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Jewish party backing and the policy changes

"An influential coterie of Tory MPs is bent on a foreign policy driven not by Britain's interests, but those of the US and Israel"

2007

 

In spring 1994 Gideon Meir, the number two at the Israeli embassy in London, introduced Tony Blair, then shadow Home Secretary, to Michael (later Lord) Levy, a retired businessman and fund-raiser for Jewish charities. The two seemed to hit it off. Levy subsequently became, amongst other things, a tennis partner for Blair.

A few weeks after this meeting the Labour party leader, John Smith, died suddenly. In the ensuing leadership contest Blair managed to elbow aside his principal potential rival, the more mainstream - in Labour Party terms - but duller Gordon Brown. A ‘blind trust’ was set up which enabled Blair to establish a private office financially independent of the rest of the Labour party and the trade unions: with Levy guiding the north London Jewish business community into giving support to Blair. With this funding Blair’s Opposition Leader’s office was able to employ aides such as Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell. Labour won, as expected, the election of 1997. Although a reported plan by Blair to make Levy a Foreign Office minister was dropped the Israeli-Jewish patronage of Blair was to pay good dividends a few years later with Blair’s enthusiastic backing for the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Iraq. [The Rise of New Labour as the principal source for this section of narrative.]

In an article in October 2006 the Jewish Chronicle noted that “prominent members of the Jewish community are playing a major role in financing David Cameron’s bid for power” and that “a small but influential group of Jewish Conservative officials and politicians were also key players in Mr Cameron’s campaign for the leadership”. One Andrew Feldman (a millionaire through his family textile company) acted as fundraiser for Cameron’s leadership campaign. “Team Cameron” was successful in edging out the more stolid but – for Conservative Party members – more mainstream, David Davis. It rapidly became received wisdom in media circles that Cameron, who seemed to appear from nowhere at the 2005 Tory conference, was the only man capable of saving the party. Feldman, we might note, had met Cameron at Brasenose College, Oxford where they were both in the college tennis team. In December 2005 a Sunday Times article made reference to Feldman as “a Tory version of Lord Levy”.

One might think that this support for a Labour, and also a Conservative leader shows that the Jewish community is even-handed in its involvement in British political life. Well, maybe. On the other hand, maybe not. Cameron has been described as a ‘Blair Mark II’. Blair and Cameron both have a preference for presentation over substance. They each appear to hold their respective political parties in some disdain. Robert Harris, a friend of Blair, apparently said: “You have to remember that the great passion of Tony’s life is his hatred of the Labour Party” (quoted by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in an article in The Observer in February 2001). In a similar vein, judging by his recent comments about grammar schools, David Cameron appears to regard the Conservative Party with some contempt.

And what of Gordon Brown, I hear you ask. Well, as far as I know he doesn’t play tennis. [Brown’s accession to the Labour Party leadership might be regarded as slightly anomalous arising, as it does, from the fact he’s had a reservation ticket on the job for the last thirteen years]. But Brown does have an affluent Jewish friend: Sir Ronald Cohen. Cohen is pencilled in as Levy’s replacement. In an article in March this year the Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne noted that Cohen is a more weighty figure than Levy and said to be ‘a man of high integrity and some intellectual distinction’. In addition to party fund raising, Cohen is likely to be allocated, like Levy, a foreign affairs role.

There is a concern around donations given to the governing Labour party and the Labour government’s approach to the private equity business sector. Sir Ronald Cohen has been a substantial donor to Labour (£1.5m since 2001) and is a leading figure in the private equity world. Gordon Brown has been quite indulgent towards private equity: starting with a significant cut in capital gains tax soon after he became Chancellor. Private equity businesses can be less favourable, however – for example in terms of pension arrangements – to ordinary workers.

Oborne commented on developments thus: “The decade has seen the emergence of a crucial post at the heart of government: private banker to the Prime Minister. It has not yet been formally acknowledged in any of the text books, but it is no longer possible to understand how Britain works without grasping that Downing Street’s Mr Money Bags now occupies what amounts to a massively important new constitutional role”.

It does seem helpful, then, if you aspire to lead a major political party and become Prime Minister, to have a wealthy Jewish friend. Of significance for the wider electorate, however, is the convergence of the major political parties around left wing social liberalism and right wing economic liberalism. The effect of this, arguably, is to deny the people a meaningful political choice. The question which arises is: is Jewish sponsorship of our aspiring leaders a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for this state of affairs having arisen?

***

Sir Ronald Cohen is in the news again over whether he is domiciled in the UK for tax purposes (being non-domiciled would allow him to legitimately avoid paying millions to the exchequer). This is of some interest given that Sir Ronald is a keen supporter of the Labour government which has been increasing taxes on people of modest means.

The Sunday Times reports that: "The Treasury has failed to answer a string of queries from opposition politicians seeking to clarify Cohen's tax status" and that "last week Cohen repeatedly failed to clarify his tax status when asked by The Sunday Times". However, "a senior Labour source claimed it was well known that Cohen was non-domiciled and had assets located offshore". If this is the case, it would arguably be questionable - in a democratic society - for a Prime Minister (Brown) to have a confidant within his inner circle of government who is not domiciled in Britain.

Meanwhile, David Cameron's honeymoon appears to be over with the Conservatives enjoying only a two point lead over Labour (way short of what they would need to win a majority) in a recent opinion poll.

***

And what of Gordon Brown, I hear you ask. Well, as far as I know he doesn’t play tennis.

Although the attire is slightly unorthodox this photo (http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u168/aquafine_album/Browntennis.jpg) suggests otherwise (note also Balls the ball-boy).

Since writing the OP I've come across an interesting article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian in March 22, 2007, entitled "Cameron stands encircled by zealous Anglo-neocons - an influential coterie of Tory MPs is bent on a foreign policy driven not by Britain's interests, but those of the US and Israel". Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is cited as one of this circle as well as "the egregious Michael Gove, the Times columnist and MP for Surrey Heath, a copy of whose Muslim-bashing diatribe Celsius 7/7 is given to every lucky person who joins the CFI [Conservative Friends of Israel (the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have similar organisations)]". I've also spotted that at the World Economic Forum at Davos (a cosy get-together of the world's political and business elites) in January David Cameron made a speech in which he refused to rule out British troops being used in military action against Iran.

Wheatcroft concludes his article: "No one expects Cameron to become the Hugo Chávez of Notting Hill. But if he's serious about winning an election, he could at least begin to forge a foreign policy which, unlike Blair's, is based on the national interest of this country and not another, and which expresses the views of the British people."

Finally, we should perhaps give a mention to the good old Lib Dems. Their maverick peer Jenny Tonge said last autumn: "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party". Senior Lib Dem officials were subsequently said to be "deeply disturbed" by the remarks.

 

PS: One more little thing - ball-boy Balls and George Osborne both reportedly attended the highly secretive annual globalist Bilderberg meeting held in Turkey at the beginning of June.

 

 


 

Cameron stands encircled by zealous Anglo-neocons

An influential coterie of Tory MPs is bent on a foreign policy driven not by Britain's interests, but those of the US and Israel

By Geoffrey Wheatcroft

The Guardian, 22 March 2007

 

Last September, David Cameron queried Tony Blair's unwavering (and unrewarded) loyalty to the Bush administration. The speech made Cameron unpopular in Washington, but that should have done him no harm with the British electorate, given what most of them think of George Bush. Yet however welcome Cameron's apparent turn in foreign policy might be with the public, he has a problem with his own parliamentary party. For years past the Tories have been infiltrated by Anglo-neoconservatives, a species easily defined. Several of the younger MPs are fanatical adherents of the creed with its three prongs: ardent support for the Iraq war, for the US and for Israel.

You might think that the first of those prongs was dented after the disaster which has unfolded. What would have happened if the Tories had opposed the war is one of the more fascinating "ifs" of history; but they didn't, and the moment has passed when they could have adroitly dissociated themselves from the war because of the false claims on which it was begun and the incompetence with which it was conducted.

Even then, Iraq might have made Tories hesitate before continuing to cheer the US, but Stephen Crabb does just that. The MP was in Washington at the time of Cameron's speech, where, he said, there was "disappointment expressed". Many would have taken that as a compliment, but not Crabb, who says in best Vichy spirit: "We do need to be careful about how the Americans see us."

In most European countries there is a party of the right whose basic definition is its attachment to the national interest of that country. Only here is there a Conservative party, and Tory press, largely in the hands of people whose basic commitment is to the national interest of another country, or countries.

There was once a vigorous high Tory tradition of independence from - if not hostility to - America. It was found in the Morning Post before the war, and it continued down to Enoch Powell and Alan Clark. But now members of the shadow cabinet, such as George Osborne (whom even Cameron is said to tease as a neocon), vie in fealty to Washington - and this when US policy is driven by neocon thinktanks and evangelical fundamentalists, with whom Toryism should have nothing in common.

Attempts by younger Tories to justify their allegiance to Washington and Israel are curious. One more from the latest vintage is Douglas Carswell MP, who insists that "it is in our national interest to support Israel". He would never wish to say anything critical of Israel, "because I believe they are a front-line ally in a war against people who wish to destroy our democratic way of life. Others may take a nuanced view. I don't."

This is extreme, but not unique. The Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) are a successful force, now claiming a large majority of Tory MPs as members. It is frankly perverse for Charles Moore to complain in the Daily Telegraph that the Conservatives have gone awry since the good old days, when the natural Tory outlook included "a greater sympathy for Israel than for those who were trying to destroy her", since if anything the change has been the other way round.

When does he think that greater sympathy for Israel was ever a distinctively Conservative position? In the days when I attended Tory conferences, you could be entertained one evening by the CFI, with the late Duke of Devonshire in the chair, but on the next by the Council for Arab-British Understanding and such luminaries as Ian Gilmour and Dennis Walters. Going further back, AJ Balfour was the Tory premier and then foreign secretary who signed the eponymous declaration in 1917 favouring a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and came to favour a Jewish state (as with many gentile Zionists, his attitude to Jews was highly ambiguous; he described privately how uneasy he once felt at a dinner party where "Hebrews were in an actual majority"). And yet his successor as foreign secretary took the opposite view. That highest of high Tories Lord Curzon deplored the Balfour declaration. He thought that a Jewish homeland could only mean a grave injustice to the inhabitants of Palestine. It would inflame hundreds of millions of Muslim subjects of the British empire. And as to the Jewish people themselves and the idea of transporting them to the Levant, "I cannot think of a worse fate for an advanced and intellectual community," Curzon said.

In his day Curzon might have seemed the truer Tory than Balfour, and it's only recently that his spirit has been stifled in his old party. That is all the more so with the arrival of MPs such as Crabb, Carswell, and the egregious Michael Gove, the Times columnist and MP for Surrey Heath, a copy of whose Muslim-bashing diatribe Celsius 7/7 is given to every lucky person who joins the CFI.

Despite these Anglo-neocons, many people would say that endorsing every US action has damaged British interests. As to Carswell's "in our national interest to support Israel", the words are plainly absurd, and his "frontline ally" comment is terrifying. Cameron himself is "proud not just to be a Conservative, but a Conservative Friend of Israel," he says; but does he share Carswell's belief that the British army in Basra and Helmand is fighting on behalf of Israel? And does he imagine that our troops want to be told that? They have enough problems as it is.

What Cameron might by now have grasped is that the position represented by those zealous Anglo-neocons on his benches doesn't actually enjoy much popular support. No US president has been more disliked in this country than Bush the Younger, no adventure more regretted than the Iraq war. Most British people are neither enemies of Israel nor "friends" in the CFI sense. They hope for a just settlement and deplore needless violence: during the bombardment of Lebanon last summer, one poll found that only 22% thought the Israeli response was justified. When Crabb says that the Anglo-US alliance has been "the single most important foreign policy relationship since the second world war", he could also recognise that never since then has the British electorate felt less enthusiastic about it.

No one expects Cameron to become the Hugo Chávez of Notting Hill. But if he's serious about winning an election, he could at least begin to forge a foreign policy which, unlike Blair's, is based on the national interest of this country and not another, and which expresses the views of the British people.

 

- Geoffrey Wheatcroft is the author of Yo, Blair!

 

 




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