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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Life Lessons

It is my birthday today. My daughter sent me a poem by Joanna Fuchs that I would like to share with you:

Life Lessons

You may have thought I didn't see,
Or that I hadn't heard,
Life lessons that you taught me,
But I got every word.

Perhaps you thought I missed it all,
And that we'd grow apart,
But Dad, I picked up everything,
It's written on my heart.

Without you, Dad, I wouldn't be
The woman I am today;
You built a strong foundation
No one can take away.

I've grown up with your values,
And I'm very glad I did;
So here's to you, dear father,
From your forever grateful kid.

The Strange Death of Charles Beaumont

I was not interested in politics until my sister's boyfriend gave me a box of recently published paperbacks. I was 15 at the time and my reading up to that time consisted of comics and football magazines. The first book I took from the box was "The Intruder" by Charles Beaumont. The novel, published that year in 1959, is a story about a character called Adam Cramer who visits a small Southern town on the eve of integration. His main objective is to incite the people against letting black children into the town's white school. At the time I knew nothing about Jim Crows laws and the KKK. The novel stimulated interest in American politics and it resulted in me getting history books from my local library on the subject.

Later, I tried to get other books by Beaumont from Amazon but discovered it was the only novel he ever wrote. Last night I watched "Seven Days in May". I looked up the scriptwriter, Rod Serling on the web. I discovered he had very left-wing views and was very frustrated by the amount of political censorship he suffered. In 1959, he began producing The Twilight Zone. He stated in an interview that the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike his earlier work on television. In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context. He recruited his friend and fellow radical, Charles Beaumont to write scripts for Twilight Zone.

However, in 1963, Beaumont began to suffer the effects of what has been called "a mysterious brain disease". His speech slowed and his ability to concentrate diminished, arresting his creative output. He died on 21st February, 1967.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Seven Days in May

Last night I watched "Seven Days in May". The film stands up very well. I was especially impressed with the acting and the script by Rod Serling.

The film is based on the novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II and published in 1962. The author, Knebel, got the idea for the book after interviewing the Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay. At the time LeMay had spoken to some of his staff about removing the President from power.

In the film the leader of the plot, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, is compared to General Edwin A. Walker.

It is believed that Knebel got the idea for the book after a conversation with President Kennedy. It was Knebel's first novel. According to John Frankenheimer, the director, Pierre Salinger conveyed to him that JFK wanted the film be made, "these were the days of General Walker" and, though the Pentagon did not want the film made, the President would conveniently arrange to visit Hyannis Port for a weekend when the film needed to shoot outside the White House.

The main figure behind the film was not John Frankenheimer but Kirk Douglas and his film company, Joel Productions. It was Douglas who broke the blacklist with producing Spartacus in 1960. Joe McCarthy along with General Walker gets a mention in the film.

In the book, the secret United States Army combat unit created and controlled by Scott's conspiracy is based in Texas near Fort Bliss. However, in the film the venue is changed to San Diego. I wonder why?

Rod Serling is an interesting choice to write the script. He had very left-wing views and was very frustrated by the amount of political censorship he suffered. In 1959, he began producing The Twilight Zone. He stated in an interview that the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike his earlier work on television. In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context.

Serling died of a heart-attack at the age of 50.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Lord Mandelson

Last week Gordon Brown was saved by Lord Mandelson. This is a surprising turn around because in May 1994, Brown was expected to replace John Smith as leader of the Labour Party. Then Mandelson began spreading the rumour that Brown was gay and this story would appear just before the next election. As a result, Labour Party MPs decided to opt for the safety candidate, Tony Blair.

Mandelson was rewarded in 1997 when Blair appointed him as a Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, where his job was to co-ordinate within government. A few months later, he also acquired responsibility for the Millennium Dome, one of the biggest disasters in recent political history.

In December 1998, it was revealed Mandelson had bought a home in Notting Hill in 1996 with the assistance of an interest-free loan of £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, a millionaire Labour MP who was also in the Government, but was subject to an inquiry into his business dealings by Mandelson's department. Mandelson, who had kept the loan a secret, was forced to resign from the government. Robinson also resigned at the same time.

In October 1999, he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The following year Geoffrey Robinson "accused Peter Mandelson of lying to the Commons about the home loan affair". Despite this claim, Mandelson was allowed to keep his job.

In January 2001, it was revealed Mandelson had phoned Home Office minister Mike O'Brien on behalf of Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman who was seeking British citizenship, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the "Faith Zone" in the Millennium Dome. At the time, Hinduja and his brothers were under investigation by the Indian government for alleged involvement in the Bofors scandal. On 24 January 2001, Mandelson resigned from the Government for a second time.

On 22 November 2004, Mandelson became Britain's European Commissioner for Trade. Once again he became involved in several scandals because of his relationship with some dubious multi-millionaires who wanted things from the European Commissioner.

On 3rd October 2008, Gordon Brown announced that Mandelson would return to government in the re-drawn post of Business Secretary, and would be made a life peer, entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords. It is believed that the right-wing members of the party (Blairites) insisted on the return of Mandelson in exchange for not bringing down Brown.

Mandelson was at the time being investigated for corruption by the European authorities. This involved his relationship with Oleg Deripaska, the owner of Rusal. Over the last three years, while working as European Union Trade Commissioner, he twice cut European aluminium import duties. Rusal, the world’s largest producer of aluminium, was the main beneficiary of this action.

Another person who has provided Mandelson with free holidays is Lakshmi Mittal, the world’s fourth richest man. In 2005 Mittal gave Tony Blair’s New Labour government £2m. This was not the first gift that Mittal made to Blair.

In 2002 it was disclosed that Mittal's LNM steel company, registered in the Netherlands Antilles and maintaining less than 1% of its 100,000 plus workforce in the UK, sought Blair's aid in its bid to purchase Romania's state steel industry. The letter from Blair to the Romanian government hinted that the privatisation of the firm and sale to Mittal might help smooth the way for Romania's entry into the European Union.

In 2006, Mittal mounted a £12.8 billion hostile bid for its nearest rival Archelor, which was based in Luxembourg and France. At the time Atticus Capital had holdings in both Mittal Steel and Arcelor and wanted the deal to go ahead. However, in Luxembourg and France there was strong opposition to the deal.

Mandelson, as the European Union Trade Commissioner, came under pressure from Mittal to support the deal. He agreed to do this by speaking out in favour of open trade and against European opposition to the deal. Eventually, the EU competition commission eventually approved the deal.

When Mandelson entered the government he is quoted as saying his main objective is to stop the government using “Old Labour” measures to deal with the collapse of capitalism. He is of course in favour of taxpayers bailing out the bankers but is strongly against the government taking over control of these institutions. As has been pointed out, Brown is currently following a policy of “socialism for the rich”.

Mandelson other reason for joining the government is to protect his Russian sponsors from suffering too much damage during the capitalist meltdown. After the fall of communism in 1989, Neo-Cons joined forces with the KGB, senior officials in the various communist parties in Eastern Europe and the Russian Mafia.

In the reshuffle on 5 June 2009, Lord Mandelson was appointed to the honorific office of First Secretary of State, making him Deputy Prime Minister in all but name. Mandelson was also appointed to the position of Lord President of the Council. It was also announced that he would continue in his role as Business Secretary, with much expanded powers.

Mandelson is now the power behind the throne. Mandelson's long-term objective is to become Foreign Secretary (the post held by his grandfather). However, David Milliband, holds that position. The plan is for Mandelson to oust Brown early in the new year and for Milliband to become prime-minister, allowing Mandelson to become Foreign Secretary.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

MP's Expenses Published Online

The expenses claims of every member of the House of Commons over the past four years have been published online today. Under the rules, MPs had to nominate a primary home, where they spent most time, and a second home for which they could claim for rent, mortgage interest, furnishings and food up to a maximum of more than £23,000 a year.

Certain information, including MPs' addresses and correspondence has been removed according to officials "on privacy and security grounds." The truth of the matter is that without addresses it is impossible to discover if "flipping" - by which some MPs switched the designation of their homes and claimed allowances for several properties over the four year period.

For example, this morning, the Daily Telegraph published details of how Treasury Minister Kitty Ussher changed the designation of her constituency home to avoid capital gains tax. She has now resigned. However, if the newspaper had not published these details she would still be in her job as this information is not in the online database of expenses.

Nearly a dozen MPs have been forced to stand down since the publication of their expenses by the Daily Telegraph. However, most of these hace been forced out by Gordon Brown and David Cameron because they had a history of not being loyal to their leader.

For example, Brown has used the Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) to bar Ian Gibson from standing at the next election after criticism of his expenses claims. Gibson was censured for selling his taxpayer-funded second home to his daughter for below market rates. Several members of the government have done far worse but they remain in office. However, Gibson has been a constant critic of this right-wing goverment and so the opportunity has been used to get rid of him. Gibson has resigned, triggering a by-election in his Norwich constituency. As the local party support Gibson, it will be interesting who they select as their candidate.

From 1st July people would also know how much time and how much money MPs get from second jobs. This will reveal the real corruption of parliament as it will show how corporations bribe our MPs for inside information and to get them to vote in particular ways.

Sir Alan Sugar

Gordon Brown has appointed Sir Alan Sugar as his new Enterprise Tsar. Sugar of course was a great supporter of Margaret Thatcher and his recruitment goes to show how far to the right the New Labour government has moved. In fact, Blair/Brown have continued with Thatcher’s neo-liberal experiment. Another reason for Sugar’s conversion to New Labour might be the fact that his company Viglen has just secured a £30 million contract to provide 70,000 computers to schools and government departments.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Alice Wheeldon

Here is a story about a government conspiracy that has been hidden from history. The British government launched a successful propaganda campaign at the beginning of the First World War. Men were told that the war would be over in six weeks as long as enough men volunteered to join the armed forces. In the first two years of the war over 3,000,000 men volunteered to serve in the British Armed Forces. However, because of new technology (the machine-gun) and the use of 19th century military tactics, these men were quickly used up.

Due to heavy losses at the Western Front the government decided to introduce conscription (compulsory enrollment) by passing the Military Service Act. The No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) mounted a vigorous campaign against the punishment and imprisonment of conscientious objectors. About 16,000 men refused to fight. Most of these men were pacifists, who believed that even during wartime it was wrong to kill another human being.

Socialists who had denounced the war on its outbreak began to gain support from the public. So did women campaigning for the vote who remained opposed to the war. David Lloyd George, the prime minister who had brought in conscription was in serious trouble. Then he had the idea of how to solve his problems. His victims was the family of Alice Wheeldon.

In 1886 Alice Marshall married William Wheeldon, a widowed engine fitter some fourteen years her senior, at the Register office in West Derby. The couple moved to 87 Marsh Lane, Bootle. Over the next few years Alice Wheeldon gave birth to Nellie (1888), Hettie (1891), William (1892) and Winnie (1893).

In 1901 Alice and her family moved to 91 Stanhope Street, Derby. William Wheeldon was now working as a commercial traveller whereas Alice Wheeldon ran a second-hand clothes shop at 12 Pear Tree Road. The Derby & District Directory records that she bought and sold the contents of people's wardrobes.

Alice Wheeldon became active in politics. She was a socialist and a member of the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) . She was also active in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Her daughters, Hettie Wheeldon and Winnie Wheeldon, shared her feminist political views.

The outbreak of the First World War caused conflict between Alice and the WSPU. Alice was a pacifist and disagreed with the WSPU's strong support for the war. Sylvia Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard established the Women's Peace Army, an organisation that demanded a negotiated peace. Alice, Hettie Wheeldon and Winnie Wheeldon, all joined this new political group. Alice and her daughters also joined the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF).

In 1915 Alice's daughter, Winnie, married Alfred Mason. The couple moved to Southampton, where Mason worked as a chemist and continued to be involved in the socialist and anti-war movement. Alice's son, William Wheeldon, was also active in the cause. On 31st August 1916, he appeared before Derby Borough Police Court charged with "wilfully obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty." The previous week he had attempted to stop the police move five conscientious objectors from the prison to the railway station. William was found guilty and sentenced to a month imprisonment.

Alice Wheeldon, John S. Clarke and Arthur McManus, established a network in Derby to help those conscientious objectors on the run or in jail. This included her son, William Wheeldon, who was secretly living with his sister, Winnie Mason, in Southampton.

On 27th December 1916, Alex Gordon arrived at Alice's house claiming to be a conscientious objectors on the run from the police. Alice arranged for him to spend the night at the home of Lydia Robinson. a couple of days later Gordon returned to Alice's home with Herbert Booth, another man who he said was a member of the anti-war movement. In fact, both Gordon and Booth were undercover agents working for MI5 via the Ministry of Munitions. According to Alice, Gordon and Booth both told her that dogs now guarded the camps in which conscientious objectors were held; and that they had suggested to her that poison would be necessary to eliminate the animals, in order that the men could escape.

Alice Wheeldon agreed to ask her son-in-law, Alfred Mason, who was a chemist in Southampton, to obtain the poison, as long as Gordon helped her with her plan to get her son to the United States: "Being a businesswoman I made a bargain with him (Gordon) that if I could assist him in getting his friends from a concentration camp by getting rid of the dogs, he would, in his turn, see to the three boys, my son, Mason and a young man named MacDonald, whom I have kept, get away."

On 31st January 1917, Alice Wheeldon, Hettie Wheeldon, Winnie Mason and Alfred Mason were arrested and charged with plotting to murder the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson, the leader of the Labour Party.

At Alice's home they found Alexander Macdonald of the Sherwood Foresters who had been absent without leave since December 1916. When arrested Alice claimed: "I think it is a such a trumped-up charge to punish me for my lad being a conscientious objector... you punished him through me while you had him in prison... you brought up an unfounded charge that he went to prison for and now he has gone out of the way you think you will punish him through me and you will do it."

Sir Frederick Smith, the Attorney-General, was appointed as prosecutor of Alice Wheeldon. Smith, the MP for Liverpool Walton, had previously been in charge of the government's War Office Press Bureau, which had been responsible for newspaper censorship and the pro-war propaganda campaign.

The case was tried at the Old Bailey instead of in Derby. According to friends of the accused, the change of venue took advantage of the recent Zeppelin attacks on London. As Nicola Rippon pointed out in her book, The Plot to Kill Lloyd George (2009): "It made for a prospective jury that was likely to be both frightened of the enemy and sound in their determination to win the war."

The trial began on 6th March 1917. Alice Wheeldon selected Saiyid Haidan Riza as her defence counsel. He had only recently qualified as a lawyer and it would seem that he was chosen because of his involvement in the socialist movement.

In his opening statement Sir Frederick Smith argued that the "Wheeldon women were in the habit of employing, habitually, language which would be disgusting and obscene in the mouth of the lowest class of criminal." He went on to claim that the main evidence against the defendants was from the testimony of the two undercover agents. However, it was disclosed that Alex Gordon would not be appearing in court to give his evidence.

Herbert Booth said in court that Alice Wheeldon had confessed to him that she and her daughters had taken part in the arson campaign when they were members of the Women's Social and Political Union. According to Booth, Alice claimed that she used petrol to set fire to the 900-year-old church of All Saints at Breadsall on 5th June 1914. She added: "You know the Breadsall job? We were nearly copped but we bloody well beat them!"

Booth also claimed on another occasion, when speaking about David Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson she remarked: "I hope the buggers will soon be dead." Alice added that Lloyd George had been "the cause of millions of innocent lives being sacrificed, the bugger shall be killed to stop it... and as for that other bugger Henderson, he is a traitor to his people." Booth also claimed that Alice made a death-threat to Herbert Asquith who she described as "the bloody brains of the business."

Herbert Booth testified that he asked Alice what the best method was to kill David Lloyd George. She replied: "We (the WSPU) had a plan before when we spent £300 in trying to poison him... to get a position in a hotel where he stayed and to drive a nail through his boot that had been dipped in the poison, but he went to France, the bugger."

Sir Frederick Smith argued that the plan was to use this method to kill the prime minister. He then produced letters in court that showed that Alice had contacted Alfred Mason and obtained four glass phials of poison that she gave to Booth. They were marked A, B, C and D. Later scientific evidence revealed the contents of two phials to be forms of strychnine, the others types of curare. However, the leading expert in poisons, Dr. Bernard Spilsbury, under cross-examination, admitted that he did not know of a single example "in scientific literature" of curate being administered by a dart.

Alice turned the jury against her when she refused to swear on the Bible. The judge responded by commenting: "You say that an affirmation will be the only power binding upon your conscience?" The implication being that the witness, by refusing to swear to God, would be more likely to be untruthful in their testimony." This was a common assumption held at the time. However, to Alice, by openly stating that she was an atheist, was her way of expressing her commitment to the truth.

Alice admitted that she had asked Alfred Mason to obtain poison to use on dogs guarding the camps in which conscientious objectors were held. This was supported by the letter sent by Mason that had been intercepted by the police. It included the following: "All four (glass phials) will probably leave a trace but if the bloke who owns it does suspect it will be a job to prove it. As long as you have a chance to get at the dog I pity it. Dead in 20 sec. Powder A on meat or bread is ok."

She insisted that Gordon's plan involved the killing of the guard dogs. He had told her that he knew of at least thirty COs who had escaped to America and that he was particularly interested in "five Yiddish still in the concentration camp." Gordon also claimed he had helped two other Jewish COs escape from imprisonment.

Alice Wheeldon admitted that she had told Alex Gordon that she hoped David Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson would soon be dead as she regarded them as "a traitor to the labouring classes?" However, she was certain that she had not said this when she handed over the poison to Gordon.

When Hettie Wheeldon gave evidence she claimed that It was Gordon and Booth who suggested that they assassinate the prime minister. She replied: "I said I thought assassination was ridiculous. The only thing to be done was to organise the men in the work-shops against compulsory military service. I said assassination was ridiculous because if you killed one you would have to kill another and so it would go on."

Hettie said that she was immediately suspicious of her mother's new friends: "I thought Gordon and Booth were police spies. I told my mother of my suspicions on 28 December. By the following Monday I was satisfied they were spies. I said to my mother: "You can do what you like, but I am having nothing to do with it."

In court Winnie Mason admitted having helped her mother to obtain poison, but insisted that it was for "some dogs" and was "part of the scheme for liberating prisoners for internment". Her husband, Alfred Mason, explained why he would not have supplied strychnine to kill a man as it was "too bitter and easily detected by any intended victim". He added that curare would not kill anything bigger than a dog.

Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Women's Social and Political Union, told the court: "We (the WSPU) declare that there is no life more valuable to the nation than that of Mr Lloyd George. We would endanger our own lives rather than his should suffer."

Saiyid Haidan Riza argued that this was the first trial in English legal history to rely on the evidence of a secret agent. As Nicola Rippon pointed out in her book, The Plot to Kill Lloyd George (2009): "Riza declared that much of the weight of evidence against his clients was based on the words and actions of a man who had not even stood before the court to face examination." Riza argued: "I challenge the prosecution to produce Gordon. I demand that the prosecution shall produce him, so that he may be subjected to cross-examination. It is only in those parts of the world where secret agents are introduced that the most atrocious crimes are committed. I say that Gordon ought to be produced in the interest of public safety. If this method of the prosecution goes unchallenged, it augurs ill for England."

The judge disagreed with the objection to the use of secret agents. "Without them it would be impossible to detect crimes of this kind." However, he admitted that if the jury did not believe the evidence of Herbert Booth, then the case "to a large extent fails". Apparently, the jury did believe the testimony of Booth and after less than half-an-hour of deliberation, they found Alice Wheeldon, Winnie Mason and Alfred Mason guilty of conspiracy to murder. Alice was sentenced to ten years in prison. Alfred got seven years whereas Winnie received "five years' penal servitude."

Alice was sent to Aylesbury Prison where she began a campaign of non-cooperation with intermittent hunger strikes. One of the doctors at the prison reported that many prisoners were genuinely frightened of Alice who seemed to "have a devil" within her. However, the same doctor reported that she also had many admirers and had converted several prisoners to her revolutionary political ideas.

Some members of the public objected to Alice Weeldon being forced to eat. Mary Bullar wrote to Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary and argued: "Could you not bring in a Bill at once simply to say that forcible feeding was to be abandoned - that all prisoners alike would be given their meals regularly and that it rested with them to eat them or not as they chose - it was the forcible feeding that made the outcry so there could hardly be one at giving it up!"

Alice was moved to Holloway Prison. As she was now separated from her daughter, Winnie Mason, she decided to go on another hunger strike. On 27th December 1917, Dr Wilfred Sass, the deputy medical officer at Holloway, reported that Alice's condition was rapidly declining: "Her pulse is becoming rather more rapid... of poor volume and rather collapsing... the heart sounds are rapid... at the apex of the heart." It was also reported that she said she was "going to die and that there would be a great row and a revolution as the result."

Winnie Mason wrote to her mother asking her to give up the hunger strike: "Oh Mam, please don't die - that's all that matters... you were always a fighter but this fight isn't worth your death... Oh Mam, for one kiss from you! Oh do get better please do, live for us all again."

On 29th December David Lloyd George sent a message to the Home Office that he had "received several applications on behalf of Mrs Wheeldon, and that he thought on no account should she be allowed to die in prison." Herbert Samuel was reluctant to take action but according to the official papers: "He (Lloyd George) evidently felt that, from the point of view of the government, and in view especially of the fact that he was the person whom she conspired to murder, it was very undesirable that she should die in prison."

Alice was told she was to be released from prison because of the intervention of the prime minister. She replied: "It was very magnanimous of him... he has proven himself to be a man." On 31st December, Hettie Wheeldon took her mother back to Derby.

The campaign continued to get Winnie Mason and Alfred Mason released from prison. On 26th January 1919 it was announced that the pair had be allowed out on licence at the request of Premier Lloyd George."

Alice Wheeldon's health never recovered from her time in prison. She died of influenza on 21st February 1919. At Alice's funeral, her friend John S. Clarke, made a speech that included the following: "She was a socialist and was enemy, particularly, of the deepest incarnation of inhumanity at present in Great Britain - that spirit which is incarnated in the person whose name I shall not insult the dead by mentioning. He was the one, who in the midst of high affairs of State, stepped out of his way to pursue a poor obscure family into the dungeon and into the grave... We are giving to the eternal keeping of Mother Earth, the mortal dust of a poor and innocent victim of a judicial murder."

The Rise of Fascism in Europe

Some political commentators have suggested that the European Elections indicate that the economic depression has resulted in a rise in the support of fascist political parties. Some have even gone onto to say that what we are seeing is a repeat of what happened in Europe following the Wall Street Crash.

I strongly disagree that this is a re-run of the 1930s. It is often forgotten that the fascists took power in Italy long before the Depression. Even in Germany most of the unemployed voted for the left. It was the Catholics and the middle-classes that allowed Hitler to take power.

It is true that the BNP in the UK won two seats in the European Parliament. Nearly all the extra votes they obtained this time came from former Labour voters who wanted to register a protest against Gordon Brown and his government. The BNP will not be able to hold onto these votes as long as Brown is ousted from power and we introduce a sensible housing policy.

It would have been worrying if the BNP had picked up the votes of UKIP. However, people have preferred to vote for UKIP instead of the BNP. Large sections of the population are hostile to the idea of immigration (both black and white) and during a recession will vote for nationalist parties. However, our history makes it highly unlikely that fascists will ever get close to power.

I suspect this is also true of Western Europe. However, I am much more concerned about the Baltic states and the new democracies in Eastern Europe. These countries have been hit by severe economic problems and they have little experience of democracy and might be tempted to support strong leaders who promise to solve their problems.

Gordon Brown to go in early 2010

Gordon Brown struggles on in power. Despite the fact that several government ministers have resigned in protest against his leadership, the disastrous local and European election results, the rules of the party make it difficult to actually oust him from power. In many ways, the historically low poll-ratings of the Labour Party, helped to ensure his survival. One of the reasons why the public has turned against Brown is that he has never been endorsed as prime minister of the electorate (he even replaced Tony Blair without facing a contest in the Labour Party). Brown argues that any new leader of the party, unlike him, will have to call a General Election to get the approval of the British population. The polls suggest that the party would be decimated in any election.

The members of Parliamentary Labour Party have sensibly allowed him to hold onto office. I image they will overthrow him early in 2010. The new leader will then announce that a General Election will take place in three months time. He will then announce the ended of the ID scheme, PFI, the cancelling of Trident, an end to MPs having second jobs, and a fully elected House of Lords. He will also propose a form of Proportional Representation for elections to both houses. This will be part of a referendum on constitutional change on General Election day. David Cameron and the Tories will be forced to campaign against these changes as they know that they will find it impossible to win a general election under such a system. However, it will also help to ensure that the Tories are not the largest party in the election. I say this because I expect the economy to be showing signs of recovery and that the new Labour leader will be benefiting from the poll boost that comes during the “honeymoon” period of government. Labour will not have an overall majority but they will have little difficulty forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in return for the introduction of PR that would have been endorsed in the referendum.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Lord Mandelson, the new Prime Minister?

Despite daily revelations about the corruption of New Labour, Gordon Brown still survives. It is possible that Brown will be ousted on Monday and the party will get the opportunity to get its soul back.

It will take 72 Labour MPs to trigger a formal leadership contest. If this happens, Brown will be defeated. However, the rebels are currently over 20 names short. The current list does not include the two blocks of left-wing MPs, the Campaign Group and the Compass Group. They are unwilling to sign up to the removal of Brown because they fear they will get someone worse as leader.

This raises the question about who is actually in charge of the current government. Several months ago I was told by a colleague who I used to work under at the Daily Telegraph (he still holds a senior post at the newspaper) that Lord Mandelson would be the next prime minister. I told him that the Labour Party would never elect someone like Mandelson. However, he never mentioned the word “elected”.

Mandelson was forced out of government because of several scandals involving corruption. He was rewarded by being given a peerage. Brown brought him back into the Cabinet as Business Secretary, only weeks after being accused of corruption while being a European Commissioner. One of the features of Brown’s period as leader is the bringing in of unelected people into government. This includes Lord Drayson, who has been accused of corrupt activities with the arms industries. Bringing in Sir Alan Sugar as enterprise tsar is another blow to the democratic process. Especially as Sugar was a vocal supporter of Margaret Thatcher and a strong opponent of all traditional values of the Labour Party.

It is also significant that Bob Ainsworth is the new Defence Secretary. He is probably even worse that Brown as a TV performer. Ainsworth promotion is due to the lobbying of NP Aerospace, a military manufacturer based in his Coventry North East constituency. Since becoming a junior minister at the Ministry of Defence he has helped the company secure government contracts for NP Aerospace worth £230 million.

However, back to Mandelson. He was the key figure in decided membership of the cabinet on Thursday night and Friday morning. Mandelson was made “first secretary of state” the post formerly held by the previous deputy leader of the party, John Prescott. Mandelson of course has a lot more power that Prescott. As one ministerial aide pointed out: “He is not only the deputy prime minister. He has become the real prime minister. With Gordon paralysed by indecision, it is Peter who will be calling the shots.” Is this the man that left-wing MPs want to run the country?