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Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Chris Huhne, Robert Kennedy and Henry A. Wallace

One of my friends was a political adviser to Tony Blair. He once told me that political parties use friendly journalists and other investigators to collect damaging stories about leading figures in other political parties. These are rarely used but instead are traded against each other. In this way leading politicians are protected from these stories. It also makes sure that the only damaging stories that appear are against politicians who belong to small parties without stories to barter or mavericks in the major parties who are not being protected.

We now know that LBJ worked with J. Edgar Hoover to collect information about other politicians. Is it possible that Robert Kennedy was blackmailed into silence after the assassination of JFK? If so, my guess is that it was about RFK’s involvement in the plots to kill Castro.

I was reminded of this “blackmail” strategy when reading an excellent biography of William A. Wallace (American Dreamer). Wallace was President Roosevelt’s most left-wing cabinet minister and it was a great surprise when he selected Wallace to be his running-mate in the 1940 Presidential Election.
During the campaign Paul Block, publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, managed to get hold of some letters written by Wallace to Nicholas Roerich in 1933-34. The content of the letters suggested that Wallace held left-wing views and unconventional opinions on religion. Harry Hopkins, one of Roosevelt’s closest political advisers, contacted Block and told him if he published the letters they would reveal that Wendell Willkie, the Republication Party candidate, was having an affair with Irita Van Doren, the literary editor of the New York Herald Tribune. As a result, Block did not publish the letters.

Wallace’s left-wing views meant that party managers got him removed from the ticket in the 1944 Presidential Election (it was clear that Roosevelt would not live for another four years).

Wallace was appalled by Harry Truman’s drift to the right, especially his decision to be a Cold War warrior and his unwillingness to push for civil rights legislation. In 1948 Wallace took on the might of the Democrat and Republican parties.

Wallace travelled to the Deep South and called for the end of the Jim Crow laws. He was attacked at every point he stopped and made a speech. One of his followers said: "You can call us black, or you can call us red, but you can't call us yellow." Wallace commented: "To me, fascism is no longer a second-hand experience. No, fascism has become an ugly reality - a reality which I have tasted it neither so fully nor so bitterly as millions of others. But I have tasted it."

Glen H. Taylor also campaigned against racial discrimination. In Alabama he entered a public hall through an entrance marked "Colored". He pointed out in his autobiography, The Way It Was With Me (1979): "I was a United States senator, and by God, I wasn't going to slink down a dark alley to get to a back door for Bull Connor or any other bigoted son of a bitch. I'd go in any goddamned door I pleased, and I pleased to go in that door right there." Taylor was arrested and at a subsequent trial he was fined $50 and given a 180-day suspended sentence on charges of breach of peace, assault, and resisting arrest.

However, without the protection of the party machine, the Nicholas Roerich letters were published in the mainstream press and Wallace’s chances of getting elected came to an end.
Yesterday, Chris Huhne, the former energy secretary, admitted lying about a speeding ticket that he blamed on his wife in 2003. That was ten years ago and it is no coincidence that the story was first published by two Tory newspapers, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, at a time when he was causing problems for David Cameron in his coalition government. Huhne was also against the Murdoch takeover of Sky (Murdoch owns the Sunday Times). Of course, around that time, the other left of centre politician in the cabinet, Vince Cable, was caught in the Tory supporting Daily Telegraph sting that got him taken off the Murdoch takeover bid and given to the pro-Murdoch Jeremy Hunt.

In both cases they were not protected by their party leader, Nick Clegg. Of course, both men were seen as possible replacements for Clegg as party leader. That would have caused problems for David Cameron and the Tory supporting press.

I have no sympathy for either Chris Huhne or Vince Cable who both deserved exposure. However, what about those Tory politicians who are probably getting up to things far worse than Huhne and Cable?

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