Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/208/8529
AFTER THE 1997 election Tony Blair told new Labour MPs still basking in the glory of victory that they were in parliament to carry out the people's will, not to acquire the "trappings of power". ROGER SHRIVES looks at:
New Labour's Flexible Friends
UNDER THATCHER and Major, Tory MPs and ministers had their "snouts in the trough" with corrupt practices such as demanding cash from big business interests for asking questions.
Labour in power are not carrying out "the people's will", they're obeying the instructions of capitalism. They've been no more successful in the second part of Blair's promise - avoiding the "trappings of power". In running the country for the rich, they're imitating the bosses' lifestyles and the Tories' flexible 'ethics'.
Many scandals have involved big names in New Labour since 1997. While Blair put capitalism firmly in control, individual bosses want help from ministers for their own specific interests.
Old Labour got millions from the unions - workers hoped Labour in government would deliver policies in their interests. Under Blair, New Labour had been severing its links with the unions and needed donations from big business, who expect concrete benefits in return.
Formula One (F1) motor racing chief Bernie Ecclestone, who'd previously given millions to the Tories, gave Labour £1 million in 1997. Labour's manifesto had promised to "ban tobacco advertising".
Top F1 teams got at least £125 million a year in sponsorship from cigarette companies, who wanted a healthy, sporting image for a very unhealthy product. F1 chiefs wanted Blair to get motor racing exempted from the European Union ban on tobacco advertising in sport.
After Labour did the U-turn which Ecclestone wanted, the 'sleaze watchdog', the Committee for Standards in Public Life, told Labour to return his money. So Ecclestone got his concessions for nothing!
In July 1997, John Prescott let a government inspector over-rule planning restrictions in Richmond and give permission for a huge out-of-town Sainsbury's supermarket. They swore there was no connection with billionaire boss Lord Sainsbury's £2 million donation to Labour before the 1997 election.
Blair made Sainsbury - Britain's fourth richest man - a life peer and later on Science Minister. There he was in charge of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council despite being a major backer of a biotechnology company Diatech.
Feathering the nest
SOME LABOUR bigwigs are terminally vain and few wigs are bigger than Lord Chancellor Alexander 'Derry' Irvine. The Labour Party used his legal services in expelling the editorial board of The Socialist's fore-runner Militant.
He also helped Labour expel some of the 47 Liverpool councillors who defied the Thatcher government's stifling of local councils by creating jobs and building council houses from 1983 to 1987.
He rewarded himself by not so much feathering his own nest as covering it in flock wallpaper. Irvine spent £650,000 of public money refurbishing his official House of Lords apartment, including frittering away £59,000 on wallpaper.
Since 1997, barristers at Irvine's legal chambers have earned over £1 million in fees from government work, including £125,000 from the Lord Chancellor's department alone.
Blair set the tone as early as May 1997. Lord Simon, millionaire former chair of oil multinational BP sacked 60,000 employees when its profits were threatened earlier in the 1990s. BP, under Simon's chairmanship, was accused of handing over photographs and video evidence of trade union and peasant campaigners to Colombia's bloodthirsty military.
To Blair's eyes, this made him an ideal man to offer an unpaid job as minister for trade and competitiveness. In his first year in office, Simon's wealth increased from £1.74 million to £2.02 million. He told no-one that he'd kept his shares.
Previous Labour leaders were liable to corruption. Ramsay MacDonald, for instance, was an outrageous sycophant who got a Daimler car as a gift from a biscuit company
An openly capitalist government like Blair's, remote from all pressures of working-class influence, will get even more pompous puffed-up creatures like Irvine and establishment bootlickers like Peter Mandelson.
Mandelson resigned twice. In resignation one, fellow minister Geoffrey Robinson (whose offshore tax avoidance funds were being investigated by Mandelson's department of trade and industry) "loaned" him £373,000 to buy a posh London house.
The house cost ten times "Mandy's" official annual MPs salary. Building societies rarely allow ordinary mortals a mortgage above three times their salary. He also, illegally, refused to declare some of his sources of finance for purchasing the house.
Mandelson mixed socially with the establishment, becoming a friend of Prince Charles and accompanying Princess Margaret to dinner. He collected expensive furnishings and fine paintings.
Mandelson resigned again in 2000 after helping fix a passport for billionaire businessmen the Hinduja brothers, in an abortive attempt to save the fated Millennium Dome. As with Ecclestone Labour found out there was no such thing as a free donation.
In a deal which also involved Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, the Hindujas got a British passport, not to avoid deportation but to make it easier to take over British-based businesses.
The brothers, often investigated for corruption in India, mainly amassed their wealth as middlemen in arms deals in the neo-colonial world and exploiting third world workers.
WHEN HE was brought into the government Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP for Coventry North-West and a former head of Jaguar, was the 729th richest man in Britain.
Robinson was paymaster general in the Labour government until he resigned along with Mandelson. He's estimated to be 'worth' over £30 million, some 40% of it in an offshore tax haven in Guernsey, a traditional home for businessmen who don't like paying taxes.
Orion Trust bought £12.5 million worth of shares in the TransTec company he formed - much of it after Robinson joined the government. TransTec later collapsed with debts of £170 million.
TransTec merged with Central and Sherwood, a property company owned and chaired by notorious media tycoon Robert Maxwell, whose shadowy manoeuvres stole over £450 million from Mirror Group employees' company pension funds.
Robinson is accused of plotting with Maxwell's son Kevin. In 1990 Robinson offered to help Pergamon Press get European grants, these were meant for small businesses not giants like Maxwell's Pergamon.
Robinson had two luxury apartments in Cannes seized by the French authorities over a claim that he hadn't paid £3.6 million in taxes. Cherie Blair and Gordon Brown used these apartments as holiday homes.
Robinson was accused of many deals to avoid paying tax. Whether true or not, Labour appointed Robinson to a top government post and let him avoid tax on 40% of his income.
The "Access for cash" scandal saw Labour 'insiders' in lobbying firms get cash, partly to give big firms advance knowledge of Blair's plans.
Karl Milner, formerly Gordon Brown's adviser, was a boss of lobbyists GJW. They helped American-based multinational Enron win a deal to build a gas-fired power station in Teesside.
GJW advised Enron to became Labour Party sponsors, hosting drinks at the gala dinner, giving the party £15,000. Enron, under the name of their water subsidiary Azurix, got the power deal.
LABOUR PROTECTS capitalism and apes the bosses' skulduggery. Getting snouts into troughs may be OK for pigs but we in the Socialist Party aim to transform society. Our election candidates are prepared to be workers' MPs living on workers' wages.
If you want to change the way society is run, you have to fight alongside workers and live the same lifestyle as workers not mimic the bosses and establishment friends of Mandelson, Robinson, Blair etc.
The Socialist Party says MPs and government ministers should be accountable to working-class people and live on an average workers' wage.
In The Socialist 5 December 2009: