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Blair’s fat cat failures

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Issue 1690

Inside the system

Things they say

Blair’s fat cat failures

AS TONY Blair threatens to send in private businessmen to run hospitals, look at the record of those thrusting entrepreneurs who Blair has favoured in the past.

  • Martin Taylor was chief executive of Barclays when he was brought into government in 1997 to advise on reforming tax and benefits. His bank has suffered a succession of disasters and thousands of workers have paid with their jobs. Taylor was eventually removed.
  • Geoffrey Robinson treated the Blairs to his holiday home and became Paymaster General in 1997. His TransTec company has now collapsed and is being investigated by the Department of Trade and Industry.
  • Sir Colin Southgate, head of EMI, was appointed chairman of the Royal Opera House by New Labour last year. EMI’s share price fell by 40 percent over the next four months.
  • Lord Hollick was recruited to advise on competition policy after the general election. Since then shares in his United News and Media fell from 940p to 560p in a four month period.
  • Robert Earl, founder of the Planet Hollywood chain, gave New Labour 1 million at the end of 1997 to compensate for the 1 million which the party returned to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Almost immediately Planet Hollywood plummeted and last year the company filed for bankruptcy with debts of 150 million.
  • Robert Ayling quit as head of British Airways recently after chairing the New Millennium Experience company. 

None of these failures have dimmed New Labour’s enthusiasm for businessmen at the heart of government.

Bowles binge in Berlin

YOB OF the week is Tom, the son of Camilla Parker-Bowles. He had a wild night out in Berlin with two colleagues from his old employer, PR firm Dennis Davidson Associates (DDA). According to one of Tom’s friends, “They had too many vodkas and tequilas. Tom separated from the group and fell asleep in the street.

“When he woke up he couldn’t remember his hotel room or even his own name.” DDA owner Dennis Davidson, who supported Tom through the cocaine scandal last year, says, “We had to let 20 people go. Tom offered to leave as a favour to me. I would give him a fantastic reference.” No doubt the police will be taking away Tom’s passport to prevent any recurrence of this hooligan behaviour abroad.

Workers in Australia forced the queen to make a detour during her visit last week. She was due to visit Melbourne on the same day as a rally protesting at cuts in compensation to injured workers.

The trade unions refused to call off the demonstration, despite police pressure. As union leader, Leigh Hubbard said, “We think injured workers should take precedence over the queen.”

BROWN likes business

Call scam

CALLERS TO mobile phones in European Union countries are being overcharged by as much as 4,500 million a year, according to a study published last week. A report for the European Competitive Telecommunications Association found that callers from fixed telephone lines to mobile phones were being charged prices 40 to 70 percent higher than the costs to mobile operators of routing the calls.

ANYONE feeling particularly rich after last week’s budget might like to look at the “beaded monogram” bag from Louis Vuitton. It sells for a mere 1,400 and is just the thing for your copies of Socialist Worker while on a demonstration or picket line.

Brute force

A DISABLED woman who said that she was pinned to the ground by a police officer when she protested at the attempted arrest of a friend has won 20,000 compensation from the Metropolitan Police. Linda Price said she suffered severe pain as the officers gripped and held her arms above her head.

The incident happened in 1995 after her friend was breathalysed by police. The police have now offered an out of court settlement. The police officers involved are still serving and have not been disciplined.

THE British army has promoted Lee Clegg, the paratrooper who was previously convicted of murdering a Belfast teenager. Clegg opened fire on a car at an army checkpoint in 1990. He was subsequently jailed for the murder of 18 year old Karen Reilly and the attempted wounding of 17 year old Martin Peake, who also died.

But last year, after a massive campaign by the right wing and its media, Clegg’s convictions were quashed. He has been promoted to corporal and may soon become an officer.

Crammed brown envelopes

FORMER TORY minister Tony Baldry apologised to MPs last week after he recommended that a lawyer was awarded a CBE within a fortnight of borrowing 5,000 from him. Baldry was a fisheries minister when he accepted the loan from Sarosh Zaiwalla in January 1997.

Twelve days later the Banbury MP recommended the lawyer to the Lord Chancellor’s department for an honour. The Commons standards and privileges committee also laid into Tony Baldry. It criticised him for twice denying, during an enquiry, that he had championed Sarosh Zaiwalla’s cause.

“WE must acknowledge that long term benefits have tended to encourage long term unemployment.”

  • Letter from TONY BLAIR and Italian prime minister MASSIMO D’ALEMA to their fellow European leaders

“MANY companies take the view that cutting corners is a risk worth taking. There’s probably more chance of winning a lottery ticket than being prosecuted, so they carry on regardless.”

  • GARY SLAPPER, head of the law programme at the Open University, on why companies continually ignore health and safety issues

“GO FOR it, Tony. Seize the day. Nationalise. Let Longbridge be the factory which changes the way Britain thinks about travel. Sod cars. Make trains and trams and coaches and everything else which gets the country moving again.”

  • BRIAN READE, Mirror columnist

“IT MAY become imperative to go into the Bogside [in Derry] and root out the terrorists and hooligans.”

  • Army chief of staff LORD CARVER’S letter to Tory prime minister Edward Heath a couple of months before the Bloody Sunday massacre of 14 unarmed civilians in Derry, Northern Ireland

“THE VIEW of accountants is that much of the budget money is going to benefit existing fat cats. Perhaps that is what the chancellor means by a ‘wealth-owning democracy’.”

  • Observer economics editor WILLIAM KEEGAN

“THE harsh nature of the Jupp measures led to a massive rejection.”

  • French prime minister LIONEL JOSPIN invoking the memory of the 1995 strikes which broke his Tory predecessor’s pension “reform” plans to explain why his government was ditching similar changes

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