There are NO, repeat NO domestic problems in England. It is still the fabled fair green isle it ever was. The people live like kings and queens — with no small number of well fed peasants — all cohabiting in a perfect society: harmonious, healthy, with all future prospects rosy and abundant.
That’s why Prime Minster Gordon Brown’s staff at Number Ten Downing Street have nothing to do. Well, they might have been able to watch the DVDs which Obama gave Brown as gifts, but they are incompatible with UK electronic standards. What’s that about arrogance? But I digress.
During the first week in April — when the G-20 was meeting in London — the British media got wind of a wicked story. The leaking of this story is now itself the focus of controversial crossfire between reporters from the UK Telegraph and a conservative political blog, www.order-order.com, a website honoring Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was the leader of a plot to blow up Parliament in the late 16th century and is remembered every November 5 — with firework displays — for his efforts. Order-Order calls him the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.
This 21st century plot involved the creation of an explosive political blog. The man behind it was identified as Derek Draper, a political hack with an odd resume. The project was being shepherded along by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Head of Strategy and Planning, Damian McBride. The anonymous — seemingly independent — blog was to be named Red Rag. Its sole function was to post vile rumors about the sex lives of conservative politicians, including the leader of the Tory Party, David Cameron. This slimy jaw-dropping plan was exposed just a few weeks after Gordon Brown delivered a moving eulogy — in Parliament — to mark the passing of Cameron’s young son. Ivan, age 6, had just died from complications related to birth defects.
In retrospect, this scene now seems chilling because Red Rag’s initial edition planned to falsely report that the grieving David Cameron had once gone to a private doctor who secretly treated sexual diseases for socially prominent people.
When Red Rag’s existence and purpose came to light, the public was truly revolted. The obvious question was the extent of Brown’s prior knowledge and approval of the blog. The fallout has become known as “Smeargate.” Damian McBride resigned the day the story went public. He had no choice. E-mails between McBride and Draper about Red Rag were sent and received from a computer located in the Press Office of Number Ten Downing Street. Closing the barn door after the horse had escaped, Brown made a Cabinet Secretary write up a statement on how policy advisors ought to behave just after McBride was ejected from the inner circle. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who learned she was to be smeared on Red Rag, has since a filed a lawsuit against McBride.
Yet despite Brown’s repeated denials that he knew anything about the sordid plan, let alone felt he needed to apologize to anyone, Smeargate would not go away so easily, primarily because this was not the first “Gate” in which Red Rag’s creator had been a player.
In the early days of the Labour Government, as led by Tony Blair, Derek Draper (then a young political neophyte with delusions of grandeur) boasted to an undercover reporter from the Observer newspaper that he was “intimate” with at least 17 influential people in the Labour Party and could make things happen — like selling access to certain ministers.
When this interview transcript was made public, Draper’s boasts were all denied by Labour Party members and the braggart left London. He landed in Berkeley, Calif., where he later claimed to have earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Back in London after three years in the once Golden State, Draper set up shop as a private therapist and wrote articles on psychology for the newspapers. He also married a comely hostess of the UK equivalent (GMTV) of Good Morning America and began reinserting himself into Labour’s power circles. But his track record made a blogger from the left leaning Guardian (the Observer’s sister publication) suspicious. It was discovered that Draper had lied about attending the University of California, Berkeley. He was forced to amend his story and said he had actually attended The Wright Institute in Berkeley. This was not a lie, but Wright said Draper was asked to leave the campus three years into its five year graduate program. The reason for the Institute’s action has not been revealed.
Undaunted by the disclosure of his deceit, Draper kept looking for ways to insinuate himself back into the Labour Party. He soon decided that the Internet could be his ticket to being perceived as an influential player. He created www.LabourList.org, reinventing himself as an electronic tabloid political guru. Despite McBride’s full and complete knowledge of Draper’s past (his story is detailed in a Wikipedia entry as well as in newspaper archives), Brown’s strategy man, McBride, encouraged the launch of the Red Rag blog.
Echoes of the original “Gate” scandal swirled around Brown as they had around Nixon. If Brown did know, he was guilty. If he didn’t, he was incompetent. There has since been a call for inquiries into how people like Derek Draper and Damian McBride are allowed to operate as outside consultants within Number Ten Downing Street, and how anyone is to believe they could do anything which is not at their master’s bidding and with his blessing. Hard to imagine what conclusions will be reached, eh?
Worried about becoming tarnished by association, former Labour government ministers began telling the press that Brown was clearly to blame for this fiasco. They put it down to his leadership style — one in which this kind of “freelancing” flourished. When David Cameron asserted this incident indicated an urgent shake-up of the Downing Street machine was necessary, many members of the Labour Party became his hallelujah chorus. Draper has now been banned from all Labour Party events, but unbelievably he is out and about promoting his new book, Life Support, with his very pregnant talking head wife by his side. He has his own blog which invites folks to listen to his media interviews and view all of his “red carpet appearances.” He is the one trying to look like a Bono clone.
Gordon Brown eventually mumbled a sort of apology for Red Rag, adding that he was “horrified” and “very angry” about the whole affair. But if you assume the Prime Minister was put in his place by this current public humiliation, think again. In the past week, the new Labour government budget has just been unveiled. The top income tax rate has been raised to the 50 percent level. And to address the revelation that many MPs were renting out the homes they got rent free for their government service, Brown proposed that elected officials should, instead, now each receive a daily payment of £150 for showing up to work in London, on top of their salaries and other perks.
By the week’s end, rumors that a rift existed between Brown and his Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) Alistair Darling were essentially confirmed by Darling himself. Darling says he knew the budget figures he presented to Parliament “didn’t add up” and argued with Brown in favor of making far deeper, deficit reducing, cuts in government spending. Brown overruled Darling, fearing that further cutbacks would cause Labour to lose the next national election. He may have a point. England is definitely a welfare state.
A Times of London story just reported that: “nearly eight million people of working age in Britain have been “economically inactive” for the past few years. More than 2.5 million of them are on incapacity benefit – of these 2,130 people are too “fat” to work; 1,100 can’t work because they have trouble getting to sleep; 4,000 get headaches; 380 are confined to the sofa by hemorrhoids; 3,000 are kept at home by gout; and half a million are too depressed to get a job. According to Dame Carol Black, the National Director of Health and Work, one child in five now comes from a family where neither parent works, yet at the end of last year there were half a million job vacancies.”
A general election must be called by next spring. Bookmakers are now giving the Conservatives a numerical triple leap in the winning odds. Will voters choose to try to save the Empire or let it continue to crumble?