The game of British politics, empire and the attendant gravy, used to be the domain solely of British gentlemen. Think ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ Governor Swann, Lord Beckett, Norrington and the East India Company.
By and large, the British gentlemen were second and third sons, who inherited nothing, and had to go out into the world and make their own way, their own name and their own fortune. Any way they could. With all roads leading back to the nascent City of London.
Then, in the nineteenth century, Great Britain got all democratic on itself, and offered ordinary citizens the vote (well, men first; women a good while later – no-one’s perfect).
This trend towards allowing ‘normal’ folk into the establishment, and its associated treasures, became embedded during the First and Second World Wars, when men of all class fought and died alongside each other in huge numbers, and in common cause.
Culminating in the Swinging Sixties. Think ‘Austin Powers,’ Michael Caine in ‘Alfie’ and the better ‘Italian Job.’ Groovy, working-class hippies getting stoned alongside toffs in their blazers.
But, at this time – that is, the Sixties and Seventies – although toffs no longer owned the establishment and its benefits alone, they still regarded themselves as a class apart.
They hung out in their exclusive clubs, from Parliament to the greystone manses in Pall Mall and St. James, commiserating, plotting. And there was much to plot about.
For these gentlemen were scared. Their politics were all pretty much restricted to a spectrum working its way rightwards from center-rightish to loony-tune-get-out-a-teles
What they were terrified of was what they saw as the rise of trade unionism and socialism, and its natural and imminent metamorphosis into Godless communism and dictatorship of the unwashed.
At which point, back up a tad. For sure, the British gent liked to think he was still solely in charge. And, to maintain the pretense, spent much of his time, evenings especially, gathering in various, restricted gentlemen’s circles in the posher parts of London, primarily Mayfair.
Some of the circles were quite benign. Gaming clubs. Bridge, poker. My mate, Hugh Simmonds, the subject of my book, played bridge with the likes of senior Tories such as Iain Macleod, in a gaming club in Curzon Street.
Mind you, he also spent not a little time hanging out at another gentleman’s club, known as MI5 (domestic British Intelligence), which, at that time, also had its HQ in or around Curzon Street.
A well-known card player in gentlemen’s circles, one Lord Lucan, disappeared, never to be found, in 1974, after allegedly murdering his nanny. The belief is that one or other of his gentlemen’s circles helped to spirit him away.
Benign, or not so benign, in the Sixties and Seventies, the establishment in London was awash with interconnecting gentlemen’s circles, all of whom felt themselves immune to the encroachment of ordinary citizens and the rule of law.
Card-playing circles, gentlemen’s clubs, networks for homosexuality (then, still illegal) and child abuse. No-one is suggesting that Jeremy Thorpe, former Leader of the British Liberal Party, who was accused in the mid-Seventies of attempting to murder his alleged gay lover, was connected with child abuse. But all of these gentlemen’s circles interconnected. And Jeremy was every inch the gentlemen.
Lord Lucan spirited away. Jeremy Thorpe involved in a plot to save his political career. Secret parties in various parts of London, for male members of the establishment, to engage in child molestation. And most of these circles overlapping with the most secretive gentleman’s circle of all. No, not Masons. Although, those too. Nope. British Intelligence.
When gents no longer controlled the overt levers of power, they sought solace in covert. For many a year, MI5 and MI6, and all manner of other initials and numbers, were the almost exclusive preserve of gentlemen. Who felt no allegiance other than to their own concept of what the nation and empire should be.
So it was that, in the Sixties, and moving into the Seventies, when the gentlemen of the London clubs and circles felt themselves threatened by the advance of socialism, the open socialism of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the pinkish Toryism of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, they took it upon themselves to begin plotting against their government.
Intelligence officers mixed with City gents, loony-tunes, defense contractors and the like, to make arrangements in the event of left-wing takeover. Even to pre-empt takeover. Sometimes in discussion groups, like the right-wing Monday Club. Or in more sinister paramilitary organizations.
Nothing came of the plotting. But networks were established. The primary duty of the Intelligence services to protect Queen and country, had been replaced by a more subjective goal of furthering the interest of the Intelligence services themselves. One became conflated inextricably with the other.
And so it was that these networks conspired to bring Margaret Thatcher to power. And she, in her gratitude, extended to the Intelligence services carte blanche (and a big hefty budget) to do her, and their, bidding.
One of the first things that Thatcher realized upon her accession was that the medicine she believed was necessary to restore the country’s public finances to health would almost completely devastate what was left of Britain’s manufacturing industry.
She needed something to replace it. She turned to arms manufacture. By the end of her time in office, Great Britain had become the world’s Number 2 arms exporter (it is still Number 5), and one in 5 of the British population was associated in some fashion with supporting its arms industry.
Britain’s embassies became international sales offices for British arms. And the Intelligence services were used to scout out potential buyers.
If you want to succeed in the long-term at arms sales, you can’t just deal with legitimate customers. You have to sell to the bad guys, too. And you can’t do that by the front door.
So, a whole backdoor arms sales operation was established. My mate was involved, among other tasks for British Intelligence and Margaret Thatcher, with setting up the money-laundering for this backdoor.
Another facet of the backdoor was a group (yes, another gentlemen’s circle!) called the ‘Savoy Mafia,’ so-called for its proclivity for holding meetings at the posh Savoy Hotel in London.
The ‘Savoy Mafia’ was a collection of Intelligence officers, arms dealers, senior Tory politicians, defense contractors, city gents, and civil servants, with direct lineage from the right-wing groupings of the Sixties and Seventies plotting against socialism, the primary tasks of which was secretly to arrange some of the more sensitive backdoor arms deals, and to plough illicit profits and commissions back to its members, including Margaret Thatcher’s husband and son.
It is the contention of my book that my mate was intimately involved in arranging the most secret of those deals: the one that benefited Margaret Thatcher directly.
Now, while all this was going on, Thatcher, in her feverish attempts to balance books and make money for Britain, got all chummy with the new Republican US President, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan had a problem. He wanted to do all manner of naughties around the world, kinda-sorta to bring down Soviet communism, but he couldn’t. Because of the need for congressional oversight. No problem, said Thatcher. We’ll do it for you. For a price.
And so, she hired out Britain’s military and Intelligence services to do America’s covert dirty work around the globe. Assassinations in the Lebanon. Arms deal with Iran. Killing Soviets in Afghanistan. You name it. British Intelligence or its military were there doing it.
We now know that this dirty work continued through the Blair Prime Ministership (Blair’s support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq; British complicity in CIA torture), and possibly into the Prime Ministership of David Cameron, who has made international arms sales the cornerstone of his government’s export policy, and maintains the closest relations with President Obama.
So what? Well, again, back-track a bit. In the Eighties, we have British intelligence (mostly still those pesky British gents, but as social mobility increased through the Nineties, Noughts and Teens, a few more oiks, here and there), we have British Intelligence openly involved in money-making ventures with arms sales and other activity on behalf of the US.
In other words, these gents circles. Which originally ran the empire. Then through circles in London, in the Sixties and Seventies, played games with each other, nasty sex games, harmless card games, and pointless plotting games. Morphed in the Eighties into a much more dangerous Intelligence-based activity, executing covert foreign policy, wielding influence in political circles domestically, and making obscene amounts of money to keep all the wheels greased.
They felt themselves beholden to no-one but themselves, and they would do anything to protect their power and the huge amounts of money they had made and were still making. An imperative which became even more ingrained when the whole secret power-wielding, private money-making enterprise took off tenfold as President Bush and the CIA declared their War on Terror, a War undertaken in the main by surrogate nations and private corporations, and funded by hundreds of billions of dollars.
My book sets out a scenario which suggests that Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership came to an abrupt end because he dared to impose his own man as head of MI6, against the wishes of the gents in Intelligence.
And these gents now feel threatened. Again. Allegations are coming to light about some of the uglier aspects of the games their gentlemen forebears played in the Sixties and Seventies. Allegations about parties for gents and their interest in child abuse.
There is already suggestion that British Intelligence tried to interfere with investigations into the latter. But why? What business should it have been of theirs?
Because they realize that investigation of one of those circles might lead, through interconnection, to revelation about all of them. Up to the present day and the enormous, corrupt influence they wield in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall.
We’ll see if commercial publication next June of my book (under the title ‘Maggie’s Hammer’), which expands on all of the above, has any success in advancing revelation …