Posts Tagged ‘Lobbyists’

Private Eye on ChangeUK MP Stephen Dorrell’s Role in Disastrous and Exploitative Tory Policies

May 1, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 3rd – 16th May 2019 has an article about the major role the former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell played in creating and promoting the disastrous Tory policies of rail privatisation, the Private Finance Initiative and the privatisation of the NHS. These are policies which the magazine speculates will make him unpalatable to those centrist Labour voters that ChangeUK hopes to appeal to. The article runs

The adoption of former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell as a Change UK candidate in the European elections may be a Tory too far for ex-Labour voters wanting to switch to the centrist cause.

Dorrell’s Tory CV harks all the way back to the dying days of the Thatcher era when he was a whip – a supposedly “wet” Tory helping push through her ultra “dry” policies.

Under John Major, he became a Treasury minister, active in the Rail Privatisation Group behind the sale of the railways. Against expert advice, Dorrell was one who pushed for separation of responsibility between trains and track – with dire results. Railtrack, the privatised track operator, eventually collapsed after lethal crashes caused by poor maintenance.

As health secretary it was Dorrell who began the 20-year disaster of the private finance initiative (PFI) in the NHS. “I am a strong supporter of the PFI,” he told the Commons, calling PFI “the best opportunity that we have had in the history of the NHS” to “deliver the best healthcare.” It wasn’t. And it didn’t.

Dorrell launched a failed bid for the party leadership in 1997 and never held a ministerial job again. Later, under the coalition, he was seen as a critic of Andrew lansley’s NHS reforms – but not too loud a critic.

Having left parliament in 2015, he has kept up his interest in giving corporations access to the NHS, chairing Public Policy Projects, a subscription-based outfit “focused on the big issues in health and social care”. His group arranges breakfasts and receptions for businesses to meet political and NHS insiders. Recent events have included meals iwth health secretary Matt Hancock, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire, Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan and top NHS officials.

Dorrell has also worked as a healthcare and public services adviser to KPMG since 2014; and last year became an “associate” of Cratus Communications, a lobbyist for developers. If Change UK really wants to fix the UK’s “broken politics”, it may have to cast its net a little wider. (P. 7).

These are all very good reasons why genuine Labour voters shouldn’t vote for him. But they’re also reasons why traditional Labour voters shouldn’t vote for any of the former Labour MPs in Change UK. All of the so-called Labour ‘centrists’ are really nothing of the sort. They’re red Tories, as fanatically keen on privatisation and the dismantlement of the NHS for the profit of private healthcare firms as the Conservatives. Blair was responsible for the introduction of much of the legislation allowing the NHS to purchase services from private healthcare providers, including the operation of the health centres and polyclinics, which he hoped would be run by private firms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to become simply a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare firms.

The real centrists and moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, who wish to renationalise the NHS, the rail companies, water and part of the national grid. These are policies both the Tories, Change UK and the Labour ‘centrists’ loathe and detest. Just as they loathe and detest his plans to renew and strengthen the welfare state and give workers back proper employment rights and powerful trade unions able to defend them.

As Mike, Zelo Street and the various other left-wing bloggers have described on their sites, Change UK and its mixture of former Tory and Blairite Labour MPs shows that there really isn’t any difference between the two.

Private Eye’s article is thus a very good reason not to vote for Dorrell personally nor his wretched party in general. And the solid support for Blair’s own privatisation and destruction of the welfare state by Change UK’s former Labour MPs and their fellows still in the Labour party also demonstrates why working people need to see a genuine socialist Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn once again in power and winning elections, from the European all the way to Westminster.

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Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part One

March 18, 2018

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, alerted me the other day about a decision by YouTube. Apparently they’re planning to link any posts about conspiracies to pages in Wikipedia debunking them. She’s understandably very concerned about this because it is the first step to policing our minds, and telling us all what we should or should not believe.

There are indeed some very pernicious conspiracy theories around, which do need debunking. Like the stupid, murderous ideas that the Jews are conspiring through their control of the banks, media and Communism to destroy the White, ‘Aryan’ races. Or that they have been actively trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs since the days of Mohammed. And then there’s all the nutty ideas about the US government being in cahoots with evil reptoid aliens from Zeta Reticulum. And so on.

But there are also real conspiracies. Lobster as a magazine is dedicated to exposing them. Mostly these real conspiracies are about clandestine groups of activists, ideologues, business leaders, lobbyists and various intelligences agencies conspiring towards distinct short-term goals. Like the implementation of a set of policies, like neoliberalism, and attacking and undermining Communism during the Cold War. Or producing suitable pretexts for more western imperialism, like the Neocons in the US and Britain started faking material to suggest Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

These conspiracies certainly exist. And when Al-Jazeera showed Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy discussing with various Friends of Israel the people he wanted in May’s cabinet, Mike rightly called it a conspiracy. But because he used the term, the Blairites and Zionists in the Labour party have accused him of being anti-Semitic, because ‘conspiracy’ = the bogus, malign conspiracy theories of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other malign lies of that sort.

Lobster had published a number of articles over the years on the difference between real and fake conspiracy theories. One of these was by Jeffrey M. Bale in issue 29, entitled ”Conspiracy Theories’ and Clandestine Politics’, on pages 16-17, 19-22. It’s part of the introductory chapter to his Ph.D. thesis, The ‘Black’ Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the ‘Strategy of Tension’ in Italy, 1968-1974, University of California at Berkeley, 1994. He begins by discussing why mainstream academic writers ignore real conspiracies. He writes

Very few notions generate as much intellectual resistance, hostility and derision with academic circles as a belief in the historical importance or efficacy of political conspiracies. Even when this belief is expressed in a very cautious manner, limited to specific and restricted contexts, supported by reliable evidence, and hedged about with all sort of qualifications, it still manages to transcend the boundaries of acceptable discourse and violate unspoken academic taboos. The idea that particular groups of people meet together secretly or in private to plan various courses of action, and that some of these plans actually exert a significant influence on particular historical developments, is typically rejected out of hand and assumed to be the figment of a paranoid imagination. The mere mention of the world ‘conspiracy’ seems to set off an internal alarm bell which causes scholars to close their minds in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and possible unpleasantness, since the popular image of conspiracy both fundamentally challenges the conception most educated, sophisticate people about how the world operates, and reminds them of the horrible persecution that absurd and unfounded conspiracy theories have precipitated or sustained in the past. So strong is this prejudice among academics that even when clear evidence of a plot is inadvertently discovered in the course of their research, they frequently feel compelled, either out of a sense of embarrassment or to defuse anticipated criticism, to preface their account of it by ostentatiously disclaiming a belief in conspiracies. They then often attempt to downplay the significance of the plotting they have uncovered. To do otherwise, that is to make a serious effort to incorporate the documented activities of conspiratorial groups into their general political or historical analyses, would force them to stretch their mental horizons beyond customary bounds and, not inadvertently, delve even further into certain sordid and politically sensitive topics. Most academic researchers clearly prefer to ignore the implications of conspiratorial politics altogether rather than deal directly with such controversial matters.

A number of complex cultural and historical factors contribute to this reflexive and unwarranted reaction, but it is perhaps most often the direct result of a simple failure to distinguish between ‘conspiracy theories’ in the strict sense of the term, which are essentially elaborate fables even though they may well be based upon a kernel of truth, and the activities of actual clandestine and covert political groups, which are a common feature of modern politics. For this and other reasons, serious research into genuine conspiratorial networks has at worst been suppressed, as a rule been discouraged, and at best looked upon with condescension by the academic community. An entire dimension of political history and contemporary politics has thus been consistently neglected. (P. 16).

The article goes on to discuss some of the classic, bogus conspiracy theories, like those around the Bavarian Illuminati, or Prince Clemens von Metternich’s claim in the 1880s that there was a central committee in Paris directing all the radicals in Europe in their campaigns to overthrow their governments; and the murderous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He distinguishes the common elements amongst these malign conspiracies. These theories state that the members of the conspiratorial group are evil incarnate. They are monolithic and unerring when pursuing their goals. They are omnipresent and virtually omnipotent, and are the motive force of all history.

He contrasts this with real conspiracies, whose members are recognisable human, and very definitely not monolithic. These conspiracies are in competition with many other similar groups trying to pursue their goals. They are also restricted in time and space. He states

There is probably not a single secret organisation anywhere which has existed continuously from antiquity to the present, and only a small number could have had a continuous existence for more than a century. And, with the possible exception of those which are created and sponsored by the governments of major nations and the world’s most powerful business and religious institutions, the range of activity of specific clandestine groups is invariably limited to particular geographic or sectoral arenas. (Pp. 20-1).

Continued in Part Two.

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part Three

March 11, 2018

Honest Reporting claims to have 175,000 subscribers, and organises letter writing campaigns against the Beeb. The BBC Trust censured Jeremy Bowen for comments he made about the history of the conflict. His piece was withdrawn. But Bowen had published an article the week before in the Jewish Chronicle, using the same phrases that Honest Reporting found so objectionable, and which was still up at that rag’s website. CAMERA and the other parts of the Israel lobby complained, forcing the Beeb to investigate Bowen. This had a chilling effect on the other staff in the newsroom, who felt that they too were under attack. Jonathan Dimbleby thought the BBC had caved in under pressure from them. Which meant that he too came under investigation for anti-Semitism for making the above comments. The BBC Trust went to Oxford to interview Avi Shlaim about Bowen. Shlaim said that he couldn’t fault Bowen’s comments, concludes that some people in the Jewish community are too quick to criticise reporting. As for Honest Reporting, their office is not in Britain but Jerusalem. Their managing Director Simon Flosker is British, but worked for BICOM and the Israeli Army Press Office. Flosker declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement claiming that the BBC and the Guardian were biased against Israel, more so than other countries such as America.

And then there is the noxious incident, where these scum stopped the BBC raising an appeal for the victims of the Gaza invasion. The BBC has a long history of raising appeals for the victims of disasters. During Israel’s invasion 1,000 civilians in Gaza were killed. There was a move for the BBC to broadcast an appeal, but this was turned down by the Beeb’s Director-General, Mark Thompson. Ben Bradshaw, the Labour Minister for Media, was outraged. He stated that the Israel lobby was showing all the qualities of a bully. A BBC spokeswoman then explains to Oborne that the issue was too much trouble, and that it would cause people to lose confidence in the Corporation’s impartiality. She claims that the corporation took the advice of an independent committee. But Niam Alam, who was a member of the Committee, resigned over it. He said that the Committee never met to discuss the issue, and was never consulted. The appeal was eventually broadcast on Channel 4, where there were absolutely no complaints about its impartiality. Oborne’s documentary includes the appeal to show that it is, indeed, apolitical and impartial. The other members of the Committee refused to speak in public. When he tried to get them, and other charities and aid agencies, to talk about general humanitarian issues, they too declined. They included Oxfam, Christian Aid, Catholic Aid, and Cathod.

The Beeb’s decision not to broadcast the appeal is unusual, and breaks with the Corporation’s long tradition of making such broadcasts. In 1982 the Corporation broadcast an appeal for the victims of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which Palestinian men were butchered in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by the Christian Phalange, who were Israel’s allies during the invasion. Oborne states that the BBC is in danger of losing its reputation for impartiality around the world. The Israel Lobby has good access to politicos, and their loyalty is not to Britain, but to a mixture of interests, which may include Britain, but also the interests of another country. Oborne states that in making the documentary they have found nothing like a conspiracy, but a lack of transparency and the influence of the Israel lobby continues to be felt.

Of course, Oborne was accused of anti-Semitism for this piece, which he was successfully able to defend himself against. Looking at his denial of finding a conspiracy, you can see how he is attempting to fend off one of the accusations that has been levelled at Mike. He was accused of promoting Nazi-style conspiracy theories because he called the meeting between Shai Masot and the Tory Israel Lobby about arranging, who they wanted in the cabinet a conspiracy. This is what it is. It had nothing to do with stupid theories about international bankers financing communism to destroy the White race. it was a real conspiracy, just as there have always been real conspiracies of secretive groups meeting to pursue distinct political goals. Like the various CIA and British Secret Service intelligence operations run against Communism during the Cold War, and the various other lobbying groups now infesting parliament.

The picture that emerges of the Israel lobby is that it is a collection of very wealthy, very well-funded groups determined to suppress even mild criticism of Israel through ruthless bullying and intimidation. And it seems clear to me that Mike, and the others libelled as anti-Semites by the Sunday Times, the Mail, Express, Scum and Jerusalem Post, were the subjects of an organised campaign by the Tory Friends of Israel, possibly with the collusion of the Israeli embassy.

It also raises profound questions about Mike’s suspension from the Labour party. He was given no formal charges, and the identity of his accuser was never disclosed. How convenient. So who were they? Jonathan Mendelsohn, perhaps? One of the other high-ranking Blairites, scared that Mike was giving their former beloved leader a dam’ good, and very well deserved bashing? And behind them is their another pro-Israel donor, someone like Lord Levy, who will get into a ‘fearful bate’, as Molesworth would sa, and take his money elsewhere if the Labour party didn’t dance to his tune.

These groups are vicious, nasty, bullies, who libel and smear with impunity. It’s high time they were stopped in their tracks. Too many decent people, including self-respecting Jews, have been smeared as anti-Semites by these scoundrels. But from the comments of one of the Israel lobby’s leaders, Schanzer, it appears that they may be overreaching themselves. The claims of anti-Semitism have been overused. They’re not having the same effect. Well, soon I hope these accusations in this context will have no effect at all. And the time can’t come soon enough when that will happen, and when those who make those smears will have to face justice for their lies.

Here’s the video:

There’s a full transcript of it at Open Democracy Net.

1990s Spiked Magazine on Paedophile Allegations against MPs at Dolphin Square

October 12, 2016

Spiked in the 1990s was a short-lived, satirical magazine somewhat like a dirtier, more sweary version of Private Eye, but with fewer jokes. I thought it was related to the online website of the same name, but with a very right-wing bias, but apparently this is not the case. Looking through some old magazines today, I found a copy of issue 6 six of the magazine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a date, but from its content it was written during Major’s reign at 10 Downing Street when Tony Blair was in opposition.

Despite the magazine being at least 25 or so years old, one of the stories is still very relevant to today. This is about the allegations of sadistic paedophile orgies using boys trafficked from care homes by MPs at Dolphin Square. This seems to relate to the current inquiry concerning MPs’ abuse of children. These include allegations that at least one of the boys so maltreated may have been murdered, and that some of the abuse took place at MPs’ lodgings at that London address.

The piece is entitled ‘Golly, Gissing and Michael’. It runs:

In pervious issues of Spiked, we have told the story about a British Airways executive’s friendship with the Minister for Defence, Michael Portillo – a relationship which the executive, Carl Douglas Gissing, has habitually denied, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Now new evidence has come to light regarding another of Carl D Gissing’s close friends, this time, not from the front bench of the Conservative Government, but from the twilight world of parliamentary lobby groups.

Derek Laud is the director of Ludgate Communications, a high powered political public relations outfit. he is also black, nick-named ‘Golly’ by his Conservative friends, homosexual and the former boyfriend of Michael Brown MP. He is the nephew and former research assistant of Lord Pit, and moves with equanimity through parliament, and in some very high circles.

He has written speeches for Prince Charles, knows Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Fergie’s ex-beau, John Bryan. He introduced gay footballer Justin Fashanu to Westminster life, who later claimed that he had slept with two Cabinet Ministers. And then, presumably under some pressure, retracted the story.

Lau leads a very fashionable life, dining out at the exclusive La Caprice Restaurant in London, W1. Where he has been seen with Michael Portillo and Peter Lilley. He has a flat in Winchester Street, Pimlico, just around the corner from Dolphin Square, a luxury apartment block populated by MPs, and with a somewhat colourful nocturnal reputation.

It is here that the story becomes more interesting. There has always been a strong connection between Parliamentary lobby groups and the seamier side of Westminster night life. Dolphin Square has long been the scene of often very debauched parties, where certain MPs indulge some rather peculiar sexual peccadilloes with rent boys, and, presumably, each other.

According to one former employee of a well known Parliamentary Public Relations company which provided rent boys for Westminster parties, the male prostitutes are often underage and sometimes suffer appalling abuse. The source claims that no only are some beaten up, but that there have been cases where the boys were slashed with razor blades.

These grotesque crimes are not the norm in Westminster, they are a sordid aberration. But gay parties involving senior Tory politicians are commonplace, and Derek Laud is often on the guest list.

He is also known by one former resident of Greystone Heath Children’s home in Merseyside, Stephen Hasshim. Although this home is technically outside the Clywd investigation into child abuse, it was nevertheless a nightmare for many children who were unfortunate enough to live there. Hasshim remembers meeting Laud when he was thirteen.

According to certain former inmates at homes in Clywd, who later became male prostitutes in Brighton and London, they frequently plied their trade among MPs in Westminster and Dolphin Square. Which brings us back to the extra curricular role of the political lobbyist, and Derek Laud. Not forgetting, of course, Carl D. Gissing.

For a man who claims to have no parliamentary connections, it is strange that Gissing has been seen with Laud, who has a great many parliamentary connections, and also knows Michael Portillo rather well, whom Gissing claims he has never met. Perhaps, his denials are just sour grapes at not being invited to one of those Dolphin Square parties.

Note that the article does not implicate Laud in the sadistic torture of the boys procured for the orgies. I’ve mentioned this story before, and if it’s true, then it shows that these orgies were known about – and covered up – for a very long time. And it also implicates not just MPs, but also the parliamentary lobbyists. And as David Cameron, the previous prime minister, worked in PR, perhaps he is someone else the inquiry should also speak to. If it ever gets off the ground, of course, and does anything more than provide the pretence that the government is taking this issue seriously, like actually trying to bring anyone to justice.

Secular Talk on True American Decadence: Lavish Party for Defence Contractors and Lobbyists

September 21, 2016

Yeah, I know this is another video from across the Pond, but it’s too good not to put up here. In this piece from Secular Talk, the show’s host, Kyle Kulinski, discusses what he calls the real American decadence. This was a lavish party held by the defence industry and their lobbyists, in which they made jokes about not selling their wares to human rights abusers. Because obviously, the fact that the Merchants of Death – that’s what they are, so let’s call them it – sell their obscene machinery to murderous dictators and despots around the globe is just so hilarious, right? Kulinski points out that it shows the true moral decay in America. And it isn’t because gangsta rappers are busting rhymes with the ‘N’ word, and going on about how they like ‘b*tches’ with big booties. This is about the immense profits going to these companies from wars around the world. When they can’t get the American government to buy any more weapons, because the last consignment of tanks is out rusting in Nevada, they lobby to sell their weapons elsewhere. Like Israel. Or Saudi Arabia, a country which murders apostates, drug smugglers and people for witchcraft. Kulinski breaks the news here that the Saudis are arming al-Qaeda against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and have bombed hospitals run by Doctors Without Borders and schools for the blind. That’s where these people are making their money.

Kulinski is right about all of this, just as he is when he calls it ‘a conspiracy in plain sight’. It is. But as he also says, not in the crazy Alex Jones Infowars sense of people in smoke-filled backrooms. This wasn’t held in any backroom, but right up front. He also points out that this is exactly what Eisenhower warned about: the military-industrial complex. It also confirms everything General Smedley Butler said when he wrote his War Is A Racket.

Much the same could be said of Britain’s own role in the global arms industry, although ours is trivial compared to the sheer scale of the Americans. Secular Talk has made the point that America spends far more than any other country in the world on arms. And if the defence budget was cut in half, America would still be leading the world in this dubious industry. But that hasn’t stopped our arms manufacturers over here from also trying to sell their ‘kit’ to the Saudis and other, entirely respectable and ethical regimes. As David Cameron himself boasted when he went round one British armaments factory earlier this year.

The fact that Saudi Arabia is again funding and supplying al-Qaeda, a group they financed and supported, just as they financed and supported ISIS, before they turned on them, should fill anyone with any sense after 9/11 with disgust. The Saudis are back there, aiding the same people they helped to commit 9/11. And the American arms industry is selling them weapons. Just like the sold the Taliban weapons when they were the Mujahideen fighting the Russians. Only that after they defeated the Soviets, the Mujahideen did what the Russian ambassador warned they would do: they came after the Americans.

Nothing has changed, nothing’s been learnt. It’s business as usual for the Merchants of Death, who are reaping big corporate profits. The real price is being paid by the ordinary people of the Middle East, as they’re brutalised, butchered and their countries devastated by the Jihadis and their backers in Saudi Arabia and the Great Powers.

Private Eye on the Companies Sponsoring the Tories in 2008

March 5, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 5th-18th September 2008 printed this piece listing the companies sponsoring the Tory party conference that year.

Meet the Tories’ Brum Chums

The Conservative party conference will see Team Cameron entertaining a plethora of wealthy bedfellows from industry when it kicks off in Birmingham on 28th September …

The Arms trade…
Labour have been too embarrassed to be seen mixing with the weapons makers, but if shadow defence secretary Liam Fox becomes a real minister all that will change. Fox is timetabled to speak for the Defence Industries Council, an arms trade group led by BAE Systems chief executive Mike Turner.

Fox shares the enthusiasm of the “Vulcan” wing of the US Republicans for military reaction to perceived threats, reflected in the title of another meeting he is addressing on “Resurgent threats: Terror, Russia and Iran?” The meeting is sponsored by yet another arms firm, EADS, who hope to sell loads of kit to a future Tory government.

The Greens…
Cameron is fighting to make green a new Tory, colour, but it’s a very pale shade indeed. The Tory Green Initiative’s first meeting at the conference is paid for by the British Cement Association and has cement lobbyist Mike Gilbert on the platform. The link makes the TGI look more like an industry-friendly lobby group than an environmental campaign. Hardly surprising, as the Initiative is run by Nick Wood-Dow, the boss of lobbying firm Chelgate, which assists clients from the construction industry who have problems with “disproportionate response from the community, or from pressure or environmental groups.”

The Poor…
Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban is demonstrating the new Conservative interest in poverty with a meeting on the credit crunch, sponsored by Cattles plc, one of the Britain’s leading sub-prime lenders. Cattles makes millions through its “Shopacheck” loans to the low-paid that have APRS as high as 400 per cent.

The Lobbyists…
Last year Tory MP Peter Luff was outraged that the Canary Wharf Group gave £120,000 to Labour while promoting Crossrail, the line that will improve access to Canary Wharf. Boris Johnson also backs Crossrail, and Luff will presumably be horrified that the Canary Wharf Group is paying the London Assembly Conservatives. The group is funding a political “speed dating” lunch, where delegates can meet “the most influential people in London politics, from London Assembly members to deputy mayors.”

Elsewhere, shadow Treasury bod Mark Hoban is advertised as the top speaker at the “invitation-only financial services reception” of lobby firm Lansons, which makes a living from trying to influence politicians on behalf of big-money clients such as HBOS bank. It’s easy to see why Lansons has invited a shadow minister to their party, but harder to see why Hoban would accept.

The list of curious sponsors goes on: shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien is speaking on problem drinking – sponsored by brew SAB Miller. And Frances Maude, a key member of Team Cameron, is speaking on “Preparing for Power” – that to money from management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

…and the Labour ex-ministers
Of course, the Tories aren’t the only one who know on which side their bread is buttered – three former Labour ministers will address the conference, getting in practice at sucking up to Cameron’s crew. Former trade minister Brian Wilson was once a left-wing MP and enthusiastic supporter of Castro’s Cuba; now he is chairman of the pro-airports lobby group FlyingMatters. Steven Twigg, the man once famous for defeating Portillo, and former Culture secretary Chris Smith complete the trio.

Those were the companies seeking to profit from the Tories gaining power that year. And looking at this, and the way Cameron very swiftly dropped his Green initiative when it appeared to have worked, it’s clear that this always was a sham. His Green Initiative was simply an astroturf organisation to get the Tories and their backers in the very un-Green cement industry back into No. 10. And since then, the Tories have dropped it completely. Cameron took down that windmill from his house, and has put his full support behind fracking, another industry which comprehensively wrecks the environment.

David Cameron is still firmly behind the arms industry. He was up at the BAE systems base the other week in Wharton, boasting about how he’d sold millions of their products to the war criminals and mass murderers in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t bothered, calling their armaments ‘brilliant things’.

And the hypocrisy and deceit behind their lobbying bill, which shuts out charities and other organisations from influencing government, while leaving the real lobbyists to pursue their sordid trade, should be no surprise given their appearance sponsoring so much of the Tory conference.

And then there’s the matter of the 95 Tory and Lib Dem ministers with links to health care companies, who are hoping to get rich from the privatisation of the NHS.

Jimmy Carter on the Corporate Corruption of Regulatory Authorities

February 4, 2016

I found this very pertinent piece from former US president, Jimmy Carter, in the collection of pieces by Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt (London: Picador 1980). It’s in Carter’s 1974 Law Day address to the students at Georgia University.

We had an ethics bill in the state legislature this year. Half of it passed – to require an accounting for contributions during a campaign – but the part that applied to people after the campaign failed. We couldn’t get through a requirement for revelation of payments or gifts to office-holders after they are in office.

The largest force against that ethics bill was the lawyers.

Some of you here tried to help get a consumer protection package passed without success.

The regulatory agencies in Washington are made up, not of people to regulate industries, but of representatives of the industries that are regulated. Is that fair and right and equitable? I don’t think so.

I’m only going to serve four years as governor, as you know. I think that’s enough. I enjoy it, but I think I’ve done all I can in the Governor’s office. I see the lobbyists in the State Capitol filling the halls on occasions. Good people, competent people, the most pleasant, personable, extroverted citizens of Georgia. those are the characteristics that are required for a lobbyist. They represent good folks. But I tell you that when a lobbyist goes to represent the Peanut Warehouseman’s Association of the Southeast, which I belong to, which I helped organise, they go there to represent the peanut warehouseman. They don’t go there to represent the customers of the peanut warehouseman.

When the State Chamber of Commerce lobbyists go there, they go there to represent the businessmen of Georgia. They don’t go there to represent the customers of the businessmen of Georgia.

When your own organisation is interested in some legislation there in the Capitol, they’re interested in the welfare or prerogatives or authority of the lawyers. They are not there to represent in any sort of exclusive way the client of the lawyers.

The American Medical Association and its Georgia equivalent – they represent the doctors, who are fine people. But they certainly don’t represent the patients of a doctor.

Obviously, there are some differences between the situation Carter and Thompson describe. I think we do have legislation in this country, which requires gifts to ministers and civil servants to be declared. And some of the most determined opposition to the Tories’ campaign to privatise the NHS has come from the ranks of the British Medical Association.

But the substance of what Carter said is as true today as it was when Carter said it. If you read Private Eye in the 1990s, you saw fortnight after fortnight yet more news of someone from one of the industries getting a job in the body that was set up to regulate it. And it’s gone on. Private Eye are still running stories about banks and the leading accountancy firms, who were most notorious at dodging tax sending senior staff to act as interns or advisors to the Inland Revenue and the financial regulatory authorities. Or else a former managing director or chairman of the board from one these industries him- or herself gets a place there.

As for the lobbyists, Mike over at Vox Political the other year ran many pieces describing the Tory act that was supposed to limit their influence. Except it didn’t. What it did instead was try to cut out the influence of smaller, grass roots activist groups campaigning against some injustice or piece of misgovernment, and try to limit the ability of trade unions to campaign against particular issues. The lobbyists themselves were left largely untouched. As you can expect from a government, whose annual conferences are paid for by the big corporations, and which is headed by a PR spin merchant: David Cameron himself.

Carter was right to attack the corruption of the regulatory bodies by the very corporations they were meant to be overseeing, and his remarks on the pernicious influence of the lobbyists is still very timely. It’s time to clean up politics, and get rid of them and the Tories.

Quentin Letts and the Tory Attack on Short Money

January 21, 2016

Last week or so Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about the Tories wishing to abolish Short money. This is the funding given by the state to opposition parties. I’m not actually surprised the Tories want to get rid of it. They’re authoritarians anyway, who hate any kind of opposition. But I’m particularly not surprised they’ve decided to attack Short money, as it’s one of the issues criticised by Quentin Letts in his 2009 book, Bog Standard Britain (London: Constable and Robinson Ltd).

Letts is the parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Heil. He’s been one of the panellists at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, and also on at least one edition of Have I Got News For You. Here’s what he has to say about it in his book:

Our political class has a horror of losing its perks. Nothing new. In 1970, soon after losing the general election, Harold Wilson was seen queuing for a taxi late one night outside the Members’ Entrance to the Commons. Friends of Wilson were distraught. A few days earlier he had been Prime Minister but there he now was, waiting for a cab like the rest of humanity. Instead of seeing this, as they should have done, as eloquent testimony to the ephemeral nature of elected office, Harold’s cronies secured him a state-paid limo and chauffeur.

We have been paying ever since for Leaders of the Opposition to be thus pampered. In 1974, having regained the premiership, Wilson returned the compliment by slipping the shadow cabinet a wad of public money. This ‘Short money’, named after Edward Short, the Labour minister who presented the proposal to Parliament, is now worth some £7 million a year to the Opposition parties. short money was given on the premise that an Opposition would be improved by having researchers who could prepare meaningful policies. It would result in better government. Nice one! In practice, Short money allows an Opposition to save its money for election campaigning. This creates an arms race of electoral fundraising which in turn results in dodgy donors being given undue pre-eminence over the political parties’ mass membership. Short money also allows Opposition spokesmen to keep large retinues which makes them feel important and saves them having to do so much thinking for themselves. Result: an overblow secretariat, lazy parliamentarians, hefty bills which have to be picked up by the taxpayer. Short money is an expensive con. All it has done is expand a professional political class. And all because socialist Harold’s friends thought it was improper that he should have to queue for a taxi. (pp. 219-20).

Letts’ party political bias is evident here. He despises ‘Socialist’ Harold Wilson, for having money given to him and his party after he left office. I’ve no idea whether the story about the limo and Wilson waiting at a taxi stand is true. I assume it is. But that’s not the reason the Tories want to get rid of it, nor is the explanation that it’s all about curtailing the bloated retinues and pomp of the political class. If that were the case, then Cameron would be happy to see greater clarity of the political process through the Freedom of Information Act, and by quite happy to see MPs’ expenses scrutinised by the press.

In fact, the opposite is the case. Cameron and his hand-picked cronies, including Jack Straw, are doing their best to rip the guts out of FOIA. They don’t like people challenging government decisions, and particularly not when it comes to MPs’ expenses. Hence the government got very huffy when the Independent asked for them under the Freedom of Information Act. Campaigners and journalists making such requests have been told that the Act is to allow people to understand how government decisions are made, not for them to challenge them. So shut up, run along, and do what we tell you. We’re back to the old slogan of Mussolini:

Believe.
Obey.
Fight.

As for forcing parties to rely on their grassroots’ members’ subscriptions, rather than contributions from wealthy donors, that’s a load of hogwash as well. The Tories are raking huge wads of cash from their backers in business, as well as corporate largesse from courtesy of lobbyists. And they have absolutely no interest in what their ordinary members have to say. The local, constituency parties have complains again and yet again that they are ignored at Westminster. The effect of corporate funding on the parties has been that they’ve all shrunk, both Labour and the Tories. The Tories are now under 100,000 members. That’s a massive fall for the party that was, not so long ago, Britain’s largest, with at least a quarter of million members.

They simple fact is that the Tories want to stifle the opposition anyway they can. And they’re trying to do it by starving them of funds. This explains the latest Tory attack on the union levy. And simply by their attack on the Freedom of Information Act, it seems to bear out that the Short money must actually be doing the task for which it was intended, namely, allow the Opposition to frame policies better. That’s clearly a danger as they’re trying to stop people using the Freedom of Information Act, not just by narrowing even further what may be released under it, but also by raising the fees charged.

This is clearly a very, very frightened government.

Well, if Cameron wants to play that game, then I suggest Labour also plays it too. Mike suggested that Labour should immediately cease any co-operation with the Tories, such as the pairing agreement, which states that if one Tory MP can’t make it to a debate, his Labour opposite number must be drop out as well. The Tories only have a majority of 16. Let’s make it impossible for them to govern.

Way back in the 1970s and ’80s, any government that consider cutting Short money could count on being told by the Mandarins in Whitehall that the policy was ‘very courageous’. Meaning, to those who used to watch Yes, Minister, that it was likely to lose them election. Let’s put that into practice, and make sure that it does.

Empire Files: The Tyranny of Big Oil

January 19, 2016

This is another excellent video from the Empire Files. In this edition, the presenter, Abby Martin, discusses the power and corruption at the heart of the industry, from the emergence of the first oil monopoly under the Rockefellers, to the effect control of the market, the economy and US and global politics by a few firms, such as Standard Oil, Chevron, Mobil and, of course, BP. These firms have reaped massive profits, and are able to act with impunity to trash the environment, and destroy lives and livelihoods by buying the loyalty of politicians in both the Republican and Democrat parties. Through their influence in the media and in academia, they suppress or distort climate science to allow the continuing massive destruction of Earth’s fragile ecosystem through oil spills, global warming and the effects of fracking.

Martin begins by describing how oil wealth is at the very heart of US imperialism. Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Qatar have all been set up as ‘oil monarchies’ founded on its power. She describes how John D. Rockefeller climbed to his position as the world’s first oil billionaire through strong arm tactics used against the other oil firms. Rockefeller was the owner and founder of Standard Oil. He made a deal with the railway companies, which he used to force the other companies in the nascent oil companies to sell up to him. When this didn’t work, he bought their pipelines, and then used his power there to force them to give in. Eventually, Standard Oil owned 90% of all US refineries, and had a workforce of about 150,000 men. Rockefeller was, unsurprisingly, bitterly anti-union, and so they had no union representation. And since him the power of the oil tycoons subverts democracy in the US and imperils the Earth.

Martin then interviews Antonia Juhasz, the author of the book, The Tyranny of Oil, written during the final years of the Bush administration about the massive political, human rights’ and economic abuses of the oil industry. She states that Obama is not as tied to the oil industry as Bush was, but nevertheless he was not confronting the industry’s power. She then moved on to discuss the rise of deep drilling in oil rigs off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The age of easy oil, where all you had to do was stick a pipe into the ground and out it would come is over. Most of the world’s oil is already claimed, and that which isn’t, is difficult to get to. As a result, oil drilling went further out into the ocean and deeper. And the results were blow-outs and spills. Such as the BP blowout in 2012. This resulted in the deaths of a million birds. To disperse the oil, 2 million gallons of a chemical were used which made it 42% more toxic. It also caused the deaths of eleven men. During the investigation it became clear that BP actually had no plans what to do in the eventuality of a spill. They simply counted on learning it ‘on the fly’. And the result was the world’s largest offshore oil spill to date. Juhasz states that she herself saw some of the resulting ecological devastation from a submarine. All the local wildlife that could get out of the area, did. The animals and plants that couldn’t, in her words, ‘were nuked’. There’s nothing down there except a tarry blanket of oil that will be there forever.

Martin also has as another of her speakers the left-wing journalist, Greg Palast. He reveals that BP had a spill 17 months previously in the Caspian Sea. This was covered up by the company itself, the Azerbaijani government – which he terms the Islamic Republic of Azerbaijan, because it’s so completely owned by BP – and also the American government’s State Department under Condoleeza Rice. Why the American government? Because the spill was partly due to BP using an American quick-drying cement. Despite this, the US Defense Department doubled their contracts with BP.

The Gulf Coast blow-out cost BP $17 billion in fines. This is a staggering amount of money, but not nearly as much as the company should have been fined. The Bush administration passed a number of extremely strict environmental laws. If these had been properly applied, then BP would have been hit with a fine of $200 billion. This would have made it difficult for the company to continue operating. As it was, the company said that the fine they eventually got was ‘manageable’.

The programme also discusses the immense political power the oil industry has through the banking lobby, and the power of the big corporations over the Senate. In the early part of last century, pressure from the Progressive Party and mass protests and agitation caused the US government to pass the anti-trust laws and break up Standard Oil, not least because they also wanted to destroy the unions. This was fragmented into 34 separate companies. These, however, are beginning to coagulate and reform back into a single giant trust as they merge and buy each other out. BP was a prime example of this. The company only got into America because it bought a US company, Arco. By the time Standard Oil had been broken up in 1911, Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire. At that time the world’s oil industry was owned by only three dynasties – the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds and the Dutch royal family.

This dependence on oil and the power of the oil industry has shaped the structure of American cities. The oil industry has done everything it can to destroy public transport systems. In 1949 the system of streetcars in one US city was destroyed through illegal action taken jointly by General Motors and the oil industry. The legislation passed to protect the environment contains massive exemptions for the oil industry. The corruption goes deep into government. Three of every four lobbyist for dirty energy used to work for the US government. 430 + congressmen have ties to the oil industry. And the industry has already given $35 million to political candidates for 2016. Dick Cheney was part of the industry, duly drafting legislation in its favour. Condoleeza Rice sat on the board of Chevron. And under Obama America has become the world’s top producer of oil and gas.

The programme then moves on to fracking, and the disastrous effects this has had on North Dakota. This state has been overnight transformed into an oil-producing environment. It contrasts with the other areas, where the industry has been around longer and so people have had time to get used to it and organise resistance. The state’s beautiful countryside of rolling hillsides and buttes, including a Native American reservation, are now disrupted by flaring, in which natural gas is burnt off. In neighbouring Oklahoma there have been 600 earthquakes in a single year due to the dumping of the waste water produced by fracking.

As for politics and the oil industry, the programme states that the oil industry now is the American political process. It’s not as bad under Obama as it was under Bush. Then big oil was the American government. The power of the oil industry is still there, but it’s now more subtle. Palast describes how every Republican candidate in the US elections is frantically in favour of the Excel pipeline, to the point where one of them even said that ‘you have to love it.’ This is directly due to the Koch brothers. The Koch brother bought a big refinery on the coast. However, there are laws that prevent them from using Texan oil. So they have to import ‘heavy’ oil from elsewhere. This is either Venezuela, where they’ll have to try to remove opposite by ousting Chavez or Madura, or to import it from Canada. This is the Excel pipeline, from which the Koch brothers will each get an extra $1 billion a year. Just as the Republicans are connected to the oil companies, so the Democrats have their links to BP. Obama has approved drilling in the Arctic. Palast describes how he was at one of the communities that may be affect, Qoqtovik, where he was told by one of the local Inuit that if drilling started, ‘it was over for them as a people there’. And if there is a spill in the arctic, it’ll go under the ice cap all the way to Norway.

Martin and her guests also discuss why it is Americans are so ignorant about climate change. The problem is that the oil industry buys up America’s academics. Palast states that almost every biologist in America is on BP’s payroll through grants from the Lawrence Livermore laboratory, which were donated by BP. And what happened to biology has also happened to climate science. The oil industry will also exaggerate the importance and status of dissenting scientists through the press. One flagrant example of this was when NPR, which Palast calls National Petroleum Radio, stated that the oil spill in the Gulf would be eaten by ‘oil-eating’ bacteria. This piece of disinformation came courtesy of a $1/2 billion grant to Lawrence Livermore by BP. The press, however, never informed its readers that the release and the science was paid for by that company. America no longer has an investigative press. They simply state that some people say this, while other have an opposite opinion.

Another example of corporate control over academia was in the case of Von Heerden, a meteorologist at Louisiana’s Hurricane Center. One month before Hurricane Katrina hit, Von Heerden warned that New Orleans could be under water due to the oil industry’s destruction of the neighbouring mangrove swamps for 100 miles. And 30 days later, New Orleans was under water. Instead of celebrating this man for his warning and efforts to save the city, the state closed down the Hurricane Centre and replace it with a Wetlands Centre. This was due to the state receiving a massive cheque from the oil companies, who specified that they would also choose the staff to be employed in the new Centre.

And globally the environmental damage from the oil industry is devastating, to the point where the future of the planet is in grave danger. The UN in 2015 stated for the very worst effects of climate change to be avoided, three-quarters of the world’s fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Yet in the US alone there have been 20,000 oil spills a year. In the Niger Delta they have had to put up with the consequences of the devastation equivalent to an Exxon-Mobil spill every year for the past fifty years, due to untouchable oil corporations. In 2013, 1.15 million gallons of oil was spilled due to derailed trains. The preferred mode of transport for the oil industry nevertheless remains road. From 2008 to 2012 550 workers in the oil industry were killed in industrial accidents. This is a deathrate eight times higher than the other industries. And yet the world’s use of oil is completely unnecessary. Stanford University developed a plan to transfer America entirely to renewable energy, state by state, by 2050. The cost of the Iraq War alone could have financed the world’s transition to renewables. However, the power of the oil industry will only be destroyed when the power of the American Empire is also destroyed.