Friday, 13 November 2009

#GD015* - The Rise of New Labour - Robin Ramsay

#GD015* - The Rise of New Labour - Robin Ramsay

here is chapter 6 of The Rise of New Labour (Pocket Essentials, Harpenden, 2002).


Chapter 6

New friends

The Israeli connection

In January 1994, three months before John Smith¹s death, the then shadow Home Secretary Tony
Blair, with wife Cherie Booth, went on a trip to Israel at the Israeli government¹s expense - a trip,
incidentally, neither the Sopel nor Rentoul biographies of Blair mentioned.1 Blair had always been
sympathetic to Israel, had shared chambers with Board of Deputies of British Jews President
Eldred Tabachnik, 2 and had joined the Labour Friends of Israel on becoming an MP.
Two months after returning from Israel, Tony Blair was introduced to Michael Levy at a dinner
party by Gideon Meir, the number two in the Israeli embassy in London. Levy was a retired
businessman who had made his money creating and then selling a successful record company
and had become a major fund-raiser for Jewish charities. Levy was Œdazzled by Blair¹s drive and
religious commitment¹ and the two men became friends.3

A month later the leader of the Labour Party, John Smith, died, and Blair won the leadership
election contest with Gordon Brown - in some accounts with financial assistance from Levy.4 All
accounts are agreed that Michael Levy then set about raising money - the figure of £7 million is
widely quoted - for the personal use of his new Œfriend¹, Tony Blair, leader of the Labour Party.
The big early contributors to the Œblind trust¹ which funded Blair¹s office were:

Œ....a group of businessmen involved in Jewish charities whose decisions to give to Labour have
been crucially influenced by the party¹s strong pro-Israeli stance under both Tony Blair and his
predecessor John Smith......Levy brought the world of North London Jewish business into the
Labour Party...some of the names whom Levy persuaded to donate include Sir Emmanuel Kaye of
Kaye Enterprises, Sir Trevor Chinn of Lex Garages, Maurice Hatter of IMO Precision Control and
David Goldman of the Sage software is clear, however, that for this group Blair¹s (and
Smith¹s before him) strong support for Israel is an important factor, especially with those such as
Kaye, Chinn and Levy himself, who raise large sums for Israeli causes. Nick Cosgrave, director of
Labour Friends of Israel, says Blair ³brought back Labour Friends of Israel into the Labour Party,
in a sense .....before the majority of supporters of Labour Friends felt uncomfortable with the
Labour Party.¹5

By 1994 it was clear that, barring a miracle, the Tories would lose the next General Election; Tony
Blair was widely recognised as one of Labour¹s coming men; and there had already been
speculation in the media - notably in The Sunday Times - that he would succeed John Smith as
Labour leader. It is hard to read this account of the events from Blair¹s trip to Israel to the funding
of his private office and not conclude that the Israeli government had spotted Blair as a very
pro-Israeli politician and possible leader of the Labour Party and steered him towards the leading
Jewish fund-raiser in London.
As leader of the party, with the Levy-raised money in his Œblind trust¹, Blair achieved financial
independence from the trade unions and the Labour Party. Blair hated the Labour Party and
viewed it as his enemy.6 With the Levy money Blair was able to begin expanding his private office
and he hired Alistair Campbell, former Political Editor at the Daily Mirror as his press officer in
September 1994 and diplomat Jonathan Powell as his chief of staff in January 1995. The Labour
Party now had a leader over whom it had no control at all.
Brown, Blair plus Powell, Campbell, advertising/polling expert Philip Gould, and Peter
Mandelson, made up virtually the whole of ŒNew Labour¹. The jury is still out on the relative
significance of these individuals. Powell seems the least significant, a technician who came
aboard long after the ship had sailed. Campbell has become a very significant player and was
sometimes referred to as Œthe real deputy prime minister¹ during Blair¹s first term. (The portrait of
him and Blair in the Rory Bremner Show on Channel 4, with Campbell bossing Blair, is apparently
close to reality.) But he has had no discernible influence on policy.

Peter Mandelson¹s significance in all this is more difficult to estimate. As Director of
Communications under Neil Kinnock he was undoubtedly important in that period and had a major,
though by most accounts not overwhelming, hand in the (losing) election campaigns of 1987 and

As Tony Blair¹s confidant over the post-Kinnock period, he has certainly been significant in
the wooing and partial co-opting of the British media on the faction¹s behalf, especially after Blair
took over from John Smith. (Smith didn¹t like him and ignored him.) Mandelson¹s influence was
partially the result of his experience at London Weekend Television in the early 1980s where he
learned how the media and politics interacts, and where he created a network in the London media
which was useful later.

On the other hand, how difficult was it to sell ŒNew Labour¹? After 1992, and especially after
Smith¹s death and the arrrival of Blair as leader of the party in 1994, the story sold itself. The
Tories were going to lose the next election; the next Prime Minister would be Blair; and the ŒNew
Labour¹ group were ditching the old Labour Party and its policies. That ŒNew Labour¹ was
anti-union, pro-business, pro-NATO and pro-low corporate and personal taxes, was a message
the media¹s managers and owners were keen to hear and pass on to their audience. No doubt
Mandelson had become skilled at doleing out stories to journalists and getting oceans of favourable
coverage; but the Conservatives were in disarray and the political journalists had an unlimited
appetite for gossip emanating from the Labour leader¹s office.

In Blair¹s governments he held two significant positions, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
and for Trade and Industry, in which he seems to have achieved little; and he has had to resign
twice. There are no specific policies with his name on them - though he was the main New Labour
figure behind the costly fiasco of the Millenium Dome. 7

In 1995 and 6 it was obvious that Labour would win the next election and the ŒNew Labour¹
group set out to do two things: ensure that Labour won the next election, and make Labour, not the
Conservatives, the party which represented the interests of big business. Though much of the old
Tory funding remained loyal, sections of business responded warmly to the overtures from Labour.

Their motives were mixed. For those who sought more enthusiastic British membership of the
European Union, or membership of the approaching European Single Currency area, Labour
seemed a better bet than the Tories with their strong EU-phobic wing. For others it was simply
good business to get close to the next government, especially one as naive about business as
Labour. While the Conservatives had a fund-raising and laundering system which went back to the
early years of the century, this was new ground for Labour, and it needed to create its own
network.8 As the election of 1997 approached, smartly-suited young men and women, but mostly
men, in the employ of the Labour Party or from the offices of its leading figures, peeled off to start
or join lobbying companies to collect the money from business.9

After the ERM fiasco of 1992 and the recession which the pound¹s brief ERM membership had
engendered, and internally and publicly divided over the EEC/EU, the Tories were consistently
miles behind Labour in the polls; but the New Labour group were willing to take no chances. They
believed that their success or failure could be determined by the media. They had all been involved
in the losses in 1987 and 1992 and believed that the hostility of the media played a major factor,
particularly in 1992.

Having ditched all the economic policies which distinguished them from the
Conservative Party, they set out to persuade the media - who would pass the message on to their
readers and viewers - that the changes were real and permanent. Labour was once again Œ
electable¹: there was no hidden left agenda; there would be no opposition to NATO plans; the
unions would have no influence; and the economy would be run along the lines dictated by the

At the heart of their concerns was Rupert Murdoch and The Sun. After the 1992 election it was
widely believed, not least by Neil Kinnock and those around him, that Labour had lost the election
because of The Sun¹s unremittingly hostile coverage of Labour - and of Kinnock in particular. To
prevent this happening again, the New Labour group wooed Murdoch and his executives. Anything
they wanted, New Labour would deliver.10 Tony Blair flew to Australia to pledge his allegiance at a
meeting of News International¹s executives in 1995 - Œan extraordinary act of fealty¹.11

But it paid off: from late 1995 onwards the Murdoch papers were, at worst, neutral towards
Labour. Former tabloid journalist, then Blair¹s press secretary, Alistair Campbell began writing
articles to go under Blair¹s name in the Murdoch papers, the first appearing in The New of the

ŒOther papers woke up to the ease with which Blair articles could be obtained. Soon the
Leader of the Opposition became the most prolific journalist in Fleet St, by far...It was not long
before the burden of of writing his [Blair] comment pieces became too great for Campbell alone,
and he was forced to farm out the work to junior members of the press office.¹12
Labour¹s media monitoring and briefing machine at Millbank Tower, based on the Clinton
campaign¹s version, had a wonderful time after 1995. By the recession produced by joining the
ERM, and by their ejection from it, the Conservatives had lost their fundamental appeal to the
electorate: their claim to economic competence.

It didn¹t matter that post-ERM under Kenneth
Clarke as Chancellor, with a competitive currency, the economy began turning round in 1995 and
6: nobody took any notice. With office in sight, Labour presented a unified face to the media, all
internal divisions suppressed. The Conservatives were hopelessly and publicly divided, fighting
over Europe and over the coming leadership campaign after Major led the Tories to inevitable
defeat. The media which had so ruthlessly hunted and attacked the Labour Party in the 1980s now
turned on the Conservative Party, with the Labour media people steering, cajoling and bullying on
the sidelines.

In 1997 Tony Blair finally led Labour to victory after an election campaign which had actually
begun in 1994.

1. See the profile of Michael Levy in the Daily Express 26 June 2000.
2. Geoffrey Alderman, ŒPlaying Tennis with Blair¹ in The Jewish Quarterly, Autumn 1997.
3. The Sunday Times 2 July 2000. For Œdazzled by his drive and religious commitment¹ I would
read Œsupported Israel¹.
4. In most - e.g. John Rentoul, Tony Blair, (London: Little Brown, 1995), p. 390 - the money
came from Barry Cox, Peter Mandelson¹s erstwhile boss at London Weekend Television (LWT).
On the LWT network see Andy Beckett, ŒA world apart¹, in The Guardian (Weekend), 4
September 1999.
5. John Lloyd, New Statesman, 27 February 1998.
6. It was reported in the Sunday Telegraph 25 July 1999 that Blair tried to make Levy a Minister
in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This would have been a stunning coup by the
Israelis but it was resisted by the Foreign Secretary, at the behest, presumably, of the traditionally
pro-Arab FCO. Instead Levy became Blair¹s personal envoy to the Middle East - to no great effect
thus far.
On Blair¹s dislike of Labour see Philip Gould, The Unfinished Revolution, (London: Little
Brown, 1998), p. 216 where he quotes Blair: ŒI will never compromise. I would rather be beaten
and leave politics than bend to the party. I am going to take the party on¹; and Geoffrey
Wheatcroft, ŒPeter¹s Friend¹ in The Observer 4 February 2001 where Wheatcroft quotes Blair¹s
friend, the novelist Robert Harris: ŒYou have to remember that the great passion of Tony¹s life is
his hatred of the Labour Party.¹
If he hated the party, why did he join it? One report in an (alas) undated cutting I have, from the
Daily Mail circa 1997, I think, has a purported barrister friend saying he asked why Blair, no lefty,
had joined Labour. Blair replied that he thought he would rise faster in Labour. Ah, the authentic
ringing tone of a pure careerist move! On the other hand, the Daily Mail? The Forger¹s Gazette,
as Michael Foot called it? Maybe.....
7. There has been a good deal on Mandelson in the media but the earlier profiles seem more
interesting to me than those which followed. See for example, Peter Lennon, ŒGuarding the good
name of the rose¹, The Guardian 2 October 1989, Donald Macintyre, ŒNot spin doctor but
counsellor¹, Independent 29 July 1996 and Seamus Milne, ŒThe leader¹s little helper¹, The
Guardian (Weekend) 11 February 1995. Paul Routledge¹s biography Mandy: the Unauthorised
Biography of Peter Mandelson (London: Pocket Books, 1999) assembles all the known fragments
on Mandelson¹s early career to suggest that he has had some kind of secret relationship with MI6.
I also suspect this but, like Routledge, do not have the evidence.
On his later escapades among the rich see Punch issues 47 and 48, 1998 and
8. On the Tories¹ money-raising history see Colin Challen, The Price of Power (London: Vision,
9. This is too big a subject to tackle here but see, Paul Richards, ŒThe Millbank Mafia¹ in Punch
52, 1998; Tom Baldwin, ŒCampaign staff cash in with new contacts¹ in The Sunday Telegraph 1
June 1997; Mark Watts and Rob Evans, ŒWho really influences new Labour?¹, New Statesman
26 July 1999; and Greg Palast, ŒThe Project¹, The Ecologist, Vol. 30 No. 2, April 2000.
New at the game, Labour¹s bagmen were not very good at keeping their mouths shut and blew
the gaff when the first enterprising journalist, Greg Palast, turned up posing as a rich American
businessman with money to spend, triggering the Œcash for access¹ scandal. See Greg Palast¹s
report in The Observer 12 July 1998, The Sunday Telegraph of the same day and Luke Harding,
ŒFrom Chorley to the charmed circle¹, in The Guardian 7 July 1998. This last piece contains a
list of lobbyists associated with the Labour Party. Greg Palast¹s writing on this and other subjects
is at Palast is very good indeed.
10. This is described by Peter Oborne, Alistair Campbell: New Labour and the Rise of the Media
Class, (London: Aurum Press, 1999), pp. 140-4.
11. Oborne (see note 10) p. 141. In 1998 it was Chancellor the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who
made the pilgrimage to address the executives of Murdoch¹s News Corporation, on this occasion
in Idaho, USA. See Tom Baldwin¹s ŒFocus¹ profile of Gordon Brown, The Sunday Telegraph 26
July 1998.
12. Oborne (see note 10) p. 143

"In politics, stupidity is not a handicap."
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821),

Greg L-W.

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‘The arrogance and hubris of corrupt politicians
will be responsible for every drop of blood spilt
in the Wars of Disassociation, if Britain does not
leave the EU.

The ugly, centralised, undemocratic supra national policies being imposed by the centralised and largely unelected decisionmakers of The EU for alien aims, ailien values and to suit alien needs stand every possibility of creating 200,000,000 deaths across EUrope as a result of the blind arrogance and hubris of the idiologues in the central dictatorship, and their economic illiteracy marching hand in glove with the idiocy of The CAP & The CFP - both policies which deliver bills, destroy lives and denude food stocks.

The EU, due to the political idiocy and corruption of its undemocratic leaders, is now a net importer of food, no longer able to feed itself and with a decreasing range of over priced goods of little use to the rest of the world to sell with which to counter the net financial drain of endless imports.

British Politicians with pens and treachery, in pursuit
of their own agenda and greed, have done more
damage to the liberty, freedoms, rights and democracy
of the British peoples than any army in over 1,000 years.

The disastrous effects of British politicians selling Britain
into the thrall of foreign rule by the EU for their own
personal rewards has damaged the well-being of Britain
more than the armies of Hitler
and the Franco - German - Italian axis of 1939 - 1945.

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Until we gain our liberty, restore our sovereignty, repatriate our democracy and reinstate our Justice system and our borders - defended by our Police and Military armed with sustainable and obtainable weaponry:
Treat every election as a referendum.

Don't spoil your Ballot Paper by wasting it on a self serving Politician in ANY election until we are liberated from the EU and are a Free Sovereign peoples, with independent control of our own borders, making and managing Law & Justice for our own benefit, in our own elected Westminster Parliament where we can fire our politicians at the ballot box, if they fail to represent OUR best interests and de-centralise their powers.

Make your vote count

Write on YOUR ballot Paper in EVERY Election:


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