The Truth Is Marching On

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Scotland in
March is usually a dismal place in terms of weather. Travelling
through foothills of the Highlands, incongruously playing a selection
of Cole Porter standards on my car CD player, nature was glorious.
I stopped at one of my favourite watering holes, the Kenmore Hotel
at the mouth of the River Tay in Perthshire and admired views of
the snow-capped mountains, and the many ducks enjoying themselves
in the ice-cold water. For some reason, I find ducks more interesting
to watch than people, mainly because they make many humans appear
incredibly stupid.

I went into
the bar to warm myself up, in several ways, and to bring myself
up to date on the nonsensical state of British politics. The chronic
state of the British Health Service, or the bogus war in Iraq, and
other major issues were elbowed out of the headlines by something
much more important.

The main story
of the day, was the plight of one of the grand dames of the British
Labour Party, Tessa Jowell, the Minister of Culture (where do they
find such redundant jobs) and a member of Tony Blair's cabinet.

Many readers
of Lew will never have heard of this grand dame but
will certainly recognize the pickle she is in. She is married (or
rather was until last weekend) to a well-heeled lawyer called David
Mills whose speciality is cosying up to the Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi.

I am an admirer
of the politically incorrect Italian if only for the fact that he
is worth $20 billion (no typo) and speaks his mind without benefit
of weighing up the consequences of his blunt statements. For example,
at a press conference with the Danish Prime Minister Anders Rassmussen,
who is very good looking, at least so I am told, he said to the
assembled press that he was going to introduce his wife to the Dane
in order to divert her from another man with whom she was romantically
entangled. Has any politician ever cracked a joke about his wife's
infidelity? Certainly not George Bush or Tony Blair.

But back to
Tessa and David, neither of whom are a rival to Prime Minister Rassmussen.
Allegations have been made against Mills that he:

  1. accepted
    a gift of around $600,000 from the Italian premier;
  2. aided Berlusconi
    with tax evasion and money laundering;
  3. was involved
    in insider-trading of a bar chain (called Old Monk) when his wife
    was in charge of relaxing the crazy British drinking laws;
  4. hid vital
    documents from the British Serious Fraud Office;
  5. fiddled
    his income tax returns (the old Al Capone trick); and
  6. tried to
    gain favourable treatment from the tax inspector by citing his
    wife's Cabinet position.

There are a
few other allegations but half-a-dozen is enough to be going on
with. But what has all of this got to do with the Right Honourable

The essence
of the problem is that Cabinet Ministers have to declare their financial
interests, which includes immediate family and Ms Jowell overlooked
filling in the necessary forms or did not think that they applied
to her. At best she is guilty of not understanding what her husband
was up to during office hours, or at worst believing that the law
did not apply to her.

What, of course,
is important, is not who did what when, and why, and who understood
the law; it is all about, as it always is, people in authority abusing
their power and escaping the consequences by stating that they did
not break arcane rules and regulations created by people like themselves.
To try and hold them accountable, is, in Tony Blair's Britain, nothing
short of persecution because people like Tessa Jowell are innocent
victims of old-fashioned morality, or the object of witch-hunts
by the wicked press.

There was a
time when a Labour Cabinet consisted of people who were themselves
close to, and behaved like, and subscribed to the values of ordinary
working class people who were the backbone of the Labour Party.
Tessa Jowell and her husband, and indeed Tony and Cherie Blair,
are as about as far removed from the working class Labour voter
as can be imagined.

Not for them
beer and sandwiches with the local unions, but international travel,
Pinot Grigio wine, lunches with the rich and famous, and rubbing
shoulders with those who make millions and behave in the way people
do on television soap operas. Tessa and David live in a luxury house
in a fashionable part of London, with another shack in the Shakespeare
country — a man who would have well understood the way that power
corrupts the high and mighty.

The Labour
Party apparatchiks have come a long way in a few years. The upper
reaches of the Labour Party lead lives that bear no relationship
to the lives of their supporters. To the leadership, playing around
with extravagant sums of dough is, well, just normal. Why do bus
drivers, office cleaners, schoolteachers, and gardeners fail to
understand this?

The political
classes in Britain (and no doubt the US) are beneficiaries of double
standards and condescension. They preach to working people about
the importance of hard work and of paying ever-increasing taxes,
yet play footsie under the table with those whose job it is to provide
advice on how to squirrel away their wealth and earnings.

They give lectures
on diversity but spend most of their time with fashionable elites
and showbiz personalities. They are insulated by their wealth and
privilege from the pressures that face ordinary people, pressures
that they have imposed on lesser mortals. In short, they behave
pretty much like the bureaucrats of the old Soviet bloc telling
everybody else how to live their lives whilst exempting themselves
from any moral and financial restraints.

How strange.
Didn't anyone warn the voters that the political classes always
use their positions of power to get their mitts on the loot, and
that they are a bunch of frauds? Even ducks in Scotland know that.

In the meantime,
Tessa, who once said that she would throw herself under a bus for
Tony Blair, has left her husband of 27 years, moneybags David Mills,
whose dubious activities have dragged her through the mud. Such
an action would have been more convincing had it occurred before
their stunts were made public, and before it was recommended that
Berlusconi be charged with financial wrongdoing.

I doubt if
they were ever be held accountable for their betrayal of disadvantaged
voters. True to form on International Women's Day, Tessa joined
other sisters near the Houses of Parliament, and to the refrain
of the Battle Hymn of the Republic they brazenly and without shame
sang "their truth is marching on". Had her story
been lampooned on the Jay Leno or David Letterman shows in the US,
the audience would have protested that the scriptwriters had gone
too far.

As Jane Austen
said in Pride and Prejudice, "If I were not afraid
of judging harshly, I should be almost tempted to say, that there
is a strong appearance of duplicity in all this."

16, 2006

Stewart [send him mail] has
lived in Bermuda all of his adult life, and was chief executive
of the Royal/Dutch Shell Group of Companies in Bermuda until his
retirement in 1998. Subsequently, he was President of Old Mutual
Asset Managers, Bermuda, and retired from there at the end of 2002.
He is a director of several Bermuda companies and investment funds,
and the author of A Guide to the Economy of Bermuda.

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