Anji Hunter, a key aide and personal friend of Tony Blair, is set to become oil company BP’s director of communications. She has just left her £120,000 a year post as New Labour’s director of government relations.
Her new appointment to the £180,000 post tightens the existing close links between New Labour and BP, or ‘Blair Petroleum’. BP chief executive John Browne is a close friend of Blair’s. Browne helped Blair out during the fuel protests last year and was rewarded with a peerage, on top of his knighthood.
Blair’s favourite pollster, Phillip Gould, campaigned in three elections alongside Hunter. Gould undertakes research and runs focus groups for BP. Until May 1997 Lord Simpson was chair of BP. He resigned to become trade minister in New Labour’s government in 1997.
The widow of the former Labour leader John Smith, Lady Smith, was a paid member of BP’s Scottish advisory board. Also on the board was another Labour peer, Lord Gordon. BP is set to be one of the beneficiaries of George Bush’s £1.3 billion Plan Colombia. The US calls this a ‘war on drugs’. Its real aim is to ensure that Colombia is kept safe for multinationals.
BP has major investments in Colombia. Human rights groups, trade unionists and environmentalists have accused BP of being involved with right wing paramilitary squads which have killed thousands of activists.
JUST WHEN you thought they’d privatised everything possible, there are now worries that Britain’s beaches will be privatised. The British Resorts Authority has said that the part-privatisation of Newquay’s Fistral beach could lead to more privatisations, as cash-strapped councils look for things to sell off.
This means that private companies can make profits on charging holidaymakers for parking, deckchairs and other facilities. They could also begin to charge for access to the sands.
RUDY Giuliani, the mayor of New York, refused a $10 million donation from an Arab businessman while denying US policy on the Middle East was pro-Israeli. Just weeks later Giuliani spoke by telephone at a rally in Jerusalem organised by the extremist Settlers Council of Judaea, Samaria and Gaza.
At the rally at least four speakers called for Palestinians to be ‘transferred’ to other Arab countries.
BOSSES AT a new PFI flagship hospital costing £67 million are asking nurses to work at busy weekends for nothing. Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride in Scotland was heralded as the new way forward for the NHS.
While private companies are raking in massive profits from building Hairmyres, the PFI hospital has been a disaster. Sewage has seeped through the floors and patients’ files have been lost. Angry nurses at the cash-strapped hospital complain, ‘We could not believe it. Do they expect us to work for nothing?’
While Lanarkshire Acute Hospital NHS bosses claim that ‘staffing levels are correct’, they were not going to pay the nurses for the extra shifts they worked but offer them time off in lieu.
‘It’s just a bad joke,’ explained an overworked nurse. ‘When are we supposed to get the time off? We are struggling to be able to take our statutory because the place is so understaffed. Would NHS managers work for nothing?’
BENEFIT OFFICE workers have been attacked by New Labour for going on strike over keeping safety screens up at work in case of attack by violent claimants. Some of the strikers went to lobby Ian McCartney MP over the issue. They found that his constituency office has screens. He said the screens were needed because his staff had been attacked.
HUNDREDS of members of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Quaida network were given citizenship by the former Afghan government, whose leaders are now key US allies.
Then Afghan president Burnhanuddin Rabbani gave citizenship to 604 people linked to Bin Laden in March 1993. The Taliban overthrew Rabbani in 1996. He now leads the Northern Alliance, the group the US hopes to use to beat the Taliban.
Bin Laden himself arrived in Afghanistan in 1996, a few months before Rabbani was ousted.
ANOTHER OF New Labour’s PFI privatisation deals is in trouble. Texas-based IT company EDS took over 90 percent of the staff and IT systems at the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency. The profiteers handle over £8 billion, around a third of the Ministry of Defence budget. EDS deals with paying troops and their pensions. Now the £300 million 12-year contract has started to unravel after just three years. The private company couldn’t deliver the service without more money. In a desperate attempt to stop another PFI scheme failure, defence and trade ministers secretly redrafted the contract.
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‘Well, it’s a very difficult thing to do. It’s a big world. There are lots of countries. He’s got a lot of money. He’s got a lot of people who support him. I just don’t know whether we’ll be successful.’
DONALD RUMSFELD, US Defence Secretary, admitting he didn’t know whether Osama Bin Laden would ever be caught
‘ONE WORST case is a Chechnya-like contingency. US forces or US-dominated forces win control of the cities, and the opposition control the country and fight an enduring guerrilla war. The resulting morass could be compounded by tensions between Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Even major US ground forces cannot ensure that it is really over when it is over.’
ANTONY CORDSMAN, senior analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and former Pentagon official
‘I heartily endorse Hollywood getting involved to help out in any way we can in this war.’
JACK VALENTI, senior showbusiness executive, before meeting one of George Bush’s advisers. Valenti was an adviser to US president Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War
‘THERE IS no point in being in a trade union if you are not prepared to stick together and do what is necessary.’
Footballer DEAN HOLDSWORTH after professional footballers voted to boycott TV games in a dispute about the amount of money that goes to the PFA, the footballers’ union
‘WE ARE assuming we have a lone individual operating. There is no direct or clear linkage between this series of incidents or any terrorist cell or network.’
FBI officer JIM FITZGERALD on the anthrax scares in the US
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.