Sir Jeremy Heywood – Sell-off of BAE, the Last of Britain’s Great British Defence Manufacturers

October 5 2012: Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet enforcer and a web of cronies, at centre of incestuous NEXUS lobbying to end independence of BAE

The controversial merger of the defense giant BAE Systems with a foreign conglomerate has been described by one respected global affairs expert as the ‘biggest redrawing of global defenses since the Cold War’.

The Government is now under intense pressure to stop the deal by refusing to sell its golden share in BAE (which last year sold £19?billion of defense and aerospace equipment). The golden share gives ministers the power to block a change of control of the company, to bar any non-UK nationals from top jobs at the firm and prevent any foreign investor owning more than 15 per cent of the company. Yet there are widespread fears that the merger is a done deal and that David Cameron doesn’t mind that one of the last great British manufacturing institutions, whose history dates back to Vickers-Armstrong which built the Spitfire, will fall into foreign hands.

The Prime Minister is said to be in favour of the move after coming under pressure from the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. He has been advocating the merger to the PM and has had a series of meetings with BAE and Morgan Stanley, the American investment bank which is advising the firm and which is in line to get millions from its work on the deal.

However, there is profound disquiet over the fact that 50-year-old Heywood has very strong personal links with Morgan Stanley staff, having worked at the bank as a director during a four-year break from the civil service. There is no suggestion, though, that he will benefit financially from the BAE merger. There have been claims that as the most important civil servant in government, the uber-ambitious Heywood (who was knighted by Cameron in January) is in danger of opening himself to charges that he could compromise the scrupulous independence expected of someone in his position. Heywood’s involvement has also led to widespread suspicions that the £28?billion BAE deal is being stitched together by the Whitehall establishment.

Several MPs want him to be questioned by the Commons defense select committee, which is investigating the merger. Heywood was a highly-paid director of Morgan Stanley as recently as 2007 — having taken a break from his Whitehall career. (Previously he had been Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Head of Domestic Policy and Strategy at the Cabinet Office under PM Gordon Brown.)

Heywood’s stint at the U.S. bank was itself highly controversial. He was accused of making a large sum of money while employed by Morgan Stanley, which dealt with the ill-fated Southern Cross care homes group. Heywood was the ultimate head of the Morgan Stanley team which advised on the sale of Southern Cross in 2006 to a U.S. equity firm which soon hived off many of the freeholds of the homes to another company. In turn, that company sold them off. The result was that 31,000 frail and elderly residents in 750 homes faced being made homeless and 3,000 jobs were lost. Although he was not directly involved in the deal, it was never made clear how much money Heywood was paid by Morgan Stanley at the time, but banking sources said it would have been a handsome sum. Justin Bowden, a union boss, said Heywood was in the scandal ‘up to his neck.’


Sir Jeremy Heywood – The Big Society Debacle & Allegations of a Misuse of Government and Charitable Funds.-

July 26 2014: David Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse

David Cameron’s flagship Big Society Network is being investigated by the Charity Commission over allegations that it misused government funding and made inappropriate payments to its directors – including a Tory donor. The organization, which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2010, was given at least £2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants despite having no record of charitable activity. The Independent has learnt that it has now been wound up, having used much of the money on projects that came nowhere near delivering on their promised objectives.

Two senior figures on government grant awarding bodies have also made allegations that they were pressured into handing over money to the Big Society Network despite severe reservations about the viability of the projects they were being asked to support. Liam Black, a former trustee of Nesta, which was then a public body sponsored by the Department for Business, said Nesta had been “forced” to give grants that totalled £480,000 to the Big Society Network in 2010 without a competitive pitch. He described it as a “scandalous waste of money”. Another senior figure involved in the decision to award £299,800 from the Cabinet Office to the organization said the funding request had initially been turned down. “When we did the analysis we turned them down because the bid did not stack up,” they said. “But we were told to go back and change the criteria to make it work.”

Tonight Labour said it was writing to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, asking him to investigate whether political pressure had been applied to give an organization with close ties to ministers, “special treatment”. The Independent understands that the Charity Commission is also looking into allegations that some of the “restricted funds” given by the Cabinet Office for a childhood obesity project were transferred to pay down the deficit of a linked company. It is also investigating payments made by the charity, “for consultancy services” to two directors of the charity and its chair, Martyn Rose. Mr Rose, who helped set up the Big Society Network, also contributed more than £54,000 to the 2010 Conservative election campaign.

Tonight he said he had no memory of the payment but added that it was possible “one of my companies did work on its behalf”. He said he had personally put £200,000 into the Big Society Network which he had not got back. “With hindsight, of course, if we had all known that the projects were not going to work we would have been idiots to do them,” he said. “[The truth] is that in the early stages of social investment some will work and some won’t.” Giles Gibbons, a trustee of the charity and a former business partner of Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s “blue skies thinker”, added that he did not believe any of the payments made by the charity had been in any way inappropriate.

An examination of the Big Society Network projects, funded by the Government and the lottery, reveal a marked discrepancy between what they claimed they would achieve and what they did. They included: A project called “Your Square Mile” whose purpose was to encourage and enable local people to improve their community. It was awarded £830,000 by the Big Lottery Fund – despite officials assessing the application as “weak” in three out of the six criteria. In February 2012 the project had attracted just 64 signed-up groups compared with the one million predicted in the funding application.

A project called Get In – to tackle childhood obesity through sport. In April 2012 it was awarded a grant of £299,800 from the Cabinet Office despite officials concluding it was unlikely to meet its stated objectives. They were told to change their selection criteria and approve the grant. The project was never even launched.

Britain’s Personal Best, which aimed to build on the Olympic Games by encouraging people to excel in athletic, educational or creative challenges. Given £997,960 in April 2013 by the Big Lottery Fund, it claimed it would sign up 120,000 people to take on challenges in their community – but was wound up within months after failing to meet all the milestones the Big Lottery Fund had set.

A long-running investigation by Civil Society News into Big Society Network funding has also discovered that the organization was given statutory grants totalling £480,000 in 2010 by Nesta – which was then an arms-length body of the Department of Business – without a competitive pitch being held. About £150,000 was to part-finance the core costs of running the organization in its early stages and £330,000 was to support four projects – called Nexters, Spring, Your Local Budget and It’s Our Community. Nesta is now an independent charity but said, “While the vast majority of Nesta’s grants are made following open calls for proposals, we do have the ability to provide grants to projects that fit with our vision and advance our objects outside of open calls for proposals. That is what happened with the grants to the Big Society Network.”

Labour is now demanding an inquiry into links between the Big Society Network and senior Conservatives. Several members of the network’s staff had worked with and for ministers including Michael Gove and Theresa May, and two had stood as Tory candidates. Giles Gibbons had been a partner in the same firm as Steve Hilton and co-wrote a book with him. He said tonight: “Am I disappointed that the network didn’t have a more positive impact? The answer is 100 per cent yes. Do I think we could have done more about that? Yes I think we could have. “There was powerful core at the heart of what we were trying to do but was our delivery was not good enough. Is there anything untoward in the way in which we have worked? I genuinely don’t think there is.” But Lisa Nandy, the shadow minister for civil society said: “It’s bad enough that millions of pounds of public money were squandered, but the connections between these organizations and the Conservative party are deeply concerning.”

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: “Our case into the Society Network Foundation remains open and ongoing. We have received a response to questions we had relating to connected-party transactions and the use of a grant. “However this does not fully address our concerns and we are in the process of engaging further with the trustees. We are also awaiting copies of documents that explain the grounds on which a grant was given.”

Key players

Steve Hilton: A former advertising executive who became David Cameron’s, “blue skies thinker”. He championed the idea of the Big Society, and was instrumental in getting government backing for it when the Tories came to power.

Martyn Rose: A businessman who gave £60,000 to the Tories in the run-up to the last election and became chairman of the Big Society Network. Worked with both Theresa May and Michael Gove.

Giles Gibbons: Co-wrote a book with Steve Hilton called Good Business. He became a trustee of the Society Network Foundation – the charitable arm of the Big Society Network. It is now being investigated by the Charity Commission.

Steve Moore: Worked for the Tories in the late 1980s and became chief executive of the Big Society Network. Was ultimately responsible for delivering the projects that failed. Had close links with Mr Hilton and the Nick Hurd, the minister responsible for the Big Society.

August 20 2014: Since publication of the above, an application dated 7 August 2014 has been made by the Trustees to have the corporate entity Society Network Foundation Ltd struck off the Register of Companies. The controversial charity that received over £2.5m of lottery and government grants is to be wound up amid allegations that it misused funding and made inappropriate payments to its directors. The Society Foundation Network, which ran the Big Society Network, is being probed by the Charity Commission following several failed projects.

The Network was also investigated by the National Audit Office over allegations that Government money was incorrectly allocated. The charity denies all the allegations. Yesterday, “The Independent” revealed that one project run by the organization had made a series of claims for nearly £1m of lottery funding that are now being disputed by other charitable organizations it referred to. The Charity Commission said that the trustees of the organization had contacted it to tell them that they planned to voluntarily wind it down. It said its “operational compliance” case into the terms and conditions of a grant awarded to the charity and other accountancy issues were still on-going and the trustees were co-operating.


Supply of a Corona Vaccine to the UK is awarded to AstraZeneca – Tory Financial Backers are Happy Bunnies Yet Again


Editorial cartoons


Coronavirus – A Safe Vaccine ??

Drug manufacturers and regulators have been under intense political pressure from Governments to deliver a safe vaccine and AstraZeneca recently reported it expected to be able to introduce to the market before Christmas 2020, a coronavirus vaccine with a success rate of 90%-10%. But the announcement was premature.

Shortly after US (Food and Drug Administration) regulators, the FDA stopped trials enabling it to conduct a probe into an adverse event in the UK involving a patient on a trial of the vaccine falling ill with unexplained neurological symptoms, previously believed to be consistent with transverse myelitis.

Trials were not halted in the UK since the regulation of vaccines, which are technically biologics, falls to the (European Medicines Agency) EMA’s remit, until the UK leaves the EU.

But Boris Johnson recently announced that the UK will bypass the EMA’s regulatory regime and grant a production and distribution license to AstraZeneca enabling the roll-out of a vaccination programme in the UK, from December 2020.


AstraZeneca's Covid trial pause a reminder of huge challenges in race for vaccines | Free to read | Financial Times



The EMA Rolling Review Procedure

At the beginning of October 2020, the EMA started the first ‘rolling review’ of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. This meant that the committee had started evaluating the first batch of data on the vaccine, which had come from laboratory studies (non-clinical data). It did not mean that a conclusion had been reached on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, as much of the evidence had not yet been submitted.

A rolling review programme is a regulatory tool that the EMA uses to speed up the assessment of a promising medicine or vaccine during a public health emergency.

Normally, all data on a medicine’s effectiveness, safety, and quality, and all required documents must be submitted at the start of the evaluation in a formal application for marketing authorization.

In the case of a rolling review, EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) reviews data as they become available from ongoing studies before a formal application is submitted.

Once the CHMP decides that sufficient data are available, the formal application should be submitted by the company.

By reviewing the data as they become available, the CHMP can reach its opinion sooner on whether or not the medicine or vaccine should be authorized.

There are at least 64 companies worldwide involved in the research and production of a safe vaccine and many are nearing production.

So it is expected that a number of vaccines, perhaps safer and more efficacious will become available to the market in the early months of 2021.

Time will be the judge that will decide if the UK Governments’ decision is right.



AstraZeneca shares gain as coronavirus vaccine trials resume | Reuters



2 June 2014: Just let me ask the wife!!! says Civil Servant and UK Tory Government Cabinet Secretary

Heywood advised the Prime Minister on the view to take on the Pfizer takeover bid for its British rival AstraZeneca.

And just as it happened that Heywood’s wife (who worked for McKinney’s) had only just recently written a report, circulated to Tory politicians, advising pharmaceutical firms to restructure, including mergers with rivals, ‘to navigate turbulent times’.

The Pfizer bid was subsequently withdrawn. Heywood and his wife’s role needed to be independently investigated. But it didn’t happen.



AstraZeneca to receive over Rs 140 crore grant from promoter - The Economic Times
Brexit Uncertainty

 AstraZeneca, headquartered in Cambridge UK  is headquartered in Cambridge and is the world’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical company. It is on record as saying that a hard Brexit would mean moving some of its operations away from the UK.

An organization spokesman said that moving manufacturing takes several years but the likelihood of the company relocating to the EU is high in the event of a hard Brexit and the company has taken the first steps in planning for a scenario in which no divorce deal is reached between the UK and the EU by the 31 December 2020 deadline.

AstraZeneca bid is threat to UK science, says committee chair | Business |  The Guardian




Sir Jeremy Heywood – European Surveillance – Drone Technology Introduction

November 12 2013: How the USA used Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir John Scarlett to bring an EU drone strike capability on anyone in the UK

US influence in Europe and the UK has the aim of constructing a Federal model as in the US and USSR. In this model Parliament is a weakened part of the constitution and pays lip service to democratic principles whilst unelected bureaucrats create and implement policies. The UK plays it’s role in the European construction, but without the full knowledge of the general population. Policies are imposed by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Heywood, on the basis that they contribute to the EU mission.

There has been a rising chorus in the political press that the Civil Service, of which the Cabinet Office is the top and the Cabinet Secretary shares the lead Civil Service role, has become politicized and it’s neutrality compromised. The notion of the “politicization” of the Civil Service is, however, vague not having reference to a particular political party. The Civil Service under Sir Jeremy Heywood has not favoured the political aims of one or other Party at Westminster. It has however, confirmed the political aims of the EU Commission in Brussels and the implementation of it’s political European projects in the UK, and in that sense the Civil Service has both lost it’s neutrality and has become politicized by the actions of Sir Jeremy Heywood. This is a significant point in constitutional terms because the checks and balances of the unwritten UK constitution have become unbalanced and they begin to mirror the European model which is being imposed in an underhand and secretive way.

Sir Jeremy Heywood has been seen to intervene in the political arena many times. His influence over Police Chief Constables is suspected in the “Plebgate” controversy where police at all levels conspired against Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell forcing his resignation. Heywood did not view crucial video evidence which would have prevented the whole process.

Energy policy has also been affected and Heywood recently intervened to prevent Environment Minister Owen Paterson from publishing a report on the limitations of wind technology. Heywood also entertained Cuadrilla executives as the anti-Fracking campaign broke out.

The scenario is also set for EU controlled drone warfare In September 2002 the infamous Dodgy Dossier was released by the UK Government which became the justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sir Jeremy Heywood was Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair appointed in 1999. The dossier was flawed and made false allegations about the existence of WMD and nuclear programs in Iraq.

Sir John Scarlett was chair of JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee and he wrote to Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser David Manning about, “the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional”. In other words the dossier was misleading about Iraq’s capabilities. Sir Richard Dearlove, as ‘C’ Head of MI6 said he was misquoted in the ‘Downing Street Memo’ of a meeting about Iraq on 23 July 2002 saying it was, ” a misquotation of what I said, and what I said is not in the public record.”

Sir Jeremy Heywood resigned the Civil Service (and joined Morgan Stanley bank) in 2003. The Hutton Inquiry found that he had claimed not to minute meetings in the PM’s office concerning the scientist Dr David Kelly who died, (murder or suicide) 17 July 2003 having been named as a source questioning the veracity of the Dodgy Dossier.

With so much confusion it is at least clear that the UK had been mobilized by the USA to justify George Bush’s desire to hit Saddam Hussein. Sir John Scarlett’s role in the Iraq affair emerged as being pro-US. Sir Jeremy Heywood’s role was less clear until 2013. It has been reported in the last week that Sir Jeremy Heywood’s Cabinet Office is blocking the release of papers to the Iraq inquiry which detail conversations between Blair and Bush together with notes and cabinet meetings. This is assumed to be in order to protect UK US relations.

Sir John Scarlett acting as consultant to Morgan Stanley Bank once again joined with Sir Jeremy Heywood (returned to the Civil Service from Morgan Stanley bank) in an attempt to sell the UK defense contractor BAE Systems to the European defense contractor EADS in November 2012. Morgan Stanley stood to profit form the sale and questions about Heywood’s conflict of interest were asked.

The deal fell through but this is a good indicator of Heywood’s position on UK defense. It is part of the European and USA strategy that the EU member states reduce their defense capabilities in favor of a federal EU force. The recent announcement of a loss of naval shipbuilding jobs at the Royal Navy headquarters, Portsmouth is part of that plan.

A direct consequence of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the spread of the radicalization process controlled by Al Qaeda and sister Taliban groups which were originally CIA creations. The CIA has waged a drone war on it’s creations in Pakistan without any hindrance from other states. Drone strike technology has been developed and refined in a theater of war well away from Western shores. In the summer of 2013 it was announced that the EU intended to operate it’s own drone air force as an intelligence gathering operation to counter the US activities.

Lady Ashton called for the use of military drones in Europe. So the war which Heywood helped to start in Iraq produced a drone nursery in Pakistan which technology the EU will be able to use against it’s own citizens using, “threats” as an excuse.

Member states are weakened militarily and in intelligence terms resultant of policies implemented by the likes of Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir John Scarlett that an EU drone-based air intelligence force is the only answer to, “threats” from Al Qaeda and it’s off – shoots.

31 October 2014: France’s security fears over mysterious drones seen flying above nuclear plants

France has launched an investigation into unidentified drones that have been spotted over nuclear plants operated by state-owned utility EDF , its interior minister said on Thursday. Seven nuclear plants across the country were flown over by drones between October 5 and October 20, an EDF spokeswoman said, without any impact on the plants’ safety or functioning. ‘There’s a judicial investigation under way, measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralise them,’ Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told France Info radio yesterday – without specifying the measures. The drone sightings may renew concerns about the safety of nuclear plants in France, the world’s most nuclear-reliant country with 58 reactors on 19 sites operated by EDF.

Greenpeace denied any involvement in the pilotless flight activity. ‘For all its actions, Greenpeace always acts openly and claim responsibility,’ Yannick Rousselet, head of Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign, said in a statement. ‘What is happening is very worrying,’ he said, adding that France’s nuclear research institute CEA near Paris had also been flown over, citing unspecified sources.

EDF named the plants over which drones had been spotted as Creys-Malville and Bugey in the southeast, Blayais in the soutwest, Cattenom and Chooz in the northeast, Gravelines in the north and Nogent-sur-Seine, the closest plant to Paris. The unmanned aircraft were spotted late in the evening, at night or very early in the morning, EDF said. It is prohibited to fly less than 1,000 meters above nuclear plants and within a 5 kilometer radius. Each plant has filed a formal complaint with the police against the anonymous people behind the drone flights.

This week New York police said they are concerned drones could become tools for terrorists, and are investigating ways to stop potential attacks. Until now police haven’t acknowledged drones as a potential weapon, but the NYPD has now said the technology has advanced enough that someone could use them to carry out an air assault using chemical weapons and firearms. Police want to develop technology which will allow them to take control of drones as well as scan the skies for them before major events.



Sir Jeremy Heywood – Adored By Blair Brown and Cameron – He Knows Just Where the Bodies are Buried

October 11 2011: Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph chief political commentator. No, Mr Cameron, Jeremy Heywood is not the man to lead the Civil Service

In 1999 the Blairites needed allies inside the system, and fortunately there was one to hand. They were always hostile to outsiders, and at first the prime minister’s private secretary, the young and ambitious Jeremy Heywood, was regarded with suspicion. But with the passage of time Heywood was accepted as a vital member of the group of allies around Blair. Indeed, he was to play a central role as the disciplines of government collapsed and the “sofa culture” of Downing Street reached its peak.

Ordinary procedures, such as minute taking, appear to have partly ceased. This became embarrassingly apparent when the Hutton inquiry into the death (murder or suicide) of Dr David Kelly sought to reconstruct the process which had led to the Ministry of Defence scientist’s name appearing in a national newspaper. Lord Hutton heard how some four meetings, each involving senior officials and cabinet ministers, had taken place in the 48 hours before Dr Kelly’s name was released. In an extraordinary breach of traditional Whitehall procedure, it emerged that not one of these meetings was minuted. This was Heywood’s job, and it was not carried out.

But it was not just basic procedures that failed with Heywood in Downing Street. Standards of integrity stalled too, as The Daily Telegraph discovered when we ran a well-sourced story revealing that Downing Street had pressed for Tony Blair to be given a bigger public role in the Queen Mother’s funeral of early 2002. Heywood wrote a letter to this newspaper, in his capacity as private secretary to the prime minister, insisting that the report was “without foundation”. To say the least, this was being economical with the truth. fundamentally, he had crossed the key dividing line between unbiased, public-spirited official and careerist political adviser.

Tony Blair, naturally, adored his private secretary and, in another blatant abuse of Civil Service rules, sought to rocket him to permanent secretary level. When this move was resisted, HEYWOOD JUST VANISHED. Granted “unpaid leave” from the Civil Service, he suddenly emerged as co-head of the Morgan Stanley investment banking division, only returning four years later to help sort out Gordon Brown’s chaotic Downing Street machine.

It is easy to understand why David Cameron – who personally chose Heywood – wanted him so much. Heywood is an old friend who knows his way all around Whitehall, and is expert at delivering what a prime minister wants. But that brief stint at Morgan Stanley aside, he has never worked outside Downing Street and the Treasury. Indeed, Heywood has no experience of the wider Civil Service, which makes his first big decision especially troubling.

Sir Gus O’Donnell (and nearly all his predecessors) combined the job of cabinet secretary with that of head of the home Civil Service. There have been very solid reasons for this, not least because it has meant that the Civil Service has a proper voice inside 10 Downing Street. Heywood has turned his back on this arrangement. Precedent suggests this decision will open the way to a long, unnecessary period of attrition between Downing Street and the outlying parts of government. It is a recipe for division and chaos.

David Cameron once boasted that he was the “heir to Blair” and his choice of Heywood suggests the comparison is all too apt. Heywood is a perfect manifestation of everything that has gone so very wrong with the British Civil Service over the past 15 years – too cosy a relationship between public and private, too much dominance at the centre, contempt for tradition and the collapse of due process.

In his foreword to the new ministerial code, published last year, David Cameron wrote that “after the scandals of recent years, people have lost faith in politics and politicians. It is our duty to restore their trust. It is not enough simply to make a difference. We must be different.” These are empty words, with Jeremy Heywood at the heart of government and guardian of British public standards.

March 17 2012 Sir Jeremy Heywood is the man who really runs the country

All he needed was a trilby and leather coat but there was something of ’Allo ’Allo!’s Herr Flick to the mandarin giving evidence at the Public Accounts Committee one recent afternoon. The PAC is parliament’s prime scrutineer of state spending. Civil servants have it dinned into their skulls to regard it with caution, if not respect. Yet this Herr Flick, with his little sticky-up fringe, his minimalist spectacles, his subtle pouts and sly smiles, conducted himself as a superior mortal. He toyed with the committee. He said he was there as ‘a courtesy’. The MPs should not expect him to make a habit of appearing before them.

This lean-livered, bloodless Brahmin was Sir Jeremy Heywood, David Cameron’s new Cabinet Secretary. He may long have flown under the radar but he has now acquired such power that public scrutiny is unavoidable. At the committee he appeared alongside burly, bearded Sir Bob Kerslake, new head of the Civil Service. The positions of Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service were once one and the same but fiddly changes have been made. As the meeting progressed it became clear who had emerged the senior partner after that bifurcation. Kerslake talked. A lot. A lot of not terribly much. Plainly he had been given the boring, admin part of the portfolio. Compact Heywood listened, aloof, stroking his narrow lips. He spoke sparingly, vouchsafing information with the economy of a gardener using a laboratory pipette to water his bonsai tree. Sir Jeremy was in control.

Astonishingly, this was Heywood’s first proper public grilling. To make it to Cabinet Secretary without submitting to this parliamentary wringer is like becoming head chef at the Savoy without ever having cooked quenelles. But Jeremy Heywood is not a front-line Freddie. He has been a Treasury high flier, head of policy at the Cabinet Office, a fixer for prime ministers since John Major. He has never run a big-spending department. Far too exposed. Please. That sort of thing is for the bungling Bob Kerslakes of this world.

Sir J. Heywood is a backstairs Bertie, a smudger, a whisper-in-the-PM’s-ear sort who shrivels from public view. The worry for Conservatives, and the rest of us, is that this shrewd murmurer, this eminence grease, has acquired unprecedented power over not only the Prime Minister but also Nick Clegg, Cabinet, the coalition and much of the rest of the state apparat.

There is talk of Heywood obstructing secretaries of state, shafting Camerons and organising Downing Street to his own convenience. We have gone beyond ‘Yes, Minister’ and now have ‘Yes, Sir Jeremy’. Worryingly, no one seems more in hock to him than our soigné, someone -take -care – of – that PM. The Camerons are dying like bees. Andy Coulson is long gone. The Wade-Brookses have also been swept away by Hackgate. Other parts of the Chipping Norton set are in retreat. Steve Hilton is fleeing to California.

Heywood remains. He is steering policy, attending daily strategy meetings, sitting next to ‘DC’ at Cabinet, shimmering with purpose. If Heywood disapproves of a project, it disappears from Cameron’s in-tray. One Cabinet minister says, “We cannot have a referendum on who runs Britain because the answer will be the same whether we leave the EU or not: Jeremy Heywood.” And what is Sir Jeremy’s agenda? Well, that’s a complicated question, Minister. He’s certainly no friend of the Tory heartlands or of the right wing of the PM’s party. Though Heywood presents himself as a reformer his mission seems to be to make sure no bill has a discernibly Tory twang. He’s also a stickler for European law, much energised by the importance of keeping the Lib Dems sweet. It is almost as if his main job, these days, is to keep Nick Clegg happy. To those readers who still hope the PM will one day show himself a sturdier Conservative, I’m afraid the truth (as a Westminster insider rather indelicately puts it) is that, “Heywood has Cameron by the balls, but as it’s anyway in Dave’s nature to do whatever he’s told by civil servants, that suits everyone!”

July 12 2013: Is Sir Jeremy Heywood squeezing out Whitehall’s top mandarin?

This morning’s car ride to work shared by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood and Civil Service chief Sir Bob Kerslake may have been a rather silent one. Today’s Independent reports that Sir Bob’s job is under threat. Although the newspaper blames David Cameron for wanting to get rid of, “Bumbling” Bob. What does Heywood think? Sir Jeremy may silkenly protest his innocence of any plotting, and Downing Street indeed was officially denying the story last night, but he is not averse to the odd bit of Whitehall manoeuvring. Kerslake had taken some of the Cabinet Secretary’s old powers. The Londoner would never want to cause disharmony in the Whitehall limousine the two chaps share on their daily commute from the suburbs (how convenient for Heywood to be able to keep an eye on his colleague in this way) but there are some people who think Sir Jeremy has not been the most vocal advocate for Sir Bob.


Sir Jeremy Heywood – Chinese Whispers – Is This Anyway to Run a Country?

November 30 2013: Jeremy Heywood leads a fresh offensive against Maude – so, what chance civil service reform?

With all that’s been happening this week, from policy flip-flops to floppy mustaches, you may not have noticed that war has broken out. So I’ll give you a rapid-fire briefing. The arena is Whitehall. The aggressors are senior civil servants. And the targets are certain Coalition ministers. I know what you’re probably thinking: “Yawn! Wake me up when there isn’t war along Whitehall.” But I’ve always thought that the idea of constant, vicious fighting between ministers and bureaucrats is overplayed, for reasons that I described in a post earlier this year. It’s rarely that bad… but this, this week, this is pretty bad.

So, what’s happened? It started on Monday with a story in The Independent about a chat between Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and David Cameron. Apparently, Heywood was acting to, “save the career” of the DWP’s permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, who – it is claimed – has been the victim of a “concerted political briefing campaign” over the start-up failures of the Universal Credit. The article contained a richly ironic line about how Heywood believes that, “such conversations needed to take place in private and not through the newspapers”. He thinks, as well, that, “responsibility also lay with Iain Duncan Smith”.

That may not sound too terrible: just Heywood defending one of his own, mostly. But then the situation was escalated by an item in Sue Cameron’s latest column for the Daily Telegraph. It began: “Is Sir Humphrey about to claim a scalp or two?” And continued with a passage that deserves the full italic treatment:

“Apparently our top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, has already given the PM brutally frank advice about the role of Mr Maude and Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, in briefing against Robert Devereux, the most senior official overseeing Universal Credit. Sir Jeremy believes Mad Frankie and IDS are the problem, rather than Mr Devereux. No doubt both ministers will admire Sir Jeremy’s candour. Roll on the reshuffle!”

Which makes Heywood’s conversation with the Prime Minister sound altogether more bloodthirsty. It’s not just IDS; Francis Maude meets with his disapproval too. Did he push for them to be sacked? Does he want them to be sacked? but that would be awfully dodgy ground for an unelected Cabinet Secretary to be treading upon.

And before you think it’s all Heywood, a former Cabinet Secretary has also joined the fray. Today, Lord Butler is being interviewed on the BBC’s Week in Westminster – and, judging by the quotes that have been released in advance, he also harbor’s grievances about, “sniping” against senior civil servants. Perhaps his most biting line is, “I’m sorry to say, I really think that Mr Maude and some of his colleagues don’t understand leadership.”

I should say, at this point, that I have absolutely no enthusiasm for the backbiting and finger-pointing that goes on in Westminster. Lord Butler is on to something when he says that, “the relationship between ministers and the civil service works best when they work together in a mutually supportive relationship”.

But there’s still something perturbing about these latest complaints, particularly the ones involving Heywood. After all, it’s easy to see how they could run counter to the Coalition’s wider – and much needed – efforts to reform the civil service. If criticism of senior civil servants is regarded as beyond the pale, then what chance that the same civil servants will be made more accountable? If the Cabinet Secretary can go to such lengths to, “save the career” of a colleague, what does it mean for ministers having greater control over who they hire and fire? If Jeremy Heywood wants ministers sacked, who’s really in charge?

For his part, Francis Maude gave a speech to a group of civil servants yesterday – the Top 200 – which, it seems, dealt with some of the criticisms that are flying around. Among its themes, I’m told, was one he has sounded before, that the civil service is crammed full of brilliant people, but – often to their own chagrin – it doesn’t always allow them to capitalise on, or develop, that brilliance. He added that folk don’t want to be patronised by being told that everything is fine when it’s not. In that spirit, let’s just say that things aren’t all fine. A couple of months ago, it was backbenchers who were haranguing the Government over civil service reform. Now it’s back to the old order. The bureaucrats, at least some of them, are angry with their ministers.

July 11 2014: Will Sir Cover-Up knife Francis Maude

There are whispers that Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is keen that David Cameron moves minister Francis Maude from the Cabinet Office. Maude has been leading the Coalition Government’s spending cuts in Whitehall and is in charge of the drive to make the Civil Service less bureaucratic and obstructive. This has made him an object of considerable resentment among the mandarin class: ‘Sir Humphrey’ regards Maude as an intolerable vandal. The serpentine Heywood wants Maude moved — ‘anywhere… make him the Minister for Siberia!’ is the attitude, according to one Cabinet Office source — in a reshuffle that is expected next week. Mandarins know they would be able to run rings round a new minister. Maude’s glamorous special adviser, Simone Finn, is also regarded as a disruptive threat to top civil servants’ ‘club class’ existence. If he goes, she goes. Cameron is understood in the past to have told Heywood that ‘Francis is going nowhere’, but with the Government in its last year before a General Election, the mandarins’ power has never been greater. Will the PM see off Sir Jeremy’s sly little plan?

Jul 15 2014: With the removal of Sir Bob Kerslake, the reform of the Civil Service has gathered pace

The axing of Sir Bob Kerslake as part-time head of the Civil Service marks both a new departure in the reform of Whitehall and a return to the old Thatcherite model of a single, all-powerful figure who is both the PM’s right-hand mandarin and the ultimate boss of the nation’s bureaucrats. The announcement of the brutal restructuring at the very top of Whitehall has brought great sympathy for the able and well-liked Sir Bob, but also relief that Sir Jeremy Heywood is to combine his current job as Cabinet Secretary with being head of the Civil Service. The experiment of splitting the two jobs and of downgrading the latter by making it part time has failed – as many warned it would. The new arrangements are a recognition of this.

Downing Street has announced the creation of a new chief executive post at the centre of government but he or she will be answerable to Sir Jeremy as head of the Civil Service. The lines of accountability in Whitehall will once again be clear. This will be widely welcomed by the senior civil service though there are bound to be accusations that the already powerful Sir Jeremy is becoming even more influential.

Recruitment of the new chief executive, who will take over responsibility for Civil Service reform from Sir Bob, will be put in train this week though an appointment is not expected to be finalised until the autumn. The job is widely expected to go to an outsider with business experience. Certainly it will be an “open” competition which means anyone can apply but the Board will be chaired by Sir David Normington, the First Civil Service Commissioner, and it will be made on merit – the criterion for all senior Whitehall appointments ever since the abolition 150 years ago of what the Victorians called jobbery and we call cronyism. Making the Whitehall announcement in the middle of a ministerial reshuffle was probably the best way of playing it down. Many members of the public do not know the names of the ministers who are being moved and nor do they much care. Changes at the top of the Civil Service are likely to impinge on the national consciousness even less.

The new set-up offers something for both Whitehall traditionalists and the cabinet office minister Francis Maude. The latter has been going in for more or less open warfare with much of the rest of Whitehall, criticising civil servants in general for allegedly “blocking” his drive for Civil Service reform. He has also been accused of orchestrating briefing in the media against named officials, including Sir Bob. The two have barely been on speaking terms for some time. Plenty of people reckon Sir Bob was treated abominably and never given the room to lead. The angst that Sir Bob has had to endure could put off outsiders. Why put up with all the hassle and uncertainty of working with politicians? Good candidates may take some persuading to put their hats in the ring – particularly given the limits on senior civil service pay. If a suitable candidate is found, expect to see much greater centralisation of Whitehall – something which Mr Maude has battled for long and hard.

July 16 2014: Stop briefing against officials, ministers say, as head of civil service quits

Ministers must stop briefing against civil servants, ministers have said, after the head of the civil service quit blaming unfair briefings against the officials. Number 10 announced at the height of the Cabinet reshuffle earlier this week that Sir Bob Kerslake, who has run the civil service for two years, is leaving this Autumn. Sir Bob has been both Head of the Home Civil Service and permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government since 2012. He will retire from the Civil Service in February next year when he turns 60. In a blog reflecting on his time in Whitehall, published on the Government’s official website after he resigned, Sir Bob attacked damaging personal briefings against civil servants. He said: “Less brilliant have been the ‘noises off’ criticizing civil servants and accusing them of being reluctant to change. “Such criticism is deeply unfair and I hope that I have done my bit to challenge it. You can though, be its biggest advocates, talking with pride to your friends outside about what we deliver on a daily basis.”

Sources close to Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said he would remind ministers not to engage in briefings against civil servants. One said: “There has been some unfair criticism [of him]. Francis does not think there should be briefing against civil servants or ministers. “We should conduct very candid conversations in private and that is the way to do things.” The job of Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service was held by one civil servant until 2012 when it was split in two. Under changes announced this week ministers are now hunting in the private sector for a new chief executive in charge of the civil service. The new chief executive will report in to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet secretary.

July 15 2014: Anger over ‘political’ departure of civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake Whitehall mandarins ‘undermined’ by sudden announcement after whispering campaign and amid reshuffle

Senior civil servants have expressed anger at the way the government has handled the departure of the head of the civil service after two and a half years in the job. Sir Bob Kerslake is to resign in the autumn, to be replaced by Sir Jeremy Heywood, who will remain as cabinet secretary, according to an announcement on Tuesday, coinciding with the government reshuffle. The decision marks the end of a two-year experiment in which the civil service leadership was split. But the way the announcement was made – following a year-long whispering campaign against Kerslake inspired by ministerial aides – has undermined Whitehall’s mandarins, it was claimed. Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA, the senior civil servants’ union, said that Kerslake’s abrupt departure following a year of unsourced criticisms had damaged the relationship between his members and ministers. “The speculation around Sir Bob’s position – and the off-the-record briefings that have accompanied it – will have done little to reassure civil servants of politicians’ and ministers’ understanding of the qualities of leadership, which MPs themselves are often so quick to accuse public servants of lacking,” he said. “If the new role of chief executive is to succeed and genuinely deliver the pace of reform that the government says it wants, then it will need the support of ministers in departments as well as at the Cabinet Office.”

Penman’s comments have been echoed by Bernard Jenkin, the Tory chair of the public administration select committee, who said the briefings against Kerslake were “totally unacceptable”.
Jenkin said: “The committee warned that splitting the roles was unlikely to be a durable arrangement, and Sir Bob has had to face some exceptional challenges. The backstairs briefings against him were totally unacceptable. He has maintained a reputation for integrity and professionalism throughout,” he said.

David Cameron announced on Tuesday that a new chief executive role would be created to lead the government’s reform agenda, paving the way for a major reshaping of the civil service in the runup to the general election. Downing Street said that the recruitment process would begin shortly, with an announcement likely by the autumn. A chief executive of the civil service will be sought, a new post that ministers hope will produce clearer lines of accountability.

Kerslake, 59, will also stand down as permanent secretary of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in February. Known as “Whispering Bob”, Kerslake started his career in the Greater London Council and later worked for Hounslow council. He became the most senior civil servant at the DCLG in 2010 and head of the civil service in 2012. His departure follows a whispering campaign about his performance. Those close to ministers said he had failed to make progress on reform. Reports last year claimed that he was due to be sacked then, after his job was offered to other people by senior ministers. On Tuesday afternoon, there was speculation that the government was rushed into making the announcement of Kerslake’s departure following a report on Monday’s Newsnight programme which claimed that Kerslake had been sacked. Some expressed surprise that a broad overhaul of the civil service was announced in the middle of a reshuffle, because it implied that Kerslake’s departure was a political decision. In a blog posted on Tuesday morning, Kerslake confirmed his departure, praised his colleagues and took a swipe at critics of the civil service in what appeared to be a criticism of ministers, including Francis Maude. “The vast majority of civil servants work outside Whitehall, and one of the very best bits of my job has been travelling around the country visiting civil servants where they work. “Less brilliant have been the ‘noises off’ criticising civil servants and accusing them of being reluctant to change. Such criticism is deeply unfair and I hope that I have done my bit to challenge it,” he wrote. Heywood has been one of the most highly regarded civil servants for nearly two decades, serving both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. A No 10 spokesman said Kerslake had made a series of reforms to the civil service of which he could be proud.

Added comment:

August 6 2013: Douglas Carswell has plenty to say about civil servants and the power of the mandarins. With regard to EU matters he refers to the mandarins “who really run this country” and who “have run it into the ground”

April 18 2012: Douglas Carswell raised concerns during prime minister’s questions that the government was being blocked in efforts to reform public services by an over-powerful civil service…..Carswell told HuffPost that he feared ministers had become hostage to a civil service that had its own agenda and wanted to stymie reform. “We have a political unit [in Downing Street] stuffed full of civil servants, and we find too often minsters are in fact departmental spokesman, and the departments run them.

February 8 2014: John Charlesworth said, my daughter with a masters degree entirely funded out of taxed income is unable to find a job. She suffers both coeliac and the related disease of diabetes, she has been told that she is running out of credit and will have to attend a food bank to help her live I then learn that this criminal IDS has spent £225,000 on each of the 3000 claimants already on Universal Credit. Don’t forget folks we are in it together and it’s called s,,t. When is this man going to be jailed. Don’t hold your breath.


Sir Jeremy Heywood – a perfect manifestation of everything that has gone so very wrong with the British civil service

Career Path of Sir Jeremy John Heywood

Sir Jeremy John Heywood, KCB, CVO (born 31 December 1961) is a senior British civil servant who has been the Cabinet Secretary since 1 January 2012, and Head of the Home Civil Service since September 2014. He previously served twice as the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, as well as the Downing Street Chief of Staff and the first and only Downing Street Permanent Secretary.

Heywood was educated at Bootham School, an independent school with a Quaker background and ethos in York, before taking a BA in History and Economics at Hertford College, Oxford and an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics. He also studied for a semester at Harvard Business School, (management development 1994) then worked for a time with the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.

His first job in the civil service was as an Economic Adviser to the Health and Safety Executive after which he transferred to HM Treasury in 1992 and became the Principal Private Secretary to Chancellor Norman Lamont at the age of 30, having to help mitigate the fallout from Black Wednesday after less than a month in the job. Sterling was in crisis and Norman Lamont was forced to announce a humiliating withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. That drama helped forge an early bond between Heywood and Lamont’s young adviser at the time, one David Cameron.

When Tony Blair took power in 1997, he brought in new appointments, such as his chief of staff Jonathan Powell. Yet Heywood, who became Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1999, still made himself indispensable in a crisis such as 9/11. Powell recalls Heywood’s, “preternatural calm”. While many top politicians have found Heywood a reassuring presence, his reputation among his civil service colleagues has not always been so positive.

In September 2002 the infamous, “Dodgy Dossier” was released by the UK Government which became the justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sir Jeremy Heywood was Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair appointed in 1999. The dossier was flawed and made false allegations about the existence of WMD and nuclear programs in Iraq. Sir John Scarlett was chair of JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee and he wrote to Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser David Manning about, “the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional”. In other words the dossier was misleading about Iraq’s capabilities. Sir Richard Dearlove, as ‘C’ Head of MI6 said he was misquoted in the, “Downing Street Memo” of a meeting about Iraq on 23 July 2002 saying it was, ” a misquotation of what I said, and what I said is not in the public record.” With so much confusion it is at least clear that the UK had been mobilized by the USA to justify George Bush’s desire to hit Saddam Hussein. Sir John Scarlett’s role in the Iraq affair emerged as being pro-US.

Sir Jeremy Heywood’s role as Blair’s private secretary in conducting government business was questioned. His critics accused him of being complicit in the culture of, “sofa government” in Blair’s Downing Street, citing evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry into the death, (murder or suicide) of Dr David Kelly that some of the key meetings between politicians and officials were not minuted during that period, a job he was required to do. He subsequently left the civil service in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry.

His years out of Whitehall as a banker between 2004 and 2007 also drew him into controversy. In 2006, he was a senior executive at bankers Morgan Stanley when it advised on the flotation of the, “Southern Cross” care homes provider. Although he did not work directly on the deal, he was the ultimate boss of the team which ran the float. Sir Jeremy, 50, was accused by the GMB union of being, “up to his neck” in the disaster which saw 31,000 elderly people put at risk of being made ­ homeless. The firm’s 750 homes were later rescued in a new deal.

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007, Heywood returned to government as Head of Domestic Policy and Strategy at the Cabinet Office. Political commentator Peter Oborne, in the wake of this appointment described Heywood as, “a perfect manifestation of everything that has gone so very wrong with the British civil service over the past 15 years.” He went on to resume his old job of Principal Private Secretary, as well as being appointed the Downing Street Chief of Staff after the resignation of Stephen Carter.

In 2010, after David Cameron became Prime Minister, Heywood returned to the civil service. On 11 October 2011 it was announced that he would replace Sir Gus O’Donnell as the Cabinet Secretary, (The Cabinet Secretary is the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s most senior policy adviser and acts as Secretary to the Cabinet, responsible to all ministers for the running of Cabinet Government he is the highest-ranked official in the British Civil Service), upon the latter’s retirement in January 2012. It was also announced that Heywood would not concurrently hold the roles of Head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office, as would usually be the case. These positions instead went to Sir Bob Kerslake and Ian Watmore respectively. On 1 January 2012, Heywood was knighted and officially made Cabinet Secretary. In July 2014 it was announced that Kerslake would step down and Heywood would take the title of Head of the Home Civil Service . Heywood was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 2008, before being made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2012 New Year Honours. The Parliamentary Public Administration Committee cited the example of Heywood’s knighthood as an automatic honour granted due to his position and not for exceptional service.

As Head of the Civil Service Heywood leads nearly half a million public servants who work in public institutions, administer tax, benefits and pensions systems and put government policy into practice. The civil service is a permanent, politically impartial workforce that serves the government of the day, while retaining the flexibility to serve future governments. Currently civil servants are supporting the government’s economic and public service reform. The scale of the challenges and persistent weaknesses require a reform plan that applies right across the civil service. The Head of the Civil Service is one of several senior civil servants accountable for the reform of the civil service through the Civil Service Board. But all is not well in the civil service. David Cameron in a recent speech, described civil servants as, “enemies of enterprise”. “There were suggestions that Jeremy Heywood may himself have been one of the instigators of the speech”, says film-maker and veteran Whitehall watcher Michael Cockerell.

Heywood has been involved in painful civil service changes – such as Treasury budget-cutting and job losses and there are those who claim he is too close to the politicians. “There may be some sense in the civil service,” said Michael Cockerell, “that Jeremy Heywood has lent too far towards pleasing his political masters”. Nick Pearce, who worked closely with Heywood under the last Labour government, expressed both admiration and anxiety: “For somebody like me who believes in decentralising and dispersing power… you don’t want one person to have so much power and influence, but I’m pleased it’s him”. He added a quip, “If we had a written constitution in this country, it would have to say something like, ‘Not withstanding the fact that Jeremy Heywood will always be at the centre of power, we are free and equal citizens’. That is the extent of his power.”


Sir Jeremy Heywood-The Iraq Inquiry & Other Controversies- Are His hands clean?

January 14 2014: How Chilcot could ‘slap the cuffs’ on Tony Blair

Lord Mandelson recently described Chilcot as, “what could be a very difficult minefield” for the Labour Party. Blair allies have been briefing friendly journalists that he is, “deeply concerned” about the report, though this may be expectation management to make the actual criticism look better by comparison. Nobody close to the inquiry will talk directly about its findings – which are, in any case, subject to change as part of the, “Maxwellisation” process, where witnesses are privately sent previews of any criticisms made about them and invited to comment. But sources pointed towards certain passages of evidence, often under-reported at the time they were given, as carrying particular weight with at least some of the five-strong inquiry panel.

On January 13, 2010, the day after one star witness, Mr Blair’s spin man, Alastair Campbell, appeared before Chilcot, the inquiry heard from the Cabinet Secretary at the time of the invasion, Andrew Turnbull. Lord Turnbull gave evidence again, as did his predecessor, Lord Wilson, on January 25 2011, a few days after Mr Blair had made his second appearance.

Both times, the TV circus for Mr Campbell and Mr Blair had folded its tents and the ex-mandarins’ sessions were barely covered in the Press. But they were devastating. Lord Turnbull said that he and the Cabinet had essentially been deceived, “brought into the story … a long way behind” what had already been agreed by what he described as Mr Blair’s “entourage”. The Cabinet never saw any papers at all, he said.

Lord Wilson, who left six months before the war, testified that at his final meeting with the Prime Minister he had told Mr Blair that he had a worrying “gleam in his eye” over military action. Lord Turnbull added that had Lord Wilson known the full picture – that a note had already been sent to President George W Bush promising, in his words, that “you can count on us whatever”, Lord Wilson “would not have described it [just] as a gleam”.

In his 2010 evidence, Lord Turnbull also spoke of how, “a process of a kind of granny’s footsteps had taken place” over the famous Iraq intelligence dossier. “At each stage,” he said, “you can see another little tweak of the dial.” The central charge Chilcot appears likely to make is that the decision on war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement on military action was made early, and secretly, with President Bush; and that it was done without evidential justification, proper procedures, legal advice or adequate military planning.

All three of these were later twisted to fit, most disastrously in the case of the planning, which was kept secret for far too long, meaning that coalition forces were completely unprepared to occupy, secure and rebuild the country they had broken.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and several other witnesses, testified that, “containment” the pre-2002 policy of sanctions on Iraq, appeared to be working. As Mr Straw put it, “Objectively, the threat had not increased.” Why, therefore, was a war needed? The mere fact of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been known, or assumed, for the previous 15 years. It had never been seen as a good enough reason to go to war before. Mr Blair’s key, “sexing-up” was not the statement that Saddam Hussein had WMD – but the claim that those weapons were becoming a, “growing” threat, a threat so, “current and serious” that urgent action, war, if necessary, had to be taken.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the MI6 chief, may be right to be concerned. In secret evidence sessions, whose transcripts were helpfully published only months later, at the height of the News International hacking scandal and, therefore, went almost unnoticed, his own subordinates criticised him for getting too close to Mr Blair. Sir Richard, in his evidence, angrily dismissed the suggestions as, “complete rubbish … I wasn’t sipping chardonnay in the evenings with Tony Blair, or nipping off to have breakfast with him at Chequers … a lot of people were jealous of my position, and, therefore, I think, motivated to talk about it, including [Jack Straw]”.

One of Sir Richard’s MI6 subordinates said that, “there were from the outset concerns” in the service about, “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”. Another described the famous claim that Iraq could use WMD within 45 minutes of an order being given as, “based in part on wishful thinking” and not, “fully validated”.

Mr Campbell was called an, “unguided missile,” constantly seeking out fresh nuggets to hand out to favoured journalists. Sir Richard, too, admitted that he had felt, “extremely uncomfortable” about the way the 45-minute claim was seized on. “It’s just so awful that that happened,” he said, “because it did refer clearly to battlefield weapons”, weapons that were no threat outside an immediate combat zone.

Yet, the dossier may not figure quite as large in the inquiry’s findings as some expect. Some members, at least, appear to think that Mr Blair’s claim of a, “growing” threat may have been at least partially explained, if not justified, by new (albeit later discredited) intelligence that arrived two weeks before the dossier was published, though too late to verify or include in the document itself. The Chilcot panellists make much of avoiding, “hindsight”, of judging people on the basis of what they knew and believed at the time.

Chris Ames, a writer who has followed Chilcot more closely than almost anyone else, says, “It is an establishment inquiry and I’ll believe it when I see it – but I think it could be a highly critical report. I think you’d have to be stupid to think they will not criticise Blair for taking an early decision to go to war. That’s where they’re going to hang their case. “Chilcot is a mandarin himself – and if he can hang it on the evidence of other people in a similar but more senior position to himself [such as Lord Turnbull] he won’t be going out on a limb.”

May 16 2014: Iraq War inquiry report to be published months before general election

The long-awaited Iraq War inquiry will be published by the end of the year, months before the general election, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister made clear he was willing to sweep aside concerns by his most senior civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood about publishing the report, which might break the reputation of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. The decision is likely to be seen as highly controversial as Labour may claim that the publication of the report months before the May 2015 general election could influence the way people vote.

The report could prove difficult for Labour in the build-up to the 2015 general election, reviving the issue of Mr Blair’s decision to take the country to war. The news came moments after Bernard Jenkin, who chairs a Commons committee that oversees the civil service, threatened to summon Sir Jeremy to explain the delay. Mr Jenkin described the delay as “very serious” and said he had written to the Cabinet Office demanding an explanation for the hold-up.

Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry completed public hearings in 2011, but publication of its report is understood to have been held back by negotiations over the publication of private communications between Tony Blair, prime minister at the time of the 2003 conflict, and then-US president George Bush. Mr Cameron told Sky News: “My understanding is that they will be able to publish before the end of the year and I very much hope they can deliver on that timetable. “The public wants to see the answers of the inquiry and I think we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.”

Mr Jenkin told the BBC’s Daily Politics: “It’s very serious that this report is now at least four years overdue, so we’ve written to the minister to ask for an explanation as to why these delays have occurred, what is holding up the publication of the report and how these issues are going to be resolved. “On the basis of that, we may well call for the minister, or indeed the Cabinet Secretary, to come and give us evidence to explain how they are going to sort this out.”

Following the completion of his inquiry, Sir John began a process known as “Maxwellisation” under which individuals facing criticism in the report are given an opportunity to respond before publication. He has been in discussions with Sir Jeremy – who was principal private secretary to Mr Blair in 10 Downing Street before the war – over what documents to publish. Sir John wants to publish sensitive material, covering some 200 Cabinet-level discussions, 25 notes from Mr Blair to Mr Bush and more than 130 records of conversations between the PM and the US president.

Sir Menzies Campbell MP, who sits on a Parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s spies told the Daily Politics that Sir John was now “still in dispute with the Cabinet secretary about whether or not there can be ultimately published the exchanges between George W Bush and Tony Blair”. He said the delay was being caused by a debate about how much of Labour’s political journey towards the start of the war is published. He said: “The public interest now is overwhelmingly in favour of understanding the political journey in which the Labour Government under Tony Blair reached the decision to take military action.”

A senior Labour MP who voted against the Iraq War told The Daily Telegraph: “This looks like an out and out party political manoeuvre trying really to interfere in a quasi-judicial process in the hands of a former senior civil servant. “They should not be interfering just before a general election. I would rather it was out it in the next few weeks or the next month or two. The thing should be out now – because there are questions to be answered about how certain individuals within the Labour government handled that.”

Stop Press wrote: The truth has been buried already. “A highly unusual ruling by Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, means medical records including the post-mortem report will remain classified until after all those with a direct interest in the case are dead, the Mail on Sunday said. And a 30-year secrecy order has been placed on written records provided to Lord Hutton’s inquiry which were not produced in evidence.” pmjjd wrote: As a doctor I found the circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death suspicious. The person who found the body remarked that there was little or no blood at the scene. The wrist cuts supposedly involved the ulnar arteries not the radial arteries ( surely Dr Kelly would have been able to identify the radial arteries ) I find it unlikely that the average person could even palpate their own ulnar arteries ( I can’t and I know exactly where to palpate ) Were the incisions made post-mortem ? We need to see these records. Why are they being witheld?

May 30 2014: The truth will out about Blair and Iraq, whatever the Chilcot Inquiry ends up telling us

With their backs to the wall, but resisting still, are the politicians and civil servants who seek to block the inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot into the calamitous Iraq war. A deal between Sir John and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, was announced on Thursday. It allows extracts from exchanges between Tony Blair and the former US President, George W. Bush to be published but the full texts will remain secret. No wonder the political establishment is worried. It is about to be shown as the ineffective, shortsighted, borderline dishonest group of people that it is. A study by the authoritative Royal United Services Institute released this week gave this opinion: “Far from reducing international terrorism … the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it”.

The Iraq war was indeed the worst error in British foreign policy since the unsuccessful invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956. Confronting the political establishment, pressing on, desperately seeking the truth are, in first place, the families of the 453 British troops who were killed in the conflict and of the 6000 who were wounded. They cannot come to terms with their losses until they know whether their loved ones died and suffered for a worthy cause.

Reginald Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed at the age of 21 in 2003, said on BBC2’s Newsnight programme on Thursday, “I need to draw a line under this and until I know the whole truth I can’t. It will be an open wound until the day I die”.

Pushing forward with the families are the many people who want to understand whether Tony Blair and his administration should answer to something like the ancient accusation of, “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It used to be employed in cases involving breaking promises to Parliament, obstructing justice, cronyism and wasting public money. Even now, in the 21st century, the subject matter of Sir John’s inquiry is, in effect, a contemporary version of the antique charge. Consider the terrible accusations directed against Mr Blair and his colleagues. Here are two from the 15 grounds for complaint often cited. The first is misleading Parliament. Members were told that Britain could legally join an invasion. We now know, thanks to what the Chilcot Inquiry has already discovered, that the Prime Minister’s chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, did not agree with this assertion. Next is the charge of misleading the nation over weapons of mass destruction.

In a dossier on Iraq published in September 2002, Mr Blair stated in a foreword that it had been established, “beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein was producing WMD. None has ever been found. In that same month, the Prime Minister informed the Commons, “[Saddam’s] weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working.” When the Inquiry team told Mr. Blair that it had not seen evidence indicating that the threat from Saddam was growing at the time of the invasion, the former prime minister conceded this was true. “It wasn’t that objectively he had done more. It was that our perception of the risk had shifted.” In other words, what Mr Blair thinks is true is, by definition, true.

Then there is what witnesses to the Inquiry have revealed about the working of the Government. I don’t think of these revelations as being in any way dated or typical of one particular political party. They are the way things have worked for a very long time. The former head of UK armed forces, Admiral Lord Boyce, commented that he suspected that if he had asked half the cabinet whether we were at war, “they wouldn’t know what I was talking about”.

Lt Gen Frederick Viggers, Britain’s senior military representative in Iraq, said we had been, “putting amateurs into really really important positions and people were getting killed as a result of some of their decisions. It’s a huge responsibility and I just don’t sense we lived up to it.“ Without naming individuals, he said he blamed those at the highest levels of government. ”I am not talking about the soldiers and commanders and civilians… who did a great job. But it’s the intellectual horsepower that drives these things [which] needs better co-ordination,“ he said. Better co-ordination? Is that all that was lacking?

The political establishment began to build its defences on the day the Inquiry was announced by the then prime minister, Gordon Brown. The proceedings would take place in private, he said. This decision was subsequently reversed after receiving criticism in the media and in the House of Commons. Then the establishment got back to work.

It was decided that the Inquiry would be unable to receive evidence under oath. Care was also taken with the membership of the Inquiry. Although the subject matter was war, there would be nobody on the team with first-hand military expertise. Nor would there be anybody with legal experience even though legality had been an issue from the beginning. One of the members, the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, had once compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.

Having reached a decision in principle with the Cabinet Secretary, arduous discussions will now take place regarding which documents can be put into the public domain and in what manner. There will be detailed consideration of the so-called “gists” and quotations. From this will emerge a draft final version of the report – “draft” because the last step is to show it in confidence to those who find themselves criticised in order that they may have a chance to make representations before publication if they think they have been unfairly treated. However, I don’t think the seekers after truth should be too disheartened. The Chilcot/Heywood deal represents an advance, even if it does not go as far as many of us would wish.

It is possible that the gap that remains between what the establishment finds it inconvenient to disclose and what genuinely touches on national security or on the freedom of heads of government to write frankly to each other is not very wide. We just don’t know whether that is the case or not at the moment. Yet we live in an age of whistleblowers. We have before us the example of the unauthorised disclosure of literally thousands of classified documents by Edward Snowden, who worked for US intelligence. There will be more leaks. We shall get there in the end.

May 31 2014: Is Sir Sir Jeremy Wormtongue more powerful than the PM?

Unelected, Unaccountable, and under fire for a secret deal to censor the truth about the Iraq war. No 10’s Mr Fixit’s fingerprints are over every major political scandal of recent years.

Just after the last General Election, a 20-page report landed on the desks of a lofty cross-section of British politicians, scientists and business leaders. Marked, “confidential” and prepared by the consulting firm McKinsey, the seemingly nondescript document carried the title,”Rapid restructuring in pharma to navigate turbulent times.” It advised companies in the multi-billion-pound drug industry to take steps to ensure they prospered in an ‘uncertain’ marketplace. Firms were urged to dramatically ‘restructure’, cut costs in order to ‘burn fat’ before attempting to ‘build muscle’ by, among other things, mergers, acquisitions and ‘radical outsourcing’. The tone was dry; academic, even. And were it not for the seismic events that have recently threatened to reshape the global pharmaceutical industry, it might have been quietly forgotten. Instead, it has been dragged into the huge political row over the American drug giant Pfizer’s controversial attempt to take over its British rival AstraZeneca. The £69?billion bid was formally abandoned on Monday, after weeks of fierce debate.

Supporters had described it as exactly the sort of dynamic, forward-thinking corporate move advocated by such industry experts as McKinsey. Opponents, including the board of AstraZeneca, were adamant that Pfizer’s takeover would be bad for the long-term future of the British pharmaceutical industry. Treading a fine line between the two camps was Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who was asked by David Cameron to, “engage” with the two firms during the contentious negotiations. The 52-year-old Whitehall mandarin, who earns a £190,000 salary, was therefore duty-bound to assess even-handedly the impact of the deal on the national interest.

Many reasonable people might think that such objectivity would be near impossible when, as the Mail reveals, one of the four co-authors of McKinsey’s ‘rapid restructuring’ report was Heywood’s wife. Not surprisingly there has been deep disquiet, given his wife’s strong views on the subject, over the wisdom of Heywood’s appointment. Doubtless Heywood, Britain’s most powerful civil servant, would argue that wherever his wife’s sympathies lie, he always discharges Government responsibilities entirely properly. Not everyone involved in the deal agreed, though. Senior figures at AstraZeneca are said at times to have been incensed by his one-sided stewardship of the takeover.

Now, though, Heywood’s integrity has come under intense scrutiny again concerning his involvement in another huge national controversy. Indeed, if anything illustrates this man’s ability to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds it is his role in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. On Thursday, it emerged that he had vetoed the release to the inquiry of vital letters and records of phone calls between Tony Blair and George W. Bush in the run-up to the war. The contents of 150 messages — believed to reveal the real reason Blair dragged Britain into the conflict — will be censored from the £10?million inquiry, thanks to a backroom deal cooked up by Heywood. The shabby compromise is a triumph for Mr Blair, along with the officials who served in Downing Street with him during this highly controversial period. And who was one of the most senior of those officials? None other than Heywood himself! As Blair’s Private Secretary at the time, he was a central member of the inner circle that took Britain to war.

The ineluctable fact is that the entire Downing Street career of this secretive, non-accountable mandarin has been plagued by controversy As with the Pfizer affair, many people are convinced that his dealings with Chilcot are compromised by a clear conflict of interest. Surely he should have stepped aside and not been involved in decisions about what material should be made public?

Indeed, David Davis, a senior Tory MP, told the Mail yesterday that Heywood should have excused himself from the talks. He said: ‘It is wholly inappropriate that the primary decision-maker in this is Jeremy Heywood,’ adding that the Cabinet Secretary had a ‘vested interest in secrecy’ and had ended up brokering a deal that represents ‘improper, bad governance’. But then the ineluctable fact is that the entire Downing Street career of this secretive, non-accountable mandarin, who has inveigled his way into the inner sanctum of the Blair, Brown and Cameron premierships despite not having been elected, has been plagued by controversy. During a 15-year period, the fingerprints of Heywood (who the BBC has called ‘the most important person in the country that nobody has ever heard of’) can be found on virtually every crisis, scandal and major Downing Street decision in recent history. His track record includes:

i. Botching the official Downing Street response to the 2012, “Pleb- gate” scandal involving former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.
ii. Persuading David Cameron to support the failed 2012 merger of British arms giant BAE Systems and European rival EADS, despite having close links to a bank at the centre of the deal.
iii. Ensuring, despite opposition from elected ministers, that Lord Justice Leveson’s investigation into the Press was granted draconian Judicial Inquiry status.
iv. Engineering the disastrous flotation of the Southern Cross care homes group in 2006, which left more than 30,000 elderly and vulnerable people facing being made homeless.
v. Failing to properly oversee that year’s bidding process for the West Coast main line rail franchise, which needlessly cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.
vi. Being suspected of attempting to block Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. Some even suspect him of agitating for the Work and Pensions Secretary’s sacking.
vii. Clashing with Mr Cameron’s policy guru Steve Hilton, leading to Hilton’s move to a job in California.

Some claim he strengthened his own power base by helping his predecessor orchestrate the post-2010 election negotiations between David Cameron and Nick Clegg that led to the formation of the Coalition, which inevitably made the role of Cabinet Secretary much more important. Little wonder that he is known across Whitehall as, “Sir Jeremy Wormtongue”, after the Machiavellian Lord Of The Rings character who whispers gossip into a king’s ear in order to further his own agenda. Yet as the focus is increasingly placed on his over-mighty role in No?10, more and more questions are being asked about what exactly lies behind that agenda.

Earlier this month it emerged that Heywood’s previous employer, the giant American bank Morgan Stanley, was intimately involved in the Pfizer negotiations, advising AstraZeneca. Adrian Bailey, Labour chairman of the Commons Business Select Committee, said the revelation, “reinforces the public view that there is an inner circle of politicians and bankers working in each other’s interests”. Mr Bailey’s colleague, MP Debbie Abrahams, went so far as to ask in Parliament whether Heywood’s apparent, “lack of independence is in the public interest”. In reply, the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, insisted Heywood had been impartial throughout.

Adrian Bailey, Labour chairman of the Commons Business Select Committee, said there was an, “inner circle of politicians and bankers working in each other’s interests”. Commentators nevertheless described the decision to let Heywood oversee the Pfizer bid as akin to leaving a fox in charge of a hen coop.

It was doubly odd, they pointed out, since Heywood had faced a barrage of similar criticism two years ago for appearing to take a pro-active role in another proposed mega-merger, between arms manufacturer BAE and its European rival EADS. The deal threatened Britain’s security by jeopardising sensitive military intelligence operations with the U.S. and was said to imperil 38,000 British jobs. That time, his links to Morgan Stanley were again questioned, since the U.S. bank stood to gain millions from brokering the deal. Though there was no evidence that Heywood would personally benefit from the merger, David Davis MP condemned his role, saying: ‘I think it highly unusual for someone as senior as the Cabinet Secretary to be involved in a deal like this.’

An analysis of Heywood’s career makes it very clear that he has an uncanny knack for placing his manicured fingers on the levers of power. ‘The fact that he’s been in the inner circle of Labour and Tory prime ministers, and had the ear of both Blair and Brown — even when they weren’t speaking to each other — tells you everything you need to know about the skills he brings to Downing Street,’ says one insider. ‘Heywood sees where the mood is, identifies the most powerful person on whom his future depends, then works his way into their inner circle.’

The son of a teacher at the private Bootham School in York, which he himself attended, Heywood’s background is classic Sir Humphrey: Oxford University, the LSE and then the civil service. He rose seamlessly through its ranks. Today, he operates out of a tennis court-sized room at the Cabinet Office, which has discreet internal access to Downing Street. On an average day, Heywood is believed to spend between two and three hours with David Cameron — making him a senior member of the so-called ‘chumocracy’, that small cabal of privately educated, Oxbridge graduates who make up the PM’s clique. “Mr Cameron trusts him implicitly,” I’m told. “He’s one of the first people he calls each morning and last people he speaks to at night.” In addition to attending Cabinet meetings, Heywood is one of the group of four — along with Chancellor George Osborne, press chief Craig Oliver and head of staff Ed Llewellyn — who attend the PM’s daily 8.30am and 4pm strategy meetings.

His influence is such that Cameron is said to have once asked, only half in jest: “Remind me, Jeremy, do you work for me or do I work for you?” Like any successful courtier, Heywood can sometimes stir jealousy in MPs and ministers — who, unlike him, have actually been elected — or other colleagues. Steve Hilton, Cameron’s director of strategy, resigned in 2012 and his departure is said to have been hastened by a clash of personalities with Heywood. ‘Almost every time Steve floated a policy, Heywood was the one in the room sucking his teeth and saying “No”,’ says one Hilton ally. “He saw off Steve’s attempts to reform the Civil Service and introduce more elected mayors.”

More recently, allies of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have muttered that Heywood has attempted to block welfare reforms. Some even suspect him of agitating for the minister’s sacking. ‘The night before the last reshuffle, David Cameron called Iain and said he was going to remove him from the Department of Work and Pensions and make him Attorney General,” says one well-placed source. “Iain replied that if that happened, he’d resign. In the event, Cameron had second thoughts. But Iain’s card has been marked and he knows who to

Another senior Tory with a less than rosy opinion of Heywood is Andrew Mitchell, who resigned as Chief Whip after swearing at Downing Street police officers in the so-called ‘Plebgate’ affair. Heywood conducted the original investigation into the incident. A damning report by MPs later heavily criticised him for failing to take even basic steps to check facts. A report for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme showed how easy it was, thanks to CCTV footage of the incident, to prove that Mitchell had been, “stitched up”. According to one critic of Heywood: “He didn’t do that. It was a shambles.” Bernard Jenkin, Tory chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, then released a report saying the Cabinet Secretary had, “clearly failed to uncover the truth”.

Heywood’s competence was again questioned in 2012 when he was asked by Mr Cameron to look into claims that the Department for Transport was using incorrect figures while considering bids for the West Coast rail franchise. The No?10 Mr Fixit looked into the matter and told the PM that nothing was amiss. But later it emerged that he was wrong and tens of millions of taxpayers’ money had been lost as a result. Heywood is said to resent the adverse publicity such episodes bring. “He’s a classic mandarin who likes to operate in the shadows, dislikes the Press and believes he should never be part of the story,” says one Whitehall insider.

Indeed, his distaste for media scrutiny was most evident during the phone-hacking scandal, when he is said to have been the man responsible for persuading David Cameron to appoint Lord Justice Leveson to investigate the newspaper industry. He saw that the inquiry was granted judicial status, giving Leveson a staggering degree of power to compel witnesses to give evidence — something which, tellingly, was not available to Chilcot. When Education Secretary Michael Gove commented that the inquiry threatened Press freedom, Leveson phoned Heywood to complain.

Heywood’s distaste for the limelight is long-standing. In the mid-Nineties, he embarked on a romance with his future wife, Suzanne, who was then working under him at the Treasury. Jill Rutter, a press secretary at the department, reported their subsequent engagement in the in-house newsletter. She said that far from being honoured, “Jeremy was furious” at the supposed invasion of privacy. Heywood and Suzanne married in 1997, shortly before he was picked by Tony Blair to be his Private Secretary.

An analysis of Heywood’s career makes it very clear that he has an uncanny knack for placing his manicured fingers on the levers of power His arrival in Downing Street coincided with the advent of so-called Blairite, “sofa government,” in which key decisions were taken by a small group of insiders. “It was an environment that suited Jeremy perfectly, because he’s a consummate office politician and was able to inveigle himself into that circle,” says a former colleague. “There was also a time, in the darkest days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s
relationship, when he was the only person both camps would talk with. That gave him huge additional power.”

With power, however, came criticism. He was one of a handful of figures at the Downing Street meeting at which it was decided to publicly name weapons inspector Dr David Kelly — who later committed suicide? — as a source for a BBC story about the Iraq war.

The Hutton Inquiry later heard that, in a remarkable breach of Whitehall procedure, Heywood failed to take minutes of the meeting. If there is one thing that a civil servant should be capable of, surely, it is to keep an accurate record. After the Iraq invasion, Heywood took a break from the civil service, joining Morgan Stanley. This lucrative move lasted three years and helped facilitate the £1,485,000 purchase of his family home in south London. The property, to which he recently added a walk-in wine cellar, is now valued at £2.5?million.

His time at the investment bank would come back to bite him in 2011, however, when it emerged that he had been the ultimate head of the Morgan Stanley team that advised on the flotation of the Southern Cross care home group in 2006. The controversial deal, which saw care homes for the elderly hived off from the company that ran them, was hugely profitable for Morgan Stanley. But it led to the collapse of the firm, leaving 31,000 frail and elderly residents in its 750 homes worried where they would live, and threatening 3,000 jobs. Heywood was said by the GMB union to be, “up to his neck” in the scandal, accusing him of being, “ringside” during the disastrous financial engineering.

Yet for all the criticism, Heywood’s star has continued to rise and he has consolidated his Downing Street power base, particularly as a result of the Coalition Government. An insider explains, “When you have a coalition, you also need a moderator, someone at the centre of people pulling in different directions. He’s that man. It makes him more important than ever.”Having helped create the current coalition, Heywood is believed to be preparing Whitehall for another one, having come to the view that next year’s General Election could well deliver another inconclusive result. Whatever the result of next year’s vote, the chances are that however many disasters he’s involved in, this political chameleon will retain his seat at the heart of British government. And jigger the cost to the British people.

May 31 2014: Shine a light on this unaccountable clique

Shadowy, secretive, never held to account, he is the political fixer the BBC calls ‘the most important person in the country that nobody has ever heard of’. Today, increasingly unsettling questions are being raised about the role and influence of Britain’s most powerful mandarin, Sir Jeremy Heywood. Indeed, the Cabinet Secretary epitomises the cliquey, detached cronyism of modern government, against which voters rose up so resoundingly last week.

In what seems a blatant conflict of interest, Sir Jeremy is the former Private Secretary to Tony Blair who triumphed on Thursday in his campaign to prevent the Chilcot Inquiry from publishing the details of his ex-boss’s communications with George Bush before the Iraq War. Thus, he has fatally undermined the five-year, £10million inquiry’s brief to reveal the full truth about the invasion.

But as Guy Adams exposes in his Saturday report, this is far from the first time Sir Jeremy’s private interests have appeared to clash with his public duty of neutrality. At the time of drugs giant Pfizer’s failed £69billion bid for AstraZeneca, many questioned why it was necessary for him to become involved, apparently working behind the scenes to oil negotiations. Disturbingly, it now emerges his wife co-wrote an influential report by the global consultancy firm McKinsey, advocating mergers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Consider too Sir Jeremy’s part in persuading David Cameron to back the rejected 2012 merger of arms firm BAE Systems with its rival EADS, despite his links with a leading bank involved. This is not to mention his back-room role in the Plebgate affair; his failure to take minutes of the meeting that sealed Dr David Kelly’s fate; or the rumours he tried to derail IDS’s welfare reforms.

What is so profoundly wrong is that an unelected figure such as Sir Jeremy, sliding smoothly from Mr Blair’s sofa to the inner counsels of Gordon Brown and Mr Cameron, exercises so much power beyond the spotlight of public scrutiny. Indeed, he and his like, now setting the guidelines for another coalition, are shielded even under the 20-year rule from exposure of their role. (And how significant that Sir Jeremy is said to have been behind the decision to grant draconian judicial status to the Leveson Inquiry – something even Chilcot didn’t have). In the local and Euro-elections, voters made clear their exasperation with a ruling elite sealed off from their concerns. It’s time to throw open the curtains of Whitehall to fresh air and light.

June 2 2014: The Chilcot inquiry critics should be careful what they wish for

Stitch-up, cover-up and whitewash have been widely used. Such doubts are perhaps understandable in view of past failures by inquiries from Hillsborough onwards. It is hard for the public and the media, to take official assurances on trust and for the inquiry to demonstrate its independence ahead of its report. But, in this case, the critics are wrong both in principle and in practice. Of course, Tony Blair and others should be held to account for their decisions and errors in the most controversial, and bloody, military action for decades, a more damaging failure for many than even the Suez conflict of 1956. The Chilcot inquiry has taken far, far too long, partly because its remit has been too wide and partly because of inherent problems of disclosure when much of the material relates to relations between governments.
Yet none of this material has been hidden from the inquiry. Sir John and his team have apparently seen everything.

The question is how much they can disclose to back up their conclusions. And here the issues of principle are much trickier than the ‘disclose everything’ advocates acknowledge. This is not about domestic advice and discussions, much of which is already public. There is never a clear dividing line between the past and the present.

Governments cannot ignore current relationships with other countries. If the transcripts of the Blair/Bush conversations were published in full, would President Obama, or another foreign leader, any longer be candid or open in their talks with David Cameron? There are risks which no government can responsibly ignore. A similar point applies to the disclosure of detailed intelligence material, a problem faced by the abortive Detainee inquiry (on which I served).

It was therefore correct to seek a compromise, even though it has taken a very long time. The agreement, brokered by the much vilified Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, is, in reality, not an exercise in secrecy, but a big step towards disclosure – despite the strong doubts of lawyers, diplomats and the Americans. Whatever conclusions the Chilcot inquiry reaches, readers will find out what the views of Mr Blair were, what he said and did. Agreement has been reached on the publication of a number of full extracts of minutes of the most critical ministerial meetings, and of some international communications.

On the most contentious issue of the Blair/Bush exchanges, there will be gists and quotes sufficient for the inquiry to explain its conclusions, only excluding President Bush’s views. This goes much further than many in Whitehall would have liked. Of course, the Iraq war was exceptional, but the level of disclosure will be exceptional. So instead of damning an establishment cover-up, the critics should think about the wider consequences of what they are seeking. Sir Jeremy is, like other Cabinet Secretaries, unable to defend himself now from over-the-top personal attacks, but his critics may turn out to be surprised by the robustness and comprehensiveness of the final report.

The dilemma was well summed-up in the chairman’s foreword to the, “Review of the 30 Year Rule” in January 2009 which recommended a 15 year delay before official records are released. “There are many good reasons why state records need to be kept confidential for a specific period of time and there is a very necessary tension between the understandable need for governments to work in some privacy and the equally understandable wish of the people to know what is being done in their names”. The chairman was Paul Dacre, then and now the editor of the Daily Mail, which has described the Chilcot/Heywood agreement as ‘a shabby whitewash’.

September 14 2014: Chilcot report on Iraq war, “might be after election”

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is still making fresh requests for the release of classified government papers, suggesting that its report is unlikely to be published before the general election. Government sources say Sir John Chilcot and his team are still filing a “steady stream” of requests asking civil servants to declassify documents that he wants to quote in his report – meaning it is still being written. So far the inquiry has cost more than £9m including £1.5m in the last financial year, even though it was not sitting. Senior politicians and officials fear it will not be published before December at the earliest and warn that if it is not ready by the end of February it may have to be delayed until after the election.

A spokesman for the inquiry confirmed yesterday that the process of Maxwellisation, whereby Sir John will warn those he intends to criticise, has not started. That process is expected to take at least two months. Civil servants had believed the report was close to being signed off and published at the end of May when Sir John struck a deal with Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to allow some cabinet papers and the “gist” of Tony Blair’s conversations with George W Bush before the war to be published. But, since then, insiders say that Sir John appears not to have finished writing the report as he is still issuing requests to clear papers for publication. One senior source suggested the inquiry chairman may also be having to balance the views of different members of his panel which may be contributing to the delay.

A spokesman for the inquiry said: “Maxwellisation has not recommenced as yet,” and referred to evidence given by Sir Jeremy to the Public Administration Select Committee last Monday.There, Sir Jeremy said: “There has been a delay of sorts as we processed tens of thousands of requests for declassification of very complicated and sensitive documents. It is a very difficult thing. The controversy around this continues today. It is very important that the whole story is told. “We have tried our level best to break through normal conventions and the legal requirements and the international relations and the nine different categories that the original protocols suggested might be a reason for not publishing material – we have had to work through all of that in good faith as fast as we possibly can to try to make sure the whole story is laid bare.” “I believe John Chilcot is happy on where we have got to on that point. I am absolutely confident that the finished report will be as transparent as it needs to be.”

November 2014; Iraq Inquiry: why Sir Jeremy Heywood should be stripped of his role immediately

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, is blocking the publication of correspondence between George W Bush and Tony Blair ahead of the Iraq War, together with later correspondence between Gordon Brown and Mr Bush – thus effectively stalling the already heavily delayed Iraq Inquiry.

No security issues are at stake. The blocking of the correspondence between Downing Street and the White House is an affront to democracy and prevents us from forming a judgment about the most disastrous war in recent British history. Sir Jeremy Heywood should now be removed from all decisions relating to the Iraq Inquiry, because he was himself deeply involved in the flawed government process in the run-up to and after the invasion of Iraq.

Sir Jeremy was appointed Tony Blair’s principal private secretary in 1999. Within a short space of time (as his senior colleagues have told me in detail) he became an intrinsic part of the collapse of the process of government which took place after 1997.

As Sir Robin Butler graphically described, the principles of sound, accountable administration were abandoned and replaced by “sofa government”. Decisions were made informally by a small coterie including Blair, Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell and Anji Hunter. Sir Jeremy was the only civil servant who was granted full access to the sofa.

The sloppiness of this new Downing Street machinery became manifest in the summer of 2003 when the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly tried to reconstruct the process which led to the release of the name of the MOD scientist in national newspapers. Lord Hutton learnt that four meetings, all involving senior officials and cabinet ministers, each chaired by the prime minister, took place in Downing Street to discuss Dr Kelly in the 48 hours before his name was released. In an amazing breach of normal Whitehall procedures, not one of these meetings was minuted at the time.

In the normal course of events it should have been the job of the principal private secretary to the prime minister – ie Jeremy Heywood – to draw up these minutes. Yet he did not do so. This episode shows that Sir Jeremy Heywood is much too implicated in these matters to be permitted to make decisions of deep sensitivity concerning the White House/Downing Street correspondence.

David Cameron must now urgently intervene to strip Sir Jeremy of his role, and take control of the decision himself. If he fails to do this, the Prime Minister himself risks becoming complicit in what now looks more and more like a giant cover-up involving elements of the British establishment and political class to prevent the truth becoming known about how we became involved in the Iraq War.

November 12 2013: The Chilcot Inquiry – Cabinet boss must not decide on Iraq papers, says Owen: Former Foreign Secretary demands Sir Jeremy Heywood be stripped of responsibility because he worked closely with Tony Blair

David Owen has demanded that Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood be stripped of responsibility for deciding whether key documents can be published by the Iraq Inquiry. The inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot complained last week that his probe has stalled indefinitely because Sir Jeremy is blocking the release of correspondence between Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and US President George W. Bush. But Lord Owen, who was a Labour Foreign Secretary in the late 70s, said Sir Jeremy is not the right, “arbiter” of whether the papers are released since he also worked closely with Mr Blair in the run up to war.

In a letter to David Cameron yesterday, Lord Owen wrote, “Sir Jeremy Heywood was Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair in No 10 from 1999-2003, the very time when the decisions to go to war were being taken. “I cannot believe that now as Cabinet Secretary he can be the arbiter as to whether documents should be published between Sir John Chilcot and Tony Blair. It is obvious that there are differences of opinion as Sir John writes in his letter to you that it is regrettable that the Government and the Inquiry have not reached an agreement.”

In a direct challenge to the Prime Minister, Lord Owen urged Mr Cameron to assert his authority and hand the responsibility to Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, who already has responsibility for deciding which government papers can be released under the 30-year rule. “Who is the Government?” he asks, “You as Prime Minister? The Cabinet? Surely not for the reasons I have given, the Cabinet Secretary? I suggest you ask the Lord Chancellor to form a judgement on behalf of the Government as to what papers can be released.” He added, “The Iraq Inquiry involves a decision to declare war and from the moment it was established it was clear it would involve examination of international discussions between British Prime Ministers and US Presidents. If there is a precedent it is the inquiry held during the First World War to examine the Dardanelles.”

In a letter to Mr Cameron last week, Sir John revealed that he has asked for, “more than 130 records of conversations” between Mr Brown, Tony Blair and Mr Bush to be declassified. The hold up has also involves whether to make public, “25 Notes from Mr Blair to President Bush” and “some 200 Cabinet-level discussions”. In his letter, Sir John said, “It is regrettable that the Government and the Inquiry have not reached a final position on the disclosure of these more difficult categories of document”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said, “The Inquiry and Government agreed in the Inquiry’s Documents Protocol that the Cabinet Secretary should be the final arbiter of declassification – that remains unchanged and has the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s full support. “At the outset the Government assured the Inquiry of its full cooperation and it continues to do so.” Allies of Sir Jeremy pointed out that Mr Cameron has asked the Cabinet Secretary to take a lead on the declassification of the documents, “and that remains his view”.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly relied on Sir Jeremy – for instance on the No 10 probe of the plebgate allegations against former chief whip Andrew Mitchell – where MPs think he should have given to the responsibility to others. Follow up: Letter from Sir John Chilcot to Sir Jeremy Heywood – 28 May 2014

November 2014; The Unminuted 10 Downing Street, 14 March 2003 meeting attended by Lord Goldsmith, (Attorney General) Lady Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

At the meeting it is alleged Goldsmith had agreed to change his legal advice for a second time re waging war on Iraq. At the Butler Inquiry, Goldsmith was asked whether the meeting between the three unelected persons was minuted, to which Goldsmith cavalierly responded that he had no idea whether it was minuted. Had I been Butler I would have said, well, you were the Attorney General and you, “were pinned to the wall” (a quote from the Chilcot Inquiry) by Falconer and Morgan and you were discussing something as serious as taking the country to war, and changing your legal advice for a second time (because Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of the Armed Forces at the time, had sought a late assurance from Blair that the war would be legal because he did not want himself and those under his command branded as war criminals) and you did not ensure that the meeting was minuted?! You really could not make this up! Oh, but, it gets worse: it was said that Goldsmith later regretted that he had not resigned but that he had not done so because his wife was a leading Labour socialite and wanted him to remain Attorney General so that she could continue to party. Also, Margaret Aldred should not be running the Chilcot Inquiry for many reasons which the mainstream press have failed to report,

Nvember 2008; Former senior law lord condemns ‘serious violation of international law’

One of Britain’s most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a “world vigilante”.

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general’s defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed. Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith’s advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: “It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had.” Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions “passes belief”. Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. “The current ministerial code,” he added “binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to ‘comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations’.” The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue to press for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the invasion. The government says an inquiry would be harmful while British troops are in Iraq. Ministers say most of the remaining 4,000 will leave by mid-2009.

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: “If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law. “For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council …” The moment a state treated the rules of international law as binding on others but not on itself, the compact on which the law rested was broken, Bingham argued. Quoting a comment made by a leading academic lawyer, he added: “It is, as has been said, ‘the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante’.” Bingham said he had very recently provided an advance copy of his speech to Goldsmith and to Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion of Iraq. He told his audience he should make it plain they challenged his conclusions.

Both men emphasised that point last night by intervening to defend their views as consistent with those held at the time of the invasion. Goldsmith said in a statement: “I stand by my advice of March 2003 that it was legal for Britain to take military action in Iraq. I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view. Lord Bingham is entitled to his own legal perspective five years after the event.” Goldsmith defended what is known as the “revival argument” – namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with previous UN resolutions which could now take effect. Goldsmith added that Tony Blair had told him it was his “unequivocal view” that Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations to give up weapons of mass destruction. Straw said last night that he shared Goldsmith’s view. He continued: “However controversial the view that military action was justified in international law it was our attorney general’s view that it was lawful and that view was widely shared across the world.”

Bingham also criticised the post-invasion record of Britain as “an occupying power in Iraq”. It is “sullied by a number of incidents, most notably the shameful beating to death of Mr Baha Mousa [a hotel receptionist] in Basra [in 2003]“, he said.
Such breaches of the law, however, were not the result of deliberate government policy and the rights of victims had been recognised, Bingham observed. He contrasted that with the “unilateral decisions of the US government” on issues such as the detention conditions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. After referring to mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham added: “Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration.”

July 2009; The Chilcot Inquiry – Margaret Aldred (Secretary to the Chairman) appointed.

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, has already said that he wants to hold as many hearings in public as possible, and now he has given a further indication of his desire for maximum openness. The Cabinet Office issued a news release last night saying that Chilcot and his team would hold a press conference soon to explain how they will carry out their work. It’s expected to take place towards the end of this month. Chilcot is a former civil servant – who ended his career as permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office. There have been complaints that the inquiry will have an establishment bias.

Chilcot has also named the secretary to the inquiry – ie the official who actually runs it. She’s Margaret Aldred, a career civil servant who spent 25 years at the Ministry of Defence and who is currently director general and deputy head of the foreign and defence policy secretariat in the Cabinet Office. She was appointed CBE in the 1991 Gulf honours list. She also worked as principal private secretary to two Tory defence secretaries, first Sir Malcolm Rifkind and then Michael Portillo.

Michel Portillo said about her; “She’s meticulous, loyal, fierce, definitely fierce. I would think she would do a good job. Obviously, she has a background in defence. She knows the subject. She will be very mindful of national security. But beyond that it’s difficult to predict how she will tackle it really. You are more or less bound to appoint such an establishment figure because, first, establishment figures know how to get things done and, second, they understand what they are looking for.

Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defense Policy Secretariat Margaret Aldred

Returning to the subject of Inquiry secretary Margaret Aldred’s involvement in the government’s Iraq policy in the four and a half years before she took up her current role, a US embassy cable published by Wikileaks places her at a meeting less than a year before the Inquiry started, where a key issue of Iraq policy was discussed.

On the Inquiry website, Ms Aldred’s job title is rather archly stated as “Director General and Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat in the Cabinet Office”. In other words, she has two roles. Firstly she is the deputy to the head of the entire Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat, so she covers all parts of the world just as MacDonald does. Secondly she is ‘Director General’, to which the obvious question is ‘Director General for what?’ And the answer is clearly Director General for something that the Inquiry wanted to conceal because to reveal it would be embarrassing.

No doubt the Defence and Overseas Policy Secretariat is divided into geographic sections and each section is headed by a Director General. e.g., there is presumably a Director General for Africa. Being the Deputy Head, Ms Aldred is presumably the most senior of these Director Generals, and I assume that she is the Director General for the Middle East, or it could even be, as Iraqi policy was so prominent, that they established a specific Iraq section and she was Director General for Iraq. It makes sense to have the most senior Director General take on the issue that was the most difficult and politically explosive.

We are told she has had this role since 2004. We can assume that she took the leading role in developing the Cabinet Office strategy for Iraq between 2004 and 2009, and so her attendance at a meeting such as the one referred to here would be automatic. In fact, one might surmise that with the Iraq involvement having come to an end, she might have been at a bit of a loose end. So the timing of the opportunity to transfer her to be the Inquiry Secretary might have been quite convenient. Now all she has to do is deliver a ‘successful’ final report and she might expect to be rewarded with a promotion. Perhaps a permanent secretary somewhere? And a title would be nice. Not that this would in any way inhibit her in carrying out her duties to the Inquiry of course. Perish the thought.

Margaret Aldred and the rendition cover-up

In January 2006 the New Statesman published a leaked Foreign Office memo from the previous month that discussed what the UK government knew about rendition, extraordinary rendition and torture at US interrogation centres. Having established that the US was using its own definitions of torture to ignore international conventions, the memo asked: “How do we know whether those our Armed Forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?” The question is a very pertinent one and should be a very important question for the Iraq Inquiry.

In 2008, former SAS trooper Ben Griffin revealed the answer: “Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Telegraph: “We would not transfer an individual to any country if we believed there was a risk of mistreatment.” Unfortunately, this had long been contradicted by the leaked memo, whose answer to its “how do we know?” question was: “Cabinet Office is researching this with MOD. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities.” The memo was copied to Nigel Sheinwald and Margaret Aldred at the Cabinet, Office, presumably because it was their section, Defence and Overseas Secretariat that was doing the research. We do not know what answer the Cabinet Office came up with. We do know that the MoD was so keen for the truth not to come out that it obtained an injunction to prevent Griffin repeating his claims.

We also know that the Iraq Inquiry, with Margaret Aldred as its secretary, has avoided the subject. The Inquiry has not published a single document from Aldred’s time dealing with Iraq policy at the Cabinet Office and has therefore not published the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s “research”. As Griffin told me: “It looks as if the Inquiry has been steered away from this issue.”


Sir Jeremy Heywood – Edward Snowden – Whistleblower – NSA & GCHQ – Data Collection & Surveillance of Individuals Worldwide

Sir Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary to David Cameron also leads the UK’s civil service. He wields immense power and exercises it routinely in defence of the government and in furtherance of his own agenda.

Edward Snowden worked for the NSA for a time but became disillusioned with the service viewing it’s policies to be counter productive, invasive and illegal. He gathered sensitive information, disappeared from his office then surfaced in Hong Kong where he leaked copious amounts of information to, “the Guardian” newspaper who in turn released much of it to the UK public.

Needless to say the proverbial, “s–t hit the fan” and there followed many months of accusations, denials, warnings, threats and government interference which, at the time of writing is still on-going. Sir Jeremy featured at the UK end taking action against the Guardian designed to bring to an end, (without success) to the revelations of Snowden who subsequently took refuge in Russia.

There is a large amount of press coverage and I have gathered a selection of relevant writings for study, over some time. The content is disturbing but truly reflects the activities of the US and UK government’s secret services.

June 3 2013: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal

June 6 2013: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily – Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

June 7 2013: UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world’s biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme

June 7 2013: Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks – Top-secret directive steps up offensive cyber capabilities to ‘advance US objectives around the world’

June 8 2013: Barack Obama defends US government programs that have reportedly conducted surveillance of people’s personal phone and internet activity. Federal authorities have allegedly been mining data from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files allowing analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts. The US president insists the surveillance programmes strike a good balance between safety and privacy

June 9 2013: Edward Snowden. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things” – video interview

June 9 2013: Data snooping: The foreign secretary, William Hague, says reports that GCHQ are gathering intelligence from phones and online sites should not concern people who have nothing to hide. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Hague claims all intelligence gathering done by the UK is governed by a strong legal framework. When asked directly about the UK’s links to Prism, the NSA’s secret surveillance programme, Hague declined to either confirm or deny it existed.

10 June 2013: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations – The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

June 11 2013: The NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data – NSA’s powerful tool for cataloging global surveillance data–including figures on US collection

June 11 2013: Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills: At the moment I feel alone, her blog – in which she described life with her boyfriend on Hawaii was taken down after Snowden identified as source of leaks

June 17 2013: Phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009

June 21 2013: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal

July 8 2013: Edward Snowden. ‘The US government will say I aided our enemies’ – video interview

August 1 2013: Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden • GCHQ expected to ‘pull its weight’ for Americans • Weaker regulation of British spies ‘a selling point’ for NSA

September 6 2013: NSA and GCHQ unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records • $250m-a-year US program works covertly with tech companies to insert weaknesses into products • Security experts say programs ‘undermine the fabric of the internet’

October 25 2013: Did Conservative MP Julian Smith endanger national security? Politician who claims Guardian endangered lives with NSA spying leaks shows photo of staff at high-security base in UK

October 25 2013: Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret. Exclusive: Edward Snowden papers show UK spy agency fears legal challenge if scale of surveillance is made public

October 25 2013: The NSA scandal puts Europe to the test. EU member states have a duty to protect their citizens from snooping. There is surely more to come

October 25 2013: NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts • Agency given more than 200 numbers by government official • NSA encourages departments to share their ‘Rolodexes’ • Surveillance produced ‘little intelligence’, memo acknowledges

28 October 2013: David Cameron makes veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks. Prime minister alludes to courts and D notices and singles out the Guardian over coverage of Edward Snowden saga

December 19 2013: In the US, the official response to Snowden’s revelations celebrates journalism and calls for real change. But in Britain, the picture is rather different

What a relief. It is, after all, possible to discuss the operations of modern intelligence agencies without having to prove one’s patriotism, be turned over by the police, summoned by politicians or visited by state-employed technicians with instructions to smash up one’s computers. The 300-page report into the Guardian’s revelations about the US National Security Agency commissioned by President Obama and published this week is wide-ranging, informed and thoughtful. It leaps beyond the timid privacy-versus-national security platitudes which have stifled so much of the debate in the UK. It doesn’t blame journalism for dragging the subject into the open it celebrates it. The five authors of the report are not hand-wringing liberals. They number one former CIA deputy director; a counter-terrorism adviser to George W Bush and his father; two former White House advisers; and a former dean of the Chicago law school. Not what the British prime minister would call “airy-fairy lah-di-dah” types.

Six months ago the British cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, was in the Guardian’s London office telling us there had been, “enough” debate on the matter of what intelligence agencies got up to. But here are Obama’s experts reveling in the debate; exploring the tensions between privacy and national security, yes – but going much further, discussing cryptology; civil liberties; the right of citizens and governments to be informed; relationships with other countries; and the potential damage that unconstrained espionage can cause to trade, commerce and the digital economy.

December 24 2013: The NSA, founded in 1952, is the USA’s signals intelligence agency, and the biggest of the country’s myriad intelligence organisations. It has a strict focus on overseas, rather than domestic, surveillance. It is the phone and internet interception specialist of the USA, and is also responsible for codebreaking.

December 26 2013: Israeli PM condemns US and UK spying on predecessor as ‘unacceptable’

December 29 2013: NSA ‘hacking unit’ infiltrates computers around the world • NSA: Tailored Access Operations a ‘unique national asset’• Former NSA chief calls Edward Snowden a ‘traitor’

December 31 2013: President Obama claims the NSA has never abused its authority. That’s false. The facts that we know so far – from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT – show that the NSA has overstepped its powers

Comment CaptCrash: The NSA failed to prevent the bombing at the Boston marathon, or a massive leak of it’s secrets to newspapers, but surveillance has managed to identify households buying baggage and cooking utensils in the same week. The sweep of all personal data clearly cannot be analysed without hindsight of previous methods of terror, each method made redundant, necessitating new actions and language. It’s Stasi style of creepy, subversive to democratic and economic change, free speech and international diplomacy, and paid for by the citizens who are subjected to such snooping. We can hold different opinions of whether it is the right thing to do, but it is probably more dangerous than effective, which is exactly why East Germany fell. That is to say, the economy didn’t work for the majority, and the powers that were thought that mass surveillance and spying would control dissent. For a while it certainly did.

January 5 2014: The left is too silent on the clunking fist of state power. Government’s role is vital, but an arrogant and centralised state is as big a problem as the out-of-control market

January 31 2014: Footage released of Guardian editors destroying Snowden hard drives – GCHQ technicians watched as journalists took angle grinders and drills to computers after weeks of tense negotiations – In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents. Heywood, sent personally by David Cameron, told the editor to stop publishing articles based on leaked material from American’s National Security Agency and GCHQ. At one point Heywood said: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law”. He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.”

February 27 2014: Snowden leaks. MPs summon security services watchdog. Sir Mark Waller, intelligence services commissioner, has repeatedly refused to address home affairs select committee

A security services watchdog, Sir Mark Waller, has been summoned to appear before MPs after he repeatedly refused to appear to answer their questions over the Edward Snowden leaks and other counter-terrorism issues. Waller, who is the intelligence services commissioner, refused to appear before the Commons home affairs select committee in a rare clash over the parliamentary accountability of Britain’s intelligence agencies. The summons was issued at midday on Thursday and is a rare move by a parliamentary committee which has the power to send for people and papers. The order to appear on 18 March was approved without a vote on the committee.

Waller is one of two former senior judges charged with the oversight of the security services, including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, which have been at the centre of disclosures over the US National Security Agency’s mass digital surveillance programmes. The other retired judge, Sir Anthony May, is responsible specifically for oversight of the interception capabilities of the security services. He told the committee earlier that the 570,000 requests a year for communications data by public authorities was, “possibly too large”.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee, said, “The intelligence services commissioner plays a vital role in keeping under review the way in which the home secretary and the intelligence services use the powers which they have been granted by parliament. This function was conferred on the commissioner by act of parliament, and Sir Mark must be accountable to parliament for the way in which he carries them out. “Both the information commissioner and the interception of communications commissioner have accepted invitations to give evidence to the committee in the last few weeks. We do not see why the intelligence services commissioner should be any different and the committee was disappointed by his refusal to attend. “Sir Mark has referred us to his published report. While information in this report is useful to the committee, effective parliamentary scrutiny requires the opportunity to ask questions and receive full answers. “We have therefore taken the unusual step of summoning Sir Mark. This happens only very rarely, where an essential witness declines to appear in response to an invitation. Indeed, it is the only time that this committee has summoned a witness in this parliament,” he said. The clash comes a fortnight after the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, called for a major overhaul of the oversight of Britain’s intelligence services, including reform of the commissioners’ roles as part of his campaign against, “unaccountable power”.

February 28 2014: Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally. Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of, “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

February 28 2014: Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying. UK spy agency’s ‘breathtaking lack of respect’ over interception of Yahoo users’ webcam images

Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images. Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”. The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.

On Friday, the Internet Association – a trade body representing internet giants including Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, AOL and Twitter – joined the chorus of condemnation, issuing a statement expressing alarm at the latest GCHQ revelations, and calling for reform. According to documents provided to the Guardian by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the GCHQ program codenamed Optic Nerve fed screengrabs of webcam chats and associated metadata into NSA tools such as Xkeyscore. NSA research, the documents indicate, also contributed to the creation of Optic Nerve, which attempted to use facial recognition technology to identify intelligence targets, particularly those using multiple anonymous internet IDs.

President Barack Obama said in a 17 January speech that foreigners ought to enjoy some degree of privacy from US surveillance, but has left the specifics undefined. In a statement, the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said, “Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance. Governments must immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information. The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data. The Internet Association supports the Reform Government Surveillance principles and encourages legislation to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands”.

March 2 2014: Labour to overhaul spy agency controls in response to Snowden files

Labour will on Monday propose substantial changes to the oversight of the British intelligence agencies, including the legal framework under which they operate, in response to the revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand. In a speech that represents Labour’s most serious intervention since the controversy about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say: “The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology.

Cooper will also argue the government needs to conduct a full review of Ripa, which governs interception regulation, including whether the new forms of communication have dissolved the once clear distinction between content and communications data – especially given the information agencies and private companies such as Facebook can gather on the pattern of visited websites.
Cooper’s speech criticizes the response to Snowden by the intelligence and security committee, a group of MPs appointed by the prime minister and currently chaired by former Tory foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, arguing it simply has not had the capacity or resources for a full inquiry into the revelations. The committee’s legitimacy would be strengthened, she adds, if it were always chaired by an MP from an opposition party, so it is not viewed as an extension of the government.

Comment: jimpson. It would be encouraging to hear that Labour would review the limitations on our surveillance state. However, on the basis of the actions of the last Labour administration I have no faith, or trust, that they will put any transparent or effective oversight into how any of our security services operate. The commissioners these are establishment characters who are there to provide a figleaf of legitimacy. As for her claim that Snowden has seriously damaged national security this is just the same nonsense pushed out by the agencies who have been caught spying on all of us. Unfortunately unlike the US we have no constitution that protects us from the overweaning power of the state.

Comment: lilstevey. Further debate” is political speech meaning “do nothing while producing the impression of doing something”. Remember, the current Labour is headed by the same New Labour people who were there in the previous government doing most of the work of turning Britain into a police state, with widespread surveillance and arbitrary, authoritarian powers. Both in that regards and in regards to being strong supporters of tax-evading corporates and the very wealthy, the New Labourites are the same kind of scum as the Tories.

August 7 2014: Edward Snowden given permission to stay in Russia – video interview

October 17 2014: Edward Snowden on GCHQ, Facebook and his new life in Moscow – video

October 19 2014: Citizenfour review – Edward Snowden documentary is utterly engrossing – Laura Poitras’s documentary follows Edward Snowden as his leaks about the activities of the NSA shock the world

October 29 2014: GCHQ views data with no warrant, government admits. GCHQ’s secret, “arrangements” for accessing bulk material revealed in documents submitted to UK surveillance watchdog

British intelligence services can access raw material collected in bulk by the NSA and other foreign spy agencies without a warrant, the government has confirmed for the first time. GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.

Last week, the foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, told parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee he expected that ministers who signed surveillance warrants would likely have to justify themselves in front of a public inquiry at some point in the future. “I’m sure I can speak for all of my colleague who sign warrants that we all have, in the back of our minds, that at some point in the future we will – not might be, but will – be appearing before some inquiry or tribunal or court accounting for the decisions that we’ve made and essentially accounting for the way we’ve applied the proportionality and necessity tests,” he said. Hammond was also criticised for some of his answers to the committee, with experts suggesting the foreign secretary appeared not to understand the legal framework for the warrants he was signing, following a mischaracterisation of which types of communication would or would not require individual warrants.

STEb1 commented. Much as I expected, the so called Snooper’s Charter was simply meant to legitimize what was already happening.
This would essentially appear to indicate that we have a government that only pretends to believe in the rule of law. That they just see the law as a means to an end and have no real respect for it. Of course we the public were never meant to know about this. If the Guardian had never broken the story the government would undoubtedly be still pretending that this was only going to start when the legislation was passed. This is unbelievably knowingly cynical and sneaky. Yet we are supposed to live in a democracy. Exactly what is this supposed to be protecting? It most definitely is not protecting democracy or the rule of law, because it’s just driven a coach and horses through it. I actually feel frightened making this comment, because clearly these people have no respect for free speech or any principles they espouse. It’s just what they can get away with.

Labour Party

John Robertson – Labour Candidate For Glasgow North West – Constituents Are Not Fooled By A Photo Opportunist Who Has Delivered Little for The Region – Early Retirement John Methinks





Who is John Robertson?

John Webster Robertson is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow North West since 2000.He left Shawlands Academy Secondary School and started work for the GPO (P.O. then British Telecom then BT). In December 1991, he was promoted to management where he stayed until he was granted Voluntary Release in September 2000 at the time he was elected to Westminster. He joined the Labour Party in 1984 and was first elected to parliament in 2000, at a by-election on 23 November following the death of Donald Dewar, the First Minister of Scotland. He was re-elected at the 2001 election, and after constituency boundaries were redrawn for the 2005 election, he was returned for the larger constituency of Glasgow North West.






He spends a great deal of his time at Westminster and is currently:

* Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Nuclear Energy Group. (1) (It appears he is pretty useless as chair. See the write off of a 22bn contract.)

* Chair of the all-party Parliamentary group on Communications (apComms).

* Chair of All Party Parliamentary Music Groups.

* Chair All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria and Angola.



NMP had a 17-year deal to clean up waste from Sellafield yellow-barrels-nuclear-waste-orbit-earth-17453954



(1) January 2015: The Unknown scandal of Confetti money

Last week the consortium holding a 22bn contract to clean up the Sellafield nuclear site was sacked. But this is just the end of a long and scandalous tale of corporate profit at UK taxpayers expense, and the active collusion of ministers and senior officials in fighting off Parliamentary scrutiny.

“It’s an appalling waste of public money. It’s like scattering confetti. Time extends and extends. I have looked at this two or three times now and every time I look at it the cost goes up – not in hundreds of millions, but in billions.” Margaret Hodge MP, chair of Parliamentary Public Accounts committee

Top civil servants and nuclear administrators colluded to prevent MPs from challenging a massive sweetener to a private business taking over the running of Sellafield, internal documents in the hands of  The Independent on Sunday reveal.

The documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, also disclose that the Government pushed through the handover at breakneck speed because it feared that the “unstable management arrangements” of the controversial Cumbrian nuclear complex risked its safety.



63808268__466227cSir Nicholas Macphersonindex


On the day the big U-turn was announced,  by chance Treasury Permanent Secretary,  Sir Nicholas Macpherson, appeared before the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee inquiry on ‘Whitehall: capacity to address future challenges’, to be challenged by committee member Paul Flynn,  asking:  “Just as a general principle, are you happy for the public purse to take all the risk, as I pointed out as clearly as possible in 2008, and for the private company, a foreign company, to take any profit that will come out?  Is that an abiding effort for the Treasury?”



osborne2George Osbornep2 Heywood and Macpherson 450Sir Jeremey Heywood



Sir Nicholas Macpherson answered: “Put in those terms, I would never be happy with any contract like that. Ensuring that risk is borne in the right place is one of the biggest lessons of the financial crisis.  I do not want to get into this individual issue, because I am not sufficiently informed about it.”






Radio 4 Profile of – Sir Nicholas Macpherson

Largely unknown outside Whitehall, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, gained notiriety through his unprecedented written advice, in breach of the “Civil Service Code of Conduct” to the Chancellor  denying Scotland the “bank of last resort” facility in the event of independence. As head of the Treasury since 2005,  he was at the centre of Britain’s response to the global financial crisis. Chris Bowlby explains why he’s so influential, and how his involvement in the Scottish debate is informed by personal links as well as policy considerations. 



YOU WILLNuclear_waste_by_tinling



January 2015: Owners of sacked Sellafield contractor pocketed £145m

NMP had a 17-year deal to clean up waste from Sellafield but the consortium has been dumped from its contract to clean up Europe’s most hazardous nuclear waste site paid £145m in dividends despite criticism for wasting taxpayers’ money.

Energy secretary Ed Davey told Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), a venture between British engineer Amec, Areva of France and America’s URS, that it was being prematurely ditched from its 17-year deal to decommission Sellafield in Cumbria.

NMP was awarded the £22bn turnover deal in 2008 by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the state-owned body responsible for dealing with decades of nuclear waste.

But it came under attack from the Public Accounts Committee as it emerged that most of its big projects were behind schedule, and NMP was relying on expensive contractors. It was also embroiled in an expenses scandal, most memorably a £715 taxi for an executive  and a cat.






Meanwhile, John Robertson MP, Labour chair of the All Party Nuclear Power Group (a nuclear cheerleader set-up) said on 16 January 2015, three days after Sellafield management were sacked:  “The industry really has turned Parliament around. We do now have a political House singing from the same hymn sheet on nuclear power. We need to work hard to keep it that way!”  In so saying, he revealed just how out of touch he and the pro-nuclear cheer-leaders in Parliament really are.






MPs Expenses Scandal: John Robertson was requested to pay back £2975 for excessive expenses claims including £1750 in petty cash. According to current records, he has not paid anything back.He also claimed £350 for a sat nav from Currys.






December 2000: MP stands by daughter accused of selling drugs in a nightclub.

John Robertson, 48, who became the MP for Glasgow Anniesland two weeks ago following the death of Donald Dewar, said 18-year-old Laura had offered to co-operate with a police inquiry.

In a statement released by the Labour Party, he added that he never imagined he would find himself in this situation and now understood what other families were going through.

Miss Robertson, a marketing assistant, allegedly sold two ecstasy tablets to a newspaper reporter at Bonkers nightclub in Glasgow.

The Glasgow Evening Times reported yesterday that the teenager said “no problem” when asked if she could supply drugs and held up five fingers to indicate the price of each tablet. Moments later she handed over two light brown tablets and change from a £20 note.

Its story added that when she was approached on Tuesday at a railway station a short distance from her family’s semi-detached home in Drumchapel, she said she could supply more ecstasy and admitted taking LSD.

Mr Roberston, who did not deny the story, said: “My daughter is an adult. She has taken legal advice and her lawyer has been in touch with the police offering to co-operate with any investigation.

As a father my first duty is to my daughter. I shall support her through this. We are a close family and will face this together.”

Would you believe it? He employs his daughter, Laura Robertson, as Secretary/Caseworker as detailed in: Register of Members’ Financial Interests







November 2011: MP calls on Parliament to remember 5th November

A Labour MP has started a campaign to commemorate better the failed gunpowder plot by Guy Fawkes. According to the BBC, Labour MP for Glasgow North West, John Robertson,believes the current plaque honouring the date is insufficient because it is hidden from public view in a car park near a bike shed.

There is reasoning to the plaque’s location however; as it is located at the closest spot to the cellar, where Guy Fawkes’ 36 barrels of gunpowder were found 406 years ago.   But Robertson wants Guy Fawkes’ foiled plot to blow up the House of Commons to be made visible to the general public.

comment: What the hell has this to do with his constituency?






April 2010: John Robertson – I  pulled the votes with bread & butter issues

John Robertson believes his message of bread-and-butter issues to the people of Glasgow North West saw him returned as the constituency’s MP.  “We went everywhere. We took our message with us, put out our leaflets, we were in every polling station and we knocked on as many door as we could. ___ if you treat the electorate with contempt don’t be surprised if they bite you back.”






April 2014: MP John Robertson Voted in favour of and defended the Con/Dem benefits cap

Critics argued the move to limit what working families, pensioners, and those on disability benefits can receive from the government would plunge hard-up families from some of the most impoverished areas of Scotland further into poverty.   (Another view of the nonsense)

But on Monday Robertson insisted nobody who was entitled to benefits would be left out and added that the new measures would hold the government accountable for their actions. He said: “You can’t stop people getting benefits.  you only qualify only if you are entitled. That’s the rules.

Maria Muir was scathing (on her blog) about the conduct of Robertson and his fellow Labour MP’s.  Commenting Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)  MP said:  “The SNP voted against the welfare cap today because it piles yet more pain onto our poorest pensioners, carers, disabled people and low-income families. This cap is just a crude, blunt, instrument. It is shocking that so many Scottish Labour MPs have backed the Tories.”






March 2013: The Workfare Bill

The House of Commons passed the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill, which included a clause that retroactively changed the law to prevent back payment of approximately £130 million worth of benefits that had been found by a court decision to have been wrongly withheld.
The undernoted Scottish MP’s voted against the Bill in the belief that monies owed to claimants should be made since to do so would constitute an illegal act. John Robertson’s name is not on the list. He and many of his Labour party colleagues let the poorest members of society down badly. Note the SNP  were 100% in favour of payments being made.

6 of 6 (100%) of SNP MPs: Stewart Hosie (Dundee East), Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar), Angus Robertson (Moray), Mike Weir (Angus), Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan), Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire

7 of 40 (18%) Labour MPs: Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran),  Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk), Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West),  Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith),  Jim McGovern (Dundee West), Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock)
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North)






June 2014: John Robertson MP provided 99 reasons to say no to independence.

It is important to counter John Robertson’s spurious claims and this can be best achieved through the challenging arguments of his own colleagues. The guy needs locked up, gagged and put in a straight jacket! He is making an utter fool of himself and our nation! ”






May 2007: John Roberston, Labour colleagues and Tory MP’s vote to put Westminster outside the law of the land

Today’s Third Reading debate on David Maclean’s Freedom of Information Amendment Bill has  concluded with a vote in favour from a total of 78 Labour MPs and 18 Tories.

“Liberty” said; If they allow this Bill to pass into law, there are fears that parliamentarians wouldbe sending out a clear signal that they consider themselves to be above the law. Thiswould undermine the culture of open and transparent government which the Act was designed to create and severely damage the already eroding public trust andconfidence in the democratic process as a whole.

Richard Wilson not best pleased with Robertson asserting he was simply seeking to find ways of preventing expenses claims information being released to the public.






John Robertson MP rebelled against the Government most notably on one of the Amendment votes (Division No. 117) prior to the main Declaration of War – Iraq vote (Division No.118). This Amendment said: This House “believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific United Nations authorisation; but, in the event that hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces”.

However, though he supported the view that the case for war had not been established and lacked UN authorisation, in the main vote which sought to authorise that the “United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”, in effect the vote which gave authorisation for war against Iraq, John Robertson voted Aye.  (see edit)



April 2015:  A Landmark poll has suggested Labour MP Robertson will be shown the exit door at the forthcoming general election.

A spokesman for the 62-year-old Robertson told the Post: “Our position is very simple — it’s not a good poll for us. But by the same token, we’ve seen things in the last few weeks starting to move in our direction. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us and we’re not taking any vote for granted, we never have taken any vote for granted.  “We’re going to fight till 10pm on May 7 to make sure we can put across the message that only Labour can get rid of the Bedroom Tax, reduce energy prices and deliver the change we need to see.

Comment: So that’s it!!  The one specific offer for change is getting rid of the Bedroom Tax. Someone needs to tell Labour the Tax does not apply in Scotland since the SNP government took action, (not long after it was introduced) rendering it inapplicable in Scotland.



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