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John Simkin

Can Blair be removed from the House of Commons?

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Tony Blair has constantly refused to publish the legal advice from Lord Goldsmith that he received concerning the invasion of Iraq. He has claimed (falsely) that no previous British government has ever published legal advice it has received.

Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday published a leaked copy of Goldsmith’s advice. On R4 this morning Jack Straw repeatedly refused to deny that it was indeed a copy of this legal advice. We therefore have to assume that the document is genuine. We now can see why Blair has refused to publish this document. It shows that Blair has lied about the advice he received from Goldsmith. Blair claimed that Goldsmith was unequivocal about his advice that the war would be legal. Instead Goldsmith points out that there were six reasons why the war would be likely to be declared to be illegal by experts on international law. This supports statements that came from Bush’s administration that Goldsmith initially thought the war would be illegal but was pressurized to change his mind. It also explained why senior legal advisers to the government resigned in protest when Blair lied in the House of Commons about this issue.

It is clear that Blair lied about the most important subject of all. These lies have resulted in thousands of people being killed in an unnecessary war.

What can be done about it? I would suggest that all opposition leaders issue a joint statement accusing Tony Blair of lying to the House of Commons and calling for his impeachment. They should then all withdraw all their candidates standing in the Sedgefield constituency and give their full support to Reg Keys, the father of one of the men killed in the Iraq War. Given this straight fight Keys should have little difficulty defeating Blair, the most dishonest prime minister in our history.

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Guest Stephen Turner

John is of course correct, that any politician who knowingly lies to parliament should face, at least the termination of their office, & in Blair's case criminal proceedings. Unfortunately his remedy, (although I agree with it entirely) is, IMHO, a non-starter. This would require senior politicians to act for the public good, and not as their corporate masters tell them. They are also probably mindful of their own past misdemeanors, as well as one's they will commit in the future. The phrase "thick as thieves" springs to mind.

The one aspect of all this that I just do not understand, is what has Blair gained from it. When Thatcher lied to the British people about the sinking of the Belgrano, she did it for political advantage (to revive her rock-bottom poll showings.) Likewise Bush, IMO lied through his teeth about the truth of 9-11, (see Gerald Postner & 9-11 on the History Debates thread) but did so for personel, political & strategic reasons, that make some kind of twisted sence. Surely Blair, consumate politician that he is, (an insult..!!) must have realised how dangerous this could become. Or was his desire to kiss Bush's posteriour that strong???

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The one aspect of all this that I just do not understand, is what has Blair  gained from it.

Money.

Blair’s corruption began in 1994. As Robin Ramsay pointed out in the book, The Rise of New Labour, when Blair became a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party, Gideon Meir, a senior official at the Israeli Embassy in London, introduced him to Michael Levy (an extremely wealthy Jewish businessmen). Levy agreed to help Blair to become leader of the party. Levy, with the support of four other Jewish businessmen (Sir Emmanuel Kaye, Sir Trevor Chinn, Maurice Hatter, and David Goldman) provided Blair with £7m. This paid for his campaign plus the running of his private office. This money allowed Blair to become independent of Labour Party funding. Could it be this money, rather than the charm of George Bush, that persuaded Blair to give his support to the American (Israeli) policy in the Middle East?

The next stage in this corruption concerned a meeting with Rupert Murdoch just before the 1997 election. After this date the Sun switched to being a New Labour supporter. We do not know what was said at this meeting. What we do know is that for the last eight years the newspaper has provided loyal support to the party. This was important for Blair as he believed the Sun headline the morning after the Tories won the 1992 General Election that it was the “Sun Wot Won It”. After all, during the campaign the Sun trenchantly opposed the Labour Party. As a result 14% of its readers voted Labour and 65% voted Tory.

What did Blair have to give Murdoch in order to get his support? Several things. One of the most important things concerns New Labour’s tax policies. In opposition New Labour had been promising to remove all tax loopholes. This posed a serious threat to Murdoch who did not agree with the idea of paying tax. For example, in 1999, the Economist reported that Murdoch had made £1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) in profits over the previous 11 years but had paid no net corporation tax. It further reported, after an examination of what was available of the accounts, that Murdoch would normally have expected to pay a corporate tax of approximately $350 million. The article explained that the corporation's complex structure, international scope and use of offshore havens allowed News Corporation to avoid tax.

Despite its promises Blair has not removed these loopholes and Murdoch continues to avoid paying corporation tax.

Murdoch is not alone in supporting Blair. When it appeared that New Labour was considering changing its leadership, an article appeared in the Murdoch owned Sunday Times. The article included a list of right-wing industrialists who it claimed were the main financiers of the New Labour Party. It pointed out that these men would withdraw their support of the party if Gordon Brown became the leader. This was based on the idea that Brown was really a supporter of progressive taxation. At the moment he is being controlled by Blair, but if he left, Brown would return to his original socialist beliefs. Since the article appeared Murdoch has had several meetings with Brown. Murdoch is now confident that Brown will never close off these loopholes. He has also got a guarantee that New Labour will maintain the maximum 40% income tax rate.

Murdoch is also concerned about other areas of government policy. It is very important that the government does not do anything to interfere with his business interests. He is especially keen to have the freedom to buy other media outlets. Ideally, he would like Blair to privatise the BBC and C4. This is a difficult one for Blair and although C4 is vulnerable the British public would never allow the BBC to be privatised.

Murdoch has fulfilled his part of the bargain. He has given Blair loyal support over the last eight years. This has especially important when Blair got in difficulty with the Iraq War. It was only Murdoch’s papers that believed the findings of the Hutton Report. In fact, the Sun said the day after it was published that it was the report it would have written. Maybe it did, it definitely had a copy before anyone else.

Murdoch was always a great supporter of the invasion of Iraq. During the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, all 175 Murdoch-owned newspapers worldwide editorialized in favour of the war. Murdoch gave several interviews at the time to explain why he was such a strong supporter of “regime change”. Murdoch believed that an invasion of Iraq would lead to a dramatic fall in oil prices and eventually a sharp increase in share prices. This was Bush’s own agenda. However, the continuing resistance in Iraq has meant that oil prices have gone up rather than down.

What has Blair got in return from his relationship with Murdoch? Well his support has obviously helped him become prime minister. This in itself results in considerable financial rewards. Most of the money will come after retirement. For example, Blair recently took out a £3m mortgage. This is based on the money he will receive for his memoirs published by HarperCollins. This is very similar to the deal given to Margaret Thatcher by HarperCollins. Who owns HarperCollins? Rupert Murdoch of course. Not that Thatcher or Blair will ever sell that many books. However, it is a great way to pay a bribe.

Murdoch is not the only one who has shared his financial gains from his policies with Tony Blair. Recently the parliamentary ombudsman forced Tony Blair to disclose details of private meetings he has had with commercial lobbyists. This has resulted in the revelation that Blair had a private meeting with Paul Drayson on 6th December, 2001. Soon afterwards two things happened: (1) Drayson donated £100,000 to the Labour Party; (2) Drayson’s company, PowerJect, won a £32 million contract to produce a smallpox vaccine. The most surprising aspect of this contract was that it was not put out to open tender. If it had of been the contract would have gone to a German-Danish company called Bavarian Nordic. It is this company that Drayson has purchased the smallpox vaccine from. It is believed that Drayson paid Bavarian Nordic £12m for the vaccine. In other words his £100,000 investment has resulted in a £20m profit. Drayson also got a peerage to go with this windfall.

Then there is Blair’s relationship with British American Tobacco (BAT). A report on passive smoking is currently being withheld by the government. According to the doctors who wrote the report, it clearly states that the evidence suggests a clear link between passive smoking and cancer. It also recommends a ban on smoking in public places like pubs and restaurants. It seems strange that this should happen at a time when the government is discussing the possible legislation on this matter.

Four years ago documents were leaked to a national newspaper that showed that BAT was involved in selling cigarettes in a way that avoided paying taxes (smuggling). Stephen Byers, trade secretary, decided to launch an investigation into this scandal. This included the seizing of company files, and forcing employees to be questioned on oath.

Martin Broughton, head of BAT, asked to have a meeting with Byers. He refused. BAT responded by employing two former senior Department of Trade and Industry officials as consultants (Nicola Shears and Ray Mingay). These men then arranged a secret breakfast meeting with Tony Blair and Martin Broughton. Byers was also ordered to attend. Soon afterwards Byers dropped the idea of a public inquiry. Instead, a private inquiry was launched under Section 447 of the Companies Act.

When Ash (the anti-smoking pressure group) heard the news asked for a meeting with Blair and Byers. This idea was rejected. If the inquiry had produced a damaging report, it would have opened the door to lawsuits from foreign governments cheated of taxes.

It is now four years since the investigation under Section 447 took place. After questions were raised in the House of Commons, Patricia Hewitt, the new trade secretary, announced that the investigation found insufficient evidence for legal action. The report will not be published and so it is impossible to check the genuineness of the investigation.

Then there is Blair’s relationship with those companies who have successfully bid for

Private Finance Initiative (PFI contracts). When the Conservative Party was in power a large part of its funding came from companies bidding for government contracts. The same is true for Blair’s government. For example, one of the most successful companies in obtaining PFI contracts is a company called Jarvis. Before 1997 it was a major supplier of funds to the Conservative Party. After New Labour’s victory it changed sides and began pouring money into the new government. This seems very strange considering the chairman (Steven Norris) is a member of the Conservative Party (former MP and recent Conservative candidate for the post of mayor of London). This has resulted in Jarvis getting a host of these PFI contracts. This has included contracts to run educational services, something it has no experience in.

Jarvis' reputation has suffered after a number of failed PFI contracts, and its involvement in the Potter's Bar rail crash. The firm now calls itself Engenda when it bids for PFI contracts.

It is possible to trace donations from these companies to the New Labour Party. However, it is impossible to discover how much money has gone to Blair himself. But the same was true of David Lloyd George. As I pointed out with Blair’s HarperCollins contract, there are some clever ways of paying bribes. Not that this is a new strategy. Lloyd George was also paid a considerable sum for his memoirs.

In May 1936 Jimmy Thomas, Secretary for the Colonies in Ramsay MacDonald’s national government, was found guilty of leaking Budget secrets to his stockbroker son, Leslie Thomas, and Alfred Cosher Bates, a wealthy businessman. In a Judicial Tribunal set up by the government, Bates admitted giving Thomas £15,000 but claimed it was an advance for a proposed autobiography. This high sum for an autobiography, not yet written, only increased suspicion of the two men's relationship, and Thomas was forced to resign from the government and House of Commons. Mind you, that was 1936, standards were higher in those days.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUthomas.htm

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Guest Stephen Turner

:rolleyes: John, thanks for the information.....

Ah, Mamon, the cause of so much of the worlds misery.....!!!

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Yesterday the Sunday Times published what it says is a leaked memo dated 23 July 2002 by Matthew Rycroft, a former Downing Street foreign policy aide.

In the memo, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying US President George Bush had "made up his mind to take military action even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin".

It adds: "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would help with the legal justification for the use of force."

The memo followed a meeting, attended by Mr Blair, Mr Straw, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and the attorney general.

This is further evidence that Blair and Bush originally developed a policy of regime change in Iraq. Under international law, this would have been illegal. This did not bother Bush too much but Blair knew he would have difficulty persuading fellow Labour MPs to accept this policy. Therefore Blair had to seek another UN resolution. He also had to convince the Labour Party (and to a lesser extent the British public) that Iraq had WMD and posed a serious threat to the UK. The intelligence service did what it could to please its masters but failed to find the necessary evidence of WMD.

Therefore, Blair was forced to lie to the public about the threat of WMD. As MPs find it difficult to believe that a PM would lie about such a serious matter, they gave him the votes he needed. Other nations were less convinced by the honesty of Blair and refused to pass the UN resolution. Therefore, Blair, unwilling to back own over the promises he had made to Bush, took part in an illegal invasion.

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General Sir Michael Rose was adjutant general of the British army and commander of the UN protection force in Bosnia. Yesterday he called for Tony Blair to be impeached:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1682755,00.html

Tuesday January 10, 2006

The Guardian

Wars are won when the people, government and army work together for a common cause in which they genuinely believe. Whereas the people may be initially uncertain about military intervention, politicians will often be the strongest advocates - blinded by the imperatives of their political views. It will invariably be military commanders who are most cautious about using force - for they understand better than most the consequences of engaging in war.

Although in a true democracy they must remain subordinate to their political masters, they have a clear responsibility to point out when political strategies are flawed or inadequately resourced. Since they might also have to ask their soldiers to sacrifice their lives, they must be assured that a war is just, legal and the last resort available. Yet three years ago this country was somehow led by the prime minister into war in Iraq where few, if any, of these requirements were met.

Most importantly a clear justification for the war in Iraq was never sufficiently made by Tony Blair - for the intelligence he presented was always embarrassingly patchy and inconsistent. What is more, his unequivocal statement to the House of Commons that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used within 45 minutes was made without being properly validated - for it was decided in Washington and London to launch the invasion of Iraq early, on the basis of the flimsy evidence available. This was done without asking the UN weapons inspectors, who were actually on the ground in Iraq, to investigate this allegation. Ultimately, as the inspectors suspected and as we now all know, it turned out that there were no such weapons. Britain had been led into war on false pretences. It was a war that was to unleash untold suffering on the Iraqi people and cause grave damage to the west's prospects in the wider war against global terror.

Nevertheless, today the prime minister seeks to persuade the world that the war was justifiable because Saddam Hussein was toppled and there now exists in Iraq a slender hope of democracy. The Iraqi elections are a creditable achievement by the coalition forces. But it must be remembered that a general election was previously held in Iraq in 1956, and within two years the country had fallen under military rule. Without adequate security and the necessary democratic institutions in place, there are absolutely no long-term guarantees that democracy will endure.

Before the invasion, regime change was never cited as a reason for going to war. Indeed, Mr Blair insisted that regime change was not, nor ever could be, a reason for going to war. Had such a justification been fully debated in parliament, it is exceedingly unlikely that the necessary political support would have been forthcoming. It was the apparent need to defend ourselves against a dire threat - so vividly described by Mr Blair in the Commons - that finally won the political argument.

During the build-up to war and since, most of the electorate of this country have consistently opposed the decision to invade. People have seen their political wishes ignored for reasons now proved false. But there has been no attempt in parliament to call Mr Blair personally to account for what has transpired to be a blunder of enormous strategic significance. It should come as no surprise therefore that so many of this country's voters have turned their backs on a democratic system they feel has so little credibility and is so unresponsive.

One obvious way of re-engaging these disaffected voters would be for parliament to accept that it wrongly supported the war - but only because it believed what Mr Blair told them. Now it is clear that parliament was misled by Mr Blair, either wittingly or unwittingly, parliament should also call on him for a full explanation as to why he went to war. It is not a sufficient excuse for Mr Blair to say that he acted in good faith and that his decisions were based on the intelligence he had been given. For it is the clear responsibility of people in his position to test intelligence. No intelligence can ever be taken at face value. Indeed it is negligent so to do.

Parliament should therefore ascertain how far the prime minister did evaluate intelligence regarding WMD and how he assessed the reliability of the many sources that provided that intelligence. It should ask him what corroborating evidence there was for his specific statement about WMD - and why more use was not made of the UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq to test the validity of that statement. It should inquire just how much he discounted the mass of intelligence that came in from the Iraqi National Congress - a body that had a vested interest in removing Saddam from power. The list of possible questions is huge and would no doubt be usefully expanded during any hearings.

Mr Blair is an able barrister who should relish the opportunity to put his side of the case. No one can undo the decision to go to war. But the impeachment of Mr Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle interest in the democratic process.

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