The government has illegally attempted to cover up corruption – not over donations to the Labour Party, but over a huge arms deal to a vicious dictatorship.
The high court ruled on Thursday of last week that the Serious Fraud Office acted unlawfully by ending a 2006 corruption inquiry into the £43 billion Al Yamamah Saudi-British arms deal.
BAe Systems, with the approval and knowledge of the British Ministry of Defence, had transferred hundreds of millions of pounds into accounts controlled by Prince Bandar, son of Prince Sultan, the Saudi defence minister.
Prince Bandar visited 10 Downing Street to meet with Tony Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell and demanded the corruption inquiry into this deal was stopped. Blair, of course, complied.
After the closing down of the inquiry, Blair said, “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel and Palestine. That strategic interest comes first.”
The court ruled that the Labour government had violated both British and international law.
The government’s response to last week’s judgment has been to draft legislation that would allow an attorney general to close down such investigations on “national security” grounds. The Tories have backed this draconian plan.
This is not just about the legal conventions broken in pursuit of cash and imperial prestige.
It shows the complete commitment of New Labour to big business and war – and it is just one more example of why we need to urgently build a left alternative.