Proposals submitted to the House of Lords Sub-committee on Members Conduct
It would be helpful to the general public, and perhaps also to members of the House, to consolidate the Code and the Guide into a single document.
Paragraph 1, add at end: “Membership of the House is, above all, a summons by the sovereign to the service of the state. Members are unelected and once appointed may sit in the House for life, a provision which is almost unique in the world’s legislatures. The public are entitled to expect that members should adopt the highest standards of personal conduct, both inside and outside the House.”
Paragraph 2: omit final sentence, which adds nothing to the Code and which is not necessarily true. Some members of the House have had long membership of the other place and may have little relevant experience outside Parliament.
Paragraph 3a: omit all after “them” in line 2 and replace with “ the Code does not extend to conduct outside the House except as provided in paragraphs 8, 9, 16 and 17.”
Paragraph 3b: omit all after “in” in line 2 and replace with “the House.”
3. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is:
(a) to provide guidance for members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them. in the discharge of their parliamentary duties; save for paragraphs 16 and 17, the Code does not extend to members’ performance of duties unrelated to parliamentary proceedings, or to their private lives; The Code does not extend to conduct outside the House except as provided in paragraphs 8, 9, 16 and 17.
(b) to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which members of the House of Lords perform their parliamentary duties. the House.
Paragraph 8b: replace with “should act always in accordance with the Principles of Public Life, as currently defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.”
Paragraph 8c: omit “any financial inducement” since incentives and rewards may be non-financial.
Paragraph 8d: It might be simpler and clearer to prohibit members from taking any action within the House as the agent of any outside party, whether paid or not.
New text: 8. Members of the House:
(a) must comply with the Code of Conduct;
(b) should act always in accordance with the Principles of Public Life, as currently defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life;
(c) must never accept or agree to accept any financial inducement as any incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence;
I think that it would be an excellent idea to add a new sub-paragraph to paragraph 8 as follows:
(x) must never attempt to use their status to secure any kind of personal advantage or treatment by means which would not be available to a member of the general public. The House will view with particular severity any attempt by members to use any such means in the pursuit of a complaint or a grievance.
In adopting this the House would set an excellent example to other people in public life, especially those who use the sentences “Do you know who I am?” or “I know your editor.”
Paragraph 9: Make the Principles directly enforceable on members and omit reference to personal honour. Omit all after “Public Life” in line 2 and replace with: “Members may face investigation of allegations of conduct inside or outside the House which might be thought by a reasonable person to be in breach of the Principles, and may be sanctioned if the allegations are upheld. These Principles will also be taken into consideration when any allegation of breaches of the provisions in other sections of the Code [or the Guide to the Code] is under consideration.”
Paragraph 16: what happens to peers sentenced to over one year’s imprisonment?
Paragraph 17: add references to disqualification as company director, and disqualification or suspension from the exercise of any profession, trade or vocation. Why should people who cannot run a company be allowed to run the country? Peers are expected to represent the highest standards of their professions – those who fall short should face the possibility of sanctions.
Paragraph 23: insert after “Conduct” in line 2 “or any officer or servant of the House” At end insert: “”No member should approach any complainant directly or attempt to exercise influence over any complainant.”
New text: 23. No member shall lobby a member of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct or any officer or servant of the House in a manner calculated or intended to influence their consideration of a complaint of a breach of this Code. No member should approach any complainant directly or attempt to exercise influence over any complainant.
Paragraph 25: add after “regard” in line 3 “provided that he or she has given complete and accurate relevant information about the matter to the Registrar.”
25. A member who acts on the advice of the Registrar in determining what is a relevant interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct in that regard, provided that he or she has given complete and accurate relevant information about the matter to the Registrar. However, the final responsibility for deciding whether or not to participate in proceedings to which that interest is relevant rests with the member concerned.
It may be thought highly unlikely that any peer would try to nobble an Officer of the House, or threaten a complainant, but it is as well to deter such conduct by a reference in the Code, and it would bolster public confidence in the House.
For similar reasons, I would suggest that the Code introduce an in terrorem provision against members who wilfully mislead any Officer or servant of the House on any issue.
The Guide to the Code of Conduct
Some of the changes recommended above will have consequences for related provisions in the Guide. I have not attempted to track all of these.
In Paragraph 3 or elsewhere I think that it would be good to declare that the House has a bias towards disclosure, and that the Registrar will always recommend registration or declaration of a potential interest unless the member can offer convincing reasons for believing that a reasonable person would not expect it to influence his or her conduct in the House.
Omit Paragraphs 6 to 9 on personal honour: they would become otiose if the Principles of Public Life (which are much more explicit) were incorporated into the Code.
Amend or omit paragraphs 10 and 11 if the Principles became directly enforceable.
Omit Paragraphs 17 and 18: they are superrogatory and paragraph 17 almost invites members to argue that there is no distinction between the public interest and any private interest they choose to represent. “The Shropshire Pig Breeders Association has the right to be heard in the House.”
I think that paragraphs 19 to 28 need a great deal of clarification. I am not certain how to achieve this, but it might be enough to reform Paragraph 8 of the Code, as recommended above, ie a simple prohibition on peers from undertaking any action in the House at the direction of any outside body. It might also be helpful to have a general ban on lobbying by peers, with a definition of “lobbying” thus: to attempt to secure any decision on any matter by any government or regulator or public agency or international organization or any individual acting on its behalf.
On registration of interests:
I find incomprehensible the reference in paragraphs 49 and 52 to declaring “the precise source of each individual payment… confidentiality.” Simple inspection of the Register suggests that most peers also find it incomprehensible. It appears to mean that directors and employees should register all the clients of their companies or employers. But that would render paragraph 60 (my bugbear) otiose. If the House decides to retain the references to an established duty of confidentiality I think that the Guide should spell out the professions concerned. Personally, I think that this should refer only to medical, mental and spiritual professions and only in relation to actual human beings as clients, not to companies and other non-natural persons. As will be seen below, I believe that governments and Politically Exposed Persons have no right to privacy as clients.
Paragraph 60: see separate note. This serves no public interest, and allows a small group of peers the right to ignore the standards of disclosure required of the best public affairs consultants.
In any revision, the Guide should define public affairs and services. Here is an attempt based on definitions commonly in use in the industry, including its professional body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants.
“Although members may not engage in lobbying, as defined in paragraph x above, they are not prohibited from providing or assisting the provision of other public affairs advice and services. For purposes of this paragraph, this means any advice or services aimed at improving a client’s relationship with and potential influence over any government or minister or public official or regulator in any country; any international organization; any person or body seeking to influence voters in any country; or any section of the media, or general public opinion, in any country. It includes any training or education aimed at assisting any of these objectives.”
Then provide as follows: “Any member who is a director or partner in any organization providing public affairs advice and services should list all of its clients in the Register, indicating with an asterisk any clients for whom they provide any personal advice or service and any clients whom they have introduced to the organization. Any member who is an employee of such an organization should list in the Register all the clients for whom they provide any personal advice or service and any clients whom they have introduced to it.”
Category 7 I think there is a risk in asking peers to declare only visits “substantially arising out of membership of the House.” Most peers, if not all, have done something else in life, and they can always claim that they were invited in that capacity. This allows peers to withhold potentially embarrassing visits from the Register. For example, if Lord Emsworth wanted to hide his luxurious hospitality from the government of Repressia he could claim to have been invited as President of the Shropshire Pig Breeders association.
I think that peers should declare all overseas visits – or subsidies for an overseas visit – worth £500 or more if paid by the host or any third party other than his or her employer.
There is a curious anomaly that if Lord Emsworth made a speech in Repressia he would have to disclose this, and his subsidized visit, in Category 2. I see no reason for the House to favour shy, silent peers.
An identical argument applies to gifts, benefits and hospitality under Category 8 “which relates substantially to membership of the House.”
New provisions on registration of interests
I think that a new category should be established for members to declare any payment or benefit they receive from any overseas government or public agency or any Politically Exposed Person (as defined in statute) in any overseas country. The public deserve this information. Most but not all of it can be obtained laboriously from the present Register. It would be a great convenience to the public to bring this together in one place, and to allow the public quickly to discover all the peers who have a beneficial relationship with any particular overseas country.
In view of the beautiful language of the writ of summons, there is a case for arguing that peers should not have any such relationship. If they do, they should certainly disclose it.
A draft of this new category of registration follows in the Appendix.
I believe also that peers who are directors or partners in non-British businesses should declare the nationality of the business concerned. There is scope for argument over this in any case, but to me it means the country where the ultimate head office of the company is located (and/or where it is domiciled for taxation purposes.) The public should be able to discover quickly which peers work for say, Russian companies or those registered in tax havens.
For the convenience of the public, members might be asked to declare simultaneously on the Register any donations they are obliged to declare to the Electoral Commission.
Paragraph 110 omit last sentence and matching provision in Paragraph 114. If they have any effect, they may deter complaints from whistleblowers who are within the power of an offending peer. In the case of any reasonably serious allegation, I can see no reason why a peer should know the identity of a complainant. Even if the complainant is malicious or vindictive, the allegations he makes may be true, and if the Commissioner decides to ask questions about them, the peer should be ready to answer them.
Paragraph 121 I think there should be an obligation on peers to inform the Commissioner if they are investigated for any reason by the police or any regulatory agency in any country or by their relevant professional body. Peers should keep the Commission informed of the progress of the investigation. The Commissioner would then decide whether to initiate an inquiry herself. Regardless of her decision, I believe that the House should give itself power to act against any peer who has been sanctioned by the Electoral Commission. If a peer cannot comply with the basic rules of British democracy, he or she should lose the right to influence the law or public policy.
Draft new category of Registration of Lords Interests
Category X: Foreign Governments and Politically Exposed Persons
Members should list under this category any financial or other valuable benefit worth £500 or more which they (or their spouses or civil partners) have received from any overseas government or a Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) in any overseas country. They should list the value of each benefit so received, its nature if non-financial (for example free or subsidized hospitality) and the source. They are not obliged to declare the reason for which the benefit was given, unless it is in connexion with public affairs advice or services (as defined in paragraph y).
Members who are directors or partners in any business which has supplied goods or services of any kind to the value of £1000 or more to an overseas government or Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) should list under this category the businesses and the customers concerned. Room for argument as to value
Members who have a personal working relationship as employees of any business with any customer who is an overseas government, or a Politically Exposed Person (or his or her close family members or known close associates) should list under this category the business and customers concerned. For sake of completeness
An overseas government includes any official or public agency appointed by national government, but not a local authority, and bodies appointed by or accountable to local authorities.
An overseas government does not include any international organization but members may be liable to declare any financial or other valuable benefit received from a senior officer of such an organization acting in a personal capacity, if he or she is a Politically Exposed Person.
A Politically Exposed Person and his or her close family members or known close associates mean anyone within the definitions used in any current legislation or regulations. A PEP would generally include any head of state or head of government, minister, senior government or ruling party official, member of a national parliament or assembly, high-ranking military officer, ambassador, or justice of the highest court in any overseas country. It would also generally include any senior official of an international organization. Doubtful cases should be referred to the Registrar. Close family members include parents, spouses and civil partners, children and their spouses or civil partners.
Definition of Politically Exposed Person
Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017
12) In this regulation— (a) S.I. 2007/2157. 42 (a) “politically exposed person” or “PEP” means an individual who is entrusted with prominent public functions, other than as a middle-ranking or more junior official; (b) “family member” of a politically exposed person includes— (i) a spouse or civil partner of the PEP; (ii) children of the PEP and the spouses or civil partners of the PEP’s children; (iii) parents of the PEP; (c) “known close associate” of a PEP means— (i) an individual known to have joint beneficial ownership of a legal entity or a legal arrangement or any other close business relations with a PEP; (ii) an individual who has sole beneficial ownership of a legal entity or a legal arrangement which is known to have been set up for the benefit of a PEP.
(13) For the purposes of paragraph (5), a reference to a business relationship with an individual includes a reference to a business relationship with a person of which the individual is a beneficial owner.
(14) For the purposes of paragraphs (9), (11) and (12)(a), individuals entrusted with prominent public functions include— (a) heads of state, heads of government, ministers and deputy or assistant ministers; (b) members of parliament or of similar legislative bodies; (c) members of the governing bodies of political parties; (d) members of supreme courts, of constitutional courts or of any judicial body the decisions of which are not subject to further appeal except in exceptional circumstances; (e) members of courts of auditors or of the boards of central banks; (f) ambassadors, charges d’affaires and high-ranking officers in the armed forces; (g) members of the administrative, management or supervisory bodies of State-owned enterprises; (h) directors, deputy directors and members of the board or equivalent function of an international organisation.
Richard Heller September 2018
The House of Lords rightly expects peers to register and declare any outside interest which a reasonable person might think capable of exercising an influence on their conduct in the House.
Beneath this general obligation, the House wishes peers to list any clients to whom they provide advice on public affairs, or other public affairs services. Again, rightly so. If one reads and takes seriously the beautiful language of the writ of summons one might think that peers should give public affairs advice only to their sovereign. Peers who take money to give public affairs advice to outside interests should take leave of absence from the House. (This might be one convenient way of reducing the present surplus of peers!)
But even if one rejects this purist view of a peer’s duties, it should be beyond challenge that peers should declare to the public any outside interest which benefits from any public affairs advice or services to which they are party. That is the clear and proper intention of the House.
In 2011 the House realized that nearly a hundred peers were evading
this responsibility by hiding their public affairs clients behind the façade of a consultancy. It tried to remedy this in the Guide to the Code of Conduct.
Unfortunately, the House decided to preserve an irrational and unworkable rule that peers were obliged to list only their “personal clients”. I call this the “touting exemption” since it was evidently intended to allow peers to enlist clients for a public affairs consultancy without being obliged to declare them even if they were directors or partners in the consultancy – and even if they were successful in their efforts.
This matter continued to cause difficulties and the House decided to amend the “touting exemption” again in 2015.
This is now paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct. This is a very poor provision in several respects.
60. The types of services covered here are those falling under the broad heading of public affairs advice and services. Where a member receives remuneration from an organisation engaged in such work, the member should list any of those clients with whom the member has a continuing relationship on behalf of the organisation which could not fairly be described as immaterial.
First, it is badly written, relying on a clumsy double negative.
Second, it is actually a step backward from the previous wording. This referred to “public affairs advice and services personally provided by the member”, which is a matter of fact. The current wording makes registration of public affairs clients a matter of judgment – by the peer concerned.
Third, the provision gives unscrupulous peers far too much scope to lie about their personal public affairs clients. A peer can choose to declare Save The Panda as a personal client but continue to hide The Landmine Manufacturers Association behind the veil of his consultancy. House officials have no means of challenging this. Nor have members of the public. Unless by chance evidence of the peer’s activity on behalf of the Landmine Association is publicly revealed, a complaint against the peer will not succeed and will be frustrated by his bare denial.
Fourth, and most important, the whole provision works wholly in favour of peers and wholly against the public. It makes a nonsense of the general obligation for peers to list all the interests which might influence them. To take my previous example, suppose a peer is a director or a partner in a public affairs consultancy. He knows that the Landmine Manufacturers are important clients. He is personally enriched by the profits they generate. Even if he does not directly serve them in the House, he is unlikely to make a fierce speech against landmines there or anywhere else. The public are entitled to know this.
Fifth, the great majority of reputable public affairs consultancies and individual practitioners are members of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), and as such, declare the bare name of all their clients on a public register every quarter. The APPC have told me that this provision has never caused any difficulty. Paragraph 60 has the bizarre effect of allowing peers who are not willing to meet a similar obligation to take a full part in the House. They can run public affairs consultancies and be enriched by all their clients, they can tout for clients successfully, and still withhold the name of clients at will from the public.
Although lobbyists can be peers, the APPC does not allow peers or MPs (or any public affairs consultancies to which they belong) to be members. It believes that peers’ duties are incompatible with public affairs activity for any paying clients. It is curious that lobbyists have higher standards for membership than the House.
I continue to believe that peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy should be required to declare all its clients on the Register of Interests. I would be glad to know why the House thinks otherwise and what merit it sees in maintaining the present position in paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct.
I also continue to believe that the House should adopt a comprehensive definition of “public affairs”, to include all of the services provided by members of the APPC.
From inspection of the Register, I tried to see how many current peers are involved in public affairs consultancies or something akin to them. My analysis is in the Appendix. I was surprised that the number is so low. It leads me to believe that there would be little objection to a tightening of the rules on public affairs and the removal of an obvious anomaly.
Richard Heller June 2018
Under the present wording of paragraph 60 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct peers who are directors or partners in a public affairs consultancy are required to declare on the Register of Interests under category 3 any clients with whom they have a significant working relationship.
Among over 800 peers, I have found just seventeen who have made such a declaration. They are:
Allan of Hallam
Cooper of Windrush
Harris of Haringey
McIntosh of Pickering
Taylor of Goss Moor
It appears to me that Lords Allan of Hallam, Cormack and Taylor of Goss Moor have been especially scrupulous in making such a declaration, since they do not work through a public affairs consultancy. They have declared public affairs advice given to an employer, or to an organization which the member chairs or for whom the member writes regularly.
A number of other peers declare under categories 1 or 2 personal clients of businesses which may not fall within the category of public affairs consultancies, namely
This may reflect advice from the Registrar, or an especially scrupulous approach from the peers concerned.
I have identified another group of peers in leadership positions in businesses which seem to fall under the category of public affairs consultancies who declare no clients. These are
Finally, Lord Rogan lists no personal clients on the Register but has made a full list of clients of his consultancy, Stakeholder Communications, available for inspection through the Registrar.
It is possible that these thirteen peers have acted on advice from the Registrar. Without such advice, they are relying on their own bare assertion that they are not providing public affairs advice or services or that they have no significant relationship with a client.
My analysis suggests to me that the rules on the declaration of personal clients are not well understood by peers and would benefit from clarification. There is a risk of unfairness to conscientious peers.
Second, and more important, any tightening of the rules would affect only a handful of peers. Even if all of these were so enraged as to leave the House it should be able to stagger on without them.
Richard Heller June 2018
A British business leader boycotts Hitler
From The Earl of Woolton’s Memoirs (Cassell 1959)
“In 1938 the world was shocked by the relentless persecution of the Jews in Germany. Many were escaping to this country and to America, including some of the most eminent scholars and scientists in the world. Meanwhile, the ordinary innocent people among the Jewish race were being treated with a sadistic cruelty that was stirring the sympathy of the Christian world and creating both anger and despair that such things could be possible in this supposedly enlightened century – and still more that they could be tolerated by the civilized world.
“When in the spring of 1938 Hitler moved into Austria, I found it impossible to resist making the small effort of protest that a private citizen could make. Lewis’s [department stores] had at that time fourteen buyers in various parts of Germany. I cabled to them, telling them to close their books, honourably fulfil all their contracts, and to return home. A few nights later, I took the occasion of a speech I was making at a Lewis’s sales managers’ dinner at Leicester to express my personal alarm and disgust at what was happening and to say that I thought each one of us individually ought to do what he could to warn the people of Germany of the gravity of the position into which Hitler was leading them. I then announced that as far as Lewis’s was concerned, we should proceed at once to sell all the German goods that were in our stores and that we would have no further trading with German manufacturers whilst the German people continued to tolerate a Government that ‘for no other reason than that of their faith persecuted one of the oldest races in the world.’
“The effect of this speech, which lasted but a few minutes, surprised me. It was what the public wanted someone to say: it gave the individual citizens something to do – a means of expressing their emotions.”
Sir Frederick Marquis, as he then was, infuriated the Chamberlain government. “I was sent for to appear at Number 10 Downing Street, and there handed what is now colloquially called ‘a high-powered rocket.’ I was told that the Prime Minister strongly disapproved of my action and that I had no right to interfere in this manner in the foreign policy of the country. I remained respectfully unrepentant, and said that I should continue to exercise my rights to trade where I would, and to say what I thought.”
Marquis later became famous as the successful wartime Food Minister and promoter of the Woolton pie. He was also a reforming postwar chairman of the Conservative Party, widely credited for his role in its 1951 General Election victory.
Generous and perceptive analysis by John Symons
One year on from the Book-Of-The-Year shortlisted Wounded Tiger: A History Of Cricket In Pakistan, Richard Heller and Peter Oborne return to the topic with a new opus which aims to “celebrate the drama of Pakistan Cricket.” Now, patently, there is a connexion between the two books but this is no series of offcuts or even a sequel but instead a set of short essays of aspects of cricket in Pakistan that could not reasonably fit into a general history but were far too interesting to leave on the discard file.
For an obvious example, there is the case of the “lost” Mohammad brother. Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir are well-known as the four who played Test cricket but what of the unlucky one who didn’t – Raees? Still alive and alert and bearing no ill-will (well, maybe a little) towards those who, in the face of what seem pretty overwhelming evidence of his talent, would not select him at Test level. It is here that we find the first of many references to A H Kardar, who ruled Pakistan cricket at various times and treated it as a kind of personal fiefdom. One feels that there must have been a certain kinship between Brian Sellers, Gubby Allen and A H Kardar in the way that they saw cricket and cricketers.
The principles of selection and non-selection are one of the recurring themes throughout the book. “Billy” Ibadulla had to come to England to be recognized as Test class; Miran Bux made his debut at 47; Israr Ali forced his way into the Test team but had the kind of relationship with Kardar reminiscent of Charles Parker and Pelham Warner. Then there is the magnificently eccentric and ultimately tragic Prince Aslam. Talented but wayward, a Prince whose family fortunes suffered under Partition but a Prince who lived as if he were a rich Nawab; skilled on the harmonica [actually the Pakistan harmonium RH] and prone to perform as a one-man band or arrive late for trains with a pick-up band that he fancied playing along with, he is a character whom no author of fiction would have ever dared to invent.
Legends appear as well. Majid Khan declines to live on past glories but is producing a master plan to restore Pakistan’s cricket back to its heights. Zaheer Abbas, ICC President, talks freely and Intikhab Alam is profiled. Then there are the quirky moments as Tauseef Ahmed recalls how he bowled for a day in the nets at the Pakistan Test team, was invited back the following day as a net bowler, and the day after that found himself as a member of that Test team. The father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrent (if that’s the right phrase) recalls his cricketing days in an interview with Najum Latif and the inevitable A H Kardar turns up on US television on Tell The Truth (no irony intended.)
There are more serious essays on the relationship between Islam and cricket; the brave “suffragettes” of Pakistan cricket who, in the face of sometimes violent opposition, were determined to play the game they loved; cricket under the days of military rule; and the attack on the Sri Lankan tour bus which led to Pakistan being unable to play cricket at home and to decamp to the Emirates.
If, however, you want to find something that encapsulates everything about Pakistan cricket – from the foolhardy, an opener batting in tennis shoes against an express bowler; humiliation, a team losing by an innings and 851 runs; fortitude, a team travelling for nearly a whole day and night to play their first first-class game; an appetite for runs, the experienced team batting on and on until declaring at 910 for 6; and pride, two surviving members of the defeated team speaking in later life of how they felt in representing their team and how they continued to play cricket – one merely has to turn to the account of Railways versus Dera Ismail Khan, still sitting proudly (?) in Wisden as the greatest defeat ever suffered in first-class cricket.
A real page-turner of a book, with nuggets everywhere, and a book to be returned to often and not left on the shelf after a single read.
As served in Rubato Towers
175 ml fresh orange juice
50 ml fresh lime juice OR 225 ml of the two as readymixed by Messrs Tropicana and others
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
15g (small pat) of butter or margarine
Put all these first into the breadmaker. Weigh 475g of strong white bread flour. Put about half of this over the juice and stuff. Then add
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
¼ teaspoon of ground mace
Then add the rest of the flour. Then make a little hole at the top and pour in a whole sachet of fast-action yeast. (Not slacker yeast.) Make sure that the yeast does not hit the salt.
If the breadmaker offers you loaf size select 700g. If it does not, hope for the best. Select a crust if it offers you a choice.
“In your previous issue, Nursery Times must have misquoted the Big Bad Wolf when referring to his ‘vulpine activities’ – unless he was cross-dressing as the Fantastic Mr Fox. A wolf’s behaviour is normally lupine. I am not allowed to get out more because I suffer from intermittent lycanhtropy.”
Former Tory chairman Cecil Parkinson gave the best performance I can remember by a politician responding to results on election night coverage. Cecil was on duty for the Tories in 1997. He did not make the mistake which many losing-party politicians make of trying to put any kind of positive spin on the results. He admitted cheerfully from the start that the Tories were taking an almighty beating.
In those days Labour seats tended to declare results earlier than Tory ones and it took hours before a Tory win actually appeared. I think it was Mid-Surrey. Cecil responded eagerly: “Mid-Surrey! We’re on our way!” He then had a long wait for another Tory win but when it appeared he said “I’m glad we’ve got two. We can have a leadership contest now.”
A true stylist in defeat. Others tonight please follow.
As Denis Healey’s chief of staff during Labour’s suicide-note election campaign of 1983, I attended many meetings of the party’s unwieldy campaign committee first thing in the morning. Chaired by Michael Foot, the committee spent much time debating such urgent topics as the size of lettering on stage sets, and exactly who should appear on platforms and press conferences.
As many others have narrated, a mysterious silent stranger regularly attended the committee. No one could identify him or whom he represented. Some suggested that he was a trade union delegate, others said that he was a stray pollster, and still others identified him as one of Michael Foot’s Special Branch officers. One cynic suggested that he was a debt-collector.
I can now reveal the truth. The mysterious stranger was a 30-year-old Vladimir Putin, then a mid-ranking officer of the KGB as it was still called in that Soviet era. Putin had persuaded his service that if placed within the Labour party machine he could influence the result of Britain’s General Election. Unfortunately, his account of Labour’s campaign committee was too far-fetched for his KGB bosses to believe, and Putin had a temporary setback to his career when they accused him of cheating on his expenses. It was not until years later that he discovered how to manipulate overseas elections from a distance.
At one point, the mysterious stranger broke his silence to murmur: “poddovki”. I discovered later that this is a Russian form of draughts in which the object is to lose all your men as quickly as possible.
Letters to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General about the government’s decision to shield Tony Blair from a private prosecution for his conduct over Iraq
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
The media have reported today that the Attorney General has intervened to block a private prosecution of Tony Blair over the Iraq war. I am not going to comment on the legal points (as reported) behind this decision. I would like to invite you to consider its wider political significance.
As a front-rank politician for many years, you will have noted the general collapse of public trust in government and indeed, many of the major institutions in British life. A major reason behind this is the perception that leaders and senior managers never accept, and are never compelled to accept, responsibility for error and failure. Sadly, the public have seen widespread evidence of this, over the banking crisis, over terrible episodes in the NHS, over examples of massive waste of public funds, over a succession of child abuse scandals. Occasionally, some suitable figure (such as Fred Goodwin) will be scapegoated. But the great majority of those responsible will move serenely into other well-paid appointments or into cushioned retirements and (usually) collect honours for their distinguished service.
Joining the Iraq war and occupation was the worst decision in Britain’s postwar history. It brought our country no benefits, only debt, danger, dishonour and death. As you know well, it has had a baleful effect on British policymaking ever since, and made it harder to secure public acceptance of the need to resist any genuine threat to our country. The Iraq inquiry report, when finally published, was a stark and damning indictment of those responsible, particularly Tony Blair. But no one at all has suffered any penalty in consequence, least of all Tony Blair. After becoming the richest ex-Premier in history by exploiting the experience and contacts he gained as Prime Minister at the taxpayer’s expense, he continues to hawk himself round the world as a statesman and to offer his simpering guidance to the British people.
I will return to Tony Blair but I would like to ask you first whether any person in public service (home, legal, diplomatic, military, intelligence and security) has suffered any kind of penalty for making, or acquiescing in, a bad judgment over Iraq, or conversely, received any kind of reward for resisting such a judgment or offering a correct one. I think that you yourself would find it very instructive to secure an answer to this question.
One other small question: did any person criticized in the Chilcot report accept its intended criticism without demanding a right to respond under the so-called “Maxwellization” process? All credit to any such person, although I suspect the answer is “no.”
Apart from the action on which the Attorney General has intervened, a number of families who were victims of the Iraq war are seeking to make Blair answer charges of misconduct in public office. I hope that the government will allow such an action to go forward so that the families at least have their day in court. If the government does intervene on Tony Blair’s behalf (and he is a very rich person who can afford his own defence) it will reinforce the public perception that their leaders will always look after each other and will never accept for themselves the rules and standards they prescribe for other people.
I would be grateful if you could invite the Attorney General to consider the view that the Chilcot report offers evidence to justify a prosecution of Tony Blair for the common law offence of manslaughter. The current CPS guidance on manslaughter suggests that there are two separate grounds for such a prosecution:
1) Causing death in an unlawful enterprise (akin to causing death by arson) or
2) Causing death by gross negligence of persons to whom he had a duty of care, namely our forces in Iraq and, as head of government of an occupying power, Iraqi civilians. In this case, the Chilcot report would be used to indicate that Blair’s feckless failure to assess and anticipate the risks of the war and occupation fell below the standards of competence expected in his position.
In either case, such a prosecution would re-establish the vital principle that no one in high public office is beyond the reach of the law.
Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC
5-8 The Sanctuary
London SW1P 3JS
I enclose a copy of a letter which your officials may already have received from the Prime Minister’s office.
On the matter concerned, an official spokesman made a somewhat delphic statement that you often intervene in private cases to protect the public interest. I would be grateful if someone could amplify this statement and explain why you believe that it would not be in the public interest for Tony Blair to be brought to court over Iraq. There can be no higher public interest than demonstrating that people in public office are subject to the rule of law.
Of course one wants to ensure that the courts do not pass judgments on political decisions: that would usurp the role of Parliament. But that assumes that those decisions were lawful, that the decision-maker acted within his or her authority and that he or she met the general standards of competence, diligence and integrity which are expected of public office-holders. When there is doubt about any of these points, it is right for this to be tested in the courts. The Iraq inquiry report amply supports such doubt: as I suggest in my letter, it provides double grounds for charging Tony Blair with manslaughter.
Further letter to AG 19 May 2017
I wonder if your officials are now able to reply to the above letter, which is a month old. I have had no reply from the Prime Minister either.
I would be particularly grateful to understand why you consider it in the public interest to prevent a trial of Tony Blair for waging an aggressive war. It seems to me very much in the public interest to give the courts an opportunity to decide whether this is indeed an offence under domestic law. That is a matter which the new Parliament may wish to consider at the earliest opportunity. Or is it your view and the government’s that waging aggressive and therefore unlawful war should not be a domestic offence?
A trial of Tony Blair would also demonstrate powerfully that ministers in our country are subject to the rule of law and face the same standards of criminal responsibility as other citizens.
On this day (April 12) in 1945 Harry Truman became President of the United States, on the death of Franklin Roosevelt. He won a famous re-election victory in 1948 to serve another term in his own right.
Years later Truman was asked by his biographer, Merle Miller, to name his greatest mistake. Truman’s was an eventful Presidency. He could have cited dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, or allowing MacArthur to drift into war with China, or failing to check Joe McCarthy or a heap of other big issues, foreign and domestic. But Truman immediately replied: “My biggest mistake was appointing Tom Clark to the Supreme Court. It wasn’t just that he was crooked (which he was) but he was such a stupid son of a bitch.”
How many current politicians, worldwide, merit the same description?