Sunset Boulevard

Can someone please remind me which political party Frank Field MP is member of? (rhetorical)

Or perhaps remind Frank, as he seems to be more than a bit confused of late, is his latest missive on Comment is Free is anything to go by.

A successful terrorist attack on London could make part of the capital uninhabitable for decades and make Britain permanently poorer. Yet, while London awaits its fate, Scotland Yard is fiddling away on an enquiry into the alleged sale of honours. How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend this enquiry as the best use of scarce police resources?

And the right six numbers on the lottery draw on Saturday night could make me a millionaire, but I’m not holding my breath for that either.

Are you actually serious here? The Met should forget investigating a criminal complaintin which is senior political figure may (hypothetically) because there might a few (no less hypothetical) scary Muslims out there.

Is there anything else you’d like to suggest that the Police stop investigating while they sort out this terrorist business. Armed robbery, perhaps? Burglary? Mugging?

Perhaps we should cancel all further housing developments until Barratt’s have built a 15 foot ‘security wall’ around the M25 as well? That would make about the same amount of sense.

In criticising the Metropolitan Police commissioner for a serious misuse of police time I have not assumed that there is no case to answer on the honours front. No 10 has at the very least been sailing close to the wind. The whole saga is tacky, to put it mildly.

Tacky? That’s a bit of an understatement, Frank. Try ‘unethical’ instead.

Leaving aside the specifics of the Met’s investigation – on which Michael White offers a nicely considered take – what we can be sure of is that the Labour party did exploit a loophole in the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to obtain funding, by way of loans, without disclosing the identity of the loanees, as it would have had to do in the case of donations.

What we also know, is that the Tories did the very same thing as well.

In fact the main difference between the two parties in this respect is that when both were caught with their fingers in this particular cookie jar, the Labour Party ‘fessed up and published a full list of their loanees, while the Tories stalled, paid off a number of existing loans – thus ensuring that neither the loanee or the terms of the loan would be disclosed – and then replaced these loans with other loans of, shall we say, ‘unclear’ provenence.

Presumably, Yates of the Yard has taken a good close look at these transactions as well, but that’s somewhat immaterial as the democratic, rather than legal, point to be made here is that both parties were ‘working’ the system to their advantage, and, in fact, the Tories worked the system right to very last minute an managed to wring every last drop of advantage they could out of it.

The way that the police have conducted the enquiry suggests to the media that it is the PM who is in the frame. But where did those senior Labour party figures who run the party, particularly in the run-up and during the election, believe the £18 million spent on the election came from, if not from wealthy donors? When the small group of top Labour officials, including the prime minister and the chancellor, mapped out the campaign, did they all believe that the £18 million or so they were committing to election campaign grew on trees?

That’s a very good question – provided, of course, that your prime motivation for asking it rests in genuine concern about what looks to have been the diminution of internal party structures, check and balances and you’r not just looking to take a bit of heat off the PM by ‘spreading the load’, so to speak.

What is the financial control structure in the Labour party that allows the treasurer to claim that he had no idea of the source of the £18 million? Does not the Labour party have an audit committee to ask such elementary questions before money is committed?

That’s another question, Frank… and so is ‘Why does it appear that Party’s financial controls (and structure) were largely disregarded by those most directly involved in procuring these loans and and on who’s instructions and at who’s insitigation were they bypassed?’

Both are equally valid questions and, as a Labour Party member, I really would like answers to both of them, but again, I’m a little unsure of your motives here, Frank.

Are you demanding that we clean out the Augean Stables or just spread the blame a little more widely?

These are some of the very important questions the Labour party leadership needs to answer. They are not questions which have so far been put in public debate.

Nor, necessarily, should they be put in public debate, Frank, as you should well know as a Labour MP. All the questions you pose relate to internal Labour Party structures and practices, matters of considerable concern to Party members but not necessarily one into which the public have a right to included.

That’s not to say that public transparency is not an issue here – it is. We have to both do the right thing and be seen to do the right thing, but the debate itself is one for our own membership and not Mrs Miggins the life-long Tory Voter from Middle-Slopping-by-the Canal.

But we shouldn’t have to turn to the police to gain answers to questions which tell us something pretty fundamental about how political parties are run in Britain today. That a full scale police enquiry was put in hand raises not for the first time the judgement of Ian Blair the commissioner.

Actually, on this occasion it doesn’t call his judgement into question at all.

You see, back in 1215, a guy called John signed this bit of parchment called ‘Magna Carta’ and in doing so codified (by default) a basic principle – one that actually dates to Anglo-Saxon law – one that is sometimes expressed poetically as ‘be you ever so proud or mighty, no man is above the law’. And that’s a principle that has served us pretty well ever since – it was good enough to execute a king in the mid 17th century and its plenty good enough to investigate a Prime Minister and his advisers in the 21st.

Like it or not, the Met received a criminal complaint in this matter and having received such a complaint it is their bounden duty to investigate that complaint to the fullest extent permissible in law – no ifs, no buts and absolutely no ‘sorry, not in our best interests’.

The commissioner has found himself in choppy political water recently and it was obviously easier for him to allow the enquiry to advance than to defend that with all the issues facing the Yard, the honours for sale fiasco was no where near the top of his agenda. But the easy option is, in this case, a negation of leadership.

Look, Frank, much as I harbour no great regard for Sir Ian Blair, and on record as saying so on on this blog on several occasions, even I am not inclined to suggest that his unwillingness to interfere in or curtail this investigation is a simple matter of political expediency, let alone a negation of leadership. He, or rather his officers, are doing precisely what the law and custom of this land says they should be doing – investigating the complain they received in a thorough and exacting manner.

You seem not to quite understand that half an investigation here is of no value to anyone, least of all Tony Blair and his staff.

If Yates of the Yard leaves absolutely no stone unturned in his inquiries (not ‘ENquiry ‘, Frank – yours pedantically) and finds no evidence of wrong-doing, then Blair will be fully and completely exonerated of all allegations. If, however, the investigation is seen to be anything less that thorough and exacting and no prosecutions ensue due to ‘lack of evidence’ then while Blair and others maybe exonerated in the eyes of the law, public doubts will remains and, most likely, become stronger than ever, having been fueled by conspiracy theories that will inevitably spring up in the wake on such an incomplete resolution to this affair.

If Blair et al are ‘clean’ – in legal terms – then its in their best interests for this investigation to proceed and be completed in as full and thorough manner as possible – only if they’re not is Yates of the Yard’s dilligent perfomance of his duties going to be a problem, one that will not go away if its seen that the good Inspector has been in any way constrained in the performance of his duties by outside political influences.

During Ian Blair’s watch the nature of the terrorist threat to Britain has fundamentally changed. Irish terrorists were about destroying buildings, usually after giving a warning. The nature of the threat posed by Islamic extremists is carried out by suicide bombers. What none of us know is when the next outrage is going to occur.

Nor is the threat, awful as it is, confined to such horrors visited on innocent individuals. An explosion of a dirty bomb could make parts of London uninhabitable for decades or more. Such an explosion would bring down more than the surrounding buildings. Twenty per cent of Britain’s income comes from the financial services sector. A dirty bomb would see much of this industry leave our shores. At a stroke our national income would be reduced from being at the top of the league of advanced countries, to the bottom, with huge repercussions for income and employment levels.

Likewise, bombing the Thames barrier at a record high tide with strong incoming winds would not only flood Canary wharf. Such an attempt would result in a pack of financial lemmings scuttling from our shores with the same devastating effect on national prosperity as a chemical or dirty bomb attack.

No, stop, Frank. You’re scaring me…

Have you ever thought of applying for a job as a scriptwriter on ’24’?

It is against the need to try and prevent a catastrophe on this scale for our country that I continue to question the use of police time over the alleged sale of honours. I know it’s much easier for the police to chase a somewhat old fashioned crime as the alleged sale of honours than to try and foil the next, and then the next, terrorist outrage.

Of all the many things that scaremongering about ‘terrorist threats’ has been used to try and justify, this is by a long distance, the most contemptible – so much so that words fail me.

Well, not quite, as there are many words I could use here but as I’m consciously exercising a little more self-restraint than usual in the knowledge that some Party colleagues find my occasional forays into streams of inventive invective a tad off-putting – and I want this recieve the widest audience possible – I am rather more (self) contrained that usual in my remarks.

The commissioner has put what we are told is his most gifted senior policeman onto this task but it is these very gifts that we need to employ trying to keep ahead of the new terrorists. Given the choice between ruffling some feathers of the smaller creatures at No 10 for perverting the course of justice or reinforcing the unglamorous daily grind of trying to protect the security of our country, Ian Blair’s judgement looks eccentric, to put it mildly.

No, Frank. It’s you efforts to justify the softpedalling of what is, for the time being, at least, still a criminal investigation by raising the false spector of explosive-laced Jihadis wandering unchecked around London that is, to put it mildly, eccentric.

Insane might be a better term, were it not that I think that you know precisely what you’re doing here, so terms like ‘disingenuous’, ‘intellectually dishonest’, ‘duplicitous’, deceitful’ and ‘shifty’ would seem to me to be rather more apposite of your arguments.

Quite where you are coming from here, is, I must confess, something of a puzzle to me. As far as internal dissention goes, those perennial dissenters of the ‘traditional left’, like Jeremy Corbyn or Bob Marshall-Andrews, them, I get. I understand pretty well where they’re coming from, how they see things and the beliefs and values that motivate them to act as they do – and in some instances I’m happy to admit that I’m not at all unsympathetic to some of the opinions.

You, on the other hand, I find perplexing. I can well recall your early days in government, back when you were the political ‘superman’ who would modernise the welfare system singlehanded, only then to become a busted flush within a year or so of becoming a junior minister.

Now, when you’re not sniping from the backbenches you’re hanging out with your new found friends at the Thinktank ‘Reform‘, which professes to to be an “independent, non-party think tank whose mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity.” but looks altogether more like a typical free-market Tory glee club to me and others who still subscribe to the view that if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck…

My you do have some interesting friends there, Frank.

There’s Christopher Gent, the former Chairman of Vodaphone and current Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, for starters.

And what about Sir Douglas Hague, Economics Advisor to the Prime Minister from 1979 to 1983?

Err, hang on there. 1979-83? Care to remind us just exactly who was the Prime Minister at the time, Frank?

I guess Ruth Lea, Director of the Center for Policy Studies (founders Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher) will need little introduction – she’s on Question Time enough for starters. She’s also, in case you hadn’t noticed, sufficiently involved in the right-wing pressure group, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, to have been a signatory to letters from the ‘Alliance’ sent to the FT and Telegraph and didn’t she once head up the
Now there’s nothing wrong with that – Lea’s political leanings are hardly an unknown quantity – but it does seem that you’re keeping somewhat curious company of late, including Stephen Pollard, of whom little needs to be said other than that were Blogger4Labour to run a poll for the man most likely to ship off and join the Tories once Blair goes, then its fair bet that Pollard would come in clear winner – and I ahte to say it, but on recent performance, you might well come in a not too distant second.

I could go on and pull out the details of a few of the other ‘Reform’ notables, say…

Tim Congdon – Politeia (along with Letwin, Maude and ‘Two Brains’ Willetts ) and Taxpayer’s Alliance (again), or

Prof. Anthony O’Hear – another special advisor, on education, to the Thatcher government and a noted social conservative, or

Patrick Minford, who has a Tory ‘rap-sheet’ as long as your arm – former Vice President of the Monday Club, currently on the Council of Conservative Way Forward, whose members include Thatcher, Tebbit, Parkinson and IDS, amongst others, and fair bit else besides.

As I said, Frank. Curious company you’re keeping these days?

Look, I know it’s not ben easy for you.

At one time you could have been a contender but since you got thrown off the waterfront all you’ve been able to is drag your bedraggled political carcass over onto Sunset Boulevard to play the Norma Desmond of the backbenches, so I suppose I should have some sympathy for you.

But you see, there’s this nagging question at the back of my mind that’s bugging me, because I can’t quite put my finger on the answer…

Who’s side are you really on here, Frank?

UPDATE: Apologies to Manic for filching this out of his comments but…

He’s [that’s Frank, btw] just replied to me with this: “Tony Blair ruined my career. I owe him nothing. So don’t bother your silly little head in thinking I put any arguments forward to save Mr Blair.”

Posted by: Manic at January 23, 2007 12:20 PM

Okay, that clears that one up… I think?

3 thoughts on “Sunset Boulevard

  1. Of course, to expect anything else from the man who once said selling peerages was a “nusciance” that “needed to be seen in context” would be hoping for too much.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t homeland securty (not to sound too American) handled predominately by MI5?

    And, just to pick a few more holes the arguement of Frank, surely the police, even inside of Scotland Yard, are seperated into departments? So the counter-terrorism department are clearly better equipped to look out for Frank’s highly trained, lethally equipped Islamic terrorists police personell trained in investigating fraud and other financial matters?

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