“Britain, 2005. Saddam Hussein, still the ruler of Iraq and possessor of a long-range nuclear missile, seeks revenge on the west. Warned by intelligence reports of Saddam’s plan, the United States deploys a space-based missile shield, which will catch the Iraqi rocket before it gets to Washington. The key installation is based in Yorkshire — although the shield does not protect Britain. Saddam tells the head of his nuclear warfare programme to set the controls of the missile for London …”
(John Lloyd, New Statesman 28/8/00)
Few people will remember that, but amnesia is an essential requirement for taking John Lloyd’s work seriously. He does not write in the public interest: we appear only to be scolded like children…and this leaves the question in whose interests does he write? Even as far back as 1972, his arrival as Editor of Time Out was seen by some as an attempt to change the magazine’s radical priorities: “his experiences reporting from the province, had changed his politics.” As 70s radicalism accelerated Time Out caught the attention of the authorities — and vice versa — but Lloyd chose a different path. (1)
In a nutshell (and this now seems like some kind of template) he joined the Weekend World team (76-77) coming under the influence of Brian Walden et al, joined the Financial Times, wrote a book on the Miner’s strike (they were undemocratic), fell in love with Thatcherism, studied in the states, joined a think tank and St Anthony’s (96-99) and fronted for New Labour via the Foreign Policy Centre and much else (99-). He is unclear when he left the Communist Party, but by 97 he was sitting next to John Bolton at the American Enterprise Institute talking about New Labour.
Prior to his recent resignation, New Statesmen writers termed him the ‘house reactionary’, some sort of atavistic throwback to Paul Jonston, who also “fitted in with the left for a spell”. Lloyd even talks of a religious conversion, forgetting that faith and reason are separate things:
“When I ceased to be a communist and therefore ditched an essentially undemocratic philosophy, I adopted democracy as a new faith with the real fervour of the convert. We centre-left ex-communists believe passionately in democracy because we’ve reasoned ourselves towards it, so we are perhaps more prepared to support wars that establish or defend it.” (2)
Leaving aside the incongruous combination of ‘New Labour’ and ‘democracy,’ Somewhat to the contrary he explicitly linked his pro-war stance to Marx’s own support for the British Empire against backward nations:
“It’s that side of Marx that argues that imperialism was good for India… the side of Marx that disliked soft liberals and said that if you’re going to make the world better, you have to go through a number of necessary evils.” (3)
Where Marx was right was in his contention was that Hegal was wrong in his description of the state working automatically in the interests of the people — Hegal’s version of events was copied from the government’s own documents: and it is this trap that Lloyd cannot escape from. But where has the fervour of the convert really taken him? Together with BAP’s Nick Butler and Baroness Symons he is a director of the American East-West Institute. Funded by its impressive array of elite directors, Its hon. chair is George H.W. Bush and quite a few back channel people. As ever the institute has an umbrella organisation, wait for it — the American Iranian Council (line-up includes directors of Enron, Chevron Texaco, the President of Halliburton). They should sort out the problem.
Lloyd’s (Rio Tinto) prize winning essay ‘Right and Left to Right and Wrong’ reminisced about his days with the young Tony Blair expelling ‘the militants’ from the Hackney Labour party. It also made great play of the massive shifts with the withdrawal of clause four: but how serious was the commitment to this? Here is Geoff Mulgan in 1991, the man in charge of Labour’s re-nationalisation plans:
“There will be no need for cash. We will make use of the complex web of debts and stakes in other generating companies. There will be no increase in the PSBR… I can’t say how we will do it. The uncertainties that exist here would make it foolish of me to be more specific.” (4)
When Blair launched the Social Exclusion Unit in 1997, even its very conceptual existence was heralded by Lloyd as ‘an exposition of a revolution in the philosophy and practice of provision, in the conception of the welfare state, in the methods and ethos of addressing poverty’. (5)
By the time of his Prospect article of October 99, quotes from what appears to be a range of opinion are actually from the line up of Demos. Selling corporate-friendly myths at the Financial Times fitted in nicely with being a New Labour mouthpiece, so Lloyd joined Mulgan and Mark Leonard in Demos and the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) and as if to order produced a couple of dubious essays: one supporting the new world order the other attacking all dissent towards it.
Although invisible to the mainstream press, both think tank’s location and context, was within a suspicious gathering of newly created groups with interlocking directorships which ultimately worked as one company under the name of ‘The Mezzanine’. These were supplemented by fake grass roots organisations, lobby fronts, wealthy funding bodies (with political targets) and other think tanks — including Peter Mandelson’s The Policy Network — which were created by or modified specifically to aid the government and its private agencies, propaganda outlets and front organisations. (6) This was well underway when Lloyd decided to throw in his lot with the FPC, which:
“…accepted more than £100,000 from an unnamed Russian oligarch to establish a programme on Russian democracy. The money does not come directly; it is channelled through London PR companies presided over by a retinue of former new Labour special advisers. The PR people want to shift public sympathy away from Vladimir Putin, who is at odds with several oligarchs, and they are no doubt delighted that the project has led to a paper criticising Downing Street’s closeness to the Russian president.” (7)
Funded by mercenary companies and a kind of re-run of the IRD, the FPC’s patrons were Robin Cook and Tony Blair, which now sounds like a sick joke. In ‘We can save the new world order’ (8) in the aftermath of 9/11, he combines a ‘new (left) world order’ with Robin Cook’s (more mythical) ‘ethical foreign policy’, whose growth was stunted by a “malign alliance” (he can’t bring himself to say conspiracy) of the ‘foreign policy establishments and the “old left”’. The day after the huge war protest he would claim Blair was ethically leading Bush into the Iraq war: “the American leader is following the British one”. (9)
His ‘The Protest Ethic’ draws way too extensively from Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilisations to assert that “Islam has been from its inception a ‘religion of the sword’” and that Moslems are intrinsically more hostile than any other religious civilisation. And here you realise how badly misleading he is. He will happily argue that: “The anti-war movement… is guilty of the worst kind of moral equivalence, equating Bush and Blair with Saddam and Bin Laden. It has been seduced by anti-Americanism.” (10) When in the Protest Ethic p63 we had:
“The only political grouping now using the tactics developed by the global movements — sporadic use of violence and oppositionism through uncontrollable and unpredictable networks — is Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. In taking the destructive potential of such tactics and strategies to a far more lethal extreme…”
Note that that the demonisation is ‘the global movements’ not even protesters — Lloyd hates organisations like Medecins Sans Frontieres. In ‘How anti-Americanism betrays the left’ (11) he argued that the left’s critique “bends all facts to fit the ideological line”. All facts? So what honest ethical policy would he lead Labour into?
“It is a fairly radical policy and it comes close to some aspects of what has become known as Neo Conservative politics in the United States — the proposal of a new kind of interventionism which has been called liberal interventionism, or in some places neo-imperialism.” (12)
The Pipes are calling
His principle role has been to support those who have sold the UK into this Eva Braun-like marriage to the US administration’s messianic vision. His lofty notion that: “Journalists must question every world view — and that includes the liberal-rationalist one they so often espouse” doesn’t include the neo-cons. ‘Winning the War on Terror’, (13) was more of an advert rather than uncritical, and has been reused by the American Enterprise Institute and other far-right sites. His “Islam’s battle with a hostile world” went straight on to Richard Pipes’ site and was something of a love letter:
“US confidence that it can win the war on terror, effect a regime change in Iraq and bring democracy to the Islamic world stems, in part, from having done something like that before. If communism could be toppled in the Soviet bloc then, many Americans think, the Middle East can be just as radically reshaped. […] Now the ideas and assumptions behind anti-communism are being revived to fight another ideology. Just as many believe communism was the biggest threat to western democracy in the last half of the 20th century, so many see radical Islam as the gravest threat today. The concept of an existential struggle between good and evil has been revived, in many cases by people who were near the front line of the anti-communist battle of the cold war.” (14)
The article presents not the front line but the ‘Armchair Spartans’ Radek Sikorski, the New Atlantic Initiative, Encounter and the CIA, William Kristol, the Weekly Standard, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Richard and Daniel Pipes, and their Middle East Forum, Richard Perle, even Team B in a manner (who just made up their ‘facts’) which ignores all the investigative reporting of the past 50 years. It is Lloyd’s complete lack of ability to offer any analysis of these creatures that makes his work so uniquely useless. Take the Plame affair — for Lloyd:
“…the two main reporters on the case for The New York Times, Michael Gordon and Judith Miller […] had a reputation, not easily won, for hard work and accuracy. If these two got it so wrong, how do you get it right? Or, […] were they reporting information and beliefs held in good faith… which appeared to be right because the counter arguments appeared weaker or mendacious? And how does journalism avoid that?” (15)
He is in a world of his own here — seeing demons and angels. (16) Real analysis has shown up the neo-con’s desperate need for disinformation, and, clinging to their paradigm, Lloyd can only disinform his readers. What has happening in Iraq reveals journalists like him, and those he uncritically defends, as part of the web of deceit and too close to war mongers, profiteers and their special plans. William Burroughs once described Naked Lunch as a “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork”. War gourmets don’t care where their free lunch comes from or who killed what.
1. Underground, Nigel Fountain, Routledge 1988.
2. The Independent Review, 25 February 2003.
4. Hansard Debates, 5 December 1991.
6. “Tom Bentley, the Director of Demos is also a Director of York co148G, trading as The Mezzanine. The company was set up by the tenants of the Mezzanine floor of Elizabeth House through which Demos used to have a sublease for office space.”
7. New Statesman (NS), 31 January 2005.
8. NS, 1 October 2001.
9. Scotland on Sunday 16/2/03.
10. NS, 17 February 2003.
11. Observer, 17 March 2002.
13. Financial Times, 10 January 2003.
15. Financial Times, 17 September 2005.
16. Michael Massing has argued that “the September 8, 2002, article by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction seems one of the most serious cases of misreporting in the entire run-up to the war. The piece provided a major boost to the administration’s case for war — and proved to be wrong in almost every detail. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17027
Miller is connected to Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, Guardian 19 August 2002.