lives, but he was captured last year in the city of Aleppo in November 2012 having travelled via Turkey to help victims of hospital bombings.

The Syrian authorities say Dr Abbas took his own life - yet strangely he wrote to his family back in the UK only recently to say he was hoping to return home for Christmas to be reunited with his wife and two young children.

Not the kind of behaviour you would expect from a suicidal prisoner - yet on 17 December the Syrian Government announced that Dr Abbas had died suddenly and unexpectedly in their custody. 

Sometimes you don't need hard evidence to realise that certain people are lying through their teeth.

Monday, 30 December 2013

National Treasure

Andrew Neil, presenter of the BBC's Daily Politics programme, is fast turning into a national treasure with his tough, but fair-minded interviewing style - which seldom allows a slippery politician to wriggle off the hook.

Not that long ago, in the 1980s, Neil - a fellow Scot - was pretty unpopular in certain circles for his decision to edit the Sunday Times back in the 1980s when Rupert Murdoch decided to relocate his News International titles from their traditional Fleet Street base to a new site in Wapping.    

The move was highly controversial at the time and led to a trail of strength with the print trade unions - which the unions eventually lost, but the battle cemented Neil's reputation tough, no-holds barred operator who was seen to be in league with the devil - also known as Rupert Murdoch.

Yet Neil proved himself subsequently to be no journalistic poodle because he famously fell out with the Wizard from Oz - criticising aspects of Murdoch's management style and ways of working - which meant Neil was cast out into the wilderness for a while before making a comeback through the BBC's Daily Politics programmes.

Slowly but surely Neil has made the programme his own, especially the later evening versions which give full rein to his rather quirky sense of humour which has brought back some much needed colour to political argument and debate on UK television.  

Without doubt Andrew Neil is the most effective interrogator of politicians plying their trade today - he is courteous to a fault, but not overly aggressive - always very well prepared and unflinching in his questioning which place him very much on the side of the viewer.

Neil continues to take stick from the Private Eye, the UK's best and only fortnightly satirical magazine, which delights in tweaking his tail with an famous photo allegedly showing the former newspaper editor strutting his stuff at a popular London nightclub with a young woman at his side.

But as they say, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all, so I very much doubt that Andrew Neil minds a bit of fun at his own expense - because far worse things can happen in life, you know.

Flat Earth Politics

Here's another offering from the Guardian's comment editor, Seumas Milne, who continues his very one-sided writings which condemn America, Britain and other western countries at every opportunity - yet have nothing to say about the vile regimes which previously controlled Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. 

I discovered only recently that privately educated Seumas was the former editor of the Straight Left magazine - the voice of a ridiculously pro-Soviet sect within the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) during the 1980s. 

So I wonder what Straight Left and/or Seumas had to say about the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1982 because I, for one, would find that very interesting - as background to his relentless criticism of the west. 

In any event, I hardly agree with a word of what Seumas has to say - his reference to the 'justification' used by the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby seem ridiculous to me and no more justified than the reasons given by Anders Breivik for committing mass murder in Norway.

Does Seumas, for example, agree with Michael Adebolajo that Allah chose the off-duty, unarmed soldier - and compelled them to run his victim down with a car before attempting to cut off his head? 

I think not, but why let a casual throwaway reference - get in the way of a good story.

As for the rest of his article, Seumas ignores the fact that al-Qaeda launched its murderous terrorist attack on 9/11 from a safe haven in Afghanistan where the Taliban allowed the group to operate freely, so simply sitting back and doing nothing was never an option from an invasion that was supported by the United Nations.  

In Libya, the former Gaddafi regime (a former ally of the Soviet Union of course) was about to commit mass murder against the country's internal opposition before western countries intervened - yet again the state of the country is down the the 'west' rather than the need for totalitarian, often tribal and religious, states to embrace democratic reforms based on sharing political power and respecting minority rights. 

As far as I can see, according to the word Seumas inhabits the 'west' is responsible for all of the problems of the world and never does right for doing wrong - presumably even in the former Yugoslavia (a former Soviet satellite state) - where ethnic cleansing and mass murder was prevented only by the threat and use of military action by NATO.

The new and peaceful countries which have emerged from the former Yugoslavia - Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Croatia - would no doubt beg to disagree with Seumas and his one-dimensional analysis about the pros and cons of intervention against tyrannical regimes.  

Many years ago I used to think of the followers of Straight Left as supporters of a one dimensional, 'flat earth' politics - and all this time later I've heard nothing to change my mind. 

Mission accomplished? Afghanistan is a calamity and our leaders must be held to account

British troops haven't accomplished a single one of their missions in Afghanistan. Like Iraq and Libya, it's a disaster

By Seumas Milne

'The wars unleashed or fuelled by the US, Britain and their allies over the past 12 years have been disastrous.' Illustration: Matt Kenyon

Of all the mendacious nonsense that pours out of politicians' mouths, David Cameron's claim that British combat troops will be coming home from Afghanistan with their "mission accomplished" is in a class all of its own. It's almost as if, by echoing George Bush's infamous claim of victory in Iraq in May 2003 just as the real war was beginning, the British prime minister is deliberately courting ridicule.

But British, American and other Nato troops have been so long in Afghanistan – twice as long as the second world war – that perhaps their leaders have forgotten what the original mission actually was. In fact, it began as a war to destroy al-Qaida, crush the Taliban and capture or kill their leaders, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

That quickly morphed into a supposed campaign for democracy and women's rights, a war to protect our cities from terror attacks, to eradicate opium production and bring security and good governance from Helmand to Kandahar. With the exception of the assassination of Bin Laden – carried out 10 years later in another country – not one of those goals has been achieved.

Instead, al-Qaida has mushroomed and spread throughout the Arab and Muslim world, engulfing first Iraq and now Syria. Far from protecting our streets from attacks, the war has repeatedly been cited as a justification for those carrying them out – most recently by Michael Adebolajo, who killed the Afghan war veteran Lee Rigby on the streets of London in May.

The Taliban is long resurgent, mounting 6,600 attacks between May and October this year and negotiating for a return to power. Mullah Omar remains at liberty. Afghan opium production is at a record high and now accounts for 90% of the world's supply. Less than half the country is now "safe for reconstruction", compared with 68% in 2009.

Meanwhile, women's rights are going into reverse, and violence against women is escalating under Nato occupation: 4,000 assaults were documented by Afghan human rights monitors in the first six months of this year, from rape and acid attacks to beatings and mutilation. Elections have been brazenly rigged, as a corrupt regime of warlords and torturers is kept in power by foreign troops, and violence has spilled over into a dangerously destabilised Pakistan.

All this has been at a cost of tens of thousands of Afghan civilian lives, along with those of thousands US, British and other occupation troops. But it's not as if it wasn't foreseen from the start. When the media were hailing victory in Afghanistan 12 years ago, and Tony Blair's triumphalism was echoed across the political establishment, opponents of the invasion predicted it would lead to long-term guerrilla warfare, large-scale Afghan suffering and military failure – and were dismissed by the politicians as "wrong" and "fanciful".

But that is exactly what happened. One study after another has confirmed that British troops massively increased the level of violence after their arrival in Helmand in 2006, and are estimated to have killed 500 civilians in a campaign that has cost between £25bn and £37bn. After four years they had to be rescued by US forces. But none of the political leaders who sent them there has been held accountable for this grim record.

It was the same, but even worse, in Iraq. The occupation was going to be a cakewalk, and British troops were supposed to be past masters at counter-insurgency. Opponents of the invasion again predicted that it would lead to unrelenting resistance until foreign troops were driven out. When it came to it, defeated British troops were forced to leave Basra city under cover of darkness.

But six years later, who has paid the price? One British corporal has been convicted of war crimes and the political elite has shuffled off responsibility for the Iraq catastrophe on to the Chilcot inquiry – which has yet to report nearly three years after it last took evidence. Given the dire lack of coverage and debate about what actually took place, maybe it's not surprising that most British people think fewer than 10,000 died in a war now estimated to have killed 500,000.

But Iraq wasn't the last of the disastrous interventions by the US and Britain. The Libyan war was supposed to be different and acclaimed as a humanitarian triumph. In reality not only did Nato's campaign in support of the Libyan uprising ratchet up the death toll by a factor of perhaps 10, giving air cover to mass ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate killing. Its legacy is a maelstrom of warring militias and separatist rebels threatening to tear the country apart.

Now the west's alternative of intervention-lite in Syria is also spectacularly coming apart. The US, British and French-sponsored armed factions of the Free Syrian Army have been swept aside by jihadist fighters and al-Qaida-linked groups – first spawned by western intelligence during the cold war and dispersed across the region by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The wars unleashed or fuelled by the US, Britain and their allies over the past 12 years have been shameful. Far from accomplishing their missions, they brought untold misery, spread terrorism across the world and brought strategic defeat to those who launched them. In the case of Afghanistan all this looks likely to continue, as both the US and Britain plan to keep troops and bases there for years to come.

By any objective reckoning, failures on such a scale should be at the heart of political debate. But instead the political class and the media mostly avert their gaze and wrap themselves in the flag to appease a war-weary public. The first sign that this might be changing was the unprecedented parliamentary vote against an attack on Syria in August. But the democratisation of war and peace needs to go much further. Rather than boasting of calamitous missions, the politicians responsible for them must be held to account.

Table Top Rage

I read in one of the papers recently that the former Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was prone to bouts of 'table top' rage. 

An adviser to the current Conservative/Lib Dem Government, Oliver Letwin, explained how learned about the tale of the pockmarked desk from the Cabinet Secretary at Downing Street, which he recounted as follows: 

“Danny Alexander and I moved into part of No 12 Downing Street, which Brown had turned into his horseshoe-shaped centre of command, behind which there was a little room called the snug, which looked out over Whitehall.

"There was a little mahogany table [where] we sat down to begin work with some civil servants.

"As we worked through the night, I became more and more interested in the fact that this rather beautifully laminated table had a very large number of tiny pock marks on it and I said to the cabinet secretary, 'What are these?'

"He roared with laughter and said, 'Oh this was Mr Brown's snug and he had his pen and he'd get very angry and he'd go like this' (mimicking downward stabbing motions)."

Politics is indeed a strange old business.

Criminal Justice

I hope Scotland's criminal justice system delivers a harsh sentence on Darren Murphy (25) who has been convicted of culpable homicide following his violent and unprovoked attacked on another man John Morrison (50) - who was enjoying a Christmas night out in Glasgow last year. 

I'm not sure what the maximum sentence for culpable homicide is in Scotland, but the equivalent crime in England and Wales of 'manslaughter' can result in a life sentence - although this is rarely used. 

But I struggle to understand why more crimes involving manslaughter or culpable homicide are not handed down life sentences - because the risk of killing someone from with 'sucker punch' is very high, particularly if the person doing the punching is much bigger and stronger than the victim, as explained in this new report from the BBC. 

Not only was Mr Morrison walking away from his attacker, Darren Murphy then left him lying in the street to go off to a nightclub and then lied in court about what had happened - all of which suggests to me that he should go to prison for a very long time.  
I note that the advocate representing this scumbag in court was Donald Findlay QC - one of the most eminent and expensive lawyers in Scotland.

Darren Murphy guilty of killing John Morrison in Glasgow

Mr Morrison died after being found in Glasgow's Argyle Street

A man has been convicted of killing a former East Dunbartonshire council leader days before Christmas last year.

Darren Murphy, 25, punched 50-year-old John Morrison on the head in Dunlop Street, Glasgow, on 22 December, causing him to fall over.

Mr Morrison died after striking his head on the ground. Murphy left him in the street to go to a nightclub.

He claimed to have acted in self defence but was convicted of culpable homicide at the High Court in Glasgow.

Murphy's bail was continued at the High Court in Glasgow until sentencing in January.

Mr Morrison - the former Lib-Dem leader of East Dunbartonshire Council - was attacked in the early hours of 22 December last year.

The lawyer had earlier been on a festive night out with colleagues from Glasgow City Council, where he worked as a legal manager.

His friend and work-mate Jennifer McMartin told the jury: "He was in really good form that night.

"He said he was in a good place in his life both professionally and personally having met his partner David."

The court was shown CCTV of footage of Mr Morrison later in the city's Argyle Street close to the St Enoch Centre.

Murphy and his friends were in the same area heading to the Arches Nightclub.'Fright' claim

Friend Samantha Mulgrew claimed during the trial that Mr Morrison, of Milngavie, suddenly appeared next to her mumbling, which gave her a "fright".

For some reason, Murphy and his group then turned on the solicitor.

CCTV showed the group heading towards him before one pushed Mr Morrison as he appeared to be walking away.

Seconds later - and out of shot - 6ft 1in tall Murphy then punched Mr Morrison in the face.

“Your friends appeared to have tried to cover up for you and your lack of frankness continued in your evidence”Judge Norman Ritchie QC

Murphy then carried on to the nightclub.

Mr Morrison died in the street despite medics coming to his aid.

The ferocity of the blow had also broken his eye socket and nose.

Murphy's friend Ms Mulgrew later told police that he had landed a "proper punch" on the ex-council leader.

But, during the trial, Murphy, of the city's Bridgeton area, denied he had punched Mr Morrison - instead claiming he had "hit him with a palm" to get him away.

Murphy insisted he had "felt threatened" by Mr Morrison that night.

His QC Donald Findlay asked: "There was an implication that this was you being cowardly...that a fair reflection of events?" Murphy denied that.'Felt sick'

Murphy then claimed he did not know Mr Morrison was seriously hurt at the time - but when he later discovered he died he "felt sick".

Prosecutor Paul Kearney said the killer had lied during evidence adding: "You went back to sort out Mr Morrison and punched him." Murphy replied: "No."

The court also heard Murphy demanded friend Graeme Thomson did not say to police he had punched the lawyer.

Murphy told the jury: "Those words did not cross my mouth."

Murphy will sentenced next month after temporary judge Norman Ritchie QC adjourned the case for reports.

The judge told him: "May I say at this stage that it is plain your character before this was a good one - but I have not been impressed with your conduct since this time.

"Your friends appeared to have tried to cover up for you and your lack of frankness continued in your evidence."

First offender Murphy cried at the verdict while at least two female jurors also broke down.

A large group of Mr Morrison's family - including his partner of five years David Evans - were seen sobbing as the killer was convicted.

One said as she left the courtroom: "That's justice for John."

Gender Apartheid

Apartheid is normally used in relation to racial segregation in South Africa, but gender apartheid seems like a perfectly fair description of the attempts being made to by religious fundamentalists to enforce a separation the sexes - at public events in the UK. 

Apartheid supporters in South Africa made their case against different racial groups being allowed to associate and mix together freely which they said was part of their cultural tradition and belief system, but this was rejected as an apology for racial discrimination - and rightly too. 

So, I agree with Janice Turner in this recent opinion piece from the Times - secular principles and gender equality needs to be defended.

Female equality needs doughtier defenders

By Janice Turner

Politicians and university authorities must find courage to resist radical Islam’s push for segregation

What with funeral selfies and imperilling due legal process in the Grillo sisters’ trial, the Prime Minister clearly had no time until yesterday to absorb the Universities UK (UUK) report sanctioning gender segregation.

Perhaps David Willetts, the Universities Minister, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, were likewise toiling too hard for #TeamNigella to address a landmark ruling thatcaused uproar among academics and students. Maybe they assumed it came under the remit of women and equalities or faith and communities. Funny, then, that we heard neither from Maria Miller nor Sayeeda Warsi.

The silence of the ministers ended yesterday, when the Education Secretary called upon UUK to withdraw its guidance: “we should not pander to extremism” he said. That was Michael Gove author of the 2006 treatise Celsius 7/7, a searing critique of Islamism’s conflict with modernity, rather than Michael Gove, progenitor of the al-Madinah Free School in Derby, closed down after it was found to seat girl pupils at the back of class and force even non-believer women teachers to wear Islamic garb.

Then only after demonstrations, petitions, and academics flooding the UUK website did Downing Street eventually act and the UUK ruling was finally withdrawn.

Its guidelines always resembled that archetypal academic attire, a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches: effortful political correctness overladen with swatches of cultural-relativism, the end result misshapen and unwearable.

If a speaker insisted upon men and women being seated separately, UUK ruled, they should be side by side. And if objectors, feminists perhaps, opposed this gender segregation, they could request an area of mixed seating. But “ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes thegenuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.” My italics. So, in the event of a stalemate, religious belief systems trump secular ones.

According to a report by the anti-extremist group Student Rights, 46 gender-divided meetings were held in British universities in the past year. Organisers announced that “segregation would be provided to the best of our abilities”, offered separate entrances for “brothers” and “sisters”, women often confined to the rear of lecture theatres or separate rooms with video links. These events were not held in mosques or other religious buildings, but in our publicly funded educational institutions. Nor was it a question of women preferring to sit with female friends: they were compelled.

UUK said helpfully that a university should ask “what reasons does the speaker. . . give for the event to be segregated?” Which is the big question, but an even bigger one is: just how hard do you ask it? Do you accept surface justifications, such as those offered by Saleem Chagtai, of IERA (the Islamic Education and Research Academy), on the Today programme that its meetings have “a religious as well as a political dimension”? Or do you keep pressing, as presenter Mishal Husain did, until you hit a bedrock of misogyny and abject nonsense?

Mr Chagtai said “psychological studies” had shown men and women are more comfortable when seated apart. The IERA website publishes headshots of male speakers but not its female ones, he said, because Islam was opposed to “wanton depictions of women”. Yes, women’s faces are wanton, a temptation for men; cover them up!

A friend raised in a rich Pakistani family recalls the segregated gatherings of her youth. Men talking politics, power, and work, whilethe women conversed about marriage and children. I was reminded of Margaret Thatcher failing to secure a Tory seat in the 1950s because constituency business was done among the men over port.

And the intent of Islamist speakers is to shift norms: to make gender segregation in universities not an outrageous request but a reasonable one. In surrendering to requests perhaps UUK members were considering their finances. As Abdurraheem Green, chairman of IERA, remarked darkly, if Muslim students must sit in mixed-sex groups at a particular institution, they might study elsewhere: “Such behaviour is not in the economic interests of universities or indeed the country as a whole.” Was this why Mr Willetts stayed silent? He recently visited the hugely wealthy Qatar Foundation, which sponsors Qatari students to study in Britain, and he knows that one of the largest investors in UK universities is now Saudi Arabia.

The UUK ruling may have been defeated, but the challenges to secular principles that enshrine equality will go on. The push for gender segregation, for women to give evidence in court while veiled, for Sharia to be recognised, for girls’ school uniforms in state schools to be ever more restrictive, shrouding and “Islamic”, are continuing demands. Gender apartheid is not a sideshow of radical Islam, but intrinsic to it. And rather than our universities tying themselves in philosophical knots or our government ministers remaining silent, we need a robust and rapid response.