Jump to content
The Education Forum

The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?


Recommended Posts

I would have thought it was a mistake for Tony Blair to get his mates to complain about the arrest of Ruth Turner. Tessa Jowell, who this week is likely to give the Super Casino contract to John Prescott’s mate, Phil Anschutz, was quick to criticize the “dawn raid”. Her husband, David Mills, is currently facing trial in Italy, alongside Blair’s mate, the former prime minister of Italy, into allegations of bribery. That corrupt politician, David Blunkett also attacked the arrest for being “theatrical”.

Lord Puttnam, who got his peerage from Blair in 1997, as a result of his contribution to the Labour Party, went as far as to say that the police will be embarrassed when they do not charge her with any offence. That seems to me to be a dangerous thing to say. If charges are not brought, people will now say this is because of politicians like Blunkett and Jowell. As Len Duvall, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, called on Blunkett, Jowell, and Puttnam to “shut up” and “stop whingeing and whining” about the police investigation. “No one in this country is above the law” he said.

Sir Chris Fox, former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said “I find it really quite depressing if politicians are smearing or coercing or trying to influence a police inquiry which was instigated by an elected by an elected member of parliament in the first place and which the public expects to be straight down the line without any suggestion that politics is influencing it… If a chief constable can’t investigate without this sort of media, coercive pressure, I worry for a free democratic country.”

In fact, it is normal police procedure to arrest people suspected of committing serious crimes, at 6.30am. It is a time when they can usually guarantee to find them at home. Most people prefer to be arrested at home rather than at work.

The police have traced evidence that three people from Downing Street, Jonathan Powell, chief of staff, John McTernan, director of political relations, and Ruth Turner, lied to them about what they knew about the loans for honours scandal. They have yet to get them to admit that Tony Blair instructed them to arrange the peerages or to carry out the cover-up. Turner is considered to be the weak link in the chain. She still holds idealistic views on politics and obviously feels guilty about having to lie to protect Blair.

The selling of honours has been going on for some time and in itself would have been unlikely to have brought down Blair. The same was true of dirty tricks in the USA. Nixon was not forced to resign over this issue. It was the Watergate cover-up that brought down Nixon. It will be the cover-up that will bring down Blair.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 417
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

The boss of a big private equity business told me last week that he had received an approach from a City grey eminence. "What your firm needs," urged this hopeful hustler, "is a seriously high-profile public figure up front, flying the flag for you. For £4m, we can get you Tony Blair."

I disbelieve 50% of that story. Though I am sure the reported offer was made, Blair would not yet dare to authorise such an explicit advance in his name. But the proposal merely anticipated reality. A few months hence - or sooner if, as the Guardian reported yesterday, cash-for-honours charges against an aide prompt him to stand down early - he will be up there on the block, with an auctioneer demanding: "What am I offered for this dazzling ex-prime minister? Who will start me at £4m?"

Every kind of business on both sides of the Atlantic will want Tony. Here is the finest political speaker of his generation, world statesman and legendary charmer, available to make the keynote speech at your convention, open your shopping mall, add lustre to your board meeting, open doors to national leaders.

What is this, I hear you say, about tarnished reputations? Come off it. Even if half Blair's personal entourage wind up in Ford open prison for selling honours, such an outcome will not diminish by a farthing the former prime minister's marketability. He is a star. Just as evidence that Mel Gibson is a racist yob does not deter audiences from seeing his movies, investment bankers do not care if Blair has flogged Buckingham Palace to raise money for the Labour party.

And not merely bankers. I question if more than a fraction of the British public, most of them Guardian readers, are seriously exercised about the cash-for-honours scandal. They take the view, sheepishly shared by the Conservative frontbench, that this is the sort of thing all governments do. They expect no better from their politicians.

The moral, or immoral, of the Blair era is that a British leader can get away with almost anything if the pounds in voters' pockets keep jingling. If the economy holds up, if people's sense of wellbeing persists, their willingness to engage with what some of us pompously call "the great issues of the day" is pitifully limited.

It will be supremely ironic if Blair ends up disgraced by the honours issue. This seems so paltry by comparison with the enormity of Iraq. It is hard to imagine a graver charge than taking the country to war under false pretences. Yet since Blair's conduct was exposed beyond dispute, on and on he has serenely sailed, unembarrassed by failure piled upon deceit.

To be sure, down at the Dog and Duck they grumble about Iraq and Bush and the mess we are in But there has never been the visceral anger that causes governments to fall. The steady trickle of British casualties is too small to generate shock. There is a dreary sameness about the daily news of bombings and massacres of Iraqis, which deadens sensibilities more stimulated by Big Brother.

Blair's astounding survivability owes much, maybe almost everything, to the equally astounding wealth of Britain today. He is able to ride out every storm and failure by writing huge cheques on the Treasury that continue to be met.

Contrast this country's political experience today with that of the Attlee government in the late 1940s, or even that of Harold Wilson in the 60s. During both periods, the country lurched from crisis to crisis, precipitated by difficulties about sums of money unbelievably small by modern standards. In 1950, for instance, the financial demands of sending to Korean a smaller military force than Britain today deploys in the Gulf almost broke the Treasury. Under Wilson, foreign exchange seemed so precious an annual personal spending limit of £50 was imposed on foreign travel.

Today, by contrast, for all the controversy surrounding Iraq, no one bothers to mention the billions that Britain's contribution has cost. Projections for the London Olympics bill have already soared above £3bn. There is talk of a £2bn overspend, yet nobody doubts that the money can be found. To think that in the 80s Margaret Thatcher made a fuss about Britain's EU rebate of a measly £500m. Even if that sum is adjusted to modern prices, it is the kind Gordon Brown leaves to the junior clerks.

When Dominic Sandbrook and Peter Hennessy, writers of excellent histories of postwar Britain, get round to the first decade of the 21st century, recollections of the nation's prosperity will surely astound readers. The Blair government has been able to pour torrents of cash into public services without attempting structural reform: to fund every folly without prompting a taxpayers' revolt. If 30 years ago a government made a financial blunder in September, the public found itself paying the bill come the next budget in April - and took its revenge at the ballot box soon after that.

Today, we are told that voters are starting to feel the pain of stealth taxes and rising interest rates. Yet if the economy continues to boom, I doubt that personal taxation will provoke a decisive uprising against Labour. A recent opinion poll showed that, while many people feel dismayed about Britain as a society, most feel amazingly content with their own existences. As long as this remains true, Gordon Brown has a fair chance of remaining prime minister past a general election.

When Tony Blair embarks upon his great global lecture tour, he will be able to tell audiences that there are almost no limits to the follies a prime minister can commit. Of course, he will say nothing of the kind. He will deliver homilies about the responsibilities of a statesman in a social democratic society.

His record will speak for itself, however. He will leave behind a country that has failed to solve the huge problems of its public services or Europe; he has entangled his country in an American clash with the Muslim world likely to persist beyond our lifetime; his programme of constitutional reform threatens the union of England and Scotland.

In other words, he has failed in almost all his declared objectives of 1997. He has displayed a genius for retaining power, and has presided over a nation obsessed with personal wealth, to the exclusion of almost everything else. It is entirely appropriate that Blair should depart Downing Street to become indecently rich, because the record suggests that respect for wealth is the only constant in his moral universe.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1996549,00.html

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posting on today's Guardian forum.

"It will be supremely ironic if Blair ends up disgraced by the honours issue. This seems so paltry by comparison with the enormity of Iraq. "

Paltry by comparison, but large in itself - and the two are of a piece.

Marcel Berlins, in "wrong fit for purpose", put in words something which I believe is accurate, but is shocking. Note sentence 2:

"It was outrageous, but not surprising, that Blair and three colleagues rushed to the media to defend Ruth Turner (coupled, except for the PM, with rubbishing the police for doing their duty). Not surprising because so many members of this government have long abandoned any semblance of upholding the rule of law or observing the dignified conventions of the criminal justice system."

In case you missed it "many members of this government having long abandoned any semblance of upholding the rule of law...."

Usually, when people complain politicians are above the law, they mean peccadilloes - irritating things we get nailed for - but politicians get away with. Speeding fines, or parking notices. Unpaid bills. The big laws - on killing and on corruption - one hopes, politicians respect. They may try to bend them a little, but one hopes that respect still restrains them.

But that is not what Berlins says. He said the politicians have 'abandoned any semblance' of upholding the law - a total rejection. If so, the politicians are unrestrained. Something of a different order of magnitude is going on here.

The law is the ground-rules that bind us together as a society. The consequences, when leaders openly disrespect society's ground-rules, are well known. Dostoevsky wrote about this in "Devils" in the 1870's.

Dostoevsky wrote about anarchists who mercilessly sell out everything and everyone to get change. All the stuff that binds a society together, they trample on: manners, rules, morals, ethics, procedures; respect for religion, understanding of religion, family duties. Not so much law, less of a force then than now. However, the principle remains the same.

Dostoevsky's villain, Stavrogin, a good-looking, quietly spoken, rational human being with one minor flaw - uaware that right or wrong exist. As someone put it, he can rape a young girl, then sit by the window in the next room, enjoying the sun, while she hangs herself - then write an essay later to analyse his feelings. Stavrogin has no sense how his actions affect others. He has and minimal sense of guilt for things that are wrong. Sound familiar? Stavrogin decides his actions, by whatever he pleases, what he deems necessary, often for the most trivial of reasons: entertainment, thrills, or amusement.

The consequences for the community of one or two Stavrogins, are horrendous. Others fall under their sway and become his followers - Stavrogin is charismatic. Or they see him acting this way, and feel licensed to do so also. Pointless deaths, and chaos result.

So what’s this to do with honours for sale and Iraq? Both result from Blair turning his back on the rule of law, and lacking a principled approach to morals. You can hear in his speeches - there are no sound, well thought out principles of right or wrong. He may have them in some speeches, but in others, he abandons those principles as it suits the moment. When Blair does something clearly wrong and that most people see as clearly wrong – such as invading another country on a lie – he seems to have no moral sense of of the wrongness of this. And I don't think this just comes down to politics. Most people over most of our time, would see 650,000 people dying, as a bad thing. Specially when those deaths result from deliberate, avoidable decisions. There is something extremely worrying going on here in the British government.

I am not sure how you solve this. The consolation - there are still people to whom law, and respect for law, matter. The police. The citizens of Britain.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The boss of a big private equity business told me last week that he had received an approach from a City grey eminence. "What your firm needs," urged this hopeful hustler, "is a seriously high-profile public figure up front, flying the flag for you. For £4m, we can get you Tony Blair."

I disbelieve 50% of that story. Though I am sure the reported offer was made, Blair would not yet dare to authorise such an explicit advance in his name. But the proposal merely anticipated reality. A few months hence - or sooner if, as the Guardian reported yesterday, cash-for-honours charges against an aide prompt him to stand down early - he will be up there on the block, with an auctioneer demanding: "What am I offered for this dazzling ex-prime minister? Who will start me at £4m?"

Every kind of business on both sides of the Atlantic will want Tony. Here is the finest political speaker of his generation, world statesman and legendary charmer, available to make the keynote speech at your convention, open your shopping mall, add lustre to your board meeting, open doors to national leaders.

What is this, I hear you say, about tarnished reputations? Come off it. Even if half Blair's personal entourage wind up in Ford open prison for selling honours, such an outcome will not diminish by a farthing the former prime minister's marketability. He is a star. Just as evidence that Mel Gibson is a racist yob does not deter audiences from seeing his movies, investment bankers do not care if Blair has flogged Buckingham Palace to raise money for the Labour party.

And not merely bankers. I question if more than a fraction of the British public, most of them Guardian readers, are seriously exercised about the cash-for-honours scandal. They take the view, sheepishly shared by the Conservative frontbench, that this is the sort of thing all governments do. They expect no better from their politicians.

The moral, or immoral, of the Blair era is that a British leader can get away with almost anything if the pounds in voters' pockets keep jingling. If the economy holds up, if people's sense of wellbeing persists, their willingness to engage with what some of us pompously call "the great issues of the day" is pitifully limited.

It will be supremely ironic if Blair ends up disgraced by the honours issue. This seems so paltry by comparison with the enormity of Iraq. It is hard to imagine a graver charge than taking the country to war under false pretences. Yet since Blair's conduct was exposed beyond dispute, on and on he has serenely sailed, unembarrassed by failure piled upon deceit.

One of the failings in the reporting of Blair’s “cash for honours” policy is the connection between this and the Iraq War. It is true that British prime ministers have been selling honours for money for centuries. This is why the British public think it is slightly unfair to single Blair out for this. However, this viewpoint is based on the assumption that these wealthy businessmen only got honours for this cash. The general public also tend to believe that this money went to the Labour Party rather than Blair himself. I believe both these assumptions are wrong. These people were not only promised honours. In fact, some of them were foreign nationals and were not in a position to ask for or accept honours. The real scandal is that in exchange for this money, these men have been given help obtaining large government contracts. Some of these people, including senior executives at BAE Systems, have benefited enormously from the Iraq War.

It is possible that Blair has not received any money for himself at this stage in the proceedings. So far, most of this money has gone to the Labour Party. Blair’s payback will come after he leaves office. He will be paid obscene amounts of money for his memoirs, to make speeches in the United States and to sit on the boards of multinational corporations. All these things will be completely legal. Politicians have learnt a great deal from history. Unfortunately, not about the important things like how to avoid wars and how to redistribute wealth, but how to make money for yourself without going to prison. I daresay Blair’s role-model is Lyndon B. Johnson. Who knows, maybe Cherrie Blair will even buy a television company in the United States.

Link to post
Share on other sites

On Tuesday Tessa Jowell, the "Culture Secretary" (what about that for something out of 1984) will announce the company that will get the “Super Casino” contract. Some observers have taken the view that after the exposure of John Prescott’s relationship with Phillip Anschutz, this would rule out the contract going to AEG. However, others have argued that if Anschutz does not get the contract, Anschutz will start talking about the corrupt deal he did with Prescott/Blair/Jowell. Up until last week AEG was the hot favourite for the contract. Then, on Friday night, large sums of money were gambled on it going to Blackpool rather than the Millennium Dome. Is this another case of government insider dealing? Maybe Jowell has told her husband about who is going to get the contract. It will help to pay his and his mafia friends in Italy to pay off their legal fees. Maybe this is how Anschutz is getting paid off?

Jowell will not only be announcing details of the super casino on Tuesday. She will also giving out contracts for 8 large and 8 small ones. A super casino is one where you are allowed to install up to 1,250 gaming machines, offering unlimited prizes; large ones can have 150 machines and small ones will be limited to 80 machines. The amount of prize money that can be won on the machines in large and small casinos will also be increased. Other changes are also being brought in to increase the amount of gambling that takes place in these casinos. This includes changing regulations concerning the membership of casinos and advertising restrictions.

Measures are also being taken to make Britain the internet gambling capital of the world. This is in response to America’s decision to ban internet gambling.

It is estimated that the UK has 300,000 problem gamblers. This means people who are so addicted to gambling they are currently in the process of losing everything they own. In many cases, this means the family home. It is not only the problem gambler who will suffer from this legislation.

Why is the government doing this? The first reason concerns the doing of deals, such as the Anschutz/Millennium Dome secret contract. Other contracts will result in backhanders to politicians.

The other reason concerns taxation. According to the HM Revenue & Customs total “betting stakes” have gone up from £7 billion in 1996 (the year before Labour came into power) to over £47 billion in 2005. These figures do not include the £5 billion spent every year on the National Lottery. According to figures produced by the Department of Culture, the total gambling industry is currently worth £61 billion (that is more than the GDP of Slovakia).

With the changes in the law concerning casinos and internet gambling, this £61 billion figure will go through the roof. This will provide enormous sums in taxation. After all, it is an expensive business fighting the “war on terror”.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On Tuesday Tessa Jowell, the "Culture Secretary" (what about that for something out of 1984) will announce the company that will get the “Super Casino” contract. Some observers have taken the view that after the exposure of John Prescott’s relationship with Phillip Anschutz, this would rule out the contract going to AEG. However, others have argued that if Anschutz does not get the contract, Anschutz will start talking about the corrupt deal he did with Prescott/Blair/Jowell. Up until last week AEG was the hot favourite for the contract. Then, on Friday night, large sums of money were gambled on it going to Blackpool rather than the Millennium Dome. Is this another case of government insider dealing? Maybe Jowell has told her husband about who is going to get the contract. It will help to pay his and his mafia friends in Italy to pay off their legal fees. Maybe this is how Anschutz is getting paid off?

Jowell will not only be announcing details of the super casino on Tuesday. She will also giving out contracts for 8 large and 8 small ones. A super casino is one where you are allowed to install up to 1,250 gaming machines, offering unlimited prizes; large ones can have 150 machines and small ones will be limited to 80 machines. The amount of prize money that can be won on the machines in large and small casinos will also be increased. Other changes are also being brought in to increase the amount of gambling that takes place in these casinos. This includes changing regulations concerning the membership of casinos and advertising restrictions.

Measures are also being taken to make Britain the internet gambling capital of the world. This is in response to America’s decision to ban internet gambling.

It is estimated that the UK has 300,000 problem gamblers. This means people who are so addicted to gambling they are currently in the process of losing everything they own. In many cases, this means the family home. It is not only the problem gambler who will suffer from this legislation.

Why is the government doing this? The first reason concerns the doing of deals, such as the Anschutz/Millennium Dome secret contract. Other contracts will result in backhanders to politicians.

The other reason concerns taxation. According to the HM Revenue & Customs total “betting stakes” have gone up from £7 billion in 1996 (the year before Labour came into power) to over £47 billion in 2005. These figures do not include the £5 billion spent every year on the National Lottery. According to figures produced by the Department of Culture, the total gambling industry is currently worth £61 billion (that is more than the GDP of Slovakia).

With the changes in the law concerning casinos and internet gambling, this £61 billion figure will go through the roof. This will provide enormous sums in taxation. After all, it is an expensive business fighting the “war on terror”.

The mind reels!

Here's a thought for Gordon Brown, who's obviously no fool when it comes to cash.

How about a weekly "Where's Bin Laden?" competition - run as an interactive website as a joint venture between the National Lottery. MI6, Mossad and the CIA?

The object would be to spot Bin Laden somewhere on the planet - similar to 'Where's Wally?' books of fond memory, but with an added twist. Punters would be required to submit photographic proof that Bin Laden was truly in their neighbourhood during the last week.

Participants going for the $25 million jackpot would need to send in Bin Laden sighting photos, by mobile phone charged at $5 per thirty seconds.

A million Bin Laden look-alikes would bloom. The world would wallow in paranoia. Kids would get some laughs.

Just what's needed for the 100 Year, Budget Infinity, Global War on Whatwasitnow?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Manchester has got the contract for the super-casino. However, according to this morning's Guardian, the government intends to quickly relax the restrictions on super-casinos so that AEG will get what it wants and will not resort to leaking information about its secret deal over the Millennium Dome. Ministers will argue that the monoploy contract is unfair and that for the good of competition it has to give out super-casino contracts to over organizations.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Report on the BBC website this morning:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6315799.stm

The UK sold a "useless" air traffic control system to Tanzania in 2001 in a "scandalous" and "squalid" deal, the House of Commons has been told.

Ex-International Development Secretary Claire Short joined the Tories in accusing Tony Blair of pushing through the £28m sale by BAE Systems.

Ministers said the deal had not damaged Tanzania's economy or its development.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is currently investigating claims that BAE bribed Tanzanian officials.

Ms Short, who is now an independent MP, has consistently argued Tanzania could have paid much less for the same equipment.

"I believe that all the parties involved in this deal should be deeply ashamed," she said in a Commons debate on Tuesday night.

She said the deal was "useless and hostile to the interests of Tanzania" and had been opposed by senior cabinet members including Chancellor Gordon Brown.

She said Barclays Bank had "colluded" with the government by loaning Tanzania the money, but lying to the World Bank about the type and size of the loan.

Lynne Featherstone, of the Liberal Democrats, said Britain had to be "squeaky clean" if it wanted to "retain any influence, reputation or credibility in world affairs".

"Somewhere between the government, BAE and Barclays - and perhaps all three - our reputation worldwide is in tatters," she said.

Shadow international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said BAE had used "ageing technology" and said the system was "not adequate and too expensive".

Mr Mitchell said the deal had "all the warning signs of impropriety - a vastly inflated price, an unsuitable product and unorthodox financing".

"Despite the opposition of all the most informed, respected and qualified observers approval for the licences was forced through a divided cabinet by the prime minister."

He called on his opposite number, Hilary Benn, to explain the government's "profoundly unattractive" conduct.

Mr Benn said the government had considered whether "the export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously harm the sustainable development of the recipient country".

"The government at the time judged it would not and, looking back from this vantage point, it would be hard to argue that it did."

He said he could not comment on bribery allegations because they were under investigation.

Officials from the SFO have already visited Tanzania to look into claims BAE gave bribes to ensure the deal would go through.

BAE says it is co-operating fully with the inquiry, but has strongly denied operating a secret slush fund to sweeten deals.

The SFO recently decided to drop a long-running BAE corruption probe into a huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Reports said the Saudis had threatened to pull out of a new BAE deal unless the probe was brought to an end.

Opposition politicians accused the government of putting cash before principle.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I first started this thread in March, 2006, I entitled it “The Corruption of Tony Blair: Britain’s Watergate?” This morning the papers are full of headlines referring Blair’s predicament as being like “Watergate”. I used the term for many reasons. To start with, it is incredibly difficult to get a powerful politician on corruption charges. The reason is that nothing incriminating is ever committed to paper. After the examples of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, modern politicians do not even tape meetings or phone-calls. As we discovered during the Hutton Investigation, Blair does not even allow the keeping of minutes. It is therefore unlikely that the current police investigation will discover any recorded material that proves that Blair sold honours. The only possibility that in order to save themselves, someone like Lord Levy, Jonathan Powell, John McTernan or Ruth Turner, might inform on Blair.

Investigators were never able to find any documentary evidence that Nixon ordered the Watergate burglary or any of the other corrupt activities he was accused of committing. However, they did find evidence of a cover-up. This is why it is significant that the last two people to be arrested by the police, Lord Levy and Ruth Turner, it was over the issue of “suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”. In other words, they are being investigated for being involved in the cover-up.

This part of the investigation is based on a mole at 10 Downing Street. Yes, Blair also has a Deep Throat. This mole claimed that 10 Downing Street had a secret computer system which contained encrypted emails. When people like Powell, McTernan and Turner were originally interviewed, they failed to mention this second system (they of course handed over the emails from the official computer system).

When I started the thread I also mentioned another similarity with Watergate. Nixon was able to resign without his true crimes entering the public domain. I suspected then and now, that Blair will eventually be forced to resign but his true crimes will never be revealed.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gambling proliferates in Britain, from bingo to betting on horses and dogs, scratchcards, raffles, lotteries, fruit machines and poker clubs. There are casinos aplenty already. Anyone wanting to pull a one-armed bandit or dabble in roulette, blackjack and poker can find somewhere to do so. As a result, the stake value of gambling under Labour has soared from £7bn in 1997 to £48bn in 2005, plus a further £5bn on the lottery. This is hardly an industry that seems in chronic need of government support.

Most countries are paranoid about supercasinos, treating them like gargantuan opium dens. Across America they are confined to a few resorts such as Las Vegas and to native American reservations (such as the "world's biggest" at the Pequots' Foxwoods casino, in Connecticut). The federal government has also recently declared all online gaming illegal. Russia is restricting gambling to designated zones from 2009. Both countries clearly regard easy access to betting as a social menace - as does most of Europe.

So what persuaded Tessa Jowell to welcome supercasinos to Britain's shores with open arms? The answer is that the Las Vegas cartel, already under pressure at home, targeted Britain as the "soft underbelly" of new-wave gaming in Europe. Either the law or the mafia had the market sewn up in Scandinavia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Blair's government was regarded as an easy touch, and tens of millions of pounds were spent lobbying for it. Philip Anschutz invited John Prescott to his Colorado ranch not for the colour of his eyes. Anschutz's interest in the dome was as a supercasino, as he made abundantly clear. The only amazement is that none of the Vegas money appears to have reached Labour party coffers (or will I have to eat these words?)

Blair and Jowell capitulated with astonishing speed. They passed no laws against online gaming. Under the 2005 act Jowell said she wanted not one but 40 supercasinos and was beaten back only by the massed ranks of the church and anti-addiction lobbies. She did not take no for an answer. She retreated from 40 to eight and then to just one, an inexplicable outcome. Why make big punters burn petrol crossing the country to Manchester rather than stay closer to home? Why benefit just one operator and eliminate competition? If super-gambling is to be suppressed, stop it. If not, leave it to the free market. The appearance of limp-wristed semi-regulation was incoherent, like a government trying to be half a virgin.

Jowell's department seems unable to carry the weight of moral responsibility placed on it. Under pressure from the drinks lobby she legislated to liberate alcohol consumption in pubs across the land - while those who supply cannabis and ecstasy in those same pubs are imprisoned in ever greater numbers. She allows thousands to be crammed into basement raves across England's cities, yet persecutes any church or social club that dares to put on a string quartet. She is for more gambling yet against "problem gaming". There is no rhyme or reason to her nannydom.

Whenever the government tries to ban something people enjoy, it makes a mess. It tried to ban off-course horse-race betting and had to capitulate to the high-street betting shop. In an earlier age it capitulated to the gin shop and the brothel, and then half-uncapitulated to the latter. Now it is trying to pretend that it disapproves of high-stakes casino gambling while at the same time wishing to appease the casino lobby.

I imagine this whole argument is on the way to oblivion. The supercasino is so unappealing (and now inconveniently located) as to be easily undercut by smaller local ones and by internet sites. In a few years we shall be reading of casino bankruptcies and closures. The free market will make decisions that ministers find it hard to make for themselves.

The one question remaining is by what moral compass the cabinet is guided. How can Jowell and her colleagues patronise the alcohol and gambling lobbies and yet blindly repress other indulgences and addictions, notably street drugs. Why are they filling city centres with drunks and gamblers yet filling prisons with drug users?

The obvious answer to the assault of the supercasino lobby would have been to leave decisions to the cities in which operators wanted to locate their premises and to decide on size and regional impact if necessary at planning appeal. As long as gambling is legal and Blackpool council wants a larger casino, it should not be the business of London or Jowell or the cabinet to say no. This is not a matter of postcode morality but of postcode choice. Instead the government has handed millions of pounds and thousands of jobs to Manchester, which does not need them, and denied them to Blackpool, which does. It is plain unfair.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2002422,00.html

Link to post
Share on other sites
So what persuaded Tessa Jowell to welcome supercasinos to Britain's shores with open arms? The answer is that the Las Vegas cartel, already under pressure at home, targeted Britain as the "soft underbelly" of new-wave gaming in Europe. Either the law or the mafia had the market sewn up in Scandinavia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Blair's government was regarded as an easy touch, and tens of millions of pounds were spent lobbying for it. Philip Anschutz invited John Prescott to his Colorado ranch not for the colour of his eyes. Anschutz's interest in the dome was as a supercasino, as he made abundantly clear. The only amazement is that none of the Vegas money appears to have reached Labour party coffers (or will I have to eat these words?)

This is of course the real reason for this policy. The same thing happened in the United States when they introduced these super-casinos.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tony Blair has been questioned for a second time by police investigating cash-for-honours allegations. Downing Street disclosed the interview, which lasted 45 minutes, took place in No 10 last Friday and was kept secret at the request of the Met Police.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said Mr Blair questioned as a possible witness, as he had been in December, but would not discuss the contents of the conversation.

It has also just been disclosed that Rupert Murdoch owns 10% of the AEG consortium that bid for the super-casino contract. Now we know why the Murdoch press gave the Labour Party an easy time over the granting of this crime.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that soon after it was announced that there was going to be a police investigation into the “cash for honours” claim, a secret meeting took place at 10 Downing Street. At the meeting was Lord Levy, Jonathan Powell, chief of staff, John McTernan, director of political relations, and Ruth Turner. It was at this meeting that the cover-up was organized. No minutes were kept but Powell made notes and an account of the meeting was passed to Tony Blair. These were then destroyed. When the police interviewed these people, they never mentioned that this meeting took place.

The problem for the conspirators was that John McTernan kept a diary where he wrote an account of the meeting. Someone from inside 10 Downing Street leaked this information to the police. However, it has now emerged that the person who leaked this information was McTernan. It was also McTernan who revealed details of the an unofficial secret email system. Powell and Turner were now arrested and asked what had been decided at this secret meeting. Then Blair was interviewed about what he knew about this meeting. He was told not to make this police interview public or to tell Levy about what had been said. A couple of days later, Levy was arrested and interviewed about this secret meeting.

It is believed that McTernan’s testimony contradicts what Blair told the police. As a result, Blair will be interviewed for a third time, this time under caution. However, unless Powell, Levy or Turner provide evidence against him, Blair is unlikely to be charged with any offence. At the same time, the behaviour of the people who will be charged, Jonathan Powell, Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and Sir Christopher Evans, makes no sense at all if Blair was unaware of what was happening.

Blair is Nixon (never charged with any offence), McTernan is John Dean and Powell is H. R. Haldeman. Lord Goldsmith is likely to be William Ruckelshaus rather that Eliot Richardson. It is not clear what role Ruth Turner will play. Will she stay quiet and take the rap or will she do a "John Dean"?

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that soon after it was announced that there was going to be a police investigation into the “cash for honours” claim, a secret meeting took place at 10 Downing Street. At the meeting was Lord Levy, Jonathan Powell, chief of staff, John McTernan, director of political relations, and Ruth Turner. It was at this meeting that the cover-up was organized. No minutes were kept but Powell made notes and an account of the meeting was passed to Tony Blair. These were then destroyed. When the police interviewed these people, they never mentioned that this meeting took place.

The problem for the conspirators was that John McTernan kept a diary where he wrote an account of the meeting. Someone from inside 10 Downing Street leaked this information to the police. However, it has now emerged that the person who leaked this information was McTernan. It was also McTernan who revealed details of the an unofficial secret email system. Powell and Turner were now arrested and asked what had been decided at this secret meeting. Then Blair was interviewed about what he knew about this meeting. He was told not to make this police interview public or to tell Levy about what had been said. A couple of days later, Levy was arrested and interviewed about this secret meeting.

It is believed that McTernan’s testimony contradicts what Blair told the police. As a result, Blair will be interviewed for a third time, this time under caution. However, unless Powell, Levy or Turner provide evidence against him, Blair is unlikely to be charged with any offence. At the same time, the behaviour of the people who will be charged, Jonathan Powell, Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and Sir Christopher Evans, makes no sense at all if Blair was unaware of what was happening.

Blair is Nixon (never charged with any offence), McTernan is John Dean and Powell is H. R. Haldeman. Lord Goldsmith is likely to be William Ruckelshaus rather that Eliot Richardson. It is not clear what role Ruth Turner will play. Will she stay quiet and take the rap or will she do a "John Dean"?

Link to post
Share on other sites

The smell from No 10 increasingly resembles a stench. No one knows whether the cash-for-honours affair will end up with charges, and of what kind, or a decision by the police not to proceed. But even if it is the latter, the stain will remain; the overriding feeling that Tony Blair's premiership was tainted with wrongdoing will persist. It will be like Harold Wilson's lavender list, but far, far worse: the whiff of corruption will be manifest, even if the police can't make charges stick. The chances of any Brown administration lasting very long now surely look even slimmer. The legacy of New Labour, already damaged beyond redemption by the debacle in Iraq, threatens to be defined by malpractice and malfeasance.

We should not be too surprised. There has always been something less than wholesome about New Labour. But Blair for a long time had an easy ride. There was the whopping majority. There was the relief that the Tories were finally gone. There was the grand hyperbole. There was the fact that here was a leader (the first) who was a product of the new educated middle classes and who spoke their language, a modern man no less. There was his militant rejection of all that old cobblers about socialism, ideology and old Labour (by which, of course, he meant the Labour party). There was the fact that he was reassuring, that he believed in the legacy of Thatcherism, that he was never going to threaten the established order. During those rose-tinted years, what passed for analysis of the New Labour phenomenon rarely rose about tree-level.

But from its inception, New Labour contained within it what were profoundly corrosive tendencies. Blair's election as leader was a coup d'etat conducted with the connivance of the Labour party against itself. The party had lost all self-belief and conviction: it was anybody's. Blair was neither one of them nor part of it. His was an alien body in a party demoralised by defeat. The anomalous nature of Blair's position was celebrated by most of the media: but it contained the seeds of disaster. The party felt utterly dependent on him, prepared to do his bidding whatever that might be, while he felt no sense of accountability whatsoever towards it. The party was his punchbag. He was a free agent.

Then there was New Labour in office. From the outset, it invested an extraordinary importance in the media and in the consequent need to control the news agenda. Advisers - which almost invariably meant spinmeisters - were liberally dispersed around the ministries. The civil service, another potential check on overweaning government power, found itself relegated and demeaned by Blair's political appointees. Figures such as Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, masters of the dark arts, emerged as decisive figures within New Labour. The message was everything, substance a pliant handmaiden, truth the first casualty. Spin, of course, held the people in contempt. If the media could be squared, then so could the public. It was the antithesis of accountability. New Labour was, from the beginning, a control freak. It was true of Blair, as it was true of most of his acolytes and advisers: that was the way they did politics. It all stemmed from a hugely exaggerated belief in the power of the media, in the idea that controlling the media agenda would deliver the country.

Blair, as a political leader, and as a product of the media age and post-60s confessional honesty, traded in trust. He told it like it was, he was one of us, he could be trusted. But trust in the hands of a politician is a double-edged sword. There is a suggestion of affinity, but also the implication that things could safely be left in his hands, that we should not concern ourselves unduly, that we should leave things to him. Blair's notion of trust is a bespoke product of the era of personal politics, where a sense of emotional authenticity has supplanted older notions of ideology and political principle. Accountability depended on trust rather than policy, on style rather than content. This was the Blair appeal: but in time its vacuous and implicitly authoritarian character came to be exposed, most brutally in his contempt for the public over Iraq. By trust, Blair meant personal empathy, but in practice this was merely a cloak for accentuating his own power: paradoxically, trust implied a growing loss of unaccountability.

Blair is not a loose cannon. His political course has been more or less entirely predictable. He has been a loyal proponent of the neoliberal agenda and a slavish supporter of the US, whatever the hue of the president. What could be more conventional than that? But his style of political leadership has been highly unusual. He has consistently turned on the party that he led, often displaying antagonism bordering on contempt. He has been consumed by a desire to be apart from it, and to be in no way constrained by it. And this served to nurture a lack of accountability, a belief that he could do whatever he wanted. The same went for his relationship with the civil service and the use of his spinmeisters as a praetorian red guard. And, ultimately, it was also true of his relationship with the public. His contempt for them was evident in his belief in the all-consuming power of the media and his own ability to control it. Control freaks never trust the people, nor do they feel properly accountable to them.

Seen in this light, the latest turn of events that has led to more than 90 people being questioned by the police, four of them while under arrest, is not entirely surprising. Blair believed that he could play fast and loose with the Labour party (he didn't even bother telling its treasurer about the loans) and - to the party's eternal shame - has got away with it (with barely a whimper of opposition even on Iraq). He believed that he could control the media by playing fast and loose with the truth through spin, and managed to get away with that, at least until some point in his second term. And it would appear that No 10 believed that it could somehow replenish the party's coffers to fight the last general election by playing fast and loose with the law. It may still get away with whatever it did, but in the mind of the public it will be forever condemned as guilty. There was always something rotten at the heart of New Labour: the police investigation marks the moment of its recognition. It is a sad comment that so many people were taken in by New Labour for so long. And the price? The party could yet implode and find itself condemned to opposition for many years to come.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2006665,00.html

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...