Saturday, March 11, 2006

Barry Sheerman and New Labour Sleaze

Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield and chair of the Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills, is clearly a peculiarly unobservant or amnesiac individual. He made the risible claim on Radio 4's "The Week in Westminster" this morning that he "hadn't seen much evidence of sleaze" since New Labour swept into town in 1997. He has obviously never heard of, inter alia, Ecclestone, Mittal, Blunkett, Mandleson, Vaz, or Jowell (or Iraq). My own view is that Labour sleaze is far more serious than the sleaze we saw under John Major. Whatever made Al-Fahed think that the way to get things done is to bribe an MP to ask questions in Parliament? It seems almost charmingly naive. Ecclestone showed how to get things done, he went right to the top. And no one suggested John Major was himself implicated in the "cash-for-questions affair"; but Blair was certainly implicated in the Ecclestone affair and clearly lied about the second donation. Mind you, John Major is not such an innocent. He is on the Board of the Carlyle investment group, although I imagine this is a supernumary position. In my view one of the worse New Labour scandals involves the flotation of Qinetiq (the defence research service) which gave Carlyle a huge windfall: they paid £42 million for a 31% share of Qinetiq in 2002 which after flotation was worth £351 million (an increase of around 840%). On the Today programme John Reid tried to defend this by arguing that Carlyle, with its private sector "know-how" had raised the value of the Qinetiq, a claim John Humphrey rightly treated with incredulity. (The religious fervour with which New Labour worships the market matches any fundamentalism in its cretinous devotion). For more about Qinetiq see the article by George Monbiot at
My own view is that the Qinetiq privatisation is the sort of thing that the Serious Fraud Office ought to be investigating.


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