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just imagine… a second Labour coup — on Chuka Umunna and so-called ‘Independent Group’

Act I: the first whiff of a second Labour coup

The following section written in September 2016 has remained unpublished until now.

Just imagine:

On September 24th 2016, Jeremy Corbyn wins reelection. Within hours he moves to consolidate his control of the party. One-by-one, MPs start declaring their independence from their reelected leader; eventually over 150 have done so. Local Labour Parties begin to split along leader-rebels lines. Staffers in Labour’s headquarters formally disregard Mr Corbyn. A True Labour declaration of independence and social democratic principles is promoted by leading MPs and Labour grandees like Mr Kinnock. A majority of Labour MPs rally around it and appoint a True Labour interim leader and shadow cabinet sporting the best of the party’s parliamentary talent (perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader, Rachel Reeves as shadow chancellor, Tom Watson as a continuity deputy leader).

The extract above is taken from an opinion piece published in The Economist by the columnist Bagehot on August 12th. It is an open call for a new splinter party calling itself “True Labour” to emerge from amongst the ranks of the 170+ PLP ‘rebels’ (obviously I apply the term ‘rebel’ loosely) after detaching themselves one by one and then almost surreptitiously reassembling into a new makeshift party. If we look past the unintended comedy – a list of “best of the party’s parliamentary talent” which begins “perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader”, because if that isn’t hilarious, then frankly what is? – this newest plot against Corbyn, and the vast majority of Labour members who support him, is certainly elaborate in its conception:

True Labour obtains recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. Donors are sought and local branches established. These swallow the moderate segments of Constituency Labour Parties and welcome a flood of new centre-left and centrist members, including many previously unaligned voters politicised by the Brexit vote.

The conception being that:

True Labour’s role would then not be to compete amicably with Mr Corbyn’s “Labour” but to marginalise or, ideally, destroy it by appropriating the Labour mantle through sheer weight, dynamism and persuasiveness. 1

My attention was originally drawn to this piece thanks to former BBC Economics Editor, Paul Mason, who points out that Bagehot isn’t just any old neo-liberal mouthpiece, but the nom de plume of Jeremy Cliffe, “formerly intern at the Party of European Socialists in Brussels, aide to Chuka Umunna and activist in the Ed Miliband for Leader campaign.” A figure Mason flatteringly describes as “one of the best informed UK journalists in the sphere of Labour and European social democracy.”

In the same article, Mason also reminds of the run up to the initial coup against Corbyn, and what has followed since:

During their attempt to stop Corbyn getting on the ballot paper, the right launched Saving Labour  — there’s no information about where it gets its money, who its officers are, what it’s statues [sic] are. It organised a day of street stalls, issued three press releases and went quiet on 28 July.

It’s been superseded by “Labour Tomorrow” — a private company with a reported £250,000 war chest to fight Jeremy Corbyn once he wins. This money will be distributed only to “moderate centre left organisations”. No other other information provided on its website apart from a single blog post by David Blunkett and Cold War union rightwinger Brenda Dean. No explanation of what “centre left” means, again no indication of where the money’s coming from.

Continuing:

Every signal from the Labour right appears to point towards a second coup against Corbyn, once he wins the leadership election, which will make Owen Smith’s current effort look like a sideshow.

The plan was spelled out in the Bagehot column of the Economist two weeks ago: declare yourselves “True Labour” in parliament; claim the legal role of HM Opposition; attempt to take unions and CLPs with you — if necessary by bureaucratic declarations; fight for the party’s name and assets in the courts on the grounds that it is you — the breakaway group — which truly represents Labour’s social democratic heritage. 2

Mason finishes his article with an entreaty to Owen Smith, who he rightly judges a dire candidate but a “willing dupe[s]: like the Auguste clown at the circus, who stands there pretending he doesn’t know the Whiteface clown has a custard pie behind his back”, to curtail his lamentable campaign for leadership in order to save himself and the party. Or, failing that, for Smith to issue a public statement saying he refuses to join with any breakaway faction and will respect the result of the election.

His appeal is, of course, a futile one. You cannot expect a snake to change its spots. On the other hand, party members and all Labour supporters are now in a position to make a difference. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, but that is of little significance if we remain passive. I therefore strongly favour pre-emptive action.

Whether Mason is right or wrong, it does no harm to send a volley of letters to each of our constituency MPs politely asking what they intend to do in the event that “True Labour” is launched (and let’s call it a coup this time before it happens). Will our MPs remain loyal to the party and its members and their leader who has twice received a democratic mandate, or will they jump ship… but, to reiterate, let’s keep this polite.

We have the chance to hold the feet of our elected representatives to the fire and, as Corbyn supporters, to get on to the front foot. My own letter is already dispatched and I will let you know if and when I receive a reply. Meanwhile be encouraged to steal my words (reprinted below), rework them, or else write something far better. What is needed is #stopthecorbyncoupmark2… but snappier. The snappier the better.

Click here to read Paul Mason’s full article

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Act II: Chuka Umunna and the Blairite deserters

That Chuka Umunna and a faction of disaffected Blairite Labour MPs including Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and Luciana Berger have been planning to jump ship is surely the worst kept secret in Westminster. As far back as October 2016, The Mail on Sunday was reporting on Umunna’s secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team “to advise her on how to beat a Democratic rival for the presidency [Bernie Sanders] dubbed the ‘American Jeremy Corbyn’”. A meeting took place in July 2015 and a few months prior to Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September:

A leaked email from Mrs Clinton’s private server, released by the WikiLeaks website, reveals that a member of Mr Umunna’s team sent a message to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, on July 19 last year saying: ‘Chuka Umunna… is in NYC [New York City] on Thursday… he’d love to come by and see you and share his insights on why Labour did so badly in May, and what HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign might take away from that.’

Sources close to Mr Umunna confirmed he met Mr Podesta and discussed the rise of Corbynism and the threat posed by Bernie Sanders – her Democratic rival dubbed ‘the US Jeremy Corbyn’ because of his pledge to redistribute the country’s wealth – who at the time was starting to surge in the polls. 3

Then, two years later in June 2017 and the wake of May’s cataclysmic election defeat, rather than getting solidly behind Corbyn, his leadership reinvigorated by Labour’s remarkable election gains, Umunna was instead slinking off to hold secret talks with Conservative MPs in a cross-party alliance to force a ‘soft Brexit’. This betrayal of the party was also in defiance of Labour’s manifesto pledges to honour the referendum decision on which Umunna had been re-elected just days earlier:

A source told the Daily Mail: “Chuka sees himself as the leader of the Remain fight back and is rallying troops on all sides of the House.

“He has got much more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than he does with Corbyn anyway.” 4

Firmer evidence of Umunna’s plot finally came to light last August, when it was disclosed in the Daily Express that a dozen Labour “moderates” (for some reason they have an aversion to being labelled ‘Blairites’) were gathering for weekends together at Fair Oak Farm in Sussex at a cost of £144 per night to hatch plans to “take back control and repair the damage that has been done”:

The group would catch the 7.18pm train from Waterloo East on a Thursday evening to Stonegate before taking a seven-minute taxi ride to the luxury bed and breakfast estate Fair Oak Farm in Sussex. […]

It was claimed attendees at the events included former leadership candidate Liz Kendall, former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and other senior MPs including Gavin Shuker.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Corbyn, also attended but has recently quit the party to become an independent. 5

The article is headlined in screaming capitals “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS”.

It continues:

A source at the meetings told the Daily Express: “We are getting together regularly to discuss how to take back control of the party.

“At some point the Corbyn leadership is going to fail and collapse, we only need to see what is happening with the anti-Semitism problem, and we need to be ready to step in, win the leadership rebuild the party as a credible force and repair the damage that has been done.”

Meetings have taken place with the group at other locations and there is a wider group of rebel MPs numbering more than 20.

The Daily Express has learnt that one proposal put forward was to wait for a Corbyn election victory and then to use the large group of moderate Labour MPs to prevent him from becoming prime minister.

Another attendee at the away days told the Express: “As things stand Labour could win the next election simply because the Tories have made such a mess over Brexit and look so incompetent.

“If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within parliament or a new party.

“There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.”

The MP added: “The issue would be then whether we would have time to create a proper identity before an election or if there would need to be an election soon after. In that sense it is complicated.”

All of which brings the story up to date. Efforts to topple Corbyn can be traced all the way back to his first leadership election and the weeks leading up to it. As the architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, admitted rather too candidly when speaking to editor of The Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, shortly after Corbyn’s second leadership victory:

“The problem with Jeremy is not that he is a sort of maniac – it’s not as though he is a nasty person. It’s that he literally has no idea in the 21st century how to conduct himself as a leader of a party putting itself forward in a democratic election to become the government of our country.” […]

“Why do you want to just walk away and pass the title deeds of this great party over to someone like Jeremy Corbyn? I don’t want to, I resent it, and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office.

“Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour party from his leadership.” 6

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’”.

Likewise Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and the rest of yesterday’s deserters have each dedicated countless days in seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Not really over the trumped-up allegations of antisemitism – the media outcry over antisemitism inside the Labour Party was for the most part manufactured – and not because they fear that Corbyn is unfit to lead the party, as the lamentable Owen Smith parroted during his laughably inept leadership challenge, but – paraphrasing the source who spoke anonymously to the Daily Mail – because they have more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than with Corbyn anyway.

So while it is true that Corbyn’s conciliatory and democratic stance over Brexit certainly does infuriate them, this is the full limit to their honesty. And such last gasp defections at this critical moment as Britain prepares to leave the EU not only highlights the total contempt these Blairites have for the party and its membership, but for the country as a whole; their unwillingness to resign their seats and fight by-elections, a further indication of their overweening sense of entitlement.

As Novara Media senior editor Ash Sarkar told resigning Blairite, Angela Smith, on yesterday’s BBC2’s Politics Live show:

Not being Jeremy Corbyn, unfortunately, is not a manifesto in itself. People are going to be looking at things like your record on water privatisation. You are like one of the last people left in the country who still believes in it. They will look at the fact you are in the all-party water group, which is mostly paid for by the water industry. And they’ll go: ‘You know what? That stinks of corruption.’ 7

 

Click here to read an excellent piece also published by The Canary that reminds readers of the voting history of the seven defectors who are now calling themselves ‘The Independent Group’.

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Addendum: my open letter to the seven Labour Party defectors

Yesterday I individually emailed all seven of the Labour Party defectors (addressing each singly) under the subject heading “Two questions about The Independent Group” as follows:

Dear,

Firstly, after Douglas Carswell changed political allegiance in August 2014 moving from the Conservative Party to UKIP, he promptly announced his resignation as an MP, thereby necessitating a by-election. In September 2014, Mark Reckless did likewise. Given that you won your parliamentary seat on the back of Labour Party support and finance and on the pledge of honouring Labour’s election manifesto, do you intend follow the same course and observe these dignified precedents?

Secondly, according to your website: “The Independent Group of MPs is supported by Gemini A Ltd a company limited by guarantee.” This is a private company, registered with Companies House on January 16th, which Gavin Shuker controls “75% or more” of the shares. Can you make clear in what way your organisation is not a political party, or if as appears to be the case it is a new party, that it will be subject to Electoral Commission rules that ensure transparency as regards finance and donations?

Kind regards,

James Boswell

The email addresses of all MPs are publicly available but I have included a list of addesses for the seven members of The Independent Group below in the hope of encouraging others to express their opinions directly:

Chuka Umunna: chuka.umunna.mp@parliament.uk

Luciana Berger: luciana.berger.mp@parliament.uk

Ann Coffey: ann.coffey.mp@parliament.uk

Mike Gapes: mike.gapes.mp@parliament.uk

Chris Leslie: chris.leslie@parliament.uk

Angela Smith: officeofangelasmithmp@parliament.uk

Gavin Shuker: gavin.shuker.mp@parliament.uk

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An earlier letter to my constituency MP

Dear Paul Blomfield,

I have read that in the likely event that Jeremy Corbyn is again elected to serve as leader, there may be moves to encourage Labour MPs to disregard the democratic mandate of Labour members, declare independence in parliament, and seek recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. In such circumstances, can you please assure me that you will actively repudiate any invitation of this, or any similar kind, that betrays the wishes of the members and seeks to create a further division of the party.

James Boswell

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Additional:

Back in 2016, Sharmini Peries of The Real News interviewed Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Economy at Yory University, Toronto and author of many books including The Making of Global Capitalism and The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Panitch provides very insightful analysis on the grassroots origins of “Momentum”, how its emergence helped Corbyn win the first leadership election, and how it has been traduced by both by opponents within the party and the media:

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Update: Craig Murray on the Corrupt Seven and the media response

On February 19th, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and whistleblower, Craig Murray, published a lengthy article from which the following is an extended excerpt. Here he is discussing the Corrupt Seven’s (as he calls them) “deeply dishonourable” decision not to stand for re-election, and why Luciana Berger’s complaints of antisemitism cannot be blamed on Corbyn:

Democracy is a strange thing. This episode has revealed that it is apparently a democratic necessity that we have another referendum on Brexit, while being a democratic necessity not to have another referendum on Scottish Independence, while the notion that the MPs, who now have abandoned the party and manifesto on which they stood, might face their electorates again, is so disregarded that none of the fawning MSM journalists are asking about it. In rejecting this option, the Corrupt Seven are managing the incredible feat of being less honorable than Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, who did have the basic decency to resign and fight again on their new prospectus.

Dick Taverne is a more directly relevant precedent, particularly as he was deselected as sitting Labour MP precisely because of his support for the EU. Taverne resigned, and fought and won his seat in a by-election in 1973, before losing it in the second 1974 election. There are also precedents for crossing the floor and not resigning and fighting under your new banner, but then there are also precedents for mugging old ladies. It is deeply dishonorable.

Luciana Berger is a one trick pony and it is worth noting that her complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party date back to at least 2005, while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. Berger had already by April 2005 spotted anti-Semitism in the National Union of Students, in the Labour Party and in her student union newspaper, those being merely the examples cited in this single Daily Telegraph article. I am extremely sorry and somewhat shocked to hear of the swamp of anti-semitism in which we were all already mired in 2005, but I do find it rather difficult to understand why the fault is therefore that of Jeremy Corbyn. And given that Tony Blair was at that time Prime Minister for eight years, I cannot understand why it is all Corbyn’s fault and responsibility now, but it was not Blair’s fault then.

On the contrary, the Telegraph puff piece states that Berger had met Blair several times and was Euan Blair’s girlfriend. This was of course before the privately educated Londoner was foisted on the unfortunate people of Liverpool Wavetree, doubtless completely unfacilitated by her relationship with Euan Blair.

The kind of abuse Berger has evidently been attracting since at least 2005 is of course a crime. Two people have quite rightly been convicted of it. Joshua Bonehill-Paine and John Nimmo sent a series of truly disgusting tweets and both were jailed. Both are committed long term neo-nazis. Yet I have repeatedly heard media references to the convictions squarely in the context of Labour Party anti-semitism. I have never heard on broadcast media it explained that neither had anything to do with the Labour Party. Like the left wing anti-semitism Berger has been reporting since at least 2005, this Nazi abuse too is all somehow Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

It is further worth noting that in that 2005 article Berger claims a 47% increase in attacks on Jews, which is highly reminiscent of recent claims from community groups, such as the 44% increase claimed 2015 to 2017 or the 78% increase in violent crimes against Jews in the UK in 2017 alone claimed by the government of Israel.

One antisemitic attack is too many and all anti-semitism is to be deplored and rooted out. But if all these claims repeated again and again over decades of 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70% increases in attacks per year were true, then we would be now talking of at least 12,000 violent attacks on Jews per year, if we take Ms Berger’s 2005 claim as the baseline.

Yet we are not seeing that. The average number of convictions per year for violent, racially motivated attacks on Jewish people in the UK is less than one.

If we add in non-violent crimes, the number of people convicted per year for anti-semitic hate crime still remains under 20. And I am not aware of a single such conviction related in any way to the Labour Party.

Let me be perfectly plain. I want everybody convicted and imprisoned who is involved in anti-semitic hate crime. But the facts given above would cause any honest journalist to treat with more scepticism than they do, the repeated old chestnut claims of huge year on year increases in anti-semitic incidents.

There really are in logic only two choices; either anti-semitism is, contrary to all the hype, thankfully rare, or the entire British police, prosecutorial and judicial system must be systematically protecting the anti-semites. And I hardly see how they could blame Jeremy Corbyn for that.

None of this will stop the relentless promotion of the “Corbyn anti-semitism” theme, as the idea of a leader not completely behind the slow extirpation of the Palestinian people is unthinkable to the mainstream media class. The Corbyn anti-semitism meme is possibly the most remarkable example of evidence free journalism I have ever encountered.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Democracy and the Corrupt Seven”.

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1 From an article entitled “Why a “True Labour” splinter party could succeed where the SDP failed” written by Bagehot, published in The Economist on August 12, 2016. http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2016/08/labour-pains

2 From an article entitled “The sound of Blairite silence: Owen Smith has become the willing dupe of the Labour right” written by Paul Mason, published by Medium.com on August 19, 2016.  https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/the-sound-of-blairite-silence-aed2ef726c8a#.tktnlfuww

3 From an article entitled “Labour’s Chuka held secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team to advise on how to defeat ‘US Corbyn’ written by Glen Owen, published in The Mail on Sunday on October 23, 2016. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3863494/Labour-s-Chuka-held-secret-talks-Hillary-Clinton-s-campaign-team-advise-defeat-Corbyn.html

4 From an article entitled “Chuka Umunna ‘holds secret talks with Tory MPs plotting to force PM to accept soft Brexit’” written by Aletha Adu, published in the Sunday Express on June 25, 2017. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/821016/Chuka-Umunna-Tory-remainers-soft-Brexit-DUP-theresa-may-repeal-bill-Queens-speech

5 From an article entitled “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS” written by David Maddox, published in the Daily Express on August 7, 2018. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/999804/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-coup-brexit-antisemitism

6 From an article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’” written by Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot, published in the Guardian on February 21, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/21/peter-mandelson-i-try-to-undermine-jeremy-corbyn-every-day

7 Quote taken from an article entitled “Ash Sarkar takes down a resigning Blairite MP so brutally, a BBC host intervenes” written by James Wright, published in The Canary on February 18, 2019. https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

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Charlie Skelton reports from behind the ring of steel at Watford

Firstly, a few pertinent words from Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Taken from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) 1

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At one point in the meeting, during a tense exchange about contingency plans for dog-walkers, [police Chief Inspector] Rhodes let slip that Operation Discuss (the codename for the Bilderberg security operation) had been up and running for 18 months. Residents and journalists shared an intake of breath. “Eighteen months?” The reason for all the secrecy? “Terrorism”.

After 59 years of Bilderberg guests scuttling about in the shadows, ducking lenses and dodging the news, that’s the rationale we’re given? The same rationale, presumably, is behind the Great Wall of Watford, a concrete-and-wire security fence encircling the hotel. As ugly as it is unnecessary, it looks like the kind of thing you throw yourself against in a stalag before being machine-gunned from a watchtower. Appropriately fascistic, you might say, if you regard fascism as “the merger of corporate and government power”, as Mussolini put it.

The same threat of “terrorism” was used to justify the no-pedestrian, no-stopping zones near the venue. The police laid out their logic: they had “no specific intelligence” regarding a terror threat. However, in recent incidents, such as Boston and Woolwich, there had been no intelligence prior to the attack. Therefore the lack of any threat of a terror attack fitted exactly the profile of a terror attack. The lack of a threat was a threat. Welcome to 1984.

So writes Charlie Skelton, who is again one of the only mainstream journalists reporting from this year’s Bilderberg meeting which officially opened yesterday. Skelton, who also has a career as comedy script writer, adding with typically understated irony:

The audience was an odd mix. Half were residents from around the venue worried about the possibility of tyre-damage to a strip of lawn; the other half were journalists from around the world worried about the geopolitical implications of a conference at which BAE, Stratfor and General Petraeus will be discussing “Africa’s challenges”.

Both halves were worried about the funding for the gigantic security operation. The police assured sceptical residents that the conference would be “cost-neutral” for Hertfordshire, thanks in part to a “donation” from the conference organisers. This “donation” will have come, in part at least, from the Bilderberg Association, a registered UK charity that takes “donations” from BP and Goldman Sachs.

So, in a sense, the Herts police are doing charity work for Goldman Sachs. Which must be a comfort for the executives of Goldman Sachs attending the conference: the vice-chairman, a director and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. They’ve got their charity team out patrolling, keeping the lenses at bay.2

Click here to read his full article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” published by the Guardian on Wednesday 5th.

Here is Skelton again reporting a few days earlier on his same Bilderblog, and on this occasion delving deeper into Bilderberg’s wonderful and little known works of charity whilst also pointing out how the timing of this year’s get-together happens to coincide with a long overdue scandal about political lobbying:

If you’ve been wondering who picks up the tab for this gigantic conference and security operation, the answer arrived last week, on a pdf file sent round by Anonymous. It showed that the Bilderberg conference is paid for, in the UK, by an officially registered charity: the Bilderberg Association (charity number 272706).

According to its Charity Commission accounts, the association meets the “considerable costs” of the conference when it is held in the UK, which include hospitality costs and the travel costs of some delegates. Presumably the charity is also covering the massive G4S security contract. Fortunately, the charity receives regular five-figure sums from two kindly supporters of its benevolent aims: Goldman Sachs and BP. The most recent documentary proof of this is from 2008 (pdf), since when the charity has omitted its donors’ names (pdf) from its accounts.

The charity’s goal is “public education”.3

Public education! From an organisation that hides its face in shame behind armed guards and steel cordons. Skelton adds:

If you are concerned about transparency or lobbying, Watford is the place to be next weekend. Whether the delegates reach out to the press and public remains to be seen. Don’t forget, they’ve got their hands full carrying out the good works of Bilderberg. The conference is, after all, run as a charity.

A charity which specialises in helping those most in need of a little corporate lobbying:

It’s a remarkable spectacle – one of nature’s wonders – and the most exciting thing to happen to Watford since that roundabout on the A412 got traffic lights. The area round the hotel is in lockdown: locals are having to show their passports to get to their homes. It’s exciting too for the delegates. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell will hop from his limo, delighted to be spending three solid days in policy talks with the head of HSBC, the president of Dow Chemical, his favourite European finance ministers and US intelligence chiefs. The conference is the highlight of every plutocrat’s year and has been since 1954. The only time Bilderberg skipped a year was 1976, after the group’s founding chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was caught taking bribes from Lockheed Martin.

Here is the definition of “bribe”: Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct. So surely then, every form of lobbying is a kind of bribery.

Just imagine, for example, if my college discovered that I or any of my colleagues were accepting cash payments (or other ‘gifts’) from students – they would rightly sack us on the spot. Would it make any difference if I told them that the students were only “lobbying me” about their coursework, or would it be deemed more acceptable if I had “registered their interests”? Of course it wouldn’t! So in what way is lobbying not bribery?

That said, some kinds of bribery are more prosecutable than others. So was Prince Bernhard ever criminally charged after accepting a $1.1 million bribe from Lockheed? Of course not, after all he’s Prince Bernhard. Although apparently he was forced “to step down from several public positions and was forbidden to wear his military uniforms again.”4 Rough justice.

Back to Skelton’s comparative analysis of the current goings on at the Grove hotel to the on-going parliamentary scandal:

It may seem odd, as our own lobbying scandal unfolds, amid calls for a statutory register of lobbyists, that a bunch of our senior politicians will be holed up for three days in luxurious privacy with the chairmen and CEOs of hedge funds, tech corporations and vast multinational holding companies, with zero press oversight. “It runs contrary to [George] Osborne’s public commitment in 2010 to ‘the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen’,” says Michael Meacher MP. Meacher describes the conference as “an anti-democratic cabal of the leaders of western market capitalism meeting in private to maintain their own power and influence outside the reach of public scrutiny”.

But, to be fair, is “public scrutiny” really necessary when our politicians are tucked safely away with so many responsible members of JP Morgan’s international advisory board? There’s always the group chief executive of BP on hand to make sure they do not get unduly lobbied. And if he is not in the room, keeping an eye out, then at least one of the chairmen of Novartis, Zurich Insurance, Fiat or Goldman Sachs International will be around.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article.

Charlie Skelton is doing an excellent job again this year, and when, later today, I finally make it down to Watford myself, perhaps I’ll happen to run into him. If not then I’d certainly like to express my gratitude to him here before I leave.

I must also say that it is quite pleasing to see others in the media finally picking up the gauntlet and taking serious note of this most extraordinary annual general meeting for globalisation. There was even a surprisingly balanced report on Channel 4 news broadcast yesterday. You can watch it here:

http://www.channel4.com/news/the-bilderberg-group-a-meeting-of-minds-video

Finally, here is Charlie Skelton talking to Max Keiser on Tuesday’s Keiser Report:

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This year’s official list (which is reliably unreliable) has been released and includes amongst many the following names of particular interest:

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Ed Balls – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Tim Geithner – Former US Secretary of the Treasury

Christine Lagarde – Head of IMF

Peter Sutherland – Chairman of Goldman Sachs

Mario Monti – Former appointed Prime Minister of Italy

Ken Clarke – who is listed merely as “Member of Parliament”

Peter Mandelson – listed as Chairman of Global Council and also Lazard International

José Barroso – President, European Commission

Richard Perle – neo con, veteran warmonger and well known member of PNAC

Henry Kissinger – listed only as “Chairman of Kissinger Associates”

last, but certainly not least, I notice the recently disgraced Gen David Petraeus – why he, we might wonder?

And so to Watford… I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Mark Carney who has attended previous meetings at St Moritz (2011) and Chantilly (2012) and is about to replace Mervyn King as the next Governor of the Bank of England.

Various livestream broadcasts of the event can also be found here.

1 From Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Chapter X, Part II, p. 152.

2 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 5, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/bilderberg-2013-goldman-sachs-watford

3 From an article entitled “The week ahead: Bilderberg 2013 comes to… the Grove hotel, Watford” written by Charlie Skelton, published by the Guardian on June 2, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/02/week-ahead-bilderberg-2013-watford

4 At least according to wikipedia. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals#Netherlands

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Charlie Skelton, Max Keiser

Chantilly, Virginia, 31 May–3 June: move along please – nothing to see here…

At this very moment, Kenneth Clarke is meeting in secret with Peter Mandelson. The de facto head honchos of our two main political parties are rubbing shoulders right alongside Richard Perle, Robert Rubin, Henry Kissinger, and Garry Kasparov… yes, that’s right, the Russian chess grandmaster. They are also putting their heads together with chiefs from many of the world’s corporate giants including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Fiat, Airbus, Dow Chemicals, Unilever, AXA, Barclays, Siemens, Citigroup, Microsoft, Google, Vodaphone, to name but a few, and not forgetting, Peter Sutherland, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs — no meeting being complete these days without the man from Goldman Sachs!

Also at this meeting, a meeting that has now entered its fourth and final day, are Pascal Lamy, the Director-General of the WTO; Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank; Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission; and Josette Sheeran, Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum – not ‘Davos Man’ but, as the Guardian‘s Charlie Skelton put it, perhaps their “ice-queen”:

In terms of power structures, Josette is number 2 at Davos, and Davos is about number 10 behind Bilderberg.1

Bilderberg…? What’s that, I hear some mumbles. Well, it’s this meeting I’ve been talking about. The meeting between Ken Clarke and Pete Mandelson and the hundred or so other hangers-on such as H.R.H Prince Philippe of Belgium and H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands.

Look, if this strikes you as odd then please be assured that it isn’t. A Bilderberg meeting takes place in a different five-star hotel every year around this time. It’s like clockwork, and has been happening now for more than half a century. Although if you’d never before heard about these Bilderberg meetings, then it’s in part because the heads of the global media outlets have also been in regular attendance – this year’s crop including representatives from Le Monde, El País, Die Zeit, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Economist, as well as talkshow host Charlie Rose. Rest assured none will be spilling the beans later – they didn’t go in order to report on the meeting!

Of course, it might interest the people of Ireland that their own Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan is one of those on the guest list. Likewise, those worried about their futures in Spain might be interested to hear that their Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría Antón, is another of the elite gaggle. The Dutch may also be surprised to learn that their Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has a booking in this year’s hotel. And what would the Chinese make of the reappearance of their Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ying Fu, who also attended last year when the meeting was held in St Moritz. And finally, what are any of us to make of the attendance of Bassma Kodmani, Head of Foreign Affairs for the Syrian National Council? Just what is it that they don’t want the rest of us to hear them all talking about? Unfortunately, the mainstream media (with honourable exception given to our own Guardian newspaper) show no interest in any actual journalism, but remain intent only on maintaining the bluff that “there’s nothing to see here…”

Precisely what’s being discussed right now, out of sight beyond the fences and high security cordons, is therefore hard to know for sure. Issues involving power and money evidently. And, in a word, a push towards ever-greater globalisation – Bilderberg being a meeting organised by self-confessed globalists. But just what precisely is globalisation – what is its overarching agenda?

To bring the world together under a unified corporate governance. Ultimately, although step by step, a world government of technocratic cronies running things for the sole benefit of a small oligarchical elite. This is certainly how it appears, not only to me, but also to the increasing number who have turned out to protest each successive meeting. This year’s protest even managing to ally forces from the Tea Party with others in the Occupy movement to form into Occupy Bilderberg.

Which is perhaps the silver lining to what’s happening right now in Chantilly. That the anti-globalisation movement which fizzled out about a decade ago through lack of focus, and then briefly reignited last year in encampments on Wall Street and elsewhere, has momentarily found alliance with unlikely compadres. Bilderberg being apolitical, at least in the sense that it operates outside of the acknowledged left-right paradigm, having brought together protesters who are likewise catholic in terms of their usual party political persuasions. Occupy Bilderberg therefore points to a way ahead and for the possible emergence of a more cohesive popular movement of dissent. Anti-globalisation 2.0 — if you like.  Here is Ryan Devereaux, also reporting for the Guardian:

The gathering outside the Westfield Marriott hotel in Chantilly included Ron Paul supporters, Occupy veterans, members of the 9/11 truth movement and Oath Keepers, a Tea Party-affiliated group comprised of military and law enforcement officers.

Carrying signs with messages such as “Humanity is winning” and “Warning to secret societies: you are pissing off American patriots. We have machine guns also,” the 200 or so protesters could only be there for one event: Bilderberg.2

Click here to read more of Charlie Skelton and Ryan Devereaux’s excellent reports on the Guardian Bilderblog.

The chasm that exists between those in power and those in the streets could hardly be more in your face than in Chantilly during the last few days. Such a stench of power and money that it really should be getting up all our noses.

Yes, there’s plenty to see in Chantilly today – so don’t move along! Protest and spread the word of what you are seeing and hearing. Like a great many others around the world, in spirit I too stand with all of you protesting outside the gates of Bilderberg.

*

Here’s an interesting example of the kind of debate taking place in Chantilly – Adam Kokesh interviewing Webster Tarpley:

Click here to read the official 2012 Bilderberg attendance list.

Click here to watch a live stream of the protests produced by Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change.

1 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2012: bring on the Bilderbabes: Protestors at Bilderberg up their game: ‘What do they want? Hegelian dialectics! When do they want it? Now!’” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 1, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/jun/01/bilderberg-2012-chantilly-occupy1

2 From an article entitled “Protest groups converge to denounce secretive Bilderberg conference: Annual off-the-record finance gathering attracts protesters from disparate groups, but they often have a similar goal in mind”, written by Ryan Devereaux, published by the Guardian on June 1, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/01/protesters-gather-secretive-bilderberg-conference?intcmp=239

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Filed under analysis & opinion, campaigns & events, Charlie Skelton, USA

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.

*

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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Filed under Britain, did you see?, neo-liberalism, Uncategorized

the answer to TINA… is TRISH!

Let’s start with TINA…

There is no alternative (shortened as TINA) was one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite slogans. Those who repeat this slogan today, do so in defence of the same neoliberal agenda that Thatcher’s policies first helped to establish during the 1980s. They believe that only the  “freedom of the markets” is sacrosanct, and oblivious to the hardship and brutal oppression which such policies have brought to so many countries around the world, they stand firm in their conviction that we are living under the best of all possible economic orders. In this sense, they are fundamentalists. Whilst those who use it to defend calls for the latest round of “austerity measures” are also saying that making savage cuts to government spending is the only way to rescue ourselves in these times of economic crisis. That we must sacrifice everything in order to satisfy the market. Yet all of this is dependent upon accepting an ideology that refuses to admit it is an ideology, and all of this is socioeconomic nonsense.

A background to austerity

Inter-governmental institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have for many years demanded a commitment from governments of impoverished nations to accept the imposition of austerity measures in exchange for functioning as a lender of last resort. The terms for such IMF bailouts are technically known as “conditionalities”.

Conditionalities generally involve a number of requirements and some of these may indeed be beneficial. The IMF may, for example, insist upon anti-corruption measures. But mostly the IMF will insist upon “free market reforms”, which means, in short, a tough austerity package to dismantle the nation’s welfare system, with the forced privatisation of key public services, along with the imposition of “trade liberalisation” and deregulation. Under such a programme, with the country being required, in effect, to give up it economic sovereignty, it is suddenly open to vulture capitalism, and ready to be asset-stripped by global corporations.

This package of conditionalities, or “market-friendly policies”, was known as the Washington Consensus, although it might more aptly have been renamed the “Chicago Concensus” given that these rules for “economic reform” were predicated on the hardline neoliberal dogma developed by the Chicago School, and then first tested by the so-called Chicago Boys, who imposed them as economic “Shock Therapy” during the terrible years of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. In any case, the name Washington Consensus became so sullied that the IMF have dropped it altogether. But only the tone of the IMF has been softened, as the demands being made of Greece and Portugal now show. They are still in the business of dismantling welfare systems and the wholesale privatisation of nations.

The results of austerity

“The experience of austerity measures imposed on developing countries should sound alarm bells for us all. These measures are not a new innovation; they were cooked up by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s and forced onto developing countries by the IMF and World Bank. The effects were devastating: inequality, poverty and injustice increased as public services and welfare spending were slashed.

“Recently, such policies have been completely discredited; even the World Bank and IMF held their hands up and said they got it wrong. Countries, like Malaysia and Vietnam, that resisted the austerity measures remained far less vulnerable than those that had to succumb to these failed economic prescriptions. If we don’t resist this illogical thinking, the outcome will lead to a truly broken Britain.”

says Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement.

In the same article, which is entitled “Neoliberal policies have no place in the post-crash world”, Doane also gives a concise and well-informed overview of the effects of imposed austerity on the basis of recent historical cases.1

Why austerity cannot help us

“The deficit isn’t caused by profligate government spending to support an over-bloated welfare state, but by a massive bank bailout, shrinking government revenues, and a decline in corporate taxation. As in the developing world, maintaining public spending is what we need for long-term support to our economy, and to our populations.”

says Deborah Doane in the same article.

The maths is actually quite simple here. If you cut government spending, especially during times when the private sector economy is also struggling, then the knock-on effect is that tax revenues are reduced, and this then increases the deficit. The outcome being precisely the opposite to that demanded. But austerity isn’t simply doomed to failure, it is doomed to devastating failure. It leaves the country concerned with nothing but mass unemployment and even greater debts to repay.

Why we must fight this together

“For decades, Europe has been held up as a paragon for how social democracy can work, by providing free healthcare or education, and ensuring people have a high quality of life at the same time. The legacy of the Chicago School is invading this last battleground for social justice. Fighting the austerity agenda at home is a truly globally relevant campaign.”

says Deborah Doane in the same article.

It took a century for the people of Europe to win our economic rights, but we are now on the verge of throwing that inheritance away. People all around the world aspire to enjoy the same rights. We should not let them down.

And now over to TRISH

In an attempt to offer an alternative to TINA, I have put together this five-point alternative plan. I believe that something of this sort needs to be agreed upon by all groups who now stand opposed to the government (and IMF supported) programme of austerity measures. I would very much welcome any constructive comments, amendments, or corrections; and if you are interested in helping to take the idea further then do please get in touch.

The basic proposals can be summarised as follows: Take on the bankers, Re-regulate the markets, Increase tax revenues, Stop the wars, and Help for ourselves. Hence, TRISH:

Take on the bankers

The current crisis didn’t just happen for no reason. If it were simply a part of some kind of quasi-natural but ultimately mysterious boom and bust cycle, then we might hope to simply grit our teeth and ride it out. There is, unfortunately, no evidence that supports such a conviction.

The current crisis did not originate because of fiscal mismanagement and government overspending. The problems in Greece, for instance, did not arise simply because of their long-standing problems with tax receipts, any more than the recession in America began with subprime mortgages and the housing bubble. The individual crises of these various nation states are merely symptoms of more than two decades of unregulated greed and corruption in Wall Street and The City of London. The results of a systemic failure, which cannot be resolved therefore until the current financial system is itself overhauled.

The current crisis has happened because the speculators and financiers gathered so much power that they have taken control of our senior politicians. This is why Obama is surrounded by a coterie of advisers from Goldman Sachs. It is also why Peter Mandelson and George Osborne were found cosying up together aboard a Russian oligarch’s yacht at one of Nathan Rothschild’s lavish parties. For no dog can have two masters. To make sure they are working for us then, such obscene cronyism has to be rooted out, and, so far as it’s possible, legislated against.

Ever since the crash of 2008, the banks have been playing the suicide card. Holding us hostage with a gun pointed to their own heads. Give us your money or everything goes down with us, they threaten, and their close friends in the media and government play along, perpetuating the myth that they are simply “too big to fail”. They want us to forget about their malpractice and criminal fraud that caused the crisis, and to carry on stumping up the interest for debts so enormous they can never be repaid.

We need an investigation. We need an international debt moratorium followed by cancellation of all debt found to be odious. The endless bailouts only serve the bankers and these must end. Meanwhile private savings and pension funds need to be protected. But if Goldman Sachs closes down then so be it. We’ll pick up the pieces later.

Re-regulate the markets

This current crisis really owes its origins to the policies of Thatcher and Reagan. Everything would have been avoided if it hadn’t been for the deregulation of the markets which began back in the 1980s. Allowing the bankers to police themselves turned out to be a bad idea. We might have guessed.

The underlying cause of the current crisis is the worldwide trade in “derivatives”. It is currently estimated that in the order of a quadrillion US dollars (yes, that’s with a qu-) has been staked on derivations of various kinds. We can compare this with the entire world GDP which turns out to be a mere 60 trillion US dollars2. One quadrillion being more than twenty times larger. Or we might compare it against the estimated monetary wealth of the whole world: about $75 trillion in real estate, and a further $100 trillion in world stock and bonds. So one quadrillion is a number exceeding even the absolute monetary value of the entire world! Warren Buffett once described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”, and he should know because he trades in them.

We must place a ban, if not on all derivatives, then certainly on the most toxic varieties such as credit-default swaps. There should also be a criminal investigation that looks into the sale of so many “toxic assets” and considers the role of the credit ratings agencies which graded them triple-A. The very same rating agencies that are now downgrading countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

A separation of investment banking from depository banking would at least have protected ordinary savers from the whims of the speculators. In America such a separation had existed since the Banking Act of 1933, known as the Glass-Steagall Act, until Bill Clinton repealed the law in 1999. Legislation along the lines of Glass-Steagall needs to be brought back.

Increase tax revenues

Tax is a dirty word but if the deficit is to be redressed then government revenue will need to be increased. Politicians talk a great deal about fairness and we should hold them to this. The people who caused the crisis should now be bailing us out. There has been some talk of a Tobin tax on all transactions in the financial markets, and even at the very low rates of 0.05% being proposed by some groups, hundreds of billions of pounds would be raised annually. So why not levy a Tobin tax at a higher rate, say 1% (which is a tiny fraction when compared to any tax the rest of us pay) and then use that money to repay the national debt?

Gordon Brown came into office on the promise of closing tax loopholes but did nothing of the kind. Major corporations simply don’t pay their fair share. They move their operations offshore by taking advantage of the many tax havens available, the majority of which are British dependencies. It is estimated that tax havens drain the UK economy of around £25bn annually through their role in tax avoidance and evasion, and that hundreds of billions are lost globally each year.3 Money that should be paying for education and healthcare.

We should resist any rises in the sorts of stealth taxes on the poor and the middle class which the government are likely to propose, no matter how temptingly packaged they may appear. “Quantitative Easing”, which is a deliberately impressive and misleading term for what is simply the printing of extra money, is an inherently inflationary strategy. It is, therefore, the most insidious stealth tax of all. Let’s find the money in fairer ways, by forcing the corporations and the super-rich to pay their dues.

Stop the wars

Wars cost money, lots of money. Defence Secretary Liam Fox has recently revealed that the estimated cost for our involvement in the NATO-led Libya campaign will be in the region of £120m, assuming the conflict continues into the autumn as expected. A further £140m then being needed to replace missiles and munitions, which makes £260 million in total.4 However, less conservative estimates of costs to the British taxpayer raise the figure to as much as £1bn. 5

Meanwhile, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already cost British taxpayers more than £20billion, and this does not even include the salaries of soldiers or paying for their long-term injuries and mental health care.6 Acute care for the troops most seriously injured in Afghanistan is costing the government more than £500,000 every week.7 And all for what?

Putting an end to these imperialist adventures is not only a moral imperative, it is an economic necessity.

Help for ourselves and others

Running a nation’s economy is not the same as running a household budget. Making cuts in government spending may save money, but with reduced investment there must come an inevitable kick-back. The economy will shrink and with less tax revenue available the deficit then grows. And this becomes a vicious cycle.

In order to stop such a debt spiral turning into depression, the government needs to spend rather than save. This is what the post-war Attlee government did when it expanded the welfare state and founded the National Health Service. Reinvestment in public services and infrastructure can put money in people’s pockets again. Meanwhile, investment in manufacturing and industry would help to reduce our balance of payments deficit.

During times of depression government investment becomes essential. We need investment to revive Britain’s once strong manufacturing base. This can involve tax or other incentives and will most certainly require significant cash injections to support established industries and encourage new production and innovation. In the meantime, we should roll back the privatisation of our public sector, of schools and prisons (how outrageous that companies can profit from locking people up), and most urgently, of the NHS.

In a fully privatised world, which is the dream of neoliberal economists, we all fall prey to the markets. So let’s abandon our current obsession with private enterprise and move back to a more mixed-economy, adopting a policy of dirigisme. In this spirit, we might decide to take state control of any struggling key industries, as well as re-nationalising the natural monopolies of water and energy supply.

It is high time to rebuild our infrastructure, since this is the bedrock for all social and economic progress: and examples of the sorts of projects we should consider include the long overdue upgrading of our railway system; the installation of countrywide fibre-optic broadband; the construction of new power plants including the proposed tide power barrage across the Severn estuary, which alone could supply more than 5% of our current electricity demands; and then there are more ambitious schemes, such as protecting ourselves against future water shortages by building a national water grid. We need to seize this as an opportunity to do all the things we ought to have done years ago because the future will belong to those who invested wisely – which means funneling our money into rebuilding industry, reconstructing our infrastructure, and supporting new areas of scientific research and development instead of frittering it away on banker bailouts and bonuses. Let’s build a country that’s fit and proper for the twenty-first century.

Such a New Deal programme was how Franklin Roosevelt rescued the US economy during the last Great Depression. Between 1933 and 1936, Roosevelt implemented the “3 Rs”: Relief for the unemployed and poor, Recovery of the economy to normal levels, and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. Roosevelt’s New Deal is perhaps the best example of the kind of forward-thinking programme of economic measures that is so desperately needed today.

2 According to IMF economic database for October 2010, World GDP is $61,963.429 billion (US dollars)

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Filed under analysis & opinion, austerity measures, Britain, campaigns & events, Europe, financial derivatives, neo-liberalism

one small step against Bilderberg… then another

It was quieter than your average historic moment. No grand words, no crowds cheering in a single voice – no atoms were split, shots were fired or footprints made on the surface of another planet.

I can’t think, offhand, of any historic moments that were as drizzly as it was last night, when a small delegation stepped through the gates of the Suvretta House Hotel, and presented themselves to the head of security at Bilderberg.

“I’d like to come in,” said the Swiss MP Dominque Baettig.

The crowd held its breath. I shifted to get a better view, and went shin-deep into an ice-cold ditch. I gasped – as one often does during historic moments.

“I am a member of the Swiss parliament,” said the member of the Swiss parliament, “and I would like to go inside.” Was it a trick of the light, or did the brave shoe of the Swiss MP lift an inch, perhaps two, from the tarmac? Was this it? Was Bilderberg to be stormed before our very eyes…?

So began Charlie Skelton’s Guardian Bilderblog yesterday. Click here to read the full article.

Entrance to Bilderberg was denied to Dominque Baettig, but the Swiss weren’t the only politicians trying to get some answers:

An Italian diplomat tried to drive through security at the Suvretta House luxury hotel in the Swiss resort of St Moritz, where the annual Bilderberg meeting of global powerbrokers is happening right now.

Mario Borghezio showed his EU deputy’s card, but since he did not have an invitation the cantonal police were called. Borghezio claims that the security guards “laid violent hands” on him and his colleague, leaving one of them with a bloody nose.

They were expelled from the canton and forbidden to return until the conference is over.

The Italian embassy in Bern has requested an inquiry into the incident, according to Swiss Info.1

And then another astonishing event occurred:

A shadow fell across the Engadine. The skylark ceased his merry song, the flowers curled and blackened in the meadow and a man in a special issue Bilderberg anorak set off on his stroll.

Bilderberg has had some bad ideas in its time (a European superstate, anyone?) but Lord Mandelson’s nature walk has to be the worst. What were they hoping for? Had they not seen the 200 activists camped opposite the hotel gates?

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s complete post from today’s Bilderblog.

Here is footage of that encounter between top Bilderbergers, including a rather bedraggled Peter Mandelson, and a some of the demonstrators:

One of the delegates said to a protester that Bilderberg were busy “setting their agenda” and that demonstrators shouldn’t bother them. But Bilderbothering has been the order of the weekend:

This couldn’t possibly be happening. “This is terrible,” Mandelson was heard to exclaim as the activists swarmed around the delegates, firing questions and chorusing their concern…

One activist, Ali Aslan, walked alongside Enders, the Airbus boss, and
asked him what was being discussed at this year’s conference. “Nothing bad,” said Enders. “We are just making our agendas.” (This was the German word used: agenda – the same as in English).

“I don’t understand,” said Alsan. “There are politicians inside. Why are we not allowed to know what you’re talking about?”

Enders smiled and said: “I don’t have to tell you, and you don’t need to know.” And with that, he and his fellow delegates ducked beneath the security cordon, into the blessed safety of Bilderberg

I don’t know who organised the conference itinerary this year – but good luck in your next job.

Click here to read more of Charlie Skelton’s Guardian Bilderblog.

1“An Italian Diplomat Was Violently Expelled From St. Moritz After Trying To Sneak Into The Bilderberg Meeting” by Gus Lubin, published by Business Insider on Sunday 12th June. www.businessinsider.com/mario-borghezio-bilderberg-2011-6

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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.

*

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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