Tag Archives: Denis Healey

the decline and fall of the Labour Party

I was recently recommended the excellent four-part BBC documentary series “Labour – The Wilderness Years”, which offers an analysis of the causes underlying the decline of the British Labour Party, beginning with the catastrophic 1979 general election, and following events up until the sudden and tragic loss of party leader John Smith in 1994, and a little beyond.

The series, first broadcast in December 1995, is a example of just how good television really can be . Without the need for repeating video loops, and endless recaps on what’s just gone. Without eye-candy graphics, emotive music and an overbearing narrative commentary. Just relevant archive footage, alongside in-depth interviews with those most closely involved in the events.

Although suspicious of much that purports to be politically neutral, on this occasion there is also a sense of genuine impartiality. The film-makers allowing arguments from all sides to be voiced, and thus leaving the viewer free to draw their own conclusions.

All four episodes have been uploaded (sliced into six 10 minute segments for each) on youtube and so I provide links for the complete lists of the parts that make up each of the episodes. Alongside those links, you can also read my own rather less neutral précis.

The four parts were named and aired as below:

1. Cast Into The Wilderness (3rd December 1995)

The fierce war between the left and the right wings of the party begins at the 1980 party conference. Tony Benn, who is already expressing concerns that Britain may be sliding into a police state, sets out to democratise the party. He is roundly condemned by those on the right, but thanks to union retaliation against the hopeless and recently defeated Jim Callaghan, leads the left to a bitter victory at the party conference.

To heal the developing schism between left and right, the party then elects the erudite and compassionate Michael Foot over the more bruising but worldly “old flamethrower” Denis Healey. But Foot’s efforts to pour oil on troubled waters is quickly undone as the treacherous “Gang of Four”, led by former Home Secretary and then-President of the European Commission, Roy Jenkins, with Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers and the ever-so-dashing David Owen in tow, all running off to form their own shambolic party, the quickly defunct SDP. The longer-term consequence being that the Labour vote is split for many years to come.

Click here to watch on youtube.

2. Comrades At War (10th December 1995)

Tony Benn vs. Denis Healey in the race for deputy leader and a fight for the soul of the party, as support for Thatcher’s new Tory government wanes and as riots break out across the country. With Michael Foot still trying to steady the ship, Benn’s battle for democracy and socialism comes to blows against the ‘establishment left’ and their popular heavyweight Denis Healey. Meanwhile, the ambitious Neil Kinnock also begins to push his weight around, and very publicly withdraws his own support from Tony Benn’s campaign by abstaining from the vote. Healey narrowly wins by virtue of Kinnock’s abstention.

Michael Foot is then hauled over the coals by the right-wing press for turning up in an inappropriate coat on Remembrance Day. Whilst Foot, in turn, fails to support prospective Labour candidate Peter Tatchell, as he is grilled by the same right-wing media, and ridiculed principally on the grounds that he is candid about his own homosexuality. Finally, and on the basis that they are facing almost certain defeat in the forthcoming general election, the right-wing of the party decide to put together an extreme Bennite-style manifesto purely in order to discredit the policies of the left once and for all.

With the nation still rallying around the flag after victory in the Falklands, Michael Foot misjudges the mood again, placing his main emphasis on promoting the manifesto promise of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Rupert Murdoch’s press, Kenny Everett and Satan’s little helpers, Saatchi & Saatchi, also work tirelessly to secure Thatcher’s second term in office. Aside from ensuring an election disaster, the manifesto, which becomes popularly known as “the longest suicide note in history”, also effectively sets the seal on the Labour Party’s steady march towards the right.

Click here to watch on youtube.

3. Enter The Rose (17th December 1995)

The ambitious Neil Kinnock becomes leader and immediately shows his true colours by choosing to sit on the fence as the Thatcher government crushes the miners’ strike. He then begins “modernising” the party, by, most significantly, expunging the Trotskyist parasite ‘Militant tendency’.

During the years of 1985 and 1986, Labour’s National Executive Committee sit through hours of McCarthyite hearings: Kinnock’s inquisition leading to the expulsion of more than 200 members, including, most justifiably, the egotistical popinjay Derek Hatton. But corrupt as ‘Militant tendency’ were, many good and previously loyal party members are also forced out during this protracted witch hunt.

In late 1985, Kinnock appoints Peter Mandelson, a former television producer, to work as Director of Communications. At first, Mandelson’s “Red Rose Revolution” means mainly that message plays second fiddle to the party image. New logo, new sets, new emphasis on style over substance… the conception, if not yet the birth, of New Labour. Yet in spite of all the razzamatazz, which includes some surprisingly nifty swing dancing with wife Glenys, “the Welsh windbag” still fails to impress the electorate.

Click here to watch on youtube.

4. The Pursuit Of Power (18th December 1995)

Kinnock decides to sell-out absolutely, surrendering many more of his and the party’s remaining leftist principles in deliberate efforts to fall into line with the prevailing Thatcherite neoliberal hegemony. As his ‘revolution’ progresses, Kinnock ruthlessly puts down any dissent coming from within the shadow cabinet, whilst meanwhile instituting a nationwide “Labour Listens” polling campaign, the results of which will provide convenient populist cover for justifying the party’s ideological U-turn.

Peter Mandelson, now Labour’s spin doctor, helps Kinnock to promote the ‘policy review’ and to limit the damage caused by those who still oppose the changes. This includes briefing the media against other high-ranking Labour politicians. Michael Meacher, who was one of the victims of Mandelson’s many smear campaigns, is replaced by Tony Blair as Employment Spokesman, and, as they say… the rest is history!

Kinnock’s suits are sharpened up, and we have the debacle of the “Jennifer’s Ear” party political broadcast; a mere prelude to the jaw-dropping Hollywood-style Sheffield Rally that marks the eve of the general election. Watch it and weep:

Click here to see the remaining episodes on youtube.

Following John Smith’s untimely death, the party comes more directly under the centralised control of ‘modernisers’ like Mandelson, Blair and Brown, although the first prominent party member to publicly endorse Tony Blair as the next leader is actually Denis Healey. Whilst Blair’s closest rival, Gordon Brown, conveniently steps aside. With “the Prince of Darkness” Mandelson finally ruling the roost, Labour now drop all remaining pretence to socialism, and also betray their commitments to human rights and the rule of international law.

Margaret Thatcher once asked: “If they would abandon their most cherished policies in opposition, what will they do with their promises in government”.

A decade of New Labour rule provided us with a very sorry answer. In its wake, we live in a country riven by greater disparities in wealth than ever, and indebted thanks chiefly to market deregulation which Blair and Brown had very much permitted and encouraged. We also have a national health service made ready for privatisation, along with the prisons and our schools. And capping everything, we are mired in an unwinnable war (having already abandoned a second war, fought at the cost of countless lives, and entirely without legal or other justification). So the short answer to Thatcher’s albeit rhetorical question: that in the pursuit of power, Blair, Brown, Mandelson and the rest of the New Labour crew would happily sell their own grandmothers.

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This is an appropriate juncture to also mention two very intelligent and well produced dramas that tackle similar issues from around the same period.

A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988) offers a glimpse of how a left-wing Labour government might have tackled the problems facing Britain back in the 1980s. Ray McAnally is wonderful as the down-to-earth leader and MP for Sheffield Central, Harry Perkins, who takes on the ruling establishment, attempts to break the newspaper monopolies, and more generally to bring to heel the military-industrial complex. Hardly surprisingly, Perkins is met with stiff resistance and dirty tricks of every kind. The three-part television series, first screened on Channel 4, won Bafta and Emmy awards. It was based on a 1982 novel by British politician Chris Mullin, who also gives interviews throughout in “Labour – the wilderness years”. The novel was adapted for television, with a screenplay by Alan Plater, and directed by Mick Jackson.

Click here to watch on 4OD.

GBH (Channel 4, 1991) is a gritty seven-part drama written by Alan Bleasdale, starring Robert Lindsay as Michael Murray, the Militant tendency Labour leader of an unspecified British northern city. The parallels with Derek Hatton are obvious enough. Michael Palin co-stars as the principled school teacher, Jim Nelson, who inadvertently finds himself fighting against corruption and intimidation. As the plots steadily build, we discover that all is not quite as it first appears. The series was produced by David W. Jones.

Click here to watch on 4OD.

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Bilderberg – it’s just a big club and you ain’t in it

Just in case you missed it, here was one of the main headlines on BBC News just few days ago on Wednesday 8th June:

In the manner of a James Bond plot, up to 150 leading politicians and business people are to gather in a ski resort in Switzerland for four days of discussion about the future of the world.
Previous attendees of the group, which meets once a year in a five-star hotel, are said to have included Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Peter Mandelson, as well as dozens of company CEOs.

Click here to read the full article.

The “James Bond plot” in question was this year’s outing of the secret gathering of the political and business elite known as the Bilderberg Group. The inaugural tete-a-tete of this most elite of elite gatherings was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg, near Arnhem in May 1954; a location that lends its own name to all subsequent gatherings. Every year since then, a hand-picked group of 120 participants, have met up for drinks and a game of golf at one of the Bilderberg meetings.

How do I know? Well, for starters, these days the group has its own website – a site that is light on information and heavy on restrictions. The disclaimer page basically says don’t trust the information on this site, it may be unreliable, and don’t even think of copying it. It has the strictest copywrite notice I’ve ever come across. For the last few years, there has also been a rapidly growing discussion on the internet, which includes an ever-expanding entry on Wikipedia, though such readily available information wasn’t so easy to source ten years ago, and my own first insight into the Bilderbergers came from a most unlikely reporter.

Jon Ronson would describe himself as a humorist. His speciality is quirky human interest stories, and Ronson is wonderfully adept at gently teasing his subjects in order to get beneath their skins. But this time he had happened to land something much bigger than that.

In June 1999, Ronson met with “Big” Jim Tucker, a chain-smoking hick journalist (who had already devoted much of his life trying to stake out the Bilderberg Group), and Tucker and Ronson together made tracks to a five-star hotel in Sintra, Portugal.

Upon arriving at the secret location, it wasn’t long before Tucker and Ronson were being tailed by security men, or as Ronson puts it, “the henchmen of the shadowy elite”. A game of cat and mouse that continued throughout the day. In desperation, Ronson phoned up the British Embassy to ask for help. The response he received was probably not what he was expecting:

“I am essentially a humorous journalist,” Ronson explained to the woman at embassy. “I am a humorous journalist out of my depth. Do you think it might help if we tell them that?”

“Listen” came her reply, “Bilderberg is much bigger than we are. We’re very small. We’re just a little embassy. Do you understand? They’re way out of our league. All I can say is go back to your hotel and sit tight.”1

When Ronson first got the run around with Jim Tucker, he’d gone along just for the ride. He was interested to learn what had led “Big” Jim Tucker, and others like him, to believe in “a fabled shadowy cabal that secretly rules the world”. He was anticipating a wild goose chase. So blundering in on a flesh and blood Bilderberg meeting as it was about to kick-off in Portugal – just exactly as Tucker had described – came like a bolt from the blue. “It seemed that Jim had stumbled on to something extraordinary,” Ronson says in the voice-over to his film, adding, “It seems that Jim was right.”

Ronson later managed to get hold of a guest list for the meeting in Portugal. It included such luminaries as Conrad Black (news media), Donald Graham (chief executive officer of the Washington Post), Richard Holbrooke, William Joseph McDonough (8th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York), Henry Kissinger, and sure enough, David Rockefeller (who had apparently arrived there in the back of a taxi).

They’d also spotted a fresh-faced Peter Mandelson staring back from one of the coaches that pulled through the gates. Ronson also established that previous Bilderberg attendees had included, amongst the ranks of the great and the good, Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton (who were, it is worth noting, in attendance at meetings prior to their election as premiers).

Later, Ronson managed to arrange an interview with Denis Healey, who was proud to acknowledge his own involvement in the group. When Ronson put it to Healey that there was a rumour from outsiders that the Bilderberg Group were intent on constructing a One World Government, Healey replied that this was “exaggerated but not totally unfair”. And Healey hastily dismissed any suggestion of a secret conspiracy. It was simply a way for industrialists, financiers, politicians and those in the media to discuss ideas in private: “that is the way it happens in the world, and quite right”.

So now you know… And if so you’re ever asked the question: “what links Denis Healey, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton and Peter Mandelson?” you’ll know now – if you didn’t know before – that the answer doesn’t have anything to do with playing the xylophone.

Video of Ronson’s extraordinary documentary can be seen here: video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-287163572862203022#

Knowledge of the Bilderberg Group opens many questions. Some of these questions have very obvious answers, although other, perhaps more important questions, are far harder to get to the bottom of.

For example, who actually decides on the attendees for each meeting? This question is important because, although there is a common core who attend most, if not all, of the annual Bilderberg meetings, there is also a constant rolling and evolving contingent of new introductions. Thatcher and Clinton were just such new recruits, presumably being groomed for office. But the question is also important for different reason, because it would seem most likely that a smaller and even more elect sub-group act as the gatekeepers to Bilderberg. But who actually makes decisions regarding future invitations?

Well, hardly surprisingly, Bilderberg has its own steering committee; an inner circle. Healey indeed claims to have been a part of that steering committee. So is there still a smaller inner circle again? After all, who decides on the members of the steering committee, or is the steering committee fully autonomous? The simple truth is that we don’t know, with the reason being that everything about these meetings, from the minutes taken down to the final guest list, is wreathed in secrecy.

So what then can we know most certainly about the Bilderberg Group? The simple truth is still not very much at the present time. The almost total media blackout means that Ronson remains one of the very few respected journalists who have ever investigated the group at all. Indeed, back in May 2005, at a time when the Bilderbergers were gathered again (on this occasion at Rottach-Egern in South Germany) Ronson was invited onto CNN to provide a little inside analysis. What he said was interesting enough, though Ronson certainly doesn’t regard himself as a political journalist let alone a Bilderberg expert. Unfortunately, and aside from Jim Tucker, Ronson remains the best expert we have!

In the CNN interview, newscaster Charles Hodson asks Ronson’s opinion on whether the Bilderberg members are “the fabled shadowy elite” that conspiracy theorists imagine. “Well, yes and no,” Ronson replies, stifling a nervous laugh, before adding, “I do think that by and large, many members of the Bilderberg Group actually see themselves in much the same way as the conspiracy theorists see them. As this shadowy cabal, out to – if not to rule the world, to influence world events.”

Questions regarding Bilderberg meetings have also been raised on occasions in the House of Commons, publicly addressed to those who have returned from one of the meetings, but again no fresh insights are forthcoming. Professor Andrew Kakabadse, co-author of new book Bilderberg People, told the BBC in Wednesday’s article:

The group has genuine power that far outranks the World Economic Forum, which meets in Davos, he argues. And with no transparency, it is easy to see why people are worried about its influence.
“It’s much smarter than conspiracy,” says Prof Kakabadse. “This is moulding the way people think so that it seems like there’s no alternative to what is happening.”
The agenda the group has is to bring together the political elites on both right and left, let them mix in relaxed, luxurious surroundings with business leaders, and let the ideas fizz.
It may seem like a glorified dinner party but that is to miss the point. “When you’ve been to enough dinner parties you see a theme emerging,” he says. The theme at Bilderberg is to bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe, he says.
“Is this all leading to the start of the ruling the world idea? In one sense yes. There’s a very strong move to have a One World government in the mould of free market Western capitalism.”

Three things about Bilderberg are immediately clear to anyone who makes even the most cursory examination. Firstly, the fact that the Bilderberg Group was originally chaired by one of its founder members, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and that it is still regularly attended by members of other ruling European monarchies, means that we should put aside any cosy modern notions that somehow aristocratic rule is a thing of the past. Instead it seems that even the so-called “bicycling monarchs” of the Netherlands still wield quite considerable political clout.

Secondly, and as Andrew Kakabadse says, there is no clear preference for admitting participants on grounds of being politically left, right or centre. All parties have had (and continue to have) their representatives. Thatcher, Mandelson, David Owen, and more recently Ed Balls and George Osborne from home, whilst from the US, there was Clinton and many from the subsequent Neo-Con administration. We are left to presume then that all parties are, in very important respects, reading from the same globalist script; and that the left-right paradigm is, at least in party political terms, a partial if not total fraud.

The third and last point is that Bilderberg Group has only recently become visible – not so long ago all respected journalists regarding it as just another crackpot conspiracy theory. Quite how the great and the good had managed to meet up secretly every year since 1954 for decade after decade without anyone blowing their cover is frankly astonishing (even if we know that most of the major media proprietors are Bilderberg affiliates). But then, and almost like a miracle, Jon Ronson proved that truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Wednesday’s article on BBC News was entitled “Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?” Well, what is a cabal? According to my dictionary it is 1. a secret intrigue, or 2. a political clique or faction. So Bilderberg then is unquestionably a cabal, and the question should really be: is it a type–1 or a type–2 cabal?

Of course the very word “cabal” is intended to put readers off the scent. Related to the words “cabbala” or “kabbala”, it has an unmistakably antisemitic flavour. It reeks of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax, and this is something that the BBC article and Times columnist David Aaronovitch are keen to play up. Aaronovitch complaining that those who gnash their teeth about Bilderberg:

“…tend to believe that everything true, local and national is under threat from cosmopolitan, international forces often linked to financial capitalism and therefore, also often, to Jewish interests.”

But going back to the title of the BBC article, what about the first part – the “Bilderberg mystery”. Why is there any mystery at all? And why is it, as the article begins, that:

Ordinary people can only guess at the goings-on at the meetings of the secretive Bilderberg Group, which is bringing together the world’s financial and political elite this week.

The answer is depressing. The BBC and The Times and almost all the mainstream media throughout the half century of its existence have chosen to look the other way, which is another important side to the Bilderberg conspiracy. Rather than doing the job that a free press is supposed to do — a role that is so vital to ensuring our freedom and protecting society against corruption, and one that involves actually getting you hands dirty and doing some work — the media has instead collectively backed off from the real story and, after years of denial, now offers a meta-story in its place. The meta-story is all about the silliness of “conspiracy theorists”, whereas the real story is taking place behind police-lines and closed doors right now in St Moritz, Switzerland. And if you want to know about the real story then don’t bother to check the BBC or the Times because they’re still not interested…

If you are looking for more information about the true story of this year’s Bilderberg meeting then I recommend Russia Today (as the only mainstream broadcast network with reporters on the ground):

And also Charlie Skelton’s yearly Guardian blog which has so far revealed that:

On the 2011 delegate list, Osborne appears thus: Osborne, George, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I’ve just spent the entire day trying and failing and failing and trying again to get an official confirmation that Osborne is attending the St Moritz conference, and if so, in exactly what capacity he’s here.

At long last the Treasury Press Office gave me a straight answer, but it wasn’t the answer I was expecting: “George Osborne is attending the Bilderberg conference in his official capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer” – and he’s coming along “with a number of other international finance ministers.” Any Treasury staff? “Probably not more than one.”

Click here to read Skelton’s full article.

For information with regards to past Bilderberg events you might also try the unofficial website bilderberg.org which provides lists of previous attendees.

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Update:

The link to google video is lost but I have since found a version of the same documentary on youtube which is embedded here:

That one has since disappeared too. Third time lucky:

1. The Secret Rulers of the World, Episode 5: The Bilderberg Group was first aired on Channel 4 on May 27 th, 2001. Here is the full transcript of the filmed conversation as taken from Ronson’s book based on the TV series (the book was given a rather different title than the original series) “Them: Adventures with Extremists”:

“British Embassy.”

“Okay,” I [Ronson] said, “I’m a journalist from London. I’m calling you on the road from Sintra to Estoril . . .”

“I’m a journalist from London,” I said. “I’m calling you on the road from Sintra to Estoril. I’m being tailed, right now, by a dark green Lancia belonging to the Bilderberg Group.”

There was a sharp intake of breath. “Go on,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I just heard you take a sharp breath.”

“Bilderberg?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “They watched us scouting around the Caesar Park Hotel and they’ve been following us ever since. We have now been followed for three hours. I wasn’t sure at first, so I stopped my car on the side of a deserted lane and he stopped his car right in front of us. Can you imagine just how chilling that moment was? This is especially disconcerting because I’m from England and I’m not used to being spied on.”

“Do you have Bilderberg’s permission to be in Portugal?” she said. “Do they know you are here?”

“No,” I said.

“Bilderberg are very secretive,” she said. “They don’t want people looking into their business. What are you doing here?”

“I am essentially a humorous journalist,” I explained. “I am a humorous journalist out of my depth. Do you think it might help if we tell them that?…”

“Listen”‘ she said, urgently, “Bilderberg is much bigger than we are. We’re very small. We’re just a little embassy. Do you understand? They’re way out of our league. All I can say is go back to your hotel and sit tight.”

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