Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tory Arms Corruption - The Next Phase?

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has now finished his appointments to the first full Conservative Government in 18 years (for the past five years, the Conservatives were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who may - or may not - have had some restraining influence on the Tories pursuing their quest for kickbacks from arms deals, legal and illicit).

What was clear, even during the past five years, was that David Cameron saw arms exports as an important element of his plans for economic recovery in Great Britain. What is also clear, at least to anyone who understands how arms-exporting works in countries which rely heavily on arms exports for earnings (Britain still ranks as the world's No. 5 arms exporter, and roughly one in five people employed in Britain are in some fashion connected to arms sales), is that, if you want to be taken seriously as an arms exporter, you have to be willing to deal under-the-table as well as over it.

In any event, the point of this post is to comfort any of you who might have been worried about Our Dave's re-conversion to compassionate conservatism. It's ok, guys. It apparently does not extend to arms deals and arms kickbacks. After an 18-year hiatus, it seems that Dave has put a very high-powered team of Ministers in charge of arms sales - and um, the attendant goodies.

First up, Francis Maude. He is the first give-away. Here is a guy who has the political pedigree to be a Cabinet Minister. So, why has he been made a lowly Trade Minister?

Answer: because that role puts him in charge of the Export Credit Guarantee Program, and keeps him under the radar. Sort of. So, what is the ECGP? It is the Program which underwrites the loans commercial banks make to countries which are buying weaponry from British companies.

Gerald James, former Chairman of controversial British defense contractor Astra, is on record as saying that, in the Eighties, Margaret Thatcher used the Program as a piggy bank to build up Britain's defense industry. Underwriting was granted to tinpot dictatorships like Iraq, in the absolute certain knowledge that those countries would renege on their loan obligations, and the British taxpayer would pick up the bill. According to Gerald, to the tune of some £10 billion a year in the Eighties.

Is Francis up for the job? Oh yeah. This man is a definite Keeper of the Secrets. He's known where the skeletons have been buried ever since he was a finance minister for Thatcher herself. Plus Dad (Angus Maude) had military intelligence written all over him. Was a part of the sordid interface between intelligence, the City and the right-wing in the Seventies. And was a prime backer and confidante of Thatcher.

Next up, the man actually responsible for arms sales, who has, in fact, held the position since 2012, one Philip Dunne, is ridiculously establishment, of the most elitist clandestine variety. Daddy was the Queen's Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, and was appointed Knight Garter by the Queen. Family owns farmland just down the road from the SAS base. Philip is Eton and Oxford. Background not only in farming, but also in banking. Yawn. Another Keeper of the Secrets.

Finally, Grant Shapps. Now, all the narrative is that young Grant got demoted because he's a sleazebag, who liked to use fake cover names, and 'adjust' his entries in Wikipedia. Sigh. Oh ye of little faith and understanding. Haven't you ever watched those movies where the hero spy is cashiered and humiliated, so that no-one pays any attention? For sure Grant is a cad. For sure Dave had to get rid of him. I mean, what do you do with such an obvious opportunist and sleazebag? I know. Make him Minister of State at the Department for International Development. Which position just happens to be responsible for the process that not only vets foreign countries for aid, but also vets them for the ECGP, when it comes to arms. Hello.

So. All the evidence appears to be that the Tory Arms Corruption machine is back and in the highest gear. Just in time for the publication of the book ...