Knowing nothing

There has been much hand wringing in the ranks of the Labour government in recent weeks.

First of all culture minister Tessa Jowell faced probes into her involvement in her husband’s dirty dealings as legal adviser to Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (friend and holiday companion to the Blairs). David Mills, a lawyer, is to go on trial for corruptly giving false evidence on behalf of Berlusconi for which he allegedly received £344,000. This ‘fee’ was used to pay off a mortgage on the Jowell-Mills family home. Tessa ‘knew nothing’ despite having signed the mortgage papers.

Some questions are in order, but are unlikely to be answered now that Tessa has ditched hubby (at least for the time being). Where, for instance, did she think the £344,000 had come from and why did it need to be laundered through so many offshore bank accounts? Didn’t she smell a rat?

The Labour government’s troubles did not end here. The names of four multi-millionaires who had issued loans to the Labour Party to bankroll its last election campaign were leaked as having their nominations for peerages blocked by the Standards Commission which is meant to keep undesirables out of the House of Lords. Its success at doing this can be judged by the fact that the Upper House is stuffed full of crooks, liars and perjurors.

Labour Party treasurer Jack Dromey publicly announced that the loans had been kept secret from elected officials, including himself. To which Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, responded that ‘you had to wonder how well he was doing his work’. Such acts of collective responsibility and camaraderie became the norm as ministers like Prescott and Hewitt announced that while they themselves had ‘known nothing’ what the prime minister had done was ‘not against the law’.

This, of course, begs a question or two. These charlatans and double dealers wrote the law which allows them to disguise very large ‘loans’ and reward their creditors with peerages (and maybe more). It may not be an accident that amongst the 12 bankrollers who were later named as supplying the Labour Party with £13.9 million are property speculators, supermarket supremos and biotechnology whiz kids. Not least is Rod Aldridge whose company Capita has benefited to the tune of £1.4bn turnover a year from large public contracts like the Criminal Records Bureau, teachers’ pensions and London’s congestion charging. Labour’s plans for ID cards will no doubt boost the business coffers.

You might think that one or two of the ministers who ‘knew nothing’ would have noticed that the Labour Party spent £18 million during the last election campaign and wondered where it had come from. Didn’t they smell several million rats?

Expecting probity from the ruling class, however, is like asking mud-spattered pigs to fly. From the time of William the Conqueror, Britain’s absolute monarchs bankrolled their corrupt lifestyles and their bloody wars by selling honours and peerages. The parliamentary governments which inherited these powers have simply carried on the tradition.

Labour’s loans are said to be ‘commercial’, but don’t bother asking a high-street bank to match the interest rates. Don’t expect the ruling class to allow the working class the same favours. While the likes of Jowell, Mills and Aldridge get the benefit of the doubt (and a lot of money), the working class gets a very different sort of ‘justice’ where ‘knowing nothing’ gets you locked up.

FRFI 190 April / May 2006

 

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