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The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?


John Simkin
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The injuction against the BBC has been lifted. It is now reporting:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6423225.stm

Tony Blair's aide Ruth Turner expressed concern that Lord Levy had put to her a version of events over cash-for-honours which she believed to be untrue.

The concern was put in a document which the BBC has not seen, but which has been supported by more than one source.

Labour fundraiser Lord Levy denies "any wrong-doing whatsoever" and criticised the "prejudiced and distorted" picture presented by recent media reporting.

In the document, one source has told the BBC, Ms Turner said she was worried by Lord Levy's words and she believed the prime minister should be told about it. The BBC does not know whether the prime minister was told.

No charges have been brought against anyone in connection with cash-for-honours - none may ever be, and all involved deny any wrongdoing.

Lord Levy has always maintained he played no role in drawing up the list of those to be recommended for peerages - although he has accepted he may have given his opinions about individuals who appeared on the list.

Neil O'May, from Lord Levy's solicitors Bindman & Partners, said he "categorically denies any wrong-doing whatsoever".

He said that the "current round" of media reporting was "partial, contradictory, confused and inaccurate".

His statement said: "There has been a regular stream of leaks to the media during this year-long investigation, all of which have presented a prejudiced and distorted view.

"Cumulatively, these leaks and reports have created a climate which does not allow for any fair assessment of the investigation.

"Any fair-minded person must realise the intolerable burden that is placed on Lord Levy and his family by this media-style trial when Lord Levy is unable to defend himself on these matters whilst the police investigation continues.

"Lord Levy respects the importance of maintaining the integrity of the police inquiry and so is unable to comment further at this time."

The cash-for-honours probe began a year ago. Police are investigating allegations that honours were exchanged for loans to the Labour Party.

The probe switched its focus recently from the question of cash-for-peerages to allegations of a cover-up.

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The injuction against the BBC has been lifted. It is now reporting:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6423225.stm

Tony Blair's aide Ruth Turner expressed concern that Lord Levy had put to her a version of events over cash-for-honours which she believed to be untrue.

The concern was put in a document which the BBC has not seen, but which has been supported by more than one source.

Labour fundraiser Lord Levy denies "any wrong-doing whatsoever" and criticised the "prejudiced and distorted" picture presented by recent media reporting.

In the document, one source has told the BBC, Ms Turner said she was worried by Lord Levy's words and she believed the prime minister should be told about it. The BBC does not know whether the prime minister was told.

No charges have been brought against anyone in connection with cash-for-honours - none may ever be, and all involved deny any wrongdoing.

Lord Levy has always maintained he played no role in drawing up the list of those to be recommended for peerages - although he has accepted he may have given his opinions about individuals who appeared on the list.

Neil O'May, from Lord Levy's solicitors Bindman & Partners, said he "categorically denies any wrong-doing whatsoever".

He said that the "current round" of media reporting was "partial, contradictory, confused and inaccurate".

His statement said: "There has been a regular stream of leaks to the media during this year-long investigation, all of which have presented a prejudiced and distorted view.

"Cumulatively, these leaks and reports have created a climate which does not allow for any fair assessment of the investigation.

"Any fair-minded person must realise the intolerable burden that is placed on Lord Levy and his family by this media-style trial when Lord Levy is unable to defend himself on these matters whilst the police investigation continues.

"Lord Levy respects the importance of maintaining the integrity of the police inquiry and so is unable to comment further at this time."

The cash-for-honours probe began a year ago. Police are investigating allegations that honours were exchanged for loans to the Labour Party.

The probe switched its focus recently from the question of cash-for-peerages to allegations of a cover-up.

Last night on C4 Lord Levy’ rabbi claimed that the leaks against him were part of an anti-Semitic campaign. He blamed the police for these leaks. It is difficult to understand the motives of the police in leaking details of the evidence they have against Levy. Unnamed sources from the crown prosecution service claim the leaks are coming from 10 Downing Street. Two possible motives for this action: (i) an attempt to distance Blair from Levy; (ii) an attempt to make the prosecution of Levy more difficult.

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Important not to confuse Blairs here... but there a minor storm over a report that Sir Ian Blair was seated at "top table" with Labour's chief fundraiser Lord Levy, at the Jewish Security Trust's annual dinner.

The Press Association report says they say they didn't converse much. A Scotland Yard source said: "The commissioner did not discuss details of the investigation into alleged abuse of honours with Lord Levy." Rather a ho-hum story, I thought. Not much there.

But perhaps not.

The Guardian report refers to the Jewish Security Trust. I presume what's meant is The Community Security Trust.

This is from the CST website:

The CST has a proud heritage dating back to the Jewish defence organisations formed in the 1930s to combat Oswald Mosley and his followers. Today the principal threats to the community are terrorism and antisemitic attacks.

As the Jewish community’s only defence organisation the CST has grown significantly. We now have four offices and 55 members of staff. The CST is a registered charity whose work is provided entirely without charge and is solely funded by donations from the Jewish community.

The ethos of the CST is that the Jewish community is responsible for its own security. The CST draws upon a network of 3,000 trained volunteers throughout the country. They are at the heart of the organisation and come from all spheres of communal life, regardless of religious observance, political beliefs, age or gender. These personnel are trained by the CST, and by the Police, so that they can provide the highest level of security for the Jewish community.

Who could complain about that?

However, it is not without its critics.

Some are concerned that the CST is a vigilante group. The CGT, on the other hand, points out it has received support - indeed praise - from the police. And so it has.

British Muslims see it differently, from experience.

This is from the Islamic Human Rights Commission's 2002 report on Muslim Profiling:

Role and Relationship of the Metropolitan Police Service with the Community Security Trust

The CST’s presence at various Muslim demonstrations has also had an intimidatory effect. Due to their attitude and conduct, perceptions of CST have quickly deteriorated . They are now viewed as nothing more than a vigilante group set on scaring off legitimate protest to Israeli atrocities, sanctioned at the same time by the MPS. The relationship between the CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews is unclear but the head of CST is also director of the Board’s security section, and the organisation promotes CST as the security enforcers of the Zionist community’s welfare.

The assertion by previous MPS Commander Paul Condon, that MPS had trained CST and were very proud of its role set alarm bells ringing amongst those communities who have faced harassment by CST. This includes not only the Muslim community but members of the Jewish community who oppose Israeli practices.

It was quite disconcerting on 6th May 2002 to see that the Community Security Trust had issued press passes to particular journalists, so that only those journalists had the freedom to move and photograph anything and anywhere in or around the square. This automatically meant that other journalists including Muslim journalists and media would then be denied access because they did not have the CST pass.

This had happened on numerous occasions. In one case a CST guard is filmed checking the press credentials of a Muslim TV crew.20 In other instances journalists and friends of the editor of The Muslim News acting on his behalf were denied access to the square or were removed from it by the police upon the instructions of the CST.

At the aforementioned pre-demonstration emergency meeting, Muslims had been assured by the police that only the police and not the CST will be checking the movements of people. It was further stated that CST would not be able to limit the access of anyone to any area, nor would they be allowed to police the event. Yet at the demonstration exactly the opposite was true. The CST carried out this function and were indeed checking the movements of people. On the day, in other cases, the CST had told the police to move/remove Muslims despite them being in some cases in the middle of a peaceful dialogue with Zionist demonstrators.

IHRC has on a number of occasions pointed out to the police that the CST should not be allowed to check the movements of people in streets and or public areas, simply because they don’t have any rights to make decisions on where people can or cannot go. These objections have been noted but as the rally evidenced the CST is clearly deciding on where people can or cannot walk depending on whether they are Muslims or not, and the police appeared quite content in enforcing these decisions.

As happened on the day of the counter-demonstration, Muslims who refused to do as they were told by the police (often upon the specific request of CST personnel) were threatened with arrest.

It is objectionable that police on the ground were acting as if the CST were their line managers and were incapable of making an independent assessment. The police allowed security cards to be issued by the CST which meant that they had in effect enforced the exclusion of other members of the press w ho were not issued these specific passes.

Jewish protestors attending the counter-rally were stopped by CST members as they alighted from their bus, in full view of MPS officers. According to these protestors, the CST members told police officers to send them down to the counter-rally and not allow them into the main rally at all. One of the Rabbis in this group of protestors responded to the CST members saying that they had no right to tell them where to go, and that they would only be directed by police.

Again MPS stated at the pre-demonstration emergency meeting that CST members would be acting as stewards only on the day, and that they would remain concerned about the stewarding of the rally area and not adjacent areas. MPS also further assured the meeting that they would not be concerned with the counter-demonstration or the people involved in the counter-demonstration.

They would not be allowed to stand by and monitor the counter-demonstration, take notes or photographs and video footage as they had done in the past. However CST were again quite clearly monitoring the counter-rally and it would appear from reports that they were passing information over their radios regarding the movements of the counter-demonstration. These were clearly intimidatory tactics which had affected protestors.21 The presence of CST members adjacent to the counter-rally is evidenced in Appendix C22. Further CST members were positioned at the back of the pro -Israel rally but clearly facing and observing the counter-demonstration. 23

CST accredited photographer taking photographs of Muslim demonstrators from within Muslim demonstration.

There were further incidents of what appeared to be Zionists taking photographs of Muslims not only from outside but within the counterdemonstration.

In one particular incident24 a photographer constantly remained inside the parameters of the demons tration, photographing almost everyone who attended throughout the day. When this was pointed out to police officers by organisers, the officers requested her for ID, upon which she produced a CST issued pass. The police then refused to ask her to leave on the basis that she had been issued a pass by CST.

Now there plenty more to say about the CST, which inter alia keeps a large database of information on other Britons - and dissembles about it when asked to fess up under the data laws.

Here's a brief extract from David Irving's website:

A Digest of the Data Protection Agency Registration of the "Community Security Trust":-

DPA Registration X.3384840

IN ITS REGISTRATION papers, the CST admits that it holds computerised data for six purposes: these are personnel administration, fund-raising, membership administration, "charity and voluntary organisation objectives", "other consultative and advisory services", and "information and data bank administration". Of these categories the fifth is defined as "giving advice or rendering professional services, acting on behalf of clients, [and]analysis for management purposes and statutory returns," but this appears to relate only to Community Security Trust employees.

More sinister is the sixth purpose.

This is defined as the "maintenance of information or data banks as a reference tool or general resource"; this includes catalogues, lists, directories, bibliographic and "free text data bases." Typical activities to this end are "the compilation or updating of data banks; monitoring of access or use; maintenance for historical purposes; analysis for management purposes and statutory returns." Data is to be gathered and held about "current, past, potential members, supporters of a club, society, [or] institution."

Among the classes of data to be held are several that are identical to those already found in the registration under the Data Protection Act of the database maintained by the Board of Deputies of British Jews namely all the "dirt" they can get on just about anybody in their host English community - the personal details, physical description, habits, personality, character, current marriage or partnership, marital history, other family or household members and social contacts, accommodation or housing, property and possessions, immigration status, travel and movement details, leisure activities and interests, "lifestyle" [i.e. homosexuality or otherwise], membership of voluntary and charitable bodies, public offices held, court, tribunal or inquiry proceedings concerning them, their academic record, their qualifications and skills, professional bodies and committees they belong to, their publications, their student record, their current employment, career history, political and other convictions, political party membership, pressure groups which they support, their religious beliefs, their other beliefs, and "uncategorised information", which may include any number of topics not listed above.

They intend to obtain this media from the people themselves, their employers and employees, their colleagues and associates, and provide the data to "police forces, lawyers, political organisations," "the media" and "academics".

Irving has, of course, been demonized in the public mind (one wonders how - and by whom?) :ice

Less easy to dismiss as a 'neo-Nazi' or 'anti-Semite' is Craig Murray.

His whole article Levy, Blair and Injunctions is well worth a read, IMO.

Here's an extract:

I am stunned that last week Sir Ian Blair, head of the Metropolitan police, shared the top table at a Jewish community dinner with Lord Levy. Blair is the head of the police force that has arrested Levy, removed his passport and, from the actions of Lord Goldsmith this week in seeking to suppress information that may be used at the trial, is likely to charge him shortly with an imprisonable offence.

It cannot possibly be right for the head of the Metropolitan Police to be hobnobbing socially with a prominent alleged criminal. And this is the ultra-sensitive Ian Blair, whose concern for social form is so acute that he demanded an offical report when a female Muslim police officer refused to shake hands with him. The report presumably explained that many Muslim females do not shake hands with men.

Ian Blair and Levy are of course both close members of the Prime Minister's social and political circle. It is by no means the first time that they have dined together. In July 2005 the two of them ran up a £140 ($270) bill at a London restaurant, which Sir Ian Blair charged to the taxpayer. There was no investigation into Levy at the time, but his being dead sleazy was hardly a secret.

Ian Blair's explanation of that charge to the taxpayer was that Levy was a representative of the Jewish community. Now, there are many eminent and worthwhile people in London to whom that description applies, but I don't think that Levy holds any community posts. He is no more a representative of the Jewish community than I am of the Scottish community. Besides, how many one to one £140 meals has Ian Blair had with a representative of the Muslim community? Or the Irish, Iranian, Kurdish, Turkish, Polish, Palestinian or Greek communities? Other than ultra-rich New Labour supporters who happen to have that background?

So Ian Blair and Levy have form. In current circumstances it was a gross error of judgement for Ian Blair to sit at a top table with Lord Levy. Levy should have realised that himself and made his excuses, but nobody could mistake Lord Levy for a gentleman. Therefore Blair should have made an excuse and left. As it is, some of the smell has rubbed off. Ian Blair should resign.

Edited by Sid Walker
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Important not to confuse Blairs here... but there a minor storm over a report that Sir Ian Blair was seated at "top table" with Labour's chief fundraiser Lord Levy, at the Jewish Security Trust's annual dinner.

The Jewish aspect to this story is very interesting. Over the last few days the BBC has allowed several spokesmen from the Jewish lobby to argue that the loans for honours case is an anti-Jewish conspiracy. David Rowan the editor of The Jewish Chronicle, argued this point of view on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. When Rowan worked as the editor of Education Guardian he commissioned a regular column from me on important figures in history. I always got on well with him but I completely disagree with his current views on Lord Levy. Rowan's views on the subject can be read here:

http://www.davidrowan.com/2006/12/levy-cas...ple-jewish.html

In his Radio 4 interview, Rowan accused people of being anti-Jewish for pointing out that in March, 1994, Blair was introduced to Michael Levy at a dinner party at the Israeli embassy in London. Levy was a retired businessman who spent his time raising money for Jewish pressure-groups. After this meeting, Levy acquired a new job, raising money for Tony Blair. According to Robin Ramsay (The Rise of New Labour, page 64), Levy raised over £7 million for Blair. All this money came from Jewish businessmen. Can one be really suprised that people are now connecting Lord Levy's actions with Blair's foreign policy in the Middle East?

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It has emerged that the police will definitely be attempting to charge Lord Levy and Sir Christopher Evans with breaching the 1925 Honours Act, which bars the sale of honours. They also want to charge Levy with perverting the course of justice. However, the police still fear that Lord Goldsmith will use his position to protect these two men. He is almost certainly will protect Ruth Turner and Jonathan Powell, Blair’s aides, from prosecution. According to the Spectator, Sir Ken Macdonald, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, has been providing Blair with information about the investigation.

Blair believes he can survive if Levy and Evans are prosecuted but not if Turner and Powell are charged. This is why 10 Downing Street has been leaking information that protects Turner and Powell but distances Blair from Levy. This is a risky strategy as if Levy is prosecuted he might reveal information in court against Blair.

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Today's Sunday Times editorializes that it's the 'Endgame' for No 10.

Perhaps Mr Blair has finally passed his 'use-by' date for the Murdoch Empire?

Whereas Levy has the option of skipping off to Israel to escape 'anti-Semitic' persecution, Blair does not.

Nor can Tony expect much protection from the army.

I noticed an interesting thread on the British Army Rumour Service Forum. It is mainly concerned with the legal implications of Punching the Prime Minister. No one seems opposed to the principle of doing it. There's just concern about the practicalities. One poster has written to the Queen, asking Her Majesty to do it on their behalf - an elegant way of evading treason charges. :rolleyes:

If young Harry gets blown up in Basra, the fond grandma may well comply.

Here's the Times Leading Article for March 11th 2007:

The endgame for No10

In most good heist movies there is always a moment when the bad guys fall out. A disagreement over splitting the loot turns to violence. More usually, one of the gang, fearing the Old Bill, sings like a canary. What you do not expect is to see the Lavender Hill Mob played out inside Downing Street. The cash for honours investigation is reaching its climax. Assistant Commissioner John Yates and his Scotland Yard colleagues are said to be confident of bringing charges under both the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act of 1925 and for perverting the course of justice. The question is: who will be charged?

Lord Levy, the prime minister’s highly successful fundraiser, is most clearly in the frame and is protesting, through friends, at being hung out to dry by Downing Street. Things have become so desperate that the old charge of antisemitism is being bandied about. As a political outsider he is more dispensable than Tony Blair’s aides and officials. What seems clear, however, is that Lord Levy was not acting alone. Hence the police are toying with the charge of “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”. Mr Blair has said he sees nothing wrong in giving honours for party service and, according to his spokesman, “the fact that they had supported the party financially could not conceivably be a barrier to their nomination”. Mr Blair’s inner circle appears to have acted in the same spirit, forgetting the small matter of the law.

The prime minister through all this seems strangely serene. Political leaders have different ways of dealing with times of crisis. Margaret Thatcher enjoyed a tipple and John Major watched cricket. Mr Blair prefers to dash around signing international agreements, hosting policy discussions and doing just about anything to avoid his rather large local difficulty. Perhaps he thinks that if he ignores it, it will go away. It will not. The endgame is approaching in the cash for honours inquiry. And it will be one of the defining and damaging moments of Mr Blair’s premiership.

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Portillo, writing in The Times, has quite an interesting take on the latest row in Downing Street about 'leaks'.

See Britain isn’t a police state, but it’s close to being a xxxx state

When our beleaguered prime minister complained that he and the Downing Street staff were the victims of outrageous leaking in the cash for honours police inquiry, I felt no sympathy.

It is true that someone — the Metropolitan police I assume — has been supplying the media with information (and probably disinformation) in industrial quantities. The practice is indefensible. But when the Met locks antlers with the government it is as though the Leviathan of leak and spin had engaged the Behemoth of spin and leak. It would be perverse to feel sorry for either.

Hard on the heels of Tony Blair’s not very heartrending whinge, a massive amount of briefing was issued to the media on the terrorist plot allegedly uncovered in Birmingham. Information that you might expect to emerge only in court, maybe not before the end of a trial, spewed forth. There was a plot, we were told, to kidnap, torture and behead a Muslim British soldier.

Some newspapers made clear that the information came from Whitehall, not the police. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, wrote to the home secretary asking whether his special advisers had given off-the-record briefings. It is the sort of question that a clever person asks only if she already knows the answer perfectly well.

Briefing the media was, at least, irresponsible. At the time nobody had been charged. Three of those detained have been released since without charge. News of the alleged crime has evidently exacerbated tensions in the West Midlands. It may have caused Muslims genuine anxiety about persecution. It has certainly provided hot-heads with a valuable propaganda tool and some so-called community leaders have used it to stir the cauldron of grievance.

But the leaks rescued John Reid. Blanket coverage of the alleged plot swamped newspapers and news bulletins. There was no room left for the story that had filled them in previous days: the crisis over Britain’s overfull jails, and Reid’s responsibility for the mess. The agenda was back where he wanted it. He believes that terrorist threats cast him in the best light. Last summer he positively basked in the publicity surrounding the alleged conspiracy to destroy aircraft with bombs mixed in flight.

Chakrabarti was quickly on to another point. If Reid’s advisers are behind these leaks, then they would be the very same people who brief the media on why Britain “needs” to extend to 90 days the period that terror suspects can be held without charge. So, Chakrabarti implied, they might be putting at risk the police investigation and the chances of a fair trial as part of a party political campaign to change the law. Incidentally, could such a delicate media briefing operation be conducted without the home secretary’s authorisation?

Portillo concludes:
The manipulation of information has been both Blair’s making and undoing. A decade ago brilliant use of spin deluded the British electorate into believing that he would usher in a new political dawn. But manufacturing a “dodgy dossier” of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq shattered trust in him irrevocably.

As he totters towards his end he remains anxious to define his legacy. It is already established. Nobody now believes anything that the government says.

Nicely put.

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Mr Justice Wilkie originally granted the injunction against the BBC. Yesterday the BBC reported that he said: "There is a substantial element of truth in what the intended BBC broadcast was to say.

"There is a document addressed to Jonathan Powell in the course of which she [Ruth Turner] alleges that Lord Levy had asked her to lie for him."

It seems that Ruth Turner did not tell the police about this document. Therefore it is evidence that both Lord Levy and Ruth Turner were guilty of conspiracy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Blair is like an outgoing American president in the three months before the inauguration of his successor. Suddenly he can do what the hell he likes, floating into a zone somewhere above politics.

His allies say that he's using this freedom constructively, pushing necessary moves like last week's climate change bill and the Freud review of welfare. But there is another, less rosy view of this period - one that the planners of the legacy tour will not like.

It is that Blair has found himself beyond the reach of normal accountability, and is exploiting that freedom to distinctly shabby effect. Take last week's railroading of the decision on the renewal of Trident. The government promised it would consult on this momentous and costly move - but the consultation was a sham, a three-month pretence at listening when the minds that matter were made up long ago. Nearly a hundred Labour MPs rebelled, but Blair didn't care: he slipped their surly bonds long ago.

But that doesn't match the abandonment in December of the Serious Fraud Office's corruption inquiry into a defence deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia. Despite mountains of documents suggesting enormous cash sums heading the Saudis' way, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, told parliament the investigation was dropped for lack of evidence - and because MI5 and MI6 believed Britain's national security would be in danger if justice was pursued (though, interestingly, the heads of those agencies have refused to endorse that claim). In an incredible sentence, Goldsmith explained that the decision had been made in the wider public interest, which had to be "balanced against the rule of law". But the rule of law should not be balanced against anything. If it is, you descend down the slippery slope into dictatorship.

In normal times, the SFO decision alone might have forced Blair's exit: to suspend the law because of threats from a foreign government is as serious as it gets. But the issue gained no traction, because there is nowhere for political outrage to go. How can you demand that Blair quit when he's quitting anyway? The result is an eerie lethargy in British politics, thanks to which the prime minister is unconstrained.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP, has been using the Freedom of Information Act to expose Tony Blair’s relationship with corrupt businessmen. For example, last year he exposed the connection between meetings in Downing Street with Alain Dominique Perrin, the French multimillionaire with close links to the tobacco industry, and Blair holidays in Perrin’s luxury homes in France.

Downing Street has constantly refused to disclose details of Blair’s guests at Chequers in 2006. Blair’s aides have claimed a variety of administrative reasons for this and it now looks that this information will not be published until he leaves office.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It was reported on the Australian news this morning that Blair has appealed to vioters not to use the forthcoming Local Government elections to "give him one last kicking".

I am forced to conclude that Britain is now in a class of its own for absurdist politics.

Meanwhile, it is reported from Palestine that "Israelis target Palestinians with weapons causing 'burns ... by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation'"

I recall (former?) spook asset Blair mouthing platitudes, on more than one occasion during his ten years mismanagement of British foreign policy, to the effect that "solving" the "Palestine problem" must be a priority.

Perhaps I can use what may be my last post in this thread before Blair's long-overdue retirement to give him one last kicking from the antipodes.

Mr Blair: you have dishonoured your country, you have dishonoured British armed forces, you have dishonoured progressive politics, you have dishonoured the Party that helped you into power, you have dishonoured the notion of democracy, you have dishonoured Britain's role in the world, you have done NOTHING to fix the "Palestine problem" (except give more time to the occupying bullies to conduct protracted torture on the indigenous people), you have helped ruin two entire countries, you have acted out a sordid leading role in the bogus 'War on Terror', you are a pathetic poodle of Zionist mega-thugs, you are a venal lying shyster and you should be holed up in Brixton nick pending transfer to the International Criminal Court.

Now, for God's sake man, GO!!!

Edited by Sid Walker
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A statement from John McDonnell, the man who intends to challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party when Blair leaves office:

As the prime minister leaves office, what could be more natural than Labour party supporters wanting a say in where the party should go next, especially after 10 years in power? Why then do Gordon Brown's supporters appear intent on avoiding a leadership election in which party members and trade unionists can participate? Perhaps it isn't the fear of losing that worries them but anxiety about what a leadership election could bring forth.

Labour leaders up to and including John Smith largely respected the broad church within the party. However, for more than a decade the Blair-Brown New Labour faction has discouraged the voicing of any alternative views. If, in a leadership election, there was a sizeable vote for an alternative vision for the future, Labour's broad church tradition would have been reasserted. Any leader wanting to unite and mobilise the party in the runup to the next general election would have to respect this re-emergence, both in policy formulation and in the construction of government.

In recent weeks I have been canvassing in Wales, Scotland and many local authority areas in England. There is a widespread expectation that the efforts of Labour Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly members and councillors will be overshadowed as voters cast their ballot on the basis of Westminster politics. Yet a vote for Labour on Thursday is a vote against the worst excesses of New Labour in Westminster.

Without even having revenue-raising powers, the Welsh assembly has forged ahead with policies on education and health, resisting the marketisation seen in England: league tables and Sats have been abolished, and there are no city academies or trust schools; there are no foundation hospitals, and prescription charges have been abolished. In Scotland, care charges for the elderly have been abolished and there are no student top-up fees. Many Labour councils have similarly proud achievements. These are policies backed by most Labour members - and on which I am standing.

If we are to prevent the Tories returning to power we need to understand not only how New Labour has failed to live up to the hopes of the country in 1997, but also why. The leadership debate is as much a challenge for the Labour left as it is for New Labour. It provides an opportunity not just to demonstrate that the left has an understanding of the 21st-century globalised economy but also that it has the imagination to excite and mobilise our communities around an alternative vision and set of policies.

New Labour's leaders have adapted enthusiastically to the changes corporate-driven globalisation has effected, bringing the ideas and practices of the market into everyday life. All too often socialists and progressives have ceded ground to New Labour by being too defensive, even backward-looking. We cannot turn the clock back, but that does not mean we should accept the global market economy as the last word.

We need a new approach that deepens the quality of democracy throughout society, while establishing social rights to affordable housing, a citizen's income, free education, childcare and healthcare, as well as care in older age - in essence a new constitutional settlement for the 21st century. Such a debate would re-engage all those who since 1997 have not voted, and many young people.

In deciding not only the next Labour leader but also the next prime minister, the forthcoming contest is an opportunity to re-engage the British public in genuine political debate. That can only happen if there is a contest - and that can only be good for democracy.

· John McDonnell MP is a declared candidate for the Labour leadership and the author of Another World is Possible - a manifesto for 21st century socialism

http://john4leader.org.uk/

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Lord Browne, the chief executive of BP was forced to resign last night over lying in court over a homosexual relationship. Tony Blair gave him a knighthood in 1996 and a peerage in 2001. Blair also gave him a great deal of help in an oil deal in Russia in 2003. It is not known how much Browne paid Blair for these services. However, he did give a very well paid job to Blair's former girlfriend, Anji Hunter, as director of communications at BP. Blair's relationship with Hunter dates back when she was only 15 when they both stayed overnight at a party. Hunter has done very well for a woman who went to Brighton Polytechnic.

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  • 4 weeks later...

When the London Evening Standard comes up with a headline like this, you know Tony's really lost the plot: Shambles of Blair plan for 'stop and question' powers

Tony's last lunge at the civil liberties of the British?

His last political kick-back to the anti-democratic forces who installed him in power and cheered on his malfeasance for more than a a decade?

Let's hope so.

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When the London Evening Standard comes up with a headline like this, you know Tony's really lost the plot: Shambles of Blair plan for 'stop and question' powers

Tony's last lunge at the civil liberties of the British?

His last political kick-back to the anti-democratic forces who installed him in power and cheered on his malfeasance for more than a a decade?

Let's hope so.

It is indeed interesting to see what Tony Blair is trying to do before leaving office. It is still not clear what sort of deal has done with Blair in order that no Blairite stood against him for the leadership of the party.

Nor do we know what promises Brown made to those left-wing MPs in order that they did not provide enough support for John McDonnell to stand. Some of Brown's recent speeches have been encouraging for the left. For example, his speech about a fully elected House of Lords using the PR system. He has also indicated that he might announce an early return of British troops from Iraq. This makes sense as Brown will have difficulty beating Cameron unless he changes the policies left to him by Blair.

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