With ’friends’ like Peters’ who needs political enemies?

Four conclusions can be drawn from the ’cronygate’ scandal which still besets the Government after a fortnight of bedlam, brass neck, bluster and Balls, which, appropriately enough, is the surname of Chancellor Gordon Brown’s intellectual bagman who has come to figure prominently in Tony Blair’s embarrassment.

Four conclusions can be drawn from the ’cronygate’ scandal which

still besets the Government after a fortnight of bedlam, brass neck,

bluster and Balls, which, appropriately enough, is the surname of

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s intellectual bagman who has come to figure

prominently in Tony Blair’s embarrassment.



The first is that a spivs’ network operates just below the surface of

this Government. This is the principal public service performed by the

Observer in revealing what Tory leader William Hague described as the

’featherbedding, pocket-lining, money grabbing cronies’ with whom Mr

Blair has surrounded himself. Why have some 33 Labour ’advisers’ moved

into the PR and lobbying industries if not to profit themselves and

others from their connections and contacts?



Second, this Government can be relied upon to do anything but face the

real issue - in this case, cash from insider dealing - when confronted

with a crisis. It will seize upon technicalities (such as the Observer’s

lack of a tape of the more incriminating conversations), kill the

messenger (by trying to destroy the credibility of Gregory Palast, the

Observer’s reporter) and even mislead (as Mr Blair did when he said ’not

a single allegation in that Observer article is true’. Why, then, did

Derek Draper until last week a Peter Mandelson acolyte and Express

columnist, resign from GPC?).



And then it wonders why the story runs when Roger Liddle remains a Blair

aide inside No 10 and Mr Mandelson, the most reviled minister in the

Government, is seen to be at the centre of the crony web.



Third, the media have not yet recovered their appetite for

Government-bashing. They still lack the venom with which they pursued

the Tories, even though the Conservatives have lost their monopoly on

sleaze. But the erosion of this Government’s purity, which Mr Blair

naively believes it enjoys after his dealings with Bernie Ecclestone,

proceeds at an alarming rate. ’Cronygate’ may not finally wash it away

but it has done serious damage to the stonework.



Finally, the likes of Mr Draper have brought lobbying into such

disrepute that Clare Short and David Clark want to cut these ’bragging

and brash’ middlepersons out of our system. Predictably, lobbyists are

now scurrying round demanding Parliamentary registration to protect

their incomes, apparently oblivious to the privilege it would confer on

them.



Worst of all ’cronygate’ has confirmed the impression that Government is

influenced not by the merit of a case, but by whether you have an inside

track to decision makers and their apparatchiks. That impression is

reinforced by the nappy youth and inexperience of so many Labour-loving

lobbyists.



If the past fortnight has been bad for the government, it has been worse

for a properly functioning democracy



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