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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

The Corruption Dilema: Fall Of Activist Politicians

January 26, 2013 2 comments

Artificial conflict between ‘corruption-performance’ vs ‘clean-ineffective’ has riven Indian polity.

The problem with conflict of interest  |  Creative credits embedded

The problem with conflict of interest | Creative credits embedded

In the quest for ‘progress’ and development, Indians have come to expect greater speed and ‘efficiency. Any delay in ‘obvious’ cases of decision-making are see as signs of Indian ‘inefficiency.

Ignoring Appearances – Conflict of Interest

To overcome this tag of ‘inefficiency’ some Indian politicians have fallen into the track of ‘activist’ development. In such a framework, getting things done becomes genuinely more important than who does the job – or who benefits. Conflict of interest is seen as an artificial restraint – sophistry at best and lame excuses usually.

Falling On A Sword

One of the earliest such political leader in India was Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon. Chief Minster from 1956-1964, of the united Punjab, before the split into Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Kairon was a whirlwind whose governance motto was performance.

For instance, Pratap Singh Kairon, actively worked to introduce lichees in Pathankot, potatoes in Spiti and personally directed the development of a seed-less variety of table grapes, that was fungus resistant. This ‘brave’ tale of Pratap Singh Kairon, much written about, was narrated to me by an agri-business technologist, in Hyderabad.

Or behind the funding of Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat – the Bollywood tribute to Indian soldiers of 1962 war by China on India. To a nation traumatized by the 1962 experience, the Government turned to Bollywood for a healing narrative.

Prior to Haqeeqat, war films were unknown to viewers in the country. The morale of India was shattered after the hard-hitting defeat in the 1962 war with China.

Anand was passing through a very lean phase of his career in the 1960s, with almost no work. It was at this crucial juncture that Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon offered him finance and support to make a docu-fiction on defeated soldiers, with the 1962 Sino-Indo war as the backdrop. Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister, also promised help as he was keen that the betrayal of India’s respected neighbour be projected on celluloid.

Chetan Anand started working on Haqeeqat in an unconventional way.

via Celluloid war chimeras.

Corruption allegations is one good way to paralyze a government  |  Cartoon by TN Ninan

Corruption allegations is one good way to paralyze a government | Cartoon by TN Ninan

And those who wish to appear clean – are then portrayed as ineffective. This artificial conflict between ‘corruption-performance’ versus ‘clean-ineffective’ has riven Indian Indian polity for no real reason.

Except false moral standards.


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New York’s Warlord, Michael Bloomberg: I have my own army with the NYPD and my own State Department in New York City

New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg boasts about his private army – officially called the NYPD.

Bloomberg, going by this cartoon has a foot-in-mouth tendency. Cartoon on the Aurora shooting incident.  |  Cartoon titled Race to politicize shooting  By Eric Allie, Caglecartoons.com - 7/21/2012 12:00:00 AM. Source & courtesy - cagle.com

Bloomberg, going by this cartoon has a foot-in-mouth tendency. Cartoon on the Aurora shooting incident. | Cartoon titled Race to politicize shooting By Eric Allie, Caglecartoons.com – 7/21/2012 12:00:00 AM. Source & courtesy – cagle.com

Michael Bloomberg made his fortune, providing quotation and technical analysis terminals to the world’s biggest trading and purchasing corporations.

Signing duopolistic deals with various exchanges across the world, in competition with Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg built a profitable business.

Using his fortune to fund his political campaign, Bloomberg became a high-profile mayor of New York city.

In December 2011,

Mayor Bloomberg By Dave Granlund, Politicalcartoons.com - 11/4/2009 12:00:00 AM. Source & courtesy - cagle.com

Mayor Bloomberg By Dave Granlund, Politicalcartoons.com – 11/4/2009 12:00:00 AM. Source & courtesy – cagle.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking at MIT on Wednesday about the city’s workforce, overreached with his description of the police force which has been lambasted for pepper spraying protesters lining Wall Street in recent weeks.

‘I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world,’ he said.

The mayor, who dismissed reports earlier this year of plans to run for President of the United States, also said he prefers City Hall to the White House.

Referring to the U.S. Department of State, located in the Foggy Bottom neighbourhood of Washington, DC, he added: ‘I have my own state department, to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the UN in New York, so we have entrée into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have.’

‘I don’t listen to Washington very much, which is something they’re not thrilled about.’

via Bloomberg: I have my own army with the NYPD and my own State Department in New York City | Mail Online.

Nothing about YummRika surprises me.

Yet this statement, even if tongue-in-cheek, is jarring. This kind of a statement is what I would expect from a mobster or a warlord.

Not from the chief executive of a première city in the world.

Team Anna Breaks Up. Anna, Kejriwal go separate ways: The Dance Of Lilliputs

September 20, 2012 1 comment

Can these ‘corruption-fighters’ reconcile an expanding State with decreasing corruption?

Will Harry Potter-Anna Hazare riding on a magic broomstick, wave a wand and corruption will disappear?  |  Cartoon by Manoj Kureel.

Will Harry Potter-Anna Hazare riding on a magic broomstick, wave a wand and corruption will disappear? | Cartoon by Manoj Kureel.

What can you do with anger, rage, fury?

Can empty rage fuel a revolution?

Not in India, at least. Ideologically empty movements like Arab Spring have little impact on a nation – except it replaces one mobster with another.

Can these ‘corruption-fighters’ reconcile an expanding State with decreasing corruption? Can these ‘corruption-fighters’ reconcile more police with less crime? Have these ‘corruption-fighters’ studied the global corruption scenario? Have these ‘corruption-fighters’ quantified sectors where it is rampant, has increased, and where it has decreased? Have they quantified the volume and value of corruption?

Even before the battle has been defined, there is strategy and tactics. The corruption issue in India is so deeply superficial, that it is a matter of greater concern than corruption itself.

Arvind Kejriwal’s former associate, member of Team Anna and now associate of Baba Ramdev, Devinder Sharma (thinks) the split is a victory for the Congress which always worked for it. He said the Congress also wanted them to form a party which would then eat into the Opposition votes and improve its own chances of victory.

He should go back to Anna and the movement as forming a party now would only help the Congress, says Sharma. He says that right from the beginning it was known that Anna was sympathetic to the Congress. But the Congress also maintained a hot line with Kejriwal, and tried all means to create differences in them, besides pushing them away from Baba Ramdev, says Sharma.

He says that when the five Congress ministers came to receive Baba Ramdev at the airport and held talks at Claridges hotel, one of the demands made by Kapil Sibal was that Anna Hazare should not be allowed to come to the Baba’s stage. “If Baba comes talks fail, Sibal told us,’’ says Sharma. “The very next day Arvind Kejriwal gave a list of conditions for us if we wanted Anna to share stage with the Baba. ‘’

Kapil Sibal also told us that he was talking to Arvind every day. This was confirmed later by Arvind to me, says Sharma.

Again in December when the crowds were thin in Mumbai, Baba offered to come and join the protests but Arvind did not allow it. While first it was Sibal who was doing the manipulation, later it was Sandeep Dixit who was in touch with Arvind followed by Yogendra Yadav. “You need time to build a party. If they form a party now, they would help the Congress which is what they want,’’ says Sharma.

Yogendra Yadav political analyst and now member of the political alternative being formed by Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan said a new party by them need not necessarily help the Congress. He said that the exit of Anna Hazare from a future political option is a set back. But at the same time it opens up new opportunities, he said.

via Anna, Kejriwal enacted a Cong script, says former associate.

After splitting with his team, Anna Hazare on Wednesday night had a hush-hush meeting with yoga guru Baba Ramdev.

The surprise meeting was held in a house in posh Golf Links of Delhi in which former Army Chief Gen V K Singh is believed to have been present.

The meeting came soon after Hazare had a tumultuous meeting with his team over turning the anti-corruption movement taking a political plunge.Pramod Joshi, a spokesperson for Ramdev, confirmed the meeting but said he was not aware of what was discussed in the meeting.

There was also no confirmation about Singh’s presence in the meeting.

Hazare had earlier skipped the protest organised by Ramdev last month.

via Post split with Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare meets Baba Ramdev : North, News – India Today.

Have the  'corruption-fighters' studied the issue seriously?  |  Cartoon by Yusuf.

Have the ‘corruption-fighters’ studied the issue seriously? | Cartoon by Yusuf.

What can we do with corruption?

Corruption is the handmaiden of democratically managed Welfare State – a model imported by India, from the West. Silly protests or one more quasi-judicial body will probably add another layer of corruption at worst – or check corruption at the very best.

The same media that inflated Anna to Gandhiji’s level now blames

‘a large section of India’s middle class believed that the Anna-Kejriwal combine had miraculously created the magic potion that would, in one fell swoop, rid India of one of the biggest ills plaguing the country.’

Unlike 2ndlook. While 2ndlook was clear on the expectations from Anna, there was also understanding that Anna Movement was ideologically empty.

But Anna had crowds?

What of the crowds that supported Anna movement and hunger strike?

If RSS was indeed behind the Anna Movement, like the RSS has claimed – and Anna disclaimed, I am afraid.

It is worth remembering that RSS also supported JP’s movement  that had the Janata Party as the electoral lead. RSS supported Janata Party, led by an ex-Congress leader Morarji Desai at its head, who had a credible allegation of being in CIA pay.

The split between veteran anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and his one-time man Friday – Arvind Kejriwal – was engineered by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), sources told Headlines Today on Thursday.Sources said that it was emissaries of the RSS and Hazare’s close aides who convinced the Gandhian against Kejriwal and facilitated the split.

Revealing the inside story, sources told Headlines Today that RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav was assigned the task of effecting the split, while industrialist Sitaram Jindal was tasked with facilitating communication between the saffron organisation’s top leadership and Hazare. Reportedly, Jindal made multiple trips to the crusader’s native place, Ralegan Siddhi, over the last fortnight.

Sources said that Jindal convinced Hazare’s old aides against Kejriwal’s political party. Yoga guru Baba Ramdev and spiritual leader and Art of Living (AoL) founder Sri Sri Ravishankar, who are considered close to Hazare, also played a significant role. They were aided at every step by Kiran Bedi and former Army Chief General V.K. Singh.

Once Hazare made the split official last night, he left for Jindal’s farmhouse around 8.45 P.M. He then moved to Golf Links for a secret strategy session. Ramdev joined the meeting later even as Jindal, Gen Singh and Bedi remained in a huddle for over 30 minutes.

According to sources, Bedi has been promised chief ministership of Delhi and Gen Singh a BJP ticket from Bhiwani Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana.

via Is Anna Hazare the Sangh Parivar’s new mask? : India, News – India Today.

So full of himself

Anna’s assessment of his own value is breath-taking.

Announcing his break with Kejriwal, he warned, चुनाव के टाइम पर मैं प्रचार करने के लिये नही जाऊंगा. इतना ही नही, मेरी फोटू नही यूज़ करना, मेरा नाम नही यूज़ करना. आपके हिम्मत पर जो कुछ करना है कर लो. (In effect he is saying,  Do what you can, without me, my name, my photos or my campaigning.). See video below.

Did someone tell Anna-bhau that his work was not about his photu, his name or his silly speeches – but about corruption?

Anna is such a ideological deadbeat!


Is India getting encircled?

June 2, 2012 4 comments

Using China-encircles-India theory, the Anglo-Saxon Bloc is actually encircling India. All over again. This time the action is in Bangladesh.

Manipulating media and opinion to create 'frenemies'. - practically at will. Islamic world, China, Russia in that order are bugbears of the West.  But, that can change - and quickly.  |  Cartoon titled Debt To China By Brian Fairrington; Cagle Cartoons - March 26th, 2009; 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Manipulating media and opinion to create ‘frenemies’. – practically at will. Islāmic world, China, Russia in that order are bugbear of the West. But, that can change – and quickly. | Cartoon titled Debt To China By Brian Fairrington; Cagle Cartoons – March 26th, 2009; 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Frenemies – for now

The Chinese have no tradition of imperialism or a history of conquest.

To believe that China is India’s biggest threat is to believe that the Chinese national and State character is changing.

Where is the evidence of this change? Minor border disputes with neighbours?

China’s expansion of naval power? What could be China’s realistic motivations for seeking more naval bases?

Ships from the Chinese Navy patrolling the seas on anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden area for over a year now could not go to the rescue of De Xin Hai a Chinese bulk carrier with a Chinese crew of 25 members transporting coal which was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates 400 miles North-East of Seychelles and taken to the waters off Somalia in October last.

Their demand for ransom was initially resisted by the Chinese. How can China, which views itself as a power on par with the US, pay ransom? The US Navy’s Sea Air Land Commandoes (SEAL) had rescued the master of the US ship “Maersk Alabama” in an operation on April 4,2009. There were similar instances of intervention by the naval special forces of Holland and France.

Independent experts outside China were not hopeful of the Chinese Navy’s ability to intervene. They were certain that the Chinese Navy would ultimately have to cave in to the demands of the Somali pirates. The Jamestown Foundation, a prestigious American think-tank based in Washington DC, had predicted that China was unlikely to use its special forces in a rescue operation because it had too few ships in the area and its ships had no combat experience, especially in dealing with pirates.

Chinese authorities managed to get back their ship and crew from the pirates on December 28,2009, after air-dropping sacks containing US $ four million on board the ship from a helicopter. The pirates collected the money and left the hijacked ship, which is now reported to be on its way back home.

The Chinese Government has so far not told its people that it paid a ransom in order to get the ship and its crew back. The “China Daily” News merely told its readers that the ship had been “successfully rescued”.

Their embarrassing experience with this incident has brought home to the Chinese the limitations from which their Navy suffers.

One of the lessons mentioned by their experts is that the Chinese Navy could not hope to be the equal of its US counterparts unless it had overseas bases in areas of concern.

China already has two options before it—- Gwadar on the Balochistan coast in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It has already constructed for Pakistan a commercial port at Gwadar, which is now being managed by a Singapore company.

Pakistan would be only too happy to respond positively to any Chinese request for naval base facilities at Gwadar. The only inhibiting factor for China would be the bad security situation in the area due to the ongoing Baloch freedom struggle. From the point of view of security, Hambantota could be ideal for the Chinese, but would the Sri Lankan Government agree to any such proposal if it comes from Beijing? (via Sri Lanka Guardian: China’s interest in naval base: Gwadar or Hambantota or elsewhere?).

Non aggressive activities like education is also termed in military terms. |  Cartoon By Brian Fairrington, source & courtesy - Cagle Cartoons - 9/24/2009 12:00:00 AM  |  Click for image.

Non aggressive activities like education is also termed in military terms. | Cartoon By Brian Fairrington, source & courtesy – Cagle Cartoons – 9/24/2009 12:00:00 AM | Click for image.

History tells us

Instead, look at Western imperialism.

After 500 years of Western imperialism, entire populations and continents have been wasted. Native Americans, Australian aborigines, Africa. This list is just for starters.

US has a significant presence in Pakistan, Afghanistan – and now wanting it in Bangladesh, too.

America’s threat to send its seventh fleet to stop liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 is a known fact. Now, 41 years later – it is America again – which wants to park its seventh fleet in the country – for its strategic interests. Worried by increasing presence of Chinese naval bases in the South China Sea – America now eyes a counter strategy – as it wants an overall presence in Asia – right from Japan to its Diego Garicia base in the Indian Ocean.

This by parking its seventh fleet in a base in Chittagong giving it both an eye on taking on China and a strategic post in Asia as it pulls out of Afghanisthan. The US State Department denying on the record that Hillary Clinton’s visits had anything to do with military co-operation.

This move by America could put India on the back foot if the American fleet moves to Bangladesh, all of India’s security installations will come under the American scanner. Bangladesh is not willing to comment on record even offering explanation to deny the developments. This Clinton visit a more strategic one than just a friendly one- the Indian establishment caught unawares–as this base could cast a shadow on India’s own strategic interests. (via Excl: America eyes Bangladesh- TIMESNOW.tv – Latest Breaking News, Big News Stories, News Videos).

Fox guarding the chicken-coop

China’s diplomatic activity has been under much scrutiny by the West.

There’s been much talk in the media of an apparent offer by the Seychelles of a base for Chinese ships deployed to the Gulf of Aden and the West Indian Ocean, to help combat piracy. China’s Foreign Ministry was quick to state that Beijing isn’t contemplating a military base in for the Seychelles, adding that it wouldn’t “violate” its traditional policy of “not stationing troops abroad.” China began pursuing its so-called “String of Pearls” strategy in the Indian Ocean in 2001 via the commercial route, constructing the Gwadar port. Subsequently, China won contracts to construct ports at Hambantota on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu on the east coast of Burma in the Arabian Sea.

But what’s China’s interest in establishing a base in the Seychelles?

For a start, it satisfies China’s hunger for a firm foothold in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles provides the PLA Navy an ideal platform from which to counter any threat to its sea lines of communication from Africa by the U.S. Navy operating out of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, to assist with the resupply, rest and refit of PLAN ships undertaking anti-piracy duties in the region, China requires a large logistics depot, which can be supplied by air and merchant/naval ships.

Perhaps most significantly, the Seychelles is equidistant from sea lines of control carrying oil from the Middle East and Africa to China, enabling the PLAN to effectively support its merchant vessels in times of crisis. (via China Base a Threat to India Navy? | The Diplomat).

Note how China is portrayed - with a devil's tail. While the US has been blaming China for global imbalances; the Euro-zone is quiet. Euro-zone needs China to sustain and stabilize the Euro.  |  Cartoon titled Currency Battles By Pavel Constantin, Romania - 11/19/2010 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Note how China is portrayed – with a devil’s tail. While the US has been blaming China for global imbalances; the Euro-zone is quiet. Euro-zone needs China to sustain and stabilize the Euro. | Cartoon titled Currency Battles By Pavel Constantin, Romania – 11/19/2010 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Eternal vigilance, they say

After Sri Lanka refused naval base facilities to the US. A human rights violations censure motion was moved by the US.

Globally, military bases are at

the heart of a global American empire that employs some 1,000 bases outside the United States. Their purpose: To ensure that no matter who governs in Asia, Africa or around the world, the US military would be in a position to “run the planet” from its chain of strategic island bases. (via Chagos: The heart of an American empire? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English).

More than two centuries ago, an American politician noted, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.

It is time we believed him.

Pakistan: The Hidden Chapter

Pakistan and Bangladesh, both have difficulty in dealing with the reality of the Bangladesh War of 1971.

US and Pakistan foreign policy were smashed to bits during the Bangladesh War of 1971.  |  Cartoon by RK Laxman; source & courtesy: stateofpakistan.blogspot.in  |  Click for image.

US and Pakistan foreign policy were smashed to bits during the Bangladesh War of 1971. | Cartoon by RK Laxman; source & courtesy: stateofpakistan.blogspot.in | Click for image.

Q: You once said people are taught to forget history. Did you have the subcontinent in mind?

Tariq Ali: I think people are not taught history. I am always shocked when I meet young Pakistanis – apart from the very educated ones – and they have no idea that Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan. It’s quite shocking to me, astonishing. (via South asia’s dynastic politics is grotesque – The Times of India).

March 1972: Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman signing an India-Bangladesh agreement  |  Image source & courtesy - thehindu.com  |  Click for image.

March 1972: Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman signing an India-Bangladesh agreement | Image source & courtesy - thehindu.com | Click for image.

Can’t forget

Pakistan has erased the Bangladesh chapter from its history books – as a 2ndlook reader from Pakistan wrote in a few days ago.

Just what credibility will State education have, when a Pakistani child comes to know that the State has hidden facts?

Big, elephant sized facts.

Can’t remember

Equally curiously, Bangladesh has completely erased the fact that India fought a war for Bangladesh– at considerable risk and cost to itself.

After thirty years, a determined government in Bangladesh is clear about its relationship with India. Will this last?  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; image source & courtesy - bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.in  |  Click for image.

After thirty years, a determined government in Bangladesh is clear about its relationship with India. Will this last? | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; image source & courtesy - bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.in | Click for image.

India had its own reasons to fight this war. But for Bangladesh to erase the Indian role in the birth of Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, there is no public commemoration or memorial for Indian army and soldiers who died for Bangladesh. .

Don’t understand this.


Yummrika: Hoodie Justice

Statistics on bias and prejudice in the New York Police Department.

Getting crushed between a biased police and a Big Brother State are a whimpering mass of protestors, unemployed, struggling businesses  |  Cartoon By Andy Singer in Politicalcartoons.com  on 11/20/2006 12:00:00 AM  |  Click for image.

Getting crushed between a biased police and a Big Brother State are a whimpering mass of protestors, unemployed, struggling businesses | Cartoon By Andy Singer in Politicalcartoons.com on 11/20/2006 12:00:00 AM | Click for image.

Statistics help tell the story of race and American justice. According to police figures obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the New York Police Department stopped and interrogatedpeople 684,300 times last year. Some 87 per cent of those stopped were black or Hispanic.

While African-Americans comprise only 12 to 13 per cent of the population, they make up 40.1 per cent of the United States’ 2 million male prison inmates. Another statistic that Jamal Joseph, who works extensively with black youths, cites is that young African-Americans, if they graduate from high school, have a one in four chance of going to university but a one in three chance of going to prison. “This is what we are up against,” says Joseph. (via Justice Hidden In A Hoodie | The Global Mail).


Cash for Honours: 100 Years of British Corruption

March 30, 2012 1 comment

A look at corruption in ‘mother of democracy’ – Britain. The problem is not the British people or British leaders – but the Desert Bloc system of governance.

Tony Blair was one in the long-line of British Prime Ministers who sold peerages for money.  |  A 2006 cartoon by Andy Davey;  source & courtesy - andydavey.com  |  Click for image.

Tony Blair was one in the long-line of British Prime Ministers who sold peerages for money. | A 2006 cartoon by Andy Davey; source & courtesy - andydavey.com | Click for image.

We are the most corrupt

Most Indians assume that!

A few years ago, at a book-promotion event in Kolkatta,

A Britisher in the audience offered that Indians were more honest about being corrupt, naming Mayawati as a favourite, provoking titters all around. (via The Telegraph – Kolkata| Metro | When corruption is a daily habit)

The Britisher may be more right than most Indians.

The British Chapter

In an earlier post, we had examined corruption – American style.

The British Prime Minister during WWI, Lloyd George was involved in numerous scams – the most famous being the Marconi Scam. Just before WWII, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, was involved in another scam, for his role in the BSA motorbike company.

Between WWI and WWII, many questions were raised in the British Parliament – and outside about Neville Chamberlain’s holdings in ICI, shares estimated at 11,000. His son, Francis Chamberlain, had joined the Kynoch Works an old firm with which the Chamberlain family was associated. As also with BSA Company (Birmingham Small Arms) in which he was a director.

And then, there is evergreen, ‘cash-for-honours’ milch-cow. Nearly every Prime Minister has made money by granting titles and Lordships.

Journalists from Murdoch's newspapers paid British policemen for news.  |  Cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent; source & courtesy -  jeffreyhill.typepad.com  |  Click for image.

Journalists from Murdoch's newspapers paid British policemen for news. | Cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent; source & courtesy - jeffreyhill.typepad.com | Click for image.

Since a scandal over the honours system might well bring down Tony Blair as Prime Minister, it might be useful to place his record in the area of creating new titles in a wider historical context. Every Prime Minister creates new peerages and knighthoods. Many perforce have gone to wealthy men, and, with virtually every Prime Minister, there has been at least an implication that superlative merit alone was insufficient to explain their elevation. A number of studies of the creation of peerages and life peerages by scholars, including this author, can cast some useful light on how modern Prime Ministers have treated the honours system.

David Lloyd George was, of course, notorious for his peerage creations. How justified is this lasting reputation? In his five and a half years as Prime Minister, Lloyd George created ninety-one new peers, an average of sixteen per year. This was indeed a high total, much higher than the annual average of six new peers created by Lord Salisbury or the eleven created by H. H. Asquith. Nevertheless, there were many extenuating circumstances.

The Parliament which was in place during the First World War was dissolved in November 1918 after having gone eight years without a general election, its life extended by the necessity to avoid an election in the middle of a brutal war. Lloyd George was thus faced by an unusual number of retirements among senior MPs.

Lloyd George also had to honour the senior military commanders of the War. Sir Douglas Haig received an earldom, the official Thanks of Parliament, and a tax-free grant of £100,000, around £6 million in today’s money. Other senior generals and admirals also received peerages, and several others also received substantial tax-free grants for winning the War. It is unnecessary to add that the actual soldiers and sailors received nothing.

However, Haig’s monetary reward demonstrated an historical downward decline: Wellington received £500,000, as well as a dukedom, for defeating Napoleon. Although the leading British military commanders of the Second World War would be regarded by most historians as far better, as military leaders, than those of the Great War, Montgomery et al. received only peerages, not money, which the post-war Labour government had no means or desire to hand out.

The aftermath of the First World War was, in fact, the last time in British history that newly-created peers received money along with their titles. Many would question whether it would not have been more appropriate for the senior commanders of the Great War to have received the short end of a noose rather than a seat in the Upper House, but Lloyd George was obliged to honour them, and none of his critics – certainly none in the Tory party – criticised these titles.

Lloyd George also gave peerages to Empire figures and also to a good many wartime or postwar Ministers in order to bring them into the government, or use them soon after their elevation. For instance, the Canadian Sir Max Aitken became Lord Beaverbrook in 1917 and was given a Cabinet post in February 1918.

Few of these creations caused a public scandal. What we know as the “Lloyd George Honours Scandal” chiefly concerned his very last group of peers in 1922, a list which included William Vestey, the millionaire shipowner and frozen meat king who had emigrated to Argentina to avoid paying taxes, and then returned to England after creating an elaborate international network, with dummy holding companies in France and elsewhere, that guaranteed a virtual tax free income, and Sir Joseph Robinson, a mega-wealthy South African gold magnate so notorious that he was forced to “return” his peerage shortly after it was announced.

Right-wing Tories, looking for an excuse to end the Lloyd George Coalition government, seized on these Honours scandals to undermine the Prime Minister, and the mud has stuck ever since.

Via Maundy Gregory, the honours “bagman”, Lloyd George certainly sold titles – Cardiff became known as the “city of dreadful knights” – although this was nothing new, and it was Lloyd George’s openness, rather than the novelty of this arrangement, which led to scandal. Some peerage-purchasers proved rather clever at what they were doing. Sir James Buchanan, a multimillionaire Scottish whisky distiller, wanted to become Lord Woolavington in the 1922 New Years Honours List, so he signed his cheque “Woolavington”, and dated it “2 January 1922” – no peerage, and the cheque would bounce. He indeed became Lord Woolavington.

Peerage creations continued at roughly the same rate: Winston Churchill created an annual average of eleven per year in his wartime administration of 1940-45, while Clement Attlee created nine per year – until the passage of the Life Peerage Act of 1958, which opened the floodgates. Many pro-Labour figures, or poor men (and, from 1958, women) for whom an hereditary title would be ridiculous, were more than happy to accept a title which ceased with their own demise.

In his 1964-70 government Harold Wilson created no fewer than 154 life peerages (and six hereditaries, all nominated by Sir Alec Douglas-Home at the end of his term). Nothing daunted, Wilson created another 84 life peerages in the two years of this second term in Downing Street from 1974-76. This made an all-up total for Wilson of 234 life peerages, compared with just thirty-four created by Edward Heath from 1970-74. To be sure, Wilson had to create many Labour peers to have a respectable total in the Tory-dominated Lords, but Wilson famously handed out titles like their was no tomorrow, awarding life peerages to his secretary, his solicitor, his doctor, his favourite raincoat manufacturer, and many others in his personal entourage.

Since then, there has been a steady and vast escalation in the number of life peer creations: sixty by James Callaghan; 204 (plus four new hereditaries) by Margaret Thatcher; 172 by John Major. Tony Blair has, however, outdone them all, creating 153 life peers between his election in May 1997 and the end of 1999, plus around 200-250 more since then (and one new hereditary, the Earl of Wessex). (via The Social Affairs Unit – Web Review: Cash for Honours: William D. Rubinstein offers an historical perspective).

The solution to corruption!

How classical Indian rulers, using भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra managed thin governments – without loot, slavery, palaces, bureaucracy, welfare state delivered results.


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