gordon brown

America Demands That Britain Hand Over BAE Evidence


The Guardian is reporting that there is a looming diplomatic spat between Britain and the USA over the investigation into BAE corruption in its Saudi Arabian deals.

A potential diplomatic collision with the US is looming over the corruption allegations against the arms company BAE. The department of justice in Washington has formally demanded that Britain hand over all evidence of secret payments the company made to members of the Saudi royal family to secure huge arms deals.

The department has taken over the corruption investigation after British prosecutors were forced by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to halt it late last year on alleged grounds of national security.

The timing of this couldn't be better, coming as it did just hours after the Government went into damage limitation mode after the statements made about Britain's future relationship with the USA by the International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander and also by the recently ennobled Sir Mark Malloch Brown, the Minister for Africa, Asia and UN. Both statements by these ministers have been seen as criticism of US foreign policy forcing Gordon Brown and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband to insist that there is no change at all in the Britain's relationship with the USA. David Miliband went on air to say that:

"Our commitment to work with the American government in general, and the Bush administration in particular, is resolute," Mr Miliband told the BBC.

While this is unlikely to create a serious rift between Britain and America, it is interesting nonetheless. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, he insisted that the reason the The Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE corruption and the payments to the Saudi royal family had to be dropped was for reasons of national security. So, if that was true then we should expect a refusal to co-operate with the American investigation. Refusing to co-operate with an American corruption investigation could have negative consequences for Britain and would cause further worry in Washington about Britain's relationship with the USA. If Britain does decide to co-operate and hand over the evidence collected so far by the SFO then that, presumably, would either create 'national security' issues for Britain or expose Blair and Lord Goldsmith's assertions as a pack of lies.

Gordon Brown's Foreign Policy Balancing Act


Gordon Brown is finally getting to grips with Britain's foreign policy. As with his domestic policies, it's a mixed bag. There are some improvements over Tony Blair's approach (he could hardly do a worse job) but they don't go nearly far enough. On the positive side, Brown has done something that Blair refused to do - he has criticised American foreign policy albeit in the most gentle way possible and through a close ally rather than personally.

The first clear signs that Gordon Brown will reorder Britain's foreign policy emerged last night when one of his closest cabinet allies urged the US to change its priorities and said a country's strength should no longer be measured by its destructive military power.

Douglas Alexander, the trade and development secretary, made his remarks in a speech in America, the first by a cabinet minister abroad since Mr Brown took power a fortnight ago.

The speech represents a call for the US to rethink its foreign policy, and recognise the virtues of so-called "soft power" and acting through international institutions including the United Nations.

In what will be seen as an assertion of the importance of multilateralism in Mr Brown's foreign policy, Mr Alexander said: "In the 20th century a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy. In the 21st century strength should be measured by what we can build together. And so we must form new alliances, based on common values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which reach out to the world." He described this as "a new alliance of opportunity".

Downing Street, of course, denies that the statement was a criticism of US foreign policy, and while that message won't go down too well with the neocons there are signs that an increasing number of Republicans will be more receptive to it as more and more of them acknowledge the hopelessness of the situation in Iraq and try to distance themselves from the mess. Brown has also told the UN secretary General, Ban Ki-moon that he wants to work more closely with the UN in future.

Gordon Brown has promised the UN that Britain would try to secure a multilateral solution if the world faces a repeat of the Iraq crisis of 2003.

In another break with Tony Blair, Mr Brown assured Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, that he would seek the widest possible international support and agreement through the UN before intervening in another country.

After talks with Mr Brown at Downing Street, Mr Ban was asked whether he could envisage the Prime Minister sidestepping the UN in the way Mr Blair and George Bush did before the Iraq war. He replied: "Different circumstances will require different leadership. I am sure the new administration in the UK will have a new leadership under new circumstances." Mr Ban added: "The situation is different from three or four years ago when the international community was divided over this Iraqi situation. Now I am seeing more recognition of multilateralism and I am quite confident of the continuing strong support of the new administration of the UK."

While this is, of course, to be welcomed, we all know that Blair did try to get UN support for the Iraq war and then carried on regardless when he failed in that attempt. In the desperate effort to get a second resolution so that he could legitimise the invasion, the world was lied to; countries were bribed or bullied and ambassadors were spied on. Merely trying to secure a multilateral solution simply isn't good enough, what is needed is a commitment to abide by whatever decision is reached even if it goes against Britain and the USA. Just as worrying is the implication that Britain may seek further interventions. Foreign Secretary, David Miliband hasn't ruled out an attack on Iran, although with the current state of Britain's overstretched military and Brown's lack of a mandate I think participation in such an attack seems unlikely at present. The last thing anybody needs is a repeat of the Iraq crisis - with or without UN backing. Surely it would be far better to focus on ensuring that such a catastrophe isn't repeated instead of working on getting a consensus for a future disaster. This, for the moment at least, seems to be a step too far for Gordon.

Both Gordon and the more intelligent members of the Bush administration realise that Brown needs to distance himself from Bush and Douglas Alexander's speech will be viewed in that light. When Gordon goes to Washington to meet Bush he will play down any weakening of the 'special relationship'. In fact he already has even before the trip.

"I think people have got to remember that the relationship between Britain and America and between a British prime minister and an American president is built on the things that we share, the same enduring values about the importance of liberty, opportunity, the dignity of the individual," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. [My links added]

"I will continue to work, as Tony Blair did, very closely with the American administration," he added.

Marvellous! That doesn't exactly correspond with the "Let the work of change begin" speech he made when he became Prime Minister. As was predicted, Gordon's foreign policy changes look like being largely cosmetic. Once again Gordon has thrown a sop to anti-war left while placating the neocon faction. This ambiguity seems to be Gordon's trade mark. However, as his premiership progresses he's going to have to be a bit more straightforward than he has so far.

Booting Out Blairism

More encouraging signs that the departure of Blair signals the end of Blairism - the new Health Secretary Alan Johnson has started applying the brakes to the NHS reform juggernaut beloved of our late Dear Leader.

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons he accepted the government had not managed to keep the medical profession "on board" during its reform programme.

Well, that's putting it mildly.  I'm of the opinion that the NHS reforms are designed around the Thatcherite aims of privatisation and marginalising the medical professions, so it'll be interesting to see if appointing an actual medic to assess the current state of the service is a real Blair-bashing exercise (this is implied by the emphasis "less on central direction and more on patient control") or a symbolic sop to a highly hostile section of the public sector, to keep them quiet for a bit.  Certainly, initial reaction is that it's not a review that's needed, but a screeching stop to the damaging policies of reform inherited from Blair and another year of them while the review is carried out isn't going to cut it.

Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "It is disappointing that the government feels it needs to undertake a review when the problems of the NHS have been apparent to the BMA, and others, for many months."

Still, the faint breath of fresh air apparent since Blair's departure is detectable again - with Patricia Hewitt gone too the politlcal damage of admitting that things in the NHS aren't wholly wonderful isn't so great. Courage has never been a great New Labour virtue, but fortunately it doesn't need courage to blame the last guy.

Tiger Tiger, Burning Bright?


Frightened yet?

The terror of 7/7 was awful enough, but now al-Qa'ida has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK. And it will get worse before it gets better ... There is growing suspicion that al-Qa'ida operatives ­ possibly British- born ­ have returned from Iraq as well as Afghanistan to guide, direct and influence groups here."

Quarsan picked up on this quote by that extremist Murdoch-shilling taking dickhead of an ex-plod earlier, but it needs expanding on.  This is the new Prime Minister's future advisor on international security matters, telling us that the complete, utter, rank amateurish, balderdash of profoundly non-terrifying non-car bombs that the press and broadcast media have been having collective fear-wanks over for the last five days are worse than 7/7, an attack run on coldly professional lines by men who knew what they were doing, killed 52 people and injured many others, physically and mentally.  Now I reckon that's an insult to my intelligence, to my fellow Londoners and, I suggest, to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught up in 7/7.  It beggars belief that this man is listened to by anyone with an ounce more sense than a jam sandwich.  Oh, and I switched on my radio this morning to hear Tony McNulty in the same job sounding exactly as dull, stupid and unpleasant as he did when John Reid was in the hotseat.  Plus ca change.

I was in a pleasant poolside bar in Greece when the new Cabinet was announced, and was enjoying myself ('Bye, Doctor Reid!  Bye, Marge!') right up until I heard about Lord Stevens' appointment.  This is a man who, let us not forget, was appointed by the football authorities to investigate corruption in the game and dutifully found it was clean as a whistle.  What do we think will happen when he's appointed by New Labour to investigate whether, say, the Iraq War has led to an increase in the terrorist threat?  Perhaps he can invite Lord Hutton and Lord 'What's He Doing In The Lib-Dems?' Carlile along to help out with buckets of whitewash (supplied by Halliburton, naturally).  Mind you, I still think appointing Ruth Kelly to Transport is someone's idea of a sick joke, so perhaps the Stevens appointment (and that of the unacceptable fat of capitalism Sir Pigby Jones) should be seen similarly.

Actually, reading round the blogs to get some bleedin sanity back into the picture, Juan Cole points out that the known arrests are of medics from the Middle East, specifically Jordan and Iraq (I'm assuming that the people responsible are about as good at evading the polizei as they are at bomb-making here).  This points to another rather ironic bit of New Labour idiocy - the import of foreign doctors into the NHS to meet targets, followed by the MTAS junior doctor job debacle where there were more doctors than jobs.  If the quality of the medical care by the gentlemen arrested is anything like their apparent bomb-making ability, I'd run a mile screaming from any hospital unlucky enough to employ them.  Go in to see them with an infection and they'd probably prescribe antibiotics, but be unable to work out how to get the drugs into you ('perhaps you could just, like, sit next to them and wait?').  So much for record NHS investment and making the NHS a top priority.  We should send them back where they came from.  What do you mean, it's a blood-stained hell hole of our creation?

However, that's not the most amusing part - that must go to our old friend 'al-Qaeda General' Dhiren Barot, the numpties' numpty, the king of the jihadi muppet wing, who spent an inordinate amount of time devising unworkable plots, which were then obligingly published by the Met to show what a cold, calculating killer they'd caught, and seem to have been taken as such by other numpties.  With the Met on the case vectoring the PDFs, you don't even need to actually stage an attack to have influence.  We all knew Barot was a stupid, ignorant fantasist with an inflated opinion of himself and no apparent sense of irony, but then we read SpyBlog and others and form our own opinions based on the facts.  Perhaps it's a good thing wannabe jihadis watch Die Hard and read the News of the World and believe what they're told by the Met, then.  Much safer than actually working out how to build real bombs.

UPDATE - More from septicisle covering much the same ground rather better.

Payback For Bloggin' Tom Watson?

Today, the junior level of officials will be announced and it will be interesting to see if Tom Watson will get his reward for his part in the botched coup that lead to Blair's long goodbye. During these events Tom, popped over to Gordon's Scottish home to discuss the coup sit and watch a DVD with the little Brownlet.

The New Boss


So at last the interminable interregnum is over, bar the send-off for Tony Blair on Wednesday. Gordon Brown is now leader of the Labour party and will be Prime Minister in a couple of days. Harriet Harman has narrowly won the contest for Deputy Party Leader and will be Party Chairman but, interestingly, not Deputy Prime Minister. Plenty of people are now speculating what the new cabinet will look like. Hopefully we will be treated to a purge of remaining ultra-Blairites from any position where they can do further damage.

After preventing Britain from acquiring the human rights enjoyed by the rest of Europe in the EU summit, Blair has one final insult for us. He might be leaving Downing Street, but he's hanging on to Chequers. He's "homeless" apparently. While he's earning rent from his four million pound London home, we are expected to house him at the Prime Minister's country residence (I guess residences of Cliff Richard, Robin Gibb and Prince Girolamo Strozzi were otherwise engaged now that Blair's no longer the Prime Minister). This is either Gordon Brown demonstrating his magnanimity after revelations emerged of Blair's plans to sack Gordon after the last election, or he's just succumbing to pressure from the Blair's who can't let go.

It's still too early to say if Brown's premiership will be substantially different from Blair's but I think the honeymoon period Labour is currently enjoying will be brief unless Brown makes some impressive changes. I'm yet to be convinced there will be any significant change in direction. Just look at the similarities in Blair and Brown's rhetoric at the start of their tenures:

Tony Blair 1997

"We wish to change politics itself, to bridge the gap between governed and government and to try to address the deep seated and damaging disaffection with politics which has grown up in recent years." - 14 May, Speech to Charter 88

"It will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country." - 2 May, Blair's first speech in Downing Street


Gordon Brown 2007

"One of my first acts as Prime Minister would be to restore power to Parliament, in order to rebuild trust in the British people in our democracy. Government must be more open and accountable to Parliament."


"To build trust in our democracy, I'm sure we need a more open form of dialogue with citizens and politicians to genuinely talk about problems and solutions. "It is about a different type of politics, a more open and honest dialogue," he said.


However, there do seem to be some welcome signs of encouraging developments. Gordon Brown has announced an intention to reverse Tony Blair's ban on demonstrating without permission outside Parliament which has been so ridiculed by the Mass Lone Demonstrations. There is also mounting pressure to hold inquiries into the Iraq war and the July 7 London Bombings. And the long-overdue departure of Lord Goldsmith might mean a shake-up of the role for any future attorney general in the light of his advice on the legality of the Iraq war, the conflict of interest in the cash for honours scandal and the decision to halt the SFO investigation into BAE. Addressing those issues will go some way to restoring a little faith in British politics but they are very small steps. We are also hearing rumours of an early General Election. This new commitment to democracy glosses over the highly undemocratic way Brown won the leadership. I also wonder if Labour can afford to fight an early General Election with the party being so in debt, but Brown may well realise that an early election while he is still riding high on the unpopularity of Blair is his best shot.

On the other hand, New Labour 'reforms' in public services will continue, as will the British presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Brown still seems committed to the idea of imposing ID cards on us. There may be a slight cooling of the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Bush administration but I doubt it will be enough to make much of a difference to either Britain or America although how Gordon performs on the international stage will be interesting to watch. The good thing is that Blair is so unpopular and discredited that it can only help Brown to distance himself as much as possible from him, and the party will probably follow. Unfortunately he's probably unwilling and unable to be radically different, but I think it would be very difficult for him to be even worse than Blair if that's any consolation.

Britain Rejoice!


You will all be pleased to hear that Tony has been successful in his quest to deny you fundamental rights enjoyed by the rest of Europe.

“For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the charter creates justifiable rights applicable to the UK except in so far as the UK has provided for such rights in its national law.”

I'm sure you will also appreciate the Brownies unsubtle bit of spin: Go back and stand up to the French, Brown orders Blair

The real scandal is that, once again, the agreement was reached by all-night negotiations, of flunkies running up and down corridors and countless phone calls between delegations and capitals. Eventually, when all were too exhausted to continue, agreement was reached. One that is a fudge, a bodge, a last minute panic and can be interpreted in different ways, depending on your audience.

This is no way to run a continent.

The reason the EU is in such a mess is not primarily because of greedy MEP's, incompetent bureaucrats or the like; it's in  a mess because the Presidents and Premiers of the EU states can only agree anything after a huge panic every time they hold a treaty. Every single time. It's a farce, but one that affects 600 million people.

Whatever you think of the treaty, or any summit agreement, the obvious truth is that by failing to act in a rational, efficient and considerate manner, they are treating every European citizen with contempt.

Dear Gordon

When Gordon opens his first Prime Ministerial mail he will find an invitation to a 'Council of the Isles' meeting, from the victorious SNP leader, Alex Salmond. Relations are not good, in a breach of etiquette, Tony failed to call him to congratulate him on his success in the Scottish Assembly elections, where he managed something almost unthinkable for many years, knocking Labour off the top spot.

Alex is after independence, but has learned to play a long game. currently he's also angry about the Blair-Gadaffi Memorandum of Understanding that may lead to the Lockerbie bomber being quietly moved to serve his sentence in Libya. He also has a strategy. The first step is to bring independence onto the agenda, by forming a competent administration and getting the English on board.

The English? Yes, not necessarily the politicians but, getting support amongst the citizens. He's got two alternatives; to make the UK want Scotland to bugger off, or to show the English the advantages of Scottish independence. The invitation on Gordon's desk is part of the latter approach.

The Council of the Isles aka The British Irish Council was set up as part of the Good Friday agreement and comprises of representatives from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, UK, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

See who's missing? No England. But wait, aren't the English represented under UK? Possibly, but wouldn't the representative be the PM, Gordon Brown, a proud Scot? Salmond's game is to show how Scottish - and Welsh - independence will give the English representation and expect him to keep chipping away at the West Lothian question - something that is approaching the notoriety of Fermat's Last Theorem

Gordon Brown's "New Kind of Politics"


As if we needed it, today's Guardian provides confirmation that pressure by Brownites was put on MPs to wreck any chance of a leadership contest.

Brownite pressure on the 21 MPs who voted for Michael Meacher scuppered John McDonnell's chances of getting onto the ballot paper for the leadership contest, Guardian Unlimited has learned.

For all his official statements that Gordon Brown would welcome a contest, his campaign team worked overtime to dissuade potential supporters of McDonnell from backing the leftwing challenger.

In the 24 hours after the two leftwing rivals agreed to combine their support to stand against the chancellor, the Brownites managed to deter 14 of Mr Meacher's supporters from backing Mr McDonnell.

This makes a complete mockery of the statements Gordon Brown made after John McDonnell conceded defeat.

Asked whether he would have welcomed a contest, Mr Brown said: "At the end of the day it may be embarrassing, perhaps, to have so much support, but... I think you have got to accept that as the verdict of the parliamentary party."

As long ago as September last year Brown was saying how much he would welcome a contest for the leadership of the party. And yet for the last month he had been going out of his way to prevent one. Brown hasn't even taken over yet as Labour leader and Prime Minister and already we can see the same deceit as we saw under Blair. With no sense of irony, Brown continued with his theme of building "trust in our democracy".

"To build trust in our democracy, I'm sure we need a more open form of dialogue with citizens and politicians to genuinely talk about problems and solutions.

"It is about a different type of politics, a more open and honest dialogue," he said.

Yeah, right! And what of Brown's commitment to open government? Here's a clue.

Look Familiar...?


pics lifted from the Impossiblist.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King. Labour Party Members - Know your Place!


So it's over.  Tony Wright has added his name to to the list of dutiful stormtroopers, and there is no contest.  The leader of this country was decided over a meal in an Islington restaurant in 1994.

For years people who remained members of the Labour Party have been telling me that Blair didn't represent the views of the wider Party, that one day things would change, that Labour was a broad church etc.  Well, if you see Brown as something other than Blair then you might be happy with the outcome, but I have seen nothing but a load of tautological spin about renewal, from the man responsible for underwriting the last decade.  Brown has been an intrinsic part of Blair and the Labour government we have endured, and I have heard nothing of substance that would suggest anything will change other than the control freak at the top.

But that isn't the point, Brown was always going to win.  The point was there was going to be a contest.  There was going to be a debate.  There was going to be a chance for those who have remained in the party waiting for this moment to make an alternative argument.  That a continuation of Blue Labour was not the only way forwar [not back]. 

But the Parliamentary Labour Party are are not going to allow that.  Because they know they can't withstand any kind of debate, or scrutiny.  They scream that any dissent is a return to the worst days of the 1980s, that any public debate about the wisdom of the Dear Leader elect [or his predecessor] is an instant path to the opposition benches.  What they mean is, they are so desperate to keep their positions and jostle for new ones,  that if the members of the electoral college outside the PLP  do get a chance to voice their dissent, or even to question the 'direction of travel' by significant numbers of them not voting for Brown, then they might have to start justifying their positions to those working on their behalf.  And we can't be having that can we...

So if you are a member of the Labour Party, and were considering using your vote 'inappropriately', you should thank the Parliamentary Party, for telling you that you can't have one.  Accept your the leader that has been chosen for you, and know your place.  There will be no contest, your views are not required.  Those of you that are left knuckle down, keep stuffing the envelopes, knocking the doors, attending the meetings and kidding yourselves that the people running the show are in some way interested in your input. 

Whatever you think, it has been decided for you.  You are backing Iraq, you are backing Trident and Nuclear Power, you are backing PFI, privatisation, a 2 tier NHS, Tory education policy, tuition fees, faith schools, 90 days detention, the love in with Dubya, the assult on civil liberties, the War on Terror as it's being fought etc etc etc.  For the PLP have given you Brown, and that is what Brown has given us over the last 10 years. Looking forward, other than a slightly different spin, it appears he is sticking with the programme.

It seems to me rather perverse that I have some respect for you Labour Party members who despite not being 'with the programme', remained in the party to try and influence it.  Yet your own colleagues, dare I say comrades, appear to hold you in such contempt.

We're With Stupid


Via Chicken Yoghurt, the news we've all been dreading - Hazel 'Clockwork Orange' Blears has got the necessary backing to run for Labour Deputy Leader.
  This can only be good news for the Tories, but she may already have torpedoed her chances by the nature of her support.  Such luminaries as:

* John Reid - resigned to spend less time with his old enemy Gordon
* John Hutton - strong contender for the coveted 'Least Likeable Blairite' award
* Alan Milburn - ditto
* Joan Ryan - Miss ID Cards, notably lacking in brain even for a Home Office Minister
* Andy Burnham - another Home Office deadbeat
* Kitty Ussher - gawd 'elp us
and many, many more.

It's clear from this that she's got the backing of the Blair/neocon loyalists.  Whether the party is mad enough to leave a cuckoo in the nest from the discredited Blair regime to keep an eye on Gordon remains to be seen - I don't think I'm sticking my neck out if I suggest that she might not be wholly to Mr. Brown's taste as a deputy.

Blair's True Legacy - "Lest we forget..."

In the midst of all the spin and kerfuffle, we should remember that our dear leader is not departing at a time of his chosing, or in a manner of his chosing.
The desperate and sickening stage managed performance yesterday was the mark of a man who could no longer hang on.  Loathed and detested in ways Thatcher could only aspire too, he has failed to serve the full 3rd term he wanted, and leaves with one word ringing in his ears:

And no matter how much he should try to disown it, it is the word that should be ringing in Gordon Brown's ears as he eventually hauls his carcass across the threshold of Number 10.

The Happiest Man in Britain


Click on the photo for a brief summary of our views on the forthcoming coronation.

A Tribute to Gordon...!?


No, not really, but there are a few stories concerning him and his legacy in today's press...

The Tax Credits sham, the shameful plight of 'Child Carers' in 2007, Prison places, not to mention the spiraling cost of Government.

One might have expected NuLabour's leader in waiting to show some of that legendary leadership potential and be out there defending his record...  But in fact Gordon is doing what he does best.  Hiding till the story blows over.

UPDATE: Guido is reporting we will hear from the Chancellor on Friday - a week after the local election 'springboard'! 

When you're ready Gordon, no rush...