Category Archives: Party funding

Monbiot: a ‘dark money network’ is taking power on both sides of the Atlantic

Is that news to anyone?

flagThis site and others have been focussing on this appalling phenomenon corrupting governance for years, so much so that corruption of politicians and supporting media is no longer shocking: it is the norm.

As such, frequent news of revolving doors and rewards for failure has been under-reported on this site of late – despite many significant leads from regular readers – because these items just repeat our view of the state of the nation.

However the ever-eloquent George Monbiot is more persistent

george-monbiot-3He explains: “Dark money is the term used in the US for the undisclosed funding of organisations involved in political advocacy. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. To advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf”.

Though corporate America was horrified by some of Donald Trump’s positions, especially on trade, once he had secured the nomination, big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Monbiot continues: “Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network that some American corporations had already developed was perfectly positioned to shape it”.

He looks into the historical background:

statue-liberty-covers-eyes“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them.

“These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration”.

He then relates the story of MP Liam Fox

In 1997, Liam Fox founded an organisation called The Atlantic Bridge. Its patron was Margaret Thatcher. On its advisory council sat the future cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling. Fox, who became a leading campaigner for Brexit, described the mission of The Atlantic Bridge as “to bring people together who have common interests”. It would defend these interests from “European integrationists who would like to pull Britain away from its relationship with the United States”. The Atlantic Bridge (link no longer informative) was later registered as a charity –  only after it collapsed did the full story of who had funded it emerge.

atlantic-bridge

Read the tedious and depressing details in the Guardian or on this site here.

liam_fox_1246914cHow did Fox achieve this position, after the scandal that brought him down six years ago? Monbiot explains: “The man who ran the UK branch of The Atlantic Bridge was his friend Adam Werrity, who  . . . carried a business card naming him as Fox’s adviser but was never employed by the Ministry of Defence, joined the secretary of state on numerous ministerial visits overseas, and made frequent visits to Fox’s office”.

The Charity Commission investigated The Atlantic Bridge and determined that its work didn’t look very charitable. It had to pay back the tax from which it had been exempted (Hintze picked up the bill) and the trustees shut the organisation down. Monbiot continues; “As the story about Adam Werrity’s unauthorised involvement in the business of government began to grow, Fox made a number of misleading statements. He was left with no choice but to resign”.

As the Financial Times reported, the election of Donald Trump transformed the fortunes of Liam Fox: he is back on the front bench, with a crucial and sensitive portfolio – Secretary of State for International Trade – an indispensable member of Theresa May’s front bench team: “The shadow diplomatic mission he developed through The Atlantic Bridge plugs him straight into the Trump administration”.

Taking back control from Europe means closer integration with the US

president-rooseveltMonbiot adds that European laws protecting the public interest were portrayed by Conservative Eurosceptics as intolerable intrusions on corporate freedom and the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ is a relationship between political and corporate power. He ends with the following warning, sent by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 to the US Congress:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism”.

Monbiot adds “It is a warning we would do well to remember”.

 

 

The post truth debate: an organic farmer prompts a search

Post truth: ‘for the birds’ ?

 tom-rigby-4

With thanks to Tom Rigby (above) – known for his effective advocacy on behalf of farmers poisoned by use of government-required organophosphate sheep dips (latest reference) – who often offers worthwhile Twitter feeds. Today one led to a rare challenge to the widespread acceptance of assertions that we live in a “post-truth” world.  

He links to an article by Robert Fisk (‘always worth reading’) who bluntly asserts: “We do not live in a “post-truth” world, neither in the Middle East nor in the West – nor in Russia, for that matter. We live in a world of lies. And we always have lived in a world of lies”.

Rune Møller Stahl’s PhD fellow at University of Copenhagen, Department of Political Science and Bue Rübner Hansen is a postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark explore the subject in Jacobin: a voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics and culture. 

Stahl and Hansen use the term ‘liberals’ in a way that needs further definition.

jacobinFar removed from the admirable political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality, an online search (including Wiki) offers the explanation that Liberal writers start from the belief that economic liberalism’s values — the right to private property, the valorization of self-interest, and formal freedom without material equality — best describe human nature.

To explain what happened in the United Kingdom and the United States this year these writers all agree that voters and politicians increasingly deny facts, manipulate the truth, and prefer emotion to expertise .They ask how voters could defy the warnings of so many pundits, wonks, and fact-checkers?

Almost unanimously, they answered that we live in an age characterized by post-factual politics and noted that, pushed by major media organizations like Forbes and the New York Times, “post-truth” recently became Oxford Dictionaries’ new word of the year.

Stahl and Hansen sardonically observe that the liberal media don’t seem to know how we entered this post-fact world or when the factual age, which must have preceded it, ended, asking “Was it in the 2000s, when the whole world debated imaginary weapons of mass destruction before being conned into war?”

Historical points made in Jacobin:

  • In the 1990s centrist technocrats like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair ‘pioneered . . . a false progressivism that was premised on profitability and stopped short of any proposal the political center might object to, no matter how just’.
  • The right-wing fringe led by Fox News, conspiracy theorists, and televangelists remained marginal until 9/11/01 threw the United States — liberal and conservative alike — into a patriotic mass hysteria that culminated in two poorly planned wars.
  • But historical events started calling liberal truths into question. The 2008 financial crash revealed the failure of liberal economics. Occupy and Black Lives Matter threw light on structural problems that triangulation and managerialism not only can’t address but refuse to.

pinn

In sum, they end that it’s time to stop blaming (the current version of) fake news and realize why so many believe it: the simple reason is that the mainstream of the political class have squandered people’s trust, by not having their best interests at heart. Stahl and Hansen believe that only a democratic revival will challenge authoritarianism and liberal managerialism and combat the regressives who now run their country – and ours.

 

 

 

In the public domain now: revolving door, rewards for failure, media bias, lobbying and corporate party funding

revolving-door-peopleThe Political Concern website was set up seven years ago to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corrupts the decision-making process here and abroad.

The social, economic and environmental challenges facing this country are still not being effectively addressed, largely due to 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 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC] in 2008].

However it is now common knowledge, with the growth of social media, that those on ‘the inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ are skewing decision making – so mission accomplished?

As the examples of this corruption are now accepted as the norm, after this post, individual examples of this practice need no longer be listed.

The ideal

adams-common-good

The reality

Our attention has been drawn to outsourcing company Capita’s recruitment of former PwC chairman and senior partner Ian Powell as its next chairman. Capita’s website rejoices in PwC’s interactions with the UK Government and other public sector organisations. PwC and others received large sums of public money from a range of government departments, as a FOI request from former Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge revealed.

Another reader noted that MP Andrew Mitchell has been recruited as consultant with Ernst & Young to mend fences after its record as auditor for Lehman Brothers and its fines for involvement with tax avoidance schemes. Expected remuneration: £30,000 a year for up to 5 days’ work.

The last example was the appointment of Peter Stephens as Nissan’s head of UK external and government affairs after serving as deputy director of the now merged Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) with responsibility for EU strategy. A year later, many questioned the way Nissan‘s Sunderland’s deal was arrived at, criticising the government for a lack of transparency but the National Audit Office saw no evidence that the government offered Nissan a ‘sweetheart deal’ to boost production figures.

The latest example of corporate party donations seen is a gift of £25,000 to the Conservatives from Entourage Concierge Ltd – ‘inspiring a proactive approach to luxury’ – not for the JAMs!

 

fit-to-rule-tests-atos

 

Enough!

 

 

 

Revolving door 37 – confession time?

Recently Patrick Jenkins, Financial Editor of the FT, explored the history of the revolving door, saying that the practice of former politicians and central bankers seeking high paid work in financial services has a long pedigree, particularly in the US.

With apparent surprise – though it has been established practice in Britain involving senior politicians and corporates – he says. “Now it seems to be an accelerating trend in Europe”.

revolving-door-largerYet for the last six years sites such as Spinwatch, less directly Corporate Watch and the Private Eye magazine (see this article) – have highlighted this phenomenon. This Political Concern website was set up in 2010 to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corrupts the decision-making process. A ‘media’ category was added later.

Patrick Jenkins’ article prompted the writer to count the articles on this website which have ‘revolving door’ in the title; there were 37 – but many more had incidental references and others added the graphic on the right. Jenkins writes:

“News that Lord King, the former governor of the Bank of England, has taken a key advisory role at Citigroup follows only weeks after it was announced that former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso would chair Goldman Sachs International. Rumours are growing, too, that senior members of the last UK government may follow a similar path, following in the footsteps of the previous Labour administration”.

After citing Tony Blair as ‘one of the most famous examples of the phenomenon to date’ and listing the many roles he has taken on in his post-politics career, Jenkins moved on to focus on central bankers and policy-makers switching from public service into the private sector and vice versa.

He ends: “Defenders of the practice say it helps break down barriers between financial services companies and policymakers, but critics think it can leave an unpleasant taste. “The potential is certainly there for conflicts of interest — both real and perceived,” says Bob Jenkins, who has worked as an asset manager, regulator and market reformist”. 

Brandon Patty, a young American politician, gets nearer the truth

brandon-pattyHe wrote in the FT yesterday, with reference to America, that the general public has zero confidence in . . . career bureaucrats, professional politicians looking out for our best interests:

“From immigration and trade deals, to excess regulations and scandals at far too many government departments, there is a very real sense that (the public’s) concerns and priorities do not matter to decision makers” adding that a September 2015 poll found 75% perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government.

But will the shameless in Britain and America take the slightest notice of these commentators?

 

 

 

NHAP brings the latest revelation of the door revolving between big business and government

nhap-graphicDr Paul Hobday, leader of the National Health Action Party (NHAP), a political party that was formed by doctors and campaigners in 2012 to fight to protect the NHS, has written to inform David Babbs of 38 Degrees (following his article in the Guardian) about the nature of Incisive Health (IH), whom 38D had commissioned under the impression that they were independent health policy experts.

38D crowdfunded to raise the money to commission Incisive Health to review all publicly available documents on the Sustainability and Transformation Plans but Dr Hobday points out that the co-founder of Incisive Heath is Bill Morgan, who was a special health advisor to Andrew Lansley, the author of the Health and Social Care Act (2012). The company itself is a health lobby group, representing private sector interests to government.

Hobday emphasises that the National Health Action Party wants to see an end to the ‘revolving door’ culture of Westminster and Whitehall – and that Incisive Health is part of that culture:

revolving-door-larger“Not only does Bill Morgan’s role in the destructive Health and Social Care Act (2012) make his company particularly unsuitable for NHS campaigns, their links don’t end there. In February 2016, Richard Douglas, the Department of Health’s Director General of Finance, joined Incisive Health. Andrew Lansley said he had “hugely valued” Douglas for his “advice and guidance”. Jeremy Hunt was also full of praise. Douglas was in charge of NHS money and policy during both Lansley and Hunt’s reigns, and so had a strong connection to their cuts and privatisation agenda.Incisive Health count Pfizer as one of their clients, so perhaps it is no surprise to find one of their ex-employees, Ben Nunn, in the health team of Owen Smith, given Smith’s own career with Pfizer.

Dr Hobday ends: “We hope that now that you have been appraised of the nature of Incisive Health, 38 Degrees will consider ending its relationship with that company as soon as possible”.

Some of 38D’s own members imply a similar request as a comment here:

“Babbs omits to mention US influence in NHS restructuring, which Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged. Major US consultancies and healthcare corporations like McKinsey and UnitedHealth are heavily involved. But he confirms that 38 Degrees commissioned Incisive Health, lobbyists for Virgin Healthcare and the privatisers’ NHS Partners Network, to produce its crowdfunded report. It’s not surprising it glosses over what the STPs prefigure – the replacement of an NHS once recognised as world leading in cost-effective public healthcare by a privatised system whose providers’ financial interests will have undue sway. As members of 38 Degrees, we think it’s vital that it isn’t seen as an NHS privatisers’ tool”.

 

 

 

Is anyone seriously contending that the UK is not corrupt?

Via John Wight’s Twitter account we saw a link to an article by Saurav Dutt, novelist, independent film producer, playwright, screenwriter, graphic design illustrator, accomplished author and writer. After James Landale, BBC diplomatic correspondent -amongst many others – reported David Cameron’s description of Afghanistan and Nigeria as corrupt, Saurav Dutt asked if anyone is contending that the UK is not corrupt?

”What the City and the tax havens are up to isn’t anything as morally defensible as corruption – it’s that good old fashioned criminal act of “receiving”. It gives corruption a bad name . . . There isn’t a lot of corruption in the UK, well, not in cash . . . “

india corruption demo

The well-filled envelope type of corruption is common in some countries. How people laughed at Neil Hamilton when it was alleged that he received money in this way – British corruption is less obvious but now well realised by the general public. When will we protest like the Indian people?

As noted in the earlier post, readers send many links to news about the revolving door, rewards for failure, the political influence wielded by the corporate world and lucrative appointments for the friends and family of those with political influence; this is the British way.

Dutt says that corruption comes from the ‘top’ down and is endemic in Western society: “In a fiscal sense it is the banks, financial institutions and ‘big business’ with acceptance from politicians (who also get their cut one way or another) and moves on to a more moral sense with the Police and the legal professions”.

anti corruption APPG header

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption was established in November 2011 to raise awareness of the impact of international corruption and to enhance and strengthen UK anti-corruption policies and mechanisms. Could they answer Dutt’s questions?

  • How many MPs voted for health legislation when they have interests in private health care?
  • Why does Cameron appoint Ministers to the education department who have a direct interest in academies that their companies are involved in?
  • Why does this government give honours to people who have given their party money?
  • Why does this government pass legislation that directly benefits their donors?

As Dutt says “The Transparency International corruption index shows we have some way to go before we reach the dizzy heights of Denmark, and a short stroll down the slippery path to the likes of Qatar and the UAE”.

 

 

 

Antisemitism charges: commercial and political vested interests attempt to counter Corbyn-Labour’s growing popularity

Strange bedfellows, the Murdoch press and Labour Friends of Israel, fear they have much to lose if they cannot reduce the growing Corbyn-led Labour Party lead in the YouGov polls (below) and the ever-growing support for the Labour leader, overtaking David Cameron this month.

labour lead 3

Two days after John Wight’s widely appreciated Herald Tribune article was republished, Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC television, (left) mounted a weak and insubstantial attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the Times, asking Jews not to support him.

danny cohenDescribed as a prominent figure in London’s Jewish community, Danny Cohen asserted that there was a growing problem of antisemitism in the Labour party which would make it impossible for Jewish people to support it under the present leadership: “I am deeply troubled that our main opposition party is having such frequent problems with anti-Semitism”.

Cohen’s reference can only be to a few low-profile individuals of the kind each political party will have, whose influence is minimal compared with the Labour Friends of Israel, whom he completely failed to mention.

LFI members are drawn from the former Blair establishment – many of the party’s most senior politicians, officials, and donors – who appear to believe that Israel is ‘a beacon of democracy in a region beset by extremism and barbarism’ – rather than a selective democracy in a repressive colonising regime.

UK and USA governments and most of their institutions and corporate masters see a huge commercial advantage in unconditional support for Israel regardless of its repeated violations of international law.

As Wight puts it at some length: “It is the fact that Israel’s brutal subjugation of an entire people for the crime of daring to exist is allowed to go on year after year, with the support and connivance of the political mainstream in the UK and throughout the West, which leaves us in no doubt that those who have extended themselves in exposing and rooting out antisemitism are complicit in that subjugation”.

He regards charges of anti-semitism as a response to the growing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and its success in highlighting the injustice that describes the day to day reality for the Palestinians and in breaking through the political cordon sanitaire around Israel that had long prevented any serious challenge to its right to exist as an apartheid state.

synagogue plaqueWhen Jeremy Corbyn emerged as the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election last year than he was subjected to an unprecedented media assault for speaking at public meetings attended by representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah while still a backbench MP.

Though Corbyn was usually not directly labelled an antisemite, Wight saw that the inference was clear enough.

London’s Jewish community judges for itself – opposite.

Members of a Jewish family, current and former constituents of Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to the Guardian to say:

“The accusations of antisemitism are, of course, political manipulations. Influential sections of the Jewish community, maybe guided by their Israeli contacts, are frightened that a notable critic of Israel’s policies and actions might attain a position of prominence in British politics”.

They drew attention to the deliberate conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and the ‘hysterical pressure to desist’ on anyone who wants to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah, as being “so destructive to the prospects of peace”.

To date, vested interest prevails: sadly, that which destroys peace is vitally important to the prosperity of prospective party donors: the multinational arms industry and its host of ancillary suppliers.

Party funding: should Corbyn play the same game?

As the government tries to financially ‘cripple’ Labour but  protect its own income, Ayesha Hazarika argues “It’s not selling out to try to save the finances of the Labour Party”.

“Scandal”, says Times columnist Rachel Sylvester, explaining that the government wants to require union members to “opt in” to give money to political parties, “a small but critical change which is likely to cost Labour up to £6 million every year”. The Treasury has also announced cuts of almost 20% to the money paid to opposition parties to help them with their parliamentary costs.

She adds that though the system is ‘ripe for reform’, Government is doing nothing to limit the large donations from wealthy individuals on which the Conservative party’s income depends.

adam fleming event videoAdam Fleming addresses guests arriving at a 2015 fund-raiser – the most high-profile missed as they ‘snuck in the back’ – video here.

But it’s no laughing matter. An un-named MP said, “There are so many of us within the Conservative party who are sick of having to chat up hedge fund people — it distorts everything. We should use this opportunity to cleanse the whole system and show we are not the party of the rich.”

At one fund-raising event, it was reported, the table plan listed two bosses of firms embroiled in the Libor-rigging scandal, a bankrupt tycoon, a landlord whose ban from acting as a company director had only recently ended and a financier who had been fined in the 1990s for insider dealing.

Jess Garland (ERS) in an LSE blog also notes the large donations from individuals and groups of donors and politely comments, “That political parties are sustained by just a handful of individuals makes unfair influence a very real possibility”.

‘Possibility’ or fact? Do not most political decisions benefit, directly or indirectly, the wealthy?

gravy trainIn 2011, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended a £10,000 cap on individual donations alongside the introduction of an “opt in” system for union political funds. A recent poll by the Electoral Reform Society found that 77% of voters think that big donors have too much influence over politics and 72% think the system of party funding is “corrupt and should be changed” — up from 61% two years ago.

A Lords cross-party select committee is to hold ‘evidence sessions’ and examine the party funding anomaly, reporting back by the end of the month.

When it reports in a few weeks’ time, it is likely to recommend that ministers either drop or re-write the party funding clauses in the Trade Union Bill.

Conceding that the financing of politics is ripe for reform Ms Sylvester ends: “The government should take this opportunity to think again, abandon its one-sided initiative and draw up a proper proposal for reform of party funding. There should be a cap on political donations across the board — that would cover Labour’s trade union backers but also the Tories’ super-rich City friends”.

Lobbyists, politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers are promoting corporate influence over government and public institutions; not only have individual politicians been publicly shamed, the ‘revolving doors’ have been spinning rapidly and many, elected to serve the public, neglect this mandate to enhance the fortunes of the already wealthy.

Should Corbyn join them?

Media 51: the New Statesman was being economical with the facts – of course a rattled David Cameron in PMQs ‘dialled up the abuse’

George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman, appears to be another nominal socialist who cannot accept the democratically elected Labour leader who has such an enthusiastic cross-party following in the country.

george eatonNew to Mr Eaton’s work, the writer visited the site and saw the general Corbyn-undermining tenor of his articles, post election. How he would dislike the admiration expressed by South Korean speakers and young Brits in a South Korean film (http://newstapa.org/29509) recently circulated.

Today he exults: “Labour right triumphs in PLP elections of backbench committee chairs – many of them ‘part of the problem, rather than part of the solution’. And yesterday Eaton reported that at this week’s PMQs session, Cameron’s patience ran out – accompanied by jeering Tory MPs.

Eaton attributed the PM’s tone to ‘contempt for Corbyn’ but social media – Roslyn Cooks tweet – filled in the very significant missing link: the statement which will be seen as a major threat to arms trade, party funding and a loss of face for the PM on the international ‘stage’

Cameron was deeply riled by the Labour Leader’s statement issued shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions and lost the respectful tone assumed in earlier sessions. Jeremy Corbyn:

jc 5“David Cameron’s invitation to Britain today of the Egyptian president and coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shows contempt for human and democratic rights and threatens, rather than protects, Britain’s national security.

“Support for dialogue and negotiated conflict resolution in the Middle East is vital to us all. But to welcome and bolster with military support the coup leader who overthrew a democratically elected president in 2013 and has presided over the killing and jailing of many thousands since makes a mockery of government claims to be promoting peace and justice in the region.

“Support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has been a key factor fuelling the spread of terrorism. Rather than rolling out the red carpet to President Sisi, the Prime Minister should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored.”

Britain’s shame: the UK arms industry is a major supplier of weapons and other military equipment and $24bn has been invested in the Egyptian economy by British businesses in the past five years – British-based companies such as BP and Vodafone being among the biggest players in the Egyptian economy.

A tale of three politicians: which would you trust?

alistair video

The Huffington Post reports that Alastair Campbell has said David Cameron’s attack on Jeremy Corbyn was likely to be “effective.”

cameron speech

Speaking in Manchester on Wednesday, the prime minister accused the Labour leader of holding a “Britain-hating ideology.” He suggested that Corbyn thought the death of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy,” rather than repeating his precise idea, which was that bin Laden’s extra-judicial execution without trial was a tragedy. A petition demanding that Cameron retract is being circulated.

JC elected

David Cameron’s attack on Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be ineffective – and indeed to strengthen his support base.

Every time these dubious characters make some charge against the Labour leader, thousands more are recruited.

Why?

Because, at long last, the LabCon regime has been rumbled.

The general public has woken up to the corrupt nature of their elected parliament, with the exposure of relatively minor peccadilloes – claiming unmerited expenses, seeking cash for questions – to serious but legal corruption. This sees senior MPs powerfully influenced by large corporations which offer them non-executive directorships and/or retirement positions and then make decisions which increase their benefactors’ profits, rather than the common good.

Ordinary people try to make ends meet as these spivs use taxpayers’ money to:

  • promote the global casino with commodities trading,
  • subsidise trade in weapons,
  • sell off the country’s assets and utilities,
  • privatise health and local government and
  • make the poorest pay for the banker-politician-made crash.

As the drip feed of slander and innuendo proceeds apace, the Labour Party membership continues to increase; many thousands flock to hear Jeremy Corbyn and make their presence enthusiastically felt on social media, radio, TV or in public – wherever there is an audience.