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“Mr Speaker. Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink. When we confront the bills from a decade of debt.”[1]

  These were the words of George Osbourne yesterday, before he announced what are reported to be the largest cuts in a generation. Amongst the £81bn to be cut from public spending over the next six years are £7bn extra from welfare payments, 19% in average cuts from departments and the abolishment of nearly 200 quangos. 192 of these public bodies will be axed, whilst 118 more will be merged in a move which the government defends as improving accountability and cutting costs. Some of those facing extinction include the UK Film Council, the Audit Commission and Regional Development Agencies.[2]

  The Audit Commission’s role in improving accountability would appear to be negligible in the view of the government. Those bodies and departments which have remained untouched presumably play a sufficiently strong role in achieving this goal. One such organisation is the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) which helps exporters of UK goods and services to win business overseas by providing guarantees, insurance and reinsurance. A major client of this department has been the arms industry which consumed between 30-50% of its budget in the early years of the decade.[3] In one year BAE alone accounted for 42% of the ECGD budget.[4]

  The scheme is defended by the government as a vital support to British industry and British jobs. Despite employing merely 65,000 in 2006, the combined subsidies allotted to the arms industry through the ECGD, R&D and trade mission support totalled £852million a year.[5] This is equivalent to a subsidy of £13,000 per employee per year. When compared to an annual salary on Job Seeker’s Allowance of £2696.2 this appears an incredibly inefficient means of providing for workers, ignoring of course the huge profits which these companies make. Not only this, but the department was recently implicated in a court case which revealed that ECGD funds had been used to underwrite contracts obtained by bribery.[6] No cuts or reforms have been proposed for this department.

  Another body escaping the “fair” allocation of cuts is UK Trade and Investment, and its sub-division of the Defence and Security Organisation. This body is the repackaged entity for the former Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO). Set up by Dennis Healey in 1966, the organisation promoted foreign arms sales abroad and was headed by seconded executives from private defence companies. Mr Healey defended its creation to Parliament, espousing that:

“while the Government attach[es] the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable commercial market.”

  This aim was not forgotten, and DESO continued to play a prominent role well into this decade. It employed almost 500 staff, with around 400 in London and a further 100 based in offices across 17 countries worldwide. DESO also worked closely with military attachés in at least 80 British Embassies. It was not until 2007 when demands by the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens as well as 30 NGO’s  with a signed statement led to the organisation’s closure by Gordon Brown. [7]

  Far from the end however, DESO’s work has continued to flourish within UK Trade and Investment. The body boasts services to its clients including facilities for events and exhibitions, market analysis and opportunities to take advantage of some of the MOD’s “long-term partnerships” in overseas markets.[8] Indeed DSO continues to employ more civil servants than all the other sectors of UK Trade and Investment combined. This seems only “fair” for an industry which employs less than 0.5% of the UK work force, and at a time when other British industry such as Vestas is moving overseas. Of course these overseas deals can only take place under licence by the UK Government. These have been granted so far to 13 out of the 20 worst offending states on human rights records. [9]

  With its unrivalled assistance to private arms companies it is no wonder that the UK continues to play a leading role in global trade. One might question whether the services, expertise and taxpayer funds which are disproportionately allotted to this industry could have been used to secure the development of an IT or Green energy base within these shores. It seems that the international community has decided though. UK Trade and Investment recently won an international award for Best Trade Promotion Agency.[10]

  The Department is not ready to rest on its laurels as others around it face cuts and abolishment however. This summer it published a report identifying new opportunities for British companies in Iraqi Kurdistan, describing the region as, “a gateway for British companies looking to establish a foothold in Iraq.”[11] With the intelligence gathered from almost 8 years of occupation it is likely that UK Trade and Investment will be well placed to give British industry the edge in this “new market”.

Chris Bowles

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At the sum of £5000 a day, Stephen Byers’ “cab for hire” is one that few of the electorate would be able to afford. Yet the services which he claimed to have provided to various corporate clients may have serious implications for the taxpayer.

The lobbying revelations of Mr Byers, exposed by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times in a ‘Dispatches’ documentary, were added to  by others from both sides of the House, including former health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, and former defence minister, Geoff Hoon.[1] Over the past 2 months the joint investigation secretly interviewed a total of nine MPs, including four former cabinet ministers.

“It’s a great time if there’s an issue where your clients actually want to get a regulation changed or some law amended.” – Stephen Byers

“If you’ve got a client who needs a particular regulation removed, then we can often package that up [for a minister],” – Patricia Hewitt

“I’m yours” – Geoff Hoon[2]

It is 16 years since Mohamed al-Fayed unleashed a political furore claiming that you can, “hire an MP the way you hire a London taxi”, yet despite New Labour’s claims to clean up after the sleazy legacy of Major’s government, the scandals have continued. In a telling resurrection of the Harrods proprietor’s claim, Stephen Byers has brought ministerial scandal once again into the public eye, though this time it is not “cash for questions” but instead, “cash for laws”.[3]

The boldest of the MP’s interviewed in the documentary, Byers was candid about his willingness to use his political affiliations to bring monetary and regulatory gain for his prospective clients. The North Tyneside MP claimed as his “trump card”, to have the ear of the business secretary Lord Mandelson, using this influence on one particular occasion to assist the blocking of food labelling regulation. The regulation, proposed by Hilary Benn from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, reportedly worried the corporate and legal affairs chief at Tesco, Lucy Neville-Rolfe.

Using his friendship with Mandelson, Byers chose a circuitous though effective route for his client:

“So you ring Peter Mandelson and say, ‘Peter, did you know what Hilary Benn’s about to do? … He’s going to introduce a regulation which is going to have this huge nightmare in every supermarket’.”

As a result, Byers claims, “Peter got it delayed and then got it amended.”

He boasted of further success in his alleged relationship with the ailing transport provider, National Express. With rail franchises totaling £1.4 billion, the group had entered negotiations with the government to discontinue their East Coast Mainline service, opening themselves to a potential penalty. To avoid this, they reportedly contacted Byers:

“So between you and I, I then spoke to Andrew Adonis, the transport secretary, and said, ‘Andrew, look, they’ve got a huge problem. Is there a way out of this?’ And then we, we sort of worked together — basically, the way he was comfortable doing it and you have to keep this very confidential yourself.”

“He [Adonis] said we shouldn’t be involved in the detailed negotiation between his civil servants and National Express but we can give them a broad steer. So we basically got to a situation where we agreed with Andrew he would publicly be very critical of National Express and talk about, ‘I’m going to strip you of the franchise’ and be very gung-ho.

“And we said we will live with that and we won’t challenge you in the court, provided you then let us out by December, by the end of the year, and we can keep the other two franchises for a little longer. So, and that’s what we managed to do.”

This deal, which has left the franchise in the hands of the taxpayer without charging a penalty, may have cost the Exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds. It will also directly affect his North Tyneside constituency, through which the line runs.

Byers considers his influential contacts to be not only amongst present ministers, but also those whose time in the House has come to a close. Tony Blair in particular, is a figure whom Byers held up as an asset to potential clients. His ability to arrange meetings with the former Prime Minister was an advantage which he made clear to his interviewers.

Tony Blair himself has not been immune to the attention attracted by business interests since leaving office. Less than a week before the present scandal involving MP’s, Blair’s deal with the South Korean firm, UI Energy Corporation, made its way into the press after he sought to keep its details private. After 20 months of secrecy, the advisory committee on business appointments chose to overrule Blair’s arguments of “market sensitivities” and disclose his involvement. Despite coinciding with the Korean firm’s strike of oil in a controversial deal with autonomous Kurdistan, both parties deny the deal was connected with Iraq. The details of the deal remain private.[4]

Byers contacted the undercover lobbyist the day after the interview to withdraw all his statements, his denials have since been added to by representatives of both Tesco and National Express. A close source to the Chief Executive at the time at National Express has come forward to assert that Byers’ original version of events was though, “pretty accurate”.[5]

The political actors in these recent scandals have disproportionately been drawn from the Labour party. Many have voiced their criticisms, as the party that entered office on the promise of cleaning up the politics of the previous two decades, has itself become embroiled in similar indignities. The safeguards to prevent lobbyists conflicting with democratic interests have changed little since the previous government, and in some ways have even relaxed.

There are no rules to prevent former MP’s from lobbying, and former ministers merely have to consult an advisory committee within two years of leaving office. As one critic notes of this committee:

“Its members are a representative sample of British society: three lords and three knights, all white, all male, all educated at Oxford or Cambridge, all over 70. These young firebrands never stop anyone from taking up a post in business.”[6]

The new ministerial code of 2007 then dropped the requirement that meetings between ministers and lobbyists should even be recorded.

Not only has Labour failed to move far from the legacy of the Conservatives, but they have also failed their other promise to create a more representative democracy. As such, the public are left with a choice between two political groups which have increasingly narrowed the gap between themselves. Having lost the sense of Obama-like change which 1997 appeared to herald, the public is left with few available avenues to stem the tide of corporatism. As government enlarges, and becomes more accountable, companies quickly learn that the most effective way to achieve a competitive advantage is to seek parliamentary privilege rather than market efficiency.[7]

The significant bias towards the Labour side of the House in these recent developments has drawn understandable criticism from the opposition, with Cameron calling for swift and thorough investigations of those concerned.[8] Cameron, in oracle like prophecy, warned of these impending events in early February, describing it as, “the next big scandal waiting to happen.”

In his speech he asserted that his government would seek to end this pattern of “crony capitalism” and corporatism, and place greater safeguards to ensure that business relations with MPs and ministers are conducted within the framework of representative democracy. This would include, among other measures, a mandatory register of lobbyists, to ensure public awareness of the extent to which national policies are influenced by commercial forces.

This relocation of power would come in a dual form. In an echo of Blair’s promises to open politics a decade ago, Cameron has also proposed granting greater involvement to the population throughout a parliamentary term. This would involve measures to allow petitions to contribute to legislative process (100,000 signatures for debate, 1 million to table a Bill), together with a new Public Reading Stage of Bills.

Doubts as to whether Cameron will be any more able to live up to his pre-election promises than was Blair, may be heightened by the significant audiences which he has already gifted to members of the business community. Interested groups are made ‘donors’ to the party, benefitting from private audiences with the prospective Prime Minister in which they can raise their interests and concerns, presumably for his future action.[9]

The most significant factor in our “broken society” remains the narrow gap between our two political actors and their unwillingness to divulge power. Both sides have found that promises of “change” are easy to make, it falls to the public to witness how easily they can be forgotten.

Chris Bowles


[1] Byers refers himself to watchdog over lobbying row

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/byers-refers-himself-to-watchdog-over-lobbying-row-1925189.html

[2] Insight: Stephen Byers ‘I’m like a cab for hire – at up to £5,000 a day’

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7069795.ece

[3] This lobbying scandal confirms it. The dying days of Labour are upon us http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/27/house-lords-scandal

[4] Tony Blair got cash for deal with South Korean oil firm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/17/tony-blair-cash-south-korea-oil

[5]Insight: Stephen Byers ‘I’m like a cab for hire – at up to £5,000 a day’

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7069795.ece

[6] This lobbying scandal confirms it. The dying days of Labour are upon us

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/27/house-lords-scandal

[7] Stephen Byers Lobbying Scandal: How Corporatism Works

http://blogs.wsj.com/iainmartin/2010/03/21/stephen-byers-lobbying-scandal-how-corporatism-works-part-94/

[8] Byers refers himself to watchdog over lobbying row

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/byers-refers-himself-to-watchdog-over-lobbying-row-1925189.html

[9]Cameron’s Money Men

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/dispatches/camerons+money+men/2471062

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22 Executives and Employees in the private military industry were recently arrested under charges of attempting to pay bribes to secure foreign contracts, in a joint US and UK operation.  The FBI claims that the accused attempted to pay a sizeable “commission” to an agent posing as the defence minister of an un-named African country. The various executives were each seeking to win a portion of a lucrative $15m contract to arm the country’s “presidential guard”.[1] The arrests, with the exemption of one, were all made in Las Vegas where the accused were attending the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference (S.H.O.T. show), billed as “the world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping and related products and services.”[2]

Comprising the end of a two-year investigation, the sting itself began just over 6 months earlier on 13th May at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. A former executive in the military equipment industry acted as the contact through his previous business relations with all the accused. He introduced each of them to FBI agents posing as the foreign minister for an African country, and his sales procurement officer. According to the FBI, all the defendants agreed to pay a 20% commission on a shopping list which included grenade launchers, rifles and ammunition,, despite being told that half of it would go directly to the ‘foreign minister’ .[3]

The 22 individuals were charged in the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) largest investigation and prosecution in history in enforcement of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law, “prohibits U.S. persons and companies, and foreign persons and companies acting in the United States, from bribing foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.”[4]

American pro-gun groups and lobbyists have attacked the move, claiming that it represents an offensive against gun owners. The anti-government website Prison Planet features an article titled “Obama Justice Department Decapitates Gun Industry” which laments, “Since the election of Obama the main question for gun owners has been, ‘when will Obama come after the guns’? It looks like that question has been answered!”[5] Despite the fact that the action focused on foreign trade, rather than domestic transactions, some believe that this is simply a further attempt by the Obama administration to stifle the US gun industry. That the embarrassment caused by the arrests was as a direct result of alleged illegal corrupt practices may not be enough to satisfy some.

The investigation has been lauded as one of the first of its kind in involving international co-operation to target corporate bribery. However, although the investigation did involve one executive from Smith & Wesson, and one sales-agent from the UK, the prosecutions were largely confined to smaller US firms.[6] The investigation significantly did not involve the bigger international defense giants such as Lockheed, Boeing and BAE who have previously been embroiled in sizeable corruption scandals, and who are all involved in military supply contracts to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The FBI investigation comes at a time of business expansion in both these regions, with international figures such as the UK’s Lord Mandelson urging, “companies to ‘seize the opportunity’ of investing in Iraq.”[7] The British Business Secretary recently embarked on a trade mission to the country with representatives of 23 British companies, including Rolls Royce, BP and Shell and encouraged UK defense firms to bid harder for contracts (some of which have already been as large as $300m). With competition between firms in this lucrative market growing, together with the notorious corruption records of both countries, the DoJ should not relax after its success.

Chris Bowles


[1] http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/21/headlines

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/business/21sting.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/business/21sting.html

[4] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-048.html

[5] http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-justice-department-decapitates-gun-industry-fbi-arrest-21-gun-industry-executives-in-las-vegas-to-attend-gun-show.html

[6] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-048.html

[7] http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iraq/2009/04/iraq-090407-irna01.htm

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A 70-year gagging order, imposed on photographs and post-mortem records relating to the 2003 death of Dr. David Kelly, has been challenged by some of Britain’s leading medical experts who are seeking to challenge the official verdict of suicide. Michael Powers QC, a former coroner and expert in coronial law who has been working closely with the doctors in attempting to reopen the investigation into Kelly’s death, remarked that the suicide verdict is “so improbable as to demand a much more detailed investigation of what happened”.[1]

The decision to block the release of photos and the post-mortem and medical reports relating to Dr. Kelly’s untimely death was taken by Lord Hutton in his capacity as chairman of the Hutton inquiry, which concluded in 2004 that the leading microbiologist had died after cutting an artery in his wrist. Responding to criticism and disquiet over the revelation that the records had been ordered to remain classified for such an unusually long duration, Hutton affirmed that he had taken the decision to prevent the disclosure of the post-mortem report so as not to cause Kelly’s wife and daughters “unnecessary distress”.[2] Michael Powers QC expressed his amazement as news broke of the extraordinary length of the gagging order, and remarked, “I can’t think of anything that would justify these documents being treated any differently.”

The decision to classify the records for such a long period was not revealed when the Hutton inquiry declared its findings in 2004, and was only made public in January of 2010 when a group of leading medical professionals attempted to reopen the inquest into Dr. Kelly’s death at Oxford Crown Court. Trauma surgeon David Halpin, epidemiologist Andrew Rouse, vascular surgeon Martin Birnstingl, radiologist Stephen Frost and Chris Burns-Cox who specialises in internal general medicine were informed by letter that the relevant material had been classified for 70 years.

Michael Powers QC stated that it was, “truly remarkable that they should be kept secret for twice as long as the other documents”. Powers remarked that the decision to keep the existence of this gagging order secret “raises questions as to what else was withheld” by the Hutton inquiry. “The medical evidence doesn’t add up”, Powers continued, “I have yet to meet a doctor that will say it was even possible, let alone likely [that Kelly committed suicide]”.

Dr. Kelly was 59 when his body was discovered on 18 July 2003 at a wooded area of Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire, five miles from his home. The official verdict is that Kelly committed suicide by slashing his wrist with a blunt gardening knife, although medical experts have long questioned this conclusion. In July 2009, 13 leading British pathologists called for an official inquest into Kelly’s death, publishing a 12-page dossier which stated that “the bleeding from Dr. Kelly’s ulnar artery is highly unlikely to have been so voluminous and rapid that it was the cause of death”.[3] Martin Birnstingl, one of Britain’s leading vascular surgeons and one of those demanding a new inquiry into Kelly’s death said, “’I have never, in my experience, heard of a case where someone has died after cutting their ulnar artery”.[4]

The paramedics who were among the first on the scene following the discovery of Kelly’s body stated that the amount of blood at they saw at the location where Kelly lay and the injuries to his wrist were inconsistent with the suicide verdict. Paramedic Vanessa May remarked, “I just think it is incredibly unlikely that he died from the wrist wound we saw”, with her colleague Dave Bartlett concurring. “I would have thought there would have been more blood over the body if someone had bled to death“, he told The Observer.[5] In addition to these inconsistencies, the nearly-empty Co-Proxamol packet next to the microbiologist’s body indicated that he had consumed 29 painkillers, although an examination of his stomach revealed only one partially digested capsule.

Although Dr. Kelly was left-handed, the cut from which he allegedly bled to death was made on his left wrist, meaning he would have had to awkwardly make the incision using his right hand. Although Kelly was not wearing gloves when his body was found, the knife he is said to have used had no fingerprints on it whatsoever. Trauma surgeon David Halpin, one of the pathologists seeking a fresh inquest into Kelly’s death, observed of the discrepancies in the official verdict that, “The idea that a man like Dr. Kelly would choose to end his life like that is preposterous. This was a scientist, an expert on drugs.”

Kelly, who had worked for the United Nations as a weapons inspector in Iraq, had been implicated in the run up to his death as the source of a BBC report which questioned the grounds for Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of the Middle Eastern nation, and much of the attention surrounding his suspicious death has focused on this fact, however other information has since surfaced which casts the microbiologist’s passing in an entirely different light, and shows Dr. David Kelly to be but one piece of a much larger puzzle.

One of the world’s leading germ warfare experts and head of microbiology at Porton Down, home of Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Kelly had a considerable reputation within the international intelligence community. His prominence is underlined by the fact that on one occasion he was tasked with debriefing Russian biochemist Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik – who would also die in suspicious circumstances attributed to suicide – who had defected from the Soviet Union. The Daily Mail noted in July of 2009 that Kelly had access to “some of the state’s most sensitive information and worked closely with the intelligence services of all the major industrialised countries”. Indeed, Kelly had worked as an advisor to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency since 1995 with the full knowledge of the British government.

With years of experience handling sensitive and above top secret material behind him, Dr. Kelly was certainly aware of information that could prove damaging if released. Author Gordon Thomas stated that Dr. Kelly, “had explored with two or three writers [including myself]… the possibility that he could write a book, about his life. I said to him at the time, ‘you know, David, you signed the Official Secrets Act’, he said ‘I know, I’ll need somebody else to write it with the information I provide’, and I said ‘but you know, you won’t get away with it David.’”. The Daily Express reported that Kelly had been planning to disclose information regarding “his own secret dealings in germ warfare with the apartheid regime in South Africa”.[6]

South African cardiologist and head of the apartheid-era chemical and biological warfare programme Project Coast, Wouter Basson, confirmed in an interview – his first for several years – featured in CBC’s The Passionate Eye – Anthrax War documentary that he had met Dr. Kelly “three or four” times.[7] Basson stated that he had liaised with Kelly in order to exchange information, and refused to answer when questioned as to whether or not he had met the microbiologist at Britain’s highly secretive and well-guarded Porton Down research facility in Wiltshire.

Wouter Basson did however confirm that he had personally visited the site, along with Fort Detrick, Maryland in the United States, another notorious biological weapon research facility. The Ames-strain anthrax used in a series of highly publicised attacks in the United States shortly after the September 11th attacks in 2001 is confirmed to have been developed by the U.S. military at Fort Detrick.[8] Incredibly, the FBI’s principle suspect in the anthrax case – Bruce Ivins – also committed ‘suicide’ in extremely dubious circumstances in August 2008, allegedly overdosing on Tylenol and codeine.[9] Dr. Kelly also had experience working with anthrax, which Porton Down had received from Fort Detrick in the 1980’s, with the Daily Mail confirming that Kelly had, “tens of thousands of documents and photographs; some [showing] human victims of anthrax poisoning” at his Oxfordshire home.

When probed as to whether or not he was involved in the development of ethno-specific biological agents, Basson stated on record that, “What happened is we had the objective to synthesise a certain protein that was in sperm for contraceptive purposes. The objective was that if you could immunise a woman, against sperm, then you would make her infertile.” The scientist elaborated: “We were asked to do this by another country that had a population explosion problem, as part of an exchange of technology. They were giving us other stuff, they asked, well we haven’t got the time or the place to do that, will you guys do that”.

The mention of collaboration with another country is an apparent reference to Israeli cooperation, which was instrumental in the apartheid regime’s quest to procure nuclear weapons. As Chris McGreal writes in The Guardian, “Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa’s development of its nuclear bombs”.[10] In return, apartheid South Africa worked with Israel and shared research about race-specific biological agents. In November 1998 The Sunday Times reported that “Israel is working on a biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not Jews, according to Israeli military and western intelligence sources”, and although there is now no trace of the article on the newspaper’s website, it has been republished at several other locations.[11]

The Sunday Times reported that “Israeli scientists are trying to exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive genes carried by some Arabs, then create a genetically modified bacterium or virus… The scientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that attack only those bearing the distinctive genes”. This work is reportedly conducted at Israel’s Nes Tziyona chemical and biological research facility, one of the most secure locations in the country. The Israeli scientists who revealed this information to the London newspaper stated that the agents could be transmitted by “spraying the organisms into the air or putting them in water supplies”.

The article points out that such research “mirrors biological studies conducted by South African scientists during the apartheid era and revealed in testimony before the truth and reconciliation commission”. It was at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in 1996 that the existence of Project Coast first came to light. Scientists who had worked on the project testified that they had worked on developing targeted assassination tools engineered to leave no trace, as well as mass-sterilisation techniques designed for use against the country’s black population.

Wouter Basson, who was called before the Commission, did not admit to any involvement in the aforementioned programmes and thus did not earn the immunity from prosecution guaranteed to all those who acknowledged and admitted to their apartheid-era wrongdoings. In 1999 Basson was indicted in South Africa on charges of murder, fraud and drug smuggling, but was acquitted following a 30-month trial due to insufficient evidence. It was at this trial that it emerged that Project Coast, which had employed over 200 scientists in South Africa and benefitted from extensive international intelligence connections, had supplied anthrax and cholera to the South African military and police.

“Unnamed South African sources” also disclosed to Jane’s Foreign Report, a publication specialising in ‘security and defence matters’, that “Israeli scientists have used some of the South African research in trying to develop an “ethnic bullet” against Arabs”, according to the Sunday Times article. According to Foreign Report, Israeli scientists were able to pinpoint certain elements of Arab genetic make-up by carrying out tests on “Jews of Arab origin, especially Iraqis”.

This revelation is reminiscent of the 1950’s radiation experiments carried out by the Israeli state, during which over 100,000 Sephardic children were exposed to radiation 35,000 (thirty-five thousand) times over the recommended maximum dosage as part of an experiment paid for by the United States government. The children were selected from the darker-skinned elements of the Israeli population, many of whom had emigrated to Israel having been expelled from Morocco, and were told they were to receive head lice examinations before being subjected to devastating radiation exposure to the head. 6,000 died shortly after the experiment was conducted, and the survivors suffered from a range of debilitating conditions as a result of the experiments, with many still alive today. Their story is told in the award-winning Israeli documentary The Ringworm Children.[12]

A confidential Pentagon report from 1997 confirmed that biological weapons could and were being engineered to target specific genotypes. U.S. Defense Secretary from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, stated that “certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic-specific” were being developed by some countries, with a senior western intelligence source confirming that this list of countries included Israel, for whose intelligence services Dr. David Kelly was working as an advisor at the time. The infamous Rebuilding America’s Defenses document published in September 2000 by the Project for a New American Century think tank, whose membership included prominent figures from the administration of George W. Bush such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, remarks that “advanced forms of warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”.[13]

Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes Norman Baker has repeatedly called for a new and independent inquest into the circumstances surrounding Dr. David Kelly’s alleged suicide. “Any reasonable person looking at the evidence would, at the very least, agree that further investigation is necessary,” Baker said in a 2006 interview. “If it wasn’t suicide, then clearly Dr Kelly was bumped off. My aim is to find out exactly what happened. Frankly, there is more than enough cause to reopen the inquest.”[14] Michael Powers QC put it succinctly, “There should be a full inquiry. We need a proper answer.” The implications are far greater than the fate of just one man.

Tom Kavanagh


[1] Gagging order on David Kelly records could be lifted, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/27/hutton-gagging-order-david-kelly

[2]Hutton inquiry closed David Kelly medical reports for 70 years,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/27/hutton-gagging-order-david-kelly

[3] 13 doctors demand inquest into Dr David Kelly’s death, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1199109/13-doctors-demand-inquest-Dr-David-Kellys-death.html

[4] Did MI5 kill Dr David Kelly?, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1200004/Did-MI5-kill-Dr-David-Kelly-Another-crazy-conspiracy-theory-amid-claims-wrote-tell-book-vanished-death.html

[5] Medics raise Kelly death doubts , http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4089729.stm

[6] KELLY’S BOOK OF SECRETS, http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/111971/Kelly-s-book-of-secrets

[7] CBC – The Passionate Eye – Anthrax War, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shsQFGGU6uk&feature=related

[8] George Monbiot – Riddle of the Spores, http://www.counterpunch.org/monbiot0521.html

[9] Fort Detrick Scientist “Commits Suicide” as Anthrax investigation closes in, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9730

[10] Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/feb/07/southafrica.israel

[11] Israel Planning ’Ethnic’ Bomb as Saddam Caves In, http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_depopu17a.htm

[12] The Ringworm Children, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6118144849760405404#

[13] Rebuilding America’s Defenses, http://newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

[14] Why I believe David Kelly’s death may have been murder, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-397256/Why-I-believe-David-Kellys-death-murder-MP.html

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  Nick Griffin’s appearance on Thursday’s Question Time has fanned the already vigorous flames of controversy regarding the party’s legitimacy as a political entity. With current challenges under human rights legislation against the BNP’s exclusion of racial minorities from membership, the party’s chairman is in a difficult position.[1] His self styled appointment to ‘clean-up’ the reputation of the party has led him to take considerable steps to re-brand it. Changes have so far seen the policy on forced expulsion of immigrants altered to encouragement through grants, and his own denial of the holocaust undergo a complete u-turn.[2] It is likely that the membership challenge will follow this pattern of changes, with minorities permitted access as long as they conform to the ‘principles of the party.’

 

  Nick Griffin’s success as Chairman has not been in his ‘clean-up’ of the party, but rather in the ‘cover-up’ of its more ignominious values. A brief survey of the various BNP manifestos reveals cleverly phrased rhetoric hinting at the cause of many of this country’s ailments.[3] Although tactically avoiding direct racist outbursts, the substance behind the syntax remains the same.

 

  It is for this reason that the controversy regarding the Question Time broadcast has been so great. With those of the panel, and the rest of the liberal population, congratulating themselves on exposing Griffin’s true character, the programme may well have seemed a success. For Griffin too, styling himself as a reformer dealing with the deep problems within the UK, his treatment by the panel will have exposed to himself and his followers, the extent of the Left-wing conspiracy. Both sides feel so safe in their own righteousness that both will perceive the same 45 minutes as vindication.[4]

 

  The problem of the BNP lies in the legitimacy of its complaints. It has sought to exploit the dystopian anxieties and fears of many within the population regarding our domestic affairs. The collapse of British industry, the rise of GM and intensively farmed foods, a worsening economy, increasing crime and the falling prospects of working class people are all bound together in the party’s manifesto. [5]

 

  Their concentration on localising production and placing more power into the hands of local people bears much similarity to the manifestos of fringe parties on the other side of the political spectrum, but the BNP’s difference lies in their scapegoat. Whilst the left condemn the rampant powers of globalised capitalism and TNC’s, Griffin’s party finds the fault in globalised relations with the ‘people’ themselves. The fall of the white working class is seen as the result of subsidies for the immigrants and populations of foreign countries round the world.

 

  The argument of course is a nonsense, and often flies in the face of logical common sense. The idea that policies such as bribing immigrants to leave would lead to a beneficial impact for working class people is perhaps laughable. It remains however, that parties on the fringe have seen spectacular results since the financial crisis 12 months ago. Whilst the mainstream parties have been embroiled in expenses scandals, and the government implicated in various cosy agreements with banks and businesses, working people have suffered. Parties on the fringe, free from tangles with interest groups and lobbying forces, are able to exploit the gap in the market for rejection of the orthodox system. The path to defeating the BNP lies in mainstream politics taking seriously the flaws in society. More likely cynically, the economy will eventually recover and the fringes will be exorcised as the status quo returns.

 Chris Bowles


[1] http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/bnp+membership+rules+to+be+reviewed/3388142

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8320241.stm

[3] http://bnp.org.uk/manifestos/mini-manifesto-2007/#

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/23/nick-griffin-bnp-bbc-question-time

[5] http://bnp.org.uk/manifestos/mini-manifesto-2007/#

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After the collapse of Lehman brothers in America and the subsequent instability in the U.K. banking sector, many of the country’s institutions were forced to seek government assistance in the form of bailout loans from the bank of England. Barclays chose however to defy its investors in this motion and instead opted to seek investment through other channels. The £7bn required to keep the bank solvent was eventually obtained from foreign sources, most notably from investors in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.[1] Two Qatari investment funds contributed £2.3bn of the required capital whilst another £3.5bn was provided by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, and controller of the International Petroleum Investment Company.[2] This sale of stock left Middle East investors owning around a third of Barclays.

Stakeholders including legal & General Investment management and Aviva Investors led a revolt at the decision which they criticised as being both dilutive and expensive.[3] In return for avoiding UK government assistance the bank was forced to pay a 14% dividend in comparison to the 12% offered by the Bank of England.[4] The stakes sold are also similar to the preference shares purchased by the Government in that they allow the Middle East investors the right to buy shares in the Bank at the fixed price of 197.775p at any time in the next five years.

The investment by these sovereign wealth funds has caused considerable concern to domestic clients who see such a large stake as threatening to the institution’s independence. The reality of these concerns was established in January of this year as the bank continued to struggle financially. In serious need of further capital injection Barclays was forced to consider the option of government assistance. However, due to a clause written into the Middle East investment deal this would have comprised the bank’s ownership. The capital investment was made on the terms that the clients would have to wait a full seven months to receive their shares, convertible at 153.276p.[5] If at any time during this period the bank raised further capital at a lower share price the Qatari and Abu Dhabi partners were entitled to claim their shares at the same base price. In late January when Barclays share price stood at around 66%, if it was to accept government investment it would have had to return its £7bn investment for the same price, equivalent to around 55% of the business, effectively a controlling share.[6] This clause was written into the agreement to protect the Middle East investors from having their stake diluted. However, little consideration was made to protecting the bank from further financial instability.[7] This raises an interesting dilemma with investment deals, particularly the increasing tide coming from foreign funds.  Is the responsibility of the institution primarily to its domestic clients and customers or instead to its primary benefactors, whether they be foreign or domestic? The financial crisis has revealed some of the problems emergent from seeking such large single investments especially from foreign sources.

On the 2nd June Khadem al-Qubaisi of the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund announced that he would be selling mandatory convertible notes equivalent to £1.3bn in shares, prompting a 13.5% slump in the share price.[8] The decision was taken due to a need to focus on their core oil and gas business. Even as the conditions in the banking sector improve it is clear that institutions are increasingly susceptible to the whims of foreign investors.

Chris Bowles

 

 


[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/oct/31/barclay-banking1

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/business/global/03barclays.html 

[3] http://www.100mortgages.org/20081112/barclays-shareholder-revolt-against-middle-east-investment/ 

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/oct/31/barclay-banking1 

[5] http://www.fairinvestment.co.uk/deals/news/investment-news-Barclays-Middle-East-investors-block-government-bail-out–2803.html 

[6] http://www.100mortgages.org/20090122/barclays-may-lose-control-to-middle-east-investors/ 

[7] http://www.fairinvestment.co.uk/deals/news/investment-news-Barclays-Middle-East-investors-block-Government-bail-out–2803.html 

[8]  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/business/global/03barclays.html

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Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has confirmed he will demand a full investigation into evidence that police officers in plain clothes were deployed to incite the crowd to commit acts of violence and attack other officers during the demonstrations which coincided with the G20 summit in London on April 1st [1].

Brake, a member of the home affairs select committee, says he saw two men who had been throwing bottles at police officers and encouraging protesters to do the same flash some form of identification which allowed them to move behind police lines at the protest, which took place in London’s square mile in the vicinity of the Bank of England.

The Liberal Democrat member of the house says numerous eyewitnesses saw the same two men in plain clothes hurry out of the thronging crowd after members of the public confronted them, accusing them of being undercover officers. An article published on Sunday May 10th by The Observer stated that Brake had indicated his intention to raise the matter with the parliamentary joint commission on human rights, which was due to convene on Tuesday.

“When I was in the middle of the crowd, two people came over to me and said, ‘There are people over there who we believe are policemen and who have been encouraging the crowd to throw things at the police,'” Brake said. His eyewitness account is corroborated by statements the MP has received from concerned members of the public, which were included in a draft report of his version of events which was due to be presented before the human rights committee.

One such statement, from photographer Tony Amos who was standing with protesters in the Royal Exchange between 5pm and 6pm affirmed that, “[one of the alleged officers] was egging protesters on. It was very noticeable. Then, suddenly, a protester seemed to identify him as a policeman and turned on him. He ­legged it towards the police line, flashed some ID and they just let him through, no questions asked. He was pretty much inciting the crowd. He could not be called an observer. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but this really struck me. Hopefully, a review of video evidence will clear this up.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman responded by stating: “We would never deploy officers in this way or condone such behaviour.” Brake says he intends to raise the matter with the Metropolitan Police’s Chief Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson during his next appearance before the home affairs select committee. “There is a logic having plain-clothes officers in the crowd, but no logic if the officers are actively encouraging violence, which would be a source of great concern,” added the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, South London.

Independent US-based news outlet Infowars.com was reporting on the possibility that agents provocateurs would be used by police to give the protests a violent edge on the day of the event[2]. The majority of news coverage in the mainstream British press on the day following the largely peaceful demonstrations indeed hyped the level of violence.

Regular Guardian columnist George Monbiot observed in his blog on the afternoon of April 1st that, “The trouble-makers are out in force again. Dressed in black, their faces partly obscured, some of them appear to be interested only in violent confrontation. It’s almost as if they are deliberately raising the temperature, pushing and pushing until a fight kicks off. But this isn’t some disorganised rabble: these people were bussed in and are plainly acting in concert. There’s another dead giveaway. They are all wearing the same slogan: Police”[3].

Monbiot observed that police, “have a powerful interest in exaggerating threats and, perhaps, an interest in ensuring that sometimes these threats materialise. This could explain what I’ve seen at one protest after another, where peaceful demonstrations turn into ugly rucks only when the police attack. The wildly disproportionate and unnecessary violence I’ve sometimes seen the police deploy could scarcely be better designed to provoke a reaction.”

Tabloid newspapers were quick to characterise the protesters as a violent, unruly “rabble”, and few newspapers attempted to give the issues which motivated the demonstrations any serious coverage. An article which appeared on April 2nd  in The Sun, the British newspaper with the largest daily readership, stated; “They pump fists and screech slogans at the patient policemen, whose attention is focused on the twitchy-looking youths with black bandanas tied around their faces to hide their identities. Outside the Bank of England, a cop’s riot shield is hit by a fiery projectile.”[4]

The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation which also owns The Times, British Sky Broadcasting and the Fox News Channel in the United States, qualified the demonstrations as “Rent-a-mob versus the Old Bill”, and stated that “Legitimate groups are here in vast packs, but many want a party-come-riot”.

Revelations of deliberate attempts by the police to coerce protesters into violence are likely to do little to repair the British public’s already tainted perception of the force following a string of recent disclosures that have done serious damage to public confidence.

On April 24th The Guardian reported that the police have an extensive network of “hundreds of informants” feeding them information from inside protest groups after an activist from the group Plane Stupid recorded a conversation in which officers from Strathclyde police attempted to recruit her as one such informant[5].

The same newspaper had reported just four days earlier that classified police information regarding an environmental demonstration had been passed by government officials from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to private security officers working for German energy giant E.ON which administers a number of power plants in Britain[6].

Both of these stories followed the release of video footage that showed Ian Tomlinson, the man who died at the protests in the square mile on April 1st which he had not been taking part in, being violently forced to the ground by a Metropolitan police officer who had covered his face and was not wearing the required identification badges[7]. Police had initially claimed that they had had “no contact” with Tomlinson, but were forced to retract this claim as it came to light that Tomlinson had been repeatedly turned away from police barricades which were forming a “kettle” around protesters prior to his assault by an as yet unnamed officer.

Tom Kavanagh

 


[1] G20 police ‘used undercover men to incite crowds’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/10/g20-policing-agent-provacateurs

[2] Agent Provocateur Riots Commence in London at G20, http://www.infowars.com/agent-provocateur-riots-commence-in-london-at-g20/

[3] G20 protests: Riot police, or rioting police?, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/apr/01/g20-policing-climate-protest-riot

[4] Rabble are real circus clowns, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2356194.ece

[5] Police caught on tape trying to recruit Plane Stupid protester as spy, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/24/strathclyde-police-plane-stupid-recruit-spy

[6] Secret police intelligence was given to E.ON before planned demo, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/20/police-intelligence-e-on-berr

[7] Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/07/video-g20-police-assault

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