Labour is lucky this global story blew up in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a “catastrophe”, when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland. Timing is important here: the HSBC revelations haven’t emerged on Labour’s watch. Both Eds have frequently – and rightly – apologised for Labour’s feeble regulation of banks pre-crash, while always reminding Cameron and Osborne that they called loudly for less banking “red tape” in those days.
Ms Toynbee isn’t always a favourite with us here at Shiraz, but the piece quoted from above is a hum-dinger, and well worth reading in full.
Left Foot Forward‘s Ruby Stockham, meanwhile, has put 4 questions to David Cameron that should be repeated ad nauseam between now and the election.
But it’s worth remembering that the crimes of HSBC under Stephen Green (aka Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and minister for trade and investment between 2010 and 2013) were not restricted to colluding in tax fraud: they also extended to money-laundering.
In 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering for clients that the US authorities said included Mexican drug cartels (as well as providing services to lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh though to include supporters of al Qaeda).
The Daily Telegraph‘s David Hughes reported on July 17 2012:
While the Treasury select committee is giving the third degree to Mervyn King and his chums over the Libor debacle, a potentially much bigger banking scandal is breaking in the United States. The US Senate has launched a coruscating attack on HSBC for its slapdash approach to money-laundering regulations. The bank could face a $1 billion fine.
According to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “the culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time.” Just how polluted was revealed in the Senate report into the scandal. For example, between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations. According to the report, both Mexican and US authorities warned HSBC that the amount of money could only have reached such a level if it was tied to illegal narcotics proceeds. This is explosive stuff for the “world’s local bank”, as HSBC calls itself.
As these other, perhaps even more serious, scandals from the noughties have not been widely reported in the last few days (except by the FT‘s excellent Jonathan Guthrie), here are a couple of links to articles from July 2012:
David Hughes’s Telegraph piece (quoted from above), here
The Telegraph‘s report on the US Senate’s findings, here
Ned Simons at the Huffington Post (which mentions the alleged al Qaeda funding) here.
Above: the Europhobes’ last bogey-man
The Tory braying over Cameron’s “brave”/”principled” (etc, etc) stand against Jean-Claude Juncker is as preposterous as it is cynical. It’s quite clear that though some swivel-eyed backwoodsmen may take Cameron’s talk of “principle” at face value, the whole ridiculous charade has been a cynical exercise dreamt up by Lynton Crosby, to appease xenophobes within and without having to propose any specific policies or, indeed, actually do anything in particular other than vote against the “federalist” bogey-man.
The identification of Juncker as the embodiment of everything to be hated and despised about the EU is simply a re-run of the little-England hate-fest whipped up in the late-eighties and early-nineties by the Tories and the Murdoch press against Jacques Delores. Of course, Delores was a social democrat who really did stand for a (limited) extension of the ‘Social Europe’ agenda, including things like the Working Time Directive and the Acquired Rights Directive (aka TUPE). Juncker, on the other hand, is a mainstream centre-right politician with no interest in furthering ‘Social Europe’ or enhancing workers’ rights in any way. But for the Tories, that’s not the point: he’s a “federalist” bureaucrat and an enemy of “reform” in Europe. What exactly this “reform” that Cameron keeps banging on about, is, remains largely unspecified, but when pushed, the Tories point to the Working Time Directive – that outrageous piece of foreign interference that denies all true English people their inalienable right to work more than 48 hours per week (unless they sign a chitty saying they want to).
So you don’t need psychic powers to know what the Tories mean when they talk about “reform” in Europe: dismantling the Social Europe agenda, removing the limited rights and protections that workers have achieved in Europe and – of course – restricting the free movement of labour within Europe. In other words, a thoroughly reactionary anti-working class agenda, spiced up with xenophobia and outright racism.
Junker is no friend of the working class, even to the extent that Delores was. But what the hell was Labour doing joining in with the Tories in demonising him? It’s also disappointing to see some usually thoughtful leftists and internationalists making concessions to this nonsense.
For once, the Graun‘s Polly Toynbee, not often someone we quote with approval here at Shiraz, has got it right (apart from her softness on the Lib Dems):
There is no middle way on this one. Its [ie Labour’s] stand must be: “This is the moment to choose: Vote Ukip or Tory if you want Out; vote Labour (or Lib Dem) for In to save British jobs.” Immigration drives much popular anti-Europeanism, so Labour has no choice but to say immigration is the price for prosperity. Time for gloves off with Ukip voters. Stop pretending a Ukip vote is respectable and call Faragists out as job-destroying racists and xenophobes. Explaining the decision to deny a referendum requires a bolder pro-EU message, and a more abrasive anti-Ukip and anti-Tory warning.
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:
“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …
“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”
Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.
Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy – anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.
In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.
Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.
It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.
But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.
At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.
The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.
Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.
Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no; the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”
What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.
Above: Ben Jennings cartoon in the Guardian
“My government has a sense of evangelism…
Jesus invented the big society 2,000 years ago”
-David Cameron, April 2014
As Polly Toynbee (not generally one of our preferred columnists) pointed out in Friday’s Graun, Cameron’s Easter Message is “mostly toe-curling stuff”. This sanctimonious outburst is all the more annoying because he has left no previous evidence of being a particularly strong Christian, telling the Graun on 2008, that his faith was “like reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes.”
Toynbee comments, “Alistair Campbell never gave better advice than in warning politicians off doing God: it’s horrible to behold. Sincere or not, they become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, as did Cameron talking of ‘our saviour'”…
What a pity that most of the so-called “left” organisations in the UK (with just one notable exception) fail to denounce the encroachment of religion into British politics, and the consequent erosion of secularism. It’s largely been left up to the apolitical National Secular Society to take up a principled defence of enlightenment values in the UK. Here’s their comment on Cameron’s Easter Message:
In his most recent effort to highlight his strong Christian faith and the importance of Christianity within the UK, David Cameron has called for Christians to be more “evangelical”.
Mr Cameron criticised those promoting state neutrality on religion, saying they failed to grasp the role that religion can have in “helping people to have a moral code”. He contrasted “secular neutrality” with “the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love”.
He also expressed the hope that “we can […] infuse politics with a greater sense of evangelism about some of the things we are trying to change. We see our churches as vital partners. If we pull together, we can change the world and make it a better place.”
The Prime Minister’s comments were made in an article authored by him, “My faith in the Church of England” and published in the Church Times.
He also announced that the government would be giving £8 million to a Church urban fund, Near Neighbours, which brings together people in religiously and ethnically diverse communities.
His article follows a video Easter message, in which he noted “countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ”, and an Easter reception at Downing Street in which he called for an expansion in the role of faith and faith organisations in the UK.
His most recent comments come after church leaders have, for the second time in two months, made the headlines by publicly urging the government to take action on food poverty.
As part of a campaign organised by the End Hunger Fast, 47 bishops and over 600 non-conformist leaders and clergy from across all the major Christian denominations in Britain have co-signed a new letter calling for urgent Government action on food poverty
And in February, 27 bishops wrote to the Daily Mirror saying that Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “The Prime Minister’s description of Britain as a “Christian country” is one most people simply won’t recognise.
“Around half the population don’t belong to any religion and the religious among us follow an increasingly diverse range of faiths. They should not be made to feel like less than equal citizens by the prime minister asserting the moral superiority of Christianity.
“Mr Cameron is of course entitled to his personal beliefs but he must realise that as the Prime Minister of a democratic and diverse nation his remarks are wholly inappropriate.
“Non-Christians may feel particularly aggrieved by Mr Cameron’s divisive assertion that we are a “Christian country”, but everyone should be concerned at his suggestion that essential state functions such as education and welfare should be handed over to religious organisations.”
From Adam Bienkov at politics.co.uk
The prime minister has suppressed a report on EU migration after it found overwhelming evidence that immigration has been good for the British economy.
The report, commissioned by Theresa May, was due to be published at the end of last year but was shelved “indefinitely” by David Cameron after it failed to find evidence to support cutting immigration.
Officials say they were inundated with evidence from experts and businesses arguing that EU migration has been positive for the UK.
“They can’t bring themselves to publish the report before the European elections because they would have to admit that freedom of movement is a good thing,” one official told the Financial Times.
Civil servants complained that the central claims of the report were not backed up by the evidence within it.
Conservative sources also pointed the finger at the Liberal Democrats for trying to block the report.
The revelation follows an intervention by the Office for Budget Responsibility yesterday claiming that the coalition’s immigration cap would make it much harder to cut Britain’s budget deficit.
“Because [immigrants] are more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure,” OBR chairman Robert Chote told MPs.
Higher net migration allowed a “more beneficial picture” for public finances than would otherwise be the case, he added.
The revelation also comes as chancellor George Osborne addresses eurosceptic groups within his party, who are putting pressure on the government to restrict free movement within the EU.
“The biggest economic risk facing Europe doesn’t come from those who want reform and renegotiation,” he will tell the Fresh Start group of MPs.
“It comes from a failure to reform and renegotiate.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the government’s report on the impact of EU migration was “ongoing”.
“We will publish it when it is ready,” they added.
From Robbie Helston Lea-Trengrouse’s Facebook pages…
Well done Ian Merricks: any further suggestions (within the limits of reasonable taste) welcome:
Lest we forget.
David Cameron was a member of the Federation of Conservative Students when they published this on posters and T-shirts:
And here‘s an attempt to defend of Cameron over this shameful business. But even the apologists can’t get round the simple fact that Cameron was a member of the FCS when the poster was published in the 1980s – and, of course Thatcher repeatedly called Mandela a “terrorist” at that time.
Cameron the shameless, eh?
Politicians trying to sound like hep cats are always amusing. And as Anthony Blair Esq eventually found out, they usually end up looking like pillocks.
This is from today’s Times report on Hull winning City of Culture status for 2017:
“Yesterday’s announcement drew attention to the city’s long list of high achievers, although one of them reacted badly when named by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron cited Hull’s ‘fantastic record’ in popular music. ‘I remember some years ago that great Hull Housemartins album London 0, Hull 4,’ he said.
“Paul Heaton, lead singer of the band, responded on Twitter: ‘When I took over my pub in Salford, the first people I banned were Cameron and Osborne. That ban still stands.’ He said that the Prime Minister ‘ruined my day’ and rebutted criticism that he had passed judgement without meeting Mr Cameron or the Chancellor. ‘You don’t need to smell s*** to know it stinks,’ he wrote
“Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister who served as MP for Hull East for 30 years, responded jubilantly by referring to one of Mr Heaton’s songs. ‘It’s happy hour again!’ he said.”
Shiraz Socialist‘s crack team of high-price legal eagles tell me I have to be careful about what I write about Lynton Crosby, David Cameron and tobacco packaging.
So I’ll start by simply welcoming Andrew Marr back to our screens:
Marr asks Cameron about Crosby at 06.15
For months Cameron has been evading questions about Crosby’s influence over tobacco policy, repeating the mantra that he’s never been “lobbied” by Crosby. On the Marr show on 21 July (above) he continues the evasion, repeatedly refusing to say whether he’s discussed plain cigarette packaging with Crosby, instead denying that Crosby had “intervened” on tobacco policy.
On Monday Sheila Gunn, John Major’s former press secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Lynton’s job is to go through all different policies with David Cameron and advise him whether or [not] they are going to be vote winners or losers … But the choice of verb ‘intervene’ – just like at prime minister’s question time last week he said he hadn’t been lobbied by Lynton on this. The fact that he wouldn’t expand on whether or not they’d talked about it and his body language – he just looked very uncomfortable.”
On Tuesday Crosby himself issued a statement denying that he had ever “discussed” tobacco packaging with Cameron – a word (“discussed”) that Cameron had spent months avoiding using.
Then, immediately following Crosby’s statement, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, rejecting Ed Miliband’s call for an enquiry, stated that the Conservative Party had drawn up “principles of engagement” with Crosby: “Against this background I do not see what purpose would be served by the enquiry that you propose,” Heyward wrote to Miliband.
But it turns out that the “principles of engagement” is an undated document that has simply appeared out of the blue sans provenance, just as the heat is being turned up on Cameron. Jon Trickett, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has now written a searching letter to Heywood, politely but firmly asking for some answers:
Dear Sir Jeremy,
Thank you for your letter of 23 July in response to letters from me and from Ed Miliband, which I think you will acknowledge leaves a number of questions unanswered. It is notable that you have chosen not to give your own judgement on any of the substantive issues raised with you.
Significantly, you do not say – just as the Prime Minister has not said – that the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister about tobacco policy. Nor do you say that there is no conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s role advising the Conservative Party and his role advising a number of commercial organisations who have an interest in Government policy.
Thank you also for passing on “the principles of engagement between Lynton Crosby and the Conservative Party” – which are undated. The journalist Michael Crick has quoted a Conservative Party source as saying “The principles of engagement capture what was agreed at the time Lynton was hired… verbal agreement on the principles of engagement was made at the time Lynton was hired. This was written down in the last couple of days and published today.” It therefore appears that this was not properly drawn up by civil servants in order to avoid conflicts of interest in Government, but hastily cobbled together after Mr Crosby had become a political embarrassment to the Conservative Party.
In addition, there remains a significant lack of clarity over who Lynton Crosby’s clients are, and whether either the Government or the Conservative Party have any idea who they are.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman reportedly “said that he had been unaware that Mr Crosby’s British company had Philip Morris Ltd, whose brands include Marlboro, as a client” (The Times, 13 July 2013). And on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme last Wednesday, the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said that “It is a matter for Lynton Crosby who his clients within the company are”. Yet on BBC 2’s Newsnight last Tuesday, the Health Secretary suggested that he was privy to details of Mr Crosby’s clients when he said that public health was an area Lynton Crosby never advised the Prime Minister on “because his company has clients in that area”.
Clearly, if the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are unaware of who Mr Crosby’s clients are – which is what the Chairman of the Conservative Party says is the case – then you will agree that the principles of engagement are unenforceable and worthless. In the interests of transparency Mr Crosby’s company’s full client list should be published immediately.
I would be grateful if you would answer the questions below.
• Were you or any civil servants involved in any way in the drawing up of the terms of engagement published yesterday?
• Did you know that the principles of engagement which you sent me had only been “written down in the last couple of days”?
• Did you know about them before this week, and when did you first see them?
• Do you have any evidence at all that these principles have been followed?
• Are you personally satisfied that Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister or other Ministers about tobacco policy, alcohol policy, NHS policy or fracking policy?
• Are you personally satisfied that there is no possibility of a conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s roles as an adviser to the Conservative Party and an adviser to commercial organisations?
• Do you know who Mr Crosby’s commercial clients are, and in the interests of transparency will you ensure that a full list is published immediately?
Given the continued public interest in these matters I am releasing this letter to the press.
Jon Trickett MP
Readers will notice that I’ve completed this post without once using the word “liar.” Our legal eagles should be proud of me – JD
Above: Crosby who works for the Tories and big tobacco
So let’s get this straight: Unite members are accused of signing up a couple of people to the Labour Party in a pub in Falkirk: that’s a major political scandal?
The government shelves plans for plain packaging of cigarettes and it turns out that the Tories’ election ‘strategist’ Lynton Crosby also works for the cigarette firms Philip Morris and British American tobacco: that, it seems, isn’t a scandal – or not much of one, judging by the meagre press coverage (with the honourable exception of The Observer)?
The other noticeable difference is that whereas Miliband called in the cops and rushed out proposals to weaken the union link in response to the Falkirk ‘revelations’, Cameron has so far done fuck all about Crosby and appears confident of riding out whatever minor storm there may be.
And you wonder why decent people seem to be increasingly cynical about mainstream politics?