Tag Archives: Zinoviev Letter

Well, You Could Call It ‘Incompetence’, But…

Yesterday’s revelation that some key documents have either been ‘mislaid’ or have ‘gone missing’ from the National Archives would appear, at first glance, to have some plausibility. But the files, which pertain to important events in British political history, such as the notorious Zinoviev Letter, the Falklands War and the plot to undermine the Wilson governments, seem to have vanished at a most opportune moment for the Conservative government.

Ian Cobain writing in The Guardian says:

The disappearances highlight the ease with which government departments can commandeer official papers long after they have been declassified and made available to historians and the public at the archives at Kew, south-west London.

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 showed that 9,308 files were returned to government departments in this way in 2011. The following year 7,122 files were loaned out, and 7,468 in 2013. The National Archives says Whitehall departments are strongly encouraged to promptly return them, but they are not under any obligation to do so.

Worrying. Further down, he writes:

Some historians have been particularly distrustful of the Foreign Office since 2013, when the Guardian disclosed that the department had been unlawfully hoarding 1.2m historical files at a high-security compound near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

The hoard came to light during high court proceedings brought by a group of elderly Kenyans who were detained and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency in 1950s Kenya, when the Foreign Office admitted it had withheld thousands of colonial-era files.

A few years earlier, the Ministry of Defence refused to consider a number of files for release under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they may have been exposed to asbestos.

The files concerned such matters as arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UK special forces operations against Indonesia and interrogation techniques. The MoD denied it was using the presence of asbestos in an old archive building as an excuse to suppress the documents.

When all else fails, blame it on asbestos… or foreigners, or gays or something.

Given the secrecy with which the British state operates, and the Conservative Party’s past record in undermining political parties and the democratic process, the Cat is inclined to suspect foul play. If government departments are allowed to take documents from the National Archives without being compelled to return them, then this leads one to conclude that items weren’t “misplaced”, they were taken for a reason and it’s fairly easy to work out what that reason was: to destroy them or keep them hidden from public view.

Remember that documents that are held in the National Archives are available to historians, academics and other members of the public on request. It is likely that the Tories, who have attempted to revise history for the seven years they’ve been in power, want to create a narrative that is, not only favourable to them, but one in which other legitimate political parties are cast in a negative light.

There must be a fully independent public inquiry into the disappearance of these documents. A failure to do so will only increase public suspicion of the Conservative Party and the state.

Ian Cobain’s book The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation is worth a read.

 

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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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Memogate: Another Example Of Our Failed Democracy

We were warned that this election campaign was going to be one of the dirtiest fought for a generation. The Tories, having failed to win an election outright for 22 years, were always going to resort to gutter politics and dirty tricks to try and steal the election. It’s in their DNA. They began  their campaign in 2013 when they recruited Lynton Crosby . Crosby’s appointment as Tory election strategist happened on the back of his successful smear campaign that saw Bozza elected as London Mayor in 2012. Yet Crosby’s record on the national stage has been poor. He failed to get Michael Howard elected in 2005 with his crypto-racist “Are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan. It’s funny how people forget that.

Tim Wigmore writing in the New Statesman last August observed:

The 2005 election showed the limits of importing successful electioneering from Australian to Britain. Australia’s use of the Alternative Vote forces every voter into a straight choice, between the (conservative) Liberal Party and the Australian Labour party. Crucially, voting is also compulsory in Australia, which lends itself to negative campaigning: offering a compelling reason why the electorate should not plump for the alternative is enough.

Britain’s electoral dynamics are very different. We live in a multi-party world; even if the Tories are successful in attacking Labour’s electoral weaknesses on welfare and immigration, voters may plump for Ukip or the Lib Dems instead. 35 per cent of the electorate did not vote for anyone in 2010: they need a positive reason to bother. Relentless negativity is less effective as a campaigning technique when voters can choose whether or not to vote.

In the last 24 hours and, coincidentally, after the leader’s debates on Thursday, which saw Nicola Sturgeon win what was, effectively a beauty contest; it was as sure as ‘eggs is eggs’ that CCHQ would try and make mischief (did you see Gove on Question Time?). Late last night, the Torygraph ran a story in which it was alleged that Sturgeon told a French ambassador that she would prefer to have Cameron in office than Miliband. The alleged discussion was allegedly contained in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo, which magically found its way to the Tory-supporting Telegraph. Sure, it did. Anyone with half a brain in their head would know that for Sturgeon to make such a claim it would surely be political suicide. The Tories and their friends in the media know this. Craig Murray claims that this story bears the hallmarks of an MI5 smear campaign. The Cat is inclined to agree with him.

Murray writes:

Ever since Treasury Permanent Secretary Nicholas MacPherson stated that civil service impartiality rules do not apply in the case of Scottish independence, I have been warning the SNP that we are going to be the target of active subversion by the UK and US security services. We are seen as a danger to the British state and thus a legitimate target. I spelled this out in my talk to the Edinburgh SNP Club on 6 March, of which more below.

The story, as Murray reminds us, appears to have echoes of the Zionviev Letter. Indeed, I tweeted a reminder to this effect this morning. It was because of this forged letter, printed in the Tory-supporting Daily Mail, that the first Labour government fell and failed to win the snap election on 29 October, 1924. This defeat and Ramsay MacDonald’s subsequent betrayal in 1931 has been etched on the memories of old Labour Party members, most of whom are no longer with us. Nu Labourites apparently have no memories of anything that happened before the Blair era.

Crosby’s crappy strategy is to create chaos and discord on the Left in an attempt to create an image of an effective and in-control David Cameron…a man whom, ironically, presided over a chaotic administration. One example of the coalition government’s ineptitude was the so-called ‘Omnishambles’. Another is Cameron’s lack of judgement, typified as it is by the hiring of men like Andy Coulson and Patrick Rock.

The ‘Memogate’ story appears to have had the desired effect among many Labourites, who have taken to social media in their droves to repeat their predictable “I told you so” message. None of them seems wise or, indeed, bright enough, to remember their history. If the Tories win this election, it will be because they used smears and scaremongering to do so; but it will also be because Labour were foolish and gullible enough to fall for it all.

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The Daily Mail: it has plenty of form when it comes to smears

The Ralph Miliband smear story is merely one in a long line of Daily Mail smears. The most notorious one of all was the infamous Zinoviev Letter. This letter, apparently written by Grigory Zinoviev, a high-ranking Soviet official was passed to the Daily Mail by British military intelligence or MI6.

The first Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald was weak and relied on the support of the treacherous Liberal Party (plus ça change). A vote of no confidence on 8 October 1924 was triggered by the MacDonald government’s decision to drop its prosecution against John Ross Campbell, the editor of the Weekly Worker under the terms of the  Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. The government lost the vote and MacDonald was forced to go to the king to request a dissolution of parliament.  He called a general election for 23 October.

During the weeks between the dissolution and the general election, the Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter, which purportedly claimed:

A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionizing of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc. will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies

Tories will tell you that the Zinoviev Letter had no effect on the outcome of the General Election but that view is naive at best and mendacious at worst.

Richard Norton-Taylor writing in The Guardian in 1999 said:

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.

Over the years the Tories have become masters of dirty tricks  and their very close relationship with the security services and Fleet Street allows them to undermine other political parties and rig elections.

On October 25, 1924, four days before the election, the Mail splashed headlines across its front page claiming: Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders To Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed. Labour lost by a landslide.

Ms Bennett said the letter “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office”. She named Major Ball and Mr Morton, who was responsible for assessing agents’ reports.

Labour lost the 1924 election and the Tories were returned to power. But it would not last long. In 5 year’s time, they would lose again to Labour, which found itself fronting another minority government.

Ten years after it published the Zinoviev Letter, the Daily Mail published its most infamous headline of all: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”.

Yesterday, the Telegraph’s deputy editor, Benedict Brogan, couldn’t help himself and like some incontinent schoolboy wrote this blog titled “Whether he hated Britain or not, Ralph Miliband was one of the Cold War’s bad guys”.

Brogan was the Daily Mail’s political editor until 2009.

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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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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour Party Conference 2012

The plot thickens as the backlash begins

The backlash began in earnest yesterday against Tom Watson and the entire investigation into the cover up of a high level paedophile ring operating in Britain after revelations that the wrong man had been identified as a pederast. It was bound to happen. The same thing happened with Leveson and as Watson pointed out, it was the same people from the same media outlets wagging their fingers and whispering “conspiracy theories” who have returned.

I won’t list any of those involved the backlash here, because you know who they are and you can go to Telegraph blogs and The Spectator and see them for yourself. The comments that accompany these blogs are also pretty vile: some abuse Watson, while others talk about “smears against the Conservative party”, which is rather ironic given the fact the party has regularly engaged in smear campaigns against its opponents since the 1920s, the most infamous of which was the Zinoviev Letter in 1924.

Last night, the BBC’s Newsnight was forced into making an apology for not naming the high-ranking Tory peer but for,  seemingly, sparking off a Twit-storm.  Watching the programme, I was immediately struck by how weird it all seemed.  The atmosphere was sombre, almost gloomy. Host, Eddie Mair, also said that Newsnight would be suspending its investigative reporting with immediate effect. In an eerily Kafkaesque moment, Mair then told us that “no one from the BBC was available for comment”. Bizarre.

Sure, Newsnight’s recent reportage has been woefully deferential to the government. It dropped the ball after Savile died and then tried to make up lost ground after ITV’s Exposure did the job that they failed to do. But this is the effect of over-management at the Beeb, who have made cuts to staff numbers – including journalists. Hence the partnership with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

But these are all diversions; distractions from the real issue: namely the widespread and systematic abuse of children by powerful people and the cover-ups by the authorities that have allowed this disgusting situation to continue. The lives of those abused have been utterly destroyed. Many have taken their lives or submerged themselves in drink and drugs. Yet, when one brings up the subject, they are in danger of being dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”.

Let me clear about something: I don’t indulge in conspiracy theories. I don’t have time for tales of lizards-disguised-as-humans or crap about the Illuminati and the eye above the pyramid on US dollar bills. You will find no links to David Icke or Jeff Rense on The Cat’s blog. But there is something about this case and the subsequent (not to mention hasty) circling of the wagons by the mainstream media’s usual suspects. In their own way, they are as guilty as those who seek to cover up these horrific stories of abuse because they focus on the messenger, which, by extension, transforms the victims into unreliable witnesses.

Leah McGrath Goodman, the American journalist who investigated the Haut de la Garenne child abuse scandal, found herself being denied entry to Britain in 2011. Why? It seems she asked too many questions. On her blog she says,

The islanders, who are quiet people, were quietly devastated. The notion that, for decades, their children’ homes might have been used as a sexual cafeteria for the rich and privileged – as hundreds of the victims contended – was distasteful in the extreme. During the probe government officials repeatedly stated that they fully intended to run a thorough investigation. Yet, within months, Harper and his boss, the island’s head constable, Graham Power, had been smeared by the local newspaper, The Jersey Evening Post, as unfit for their jobs and driven from the island. Their main advocate, Senator Stuart Syvret – then-health minister and one of the island’s most popular politicians – also found himself under siege, eventually sacked and jailed twice. The cases made against each man were as flimsy as the headlines were flashy.

It seemed that anyone who attempted to stand up for Jersey’s underprivileged or conduct a proper investigation into their treatment soon found themselves in the fight of their lives.

Evidence found at Haut de la Garenne – including bones that were “fresh and fleshed” before being burned and dozens of children’s teeth with the roots still on them in the furnace area – was turned over to a new police chief who downplayed its significance but also admitted to throwing some of it out. As an investigative journalist, I found it hard to understand how this could possibly inspire confidence. It seemed the situation needed to be looked at by someone without an axe to grind or an ass to save.

This is where my own troubles began…A couple years into my research, my trips to the UK were becoming frequent enough to justify my renting a flat for overnight stays and an office for my paperwork. Jersey has strict rules about outsiders renting property, so I arranged to meet with Jersey’s Customs and Immigration officials in July 2011 to make sure my accommodations passed muster. I was told they did. The first officer I met with, Jim Griffiths, told me not to worry and that as long as I did not intend to live in Jersey or take a job there – and my trips did not exceed the six-month time limit for visitors – I could proceed with my work. When he asked what I was researching, I was completely honest. He quickly excused himself and then returned with his superior. The two men proceeded to shout at me. I was told that I needed to get a long-term entry visa to conduct my work on the island. I asked if they had changed their minds due to the nature of my research. The two men would not answer the question and immediately escorted me out.

She then talks of a Kafkaesque (that’s the second time I’ve used that word) situation at Heathrow Airport where she was detained but not given any reason for her detention.

I asked the guards what was happening and I was handed a piece of paper that said, “You have been detained under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act or arrested under paragraph 17 of Schedule 2 of that Act.” What did this mean? Was I being arrested? No one would say. I was fingerprinted and photographed. I asked the personnel watching me if I could call my solicitor or my consulate. “That’s what people always say,” one of the staffers said. I asked: What are my rights? A second staffer answered: “This is the border. You have no rights.”

More importantly,

Until two weeks ago, the investigation into my case was active and since my detainment (I eventually learned it was not an arrest) I have written several times to get a copy of my CCTV footage – to which all also are entitled – as proof that I was denied my rights at the border. For months, my requests went ignored, but another appeal made on my behalf by MP Hemming finally received a response from Immigration Minister Damian Green.

He said my CCTV footage had been destroyed.

Several days ago, another letter arrived at the MP’s office from a high-ranking official. It said my CCTV footage had not been destroyed. Who knows which is true?

My emphasis. Again, we find that crucial evidence has been destroyed. We can only speculate as to the reason for this.

While the establishment media was tying itself in knots over Lord McAlpine, the same paper that had informed the world that the wrong man had been fingered, reported that another 36 people had come forward with stories of sexual and physical abuse as well as torture.

He said: “These people are approaching me because they don’t yet want to go to the police or the authorities.” Most simply wanted to be listened to, he said. “They want to have their voices heard, they want people to understand what happened to them.” He said what happened in the 1970s and 1980s in north Wales was a consequence of children and young people not being listened to.

The children’s commissioner said the victims’ memories were “as clear as if it happened yesterday”. “We say it’s historical [abuse] but actually it’s alive. This is not an archaeological dig, we’re talking to people for whom this is terribly alive. People are incredibly emotional – we’ve had tears, anger, relief.

Today, the BBC is beating itself up, wondering what to do next.  This morning, the BBC Director General, George Entwistle, was interviewed on BBC4’s Today programme. Let’s put it this way, he didn’t do a great job. You can listen to the interview here.

The Tories have wanted to kill the BBC for decades and, it seems, they have a great opportunity to finish it off for good. The BBC has come in for a great deal of criticism over the years and much of it has been warranted but I would hate to see a media landscape populated by Murdoch clones.

We must keep our focus here.

I’ll leave you with this Sky News report. Warning: it’s harrowing stuff.

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Filed under BBC, censorship, Journalism, Media, propaganda