A Bunch of Sleazy Parasites
Following the latest sleaze scandal to explode in the face of the Labour government, two powerful ministers, Peter Mandelson and Geoffrey Robinson, have resigned under heavy pressure. Sections of the press greeted the resignations with riotous jubilation. For instance, Rupert Murdoch’s
which Mandelson, Tony Blair and the Labour Party courted so obsequiously, portrayed Mandelson looking like a Christmas turkey, with the single-word headline ‘Stuffed’. Normally it would be an utter waste of time gracing the columns of a serious journal with stories about a spiv of the Mandelson type. It is, however, worthwhile looking into the affair which sparked off the resignations of Mandelson and Robinson, for it demonstrates graphically the connection between bourgeois politics and money, government and commerce, the power of money to corrupt high-ranking government officials and ministers and to bend them to its needs, requirements and demands. It shows, too, the vanity and avarice which grips the highest of bourgeois politicians, the dizzying chasm between their rhetoric of a caring government for the people and the cynicism with which they exploit their positions for personal gain and the disdain with which they view working people and their lives. And it reveals the cruel hypocrisy of the money-grubbing bourgeois scoundrels who are forever preaching belt-tightening to the working class, justifying cuts in welfare spending.
The Mandelson story began in the autumn of 1996 when he started a search for a home
“that would not disgrace him in the company of his well-heeled friends” (Financial Times,
23 December 1998), who include the millionaire novelist, Robert Harris, at whose country home he spends most weekends. Lack of a `smart address’ was causing him
an ally of Mandelson’s is reported as saying. In the end he found a large Victorian property in fashionable Notting Hill. The problem, however, was that the asking price of £475,000 was well beyond the means of a mere backbench MP. In the euphemistic language of the
Financial Times, “It was the perfect opportunity for Mr Robinson to demonstrate his commitment to the modernisation of the Labour Party being spearheaded by Mr Mandelson and Tony Blair.”
At this time Mr Robinson was the richest Labour backbencher. Although he had no formal front bench role, he was an important advisor to Gordon Brown, then Labour’s Shadow Chancellor and a rising star, whom Robinson helped with the provision of significant research facilities. Robinson, having made his megabucks, wanted a job in a future Labour government headed by `modernisers’ like Blair and Mandelson.
What better time to show his generosity to his financially disadvantaged colleague, Mandelson, who wielded such influence over Blair? After all, Blair too had been the beneficiary of Robinson’s largesse by twice using his Tuscany villa and private chef for the summer holidays. Generosity being his `second nature’, Mr Robinson, without any axe to grind or desire to make a gain, as an act of pure selflessness, lent Mandelson the paltry sum of £373,000. Although never in fact paid, interest was notionally charged at the base rate set by the Midland Bank – far less than a standard mortgage. The difference between the sum borrowed from Robinson and the purchase price was made up by a building society mortgage loan. Thus was Mandy – as he is affectionately referred to by friends and sections of the press – enabled to move into one of the
“most sought-after streets in Notting Hill, where he rubs shoulders with Paula Yates, Jade Jagger, Rik Mayall and Caroline Aherne – TV’s Mrs Merton” (The Sun,
23 December 1998).
Estate agents call the area the “Hollywood of London.” It is full of expensive wine bars, restaurants and film stars (luvvies), which suits a person of Mr Mandelson’s snobbery and tastes, which are disproportionate to his income. Here he lives among stars such as Chris Evans, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue, dresses in £2,000 hand-made suits designed by the pop stars’ tailor, Ozwald Boateng, and dines in exotic places.
In May 1997, Labour won the General Election. Mr Robinson, to whom the three most senior members of the Party – Blair, Brown and Mandelson – were personally indebted was, surprise, surprise, made the Paymaster General in Blair’s first cabinet.
Mandelson made no disclosure of the loan from Robinson either at the time or five months ago when he was made the Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry. Neither did he inform Tony Blair, nor the Permanent Secretary of his department, which is investigating Mr Robinson’s own sleaze-ridden labyrinthine financial affairs. A slip of the memory – a pure chance, whatever evil tongues might say. After all, Mr Mandelson is supposed to have `distanced’ and `insulated’ himself from that inquiry and there is not the slightest hint of a `conflict of interests’, whatever incurably suspicious minds might think.
The truth, however, was forced out – some will say leaked out by Mandelson’s opponents within the government – whereupon all hell broke loose. Labour’s hypocrisy, the divergence between its word and its deed, was further exposed. Labour came to power promising a squeaky clean government after 18 years of Tory sleaze. In his first week as prime minister, Blair addressed his MPs thus:
“Remember, you are not here to enjoy the trappings of power but to do a job and to uphold the highest standards in public life.”
On 4 October, 1994, he told the delegates at the annual Labour Party Conference,
“A new politics of courage, honesty and trust. It means being open. It means telling it like it is. Let’s be honest. Straight. Those most in need of hope deserve the truth.”
magazine speech, at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 30 November, 1995, he said:
“We are on the side of ordinary people against privilege, against vested interests of the public or private sector.
“It will take more than re-inventing the government to give people confidence in politics again. Sleaze has become the hallmark of the dying days of this [Conservative]
administration. Government needs to be less secretive and more comprehensible.”
“But policies without a set of values guiding them give no sense of meaning or direction to public life,” he declared in a speech to the Royal Society, London, on 27 February 1996.
On 1 October, 1996 – the same month that Mandelson borrowed money from Robinson – Tony Blair told the Labour Party Conference:
“We will change the law to make the Tories clean up their act. To coin a phrase, we will be tough on sleaze and tough on the causes of sleaze.”
Some might have wondered if he was going to be tough on capitalism – the real and ultimate cause of all sleaze.
As recently as 8 July, 1998, Blair said:
“We have to be very careful that we are purer than pure.”
If this is the word, what is the deed? Let the capitalist media answer the question:
“In his farewell letter to Mr Mandelson, Mr Blair quoted his old friend as saying: `We can’t be like the last lot: they are far worse’. Tory sleaze took almost 15 years in office to become a serious problem. New Labour has managed it in as many months.” (Daily Telegraph).
“Mr Blair came to power promising an end to event the appearance of sleaze. Yet from the Formula One imbroglio to Geoffrey Robinson’s labyrinthine financial affairs and Mr Mandelson’s bizarre mortgage arrangements, that `purity’ has often seemed less than pristine.” (Daily Mail).
Politically motivated these papers may be, but for a change they are telling the truth.
Labour is nauseatingly hypocritical, sleaze-ridden, in the pay and the service of big business. It is fiercely anti-working class, reactionary in the extreme, and, as the recent bombing of Iraq further proves, imperialist to its finger tips.
The Mandelson affair is by no means an isolated incident. The
not so long ago exposed the Cash-for-access affair, which revealed Mandelson’s former aide, Derek Draper, talking about his desire to `stuff his pockets’. In May 1998, Blair called a gathering of `intellectuals’ to discuss his `third way’ – moving away from social democracy and building a new liberal coalition committed to an unregulated capitalism accompanied by rhetoric about some vague notion of social justice, described by Will Hutton as `free market social liberalism.” One of the participants in this gathering of intellectuals was Neal Lawson who was an aide to the Prime Minister before he became a lobbyist spinning in the revolving door between Whitehall and commerce. He explained the new philosophy to our undercover reporter, who was posing as an American businessman anxious to fix a deal with the Government.
“An executive with money to spend could change public policy by exploiting what he called `politics without leadership’. Principles had been replaced by `non-ideologically contaminated decision making’. The result was that on the big issues they don’t know what they are thinking. Blair himself does not always know what he is thinking.” (Nick Cohen, `All the sleaze to fit the print,’
27 December 1998.
In other words, here was a government, perfectly manipulable by monopoly capitalism and too willing to be manipulated. If the bigwigs in the Labour Party have sold their souls to be in government, the backbenchers have sold their souls to hold on to their cushy positions as MPs. What is more, they are pretty aware of their worthlessness and powerlessness alike. Shona McIssac, Labour MP for Cleethorpes, explained to the Commons her own and her colleagues’ worthlessness in the following remarkable terms:
“We have to get real. I was voted in because I was a Labour candidate. Few people, if any, voted for me as a person. I have a sneaking suspicion that my husband voted for me because I was me, and I voted for me because I was me – but if I had not been the Labour Party candidate, I would not have voted for me either” (Quoted by Mr Nick Cohen in his article referred to above).
The increasingly close nexus between monopoly capital and the bourgeois governments – the latter dominated by the former – unnerves even some bourgeois journalists and political commentators who, while realising this domination, are nevertheless unable to go beyond expressing vain hopes and saying futile prayers that bourgeois politics will, perhaps, prove to be
“life’s countervailing force”
against the domination of monopoly capitalism.
Thus, for instance, Mr Andrew Marr in the
of 27 December 1998: there is, he says,
“the uneasy sense that Britain is now a small country, dominated by a little group of corporate giants, media moguls and politicians who count, and who know one another better than they should. For, in a world knotted together by free trade and shaped by great corporations, the main job of democratic politics is to be life’s countervailing force – requiring decent working conditions, trust-busting, liquidating monopolies, taxing enough to pay for health, education and a decent environment, protecting the public against the reckless commercialisation of new scientific discoveries, making polluters pay. There is a necessary, essential tension and argument between politics and commerce; if there isn’t, politics has no purpose”
(`This can only get bitter’).
Unable to reach the only proper conclusion, namely, that this contradiction, this
if you like, can only be eliminated by doing away with capitalism, Mr Marr is simply reduced to expressing his discomfiture at Labour’s enthusiasm for, and its closeness to, business.
“New Labour’s real Achilles’ heel is a naïve, converts’ enthusiasm for business at any price. To my taste, the chorus of woe and grief from industry that greeted his departure from the DTI was just a little too sincere for comfort” (Ibid.)
Those who do not much like the politics of sleaze and corruption at the top and misery for the downtrodden millions have but one duty, which is to work for an alternative society to capitalism. That society can only be socialist society, as envisaged by Marxism-Leninism. This, in turn, can only be achieved by exposing the Labour Party as a party of British imperialism and building an alternative Party of the working class. In the conditions of Britain today, the SLP alone offers that alternative.