Category Archives: Corporate political nexus

FT highlights corporate financial rewards for MPs, April 2018-April 2019

In 2009 this site was set up to report on the distortion of policy-making by those on ‘an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ according to a 2009 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC].

Tactics covered, such as the ‘revolving door, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding, continue to block effective action addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges facing this country.

It became common knowledge, with the growth of social media, that those on the ‘inside track’ are skewing parliamentary decision-making and revelations of this corruption are now accepted as the norm. Therefore, after December 14th 2013, individual examples of this practice were no longer listed.

Today, award-winning journalist Owen Walker has once again highlighted the close relationships between politicians and investment fund managers

Mr Walker is a commissioning editor for the Financial Times, selecting and commissioning writers to write specific articles. He has previously edited specialist FT publications on corporate governance, retail investment and pension scheme management. Barbarians in the Boardroom, his book on activist investors, was published in June.

They bring stardust – really?

Last May, Owen Walker (right) quoted David Pitt-Watson’s explanation. This visiting professor of finance at Cambridge Judge Business School said that much of the appeal of recruiting former politicians is the stardust they bring.

He also pointed out the down-side: “If you take up demanding roles in addition to being an MP, your constituents are going to be asking ‘do you not already have a full-time job?’ “

Insuring against loss of office is nothing new; Mr Walker notes that every UK chancellor since 1983 has taken up a position in investment management after leaving the Treasury, giving names and dates.

In today’s article he records that asset/investment managers paid MPs at least £126,000 in speaker fees, thousands of pounds’ worth of hospitality and more than £110,000 for advice during the year April 2018-April 2019. Readers may read names and amounts by clicking on the link above.

 

 

And now it’s 2019 – time for change!

 

 

 

 

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Emma: is interrupting parliament really worse than failing to act on climate change?

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In December Extinction Rebellion wrote to BBC Director General Tony Hall detailing an eight-point plan of how it could play a pivotal role in the transformation to face the climate and ecological crisis:

“We issued a plea to BBC bosses to live up to their role as public service broadcasters by fully informing the public of the existential threat faced by the human race unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions” commented Sophie May from Extinction Rebellion.

On Monday April 1st, XR launched a campaign to discover whether BBC staff feel their organisation is telling the truth about the dangers from accelerating global climate breakdown. An Extinction Rebellion team visited BBC Broadcasting House in London to conduct a BBC Staff Survey – putting a series of searching questions to BBC staff on their lunch and coffee breaks.

In the evening, during the debate on the second stage of the Brexit alternatives, Extinction Rebellion activists stood semi-naked in the House of Commons public gallery to call attention to the ‘elephant in the room’ – climate and ecological crisis.”

In what may be an incomplete recording – though James politely said that he hoped the BBC would report climate changes issues more prominently the BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer, Emma Barnett (right), firmly focussed only on the protestors’ actions and not the crisis which prompted them.

James Dean from Extinction Rebellion explained that a dramatic gesture was needed because the government had ‘stuffed itself up with Brexit’ and was not dealing with more important issues which need emergency action now.

He briefly and calmly outlined ‘the awful and dangerous’ future awaiting us all unless every possible action to avert climate change is taken – referring to the increasing incidence of floods, wildfires and storms,

2018: wildfires in Australia and the United States

Emma was not distracted: she charged the protestors with a huge breach of security and risk to MPs – saying that it would be more difficult for people to visit parliament in future.

James replied that this sort of action was nothing new and cited the suffragettes, who finally achieved their ends and whose drastic actions are now admired.

Emma failed to respond to the references to climate change and once again said their action was a serious breach of security: “How can you defend that when we are being told to be careful, not to go out alone etc”.

James ended by saying that they had used a minimum disruption to make their point :

“We know that what is to come will be far worse than putting off a few hours of politicians’ discussions.”

 

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 21: our divided society

Aditya Chakrabortty focusses on the ‘vast disconnect between elite authority and lived experience, central to what’s broken in Britain today’ – the ‘gap’ which widened as independent working class self-help initiatives were replaced by the ‘hand of the state’ (Mount) creating ’a new feudalism’ and from two searing analyses of our divided society (Jones).

He asks:

  • “Why is a stalemate among 650 MPs a matter for such concern, yet the slow, grinding extinction of mining communities and light-industrial suburbsis passed over in silence?
  • “Why does May’s wretched career cover the first 16 pages of a Sunday paper while a Torbay woman told by her council that she can “manage being homeless”, and even sleeping rough, is granted a few inches downpage in a few of the worthies?”
  • Is “the death sentence handed to stretches of the country and the vindictive spending cuts imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne, a large part of why Britain voted for Brexit in the first place?”

He continues:

“We have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters . . . Over a decade from the banking crash, the failings of our economic policymaking need little elaboration. the basic language of economic policy makes less and less sense.

“Growth no longer brings prosperity; you can work your socks off and still not earn a living. Yet still councils and governments across the UK will spend billions on rail lines, and use taxpayers’ money to bribe passing billionaire investors, all in the name of growth and jobs.”

A University College London study published last year shows that  the parliamentary Labour party became more “careerist” under Tony Blair – and also grew increasingly fond of slashing welfare. Social security was not something that ‘professionalised MPs’ or their circle had ever had to rely on, so ‘why not attack scroungers and win a few swing voters?’

The trend continues: Channel 4 News found that over half of the MPs elected in 2017 had come from backgrounds in politics, law, or business and finance and more came from finance alone than from social work, the military, engineering and farming put together.

This narrowing has a direct influence on our law-making and political class and Chakrabortty comments: “We now have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters”.

He concludes that this is what a real democratic crisis looks like: failed policies forced down the throats of a public. Institution after institution failing to legislate, reflect or report on the very people who pay for them to exist. And until it is acknowledged, Britain will be stuck, seething with resentment, in a political quagmire.

 

 

 

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Media 97: An inconvenient truth? A Dutch reader notes UK’s ZERO coverage of 40,000 climate change demo in Amsterdam

She writes: “*zero* coverage in the UK over climate demo Sunday 10th in Amsterdam?! 40,000 people at climate change demo in Amsterdam and it RAINED heavily all day … we got soaked to our underwear …)!!”

An online search today saw no UK coverage on the first four ‘result’ pages – only American and European coverage.

Adding wryly: “When 40 yellow vests get together it’s shared all over the planet…

Forty thousand people joined a climate change protest in Amsterdam on Sunday, March 10th, urging the Dutch government to take action on climate change.

The demonstration, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, drew around 40,000 people despite heavy rain, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The high turnout is the proof that people now want a decisive policy on climate from the government,” Greenpeace, one of the march organizers, said in a statement.

The Netherlands could be especially vulnerable to the rising tides brought on by climate change. Much of the country already sits below sea level, and some of its land is sinking.

While the U.S. has been backpedalling out of global climate change agreements like the Paris accord, Dutch lawmakers have passed ambitious climate change laws, seeking a 95% reduction of the 1990 emissions levels by 2050.

In January, however, a Dutch environmental research agency said the government is lagging behind its goals. “We are under sea level, so we really need to do something about it,” said a 21-year-old climate studies student at Amsterdam University.

Students around the world have been leading protests to prompt their governments to address climate change. A worldwide school strike is planned for later this week. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager widely known for her climate change activism, said on Twitter that at least 82 countries plan to participate in the upcoming protest.

Will British media fail to report the forthcoming school strikes as well as this one?

 

 

 

 

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FT: Help to Buy is ‘a state-sponsored taxpayer exploitation machine building a legacy of misery’

This eye-catching headline was placed above an article by Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of MoneyWeek, in the Financial Times. She pointed out that Help to Buy (H2B) has been a huge boost to the housebuilding sector, as only new-build homes are eligible under this scheme, keeping it going through the years following the financial crisis.

Kate Davies, executive director of Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association says Help to Buy is now “a cornerstone of the UK property market”.

Ms Somerset Webb points out that the main beneficiaries have been the big developers who have been provided with “an almost endless source of state financed, captured and slightly desperate buyers”. Jules Birch (Inside Housing), writing in similar vein, points out that housebuilding output has increased, but not ‘remotely as much as profits, bonuses and dividends’.

She comments that H2B hasn’t helped the smaller players much, as ‘hordes of them’ had already gone down with the market in 2008-9 and then records these relevant facts:

  • Two hundred thousand people in the UK have now bought houses using former chancellor George Osborne’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme, paying the average 16% new-build premium.
  • The taxpayer has lent those people £10bn, an average of £55,000 each . . . ‘a special kind of quantitative easing just for them’.
  • The maximum you can borrow from the taxpayer is 20% of the purchase price cap of £600,000 in most of the UK and 40% of the cap in London — £120,000 and £240,000 respectively.
  • Research suggests that Help to Buy purchasers pay 5 to 8% more than ordinary buyers of newbuilds, allowing the builders to increase their prices.
  • 18% of Help to Buy house sales in early 2017 were leasehold properties with escalating ground rents.
  • Half of Persimmon sales are H2B; their pre-tax profits have just passed £1bn.

Writing in the LSE journal, two senior Cambridge academics confirm that the main beneficiaries are large house-builders

In their report: Helping or Hindering? The latest on Help to Buy, they conclude that Help to Buy has had ‘regressive distributional consequences’. They quote ‘one executive’ in the FT who claimed that the scheme had allowed him to raise selling prices by 10%, which would almost double the profit margin for most builders. The market agreed: when rumours circulated on 4 August 2017 that H2B might be withdrawn, £1.3 billion was wiped off the stock market value of the five biggest builders within 90 minutes.

They also present some of the findings by Resolution Foundation research, which suggest that about 35% of H2B recipients could have bought a home without the subsidy:

“Those who have purchased a property with an HTB equity loan have an income significantly higher than the median – indeed, 40% of HTB loans have gone to those with annual incomes of £50,000-plus. Unsurprisingly, DCLG’s own assessment of the policy suggests that 35% of HTB recipients could have bought a home in the absence of the subsidy”. 

 

 

 

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Government faces a judicial review about short-changing 1950s women

In an earlier post Political Concern reported that 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks.

“Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor”- (lawyer/novelist John Grisham)

Waspi, a UK-wide organisation with many local groups, is campaigning against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised, whilst supporting the principle of equality.

One, the Chorley Supporters Group, is denouncing the government who arbitrarily told them to work for several extra years before they can claim their state pensions, causing them to lose income and peace of mind and obliging many to continue to work at a time of life when caring duties increase and energy levels start to fall. Read more in the Lancashire Evening Post.

Writing to the Financial Times they say: “It is about time the spotlight was turned on this government, which has effectively stolen the security net of millions of women by raising the state pension age far quicker than planned, with no personal notification”.

On the BBC’s World at One programme one of many testimonies was given:

Stella Taylor: “I was born in 1955, I had worked all of my life and, when I became unwell at just about the age of 58 I then discovered, quite accidentally, that my State Pension, which I was expecting to receive at 60, had been moved six whole years to sixty-six. And, like so many women in this movement, we were just aghast. We thought there must be a mistake. Had I received my pension at sixty, when I had expected to, I wouldn’t have been wealthy by anybody’s standards, but I wouldn’t have been in the depths of poverty that I now am. At the moment, because I am still unable to work due to ill health, I receive seventy three pounds and ten pence per week in Employment Support Allowance. Living, and paying all your household bills, out of that £73 a week is impossible. There are times when I have needed to use my local food bank because I haven’t been able to afford groceries.” More testimonies here. 

On February 10ththe BBC reported the warning of Amber Rudd, the pensions secretary, which should be extended to her own department:

”If you chronically mismanage a pension scheme . . . we’re coming for you.”

After pointing out that a freedom of information request has revealed recent research findings that the government reneged on their contributions to the national insurance fund over many years and redirected that money towards paying off the national debt, the Chorley Supporters Group asks:

“How government can expect other public or private institutions in this country to play fair with pension funds when it is not doing so itself”.

On February 11th, the government published a research briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. up

This unexpected rise in the state pension age will now “save” the Treasury an estimated £8bn by impoverishing 1950s women.

MP Grahame Morris pointed out that the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Conservative MPs support the Waspi campaign.

He added that Landman Economics’ report gives the figure of £8bn savings to government and suggests that this sum should be seen in the wider context of current or planned government finance. Some examples follow: (Ed: links added):

FT Adviser reports that SNP MP Mhairi Black earlier pointed out that the National Insurance Fund is projected to have a substantial surplus at the end of 2017 to 2018 and the HMRC’s report confirms that the National Insurance Fund balance at 31 March 2018 was £24.2 billion and is expected to increase in the following year.

Morris ends: “In this context, finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice . . . We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women”.

Next June the government faces a judicial review in the High Court to determine whether these recent increases to women’s state pension age are lawful and the Chorley Supporters Group, Chrissie Fuller, Jane Morwood, Betty Ann Tucker, Riley Ann Rochester, Beverley Cordwell, Lea Butler and Lesley Kirkham end by warning that they will not rest until justice is done.

 

 

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Media 95: MSM – collective amnesia about the life of George Bush Snr

Many readers will have been shocked at the standard media responses following the death of George Bush Snr. Media Lens has spelt out the reasons for such reactions. After a summary of the gushing eulogies from Barack Obama and the Clintons, they move to review the British media’s coverage: 

“ . . . [The] Guardian‘s ‘glowing’ obituary omitted many brutal facts, describing Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power”.

It continues:

“The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment: ‘effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care’. (Quoted Mark Curtis, ‘The Ambiguities of Power’, Zed Books, 1995)”.

The article points out that the author, Simon Tisdall, made no reference to the tons of bombs – ‘the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas’ – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the killing of 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed and continued:

“In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq”.

Readers with strong stomachs will continue to read about Bush’s work within the CIA and his ‘shared responsibility’ for earlier ‘bloodbaths’ in South America.

And the reason for the media’s whitewashed responses?

According to Media Lens, there are a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners:

“One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation”.

 

 

 

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Is it ‘a myth’ that the ‘left behind’ have been neglected?

 

Today, Times columnist Clare Foges, a former member of Boris Johnson’s mayoral team and then David Cameron’s speech writer, challenges the narrative that Brexit is down, in large part, to a high-handed and callous establishment’s neglect of the “left behind”, deploring the belief that:

”Those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were left trailing in the gold-flecked dust thrown up by the golden chariots that bore the wealthy, the Londoners, the elite onwards — throwing back their heads to laugh heartily and pour some more Bolly down their gullets while failing to give a monkey’s about those in their wake”.

Truly, those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were and are left trailing – but the elite do not spend time laughing at them – those people are neglected because they are simply of no interest.

She asserts that the deindustrialised towns have suffered because of globalisation or automation, not because those in government sat on their hands.

But the elite constructed, fostered and continue to be enriched by globalisation and automation – the system which impoverishes many is necessary to their lifestyle. Clare admits that “When you know that you are on the lower rungs of a socio-economic ladder that reaches, at its heights, into the realm of millionaires and sports cars and Maldivian holidays, you may well feel resentful. It must be profoundly demoralising to see swathes of your countrymen and women enjoying seemingly easy success while you struggle”.

She also concedes, “Of course there is serious poverty and inequality in our country, but over the past 20 years in particular governments have tried a thousand different policies to reduce them” but fails to mention the ways – under recent Conservative governments – in which people on low incomes and those in poor health have been harassed, ‘sanctioned’ and deprived of their due allowances, in order to make derisory savings. She adds:

“I don’t deny that the Brexit vote may have been driven in part by resentment. Yet here is the crucial point: just because people have felt cruelly neglected by the powers that be, it doesn’t mean that they actually were . . .  Let us not mistake a failure to revive left-behind areas with wilful neglect. For the most part the much-traduced “establishment” has been well-meaning and hardworking in pursuit of a fairer country.”

Yes, wilful neglect does imply a degree of awareness – the correct term is indifference; ‘left-behind’ people are simply not on the radar of the affluent, preoccupied by “sports cars and Maldivian holidays”. She ends with more burlesque:

“With a more benign and interventionist establishment at the helm, the taxes of rich people could be spread thickly all over the country with no fear that wealth will flee; billions could be borrowed for major infrastructure projects with no damage to our economy; the streets of Grimsby and Oldham would be paved with gold. By giving this impression, we are inviting people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his fantasy economics”.

But would those in government circles – who benefit from corporate sinecures, stock exchange speculation and commodity trading – be willing to change the globalised system for one in which government invests in strengthening the economy through regional production and supply chains? Or will they oppose such changes with all their might, to maintain their current privileges?

 

 

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‘Bring back control’ to Brexit donors? Or to representatives of the people?

Today, the Times has published evidence that leading Conservative donors, who spent millions on the Brexit campaign, now believe that Britain may never leave the European Union at all.

This evidence supports Owen Jones’ view of a division in society “between a rapacious elite that has plunged Britain into economic and social crisis on one hand, and a majority that suffers the consequences on the other”.

One named donor was hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management and a big financial backer of the campaign to leave the union, who has given more than £870,000 to money to pro-Leave groups, to Conservatives, Ukip and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset constituency in the last general election.

Odey had been betting heavily on a sharp fall in the value of UK government debt in April, according to investor documents seen by the Financial Times.

He revealed yesterday however (in the Times), that he was now betting on the pound to strengthen after Brexit failed, in the expectation that leaving the bloc would hit the UK economy hard.

Jeremy Hosking (below right), a fund manager who donated £1.69 million to the Brexit campaign and has given £375,000 to the Conservatives since 2015, said he was worried that the country would end up with something that was “not a Brexit deal at all”.

Terence Mordaunt, who donated £50,000 to the Brexit campaign and more than £30,000 to the Tories since 2003, said he feared that “we may never get out”.

He said: “I don’t think Theresa May’s deal actually fulfils what was promised in the referendum. It will take a long time and it gives a huge amount of power to Europe in the future. We may never get out.”

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves, who founded the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown,  gave £3.2 million to the Leave campaign, the second-biggest donation, said: “I have totally given up. I am totally in despair, I don’t think Brexit will happen at all.” 

Government insists that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will give the UK “flexibility”.

Jeremy Corbyn asks:But flexibility for whom?” He suggests: 

  • Flexibility for employers to exploit workers.
  • Flexibility for big corporations to pollute our environment.
  • Flexibility for multinational giants to undercut our neighbours and drive down standards everywhere.

In the Financial Times, lawyer David Allen Green points out some of government‘s actual or planned ‘constitutional trespasses’ over the past three or so years:

  • Theresa May’s government prolonged the current parliamentary session over two years, to avoid a Queen’s Speech on which they could lose a vote.
  • The government packed the standing committees (which scrutinise legislation) with Conservative majorities by procedural sleight of hand.
  • A secretary of state repeatedly misled the House and its committees over the extent and existence of Brexit sector analyses reports.
  • The government deliberately broke the Commons’ “pairing” convention when an opposition MP was on maternity leave so that the government could win a vote.
  • The government committed itself to billions of pounds of public expenditure in a blatant bribe to the Democratic Unionist party for support.
  • The government repeatedly seeks to circumvent or abuse the Sewel convention in its dealings with the devolved administrations.
  • The government seeks to legislate for staggeringly wider “Henry VIII powers” so that it can legislate and even repeal Acts without any recourse to parliament.
  • The government sought to make the Article 50 notification without any parliamentary approval and forced the litigation to go all the way to the Supreme Court (where it lost).
  • The government employed three QCs to oppose the litigation on whether Article 50 could be revoked unilaterally (which it also lost).
  • This government became the first administration in parliamentary history to be held in contempt of parliament following its refusal to publish the full Brexit legal advice issued by the Attorney General.

He ends: “Mr Bercow did more in allowing that vote to “bring back control” than any single leave-supporting MP has done since the referendum. The press should be celebrating that an over-mighty executive was halted and that the people’s representatives got to have their say”.

 

 

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Deliberately down-played? Belatedly, MSM publishes limited accounts of a government-funded thinktank’s dubious activities

On the 2nd December the Daily Record revealed that Gateshead Mills in Fife, which ‘presents’ as a small ‘design and creativity charity’ operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife, has been revealed in leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail – the sister paper of the Daily Record – as the base for The Institute for Statecraft, whose Integrity Initiative is run by military intelligence specialists and receives £2million from the Foreign Office.

Spokesman Stephen Dalziel said: “It (the IFS) was set up 14 years ago and the Integrity Initiative programme was started three years ago to look at disinformation and malign influence on democratic societies and it just so happens it’s the Russians who are doing most of that at the moment . . .  What we have done is to set up this network across Europe of people who understand what the problem is”.

The Integrity Initiative claims to have built a network of networks of people who operate to counter Russia’s ‘disinformation’. The UK cluster has staff from the Institute for Statecraft, people representing hedge fund interests, think tanks like DEMOS, RUSI, Henry Jackson Society, European Council on Foreign Relations, and Chatham House, as well as from the Ministry of Defence (including EU Joint Headquarters at Northwood), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and several journalists.

The link to the Daily Record article is no longer accessible but one dated a week later – and far less revealing – may be read here. Another article, first seen in NY Herald Tribune, reproduced with permission from the UK Column, presents a fully illustrated and even more revealing  information and – to date – its link works.  

Back to the currently inaccessible Daily Record. The leaks detail Government grant applications and the Foreign Office has now confirmed that they provided substantial funding to the Integrity Initiative. In response to a parliamentary question, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.” A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The Integrity Initiative is a programme already in the public domain. Our funding helps ensure it can continue producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”

The investigation has found evidence that the programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, his strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, the Labour Party and its officials.

Further leaked documents appear to indicate that the Integrity Initiative’s “Spanish cluster” swung into action on hearing that Pedro Banos was to be appointed director of the national security department. The papers detail how the Integrity Initiative alerted “key influencers” around Europe who launched an online campaign against the politician.

The manager of the Integrity Initiative ‘appears to be’ Christopher Donnelly.

A website biography states that he is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps who previously headed the British Army’s Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst. Between 1989 and 2003, he was a special adviser to NATO Secretaries General and was involved in dealing with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reform of newly emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. He left NATO in 2003 to set up and run the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group. In 2010, he became a director of IFS.

UK column adds many other staff names, including that of the active Andy Pryce.

Pryce had been making statements to the press about Russia (well worth reading in the light of this article), where he was described as ‘Head of Counter Disinformation and Media Development’ at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2017. He is said to have taken part in:

UK column journalist Mike Robinson made a FOI request for more information but this was refused on the basis of ‘national security’ – though he noted that the Freedom of Information act says that national security can only be used as grounds for refusal where intelligence services are involved. The FCO’s response is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner.

Some will want to read more about the Integrity Initiative, which appears to be acting in the way that western governments and media claim Russia is doing.

The UK Column adds other staff names, including:

  • Ben Bradshaw MP, who has been promoting an anti-Russian outlook, including claiming that Russia “interfered” with the Brexit referendum,
  • Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia, and one of the founders of Orbis Business Intelligence, the privatised British intelligence operation which features Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump ‘dodgy dossier’ and
  • Oliver McTernan, a former Senior Adviser at the Club of Madrid and a Visiting Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. In 2002, he initiated and participated in the first official high-level post conflict talks between NATO and the government in Belgrade. For 25 years he was Executive Committee Member, Pax Christi International, responsible for the movement’s East-West Dialogue programme during the Soviet period. He is the founder and a director of the St Sergius Trust Fund based in London and Moscow, and was earlier a Roman Catholic priest based in the diocese of Westminster.

David Miller, noted professor of Political Sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, says that serious questions need to be answered:  

“It seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which, for example, ends up soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine because they happen to oppose Putin. It must raise questions with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, about breaching charitable rules. It would appear this organisation could have received almost £2million from the FCO, so people have a right to know what’s happening with their money.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay added: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement. Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”

 

 

 

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