The ‘consultation’ on a statutory lobby register may be a window of opportunity
by Stuart Littlewood
The Queen needs a new royal yacht. But the British government says it can’t afford to buy her one. The £80 million for the project must come from private sources.
“Leading British companies will… be asked to donate funds in exchange for naming rights to various decks and facilities on board,” says The Guardian. Does this mean Her Majesty will be seen entertaining in the Goldman Sachs stateroom and sipping daiquiris on the Starbucks sun-deck? Will she shelter from squalls in the Murdoch salon and arrive and depart via the Revlon helipad?
The last royal yacht, Britannia, was a highly successful tool for promoting Great Britain Limited. That being the case, such an important national asset ought to be government funded, not sponsored by tacky brand names.
£80 million is chickenfeed in the great scheme of things. Why are we so hard up that there’s not enough in the public purse to pay for a new boat for our beloved sovereign? One reason, of course, is because for years we’ve been suckered into joining the United States in fighting Israel’s wars of aggression. Given our huge debts it beggars belief that we’re gearing up for another one… this time against Iran… and pushing the oil markets to the edge of panic.
Haven’t we had our fill of warmongering idiocy?
War fever was magnified at the weekend with an announcement that the Ministry of Defence had splashed out another £14 million on building a replica Middle East village in Thetford Forest for training our troops. It’s complete with shops, fully furnished homes, the stench of rotting meat and a bomb survivor with limbs blown off.
The site was originally a replica Nazi village built in 1942, but that was training for a war of a very different kind… a war in defence of our realm and for our very survival.
Why do we get dragged into these illegal and inhuman expeditions to devastate countries that are no threat to us? Because a team of Israel-firsters in our midst think it’s smart to promote the ambitions of a foreign power at the expense of our own national interest and everyone else’s. They have taken command and control of our country by infiltrating the highest levels of government. For example they hold the key jobs in the Foreign Office.
Our watchdogs ought to have booted them out for violating the sacred principles of conduct in public life, but these leeches are now permanently attached while the dogs are de-fanged and petted.
I can imagine just how robustly the criminal regime in Israel is reprimanded by prime minister David Cameron, a self-declared Zionist, by foreign secretary William Hague, an avid fan of Israel since his teenage years, by Alistair Burt a former officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel and now minister for Middle East affairs, and by Ambassador Gould in Tel Aviv who I’m told is the first Jew appointed to that post.
The proposed lobby register
Our coalition government has just provided a glimmer of hope for a solution – an unintended consequence no doubt – by releasing a woolly discussion document on proposals for a statutory register of lobbyists. This is part of a promise to clean up politics and provide greater transparency in the wake of scandals that destroyed the last shred of public confidence in our political system.
The government defines lobbyists as ‘those who seek to influence or change government policy on behalf of a third party’. The document itself says that a register should include information about the names of individual lobbyists and lobbying firms and the names of their clients. “In addition, we propose that the register should include whether a lobbyist was previously a Government Minister or a Senior Civil Servant. The Government does not propose that any information on meetings should be included in a register.”
However, only third-party lobbying firms will have to declare their clients and record former ministers and government officials they have on their books. Firms employing in-house lobbyists needn’t register at all.
The register should also offer the same transparency as provided for Ministers, special advisers and senior officials. The recent Fox-Werrity outrage showed how unreliable that is. It took determined digging by a retired former ambassador to shine light into the dark and sinister corners of that affair.
Tamasin Cave from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, an organisation representing a number of charities, unions and campaign groups, said the proposals “are fundamentally flawed and have the lobbyists’ fingerprints all over them. We need a statutory register to require lobbyists to reveal who is lobbying whom, what they are seeking to influence and how much money they are spending.”
The Independent has already blasted the government for attempting a ‘”whitewash” while campaigners say the move does nothing to clean up the lobby industry’s reputation for forging unhealthy relationships between senior politicians and leading lobbying firms.
Will ministers be required to declare why they are meeting lobbyists or which firms or groups they are representing? Apparently not, says The Independent.
Now’s your chance!
What about those who lobby on behalf of a lawless foreign power? It is vitally important to halt lobby groups like Friends of Israel (Christian, Conservative, Democrats, Labour) in their tracks. Consultation closes on 13 April, so now’s your chance. Members of the public can make their views known to: Statutory Register of Lobbyists, Cabinet Office, Fourth Floor, 1 Horseguards Road, London SW1A 2HQ. Alternatively, email [email protected] marking your response with ‘Statutory Register of Lobbyists’ in the subject field of your email.
Make sure you let the government know that you know what a rotten, treacherous game they are playing. The three main political parties in the UK each have a ‘Friends of Israel’ group to ensure pro-Israel members are embedded at all levels in the British political establishment and at the very heart of government, no matter who is in power.
Campaigners argue that these placemen inhibit the government when it comes to taking a principled stand on foreign affairs issues and especially on matters relating to Israel’s criminal acts.
Or the unjustified ganging up against Iran.
The aim of Friends of Israel is to promote the interests of Israel within the British Parliament. The Israeli regime is racist in its treatment of the Arab population and criminal in its territorial ambitions. The manifestos of Israel’s political parties are horrific. MPs who align themselves with Israel and endorse its practices are contradicting our own anti-racist laws and international and human rights laws.
Should MPs and ministers be acting on behalf of a foreign military power at the expense of our own interests and security? Of course not. They are expressly forbidden to let outside influence cloud their judgment. To do so would breach the second of the Seven Principles of Public Life, namely Integrity – “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”
Yet Friends of Israel lobby groups go to great lengths to influence those in power. Some say that FoI membership is a necessary passport to high office.
But the man in the street is entitled to look at the Seven Principles of Public Life and say that the activities of lobbies like Friends of Israel are against the intentions, both in word and spirit, of those Principles. Disgraced defence secretary Dr Liam Fox was quoted on the Conservative Friends of Israel website as saying: “…We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.” This was when his party was in opposition. Fox presumably spoke for all Friends of Israel in his party (that’s 80 percent of Conservative MPs according to some claims) who were hoping to form the next government. He would have Parliament and the country believe that Israel’s enemy, Iran, must become Britain’s enemy – the sort of dangerous nonsense that could lead our nation to disaster and once again cause hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be shredded and incinerated… Don’t his sort ever learn?
And seldom do FoI members declare an interest when speaking or writing about the Middle East. That is unacceptable in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.
In the United States there are growing calls for the Israel lobby AIPAC, which is so super-powerful that it calls the shots in Congress and has presidential candidates grovelling to Israel’s agenda, to be classified as an agent of a foreign power and treated accordingly.
Double standards prevail
Flotilla: The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (left), takes over from the USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea.
The USS Abraham Lincoln later led the convoy through the Strait of Hormuz yesterday
British warship: HMS Argyll, the Type 23 frigate, which joined the U.S. vessels (file photo)
Under pressure: USS John C. Stennis (L) and USS Abraham Lincoln (R) pictured last week. Yesterday they passed through the strait. Today the EU are expected to impose an oil embargo. Credit images : dailymail,uk
The British government ordered a warship to join the US flotilla steaming through the Strait of Hormuz “to underline the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law”. It’s a response to Iran’s threat to close that seaway if the West imposes an oil embargo.
Royal Navy ships have been patrolling there continuously since the 1980s, but brave Britain hasn’t lifted a finger to keep the sea lanes to Gaza open in response to Israel’s endless illegal blockade and brutal assaults on Gaza’s fishermen and peaceful humanitarian vessels trying to reach the besieged population with aid.
And yesterday the EU announced an embargo on Iranian oil exports, which Britain had been pressing for. It is horribly reminiscent of the bully-boy tactics of the early 1950s, when Britain and America engineered a similar embargo and brought Iran to its knees in order to overthrow the democratic government of Dr Mossadeq and reinstate the hated Shah and his secret police. Why? Because Iran wanted to control its own oil and Britain and the US didn’t like that.
This latest move amounts to another direct attack on Iran’s economic lifeline and smacks of collective punishment and economic terrorism. It will cause hardship to ordinary citizens and further hostility throughout the Islamic world. Nothing pleases Israel more, but why are we so eager to dance to Israel’s tune and damage ourselves in the eyes of world opinion?
Hague said: “Today’s sanctions show how serious EU member states are about preventing nuclear proliferation…” But he and the EU are not in the least serious about nuke-bristling Israel’s refusal to sign up to, or even discuss, non-proliferation. No sanctions there.
Meanwhile hard-pressed British and European motorists are likely to pay a heavy price for this tomfoolery when oil prices rocket. And we are still waiting for proof that Iran has actually done something wrong, are we not? Where does Hague think he’s leading us?
Notice too how the British government’s broadcast regulator has chosen this moment to silence PressTV, Iran’s English-language broadcaster in the UK, by revoking its license and thus suppressing the other side of the story. PressTV was an inconvenient voice that ruffled too many fine feathers among Britain’s bloodthirsty elite. Truth and free speech, as usual, are the first casualties in softening up the public for war.
Author: Stuart Littlewood / www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.
Editing: Debbie Menon
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued a career in industrial marketing.
More recently he worked as a freelance and with innovation consultancies. Psychology degree Exeter University, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor 1993-97 and on the Police Authority. Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Since retiring has been a newspaper columnist and produced two photo-documentary books. He is a regular contributor to a number of internet news magazines.
Stuart’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, tells the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. It can now be read on the internet by visiting RadioFreePalestine.org.uk.
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