Remember just before and after Saddam Hussein was lynched how both Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett droned on about Britain's opposition to the death Penalty? The lynching was tricky for them as they helped bring it about so all they could do was reiterate some tired old rhetoric about it being a sovereign Iraqi decision and justice being done, Saddam held to account etc. It's worth looking at a recent statement (16 January 2007) by Margaret Beckett just so we are left in no doubt about Britain's position:
Fast forward to today and surprise surprise this appears in the Independent: Britain blocks Italy's bid to ban death penalty
British diplomats said privately that they did not wish to create difficulties for the United States at a delicate time and they did not believe it was possible to do it now. Holland, Denmark and Hungary subsequently took the same view.
It is the second time that Tony Blair's government has torpedoed Italian efforts to spread Europe's confirmed aversion to capital punishment across the world. The first was in 1999, when a last-minute British "no" killed the initiative.
So not just once but twice since Blair has been in power has he stopped efforts to abolish capital punishment world wide, the first time being before 'The War on Terror', the Iraq war and the London bombings which prompted his "rules of the game are changing" speech in 2005. Even if Blair is about to stand down, isn't it about time he was questioned a bit more thoroughly on the issue so we know exactly where he stands?
An Unlikely AlliancePosted January 30th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
Clare Short and the Tories have joined forces to take the government to task over its involvement in the corrupt BAE deal with Tanzania to sell the country an over priced military radar system in 2001. The debate will take place in the House of Commons this evening.
This deal was personally backed by Tony Blair who over-ruled the objections of Gordon Brown, Clare Short and the World Bank. BAE is said to have bribed a middleman with a secret payment of $12 million put into a Swiss bank account. In the capital Dar es Salaam there are protests with demonstrators demanding the arrests of those involved with the deal. The SFO, still mightily miffed from having their investigation into the Al Yamamah corruption unceremoniously squashed, are in Tanzania investigating.
I guess we can take it for granted that Tony won't be at the debate but it might be worth following, if only to see the spectacle of the Tories (now firmly against corruption) working with Clare Short.
Lord Puttnam Gets His PayoffPosted January 30th, 2007 by quarsan
Many folk were surprised to see Lord Puttnam touring the TV studios in order to criticise the Met for having the temerity to investigate Blair. As a prime luvvie, one suspects there is some 'motivation' here, but the guy already has his peerage, so what could possibly embolden him to make a rare media circuit?
Ah. Perhaps this: Puttnam lined up to succeed Grade as chairman of the BBC.
MPs Inquiry into Cash for Peerages To Go Ahead Even If No Charges Are MadePosted January 30th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
It's been known right from the start of the cash for peerages scandal that there would be an MPs inquiry into this sordid affair and that it has been put on hold while the police complete their investigation. While most of the attention has been on the developments in that investigation, it looks as if the Commons Public Administration Committee inquiry might also be quite interesting when it begins.
The committee is also prepared to call Jonathan Powell, Ruth Turner and John McTernan as well as Gulam Noon, Chai Patel, Barry Townsley, and Sir David Gerrard. The committee's inquiry will go ahead even if the police inquiry does not lead to charges being made. This is important because Tony Blair's friend Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, feels that he can be impartial enough to have a say on whether or not charges are made and has refused to relinquish his right to intervene in the inquiry.
Lord Goldsmith's impartiality has been exposed as a sham on previous occasions, notably in his revised decision to declare the invasion of Iraq legal and in his decision to support Blair in closing the SFO investigation into the corruption surrounding BAE and the Al Yamamah deal. In other words he could potentially scupper chances of the case going to court. The MPs inquiry might not be able to make charges but it will be public and as it's a cross-party committee it can't be interfered with in the same way.
It will be interesting to know when the Commons Public Administration Committee can begin its inquiry, although like the police investigation it will probably reach its conclusions once Blair has stepped down.
Can't Afford a Spring Conference then...Posted January 29th, 2007 by ringverse
In previous years, Labour has held a traditional conference in spring. This year however, we've decided to organise dozens of seminars and consultations up and down the country in order to let as many people as possible have their say on the issues being discussed, including the challenges facing local government, youth, women and ethnic minority communities.
In support of this programme of events, we've also launched a range of online activities, so that you can get involved in as many of these events as possible.
You can find out more about Labour's Spring Programme by clicking here...
Peerages - Today's UpdatePosted January 28th, 2007 by quarsan
Another pile of revelations today, firstly, Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell has been interviewed again - this time under caution.
Blair's handwtitten notes have been found possibly showing that he wanted to reward more donors than previously thought with a P.
The party is beginning to panic - The cabinet minister could not have been more adamant: "If Tony Blair is in the witness box it will be a disaster. Someone will call him as a witness if this goes to trial."
Crossing his fingers, he added: "It would be disastrous. Hopefully it won't happen. Inshallah!"
Inshallah! - Well that rules out Ruth Kelly as the source ; )
"We are leaking support to the Conservatives," said one former cabinet minister. "How can we fight the May elections with Blair in office and all these cash-for-honours headlines dogging us?" - The vultures are circling.
If the May elections weren't enough, Labour is 27 Million Quid in debt. Even after Mittal bunged them 2 million
for a P in Tony's resignation honours list to help out the financial crisis.
- UpdatedPosted January 27th, 2007 by quarsan
The 'secret' second email system has been revealed by Guido and he helpfully links to the gateway itself. Of course the first thing I noticed was that the site certificates have expired and Firefox warned be not to trust the site - insert cheap joke - but I did a WHOIS and it is owned by the Labour Party.
So I went for a look around the website of the company who created the system, Whale Communications and a case study and testimonials from the party. They state that
...Any new solution, however, had to safeguard the often highly sensitive Party communications, especially since many employees were working from public and shared computers. Strict provisions for wiping all traces of email attachments, files and user credentials from the end-point, as well as the ability to permit different levels of access and functionality depending on compliance of the access device with Party security policy, would be critical.
Here is The Quote of the Day:
- Steve Turnbull, Network Manager, Labour Party
Of course the party wants it's own system, but read the text in bold, it explains, from the providers perspective what the party thought the core and most important functions of such a system should be.
End point means any user. They insisted that any system that was to be accessed from Number Ten had to have the ability for any user to securely delete any record.
Now, they're claiming that they wanted that to organise conferences, but can you recall any conference needing to completely delete records or data?
The second system was in place for the time they were undertaking their secret strategy to approach wealthy donors - lpnet.org.uk was initially registered on 26 July 2004, in time to fundraise for the 2005 election.
Therefore the Labour Party wanted a secure system that had top security and the ability to securely wipe data just when they were setting Lord Cashpoint to offer a 'K' for cash or a 'P' for pounds.
Knacker Wants Search Warrants for Downing StreetPosted January 27th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
This could be a tad embarrassing for Tony Blair if it happens. Following the arrest of Ruth Turner on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, the news that there might be a hidden secret e-mail system (denied by Downing Street) and the alleged "unhelpful" response from some Downing Street officials (again denied), the Telegraph is reporting that the police are about to apply to a magistrate for search warrants for Downing Street.
The alleged lack of co-operation, which Downing Street denies, has led to the "nuclear" option of the police going before a magistrate to obtain search warrants. Sources close to the inquiry said that a number of emails had not been voluntarily disclosed, including from the private accounts of some officials.
Well, if Blairites called the arrests of Lord Levy and Ruth Turner "theatrical", I wonder what they'll call this. If Downing Street is "co-operating fully" with the investigation as it insists, then why would the police feel the need for this "nuclear" option? They must be fairly certain that some evidence has been withheld and can be found, unless this is just a threat in order to get better co-operation. Frank Dobson has once again compared Blair's Government to the last days of John Major's time in Office. Sorry Frank, sleazy though it undoubtedly was, I don't recall anything on this scale happening. Blair's loss of authority however, is now all too clear.
Tony's Other EmailPosted January 25th, 2007 by quarsan
Stories are coming out of a 'second secret email system' in Downing St. Number 10 are denying this.
However, they did not deny that members of the Downing Street team may have had more than one e-mail address, enabling them to send sensitive memos more securely.
It seems increasingly likely that Jonathan Powell will be questioned and some are saying that Blair will be interviewed again, possibly under caution.
But, thanks to Reid's latest guidance to Judges, they might escape imprisonment ; )
The police are now saying that their investigation will continue until March.
Lieberman, Blair and Iain DalePosted January 24th, 2007 by Tom
Joe Lieberman is an odd fish, indeed - ostensibly, even proudly a Democrat, yet signed up to the increasingly beleagured and unpopular neocon agenda. Rejected by his party, yet elected by his public, and now recommended by Iain Dale. Iain's support for the Iraq war is well known, and he's entitled to his position (I believe that people are entitled to their position if they can spell, punctuate and construct coherent sentences, incidentally - criteria that exclude the President of the United States, who's entitled to nothing more than my boot up his harris should I ever catch him bending over. I digress). Having read the article and from what I've seen I totally disagree with Iain, and I suspect that more people are moving towards my position than his (70% of the US population for a start). Considering he's likely to be standing for Parliament and I'm extremely unlikely ever to ('Vote Tom for sensible public transport, a moral foreign policy and the nailing up of David Blunkett by the thumbs') is a bit strange - you'd have thought he might want a few votes, for which a mainstream rather than an extreme position could be an advantage. He'll certainly find it hard using Lieberman's arguments to a cynical British audience, as they're identical to Tony Blair's, and we know Britain is fed up with him.
On the other side of the fence, it's quite a shock to find who our fellow travellers are these days - sold-out, sold-up Blairite Peter Hain, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel - not the sort you'd expect to see joining us great unwashed out on the streets in the 'Bush #1 Terrorist' shirts. However, when you survey the wreckage of the neo-con agenda - still an array of familiar faces from the American 'Enterprise' Institute, Dick Cheney, Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens and of course the Hornswoggler-In-Chief, Tony Blair, still gurning and spewing over the TV and papers, it becomes clearer. Many of these are of course 7/10ths frothingly insane, so why is a decentish, affable Tory like Iain still urging us to back them? It's hard to draw much connection between any of them and traditional British conservatism, which is a carefully crafted ploy to play chess by keeping all the pieces exactly where they are, not a revolutionary movement that intends to throw all the pieces in the air and work out what to do after they land.
To have any chance at understanding, we need to don our long rubber gloves and waders and see what Joe's been writing. Oh dear. From the first line it appears that we're deep in the ideological territory where an undefined 'win' in Iraq is linked closely, and with no evidence, to the security of the USA. He goes on to portray Iraq in the same glib, unreal language as Tony Blair - moderates versus extremists, without specifying precisely whom he considers to be on each side. The hallmarks of extreme neocon rational detachment are still strongly visible - Iraq and 9/11 are linked, mysterious 'thems' are conjured out of thin air, but never expounded upon. Rhetorical flourish replaces analysis (sound familiar?) and the lack of evidence is overwhelming.
More pertinently, he talks about 'surrendering' Iraq, which will come as a surprise to anyone who might have thought that handing over Iraqi sovereignty in a carefully stage-managed ceremony 2.5 years ago actually meant anything. Clearly, in Lieberman's mind, the US is holding Iraq as a bulwark against extremism, which isn't quite what we were originally supposed to be doing there (disarming Saddam, if you believed Tony Blair). You can't hold a sovereign nation except by force of arms and military occupation, which is so clearly the neo-con strategy that they aren't even hiding it these days.
We then move on to illogicalities - Saddam was a 'danger' (not to the US, he wasn't), a 'barrier' to a democratic Middle East - so was the Shah, so are President Mubarrak, General Musharraf, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia/any other strong man with a secret police concerned about the voice on the street. If a democratic Middle East is the goal, let's judge them on results. Can we hear the Voice of the People? Nope, a deathly silence, punctuated only by the glad cries of the arms companies as we give them the green light to supply our friendly dictators. What would be the result of democracy spreading across the Middle East at this point - moderation or extremism (as defined, or rather as not defined, by Lieberman)? Joe doesn't say, perhaps for obvious reasons - the result of the Iraqi invasion on the 2005 Iranian elections is clear and unequivocal.
Perhaps it's Joe's views on politicians that caught Iain's eye? I hope not:
There was I thinking they were elected to represent. Many are clearly capable of neither, so what the hell were they elected for?
We then turn to a telling part which indicates quite clearly that Lieberman has a good grasp of the stick. At the wrong end.
Whisper it - al Qaeda isn't going to be a popular mass movement unless we help it. No one likes a fundamentalist, particularly if you're a powerful, proud tribe used to getting your own way and doing things your way. The arrival of bearded foreign fanatics with wild-eyed talk of jihad and martyrdom and the profound importance of murdering as many Shias as possible is at odds with this. It's the least surprising thing in the world if Sunni tribes decide that the al-Qaeda boys are better off out of their fight. It would, of course, take a powerful common enemy to bring such people together, a powerful enemy like, oo, a foreign military occupation. That would do it, so what Joe's unwittingly advocating here is pulling out and letting the Iraqis dictate their own future, which will be without al Qaeda.
[My goodness, this is like reading raw tripe. The things I do to prove that neocons are irrational, insane and dangerously deluded fools]
The tough questions posed by this highly partisan interviewer have the same tangible existence as those elusive WMDs.
We then come to predictions of dire catastrophe if we pull out. Well, there will be a dire catastrophe whatever we do, for the simple reason that there's a dire catastrophe now, which we started; the people who started it are still running it and there'll be a dire catastrophe as long as they're running it. It's a damn good idea to change horses in midstream if the horse you're on is galloping towards the waterfall and not listening to you shouting 'WHOAAH'. Lieberman's predictions are of course rubbish - al Qaeda will not take over in Anbar for the reasons outlined above - without a common enemy the locals will boot them out. Iran will not take over in the south unless we make it easy for them - President Ahmedinejad is in a poor political position at the moment, although we can easily improve that by attacking him. As for the prospect that the people who attacked the US on 9/11 'achieve a victory' if we leave? They're dead, or in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and in a sense have been winning on points since 2002 without actually having to do much work. Mind you, if the mooted Taliban offensive in the spring proves hard to contain, then fingers should be pointed at people like Joe Lieberman who actively supported pulling US troops out of Afghanistan into the Baghdad meatgrinder...
Quite, Joe. Anything else on your mind?
Except for the Taliban, apparently. Logical stuff, Joe. Clearly the first thing people do on getting the ruins of their country back is to jump into imaginary aircraft or ships and head for the USA. This sets up the interesting position that while there's one 'terrorist' left in Iraq (which there will be as long as the US is there) you can't pull out. Catch 22, unless of course you actually want to stay there permanently.
What's noticeable is the degree to which Joe's rhetoric closely resembles Tony Blair - this isn't so surprising, since they've both made the same journey from Clinton-acolyte to fully paid-up swivel eyed neocon Bush fancier. Check this out:
Remind you of anyone?
Tony Blair, 24/9/2002
Uncanny. And both wrong, if you trust our Armed Forces (which surely any good Tory would?). It's difficult to see why Iran would help the Mahdi Army with IEDs (since the Mahdi Army specialise in death squads, defence of Shia areas and internal Iraqi politics) and impossible to see them helping the Sunni insurgency, which contains elements (Baathists and Sunni fundamentalists) who are profoundly opposed to Iranian influence. That leaves the Shia militia in the south, who are sporadically attacking not the Americans, but the British, or precisely the people who are emphatically saying that no proof has come to light that the Iranians are supplying the weapons. Game, set and match, I think - the same people are giving us the same spiel we got four years ago, and it doesn't add up any more now than it did then. This is a propaganda piece from the US far-right, brought to you steaming and hot from the rear end of the real anti-Americans. The words 'Wall Street Journal' at the bottom of the article rather give the game away.
Ladies and gentlemen - I give you Joe Lieberman - incoherent, illogical, ill-educated and not someone worthy of any British bloggers recommendation. Time for the adults to take over, I think.
Tony Blair - 12 January
The reason for the storm is not this or that grievance or conflict. Its origin is the new situation we face. The post Cold War threat is now clear. The world has changed again. We must change with it. I have set out the choice I believe we should make. I look forward to the debate.
Sunday Times - 21 January
Tony Blair has said he will not attend the Commons session, although it is taking place straight after prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.
Margaret Beckett Finally Admits Knowledge of Secret CIA GulagsPosted January 20th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
Our esteemed Foreign Secretary has finally admitted that the British Government knew about secret CIA prisons prior to Bush confirming their existence back in September.
A Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the statement was the first confirmation Britain had prior knowledge of the secret prisons.
This is a change of tune from the Government which up until now has either denied all knowledge of 'extraordinary rendition' and CIA 'black sites', or simply refused to talk about it.
Remember how "unhelpful and evasive" Geoff (Buff) Hoon was when MEPs conducted their own inquiry into rendition and black sites? On January 23rd the European Parliament committee on involvement in rendition will meet to discuss their Draft report (.pdf) which slammed Britain and other EU states for their lack of co-operation with the investigation. I wonder if this might force a few more admissions from Mrs Beckett.
Who Guards The Guards? Not The Electoral CommissionPosted January 19th, 2007 by quarsan
Sir Alisair Graham, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has released their 11th report (Avaliable here). Announcing the report he blasts the Electoral Commission for being utterly useless:
However, the evidence received by the Committee during our inquiry indicates that there the Commission has not been effective as there has been a reduction in confidence in issues that underpin two key pillars of our democratic system:
1. free, fair and secure elections; and
2. the framework for the regulation of political party funding
Both of these issues should have been the core tasks and priorities of the Electoral Commission. This has not been the case to date.
Through a combination of deficiencies in its current mandate, that is too weak in some areas and too broad in others, combined with a lack of courage, competence and leadership in its regulatory and advisory approach, the Commission has not successfully performed these core duties.
Evidence to our inquiry demonstrated that the Commission should have shown greater focus and courage in alerting the risk to the integrity of the electoral process from legislative changes, principally the lack of safeguards against electoral fraud with the introduction of postal voting on demand.
On party funding, the evidence shows that uncertainty over the Commission’s statutory role as a regulator, combined with its passive approach led to a regulatory failure on the issue of loans to political parties. Guidance was not provided, even when the issue was raised during the 2005 General Election, and no investigation or review as part of their statutory report on the Election was undertaken.
It is clear therefore that the both the Electoral Commission’s remit and operation need to change if we are to restore public confidence in the electoral process and in the regulation of political party funding.
This is what's known as a comprehensive demolition job. Sam Younger, the Chair of the Electoral Commission has responded in a terrifyingly bland statement:
... Before the Electoral Commission existed, little was known about where the political parties got their money, or how they spent it. Today the opposite is true. And where there has been evidence that the parties have not followed the rules, we have acted.
This is of course complete bollocks. Sam Younger famously defended his complete inactivity in not investigating the Loans for Peerages for eleven months because he feared "we might well be criticised". Lord Falconer thinks the Electoral Commission should be "merely the recipient of information" and have no investigative role.
Sam Younger thinks that there is indeed a problem with standards in public life, that the standards are set too high!
Sam Younger's term has just been extended for two years and Sir Alistair Graham’s term ends in April. Anyone think he'll get an extension?
*NB The Press Statement and Sir Alistair's remarks are word documents (in the first link). Could someone extract data from them - all I can see so far is that they were made by 'A Cabinet Office User' and have had revisions. apologies but I don't have tome for a proper analysis atm.
OECD Fails To Swallow Blair's BullshitPosted January 19th, 2007 by quarsan
Blair's Cancelling of the BAE/Saudi investigation was top of the agenda at the meeting of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. The explanations didn't go down well at all. The opening remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General showed that the OECD is taking this matter very seriously indeed, indeed they seem to say that how they deal with this will make or break their Anti-Bribery Convention:
... First of all, I am gratified that the OECD provides a forum, where we can have a full and frank exchange of views on these relevant and timely issues. On the other hand, there is an expectation that we can make sure that the integrity of the Convention is maintained by the Group. The perception is that these are cases in which the Convention itself is put to the test. Clearly the political will of our members, collectively and individually, is of very critical importance, in order to make sure that the Convention is alive and well, and continues to rule the conduct of both companies and officials in governments on this matter.
However, in general, I would say that there are certain cases, certain milestones that remind us of what is at stake. While some take the position that cases like this one diminish the relevance of the Convention, I would like to suggest the opposite. The real question is what would we be discussing if the Convention did not exist.
... But an issue like anti-corruption also contains a strong political element. It is political leaders who must put a high priority on fighting corruption and provide the resources and backing to this effort. That is why I raise this issue whenever I visit leaders or participate in meetings with them. I will continue to support your work, and spread this message.
I think the message is clear; let Blair off the hook and the convention is doomed.
It seems that this perspective is held by others in the group:
So they haven't accepted Blair's explanation at their meeting. But there's more:
1. “the performance of the SFO and other relevant agencies with regard to foreign bribery allegations…including in particular with regard to decisions not to open or to discontinue an investigation” (paragraph 254 a.)
2. amendments that would “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of bribery of foreign public officials shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another state or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved” (paragraph 255 a.)
Now Tony, try and talk your way out of that one.
FAO Peter HainPosted January 18th, 2007 by ringverse
A message for you Peter, from an anonymous commenter on the previous post.
Voted against the war [sic]? Watched other cabinet ministers resign on principle? Has always thought the war and tactics totally wrong? Decided to stay in government? Who voted against an inquiry into the criminal war approval process?
Who now feels confident enough to speak out and try and wash his hands of responsibility?
So you didn’t agree with the war, you knew it was wrong and saw Robin Cook and Clare Short show you the correct course of action, yet you stayed in government. You have collected your money while soldiers are dying for your government. You swapped your integrity, self respect and credibility for the perks of high office. When the people you were elected to represent wanted an inquiry you voted against. Why would someone who opposed the decision to go to war and its conduct want to stop a public inquiry? Surely it would have justified your own personal view and your government surely has nothing to hide has it?
You opposed the inquiry to save your corrupt government in an act of pure self-interest. You fucking coward. Spineless wankers like you are the reason British troops are dying in a war started by wilful criminal deceit. Maybe if one more minister had the morals of Cook and Short the war could have been avoided. Greed over responsibility, spin over honesty and then shirk the responsibility. You need to write to every family of those killed and injured and apologise for betraying our armed forces, no bollocks about spreading democracy or war on terror, just beg their forgiveness.
Yes you will resign. I thought I better spell it out as you will get no guidance on the decent thing to do from those around you in cabinet. All so Gordon Brown, your new boss if you play ball, can try and pretend it was nothing to do with anyone but Tony. In the real world, away from Westminster, your actions are viewed as those of a worthless individual, with not a scrap of common decency; a coward.
You accepted the responsibility of government that sent troops to their death when you knew it was wrong, help suppress the truth and now confess publicly how it was nothing to do with you. Unless you haven’t noticed they are still there mate. You should be charged with something serious, very serious.
Be under no illusion it was Bliar's war, Labour's war with help from the Tory's who remain scared of doing the right thing.
For a more detailed review of Peter Hain's position on the war - see
(My critics are wrong: they are merely propping up a dictator...)
There is vigorous public debate about Britain's support for UN sanctions on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am convinced Britain's policy is right.
And his attack on dinner party critics:
The leader had 'got the message' about their displeasure, Hain said, arguing that those who still disagreed over Iraq or civil liberties should reopen the arguments after the election.
The argument never closed Peter...