Perhaps the most interesting thing about an otherwise rather dull shuffling of the deckchairs by David Cameron is the extent to which his two new appointments to the House of Lords, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi, have been greeted with a wholly uncritical and, one might argue, even disingenuous response by the MSM.
The BBC leads the way by quoting Cameron:
“Two of the big challenges facing this country today are security and community cohesion and we now have two leading experts in these fields in Dame Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi.”
Before adding a little biographical detail:
Former Joint Intelligence Committee head Dame Pauline will be elevated to the House of Lords as a working peer, as will Ms Warsi, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin who was Conservative Party vice-chairwoman.
Meanwhile, according to Nick Robinson (about whom I shall have more to say in while):
He’s making Pauline Neville Jones, a career diplomat and former head of the Joint Intelligence committee, a life Peer so that she can become Shadow Secretary of State for Security. Thus, were he so inclined, he could claim that he has a former chair of JIC in his Shadow Cabinet whereas Gordon Brown only has a former deputy Chair of JIC (Admiral West – made the most junior minister in the Home Office last week)
And he’s relieving Sayeeda Warsi, a British Born muslim of Pakistani origin of the search for a safe seat by making her a working peer and putting her straight into the Shadow Cabinet in charge of community cohesion. She’ll be the first Muslim to sit around any party’s top table. Brown, you may recall, hailed his promotion of two young Muslim MPs last week – one became a junior minister, the other a whip.
The Telegraph takes an interesting line – its Chief Political Correspondent, Toby Flood, is effusive in his approval of Neville-Jones’ appointment:
And the inclusion of Dame Pauline Neville-Jones into the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Security Minister and Mr Cameron’s National Security adviser shows he too believes in a having a team of “all the talents” – the idea of involving those outside parliament in providing advice.
Curiously, however, Warsi’s elevation to the peerage fails to merit even the briefest mention from Flood and even though she does get top billing and quick biography from George Jones here (the same article also profiles Neville-Jones and refers to her having chaired JIC ‘between 1993 and 1994’) and a headline to herself here, this last article is, shall we say, rather interesting in the manner in which it juxtaposes two different piece of information:
David Cameron yesterday stepped up the Tories’ modernising drive by becoming the first party leader to appoint a Muslim to an Opposition shadow cabinet.
Sayeeda Warsi, 36, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin who has been nominated for a peerage, was named the 10th most influential Asian woman in a poll this year. At the 2005 election, Mrs Warsi, who is married with one child, was the first Asian woman to be selected by the Tories to fight a parliamentary seat. She will be responsible for community cohesion.
But Mr Cameron’s attempt to regain the political initiative with a wide-ranging reshuffle is undermined by the release of a poll today which shows that 40 per cent of Tory activists are dissatisfied with his performance as leader. In January Mr Cameron’s approval rating was 82 per cent.
Got that? Modernisation = Female Muslim Peer = pissed off Tory activists, and if that weren’t clear enough, the Telegraph goes on to big up the two ‘big beasts’ of the Tory right:
By contrast David Davis, the shadow home secretary, and William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, have the highest approval ratings at 86 per cent in the survey.
The Times heads his report by noting that Cameron’s reshuffle was not without its trade-offs:
David Cameron has tried to make his top team more representative of modern Britain, appointing a woman Conservative Party chairman and axing a fellow Old Etonian.
Aww shame – poor old Dave’s down to his last dozen Old Etonians on the Tory front bench, but otherwise the appointments of Neville-Jones and Warsi are dealt with uncritically:
Mr Cameron appointed Sayeeda Warsi, a 36-year-old lawyer, as the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, as National Security Adviser. Ms Warsi, who is a vice-chairwoman of the party but not an MP, is the first Muslim in such a senior role.
So much for the, notionally, right-wing press, what about the ‘lefties’ at the Independent and Guardian?
The new faces include Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who becomes the Tories’ spokesman on security and Mr Cameron’s personal adviser on national security. She will become a life peer.
Sayeeda Warsi, 36, who will also receive a peerage, becomes shadow minister for Community Cohesion, the first Muslim to hold such a senior post in the Conservative Party. The two appointments mirror Gordon Brown’s decision to bring in outside experts.
Can Warsi really be considered an ‘outside expert’ as a former Tory PPC, One of Cameron’s ‘A-List’ and Tory Party Vice-Chair?
And again, Neville-Jones’ stint with the JIC gets another mention:
DAME PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES, 68, becomes spokesman for security. She is a career diplomat who chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee in 1993-94. She was critical of the Blair government’s use of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. She once said the head of JIC needed to be “someone who can go and tell the Prime Minister ‘The facts don’t fit’.
Even the Guardian is in uncritical mode:
David Cameron last night drafted a Muslim and a former intelligence chief into his shadow cabinet in a reshuffle which demoted several controversial spokesmen and showed his sensitivity to bad headlines. Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative party vice-chairman in her 30s, becomes the first Muslim member of the shadow cabinet as new spokesman for community cohesion. Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, in her 60s, joins as shadow security minister and national security adviser to Mr Cameron in the autumn of a career dominated by service in the Foreign Office.
And yes, you guessed it, Neville-Jones credential are backed-up, yet again, with a reference to her having chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee:
The former head of the joint intelligence committee and political director at the Foreign Office has been handed a peerage and drafted straight into the shadow cabinet as security spokeswoman after impressing David Cameron on one of the party’s policy commissions.
A line that – looking beyond the broadsheets, even finds its way into the distinctly Cameron-unsympathetic Daily Mirror:
To match Mr Brown’s appointment of expert outsiders, Mr Cameron named Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, ex-head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, as his national security adviser.
In truth, there’s rather more to both Neville-Jones and Warsi than one would ever suspect from the uncritical and even rather obsequious media coverage of their appointments:
Neville-Jones’ is universally described as a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, with some newspapers adding ‘helpfully’ that she served in this role from 1993 to 1994, which is technically correct but hardly an exacting account of her tenure in the ‘hot seat’, which lasted for all of five weeks from December 1993 to January 1994, including Christmas. During her tenure as head of the JIC, the exact dates of which I haven’t managed to track down as yet, there were possibly only two events that took place of any real significance to the UKs security agenda; the Downing Street Declaration and the Irish government’s decision to life a 15 year long broadcast ban on the IRA and Sinn Fein.
The precise length of Neville-Jones’ tenure as Chair of the JIC appears to a matter upon which the BBC, in particular, seem rather reticent, given that a brief comment that I posted to Nick Robinson’s blog yesterday evening, which casually mentioned that she’d spent only five weeks in that position, including Christmas, has failed miserably to make it past the Beeb’s
censors, er I mean moderators – quite whether that’s down to Nick, personally, or an unknown and unidentified BBC employee is uncertain as its not entire clear whether Nick does his own moderation or has a personal scutter to do it for him.
UPDATE: Mmm – curiouser and curiouser. When I checked for comments on Nick’s post around lunchtime, there was one or two comments from last night and a handful of largely uncritical comments from this morning. Now not only has my own comment surfaced but also a slew of others, many of which were critical of Cameron’s reshuffle, all from yesterday evening. Not sure quite what to make of that…
Neville-Jones went on from there to become Political Director at the Foreign Office, leading the UK delegation to the Dayton negotiations, which brought about the end of the Bosnian War, during which time, and in an usually sharp display of irony, she was dubbed, Pauline Neville-Chamberlain, by members of the American delegation due to her appeasing stance toward Serbian President and indicted war criminal, Slobodan Milosevic.
She was also, for a time, Milosevic’s banker, along with former Tory Foreign Secretary, Lord Hurd, after both joined Nat West markets after leaving the Foreign Office in 1996 on salaries reported to be in region of £250,000 a year, during which time they enjoyed a very nice breakfast in Belgrade with Milosevic, following which the Nat West obligingly bailed out the beleaguered and cash-strapped Serbian government by assisting with the sale of Serbia’s post and telephone system (PTT) for a mere £10 million arrangers fee, while picking up another nice little earner by way of a contract for debt management services, a trick that Nat West then attempted to repeat at a later date with the Serbian electricity industry only to be cut short in their efforts by the Kosovan conflict and the removal of the Milosevic regime from power.
An article by Francis Wheen, first published in the Guardian in 1998, provides some illuminating insights in to Neville-Jones’ dealings with Milosevic:
Pauline Neville-Jones’s performance last week was even more shameless and disingenuous. Why, Snow wondered, had Britain done nothing sooner about Kosovo? ‘I don’t hold responsibility for that,’ she said, apparently forgetting her earlier admission that the Foreign Office had been well aware of the looming conflict throughout her term as political director. When Snow asked if the Foreign Office was now worried that the fighting in Kosovo would spread to Macedonia and elsewhere, she reminded him that she had retired from Whitehall some time ago: ‘I don’t honestly know precisely what they think today.’ Yet I have it on excellent authority that Dame Pauline was given a thorough briefing by the FO only hours before the broadcast…
At the Dayton peace talks, where Neville-Jones was the chief British representative, she argued energetically and successfully for an end to sanctions against Serbia.
What no one at Dayton knew, but Hurd has since confirmed, is that at the same time she was ‘in touch with NatWest Markets’ about the possibility of a job in the private sector. Hurd himself had become deputy chairman of the bank shortly after resigning as foreign secretary, and Neville-Jones joined him as managing director in July 1996,whereupon they jetted off to Serbia to cash in on the abolition of sanctions. At a ‘working breakfast’ in Belgrade, Milosevic signed a lucrative deal whereby NatWest Markets would privatize Serbia’s post and telephone system for a fee of about $10million. For a further large fee, they agreed to manage the Serbian national debt.
Post-Slobodan, Neville-Jones picked up gigs as Chair of the Audit Commission and a governor of the BBC, in which capacity – and trading heavily on her Foreign Office background and, inevitable, brief stint at the helm of the JIC – she played a significant and unusually active role in the Hutton Inquiry, during which she was heavily critical of
Nick (oops) Andrew Gilligan’s reporting and expressed ‘unease’ about David Kelly’s expertise. Her intervention in both the inquiry, and in internal recriminations within the BBC in its aftermath have been cited by Greg Dyke as having played an instrumental role in bringing about his sacking as Director-General.
Embarassingly, it was later revealed that at the same time she was taking the establishment line in attacking the BBC during the Hutton Inquiry, she was also serving as chairman of the part-privatised British arms contractor QinetiQ (which was formerly DERA, the MODs Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) on a salary of £133,000 per year, which was making tidy sums of money by supplying equipment for Humvees and Black Hawk and Apache helicopters in use by the US military in Iraq.
Based on past form, one would hardly be surprised if were be discovered that Neville-Jones has since diversified her personal holdings into agro-chemicals and propane.
One more thing to watch around Neville-Jones appointment is that she is reportedly a supporter of the introduction of ID cards, which on the face of it puts her at odds with her new boss, David ‘Basher’ Davis – unless, of course, this hints at early preparations for a Tory volte face on their public commitments to repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006, should they take control of the country following the next general election.
Sayeeda Warsi’s appointment is, much like that of Neville-Jones, more interesting for the stories that the MSM are studiously avoiding than for the uncritical biographical information currently being supplied.
Take, for example, Warsi’s unsuccessful attempt to take the seat of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 2005 and her campaign, which featured the now familiar Tory tactic of using different leaflets to target different parts of the community:
A campaign leaflet issued last year when she stood for Dewsbury, and in which she is seen wearing a Western business suit, focused on mainstream Tory issues including Europe — “Sayeeda Warsi believes in putting Britain first”. In a second leaflet, in which she wears a shalwar kameez, her concerns are homosexuality, which Labour is accused of promoting, and the “illegal” war in Iraq, which she says “may lead to further military action in places such as Syria, Lebanon and Iran”.
Warsi denied issuing different leaflets to different areas:
Mrs Warsi says that both leaflets were sent to all homes in the constituency and that she did not tailor her views according to the audience. She told The Times: “I felt it was appropriate to have some leaflets dealing with certain issues and other leaflets dealing with other issues, but they all went to all the electorate.”
But, frankly, such practices were widely enough documented in other constituencies to suggest that one’s best course of action would be to take her denial with a sizeable pinch of salt unless she can provide evidence in support of her protestations of innocence.
As for the views expressed on homosexuality in her campaign leaflets:
In her leaflet Mrs Warsi, the Conservatives’ first female Muslim candidate, says: “Labour has scrapped section 28 which was introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old… now schools are allowed and do promote homosexuality and other alternative sexual lifestyles to your children.
“Labour reduced the age of consent for homosexuality from 18 to 16 allowing school children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.”
Later in her leaflet Mrs Warsi is quoted saying: “I will campaign strongly for an end to sex education at seven years and the promotion of homosexuality that undermines family life.”
Seemingly, Tory Central Office forgot to mention that her own party leader at the time, Michael Howard, had joined the leaders of other major parties in signing a charter promising not to play the homophobia card during the election campaign.
When challenged about the leaflet, Warsi’s response was typically bone-headed:
Mrs Warsi, who has a seven-year-old daughter, stood by her leaflet last night: “It’s a statement I make as I believe it. It is factually correct. Everything in this leaflet is fact.”
Warsi seems to suffer from the usual bigot’s complaint of failing to understand the difference between a fact and a opinion, thus the mere acknowledgement of the existence of homosexuality is categorised both a material fact and as the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality – buy one queer, get one free – as if to suggest that the gay community would cease to exist if only children were brought up in total ignorance.
Presumably in Warsi’s queer-free utopia, anyone who grew up to experience a sexual attraction to an individual of the same gender would go through no more than a moment’s easily dismissed confusion about their feelings.
And, of course, equalising the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual relationship puts ‘school children’ at risk of being propositioned by predatory queers – the only kind of course – because a gay or lesbian sixteen year old is entirely incapable of understanding their own sexual desires and initiating a sexual relationship of their own volition, for which one can only conclude that Warsi must believe that with homosexuality goes an inherent retardation in intellectual and emotional development that’s lacking in heterosexual teenagers.
Warsi, who’s cabinet responsibility is community cohesion (except queers) is also, as the Times article linked earlier demonstrates, not averse to pandering to other prejudicial ideas in her own community:
Sayeeda Warsi, a rising star of David Cameron’s party, said that almost 900 “innocent people” had been “locked up for 14 days” under anti-terrorism laws. In reality, 36 terror suspects have been detained for more than seven days. Of the 10 who were freed without charge, none was held for 14 days.
Mrs Warsi, 34, the Conservative vice-chairman with responsibility for cities, asserted that the tightening of anti-terrorist legislation had turned Britain into “a police state”.
The claims appear in an article that she wrote for Awaaz, a newspaper read by Asians that is distributed in the West Yorkshire towns and cities that were home to the July 7 suicide bombers. Readers were told by Mrs Warsi that the Government’s anti-terror proposals were “enough to tip any normal young man into the realms of a radicalised fanatic”.
Sentiments that rather seem to echo Jenny Tonge’s controversial remarks about understanding why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber, which got her fired from the Liberal Democrat front bench in 2004.
The Times article continues:
Her article asks: “If terrorism is the use of violence against civilians, then where does that leave us in Iraq?” It continues: “Let me give you some facts and figures. To date, 895 people have been arrested under the terror laws, 23 have been charged. So effectively 872 innocent people have been locked up for 14 days.” Yet Home Office figures reveal that 296 of the 895 people arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 before September 2005 were charged, either under the Act or with offences including murder and the possession of firearms and explosives.
Warsi’s, again, having trouble understanding the meaning of the word ‘fact’:
The maximum detention period was not extended from seven to 14 days until January 2004, since when only 36 of 357 arrested terror suspects have held for more than a week; 10 of the 36 were released without charge, of whom 8 were held for less than 10 days. The other 2 were held for 11 days and 13 days respectively.
And her response when confronted with the facts?
She had believed that her detention statistics were correct at the time she wrote the Awaaz article, she said, adding: “I don’t believe that I have to justify everything I write, line by line and word by word.
Oh boy, is she going to be in for a shock when she finds out what ‘fisking’ means.
“It may offend people sometimes but I will speak from the heart and speak the truth. And if speaking the truth is upsetting community relations, then I hold my hands up to that.”
Except, of course, that the statistics she quoted weren’t true, she merely claims to have believed them to be true at the time, and therefore is under no obligation to justify her arguments when her ‘facts’ prove to be inaccurate.
Basically she’s deploying the Blair Defence, the same one used to blow off criticism of the false prospectus presented to parliament in support of the Iraq War – we did nothing wrong even though it was found that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, because we believed he had them at the time we put the dossiers in question to Parliament.
There is a distinct stench of tokenism, misguided expediency and ill-considered one-upmanship surround both appointments.
Despite the media turning a blind eye to Neville-Jones’ track record, it was actually the denizons of Conservative Home that were quickest out of the traps with their concerns about her inclusion in Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet in their rolling coverage of the Cameron reshuffle:
5.56pm: James Forsyth highlights this article by Dr Brendan Simms about Pauline Neville-Jones’ antiquated approach to foreign policy. She was dubbed “Pauline Neville-Chamberlain” by the Americans for her constant appeasement of the Serbs (she opposed intervention in Bosnia and later did business deals with Slobodan Milosevic).
And neither of the two appointment seem to have been interpreted as a good sign for the future.
Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi’s appointments signal the return of realpolitik/ the establishment view on foreign policy. James Forsyth has two excellent posts explaining why on the Spectator blog. Warsi has spoken foolishly about Britain being a police state and Pauline Neville-Jones was part of the Hurd-Rifkind establishment view during the 1992-1997 period of deadly non-intervention. Thank goodness we have Kouchner and Sarkozy over the Channel.
The only political value in parachuting Neville-Jones into the shadow cabinet, other than the rather childish game of one-upmanship being played out by media commentators rests in her having established herself publicly as a critic of the Blair government’s use of intelligence in the run in to the Iraq War, while having been outside politics (and the Tory Party) at the same time. This makes her one of the few outlets that Cameron has for mounting a critique of the government’s actions prior to the 2003 invasion who is not fatally compromised by the gung-ho stance of the Tory Leader of the time, Iain Duncan Smith, although he credibility for that role is hardly helped either by the background to her dealings with Milosevic or the Sir Humphrey-ish establishment line she took in giving evidence to the Hutton Inquiry.
Handing Warsi a peerage and a seat at the cabinet table may well one-up Brown’s Muslim appointments, but based on past form she looks to have all the propensity for public gaffs of Boris Johnson without any of the self-deprecating, Bunterish, public schoolboy act to get her off the hook when she eventually drops a bollock.
What limited appeal she seems to have in Tory activist ranks stems largely from the forthright manner in which she voices her opinions, which is precisely the quality she’s going to have to curb as both a member of the House of Lords and of the Shadow Cabinet if she’s not to be seen as an accident waiting to happen, a concern that Iain Dale is certainly aware of:
Some will see this as the most controversial and risky appointment of the reshuffle. Sayeeda is prone to speak her mind and will need to learn the constraints of collective responsibility, but she knows that.
Dale’s comments are particular interesting inasmuch as he then goes on to observe that:
No doubt her appointment will be viewed with some ambivalence by the more traditional elements, but she’s not there just because she’s an Asian woman – she’s there because she has talent. It’s up to her now to show everyone what she can do.
Which, ot be fair to Iain, is a very diplomatic way of noting that parts of the Tory Party still have some considerable way to go when it comes to embracing Cameron’s efforts to rid the Tories of the ‘nasty party’ reputation on immigration and race relations. What’s not entirely clear from Iain’s remarks is whether he’s aware of Warsi’s views on homosexuality or recalls the furore that surrounded the leaflet she put out in Dewsbury in 2005, unless he’s making a subtle allusion to that in his reference to her needing to “learn the constraints of collective responsibility”.
One way or another, both Neville-Jones and Warsi are going to be enticing targets for the opposition, particularly if Brown is successful in quickly putting to bed the spectre of Iraq, leaving Neville-Jones open to flak over her dealings with the Milosevic regime.
Warsi, meanwhile, can expect to find herself under fire from Labour’s Eustonista’s over her comments about policing and Islamic radicalism, and could well find herself getting ‘shot’ at from both directions if those remarks find their way into the hands of the Daily Mail and Mad Mel Phillips, especially if either camp can recall the comments made by Warsi in the wake of the July 7th 2005 attack on London on the BBC’s Politics Show:
“We have a community in Britain, a Pakistani and Kashmiri community, who holds a very, very strong view about Kashmir and the scope of freedom-fighting in Kashmir …..It would concern me if … the definition of terrorism was to cover maybe (the) legitimate freedom-fight in Kashmir.”
Comments that, again, had to be rapidly disavowed by Michael Howard, which drew this reaction from MPACUK:
MPACUK Comment: Kashmir Freedom Fighters to become ‘terrorists’ says Conservative Zionist Leader Howard. British Muslims from Kashmir prove once again thier incompetence in lobbying the Government or opposition. This is what happens when Muslims do not join political parties to fight their cause from the inside. MPACUK salutes Sayeeda Warsi, a Muslim women who joined the conservatives for the sake of Islam and is fighting this battle while the rest of us sleep.
London – 10 August 2005 – Mr. Michael Howard, leader of the Conservative party, disagreed with comments made in a BBC programme on 20/07/2005 by Ms. Sayeeda Warsi, vice-chairman of the party, stating that new anti-terror laws following the 7/7 attacks in London should not stop support for “(the) freedom fight” in Kashmir. She had further stated that “It would concern me if … the definition of terrorism was to cover maybe (the) legitimate freedom fight in Kashmir.”
The Conservative Party leader in his letter dated 29/07/05 to Hindu council UK disagreed with those comments and stated that the Conservative Party policy does not support either terrorism or freedom fight in Kashmir and wholly supports a negotiated solution between Pakistan and India which is also the policy of the UK Government.
Quite right too – Howard, that is, not MPACUK, however one waits with baited breath to see quite how putting Warsi in charge of community cohesion will play out within Britain’s Hindu and Sikh communities.
And let’s not think for minute that her views on homosexuality went unnoticed either, as those are bound to resurface at some point in the not too distant future.
In fact, one wonders whether it might not just be better to get all this done and dusted as soon as possible – perhaps Iain could arrange for her to share a couch on 18 Doughty Street with Peter Tatchell, Nick Cohen and Mad Mel and get the pain out of the way as quickly as possible.
On the face of it Cameron’s efforts to ape Brown’s ‘government of many talents’ has the look of a disaster in the making and these appointment could easily be thought to be the biggest boners pulled by Cameron on this occasion were it not for the unbelievable decision to leave the wholly ineffective Andrew Lansley – a man who couldn’t even land a decent verbal punch on Patsy Hewiit, with the health portfolio and facing Alan Johnson, in what has to be the biggest mismatch since the days when chucking Christians to the Lions passed for mass entertainment.
Now what were the odds on Cameron not making all the way to the next General Election as Tory Leader?