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.

Levy To Be Charged


According to those hovering around Tony, Lord Cashpoint is going to be charged and likely to be prosecuted.

But there's some interesting nuggets in the story:

Lord Levy's son, Daniel, an expert on Israeli politics, has recently been given a job advising Tony Blair in his new role as Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet - the UN, US, EU, and Russia.

Interesting, especially as Jonathan Powell is also on Blair's Middle East crusade. In the meantime Arise Lord Mandelson!

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.

Blairwatch Competition Winner


Help Tony write his memoirs by suggesting the best title for the book.

Well we've had a lot of entries, but the one that wins captures the essence of the man and his attitude to his premiership and the public in three little words.

The winner is Tim Ireland with "I Forgive You"

Tony and the Porn Star


There is a lovely little story in the Sun about a porn star posing as a rich Countess being given the full treatment by Lord Cashpoint, in return for the promise of a donation, including meeting Tony. She's just been flown over to be interviewed by the police.

Tony Joins The Club


I spoke to a very senior official of the Club of Madrid - the association of former heads of state, who told me that Tony Blair has been informally invited to join them and that formal membership was forthcoming.

They felt very excited to have him and his experience on board and their members would be providing him with contacts and access to networks to aid his Middle East mission.

This does strengthen him considerably, although it remains to be seen how much actual support he is offered, but it is highly significant that he was offered membership so quickly.

Tony as M.E. Envoy - Why It Makes Sense


It may come as a surprise to see that there are good reasons for giving Blair the job as the unifier of the Palestinians and angel of peace. Good political reasons, that is.

On the plus side he does know the importance of getting a lasting Israel/Palestine peace process to the whole of the Middle East. Secondly, he has some experience, given the Northern Ireland peace process. It doesn't really work when you stretch the analogy too far, but it is a plus.

For practical reasons, the US and Israel want him, the EU is less sure, but is prepared to give him a try. Russia is uninterested. The important thing is that all these people want to be seen to be doing something, but expectations of actually achieving anything are very low. So a good performer is the key requirement. Sure, he might be able to bring something off, but that's a long shot and everyone knows it.

So, what's in it for Tony? Well he's got one bit blot on his CV, an Iraq shaped blot to be exact. If he can play the peacemaker - and Iraq doesn't explode - for a few years then he will be better prepared for a job he actually wants, the Presidency of the EU, that starts in 2009.

Then, after a few years of that he goes for the UN Secretary General in 2012.

Blairwatch - we're going to be around for a lot longer.

Carry On Poodle


When I first heard about the plan for Blair to be a Middle East envoy, I thought the idea was so surreal that it could be filed with the other unrealistic job possibilities that have been suggested for Blair. Once again, it seems that the most ludicrous idea is the one that actually becomes a reality. Plans have been finalised and it looks like Blair will indeed become a Middle East envoy as soon as he leaves office. Can you imagine the shouts of joy all over the region as the warmonger arrives claiming to be a peacemaker? I admit I'm having difficulty picturing it. Of course the Israelis will celebrate at the prospect of an envoy who as UK Prime Minister never once criticised their atrocities whilst always being the among the first to condemn Palestinian or Hezbollah atrocities.

Now that his new job is looking like a certainty, some of the details about how he landed it are starting to emerge.

The idea of Mr Blair doing this job is understood to have originated with the prime minister himself in conversation with George Bush, who then suggested it to the UN. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is said to be a keen supporter and Washington was reported last night to have mounted "an enormous push" to ensure Mr Blair got the post.

Diplomats said there was some disquiet over the way US talks with Mr Blair were well advanced before any details were shared with the other quartet partners.

So it was Blair's idea and it was pushed through by Bush with the Quartet only being informed in the final stages. Hmmm, sounds like a familiar pattern doesn't it? I wonder what the reaction of the Quartet would have been if its members had been informed earlier. For Blair the job is ideal. He gets to carry on being Bush's poodle and also retains a degree of diplomatic immunity which could be very handy in the coming months. No doubt Gordon Brown is delighted at the prospect of having Blair out of the way too as he starts his new job...and in such a dangerous part of the world. Meanwhile Cherie can travel the safer parts of the world finding suckers willing to pay money to listen to her.

Less delighted will be the Palestinians who will have to negotiate with someone who only has American and Israeli interests at heart, but then they are probably used to that and they should know Blair well enough not to believe a word he says. After all they only need refer back to Blair's record in the region. After lying Britain into the Iraq war whilst knowing that there was no plan for the aftermath, Iraq is now the world's second most unstable country, after Sudan. And Blair is so deluded that he still fails to recognise that it was that disaster (along with his determination to prevent a ceasefire in the Lebanon war) which helped cut short his last job.

Because Blair is being sponsored by the Bush administration for this job, there is little chance of him succeeding. The Quartet has already been criticised in a UN report because of America's support for Israel.

The role of the Quartet was recently criticised by the UN's outgoing Middle East envoy, Alvaro de Soto, who claimed that American support for Israel was hampering efforts to broker a peace deal in the region.

Mr de Soto used an "end of mission report" to mark the end of his 25 years in post to accuse the Quartet of gradually losing its impartiality.

Which makes one wonder just what Mr Blair will be able to achieve. He will be filling the vacancy created by the departure of Jim Wolfensohn.

Mr Wolfensohn worked on issues such as galvanising international economic assistance to the Palestinians, economic development, governance, justice and human rights.

Does this really sound like the sort of thing Blair is suited to do? Blair is better known for supporting the cutting of aid to Palestinians in order to punish them for making a democratic choice he disagreed with. He is also known to have little time for the judiciary in Britain and his support for torture puts a huge question mark over his commitment to human rights. In order to carry out his duties, he will have to talk to Hamas who are in control of Gaza and have significant support in the West Bank. He will also have to force concessions from the Israelis, something he has, up to now, been noticeably reluctant to do.

So the relief of seeing Blair depart from Number Ten is tempered by the knowledge that we are still going to see him continue to strut about on the world stage. I suppose his disappearing into obscurity was too much to hope for but I did think we'd at least be given a break.

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.

The EU Treaty Opt-Out - Why Tony Needs It


The Independent lists some of the rights that Tony is desperate not to afford us. These include:
No one should be subject to torture
No one can be removed to a state where there is a serious risk of torture - I think we can work out why Tony is soft on torture, soft on the causes of torture. Oh Tony, how you've changed the political landscape. I remember the good old days when being against torture was uncontroversial.

Trafficking in human beings is prohibited.
It is beyond shameful that the UK is refusing to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. In the good old days, slavery was considered to be a terrible wrong. Thanks to Tony this is no longer the case.

This Is Too Bizarre, Even For Tony


Tony's job hunt continues apace, well it has to or he'll have some embarrassing questions at his local job centre.

So, he didn't get the World Bank job as he's not good enough at sums and isn't quite American enough.

He looks like not getting the EU Presidency, but there are hints at other positions.

Guess what's on the cards now, go on. In a stunning avoidance of reality, the White House and Israelis are pushing him to be a Special Envoy to the Middle East. Seriously.

The only person less qualified than Tony is the recently enobled Salman Rushdie.

Cash for Honours - How Blair Thought He Could Get Away With It


It has come to light that the Honours Committee is stunned by the reaction to Rushdie's gong and the though of any political ramifications to this never entered their pretty little heads. Given that the condemnation and increase in tension was entirely predictable, it's clear that Blair thought he could fly pretty much anyone past the honours committee's. His resignation list is going to be interesting reading.

The award is untimely and counterproductive. How are we supposed to build bridges with the Islamic world whilst we honour those that insult their prophet? The fact that nobody, in the committee, number 10 or the foreign Office flagged this up as having potential consequences is alarming. Equally alarming is the Pakistani Minister who say this justifies suicide bombing... and this from an ally in the crusade against terror? Another sign that all is not well.

In the meantime, it was time for New Lab to say goodbye to their bagman, Lord Levy. Funnily enough Gordon suddenly found he has another pressing engagement elsewhere. however, the fag ends of Blair's fan club turned out, Beckett, Hoon, Blunkett, Lord Bragg, Jonathan Powell and even the weaselly Peter Hain, who sneaked out of the event as soon as he could. The other deputy leadership had the good sense to stay well away.

ID Cards - Lucky Guess


On seeing the BBC headline

ID cards 'to be UK institution'

apart from saying 'what a load of cock', I announced to the world at large something along the lines of 'what's this rubbish, sounds like Liam Byrne'.  Well, it was.  Luckily, as an oxygen thief and a Blairite, his cards should be marked.  Gordon Brown, sack the twat, or we'll be rude about you.

Mr Byrne, the immigration minister, said: "In 20 years time, I suspect that the National Identity Scheme will be just a normal part of British life - another great British institution without which modern life, whatever it looks like in 2020, would be quite unthinkable."

Ammunition for the 'they'll make your life hell until you get one' school of ID card opposition there, I think.  Berk.

Blair, Democracy and the Spirit of Contradiction


Blair's search for his marbles took him to the Commons' Liaison Committee yesterday.  Choice quotes from the Guardian, which hasn't spotted the contradiction:
First, the defence of murdering thousands to bring in an inquorate 'democracy' whose writ barely runs to the Baghdad Green Zone:

"What country has ever chosen not to be a democracy - it is nonsense. It is what oppressors do to justify their oppression"

Then the reiteration of his own views on democracy back home:

...revealing that he was personally opposed to three recent planks of government policy: a partly elected second chamber; elected regional assemblies; and a referendum on the proposed European constitution.
The prime minister revealed he personally supported a fully appointed second chamber.

He also revealed he did not agree with the lord chief justice that the development of a ministry of justice represented a constitutional change which altered the independence of the judiciary.

"Democracy's great, except when it isn't".  The man has lost the plot.  I suspect that there may be more worth reading here.

Blair's 'anxiety' over US post-war plans


I'm going to be out of the country when Blair goes - that's timing for you.  At least I'll miss the tearful eulogies and dimwitted Labour activists saying 'never mind the thousands of dead, at least we got the minimum wage' as if there was any serious Labour leader in 1994 who wouldn't have brought it in.  I consider myself well out of it.

Today there's a fine example of the 'if it wasn't for Iraq, he'd have been perfect' school of post-Blair commentary, from Andrew Rawnsley  The essence is that Blair signed up for Iraq a year ahead (yes, anything new?), gave Chirac the finger when he (correctly) warned what happens if you try any of that post-imperialist shit in the Arab world (again, nothing new there) and then found that his best friend George was listening fine, but the levers were being pulled by Cheney and Rumsfeld (ya don't say?).  Result: incompetence, corruption, loss of control and the inevitable slide into chaos in Iraq and, worst of all (if you're a Grauniad journo) Blair's halo slips permanently out of sight.

This sequence of events does raise the interesting question of what Blair's relationship with the two main war criminals was - we know that the catastrophic error was made of assuming that Prescott should talk to Cheney and Buff Hoon to Rumsfeld, the inevitable result being that those two bumpkins were treated with the contempt they deserve.  Did they come back and warn Blair that they and he were being ignored by the brains behind Bush?  Was Blair listening?  Was he too busy pretending to Parliament and the country that everything was going swimmingly, even when the defence that he needed to keep loyal to Dubya in public to have any hope of influencing him in private was untenable even in his own mind?

Blair invested a huge amount of his faith in his capacity to influence the President. He discovered too late that Bush was only nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraq enterprise. A stark picture emerges of Bush making promises and giving assurances to Blair which were not delivered because Iraq was being run by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, neither of whom was very interested in listening to their junior British ally.

Anyway, Rawnsley's teasers for his C4 TV extravaganza are an interesting collection of rats swimming back to the sinking ship to bite the Captain in the leg while he lies ranting on the poop.  Lest us forget, the people he's interviewed are among the worst of the loyal Blairites, so what the hell were they doing back then when they now assure us that it was obvious that poor Tony had been led astray by his trusting instincts.  Ah, yes - September 2004, Peter Mandelson addresses the Progress group:

Mr Mandelson said: "The battle against international terrorism in Iraq has become a metaphor for this government's strength and will and its staying power."
He said people around the country were seeing the issue this way.
And he added: "This government can and must and will hold up under this pressure" because that was what "Britain expected us to do". source

Why should we listen to a word he says?