Tag Archives: dirty tricks

Spies, Lies and Smears: The Conservative Party, The Secret State And The Undermining Of Democracy

The Zinoviev Letter was a forgery that helped to win the election for Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative Party in 1924

The Tories: they truly are a nasty party. The gutter mentality; the venality, the cruelty and the underhanded tactics have been the hallmarks of the Conservative Party’s strategies for nearly a century. Tories consider themselves divinely ordained to ‘lead’ the country. But it wasn’t always thus. The 19th century was dominated by the Liberal Party. For those of you reading this from a country outside the UK, as well as some of you in it, the Liberals weren’t social liberals; they were economic liberals. Remember this is the party that turned its back on the Irish people during the famine, believing the Invisible Hand of the Market would magically intervene in the tragedy. The Hand is, for all intents and purposes, a transmutation of God employed as a means of rationalizing non-intervention. Markets must not be interfered with. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. This is the origin of neoliberal economic theory. It’s the touchstone of neoliberals like Dan Hannan, who variously describes himself as a Whig and a classic liberal.

The Liberal Party was formed from a coalition of Whigs and free trade Tory followers of Robert Peel as well as free trade radicals. If we look at the Orange Book tendency of the Liberal Democrats, we can see there is little difference between them and the Tories. They are mutually attracted to each other because they share common origins. Thus the coalition government was an incestuous marriage. Nick Clegg may claim there is clear orange water between his party and the Tories, but he would be lying. The differences between the Whigs and the Tories were slight: support for the Corn Laws versus repeal of the same, and free trade versus protectionism. That’s it. Karl Marx had plenty to say about them.

Irish Home Rule in the late 1800s badly wounded the Liberals, when the Unionist faction defected to the Tories giving them the name they use to this day: The Conservative and Unionist Party. Then as now with Scottish Independence, the arguments against Irish Home Rule were predicated on fear. From this moment on, the Tories dominated government, even propping up the Liberal Lloyd George during the First World War. The so-called ‘Coalition coupon’ of 1918 finished the Liberals as a dominant force since only those few Liberals who possessed the coalition coupon were elected. Labour was now on the rise as the opposition party, even though Sinn Féin came third (they declined to take their seats).

With Labour now the official opposition, the Tories’ propaganda machine went into overdrive. Have a look at this poster.

Here, the Labour Party and socialists generally are depicted as a demon throttling the virginal form of a powerless Britannia, her trident apparently of no use to ward off the threat.

This poster claims Labour will send inspectors around to look into your souls. This desperate specimen is playing to householders rather than people renting from unscrupulous landlords or living hand-to-mouth existences.

When the propaganda failed to work, they used other means like espionage and sabotage. The Tories resented the first Labour government of 1924. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had neither a majority nor a mandate and relied on the support of the Liberals. In October 1924, MacDonald was forced to go to the country after a vote of no confidence. Four days before the General Election, the Zinoviev Letter was published in the Daily Mail. Labour lost the election and Stanley Baldwin’s Tories won a landslide.

The Tories were determined to ensure they held power no matter the cost. This meant having a dedicated department within Conservative Central Office that could produce propaganda and coordinate espionage activities. The Conservative Research Department was created in 1929 with the ostensible purpose of conducting detailed policy work. It’s real task, however, was to cook up dirty tricks to smear their opponents, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party – a lesson they had learned well in 1924.

Major Joseph Ball, the author of the Zinoviev Letter was appointed director of the CRD and given a knighthood. This  cemented the link between the Conservative Party and security services. Joseph Ball also ran a right-wing journal called Truth, which pandered to anti-Semites . It should be recalled that the Tories were openly anti-Semitic and saw Jews and Bolsheviks as the same thing. Ball also sent spies into Labour and the Liberals. Ball had pro-Nazi sympathies and was a close confidante of Neville Chamberlain.

The 1929 General Election resulted in a hung parliament and Labour formed a minority administration. MacDonald was forced to call an election for 1931, which the Tories won by a landslide… by stirring up xenophobia. A national government was formed with a much diminished MacDonald as figurehead Prime Minister, leading a splinter faction that had been expelled from the Labour Party. In 1935, the pretence was over and the national government, now headed by political  puppet-master, Stanley Baldwin, won the general election. The government was Tory in all but name and included MacDonald’s National Labour Party and John Simon’s Liberal National Party (the Liberals had actually split into three parties!). Baldwin was depicted in Tory propaganda as the face of progress and prosperity but he was getting old. MacDonald had been broken by illness and died two years later. In 1937, Neville Chamberlain, who was also chairman of the CRD, became Tory leader and Prime Minister. There would be no General Election until 1945 when Labour won its famous landslide. Ball was eventually sacked in 1942. Jonathan Pile writes:

Ball in 1940 ought to have been interned with Sir Oswald Mosley , Archibald Ramsay and Admiral Sir Barry Domvile for their treasonous views and activities under Defence Regulation 18B. Instead he was appointed by Chamberlain over Churchill’s as head of the Security Intelligence Centre , an ultra secret part of the anti-fifth column organisation, the Home Defence Security Executive which had precedence over MI6 and MI5.

As a “poacher turned game keeper” he continued to secretly control the anti-war, anti-government weekly magazine Truth, and there is some evidence of a covert involvement in the peace mission conspiracy of the Rudolf Hess flight of May 1941.

Ball was finally expelled from the corridors of power in 1942, and used his extensive old boy network of appeasement contacts to build up the multinational empire of Lonrho which he sold on to the controversial German “one-time Hitler youth” Tiny Rowlands (sic).

The Tories, for the most part, accepted the National Health Service and nationalizations (after voting against both). Labour lost the elections of 1951, 1955 and 1959 due to infighting. It seemed the Tories could do no wrong. By 1963, however, the Profumo Scandal tarnished the image of the party and in the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party won by a slender margin. Wilson called a snap election in 1966 to increase his majority, while the Tories chose Edward Heath to lead the party in an attempt to distance itself from its aristocratic past and appear more modern. Labour won the election and embarked on a series of social reforms to the consternation of the Tories.

Many Conservatives turned to the Republican Party in the United States for ideas, while a whispering campaign was initiated against Wilson, who was accused of being Soviet agent. This was due to two things: the work of the CRD and hardline military men who had Tory sympathies. In 1968, Cecil King the proprietor of the Daily Mirror and scion of the Rothermere/Harmsworth family suggested overthrowing Wilson in a coup and installing Lord Mountbatten as Prime Minister. King even went as far a meeting Mountbatten himself. This plan would be resurrected in 1974 with the appearance of Colonel David Stirling’s GB75 and General Walter Walker’s Civil Assistance. Central to this plot and others like it was Brian Crozier, who is listed as a “historian, journalist and strategist” in his Wikipedia entry. Crozier had been active in a variety of shadowy right-wing groups that had links to the Central Intelligence Agency. One of these was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, for whom he worked from 1966

Now you may say “Well, all parties use dirty tricks”. That may well be true, but the Tories take it much further. The 1976 Reg Prentice affair is a case in point. Julian Lewis infiltrated the Newham North East Labour Party and stood as a ‘moderate’ candidate (with financial backing from the right-wing Freedom Association) in an effort to steer the constituency party to the right. It failed and Lewis had a brief spell in the Navy before officially joining the Conservatives. Lewis, now armed with a doctorate in Strategic Studies from Oxford University, helped to found the Orwellian Coalition for Peace Through Security alongside Crozier, Tony Kerpel and fervent Thatcherite, Edward Leigh, MP.

The CPS’s primary mission was to destroy the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Labour Party, which largely supported nuclear disarmament, by using the courts. It was hoped that this strategy would bankrupt both CND and the Labour Party, thus ushering in the kind of political system that was acceptable to the right. Namely, one in which the political right prevailed and the Labour Party would be made to resemble the corporate-friendly Democratic Party of the United States. Tellingly, the CPS’s office was on Whitehall and was financed by a variety of right-wing groups in the United States and Britain. One of these groups was the Heritage Foundation. In November 1983, Labour had begun its march to the right by electing Neil Kinnock as leader. Coincidentally, Tony Blair had also been elected as MP for Sedgefield in June’s General Election. His rise through the party ranks would be rapid. Shortly thereafter, the party gradually modified its position to unilateral disarmament to the point that it was rarely mentioned, if at all, during the Blair years. These days, it’s disappeared completely.

In 1985, Lewis and Kerpel set up Policy Research Associates, which included the Media Monitoring Unit. The latter was established to counter perceived left-wing bias in the media. One intention was to create a media that was compliant, supine and overwhelmingly supportive of Thatcherism. The other intention was to narrow the range of acceptable political and economic discourses in the public sphere. We continue to live with the consequences to this day.

Lewis became Deputy Director of the CRD in 1990 and held that position until 1996, a year before he was elected to the Commons as MP for the New Forest. If you look at his Wikipedia entry, most of the references come from his website.  If you look at his speeches, the vast majority of them are related to defence and security. Yet, very little is known about the man himself. We do know that he was a ‘go to man’ for dirty tricks and he didn’t take kindly to journalists making enquiries into the shadowy nature of CRD’s work. This came to the fore in 1993 when Scallywag printed a series of stories implicating a number of high-ranking Conservatives in a paedophile scandal at Bryn Estyn and Dolphin Square. The magazine also alleged that John Major and a Downing Street caterer were having an affair but they were set up. Major was having and affair with Edwina Currie, the Health Secretary. Major successfully sued. Scallywag continued but was eventually driven out of business by Lewis when they threatened to print a story about him. Lewis bought the contents of their office.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997 and it seemed as though the Tories had been put on the back foot. Blair had stolen their clothes by keeping Thatcher’s anti-union legislation in place and by retaining Right to Buy. Here was a ‘new’ party that was just as friendly as Thatcher towards big business and the financial sector. The political and economic discourse had been limited to variations on a neoliberal theme. Nu Labour’s version of neoliberalism had a pale social democratic gloss to it. It was packaging that barely concealed a mish-mash of free market capitalism, liberal interventionism and managerialist politics. Even if some Tories believed it to be socialism, it wasn’t. It was  knock-off Thatcherism with added pizzazz. Politically, the field had been skewed rightward, leaving the Labour Left marginalized.

This brings us to the early 21st Century: the Conservatives had been out of power for 13 years, their longest spell in opposition since the 19th Century. The election of 2010 resulted in a hung parliament and the Tories formed a coalition with their erstwhile enemies and partners, the Liberal Democrats. Given their historical origins, this relationship was more of a death embrace than a working partnership. Even their apparent mutual antipathy was little more than sibling rivalry. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws are Tories in all but name.

The Tories’ election campaign uses all the dirty tricks imaginable. Their allies in the press continue to produce smear stories on their behalf as they have done for nearly a century. Two years ago, the Daily Mail, believing the year was 1924 printed an outrageous smear about Ralph Miliband.  On Sunday, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have a letter written by a 5,000 small businesses allegedly supported Cameron, claiming a Labour government would be “bad for small business”. Within 24 hours it was exposed as bogus; the metadata on the letter revealed that it had been written by someone in Conservative Central Office.

Compared to the dirty tricks campaigns of the past, these recent smear attacks look amateurish and sloppy. The supposedly earth-shattering letters and ‘leaked’ memos are bad copies of past forgeries. It’s as if the Tory strategists don’t really care if you think their lies are lousy or not. This is due, in part, to an arrogance that stems from their sense of entitlement and this blinds them to their own failings.

The other strategy of this election campaign is its use of attrition on the public mind. Tories want people to feel fed up with all politicians: this has the effect of turning off those voters who would otherwise vote for a left-wing or progressive party. Thus the only people to come out and vote are the Tories. If the Tories get a majority or form the next government it will be because they have lied and cheated their way into office.

Edited to add:

Cameron, Osborne, Letwin and Lansley also worked for the CRD as ‘advisers’.  Enoch Powell also went through the CRD.

Further reading

“Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher” in Lobster, No. 11 Available at: http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster11.pdf

Pink Industry blog on Reg Prentice

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Dirty Tricks and British Politics: something and nothing

Damian McBride: he likes a drink. Can’t you tell?

The Damian McBride story has landed into the laps of the Tories at just the right time. For the Labour party it’s the wrong time. But do the Tories really have anything to crow about? Not really.

The Tories use dirty tricks all the time and the press says nothing. Dr Julian Lewis infiltrated the Labour Party in 1976 and spent years taking CND to court in a bid to prove that it was being funded by the USSR. Lewis wrote the following in a letter to the editor of The Times in 1983:

You are quite correct, however, to challenge CND claims of non-partisanship. Last year’s political complexion of what you term to be “clearly a left-wing front” was mild compared to the new team of 26 officers and national council members just elected at Sheffield.

How strange that The Freedom Association (which bankrolled Lewis’s effort to infiltrate Labour), for instance, should describe itself as “non-partisan” yet have such close relations with the Conservative Party, UKIP the Libertarian Alliance, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and even the United Kingdom’s security services. The stench of hypocrisy is overpowering.

Back to McBride. He is certainly a nasty piece of work. But The Cat wonders if McBride wasn’t encouraged to release his book in time for the annual Labour Party  conference this week by certain people. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

The right-wing press is cock-a-hoop. Here’s what the Telegraph said:

Mr McBride’s book has awakened the party’s painful memory of the rift between disciples of Mr Brown and those MPs and activists who were loyal to Mr Blair. Mr McBride was a fanatically loyal supporter of Mr Brown, a man whom he says in some ways he “loved”.

Mr McBride left the government in disgrace in 2009 when it emerged that he sent a Labour colleague emails containing unfounded smears about Tory MPs for a website called Red Rag.

He now claims that this colleague, Derek Draper, has suggested that Mr Miliband may also have sent compromising emails and would “have problems” if they ever came to light.

The article then adds:

He now claims that this colleague, Derek Draper, has suggested that Mr Miliband may also have sent compromising emails and would “have problems” if they ever came to light.

Mr Draper was not available for comment on Saturday night.

However, a Labour source who knew both men said: “You can criticise Ed Miliband for many things but running a Damian McBride-style smear operation isn’t one of them.”

Derek Draper: he’s the one who looks as though he sleeps in a hedgerow and who’s married to Daybreak’s Kate Garraway. He was also involved in “Lobbygate” and “Smeargate“.  The latter, Smeargate, was  an attempt to smear senior members of the Tory party and can be seen as Labour’s attempt use the same Tory tactics that their auld enemy has used against them on numerous occasions. It didn’t work, but it’s an indication of the rottenness of the British political system and how deeply embedded into the system the practice of skulduggery is rooted.

The Daily Mail’s approach is more in line with one of its ‘kiss and tell’ celebrity stories. This is a description of an  interview that Nick Robinson, the former president of the Young Conservatives and the BBC’s present political editor apparently had with Gordon Brown:

The trouble started when BBC political editor Nick Robinson asked Gordon an apparently innocent question.

Assuming we won a joint bid with Scotland to stage the World Cup, whom would he support — England or Scotland?

Gordon gave the ‘clever’ answer he’d prepared: ‘I’ll be supporting the hosts!’ Nick shot back: ‘Even if they play Scotland?’ Gordon smiled and said: ‘Scotland will do very well.’

This interview took place in India in 2007, and Gordon thought it had gone well. I knew otherwise. Sure enough, as we crawled through the Mumbai traffic back to our hotel, one of our press officers rang me to say the Scottish papers were very excited and we had a major problem.

‘OK, mate,’ I replied calmly, holding the phone as far away from Gordon as I could, ‘take it easy and keep me posted’, as if he was telling me the cricket score.

‘What’s the problem?’ Gordon said. ‘Nothing,’ I lied.

‘I heard someone say “problem” — what’s the problem?’ he said, getting slightly irate.

I sighed. ‘OK, now don’t go mad. We’ll just need to clarify that interview so it doesn’t sound like you’d support England over Scotland.’

Yawn. This has the feel of stale bread… the taste of cold tea that’s been left on someone’s desk overnight. If you really want to read the rest of the article, click on this link.

Sure the dirty tricks were conducted inside the Labour Party, but this kind of thing happens in all political parties. I mean, how do you think Nick Clegg became leader of the Liberal Democrats? Through honest, upfront means? Get real. Then there was the knifing of Thatcher by her colleagues. What do you mean you haven’t heard about  it?

The dirty tricks that we should be concerned about are ignored by the mainstream media. When Julian Lewis’s involvement in the Reg Prentice case emerged, the press nary batted an eyelid and focussed on Prentice’s defection from Labour to the Tories in 1977 instead.

As the Leveson Report has shown us, even the British press can’t be trusted to report on the things that really matter. Why? Because most of the press is in the pocket of Tory party.

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Dirty Tricks, Corruption and Burglaries: What Really Happened at Ed Miliband’s Office?

Last March, the news media carried a story about a burglary at  Ed Miliband’s office. When I heard about this, my immediate thought was “is this a possible British Watergate“? But entertaining such thoughts and then expressing them leaves one open to the charge that one is a conspiracy theorist. But such questions refuse to go away so easily.

Here’s what The Guardian said at the time.

Scotland Yard received reports shortly before 7pm on Friday of a forced entry to the premises in the Norman Shaw buildings, which were the force’s own headquarters until 1967.

It is understood that a member of Miliband’s staff found that a door had been forced but it is unclear whether anything was missing from the room.

A Labour spokesman said: “There is an ongoing police investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment.”

And it adds:

News reports speculated the burglary may have been the work of pranksters or political opponents.

The Sun tried to make cheap political capital out of the break-in by telling its readers:

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband’s Westminster office has been burgled — but there were no policies there to pinch.

The really odd thing about this burglary story is how quickly it went cold. No one appears to have been arrested and curiously, none of the papers tell us if anything was stolen from Miliband’s office.

Since Ramsay MacDonald’s  first Labour government in 1924, the party has been the focus of a right-wing dirty tricks campaign beginning with the notorious Zinoviev Letter. The really low point came when the Conservative Dr Julian Lewis posed as moderate Labour party member in the Reg Prentice deselection case of 1976 in an effort to undermine the party and steer it in a rightwards direction.

This speech by Alun Gwynne Jones (Lord Chalfont) in 1975 to the House of Lords is rather interesting because it foregrounds the later right-wing attacks on the Labour Party of which Jones was purportedly a member. Here’s an extract:

Mr. Bert Ramelson, who is the national industrial organiser for the Communist Party, said last year: The Communist Party can float an idea early in the year and it can become official Labour Party policy by the autumn. … We have more influence now on the Labour movement than at any time in the life of our Party.

Mr. Idris Cox, another leading member of the Communist Party, has said: Notably more Communists are being elected to key positions in the trade unions. Through the unions they can influence Labour Party Conference decisions.

Interestingly, Jones wrote an article titled The Strategic Defence Initiative for the Conservative Monday Club, which appeared in the 1985 Tory Conference edition of Right Ahead. 1985 was the year the miners strike ended and the Battle of the Beanfield took place. It was also the same year that Neil Kinnock delivered that speech.

You can read an interesting article on Pink Industry about Jones/Chalfont here.

Jones/Chalfont was later appointed  Chairman of the Radio Authority by the Major government.

These kinds of incidents prompt the inevitable question: do we really live in a democracy? How is it that one political party can undermine another through a campaign of dirty tricks and outright subversion? We expect this sort of thing to happen under authoritarian regimes but in Britain?

I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 about the Watergate scandal a few months ago, when a journalist (not sure of the name) claimed that a Watergate “couldn’t happen here”. When asked why, he pointed to the architecture of state secrecy and hinted at the role of the security services in preserving the status quo. Even the Leveson Inquiry has been subjected to attacks from the right-wing press, who have so much to lose. In effect, Britain doesn’t have a free press and its political system is fatally corrupted.

As for the burglary at Miliband’s office and given the role of the secret state in party politics, I doubt we will ever know what really happened.

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Some thoughts about Falkirk

The Labour Party has enjoyed a lead over the Conservatives since the coalition was formed over three years ago. Recently, Labour extended its lead over the Tories by more than 10%. This must have alarmed those at Tory high command, because such a consistent lead in the polls contradicts their deeply held and delusional belief that they’re doing the ‘right thing’ for the country. The Tories so desperately want to win the 2015 election and will do anything to get themselves re-elected. This includes using dirty tricks. Indeed when it comes to dirty tricks, the Tories have plenty of previous.

Last year, Lynton Crosby was hired as the Conservative election campaign ‘consultant’ after winning the London mayoral election for Bozza. The contest was marked by a massive smear campaign against Ken Livingstone. This is Crosby’s modus operandi: use dirty tricks to scupper your opponent’s chances of winning fairly.

Yet, Crosby hasn’t always been successful. The 2005 general election was a disaster for him and led to defeat for Michael Howard, whose semi-racist “are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan failed to deliver the goods. Howard was kicked upstairs, replaced by a younger and equally incompetent leader in the form of David Cameron.

When I first heard that the Unite union had allegedly been involved in ballot-rigging, I thought “this has Crosby’s fingerprints all over it”. This was confirmed when Dan ‘Hatchet-job’ Hodges was invited to various television studios to offer his apparently ‘expert’ view. Hodges, as many of us know, pens blogs for the Daily Telegraph where he is described as “The Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest”.

Here’s Hodges with Crosby at Bozza’s victory celebrations last year.

Hodges and Crosby1

On Wednesday, Hodges wrote in his blog:

There is fierce anger among Labour officials at the arrogant – and cack-handed – way Unite have been conducting themselves. “What did they think they were doing?” asked one. “They weren’t even trying to be subtle. They were openly bragging abut what they were up to.” Another points out that in a constituency like Falkirk, many of the trade union activists Unite were trying to hoover up were in fact nationalists. “Unite were basically letting the SNP fix a Labour Party selection,” he said.

Did you see what he did there? He’s insinuating that the SNP, through Unite, has taken over the local branch of the Labour Party. Those are Crosby’s words.

In this blog he manages to tie this story to Ken Livingstone, one of the Right’s favourite hate-figures:

This is Ed Miiband’s Yellow Trouser moment. Just as the government was trying to get agreement on the Leveson report, David Cameron sent Oliver Letwin – resplendent in canary yellow cords – to the Labour’s leaders office to try and negotiate at deal. The fact he was going cap in hand to the leader of the opposition communicated the extent to which No 10 had lost control of the situation. It also demonstrated they have no idea of how power relationships in politics work.

Ed Miliband’s late-night phone call to Ken Livingstone is similarly revealing. It shows how vulnerable he feels politically, not just about this issue but his position in the party generally. And it again shows – as I wrote this morning – that Miliband has a gaping hole in his political management. If you’re running a serious political operation you don’t get the leader scrabbling around firefighting stories like a junior press officer

Now, I’m not a fan of Miliband or the Labour Party but there’s something about Hodge’s blog that looks suspiciously like a dirty tricks campaign that’s been initiated from deep within Crosby’s foetid brain. This final paragraph says it all:

Forget the ins and outs of who did what in Falkirk. This issue is indeed about who runs the Labour party. And Ed Miliband needs to show it isn’t Ken Livingstone.

The Tories have always complained about Labour’s relationship with the trade unions, whining that the party is ‘in hock’ to them. Unlike the shadowy networks and pressure group that support the Conservative Party, unions are made up of ordinary workers. This is a point that’s lost on the Tories and their friends in the press. The Labour Party was founded by the trade union movement. The Tories represent the interests of big business and the landed classes, which are unaccountable and unelected. By contrast, unions are democratically elected and accountable.

The Tories are past masters of dirty tricks. Their close relationship to the security services was brought into sharp relief with the production of the infamous forgery that was the Zinoviev Letter, which contributed to the fall of the first Labour government in 1924.

The Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest British political scandals of this century – was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published today.

New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook.

It points the finger at Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and at Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926.

The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will never be known, Ms Bennett said yesterday. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.

My bold. This behaviour was repeated in the 1970s when groups like the National Association for Freedom (later renamed The Freedom Association) were launched with the intention of destroying organized labour under the rubric of ‘freedom’. This was vividly demonstrated in the year-long Grunwick dispute of 1977 – 78 when John Gouriet, one of NAFF’s founders, used volunteers to break the strike. The police also stood by and watched as strike leader, Jayaben Desai’s foot was run over by one of Grunwick’s managers. He was not prosecuted. NAFF or TFA has a very close relationship with the security services.

In 1995, the satirical and investigative magazine Scallywag was driven out of business by the Major government when it alleged that the Tories were involved in a dirty tricks campaign against Labour that was orchestrated by the Conservative Research Department, headed by Dr. Julian Lewis. Oddly, Scallywag wasn’t sued for libel. Instead, its distributor and anyone who handled the magazine was prosecuted. Lewis had previously stood as a moderate Labour candidate (sic) with funding from NAFF during the Reg Prentice deselection case in 1976. Prentice later joined the Tories and was made a life peer. If this wasn’t a perversion of the democratic process then I don’t know what is.  I can’t think of many countries in which one political party actively works to undermine the internal workings of its opposite number. There’s the Watergate scandal in the United States, of course and the various banana republics that are propped up with money from the US and UK. Yet, if this is supposed to be a democracy, I find it difficult to fathom how Lewis, NAFF and the Tories  could have avoided prosecution without support from the state’s more shadowy elements.

So you think you live in a democracy? Think again.

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Hugo Chavez versus neoliberalism

Hugo Chavez

The BBC reported Hugo Chavez’s death in customary style. Their correspondent, Caroline Hawley, referred to him as a “divisive figure” adding “he alienated the middle classes and business”. That last sentence is perhaps the most revealing of all, for it opens a window on the mindset of neoliberals, oligarchs and security operatives. Chavez, who was elected four times as Venezuela’s president, worked to improve the lives of the poor and if you work to build schools, clinics and improve the literacy rates in your country, you are seen as a tyrant and a dictator by moneyed interests. You are painted as a demon by the Western media, who  can’t quite fathom why anyone would reject the so-called free market. Why on earth would someone want to enfranchise the poor? Surely it’s better to exploit them… which is how the neoliberals and self-styled classical liberals see things. Trickle-down only works in the imagination of the oppressor. But tell them that and they’ll call you a “commie”.

I remember well the failed coup of 2002, when Venezuela’s oligarchs and their friends in the Western media, who claimed that Chavez supporters had fired on ‘innocent’ opposition demonstrators. But the oligarchs and their friends got the shock of their lives when footage shot by an Irish film crew revealed that news footage  shown on Venezuela’s oligarch-controlled television, that had been sold to media companies around the world, had been doctored.

You can watch the video of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised here.

I remember cheering when the coup collapsed and Chavez was reinstalled as president. The coup plotters fled to Miami, thus proving that the coup had the support of the United States. After all, this is where you will find Castro’s would-be assassins and an assortment of failed saboteurs.

Hugo Chavez is dead. He died from cancer. But little is known about what kind of cancer he had. However it is a weird coincidence that Fidel Castro has stomach cancer, Evo Morales is also suffering from cancer and Yasser Arafat died from cancer, possibly caused by polonium poisoning. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a conspiracist, but the CIA must be rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of a Venezuela without Chavez at the helm.

Now that Chavez is dead, fresh presidential elections will be called. I suspect that the CIA will try and rig the election to ensure an oligarch wins. They did it in Italy in 1945 and they’ve done it throughout Latin America and the Caribbean for the best part of 60 years. Remember Nicaragua’s 1990 General Election? The popular Sandinista government was ousted in an election in which their opponents were supported with CIA cash. A compliant Violetta Chamorra won that election.

Chavez’s detractors will always complain about “human rights violations” that took place under his rule. Yet the same people who complain about such alleged violations, turned a blind eye to the West’s courting of brutal dictators like Pinochet and Suharto. Where were they when thousands of people were being rounded up, tortured and killed under Franco? Where were they when Uzbekistan’s President Karimov boiled his opponents alive? They were nowhere to be seen. They were strangely silent.

So,  RIP Hugo Chavez. You stood up to neoliberalism and US aggression. Without you, Venezuela would still be run for the rich, while the poor would still be illiterate.The oligarchs want to undo all of that and return Venezuela to a state run by the rich for the benefit of the rich.

The eyes of the world are watching Venezuela.

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Police State Britain. Are we there yet?

Last Saturday’s march and rally, the occupation of Fortnum & Mason’s and the smashing of  a few bank windows has got the entire Tory world in a spin. So much so, that some of them (Telegraph commenters mainly) are calling for the banning of this party and the proscription of that organization.  But this government is so desperate to cling on to power that it will use any means necessary to silence its critics and rubbish the names of those who call for justice. Meanwhile the opposition seems to be sleepwalking into a trap that has been laid for them by the Tory press and the government. It’s as though the 1980’s never went away.

But it seems the state is up to its old tricks again.

Lenin’s Tomb blog believes that police agents provocateurs were allowed to smash windows while their uniformed colleagues stood by and watched. This clip from the BBC on Liberal Conspiracy shows a man in a hoodie crossing a police line. He looks like a police agent. I have also heard unconfirmed reports of how journalists from a certain tabloid newspaper paid people to commit acts of vandalism elsewhere. In paying people to carry out acts of vandalism for the sake of, what seems to be, a gruesome headline, it helps to manufacture consent in the public mind, which is good as a  nod and a wink to the  government who, in turn, grant the police more draconian powers to control, contain and destroy the ‘menace’ or ‘enemy within’. This is newsgathering and guess what? It’s always been that way. You get me the pictures and I’ll bring you the war. If you see what I mean…

There’s no truth like the untruth.

Dan Hannan writing in the Daily Telegraph is pushing his and Carswell’s idea for elected police chiefs as a solution.  Their case for elected police officials is, in my view, poorly made and, in the case of his blog, opportunistic and smugly self-congratulatory. Here Hannan puts the boot into anarchists and the Socialist Workers Party

So, which is it? Did the police provoke gentle marchers with their fascistic heavy-handedness? Were they heroic in the face of intolerable provocation from thugs? Or were they a bunch of pantywaists, standing idly by as anarchists (an odd name for people dependent on the state for their livelihood) and Socialist Workers (few of whom seem to work) vandalised private property?

Thing is, Hannan seems to think that all anarchists and members of the SWP are idle. That actually isn’t true. Many anarchists and Swappies actually have jobs.

It’s much easier to be ignorant. That way you never have to think.

Furthermore there are many flavours of anarchism, some of which – like anarcho-capitalism – Hannan would doubtlessly approve. Perhaps he needs to meet people outside his own circle to get to grips with that concept. Fat chance. The elected sheriff idea merely underlines how out of touch these Tories are. Borrow some idea from the States, apply it here and claim that it’s in the name of  ‘democracy’ or otherwise claim that it’s done to devolve more power from the centre.

We get to the meat of the blog here

The Bill to place our constabularies under locally elected representatives will be presented to the Commons this week. I’m obviously delighted, having been pushing the idea of elected sheriffs for the better part a decade (although Carswell will have you believe that he thought of it first).

Yes, another crazy idea from The Plan has been transformed into a bill. While this doesn’t appear prima facie to indicate Hannan’s desire to see some kind of police state, the office of ‘sheriff’ would arguably be open to anyone that claims to have a ‘cure’ for the ‘cancer’. In times of manufactured fear, this could be the very thing the that right has been yearning for.  As any miner (NUM need only apply) from the 1980’s will tell you, the police are always on the side of the state. If this idea is pushed through (it’s a white paper at the moment), they will also be on the side of whatever party they happen to belong to. For instance the elected commissioner could be responsible for

Appointing – and, where necessary, removing – the Chief Constable.

Also

Elections
2.12 The Government wants candidates for Commissioners to come from a wide range of backgrounds, including both representatives of political parties and independents.

Do you see what I see?

This government will use any means at its disposal to blacken the names of those who take part in legitimate protests – even if that means relying on fabricated evidence and employing agents provacateurs to bolster its case for proscribing certain groups and outlawing certain forms of political activity. Even the TUC Leadership fell into line and condemned the action of a “minority of hooligans”.  The simple fact is that the Tories don’t like UKUncut and its innovative approach to protests. The group has done a great job of drawing attention to the fact that certain businesses, some of them loyal to the Conservative Party, have been using offshore addresses to avoid paying tax in this country. Add to this Sir Phillip Green, the millionaire owner of Topshop, who has been given the role of ‘efficiency czar’ and you have a situation where the oligarchs call the tune. These oligarchs will use whatever means at their disposal to press the government to take a tougher line against anyone who opposes them.

Does that sound like a liberal democracy to you?

It isn’t one that I recognize.

The use of agent provocateurs is nothing new. Recently at the G20 protests, Lib Dem MP, Tom Brake, alleged that police agents provocateurs  were employed to besmirch the name of the protesters.

Of course this sort of tactic has its origins in the 19th century when the state routinely resorted to such methods. The so-called Six Acts were enacted in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and were designed to crush dissent and stifle debate. The Six Acts included,

  • The Training Prevention Act (or Unlawful Drilling Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 1)[1] made any person attending a meeting for the purpose of receiving training or drill in weapons liable to arrest and transportation. More simply stated, military training of any sort was to be conducted only by municipal bodies and above.
  • The Seizure of Arms Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 2) gave local magistrates the powers to search any private property for weapons and seize them and arrest the owners.
  • The Misdemeanors Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 4) attempted to increase the speed of the administration of justice by reducing the opportunities for bail and allowing for speedier court processing.
  • The Seditious Meetings Prevention Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 6) required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate in order to convene any public meeting of more than 50 people if the subject of that meeting was concerned with “church or state” matters. Additional people could not attend such meetings unless they were inhabitants of the parish.
  • The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act (or Criminal Libel Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 8)”, [2] toughened the existing laws to provide for more punitive sentences for the authors of such writings. The maximum sentence was increased to fourteen years transportation.
  • The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 9) extended and increased taxes to cover those publications which had escaped duty by publishing opinion and not news. Publishers also were required to post a bond for their behaviour

The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act had the effect of creating a newspaper industry that was loyal to the state. In that regard little has changed. The industry is dominated by Tory-supporting titles, all of them with connections to arms manufacturers and financial institutions. The Seditious Meetings Act, for example, prevented free association and meetings could be broken up – often with violence – on a whim. Agents provocateurs were employed to stir up trouble and spies were used to obtain intelligence on seditious persons. In the 19th century, Britain was a police state in all but name.

2011 marks the centenary of some rather important events. Winston Churchill sent troops into Tonypandy to crush a riot. He ordered gunboats to be moored at Liverpool and Hull. Troops were ordered ashore at Liverpool, where they acted with the police to crush the transport strike. Churchill was also present a the Siege of Sidney Street, where excessive force was used to kill a pair of Latvian anarchists. Then, as now, the word on the collective typesetter of the press was “anarchists”, which became synonymous with a bearded bomb-thrower. A lunatic. A swivel-eyed zealot.

The word is now liberally used by politicians and the press to conjure up images of fear or as threats to individual ‘liberty’. It’s lazy and it’s weak.

In 2011 a range of measures under Terrorism legislation can be invoked in situations where the government feels protests have gone too far and, more importantly, property is being damaged. Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism thus:

(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-

(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial][3] or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-

(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

My italics. This act can be used to fit any definition of terrorism imaginable. It is intended to be that way. Judges and the police can interpret it any way they like.

They call it the letter of the law.

Those who cling to the neoliberal economic model, who tell us that there is no alternative, do so from a position of philosophical and intellectual weakness. They refuse to consider an alternative by insisting that none of us has an alternative. Their spreadsheets tell them that they are right and anyone else is wrong.

It requires no thinking on their part.

The Tories want a smaller state. A smaller state that has no welfare state and no public services. Their idea of the smaller state is one in which only the repressive functions (the police and security apparatuses ) are left intact. A police state where the legislature exists to rubber stamp the will of the oligarchy.

Are we there yet?

Finally, the Sun, always on the side of law and order, demands that the “rent-a-mob” be “nail[ed]”.

Sweet dreams.

EDIT: 30/3/11 @ 0927

This article from The Independent says

Scotland Yard plans to increase the use of stop-and-search powers on the day of the royal wedding, the next major test of policing methods in the capital, as well as stationing more officers at rail and Tube stations to spot possible troublemakers

And

In the Commons, Ms May backed the use of football-style “banning orders” against people suspected of planning to use legitimate protests as a pretext for violent action. They would be barred from travelling to demonstrations and could be arrested if they refused to comply. Ms May also urged police to make wider use of existing powers to confiscate masks and balaclavas from marchers.

Anyone who tells me that this country isn’t fast becoming a police state is a liar. We need to fight this.

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Filed under Government & politics, Law & Order, Policing