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by Keaney Michael
28 May 2001 13:57 UTC
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Mark Jones wrote:

I made a mistake in an earlier post, when I said that the British referendum
on EC membership was held by Ted Heath's govt in 1974; it was not. Harold
Wilson's incoming Labour govt organised the referendum in 1975.


Yes, this was Wilson's pretext for shifting Benn from Industry to Energy.

Thanks for the long post preceding your correction. It was good to be
reminded of E.P. Thompson's "Writing by Candlelight". I dug it out again
last night and was struck by how prescient he was. If there is a US analogue
to Thompson then it would be "Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in
America" written by Bertram Gross and published in 1980. There is a Black
Rose Books edition still in print of this, and it's well worth a read. Gross
was heavily into the development of social indices in the 1960s, as well as
Congressional politics, having originally served behind the scenes in the
wheeling and dealing surrounding Hubert Humphrey's eventually symbolic (as
opposed to effective) full employment bill.

A couple of years ago Channel 4 television broadcast an hour-long
documentary on the Wilson plot, basically recycling a lot of David Leigh's
stuff and pasting it together with more recent interviews of key figures,
including Callaghan's Cabinet Secretary John Hunt. Hunt admitted to the
interviewer that he was concerned about certain goings on at the time, which
prompted a letter to the Guardian from Tony Benn saying how disgraceful it
was that it had taken more than 20 years for Hunt to ever let his concern
slip. The same programme also revealed how, sometime in 1973 during the
power crisis, then PM Heath met with William Waldegrave, historian Martin
Gilbert (endless volumes on Churchill, itself controversial given the
restricted access to his papers) and Daily Express disinformation conduit
Chapman Pincher, where the latter three impressed upon Heath the importance
of dishing personal dirt upon Wilson (it was not specified exactly what that
was). Heath point-blank refused, insisting on campaigning on politics alone.
His mistake, perhaps, in more ways that one, as it was not long after that
Heath himself was being smeared in the press with references to his "visits"
to the Kincora Boys' Home in Northern Ireland. He was deposed as
Conservative Party leader by MI5 apparatchik Airey Neave, whose protege
Margaret Thatcher was.

Leigh, together with former Scotsman editor Magnus Linklater, wrote in many
ways the definitive account of the Westland Affair which, arguably, came
closer to bringing down Thatcher than any class warfare. Coming hot on the
heels of the miner's strike, it involved the first real public signs of the
split Mark identifies within the UK establishment, with Michael Heseltine
famously walking out of the Cabinet and beginning his long takeover bid of
the Conservative Party via its Europhile wing. Westland Helicopters was
basically dead in the water and was surviving on government handouts such as
"aid" packages to India whereby India got 350 million worth of dud
helicopters manufactured by Westland paid for by HMG. Heseltine went to
extraordinary lengths to put together a European rescue deal involving
British Aerospace, Daimler-Benz, Aerospatiale, etc., whereas Thatcher and
Leon Brittan (Trade and Industry Secretary) were supporting the takeover by
US Sikorsky-Fiat. The leaking of a memo (to the Guardian) from Brittan
effectively revealing the dirty tricks being employed to frustrate Heseltine
led to Brittan resigning (not that he suffered -- he ended up being
Vice-President of the European Commission for his trouble) and to Thatcher
preparing to resign, were it not for the hopelessly inept performance of
Neil Kinnock as an Opposition leader rather more concerned to dish it out to
the entryist Militant Tendency (see Mark's earlier post). Thatcher appointed
Sir John Cuckney to oversee the transition from effective receivership to
subsidiary of Sikorsky Fiat. Cuckney's background was MI5 and he is a
recurring figure in the history of British establishment fixes. For
instance, it was he who came out of nowhere to clean up the mess of the
Robert Maxwell pensions scandal ten years ago. Meanwhile British Aerospace
had some heavyweights of their own, including Sir Raymond Lygo, former
vice-chief of the admiralty. All of this leads me to support Mark's claims
re the switch made by MI5 and the redundancy of the
Sherman/McWhirter/Pincher/Rees-Mogg/Harris clan. This is because of the
centrality to the UK political economy of its "defence" establishment, in
much the same way as the military-industrial complex is vital to the
functioning of the US political economy. Except to say that, in a country as
small as Britain, control of the levers of power can be more firmly grasped
than in the US where the Pentagon must often compete with both the
Treasury-Wall Street complex and a troublesome Constitution (troublesome
inasmuch as it exists at all, unlike the nicely ambiguous Crown prerogative
that makes the UK an elective dictatorship). Such has been the hollowing out
of the City of London as formerly prized assets have fallen prey to overseas
predators that the UK state apparatus is more firmly in the grasp of the
military-security components than ever before. Coupled with a government
that has no ideological disdain for the use of state power (Thatcher and her
successors actually came to believe in their anti-statist propaganda, which
is far too dangerous when applied as rigorously as it came to be) and you've
got a situation which is an almost perfect reproduction of the sort of
scenarios being painted by Thompson over 20 years ago.

Michael K.

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