Ancient race: a blotched blue-tongue lizard and its offspring, Sydney Zoo, February 2014. Photo: Getty
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Psycho lizards from Saturn: The godlike genius of David Icke!

The latest iteration of Icke’s meta-narrative involves the Archons, an ancient race of reptilian psychopaths who have hijacked our perception of reality in the manner of The Matrix.

Midway through Awaken!! – David Icke’s marathon Wembley Arena show – two men are outside, smoking. “Another four hours, innit?” sighs one. His friend sighs back, “He’s very open-minded, isn’t he?”

The man who bills himself as “the world’s biggest maverick and unique freethinker” has the stamina of Fidel Castro. Notwithstanding breaks and musical interludes, Icke’s last ever big UK event is, in essence, a day-long lecture to “join the dots” and show “how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

In pink shirt and black slacks, the 62-year-old paces the stage for hours with help from hundreds of slides but no notes or refreshments. Chummy rather than shrill, he deploys jokes, PG-rated profanity (“fricking”) and crowd-pleasing digs at his detractors.

Icke’s mission to promote “infinite consciousness” started badly when the former BBC Grandstand presenter called a press conference in 1991 and described himself as a “son of the Godhead”. When asked subsequently on Terry Wogan’s chat show if he was claiming to be the Son of God, he did not disagree. Intense public derision followed but Icke has since become a prolific author, lecturer and anti-hero of alternative media.

During that period, the world has become increasingly Icke-friendly. Like the Icke admirer Russell Brand, he appeals to those who have lost faith in politics and the mainstream media and are hungry for counter-narratives. Everything from the financial crisis to rumours of a Westminster paedophile ring wins him new followers.

From what I can see, Icke’s fan base is diverse, friendly and overwhelmingly normal-seeming. “I’m surprised there aren’t more people wearing tie-dyed clothes,” says Rupert, a Londoner who has worked with Icke. “Everyone looks well dressed and quite well-off.”

“Some people would expect tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists but they’re not at all,” agrees Paula, a middle-aged woman who discovered Icke two years ago. “I was Labour, very left. Not any more. My eyes opened to a whole different world.”

Icke plays a numbers game, covering so much ground that nobody could agree with all of it but everyone can find something. On the subject of bankers, Gaza or austerity, he uses the language of the left; turning to man-made climate change or “the centralised fascist-communist bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU”, he speaks fluent Ukip. He appeals to New Age health buffs with attacks on vaccines and the food giant Monsanto; and to conspiracy theorists with hypotheses about 9/11. “People say I see conspiracies everywhere,” he says. “I don’t. I see one conspiracy that takes different forms.”

The latest iteration of Icke’s meta-narrative involves the Archons, an ancient race of reptilian psychopaths who have hijacked our perception of reality in the manner of the film The Matrix. The Archons have blinded humans to the real world, which resembles that in Avatar, and are creating a dystopian society, à la The Hunger Games. This inverted reality is being broadcast from Saturn via the Moon, which is hollow.

Some might consider the Archon business fatal to Icke’s credibility but his fans happily compartmentalise. “It’s not about our differences,” says a man calling himself Mr SiNX. “He can get people from different ideologies to look at the similarities.”

Icke is hard to pin down. His obsession with the Rothschilds suggests a possible coded anti-Semitism but then he also blames Al Gore, Bill Gates, Jimmy Savile, Google, the UN, the BBC and the Queen. He perceives Saturn’s iconography in Katy Perry videos, Monsters, Inc, the hand gestures of Jay-Z and Angela Merkel and Father Christmas. “Santa is an anagram of Satan,” he explains.

Nobody claps that bit but the applause steadily mounts throughout the day. During the climactic section, he closes his eyes, extends his arms and chokes up a little while clicking through well-known quotations illustrated in the style of inspirational Facebook infographics. Although Icke dislikes religion, his meta-narrative is basically religion without God: the Archons can be defeated by peace, love and a “revolution” in consciousness. It’s an attractively simple conclusion and the crowd roars.

It is striking how few people leave early. As the ranks of the politically disaffected grow, so, too, will his constituency. “It’s been very interesting,” reflects Lucy, a student from Bath. “I don’t assign myself to any group or party. I see myself as an individual thinker.”

Towards the end, Icke surveys his tribe with pleasure. “They told me 25 years ago, ‘You’re finished. You can’t go any further after all that ridicule.’” He smiles and raises his arms. “Watch me.” 

Dorian Lynskey is a journalist living in London. He blogs at:

33RevolutionsPerMinute.wordpress.com

This article first appeared in the 29 October 2014 issue of the New Statesman, British jihadis fighting with Isis

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.