Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Twigg’

More on Progress, the Groaniad, and the Israel Lobby

September 27, 2016

Lobster 70 also had some very interesting little snippets about the Israel lobby, and its connections to sections of the Labour party and the press, specifically ‘Progress’, and the Guardian.

‘Progress’ is the Blairite faction within the Labour party. In ‘Tittle-Tattle’ for that issue, Tom Easton praises Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star for his work investigating and exposing Progress and its dodgy donors. Hughes had written about the close connection between Tristram Hunt and David Sainsbury. As I’ve blogged previously, Sainsbury was a big corporate donor to the Labour party under Blair and Brown. He stopped funding the party as a whole when Ed Miliband became leader, but, according to Hughes, he continued funding Progress. Just as he continued funding the SDP rump under Dr David Owen after the rest of it had merged with the Liberals. One of the SDP’s members was Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

In November 2014 Hughes described Hunt’s speech at the previous Labour Conference, in which he made a joke about the secretive and numerically small nature of the faction, which did not go down well with the Progress hordes. He wrote

‘When I went to the Progress rally at the last Labour conference, Tristram Hunt was one of the speakers, where he declared he was “delighted to be with Progress” because “you might be an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire, but you are OUR unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire”.

Here were two dozen true words spoken in jest. Hunt’s joke was so close to the bone that the shiny happy people of Progress — this is one of the biggest events on Labour’s fringe — seemed embarrassed into silence.

Hunt’s insistence that Progress was “the Praetorian Guard, the Parachute Regiment, the Desert Rats of Labour” also raised few laughs, even though the meeting took place in a Comedy Club at the edge of the Labour conference site. Even joking that Progress is new Labour’s shock troops was a bit too much.’

One of Progress’ board members is Patrick Diamond, who is a long-time associated of Peter Mandelson. He is the Vice-Chair of Mandy’s Policy Network, as well as frequently contributing columns to the Guardian. Progress’ president is Stephen Twigg, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Progress’ chair, John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, contributed the foreword to the Labour Friends of Israel’s The Progressive Case for Israel. And when it seemed Liz Kendall was about to don the mantle of leadership for New Labour, she got a positive press from the Jewish Chronicle. The week after Labour lost the election, the newspaper ran the headline, ‘Labour Must Now Pass the Israel Test’. Which shows just how close New Labour is to the Israel lobby. And in another item in the same column, Easton states that another former chairman of the LFI is Jim Murphy, the head of Scottish Labour. Which sheds yet more light on his determination to block Rhea Wolfson’s attempts to get on to the NEC. Murphy persuaded her local Labour party not to back her because of her links to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum, despite the fact that they’re not, and Wolfson herself is Jewish.

A further item, ‘Grauniada’, also comments that that the Graun’s connections to Zionism goes back ‘to the early days of both’, noting that the newspaper itself had told the story of its relationship with Israel in 2008 when it published Daphna Baram’s Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel. The same item also notes that Jonathan Freedland, one of the leading critics of Jeremy Corbyn, is also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle.

All this shows the very strong connections between New Labour, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the Jewish Chronicle, and how they are absolutely united in their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

The same item in Lobster also speculates on how long the connection between the Graun and Zionism will survive, now that the new editor-in-chief is Katherine Viner. Viner and Alan Rickman produced a theatre production based on the diary entries and writings of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was the American peace activist, who was killed by bulldozer driven by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2003.

There’s also another section in that part of the magazine specifically about the Israel lobby. Most of the politicians reported in that item, ‘Israel Lobby News’, are Conservatives and Lib Dems, such as Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg’s head of communications, James Sorene, who went off to head BICOM, while local councillors elected in May that year were invited to join the Local Government Friends of Israel by Rachel Kaye, the Executive Director of We Believe in Israel. Kaye stated that the director of We Believe in Israel was Luke Akehurst, a former Labour councillor for Hackney, and had worked with Peter Mandelson’s former press secretary in the PR and lobbying firm Weber Shandwick.

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The Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias and Labour Friends of Israel

September 22, 2016

More information from Lobster about the Israel lobby. And it’s directly relevant to the Corporation’s glaring bias against Jeremy Corbyn. Tom Easton’s ‘Tittle-Tattle’ column in number 68 of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, for Winter 2014, discusses the various high-flyers and senior media figures and their very dodgy connections to intelligence and various covert political attending that year’s Media Society’s annual dinner. The dinner’s joint host was James Harding, the Beeb’s director of news and current affairs. One of his colleagues in the Beeb’s upper echelons is James Purnell, the corporation’s director of strategy and digital. Purnell’s a form a Labour politico. He started off as a councillor for Islington, alongside Stephen Twigg and Tal Michael, two senior Blairites. The Simpering Scrounger and his circle found them ‘winnable seats’, and they both went on to join Labour Friends of Israel. Both Twigg and Purnell served the organisation as chairmen, beginning with Twigg. Purnell headed it from 2002 onwards, also becoming an MP for Liverpool, where he was joined by Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, who were also leading members.

Harding himself is also pro-Israel. The Guardian, discussing his appointment at the Beeb, commented:

‘Harding, who is Jewish, will also have to leave behind the pro-Israeli line of The Times. In a debate at the Jewish Community Centre For London in 2011, he said: “I am pro-Israel” and that in reporting on the Middle East, “I haven’t found it too hard” because “The Times has been pro-Israel for a long time.”’

Purnell, Twigg and Michael also tried to oust Jeremy Corbyn from his seat in Islington, but were unsuccessful. They were able, however, to smear Liz Davies.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster68/lob68-tittle-tattle.pdf
Scroll down till you find the relevant section.

Given the history of these senior managers at the Beeb, it’s no wonder that the Corporation’s coverage of the Labour leader is so horrendously, blatantly biased.

The Anti-Semitism Accusations, Blair and the Israel Lobby

May 7, 2016

I’ve blogged a number of articles last week pointing out that the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour have precious little to do with any genuine anti-Semitism, but are simply part of a strategy by the Blairites to hang on to power within Labour, and the Israel lobby to deflect criticism of the state’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

I’ve posted up a number of pieces from the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, about the connections between the Zionist lobby and New Labour. And in the case of Blair his circle of MPs and activists, the connection was very close indeed. For example, in the article ‘Yo, Blair!’, in Lobster 52 for Winter 2006/7, editor Robin Ramsay noted that Lord Levy’s fundraising activities amongst the Jewish community was aided by a member of the Israeli embassy.

Even when the police investigation into Lord Levy’s fundraising activities for the Labour Party overlapped with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, to my knowledge none of the major British media, looking at Blair’s support for the Israelis, thought it relevant to mention that his successful capture of the Labour Party owed much to the money provided by Lord Levy, money which came, we are told, from British Jews, and that this arrangement, which enabled Blair to be financially independent of the Labour Party’s resources – and thus to all intents and purposes beyond their control – was facilitated by Gideon Meir, then with the Israeli embassy in London. (P. 16).

Ramsay also ran another piece on ‘New Labour and Israel’ in ‘New Labour Notes’ in Lobster 44, Winter 2002, 16-17. He wrote

In Lobster 43, p. 9, I referred to Tony Blair’s membership of the Labour Friends of Israel. That body was the subject of ‘Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group’ by the Times’ political editor, David Cracknell, which included the following:

‘Stephen Byers is bidding to make an early political comeback just two months after quitting the government. The former transport secretary is the front runner to take over the chairmanship of the influential Labour Friends of Israel pressure group. the body is one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks for Labour MPs. Several recent incumbents have been backbenchers who have gone on to be appointed to government….Tony Blair consults members of the Friends of Israel over Middle East policy and Byers would have the opportunity to regain access to Downing Street on a vital area of policy without attracting unwelcome headlines.’

In ‘Tony Blair, New Labour Trumpet Boy!’, Diane Langford of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, added the following information on LFI.

* The Director of Labour Friends of Israel is David Mencer, former research assistant and electoral agent for Gwyneth Dunwoody, ‘life president’ of LFI.

*The parliamentary register of Members’ interests shows that recent visitors who have had flights and accommodation paid by Labour Friends of Israel include Ivor Caplin, Paul Clark, Oona King, Ashok Kumar, Ivan Lewis, Anne McGuir, Rosemary McKenna, Margaret Moran, former LFI Chair Jim Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Gareth Thomas, Frank Roy, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Graham Stringer, Rudi Vis, David Watts, Gillian Merron, Peter Pike, Lorna Fitzsimons, Louise Ellman, Caroline Flint, Linda Perham, Douglas Alexander, Fabian Hamilton, Anthony Colman, LFI former Chair Stephen Twigg, LFI Vice Chair Mike Gapes, and Dan Norris.

Ivan Lewis, in the list above, was PPS to secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers MP.

* Since 1997 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with the Labour Friends of Israel.

* The have been 14 official trade missions to Israel from the UK since 1997. The BRITECH agreement signed by Trade Secretary Stephen Byers means there is now a £15.5 million joint fund to encourage co-operation between British and Israeli hi-tech industries in research and development for their own benefit.

In the even the puff for Byers in the Times came to naught. the new chair of Labour Friends of Israel is the MP James Purple.

Further information on the Labour Friends of Israel appeared in the article ‘Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent’ by Tom Easton in Lobster 47 for Summer 2005, pp. 3-8.

Gwyneth Dunwoody’s researcher and election agent for some time was David Mencer, a former member of the Israel armed forces, and now secretary of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Stephen Byers, one of the few remaining defenders of the New labour Project, is a senior figure in LFI whose parliamentary chairman is now James Purnell. the latter was elected to Parliament in 2001 after working at No. 10.

Purnell, Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons, Jim Murphy and Sion Simon (a columnist for Conrad Black’s Daily Telegraph before becoming an MP in 2001) were all members of the New Labour ‘Praetorian guard’. Before becoming MPs they all cut their teeth in student politics with the help of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). Numerically small – its website said it had 5,000 members in 2001 – it can afford 10 full-time workers. It played an important role in the 1990s in working with the National Association of Labour Students (later Labour Students) in keeping Israel off the campaigning agenda of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Of an older generation of student politicians is Mike Gapes, who came to work for the Labour Party after the NUS as a foreign policy researcher. He was part of the small team around Neil Kinnock who shifted the party away from its critical stance of the US and unilateralism. Elected to Parliament in 1992 he is now vice-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. He wears another hat, that of chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a tax-funded operation similar to the NED in the States. Earlier this year Gapes chaired a WFD gathering at which Neocon NED chief Carl Gershman was a speaker.

This is just scratching the surface of the old Atlanticist networks with a newer Israel dimension, but it is sufficient to suggest that much of it in Britain centres around New Labour. And just as Avnery describes the pride the Israel lobby takes in its power over the US political process, so we have a parallel here around Tony Blair.

We not only can piece together the evidence; we can hear the words of one of Blair’s main links to the business community John Mendelsohn. this is what Mendelsohn told Jews Week (www.jewsweek.com) on September 8, 2002.

‘Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party. Old Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.

In a signed 2001 election advertisement in The Jewish Chronicle, Blair said:

‘Since 1997 a record 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with Labour Friends of Israel, swelling the numbers of MPs willing to ensure balance on the Middle East in the House of Commons. More labour MPs have visited Israel than from any other party.’

How many of those Labour MPs voted against the invasion of Iraq? This is now important to the future of British politics. (p.8)

Elsewhere in the article Easton notes that the journos promoting the Iraq war worked for Murdoch, Black and Richard Desmond, who were all very strong supporters of Israel. (p. 6)