Posts Tagged ‘Paul Foot’

Academic Historian T.O. Lloyd on British Immigration Policy After World War III

August 8, 2022

I’ve turned to T.O. Lloyd’s Empire to Welfare State: English History 1906-1985, 3rd edition (Oxford: OUP 1986) to try and make sense of Simon Webb’s claims that the Windrush migrants weren’t invited here, but were merely taking advantage of cheap cabins, and that London Transport appealed to Caribbean bus drivers to migrate in order alleviate political unrest in Barbados and Jamaica. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything about these claims one way or another, but the history, published as part of the ‘Short Oxford History of the Modern World’, does contain some interesting snippets of information about immigration policy in this period. For example, he writes of the the wave of immigration in the 50s

‘Citizens from Commonwealth countries had always been allowed to enter England freely, but they had not made much use of this right before the 1950s. Citizens of the white Commonwealth occasionally came on shorter or longer visits, but nobody took any notice. In the fifties a flow of West Indians, Indians,, and Pakistanis began to come to England. From the economist’s point of view the country seemed to have found a fund of labour to draw on in the way West Germany drew on East Germany and Italy, or France and Italy drew on their underemployed agricultural labour. This development was not welcomed by the people who found themselves living near the immigrants. Occasionally it was suggested that immigrants took low wages and undercut the market rate, and it was sometimes said they were violent and noisy. While some of them were bachelors earning more than they had ever earned before, behaved as might be expected, most of them were quiet people with fairly strict ideas about family life. The hostility to them came simply from a feeling that black men were undesirable, just as Irish Catholics had been though undesirable in the 19th century and European aliens had aroused hostility earlier in the 20th century because they were different. The shortage of housing made matters worse; the immigrants were blamed for it, and then were blamed for living in slums. The Immigration Bill was welcomed by public opinion although it was condemned by a good deal of the Conservative press and by the Labour party. It allowed immigrants to come if they had certain skills, or if they had relations in the country, or if they had jobs waiting for them. The sentiment of liberally minded people was against the Bill partly on grounds of humane feeling and partly to promote economic growth., but most of these humane and tolerant people did not understand that other people, who were relatively uneducated and unaccustomed to novelty suffered real problems when immigrants came and lived near them.’ (p. 199).

Lloyd also writes about the shortage of labour created by the national plan of 1964, and the effects this had on immigration policy. It’s a lengthy passage, but I think it’s worth reproducing in full.

‘The point at which the planners had most clearly not accepted the constraints of reality was the supply of labour. They had accepted a target of expanding the national income by 23 per cent by 1970s, which meant a rate of growth of a fraction under 4 per cent, but their figures showed that to do this about 200,000 more workers were needed than seemed likely to be available. The prices and incomes policy was intended to check the tendency to inflation that had persisted in the economy ever since Beveridge’s definition of full employment – more vacant jobs than workers to fill them – had been tacitly accepted, but no incomes policy could prevent a rise in wages if there was a steady demand for 200,000 workers than could be found. Employers would naturally bid against each other, by offering higher wages or fringe benefits. If it was carried out, the National Plan would reproduce the very high level of demand that had existed under the 1945-51 Labour government, without the stringent physical controls that had been available just after the war. The government had in 1964 forbidden further office development in London, but in general it was ready to operate the economy with very little compulsion. This may have reassured economists that effort could not be diverted into the wrong channels by government decree, but it did leave open the possibility that a shortage of labour would lead to large wage increases.

More workers could easily have been found: Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies, India, and Pakistan were ready and eager to come. During the election the question of Commonwealth immigration had been lurking just below the surface, but the results suggest that the Labour party lost three or four seats on the issue in areas where there had been a certain amount of immigration and where local conditions of life were generally unpleasant enough to make the voters want to blame somebody. The bad housing conditions in Smethwick or Slough were not the fault of the immigrants, but the inhabitants thought differently and were influenced by the slogan ‘If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour’.

Tension and dissatisfaction over immigration rose after the election, with some Conservatives suggesting that their party ought to take a more determined stand against immigration than it had done in the Commonwealth Immigration Act. The government decided that it could not hold the existing position, and issued a White Paper indicating the way it would interpret the Commonwealth Immigration Act in the future. The policy laid down was decidedly more restrictive than in the past, at least so far as entry to the country was concerned; the White Paper also suggested ways in which the immigrants might be cared for more effectively once they were inside the country, and legislation against discrimination in public places was passed. Some people argued that legislation was not the best way to deal with the problem, though in fact other countries faced with the same situation had, in the end, fallen back on legislation after feeling at first that there must be less formal ways of acting.

The White Paper stated that no more than 8,500 Commonwealth immigrants, of whom 1,000 would be from Malta, were to be allowed work permits every year. All questions about freedom of movement and Commonwealth solidarity apart, this closed one of the ways in which the labour shortage revealed in the National Plan might have been made up. Rapid economic growth has, more often than not, been associated with rapid increase of the working population; there was no underemployed rural population in England to draw into the economy, as there was in the countries of Europe that had been thriving since the war, but an inflow of people from the underdeveloped parts of the Commonwealth might have enabled the economy to grow as intended. Public opposition to immigration was not inspired by a conscious choice between growth and keeping England white, because most of the people who opposed immigration did not realize that they had such a choice before them, but this was the effect of the policy in the White Paper.'(pp. 397-9).

These passages don’t say anything about whether there was a labour shortage in the immediate aftermath of the war, which immigrants from the Caribbean came to fill. But it does say that there a labour shortage created by the 1964 National Plan, which was prevented from being filled by opposition to immigration.

I looked through the book to see what sources Lloyd used for the pieces on immigration. In those chapters, he seemed to have relied on Paul Foot’s Race and Immigration in Britain of 1964.

There might be more information in more recent treatments of the issue, like Bloody Foreigners: Immigration and the English.

Whistleblower Wallace Suing MOD

November 16, 2021

This comes from last fortnight’s Private Eye, for 29th October to 11th November 2021. Colin Wallace, the former intelligence officer who was prosecuted and falsely convicted of manslaughter for revealing the secrets of Britain’s dirty war in Northern Ireland, is suing the Ministry of Defence. The article, titled ‘Britain’s Dirty War: The Wallace Connection’ runs

Former army intelligence officer turned whistleblower Colin Wallace (Eyes long passim) is suing the Ministry of Defence in a case that threatens to reopen the ugly wounds of Britain’s “dirty war” in Northern Ireland.

Wallace, who worked for British army “psychological operations” – a covert propaganda unit that worked closely with MI5 to target loyalist and republican paramilitaries – is accusing the MoD of “negligence, misfeasance in public office and deceit”. Wallace, now 79, was driven out of the army in 1975 after refusing to engage in Clockwork Orange a now well=documented smear campaign to bring down the Harold Wilson government. He was also threatening to expose the systematic abuse of children in east Belfast’s Kincora boys’ home.

Wallace had briefed intelligence chiefs about Kincora in 1974, long before arrests and the home’s closure in 1980, but maintains that MI5 spooks and military intelligence allowed the abuse to continue so that the main perpetrator, school housemaster William McGrath, could provide information on hardline loyalists.

The troublesome Wallace then himself became a victim of disinformation and was disciplined for leaking a restricted document to a journalist – the very job he was paid to do. The write served on the MoD last month alleges the disciplinary proceedings were a “sham” and “so unfair as to account to a misuse of public powers”. It says Wallace was, on occasion, directed by the MoD to leak secret documents and the disciplinary panel was seriously misled.

In 1990, prime minister Margaret Thatcher was forced to admit that her government had deceived parliament and the public about Wallace’s role, and an inqui8ry by David Calcutt QC concluded that MI5 had interfered in the disciplinary proceedings. As a result, Wallace was awarded £30,000 compensation.

But that wasn’t all. In 1980 Wallace was convicted of the manslaughter of a friend, spending six years in jail protesting his innocence. His conviction was quashed in the appeal court after new forensic evidence completely undermined the case against him. In his 1989 book Who Framed Colin Wallace?, the Eye’s late Paul Foots suggested Wallace may have been set up to further discredit his damaging allegations.

So why is Wallace suing now? Because, he tells the Eye, evidence is still being covered up. There have been three inquiries into Kincora, but all failed to investigate or interview key key witnesses from the intelligence services. Christopher Stanley of KRW Law,, which represents Wallace, said that despite evidence emerging over the years endorsing Wallace’s claims, the MoD had persisted in denying his true role. “We know the MoD is sitting on more material, which we hope to obtain through disclosure,” he said.

Wallace is seeking damages for financial loss and psychological injury, and a breach of duty to an employee between 1972 and 1975. He is acutely aware that those who could give evidence are as old as he is and that time is running out. “The truth should have come out when Paul Foot wrote his book,” he said. “But it is not too late.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “Proceedings were recently served on us regarding allegations dating back to 1968 which we intend to defend robustly.” It could not comment further as legal proceedings are underway.”

The parapolitics/ real conspiracies online magazine Lobster has been covering and defending Wallace and his allegations more or less since its foundation in the early 1980s. According to the magazine, there’s a new film out about Wallace available on the Net. It says

“A new film about that man Wallace

There is a new film about Colin Wallace, The Man Who Knew Too Much, made by Michael Oswald. It is on YouTube at <https: //youtu.be/z8FDPU-tDBU>. This is by some distance the best account of Wallace, and the events in which he was involved, since Paul Foot’s Who Framed Colin Wallace?. It includes all the significant photographs of Wallace from his period in Northern Ireland, plus a good deal of Wallace and Fred Holroyd speaking recently. Highly recommended.”

It also notes “The film’s Twitter handle is @Wallace_Film and its website is <https://colinwallacefilm.com/>&#8221;

When Private Eye Stood Up to Zionist Bullying

January 11, 2020

Yesterday I bought a copy of Patrick Marnham’s The Private Eye Story: The First 21 Years (London: Andre Deutsch/Private Eye 1982). This was partly because I still have some affection and respect for the magazine for the really good work it has done exposing the effects of austerity and privatisation. But it’s also because I’m still really perplexed at it continuing to push the anti-Semitism smears. And there was a time when it actually stood up to Zionist bullying and accusations of anti-Semitism.

The book tells how the Israelis attacked Private Eye as anti-Semitic because of its reports of Israeli atrocities during the 1967 war. They also caught the Zionist Federation attempting to close down criticism of Israel in the Guardian by threatening to withdraw Marks and Spencer’s advertising. Marnham writes

In the first half of 1966, sales were 39,868. In the first half of 1972, when Paul Foot left, they were 98,047. Not all the readers were equally pleased about this success. Among the least enchanted were Zionist sympathisers who objected to Private Eye reporting Israeli atrocities after the 1967 war.

In fact that war found Private Eye, with the rest of the press, generally sympathetic to Israel. But the balance quickly shifted as news of events behind the Israeli publicity screen began to reach Greek Street. An article about Moshe Dayan’s political ambitions (‘One Eyed Man for King’) in July 1967 led to many cancelled subscriptions. By November the novelist Mordechai Richler had become so offended by Private Eye’s line that he complained in The Observer that the paper was making jokes worthy of the Storm Trooper, the organ of the American Nazi party. Shortly afterwards two Labour MPs who were ardent Zionists followed this up by likening Private Eye to Der Sturmer, the organ of the German Nazi party in the thirties. Unlike Der Sturmer, Private Eye published these letters, although at that time it had no regular readers’ letter column.

In 1972 Private Eye was able to show how Zionists brought pressure on more orthodox publications. It revealed that Lord Sieff, then president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and chairman of Marks and Spencer, had written to The Guardian in 1967 to protest against reports of the Middle East war, while threatening to withdraw all Marks and Spencer advertising unless there was an improvement. After the editor of The Guardian had been confronted by the source of the Eye’s story, he agreed that the letter had indeed been written. (pp. 127-9).

Marnham also gives the magazine’s reply to accusations that it is anti-Semitic. Former editor Richard Ingrams felt that Jews were now too sensitive, and many of those accusing the magazine of anti-Semitism were Jews, who had been caught in wrongdoing. This passage contains a nasty racial epithet for Jews, which I’ve censored. It is, however, in full in the original.

To the criticism that Private Eye is anti-semitic Ingrams replies that it is no more anti-semitic than it is anti-any other minority. He told Ann Leslie of the Daily Mail that he thought the Jews had ‘become much too sensitive; they should be more tolerant of criticism, as they used to be.’ Anne Leslie interpreted this to mean that he yearned for a Golden English Age, ‘when Jews knew their place and laughed bravely when called “***s”; not a word Private Eye has ever used, though quite a useful one for adding a little read racialist meat to Miss Leslie’s article.

Others, apart from Zionists, who accuse Private Eye of anti-semitism are those who are attacked by it. Esther Rantzen once seriously claimed that Private Eye only wrote about her husband, Desmond Wilcox, because she herself was ‘both a successful woman and a Jew’. Sir James Goldsmith also tried to explain the Eye’s hostility on the grounds that he was a Jew. The Jewish Chronicle was not very impressed. Its columnist Ben Azai wrote on 13 May 1977: ‘Apart from an intermittent concern about Israel, Goldsmith was only vaguely aware of his Jewishness until Private Eye began what he regarded as a personal vendetta against him. Scratch a semi-Jew and one will discover a full one.’ (p. 205).

The Eye has also been accused of anti-Semitism for its ‘In The City’ column, where many of the crooks and fraudsters it has exposed have been Jewish. The magazine also strongly rebuts this accusation.

The only remark made about ‘Slicker’ by Richard which I really object to is his line over Jews. When he is asked why people say Private Eye is anti-semitic he usually says that there just happen to be a lot of Jews in the City and so we happen to expose a lot of Jewish crooks. In ‘Slicker’ has attacked more non-Jews than Jews. If Jews are there it is because they are crooks, not Jews. And we have twice run stories in ‘Slicker’ attacking the City for being anti-Semitic’. (pp. 135-6).

The Eye still runs some excellent articles criticising Israel. In last fortnight’s issue, for example, it ran a story about how the Israeli authorities were not releasing the bodies of Palestinians they’d shot as ‘terrorists’ for burial. But this has not stopped it pushing the line with the rest of the press that Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semitic, and that the very credible, authenticated allegations of Israeli involvement in the smear campaign is nothing but ‘conspiracy theories’.

I intend to talk about this in greater depth in another article, but I think there are several reasons for it. Firstly, while the Eye was first left-wing, that shifted during the Wilson era, as the book says, when it attacked the Labour governments of the day. Its network of contacts extends into the political establishment. American left-wing commenters and activists like Jimmy Dore have said that it’s because of this that the American media simply regurgitates the material they’ve been fed by establishment politicos. They’re afraid that if they criticise the people giving them this information and granting interviews, it’ll all dry up. I think the same is probably true of the Eye. I’ve also pointed out how the magazine’s founders were all very definitely members of the establishment, as is its current editor, Ian Hislop. And while there was a time when the magazine was disreputable – so much so that the Monday Club once accused it of being an organ of Commie subversion – it’s now very respectable. And I also think another strong motive is fear. Hislop and the rest may well be afraid that if they step out of line, they will suffer the same treatment as Corbyn and Momentum. And one of the accusations against the Eye is that it is the victim of its success. Other magazines were able to pursue a solid left-wing line, because they didn’t have the Eye’s assets. But the Eye isn’t poor, and so successful libel actions against it are profitable. Hislop and the others may simply feel that supporting the people – including Jews – who’ve been falsely accused simply isn’t worth it.

Frustration and Dismay at Private Eye Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears

October 19, 2019

This kind of follows on from the post I put up on Thursday, criticising a piece in Private Eye by their correspondent ‘Ratbiter’ celebrating Stop Funding Fake News and its attempts to cut off funding from what it considers to be extremist websites. Stop Funding Fake News has been the subject of a series of posts by Zelo Street, which has shown how the organisation is itself deeply suspect. For all its avowed concern to stop fake news, SFFN itself is less than transparent. It won’t tell you who its members are for one thing. And while it has attacked right-wing sites, like Breitbart and Tommy Robinson’s wretched website, as described in Ratbiter’s article, it’s also gone after those on the Left, like the Canary.  They’re also supposed to be extremists sites peddling fake news, but as I pointed out, the Canary’s politics are those of the old social democratic consensus. The consensus that Corbyn wishes to bring back, of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, proper, effective trade unions, a nationalised and properly funded NHS, and proper rights for working people. You know, proper, constructive policies that will save this country and its people from poverty, starvation and exploitation. But Thatcherites, whether in the Tory party, or the Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, can’t stand any of this. They can’t bear the thought that Thatcher is a goddess who failed, and that neoliberalism has run its course and been found threadbare. So Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being Trots, Commies, Stalinists and other epithets by the papers and right-wing Labour MPs like Jess Philips.

Israel Lobby Using Anti-Semitism Smears to Suppress Criticism

But these policies are actually popular with the British public, and so the Right has taken to trying to discredit Corbyn and his followers, and more broadly the Labour party, with accusations of anti-Semitism. As I’ve blogged about endlessly, the actual incidence of genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low. Very low. What riles the witch hunters is that Corbyn and his supporters are critics of Israel’s policy of oppression, apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby’s only defence against these entirely justifiable criticisms is to scream ‘anti-Semitism!’ and demand that their critics should be removed from office, silenced and even prosecuted for hate crimes. And ‘Ratbiter’ and Private Eye itself has been pushing this as strenuously as the rest of the media. In his article about Stop Funding Fake News, ‘Ratbiter’s’ praise for SFFN’s attack on the Canary claimed that not only was the Canary pushing fake news, but it was also anti-Semitic and pushing conspiracy theories about Jews. None of which is true. There is a concerted campaign by the Conservative Jewish establishment in this country to close down debate about Israel in line with the demands of the Israeli government. The Israeli state even as a special government office for promoting this hasbara. This is substantiated fact. But it’s suppressed by the British establishment and media, which wants you to believe that when the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council scream at Corbyn for supporting speeches by Holocaust survivors and anti-Nazi activists, like Hajo Meyer, attacking the maltreatment of the Palestinians, these right-wing organisations speak for all British Jews. They don’t, as is very clear by the number of Jews involved in the Palestinian rights movement, the BDS campaign and who support Corbyn in the Labour party. Still, why bother about awkward facts when you’re the media, eh?

Private Eye Part of Press Smears of Anti-Semitism

I’m particular dismayed and frustrated that Private Eye has joined in with this vilification and smearing. I’m not surprised by the right-wing press – the Fail, Scum, Depress, Times and Sunset Times, as they’ve always lied about and slandered the Labour party and left-wing activists. You only have to go back two years to when the Sunset Times smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or how it tried to tell the world that Michael Foot was a KGB agent, against all evidence. I’m disappointed that the Absurder, Groaniad and the Mirror have joined in with these accusation. But the Groan is in dire financial straits and has supported the Liberals in several elections. Kath Viner, the new editor, would like to make it a general political newspaper, not tied to the Left. And the Absurder and Mirror look like they’re run by Blairites.

Private Eye’s Liberal Stance and Challenge to Authority

But Private Eye’s support for the smears I find more puzzling and exasperating. OK, I realise that despite its attacks on NHS privatisation, Tory housing policy, the attacks on the disabled, the failings of the privatised water companies, probation service, and outsourcing companies like Capita and Serco, the magazine’s not actually left-wing. Its founders – Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton and Auberon Waugh were all thoroughly middle class public school boys. John Wells was the headmaster at Eton. But the magazine does have a proud tradition of standing up for those wrongly accused and questioning the actions of the security services. Paul Foot was a staunch advocate for people he believed were wrongly accused of murder. The magazine is still covering the Deepcut scandal, and what looks very much like an attempt to hide the evidence and protect the guilty by the army and the police. They’ve also covered deaths in police custody and other cases of official incompetence, corruption and wrongdoing. They even published several pieces and then a final report in the mid-90s questioning the official assertion that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They believed instead that Syria was responsible, and that blame was placed on the Libyans for political reasons: Major and George Bush senior needed Syria to join their coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. It has also defended asylum seekers, both collectively and individually, from racist discrimination, incarceration, beatings and abuse, and the threat of deportation. It is because the magazine has this proud tradition of questioning authority that I find its current support for the anti-Semitism smears infuriating.

Private Eye also Repeating British Intelligence Propaganda?

I am also aware that, as well as probing some of the actions of the British intelligence agencies, like when they have leaned on journalists to reveal their sources, they’ve also acted to promote them. There is ample evidence that the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2012, which overthrew the pro-Russian president, was anything but popular. It was instead a staged coup overseen by the US statement and the National Endowment for Democracy. But from reading the ‘Letter from…’ column in Private Eye dealing with events in that country, you are told that it is all the fault of the Russians and their supporters. It also appears that the magazine does, or at least, did, have connections to MI5. Auberon Waugh was related to one of its directors or senior officials, and Lobster a decade or so ago ran a piece, ‘5 at Eye’, speculating the magazine and particularly Waugh were responsible for running the smear stories about Harold Wilson being a KGB spy. I am also aware that as a magazine that is unaligned to any political party, and which criticises and satirises all of them, it’s going to attack Labour. Corbyn, as head of the party, is fair game. And those attacks are going to come from his opponents. Which include ‘Ratbiter’, real name Nick Cohen, and whichever Blairites used to run the ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon attacking the Labour leader.

Private Eye Shares Journalists with Other Papers

But nevertheless, I am extremely annoyed at the way it has joined in with the smearing of decent, anti-racist, Jewish and gentile people as anti-Semites. Like the rest of the press and media, they largely haven’t contacted them for their opinion, or given them space to explain how they were smeared. When a letter has been published in Private Eye rebutting their claim that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour, they’ve replied by quoting Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who believes it is. And who has been roundly criticised for this by Tony Greenstein. Part of this might just be standard press groupthink. Private Eye, for all its attacks on the press and media in its ‘Street of Shame’ and television columns, is part of it, and some of its anonymous correspondents are no doubt journalists working for other papers. Nick ‘Ratbiter’ Cohen is a hack for the Graon and Absurder, while one of the editors and probably a reviewer for their books page was Francis Wheen, another Guardian journo. The press seem to have decided en masse that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, and for all its professed independence and criticism of the fourth estate, the Eye really doesn’t seem to want to break ranks with them in that regard.

And I also suspect that they don’t want to counter that narrative for geopolitical reasons. Israel’s one of the pillars of our foreign policy in the Middle East, and although the paper has criticised it for its treatment of the Palestinians, its attack on Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites show that there are limits to how far the magazine will go in challenging foreign policy.

Private Eye also Afraid of Being Smeared as Anti-Semitic?

I also wonder if there are more selfish reasons. As Peter Oborne showed in his documentary on the Israel Lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches eleven years ago, the Conservative Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby will smear any and all newspapers and media organisations as anti-Semitic if they criticise Israel. Even, and perhaps especially, when that criticism is justified, as when the Guardian and BBC reported on the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by the Christian Phalange, who were allied to Israel. The Groan’s former editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how the president of the Board used to troop into his office, with his pet lawyer, demanding the withdrawal of articles critical of Israel on the grounds that they would incite the general public to hate Jews.

The Beeb’s respected Middle East correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were also accused of anti-Semitism when they covered the above massacres. When senior Beeb officials like Sir David Attenborough defended them, they too were ridiculously accused. That should have destroyed the Board’s credibility. Instead it seems to have succeeded in emboldening the Israel lobby. Since then Israel has also denounced and lied about the Beeb’s coverage of the blockade of Gaza and the bombing campaign against Palestinians, claiming that journalists were anti-Semitic and expelling them. This does seem to have had a chilling effect at the Beeb. And not just at the Beeb – the Groan and the Absurder have also fallen in line. And I think Private Eye’s determined promotion of the anti-Semitism smears may also be part of this. They’re also, I suspect, afraid of the Board turning up in their offices to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when the magazine appeared more louche and subversive than it is now, some newsagents refused to stock it. In the 1990s WH Smith withdrew one edition from its shelves because of a joke on the cover about the prurient public interest in the death of Princess Di. I think the magazine is still terrified of some kind of boycott by distributors, which may well be the result if the Board did decide to start accusations of anti-Semitism against them.

What Can Be Done?

So there are a variety of reasons why Private Eye is pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But speculating on their motives doesn’t make it any less infuriating that they’re doing it. I’ve thought in the past of writing letters of complaint to the Eye, explaining that the accused aren’t anti-Semites, and asking for an explanation. But what’s the point? The letter would either be ignored, or a short, edited version would appear in the magazine, which would allow them to reply quoting Lansman or someone else that anti-Semitism is rife, etc. And I might be unfair here to the magazine, but I don’t want to find myself smeared as an anti-Semite in turn and have my name or address passed onto the trolls that appear online to howl abuse at Mike, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.

And so there doesn’t seem to be much hope of challenging the Eye in its pages. The only option left is to carry on critiquing its lies and those of the rest of the media in the hope that more and more people will realise that it and they are smearing decent people simply for political advantage and to keep a vicious, corrupt government installed.

Lobster on Private Eye’s Smearing of Harold Wilson

August 13, 2016

Private Eye’s continued attacks and smears against Jeremy Corbyn on behalf of the New Labour establishment aren’t the first time they’ve run smears against a Labour leader. Of course, the Eye’s business is mocking just about every public figure, including and especially politicians. But sometimes this becomes something much more sinister: deliberate disinformation on behalf of the Secret State.

In the 1970s the British and American secret services were convinced that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent, including the head of the CIA, James Jesus Angleton. Various individuals connected with MI5 discussed overthrowing him in a coup, and imprisoning radical journalists, along with other subversives, in an internment camp in the Outer Hebrides. I’ve blogged about this before. It’s in ‘Red’ Ken’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. Francis Wheen, a Guardian journalist and frequent guest on BBC Radio Four’s topical comedy quiz, The News Quiz, also discusses the paranoia about Wilson and the plots to unseat him, including the formation of private armies and articles by the Times demanding that he be replaced by a coalition government. One of those, who also believed Wilson was a Soviet agent was a junior Conservative politician, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Many of these conspiracy theories were based on forged documents circulating in the media, which look very much like they were concocted by MI5 as a deliberate attempt to spread dissatisfaction. And one of the magazines that ran this disinformation was Private Eye.

Lobster, in issue 17 for November 1988 ran an article by Steven Dorril, then the magazine’s co-editor with Robin Ramsay. Entitled ‘Five at Eye’, this reported and commented on a piece published the year previously by the Guardian that the Eye may have been used to spread this deliberate black propaganda. Much of the material was published in the Eye by Auberon Waugh, who predictably denied any secret service involvement. In fact, Waugh had extensive connections to MI5 and also the extreme Right. He tried to join the Foreign Office, being recommended by MI5’s head, Roger Hollis. Hollis’ brother, Christopher, was his godfather. Christopher Hollis had been a member of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, was a contributor to various far right periodicals like Action and the World Review. During the War Waugh’s family had connections to those working in Middle East intelligence including Tom Driberg, the Labour politician, who also contributed to the Eye and MI5. Another colleague was Roger Fulford, who had also worked with Hollis. Auberon Waugh’s first job was at the Torygraph, and Dorril comments that it looked very much like an internal MI5 posting. In the 1970s the Washington Post claimed that the London papers were ‘flooded’ with intelligence assets, specifically referring to the Torygraph. One of Waugh’s closest collaborators at the Eye was Patrick Marnham, a contributor to the magazine’s ‘Grovel’ column.

When Wilson was re-elected in 1974, Marnham started receiving information packs from MI5 through a colleague on the Times. This material discussed Wilson’s position at the Board of Trade issuing import licences to a group of import-export dealers, known as the ‘East-West Traders’, who did business with the Soviet Union. Martin Tomkinson, another Eye journalist, stated he had a contact with the intelligence agencies, who believed that Wilson was too concerned with promoting Anglo-Soviet trade. The traders, who included Sir Rudy Sternberg, Lord Plurenden and Lady Beattie Plummer, were suspected by MI5 of being Soviet agents. In fact, Wilson discovered that Sternberg was a spy, but for MI6. Dorril’s article also contains a selection of pieces from the Spectator and the Eye, and the MI5 documents leaked to Marnham, with appropriate comments. The article also contains snippets from Dr Kitty Little’s pamphlet, Treason at Westminster, which was similarly paranoid about the East-West Traders, and by Peter Dally, who wrote for Asian Outlook. Both Dally and Birdwood were British representatives to the World Anti-Communist League, a far-Right organisation that included extreme Conservatives and outright Fascists and Nazis.

Reading between the lines, my guess is that there still is a link to MI5 at the Eye, despite the fact that it has, on occasion, been quite prepared to challenge the official line, such as over the Lockerbie bombing. All of the Eye’s founders – Richard Ingrams, Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh were British public school establishment. One other frequent contributor was John Wells, who was the French teacher and headmaster at Eton. Its present editor, Ian Hislop, comes from the same background. The real radical at the Eye was Paul Foot, of the ‘Footnotes’ column, which has continued after his death as ‘In the Back’. Foot was accepted, however, because he also came from the same middle class, public school background, and shared their tastes.

If the intelligence services are involved, it’s probably because Corbyn and the Labour left threaten the dominance of the Israel lobby within the Labour party. Blair was very close to the Zionists through Lord Levy, and the accusations of anti-Semitism directed against Jeremy Corbyn and members of the Labour left stem from the fact that they have criticised Israel for its persecution and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Zionists have become particularly shrill and defensive because the BDS campaign is having an effect in forcing Israeli businesses out of the occupied territories on the West Bank. Despite the inquiry and its finding that Blair was what his opponents had told the world all along – a warmonger – this is all about protecting Israel and maintaining the neocon policies in the Middle East.

Losing Patience with the Anti-Corbyn Bias in Private Eye

August 7, 2016

I’ve finally lost patience with the persistent bias against Jeremy Corbyn in Private Eye. I read the magazine regularly, and much of it I agree with and admire. It has over the years published some superb pieces attacking privatisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the persecution of the severely disabled by Atos and its successor Maximus. It has also shown itself quite willing to challenge British foreign policy. For example, it has published numerous pieces rebutting official claims that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, and instead pointed the finger at Syria, who were not accused as George Bush senior needed their help during the first Gulf War. It has also done admirable work defending the bereaved relatives in the Deepcut inquiry, challenging the official story that all of the victims committed suicide and attacking the Army’s and police’s apparent cover-up of what looks very much like murder on an army base that was out of control, with rampant bullying and the sexual abuse of female squaddies.

And yet, despite all this, the magazine has joined the rest of the press pack in attacking Corbyn as ‘unelectable’, mocking, smearing and denigrating his leadership at every turn. For the past few weeks, it has been running a strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which appears to have been written by the Blairites, and mostly revisits spats with Jeremy Corbyn and the extreme Left back in the 1980s. They’ve also published other pieces firmly showing their pro-Blairite bias. For instance, in this fortnight’s issue, there’s a piece defending Angela Eagle’s claim that Corbynistas threw a brick through her window, and attacking the good folks on the internet that have attempted to refute it as ‘conspiracy theorists’. They’ve also decided to criticise Corbyn because – gasp – he’s dared to appear on RT and Press TV. I intend to blog more deeply about both these issues. However, for now I’ll just say that the story about the brick thrown at Eagle’s office is false. It didn’t come through her window, and the area is marked by vandalism. There’s no evidence linking it to the Corbynites, and the entire accusation just comes from Eagle. As for RT and PressTV, this is more or less a return to the ‘red baiting’ of the Thatcherites in the 1980s, when they attacked Ken Livingstone and his group as Communists. This included members of the left-wing Tribune group, who had written articles for Soviet and Marxist magazines, but were themselves not Communists. RT stands for Russia Today, and is the Russian state broadcaster, while PressTV is run by the Iranian state. Both of these are extremely authoritarian countries which are notorious for their persecution of independent journalists. But I’ve used material from RT, because it gives a genuinely left-wing perspective on politics and events in America and the West, such as American imperialism and the exclusion of radical voices from official American politics. Very few others broadcasters are going to discuss these issues, with the noble exceptions of internet programmes like The Young Turks and Democracy Now. They put on the stuff that you won’t read about in our papers, or see on BBC TV, and increasingly not on Channel 4.

So what has prompted the Eye to attack Corbyn? I can’t be sure, but it strikes me that it’s probably due to the very upper middle class background of the magazine itself, and the fact that, despite its excellent record in many areas, none of its founders were in any sense radicals. Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and John Wells were all stout fellows, but they were very ‘establishment’. They were public schoolboys, a point I can remember being made by the panel at an event on the late Peter Cook one year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. John Wells, who in my opinion was one of the funniest of British comedians and comic actors, was the former French teacher and headmaster of Eton. You don’t get much more establishment than that. I once heard Humphrey Carpenter describe Auberon Waugh as a ‘Tory anarchist’, presumably meaning he that he was instinctively a man of the Right, but was also acutely aware of their stupidities and failings as well. I think this characterisation probably applies much more to Peter Cook. Cook seemed to me to be resolutely cynical in his politics. When he was at university, he joined all three mainstream political parties so he could laugh at them equally. By contrast, Waugh, who also wrote columns for Private Eye, always struck me as just a sarcastic right-winger sneering at the Left. Ingrams was notorious for having a bitter hatred of gays. After leaving the editorship of Private Eye, he founded the Oldie, a magazine for the elderly. I asked my mother once if she’d read it. She had, but didn’t like it, declaring it to be ‘snobby’. The only genuine left-winger on the team was Paul Foot, and he fitted in because he came from the same privileged background, and had the same very upper-middle class tastes in food and drink as the rest of them.

Ian Hislop, the current editor, is no different. He’s very public school, and his father was some kind of army officer or colonial administrator in Nigeria. And he also shares other parts of the accepted political wisdom. A few years ago on Have I Got News For You he declared that, regardless of the attacks the Tories were getting for their austerity policies, Labour would also be required to cut spending on the welfare state. This is very much the standard view, which is also followed slavishly by Beeb broadcasters. The Kushners attacked it, and the media consensus surrounding it, in their book Who Needs the Cuts?, which contains numerous examples of BBC broadcasters and journos uncritically repeating what is basically Neoliberal propaganda. Hislop wasn’t mentioned, but he was clearly another who had uncritically accepted this view.

And Corbyn isn’t the only Left-wing politician to be have been unfairly attacked by the Eye. Tony Benn was regularly pilloried as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, despite the fact that the people, who knew him said that he wasn’t a fanatic, but a thoughtful man who carefully considered what the people around him were saying and consulted their opinions before reaching a decision. But the received, Fleet Street wisdom in the 1970s and ’80s was that Benn was a fanatic and a madman.

As was ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. Livingstone was also attacked as a ‘Communist’, despite the fact that he wasn’t. He used them, and occasionally used the same type of language, but wasn’t, in fact, a Marxist. But hasn’t stopped the Eye from calling him Ken Leninspart. And most of what Livingstone talked about in his interviews with the press when he was head of the GLC was boringly mundane. However, this was routinely ignored, and the only parts of the conversation – which in actual fact were only very small parts of what he said – which were printed and repeated were those which presented him as an extremist – profoundly anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-gay. Which was too much for a Britain that was much more traditional and conservative in its attitudes towards race and gender than today. This was a time when the Black and White Minstrels were mainstream TV with a mass audience, despite being based on 19ith century parodies of Black, slave entertainment.

Benn and Livingstone were both attacked by the media because they were left-wing Socialists. Benn advocated extending nationalisation to a further 25 companies, as recommended in a report by his own party. One journo for the Sunday Times said that this was probably the reason why the press hated him, because editors and proprietors feared that eventually he would nationalise them. And ‘Red’ Ken was similarly reviled because he was in favour of industrial democracy and worker’s control, which shocked and outraged the media. The press did not, however, try to refute their ideas, and so took the tactics of sheer ad hominem abuse. My guess they were afraid to, because either they couldn’t, or they were afraid that simply discussing them would make them popular with the proles.

And I think this is true of the press today and its attacks on Corbyn. They’re motivated by the same fear of genuine Socialism after the neoliberalism and privatisation of the Blairites. And this terror is shared by Hislop and Private Eye, which despite its subversive tradition of satire and exposing abuse of power, isn’t really a radical magazine. Hislop and no doubt many of his contributors come from the upper middle classes, which own industry and continue to expect to take a leading role in British government and society. Jeremy Corbyn threatens them, just as Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone did before him. And so Private Eye joins in the abuse sneering and smearing him.

Rupert Murdoch and the Privatisation of the BBC

June 9, 2016

One of the major forces behind the Tory’s demands for the privatisation of the BBC is Rupert Murdoch. It is well-known that Murdoch owns the Sky satellite TV network, and so bitterly resents the state broadcaster as an obstacle preventing his own continuing expansion into broadcasting. Murdoch isn’t the only media mogul to demand the break-up of the Beeb in favour of their own interests as private broadcasters. Until recent, Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond, the proprietor of Express newspapers and various grubby mags found on the top shelves on newsagents also owned Channel 5, along with his Fantasy X porn channel. The situation was much the same in the 1980s, when one of the other newspaper magnates, the late, unlamented Robert Maxwell, owned Rediffusion, which was also looking to expand, and so attacked the Beeb. But because of his domination of the market, Murdoch is perhaps the leading voice demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Mark Hollingworth discusses Murdoch’s self-interested attacks on the BBC in his book, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship. While this section isn’t particularly surprising in itself, as the Dirty Digger has been doing it for decades, what is shocking is how viciously and single-mindedly the old brute prosecuted his attacks on the Beeb in the 1980s. He writes:

The attacks on the BBC began in January 1985, during the corporation’s negotiations for an increased licence fee, and were sustained through the year. On 14 January 1985, the Times published the first of three successive leading articles extolling the virtues of advertising the need for deregulation of the BBC: ‘The BBC is today accused of inefficiency, unaccountability, self-aggrandisement and feather-bedding its employees…Are the critics justified? In their main principles, yes.’ The next day Labour MP Joe Ashton launched his private member’s bill calling for advertising on the BBC. That morning the Times’ editorial was headlined-‘Wither the BBC’- and called for the break-up of the corporation: ‘Advertisers can clearly pay some part in generating the revenue to pay for many programmes…We need a more open, less monolithic system of broadcasting in which customers can choose what qualities they want from their TV screens.’ The next day the Times thundered again at its 1,300,000 readers: ‘Lord Annan’s Committee recommended a break-up of the BBC into its radio, TV and local radio components. The government should now prepare to go further than this. It should consider quickly the establishment of a new broadcasting commission to auction franchises that are currently operated by the BBC.

Now, what the Times fails to tell its readers is who will directly benefit if these franchises are auctioned. At the front of the queue will be a certain R. Murdoch, proprietor of the Times, who will benefit commercially if the BBC is broken up. Murdoch’s company, News International, owns Sky Channel-a cable and satellite operation which transmits 73 hours a week of alternative television and has three million subscribers in 11 countries. In 1983 Murdoch also took control of Satellite TV, Sky’s parent company, at a cost of £5 million and has a 75.5 per cent shareholding. Satellite began transmitting in 1982, beaming English language programmes to Norway and Finland for two hours a night. In 1985 the Times’ owner acquired the biggest stake in 20th Century Fox to provide films for his satellite Sky Channel to beam across Europe. Clearly, if even parts of the BBC are privatised, these Murdoch-owned companies will make a lot of money.

Murdoch’s views on the BBC are quite clear. ‘I would like to see it privatized,’ he said in November 1985. But this was not just his private opinion. According to the Mirror’s Paul Foot, Murdoch ‘has personally ordered a sustained attack on the BBC and all its people.’ Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, added weight to this assertion when he accused the Times of conducting ‘a vendetta against the BBC in its leaders, news stories and features’. This is certainly borne out by the evidence. The Times published at least eight anti-BBC editorials throughout 1985. The paper also published a series of news reports, often based on the thinnest material, which suggested extravagance and incompetence among BBC management. ‘BBC Condemned As Licence Fee Monster’ was the headline for one story which was merely a report of an article by an obscure ex-BBC employee in a trade journal.

Moreover, when angry readers have written to complain about the coverage or offer and alternative point of view, the Times has refused to publish their letters. this was revealed by Paul Fox, Managing Director of Yorkshire Television. On 2 November 1985, the Times published another leader attacking the BBC, the IBA and ITV companies and misquoted comments that Fox had made about public service broadcasting. Fox wrote to the paper to set the record straight about his misrepresented remarks, but his letter was not published. Three days later, on 5 November 1985, David Plowright, the Managing Director of Granada TV and Chairman of the ITV Companies Association, also wrote to the Times to complain about front-page news report of a MORI opinion poll on advertising on the BBC. In his letter, Plowright pointed out that the Times opinion poll showed that more people were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the quality of TV in Britain than those who took the opposite view. How curious, wrote Plowright, that the paper’s news story had failed to include these facts. The letter was not published and the issue was not corrected.

The Times was not the only Murdoch paper to attack the BBC. His tabloids have joined in the fun. Here’s the Sun on 23 January 1985: ‘Oh, what superior people they are at the BBC. Here is the Director-General, Alastair Milne, raising his hands in horror at the idea of accepting adverts…Just where is the BBC superior to the commercial channels… There is only one area where the Beeb shines. No-one could possibly match its overbearing, totally unjustified smugness. And again on 2 September 1985: ‘The BBC should compete in the market so it ceases to be such a burden on the public.’ The Sun’s sister paper, the News of the World, began its campaign a trifle later than most but soon made up for lost ground. Every week throughout April 1985 there was a news story about the expenses of BBC staff which were reaching ‘scandal’ proportions. The next month News of the World journalists were instructed to file detailed reports of the eating and drinking habits of fellow reporters on the BBC during a royal tour. One brave woman journalist refused, because she said this was not her job. A News of the World executive then telephoned from London to accuse her of being disloyal. However, halfway through his lecture, the editorial executive was much dismayed to find that he had been put through by mistake to Kate Adey-a BBC television news reporter. (pp.12-14).

The News of the World executive probably left the phone with his ears ringing. ‘Kats Adie’ is the formidable woman, who was thrown out of Libya after she put the fear of the Almighty into Colonel Gaddafy. She is most certainly not afraid to ask awkward questions of the powerful.

The Beeb does have its faults. Its biased news coverage enrages me, and has been criticised many times for its bias against Labour and to the Conservatives. On the other hand, at its best it does provide good, solid public service broadcasting that few of its commercial rivals are able or even willing to provide. And advertising increasingly cannot provide the needed funding for some TV programmes today. A few years ago there were plans to bring back Spitting Image, the much-loved satirical puppet show screened on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings. This was eventually dropped because it was simply too expensive.

And no matter how biased the Beeb is, Murdoch’s worse. The more he goes on, the more he resembles the Bond villain, a media-mogul, who planned to start a war between America and China simply for its news value. That particular piece of Bondage ended with Commander Bond and his mates killing the villain, who was then reported as sinking in the South China Sea along with his stealth yacht. An end very similar to the drowning of Robert Maxwell. After something like five decades of lowering media standards across the globe, you feel it’s about time someone from the world’s covert intelligence agencies made him put a sock in it.

In the meantime, here’s Spitting Image on the Dirty Digger and his nearly subterranean journalistic standards.

Private Eye from 1995 on Private Health Firms in the NHS and Computer Chaos

April 13, 2015

Private Eye in their edition for Friday, 6th October 1995 also published another piece by Paul Foot in his ‘Footnotes’ column about a consortium of drug companies pushing for the privatisation of the NHS under the chairmanship of Sir Duncan Nichol, the director of BUPA, the private health insurer. Nichol was also head of the NHS when £20 million was wasted on a failed computer project, in which they were advised by Anderson Consulting.

Put Another Nichol In

So crass, discursive, vacillating and shoddily presented was the first report of Health Care 2000 that even the health secretary Stephen Dorrell attacked it.

Health Care 2000 was set up in 1993 by Britain’s 30 top drug companies “to encourage the development of partnership and programmes with others involved in health care”. It report suggests that private money should be encouraged into the National Health Service by allowing people to buy better NHS treatment – for instance by paying a fee for more convenient appointment times to avoid all those nasty hours with the plebs in the doctors’ waiting rooms. The only certain result of this would be that more money would be spent on drugs.

The chair of the committee which produced the report is Sir Duncan Nichol, who is described as director of the health service management unit at Manchester University. Shyly, the report does not boast of Sir Duncan’s other important job: as a director of BUPA, the private health insurance group.

From 1989 to 1993 Sir Duncan was also head of the National Health Service, of course, and in 1993 he gave evidence to the Commons public accounts committee about an interesting example of private money in the National Health Service: the waste of at least £20 million of NHS money on a disgraceful computer cock-up in t6he Wessex region. At the centre of the cock-up was a giant (and disastrous) IBM computer, recommended by a consultant to the regional health authority who, by astonishing coincidence, sat on the board of IBM (when this was discovered, the IBM man was “asked to leave” and given a pay-off of £111,940).

Asked by a Tory MP if the Wessex saga was “a litany of slapdash, improper and quite unacceptable intromissions with public funds”, Nichol replied: “There is no doubt that that would be an appropriate description.” He also agreed that between 1987 and 1990 the statutory auditor had sent five reports to Nichol’s NHS management6 executive outlining “improprieties” in Wessex. Asked what he had done about them, Nichol insisted his department had “doggedly pursued a whole series of points about the management and mismanagement of this project”. But alas, he confessed, all that dogged pursuit turned out to be “a hopeless chase”.

Nichol was asked about the role of Andersen Consulting, a firm which had set out to advise the regional health authority on which computer firm to hire, and ended up getting the contract itself. An auditor reported: “Although several officers took exception at the time to the apparent conflict of interest, no remedial action was taken.” Nichol could not explain convincingly why he and his executive had done nothing about it. Soon after this outstanding performance, Mr Nichol was knighted.

Sir Duncan came across Andersen again in a more congenial atmosphere during his recent Health Care 2000 Inquiry. His deputy on the committee was Patricia Hewitt, director of research at Andersen Consulting. She became famous as policy coordinator to Neil Kinnock during his days as leader of the Labour Party when he campaigned with tremendous vigour against any dilution by private money of the National Health Service. She joined Andersen’s last year.

I’ve already blogged about how Patricia Hewitt became part of the New Labour project to destroy anything resembling Socialism in the Labour party. What’s interesting is the evidence from this article how far back the Tory plans to part privatise the NHS are. The idea that people should have to pay for extra NHS services appeared last year with the recommendation by the Labour, Lord Warner, that the NHS should start making charges for its services.

As for Andersen Consulting, they were perpetually in Private Eye because of repeated bungling and conflicts of interest. The effective destruction of the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue was on their recommendations. Following the global recession created partly by the sub-prime mortgages fiasco, Andersen decided that they could only clean up their act by changing their name. Well, this shows how deeply the corruption, venality and incompetence went. They should never have been allowed anywhere near government.

Private Eye from 1995 on Unum and Peter Lilley in the Tory Government

April 13, 2015

As the left-wing blogs have repeatedly pointed out, the Tories’ welfare reforms, in which the disabled are assessed and routinely denied benefit for being supposedly ‘fit for work’, are based on the quack pseudoscience of the American insurance giant, Unum. It’s pet doctors dreamed up the profitable idea that any and every kind of work was useful in helping the sick and disabled to recover. This was enthusiastically taken over by the Tories and New Labour, as it justified throwing hundreds of thousands off disability benefit on the spurious grounds that they could work.

The results have been horrendous. Severely mentally ill people have been driven to the point of suicide by the threat of losing their benefits. Doctors and psychiatrists have seen increased numbers coming to them suffering from stress due to assessments. Critically ill people, including those dying of cancer, have been told that their benefits have been stopped, as they are well enough to work.

In his ‘Footnotes’ column in Private Eye’s issue for Friday, 16th June 1995, Paul Foot published this article on Unum, which had been brought into John Major’s Tory government by Peter Lilley. Here it is:

Doctor On Call

To help him in his bid to save £2 billion a year by slashing the benefits of disabled people, Peter Lilley, social services secretary, has hired the vice-president of a big multinational private insurance company which is using the benefit cuts to boost its sales.

Overcoming the xenophobia to which he so often gives voice at Tory party conferences, Mr Lilley has appointed an American.

Founded in Portland, Maine, in 1848, the Unum Corporation describes itself as “the world’s leading light in disability insurance”. Unum Ltd, its British arm, is based in Dorking, Surrey. It issued its annual report last September, when chairman Ward E. Graffam enthused about “exciting developments” in Britain.

He explained: “The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.” In January, the full extent of Lilley’s plans to replace invalidity benefit with incapacity benefit revealed to the Commons. Estimated “savings” for the year 1996-97 were £410 million; for 1996-97 £1.2 billion; and for 1997-98 an astonishing £1.7 billion.

Obviously, with so much less government money going to sick and disabled people, the opportunities for private disability insurance were enormous. No longer could people rely on benefit income if they became ill or disabled. They would have to fend for themselves. Accordingly, UNUM Ltd, as its chairman had promised, “launched a concerted effort to harness the potential”. In April this year, a glamorous and expensive advertising campaign coincided with the new rules for incapacity benefit.

One UNUM ad warned: “April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble”. Lurid tables estimating weekly outgoings for an average family at £276, and benefit under the new rules at £100, urged people to “protect yourself with a Long Term Disability policy from UNUM”.

Crucial to the new rules were tougher medical tests to find out if people really are incapacitated. The Benefits Agency Medical Services (BAMS) recruited a new corps of doctors to carry out new “all-work tests”. The basic change in the tests was simple. In the past, disabled or sick people were entitled to benefit if they could no longer do their job. From now on, people are entitled to benefit only if they can do no work at all.

The new medical tests were fundamental to the “savings” Lilley hoped for. If the tests were too lax – if doctors were allowed to slide into sentimental slackness in assessing peoples’ ability to do any work at all – the whole purpose of the tests would be thwarted. So Lilley’s department set up an “incapacity benefit medical valuation group” to “monitor and validate the quality standards for the doctors involved in the all-work assessments”.

The most famous member of the group is Dr John Le Cascio, second vice-p0resident of the Unum Corporation, who has recently be seconded to the company’s British arm. Dr Le Cascio was also invited last year by Lilley’s department to help in the extensive training of doctors in the new techniques of testing. The DSS stresses that “the doctors don’t decide the incapacity benefit – that is done by an adjudication officer”. No doubt; but the officer makes a decision on the expert medical information provided the tests.

No press release was issued about Dr Le Cascio’s appointment. No one told taxpayers that the DSS is shelling out £40,000 to Unum Ltd for Dr Le Cascio’s services in the year from October 1994 to September this year. A DSS spokeswoman explained: “This comes down basically to a daily rate of £440 a day. That’s cheap for a consultancy, actually”.

The Eye asked Dr Le Cascio if he agreed there was an absolutely obvious conflict of interest in his position as validator and monitor of tests for a benefit, the cutting of which was being exploited to the full by the advertisements for his company. He replied:

“Well, I don’t feel that way of course, and if I did I wouldn’t have accepted the job. I was brought in for a specific reason, and that is to teach some of the medical principles which are contained in the design of the new test – that’s what I do, that’s my area of expertise. I’m a technical person and I can do that. To me, there is no sort of conflict as long as I do that job. I feel comfortable doing it, and I assume that those in the department feel comfortable with my contribution. The reason they’ve turned to me is because the commercial insurers have been working with this sort of valuation system for a long time and that’s where the knowledge lies.’

It was thus Peter Lilley and the Tories, who introduced Unum and the wretched work capability assessment. New Labour retained and expanded them, but the ultimately responsibility lie with the Tories. And the results have been horrendous. Mike estimated that about 52,000 people a year have been killed through benefit sanctions.

All so Lilley could persecute the poor and sick, and his friends in private insurance could make a quick buck.

NATO and the Economic Exploitation of Eastern Europe

January 31, 2015

I also found this little piece in ‘The View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 45, reproducing statements from elsewhere that NATO was being used to exploit the former eastern bloc countries that have joined it after the fall of Communism. Although over a decade old, it’s relevant now as we are in period of diplomatic tension with Russia over the civil war in Ukraine. This has been presented as a case of pro-Western Ukrainian patriots attempting to free themselves from Russian domination. The reality is somewhat murkier, as the pro-Western side themselves were guilty of considerable corruption. It also includes open Neo-Nazis.

Under Comecon and the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union did indeed exploit its satellite economically, and dominate them militarily through a complex of joint industrial companies, trade treaties and military obligations. If the two pieces cited in the Lobster article are to be believed, then NATO is little better.

NATO and Eastern Europe
Who wrote the following?

‘Nato is now a device to exert control and extract cash. Those who resist, like Belarus, are punished… All eastern European states are required to sell off their national economic assets to foreigners, and close down their agriculture by accepting the dumping of subsidised EU food imports. This creates massive social disruption and unemployment. In addition, they must spend 2% of the GDP on defence, preferably on arms made in the US.

Consequently, a small country like Lithuania, whose economy has collapsed so catastrophically, has just announced the purchase of $34 million worth of Stinger missiles, made by the Raytheon Corporation of Tucson, Arizona. When Tanzania announced it was spending $40 million on a new civilian air traffic control system, there was an outcry; but Lithuania, whose official GDP is not much larger than Tanzania’s, will have to spend $240m on arms every year as the price for Nato membership. And Lithuania is just one of seven new member states, all of which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on arms’.

Someone on the left? Paul Foot? Greg Palast? John Pilger? None of the above. (None of the above would use the term foreigners…) They were written by John Laughland, generally presented and perceived as an anti-EU right-winger. But take out the word foreigners…

Along similar lines the following appeared on John Young’s Cryptome site a month later:

It might interest your readers to understand the aggressive US tactics used to win the Lockheed F-16 deal with Poland last week. Information from an official translator who has first-hand knowledge of various meetings … an aggressive campaign, including electronic surveillance to ensure that Lockheed, rather than Swedish/French rivals, won an order for fighter jets. This campaign included … If Lockheed’s offer was not successful, the US would block or substantially reduce World Bank and International Finance Corporation loan/assistance package worth an estimated $1.4 billion (measured over 2003-2005); US officials warned that the loss of the Lockheed deal would create “substantial setbacks” for Poland’s activities within NATO which could prevent the placement of Polish military officials in special NATO committees and command structures … the US official restated that Poland would not have preferential treatment in the reorganisation of Baltic Sea deployments and planning should Lockheed fail in its bid.’

This makes you really wonder what the reality behind the ousting of President Yanukovych in Ukraine really was, and who was supposed to benefit: the Ukrainian people, or Western multinationals.