Blair’s love affair with the rich
The big business grip on Labour
THE RECENT scandals involving Peter Mandelson, Keith Vaz, Geoffrey Robinson and the Hinduja brothers show the degree to which New Labour ministers are connected with the rich and powerful. More than this, every level of government under Labour is now dominated by big business.
Every aspect of government policy is connected to the needs of the corporations and always ensures the needs of the wealthy come first. Tony Blair claims to be green. But his “green speeches” have been on the platform of the Green Alliance, which no ordinary person can join, but that any corporation can if it pays 2,500. Firms which back the Green Alliance include Thames Water, the company fined the most for polluting, as well as Shell, BP-Amoco GlaxoSmithKline and electricity generator National Power.
Peter Hain MP, during his time at the Foreign Office, issued a pamphlet at the end of January called The End of Foreign Policy? It argues that foreign policy should be based on “global responsibility” and “ecological sustainability”.
The pamphlet was issued through the Green Alliance, whose longest running backer is mining company Rio Tinto. The press release for Hain’s pamphlet even said it was “supported by Rio Tinto”. Trade minister Richard Caborn recently announced government backing for the “Worldaware Awards”, which “recognise the contribution the private sector makes towards integrating developing countries into the global economy”. The award for long term commitment to the developing world is sponsored by Rio Tinto.
The award for sustainable development is sponsored by Shell. International development minister Clare Short backs the idea that globalisation helps the poor. Her department’s website says that it has hired the country’s most expensive accountants, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), as consultants on some 44 different projects. Cost? Around 400 an hour.
The multinationals Gap and Nike have hired PWC to oversee their “ethical” audits which, they claim, show they are not responsible for hiring children to work in appalling conditions. Professor Dara O’Rourke of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US went with PWC to inspect factories in China and Korea.
The professor reported at the end of last year that PWC had a pro-management bias, did not uncover the use of carcinogenic chemicals, and failed to recognise that some employees were forced to work over 80 hours a week. PWC overlooked the absence of safety guards on machines, and could not distinguish between a company-run union and an independent one.
PWC advises New Labour on its Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes and was recently appointed by the government to run a PFI training programme. The links between New Labour, lobby companies and big business are very important when it comes to New Labour’s favourite policy-privatisation. Among the areas to get the New Labour sell-off treatment are the Criminal Records Bureau and its task of issuing new criminal record certificates for millions of job applicants.
Shortlisted to get the contract are Capita, PWC and Serco. Oil companies, financial consultants and building firms which have donated staff to the Treasury for free have then won lucrative government contracts, according to the Observer.
The companies involved in this scheme include PWC, Ernst and Young, BP-Amoco and Esso, and building contractor Tarmac. The gravy train works in the other direction as well. Former MEP Carole Tongue has got a job with lobby firm Citigate Westminster. Among the clients her new firm deals with is energy giant Enron.
Enron is a US firm which has donated to New Labour for the past three years. Its top man in Europe, Ralph Hodge, was given a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list. Hodge said he would use “any channel” to overturn Labour’s support for a moratorium on new gas-fired power stations. Enron was initially allowed exemptions, and now New Labour has junked the policy.
Bosses in key positions
FROM ITS first weeks in power Labour appointed fat cats to key positions:
WE KNOW about Blair, Mandelson and Keith Vaz’s connections with the billionaire Hinduja brothers. But what about Patricia Hewitt? The Leicester West MP is also “e-commerce” minister. She “received hospitality” from the Hindujas in both London and Bombay, and saw one of the brothers at the DTI.
Hewitt used to be head of research at Andersen Consulting (now called Accenture), the firm the Hindujas have now hired to look at its “e-commerce” restructuring.
Fat cat favours
LOOK WHO featured in the New Year’s Honours list:
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