‘Dodgy dossier’ to BAE merger: the return of Blair’s henchmen
British public life resembles 1950s horror film The Undead: people we hoped we’d seen the last of keep coming back
THE controversial merger of British defence giant BAE with the Franco-German aerospace group EADS has taken a spooky twist. Sir John ‘Iraq Dossier’ Scarlett is helping to broker the deal on behalf of his employer, the investment bank Morgan Stanley, which, incidentally, only exists at all thanks to over $100 billion of US taxpayers’ money pumped into it during the credit crunch of 2008.
No doubt Scarlett fits in well with the corporate culture at Morgan Stanley. The lack of shame and arrogance of investment bankers is exceeded only by that of Tony Blair and the ‘sofa lackeys’ who helped him cook the intelligence books on Iraq.
The great man himself is planning a comeback as president of the European Union. His foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, is already ensconced as guru and tutor on international affairs to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. His enforcer, Alastair Campbell, is ‘thinking about’ becoming a Labour MP. And Campbell’s ‘mate’ Scarlett now suddenly re-emerges as a man of influence in the City.
It’s as if British public life is stuck in a reel of the 1957 horror film The Undead - people we had rather hoped never to see again keep re-appearing. If you haven’t seen it - you must. Though, personally, I thought the star, B-movie actress Pamela Duncan, gave a more assured performance earlier that year in Attack of the Crab Monsters.
Scarlett, of all the guilty men over Iraq, is the most unlikely comeback story. As Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee he was the guardian and arbiter of the nation’s closest secrets.
Long experience in espionage, coupled with supposedly sea green incorruptibility, gave him a unique authority. There was just one snag: ambition. He was not expected to return to his parent organisation MI6 after completing his tenure at the JIC.
Surprise, surprise - having given Messrs Blair and Campbell the dossiers they needed, and to the horror of nearly everyone at Vauxhall Cross - he re-appeared as ‘C’, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. Even the unusually pliable Jack Straw, in whose gift the post technically lay as foreign secretary, baulked at the decision.
The strong suspicion remains that Scarlett and many of the other key officials involved in the Iraq fiasco, civilian and military, cashed in their integrity in exchange for advancement.
And if that isn’t quite enough, the man who is supposed to be refereeing the whole BAE affair, Sir Jeremy Heywood, current Cabinet Secretary and ultimate guardian of standards in political life, who has chaired a number of meetings of the principal parties in the last few weeks… used to be Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair in the run up to the Iraq War. He is also, in his way, one of the guilty men over Iraq.
As PPS to the prime minister it was his duty to ensure that minutes were kept of key Downing Street discussions and decisions on Iraq. But as all three inquiries into the Iraq fiasco have discovered, the written record is generally patchy and entirely non-existent when it comes to any particularly controversial decision.
Nevertheless, an inability to make simple contemporaneous notes - maybe he can’t type - did not prevent Heywood leaving the civil service soon after to work for… Morgan Stanley as MD of its investment banking division.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guardians? It’s an age-old conundrum probably without an answer. But we do know the answer to a slightly different question: Who employs the guardians?