Posts Tagged ‘Cabinet Office’

The Israel Lobby, Liam Fox and the Planned Bombing of Iran

September 27, 2016

I found a few more bits and pieces on the Israel Lobby going through some more recent back issues of Lobster on the net. I know there’s a risk of sounding fixated with them, but much of the hostility against Jeremy Corbyn from the Blairites is directly due to the Blairite’s strong connections to the lobby. The lobby’s influence is also extremely strong in the media, which is why, apart from the space given to ludicrous allegations of anti-Semitism against perfectly decent people, you rarely hear reports condemning the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And it seems that it was the machinations of the Israel lobby that nearly got us involved in an American-Israeli plot to bomb Iran.

Liam Fox and Werrity Scandal

Remember the scandal that erupted a few years ago over the improper relationship between Dr. Liam Fox, then Secretary of State for Defence, and his adviser, Adam Werrity. Werrity had been Fox’s flatmate. Fox was nearly prosecuted for breaching various ministerial codes of conduct over his relationship with Werrity. He met Werrity over 40 times both abroad and in the Ministry of Defence, and a full report revealing Fox’s misdeeds was published by the cabinet secretary, Gus O’Donnell. This revealed that Fox had not informed his permanent secretary that he had tried to obtain funds for Werrity, and had blocked other civil servants from attending meetings alongside him. Fox had also ignored calls to distance himself from him.

See Lobster 65, ‘Tittle-Tattle’, by Tom Easton.

All that was covered in the media, if I recall correctly. I think Mike also wrote a few pieces about it, as it’s yet another example of the ministerial corruption that soon accompanies the Tories into office.

About a year and a half previously, in Lobster 62, Robin Ramsay in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, discussed a piece about the Werrity scandal by Craig Murray in his blog. Murray was the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who lost his job because he dared to start making waves about how corrupt and brutal the Uzbek dictator was. It was information that the British government and business establishment really didn’t want to hear, or the public knowing, as they were desperate to conclude various trade deals. So Murray got the sack.

In his article, Murray revealed that at last someone in the mainstream media had had the courage to talk about the possibility that the Werrity affair was part of a operation by the Israeli secret services, and stated that this had been a major concern of the MOD and government officials. He wrote

‘A mainstream media source has finally plucked up the courage to publish the widespread concern among MOD, Cabinet Office and FCO officials and military that the Werritty operation was linked to, and perhaps controlled by, Mossad – something which agitated officials have been desperately signalling for some days.

“Officials expressed concern that Fox and Werritty might even have been in freelanced iscussions with Israeli intelligence agencies” write Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian.

As I have been explaining, the real issue here is a British defence secretary who had a parallel advice structure designed expressly to serve the interests of
another state and linked to that state’s security services. That is not just a sacking offence, it is treasonable.’

Ramsay goes on to state that in a later article, Murray cited answers to questions he and Jeremy Corbyn had put to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to show that the Werrity scandal wasn’t an intelligence operation, but part of the preparations for an ‘Anglo-British-Israeli’ attack on Iran. I think Ramsay might mean that the attack was planned by America, Britain and Israel. Unless Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh devolution had gone much further than everyone knew.

Ramsay then remarks that Murray didn’t comment on the incompetence of using Werrity, the Defence Secretary’s bagman, as part of the plot, and suggests that the bizarre dealings had been deliberately exposed by Whitehall civil servants determined to stop the attack going ahead.

This seems all too plausible to me. Netanyahu was desperately trying to get America to attack Iran, including scaremongering about Iran being a few months away from having a nuclear bomb. This was rubbish. Netanyahu’s generals and his own intelligence services told him so. But this didn’t stop the old butcher turning up in front of Congress or the UN with entirely fraudulent diagram to hawk his lies. Fortunately, nobody believed him, which is why the situation in the Middle East hasn’t become very much worse.

This little incident also adds yet more information explaining why the Israel lobby has such desperate hatred for Corbyn. Not only is one of the few politicians genuinely trying to stand up for the rights of the Palestinians against their oppression and brutalisation by the Israelis, he’s also an obstacle to the foreign policy objectives. Netanyahu, his hawks and the neocons in Britain and America wanted to attack Iran, and he and Murray helped prevent them from doing so. Hence the splenetic attempts to portray him and his supporters as anti-Semites, when they are no such thing.

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Vox Political on the Government’s Plan to Waste Money Writing on Vellum

February 15, 2016

Earlier today Mike posted up on his website a piece from the Guardian, reporting that the government had blocked proposals from the House of Lords, which would hav seen the official copies of acts of parliament switched from being written on vellum, to printed on archival paper. The change would save about £80,000 a year. However, Matt Hancock, a spokesman for the Cabinet Office, stated that some traditions were too important to change.

Now I actually do believe in tradition, always depending, of course, on what the tradition is. But this is just nonsensical. I’ve used vellum myself – it’s a very tough, very durable material. There are documents written on vellum that have survived for more than a thousand years, like the Domesday Book, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. But the archival paper they wish to use to replace vellum sounds almost as tough, if not as. This will last 500 hundred years. I can believe it, because as an historian and archaeologist, I’ve examined documents written on early paper. By and large, the paper used in Britain from the 16th to the mid-19th century is extremely tough and durable. Of course it depends on how it’s treated, but it doesn’t degrade easily and some of the documents from the 19th century are better preserved than modern printed material.

And if we’re talking about the long-term survival of paper documents, just think about the Oxyrhinchus Papyri. These are Graeco-Roman and ancient Egyptian documents on papyrus from ancient Egypt, which date from the 3-4th centuries AD. Scholars are still going through them and discovering new, and often previously lost texts illuminating the life of people in Egypt and generally in the Roman Empire from well over a millennium and a half ago. And this is despite the fact that the stuff was thrown out on the fields and used as fertiliser.

Really, when ordinary citizens are suffering serious cuts to their benefits, cuts that threaten their very lives, it’s ridiculous for parliament to waste such amounts of money on tradition. This just shows the Cabinet to be obstinate, bloody-minded and indifferent to the suffering of ordinary people, but indulgent when it comes to their own petty tastes. Traditions change and evolve. So must this.

Private Eye on Think Tanks Funding Political Conferences

February 16, 2015

One of the key causes in the corruption of British politics has been the way the different political parties are being lobbied and funded by the same, almost exclusively right-wing think tanks. These organisations provide the parties with advisors and sponsor debates and events at the various political conferences. As a result, while the parties themselves have changed, the Thatcherite policies they have pursued have remained unchallenged. Not only is this influence corrupt in itself, but it’s also led to the British voting public becoming alienated and disenfranchised. They feel with some justification, that there is little difference between the parties, and that they are being sidelined and ignored in favour of big business.

Private Eye published a piece on this issue in their edition of 21st September – 4th October 2012, listing the various think tanks and describing their links to various politicians and ministers.

Conference Callers

Party members may see conference season as their chance to be heard, but judging by the brochures put out by think tanks, the grassroots will have a job making it past better-funded rivals from the business lobby.

Over the summer, the Eye acquired prospectuses from several think tanks looking to recruit sponsors for debates at the forthcoming Tory, Lib Dem and Labour conferences.

Reform, a think tank with Tory links, tells potential sponsors it can set up “successful events attended by ministers and shadow ministers, special advisors, MPs, MEPs and council leaders”, among them minister for welfare reform Lord Freud, housing minister Mark Prisk, employment minister Mark Hoban and the Foreign Office’s Henry Bellingham.

Lest anyone mistake the purpose, any “partner organisation” – ie company willing to pay for access – can use roundtable events or dinners with “around 20 high-level participants” to put their own “insights into the relevant policy debate at the beginning of the meeting”.

Not to be outdone, ResPublica, run by David Cameron’s “Red Tory” guru Phillip Blond, offers potential “partners” a chance for “intimate discussion over diner with select stakeholders and policymakers”, plus the opportunity to “contribute” to the choice of subject and speaker for meetings with ministers.

Meanwhile the Social Market Foundation (SMF) is touting “an excellent standard of service to our sponsors”, including the chance to “shape the key questions for debate” and “input into the speaker line-up”, with top totty on offer to include Lord Freud (again), Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, prisons and probation minister Crispin Blunt, universities minister David Willetts and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Trendy think tank Demos urges companies to cough up for events and roundtables potentially hosted by the prime minister or chancellor, with sponsors getting the chance for “conversations that link their policy agenda to contemporary political issues”. And Policy Exchange, the Cameroonian think tank, trumpets its “competitive sponsorship package”: as well as potential access to ministers, a few broad themes scheduled for debate will be honed after … conversations with sponsors.

Think tanks have tax-free charitable status based on their lofty aims to improve public policy. How does offering commercial interests the chance to pitch ideas to ministers over dinner fit that mission?

Clearly, it doesn’t. If politics in Britain is to be improved, and its people to be given a genuine choice between the parties, and have a real voice in how their country is governed, the corporatists think tanks need to be thrown out. Removing their charitable status, except for those rare occasions where they might, actually, represent charities, would be a start.

From 2011: Government Appoints A4E to Design Contracts for Private Welfare Schemes

April 8, 2014

This is another story from Private Eye, this time from 2011. According to the Eye for 30th September – 13th October 2011, the government was awarding A4E the contract for designing the rules under which A4E, amongst other contractors, would bid to provide public welfare and social services.

Welfare Reform

Contract Claws

The Cabinet Office has appointed A4E, one of the government’s biggest contractors, to design the kind of contracts for which it will itself bid.

A4E will design the “payments by results” rules for the welfare contracts funded by “social impact bonds”, the government’s new big idea for public services. By putting its main welfare contractor in charge of designing welfare contracts, the department is effectively repeating one of the central failure of the private finance initiative.

The contract is worth up to £300,000 and covers pilot schemes in four regions to help families with multiple problems. Private investors fund welfare and social work schemes and the government then pays the investors back over years based on the public money “saved” by unemployed people finding work or ex-offenders staying out of jail.

The Cabinet Office is seeking “more innovative financiers, with a bigger appetite for risk”, so it will take very tight contracts to prevent these aggressive investors getting big returns over long periods for ill-defined “savings”, as the PFI example shows. Asking A4E to guarantee the “robustness of the savings estimates” seems perverse as the firm has repeatedly failed to give good results on its existing welfare-to-work contracts (Eyes passim), and it has every interest in government contracts being as soft as possible.

A4E may be excluded from bidding for the contracts it is drawing up in Birmingham, Leicestershire, Hammersmith and Westminster (all Conservative councils); but exclusion is not automatic; A4E is being asked to guard against “cream skimming/cherry picking” and ensure “value for money” – but critics say that A4E is itself guilty of the former and does not offer the latter.

Such conflicts of interest and soft corruption are, of course, no strangers to welfare reform and the public-private contracts governments since Maggie Thatcher’s have pursued. The Skwawkbox today blogged on the close links between George Osborne and the company, which bought up many of the Royal Mail shares at a discount. Way back in the 1990s, one of big accountancy firms being employed by Major’s government to adjudicate the bids of companies competing for a government contract, then decided to bid themselves as they decided they were the best candidate. A4E in this instance is merely part of a long line of such cases. It was all part of the ‘sleaze’ of the Major years, of which a French politician said ‘You call it ‘sleaze’. In France we simply call it corruption.’ The point of such contracts in any case isn’t to guarantee quality of service, or provide transparency and accountability, but simply to award lucrative government money to big companies that will then reward the politicians concerned with directorships.