www.lobster-magazine.co.uk Lobster 66 Winter 2013 . Asil Nadir: another victim of the arms-to-Iraq conspiracy? by Andrew Rosthorn . Maggie’s guilty secret by John Hughes-Wilson . Secret Justice: Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIICs) and their use in the Asil Nadir trials by Martin Tancock . What if..... . View from the Bridge . Apocryphylia by Simon Matthews Book Reviews . British Writers and MI5 Surveillance 1930-1960, by James Smith reviewed by John Newsinger . A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s, by Alwyn W. Turner reviewed by Dan Atkinson . Understanding Shadows: The Corrupt Use of Intelligence by Michael Quilligan reviewed by Robin Ramsay . Spinfluence the Hardcore Propaganda Manual for Controlling the Masses by Nicholas McFarlane reviewed by Robin Ramsay . The Man Who Killed Kennedy by Roger Stone with Mike Colapietro reviewed by Robin Ramsay . In Spies We Trust by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones reviewed by Bernard Porter Asil Nadir: another victim of the arms-to-Iraq conspiracy? Andrew Rosthorn Asil Nadir was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 23 August 2012, for stealing £29 million from his company and from its North Cyprus subsidiary Uni-Pac. Soon after Justice Minister Chris Grayling rejected Nadir’s request for a transfer from a British to a Turkish prison, some of his supporters uploaded to their website, jancom.org, a document, described as a CIA intelligence report, naming two British former SAS men as the killers of Dr Gerald Bull, the designer of Saddam Hussein’s socalled supergun. The unsolved murder of the 62-year old Canadian-born engineer Gerald Bull, shot dead outside the door of his Brussels flat on March 22, 1990, has been variously attributed to the Israeli secret service Mossad, the CIA and the Iranians. No-one heard the silenced shots and twenty thousand dollars in cash lay untouched on the body. Nine days later, Jonathan Moyle, a former RAF helicopter pilot reporting on Chilean arms deals, was found dead in a room at the Hotel Carrera in Santiago. The 28-year old editor of the magazine Defence Helicopter World had been investigating military sales to Iraq. Despite Foreign Office suggestions that his death was an auto-erotic accident, a British inquest, reconvened in 1998, concluded that he had been unlawfully killed. Two weeks after the murder of Gerald Bull, British Customs seized eight gun barrel sections, designed by Bull, manufactured by Sheffield Forgemasters, waiting at Teesport for shipment to Iraq. The supergun was never built. The apparent CIA document The apparent CIA document was taken to Asil Nadir’s London solicitors in November 2010 by Olivia Frank. Ms Frank, who spied in Germany for the Israeli secret service in her youth, says that MI5 arranged for her to be jailed at the high-security Cookham Wood prison in Kent where she was to conduct negotiations with Mrs Elizabeth Forsyth, Asil Nadir’s private banker. Mrs Forsyth, born into the McAlpine family, was jailed in 1996 for laundering £400,000 for Nadir but freed on appeal a year later. Nadir had fled to northern Cyprus in 1993 after a Serious Fraud Office raid on Polly Peck in 1990 collapsed its share price. He lived in exile for 17 years before returning to Britain in 2010 to ‘clear his name’. JANCOM has posted two versions of the American document at jancom.org. One is a report from the CIA Directorate of Intelligence entitled ‘Project Babylon: The Iraqi Supergun’, released under freedom of information rules in the USA and heavily redacted to obscure sensitive passages. A second ‘unredacted’ version is claimed to be the original secret document without deletions. Certain paragraphs are also marked ‘S NF NC’ a coding that means ‘secret, not to be seen by foreign nationals or by defence contractors’. The group JANCOM – the Justice for Asil Nadir Committee – claim that the Central Intelligence Agency report was excluded from Nadir’s 2012 trial after a dispute between defence barristers and by the use of a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate, used by the state to hide politically sensitive documents. On 18 March 2013, answering a question in the House of Lords from Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, Lord Wallace of Tankerness for the British government refused to say how many documents had been subjected to PII during the Old Bailey trial of the former chief of Polly Peck International.1 1 Lord Maginnis of Drumglass is Ken Maginnis, former Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, from 1983 to 2001. Michael Mates MP was a Conservative Northern Ireland minister from 1992 to 1993 until forced to resign after the publication of a letter he had written to the attorney-general in support of Asil Nadir. Mates was a poll tax rebel and a key figure in the removal of Margaret Thatcher. He had given a watch to Nadir, a Tory donor, engraved, ‘Don't let the buggers get you down’. Mates was a defence witness at Nadir’s 2012 trial and later last year, when he was runner-up in an election for police and crime commissioner in Hampshire, he said of his support for Nadir: ‘Every single thing that I alleged when I was taking up the case has turned out to be true......I have a clear conscience about it all.’ Olivia Frank: The CIA dossier was to form a major part of the defence of Asil Nadir. I delivered it to Asil’s solicitor Giles Bark- Jones via his partner Fred Bunn, in November 2010 when I met Elizabeth Forsyth, once more, in a London hotel. According to Elizabeth, Her Majesty’s Government signed no fewer than 36 PII certificates. This had the effect of censoring numerous Turko-British government letters, so that I believe only one such letter was partially revealed in court and even that was redacted. In summarising the British end of the arms-to-Iraq scandal, the unredacted report names several serving and former British secret agents involved in the vast Anglo-American arms smuggling operation to supply Saddam Hussein. These agents include the late Stephan Adolphus Kock, a former officer in the Rhodesian Special Air Service, consultant to the Midland Bank and putative agent of both MI5 and Mi6; and Sir John [later Lord] Cuckney, a former MI5 officer. Both died in 2008. The document also describes the actions taken by HMG to cover-up its arms dealing to Iraq, including the destruction of companies and the framing and prosecution of some of those companies’ directors and employees. At the core of the arms trade with Iraq was a company called Allivane International. On the Jancom site is an affidavit by an Allivane director, ‘Witness statement by Terence Byrne Senior’, which confirms some of the general allegations in the putative CIA document. Most controversially that document claims that Stephan Kock, using named former SAS and SIS personnel, murdered four people, including Gerald Bull and the journalist Jonathan Moyle. The unredacted CIA document was first referred to in the English language Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet. Asil Nadir sheltered in his native Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus between 1993 and 2010 as a fugitive from British justice. In her 2006 online memoir Naked Spygirl,2 Olivia Frank 2 describes her childhood in Manchester, the influence of her father, a Jewish soldier in the British army wounded at El Alamein before serving in Palestine, and her recruitment as an agent for the Mossad who could travel on a genuine British passport. She says police in Lancashire and Cheshire harassed her parents before she was persuaded by MI5 to commit a white collar accountancy crime and from an adjoining cell, make friends in prison with Elizabeth Forsyth. Her father committed suicide. She claims to have turned her back on MI5 in prison and, after being released, was introduced to Asil Nadir by Mrs Forsyth. She says the ‘unredacted’ CIA report is genuine. Elizabeth Forsyth At her retirement home in Northern Cyprus, Elizabeth Forsyth, Asil Nadir’s former private banker, pointed out that Polly Peck International and Astra, one of the firms involved in supplying explosives to Iraq, shared the same accountant Dennis Robertson of Stoy Hayward of Baker Street, London. Elizabeth Forsyth: I spent ten months in high security prisons until I won my appeal. I received no compensation for what had happened to me. I won my appeal because Judge Tucker had misled the jury on seven occasions. In reality it was nine occasions. During my appeal hearing one of the three judges, Lord Beldam, asked my QC if Dennis Robertson had been questioned in Asil Nadir’s first trial. Neither he nor I knew to whom he was referring. The judge then directed his question to the Serious Fraud Office who answered very quickly in the affirmative. Dennis Robertson was the partner in charge of the Polly Peck International audit for Stoy Hayward. Prior to my trial my solicitor had written to the SFO for a list of the people who had been questioned in AN’s case. Dennis Robertson’s name was not on that list........ It was some time after my successful appeal that a friend of mine, who had been closely following my trial, mentioned that she had read a book written by Gerald James, the ex-chairman of Astra. In that book Gerald mentioned that Asil Nadir was in the arms business. I decided to meet Gerald as I was not aware that this was the case. I ran AN’s personal businesses and I am sure that this suggestion would have appeared somehow or another. I met Gerald at his club in Piccadilly and he said that if AN was not in the arms business then why were Astra Fireworks sending Uni-pac, a subsidiary company of PPI, invoices for the manufacture of propellant for the Big Gun? I was completely nonplussed. Gerald then suggested that if this event was unknown to Asil Nadir, and perhaps even to PPI, who then would have been able to open a bank account in PPI’s name? He asked who PPI’s auditors were and I told him Stoy Hayward. Seemingly both Astra and PPI accounts were being audited by the same partner, in the same firm of accountants, Dennis Robertson. Coincidentally Dennis Robertson had taken over from a previous auditor on both accounts at the same time. Late 1989! It was therefore possible that in his position as auditor for both companies Robertson could have opened the various accounts for certain military purposes. When I was able to speak to Asil Nadir again I asked him whether Dennis Robertson had ever mentioned opening accounts for PPI in Switzerland. He vaguely remembered that this had been the case. Robertson had wanted to open accounts for the three Turkish subsidiaries of PPI in Switzerland for ‘tax reasons’. The companies were Uni-pac, Meyna and Subzest. Dennis Robertson was going to be called as a witness in Mr Nadir’s trial but he died in around 1992. Gerald James is totally convinced that his death was not accidental.’ 3 Dennis Robertson’s name has appeared before in these columns, in John Burnes’ ‘Joseph K and the spooky launderette’ in Lobster 36.4 As Burnes commented recently: When I was blacklisted by the spooks and no college in the land would employ me, I ended up in Holland, actually applying for political asylum. I lived in Holland for three months in a refugee camp at OC Zeevolde. The core of my application process for asylum was an official interview conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Justice during which they confronted me with evidence that eight hundred thousand pounds had been banked in Holland in my name. I have had years to find out how and why eight hundred thousand pounds went through accounts set up in Holland in my name, at a time when I was an unemployed graduate student. I now believe the money was banked by the late Dennis Robertson, my ex-wife’s accountant, and that Robertson laundered funds for SIS, the British intelligence service. Of one thing we can be certain: it was Dennis Robertson who moved Polly Peck funds from Britain to Cyprus.’ Postscript: a licence to kill? In 2009, the BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera 3 Elizabeth Forsyth says: ‘I must make one matter clear, I was instrumental in handing documentation which I had been given during my investigations into this rather lurid business but neither I, nor Mr. Nadir’s family, were involved in the construction of the website on which the documents have been published.' 4 Burnes wrote on Nadir in Lobster 41, ‘Elvis has left the building: Political Perspectives on the Fall of Polly Peck’. He was the subject of ‘Revealed: How Sir Thomas Legg the exes axeman lost his wife to a guitar-playing ‘KGB suspect’ . See also ‘Expenses axeman Sir Thomas Legg “inspired TV’s Judge John Deed love feud plot”’ at asked Sir John Scarlett, retiring chief of MI6 about a licence to kill, ‘The licence to kill issue? No we do not. We do not have licence to kill.’ It has however been argued that Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act might protect a British agent involved in murder abroad. This curious and little-known law was intended to protect British spies from being prosecuted or sued in Britain after committing crimes abroad. Section 7, offering protection to spies involved in bugging and bribery, might be extended to an agent embroiled in far more serious matters in a foreign country, including murder, kidnap or torture, provided the actions of the agent were authorised in writing by a secretary of state.5 5 Maggie’s guilty secret John Hughes-Wilson1 One of the biggest secrets of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership was that during the 1980s she and her Cabinet authorised a long running and totally illegal operation to supply arms secretly to both Iraq and Iran, in contravention of UN resolutions and British law. Billions of pounds worth of arms were exported illegally. Parliament was lied to and British ministers, officials and businessmen made fortunes from the illicit trade before it was discovered and swiftly closed down. The story starts in 1978 with the White House and a behind the scenes deal with Iran. The US, which had supported the Shah of Iran for years, was beginning to find his increasingly oppressive regime embarrassing, both at home and abroad. President Carter ordered the CIA to begin secretly supporting the Iranian opposition, with a view to replacing the Shah and establishing a stable government favourably inclined to the US. The Carter administration began to channel support to those backing the Ayatollah Khomenei, with the result that in late 1979 the Shah was overthrown by a revolution. Despite this US support, the populist Islamic revolution got out of US control, with the result that on 4 November 1979 the US Embassy in Tehran was invaded by militant students, taking 52 embassy staff hostage. The Carter administration tried to negotiate their return, but Khomenei was intent on humiliating the ‘Great Satan’, as he called the USA. By 1980, as his opinion polls fell week by week, Carter was under intense pressure to do something to rescue the American hostages. He authorised a daring secret rescue mission in April 1980, landing American forces deep inside Iran. 1 This first appeared in Cyprus Today on 24 April 2013. The author’s CV is at Operation Eagle Claw turned into a disaster. A helicopter collided with a KC-130 tanker on the ground; 8 soldiers were killed and the mission aborted. It was a national humiliation for the US and wrecked Carter’s chances of retaining the Presidency. Carter turns to Iraq An increasingly desperate Carter then turned for help to Saddam Hussein of Iraq who, in 1980, was strongly anti- Iranian and pro-American. In return for secret financial and logistic support from the US, on 22 September 1980 Iraq attacked Iran. The White House expected that Iran, then on the point of economic collapse and now embroiled in a major war with Iraq’s powerful armed forces, would agree to release the hostages if the US interceded to stop the Iraqi onslaught. But the White House miscalculated – badly. The Khomenei regime dug in, politically and militarily. William Casey, the unscrupulous millionaire business man organising Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign, had known all about the US’s supposedly secret negotiations with Iraq, and even the details of Operation Desert Eagle itself. Behind the scenes Casey approached Mohammed Hashemi, a CIA agent in Iran, and negotiated his own secret deal on behalf of Reagan, whereby the US promised to sell large quantities of high tech weapons secretly to Iran for their war, but on condition that Tehran hung onto the 52 hostages until Ronald Reagan was President. Iran agreed to what was, by American law, virtually a secret pact with the Devil. On 20 January 1981, the very day that Reagan was being sworn in as President, the hostages were finally released and Bill Casey was appointed as Director of the CIA. Casey, a man who as CIA Director famously said ‘Fuck the law’, now had to implement his promised arms deals with Tehran. To achieve this, he ordered the CIA to set up a network of legitimate companies across Europe and the Middle East, in particular Britain and Israel, in order to secretly supply illegal arms to Iran. The main British company, called Allivane International, was set up at Cumbernauld near Glasgow with CIA money and government assistance from the Scottish Business Development Fund, registering in 1982 as company number 1621896. The directors were briefed personally by CIA Chief Casey and Ed Meese, Reagan’s foreign affairs advisor, and sworn to secrecy. The British cabinet set up a secret sub-committee to oversee the project, with both the Home Office (MI5) and the FCO (MI6) ordered to support the illegal exports. Michael Heseltine, Geoffrey Howe, Willie Whitelaw, Francis Pym and PM Thatcher all gave the secret project government blessing. During the 1992 Matrix Churchill trial ex-Minister Alan Clark let the cat out of the bag revealing that ‘the interests of the West were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, and the longer the better.’ The plan was totally illegal. US export regulations banning the export of arms to the warring nations were strict. But in Britain the situation was different. Every type of military equipment could be exported provided it had a governmentapproved ‘end user certificate’ supplied by the MoD. The British were ordered to get round the UN and Parliamentary ban by supplying false ‘end user certificates’. These were drawn up by Mr James Taylor, Assistant Director of the Defence Sales Organisation; and, armed with these false end user certificates, between 1982 and 1986 Allivane exported £1.4 billion of arms to Iran and £3.6 billion to Iraq on behalf of the CIA and the Thatcher government, in conditions of great secrecy. British officials were muzzled by the Official Secrets Act and Parliament was deliberately misled. The contracts themselves were supplied by British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance, ISC Ferranti, Smiths Instruments, BMARC and Astra Defence Systems, among others. The contracts were drawn up by the Defence Sales Organisation under Sir Peter Levene, with the Board of Trade and Midland bank supplying finance through government-backed Export Credit Guarantees controlled by ex-MI5 officer Sir John Cuckney, on behalf of Whitehall’s International Military Services. Illegal false end user certificates were provided by Whitehall for countries such as Spain, Portugal, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Singapore. On arrival the arms were then forwarded to Iraq or Iran, usually funneled through Jordan or Cyprus (some shipments of propellant – falsely labelled as chocolate – were, unknown to him, hidden among consignments sent through Asil Nadir’s Unipac in North Cyprus). Exposure and shut-down But by 1986-87 the story was beginning to unravel. Astra Explosives in Kent were working a phantom third shift to supply the contracts and the company’s accounts did not match the massive secret turnover. When MD Gerald James queried these strange goings on, he was ousted in a boardroom coup organised by Stephan Kock, an MI6 agent placed on the board by Cuckney and MI6 to oversee Astra’s illegal contracts. Too late, however: the secret was out. The Netherlands police were investigating the movement of explosives from Muiden Chemie to Portugal on an Allivane contract and demanded sight of Allivane’s accounts. In a panic the secret operation was hastily shut down; In 1987 Allivane was raided along with Astra and Matrix Churchill by Britain’s Customs and Excise, and literally thousands of documents impounded as ‘evidence’, most never to be seen again. With the trail now cold, Allivane and many other CIA front companies shut down their bank accounts and let the companies go bankrupt over the next two years. The CIA’s clear-up job was done. Those who tried to reveal what had gone on were swiftly crushed on government orders: Matrix Churchill’s directors were arrested; Gerald James was hounded and threatened by the police; and the Serious Fraud Office and HM Customs began to raid and threaten companies associated with the project. However not all the Thatcher government secrets disappeared into the black hole of the ‘British justice system.’ Copies of a number of contracts were taken in evidence by the Metropolitan Police as the investigation unfolded. These still exist and point directly to the direct complicity of the CIA, Whitehall and the Conservative government in a murky tale of illegality and corruption at the heart of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations. Many got rich out of the inside knowledge and huge profits that flowed from this major breach of UN resolutions and British law. The finance director of Allivane alone admitted to receiving £2 million in commissions, and both Levene and Cuckney retired as millionaires, as did many others at the heart of the Thatcher government. The whole sordid issue was hushed up by the Scott Enquiry; but to this day the full story of Maggie’s Guilty Secret has never been told – and probably never will. SECRET JUSTICE Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIICs) and their use in the Asil Nadir trials Martin Tancock In March 2013, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked the following questions of Her Majesty’s Government, regarding the imposition of PIICs in the trial R v Asil Nadir (2011-12): To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many documents were subject to public interest immunity certificates during the trial of Asil Nadir. [HL5942] To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to apply for public interest immunity certificates for the three boxes of documents relating to the Asil Nadir case recently found by the Serious Fraud Office; and, if so, under what legal mechanism. [HL5943] To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the public interest immunity certificates issued during the trial of Asil Nadir are still in force; and, if so, for what reason. [HL5944] The Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, responded on behalf of the government, in a written answer, on 15 March 2013: It would not be appropriate to comment on any substantive application for public interest immunity or to provide details. Lord Wallace sought to clarify and justify his response in a letter to Lord Maginnis dated 23 March 2013: I understand that you have raised with Baroness Stowell of Beeston concerns about the information I provided in the Written Parliamentary Answer on 15th March 2013, in relation to the Asil Nadir case and public interest immunity certificates. The reason I could not address your question directly is that it is not appropriate to comment on the details of any case in relation to matters of the kind you raised with me. He went on to explain the ways in which the courts approach questions of public interest immunity: The doctrine as applied in the criminal courts, concerns the circumstances in which material held by the prosecution cannot be disclosed fully or even at all, without risk of serious prejudice to an important public interest. He concluded: Commensurate with the nature of the public interests sought to be protected, the rules of court impose very strict obligations of confidence on the parties dealing with a case in which PII issues arise. By the end of July 2013, Lord Maginnis, frustrated by the lack of interest shown by government ministers, sent an e-mail to ‘Members of Government’. In it he wrote: I was lied to by the head of the SFO and have been deliberately frustrated by the Parliamentary system to which I have devoted 30 years of my life. I know that a great injustice has been done – when did a trial for alleged fraud ever merit over 35 PII certificates? Whoever has had a hand in this cover-up over the past 30 years, it is now the responsibility of Government to make amends. This deceit brings the whole of the British Justice system into disrepute. Response from the government On 15 August 2013, Oliver Heald QC MP, Solicitor General, responded as follows: Dear Ken The email dated 31st July and addressed to “Members of Government” has been sent to this office for reply as it concerns the fairness of the trial of Asil Nadir. As you are aware, the Serious Fraud Office is subject to the superintendence of the Attorney General. I reply in his absence. I know you have strong views about a number of issues in respect of the investigation and prosecution of this case and which have been expressed on many occasions. I also recognize your frustration because you feel that your questions are not being treated in a way that reflects your position as a senior and experienced Parliamentarian and peer. You refer specifically to there being 35 Public Interest Immunity certificates used in the Trial of Mr Nadir and suggest that it is therefore axiomatic that an injustice was done. A specific question was asked by you and replied to by the Advocate General for Scotland on 18th March of this year and this was followed by a letter from Lord Wallace dated 23rd March in which the Advocate General sought to provide you with an explanation of how PII is used, for what reason and why it was not possible to reply in the detail you asked for. I realise that you do not accept that explanation and that my reply is not going to change your mind. Nevertheless I will make three points. The first is that the use of PII certificates does not render a trial unfair. The trial judge will not allow the use of PII if the effect is to render the trial process unfair to the defendant. Secondly, as the name suggests, PII is only used to protect an important public interest. This may be national security; it may be the safety of an individual. Sometimes the defence in a trial can be told a PII application is being made; sometimes even letting the defence know an application is being made would risk disclosing the very information that is being protected. This means that the use or otherwise of PII certificates is neither confirmed nor denied outside the trial process. So, I am not able to confirm or deny what happened in the trial of Mr Nadir. Again the fairness to the defendant is at all times monitored by the trial judge so, the trial of Mr Nadir remained a fair one. Yours sincerely Oliver Oliver Heald QC MP Solicitor General The three points of Oliver Heald QC MP, Solicitor General Point 1. The first is that the use of PII certificates does not render a trial unfair. The trial judge will not allow the use of PII if the effect is to render the trial process unfair to the defendant. In the Matrix Churchill trial of 1992, Judge Brian Smedley QC, needed much persuasion before ordering the disclosure of the documents suppressed by the PII certificates and Mr Rupert Allason MP suggested he might well have been unique in challenging the certificates. Prosecuting counsel Alan Moses QC (whose astute handling, as prosecuting counsel in the Euromac trial, had not only led to the imprisonment of two innocent people but even on appeal caused their ruination) had told the judge that the documents contained nothing of assistance to the defence. It was only when Geoffrey Robertson QC, counsel for Paul Henderson, against the advice of counsel for the other two defendants, brought out Henderson’s links with MI6 that the judge ordered disclosure of documents relating to the security services, having earlier, after Alan Clark’s sensational evidence, allowed only disclosure of documents relating to policy-making within government departments. The judge in the 1992 Ordtec trial,1 His Honour Judge Stanley Spence, allowed PIIs to be invoked, thereby making it appear that the defendants were acting unlawfully and profiting from the export of fuses to an embargoed destination – Iraq. The PIIs were issued to prevent an officer of Special Branch, DS Wilkinson, from verifying that Paul Grecian had been acting with official backing in order to gather intelligence on Iraq. The Public Interest Immunity certificates were signed by Kenneth Baker and Peter Lilley, relying on an assessment by the prosecuting council that the documents in question were not relevant. Grecian was exonerated in 1995, at the Court of Appeal, 1 On which see . when it became apparent ‘that the government had failed to disclose the relevant documents’. Point 2. Secondly, as the name suggests, PII is only used to protect an important public interest. This may be national security; it may be the safety of an individual. Sometimes the defence in a trial can be told a PII application is being made; sometimes even letting the defence know an application is being made would risk disclosing the very information that is being protected. This means that the use or otherwise of PII certificates is neither confirmed nor denied outside the trial process. Gerald James says in his book In the Public Interest (London 1995): ‘The only time you need total secrecy is when you are actually in a state of war with another country. A number of the clandestine conventions of government in this country are rooted in the need for secrecy during wartime and have never been removed, and of course these are very useful tools for a corrupt government and civil service. If the Bourn Report came out,2 it wouldn’t undermine the nation, it would only undermine the government. There is this confusion of interests.’ James was discussing the suppression of the Bourn Report into the Al Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia but his remarks are applicable to R v Asil Nadir (2011-12) and other cases where the use of PIICs featured prominently. It is a matter of public record that there were 36 PII certificates imposed in R v Asil Nadir (2011-12), plus another 8 on a supplementary list. Of those 36 PIIs, 19 related to the handling of the informants Michael Francis, Wendy Welsher and Michael O’Keefe by the Metropolitan Police and the bribery allegations against Mr Justice Tucker during R v Asil Nadir (1992-93). The supplementary list also relates to police intelligence. There were two attempts to derail the trial of R v Asil Nadir (1992-93) when the trial judge, Mr Justice Tucker, was 2 On Bourn see Appendix 1 below. accused of bribery and corruption. The bribery charge was dropped when the perpetrator, Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Glendinning of the Metropolitan Police, had to admit in open court that there was and never had been any evidence. The corruption charge involved Asil Nadir, his defence counsel Anthony Scrivener QC and an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Wyn Jones. It was also investigated by Det. Chief Insp Glendinning and his team. In the autumn of 1993, police informants Michael Francis and Wendy Welsher gave sworn statements that they were blackmailed and bribed to frame Asil Nadir. In a letter to the Serious Fraud Office dated 12 October 2011, Bark & Co, Solicitors for Asil Nadir, stated: On 13 September 2011, Bark & Co wrote to Sir Paul Stevenson, the then Commissioner of Police enquiring into an investigation into the circumstances in which the original allegations of perverting the course of justice were first made and enclosed a letter dated 10 December 1993, written by Detective Superintendent Glendinning. Under reply dated 16 September 2011, Commander Peter Spindler of the Directorate of Professional Standards responded as follows:- “The MPS [the Met] is aware of the ongoing criminal investigation to which your letter refers…..” By letter dated 27 September 2011, Bark & Co responded as follows:- Thank you for your letter dated 16 September 2011 and for your indication that there is an ongoing criminal investigation concerning the circumstances into which the original allegations of perverting the course of justice were first made. It is not clear whether this is a re-opening of the original investigation that was conducted in 1993, or is more recent. In his reply dated 29 September 2011, Commander Spindler reminded us that the Serious Fraud Office “had made contact in accordance with their obligations under the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996 (approaching potential third party material holders)”. Importantly, he stated as follows:- “With that in mind it would not be appropriate for me to discuss this investigation with you any further at this stage.” So we have a case which is twenty years old, that is still open and being investigated, but because it is an active investigation it cannot be said if it is a continuing investigation or one that has conveniently been re-opened to coincide with the trial of Asil Nadir. It also cannot be said who is carrying out the investigation, who are the prime suspects or how big a team is doing the leg work. What can be said is that the release of evidence relating to the case is conveniently refused. The Serious Fraud Office used PII certificates to deny access to documents from this investigation during Nadir’s second trial, which started in 2011. Where is the public interest in denying this information? What part of national security would be threatened? Whose safety would be jeopardized? Or is it more likely that these documents would confirm wrong-doing in the Metropolitan Police and the Serious Fraud Office rendering the conviction of Asil Nadir unsafe and seriously embarassing high ranking officers in those organisations? The government interest might be threatened but not the national interest. The Establishment is here protecting its own against the interests of an individual. Confirmation of the existence of PII certificates and the release of documents becomes vitally important. Point 3. ....the fairness to the defendant is at all times monitored by the trial judge so, the trial of Mr Nadir remained a fair one. It is equally not axiomatic that fairness to the defendant is at all times monitored by the trial judge and that the resulting trial will be a fair one. That is not to suggest that any trial judge would be overtly unfair. Nevertheless, the appointment of judges in major trials of public interest, where a ‘safe pair of hands’ is required and certain outcome is expected, begin to resemble political appointments and are now made by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice. Between 2003 and 2007 the appointments were made by the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs; and before 2003 by the Permanent Secretary in the Lord Chancellor’s Department, in consultation with his or her political master. Selection of an appropriate judge is never left to chance. Between 1989 and 1998 the job of selecting the right man for the right job fell to Sir Thomas Legg,3 who was Permanent Secretary in the Lord Chancellor’s Department before our justice system was ‘nationalised’. Legg selected the judges for the major show trials of the early nineties, including Mr Justice Tucker for R v Asil Nadir (1992-93); and Legg again selected Tucker for R v Elizabeth Forsyth, Asil Nadir’s private banker in 1996. For R v Asil Nadir (2011-12) it would have been Sir Suma Chakrabarti, a career civil servant, who was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice between 2008 and 2012 and is now President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He would have been involved in the decision to appoint Mr Justice Holroyde. Unlike Legg, who in keeping with the rules of the Lord Chancellor’s Department was a barrister of at least seven years standing and called to the bar in 1960, Chakrabarti is by training and practice an economist. The new Ministry of Justice has no longer a rule about the training of its permanent secretary. The appointment of Mr Justice Holroyde was clearly a good one, for as one legal observer put it: I saw how hard he [the trial Judge] had strained to rule against the abuse of process submissions - that he was a man on a mission and that was to see Mr Nadir tried by a jury. 3 Legg is discussed in John Burnes’ ‘Joseph K and the spooky launderette’ in Lobster 36 – ed. The Attorney General gets involved On 2 September 2013, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, wrote to Lord Maginnis of Drumglass as follows: Dear Ken Asil Nadir Thank you for your letter of the 25th August. I thought I would answer in Oliver’s absence. I accept that there is nothing I can tell you that is going to get you to change your mind about the fairness of the Nadir trial and I am sorry to have to write in these terms to someone with as notable a career as true and loyal Parliamentarian as you. But it is clear that you have not accepted what has already been explained. It has been explained to you that it is not open to me to confirm or deny that there were any PII applications in Nadir’s trial. You believe there were. It has been explained to you even if there had been PII applications, the trial judge would not have allowed the trial to continue unless the trial was fair. In response to your letter I would make these three points. First, that you will have received a separate letter responding to the FOI request you make. Secondly that on the basis that I cannot confirm or deny that any PII applications were made, your request that I identify Ministers who signed certificates cannot be answered either. Thirdly, you write that it is alleged that I have reneged on a deal to return Nadir to Turkey. I can assure you that I have had absolutely no involvement in any decision on where Nadir should serve his sentence. Finally I am concerned that your letter and its claims appear to suggest that we have in this country a corrupt and perverse criminal justice system. I firmly believe that this is not the case. Yours ever Dominic Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP Attorney General The three points of the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP First, that you will have received a separate letter responding to the FOI request you make. This is outside the remit of this article and therefore cannot be commented on. Secondly that on the basis that I cannot confirm or deny that any PII applications were made, your request that I identify Ministers who signed certificates cannot be answered either. This confirms the Kafkaesque charade of the criminal justice system already put forward by the Solicitor General. Even when so much of this information is in the public domain government ministers continue to hide behind platitudes. Thirdly, you write that it is alleged that I have reneged on a deal to return Nadir to Turkey. I can assure you that I have had absolutely no involvement in any decision on where Nadir should serve his sentence. Chris Grayling MP, the first non-lawyer to serve as Lord Chancellor since the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672-3, has refused to allow Nadir to serve his sentence in Turkey, even though Nadir fulfilled all the criteria. Three boxes of evidence To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to apply for public interest immunity certificates for the three boxes of documents relating to the Asil Nadir case recently found by the Serious Fraud Office; and, if so, under what legal mechanism. [HL5943] On 28 February 2013, it was reported in The Times that three boxes of evidence relating to Asil Nadir’s original trial in 1993 had been found by the SFO when they were clearing offices. The contents of the three boxes relate to the bribery allegations, concerning the original trial judge Mr Justice Tucker, and the activities of Michael Francis and Wendy Welsher, the two known police informants. Although the Serious Fraud Office has argued that the documents are irrelevant to the trial of Asil Nadir, which ended in August 2012, they still intended to apply for Public Interest Immunity (PII) Certificates. Anthony Scrivener QC’s view was reported in The Times on 1 March 2013: ‘….. there should be openness rather than secrecy about the “mysterious re-appearance” of the long-lost evidence. ‘Most people have forgotten, but the SFO has already had to make a statement to parliament explaining the bribery allegations were entirely false,’ said Mr Scrivener who was named in court in 1993 as a party to the bribery plot. ‘The time has come for the SFO to tell us the whole truth. I would like them to explain where these boxes came from, who filled them with relevant documents and who failed to disclose them to the defence.’ Mr Scrivener, Mr Justice Tucker and Assistant Commissioner Wyn Jones subsequently received apologies for being implicated in the bribery allegations. The bribery claims had originated with Michael Francis, a paid police informant, but the SFO later had to admit that they were ‘spurious and groundless’. Mr Scrivener, a former chairman of the Bar Council, said: ‘I took the view back in 1993 that Michael Francis’s allegations were completely false and had been fabricated to cover weaknesses in the prosecution case.4 There was questionable conduct 20 years ago and it seems to have persisted right up to the present day.’ It is believed the boxes were found during November 2012, too late to be included in Asil Nadir's trial, but their finding was not disclosed until February 2013. The Serious Fraud Office have refused to comment. 4 Francis’ affidavit is at . On 10 April 2013, Mr Justice Holroyde sent the following NOTE TO THE PARTIES in R v Asil Nadir (2011-12): I am grateful to the parties for their written submissions as to whether I have any jurisdiction to accede to the prosecution’s request for my assistance. I entirely understand why the prosecution wish to have that assistance. However, I can see no grounds on which to alter the preliminary view which I expressed in my earlier note of the 27th February. Indeed, the submissions of counsel on both sides confirm that I am functus officio. I am unable to accept the submission of the prosecution that I am entitled nonetheless to assist as opposed to making any order: it seems to me that if I have no jurisdiction to make any order, then any view I expressed would be mere opinion. I cannot see any basis on which it would be proper for a trial judge, once functus officio, to offer his opinions as to the post-trial actions of either party. I therefore confirm my view that I am functus officio, and cannot assist further. My previous Note indicated the limits of what I had read at that stage. For the avoidance of doubt, I have read no further material since that date, other than the submissions of the parties as to my jurisdiction. The judge feels he does not have the jurisdiction to review a PII on the re-appearance of the ‘lost’ boxes. In the correspondence involving the Advocate General for Scotland, Rt Hon Lord Wallace of Tankerness, QC, the Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve this issue is never been mentioned, probably because they believe their explanation that they ‘…..cannot confirm or deny that any PII applications were made’ will suffice, even regarding new evidence after the trial process has been completed. Political interference in British trials The criminal justice system has been corrupted over the years by overt political interference, as have other institutions central to the fabric of British society, such as health and education; but it is not in itself corrupt. It has been hamstrung by rules, regulations and laws imposed from Europe, by countries that have no tradition of Common Law or Habeas Corpus and where secret justice has been the norm and not the exception. But with the rise of Thatcher and the great show trials of the early nineties related to the clandestine Anglo-American arming of Iraq – Euromac,5 Ordtec, Matrix Churchill, Elizabeth Forsyth, Asil Nadir – the iron fist of political control has been worthy of anything that has come out of Eastern Europe. In those trials evidence was not properly investigated, it was suppressed, it was manufactured and PII was imposed. Witnesses were not called or barred from attending the trial; allegations of corruption were made without evidence; reporting restrictions were imposed and evidence was heard in secret. Juries were misdirected. Sir Richard Scott, Vice-Chancellor of the Supreme Court said in 1996: As to documents which appear to have the potential to assist the defence, could a situation ever arise in which disclosure could be refused on PII grounds? This is, to my mind, a fundamental but conceptually simple, question. The answer to it, both on authority and on principle should, in my opinion, be a resounding 'No'. In the context of a criminal trial how can there be a more important public interest than that the defendant should have a fair trial and that documents which might assist him to establish his innocence should not be withheld from him. PII should only be used when there is a clear case of the national interest being compromised. It should not be used to conceal wrong-doing by individuals or the government or to hide evidence that might assist the defence. This abuse of PII in R v Asil Nadir (2011-12) has yet to be rectified. As William Gladstone said: Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right. 5 See Appendix 2 below. POSTSCRIPT On 18 November 2013 Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked an oral question of Her Majesty’s Government, which led to the following exchanges: Public Interest Immunity Certificates Question 2.45 pm Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass To ask Her Majesty’s Government on how many occasions since 2010 Public Interest Immunity certificates have been granted in cases of alleged fraud; and how many certificates were granted in each case. 18 Nov 2013 : Column 724 The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, public interest immunity, or PII, certificates are ministerial instruments used in legal proceedings where the disclosure of sensitive material would cause a real risk of serious prejudice to an important public interest. Although applications for PII have been made in criminal fraud cases since 2010, I am not aware of any PII applications relating to fraud cases that involved ministerial PII certificates. Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (Non-Afl): My Lords, is not the noble and learned Lord’s Answer relevant virtually only to the case of Asil Nadir? Is it not ridiculous, and a mockery of British justice, that Asil Nadir came back to this country with all the evidence to clear his name, and that the Serious Fraud Office sought to hide behind more than 35 public interest immunity certificates? The SFO used the international status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to avoid going there to examine the books although, 20 years previously, it had already been told by the administrators for Polly Peck that the audited books were in order. Is this not a contradiction of British justice? Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I readily acknowledge the determination with which the noble Lord has pursued these matters. As I have previously indicated to him, it is a long- standing convention that applications for PII certificates are neither confirmed nor denied. Indeed, I gave the noble Lord a Written Answer earlier this year in which I set out the reasons for that. Immediately before coming into your Lordships’ House, I inquired about the status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is my understanding that these issues were raised during the trial of Asil Nadir and that Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials were examined on the matter. As a matter of general law, the use of a PII to prevent disclosure of sensitive material does not render any trial unfair. Whether materials are or are not disclosed is not a decision for Ministers or for the prosecution; it is the decision of the trial judge. The trial judge will not allow a PII claim to stand if to do so would render the trial of the defendant unfair. Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): Does my noble friend agree that the PII ministerial certificates should be used sparingly, if only because they are made without anyone representing the interests of a defendant being present? That places a great burden on the trial judge, who has to second guess what the defence is likely to say on certain issues. It also means that the defence is unable to answer allegations which can easily be made, but which may be incorrect. Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, as I indicated, in the case of criminal fraud trials since 2010, I am not aware of any case where a ministerial PII certificate has been advanced. I acknowledge that PII certificates are more commonly used in civil cases, and I accept my noble friend’s point, that that should proceed only after very careful consideration. 18 Nov 2013 : Column 725 Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, is not the SFO—the Serious Fraud Office—a seriously failing office? What expectations does the noble and learned Lord have of it improving on its rather poor record thus far? Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I think that that goes slightly wide of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis. From Written Statements which have been made in the other place by the Attorney-General, and which I have placed in your Lordships’ House, I know of a number of steps have been taken recently to improve the operation of the Serious Fraud Office. However, I will ensure that the comments made by the noble Lord are drawn to the attention of my right honourable and learned friend, the Attorney General. Appendix 1: The Bourn Report Sir John Bourn was made Auditor General on Margaret Thatcher’s personal instruction in 1988 and remained in office until January 2008, when he was just short of his 74th birthday, which is well past Civil Service retirement age. Bourn led a National Audit Office inquiry into corruption in the Al Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia. The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, who oversee the work of the National Audit Office, were not allowed to see the report and it has been concealed ever since. The report has been suppressed on the grounds of national security/national interest, and also on the grounds of damaging British industry, because if the true facts were revealed, the companies would lose business. These allegations of corruption and bribery led to an SFO investigation in 2004, but, in a clear case of political interference in the judicial process, it was closed in 2006, after intervention from then Prime Minister Tony Blair, on grounds of public interest, amid concerns that relations with Saudi Arabia were being harmed. In August 2013 the issue surfaced again when the SFO admitted to losing 32,000 pages of data and 81 audio tapes linked to the investigation. It is no coincidence that Mr Justice Tucker was selected for the trial of Elizabeth Forsyth, the former chairman of South Audley Management, the private investment company of the Nadir family. Thomas Legg clearly needed a ‘safe pair of hands’ to ensure that at least something positive came out of the raids on South Audley Management and Polly Peck to justify the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. With Asil Nadir in exile, and therefore no chance at that time of continuing his trial, who better than Nadir’s trial judge, smarting from the accusations against him, to ensure that only the evidence the Serious Fraud Office wanted was presented to court, no calamitous statements were made by uncontrollable defence witnesses and that the trial proceeded safely and soundly to a guilty verdict. Appendix 2: The Euromac trial On 12 June 1991 Mr Ali Daghir and Mrs Jeanine Speckman were convicted of conspiracy to export from the United Kingdom to Iraq 40 electrical capacitors alleged to be specially designed for use in a nuclear warhead. They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. On 25 May 1994 Mr Daghir’s and Mrs Speckman’s appeal against conviction was allowed on the ground of a material misdirection by the trial judge in his summing-up to the jury. The two defendants were officers of Euromac (London) Ltd. Euromac was a wholly owned Iraqi company registered in the UK and trading as a general sales company for goods, mainly heating and ventilation equipment, for export to Iraq. Mr Daghir was Euromac’s managing director. He was an Iraqi and a UK citizen. Mrs Jeanine Speckman was Euromac’s export executive. She was responsible for ‘Customs documentation and arrangement of shipment of items ordered by the Iraqis [from Euromac]’ and was ‘from early 1989, heavily involved in assisting the Iraqis in making arrangements for the design and manufacture of the capacitors and their export under the direction of Mr Daghir’. Mr Toufic Amyuni was Euromac’s sales manager and consultant. He held a Lebanese and a United States passport. He was a co-defendant at the trial but was acquitted by the jury. Mr Alan Moses QC was retained to lead for the Crown in the prosecution. The Prosecution, both at committal and trial, based the Crown’s case on the allegation, derived mainly from the evidence of the American witnesses, that the capacitors were specifically designed to be used in firing sets for nuclear warheads. The emphasis, apparent in the Case Summary, on the allegation that the capacitors had been specially designed for use in nuclear weapons was maintained throughout the trial. However, the trial judge, in the summing-up, left the issue of special design to the jury on a wider basis. He directed the jury that it was open to them to convict if they found the capacitors were specially designed for any military use. He referred to the prosecution case that ‘these capacitors were specially designed for use in the firing system of a nuclear bomb’, to the defence case ‘that the capacitors were or may have been designed for a civilian purpose.....’, but invited the jury to decide ‘whether it is proved that these capacitors were designed for military use.’ The jury convicted Mr Daghir and Mrs Speckman but acquitted Mr Amyuni. The Prosecution had, before the trial began, decided not to proceed against the company. Both Mr Daghir and Mrs Speckman were sentenced to terms of imprisonment: Mr Daghir for 5 years, Mrs Speckman for 18 months. Both appealed, with leave, against conviction. A number of grounds of appeal were put forward falling, broadly, under the following heads: (i) alleged misdirections by the trial judge in the summingup to the jury; (ii) the alleged failure by the trial judge to put the defence case adequately to the jury; (iii) alleged errors by the trial judge in allowing the prosecution to adduce certain evidence and, in particular, the evidence of an individual claimed by the defendants to have played the part of an ‘agent provocateur.’ In addition the defendants proposed to seek leave to adduce fresh evidence to refute the proposition that the capacitors had been specially designed for use in nuclear weapons. In the event, the appeal was decided in the defendants’ favour on the first ground put forward. Geoffrey Robertson QC, for the defence, said Judge Neil Denison gave jurors at the trial in June 1991 the impression they could still convict if they found the 40 electrical capacitors at the centre of the case were for other military, but nonnuclear use. This was a ‘material defect’ in the summing-up because the prosecution had ‘nailed its case to the nuclear mast’, he told Lord Justice Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Hutchison and Mr Justice Buxton. After the appeal Ali Daghir’s business and family life was left in tatters. Because the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction because the trial judge’s summing-up was badly phrased and did not go on to hear the new evidence, he was not entitled to compensation. Without compensation he had been forced to put his house up for sale and his wife, the mother of his four children, had left him. In a letter from the Customs and Excise’s legal department, dated 27 May 1993, just before the appeal, it suggested hearing the technical grounds first, and saving the fresh, potentially embarrassing, evidence until later: ‘Mr Moses QC feels that all the grounds of appeal other than the question of the fresh evidence be dealt with first. If the court were to rule in the appellant's favour on any of the issues in a way that disposed of the appeal, it would be unnecessary to deal with the question of fresh evidence.’ That is what happened. He was freed on a technicality. The new evidence, a conclusive report, from the United Nations nuclear inspection team, that the capacitors were not the same as those intended to detonate Iraq’s atomic weapons, and that he had been set up in a ‘sting’ operation, was not heard. Therefore he had no automatic right to compensation. As his solicitor, Lawrence Kormonick, said in April 1996: ‘He has been in prison for 15 months, unemployed for several years, has lost his company, cannot travel abroad and has had this hanging over him for six years.’ Even after winning his appeal Ali Daghir’s life was totally destroyed. Gerald James: ‘Euromac was possibly the most transparent frame-up of them all. The nuclear triggers trial, as it came to be known, was the result of an eighteen-month joint UK-US Intelligence operation literally to persuade managing director Ali Daghir against his better judgment to export capacitors/detonators to Iraq, allegedly for Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme. Crucial to the prosecution’s case was evidence given by Peter Gall, former senior executive at the export licensing unit at the DTI. ‘An export licence would not be granted for the supply of any equipment which would significantly enhance the military capability of Iraq.’ he said. It transpired that not only had Daghir resisted the deal and been pushed into it by his US supplier Dan Supnick, acting in concert with the CIA, but that the capacitors were below standard for detonating weapons, nothing more than might be used by a professional photographer to power his flash-lights. Before the truth was made public, Margaret Thatcher had shown her approval of the way her team had gone about its business in a letter to Brian Unwin, chairman of British Customs: ‘May I ask you to pass on my warm congratulations to all those engaged in the operation to prevent the illegal export to Iraq of components for a nuclear weapon. It must have required the highest professional standards, as well as great patience and skill, and the whole nation has reason to be grateful to those concerned.’ Alan Moses QC, who was also the prosecuting counsel in the Matrix Churchill trial, did not find his life destroyed after losing the appeal. His dexterity in getting the convictions quashed on a technicality rather than the hearing of new evidence, not only suppressed potentially embarrassing evidence but saved the nation a good deal of money in compensation. He was made a High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division) in 1996 and appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2005. The author Martin Tancock was born, brought up and educated in Wessex. He is by trade a business analyst and systems designer and by profession a computer systems project manager. Having been forced, through ill-health, to retire early, he retreated to Cyprus where he re-invented himself as a web site designer and developer. Although never believing in the guilt of Asil Nadir, it was not until being commissioned to develop the JANCOM.org web site and analysing hundreds of documents, relating to the destruction of Polly Peck and the trials of Elizabeth Forsyth and Asil Nadir, that Martin came to realise that these were just part of a far greater conspiracy which reaches back to the 1980s, and still clouds the judgement and influences the actions of politicians, civil servants and judges today. What if..... In ‘The future’s not ours to see,’, his review of Atkinson and Elliot’s Going South, in Lobster 65,1 Simon Matthews offered a kind of alternative history of British history in the 1970s and 80s, in which Mrs Thatcher did not win the general election of 1979. Michael Morton contacted me to let me know such speculation had already been done by Andrew Marr in 1993 on BBC television; and that the scenarios discussed by Marr and various interviewees had originally been published in his magazine Alternate Worlds in January 1995.2 Very kindly, Michael Morton supplied a copy of the transcript of that Andrew Marr piece. Without Her by Andrew Marr [Michael Morton’s note: This article is derived from the transcript of WITHOUT HER, broadcast on Sunday 24th October 1993 on BBC2. It is reprinted with the permission of Martin Davidson, the producer, and Andrew Marr, the presenter of the programme, who was the Chief Political Commentator of the Independent at that time.] It’s a disorienting thought. What would the 1980s have been like had Margaret Thatcher never happened to them? Where would we be now? Would we have been richer? Poorer? Kinder? What about privatisation? The Falklands war? Yuppies? If this sounds like a parlour game for the 1990s, it’s also a way of reconsidering what DID happen. Trying to guess way through a lost, never-to-be-be 1 2 This article first appeared in January 1995 in Alternate Worlds, still available from 28 Bruce Street, Even Swindon, Swindon SN2 2EL for £6. Other articles include an introduction to Alternate Worlds by Brian Stableford; A Discussion of Likely Change Points for Alternate Realities, Universes and Histories by Evelyn C. Leeper; The Year It Happened Otherwise; An Alternate History Divergence List by R. B Schmunk and Evelyn C. Leeper; An Introduction to Sealion by Michael Morton and extensive review/analysis of books by Norman Longmate, Richard Cox and Kenneth Macksey; and book reviews in its 48 pages. Such historical speculation is known as uchronia, and is the subject matter of the website . recovered parallel Britain, which didn’t know what Thatcherism meant, has is serious side. I mean this as a sort of wry, oblique portrait of an age and the woman who dominated it. Welcome to Britain Without Her...…. Scenario One; the Sea Change: October 26 1978. Guess What? Jim Callaghan listens to his cabinet. They’re telling him to take advantage of economic growth and lower inflation and go to the country. The polls show only a small Tory lead of 8 points. It vanishes during a dirty, emotional campaign as Uncle Jim’s reassuring presence turns the tide. His appeal rests on one simple question. Are you, the British people, ready to tear up the roots just as things are getting better and trust your nation’s destiny to this extraordinary woman? Hardly a socialist question. Indeed, a conservative one. But it works. No, the nation rather comfortably replies, on the whole, we ain’t. It was a victory for consensus politics and the British way, rather than for Labour. But Labour, the natural party of government, did it all right, with a 21-seat majority and another five years. Earlier that year, Margaret Thatcher had told a chum that if she lost the election, her party might sack her. And so it did. The gentle-natured baronets and vengeful Heathites blamed her for scare tactics directed at the trade unions, for being too shrill, a little too right-wing and, frankly for being a woman. She refused to serve under the new leader, Jim Prior, but retired with some grace to the Tory backbenchers, along with a cohort of bitter followers, determined to keep the flame of free market radical alive in corporate Britain. But she was clearly finished. Atilla the Hen sitting on an egg that had addled. And meanwhile on the pavement outside Number Ten, Mr Callaghan promised Britain a new start. “Where there is discord may I, and the Labour Party bring harmony ….” Interviewees: Denis Healey, Labour Cabinet Minister 1974-79; Shirley Williams, Labour Cabinet Minister 1971-79. And her victory in doing so started from 1979. Small decisions or mistakes can produce historical hinges, moments of destiny, even if they don’t feel that way at the time. Interviewees: Robert Skidelsky, historian; Hugo Young, The Guardian political commentator; Tony Parsons, rock critic; Bryan Gould; Will Hutton, The Guardian economics editor. The sea-change of 1978 then produced a whole new political climate. Events occurred, actions were taken, which reshaped the balance of forces in British politics and Margaret Thatcher a decade of omnipotence…. But of course it needn’t have been like that. Without her the politics of the 1980s would have been a whole different world. Scenario Two: Under James Callaghan and his chosen successor Denis Healey, Britain embarks on a period known as the politics of the hard centre. Tough but Tender becomes the catchphrase of the rampaging Labour right-wing, refreshed and embolden by victory. Although Healey loses power, narrowly in the 1983 election, the policies of the Walker Government, summed up by his slogan One Nation, One Family, are a continuation of the consensus. Just as Labour in the Callaghan, Healey, Owen years believed that the party’s own resentful left represented a real threat to the British way of doing politics, so the Tories, dominated by Walker, Ian Gilmour and, latterly, by Kenneth Baker and Michael Heseltine, looked on the free marketeers Joseph, Thatcher and Tebbitt as a perpetual menace. Margaret never realised that we can move forward together, as they used to complain. Prime Minister Walker would occasionally complain about how the BBC gave an unrepresentative and minor fringe excessive publicity. This was widely taken as a reference to the famous Tory dissident Mrs Thatcher, a darling of the Today programme and Newsnight. The most radical policies were pursued outside Westminster, since the Eighties were the decade of devolution and powerful local government. The Scottish and Welsh assemblies opened for business in 1980. In Edinburgh in 1987, the Assembly declared itself a Parliament and by the late 1980s, to the unease of the London establishment, a debate on whether the Queen should any longer be the Scottish head of state was convulsing the Labour party, north of border. Interviewees: Neal Ascherson, Independent on Sunday; Denis Healey: Neil Kinnock, Labour Party Leader 1983-92; Norman Tebbitt, Conservative Cabinet Minister 1981-97; Beatrix Campbell, author Iron Ladies. The politics that did happen in the Thatcher years, the division of the left, the Falklands war, the winning of the C2s, that gave Margaret Thatcher the base from which to launch an economic programme which seems, even now, breathtaking in its audacity. In just a few years, the Thatcherites hoped to transform the way a nation earned its living. Unions were to be broken, the state was to be shrunk, taxes cut, markets deregulated. It may not have amounted to a blueprint but it certainly was a programme. It was what British politics spent the Eighties arguing about. Was there any choice? Could another political style have taken us through with less pain? Scenario Three: The Eighties proved to be years which tested Britain’s moderate political culture to the limits. The Healey and Walker governments struggled to keep unemployed below a million but were savagely attacked by both the Marxist left and the radical right for their heartlessness. When, at one point the jobless rose to 1.5 million, Mrs Thatcher and Tony Benn, who had resigned from the Cabinet, were to agree in a Question Time debate that Labour isn’t working. Though oil revenues helped to pay part of the cost, huge subsidies were poured into coal mining, steel, shipbuilding, and British Leyland. After crisis mini-budgets in 1980 and 1981, the basic rate of income tax was forced up to 50p in the pound. Inflation, the British disease of the Eighties, provoked bitter protests by pensioners and contributed to the short-termism and air of uncertainty which plagued industry. A form of workers’ ownership with a large private-sector share for some state enterprises was briefly considered as a way of raising cash. But this quickly dubbed privatisation in an enthusiastic editorial by the Economist newspaper, and in the ensuing row was quickly dropped. But, by the mid-Eighties, consensus politics seemed to have produced dividends, after all. Big nationallysubsided projects helped revive a sense of national pride. Ten Mark 3 Baby Concordes were bought by Pan-Am as well as the British State airline. The Prince of Wales was launched on the Clyde in 1987, the first Cunard liner for a generation. And even the much derided British Leyland scored a popular success with its updated and sporty Austin Healey. Interviewees: Denis Healey; Shirley Williams; Ian Gilmour, Conservative Cabinet Minister 1979-81; Andrew Neil, editor, The Sunday Times; Sir John Egan, Chairman Jaguar 1980-1990; David Willetts MP. A golden age that never was? Or is this all self-justifying hogwash, purified with a drop of holy hindsight? Without her decision to take on the unions, who had been cast as a sort of shadow government by the 1970s, Mrs Thatcher’s economic revolution would never have had a chance. She might have imposed the same monetarist squeeze in the early Eighties, but union power would have made it that much harder to shrink the public sector and a more rigid labour market would have slowed the subsequent boom. The fight with union power was a precondition. But maybe some sort of union reform would have happened anyway? Scenario Four: No issue caused the Callaghan-Healey administration more anguish than that of the trade unions. Pay policies were agreed and for a while, sort of stuck. Roy Hattersley’s 1981 White Paper Let Us Be Friends, proposed a national compromise between principled socialism in office and patriotic trade unionism. But he was howled down at the Trade Union Congress. Mr Healey then announced, in his famous ‘Enough is Enough’ speech, that he would impose two restrictions on union power: a ban on mass picketing and compulsory ballots before strike action. Some right-wing Tories wanted the Government to go further, including banning secondary action and threatening the seizure of union assets. One Conservative backbencher, Geoffrey Howe, demanded tougher anti-union laws but the Prime Minister denounced him as a Thatcherite extremist. This, said an unperturbed Howe, was like being attacked by a dead sheep. The Walker Government was elected on a promise to give more rights to individual trade unionists and extend the balloting procedures. Denis Healey had been replaced as Labour Leader by Neil Kinnock after losing the election. By the early 1990s, though British wage costs were generally accepted to be dangerously high, some of the larger unions were adopting consensus bargaining with company management, on the German model. They (the unions) were still a drag on the economy, but a problem which, like wet summers, Britain seemed to have learned to live with. Interviewees: Bill Jordan, leader, Engineering Union; Denis Healey; Will Hutton; Norman Tebbitt; John Mortimer, novelist; John Biffen MP, Conservative Cabinet Minister 1979-87. If breaking the back of union power was the precondition of the Thatcher programme, it was of course, only the beginning. If the Thatcher years had only been about defeating organised groups then they would not have lasted very long. But she was also able to hand economic power to others, building a base of support in all sorts of places. There were the new owners of council houses, and the recipients of windfall privatisation profits. There were the hundreds of thousands who got jobs in the deregulated financial sector, or in Japanese or American factories attracted here by the Thatcher revolution. There were the millions warmed and cheered by the easy credit and rising house-prices of what become known as the Lawson Boom. For many of us, the later Thatcher years were fat years. Without her, the winners wouldn’t have won as much, or maybe at all. Scenario Five: The losers during the Consensus Eighties tended to be people on fixed incomes, like pensioners, and the overtaxed, under represented small businesses. There was an anguished national debate about whether it was inevitable that the City of London, stuck in its Dickensian time warp, should be ceding its once-dominated position to Frankfurt and Paris. The Labour Government argued that the problem was one of under-regulation and a more up-to-date system of scrutiny would help the City’s international prestige. The Minister of State for Business Ethics, Lord Maxwell, introduced a package of new laws. It was no longer enough to assume that an Englishman’s word was his bond, said Maxwell. Yet the City continued to decline. The Big Five US Banks decided to leave London. The Walker Government announced a bonfire of financial controls and won outline approval for the new European Central Bank to be based at Canada House on the Isle of Dogs, but it was all a little too late. While trade union employees and those working in northern engineering companies seemed to be well-protected, a tide of anger rose among the excluded Britain of the south. A protest march organised in 1983 by Surrey Shopkeepers and the Association of London Estate Agents resulted in a riot in Trafalgar Square. [2013 note: this was illustrated in the broadcast by footage of the poll tax demonstration.] Nicholas Ridley praised the marchers as lions and suggested that the police had overreacted. The National Union of Mineworkers leader, Arthur Scargill, in supporting police action, protested strongly about the use of violence for political ends by people he termed sinister right-wing extremists. Margaret Thatcher defended them as true patriots. But the polls suggested voters had a lot of sympathy with the estate agents and the riot was popularly supposed to have contributed to the Labour defeat later that year. Interviewees: Andrew Neil, Peter York, management consultant; Ian Hislop, editor, Private Eye; Will Hutton; David Willetts. Again, though, if the Thatcher Eighties had been merely an economic project, they wouldn’t have aroused a fraction of the controversy they did. Whether she wanted to or not, Margaret Thatcher stood for a revolution in values. She picked up the phrase “Victorian values” but while she meant thrift, hard work and self reliance; others took it to mean a return to crude, coarse, meritocratic, individualism. Let the devil, or rather the dole, take the hindmost. So she took the rap for Britain’s discarded and disposed as well for the upwardly mobile and new rich. Was the cost too high? Certainly, without her, our social values and perhaps our private ones to would have been….. well how different would it have felt? Scenario Six: Everyone agreed that, whatever their downside, the great achievement of the Healey-Walker years was holding the social fabric of the country together; but the compact came at a price. The ever-swelling public sector took on huge new projects to provide jobs – that was how the outer orbital London railway got built, never mind the famous sprawl of council housing in the Yorkshire new town of Beveridge. The liberal elite or the caring classes, as they were sarcastically known, prided themselves on the building of the decent society. They flocked to state-subsided films like Ken Russell’s “Life of Shelley” and hit musicals like Andrew Lloyd- Webber’s “Wigan Pier Show”. Kenneth Branagh’s film of “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist” was held to be a vindication of the subsidised cinema industry, while the cult thriller, “Grabber!” starring Martin Shaw, deals with the exploits of a cynical but dashing tax inspector. But there was a darker side too. There was, for one thing, the ever-wagging finger of the Nanny State, the first signs of homelessness tackled under a “New Roofs for the Young” programme. Council house tenants on the Isle of Dogs petitioned the government to buy their own homes but were curtly refused permission. Scuffles also took place in Beveridge new town, during a visit by Tony Banks, the Shadow Housing Minister. The number of institutions entitled to call themselves universities was halved to preserve excellence. Britons were denied the right to see new fangled satellite and cable television on the grounds that, as the Home Secretary Francis Pym put it, this would undermine the BBC and threaten our great English literary culture. Rupert Murdoch’s withdrawal from British newspapers was blamed by the National Union of Journalists on red tape. Increasingly, younger Britons looked enviously at their stylish, flashier and richer counterparts on the continent – particular The German upwardly mobile bankers and business folk, or Guppys as they became known as. It was all, at home, just a little grey and timid, a gentle slither downwards with no exit routes. Even so, the decade of decline was also one in which Britain, under Denis Healey and Peter Walker, stayed together, stayed calm, stayed, well, very British. Interviewees: David Jenkins, Anglican Bishop of Durham; Tony Parsons; Billy Bragg, rock musician; Janet Daley, The Times; Beatrix Campbell; Mike Philips, novelist; Neil Kinnock; Hugo Young; Bhikhu Parekh, University of Hull. Yes, but before it undid her, she had time to undo quite a lot of those parts of Britain that Britain that particularly irritated her. Her economic foes may have been socialists, but her cultural ones were the liberal establishment, the old Britain of the civil service, the universities, the leftish Tories of club land, the smugger professions, the BBC. And if Margaret Thatcher made us ask ourselves who we were as individuals, she posed the same question to the nation as a whole. What was Britain? How big could our influence be – in the world, at the core of NATO, in the fast-developing politics of the European Community? No part of the Thatcherite project spawned as much hyperbole and derision, patriotic pride and liberal embarrassment, as her vivid eruptions on the world stage. The verve, the ambition, the self-dramatisation were unforgettable. But did they really make that much difference? What would the world have been like in the Eighties without her? Scenario Seven: They were placid years for the Foreign Office, the early 1980s. The biggest threat came in the south Atlantic where Argentina made various military feints against the little-known Falkland Islands. But Healey, under Callaghan’s naval influence, sent enough vessels regularly enough to prevent an outright Argentine assault. Instead, after a long period of negotiation, Britain ceded the islands to Argentinean control in the mid-1980s in return for a large payment to the British treasury and mining and exploration rights in the Antarctic. The poet Philip Larkin wrote his final public work about this; a bitter lament for national dignity which was published in the very last issue of the Spectator magazine. The islanders who felt betrayed were, at public expense, moved to the uninhabited Scottish of St. Kilda. They were heavily subsidised and seemed to settle pretty happily, except for the incident in 1989 when they used a flock of several hundred long-horned sheep to block Princes Street, Edinburgh, during a state visit by General Galtieri. The end of the cold war and the debate over European Union dominated the latter half of the decade. The defence secretaries David Owen and George Younger backed the arrival of American Cruise missiles despite protests from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the woman’s movement. Prime Minister Healey seemed to get to get on quite well with President Reagan, though his private assessment of the former actor, salty and uncomplimentary in equal measure, caused a diplomatic storm when it leaked out. Trident was voted through the Commons but Prime Minister cooled towards the idea when the Berlin Wall fell. The government set up a Royal Commission to review Defence Expenditure. Walker had already declared that Gorbachev was a man with whom Europe could do business. Though Britain’s role in all this was rather minor, the Bratislava Accord between Moscow and the European Community helped Gorbachev’s Glasnost programme, and silenced the more extreme critics of his speed of reform, such as Boris Yeltsin. In the late Eighties and early Nineties came the great Labour split over European Union. A small number of Tory dissidents, or utter bastards as Peter Walker called them privately, voted against the Maastricht Treaty for Perpetual Union but despite a fierce campaign led by right-wing backbenchers, this was narrowly approved at the subsequent referendum. Overall it all had been a decade of characterised by Britain’s drift towards the continental mainland and by a lessening of the country’s role in world affairs. Interviewees: Denis Healey; Norman Tebbitt; Ian Gilmour; Robert Skidelsky; Casper Weinberger, United States Secretary of Defense 1983-87; John Pilger, journalist; Norman Tebbitt; Isabel Hutton, The Independent. If the American relationship was Mrs Thatcher’s strongest card, then the long Tory war over European Union was the Achilles heel that her famously sensible shoes never quite covered. The Verdict: It’s impossible to do more than vaguely guess at whether Britain would have a better or a worse country had we gone through the Downing Street Years with someone else. And our guesses are the product of our prejudices and instincts. For what it’s worth, I think we would have more industry, fewer jobless, less of a division between north and south and a healthier, more pluralistic and optimistic political culture. But I also think we would be facing grim and hard decisions in the Nineties. Perhaps the sense of disillusion and national despair would have been stronger. We would have would have been kinder but uneasy, but I’m not sure that the overall result would have been so terribly different. The politicians mostly disagree. But if, Without Her, we now face the rest of the Nineties struggling with deep structural and political conflicts, a more sclerotic society, what would be looking for now, in 1993? Would it be a radical break from consensus? A strong leader? The one confrontation that we didn’t mention in discussing Margaret’s Thatcher in the world was the one she probably influenced most; the decision to go to war in the Gulf. Final Scenario: In July 1990. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Partly on British advice, President George Bush led a United Nations campaign for sanctions. But when it came to the use of force in a dangerous and faraway theatre.... George wobbled. One by one the Gulf states decided it was safer to deal with Iraq than to defy it and at the Treaty of Baghdad in 1992 agreed to raise oil prices to pay for a programme of Islamic industrialisation. Prime Minister Walker won a third majority. But then he announced that the times demanded compromise and reconciliation more than ever. As a symbol of Britain’s unity in time of trouble, he invited Labour to help prepare austerity measures. It was too much for the Tory backbenchers who finally revolted. In November 1993, to the shock and amazement of the outside world, the Conservative Party in Parliament forced its leader to undergo the humiliation of a challenge. The result was even more unsettling. The veteran fringe backbencher and darling of the BBC, Margaret Thatcher won on the second ballot and became Britain’s first female Prime Minister. This week, she promised as you may recall, in the Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, harmony. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. But tonight I suspect many of us are wondering just what the secrets the Thatcher Nineties have in store. The View from the Bridge (a kind of blog) Robin Ramsay Jackie doesn’t flinch (and other JFK bits and pieces) There are lots of bits of film on YouTube about the Kennedy assassination and I’ve looked at many. Recently I clicked on one made by one George Jettison, which opens with him – a large bearded figure – talking to his camera.1 I don’t know why I stayed with it when the picture froze leaving just his voice, but I did; and just as well. Jettison eventually shows the Zapruder film on his computer, freezes it at the frame which shows the head shot and says that the big wound on JFK’s right temple which appears after that frame must have been added after the event because Jackie doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t flinch even though her face is a couple of inches away from what, had the shot actually happened, would have been a spray of blood, brains and bone. I have watched the Zapruder film of Kennedy’s assassination dozens of times and I never noticed this. (But who looks at Jackie?) And it’s so obvious. Thank you, Mr Jettison.2 The are now many analyses of the fakery in the Z film on YouTube. John Costella’s introduction to all this is probably the place to begin.3 * Mark Groubert notes that in the USA: ‘...there have been 44 documentaries, docudramas and news specials that have aired during this 50th anniversary of the JFK murder. All 44 have somehow 1 2 If you do watch Jackie you see that she stares at the back of JFK’s head (where the exit wound is) then climbs onto the boot of the car to retrieve a piece of his skull. 3 “concluded” that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone nut assassin of President Kennedy.’4 As he points out, this is all the more striking (a) because only a small minority of the US population believe the official version and (b) only three books have ever been published defending the Warren Commission report (all of which have been comprehensively trashed) while there have been dozens of academically respectable books critiquing it. * Kennedy’s assassination is conspicuous by its absence in the 200 plus pages of transcribed interview conducted in 2009 with the then 80-year old Bobby Baker, LBJ’s right-hand man in the Senate. However, there are some sections about bribery and sexual hanky-panky among senators and congressmen (making money, getting drunk and getting laid seem to have been the priorities for many senators).5 According to Baker, Gerald Ford became J. Edgar Hoover’s informant on the Warren Commission because Hoover had a tape of him getting a blowjob from the hot hooker in Washington political circles at the time, Ellen Rometsch. Among her clients was JFK; and when the Republicans got wind of this, JFK’s brother (and Attorney General) expelled her (illegally) from the US. Because Rometsch had originally come from East Germany, the FBI suspected she might be a Soviet bloc agent. No evidence of this has every appeared. Rometsch has not been seen or heard of since. My guess would be that the Kennedys paid her to disappear.6 Well ye ken noo Slight stirrings in Parliament about the Snowdon revelations of 4 5 6 The complete transcript, over 200 pages of it, a fascinating read, is at On Rometsch see . the NSA/GCHQ’s global surveillance ambitions. The Home Affairs Committee asked to question the head of MI5; the Home Secretary, Teresa May, duly refused on the grounds that his appearance would ‘duplicate’ the existing oversight provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Thus the beauty of the ISC from the state’s perspective: it provides the appearance of accountability and scrutiny while actually providing neither. Its members are appointed by the prime minister (advised by the state, of course). The Home Affairs Committee members are appointed by other MPs. The prime minister rejected the committee’s request to cross-examine his national security adviser, Kim Darroch, ‘on the basis that his role focused on providing private advice to him and the national security council and his appearance would “set a difficult precedent.”’ In response to these refusals Vaz said that Home Secretary May will be questioned about these issues when she appears. But he knows she will say nothing substantive. These are the formal moves between executive and parliament. Tim Farron, Liberal-Democrat MP, at least has grasped half of one of the central issues: ‘When the programs systemically collecting your personal information are so secret that even the cabinet are not aware of their existence, our democratic oversight has rescinded to the point of extinction.’ Except ‘rescinded’ implies it existed in the first place.7 Another aspect of this was succinctly put in a comment on the Guardian’s ‘comment is free’ by ‘Councillor’: ‘Who, exactly, authorised the handing over of the secrets of our country to another power, without first establishing who would have access to the material? Were any assurances demanded or given about the security of the information? Was there ANYONE in the UK who was aware that something like 200,000 Americans could read this stuff, 7 I have taken all this from . and pass it on to any third party?’ Recently I came across an interview I did by e-mail a couple of years ago with The Occupied Times which I had forgotten about.8 In it I noticed this comment: ‘And GCHQ and the NSA are recording and analysing every form of electronic emission from baby monitors upwards.’ Which is to say: thank you Mr Snowden for shoving the details into the politicians’ faces but that this was going on wasn’t exactly a secret. There’s an old Scottish gag, which I first heard from the poet Alan Jackson, which goes like this. As the unrepentant sinners arrive in Hell to discover that Hell really exists, they cry out: ‘Lord, Lord, we didnae ken’. And the Lord in his infinite wisdom and mercy replies: ‘Well ye ken noo’. Farewell to the fiftieth Well the 50th anniversary of that day in Dallas came and went and little of consequence made it onto the mainstream media in this country. For anyone not au fait with the story, here is a starting point. The first illustration is one of the autopsy pictures showing the wound on JFK’s back. But notice that the back of the head is apparently intact. 8 1 Illustration two is a montage of medical personnel who worked on JFK’s body, demonstrating where the head wound was – on the right rear. The conflict between these two illustrations means: (a) all the medical personnel misremembered it; (b) the first picture is not JFK’s head; or (c) it is JFK’s head but it has been altered, perhaps with the scalp and hair pulled down over the wound (if this could be done; if the scalp could be intact) and all the blood and brains visible in other autopsy pictures (example below, illustration 3) removed. 2 3 The medical lies began with the autopsy. The rest of the lies began with the rifle discovered in the Book Depository. Four Dallas policemen, who found the rifle, identified it as a Mauser. The rifle was then replaced by the notorious Mannlicher-Carcano. The original affidavit of one of the four, Seymour Weitzman, like the autopsy pictures, is available on-line.9 Although the JFK assassination literature is now extremely complex, to understand the initial lies is easy. Yet somehow this is beyond the capacity of the British and American mainstream media.10 Secret? And lo, on November 21, BBC’s Panorama revealed ‘Britain's Secret Terror Force’ – the Army’s Military Reaction Force, MRF. Secret? This appeared in Lobster 52: ‘Fast forward to 2006 and researchers in the national archives have discovered a 1974 army briefing paper titled 'Army Plain Clothes Patrols in Northern Ireland'. The briefing states: “Plainclothes teams, initially joint RUC/army patrols, have operated in Northern Ireland since the IRA bombing campaign in Easter 1971. Later in 1971 the teams were reformed and expanded as Military Reaction Forces (MRFs) without RUC participation. In 1972 the operations of the MRF were brought under more centralised control and a higher standard of training achieved by establishing a Special Reconnaissance Unit (SRU) of 130 with all ranks under direct command of HQNI. The term "Special Reconnaissance Unit" and the details of its organisation and mode of operations have been kept secret. The SRU operates in Northern Ireland at present under the cover name Northern Ireland 9 The autopsy pictures are available by Googling ‘JFK + autopsy pictures’. 10 The media converage around the 50th anniversary, predominantly American, is described in great detail at . Training and Advisory Teams (Northern Ireland) – NITAT(NI) – ostensibly the equivalent of genuine NITAT teams in UKLF [United Kingdom Land Forces] and BAOR [British Army of the Rhine.” Almost a quarter of a century before that the MRF was written about in some detail by Roger Faligot in his Britain’s Military Strategy in Ireland: the Kitson Experiment (London: Zed Press, 1983) and subsequently in Lobsters 1, 10, 18 and 19. Important reports Two important reports have appeared recently. The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? by Tom Mills, David Miller, Tom Griffin and Hilary Aked is a study of BICOM, its creation and influence in British politics. Among its chapters are ‘The second intifada and the establishment of BICOM’, ‘BICOM and British Zionism’, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’ and ‘The Fox-Werritty scandal and the decline of democracy’. If you are only going to read one chapter, make it chapter five, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’, which describes in great detail BICOM’s (largely successful) campaigns to get the British media to follow a pro-Israel line. This 96 page report can be downloaded as a PDF file.11 Nicholas Shaxson wrote Treasure Islands: tax havens and the men who stole the world (London: 2011). He is the coauthor, with John Christensen, of The Finance Curse: how oversized financial centres attack democracy and corrupt economies. This is a wonderful piece of work which, inter alia, critiques in great detail the various claims made about the significance of the financial services sector to the British economy and examines the negative effects for the rest of us of having what is essentially an unregulated global casino in our midst. That this country is now set on a course of absolute decline is largely down to the City’s dominance of the economic conversation in this country since the 1970s (and 11 At the gullibility of the politicians who believed what they were told). This is downloadable as a PDF file and should be read.12 Conspiracy theorist bashing The appointment of Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker, to a position as a junior minister at the Home Office produced outbursts of conspiracy theorist-bashing from two columnists at the Daily Telegraph. Here’s Damien Thompson, erstwhile editor of that bastion of rationality, the Catholic Herald: ‘Here’s a piece of news to set the eyes of every conspiracy theorist swivelling under their tin-foil trilbies. The British government has been infiltrated..... by conspiracy theorists! It happened on Monday afternoon, in the full glare of the cameras. Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat MP who believes that MI5 covered up the murder of Dr David Kelly by Iraqi agents, has been promoted to Home Office minister in the reshuffle.’ 13 Another Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges, also had a go at Baker, concluding with this asinine statement: ‘I’ve never read Baker’s book, and can’t comment on the veracity of his claims. Except to say they’re clearly bonkers.’14 GCHQ: looking for a line Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee: ‘In recent months concern has been expressed at the 12 At 13 14 A review I did for the Fortean Times of one of Thompson’s books appears in Lobster 64 at < http://lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/ lobster64/lob64-misc-reviews.pdf> suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon people’s privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security.’ 15 Former MI6 officer, Alan Petty, who writes as Alan Judd: ‘Realistically, however, we’ve no alternative but to go on as before. We have enemies, as Andrew Parker reminds us, who although relatively few would not hesitate to obliterate us if they could. If we want to protect ourselves – and who seriously would argue that we shouldn’t? – we have to spy on them. In electronic terms that means looking for needles in haystacks and you can’t do that without having access to the whole hayfield.’16 GCHQ head Sir Ian Lobban, facing the Intelligence and Security Committee, 7 November: ‘The internet is “an enormous hayfield” and GCHQ was trying to access “those parts of the field that we can get access to and which might be lucrative in terms of containing the needles or the fragments of the needles we might be interested in, that might help our mission.”’ The obvious response of state agencies to the news of GCHQ/NSA’s global trawling operations would be to give up using the Internet. There have been two reports of this thus far. In July the Guardian reported that the Russian Federal Guard service had ordered 20 typewriters17 and the Telegraph reported on 27 September that the Indian High Commission had gone back to using typewriters.18 Crisis? What crisis? 15 16 18 20 21 , 25 October 2013. heart of the global financial system also broadens the investment opportunities for the institutions that look after British savings, and reinforces the ability of UK manufacturing and creative industries to compete globally. Not to mention that financial services represent one of the UK’s largest exports.’ Carney probably didn’t write this and we may take it as a statement of the Bank of England’s collective view. The 10% GDP and 1 million job figures are shown to be false by Shaxson and Christensen in their The Finance Curse, discussed above. At a much less sophisticated level we can simply say: * 10% of UK GDP – but half of that is domestic, the high street banks, insurance companies and building societies. Therefore the international sector is about 5%. * 1 million jobs sounds like a lot but total UK employment is 30 million. * ‘two thirds of those [jobs] are outside London’ – and we get nice name checks for bits of provincial England. But Bournemouth and Norwich are within commuting distance of London. * And being a global financial hub is good for the domestic economy, apparently. (Tell that to the British businesses who can’t get loans.) War games It was striking that the Observer managed to make a fairly big piece out of some declassified documents about the 1983 NATO exercise Able Archer which the Soviets interpreted as preparations for a real assault on their territory.22 Such documentation has been available for a while.23 Missing from both those cited accounts is the background, the previous decade’s worth of US strategic theorists trying to make the nuclear deterrent credible. The problem, as they saw it, was 22 23 See, for example, the National Security Archive at . that the US deterrent, threatening all-out retaliation – mutual assured destruction (MAD) – had ceased to be credible: why would the Soviets believe the threat to commit suicide? Thus a group of bright young men – my memory says they were all men – wrote papers trying to elaborate a doctrine in which the threat of nuclear war-fighting short of massive retaliation could be used to make the deterrent ‘credible’. One of the most important of those was an Englishman called Colin S. Gray, now a professor at Reading University.24 Not surprisingly, some of those in the Soviet military interpreted all this talk of nuclear war-fighting as literally preparation for war, something no-one in the US ‘strategic community’ seems to have considered. The close call the world apparently had in 1983 at the time of Operation Able Archer must rank as one of greatest intelligence failures of the Cold War and emphasises the importance of being able to know your opponents’ intentions, as well as their capabilities. Trying to assess intentions explains why the NSA-GCHQ network is listening to the personal communications of the world’s political leaders. GCHQ, the NSA and our politicians On 17 October the chairman of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, announced in a press release the Committee’s ‘....... intention to do further work on the legislation which governs the security and intelligence agencies’ access to the content of private communications, including to determine whether the relevant Acts of Parliament are still “fit for purpose” given the developments in information technology since they were enacted ....... 24 You can get a sense of the tone of this debate from the preview of one of Gray’s papers at the time (and its title), ‘Nuclear strategy: the case for a theory of victory’ at Alas the paper costs $19 to acquire in full. None of Gray’s writing from the 1970s and early 1980s appears to be on-line without a charge. In recent months concern has been expressed at the suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon people’s privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security. There is a balance to be found between our individual right to privacy and our collective right to security. An informed and responsible debate is needed.’ This review will take place within the ‘review of the legislative framework governing the intelligence agencies’ access to private information’. On past performance, the Committee will eventually produce a big report concluding that, on the whole, things are not so bad, which no-one will read. But until then the prime minister can reply to all questions about GCHQ and the NSA: ‘An inquiry is being conducted by the ISC’. Giving the prime minister this kind of cover is one of the committee’s secondary functions. Its primary function is to offer the appearance of accountability without its reality. Michael Meacher MP had it about right on his blog when he wrote four days before the Rifkind statement: ‘The Intelligence & Security Committee is a laughing stock and needs to be replaced by proper scrutiny.’25 Meacher pointed out that uniquely among parliamentary select committees, the ISC’s members are chosen not by MPs but by the prime minister (thus by the state itself, advising the PM), to whom ISC’s reports are submitted. Two days after Meacher’s comments this motion appeared on the House of Commons’ order paper: Intelligence and Security Committee ‘That this House considers that the revelations exposed in The Guardian that British security services have examined the internet activities of British citizens without the consent of Parliament demonstrate that the 25 Intelligence and Security Committee is not fit for purpose; believes that the Committee should be chaired by an hon. Member who has not served in a Department with responsibility for intelligence and security services for the purpose of avoiding any potential allegations of conflict of interest; and calls for an independent review reporting to Parliament on the appropriate structure and arrangements to ensure effective Parliamentary democratic scrutiny of the intelligence and security services.’ It was signed by just 9 of the House of Commons current 650 members.26 This is not a simple issue to resolve, even if there was any political will to do so. The motion above calls for ‘effective Parliamentary democratic scrutiny’. But what does this mean? MPs literally overseeing the activities of the agencies? Michael Meacher suggests that an ISC, chosen by MPs, ‘......should be able to undertake its own investigations as the members may decide. Where the security services are unwilling to disclose documents on grounds of national security, the committee would then have a right to ask the Information Commissioner to review the relevant documents and decide whether or not their disclosure would genuinely put national security at risk, as opposed to its being simply inconvenient to the spooks, and his decision would be final.’ Which is one solution; but not one which this prime minister or any foreseeable prime minister would accept, if only because a part of the prime minister’s power resides in his or her unique access to the secret state; and, politics being about power, it is unlikely that a prime minister would relinquish this access.27 Nor would the intelligence and security agencies – let alone their American ‘allies’ – accept the ultimate decision on what is secret being taken by an outside party. 26 This was signed by eight Labour MPs and one Liberal-Democrat. 27 The former MI5 officer Annie Machon writes intelligently about these issues in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, dated 11 October, at . Any way this particular cake is cut it will come down to political power and MPs’ willingness to face down the prime minister, the secret state and the Americans; and even if they believed it to be necessary – and they don’t – the present generation of politicians simply do not have that in them. All our yesterdays The minutes of the Bonn Economic Summit meeting in July 1978 (and the preparatory work from the US perspective) are now on-line. There’s an enormous amount of material there but on the first quick skim of the minutes two things struck me. The first is US president Jimmy Carter saying: ‘I disagree with the notion that our unemployment results from the fact that we have, as President Giscard said, thrown our borders open. Factories are not closing because of greater world trade...... I do not believe that our factories are closing because of trade.’ The experience with Chinese imports in the past 20 years has tested that theory to destruction. And the second was the comment by Japanese prime minister Takeo Fukuda that ‘Today the Eastern Bloc is about as powerful as the Free World.’ This reflects the absurdly exaggerated estimates made at the time by Western intelligence – and the CIA in particular – of the military and economic strength of the Soviet bloc.28 Curious omissions Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones29 was one of the first academic historians to write about the role of the intelligence agencies in our history. A quick skim through his latest, In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence (Oxford University Press, 2013) – 90% of which is about UK and US intelligence and their relationship – shows three striking gaps in his 28 Dan Atkinson’s selection from these minutes is at . 29 account. 1. He writes a good deal early on about the Anglophile elite in American foreign affairs and intelligence in the early years of the last century, but never refers to the Round Table network, which was at the centre of that elite. (For example, he notes, en passant, that Philip Kerr was prime minister Lloyd George’s private secretary during WW1, but not that Kerr was one of the Round Table’s leaders.) 2. The enormous British (mostly MI6) operation against the American isolationists in the early years of WW2 described by Thomas Mahl in his PhD and subsequent book, Desperate Deception (Virginia: Brassey’s, 1989) is missing. 3. As are the destabilisation operations against the Labour and Liberal parties and the ‘wet’ Conservatives in the mid 1970s. He refers once to Peter Wright, only to dismiss his claims. The Atlantic semantic30 I am on the e-mail list of the Atlantic Council31 and received notification of a meeting of theirs, the first in a ‘Captains of Industry’ series of events. (‘Captains of Industry’? Jeez, I thought that expression had died a death in the 1970s.) The meeting, titled ‘The Business of Defense in an Age of Austerity: Perspectives from the Mid-Tier’, was touted thus: ‘The business of defense is at an inflection point formed by the confluence of several factors now in flux. Allied militaries are receding from more than a decade of counterinsurgency wars. Fiscal crises are sharply constraining investment in national defense. Commercial technologies are transforming the locus and leverage of antagonists. In turn, the growth story that had inspired capital markets’ support of the post-cold-war defense 30 A phrase from William Clark. See his excellent Pink Industry at , full of terrific research. 31 From its Website : ‘The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting global challenges.’ I.e. it now promotes the globalisation of NATO. It was founded in 1961. industry is in its last chapter, and the sequel yet lacks a thesis.’ ‘Inflection’, ‘confluence’, ‘locus and leverage’ – and God knows what the last clause means; but here is the voice of the military industrial complex facing harder times. On the other side of this debate is a report from Scientists for Global Responsibility on British military R&D which shows: !....military R&D spending is heavily focused on offensive weapons systems. Of the spending programmes on which data was available, 76% of the funds were for technology programmes whose main role was “offensive”, i.e. aimed to be used to “project force” far from British shores. During the three-year period 2008-11, the six largest areas of military R&D funded by the UK government were: combat planes; combat helicopters; long-range submarines; nuclear weapons; nuclear propulsion (for submarines); and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).’32 The UK might be in terminal decline but the ‘great power’ delusion lives on in Whitehall. More JFK assassination anniversary nonsense Stephen Hunter is an American thriller writer best known for a series about a father and son, Earl and Bob Lee Swagger, both former soldiers and ace snipers. These vary enormously – Havana and Hot Springs, for example, are pretty poor – but Hunter is a fine writer (as well as a gun-nut) and in the others his technique carried this reader through the outbreaks of weapons fetishism and preposterous plots. This year, in The Third Bullet, he has Bob Lee Swagger solve the Kennedy assassination. This isn’t much good as a novel in the Swagger series and as a view of the assassination it is hilarious. Hunter has JFK killed by a sniper in 32 the Dal-Tex building on Dealey Plaza, working for a senior CIA officer who believed that Kennedy was going to embroil America deeper and deeper in the quagmire of Vietnam! In an afterword Hunter tells us that he got his information about the assassination from the Warren Commission Report and two of the handful of books which defended it: Gerald Posner’s Case Closed and Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History. I have not read those but suspect that, like the Warren Commission Report, neither discusses JFK’s plans to withdraw US forces from Vietnam.33 The end of the world as we know it John Lanchester was given access to the Guardian’s collection of the Snowden NSA/GCHQ documents in New York and has produced a really excellent account of them and the dangers they imply.34 Lanchester made one very striking omission. He wrote this: ‘We do have enemies, though, enemies who are in deadly earnest; enemies who wish you reading this dead, whoever you are, for no other reason than that you belong to a society like this one.......we have enemies who want to kill as many of us, the more innocent the better, as possible, by any means possible, as a deliberate strategy....’ Lanchester means Islamists; and a week or so later MI5 director Sir Andrew Parker made the same omission, stating that there were ‘several thousand Islamist extremists [in the UK] who see the British people as a legitimate target.’ 35 Their omissions, of course, are the reason why they want 33 On which see, for example, James Galbraith (son of JK) at 34 I could barely be bothered to read this because, as I have commented before on this subject, there is zero chance of our politicians doing anything about this issue; and this being so, to bone up on it is merely to measure the dimensions of their cowardice and our impotence. 35 to kill us: namely, UK support for American foreign policy. From Parker the omission is par for the course for serving intelligence personnel; but Lanchester is usually better than that. JFK assassination anniversary news I grew up in a subculture in which self-promotion – ‘egotripping’ – was considered vulgar and I find it hard to shake that attitude. However, at the very least I owe it to my publisher to report that a new edition of my Who Shot JFK? has been published. It is mostly the previous edition, running the LBJ’s-network-dunnit thesis but with some tweaking here and there and two significant additions: * The section on Billy Sol Estes has been expanded with recent new information, making the case stronger;36 * and I finally took the plunge and tried to make sense of the medical/forensic evidence which, hitherto, I had considered impenetrable. How good a job I have done....... Beyond hypocrisy There’s a 1992 book by Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy.37 I haven’t read this and, though it’s subtitled ‘Decoding the news in an age of propaganda’, the title is an apt shorthand description of American foreign policy. Thus the state which is apparently agitated about the use of ‘chemical weapons’ in Syria used depleted uranium and phosphorous in their assault on Iraq, drenched much of Vietnam and bits of Laos and Cambodia in Agent Orange, and – lest we forget – recruited the Japanese chemical weapons team, Unit 731, at the end of WW2 and declined to hand them over for prosecution for war 36 I discussed this in the previous Lobster at . Estes’ account of the assassination is in his memoir at . 37 crimes.38 Here we go again On the fifth anniversary of the closure of Lehman Brothers bank, marking the official beginning of the great financial fuckup, Labour chancellor of the exchequer at the time, Alistair Darling, gave us some of his (unexceptional) thoughts on the event in the Guardian.39 The only really interesting bit in Darling’s memoir showed the reader how he and prime minister Brown had perceived things at the time: ‘When I went across to see Gordon in the flat that evening, I told him that nationalization [of RBS] was looking increasingly likely.....like me [he] could see the political watershed we faced. It would hark back to the wilderness years, when Labour appeared unelectable.’ 40 Faced with the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s, not to mention the collapse of everything he and Brown apparently believed – ‘light touch’ regulation and all that; worshipping at the feet of the City – they were not considering the economic possibilities presented by the Labour government acquiring a major bank, but alarmed that the voters would be reminded of the early 1980s. If you were unclear what the phrase ‘the political perspective’ means, this should do it for you. If Darling is aware that the conditions for another great crash are in place he does not betray this in the interview. The best short account I have seen of how since-nothingsignificant- has-changed-things-will-fall-apart-again is James Kwak’s ‘Five Years Later, We’ve Learned Nothing From the Financial Crisis: Why haven’t we destroyed the idea that 38 I was reminded of this at . 39 40 Back from the brink, p. 65, reviewed by me at . destroyed the world?’41 He concludes thus: ‘Fast forward to 2013......and little has changed. Republicans live in a fantasy world where regulation is always bad and deregulation is always good. Democrats scramble to make nice with hedge fund managers and investment bankers. Everyone wants the housing market to recover. The long-term money is still in industry and lobbying. And everyone — especially Democrats — wants growth and jobs more than ever. Financial stability has no lobby. It has its advocates and academics, like Elizabeth Warren and Anat Admati, but it has no super PAC or 501(c)(4) organization. For a brief moment in 2009 and early 2010, everyone wanted to tame the financial sector, but the Obama administration — led by Summers and by Tim Geithner — chose not to press for the structural reforms that could have made a difference. Today, the media and the public have moved on. Either President Obama truly believes in the deregulatory rhetoric of the 1990s, or he is picking up nickels in front of the bulldozer, betting that the next financial crisis will not occur on his watch....Wall Street’s greatest and most important accomplishment was convincing everyone (who mattered) that unregulated finance was good for the world. Five years later, their victory endures.’ James Kwak is an academic, one the American economists who didn’t buy the ‘best financial regulation is no regulation’ line. Another is Paul Krugman. In a recent essay rubbishing those who believe that austerity is the solution to the current crisis,42 Krugman shows how since 2008 economists have written papers apparently demonstrating empirically (a) that the way to generate economic growth is to cut state spending and (b) that after the ratio between state debt and gross 41 Kwak is one of the main writers at . 42 ‘How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled’, The New York Review of Books, 6 June 2013 domestic product reaches a certain figure economic growth becomes impossible. Neither proposition withstood more than a moment’s scrutiny but both were seized upon by politicians of the right, bankers and EU apparatchiks as support for their inclination to cut the income of the average citizen and the poor to bail out the banks. For Krugman this is ‘.....deeply worrying for those who like to believe that knowledge can make a positive difference in the world. To the extent that policymakers and elite opinion in general have made use of economic analysis at all, they have, as the saying goes, done so the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. Papers and economists who told the elite what it wanted to hear were celebrated, despite plenty of evidence that they were wrong; critics were ignored, no matter how often they got it right.....For now, the broader message of the past few years remains just how little good comes from understanding.’ Krugman’s apparent surprise and disappointment at these developments seems odd to me. Career-minded economists have always been available to show that protecting the interests of the wealthy is how it should and must be. In a short companion piece to his Atlantic essay Kwak concluded: ‘Looking back....for the most part little has changed — not just in the financial sector itself, but more importantly in the political and ideological landscape that shapes regulatory policy. Of course, this isn’t simply the product of collective amnesia. It’s the result of the fact that ideas are shaped by money and political power. And that’s where little has changed.’43 By a different route Krugman and Kwak have arrived at the question Lenin famously asked over a hundred years ago: what is to be done? (Shto delit?) Dag’s death 43 ‘Non lessons of the financial crisis’ at With zero publicity in this country that I noticed, a group of ‘international jurists’, chaired by Sir Stephen Sedley,44 has been re-examining the death of UN general secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, ‘to report whether in their view the evidence now available would justify the United Nations in reopening its inquiry pursuant to the 1962 resolution of the General Assembly.’ Their report is on-line;45 and though I haven’t read the main text, the conclusions suggest to me that they have got little that Susan Williams didn’t have in her book Who killed Dag Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and white supremacy in Africa (London: Hurst and Company, 2011).46 They conclude that the best line of further inquiry is to apply through FOIA requests for information on (presumed) NSA monitoring of the Hammarskjöld flight’s demise. Such applications have been made but thus far nothing has been forthcoming; nor, in my view, is anything likely to be forthcoming. And thus: ‘Commission accordingly neither recommends nor anticipates the resumption of the UN inquiry at large. It would respectfully propose a focused and staged resumption, potentially concluding at the first stage but, if it continues, restricting itself to what will by then be identifiable as the key issues. What these may be are indicated in our report; but we recognise that events can confound predictions.’ The SAS did Di? First there was one ‘SAS-killed-Diana’ story. But as that story, to quote the Mirror, ‘came in a letter to the elite unit’s commanding officer by the parents-in-law of a special forces sniper, known only as Soldier N.....[who] boasted the SAS “was behind 44 45 46 Reviewed at Princess Diana’s death..” ’47 there was little to be excited about: a secondhand allegation. Then there was a second ‘SAS-killed-Diana’ story. In this one – in the Daily Express, which has run many Di conspiracy stories – Alan Power, author of The Princess Diana Conspiracy48 writes that a former member of the SAS unit called ‘the Increment’ claims that Diana was killed by MI6 (SIS) with the help of the ’the Increment’. 49 But according to the Express story, Power ‘does not produce overwhelming evidence to support his theory or name the assassins’. Asked to comment on Mr Power’s claims, Scotland Yard said: ‘The Metropolitan Police is scoping recent information regarding the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed. This scoping exercise is not complete.’ Is this the first time ‘scope’ has been used in this way by an official body? Scott and Marshall I am writing this before President Obama has got the approval of Congress for the bombing of Syria. The British major media has made little of the fact that in effect the US (and whomever else it finds to support it) will be joining a civil war on the side of (among others) various Jihadist groups. If you find this inexplicable, Peter Dale Scott, in his usual minutely detailed fashion has assembled all the extant knowledge of previous examples of the US military and intelligence services working with and/or supporting similar Jihadists.50 Scott co-authored a series of pioneering parapolitical books with Jonathan Marshall; and Marshall has a new essay available on-line, ‘Cooking the Books: The Federal Bureau of 1 48 49 50 Narcotics, the China Lobby and Cold War Propaganda, 1950- 1962’.51 This examines in great detail (it’s 17,000 words, including notes) the activities of the notorious Harry Anslinger, U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics and head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Using declassified American and British Foreign Office files and a vast array of other sources, Marshall shows that Anslinger was a pioneer in the business of inventing ‘intelligence’ – in this case claims that ‘Red’ China was behind the world heroin and opium trade. (In reality it was American allies in the far East.) Marshall concludes: ‘By serving up a steady supply of lurid claims to feed the propaganda mills of professional Cold Warriors and China Lobbyists, Anslinger bought protection against budget cuts, premature retirement, loss of authority to rival agencies, and any weakening of the nation’s drug laws.’ BAP sighting Thanks to Corinne Souza who pointed this story out to me. In the Independent on Sunday of 1 September 2013 Yasmin Alibhai Brown wrote the following in a piece called ‘The special relationship is over. At long last!’ ‘When Thatcher and Reagan were locked in their long embrace, I was selected to join a network, the British- American Project, partly funded by the CIA. Politicians, armed force representatives, CEOs, journalists, artists and policy wonks from both countries gathered there and here. I learnt more about this relationship and made some good friends. But the premise was unnerving as I listened to generals talking about the expansion of Israel as if we would all agree that that was necessary. Or Republicans discussing how to keep Japan in its place. So my reservations go back a long way. This marriage of convenience may have the UK and US’s 51 The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 37, No. 1, September 14, 2013, available at . security at its heart but, after 60 years, it needs to break up. Only then will both sides be free to interact creatively and independently with each other and the world.’52 Brown is dissembling just a little. In the long account of the BAP by Andy Beckett in 2004 53 – which, of course, managed not to mention that Tom Easton had been writing about it in Lobster since 1997 – Beckett states that Brown had then been attending the BAP’s gatherings for 15 years. Evidently her gorge rose slowly. As for the BAP being ‘partially funded by the CIA’, there is no evidence of this of which I am aware. It might be true; but these days it is more likely that the National Endowment for Democracy funds it. 54 A lending strike If you use the Internet a lot you end up on some strange address lists. I received an e-mail shot from Will Davies, cofounder of aspect.co.uk, ‘London’s leading property maintenance and refurbishment company’. In this Davies complains that: ‘David Cameron is more suited to public relations than being prime minister. He’s constantly spinning the facts and not dealing with the basic problems. Take the total inability of the Coalition to make government owned high-street banks lend to small and medium sized businesses at sensible rates. We have has [sic] a constant stream of government initiatives to cover up the problem like the Supply Chain Finance scheme, the Regional Growth Fund and the Business bank.’ Mr Davies has a point. In July, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, addressed the wider problem of banks not lending and said: 52 53 54 There is a Wiki entry on NED but Ron Paul’s take on it is more interesting. See . ‘It is clear that the main banks are failing to support good British companies in key areas like exporting and innovation.’ But he added: ‘One of the anxieties in the business community is that the so called “capital Taliban” in the Bank of England are imposing restrictions which at this delicate stage of recovery actually make it more difficult for companies to operate and expand.’55 This is nonsense and Cable must know it. Another Financial Times columnist explained why: ‘The invalid reason is the claim that the higher the required equity ratio, [chief among Cable’s ‘restrictions’] the more of a bank’s capital is ‘tied up’ and cannot be lent out to borrowers in need of funds. As Anat Admati of Stanford’s business school has persistently pointed out, bank capital is not a reserve that is salted away for a rainy day. Equity is one source of funding for banks; it does not ‘compete’ with lending, which forms part of their investments. Equity-funded money can be lent out just like debt-funded money can.’56 So why are the banks not lending enough to British businesses? They are responding to the increased regulation imposed on them. They didn’t want it and ‘lobbied’ hard to prevent it, spending £93 million pounds in 2011/12.57 Even the Governor of the Bank of England was moved to complain publicly about this ‘’lobbying’.58 (Lobbying is clearly a misnomer here; £93 million pounds isn’t spent on PR and 55 56 57 ‘The British financial services industry spent more than £92m last year [i.e. 2011/12] lobbying politicians and regulators in an “economic war of attrition” that has secured a string of policy victories.’ 58 See . lunches; bribing would be more apt.) But some of it they have had to accept. And dragging their feet vis-à-vis the British domestic economy is their revenge. And, as far as I can see, not a single economic commentator has named it. Dallas ‘63 We are going to get a torrent of bullshit about the Kennedy assassination in the next couple of months. BBC Radio 4 contributed a piece called ‘The Reunion’ in which a group of people who were in Dallas in 1963 when it happened recalled the events. One of those was Hugh Aynesworth, then with the Dallas Morning News. I didn’t listen to the programme but I think we may assume that its host, Sue Macgregor, did not ask Aynesworth why he became an informant for the FBI on the subject.59 My only contribution to the great JFK-anniversary-mediabunfight thus far has been to persuade a TV production company that staging a debate about the assassination would not work. It was going to me and, inter alia, David Aaronovitch. I pointed out to the TV person who rang me that the Warren Commission’s report had been totally demolished by 1967; that those who continued to defend it were the intellectual equivalent of flat earthers; and that, as far as I could tell from his writing, Aaronovitch knew fuck all about the assassination. There was a silence, followed by ‘We’ll get back to you.’ Some days later an e-mail arrived telling me they had abandoned the idea. That special relationship I am an admirer of former ambassador Craig Murray. His blog60 is always interesting. On 11 June he wrote this about the NSA/GCHQ revelations: ‘I am astonished that still none of our pusillanimous media has published the simple fact that NSA and GCHQ share ALL intelligence reports with each other. Every 12 On which see . 60 member of the House of Commons who has ever been in the most junior ministerial position knows this – that amounts to hundreds. So do at least fifty thousand current or retired civil service and military personnel. So do the majority of senior journalists. Yet [British foreign secretary William] Hague was allowed to talk round the subject without being challenged about the truth, and the fiction of official secrecy persists.’ There are several things to be said about this. First, it does rather depend on what he means by ‘reports’. Second, if you are agency B, there is no way of knowing if agency A is sharing all its ‘reports’ with you (let alone its intelligence), whatever the formal arrangements. And third, all anecdotal evidence over the last 50 years tells us that America, to quote Henry Kissinger (quoting someone else), has no friends, only interests. I will need a lot of persuading that the NSA-GCHQ relationship is an exception to this. On the day in August when the Glen Greenwald/David Miranda-held-at-Heathrow story broke in the British media, the papers also carried a picture of a British frigate, HMS Westminster, arriving at Gibraltar in the midst of the latest fracas between Gibraltar and Spain. All the absurdities of British foreign policy and Britain’s relationship with the US are captured there. I would like to believe that the Miranda drama at Heathrow was an elaborate ruse while the documents arrived by other means. (I’d agree several third party addresses and simply send the stuff by air mail.....) The alternative is that Greenwald and the Guardian are terminally naive, believing that Miranda would be allowed to pass unhindered through Heathrow carrying British and America secrets. Can they be that dumb? Amidst all the coverage in the British media no-one that I read mentioned the simple fact that all this is being done for the Americans. GCHQ works for the Americans. They must do because the British state no longer has the power to use the information GCHQ gathers. The British state can send a gunboat down to Spain and might, if push came to shove, be able to defeat the Spanish armed forces. But beyond that level it is powerless. Being America’s outsourced surveillance assistant is part of the price the British state pays for being allowed to sit at the same table as the Americans in international affairs (UN etc). The other part of the price is supporting US foreign policy no matter how stupid, nauseating or self-defeating it is. The really odd thing about British post-war politics is the absence of a ‘Gaullist’ faction, concerned with British independence. Have our foreign policy wallahs no self-respect? Apparently not. They are still happy to be the school bully’s best friend, cheerleading in public while badmouthing him in private. MI5 versus the banksters (not) Some years ago I met someone who told me that he had met someone who had been at a meeting at which a former head of MI5 was present. Said retired MI5 director stated that one of MI5’s roles was to counter threats to ‘the Anglo-American form of capitalism’. By which he can only have meant Wall St. and the City. This meeting took place post 2008 and said retired director was thus not unaware of the damage that ‘Anglo-American form of capitalism’ had caused (although I suppose it is possible he believed an explanation of the events which didn’t blame the banksters). Vaguely remembering that among MI5’s official tasks was something to do with economic policy, I looked at its website and found there that among MI5’s statutory duties, as laid down by the 1989 Security Services Act, is ‘to safeguard the economic well-being of the UK against threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Isles’. What does MI5 mean by ‘economic well-being’? Presumably the health of Anglo-American finance capital. But who knows? So I sent them an e-mail asking that question. To date I have had no response; nor do I expect one. Why has British government spending rocketed?! Robert Henderson is one of the more interesting and unclassifiable political commentators in this country who has taken on the thankless task of pointing out to right and left that some of what they believe is manifest nonsense.61 Recently he e-mailed this economic comment which deserves wider distribution. It is reasonable to put forward as the primary culprit the mania for privatising everything. The following things have not been understood by the privatisers: 1. The public service ethos did exist and was most valuable in maintaining standards, continuity and honesty within public provision. 2. Multiplying the opportunities for fraud inevitably results in more fraud. 3. That public services cannot be run on commercial lines because public provision is normally universal provision. Unlike a private company losing business, a public service provider such as the NHS cannot turn round and say we will not treat these patients because we need to cut costs. 4. For public services to run properly they need need to be focused not on the bottom line but on the provision of the service. 5. Once a public service has been contracted out to a private provider, the private provider has the government over a barrel because there is no alternative to a private provider once the public service option has been done away with. 6. That public employment gave those so employed secure lives and indirectly increased the sense of security in those employed by outside of public service because having a substantial proportion in secure jobs in itself made society more stable and certain. 7. That public money is a recycling of money and however it is recycled it has a value because its spending supports local 61 The Wiki entry on him is incomplete but conveys something of this. He contributed ‘Laissez faire as religion’ to Lobster 58. economies. 8. That public expenditure has increased steadily during the privatising of public service activities. Arms–to–Iraq On the JANCOM site (jancom.org) the most striking document is the one listed on the left hand side of the second screen as ‘Transcript’. This is said to be a CIA summary of the ‘Supergun’ affair. I remain sceptical of its genesis, though the fact that HMG felt it necessary to exclude it from the trial of Asil Nadir by use of a PII (public interest immunity) certificate, speaks for its authenticity. Some its central claims are strikingly similar to those in ‘Belgium: Thatcher, Astra, Iraq & murder of Gerald Bull’ which appeared originally in Intelligence, Number 81, 8 June 1998, p. 1. Citing an article by Walter De Bock in the Flemish daily, De Morgen, on 15 April 1998, Intelligence reported that the Belgian judge who was investigating the murder of Gerald Bull had received ‘40 pages of raw intelligence data from MI5 and MI6 directly implicating the inner circle of British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the murder of Gerald Bull.... Judge De Valkeneer is now focusing his investigation on a mysterious visit to Brussels of a fourmember SAS team lead by [Stephan Adolph] Kock..... On 2 March 1990, a fax message, with the heading “Visit of UK MoD Special Forces Staff to PRB”, announced the arrival in Brussels of the above four-member team for a supposed 19-21 March visit to PRB [Poudreries Reunies de Belgique] facilities.’ This is the group named in the purported CIA report, discussed in the essay by Andrew Rosthorn in this issue, as the assassins of Bull and others.62 If they were, it must be the 62 The document may be available on-line at but when I tried I got a malware warning and could not get the file to open. However I recognise that URL as having been the location of Intelligence in the past. Its current URL is first time that assassins’ arrival in town was announced by a press release! On-line there is the transcript of some of the hearings held by the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee in 1992 on ‘Exports to Iraq’.63 In one session before the committee some of the personnel involved in the finance of the arms-to-Iraq operations appeared and some of the MPs did their under-informed best to make sense of this area. They were quite close to the heart of it but didn’t know enough to challenge the emollient bullshit being spread by the bankers before them. There is even some quite lengthy questioning on the subject of the late Stefan Kock. At para 2725 this exchange takes place between Labour MP Stan Crowther and Mr T. Robson of the Midland Bank: Did you ever have any reason to believe that he might have been connected in any way with the Intelligence Service? (Mr Robson) None at all. Stephan Kock made no secret of his background, the fact that he had been involved with the SAS and his work in Rhodesia, but with regard to the security services nothing at all, he never talked to me about that, I am not aware of it. Robson neatly doesn’t quite answer the question and Crowther doesn’t recognise that ‘the security services’ and ‘the Intelligence Service’ are not coterminous.64 There is a wide consensus now that the journalist Jonathan Moyle was murdered in Chile in 1990, possibly because he was researching the arms-to-Iraq trade.65 Even 63 At This appears to be the only section of the evidence taken by that committee on this subject which is on-line. 64 In their 2003 ‘How £1bn was lost when Thatcher propped up Saddam’, David Leigh and Rob Evans discussed the export credit guarantees given to various arms manufacturers. Conclusion? Yes, the taxpayer ultimately paid for much of the weaponry ‘sold’ to Iraq. 65 There is no evidence on this that I am aware of and if Moyle was, as some have suggested, working for SIS under cover as a journalist, would he be poking around in an area SIS was trying to keep secret? the inquest eventually found he had been unlawfully killed.66 The Guardian’s David Leigh disagrees. In the British Journalism Review he wrote: Nobody murdered Jonathan Moyle at all. As it happens, World in Action spent a lot of time and money researching this particular conspiracy theory during the 90s, at a time when I was there as a producer (before that distinguished investigative series was closed down by ITV in pursuit of something more lucrative to put on their screens). WIA obtained Chilean police photographs of Moyle’s corpse and traced the Home Office pathologist who had examined the evidence for the British inquest. It rapidly transpired that Moyle had in fact been practising “auto-erotic asphyxiation”— a sexual game with a high fatality rate. Murderers do not pad their nooses to make their victims more comfortable while they kill them. But Moyle had done so. Simple as that.67 And if you were going to murder someone and make it look like an auto-erotic accident, might you not try to make it look as plausible as possible? Aunty’s in a bind Despite the enormous salaries being paid to far too many of its employees, I sometimes feel sorry for the BBC. It is hard being a semi-detached state broadcaster. Everyone attacks it. The right keep up a constant flow of complaints of left-wing bias. This is partly genuine and partly intimidation. (New Labour did the same thing.) The biases are more unthinking centrist than left-wing: pro-EU, pro-PC, pro-multiculturalism, pro-free market, pro-globalisation. How many socialist or anarchist voices, do you hear on the BBC? Apart from the occasional five second sound bite to illustrate a news story, none, as far as I am aware. Come to that, how often do you 66 See the BBC News report on this at 67 hear economic nationalist, anti-multiculturalism, antiglobalisation voices on the BBC? And there are other biases. One is allowing the City and its spokespersons to dominate economic commentary. A study of the coverage of the economic issues by the Radio 4 Today programme during 2008 shows that economic commentary was dominated by City spokespersons and only their views were treated seriously. Unfortunately the study, ‘The Today programme and the banking crisis’ costs $25 to purchase but a detailed summary of its main findings is given by Nick Shaxson in ‘Is the BBC afraid of the City of London?’ on his blog.68 Have things changed since 2008? Not that I can detect. Along similar lines is a study of the BBC’s treatment of the government’s privatisation of the NHS which concludes: In the two years building up to the government’s NHS reform bill, the BBC appears to have categorically failed to uphold its remit of impartiality, parroting government spin as uncontested fact, whilst reporting only a narrow, shallow view of opposition to the bill. In addition, key news appears to have been censored.69 Why Barrack is staying off that motel balcony Why has Obama been such a disappointment? Yes, he was bought and paid for before his first election. Yes, he’s a compromiser by nature. And yes, the Republicans control the Congress and will block anything he tries. But there may be another reason. Ray McGovern, retired senior intelligence analyst at the CIA, wrote this recently: Which leads to the question, why would he do all these things? Why would he be afraid for example, to take the drones away from the CIA? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s afraid. Number one, he’s afraid of 68 69 what happened to Martin Luther King Jr. And I know from a good friend who was there when it happened, that at a small dinner with progressive supporters, after these progressive supporters were banging on Obama before the election, “Why don’t you do the things we thought you stood for?” Obama turned sharply and said, “Don’t you remember what happened to Martin Luther King Jr.?”70 Weather wars If you were sceptical about the pieces by Tim Coles in issues 62 on (weather weapons) and 64 (on chemtrails) you should read Rady Anand’s ‘Atmospheric Geoengineering: Weather Manipulation, Contrails and Chemtrails: A Review of the “Case Orange” report’ for more of the same (but with some different sources).71 This isn’t a paranoid fantasy on anyone’s part. 70 71 Apocryphylia Simon Matthews Like father.....like son? It was amusing to see Lord Cunningham of Felling (formerly Jack and MP for Copeland 1970-2005) being covertly filmed by a bogus lobbying company some months back. The assured way in which he confirmed his fee, a mere £14k per month, for doing some work for them – basically wire-pulling in the corridors of power, using contacts built up over 40 odd years – would have reminded any observers with a decent political memory of the modus operandi of his late father, Alderman Cunningham, also of Felling.1 On hearing the report in June, the Labour Party immediately withdrew the whip from Cunningham, who duly protested his innocence stating that he had suspicions about the interview he attended and had been ‘testing’ the veracity of the would be lobbyists by mentioning the £14k per month retainer. Cunningham, who organised the 1992 Labour general election campaign and served as a minister under Blair 1997-1999 (before being reshuffled to the back benches) was the subject of an enquiry by the House of Lords’ Committee for Privileges in 2008 about how, precisely, he came to be employed as a public affairs adviser to the City of London Corporation for a fee of £36,000.2 Reading it in full, particularly the unravelling of the entrails setting out how Cunningham obtained the position – he was working for Sovereign Strategy, the lobbying company run by Alan Donnelly, formerly MEP for Tyne and Wear 1989-2000 – provides an interesting insight into how some people make their money. The complaint against Cunningham, from Norman Lamb 1 On Cunningham senior see 2 See the House of Lords proceedings at . MP – for non-declaration of an interest – was dismissed. Cunningham remains an unaffiliated member of the House of Lords. How is it, towards the East? For anyone wanting to actively avoid the ludicrous and delusional media overkill of the Thatcher funeral, the Diamond Jubilee and the Royal baby earlier this year, the mixed media exhibition that ran at the Calvert 22 gallery in May-June would have been a welcome relief. Entitled ‘How is it, towards the East?’, (an enquiry made, apparently, by William Morris in 1890 about East London), the show covered, among other things: the slum clearance, the design and construction of the Boundary Estate by the London County Council in the 1890s; the contribution to UK political debate by socialist, anarchist and communist refugees from Tsarist Russia; ‘the validity of certain socialist/Marxist postulates for contemporary society’; a re-enactment of a speech from the film WR – Mysteries of the Organism (a 1971 Yugoslav film about the relationship between socialism and sexuality, focussing on the work of Wilhelm Reich); and how women coped with the cramped domestic circumstances that existed prior to large scale state provision of good quality housing. All good stuff, but who are Calvert 22? Their founder, Nonna Materkova, won both a Yeltsin scholarship for Young Russian Business Leaders and a British Council scholarship, and arrived in London in 1999 to study at the LSE. Prior to this she held a number of posts, one of which was Head of Major Investment Projects at the Finance Committee of the City of St Petersburg – in which role it seems reasonable to assume she would have known and met Vladimir Putin, then beginning his rise to global significance in that city. Calvert 22 is sponsored (the exact wording used is ‘strategic partner’) by VTB Capital, an investment bank, 61% owned by the Russian government. Like any financial institution, the management board of VTB includes a range of personalities but in prominent positions are Andrei Kostin, formerly in ‘diplomatic service’ at the USSR embassy in London 1985-1990, during which time he presumably knew Alexander Lebedev the current proprietor of The Evening Standard and The Independent, Vasily Titor, who ‘worked in the President’s office’ in the ‘90s and Gennadiy Melikyan, previously Minister of Labour in the Russian Federation, 1992-1997. According to Olga Podoinitsya at VTB their role in sponsoring Calvert 22 is ‘putting people in touch with the actual trends in the country and offering them a new perspective on Russia’. It looks rather as if the gallery is a Russian equivalent of the cultural propaganda work carried out abroad by the British Council. How ironic that it staged an exhibition about the values of good housing and ‘alternative models of organising society’ during the funeral of Margaret Thatcher – the most significant force in the destruction of council housing this country has yet seen. And curious, too, that Calvert 22 is located in the centre of a local authority housing estate, surrounded by blocks of flats housing many immigrant families – not unlike the type of location where Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and other Russian leftist exiles would have been found during their sojourn in London in 1907. Finkelstein Danny Finkelstein, whose personal political journey has taken him from the Labour Party via the SDP to the Conservative Party, made the following (fairly obvious) statement in The Times on 12 June: ‘....Britain wants a US level of taxation with European levels of spending and this is not sustainable....’3 This is true. It is also true that little to no real debate has ever been had about this topic and that mainstream conventional politicians ignore it as an issue. Perhaps, if Finkelstein, an essentially decent and accessible commentator, can broach the subject others might follow? We should hope they do for this is very much the elephant in the room of contemporary UK politics. If not, then society will carry on fracturing; and the 3 A thought echoed by Chris Mullin (Labour MP 1987-2010) in the November issue of Progress: ‘The British people have been led to believe that they can have west European levels of public services at American rates of taxation’. < www.progressonline.org.uk/magazines/ november-2013/> transformation of Britain into an offshore Europe equivalent of Kansas or Minnesota will continue. Strange days in North Yorks...... The passing of Wilf Proudfoot was reported fairly widely and he duly got decent sized obits in most of the quality press. Proudfoot had a respectable political career on the free market right: elected to Scarborough Town Council in 1950; a couple of failed tilts at Westminster before securing Cleveland in Macmillan’s ‘never had it so good’ victory in ’59; losing the seat in 1964; returning – in a very close result – as MP for Brighouse and Spenborough in 1970; losing again in ’74 as Heath went down to the NUM; and failing thereafter to find a constituency that wanted to select him. Often overlooked is the fact that, despite not being much of a household name, he got everything he campaigned for. He made his money (and name) in the ‘40s setting up a chain of prototype self-service supermarkets in Yorkshire4 and advocated thereafter the abolition of retail price maintenance, the state regulatory device that fixed the price of a wide range of staples, ensured a level playing field for shoppers and sustained the massive preponderance of small corner shops across the UK. Proudfoot was clear that if this could be done supermarkets would thrive. This was duly enacted in early 1964 by Edward Heath, then President of the Board of Trade in the brief Douglas-Home government. Proudfoot also had a pronounced interest in decimalisation, thinking perhaps, about the ease of customers checking out from his stores, and the then complicated arithmetic at the till and pockets full of spare change that weighed as much as a bag of flour. The march toward this began in earnest in 1961 when MacMillan set up the Halsbury Committee to enquire and make recommendations on the subject. It reported in 1963, recommending a move to decimalisation, its finding were adopted in 1969 (by the Decimal Currency Act) and Britain went decimal in 1971. And he also advocated commercial radio. The back story 4 See to UK pirate radio in the ‘60s was raked over in Lobster 58 and 59, but without Proudfoot’s involvement being mentioned. In 1965, with two fellow Scarborough business figures, he promoted a proposal to establish an offshore commercial radio station and convened a public meeting to ‘attract investors’. At this he went to some trouble to tell those who attended that the project was not a typical investment and might not yield a return. This suggests that (a) he knew that offshore stations rarely or never made money (b) the purpose of the meeting was to make it look as if it were a ‘legitimate’ business venture whilst deflecting actual investors; and leads one to the conclusion that the actual purpose of the station was not linked entirely to a personal liking for pop music. In April 1966 Radio 270, his offshore station, began broadcasting. It cost £75k to launch (£7.5m today) and was accommodated in a Dutch former fishing vessel. The smallest of the UK offshore stations, its operating costs were, like Radio London and Swinging Radio England, underpinned with advertising from the US Evangelists, The Radio Church of God, who paid £300 per week for a nightly slot (£30,000 today). Just how eclectic its tastes were became apparent in April 1967 when Radio 270 gave up a significant part of its air time to political broadcasts – advocating that people vote Conservative in the May 1967 municipal elections. These broadcasts were made by Patrick Wall MP – who also spoke frequently on air in favour of supporting the Ian Smith government in Rhodesia and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Harvey Proctor – then chair of York University Conservative Society – hosted a regular 30 minute ‘current affairs’ programme on Radio 270 throughout May-August 1967. In the final weeks before the Wilson government made offshore broadcasting illegal, Radio 270 carried contributions from Ronald Bell MP and John Biggs-Davison MP in favour of the introduction of commercial radio in the UK. The story of Radio 270, and Proudfoot’s interest in commercial radio, became especially interesting when it ceased broadcasting. After its personnel dispersed5 Proudfoot discussed selling the ship to Radio Caroline’s Ronan O’Rahilly, after both Caroline vessels were impounded for non-payment of victualling costs in April 1968. The discussions came to nothing and it was sold for scrap instead; and on the face of it Proudfoot was clearly concentrating on rebooting his political career at this point (having been adopted as Conservative PPC for Brighouse and Spenborough). But was this the end of his dealings with O’Rahilly? In late ’69 two Swiss businessmen purchased and fitted out the biggest and best pirate station yet: Radio North Sea International. It began test transmissions on 23 January 1970 – on a frequency allocated by international agreement to the Czechoslovak government – and from 11 February broadcast regularly across the UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany. Responsibility for jamming the transmissions in the UK fell to John Stonehouse MP, then Postmaster-General, who duly ordered this to be done on 15 April.6 The jamming was not particularly effective as RNI changed its frequency from time to time and the station quickly grew in popularity. On 18 May 1970 prime minister Harold Wilson – comfortably ahead in the polls – called a snap general election. The same day, the owners of Radio North Sea International contacted Ronan O’Rahilly and offered him the use of the ship – for free, apparently – to broadcast and generally orchestrate an anti-Labour campaign. Ronan O’Rahilly has made few comments in the years that followed about his work over the following four weeks but it was extensive: touring marginal seats in a converted double decker bus and distributing a million leaflets urging young 5 Philip Hayton became BBC correspondent in Washington DC, moved from there to cover South Africa and Rhodesia in the ‘70s and later turned up as BBC correspondent in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and in Lebanon during the ‘80s Civil War; Roger Gale became Conservative MP for Thanet North (1983-); Paul Burnett, who had joined Radio 270 from the RAF Broadcasting Service in the Persian Gulf (shades of the late Simon Dee) became a popular DJ on the BBC. 6 Stonehouse was the subject of allegations in 1969 that he was a Czech spy. Was the selection of the RNI broadcasting frequency a deliberate attempt to compromise or embarrass him? If so, by whom? voters to ditch Wilson and go Tory in the name of personal freedom. Approximately five million electors were aged between 18 and 24 in 1970, about 14% of all those registered to vote. The anti-Labour campaign reached a crescendo on the weekend of Saturday-Sunday 13/14 June 1970 when Radio North Sea International changed its name to Radio Caroline International and staged a rally in Hyde Park, attended by 10,000 and broadcast live on RCI, that ended with a march to Downing Street led by O’Rahilly, Simon Dee and George Lazenby, the latter then the current James Bond. This went virtually unreported in the UK media. Incandescent with rage, Wilson ordered the Post Office to block the RCI signal, this being finally achieved on 17 June (the day before polling) by the use of the most powerful counter transmitter in the British Isles: the Marconi facility at Canewdon, Essex. Still....with Labour remaining in front in the opinion polls and with the Conservatives requiring a very large number of gains to achieve even a small majority, few predicted the results that trickled in on 18 June 1970 – Heath winning with an overall majority of 30. Labour casualties included George Brown (deputy leader), Sir Dingle Foot (Solicitor General), Anthony Greenwood (Minister of Housing) and a significant number of less prominent personalities – Woodrow Wyatt, Stan Newens, Robert Maxwell, Gwyneth Dunwoody, John Diamond and David Ennals, all of whom were in marginal seats. A key beneficiary was Wilf Proudfoot, elected in Brighouse and Spenborough with a majority of only 59. Analysis of the 1970 election results shows that the Conservatives gained 18 seats by margins of less than 1,000 votes and a further 15 by between 1,000 and 1,500 votes. In other words Heath’s majority was delivered by less than 50,000 electors in 33 constituencies. Another way of looking at it is to say that if 1% of the youth vote in 1970 were sufficiently influenced by O’Rahilly and Radio North Sea International to change their vote from Labour to Conservative – this was enough to remove Wilson from Downing Street. One wonders who paid for O’Rahilly’s activity. Proudfoot’s second spell in Parliament, during which Christine Holman, later Christine Hamilton, was his secretary, saw the passing of the Sound Broadcasting Act (1972) and the setting up of a network of commercial radio stations across the UK, completing the hat trick of major changes to daily life for which he could claim responsibility. Defeated in both the 1974 elections, and not selected for a winnable seat in 1979, he drifted away from politics and embarked on a radically new career as a hypnotist, studying at the Hypnotism and Training Institute in Los Angeles and setting up (in Scarborough) the Proudfoot School of Clinical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. He had considerable standing in this field, founding the UK Guild of Hypnotist Examiners who posted, at his death: ‘Wilf believed that the most important thing that a therapist could do was give people the experience of trance.’ It is interesting to reflect that, like Sir James Goldsmith, Proudfoot succeeded in achieving carefully defined goals without ever holding high office or, in his case, even being particularly well known. Perhaps a political/social history of Britain might one day be written in which the central narrative is built around people like this rather than the usual procession of prime ministers and other major establishment figures. Just a few miles along the Yorkshire coast from Scarborough is Whitby, where one Simon Parkes has been making waves recently. Occupying elected office at the lowest rung possible (a town councillor within a district council) Parkes enjoys considerable notoriety as a result of stating that he has been regularly abducted and is in a sexual relationship with an alien with whom he has fathered a child. He is a Labour councillor, for now, and reminds people that from 1994 until 2002 he was also a Labour councillor in Hackney where, he says he used to meet Tony Blair ‘quite a lot’, and was chauffeured around London in a Rolls Royce meeting international dignitaries, including the US Ambassador. Anyone who was a colleague of Parkes’ between 1994 and 1998 would beg to differ. During this period, which was marked by particularly unpleasant internal Labour Party battles, he was most noted by his absence. When he eventually surfaced, and was asked for an explanation he apologised and stated that he had been working undercover, for the security services, in the BNP. Nobody believed him. Well we wouldn’t, would we? And perhaps that’s the problem with too many people in UK politics today – so focussed on day to day pragmatic matters! So obsessed with logical explanations! My guess would be that Parkes, following the path trodden by David Icke, will do well on the US abductee circuit....attending solemn conventions, sympathising with fellow victims who will nod at his proximity to Tony Blair and ponder at the involvement of the US Ambassador in his narrative. Somewhere in a parallel universe Wilf Proudfoot would be giving Simon Parkes regression therapy and retrieving his memories...... My Old Man’s a.....? Ed Milliband came to Tyneside and addressed the Labour Party faithful at a gala dinner on the evening of 11 October. He spoke well: tough, fluent, slightly self-deprecating. After the usual introductions and name checking of local dignitaries and MPs he reminded the audience that he had just been called a Marxist for suggesting that power companies should have their charges capped and went on to say that if that made him a Marxist, then most people in Britain must be Marxists too, because a clear majority supported this policy. (Huge burst of applause). Running through a list of criticisms of the government, he concluded with an account of his meeting Hetty Bower (at 107, the oldest living Labour Party member) who had regaled him with her recollections of the Battle of Cable Street, and how she had taken part in blocking the attempt by the British Union of Fascists to march through east London.7 Reaching a climax, Milliband told the audience how he too identified with this, and like Hetty, we should reject Coalition policies – specifically any cuts to the NHS and the bedroom tax – proclaiming ‘they shall not pass!’ (Prolonged cheering and a standing ovation.) It was all very different in tone, and even possibly content, to Blair’s relentless suburban centrism and Brown’s calculating use of traditional Labour language to mask overtly free market policies. Even the use of the word Marxist seemed to relax the audience – at last someone speaking in a way that was pleasing and familiar to (most of) the audience, without the obligatory apologising for previous Labour governments or the pretence that everything pre-1994 was an embarrassing aberration. In keeping with the One Nation-Labour theme Milliband spoke in front of a back drop decorated with Union Jacks; and also, in a nod to US culture, an enormous copy of the Andy Warhol Campbell’s soup tin print (a logo used by the Technology Services Group, a Newcastle IT company and wine sponsors for the evening). Publicity for the event noted that the main sponsor was International Management Partners Limited, two of whose directors are Alan Donnelly (see above in connection with Cunningham (J)) and........Max Mosley. Multiple ironies abound at this turn of events – Ed Milliband defending his father (‘as any son would’) when Dad was accused of being a Marxist who hated Britain, and Mosley defending his father (‘as any son would’) when Dad, normally accused of being a Fascist who would have betrayed his country, was set on in the street in Hackney in 1962. But Ed Milliband proclaiming ‘they shall not pass’ at an event sponsored by Max Mosley? Things move on, of course, and children cannot be blamed for the views and opinions of their parents. What is curious, though, is the interest shown by Max Mosley for some 7 Mrs Bower has certainly had an eventful political career, not always as an orthodox Labour supporter (which Milliband jocularly admitted in his speech). According to a posting at ‘She probably joined the Communist Party in the early 1930s.’ Part of her working life at this time was spent at Kino Films – an avant garde documentary company of the period. Presumably she would appreciate the exhibitions staged at Calvert 22. years in funding the Labour Party; first the Formula One donation in 1997, now this.8 One wonders if the future might bring a scion of the Mosley clan being adopted as a Labour PPC, with the family ‘returning home’ after Sir Oswald marched off in 1931. 8 Mosley’s contact with Labour go back to at least the mid ‘90s when Formula One hired David Ward, previously a ‘spin doctor’ during the John Smith leadership. It appears that Mosley, today, is acting as guarantor for a number of individuals in their libel claims/breach of privacy claims against News International and other sections of the media relating to phone hacking – including, it is said, John Prescott. There is some comment on-line to the effect that Mosley is in regular contact with Tom Watson MP. What do we make of this? Either Mosley is prepared to spend an awful lot of money to curb the press, or he seeks political influence of some kind. Perhaps International Management Partners Ltd are seen by Labour as a source of funding that is independent of the trade unions – as was the donation of £1million from Formula One in 1997, subsequently returned when it became controversial. In a 2011 article in the Daily Mail * Tom Bower quoted Formula One’s head, Bernie Ecclestone, who donated the £1 million, as saying that in part the donation was made in the hope of boosting Max Mosley’s chances of becoming a Labour MP. ‘I want Max to be in a good position to get a Labour seat,’ Ecclestone said. * Literary Spying British Writers and MI5 Surveillance 1930-1960 James Smith Cambridge University Press, 2013, £55.00, h/b John Newsinger Smith’s book is an immensely valuable preliminary examination of the British secret state’s surveillance of ‘the left-wing writers and artists’ of George Orwell’s generation. As the author makes clear, the context was very different from the United States. In Britain surveillance of the arts and artists was not informed by any US-style Red Scare. In Britain, he argues, ‘MI5’s activity was much more circumspect and rarely resulted in direct forms of censorship’, let alone any ‘explosive arrests’. MI5, unlike the FBI, did not have a Book Review Section, examining content. There were no British Dashiell Hammetts or Howard Fasts imprisoned for a political stand. Nevertheless, despite the absence of any Red Scare, extensive surveillance still took place. Smith discusses MI5 policy with regard to the Communist Party in the mid-1930s: ‘....all aspects of the policy of the CPGB were being “carefully followed up”, while routine checks on correspondence were maintained on selected district officers, important members and those involved in the covert organisations of the Party. But attention was also paid right down to the ground level. While extra attention was given to Party leaders or those who were secret members, a blanket of detailed surveillance was mandated for anyone involved in the Party: “As far as possible all details, including place of employment, are being obtained concerning all Party members”…Of course, the files maintained on actual Party members were only the tip of the iceberg.’ Inevitably, writers and artists on the left came under scrutiny. Smith looks in detail at the surveillance of the Auden Circle, at Ewan MacColl, Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop, and at Arthur Koestler and George Orwell. He has also written elsewhere (Literature and History 2010) about the surveillance of Douglas Jefferies and the left-wing literary magazine, Storm, a contribution that would have fitted nicely into this volume. With regard to the Auden Circle, Auden himself seems to have attracted little attention from the secret state because although ‘he was widely championed as the poetic leader of the left’, in practice, he was reluctant to involve himself in ‘the types of ground-level activism’ that other members of the Circle embraced. MI5, it seems, did not regard poetry as particularly threatening and only really noticed poets when they engaged in more conventional activism! Even Auden’s visit to Republican Spain seems to have gone unnoticed by MI5, although as Smith notes there might well be an SIS file. Interest in Auden did, however, explode into life in June 1951 at the time of the Guy Burgess defection. One of the last things Burgess did before disappearing was try to contact Auden, something that excited considerable activity on the part of MI5. Smith has a very interesting discussion of another member of the Auden Circle, Stephen Spender, who attracted a lot more attention. He examines his post-war involvement with the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Special Branch, who were in the grip of ‘anti-Communist paranoia’, were actually investigating the Congress to discover whether or not it was a Communist front! As for Spender’s involvement, he provides a convincing argument in favour of Spender knowing that Encounter was funded by the CIA. He had, after all, worked for the Political Warfare Executive during the war and was certainly not the naïve literateur, taken advantage of by Cold Warriors, that he presented himself as. Spender was, in fact, ‘well integrated with the British Cold War propaganda effort’. Which brings us to MacColl, Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop. The released Theatre Workshop file, covering the years from 1951 to 1960, has some 250 pages. MI5 kept newspaper reviews of Theatre Workshop productions on file, indeed the file contains ‘over 100 separate clippings – making the file now, in its own right, a considerable archive concerning the reception of Theatre Workshop’. As for MacColl, in the 1930s, Special Branch seem to regard him as a serious threat; but MI5 were much more relaxed, with Roger Hollis recommending that he could be ‘left to his plays’. What of Koestler and Orwell? An MI5 officer assessed Koestler as ‘one third genius, one third blackguard and one third lunatic’, which seems pretty fair. His trajectory from Comintern agent to Cold Warrior is usefully documented, right up until the time that he became too hawkish for his new employers. Most controversial, of course, is George Orwell, whose integrity has been seriously called into question since revelations concerning his relationship with the covert Information Research Department. Smith quotes the historian Christopher Hill on how Orwell was always ‘two-faced’ and seemed to have ‘something fishy’ about him. He considers the validity of this judgement. According to Smith, in the 1930s, surveillance of Orwell ‘was at times paranoid but, from a security standpoint, sporadic and largely peripheral’. During the War, Special Branch, ‘inevitably paranoid’ according to Smith, described him as having ‘advanced communist views’, as attending ‘communist meetings’ and as dressing ‘in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours’. MI5 took a more relaxed view, with W. Ogilvie responding to the Special Branch report with the observation that Orwell ‘has been a bit of an anarchist in his day and in touch with extremist elements. But he has lately thrown in his lot with Victor Gollancz who as you probably know has severed all connection with the Communist Party. Blair undoubtedly (has) strong Left Wing views but he is a long way from orthodox Communism’. As Ogilvie noted, it was evident from Orwell’s recent writings (this was before Animal Farm was published) ‘that he does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him’. Post-war, of course, Orwell became involved with the secret state. Smith quite correctly condemns Orwell’s relationship with the Information Research Department (IRD) and his handing over of a list of Party members, sympathisers and fellow travellers as a ‘gross miscalculation’. He is, however, less successful in explaining this miscalculation. Obviously, Orwell’s anti-Stalinism was a crucial factor, but in the post-War period the nature of that anti-Stalinism changed. Whereas in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Orwell had been intent on combating Communist influence within the Left, after the War he became mistakenly convinced that the Soviet Union was an aggressive great power set on further conquests and that in these circumstances the West was ‘a lesser evil’ that he was prepared to help fight the Russians. This was the same stance that he had taken with regard to Nazi Germany. Whereas in Animal Farm, the Soviet Union is shown as being as bad as the West, by Nineteen Eighty Four, the totalitarian danger has become overwhelming. This was not the only factor though. Orwell was a strong supporter of the Labour government right up until his death. He was very critical of it for not being radical enough, arguing on one occasion that a United Socialist States of Europe was the only thing worth fighting for, but he believed it was the best that was possible at the time. It was this government that had set up the IRD to counter Communist propaganda and influence and there seems little doubt that as far as Orwell was concerned, he was assisting a Labour government initiative. It is these two interrelated factors that together explain Orwell’s miscalculation: his acceptance of the Cold War exaggeration of the ‘Russian threat’ and his illusions in the Labour government’s foreign policy. In his defence, it is worth remembering that the same Christopher Hill who considered Orwell as always having been ‘fishy’ was at this time a public apologist for Stalinism, even publishing an article in the CP’s Modern Quarterly in 1953, celebrating the great man’s virtues as a historian! One suspects that those Russian historians who fell victim to the purges would have found Orwell’s more forgivable than Hill’s. Hill only finally turned against Stalin when the Soviet regime repudiated him in 1956. Interestingly enough, although this falls outside Smith’s remit, Orwell was also approached by the International Relief and Rescue Committee, which in its current incarnation has kindly provided gainful employment for David Miliband. He was approached early in 1946 by Francis Henson, a ‘Lovestoneite’, working for the Committee, who assured him that the organisation was ‘very definitely a non-Stalinist organisation’, indeed that it was ‘anti-Stalinist to the extent that the people they assist are largely Trotskyists etc’. He missed the clue that the Committee, in his words, seemed to ‘have considerable funds at their disposal’. This initiative seems to have been stillborn, but it certainly shows Orwell’s potential vulnerability to secret state manipulation at this time. * John Newsinger’s Orwell’s Politics is published by Palgrave/Macmillan. Interestingly, MI5 did, as Smith reveals, work with the British Board of Film Censors, ‘arranging joint film viewings…allowing them to judge the content of recent propaganda films and coordinate with the BBFC ways of managing any films deemed to pose a particular risk’. Given this interest in the cinema, Ken Loach’s MI5 file is, one suspects, pretty thick! Peter Davison, ed, The Complete Works of George Orwell: Smothered Under Journalism, London 1998, pp 154-155. The Lovestoneites were, of course, supporters of Nikolai Bukharin and followers of Jay Lovestone, expelled from the American Communist Party in 1928. In the post-war period they were to become US Intelligence assets in the effort to combat Communist influence in the British and European labour movements. Yesterday....... A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s Alwyn W. Turner Aurum Press, 2013, £25, h/b Dan Atkinson The author once worked in an Army cinema, operating the film projector. Reading this tremendous book, you wonder if he may not have been better employed behind the movie camera. His wide lens misses little and his superb technique gives real depth to the picture. Just out of shot, either side of the frame, are the two landmark events that (to mix metaphors) bookend Mr Turner’s narrative. By chance, the dates of both events would be rendered as ‘nine-eleven’ in the continents in which they took place, respectively November 9 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, and September 11 2001, with the attacks on New York and Washington. So this is a social history of Britain during not only the first post-Cold War decade but also (to date) the most hopeful. There was to be a ‘new world order’, supervised by technocratic institutions run by experts (independent central banks, environmental supervisors, competition regulators and so forth). ‘We know what works,’ the first President Bush declared in his 1989 inaugural speech. ‘Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.’ This sense of having ‘cracked it’, of having resolved all the messy arguments of the past, permeated the Nineties, just one of the ways in which it resembled the Fifties, with besuited politicians meeting in assorted cities to sign up for new institutions and initiatives to embed what were believed to be eternal truths: the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the World Trade Organisation (1995), the establishment of the International Criminal Court (1998), the launch of the euro (1999). Another echo of Fifties could be heard in the sometimes regretful, sometimes celebratory view that the big political and social struggles were now behind us. Of the earlier decade, Neil Ascherson once recalled: ‘When I finished my National Service and went to Cambridge, the voices around and above me were saying something like this: "History is over. After a million years, the human race has arrived at its destination. We have finally discovered how to run things. There will be no more revolutions, no more slumps and booms....You may find this dull. You may hanker after romantic periods....But all that is over. There is Keynes, there is the National Health Service, there is Bretton Woods which has stabilised the world economy for ever. If you want excitement, concentrate on your personal relationships.’1 That was the Nineties all over. Passion was for the arts, for sport, for cooking, for romance, even for interior design or gardening. For single issues, perhaps: against global warming and testing on animals, in favour of a fair shake for disabled people or the release of wrongly convicted prisoners. But not for politics in general. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the decade saw a trend for professional politicians habitually to declare their passion for opera, or football, or indeed both. This is also the story of the first post-Cold War Prime Minister, John Major (now Sir John). He took office just a few days after the signing of the Peace of Paris, which ended the east-west struggle and ushered in what Philip Bobbitt has called ‘the market state’.2 Indeed, Major’s predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, was in the French capital for this event when she heard she had failed convincingly to see off the 1 ‘The Nostalgia Game’, article first published 1986, republished in his Games with Shadows (Radius, 1988) 2 The Shield of Achilles (Penguin, 2002) leadership challenge from Michael Heseltine of which Major proved to be the ultimate beneficiary. Major himself would have been there, as Foreign Secretary, had Thatcher not lost her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, just over a year earlier, prompting her to move Major to the Treasury. As Mr Turner notes, Major had been put through something of ‘a crash course in statesmanship’. He adds: ‘The implausibility of his rise helped create an image of accidental premiership that he never quite threw off. As Prime Minister, he served for longer than, say, Clement Attlee, David Lloyd George or Edward Heath, longer than James Callaghan and Neville Chamberlain put together and just a few months shy of Harold Macmillan, yet he made less impression than any of those figures even at the time.’ A fair point, although his elevation to the premiership certainly had Labour rattled, rightly as it turned out on election night two years later. ‘The Conservatives have found their Attlee,’ said Lord (Douglas) Jay at the time in my hearing, a statement given some weight by his having served as a Treasury Minister under Labour’s first post-war premier. Major enjoyed not one but two periods of extraordinarily high approval ratings. The first followed his arrival in office, the second his surprise general election victory in April 1992. Between the two peaks was a deep valley of unpopularity, occasioned by the second Tory recession in a dozen years. As Mr Turner notes: ‘[T]he assumption was that Labour were the favourites to win.’ Well, indeed. The Tories were fighting on far more hostile terrain than five years earlier, when tax rates had been falling and Britain was booming. In fact, the economy in downbeat 1992 was the same size as it had been in go-go 1987; the trouble was that it had been larger in the interim. The failure of Labour leader Neil Kinnock to dislodge the Conservatives has been not so much raked over in the intervening years as subjected to prairie-style agriculture, complete with heavy machinery and crop-spraying aircraft. Wisely, Mr Turner keeps the post-mortem tight. The Sheffield rally did not help, he suggests, but ultimately, despite everything that had happened, voters still seemed overall not to trust Labour with the economy. I would add a couple of points. One, with Labour committed to higher taxes and continued membership of the European Exchange-rate Mechanism (which was keeping interest rates high) the voter had a choice between lower taxes and higher borrowing costs or higher taxes and higher borrowing costs. Two, plenty of people liked Kinnock not because he was promising radical change (he wasn’t by 1992) but rather because he seemed a decent, middle-class man with a nice family. Unfortunately, exactly same thing could be said about the new-ish Tory leader. In terms of evoking a relaxed, sportloving, pub-visiting, drink-before-Sunday-lunch yesteryear – at which Thatcher would have been hopeless even assuming she would have tried – the two leaders were evenly matched. The really intriguing What if? relates to Kinnock’s successor, John Smith. I was one of his Town neighbours at the Barbican and recall the television cameras outside Bart’s hospital the morning he died in May 1994. Smith’s death catapulted him instantly into the pantheon of ‘greatest prime ministers we never had’. Perhaps. But had he trounced Major at the polls (a big supposition, given Smith’s self-satisfied persona and apparent belief that the English were naturally more selfish than his fellow Scots), Major may have been welladvised to put in a tour of duty as leader of the opposition, with every chance of a return to Downing Street. Internationally, the statesman Major most closely resembled was George Bush, US president from 1989 to 1993. Bush’s patrician background was far removed from Major’s humble roots, but both succeeded more vivid, charismatic and ‘crunchy’ leaders, both enjoyed early popularity, both suffered from a feeling among their own supporters that they were not fully up to the job and both were ousted by younger, flashier rivals from the centre-left – more centre than left in both cases – who had realised the game had changed. And both, in their day, were half-decent phrasemakers – or employed people who were. Hence Bush’s bon mots included ‘a kinder, gentler America’, ‘a thousands points of light’ (a reference to charitable giving and social involvement), ‘a line in the sand’ (with reference to the 1991 invasion of Kuwait), ‘go the extra mile for peace’ (ahead of the 1991 Gulf War) and ‘read my lips – no new taxes’. From Major we had ‘if it isn’t hurting it isn’t working’ (his declaration as Chancellor that ERM membership would be painful but worth it), ‘game, set and match’ (with regard to his Maastricht negotiations), ‘the United Kingdom is in danger. Wake up. Wake up now before it’s too late’ (with regard to Labour plans for Scottish home rule in the 1992 election), ‘a nation at ease with itself’ and ca va sans dire ‘a classless society’. Major’s post-election second honeymoon, in which television cameras at cricket grounds would swing round to disclose a relaxed Prime Minister sipping a glass of wine in a hospitality box, was glorious while it lasted. The month after they repelled Kinnock’s forces, the Tories inflicted a second defeat on Labour at the local government elections. Tory elation was the mirror-image of despair on the left. As Mr Turner writes: ‘If the Tories couldn’t be defeated in the depths of a recession caused by their own policies, with all the concessions made by Kinnock, then it was reasonable to ask the question put by Giles Radice: “Can Labour ever win?” Much the talk in political circles concerned the question of whether Britain might have become a oneparty state, along the lines of Japan, where the Liberal Democratic Party had been in power since 1955.’ There used to be a wisecrack along the lines of there having doubtless been an international summit to discuss the enormous problem of the dinosaurs – on the Thursday before the dinosaurs became extinct. Much the same could be said about fears of a one-party Conservative quasi-dictatorship. Before too long, the notion would be laughable. Maastricht In early June, the Danes stunned the European political establishment by voting in a referendum against the Maastricht Treaty, signed earlier in the year and providing for both political union (enhanced defence, security and other cooperation) and monetary union, the creation of a single currency, unnamed at that time. Giving the lie to the idea that the European Community was essentially a Cold War institution, Maastricht was a big step towards the finalité politique. Were Major to boycott Lurpak and Carlsberg for the rest of his life, you could hardly blame him. The Danish ‘No’ wounded his premiership from two directions. One, Maastricht had been presented as a triumph for the new premier, in which he had obtained concessions from Brussels that would have eluded even Thatcher. His patient courtesy (went the spin) had secured British ‘opt-outs’ (strictly speaking ‘opt-ins’) from two key developments, the ‘social chapter’ (assorted workplace and other entitlements) and the single currency. (Ironically, Major’s Maastricht achievement was genuine. Never before had the six/nine/ten/twelve member-states failed to sign up to everything together. Indeed, Major’s opt-outs were the template for the four subsequent Denmark-specific optouts that persuaded the Danes to vote ‘Yes’ a second time round). Two, the Danish ‘No’ spooked the currency markets, which smelled weakness in terms of ERM members’ commitment to stick to the policies needed to stay within the currency grid. Given that the ERM was essentially a Deutchesmark bloc, the high German interest rates caused by the reunion with East Germany – which had stoked inflation – were transmitted, painfully, to the rest of the ERM area. Throughout the heavy summer of 1992, speculative attacks against the system increased and on September 13 Italy staged a seven per cent devaluation of the Lira, way outside the permitted ‘divergences’. Three days later, Sterling was forced out of the system by an unstoppable wave of speculation. This need not have become an albatross round the government’s neck. The wound could have been cauterised by the swift departure of Major’s Chancellor, the Shetland Islander Norman Lamont. In the fashion of the future (David Blunkett, Peter Mandelson) he could have returned to high office before too long. Instead he stayed in post until May 1993, when Major fired him. It was the beginning of Major’s agonies in terms of reaping the consequences of flawed political management. Lamont subsequently let it be known that he had never agreed with the ERM policy. But which ERM policy? Or rather, which motive for joining the ERM? For every Tory MP who cheered British membership in autumn 1990 as a sign that the UK was becoming ‘more positive about Europe’, there were at least two for whom membership was simply the latest stage in the Tories’ 20-year battle to ‘discipline’ trade union wage bargaining, this time via a purgative interest-rate policy outsourced to the Germans. New Labour, of course, was to find a different way of doing this, through mass immigration. Mr Turner writes of the ERM debacle: ‘Even if other countries got caught up in the near-collapse of the ERM, however, it was John Major’s bad luck to be the first and most visible fall guy.’ In parallel, the Danish vote reopened the whole question of Maastricht, given that, technically, the treaty was now dead. This was the last thing Major needed, given that his Maastricht triumph had satisfied both pro and anti camps in his party and an unravelling of Maastricht would have the opposite effect. Europe was to be the British political issue of the Nineties, just as the surprise economic recovery was to be the economic issue. Thus the bitter battles about European Union integration were waged against an incongruous background of falling unemployment, gently rising living standards and a population becoming more gregarious, easy-going and bourgeois. For the proponents of Britain ‘at the heart of Europe’, the great hope was that the return to prosperity would quell doubts about further British involvement, as a more secure population would ignore the ‘wild men’ whom Britain’s EU lobby assumed to comprise the opposition. Indeed, for most of the decade, the ‘pro’ camp seemed to hold most of the cards and boast the better spokespeople. Major’s Chancellor Kenneth Clarke could make a united Europe sound as British as roast beef and brown ale, Major’s deputy Michael Heseltine gave it the aura of an exciting business enterprise and Tony Blair bestowed upon the project the glitter of a chic and fashionable new international club that Britain would be crazy not to join. The first task of the pro-Europeans was to get Britain to sign up for the euro. There seemed an air of inevitability about their eventual triumph. But three people played a key role in keeping Britain out of the single currency: Sir James Goldsmith, William Hague and, after the end of this book, Iain Duncan Smith. Goldsmith’s Referendum Party forced all the main parties to promise the people a vote on joining the euro, while Hague and Duncan Smith blocked the possibility of getting all the party leaders on the ‘yes’ bandwagon, as had happened in 1975. Gordon Brown’s famous ‘tests’ played a subsidiary, although important, role. In the end, Blair lacked the nerve to call a vote. Mr Turner is acute in his observations of the Labour leader: ‘Unlike Bill Clinton, he was not a charismatic figure, but had learnt the trick of behaving as if he were.’ As for comparisons between Blair and Thatcher, there was ‘a critical difference’: ‘Certainly Blair was prepared to take his party in unfamiliar and unloved directions, but it was always in pursuit of a wider popularity, whereas Thatcher had imposed unwelcome and difficult changes both on her party and on the country itself.’ Blair’s victory and the public response to the death four months later of the Princess of Wales marked perhaps the starting point for two phenomena: the new state ideology and the new folk religion. The former, as I and my co-author wrote at the time,3 involved privatising the economy and nationalising the public, with ever-greater state intrusion into people’s private lives deemed desirable, nay essential; while the latter expressed itself in public displays of emotion, the leaving of flowers by scenes of disasters and ‘showing respect’, often in quite bizarre ways – every Premier League fixture held a moment’s silence before the game to remember victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011. The state ideology and the folk religion sometimes overlapped subconsciously in the public mind, as in this splendid vignette from Mr Turner from shortly after the 1997 election : ‘Giles Radice [MP] was surprised to be visited at his constituency surgery by a woman who “complains that we haven’t yet managed to ‘change people’s behaviour towards each other’ and asks what I am going to do about it.”’ Public life in the late nineties was, in one way, quite extraordinarily trivial, whether the sex scandals in Britain, chronicled fairly by Mr Turner, or the ‘burning question’ of whether or not President Clinton had discharged over a workexperience trainee’s dress. Even when matters were serious, the response managed not to be so. Here is journalist and future Labour MP Sion Simon writing in The Daily Telegraph on December 21 1998 after joint US-British bombing raids on Iraq. In the course of this action (the little-remembered engagement was called Operation Desert Fox), more cruise missiles were fired in four days than in the entire 1991 Gulf War: ‘That evening, I went to a party at 1 Carlton Gardens, the Foreign Secretary’s House. He had been expected to say a few words, but failed to do so because of the war. And that was the extent of the impact of events in the 3 The Age of Insecurity (Verso, 1998) Persian Gulf. Although British airmen were in combat as we sipped our champagne, missiles wreaking havoc as we gulped our canapés, nobody was talking about Iraq....The only comment I have heard anyone make about the bombardment is how amusing would be the conjunction of a Tomahawk cruise missile and Richard Branson’s balloon.’ In August 1999, a boatload of celebrities was ferried to Liberty Island for the launch of Tina Brown’s new magazine Talk. According to the Daily Mail on August 4: ‘Film stars Demi Moore and Christopher Walken stood together looking across to Manhattan, and Moore said: “We must look wonderful to all the people over there.”’ A mere 25 months later, New York was reeling and the heroes were fire-fighters and rescue workers rather than screen stars and models. The ‘new economy’ As the new century approached, the economic and social trends of the nineties – in particular, the ‘new economy’ of the internet, a ‘weightless world’ in which value would be generated by ideas, designs and ‘creativity’ – reached their apogee in the dot-com boom, during which it seemed any halfplausible group of young people could raise tens of millions of pounds or dollars from investors provided their supposed businesses could boast some connection with the world wide web. One of many new phrases in the air at that time was ‘burn rate’, meaning the speed at which these bright young things would spend their way through their backers’ initial investment before they would require ‘refinancing’. Tales abounded of funky, inflatable boardrooms, of corporate HQs jammed full of pinball tables, espresso machines, bean bags, designer beer and organic nibbles. ‘Think pods’ allowed this new digital elite to engage in ‘blue skies thinking’. Some smelled a rat, detecting in all this emphasis on boozing, munching and horizontal daydreaming nothing very ‘new economy’ at all, rather the time-hallowed behaviour of the public-school layabout. The dot.com boom went smash in the early part of 2000. Absurd valuations collapsed, and a string of (briefly) famous names disappeared: boo.com, clickmango and others. Wrote BBC business reporter Jorn Madslien on March 9 2010: ‘How we all laugh as we look back at a time when the talk was more important than the walk, and when scruffy entrepreneurs were courted by greedy venture capitalists, their ties hidden in their pockets.’ The crash was even more severe on Wall Street, and in an ominous foretaste of what was to come, the Federal Reserve Board (whose chairman Alan Greenspan was at the peak of his ‘genius’ status) responded by slashing borrowing costs, thus rolling the indebtedness problem over from the corporate sector to the housing market. As we know, it came to rest on the books of sovereign governments some years down the road. But if the dot-com bubble burst, the underlying belief that the future lay in a ‘creative economy’ merely grew stronger as Britons were urged to ‘climb the value chain’ and leave boring, repetitive work to people in ‘the emerging markets’ (as the Third World had been rebranded). This was a neat inversion of the Victorian line that westerners were practical and technical while those in the ‘mysterious orient’ were impractical dreamers who were quite good at making fancy carpets but not much else. Now, the poorly-paid foreigners were the dull drones of manufacturing industry while our work was naturally more imaginative, valuable and intelligent. Thus the ‘creative economy’ was one example of supposedly progressive thinking that could be seen in quite a different light. Another example arose from changing attitudes to homosexuality. Mr Turner is very good on the grief that this caused the Conservative Party. He is also gently amusing, as in this passage about a vote in Parliament to lower the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18: ‘[H]ome Secretary Michael Howard....explained that he couldn’t go any further because “We need to protect young men from activities which their lack of maturity might case them to regret.” As an aspiration for legislators, that seemed a trifle ambitious.’ The eviction from adults’ bedrooms of policemen and officials is always welcome. But by the end of the Nineties, the attitude of a straight person to the gay community had become almost the acid test of personal decency, and pretty much remains so today. If I were gay, I think I should find this somewhat problematic. It comes perilously close to suggesting that any heterosexual person with the moral grit and determination to overcome a ‘natural’ revulsion in this area and extend the hand of friendship is indeed a thoroughly good sort. Mr Turner has been criticised in some quarters for giving what is seen as excessive weight to the doings of light entertainers; one reviewer suggested he ought to have cited fewer comedians and more sociologists. Not only does the heart sink at the prospect of latter-day Howard Kirk characters clogging up Mr Turner’s narrative, but in an age of pointless, pre-packaged political speeches and the triumph of government-as-public-relations, the appearance of new, apolitical comedians such as Jack Dee, a married, churchgoing self-described ‘middle class binge drinker’ with children at independent schools is more significant than, for example, a Tony Blair speech about ‘cracking down on yobs’. True, Mr Turner’s fascination with the currents and countercurrents of the last three decades leads him very occasionally to assume experience on the part of the readers that they simply may not have. Discussing the ‘new lads’ of this period, he doubtless correctly traces the phenomenon’s roots to a reaction against the undergraduate feminism of the 1980s. Those of us who skipped university and went straight out to work by-passed the ‘gender wars’ of that period (when I get a moment, I must find out who won) and simply assumed the ‘new lads’ were suffering from arrested development. But all authors have a viewpoint and over-strenuous attempts to see things from all angles would lead to madness. What has been described as the ‘long weekend’ between 1989 and 2001 came to an end in flames and falling masonry three months after Blair was re-elected in June 2001. The September 11 attacks were rather like the Cuban missile crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall and the murder of President Kennedy all rolled into one. While in many ways the noughties (up until 2008) represented the continuation of the nineties by other means, the innocent delight in the post-Cold War era, captured in those floaty Millennial expressions – ‘a borderless world’, ‘cyberspace’, ‘globalisation’ – had been replaced by an accommodation with grimmer expressions such as ‘homeland security’, ‘regime change’ and ‘the war on terror’. The new decade was to be marked by military campaigns abroad and a credit binge at home. By 2010, it had long since become obvious that both had gone disastrously wrong. I very much hope, despite hints to the contrary, that Mr Turner addresses that extraordinary period. Should he decline the assignment, I may be forced to take it up myself. I tell you now, it would not be done a quarter as well. Dan Atkinson’s most recent book (with Larry Elliott) is Going South (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He blogs at . Understanding Shadows The Corrupt Use of Intelligence Michael Quilligan Atlanta (GA): Clarity Press, 2013, $21.95 (USA), p/b The author is or was – it isn’t clear which – one of the writers for Intelligence, the Paris-based fortnightly intelligence newsletter1 (and this has an introduction by Intelligence’s founder/editor, Olivier Schmidt.) In the early years of Lobster we came across Intelligence in its first incarnation as a newsletter with summaries of stories and their sources. It was very good, though with much wider sources and more money than Lobster. In the late 1980s it went professional and became expensive; more importantly, it ceased to be a kind of parapolitical cuttings service and began publishing longer articles without a stated author. At that point I stopped reading it. Even if I could have afforded it – it was something like 200 euros a year even then – I do not trust ‘blind’ writing, which is why you never see Private Eye cited by me in these columns. This is a collection of essays on: * the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and the slowmotion ethnic cleansing of Israel; * the British state’s handling of the domestic Jihadist threat; * the corruption of the ANC government in South Africa; * the creation of the Iraqi ‘threat’ prior to the invasion of 2003, ‘dodgy dossier’ et al, and subsequent post-mortems of the event; * an examination of a very small part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s journey back from the USSR and some general thoughts about the JFK assassination; * an account of the abuse of children by Catholic priests and subsequent cover-ups; * and a very detailed summary of the British state’s activities in the ‘dirty war’ in Northern Ireland. Thus the title is misleading: only a couple of the seven chapters are covered by it. (But, OK, titles are hard.) The account of the abuse by Catholic priests, the fabrication of the 1 Iraqi ‘threat’ and the musings on JFK are the least interesting to me. I don’t care greatly about the Catholic church story (happy though I am to see it in the mire); the Iraqi field has been well ploughed already by others and the author brings little that is original; and the JFK chapter contributes only a few paragraphs of new (and inconsequential) information about LHO’s stay in Holland en route to the USA. The other four chapters, on the other hand, – those on Northern Ireland, the ANC, ‘Londonistan’ and Israel – are detailed enough to feel like the outline of books. The major problems with this book are technical. There is no documentation. Instead of footnotes the author lists the sources he has used – books, reports, websites – at the end of each chapter. This isn’t good enough for me. Without footnotes we have mere assertion. To give one striking example, in the chapter on Northern Ireland he states that a gang of Loyalist killers known as ’the Glenanne Gang’ 2 were the same people named as ‘the Committee’ in the book The Committee by Sean McPhilemy.3 This is new to me and I would like to know the source. But without footnotes I don’t. More generally, without sources it is impossible to assess the quality of the information presented. This is also poorly proof-read and typeset. In Schmidt’s introduction, for example, he bothers to put the cedilla under facade – façade – as in the original French but has David Cameron as David Cameroun; and although it probably shouldn’t matter, I find it irritating that most pages have at least one line where the justification programme on the author’s/typesetter’s computer has given us a double space between words. On page 158 the author describes Lobster as ‘defunct’. Not quite, eh? Robin Ramsay 2 See . 3 On which see . The Committee was reviewed in Lobster 36. Spinfluence the Hardcore Propaganda Manual for Controlling the Masses Nicholas McFarlane Carpet Bombing Culture, Darlington (UK) 2013, £9.95, h/b When I was offered this by the publisher I said it sounded a bit agitprop for Lobster’s readers; and so it is. But it is worth noting. The author is a New Zealand designer1 and he and his publisher have a produced a very striking book. It is A5-sized, and very well bound; a beautiful little book, with about 140 unnumbered pages on thick paper.2 There are very few words in this: 34 on the first 4 pages and I would guess fewer than 5,000 in the entire thing; but lots of images. Did I mention the author is a graphic designer? So what we have – it took me a while to realise this – is the non-fiction equivalent of a graphic novel. The book’s thesis is about social control, corporations, the mass media and the techniques used by political and commercial PR to keep ‘the sheeple’ quiet on behalf of ‘the hidden elite minority’. Did I say agitprop? Within that, however, there is a decent guide to the techniques deployed. But that thesis is no more important, it seems to me, than the book’s design and layout (did I mention the author is a graphic designer?); and for me the striking design of the pages make it more not less difficult to concentrate on the (few) words that are there. Whoever its target audience is, it isn’t the orthodox lefty book-buyer. The book concludes with this claim (spread over 9 pages): ‘Potentially a single person could bring about their [‘hidden elite minority’s’] downfall. By shattering and exposing the parasitic nature of the Hidden Elite Minority.....Revealing that they have methodically siphoned wealth out of the system, despite knowingly causing long-term damage to the overall health of 1 Information about him is at . 2 You can see its cover and some sample pages at In the 10 sample pages displayed there are about 80 words. society.....the consequences would be catastrophic as all of the lies which have supported them crumble....’ This is nonsense. All manner of people have ‘revealed’ the reality of the elite’s dominance and the techniques used to herd the ‘sheeple’ – to no effect. I guess this concluding appeal to personal insight seems more in tune with today’s individualism than a call for collective action. Robin Ramsay The Man Who Killed Kennedy The Case Against LBJ Roger Stone with Mike Colapietro New York: Skyhorse, $24.95 (US), h/b I was wondering how to review this when I received a press release from Stone about it, listing what he thought were the important points in it. Let’s have a look at these. ‘By late November, 1963, the Kennedys were within days of politically executing and personally destroying Lyndon Johnson via a two track program: 1) a devastating RFK-fed LIFE Magazine expose of LBJ’s astounding corruption and 2) an RFK-nurtured Senate Rules Committee investigation into LBJ’s habit of taking large bribes and kickbacks.’ This is true and has been discussed in these pages before. ‘Roger Stone combines his decades of insider political ken with cutting edge JFK research to let you know what Richard Nixon, Henry Cabot Lodge, Barry Goldwater and the KGB all concluded: Lyndon Johnson orchestrated the assassination of John Kennedy.’ Nixon has not explicitly said this (and doesn’t do so here), merely hinted at it. Stone doesn’t quote Henry Cabot Lodge: he quotes Lodge’s brother’s version of Henry’s opinion that the Mafia, the CIA and LBJ killed Kennedy (which covers just about all the bases.) The Goldwater story isn’t new. Robert Morrow posted this para below on John Simkins’ JFK site last year:1 ‘When [Jeffrey] Hoff met Sen. Barry Goldwater, Hoff, who had a keen interest in the JFK assassination, brought up that topic. Sen. Barry Goldwater told Hoff in October, 1973, that he (Goldwater) was convinced that Lyndon Johnson was behind the JFK assassination and that the Warren Commission was a complete cover up. Hoff got the impression that Goldwater had told others privately the same thing. I asked Hoff how confident was Goldwater when he was making these statements. 1 Answer: Goldwater was very confident.’ It is this Stone quotes, but without attributing it. The KGB story is true and well known.2 An FBI source within the KGB reported that said agency believed Johnson was behind it. ‘Stone ties LBJ to at least seven politically motivated murders prior to the murder of John F. Kennedy. Stone: “LBJ would order up a murder just as you or I would order a ham sandwich.”’ These are the murders listed by Billie (not Billy as Stone has it) Sol Estes in the letter from Estes’ lawyer to the Justice Department in 1984. There is, however, a (to me) new snippet on the 1952 murder of one Sam Smithwick who was apparently prepared to talk about LBJ’s theft of the Texas senate seat in the election of 1948 (box 13 and all that). Smithwick died in prison. ‘Lyndon Johnson’s personal hit man Malcolm Wallace (also an employee of military contractor and LBJ insider D.H. Byrd who owned the Texas School Book Depository) was one of a team of shooters assassinating JFK. Stone reveals that a fingerprint matching Wallace and found in the so called sniper’s nest ties LBJ directly to the murder of JFK.’ Stone can hardly ‘reveal’ the fingerprint as this has been known of since 1998; and he has no new evidence on Wallace’s role that day in Dallas. On Wallace in Dallas we still have only the print and the testimony of Loy Factor and Billie Sol Estes, both of whom are dead. ‘Stone reveals, in a game changing addition to the historical record, that Richard Nixon recognized Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin, strip club owner Jack Ruby, as “one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys” who Nixon had arranged to be placed as a paid informant for the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 as a favor to then Congressman Lyndon Johnson.....Stone reveals that Nick Ruwe (a former top aide to Nixon) said that when Nixon saw Jack Ruby on TV after he 2 See murdered Oswald, Nixon exclaimed, “I know that man!”’ This is new and significant. ‘Stone reveals, in yet another eye-opening addition to the historical record, that Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr told Nixon confidante John Mitchell that LBJ was behind the JFK assassination.’ I missed this (but I did rather gallop through the book) and didn’t see it on a second skim when I looked for it; Carr is not indexed, and the information is not at any of the Mitchell index references. ‘Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family who were close business associates with LBJ intimate, Texas oil man Clint Murchison, told Roger Stone, in the presence of Roy Cohn, that Lyndon Johnson and Carlos Marcello were behind the JFK assassination. Roy Cohn nodded his head in agreement as both men laughed.’ This is new, mildly interesting but not significant. ‘Stone lays out the connections between the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco, the JFK assassination and the fall of Richard Nixon in Watergate. Stone outlines how Nixon manoeuvred furiously to obtain CIA records that would shed light on CIA-Mob connections to the JFK assassination as an “insurance policy” against investigation and impeachment in the Watergate scandal.’ This is a restatement of the thesis that Nixon’s references to ‘the Bay of Pigs’ in communication with DCIA Richard Helms during the Watergate events was a code for the events in Dallas. But since Stone has already claimed that Nixon knew that LBJ was behind it – not least through his identification of Ruby as one of LBJ’s people – why would the CIA be afraid of being linked to Dallas? ‘Roger Stone takes LBJ biographer Robert Caro to task for “cleaning up the blood and burying the bodies” of the murders of Lyndon Johnson that Caro will never tell you about. For 20 years Robert Caro never interviewed key LBJ mistress Madeleine Brown or Billie Sol Estes who planned murders with LBJ. Caro never mentions the revelations of LBJ lawyer Barr McClellan nor will Caro address the transcendently important issue of Malcolm Wallace, LBJ’s personal hit man. Caro never mentions legendary Texas Ranger Clint Peoples who long suspected LBJ in the JFK assassination and a string of murders in Texas. Nor does Caro mention Estes’ 1984 letter to the U.S. Justice Dept detailing numerous LBJ-related murders. Caro completely omits the 1984 Texas grand jury, acting on Estes’ blockbuster testimony, that changed the ruling in the Henry Marshall case from suicide to homicide.’ This is mostly true. (There is no evidence that Estes planned murders with LBJ.) Stone reports on p. 213 that in 1985 or 1986 he met Caro and said: ‘Do you plan to cover the role of Mac Wallace in your biography of LBJ?’ Caro looked startled and shaken and grabbed me by the lapels of my business suit, saying, ‘Who are you? How can I get in touch with you?’ I gave him my business card, which he examined on the spot and pocketed. However I never heard anything more from him.’ As I have pointed out before,3 in the fourth volume of his immense biography of LBJ, covering his years as vice president and the transition to president, Caro omits all reference to Billie Sol Estes and can thus state that he found nothing linking LBJ to the assassination. He flunked the assassination material, in short. The extensive prepublication publicity for this book suggested to me that Stone was merely going to represent the extant evidence for the LBJ’s-people-dunnit thesis which a number of us have already done. And so it proved: there is nothing new about the actual assassination. What is significant is the Nixon identification of Ruby as an ‘LBJ man’ 3 In ‘View from the bridge’ at . from the late 1940s, though what it means and how we proceed with this is unclear to me. There is one significant conclusion to be drawn from this account. For all that Stone was a political insider, a Republican pol, for the entire period from the late 1960s onwards, he heard almost nothing of significance about the assassination. Which suggests either that political Washington knows little about it – being interested in the assassination is not exactly career-enhancing – or that it has remained close-mouthed about the subject. Robin Ramsay In Spies We Trust: the story of western intelligence Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones Oxford University Press, 2013, £20, h/b Bernard Porter Britain and America came quite late to the spying game, but by the late 20th century had come to dominate it. It is this, I suppose, that justifies the subtitle of this book, which scarcely mentions other Western intelligence agencies except in a chapter at the end discussing a possible EU alternative to the current Anglo-American axis. The main title must be meant ironically. The overwhelming impression left by the book is of massive untrustworthiness. It’s true, as Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones points out, that ‘an intelligence agency can rarely publicise its successes, so to dwell on failings can be a distortion of the true record’; but even so, it’s the negatives that stand out. Anglo-American intelligence agencies have failed to predict wars and uprisings, made international situations worse through their covert interventions (Iran in 1953 is the big example, but there are many others), abused human rights, broken everyone’s laws, routinely spied on innocents, been penetrated by enemies as well as betrayed by their friends, and misled, even turned against, their own democracies. In their favour, signals intelligence probably shortened the Second World War, and covert propaganda may have helped bring down the Soviet Union (Jeffreys-Jones doesn’t seem certain about this). The record is mixed, but it is far from reassuring. Hence the controversies these agencies so often stir up. (The current Edward Snowden affair – too late to be included in this book – isn’t of course the first, or even the first of its kind.) Another reason is the inherent unsavouriness of the whole activity, which invariably involves betrayals of trust. ‘Spies have always been detested’, writes Jeffreys-Jones at the end of this book; which has been generally true, especially, as it happens, in the cases of Britain and America. For most of the 19th century Britain based much of its sense of national identity on the fact that it didn’t need to resort to these vile French and Russian practices. Of course there were precedents for them in Britain too – this book takes them back to William the Conqueror – but precedents can’t be regarded as a ‘tradition’ unless they are joined up. Anti-spy prejudice has been much more traditional; and not just, as Jeffreys- Jones implies, among the upper classes. (In fact, perhaps least among the upper classes, so long as they weren’t expected to spy on each other.) That’s partly why, when British governments have felt the need to spy on others, and on their own people, they have tried to keep the very fact of their doing so secret – SIS, MI5 and GCHQ didn’t officially exist until 1989. By contrast, the CIA was set up by Congress, and has always been – formally at least – accountable to it. Britain came round to the same position eventually, but imperfectly, and only when forced to by the European Court of Human Rights. In other ways, however, the British and American intelligence agencies have been remarkably similar. For decades they hired the same kinds of people: in Britain’s case, upper-class public school and Oxbridge types; in America’s, east coast private school and Ivy League. These social elites were concerned to protect their countries not only against foreign threats, but also against, as Jeffreys-Jones puts it, ‘what they regarded as repugnant elements’ – that is, socialists or black activists – ‘in their own societies.’ It is this that made them a potential danger to democracy, with the covert powers at their disposal. The American Ivy Leaguers also tended to be Anglophile. They got along – though not without friction – with their British counterparts, and pushed the case for US entry on the Allied side in the World Wars. (Some isolationist Americans smelled an ‘Anglo-American Establishment’ plot to lead them ‘by the nose’ into both wars.) The co-operation worked pretty well, during the Second World War in particular, until the Ivy Leaguers began to ‘lose their grip’ in the 1960s, in line with broad US demographic trends (WASPs down, Hispanics up), while the British spooks remained, on the whole, ‘Old Boys’. It was then that the so- called ‘special’ Anglo-American intelligence relationship started hitting the rocks – and not only because of ‘class’. The British Empire was one bone of contention, though less so in the 1950s and 1960s, when America thought it made a useful barrier to communism. Communism itself was another problem. The Americans were more agitated by it than the British, whose wiser advice was often rejected. In British Guiana, for example, Britain did not feel that the socialist PMelect Cheddi Jagan posed much of a threat, but was persuaded by the Americans to oust him covertly in any case. There were rows over the exchange of information – Henry Kissinger once threatened to withdraw all intelligence cooperation with Britain if Edward Heath didn’t keep him abreast of his European negotiations (Jeffreys-Jones calls this ‘blackmail’, and claims it has remained in the backs of British minds ever since) – and over both countries’ trustworthiness in the light of treacheries like those of the ‘Cambridge Three’ (then Four, then Five), and Aldrich Ames. The relationship should have reached its nadir during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which revealed, according to your point of view, either how poor both countries’ intelligence was, or how it was manipulated by politicians for their own ends. The surprise is that, according to interviews cited here with leading – though unnamed – British intelligence personnel, the ‘special’ intelligence relationship still remains ‘the star in their firmament’; and also, it seems, in that of successive British governments, who in return for crumbs of intelligence from the American table allow themselves to be ‘held over a barrel’ - ‘not’, as Jeffreys-Jones slyly puts it, ‘the best posture from which to conduct a trusting relationship’. Spying can have its good side. It can reassure. ‘Ignorance breeds fear,’ Jeffreys-Jones points out, ‘and fear lies at the root of aggression.’ In the 1950s, Eisenhower used CIA intelligence to quell the alarm that what he called the ‘military-industrial complex’ was whipping up, in its own interests, about the Soviet threat. Fifty years earlier Theodore Roosevelt had set his fledgling secret service to prevent America from ‘falling into the hands of capitalist robber barons.’ Clearly that did not altogether succeed; and it is doubtful whether either the FBI or MI5 could be tasked with a similar duty today. (The last I heard on this from a senior intelligence officer – ‘Chatham House rules’ prevent me from naming him – is that the ‘Anglo-American model of capitalism’ is one of the institutions that MI5 exists to protect.) But it’s an idea. Perhaps a banker-savvy MI5 could have forewarned us of our latest real national threat. The advantage of interagency co-operation – the main focus of this book – is that it allows assessments to be tested independently. In the Anglo- American relationship, at its best, each ‘kept a watchful eye on the other, and that helped them to be vigilant’ – and, one might add, more cautious - ‘about actual and potential enemies.’ They could also learn from one another, so long as they thought they had something to learn. The arrogant British often didn’t. Nor, more recently, have the Americans. Since the 1970s the US has built a huge lead in the field of surveillance technology (so that it no longer needed British ex-imperial listening stations, for example), and has become impatient of advice from anywhere. Ideology has also played a part: if you’re a Neo-Con, there is no reason to double-check whether ‘liberated’ countries really do turn naturally to ‘democracy’. It seems that in the early 2000s the British intelligence community raised serious doubts that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, which were disregarded by Bush and Blair because they didn’t fit in with their presumptions. America’s problem after 2001 was not that it had no loyal intelligence allies, but that they were, as Jeffreys-Jones puts it, ‘too loyal’. The UN’s Hans Blix, who resisted political pressures from all sides in order to make his intelligence more objective, was rubbished. He turned out to be right. The disasters that ensued should have given America pause for thought about its intelligence processes; and Britain, too, about its craven reliance on them. In his final chapters Jeffreys-Jones explores some of the directions into which those thoughts might turn. A transnational intelligence agency is one way: a ‘European CIA’, for example, or a UN service based on Blix’s. One of the obstacles to that is the British intelligence community’s reluctance to give up its powers, and sever or at least counterbalance its American link. Still, if it were possible, there are some good ideas in the wind for making a European system both more efficient, and ‘less toxic’. Europe has already sent up its own surveillance orbital satellites, with the object of freeing it from dependence on American – mainly military – systems, access to which could be revoked at any time. In 2005 a group of MPs from across Europe called for ‘the depoliticization of intelligence in EU member states, and for a European code of intelligence ethics.’ ‘Intelligence ethics’: the phrase has a ring about it. It could refer to the indiscriminate trawling of private communications which is at the root of the current controversy over Edward Snowden’s revelations, with the American NSA and Britain’s GCHQ now notoriously in cahoots. It could also cover the question of accountability, and the fact that none of us was told – and few imagined – that this extent of surveillance was going on. ‘In a democracy,’ Jeffreys-Jones writes, only ‘intelligence activities that are properly overseen command the confidence of the people.’ It’s also surely fundamental to any country’s claiming to be a democracy that its people should be told roughly – not the details – what is being done to protect them. If they approve of universal surveillance, or the bugging of allied leaders’ phones, then OK. If not, they should bear the democratic consequences. It is here that Jeffreys-Jones believes the US system holds the advantage over Britain’s; though whether we can be so confident of that after the Snowden revelations must be doubtful. At least America’s tradition of democratic accountability has engendered some genuine shock there, with official enquiries and reforms apparently under way. In Europe and South America they seem to feel the same. The contrast with Britain is striking. We need to be reminded of Britain’s history here. Fifty or a hundred years ago it was regarded as almost the ultimate social sin to spy on other people, except in wartime, and then only on enemies. One example, extraordinary but not untypical of its time, is the London police sergeant in the 1850s who brought a couple to trial for an ‘indecent offence’ in a park, but was then demoted to constable for having hidden behind a tree to observe it. Now we accept surveillance cameras in every street, Google’s satellite mapping, the use of ATM and shop receipts to track our movements, Amazon nosing in on our tastes in books and music. ‘Bloggers’ try to protect themselves by using pseudonyms: another practice that would have been regarded as cowardly in more innocent days. Secrecy is respectable. Snowden’s revelations must have far less impact in this new cultural environment. After all, as William Hague put it recently: ‘If you are a law-abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life you have nothing to fear about the British state or the intelligence services listening to your phone calls or anything like that.’ Didn’t Goebbels say something like that? Simon Jenkins calls it ‘the motto of police states down the ages’. It may be OK if you can trust your government – or future ones – in any situation. If not, well, ask the Germans, with their recent experience – Angela Merkel’s, for example – of police states under two regimes; or, better still, visit the chilling Stasi Museum in Leipzig to witness how – in an extreme case – this can turn out. This may be why the most vocal movement in Europe today to grant Snowden asylum comes from young Germans; not from Britain, where you would have expected it many years ago. The other problem with the Anglo-American intelligence relationship is ‘covert operations’: grey and black propaganda, the destabilisation of both other countries and your own, blackmail, assassinations and coups. These have nothing really to do with ‘intelligence’, strictly defined; yet as Jeffreys- Jones complains, they are ‘now as a matter of course lumped in’ with it. And they are connected. Secret intelligence gives secret powers, which can be secretly misused. For this, on the Western side, the CIA must be held mainly responsible. Its most egregious plots are well-known: Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Guyana (fairly democratic regimes, all of them), the Bay of Pigs, the attempt to assassinate Patrice Lumumba in the Congo by poisoning his toothpaste, many attempts on Castro, kidnapping (and more recently ‘extraordinary rendition’), the illegal financing of anti-Communist journals abroad, including Britain’s moderate-left Encounter – the list goes on. The CIA has been widely suspected of further plots, against Australia’s Gough Whitlam and Britain’s Harold Wilson, for example; which couldn’t easily be dismissed as paranoid when all these other things were going on, and look even more plausible today. In the Wilson case it’s possible that American intelligence liaised with right-wing members of the British secret services (not MI5 as a whole, as Jeffreys-Jones appears to believe was the renegade Peter Wright’s claim). There can be no doubt that, real or imagined, and effective or not in their ostensible aims, these activities ‘weakened the moral appeal of American democracy.’ As early as 1967 one American journalist described the CIA as ‘the single greatest cause of America’s world-wide unpopularity’, no less. Behind all this lay two things. The first was the idea that conspiracy was somehow a gentler way to effect political change than brute force, involving less bloodshed, at least among your own people. (‘Native’ blood, of course, was a different matter; for example in Chile, Iran and Indonesia.) The second was the wish, or need, to effect political change abroad, for either principled or acquisitive reasons. Whichever of these two motives predominated, intelligence used in this way can be seen as an instrument of, firstly, Anglo-American imperialism – ‘an attempt by Washington and London to stitch up world politics for years to come’; and, as the relationship between them cooled, imperialism of a more freewheeling American kind: though it also enabled America’s politicians to fool themselves that they were innocents in this regard – ‘we don’t do empire’. (They meant that they didn’t formally annex countries any more.) The imperial instinct has also manifested itself in America’s reactions to its most recent ‘intelligence apostates’: not only its treatment of the Wikileaks source Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning, but also its bullying of any country that even looks like responding positively to Edward Snowden’s asylum requests. That hasn’t gone down too well with foreign democrats, either. Hence, probably, Britain’s and the USA’s recent grudging hints of reform. (These must justify Snowden’s ‘treason’, surely.) Jeffreys-Jones’s solution – a tentative one, admittedly – is for Britain to exchange its ‘special’ intelligence relationship with America for one with the rest of Europe. That would, he believes, bring a ‘newer, cleaner form of intelligence that would be acceptable in hitherto puritanical circles’, concentrating on ‘intelligence, as distinct from foolish adventurism’. It would also be more likely to be truly democratically accountable, at least with respect to its broad functions and methods, while otherwise independent from political interference. All that seems fair enough, if the Europeans really do have as clean hands in this area as their outraged reactions to Snowden’s NSA revelations implied. More recent leaks from Snowden suggest that many of them have been almost as intrusive and extensive in their spying as Britain and America; though it is always possible – in all these cases – that much of this has been done by the spooks behind their political masters’ and mistresses’ backs. Most historians of intelligence can furnish examples of that. It’s another reason for the mistrust the system naturally provokes. One problem with any Europe-wide agency, of course, would be that it would spread the secrets around in a way that made them more difficult to keep. Even Anglo-American intelligence co-operation was thought to have this potential flaw. You might be able to trust your own chaps – but Frenchies? Or – for the Americans – the Brits? (And vice-versa, of course.) Why, on the British side, the intelligence community clearly doesn’t trust its own compatriots to know even in the most general terms what it is up to. This probably goes back to its ‘élite’ origins. The British upper (and upper-ish) classes have never been really comfortable with democracy. Hence their resistance to the very (European) idea of ‘intelligence ethics’. Secrecy also of course allows them to hide their own incompetences and illegalities, and save their political masters embarrassment. That may be the reason for the ‘shrillness’ (Tory MP Dominic Raab’s word) of the recent accusations against Snowden by Andrew Parker, head of MI5. (His revelations, Parker claimed, were a ‘gift’ to the terrorists.) Until now they’ve had the American intelligence élite with them on this. But America has its constitutional safeguards, which are coming into play; and a different public opinion from Britain’s, whose once proud popular anti-spy tradition seems to have evaporated almost entirely. If the US can exercise a more liberal influence on Britain here, it will be an interesting twist in the long history of their ‘special’ intelligence relationship. Otherwise – and this seems an extraordinary thing to say in the light of our respective histories – I’d trust the Germans more. Bernard Porter is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Newcastle, the author of two books about ‘political policing’ and another, Empire and Superempire, on American and British imperialism.