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The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?


John Simkin
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Gordon Brown has appointed Sir Alan Sugar as his new Enterprise Tsar. Sugar of course was a great supporter of Margaret Thatcher and his recruitment goes to show how far to the right the New Labour government has moved. In fact, Blair/Brown have continued with Thatcher’s neo-liberal experiment. Another reason for Sugar’s conversion to New Labour might be the fact that his company Viglen has just secured a £30 million contract to provide 70,000 computers to schools and government departments.

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Last week Gordon Brown was saved by Lord Mandelson. This is a surprising turn around because in May 1994, Brown was expected to replace John Smith as leader of the Labour Party. Then Mandelson began spreading the rumour that Brown was gay and this story would appear just before the next election. As a result, Labour Party MPs decided to opt for the safety candidate, Tony Blair.

Mandelson was rewarded in 1997 when Blair appointed him as a Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government. A few months later, he also acquired responsibility for the Millennium Dome, one of the biggest disasters in recent political history.

In December 1998, it was revealed Mandelson had bought a home in Notting Hill in 1996 with the assistance of an interest-free loan of £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire Labour MP who was also in the Government, but was subject to an inquiry into his business dealings by Mandelson's department. Mandelson, who had kept the loan a secret, was forced to resign from the government. Robinson also resigned at the same time.

In October 1999, he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The following year Geoffrey Robinson "accused Peter Mandelson of lying to the Commons about the home loan affair". Despite this claim, Mandelson was allowed to keep his job.

In January 2001, it was revealed Mandelson had phoned Home Office minister Mike O'Brien on behalf of Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman who was seeking British citizenship, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the "Faith Zone" in the Millennium Dome. At the time, Hinduja and his brothers were under investigation by the Indian government for alleged involvement in the Bofors scandal. On 24 January 2001, Mandelson resigned from the Government for a second time.

On 22 November 2004, Mandelson became Britain's European Commissioner for Trade. Once again he became involved in several scandals because of his relationship with some dubious multi-millionaires who wanted things from the European Commissioner.

On 3rd October 2008, Gordon Brown announced that Mandelson would return to government in the re-drawn post of Business Secretary, and would be made a life peer, entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords. It is believed that the right-wing members of the party (Blairites) insisted on the return of Mandelson in exchange for not bringing down Brown.

Mandelson was at the time being investigated for corruption by the European authorities. This involved his relationship with Oleg Deripaska, the owner of Rusal. Over the last three years, while working as European Union Trade Commissioner, he twice cut European aluminium import duties. Rusal, the world’s largest producer of aluminium, was the main beneficiary of this action.

Another person who has provided Mandelson with free holidays is Lakshmi Mittal, the world’s fourth richest man. In 2005 Mittal gave Tony Blair’s New Labour government £2m. This was not the first gift that Mittal made to Blair.

In 2002 it was disclosed that Mittal's LNM steel company, registered in the Netherlands Antilles and maintaining less than 1% of its 100,000 plus workforce in the UK, sought Blair's aid in its bid to purchase Romania's state steel industry. The letter from Blair to the Romanian government hinted that the privatisation of the firm and sale to Mittal might help smooth the way for Romania's entry into the European Union.

In 2006, Mittal mounted a £12.8 billion hostile bid for its nearest rival Archelor, which was based in Luxembourg and France. At the time Atticus Capital had holdings in both Mittal Steel and Arcelor and wanted the deal to go ahead. However, in Luxembourg and France there was strong opposition to the deal.

Mandelson, as the European Union Trade Commissioner, came under pressure from Mittal to support the deal. He agreed to do this by speaking out in favour of open trade and against European opposition to the deal. Eventually, the EU competition commission eventually approved the deal.

When Mandelson entered the government he is quoted as saying his main objective is to stop the government using “Old Labour” measures to deal with the collapse of capitalism. He is of course in favour of taxpayers bailing out the bankers but is strongly against the government taking over control of these institutions. As has been pointed out, Brown is currently following a policy of “socialism for the rich”.

Mandelson other reason for joining the government is to protect his Russian sponsors from suffering too much damage during the capitalist meltdown. After the fall of communism in 1989, Neo-Cons joined forces with the KGB, senior officials in the various communist parties in Eastern Europe and the Russian Mafia.

In the reshuffle on 5 June 2009, Lord Mandelson was appointed to the honorific office of First Secretary of State, making him Deputy Prime Minister in all but name. Mandelson was also appointed to the position of Lord President of the Council. It was also announced that he would continue in his role as Business Secretary, with much expanded powers.

Mandelson is now the power behind the throne. Mandelson's long-term objective is to become Foreign Secretary (the post held by his grandfather). However, David Milliband, holds that position. The plan is for Mandelson to oust Brown early in the new year and for Milliband to become prime-minister, allowing Mandelson to become Foreign Secretary.

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Daily Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics...ving-No.10.html

Mr Blair, who left Downing Street on June 27, 2007, submitted an invoice on June 25 for "roof repairs" that cost £6,990. The bill was dated June 8. Mr Blair had announced the previous September that he would quit No 10 within a year.

The claim, which was among the documents published online yesterday by parliament, appeared to be another example of an MP taking a last chance to have taxpayers pay for work carried out at their designated second home before leaving office.

Mr Blair's claim was reduced to £4,453 by the fees office but he still claimed £5,772 in the 2007-08 financial year, while remaining in office for less than three months.

His expense claims for that year also included £735.81 for council tax, which was half of his yearly bill of £1,470 despite the fact that he was replaced as MP for Sedgefield on July 19, 2007, meaning he was an MP for just three and a half months of that year.

Other invoices submitted by Mr Blair in 2007-08 included £305.50 for shredding, £466 for cleaning and hundreds of pounds for phone bills and utilities.

The former prime minister has already faced questions over his expense claims after it emerged that he remortgaged his designated constituency second home for £296,000, almost 10 times what he paid for it, months before he bought a town house in London for £3.65 million. Mr Blair was able to claim on his parliamentary expenses for the interest repayments on almost a third of the new mortgage on his constituency home.

The amount lent was sufficient to cover the deposit on his house in Connaught Square, west London, one of five properties owned by the former prime minister, valued at £10 million in total. The invoice for the roofing repairs, made out to "Mr A Blair", covers "repairs to roof and guttering; strip off old roof to porch above front door and renew latts, slates, felt and lead; strip off two main roofs above rear of property and renew latts, slates, felts and lead; take off and renew the coping stones to main roof which were irreparable".

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: "Roof repairs were carried out well before Tony Blair announced that he was standing down as PM, but the claim was made much later."

MPs are allowed to claim "winding up" expenses in the weeks before they leave parliament but evidence of outgoing members improving their homes, often to make them easier to sell when they no longer needed a second home, led to accusations that they were abusing the system.

A spokesman for Mr Blair said the roof at his home in County Durham had been leaking and the work was done in January, 2007, "before Mr Blair decided to step down as an MP", but the invoice was put in six months later.

The former prime minister still owns the house in County Durham but others who spent money on their designated second home shortly before leaving office and selling up included Lord Mandelson, who submitted invoices for almost £3,000 of work on his Hartlepool home less than a week after he announced his decision to stand down as an MP.

Mr Blair, who has earned about £16 million since leaving office, through public speaking, directorships and a book deal, bought his constituency home in Trimdon, Co Durham, shortly after he was elected as an MP in 1983.

His parliamentary expense forms showed that he claimed £387 per month in mortgage interest, just under a third of the total monthly interest payments on the Durham house.

One claim form, for 2005-06, was covered with handwritten sums detailing each month's mortgage interest claim to the penny, which varied by about £20 per month as the interest rate changed.

I see that he charged £305.50 for shredding documents. Does this mean the taxpayer paid for him to cover-up his corruption.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/ju...-torture-policy

Tony Blair was aware of the ­existence of a secret interrogation policy which ­effectively led to British citizens, and others, being ­tortured during ­counter-terrorism investigations, the Guardian can reveal.

The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered ­guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers ­questioning detainees in Afghanistan who they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not "be seen to condone" torture and that they must not "engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners".

But they were also told they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent detainees from being mistreated.

"Given that they are not within our ­custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this," the policy said.

The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philippe Sands QC, one of the world's leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain's obligations to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence's ­relationships with a number of foreign intelligence agencies which had become the UK's allies in the "war against terror".

The policy was set out in written instructions sent to MI5 and MI6 officers in January 2002, which told them they might consider complaining to US officials about the mistreatment of detainees "if circumstances allow".

Blair indicated his awareness of the existence of the policy in the middle of 2004, a few weeks after publication of photographs depicting the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

It was around this time, David ­Miliband, the foreign secretary, told MPs on ­Tuesday, that the policy was changed, becoming more "comprehensive and formal".

In a letter to the intelligence and ­security committee (ISC), the group of MPs and peers that provides political ­oversight of the UK's security and ­intelligence ­services, on May 24 2004, Blair said that rather than considering making a ­complaint, "UK intelligence personnel interviewing or witnessing the interviews of detainees are instructed to report if they believe detainees are being treated in an inhumane or degrading way".

The Guardian has learned from a ­reliable source that MI5 officers are now instructed that if a detainee tells them that he or she is being tortured they should never return to question that person.

It remains unclear what Blair knew of the policy's consequences. The Guardian has repeatedly asked him what role he played in approving the policy, whether he was aware that it had led to people being tortured, and whether he made any attempt to change it.

His spokesman said: "It is completely untrue that Mr Blair has ever authorised the use of torture. He is opposed to it in all circumstances. Neither has he ever been complicit in the use of torture.

"For the record, also, Mr Blair believes that our security services do a superb job of protecting our country in difficult ­circumstances and that it is not surprising following the attacks of September 11 2001 that there was a heightened sense of the dangers the country faced from terrorism. None of this amounts to condoning the use of torture."

When the Guardian pointed out to Blair that it had not suggested he had authorised the use of torture, but had asked whether he had played any role in the approval of a policy that led to people being tortured, his spokesman replied: "Tony Blair does not condone torture, has never authorised it nor colluded in it at any time." But there is growing evidence of MI5's ­collusion in the torture of British ­terrorism suspects in Pakistan, where officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence ­directorate (ISI), an agency whose routine use of ­torture has been widely documented, were asked by MI5 to detain British ­citizens and put questions to them prior to an ­interrogation by MI5 officers.

Two high court judges say they have seen "powerful evidence" of the torture of Binyam Mohamed, the British ­resident who returned from Guantánamo Bay in February, before he was questioned by an MI5 officer in May 2002.

In a separate case, a court has heard that MI5 and Greater Manchester police drew up a list of questions to be put to another man, Rangzieb Ahmed, who was detained by the ISI in August 2006, despite having reason to believe that he was in danger of being tortured.

By the time Ahmed was deported to the UK after a lengthy period of unlawful detention three of his ­fingernails were missing.

Several other men have come forward to say they were questioned by British intelligence officers after suffering brutal torture at the hands of Pakistani agents, and there have been similar allegations of British collusion in the torture of ­British citizens in Egypt, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.

While a small number of the victims were subsequently tried and convicted in the UK, most were released without charge.

International concern about ­Britain's involvement in torture has been ­mounting for some time. In February Martin Scheinin, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, reported that British intelligence ­personnel had "interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani ISI in so-called safe houses, where they were being tortured".

Scheinin added that this "can be ­reasonably understood as implicitly condoning torture."

In March, after the Guardian disclosed the existence of the interrogation policy, and reported on the growing number of allegations of British collusion in torture, Gordon Brown announced that the policy was to be rewritten by the ISC.

In what was seen at Westminster as an acknowledgement that the secret policy had been open to abuse, Brown also pledged that the rewritten policy would be made public and that a former appeal court judge would monitor the ­intelligence agencies' compliance with it, and report to the prime minister each year.

On Tuesday Miliband said the existing policy, as amended in 2004, would not be published.

But the discovery that Blair was aware of the secret interrogation policy appears certain to fuel the growing demand for an independent inquiry into aspects of the UK's role in torture and rendition.

So far, those who have called for such an inquiry include the Conservative and Liberal ­Democrat leaders David ­Cameron and Nick Clegg; Ken Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions; Lord ­Carlile of Berriew, the government's ­independent reviewer of counter-­terrorism ­legislation; Lord Howe, who was foreign secretary between 1983 and 1989 in the Thatcher government; and Lord Guthrie, a former chief of defence staff.

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The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/ju...labour-ed-balls

The government is to abandon the most significant education reform of the New Labour era in order to end the centralised control of schools and grant headteachers more powers, the Guardian has learned.

In a totemic break from the Blair years, next week's education white paper will signal the end of Labour's national strategies for schools, which includes oversight of the literacy and numeracy hours in primaries. The changes will strip away centralised prescription of teaching methods and dramatically cut the use of private consultants currently employed to improve schools.

They will give schools more freedom and establish new networks of school-to-school support to help drive up standards in what will be described as a "new era of localism".

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has masterminded the plan, which could save the government up to £100m a year on its contract with the private company Capita, which delivers the national strategies. It forms part of an efficiency drive to slim down government bureaucracy.

Instead, money will be redirected to schools to spend on forging networks with neighbouring schools and buying in their own advisers to help them drive up teaching standards and exam results. Good schools will be expected to federate with lower-performing schools to help them improve. Schools will still be able to teach the literacy and numeracy hours, but there will be no central bureaucracy to support it.

All teachers realised this was a daft policy when it was first introduced. Why was Blair so keen on this policy? Because it enabled Blair to reward his friend, Rod Aldridge, the Chief Executive of Capita, the man they called the 'privatisation tycoon'. This schools contract was worth £100m a year. Then there was the £400 million contract to run the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). This was the agency that failed to provide adequate security checks for staff working with children and the elderly. Capita also ran seven contracts out of the Darlington office that used to be the Teachers' Pension Bureau. Another contract given to Capita was the London Congestion Charging scheme. Aldridge had a £44m stake in the Capita Group. Other assets add £8m to his wealth. Aldridge's wealth is based on obtaining PFI contracts.

In 2006 Aldridge resigned as chairman of Capita after it was revealed that he had lent the Labour Party £1 million. The loan, which was secret at the time it was made. Other paybacks that Aldridge paid to Blair have so far not been revealed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The publication on 1st July of MPs other jobs has been ignored by the media. Here are a few they should be concerned about. Here for example is part of an article written by Seumas Milne:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/20...ransport-health

When Gordon Brown announced his new entitlement for cancer patients to be seen by a specialist within two weeks, he insisted on an entirely unnecessary extra pledge of private treatment if the NHS was unable to deliver. And when a string of private finance initiative projects – whose costs are now estimated to be double what they would be in the public sector – were on the point of collapse earlier this year, the government bailed them out rather than take them over.

What exactly is going on? At least with PFI, a major motivation continues to be to keep public investment off debt totals. But the passion for all things private goes far beyond that. Partly it's an ideological conviction that still grips all the main party leaderships, regardless of multiple failures or alternative models.

But the ideology is driven by powerful vested interests. The market for privatised public services is getting on for £50bn and companies are hungry for more. Decades of lobbying politicians, the civil service, corporate-funded thinktanks and the media have created a received wisdom about markets and the private sector, resistant both to facts or the views of ordinary voters.

But corporate capture goes much further than lobbying. The revolving door that propels civil servants into the arms of companies for whom they previously set rules and signed off contracts was well established before New Labour came to power. But the process that saw Tony Blair's former health adviser Simon Stevens effortlessly transmute into European president of the US company UnitedHealth, or his foreign policy adviser David Manning collect a clutch of directorships, from Lloyds TSB to Lockheed Martin, has now become the norm.

What's new for Labour is the stampede of ministers for the revolving door. Since 2006, 37 former members of the government have been given permission to take private sector jobs within two years of leaving office. As with their Tory predecessors, many of these jobs involve working for companies directly bidding for government contracts and privatised services. They include Blair himself, of course, whose £12m annual income now includes multimillion contracts with banking groups JP Morgan Chase and Zurich Financial Services, in a sector lovingly protected during his time in office.

But there are plenty of others. The ex-transport minister Stephen Ladyman took a job with the traffic information company Itis, pitching for Whitehall business. The former defence minister Adam Ingram signed up as a consultant for EDS, whose major clients include the Ministry of Defence. One-time home secretary John Reid works for G4S security services, which also does business with his old department.

Interestingly, former health ministers have done particularly well. The ex-health secretary Patricia Hewitt earns more than £100,000 as a consultant for Alliance Boots and Cinven, a private equity group that bought 25 private hospitals from Bupa. After leaving the department, her predecessor, Alan Milburn, worked for Bridgepoint Capital, which successfully bid for NHS contracts, and now boasts a striking portfolio of jobs with private health companies.

When I rang Milburn yesterday to ask whether he saw any conflict of interest in his directorships, he swore and hung up, but later emailed to say he had "always followed the proper processes laid down for former ministers". Which is perfectly true. None of these politicians has broken any rules, let alone the law. Their appointments were all signed off by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which insists "it is in the public interest" that ex-ministers "should be able to move into business".

So it's the rules that need drastic revision. This is a scandal that dwarfs the House of Commons expenses saga or the wider focus on MPs' second jobs. It beggars belief that the prospect of lavish future consultancies doesn't influence or shape the decisions of ministers when they're dealing with corporate regulation and private contracts. A culture of corruption pervades the links between government and business, fuelled by and fuelling privatisation. These relationships are – as Adam Smith put it – a conspiracy against the public interest.

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In 1969 Rupert Murdoch purchased The Sun newspaper in 1969. He turned it into a trashy tabloid and it was not long before it had become the best-selling daily newspaper in Britain. Later that year he purchased the News of the World, Britain’s largest selling newspaper.

The two newspapers advocated extreme right-wing policies over the next ten years and played an important role in the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. He continued to support Thatcher in her decision to create mass unemployment by reducing spending on the public sector. This policy also undermined the power of the trade-unions. This enabled the Tories to pass anti-trade union legislation that helped Murdoch win his fight with the print unions.

In 1981 Murdoch purchased The Times and the Sunday Times. He also created News Corporation that controlled all his media interests. This includes film and television companies such as Sky and Fox and a large number of newspapers and magazines in the United States and various other countries. It has been claimed that he is the most important political influence in the western world.

In the late 1990s it became clear that the British public had turned against the right-wing Tory government. In the 1997 general election, the Murdoch press supported the Labour Party. This would have come as no surprise to those that had watched Murdoch’s behaviour in Australia. He had supported their Labour Party in the past. However, when they gained power with his support, they turned into a right-wing authoritarian government.

The same thing happened in Britain. After he won the 1997 election, Tony Blair abandoned his left-wing agenda and showed himself to be a Thatcherite. According to Lance Price, who worked for the Labour government, Blair would always consult Murdoch before introducing any new policy.

Murdoch was also a great supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Every one of his 179 newspapers also supported this policy. He claimed at the time that the invasion would result in lower oil prices and an increase in stock market shares. His newspapers also played an important role in persuading the public that Iraq had WMD.

When Blair became unpopular with the British public he joined the plot to get Gordon Brown made the new prime minister without an election. Brown had been under the control of Murdoch for many years. However, after six months it became clear that Brown would lose the next election and so Murdoch’s newspaper’s began to support David Cameron.

Murdoch seemed untouchable. All leading politicians were too frightened to take him on. They knew he would use the whole of his media empire against them if they did that. Then something happened yesterday that might give us the opportunity to remove this terrible influence on British life.

The story begins in 2006 when members of the royal household complained that they believed that their mobile phones had been hacked into. The anti-terror police investigated the case as they feared it might be connected to a Muslim terrorist group. A few months later, Clive Goodman, a journalist working for the News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective, were arrested. Mulcaire confessed to hacking into the royal family’s mobile phones to listen to their voice-mail and that he had been paid to do this by Goodman.

In January 2007, Goodman was sentenced to four months in prison and Mulcaire got six months. Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World. He claimed that he knew nothing about this phone hacking. Anyone with any experience of newspapers knew that Coulson was lying. No editor would ever publish a potential libellous story without knowing the source of the story. Goodman was portrayed as a rogue reporter.

Les Hinton, the chairman of News International, appeared before a parliamentary committee and told MPs he had carried out a full investigation into the case and he was convinced that Goodman had been acting alone. The Press Complaints Commission also claimed they could find no evidence that Coulson knew anything about these illegal activities. Although he was strangely not interviewed by the PCC.

On July 9, 2007, David Cameron appointed Andy Coulson as Conservative Party Director of Communications on a salary of £450,000 a year. Why? Maybe because he is the man who knows all the secrets of the politicians.

The police supported this view that Coulson did not know anything by not bringing anymore prosecutions against News of the World reporters. However, we now know that the police did have a great deal of information about large-scale phone-hacking by Murdoch’s journalists. For example, Glenn Mulcaire had been paid £2,000 a month as a retainer fee for News Corporation. Evidence suggests he had been working for 37 different journalists. Mulcaire’s work had resulted in several scoops including those against the socialist politician, Tommy Sheridan, David Beckham (Rebecca Loos) and Sven-Goran Eriksson (Faria Alam).

Why did the police not follow up cases against these 37 journalists? How much did Murdoch pay to the police to stop these prosecutions?

The problem is that some policemen earn extra money by selling information to the press and other interested parties. One of them tipped off Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballer’s Association, that his phone had been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire. He therefore decided to sue News Corporation. In September, 2007, News Corporation paid Taylor and two of his football contacts, over a £1 million in a case that was held in secret. The people involved promised not to reveal details of the case. The High Court then joined in the conspiracy by sealing the evidence obtained from the police.

Someone, we don’t know who, tipped off Nick Davies, a reporter, about what had happened and the story appeared in yesterday’s Guardian. Rupert Murdoch immediately announced he knew nothing about this £1 million payout. This surely can be proved to be a lie.

The Guardian also provided a list of some of the people whose phones were hacked by Mulcaire. This included several cabinet ministers, including John Prescott, the former deputy prime-minister. This obviously has implications for national security. However, Prescott insists he was never told by the police that attempts had been made to hack his phone.

The most amazing response was from the police. Assistant Commissioner John Yates, quickly issued a statement that the police were unwilling to reopen the investigation into the case. Yates was of course the man who led the investigation into the corruption of Tony Blair and decided that he should not be prosecuted for any offences. I wonder how much money he was paid to reach this conclusion? How much was he paid for yesterday’s statement.

Other than the Guardian and the BBC, the rest of the media are doing what they can to ignore this story. One former editor of the Sun claimed yesterday that the whole story is a “socialist conspiracy”. The reason that even non-Murdoch papers are ignoring the story, is that they have also relied on illegal phone-hacking to get their stories and are worried where all this will lead. How many journalists will end up in prison for these offences? That is why it is important that we use the internet to expose this story.

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  • 4 weeks later...

After the publicity given to the foreign multi-millionaires (“non-doms”) giving large donations to the Labour Party, the government passed legislation that placed a £7,500 cap on gifts from people who live in the UK but are domiciled elsewhere for tax purposes. However, at the request of tycoons such as Lord Swraj Paul and Sir Gulum Noon, these changes will not take place until after the next election.

There is also a specially constructed loop-hole in the legislation. All they have to do is make their donations via a British-based company. In other words, it is just business as usually and these foreign multimillionaires can continue dictating the policy of the government in exchange for large donations.

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  • 1 month later...
BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms company, is at the centre of a major scandal and is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Barry George, acted as BAE’s agent during the government sale of two British frigates to Romania. Apparently, BAE paid Barry George over £7m in commission for this deal.

The deal was arranged in 2003 by William Bach, the government’s arms sales minister. Ironically, Tony Blair has been lecturing Romania on tackling corruption before being accepted into the EU. Obviously, he does not think they are sophisticated enough in their corruption. Maybe he will have to give them advice on this.

BAE Systems have a long record of corruption. Last year, it was alleged in Chile that BAE had paid more than £1m to intermediaries linked to ex-president Pinochet in return for arms deals.

In 1996 a secret £7m payment from BAE to the foreign minister from BAE to the foreign minister of Qatar was discovered in a Jersey account after an arms deal to the state.

In 2003 a whistleblower alleged that a £60m slush fund was being used by BAE to provide presents to the head of procurement for the Saudi air force.

Is it possible that BAE have been involved in providing money to Tony Blair? Maybe that is the real source of Lord Sainsbury’s loans.

Who is making money from this obscene arms trade? The main beneficiary is BAE Systems. In his book Blair’s Wars, John Kampfner records that “from his first day in office Blair was eager not to antagonise British arms companies, and BAE Systems in particular, which developed extremely close relationships with senior figures in Downing Street.” A Downing Street aide told Kampfner that whenever the head of BAE encountered a problem, “he’d be straight on the phone to No 10 and it would be sorted”.

BAE Systems latest problem concerns the Serious Fraud Office’s three year investigations into allegations that illegal commissions into allegations that illegal commissions may have been paid to Saudi royals by BAE Systems. The SOF is also looking at arms deals between BAE and General Augusto Pinochet.

Both these deals date back to Margaret Thatcher’s time in government (her son was also involved in these deals). This helps to explain why Thatcher was so keen on helping Pinochet stay in office and from being tried in court for crimes against humanity.

What has this to do with Tony Blair? Maybe he is keen for these arms dealers to pay off the Labour Party debts (£17 million needs to be paid back during the next 12 months).

BAE is apparently claiming that the Saudis are threatening to pull-out of a £6 billion contract to provide 72 Eurofighter Typhoons and give it to the French if Blair does not call off the SFO.

There is also another interesting point. Today the Guardian revealed that secret payments of millions of pounds from BEA has been found in Swiss accounts linked to Wafic Said, a billionaire arms broker for the Saudi Royal family. Apparently, Said is a close friend of Peter Mandleson. Now, there is a man that Blair finds difficult to refuse a favour.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the Serious Fraud Office was "discontinuing" its investigation into Britain's biggest defence company, BAE Systems. its corruption inquiry into a £6bn fighter planes deal with Saudi Arabia. The reason given was one of "national security".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6180945.stm

Last week Lord Goldsmith said he had no intention of interfering with the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the BAE-Saudi Arabia contract. In has now become clear that the reason Goldsmith changed his mind was because he came under pressure from Tony Blair to drop the case. Blair admitted this today in a television interview. He justified the decision on the grounds of national security. Allegedly the Saudi government had threatened Blair that they would withdraw help on the war on terror if the investigation continued. (It is also claimed that the Saudis have threatened Bush that if he withdraws troops from Iraq they will provide help to the Sunni Muslims.)

In other words, the prime minister has broken an important aspect of the British Constitution. That is: “the rule of law requires that the executive does not intervene in the operation of the course of justice”.

The Tories of course have kept very quiet about this decision made by Blair. In fact, last night, on C4 news, the government would not supply anybody to defend this decision. Instead, the task was given to a backbench Tory MP. The reason for this is that he was a junior minister when the original deal was done. The Tories are therefore very keen to bring an end to the investigation.

SFO investigators have discovered that BAE Systems has a £1 billion slush fund. The issue is not about bribes being paid to members of the Saudi royal family. It is about this money finding its way back to politicians. We now know how New Labour is going to solve its problems of its £17m debt. It will be paid off by BAE Systems and the Saudis. Not directly of course but via someone like Lord Sainsbury.

As you can see from above I have taken an interest in the relationship between Tony Blair and BAE Systems for some time. Blair was able to block the prosecution of BAE when he was prime minister. Will Gordon Brown follow his example? It has been leaked to the BBC that the Serious Fraud Office has approached Patricia Scotland, Baroness of Asthal, the Attorney General about prosecuting BAE over bribery allegations over arms contracts with Tanzania, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Romania. (Blair blocked the investigation into the Saudi-BAE deal.)

The Tanzanian military radar system deal is especially interesting. Tanzania had to borrow £28 million in order to have a system it did not need. Clare Short, then development minister, tried to stop it going ahead by holding up an export licence but Blair forced her to back-down. The SFO has discovered that a third of the radar’s price was diverted into a Swiss bank account controlled by Sailesh Vithlani. He has of course disappeared. It would be interesting to discover Vithlani’s relationship to Blair.

Will the Baroness of Asthal block the investigation in the same way as Lord Goldsmith did? She was given her title by Tony Blair who put her in his government as 1999. Gordon Brown made her attorney general as part of his deal with Blair when he became prime minister.

However, the Baroness is not in a very good position at the moment as she should have resigned last week after she was found guilty employing an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper, contrary to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which she herself as a Home Office Minister had been responsible for steering through the House of Lords. Another way of looking at it is that she will stay in power just long enough to block the current BAE Systems investigation. Personally, I don’t think even the New Labour government will try this one.

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Tony Blair has been cashing in on his role as a Middle East peace envoy. While he is touring the area he is representing the investment bank, JP Morgan, in the region. He is also doing business via his consultancy company, Tony Blair Associates (TBA). Two of its clients are the governments of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. It is claimed that for this work he is paid £5 million a year.

As Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said: “The role of peace envoy, the office of which is subsidised by the taxpayer, is not meant to be an opportunity to look for new business opportunities for Tony Blair Associates.”

Blair has put some of this money into property. He currently five houses and two flats, that have been valued at over £11 million.

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EU President? It is being reported his 'associates' have been lobbying strongly for this, behind the scenes.

This is the story that is doing the rounds but it could be argued that Blair cannot afford to take the post of EU President. The reason for this is that some countries consider Blair to be a war-criminal. After all, he and Bush waged an unprovoked war, described by the Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime.”

Within the UK, there is no means of prosecuting Blair. This is not true in other countries. For example, Blair could be arrested for war crimes if he entered Estonia and Latvia. It is even possible that he could be arrested in Germany for this offence. Spain, who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, is another possibility.

Blair is currently very selective about the countries he visits. However, as EU President he would be required to travel to countries that have incorporated “war crimes” into domestic law. Therefore, as it stands, I suspect that Blair will turn the job down if he is offered it.

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Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian (23rd November 2009)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/no...n-no10-cover-up

Military commanders are expected to tell the inquiry into the Iraq war, which opens on Tuesday, that the invasion was ill-conceived and that preparations were sabotaged by Tony Blair's government's attempts to mislead the public.

They were so shocked by the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the invasion that they believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes by breaching the duty outlined in the Geneva convention to safeguard civilians in a conflict, the Guardian has been told.

The lengths the Blair government took to conceal the invasion plan and the extent of military commanders' anger at what they call the government's "appalling" failures emerged as Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry's chairman, promised to produce a "full and insightful" account of how Britain was drawn into the conflict.

Fresh evidence has emerged about how Blair misled MPs by claiming in 2002 that the goal was "disarmament, not regime change". Documents show the government wanted to hide its true intentions by informing only "very small numbers" of officials.

The documents, leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, are "post-operational reports" and "lessons learned" papers compiled by the army and its field commanders. They refer to a "rushed" operation that caused "significant risk" to troops and "critical failure" in the postwar period.

One commander said the government "missed a golden opportunity" to win support from Iraqis. Another commented: "It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves". One, describing the supply chain, added: "I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert".

Some troops were deployed in civilian flights to countries neighbouring Iraq with their equipment "brought in by hand baggage". Items considered dangerous, including penknives and nail scissors, were confiscated from them.

Interviewed for the postwar report drawn up by the MoD, Brigadier Bill Moore, commander of 19 Brigade, was asked: "Did you receive the correct level of advice for the nation-building you faced?" He replied: "We got absolutely no advice whatsoever. The lack of advice from the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office], the Home Office and DFID [the Department for International Development] was appalling."

The "lessons learned" report stated: "Never again must we send ill-equipped soldiers into battle". However, many of the failures recounted in leaked documents and given in evidence to Commons committees, notably relating to equipment, were repeated in Afghanistan as inquests have shown.

Significantly, the documents support what officials have earlier admitted – that the army was not allowed to prepare properly for the Iraq invasion in 2002 so as not to alert parliament and the UN that Blair was already determined to go to war.

The documents add: "In Whitehall, the internal operational security regime, in which only very small numbers of officers and officials were allowed to become involved [in Iraq invasion preparations] constrained broader planning for combat operations and subsequent phases effectively until Dec 23 2002."

Blair had in effect promised George Bush that he would join the US-led invasion when, as late as July 2002, he was denying to MPs that preparations were being made for military action. The leaked documents reveal that "from March 2002 or May at the latest there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation".

Documents leaked in 2005 show that, almost a year before the invasion, Blair was privately preparing to commit Britain to war and topple Saddam Hussein, despite warnings from his closest advisers that it was unjustified. They also show how Blair was planning to justify regime change as an objective, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, that the "desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.

Chilcot says he and his team would not shrink from making criticisms of individuals or organisations if they were justified. But he stressed the inquiry was not a court of law set up to determine issues of guilt and innocence.

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Intelligence about Iraq's programmes of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles was "sporadic and patchy", a senior official told the Iraq war inquiry in London today.

Sir William Ehrman, who was director of national security at the Foreign Office during the build-up to the invasion, said briefings for ministers included major caveats. In April 2000 the picture was described as "limited to chemical weapons"; in May 2001 the knowledge of WMD and ballistic missile programmes was "patchy"; and in March 2002 the intelligence was "sporadic and patchy".

In August 2002 a briefing noted that "we know very little" about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons work since late 1998, and in September 2002 the intelligence "remained limited".

Both foreign secretaries in this period received regular briefings. "I certainly never felt either with Robin Cook or with Jack Straw that they didn't understand the picture that was being given to them on intelligence," he said. Yet Tony Blair told the House of Commons that intelligence about Iraq's programmes of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles was "extensive, detailed and authoritative". It is now known that Blair lied about the evidence being provided by the intelligence services.

Addressing the overall threat posed by Iraq in 2001, the Foreign Office said it was "not top of its list" of countries causing concern because of their stated desire to develop weapons of mass destruction, ranking below Iran, North Korea and Libya.

With sanctions in place against Iraq, the Foreign Office believed Saddam Hussein could not build a nuclear weapon and, even if sanctions were removed, it was estimated it would take him five years to do so.

Yesterday, other officials said Tony Blair's government had known prominent members of the Bush administration wanted to topple Saddam years before the invasion. But the Blair government initially distanced itself from the idea, knowing it would be unlawful. British intelligence dismissed claims by elements in the US administration that the Iraqi leader was linked to Osama bin Laden, the inquiry heard.

The US State Department actually asked the British Foreign Office to argue against the madcap ideas being put forward by NeoCons in the Bush administration.

Sir William Patey, then head of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office, said: "We were aware of these drumbeats from Washington and internally we discussed it. Our policy was to stay away from that part of the spectrum." asked officials at the ministry to draw up an Iraq "options" paper including regime change. "We dismissed it at the time because it had no basis in law," Patey told the inquiry.

Several officials have told the inquiry that this all changed after the 9/11 attacks on the US. After this, Blair went along with the extreme ideas of the NeoCons.

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