How Labour’s MoD Israel stance when in power was just as fishy
Fox-hunters misrepresented Atlantic Bridge, tried to frame it as extremist
Why is the mainstream press tippy-toeing round the forces behind this manufactured scandal?
Yesterday, I finally posted something on the Fox/Werrity thing. I said that MoD jealousy of personal advisors was not uncommon, and the liberal press are out to get Fox, he being a fully paid-up Thatcherite an’ all. I still think both are true. But the Sting in all this goes well beyond ‘the liberal press’.
It almost certainly derives partly from disaffected MoD briefings. And has been enthusiastically inflated by the harder Left tendency in and around the Labour Party. But it may also extend to a level beyond that.
First off, we need to get a more realistic grip on these ‘shady influences’ behind Adam Werritty. In fact, his consultancy Atlantic Bridge – a charity-cum-think tank started by Liam Fox while in Opposition – is a straightforward Anglo-American pressure group that supports Israel. The Herzliya Conference referred to by sites like Left-winger Craig Murray – attended by Fox and Werritty – is an annual event in which Jewish scholars like Danny Rothschild and Tommy Steiner give their views on what was this year called ‘Shifting Sands in the Middle East’. If you read the Herzliya Assessment, you will read nothing more ominous than views expressing what a majority of mainstream voters in the UK think about the dangers of Middle Eastern instability. (It’s freely available at http://www.herzliyaconference.org/eng/?CategoryID=464&ArticleID=2252&dbsAuthToken=.)
What the traditionally anti-Israel Left don’t like about either Herzliya or Atlantic Bridge is its accurate empirical assessment of the growing threat to Western interests in the Middle East. I recognise that a section of The Slog’s readership are fully paid-up members of this ancien Moscow tendency, so they might as well stop reading now. Suffice to say that there is nothing in the Herzliya Assessment with which I would disagree.
Further, as Liam Fox has never made any secret of his robust right-wing views in this regard, the attempt by the Guardian et al to depict Werritty’s machinations as somehow treasonous is unmitigated bollocks. Mr Fox is the Government’s Defence Minister, and he is entitled to his views – which, as I say, are shared by a majority of reasonable opinion in the UK….as well as William Hague.
Second, let’s try and get into the provenance of the Fox/Werritty ‘scandal’ story. John Mann, the hard-working Labour MP for Bassetlaw, asked a Parliamentary Question on 1st question Sept 11th: ‘To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times he has met Adam Werritty (a) in total and (b) in his Department’s main building since May 2010.’
I still can’t get a steer on why Mann asked the question, and he didn’t return my calls yesterday. The Leeds MP has no Foreign Office or Defence brief under Ed Miliband, and far from being pro-Hamas is a renowned fighter against anti-Semitism, on the record as declaring that, “Antisemitism on the left isn’t a new problem but it has re-emerged.” During his career, John Mann has persuaded parliamentarians from every continent to come here for the London Conference to Combat anti-Semitism.
A staunch Blairite, Mr Mann voted strongly in favour of the Iraq War, and was the first to call upon Gordon Brown to step down as leader. So: who briefed Mann to ask the question, and why?
The first mainstream press appearance of the Fox-Werritty link appeared on 4th October in the Guardian. The source for this was Labour MP Kevan Jones – and I’m reliably informed that Jones (a man who retains powerful contacts via the Defence Select Committee) was fed the tidbit from ‘concerned’ quarters in the MoD anxious about ‘security threats’. This is the standard tantrum thrown by those in British foreign relations circles when Ministers don’t hang on their every word.
Remember the oft-reported anti-Jewish sentiment in both the MoD and the FCO. Remember also The Slog being led up the garden path by these spineless reptiles during the Chilcot Enquiry: promising again and again to shop Blair, but lacking the balls to actually deliver. Remember also the astonishment of George Osborne when he discovered that the MoD’s Sir Humphreys seemed unable to grasp that Defence cuts included, um….them.
Not a nice bunch of folks on the whole. Kevan Jones in particular you may remember as the shit who tried to smear Sir Richard Dannatt, stonewalled against UK atomic-damage veterans, and then tried to keep the Gurkha veterans out of Britain….only to find Joanna Lumley on the other side of the debate. On his website, Jones described Joanna Lumley’s behaviour following her fight for Gurkha rights as follows: ‘Irritating…Mr Jones said that, having raised the issue and forced the change, Miss Lumley had a responsibility to help explain the new rules to the Gurkhas. She had not done so, he said. Ms Lumley refused to comment.’
This is a lie: the Absolutely Fabulous and New Avengers star hit back immediately, saying Mr Jones’ comments were part of “a Whitehall smear campaign.” But Jones has never corrected this on his website. The MP held a junior defence/veterans portfolio under Gordon Brown: but the men around him calling for there to be no cover-up now were themselves frequent users of fob-offs to parliamentary questions about defence. On 18th January 2010, the then Shadow Minister Liam Fox asked a question about materials supply incompetence…always a major problem for the knuckle-draggers in the MoD. This is how the exchange went:
‘Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) requirement, (b) actual number available and (c) percentage shortfall is of each type of armoured vehicle used for pre-deployment training in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: I am withholding the information requested to avoid deductions being made about current and future operational capability. Its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability effectiveness or security of the armed forces.’
Bollocks. Mr Davies, by the way, was the minister who claimed more than £10,000 from the taxpayer to repair window frames at the 18th-century mansion he designated as his second home….and insured every antique in the place on expenses. Still, Labour rewarded him well for his work: in the spirit of a reformed House of Lords, he is today Baron Davies of Stamford.
Anyway, nice body-swerve there Quenters. But here comes the bombshell:
During the same debate, Junior Minister Bill Rammell is asked a question on the subject of Israeli army contacts with the MoD. This is his revealing answer (my italics):
‘Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on how many occasions Israel Defence Forces personnel have been invited to the UK for discussions with (a) Ministers or officials of his Department and (b) members of the armed forces since 2005; and what topics were discussed;  (2) what areas of expertise of the Israel Defence Forces that have been shared with (a) his Department and (b) members of the armed forces. 
Bill Rammell: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Israel is an important strategic partner of the UK and, as part of that relationship, the MOD has an ongoing and wide ranging dialogue with the Israeli Defence Force and Israeli Ministry of Defence.
Two things here. First, Rammell avoids the question using the standard ‘disporportionate cost’ bollocks. After ‘for reasons of national security’, it is by far the most common cover-up.
Second, this official Labour view on sharing information with the Israelis is in stark contrast to the screams of ‘security risk’ being thrown at Adam Werritty today. Craig Murray’s widely disseminated blog on the subject yesterday labours this point to the nth degree:
‘Werritty is paid by representatives of far right US and Israeli sources to influence the British defence secretary (no evidence provided)..It has been discussed within the MOD whether Werritty is being – knowingly or otherwise – run as an agent of influence by the CIA or Mossad. That is why the chiefs of the armed forces are so concerned….That the British Defence Minister holds frequent unrecorded meetings in the Ministry and abroad with somebody promoting the interests of foreign powers is much, much worse than a little cash-grubbing. That the person representing the foreign powers is actually present, apparently to all as a ministerial adviser, at meetings of Fox with important representatives of foreign nations is simply appalling‘.
Let’s deconstruct this. I have checked with a good defence source on the idea of Werritty being CIA or Mossad; the charge was dismissed as “beyond childish” and “amateur-night conspiracy stuff”.
As for frequent unrecorded meetings with somebody (eg, the Israeli Armed Forces), that seems to have been happening under Labour too…otherwise why not just answer the PQ? (Because Labour’s Left would’ve had a hissy-fit about it).
But the damning phrase in there is this one: ‘Israel is an important strategic partner of the UK and, as part of that relationship, the MOD has an ongoing and wide ranging dialogue with the Israeli Defence Force and Israeli Ministry of Defence.’
Sooooo….what have Liam and Adam changed in, um, that policy then?
At this level, the Fox-Hunt is pure political hypocrisy, simple as that. Look down all the liberal press references to Werritty’s risk to security, and they all use the same basis of complaint:
‘was funded by a corporate intelligence company and the chairman of an Israeli company’, ‘Werritty sat in on a meeting between Dr Fox and the Israeli ambassador’, ‘Fox’s relationship with Werritty may have risked national security by allowiing him into a meeting with a future British ambassador to Israel…’.
This tells us not only the agenda here – position Israel as an enemy, a view diametrically opposite to Labour’s stated view when in power – but also builds on the myth that Adam Werritty is just some sex-mate of Fox’s along for the ride. When in fact – this being part of the impression Left-wingers are keen to give – it’s obvious that Werritty is the long-standing Chairman of a consultancy formed by Tories in Opposition to stop….um, biased and naive Lefties propagating bollocks about Israel within the Defence and Foreign ministries. Sorry Craig old top, but you’re hoist by your own petard. Or facade, maybe.
In short, simple Dirty Tricks. And a sound wheeze, too: win-win for the British Left. Either we get Fox out, or we don’t….and make Cameron look weak and in fear of his Right Wing.
Except that I suspect the former objective is by far the more important objective for those behind this scheme. There remains, both here and overseas, a powerful Arab Radical/Euro-Left movement to render Israel an isolated pariah in the world. Labour did always stress that they would stand as a mediator – Israeli/Palestinian neutrality was a central tent of Blairism – in the Middle East. But Fox and Werritty do not represent that view. They are far more of a threat to the aims of pro-Islamist radicals.
Fox represents a view at complete odds with hare-brained speeches by Cameron (when in Ankara) on the subject of “the concentration camp” in Palestine. And so now, a pretty serious tug-of-war has started within the Tory ranks. A lot of games are being played here on a lot of levels. But there remains much of which I, for one, am ignorant.
Who, for instance, was Craig Murray’s source for yesterday’s blog at his site? Referred to merely as ‘a source with direct access to the Cabinet Office investigation into Fox’s relationship with Werritty’, why would an unbiased senior civil servant or political adviser to a Right-wing Government leak to a known Leftist campaigner like Craig?
Why did Kevan Jones latch onto John Mann’s question, and hijack it for his own highly political purposes? Did somebody plant the idea for the question in his head? Does Mr Mann, a fine MP, know something we don’t about Adam Werritty? And who is now – in the last 48 hours – working overtime to present Adam Werritty as a harmless twerp-cum-Walter-Mitty-on-the-make figure?
But above all, why are the national media have to be so prissy-tippy-toes about what might or might not be going on here? Most of the public are both confused and uninterested: why is there so much obfuscation to this saga?