Fixing elections and conflicts of interests

In the lead up to the general election the ex-Head of MI6 made some fairly dire warnings of the threat of a Corbyn led government. And as someone that has done a fair bit of research on the intelligence services I thought it would be worth looking into it just in case there were any possible conflicts of interest. I did the research and just as I thought, a couple of whoppers appeared relatively quickly.

I promptly knocked out a thousand words and tried to get it published. Unfortunately, none of the usual outlets were willing to publish it. So I thought I would put it up here as a post instead. In terms of my immediate response to the election results you can see a fairly heavily edited version here. And of course I will post up the original unedited version on this site in the near future.

Anyway, enough ranting. The article would have been …

Dearlove, the deep state and public service

In his recent interview, Sir Richard Dearlove has thrust himself into the centre of the democratic debate, inviting scrutiny of both his political positions and the motivations driving them. Dearlove is a particularly interesting critic of the current socialist Labour party for two reasons.

The first is the level of implied authority that his pronouncements carry in the eyes of the establishment media who are so quick to amplify his thoughts without question. Which is understandable, after 38 years in SIS (MI6), and what one can only imagine was a highly lucrative career paid for by the taxpayer, he attained the level of Chief (C) from which he retired in 2004. This aspect of his life alone would suggest that he is qualified to comment on the security of the British people. Even if his time as C wasn’t always exactly Dench-like.

Under Dearlove the credibility of MI6 and it’s relationship with No 10 reached one of its lowest points in the last 50 years. In 2001 they came under fire for failing to predict or prepare for the Al-Qaeda attacks in the USA[i]. Then in 2002 we had the September Dossier and the Iraq Dossier. And according to The Guardian, in the July of that same year Dearlove himself was briefing ministers that the US intelligence agencies were fixing the intelligence to support the case for war[ii]. A war that those same ministers pursued regardless of his advice, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including a significant number of British citizens.

But that was back when he was being paid by the British taxpayer, and has been picked through elsewhere. What really makes his pronouncements so interesting is what he has been up to since leaving the service. This second stage of his professional life, lets call it the ‘civilian’ years, does highlight some potential conflicts of interest. Which surprisingly are largely left out of the reporting of his political opinions on the Corbyn-led Labour party.

According to his current profile on the London University website, where he is the Chair of the Board of Trustees[iii], he appears to have had a busy old time of it since vacating the big chair at Vauxhall Cross[iv]. Apparently he has been sharing his time between the prestigious fee-paying schools of Framlingham College in Suffolk and Kent School in Connecticut, Pembroke College Cambridge, and between 2005 and 2010 as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Cambridge[v].

In addition to his ‘charity’ work, he has also held some interesting roles in the private sector. It appears that he has been working at Ascot Underwriting at Lloyd’s of London, Ascot Group Bermuda, Kosmos Energy (USA and Bermuda), AIG, Cambridge Security Initiative and Crossword Cybersecurity[vi]. The only reason I bring these up is that he seems to have a preponderance towards financial companies based in tax havens, defence companies, and educational institutions disproportionately catering to the rich[vii].

And before jumping to any ‘deep state’ conclusions, it might just be that he misses the office banter from his old days at Vauxhall Cross. After all, leading private schools, Russell group universities[viii] and “companies” in tax havens[ix] are a very common career move for “retiring” senior spooks. And it it is not fair to imply that all of them are freelancing on off-the-books projects, or for that matter running front companies in order to hide anti-democratic activity[x].

That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but rather that it really can’t be happening in every case. And honestly, I can’t believe Dearlove would be so indiscreet as to draw attention to himself if he were still on the payroll. I am sure it is something much less sinister.

After all he does have form when it comes to involving himself in politics. He is one of the initial signatories of the NeoCon think tank, the Henry Jackson Society alongside Michael Ancram, Michael Gove, Ed Vaizey, Dennis MacShane and Gisela Stuart. A think tank that boosts the patronage of such right wing luminaries as Richard Perle, William Kristol and R. James Woolsey Jr.[xi].

The reason I bring this all up, is because Dearloves various post-service activities are likely to become more closely scrutinised if the Labour party wins the next election. On page 40 of their manifesto it says “We will close the tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools”. On page 30 it says “We will launch the biggest ever crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion”. On page 82 it says “We will introduce a lobbying register covering both in-house lobbyists and think tanks.” And finally, on page 98 in reference to the defence industry, it says that they will immediately “conduct a root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime”[xii].

In his defence, Dearlove is right in implying that if Labour gets in to power and is allowed to implement its manifesto certain British interests will be threatened. Unfortunately it is a little dishonest to imply that those interests apply to the entire population. The truth is that only a very narrow section of society gets paid through tax havens, or gets to send their children to elite private schools, or profits from conflict, or gets to influence politicians through shadowy think tanks.

The British interests that the Labour party manifesto threatens are the interests of the 1%. To suggest that their interests trump the health and welfare of the 99% is unbecoming of a public servant, even a retired one. A public servant, first and foremost serves the public. That means all of them, not just the rich ones.