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The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?


John Simkin
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The arrival of Gordon Brown has not changed the funding patterns of New Labour. The Electoral Commission’s quarterly figures show the Labour Party attracted over £5m from donations. This was larger than the money received by the Conservative Party.

The largest Labour donor was Mahmoud Khayami, an Iranian born industrialist. He has so far given £510,000 and has promised a total of £1m. Other big donors are Sir Ron Cohen, the private equity millionaire, who gave £250,000, City financier Nigel Doughty, £250,000 and Peter Coates, of Bet365 online gambling company, gave £100,000.

Despite this money the Labour Party is still £20m in debt and cannot afford calling an early election.

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Guest David Guyatt

And John, I'm sorry to say, Gordon Brown then weds Margaret Thatcher.

There is no discernible light between the three major political parties. Whichever one gains power, it morphs into the one that went before it. The same noxious policies that serve the same minority.

There's no point in waving farewell to democracy now, it evaporated decades ago --- even supposing there was any great measure of it to begin with...

David

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Guest Gary Loughran

It seems Cash for honours has been accepted practice for a long time. Exceprted from an article by Cecil Chesterton in the New Age Journal Thursday August 11th 1910 Volume 7 No.15.

The complete New Age collection downloadable in .pdf format can be found here

The New Age

London: The New Age Press, Ltd.

1907 - 1922

The New Age was a weekly magazine, printed in double columns, folio sized, and mostly in type sizes that varied from small to miniscule. A rather different journal had been appearing under that name, when a group led by G. B. Shaw decided to provide some funding and asked A. R. Orage and his friend Holbrook Jackson to begin a "New Series" in the spring of 1907. From then on, volumes ran for six months, with pages numbered accordingly. Among the notable contributors were Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, Beatrice Hastings, T. E. Hulme, Walter Sickert, Marmaduke Pickthall, and Herbert Read. The magazine played a central role in the debates over modernism and in the social and political issues of the day. (The New Age continued for some years after Orage resigned, but is not of comparable interest

How the Rich Rule Us.

By Cecil Chesterton.

I I I .-The Party Funds.

W E are very fond in this country of boasting of the

freedom of our politics from corruption, by which we

mean that there is little or no direct bribing of members

of Parliament. A little investigation wouid, I think,

lessen our self-satisfaction in the matter. As I pointed

out in my last article, hardly anyone is allowed to become

a member of Parliament except by permission of

the party caucus. This caucus is subjecto the rich

men who subscribe to its funds. Therefore it is not

necessary to bribe members of Parliament ; they are

generally bribed before they arc elected. One does not

bribe one’s bought bond-slaves !

The most important factor in British politics is the

factor that no one mentions--the Party Funds. How

are these immense sums subscribed, and how are they

expended? It is the very essence of my case that I

cannot answer this question with precision. The subscription

is secret. The expenditure is secret. But

there is enough circumstantial evidence to enable us

to give a good guess at the truth.

The Party Funds are subscribed by rich men whose

names are carefully suppressed. The elaborate care

with which this secrecy is maintained is of itself sufficient

reason for suspecting that the subscribers have

some motive for concealing their identity. Nor is this

motive far to seek.

The ordinary method by which the Party Funds are

raised is the sale of peerages and other honours. The

existence of this traffic is notorious. The current

price of a knighthood, a baronetcy or a peerage is as

well known in Downing Street as the current price of

cabbages in Covent Garden. There are plenty of lords

and innumerable baronets and knights who are perfectly

well known to have bought their honours with

the same tradesmanlike simplicity with which they

might buy butter or a motor car. This method of

raising revenue was ocassionally practised by the early

Stuarts, but to do them justice they used the money

SO raised for the general purposes of government. If

honours are to be given in return for money, it seems

reasonable that the money should go to the State

rather than to private funds of the party that happens

to be in power at the time. The present system

degrades the Sovereign by making him the fountain

not of honour but of dishonour, the paymaster in the

dirty traffic carriedo n by an oligarchical ringi n his name.

But the sale of honours, unspeakably dishonouring

as it is, to the Sovereign, to the nation, to the persons

“ honoured,” and to everybody concerned in the transaction,

is perhaps the least serious aspect of the evil. It

is better that rich men should buy handles to their

names than that they should buy the power to direct

the national policy.

The precisextent to which subscriptions to the

Party Funds deflect the policy of the Government

cannot be ascertained with absolute certainty. Both

parties to such transactions have every possible motive

for maintaining strict secrecy, and the whole of our

313

political machinery is devised with the object of

making such secrecy possible. Still, sidelights are

sometimes thrown on our politics which indicate

something of what is going on.

We know, for instance, from the correspondence of

the late Mr. Schnadhorst, some time head of the Liberal

Caucus, that Cecil Rhodesubscribed largely to the

Liberal funds in the ’eighties, insisting athe same

time that the Liberals should not evacuate Egypt. We

also know that the Liberals did not evacuate Egypt,

though they had again and again declared their intention

of doing so. Now I do not say that the Liberals

were wrong not to evacuate Egypt. There was doubtless

a strong case to be made out against such a course.

But the matter ought to have been decided by open

debate among British citizens, not by secret control

through the Party Funds. Gladstone, we know,

thought evacuation desirable, but Gladstone, the mere

politician, was subserviento Schnadhorst, the party

manager. And Schnadhorst wasubservient to anybody

who would give him money. That is English

politics in a nutshell.

In this particular case the facts are known. In many

other cases they can be guessed. Why, for instance,

did the last Conservative Government authorise the introduction

of Chinese Labour? The clever politicians

of the Conservative Party must have known that in

sanctioning the Chinese Ordinance at the bidding of

cosmopolitan financiers they were not only violating

every tradition of honest Toryism, but were risking the

explosion of public indignation which afterwards overwhelmed

them, disillusioning the people with that

Imperialism the popularity of which had been their

stand-by, changing the popular enthusiasm for the

war into frantic disgust with its consequences. They

knew all this, but they knew something else as well.

Here again an accident gives us the clue. Dr. Rutherford

Harris, accustomed to the more innocent corruption

of new countries, announced publicly that he had

subscribed £1O,OOO to the funds of the Conservative

Party. He and his associates spoke, and the Conservative

leaders obeyed.

Another case may be selected relating to the other

political party. If the Conservatives knew that

Chinese labour would be unpopular, the Liberals knew

equally well that their continual meddling with the

people’s pleasures is unpopular. Every Liberal wirepuller

dreads the raising of the ‘( Temperance ” question

at elections. Whenever it is raised, as it was

raised in 1895 and at the by-elections during the passage

of the Licensing Bill, it always spells disaster for

the Liberals. At election times it is therefore always

kept carefully in the background. Yet every Liberal

Government, as soon as it is fairly settled in power, is

sure to introduce some monstrously oppressive measure

professedly aimed at restricting the drinking habits of

the people, some measure approaching as near to prohibition

as the party managers feel they dare go.

Why is this? Is it that the rank and file of the Liberal

Party favour compulsory teetotalism? I will leave it

to anyone who has ever visited a Radical Club to

answer that question. Is it that the Liberal politicians

are themselves vehement and convinced believers in

teetotalism, so certain of their cause that they are prepared

to enforce it on others by force? Not at all.

Mr. Asquith is certainly not a teetotaler, and very few

of his Cabinet are teetotalers. Why, then, do they

try to enforce teetotalism on others, against both their

own convictions and the interests of their party?

Of the rich men who subscribe to the Liberal Party

Funds, some are, like many rich men, slightly mad.

And, being mostly Nonconformists, the form their

madness often takes is a horror of the traditional

drinks of civilised man. Others have a much more

solid reason for objecting to alcoholic drinks, namely,

thathey are commercially interested in the sale of

non-alcoholic drinks. Others, again, are grocers, who

sell alcoholic drinks, and rightly think that they would

seIl more if the public-houses were closed. It should

be noted that the Liberal Government refused to

apply the provisions of the Licensing Bill to grocers’

I found this interesting anyway!!!

Will post the URLs when I get a chance.

Gary

Edited by Gary Loughran
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According to one of my sources, Tony and Cherie Blair are considering buying Winslow Hall in Buckinghamshire. The seven-bedroom house is available for £3m. It is estimated that the new owners will need to spend another £1m on refurbishment. One of the attractions is that it has its own Roman Catholic chapel. Blair currently owns three homes in London, Bristol and Durham and has mortgages of around £4m. To buy this house will need another £4m. I wonder where the money will be coming from?

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According to one of my sources, Tony and Cherie Blair are considering buying Winslow Hall in Buckinghamshire. The seven-bedroom house is available for £3m. It is estimated that the new owners will need to spend another £1m on refurbishment. One of the attractions is that it has its own Roman Catholic chapel. Blair currently owns three homes in London, Bristol and Durham and has mortgages of around £4m. To buy this house will need another £4m. I wonder where the money will be coming from?

An advance on his memoirs? Lucrative consulting contracts? Friends in very high places? Mediator in the Middle East?

Endless speaking engagements? Future European Union president? After all, he does appear to have a strong resume:

Former British prime minister Tony Blair would be a good choice as the European Union's first full-time president, French and British leaders said on Friday while stressing that the job is not yet on offer.

Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, praised Blair's current role as international Middle East envoy, and said he would be a strong candidate for any similar high-profile role, including the new EU job.

"Tony Blair would be a great candidate for any significant international job," said Brown, who had famously stormy relations with his long-term ally turned bitter foe. (Online Guardian, 19 October 2007)

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An advance on his memoirs? Lucrative consulting contracts? Friends in very high places? Mediator in the Middle East?

Endless speaking engagements? Future European Union president? After all, he does appear to have a strong resume:

Cherie Blair recently signed a £1.5 publishing deal for her memoirs. One report suggests that Blair will get £8m for his autobiography. The book will of course never bring in such a large sum of money. It is just a way of paying off Blair for services rendered. The previous two prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, both signed lucrative contracts with Harper Collins, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch. All the 179 Murdoch newspapers were all passionate advocates of the Iraq War. According to an interview with Murdoch just before the invasion took place, he argued for the war because he thought it would increase prices on the stock market.

Murdoch is also the reason why Gordon Brown did not call an election. He visited Brown on the weekend he made the decision and told him that his newspapers would not support him during the election. However, Murdoch is no lover of David Cameron (he sees him as being too left-wing). He is still willing to do a deal with New Labour as long as they deliver his policies.

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Guest David Guyatt

I like the bit about the Roman Catholic chapel in the grounds of Winslow Hall, John. I wonder if this will afford Tone that possibility of flogging himself as well as wearing the thigh wrenching Celice of Opus Dei?

The book deal also remind me of that little sh*t Jeffrey Archer who, as I recall, signed a three book deal with LittleBrown's (or similar) for an astronical fee of around £30 million. That's a LOT of dosh for a crap writer and smelled, to me, of a big blackmail bung. I do recall that back in days past, Archer was one of the visitors to the the Leadenhall Street offices of BCCI where he was trying to hawk some worthless oil painting in exchange for a considerable sum of folding money to be placed in a brown envelope.

Edit = I just checked and it was HarperCollins not LittleBrowns that Archer's book deal was signed with...

Edited by David Guyatt
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This week John Yates gave some information about the way Blair blocked his investigation into the "cash for honours" investigation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2197862,00.html

Patrick Wintour, political editor

Wednesday October 24, 2007

The Guardian

The dispute over cash for honours was reignited yesterday as the senior Scotland Yard officer in charge of the criminal investigation claimed Downing Street officials had treated him as a political problem during the inquiry, and did not give him their full cooperation.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates told MPs it took him nine months, and some difficulty, to discover how Tony Blair came to draw up the list of his proposed nominees for peerages in 2005.

Mr Yates claimed at one point that the lack of cooperation may have not been deliberate, but stemmed from a belief in parts of No 10 that his inquiry was a political rather than criminal problem.

A senior No 10 political official at the time rebutted Mr Yates' comments last night saying: "This claim is preposterous. Throughout Number 10 civil servants, special advisers and Labour party staff cooperated at every stage of this inquiry. There are no grounds for Yates to make this statement."

Mr Yates' remarks came during a two-hour grilling by the public administration select committee. He refused to comment when asked whether he had uncovered a trade in peerages and refused to endorse the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service that a diary by one of the four donors put up for an honour was inadmissible as evidence because it was hearsay.

The diary by Sir Christopher Evans, recording a conversation with Lord Levy, was seen by the police as the key piece of evidence to show there was an understanding that donations could lead to knighthoods or peerages.

Mr Yates also denied that his team had been a source of leaks during the inquiry.

Defending the decision to allow the inquiry to run for 16 months, David Perry QC, the leading adviser to the CPS said: "The case was presented as a mosaic or jigsaw, and it is very difficult to know at the early stage to know exactly what picture you are going to get at the every end."

He told MPs that Britain's corruption laws looked "rather worn and dated".

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Guest David Guyatt

I watched Yates peformance in the committee on TV yesterday and the manner he declined to answer the very pointed question about whether he had discovered a trade in peerages, made it very clear that there was. Nothing has changed since the days of Disraeli, and I dare say it never will.

David

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Guest Gary Loughran
The paybacks have begun. Cherie Blair has just obtained a £1m contract to write her memoirs. Tony Blair is said to be still discussing contracts. However, rumours suggest that he has already done a £6m deal with Rupert Murdoch via HarperCollins.

Just breaking on BBC ticker is news that Blair has signed a book deal with Bertelsmann's Random House imprint. Haven't done any research for links to Murdoch. I believe they're distinct entities - I know they've some satellite tie ups together but even then that was problematic (premiere or some such springs to mind), Will do some checking tomorrow to see if there's closer links.

It still reeks of a payback (though there's no fee as yet) - can't connect Bertelsmann in my head yet.

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Guest David Guyatt
The paybacks have begun. Cherie Blair has just obtained a £1m contract to write her memoirs. Tony Blair is said to be still discussing contracts. However, rumours suggest that he has already done a £6m deal with Rupert Murdoch via HarperCollins.

Just breaking on BBC ticker is news that Blair has signed a book deal with Bertelsmann's Random House imprint. Haven't done any research for links to Murdoch. I believe they're distinct entities - I know they've some satellite tie ups together but even then that was problematic (premiere or some such springs to mind), Will do some checking tomorrow to see if there's closer links.

It still reeks of a payback (though there's no fee as yet) - can't connect Bertelsmann in my head yet.

Gary, I think that the misiing connection inside your head may be Bertelsmann's unpleasant past. They were the authorised publishers for Himmler's SS during WWII. The firms top executive was also an SS officer. Bertelsmann are believed to have arisen from the ashes of WWII thanks to major financial input from the Bormann Brotherhood domiciled in Latin America. They are said to remain a major pplayer of the nazi underground today.

edit: to correct error.

David

Edited by David Guyatt
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The paybacks have begun. Cherie Blair has just obtained a £1m contract to write her memoirs. Tony Blair is said to be still discussing contracts. However, rumours suggest that he has already done a £6m deal with Rupert Murdoch via HarperCollins.

Just breaking on BBC ticker is news that Blair has signed a book deal with Bertelsmann's Random House imprint. Haven't done any research for links to Murdoch. I believe they're distinct entities - I know they've some satellite tie ups together but even then that was problematic (premiere or some such springs to mind), Will do some checking tomorrow to see if there's closer links.

It still reeks of a payback (though there's no fee as yet) - can't connect Bertelsmann in my head yet.

Apparently, Murdoch had a long-standing agreement like the ones given to Thatcher and Major for his memoirs to be published by HarperCollins for a price of £6m. However, the publication of Lance Price’s diary made it difficult for Blair and Murdoch to go through with the deal. In his book Price pointed out that Blair would consult with Murdoch before making any important political decision. Blair tried to stop the book from being published. However, someone, leaked the manuscript to the Daily Mail, and the information reached the public domain.

Blair was advised that he would get even more money if he opened it up to the highest bidder. His agent suggested that he would get as much as £7m for his memoirs. However, Random House won with a bid of £4.5. In an article in today’s Sunday Times that is owned by Rupert Murdoch, it is claimed that Random House will lose a lot of money on the deal. Murdoch must be pleased with the way it is worked out. All that influence without having to pay a bribe.

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Good article by Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times about Tony Blair and corruption:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/c...icle2753614.ece

Escaped! Scot free, the lot of them. Spats, Fingers, Joe the Dip, Johnny the Wallop, Smoochy Sue, all got clean away and nobody laid a finger on them. They pulled off the great Labour party funding heist and where are they now? Round at Snipcock and Tweed with their memoirs and then off to join the gang in Marbella.

And what does the chairman of the august Commons select committee on public administration do about all this? Does he raise the alarm and read the riot act? He does not. Investigating the affair last week, Tony Wright threw a tizzy fit at the poor honest copper, John Yates, who had just endured that most painful experience, being royally shafted by the British Establishment.

There is no longer serious doubt over the facts of the cash for peerages affair. Two years ago four rich but otherwise unexceptional citizens, Chai Patel, Sir David Garrard, Sir Gulam Noon and Barry Townsley, were suddenly seized with an overwhelming urge to give Tony Blair some £5m between them. Such was the urge that when so-called friends of Blair replied, “No, no, my dear chap, let’s call it a loan and keep it to ourselves,” they smelt only gardenias. As men of substance they knew that many people, when offered £1m, murmur about “treating it as a loan” but remember only the gift when the wampum has gone down the plughole.

The next thing was a miracle. At this very moment Her Majesty the Queen, no less, was seized with a similar urge concerning these same four gentlemen, one of them domiciled abroad. They were just the coves she needed to put the nation back on its feet as members of her House of Lords.

The place was crying out for their mix of judgment, sagacity and experience in public affairs. Their shoulders were made for the ermine. Pursuivants had even begun doodling with their coats of arms, of loans rampant sinister and cheques couchant with gorges or. So their names, in customary fashion, “went forward”.

Such at least is the lesson according to St Blair. The reality is that selling honours is illegal under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act, 1925. Donating secretly to party funds is illegal under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, 2000. The word is not dodgy, ill-advised or even philanthropic, it is illegal. The response of those involved should not be: oh come on, everyone does it, give me a break. It should certainly not be to tell an inquiring policeman that, if he presses his case, the prime minister would have to resign and then where would we be, which was the gist of Downing Street’s obstruction of Yates. The proper response, if there is a case to answer, is to stand trial.

Nor are these laws akin to those banning the seduction of the monarch or the clipping of the coinage, outdated rules that parliament has not come round to repealing. They were introduced to stop specific sharp practices, one of them as recently as seven years ago. While it might be peeving to parliamentarians that the original complaint was brought by maverick Scots and Welsh MPs, that should not matter. The MPs were convinced of a prima facie breaking of laws designed to protect the dignity of public life and, like good citizens “having a go”, they told the police.

For good measure the honours scrutiny committee appeared to sympathise. It had declined to approve three of the names, most unusually given the dodgy ones it has been approving for years.

For all this, when the police decided to proceed with their inquiry I knew it would get nowhere. The canaries would not sing. There would be massive perjury and perversion of the course of justice. Evidence would be concealed and, even if a smoking gun were found, the government’s lawyers would make sure no prosecution came to court. As a result, guilty parties would appear to be exonerated and escape disclosure. This is precisely what has happened. The £1m cost of the inquiry might as well have gone to a children’s home.

The alternative course would have been for Wright’s committee to take up the allegations, which Yates had explicitly asked him not to do. Selling honours is a victimless crime whose only casualty is the reputation of parliament and politics. It would have been appropriate for the Commons to sit in judgment, using whatever powers of subpoena it could muster. Only if evidence of illegality emerged would the police have been invited to take action.

Given what everyone knows about the past sale of honours, “everyone” should have been encouraged to stage a “truth and reconciliation” exercise. Wright and his colleagues would then have had overwhelming moral authority to kill the old honours system and initiate a new one, preferably with nothing to do with political parties.

The procedure by which Yates’s inquiry was murdered was worthy of Putin’s Russia. He was clearly regarded as “going too far” in questioning the prime minister and his closest aides, Jonathan Powell and Ruth Turner. When he apparently found evidence both of honours sale and of attempts to pervert justice in a cover-up, the Establishment had to eliminate him.

The attorney-general, who would need to approve any prosecution of Blair or his associates, was Blair’s political buddy and launderer of the Iraq war. He was himself an ennobled Labour donor. He therefore said he would take advice from the director of public prosecutions. But he turned out to be a friend of the prime minister’s wife, so he in turn delegated the matter to a deputy at the Crown Prosecution Service and took advice from an outside QC, David Perry.

He, it emerged, has frequently been employed by the government, not least in defending ministers over the Iraq war. He was a more than safe pair of hands.

Perry was asked if he thought Yates’s case stacked up. We can imagine ministers ricking their necks with winks, grimaces, frowns and nods. The hapless Perry thought deep and advised no.

The evidential test for a prosecution under the 1925 act should, in his judgment, be “unambiguous”, which appeared to mean contested by nobody. Yates, to put it mildly, had failed to pass it. The matter was therefore closed and everyone went on holiday.

Can anyone imagine another judicial system behaving thus? The British have long been smug about the integrity of their public life. They boast the philanthropy of their foreign wars, the cool-headedness of their police, the prudence of their finance houses and the independence of their judiciary.

As a result Gordon Brown, as chancellor, loved to incant that Britain can afford “the lightest touch regulation” of any western political economy. Who needs all those inspectors when the British are so damned honest, he implied.

These assumptions have taken a nasty shock in the past six months.

Institutions as varied as ITV, Northern Rock, the army in Basra and the political establishment have displayed the downside of “light touch” regulation. Under Blair and Brown, the parliamentary ombudsman and the standards commissioner have been obstructed and/or hounded from office at the instigation of Downing Street, simply for doing their jobs.

The nation’s most senior scrutineer, the comptroller and auditor-general, has had to resign over an expenses scandal. A clear election pledge on a European Union referendum has been flagrantly broken. The crudest abuse of the honours system since Lloyd George has passed off without demur by an apparently partial prosecution process.

Cash for honours is not wholly dead. The case is back with Wright’s committee. If it can somehow drag the public’s attention back to an apparent breach of both the letter and the spirit of the law it will do something to restore credit to parliament and especially the Commons (the Lords is tight as a drum on this matter).

If Brown really wants to import into public life the ethics of Calvin and Knox, he has an uphill road ahead of him. He talks liberal on constitutional change yet he shirks the detail, such as Lords reform, party financing, cleansing the honours system and ending the MPs’ expenses racket.

The reason, it has become increasingly clear, is that Britain’s new prime minister is all mouth and no muscle.

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