Walking between the raindrops — Dennis Stevenson
C. Wright Mills (1956:6) identified two key sociological questions: what varieties of men and women prevail in the society under study? And, in what ways are they selected and formed, liberated and repressed? A sociological biography with a focus on Lord Dennis Stevenson is presented here as a means of addressing the primary questions that Mills encouraged social scientist to tackle relating to the examination of the problems of biography, of history and of their intersection within a society.
Further to previous writing and seminar work, I wanted to engage in this specific focus to examine Stevenson’s background milieu. Put simply, this essay tries to echo Mills methodologically and uses a variety of sources to place Lord Stevenson within what, drawing on Nye (2004), could be termed the ‘soft power’ elite. This explores what the convergence and collision of public relations, political lobbying, public diplomacy, covert propaganda agencies within organisations such as ‘think tanks’ might indicate by what they suppress and promote, how they have operated over specific timescales and what continuities there are in who and what prevails.
In a letter to the ‘New Left’ shortly before his death Mills detected the beginning of a large-scale propaganda operation at the behest of the ‘power elite’ that was directed at social enquiry itself: a ‘secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe’ (Saunders, 1999:1). He never lived to explore it, although some of the protagonists were also based at Columbia University where he worked.
I have tried to relate these very hidden components of our society through a synthesis of available literature on the trajectory of propaganda projects that Mills anticipated. In future work I hope to give this a more in-depth and historical treatment. Some sort of context can be found in the post called ‘The Atlantic Semantic.’
Lord Stevenson was at the top tier of a group of organisations aimed at influencing government policy called The Mezzanine, who operated as a centre of soft power. Here, even amongst several government overseers: Baroness Ramsay, Peter Mandelson or Lord Levy for example, Stevenson could be identified as the sociometric star (Moreno, 1934) but was largely unknown. With contacts at the very elite of society, and in a career that has been conducted for the most part away from the public gaze, he has overseen the representation of British and US capital with his chairmanship of Pearson (publishers of the Financial Times and the Economist); its mediation through his long standing role as a political lobbyist in his company SRU; its influence in policy formation in his role in elite planning groups, consultancies, business-funded think tanks such as Demos or the Diebold Institute, the state financing of private capital through involvement in several development companies and in banking itself, latterly with HBOS.
Below I will outline the basic reference books which formed the backbone of much of the research, and the main sources that I have drawn upon to try to gain an understanding of soft power and public diplomacy in connection to Stevenson, this connects with the following section that deals more with the theoretical approach and aims to orientate the reader with Mills’ letter to the New Left Review where, to my mind, he tried to decipher emergent soft power elements and networks and which, I will argue, continue, and are evident through, Lord Stevenson and the Mezzanine network with organisations such as Demos, the Foreign Policy Centre and ERA.
The UK may not have a written constitution but it does have an ‘order of precedence.’ This can be found at the front of Who’s Who, (originally published in 1849 in response to the expansion of the British Empire) together with a key to the designatory acronyms of the institutions, bodies and awards that appear therein, an understanding of which is a prerequisite to mapping a structural elite. This, together with the Directory of Directors (DoD), Who Owns Whom and other online business and peerage guides have formed the basis of much of this research. But, we must be aware that these are the products of self-completion and contain errors: the 1991 DoD, for instance, contains two entries for Stevenson.
An inter-relation between these publications builds the basic outline and starting point of the analysis which maps the social network and the institutions and other bodies involved.
Early attempts at outlining a British elite, appear in the collection edited by Thomas (1959) titled The Establishment. This also contained early attempts at what would now be termed corporate interlocks, but when it extended this to try to understand how the cogs and wheels turn, a veil of secrecy fell: but of course a covering veil is also revealed. The ‘Establishment’ as a term was coined by one of the contributors, Henry Fairlie, in the Spectator, with reference to the Burgess and Maclean spying revelations in 1955, he argued that the two ‘diplomats’ had been protected:
By the “Establishment”, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power in Britain (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially.
Thomas offers an explanation whereby ‘Establishment’ simply indicates “the assumption of the attributes of a state church by certain powerful institutions and people; in general these may be supposed to be effectively beyond democratic control” (Thomas, 1959:18). So, here we note the primacy of informality as the social exercise of power moves away from scrutiny or record.
There are no official or unofficial biographies of Lord Stevenson of any length. Accessing the BBC’s Neon system it is possible to view all newspaper coverage and mention of Stevenson, and there are surprisingly few dated before 2000, only three newspaper articles contain what could be termed a biography (Hosking, 1993; Lynn, 1996; Blackhurst, 1999) the remainder have scant details. Blackhurst quotes an anonymous source:
He’s not a lifelong banker or industrialist. He’s never been at the sharp end of trading and striking deals, he’s never made anything, he’s never worked full time for a public company. […] In Their eyes, he’s a career back-seat driver: a consultant, a strategist, an adviser, a fixer, a schmoozer, a portfolio juggler, a chairer of meetings.
There is no analytical writing on the Mezzanine group, apart from my own previous writing, although the individual groups have published a great deal of material, indeed some of them could be described as propaganda organisations. I have only made a contextual reference to these to retain a focus on Stevenson.
I have not found contemporary works aiming to deal with over-arching themes such as ‘Who Runs Britain,’ the subtitle of Paxman (1990) particularly helpful: it mentions Stevenson twice and both very briefly in relation to the Tate gallery.
Bunyan (1977) has proved a very useful resource on the concept of political policing and in providing background on the Heath administration, particularly in combination to recently declassified material on the period, together with a range of social and political histories. Souza (2001) notes that today the ‘global public affairs marketplace’ is such that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) cannot compete and the situation is compounded by the fact that ownership of public affairs companies has passed into the hands of overseas conglomerates. She outlines sub-contracting to small-scale organisations with SIS connections demonstrating the merger of PR and the activities of the intelligence community and that former SIS officers were encouraged to form consultancies after leaving the service. However, Souza maintains that the lobbying and private security industries are increasingly the competitors of SIS, noting that Alan Parker, the founder of the secretive City PR consultancy Brunswick, and a fellow Demos trustee with Stevenson, is the son of Peter Parker of British Rail, who was a former SIS officer.
Ramsay (1986, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998) has engaged in an ongoing attempt to explore what is termed para-political research (Scott, 1993) as the editor of Lobster magazine. This, influenced by Leigh (1978, 1988) had an initial focus on SIS, right-wing think tanks and the ‘Wilson Plots,’ but has broadened out to encompass the shifts outlined with Souza above, and, with the advent of ‘New Labour,’ published Easton (1997) on the existence of ‘Atlanticist’ networks such as the British American Project for the Successor Generation (BAP). Ramsay also draws on the work of the Leveller and Time Out (in the 1970s) and is part of a specific line of investigative journalism that encompasses the work of Fletcher, & Hirsch (1977) and Agee & Woolf (1978) with their focus on covert work of the CIA and related agencies in Europe. This line of investigation can appear somewhat submerged, but it is not uncommon for sociologists (Gouldner, 1968) to draw on what some term ‘underground’ journalism. This has come in from the cold somewhat with recent work such as Lashmar & Oliver (1997) with their focus on the Information Research Department (IRD) and Saunders (1999) and Scott-Smith (2000, 2002) with reference to the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and the ‘end-of-ideology’. For Scott-Smith US public diplomacy was orientated around total information control, it represented “the attempt by one government to manage international relations by advocacy, communication, or cultural and exchange work directed at the public sphere of a foreign state.”
Palast (2002) has outlined the notorious mélange of ‘Third Way’ PR-terminology, political lobbying and ‘spin’ (or public diplomacy) that came to set the terms within which aspects of political bargaining was conducted in the political system and culture that evolved around New Labour. ‘Grey’ material, such as Private Eye, which although untrustworthy can provide pointers, particularly with relevance to Stevenson’s early associations. Political biographies (MacIntyre, 1999; Gregory, 1994; Routledge, 1999) also contain short but valuable accounts of Stevenson’s relationship with Peter Mandelson and his consultancy’s work in formulating ‘New Labour’. Hagiographies (Handy, 1999) outline Stevenson’s network of ‘social entrepreneurs.’
The reader will note that both Hansard and the BBC are the predominant references in the bibliography and they should also note that a great deal of the ‘underground’ material has been substantiated by recent disclosures of formerly classified material.
Mills and theory
Why use Mills? Aronowitz’s (2004) C. Wright Mills, brought together supporters and detractors across the years, and describes a small but pronounced “revival” of Mills possibly prompted by:
A stolen election, corporate corruption scandals, and the direct seizure of government by upper class scions — not to mention shameless corporate and government incompetence rationalized with bald faced lying. (Barrow, 2006:3)
In the aftermath of the global riots of 1968, the CIA identified Mills as one of the most influential ‘New Left’ intellectuals in the world, though he had been dead for six years (Summers, 2006). Mills also anticipated the contemporary disquiet with the post-ideological “postmodern period” (as he termed it) at its inception, observing that “increased rationality may not be assumed to make for increased freedom” in a society “dominated by irresponsible elites and alienated masses” (Mills, 1970:166-167). Sociology, he felt, had abdicated its responsibility for showing how larger social forces shape individual lives (Chasin, 1990). For Domhoff (2007) the ‘right turn’ of neo-liberalism has reinstated the validity of Mills’ approach and “finished off the state autonomy theorists, who… deduced from their flawed studies… that the economic problems of the 1970s would be solved through the expansion of the state.”
The value of Mills for (Perlman, 1970) in a review of Mills’ theory and methods is that he defined the core purpose of meaningful analytical work on social and political affairs as making relevant connections between individual pain and structural inequality: to relate it to broader contextualizing forces of class, race, bureaucracy, and unjust power and authority. For Mills, the most important issue of political reflection—and of political action— is the practical problem of the historical agency of change, in terms of what the social and institutional means of structural change are. The breadth of Stevenson’s organizational involvement encompasses a place on agencies designed to encourage public ownership of companies and organizations designed to encourage privatization.
In following Mills what should we study? Barrow (2006:4fn) has pointed out that Mills observes that “…institutions are the necessary bases of power, of wealth, and of prestige, and at the same time, the chief means of exercising power, of acquiring and retaining wealth, and of cashing in the higher claims for prestige. By the powerful we mean, of course, those who are able to realize their will, even if others resist it.” Barrow adds the observation that it is remarkable that Dahl’s and Lukes’ definitions of power were heralded as such important advances in the concept of power when they offer nothing that is not already in the definition offered by Mills in The Power Elite. Domhoff (2007) goes further to say that the repression of Mills’ work on power structure research, points to certain failures of mainstream political science.
What should we look for? For Mills behind powerful individuals and behind the events of history, linking the two, are the major institutions of modern society. These hierarchies of state and corporation and army constitute the means of power; and by the 1950s, he argued, they were of a consequence not before equaled in human history. But these very positions, these summits, the “command posts of modern society”, offered “the sociological key to an understanding of the role of the higher circles in America….” (Mills, 1956:5).
‘Soft power,’ as defined by Nye (2004), is by nature hidden and conducted through agencies and intermediaries. Mills argued that the notion of a specifically political elite is in reality a myth, that the crucial positions in government and politics are increasingly held by what he calls ‘political outsiders’, and that these outsiders are in fact ‘members or errand boys’ of the corporate rich. Latterly, we can identify this in the rise of ‘special advisers’ to government and Stevenson’s specific (but hidden) role in this with New Labour and the Appointments Committee for the House of Lords that will be examined later.
What is missing from Mills? Sweezy (1968:121) argues that Mills needs a theory of exploitation to explain the power elite’s behavior and its relation to the masses — that Mills can be read in the same way that individuals now watch the ‘lifestyles’ of the rich and famous on television. Bottomore (1966:33-34) claimed that Mills’ own research findings revealed that most members of the power elite were in fact drawn from an already socially recognized upper class. Barrow cites, Herbert Aptheker’s 1960 substantive point that Mills’ conception of the economic elite failed to capture the emerging role of finance capital and financial groups as the emerging vanguard of the capitalist class. This argued that the economic was itself structured internally by developments in the capitalist economy. Aptheker (drawing from Lenin) felt Mills was unable to recognize finance capital as overlords within the power elite, because his analysis was not structured by any concept of political economy. In other words, the power elite was no longer simply an “American” power elite, but one with interests, connections, and structural limitations related to its export of capital. But Mills does link elitism and exploitation and this dissertation is not an attempt to reclaim him for the Marxists.
A position with the main financial institutions can be identified as the locus classicus of Lord Stevenson’s aspiration however. Stevenson’s involvement in Pearson (which has a significant share of US educational publications) and Manpower (theoretically the US’s largest employer) or The Western Union Company (a worldwide leader in money transfer services) are evident of long-term US and transnational command positions with, it can be argued, intrinsic elements of exploitation.
Significant but covert aspects of an ‘Atlanticist’ tendency, are also revealed by Stevenson’s involvement with the formation of the British American Project for a Successor Generation (Easton, 1997); and representative of a position in the replication and design of a future elite. This is also representative of a deeper realm (ostensibly at an informal social level) which can be seen to connect to the attempts by the CIA to covertly influence politics in the UK as outlined by Agee & Wolf (1978: 118). Mills’ 1960 letter to the New Left Review was a warning of this advance of US soft power in the form of propaganda and manipulation:
…the weariness of many NATO intellectuals with what they call “ideology,” and their proclamations of “the end of ideology.” So far as I know, this began in the mid-fifties, mainly in intellectual circles more or less associated with the Congress of Cultural Freedom and the magazine Encounter. Reports on the Milan Conference of 1955 heralded it; since then, many cultural gossips have taken it up as a posture and an unexamined slogan. Does it amount to anything?
For Mills the “would-be enders of ideology” were “the self-coordinated, or better, the fashion-coordinated, socialist realists of the NATO world,” meaning they were fulfilling a propaganda function for their respective masters. Quoting his notes he states
“Check this carefully with the files of Encounter and The Reporter.” I have now done so; it’s the same kind of … thing. (Mills, 1960)
Saunders (1999) makes no mention of Mills prescience with this. At the time the warning went unheeded, but I have tried to elaborate its implications here. Mills’ The Social Role of the Intellectual, written during the war, also contains his suspicions that some sort of intellectual psychological operation is taking place as the Cold War begins to crystallise. Edward Shils later wrote a dismissive review of The Power Elite for Encounter. It is this review that led to allegations of the rejection of Mills by “the sociological establishment,” asserting that Mills was the victim of academic “ostracism” and a “merciless campaign of defamation” throughout his career (Wrong, 2001:2). One interesting work to be cited in this context is E. P. Thompson reviewing Mills in Peace News, 29 November 1963 at http://www.marxists.org/archive/sedgwick/1964/08/2newlefts.htm
What can sociologists do to factor in covert institutions (and covertly influenced analysis) to their analysis? Mills highlights the need to relate isolated facts and fragmentary comment with the changing institutions of society to make it possible to understand the structural realities that these facts might reveal. I have tried to undertake elements of this theoretical approach here. Using a similar comparative analysis and drawing on (or re-interpreting) Mills’ (1940) concept of ‘situated actions and vocabularies of motive,’ we can tentatively identify a similar ‘thing’ in Stevenson’s network and a contemporary elaboration of the end-of-ideology within the Mezzanine organizations.
Particularly with Demos (staffed with ex-members of the Communist Party of Great Britain), we see a utilization of ‘NATO intellectuals’ such as Bell (1961), Fukuyama (1992) and Etzioni (1993) together with a ‘focus’ on post-modernism recast as the ‘third-way’. The end-of-ideology posture is for Mills “one of “false consciousness” and “stands in the way… of considering with any chances of success what may be happening in the world.” It is the provincial voice pertaining to “self-selected circles of intellectuals in the richer countries,” the self-image, the cultural and political default of the ‘NATO intellectuals.’
Bell’s The End of Ideology (1960) contained an attempted refutation of The Power Elite, which amounted to a what-you-see, is what-you-get outlook towards politics. But who was Dwight D. Eisenhower talking about in his 1961 farewell address; who were the Military Industrial Complex? Were they his own administration? Mills described both the make-up of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, including the Acheson group of ‘wise men’ who tended to despise even the theatres of democracy as performed by the US Congress, lionised in Isaacson & Thomas (1986). Gouldner’s (1968) observation as the revelations of hidden CIA activity began to emerge in (the underground magazine) Ramparts was that:
“…there was scarcely a civic profession — the military, the medical, the police, the legal, the judicial — that was not involved in suppressing the truth, and which did not bow obsequiously to power…”
Gouldner made the further observation that those who think that professional associations and universities will immunize the professions from the pressures and temptations of power have simply not understood the revelations about CIA penetration into those very associations and universities. And again, with Gouldner we have a letter to the New Left Review the implications of which have been largely ignored.
Using Mills’ warning as a starting point we can try to recognize deficiencies that need to be addressed in theories of society, history, and human nature. The absence of public issues is not due to any absence of problems or of contradictions, antagonistic or otherwise. Impersonal and structural changes have not eliminated problems or issues. It is an ideological condition, regulated in the first place by whether or not social scientists detect and state problems as potential issues for probable publics, and as troubles for a variety of individuals. Mills’ work on these central tasks is what can only be described as ideological analysis. For Mills a new sensibility was needed to analyze the structure of institutions, the foundations of policies and that in my opinion means an examination of propaganda, covert influence and soft power to confront their role as a historical agency of change.
Mills’ conception of the “shape of power” was the theory of the power elite, who, he argued, used widespread secrecy to cover their operations and decisions: the power elite masked their intentions and operations. Any secrecy that is imposed upon those in positions to observe high decision-makers clearly works for and not against the operations of the power elite.
Work into think tanks, who tend to mediate this process, seems under theorised, particularly along these lines. As Stone (1996, 2000) stresses, think tanks have become global policy actors or, at the very least, policy informants and are building regional and international networks. Think tanks deal in ‘soft power’ in shaping policy agendas, in challenging the language and terminology of public debate, in redefining the mental maps of policy-makers. The Mezzanine was a proponent of new social ontologisms, markets, self-organization, and network economies: all subtle processes, the workings of which are hard to measure.
Carroll & Carson’s (2003) study situated top transnational policy-planning groups within the larger structure of corporate power:
Analysis of corporate-policy interlocks reveals that a few dozen cosmopolitans— primarily men based in Europe and North America and actively engaged in corporate management—knit the network together via participation in transnational interlocking and/or multiple policy groups.
As an attendee of Bilderberg and member of elitist Atlanticist organizations, this offers another theoretical context to evaluate the capacity of Stevenson’s quasi-governmental activities. Bakvis (1997) suggests that, rather than ebbing away at the core executive, British think tanks can play an important role in sustaining and providing substance for the government’s mandate and in managing its agenda, this is of particular relevance to the Mezzanine. McGann and Weaver (2000) list six important roles which think tanks usually play in relation to policy formulation: they carry out basic research on policy problems and solutions; they provide advice on immediate policy concerns; they evaluate government programs; they serve as facilitators of issue networks and the exchange of ideas; they serve as suppliers of personnel to government and as a place for politicians and policy-makers who are out of power; and they help interpret policies and current events for the media. Rhodes’ (1998) attention to the role of non-state actors in society in relation to questioning the accountability and legitimacy of contemporary political structures focused on the ‘new governance’ perspective: utilizing networks and relationships within the European Union to explain the ‘hollowing’ of government, the reduction in the governance capacity of the institutions of government.
Research design and methods
Taking the example of one individual, Lord Stevenson, this essay explores the institutions and organisations he has been a part of, and what they tell us about our society. I have followed Mills (1959a) in eschewing the fiction of detached objectivity and followed his pioneering micro-macro distinction that, arguably, became a key strategy in sociological theory during the late 1970s and 1980s, identifiable in the work of William Domhoff, Thomas Dye, Mark Mizruchi, Floyd Hunter and Noam Chomsky. The idea is to link the two levels to show how they relate at a much less abstract and theoretical level. I am not primarily concerned with theoretical articulation as such, but in using the distinction to highlight hidden aspects of key social issues (Mills, 1970:12-14).
In drawing on Mills it is important to recognise his treatment of ”Grand Theory” and “Abstracted Empiricism” — the polarisation of theory at a remove from social issues, and measurement buried in the examination of minutiae. For Mills particularly in the work of Parsons and Lazarsfeld this contributed to a loss of the wider context — social structure out of its cultural and historical context —and encouraged attempts to devise universal social laws. Burawoy (2007) notes that Parsons’ The Structure of Social Action (1937) founded what came to be known as ‘modernization theory’ in which US society was the model to be celebrated and emulated by the rest of the world. I plan to explore the work of Rostow in this context in a future essay.
To remedy this Mills advocated that the approach should be anchored in the individual and their milieu yet contextualised in larger social structures and the events that formed them. I have also tried to develop this by a comparative and historical perspective that gives importance to place and power and the ‘secret state’ (Ramsay 1986). Mills’ also provides practical suggestions on research methodology. This centres round ‘the file’ as a means to both record and reflect and to draw on to explore and develop concepts and ideas, indexing and cross-referencing to explore a range of ideas and experiment with a number of approaches and conceptual frameworks. Obviously today this is greatly aided by computer.
Within a micro focus on Lord Stevenson we can relate ‘isolated facts and fragmentary commentary’ with the changing institutions of society. But the difficulty is that even high profile events we may wish to study are made fragmentary because of the veil of official secrecy. Add to this unofficial secrecy and the confusing array of PR spin, propaganda, disinformation, self-censored silence, confidentiality or evasion, or partial revelation in various combinations that are brought to bear on and are themselves our subject matter. For instance the main section of the essay relates to events such as the T. Dan Smith ‘affair’, the Slater Walker ‘affair’, the Blue Arrow ‘affair’ or ‘Lobbygate’ which were undeniably the subject of official cover-ups. Yet these and other events throw light on the structure, components and features of society that hidden forces prefer hidden.
I have tried to avoid what Mills castigates as part of ‘socspeak,’ and which he sees as stemming from an imitation of science — the root cause being ‘status’ or as he put it “anyone who tries to write in a widely intelligible way” will be condemned as “a mere journalist.” For Mills (1959a) “any writing that is not imaginable as human speech is bad writing.”
Guided by Mills’ instruction not to get bogged down in specialist “codifications of procedure,” I have preferred the simplicity of setting up a file that ‘joins personal experience and professional activity’ to develop ‘ambiguous confidence’ which is the ability to both trust and be sceptical of one’s own experience and to gain a certain discernment in the interpretation of that of others. The analysis developed as the file developed: it controlled the experience or as Mills put it: “maintenance of the file is intellectual production.” This rearrangement of the files provides a loosening of the imagination —‘it is a sort of logic of combination and ‘chance’ sometimes plays a curious part in it.’ For Mills (1959a) good work in social science is not “made up of one clear cut empirical ‘research.’” It is composed of a good many studies that anchor at key points general statements about the shape of the subject.
For Mills (1959a) we are allowed to take ‘persons’ into account and furthermore he held that the purpose of empirical enquiry was to settle arguments, disagreements and doubts about facts:
…there is no more virtue in empirical enquiry as such than in reading as such.
My strategy is that with institutional elements and definitions we should take into account elements involving ulterior, covert, deceptions, and look behind the surface of the relations between elements such as networks, corporate interlocks, milieu, social environment, sphere, background, context, location, conditions, surroundings, environs and informal association. Problematic situations are formulated with attention to theoretical and conceptual implications, yes, but the paradigms of empirical research and models of verification must be so constructed that they permit further theoretical and conceptual implications to be drawn from their employment. Models of verification are problematic — some grey material, although vindicated by subsequent disclosures of previous classified material, remains in official limbo: the ‘Wilson plots’ and its relation to the ‘Colin Wallace Affair’ being a case in point (Foot, 1989).
Variables such as class, status, power and occupation are valuable indices (and were Mills’ own for the Power Elite) in terms of what they indicate as bases of power in terms of duration (and mobility) of occupation and cross-classification. This essay aimed to situate its theme within inter-related and inter-dependent elite components of society such as: social class, the basic forms of work, the major socialising forces, education, social organisations, the rules and forms of social control that organise society. Possibly this seems too complex or vague, but, our focus narrows to groups (1) compact enough to be identifiable, (2) powerful enough to decide with consequence, and (3) in a position to foresee the consequences (Mills, 1959:20).
For Mills (1959a)
The hardest thing in the world is to study one object.
But it can be assisted by the use of a variety of viewpoints: “how would a political scientist…approach this, and how would that experimental psychologist, or this historian…let your mind become a moving prism catching light from as many angles as possible” (1959a). He also talks of the “perspective by incongruity,” knowledge of world history is thought ‘indispensable.’ So let us begin.
In 1970 Edward Heath was encouraged by Peter Walker to agree to appoint Stevenson as head of Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee New Town Development Corporation (NPDC): the new town records are ‘official secrets’ and cannot be accessed for 50 years (Hosking, 1993). During World War 2 the government established an Ordnance Factory near Aycliffe Village, a ‘new town’ was planned, where the workforce could live. Bakelite Ltd took over the site in the 60s and merged with Union Carbide owned British Xylonite to become BXL. In 1974 the British Industrial Plastics division of Turner & Newall purchased BXL’s operations. Both Union Carbide and Turner & Newall have atrocious health and safety records (Whitston, 2002; Union Carbide, 2001).
The first chairman of the ‘Aycliffe Development Corporation’ was Lord Beveridge, who chose the area to realise his vision of a ‘Welfare State’, where “poverty, unemployment and squalor would be no more,” with the promise of a class-less society, where managers and men would live side-by-side in high-quality council houses (Clare, 2000). The decline of this vision is a feature that runs through this essay.
We will see later that Walker’s patronage is a continuity in Stevenson’s career connecting him here to an influential local development network, but we should note how sensitive this appointment was. The NPDC’s former head was T. Dan Smith, whose corruption trial and the associated exposure of the nature of the power structure in the North East threatened to engulf Reginald Maudling and Keith Joseph, two of Heath’s likely successors (Amber Films, 1987).
Stevenson was appointed in 1971, Maudling resigned in 1972, at the same time as Walker moved to the Department of Trade and Industry. Smith was convicted in 1974, after initially being charged with bribery in January 1970. Although acquitted at trial in July 1971, Smith was forced to resign all his political offices. Oddly, in Stevenson’s own account (Anai, 1998) he associates himself with the left, yet the milieu around Walker and even more so in Stevenson’s marriage ties with the Vanneck family, which I will outline later, are more representative of the nexus of intelligence, business and government figures which can be grouped around an “anti-subversion” faction of the right targeting the left.
Two secret aspects of the early Heath government have recently come to light and should be noted in this context. These two twin strands of ‘public diplomacy’ and ‘anti-subversion,’ will help us understand the development of the ‘soft power’ strategies beginning in the 70s. Day (2003) states that Heath was using the anti-communist propaganda organisation the Information Research Department (IRD) to ‘soften up’ public opinion on Europe and other matters. IRD had been involved in the same networks as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (Saunders, 1999:76). Lashmar & Oliver (1997) state that the key IRD figures were Norman Reddaway, of the Foreign & Colonial Office (FCO) and Geoffrey Tucker ex-director of publicity for the Conservative Party: both of whom resurface in Stevenson’s milieu in orchestrating ‘The Mezzanine’, a centre of ‘soft power’ and public diplomacy for the New Labour government of the 1990s and a topic I will develop later. By the late 1960s, IRD had more than 400 people occupying River-walk House opposite the Tate Gallery and undercover officers in embassies all over the globe. The European Movement (EM), which hosted IRD events, was funded by the CIA (WCML, 1974) through Cord Meyer, also the founder of the United World Federalists which helped to launch the EM, and in charge of covert funding of Encounter and the Congress for Cultural Freedom, that Mills warned of in his letter (Agee & Woolf, 1978).
Secondly, again with the release of official documents, we know that Heath secretly ordered MI5 to brief senior industrialists about “subversive” organisations trying to infiltrate their workplaces and to make connections with both the Economic League and MI5 as part of his drive towards anti-subversion in the early 1970s (Lyons, 2004).
As a protégé of Peter Walker — whom Private Eye No. 261 once described as ‘an unscrupulous smarmy-faced arrogant little Con Man’ — throughout the 1970s Stevenson provided information and reports for the Department for the Environment (MOE), itself created in 1970 by Heath for Walker, as a powerful combination of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, Department of Transport and Ministry of Housing and Local Government to control Local Authority spending, and as such a response to the corruption unravelling in the North-East:
Smith appointed councillors as paid “consultants” to his various “public relations” firms. If one of them was exposed, Smith kept himself in the clear by saying that he assumed they would declare their interest — that is, that they were on his payroll, and that their misconduct had nothing to do with him. But Smith also had his own painting and decorating firm, which received more than half of the contracts for council housing, while he ensured that Poulson got the contracts for much of new housing development in the North-east, through his Party contacts, helping turn Poulson into a millionaire, while carefully keeping his own nose clean… (Workers’ Fight, 2007)
Smith argued that this system of consultants and vested interests was later legitimised by ‘Thatcherism’ (Waterhouse, 1993). He also maintained that he was a scapegoat in a SIS cover-up for cabinet ministers using the unseen role of the Privy Council (Amber Films, 1987) and argued that the government tried to interfere in the trial because the trail of corruption led all the way to the top and was thus not in the ‘national interest’ (HLG, 2003). It is interesting to note that because of the scandal the Commons Register of Interests was introduced (Whitehead, 1986:263).
Walker put Stevenson into this tangled web, yet his only ostensible qualification for replacing Smith (who ran a PR firm) was his previous experience with the PR firm Conrad Jameson. Once in place in NPDC he too formed a consultancy, the Strategic Research Unit (SRU) that has consistently, although somewhat secretively, engaged in PR and consultancy work tied into many of Stevenson’s business interests.
Peterlee & Aycliffe remained poverty-stricken, but commentators see the opportunity NPDC offered as the beginning of Stevenson’s private wealth, again with intercession from above:
In league with Vaux, the local brewer, and the Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspaper group, plus the Transport & General Worker’s Union he bid for the local ITV franchise. They failed, but the Independent Television Authority insisted that Stevenson join the winner’s board Tyne-Tees and so the magic spiral started. (Northedge, 1999)
Vaux were funders of the Economic League (Hughes, 1994). Tyne-Tees were at the time controlled by Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison, Viscount Ridley (both Lord Lieutenants of the area) and Baroness Eccles of Moulton who also joined Stevenson on the board of British Railways Eastern Region and Sir Laurence Martin, a former director of Chatham House, who I will refer to later again in the context of the anti-subversion faction.
Walker had run Heath’s election campaign and handled his money, but his affairs untangled in the financial crisis of 1974 when his investment partnership Slater Walker (one the stock market’s pre-eminent ‘asset-strippers’), over extended itself and had to be protected by what we could term ‘establishment’ secrecy. Recently released files show Slater Walker reported profits of £2.2m but should have reported a loss of between £30m- and £42m and that the whole structure of Slater Walker was propped up by the Bank of England’s support for its banking subsidiary. The Bank of England, at their own (then secret) admission was “up to their neck in the Slater Walker affair” (HM Treasury, 2005:16).
The documents contain a letter from Frank Hooley MP to Dennis Healy (24/9/76) asking “how is it that £70m of public money can be used to prop up the activities of a shoddy swindler like Jim Slater…Why is it that the bank of England can rescue any lousy City twister while manufacturing companies in difficulties have to beg and plead…”
Slater Walker was also a funder of the Economic League (Bunyan, 1977: 248). One of their directors, Lord Victor Rothschild was head of Heath’s prime ministerial “think tank” in 1971, providing intelligence on the unions and left-wing groups from, and who had a strong connection to Peter Wright. Slater Walker’s Jonathan Aitken was an MI6 agent and a close friend of the CIA’s James Jesus Angleton (BBC, 2006).
Aside from his business dealings, Walker (who was opposition spokesman on Defence at a crucial juncture June 1974-Feb 1975) was also the founder of the Tory Reform Group, funded by British United Industries (BUI) which funded Aims of industry, Coalition for Peace through Security, the Economic League and Truemid: all key parts of the counter subversion faction (Ramsay, 1986: 16). In its early days the TRG were incongruously based in 9 Poland Street. Described in the press as the centre for ‘the counter-civil service’, this base of left-wing organisations was set up by The Joseph Rowantree Trust (JRT), who also funded the European Movement, and housed Friends of the Earth, the Low Pay Unit, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF), Socialist Society, State Research, The Public Order Research Group, the Media Research Trust among many others (Smith, 2006). In 1993 the JRT would later support the launch of Demos, “partly for its willingness to embrace progressive individuals from the worlds of finance, industry and commerce…” Stevenson was a member of Demos’ advisory board and they became a similar nucleus of think tanks with the establishment of Mezzanine, helped by the IRD’s Geoffrey Tucker. The IRD had also been tasked with targeting the ‘New Left’ (Lashmar & Oliver, 1998:159).
Mullan, (2002) states that anticipating the referendum on membership of the EEC in 1974 an elite group, known as the ‘principals’, launched a series of secret meetings to co-ordinate a campaign, led by Geoffrey Tucker. Mullan outlines three aspects of the IRD European project one of which concentrated on influencing MPs, parliamentary parties through Conservative Associations like the TRG. The TRG members had strong ties to the FO: Anthony Meyer worked in the FO Common Market unit where Heath was started the first round of negotiations to enter the Community. When Meyer was due to be posted abroad again he resigned in order to campaign actively for British entry (The Times, 2005a) and from there became policy director for the European Movement. On the CIA involvement Mullen cites Conservative MP, Sir Richard Body, who recounted:
At the very beginning of the campaign, two CIA agents came to see me in the House of Commons. They were Anglophiles and they were very upset at the way their agency was going to interfere in the Referendum campaign. They said a new station head [Cord Meyer] was going to be appointed who was not a normal CIA man, he was well known in the federalist movement and they were going to interfere in different ways.
Bose & Schachhuber (2000) show that Poland Street’s State Research and CPBF and others, were exposing SIS operations, and were engaged from the late 1970s in: an exposure of a “Press Plot Against CND” involving “systematic attempts to discredit disarmament groups by insinuating ‘KGB links’”; detailing how the Social Democratic Party had “tried to discredit the left by persuading the Sunday Times to smear Labour MPs”; screening banned films such as the ‘Zircon Project’, or ‘The Brutality of Wapping’ and also engaging in work around the Miner’s Strike. Several members of the group had been under arrest and surveillance, such as Crispin Aubrey and Duncan Campbell who, along with State Research, were at the forefront of a campaign to show how ‘national security’ should be closer to ‘political consciousness’ (Aubrey, 1981:189). In contrast Walker was to go to run the fight against the miner’s in the Thatcher government.
The Tory Reform Group’s offices are now in 29 Tufton Street, a key centre that has emerged in the research which we will return to, noting here that it is the base of the Action Centre for Europe, Conservative Group for Europe. Open Europe, and the Federal Trust are at number 11. The European Movement’s offices were in Tufton Street until recently.
Whitehead (1985:239) states that Walker’s DoE commissioned several reports for the UN in response to the rise of environmentalist groups and felt under threat from them. Here, we should consider Stevenson’s involvement in the Intermediate Technology Group (ITG), founded in 1968 by the economist E. F. Schumacher, author of ‘Small is Beautiful,’ which coincided with a move towards ITG being incorporated as an Agency of the Crown. ITG emerged from the growth of environmentalism and organisations, such as Poland Street’s Friends of the Earth. Schumacher’s associates decided to create a consultancy to influence the World Bank arguing that in the name of profit and technological progress, modern economic policies had created rampant inefficiency, environmental degradation and dehumanising labour conditions. When Stevenson became involved ITG’s orientation shifted with the adoption of Prince Charles as its patron — Stevenson had been a member of the Royal Jubilee Trust (1978-80). Then ITG moved under the auspices of colonialism as a member of the Crown Agents network. This is exactly what the name implies, an agent of Her Majesty the Queen. It was founded in 1833 as Crown Agents for the Colonies to administer the British Empire.
The Independent (2000) March 31, reported that: “Crown Agents, a privatized development assistance firm, has become the first British company to win a contract in the American programme to rebuild Iraq. It will be a subcontractor to International Resources Group, a US professional services firm providing technical assistance for planning and management of the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Iraq.”
Again this connects with the Mezzanine. One of the Crown Agents partners ‘Transparency International,’ (TI) founded and run by Peter Eigen is now based in Mezzanine 2. Previously Eigen was part of a group called ‘Ashoka’ which was based in the Mezzanine as a ‘venture philanthropy’ fund operated by several Ashoka members together with members of UnLtd and Timebank (also part of the Mezzanine group), who were given a £100m fund from the National Lottery by the government. Eigen, together with Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, was a founding member of their ‘Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurs.’ Bajolle (2005) has demonstrated that TI are part of the ‘family’ of the US’s National Endowment for Democracy’s public diplomacy operations and that it has a private sector bias and strong intelligence ties. Among TI’s long-time supporters is billionaire George Soros, other contributors are Shell, KPMG and JP Morgan Chase.
A separate aspect of Stevenson’s work at this period directly connects him with another sensitive area for the FCO which I will briefly mention before we return to examine Stevenson’s milieu in the 70s. The Heath government were trying to attract Japanese investors and according to Stevenson:
When Heath reached agreement with [Kakuei] Tanaka, he just thought it would be a good idea that I went. I admired Heath but he’s a very insensitive man — he thought for a moment about the idea of sending a 26-year-old to negotiate with the zaikai (Anai, 1998).
After a long series of scandals, beginning with imprisonment on bribery charges in 1950, Kakuei Tanaka eventually fell from power and was sentenced to 4 years in jail in 1976, when the vice chairman of the Lockheed Corporation stated that Tanaka had accepted $1.8 million in bribes during his term as prime minister, in return for having Japan purchase of Lockheed L-1011 aircraft (Hunziker & Kamimura, 1996). “Zaikai” is a collective term for the commercial and financial organizations of Japanese business leaders who wield almost total influence over the economy and politics including the funding of political parties (J-CAST, 2007).
Samuels (2001) drawing on Johnson, Schlei & Schaller (2000) also documents that the Japanese elite exploited NATO paranoia about communism during the Cold War to gain secret funding from the CIA. It suggests a secret “M-Fund” was constructed out of surplus military materiel that came under allied control at the war’s end in 1945: “Kakuei Tanaka, who dominated the Fund for longer than any other individual, took from it personally some ten trillion yen.” All, some, or none of this may be true, but the contemporary Foreign Office files on Japan, acknowledge that the Japanese PM operated business deals by unconventional means:
Many commentators have concluded that this system amounted in the end to “structural corruption” which left Japanese citizens very disillusioned with the concept of parliamentary democracy itself. Tanaka’s supporters, and Tanaka himself, exerted powerful control over the bureaucrats. Through a process of bribes or commissions the bureaucracy became corrupt. Companies and multinationals who wanted a particular outcome could lobby the Tanaka faction to obtain the desired outcome. (FCO, 1999)
Stevenson states that he “spent five years negotiating the deal” and afterwards “was used by the British government for all direct investment” (Anai, 1998).
The years which followed Stevenson’s appointment in the NPDC, and the setting up of his consultancy SRU, were marked by an economic climate of power-cuts, strikes and the three-day week. Using declassified archival material BBC (2003) reported that Heath drew up secret contingency plans outlining a response to domestic civil unrest by subversive elements. There were five states of emergency in the four years of the Heath government:
A substantial section of the British secret state and its allies in the Conservative Party, business and the media believed, or found it useful to pretend to believe — the distinction is difficult to make — that British democracy, the state, and even the capitalist system was under threat from a resurgent left, spearheaded by the trade unions and manipulated by the British Communist Party under instruction from Moscow. The fact that none of this manifested itself via the ballot box — Labour received 37.1% of the votes in the February 1974 election and the Communist Party 0.1% — mattered not. A secret communist conspiracy was, by definition, secret. (Ramsay, 1998)
By June 1974, Peter Walker was part of many groups talking about a ‘government of national unity’ and he would go on to become the director of The Carlton Club (Stevenson’s clubs are Brooks and the MCC). An informed consensus is growing that accepts that groups of military, banking, royalist and right-wing intelligence agents thought that the cold war necessitated the removal of the newly elected Labour government. These club land groupings, notably in the ‘Clermont Set’, which included the SAS founder David Stirling, were representative of a conspiratorial shift in the ‘permanent government’ that seen the ‘Cecil King Coup,’ the ‘Private Armies’ affair and the ‘Peter Wright Plots’, but were in no means restricted to these individuals (Dorril & Ramsey, 1991:242).
BBC (2006) included former intelligence officer Brian Crozier, (ex-IRD) admitting treasonable actions, and boasting of lobbying the army for support for a military takeover. This and other testimony presented in the program suggests that many others, as yet unnamed, were also involved. Journalist Barrie Penrose said: “Our establishment, from the intelligence services down to parts of Fleet Street, were paranoid about the threat of communism. So paranoid it seems, that they were prepared to believe a prime minister of Britain was an active Soviet spy.”
The nature of the elite in the UK was so small that the soviets had penetrated the British establishment by placing agents with a few families and universities.
We also have the evidence of Colin Wallace, a former civilian intelligence officer, who disclosed that in the early 1970s, MI5 forged a variety of “Labour Party” leaflets hinting to the Ulster public that Wilson and his cabinet were soft on terrorism and sympathetic towards communism (Foot, 1989). Wilson set in train the events that culminated in the Hunt Report, which implicated Peter Wright and George K. Young, one-time head of MI6. Now historian Stephen Dorril, co-author of Smear! Wilson And The Secret State, has asked Downing Street to produce the report (Routledge, 2006).
Leigh (1988) notes of the period that:
The tradition was that representatives of MI5, MI6, IRD and GCHQ, with their unaccountable, secretive ways, “continually infected the rest of British public life.” In the boardrooms of large companies, senior common rooms of ancient universities, the lobbies of the Commons, regimental messes, and the homes of individual wealthy tycoons, “there were the men from the intelligence services, apologetically asking favours, swearing those concerned to secrecy, offering favours in return … [President] Carter’s CIA chief, Stansfield Turner, in his own memoirs, recounts with surprise how Maurice Oldfield, by then MI6 chief, lectured him on the virtues of using amateur businessmen for Secret Service work.
The BBC (2006) also asserted that the Queen gave the plotters at least tacit support. A key year in Stevenson’s career is 1972, when he became chair of SRU and married a Lady-in-waiting, the daughter of Sir Peter Vanneck (brother of the Baron Huntingfield an international civil servant with United Nations Secretariat 1946-75). In the order of precedence Stevenson would now be considered a Lord-in-waiting. Vanneck rose to Hon. Air Commodore (with service in fighter Control Unit) and became an aide-de-camp to the Queen from 1963-73, Gentleman Usher to the Queen 1967-79. He held the office of Alderman of the City of London between 1969 and 1979 (Lord Mayor of London in 77-78) and Sheriff of London 1974-78. In 1979 he ran for parliament becoming Conservative member for Cleveland till 1989 and from thence to the European Parliament. Hosking (1993) states that the marriage was Stevenson: “forging political connections” and expanding “his social network.” Vanneck, a prominent Freemason, was Deputy Chairman of the Stock Exchange Council, 1973-75 when it hit its lowest ebb since Dunkirk. His key associates were Hugh Waldorf Astor and Anthony Cayzer; all three had founded The Air Squadron in 1966, the most exclusive flying club in the world (The Air Squadron, 2007).
Significantly, Astor (former Intelligence Corps, Hambros Bank and Deputy Chair of the Times Newspapers) was a National Association For Freedom (NAFF) Council member and director of Phoenix Assurance (1962-85) also a funder of right-wing causes. The Cayzer family, particularly Lord Nicholas Cayzer were the biggest backers of the Tories when Margaret Thatcher’s took over from Heath and the Cayzer Trust funded the Economic League (Socialist Worker, 2000). Airwork Ltd, a subsidiary of the British Commonwealth Shipping Company (part of the corporate empire of the Cayzer family and contributors to NAFF), managed by Lord Anthony Cayzer and Sir Nicholas Cayzer is regarded as a privatised subsidiary of MI6 (Wood & Peleman, 1999).
Back in Poland Street in the early 1980s the CPBF would come under surveillance from (at least) the Freedom Association, an offshoot of the NAFF (Bose, & Schachhuber, 2000). Ramsay (1986: 15) states that NAFF pulled together:
… all the elements of the previous networks; the spooks, the propagandists, the anti-union outfits; and — and this is the difference between NAFF and its predecessors — it brought in a group of Tory MPs with connections all the way to the top of the post Thatcher leadership.
Apart from Astor (Stevenson retains a connection to both Henry and David Astor through their trusteeship of the Glyndebourne Arts Trust) NAFF attracted Brian Crozier to its Council, with his links to the CIA, MI6 and IRD and the Institute for the Study of Conflict (whose ‘anti-subversion’ briefings Astor published in the Times). The ISC produced a series of special studies on subversion. The first was written by Nigel Lawson in 1972, entitled Subversion in British Industry. Intelligence links to NAFF were made quite open by its base at one time in, and using notepaper headed by Kern House, the headquarters at the time of the CIA’s front Forum World Features, ran by Crozier. Other NAFF members included Stephen Hastings MP (ex-MI6), Sir Gerald Templer & Sir Robert Thompson (who both worked on the Malayan insurgency as counter-insurgency experts), Michael Ivens (Aims of Industry), Norris McWhirter, Viscount De L’Isle, Lady Morrison of Lambeth (widow of Herbert Morrison — Peter Mandelson’s grandfather).
A 1968 memorandum from CIA headquarters to CIA director Richard Helms described Forum as having “provided the United States with a significant means to counter propaganda, and it has become a respected feature service well on the way to a position of prestige in the journalism world.” Hand-written at the bottom was a note stating that Forum functioned “with the knowledge and co-operation of British intelligence”. (dedefensa.org, 2003)
Crozier was also associated with The Economist, which Stevenson, initially through his directorship in 1987 and then chairmanship of Pearson in 1997 would develop a close association, rising to become its ‘President’ in 2002.
The Economist has traditionally provided places as news reporters for CIA and British intelligence agents… In addition to Moss and Crozier, Philby worked for The Economist, upon the recommendation of officials of M16. The assistant foreign editor of the paper from 1947-54 was Donald McClachan of Naval Intelligence: Patrick Honey, a close friend of Crozier and affiliated with ISC and the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department, was a foreign editor, as were others. (Herman, & O’Sullivan, 1989)
In relation to these intelligence gathering roles we should observe that in the 1970s Stevenson was the author of two linked HMSO reports for Walker’s DoE. The first was in 1972 on the role of ‘voluntary organisations and youth in the environment’ and the second in 1973 on “Pop Festivals”. The former examined the financing of voluntary movements and “pressure group activities and the role of volunteers in environmental education,” with the working party’s recommendations “aimed at … Government in general” (Stevenson, 1972). The paper on Pop Festivals was initially reported to be ‘surprisingly favourable’ for a government-funded committee (Dearling, 2002). But the subsequent third and final report tells a different story in its title: “Pop festivals and their problems.” Here a much more critical official line is taken and the report draws from the Ministry of Defence and Thames Valley Police. The tenor of the argument moves towards legal administration, civil order and regulatory powers.
Stevenson has ambiguously portrayed himself as briefly a member of the Labour Party and then treasurer of the Peckham Young Socialists (Hosking, 1993), as “antibusiness” and “left of center” (Anai, 1998). If we take into consideration Stevenson’s early work with Conrad Jameson with the Economist Intelligence Unit (1966), a report on Labour Party membership (1968), his ‘privately funded’ (Anai, 1998) intelligence gathering on West Indians (1970), monitoring of pressure group activities, voluntary groups, environmental organisations and the various groups represented around free festivals in the mid-70s, we have fair representation of what might be termed the ‘counter-culture.’ At the time these groups were the subject of covert surveillance, agent provocateurs and of immense interest to the secret state and the anti-subversive factions outlined above.
True Spies (BBC, 2002), explored the extent of the expansion of state surveillance by Special Branch and MI5 since the Grosvenor Square demonstrations against the US Embassy.
…they formed an elite undercover group …which attempted to penetrate the “alternative” society of political pressure groups. Some of [them] became so adept at faking their political credentials that they began to get to the top of the organisations they infiltrated. The services were also compiling data on “subversives”. According to… an officer in the Lancashire Special Branch between 1965 and 1981, there were “upwards of a million files” on union activists and left-wingers. (Price, 2002)
Stella Rimington, who was to oversee much of this activity, remarked (emphasis added): “The Socialist Workers Party was a Trotskyist organisation and like Communist organisations Trotskyist organisations fell under the definition of subversion” (BBC, 2002). For Rimington surveillance is justified if a link could be “perceived” and this assembly of linkages formed the “alternative society” of political pressure groups. A friendly PR image of “Mr. Pop” was constructed for Stevenson in the Financial Times as he commenced gathering information for the reports (Blackhurst, 1999).
Given the interchange of intelligence in government, the police, the MOD and SIS, and their wide remit, it is conceivable that Stevenson privately funded research and the HMSO reports’ details might have an ulterior use if not motive. The reception of the analysis of the Black community and other radical groups must be viewed in the context of government priorities of the day. The DoE reports were commissioned for a UN conference and in a speech to the General Assembly in 1970 Heath said:
…today we must recognise a new threat to the peace of nations, indeed to the very fabric of society. We have seen in the last few years the growth of the cult of political violence, preached and practised not so much between states as within them. It is a sombre thought, but it may be that in the 1970s, the decade which faces us, civil war, rather than between nations, will be the main danger we face. (Bunyan, 1977:268fn)
Confrontation was a consistent theme under the 1970-74 Government. There were very few black policemen and according to Bunyan, Special Branch “had to resort to other tactics in order to gain information.” Stevenson’s ‘privately funded research,’ ostensibly about unemployment of the West Indian community would solve some of the problems of surveillance of the Black community. It was conducted at a time of colonial struggle and when disturbing numbers of arrests and trials of Black militants took place:
After 1970 the Branch and the police started to harass the political activists in the black community in a systematic way. In August 1970, after the Mangrove demonstration, the home secretary Mr Maudling called for a report on the black community. The Guardian reported: ‘He will have a complete dossier within 48 hours. The Special branch has had the movement under observation for more than a year (and) Police now regard Black Power as, at least, worthy of extreme tight surveillance (Bunyan, 1977: 147).
Furthermore, Stevenson’s report on the role of voluntary organisations was an update of the previous Committee, chaired by the Countess of Albemarle, who shared a similar concern regarding the behaviour of particular groups of young people, ‘a concern that meant from the onset all parties predominantly saw the problem as one of social control.’ Critical of significant aspects of the work and orientation of many national voluntary organizations it saw the youth service as having two central propaganda functions: (a) the socialization and social education of the mass of young people and (b) the control and containment of a deviant minority (Smith & Smith, 2002).
English Partnerships Docklands and the Dome
In 1981 Stevenson was appointed to another development company quango, the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). Thought to be the jewel in the crown of privatisation by some (LDDC, 1998), for others, the LDDC was representative of the process of ‘gentrification’ whereby the middle class are seen as the storm troopers of class polarization in the creation of a dependent ‘servicing class’ of badly paid and insecure workers. Whilst the process is portrayed as social upgrading, the experience of the development of Docklands points to a very exclusionary process having taken place. Butler (2001) suggests that the new inhabitants have little personal or social investment in the area, that the gentrification process was led by the ‘logic of capital’ as a consequence of large-scale investment by construction firms and developers and that part of this involved the replacement of a ‘surplus’ population, begging the question of development for whom? Over its 17 years, the Corporation spent just 7% of its total budget on community infrastructure and activities. Of this about half was invested in education and training and the balance on health and other community activities (LDDC, 1998).
Using his PR skills, Stevenson had specific responsibility for ‘community issues,’ mediating between the developers and the people, including when the LDDC were seen as complicit in the Wapping plant’s architectural design that separated the plant from any potential demonstrations. The LDDC’s Chairman was Nigel Broackes, Chairman of Trafalgar House, key funders of the Conservative Party with a focus on property development and real estate and construction.
As a result of News International’s move from Fleet Street to Docklands it shed thousands of print workers in an attempt to free the company of the effect of trade union power. This prompted the 1986-87 infamous large-scale violent police operation to defend and impose ‘Fortress Wapping’ which further divided the community as local residents, whose presence was viewed by the police as just as undesirable as the strikers, were frequently denied access to their streets and homes (Oatridge, 2003). The compliant workforce was bussed in from secret locations to ensure that they did not have to confront either pickets or locals.
The policing of Wapping attracted significant public debate at the time, most significantly after a demonstration on January 24th, 1987. On this occasion, by widespread agreement, the police went amuck, attacking demonstrators, legal observers, first aid workers and journalists, raiding public houses and private residences and damaging a number of vehicles. Although agent provocateurs had certainly incited the police, the response was disproportionate and misdirected. (Oatridge, 2003)
The then general secretary of Sogat ‘82, which represented the strikers, Brenda Dean, brokered the move and condemned the protestors as violent. Now ennobled, she sits with Stevenson on the Appointments Committee for the House of Lords. Stevenson left the LDDC in 1988 and would join Murdoch’s BSkyB group in 1994. Rupert Murdoch started the move towards cheaper production and editorial reliability because he had borrowed £670m from New York’s Citicorp in 1985 and used the money to pay for the television stations that formed the basis of the Fox Network. He could barely afford the loan and wanted his UK newspapers to generate a revenue sufficient to service the huge debts of a media empire in the USA (Pilger, 1998). The period —1994 —is also marked by the moves by Murdoch to offer support to the developing New Labour project.
Stevenson also joined English Partnerships (EP) in 1994; this merged the Commission for the New Towns and the Urban Regeneration Agency acquiring their property. Stevenson left in 1999 just before the opening of the Millennium Dome, on which he had advised Peter Mandelson from its inception (Carling, & Seely, 1998:42).
The chairman of EP was Peter Walker, who was also a board member (after overseeing the privatisation) of British Gas, the owners of the site of the Dome until it was purchased by EP in 1997 for £20m, after work clearing the heavily polluted site (at public expense). It was then handed over to the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) run by Peter Mandelson (Hansard, 1997). The NMEC offered 2000 of the 5000 jobs available at the Dome to Stevenson’s employment company Manpower who had also sponsored the Dome’s ‘Work Zone,’ a surreal celebration of ‘flexible working’, which featured a huge clock, ticking away the estimated 100,000 hours we spend at work in a lifetime (Hansard, 1998).
Stevenson’s joined Manpower in 1988, and stated that after four months, he “asked all the British executives on the board to resign” (Anai, 1998). He sees himself as a whistleblower, but there are three aspects to the ‘Blue Arrow affair’: the row between the directors (which he caused), the share scam of County NatWest and the secrecy surrounding the subsequent cover-up of the DTI. But for the stockmarket crash of 19 October, 1987, the illegality would have remained secret.
Manpower is the largest ‘employer’ in the US and is both an orchestrator and a beneficiary of the explosion in ‘contingent employment,’ and ‘flexible’ labour markets. According to its director Mitchell Fromstein:
The U.S. is going from just-in-time manufacturing to just-in-time employment. The employer tells us, “I want them delivered exactly when I want them, as many as I need, and when I don’t need them, I don’t want them here” … Can I get people to work under these circumstances? Yeah. We’re the ATMs of the job market. (Peck, & Theodore, 1999)
Like Stevenson, Fromstein presents himself, not so much as a mediator of this condition but as a guileless servant of the automation of the market:
We are not exploiting people. We are not setting the fees. The market is. We are matching people with demands. What would our workers be doing without us? Unemployment lines? Welfare? Suicide? (Peck, & Theodore, 1999)
Fromstein was the highest paid executive of a publicly held corporation with a yearly $4,078,805 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1997). Manpower’s board comprise a collective which thrive from a highly politicised and ‘Americanicized’ view of employment. Ignoring Stevenson’s other networks, taken together their directors other interests include: Molson Coors Brewing Company, McDonald’s, IBM, Heineken N.V., Hewlett-Packard, Electrolux, Visa Israel, Arthur Andersen & Co, Johnson Controls, Inc., AT&T Corporation, The Boeing Company, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M). Its political connections are to the Brookings Institution, the George C. Marshall Foundation, Atlantic Council of the U.S, the U.S. Department of State Executive Compensation Committee, The Centre for European Policy Studies, The European Policy Centre the World Economic Forum and others.
In conjunction with BT, to demonstrate ‘distance working,’ Manpower established its first ‘contact centre’ in Thurso, in 1993. Now renamed ‘call centres’ their promotion draws on PR terms such as ‘the porous economy’ or ‘the agile economy’ to gloss the reality of the return to a lack of employment rights (Flexibility, 2000).
With the Dome, Manpower’s intentions, other than proximity to government, were to influence the unions — sponsoring the TUC’s May Day ‘celebration’ in the Dome Hansard (2000a). But business sponsorship of the Dome was also strongly connected to lobbying the new government. McGuigan (2003) observed a range of possible outcomes in that Manpower went on to win lucrative contracts for the management of ‘employment zones;’ BAe Systems sponsorship of the ‘Mind Zone’, may have had an ulterior motive to influence government policy, especially ‘ethical’ foreign policy, which at one stage was threatening to restrict arms sales; the Hinduja brothers’ sponsorship of the ‘Faith Zone’ may have delivered a favour in return with Peter Mandelson’s attempts to facilitate their application for British passports; Tesco, who sponsored the ‘Learning Zone’, benefited by the government withdrawing a proposal to tax out-of-town car-parking; British Airways, who sponsored ‘Home Planet’, gained permission to build a new terminal at Heathrow; Camelot sponsored ‘Shared Ground’ and unexpectedly had its licence to run the National Lottery renewed; BSkyB sponsored ‘Skyscape’ and benefited from subsequent policy on broadcasting and digitalisation.
Stevenson’s association with Peter Mandelson dates back to his appointment to chairman of the national Association of Youth Clubs from 1973 to 1981. In 1976, Mandelson was Chair of the British Youth Council (BYC), which began as the British section of the World Assembly of Youth, which was set up and financed by the CIA and MI6 as an anti-soviet front (Dorril, 2000). In the mid-1970s, the BYC was financed by the FO (Hansard, 1992), though this was thought to be a euphemism for MI6 (Ramsay, 1996). Established in 1948 the BYC includes those aged up to 26 and represents future decision-makers to the government. It is made up of a large number of youth groups, including uniform organisations, political parties and the NUS. It is now based in the ‘Mezzanine 2,’ also the base of Stevenson’s think tank ERA.
Routledge (1999) imputes that Stevenson has some unspecified connection to MI6. He described him as one of Mandelson’s ‘funny friends.’ As a result of Mandelson’s membership of the Young Communist League it was alleged that Mandelson had an MI5 surveillance file in the late 1970s. Routledge, however, interprets the BYC as a possible place for talent spotting for the FO and MI6. Whereas MI5 would suspect Mandelson to be a communist, MI6 would ‘more accurately identify a careerist’ who would ‘gossip against competitors.’ He also offers an insight into the subtlety of the game:
The service (or its talent spotters) identifies early on the likely candidates who may rise to important positions in politics and government. They are helped along the way. To complicate matters, agents and agents of influence may be recruited and run by third parties, who have no direct contact with the service. The classic example of this is the recruitment of leaders of the international student bodies in the fifties and early sixties. To complicate matters further, agents of influence may be unconscious of the service’s interest shown in them, and it may never be made known to them. (Routledge, 1999:215)
Stevenson recruited Mandelson for SRU (and his aide, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser) in 1990 when SRU were also advising Gordon Brown on industrial policy (Hosking, 1993). This was before Mandelson was an MP but after his time as the Labour Party’s Communications Director. Stevenson, according to Routledge, tried to arrange with Neil Kinnock that Mandelson’s relationship with SRU would continue even after his entry into parliament. MacIntyre (1999:404) presents Stevenson as a patron of Mandelson, guiding his career and interceding on his behalf with Kinnock.
I would argue that these under-explored connections, and others outlined below, are indicative of early components in building an interface between business and ‘New Labour’ as part of its ‘modernisation’ project. If we include the networks based in the Mezzanine (which we will discuss below) we also see a business and political lobby pushing a variant of the end-of-ideology line as the New Labour project aimed to free itself of the left-wing ideology of ‘its’ past. Stevenson, who joined the Demos advisory council in 1993, first met Demos’ Geoff Mulgan at the elite policy planning forum the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, when Mulgan was working for Gordon Brown on the abolition of Clause 4 (Bedell, 1993). Demos brought together members of the Communist Party and the right-wing IEA, which has its own connections to the Economic League, in a conjunction I have tried to outline in more detail elsewhere (Clark, 2003; 2007).
Lynn (1996) states that Stevenson was supposedly ‘recruited’ by Blair in 1996 ‘after an approach by Mandelson,’ but connections with Labour via Stevenson’s SRU go back further. In 1994 SRU paid for a conference for the New Labour leadership where SRU’s Colin Fisher outlined an agenda based on Margaret Thatcher’s “blaming national decline on Labour’s nanny state and union misbehaviour; giving a vision of a property owning democracy; proposing a programme of privatisation and breaking of ‘counter-institutions’ like the unions, the local authorities, the BBC and so on; and forward symbolic policies like selling council houses. Fisher argued that Labour needed a simple framework…” (MacIntyre, 1999: 272).
I would argue Stevenson is an under-recognised, but self-confessed gateway for big business’ somewhat secretive rapprochement with Tony Blair that would come to influence policy prior to their election in 1997, saying that:
I have known Tony Blair for about 10 years, both socially and through work, and he always wanted to make Labour into an alternative party of business. There were some big businessmen who were always pro-Labour: Lord Hollick and Chris Haskins for instance. Blair wanted to meet the others, so I organised evenings where he could meet friends of mine. People running FTSE companies… Blair has involved businessmen to a huge extent… In fact he has almost delegated power to them, I think there is a legitimate question about the extent to which that is actually right. (Mills, 1998)
This report also adds that Stevenson “helped to fill the posts” — meaning the government’s ‘Task forces’. A report by Cranfield University (1998) revealed the extent to which these — part of Blair’s ‘commitment to change’ — were peopled by key players in British companies. A new elite of some 2,500 appointed members have served on these generally temporary bodies. Mills (1998) suggested in the Sunday Times that the ‘Rebranding Britain’ PR move was “just a distraction” from the real project of the influx of big business onto the government’s Taskforces adding: “Business, not Britpop, is the order of the day and the real players are rich FTSE company chairmen.”
SRU had an input into the ‘Re-branding Britain’ work via Peter York, (Stevenson’s long time SRU associate) and Hydra Associates (who shared SRU’s address) who employed James Purnell, now a minister, who was the Special Adviser on culture, media, sport and the knowledge economy from 1997-2001. The re-branding concept was itself taken from a book by Demos’ Geoff Mulgan and the Foreign Policy Centre’s (FPC) ‘public diplomacy expert’ Mark Leonard (Nye, 2004: 8). Glendening (2000) states:
“With private think tanks like the [Foreign Policy] Centre, no wonder the FCO no longer feels the need to run clandestine IRD type propaganda operations of its own.”
Both organisations worked closely together, with the FPC advised by MI6’s Baroness Ramsay citing the work of the IRD’s Norman Reddaway with their Public Diplomacy work; and Demos advised by Stevenson. Geographically they were across from each other in the Mezzanine space next to ERA, Stevenson’s consultancy who described this confluence in their website as “…an open plan trading floor or market place… where new relationships are negotiated and new ideas turned into practical opportunities.” It sees itself as
putting in place the foundation stones of a new entrepreneurial culture that cuts across the traditional compartments within which we have all lived and worked. The organisations meeting on the Mezzanine are committed to replicating this ‘cultural space’ in towns, cities and rural areas across the UK.
ERA’s board includes Gerald Frankel (a friend of CIA Director William Casey and Labour fund-raiser) Linda Tarr-Whelan a US diplomat who runs the US version of Demos, Anthony Giddens, Demos’ Ian Hargreaves, Will Hutton and Manuel Castells. Castells’ wife, Emma Kiselyova is a Senior Fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy which includes several CIA-connected personnel including Charles Z. Wick, the Former Director of USIA and a key operative in ‘Project Democracy,’ the large scale public diplomacy project of the Reagan government, that created BAP and Joseph Nye, who coined the term ‘Soft Power’ and also worked for the CIA (Gibbs, 2001; Mooney, 2000).
The Mezzanine also included Peter Mandelson’s think tank the Policy Network. Set up in 2000 with a section of Blair’s inner circle it includes: Andrew Adonis, head of Downing Street’s policy unit, Roger Liddle (who also worked with Mandelson in Prima while at SRU (MacIntyre, 1999: 227)), a senior member of the No. 10 policy unit exposed by Palast (2002) in the ‘Lobbygate affair’ who traced some of these connections to the lobbying around the Dome, Adair Turner, the former CBI director who was part of Blair’s ‘blue sky’ thinking unit, Philip Gould, Blair’s pollster and Anthony Giddens, architect of the Blairite version of the end-of-ideology, the Third Way. Rothschilds fund the Policy Network Foundation that funds the Policy Network, which recently moved from the Mezzanine to 11 Tufton Street, which we have already encountered and which we will touch upon later.
Also based in the Mezzanine, the Community Action Network (CAN) had the IRD’S Geoffrey Tucker as their ‘Strategic Adviser’. He arranged for GTech to gave CAN £130,000 as he brokered between De La Rue and GTech to create Camelot using CAN where, according to Palast (2002) a ‘charitable’ donation could be made without a direct connection — as part of GTech’s lobbying to sell tickets for the Lottery. CAN’s other big funder was British Gas (BG). Palast (2002:156) has (CAN’s Mezzanine neighbours) the Policy Network’s Roger Liddle and Derek Draper boasting that as lobbyists they “had pushed for the appointment of David Varney, chief executive of BG… to the Government’s Welfare to Work Task Force… at the elbow of the Chancellor.” Liddle outlined a ‘circle’ of PR companies and lobbyists, all well connected to the upper echelons of New Labour and intermingling with captive think tanks. Also on the New Deal Task Force was CAN’s Amelia Fawcett. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, she worked for the international US law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, mentioned in the Power Elite, the Dulles brothers firm can be regarded as strongly connected to the CIA (Simpson, 1995: 51). Stella Rimington is also on the board of BG’s Transco as was Peter, now Lord Walker. Demos also received core funding from BG (along with Cable and Wireless, NatWest, Shell, Northern Foods and Tesco).
Strikingly there seems to be no research at all, let alone detailed social network analysis exploring how Demos, the FPC, ERA and the Policy Network functioned in relation to the other organisations that surrounded them physically and interpenetrated with them in terms of both staff, funding and projects. My previous analysis of the Mezzanine (Clark, 2003) outlined that it not only included paid lobby fronts, designed to put business people into influential government Task Forces and contained important networks of government influence made up of SIS members, parliamentary lobbyists and PR companies. Pendry (2003), who helped start Demos, stated in response to this that Demos provided ‘insurance’ for the companies who funded it and added that the organisations were used for “sinister political ends” by “the democratic centralist national security state.”
The IRD was closed down in 1977 and the main consultancy the FO use to project a proactive image of the UK around the world is now Stevenson’s SRU. Peter York, a founding member, operates closely with the British Council and the FO, specifically in public diplomacy. York is a member of the Britain Abroad Task Force, set up to review the communication of the British ‘brand’ overseas (FCO, 2002a). This grew out of the Public Diplomacy Strategy Board that brought together key players to develop a ‘collective’ public diplomacy strategy for the first time, including Sir Michael Jay, Head of the Diplomatic Service and David Green, Director General, British Council and Mark Leonard of the FPC and CER (British Council, 2003).
Stevenson was appointed to the board of the British Council (BC) in 1996, serving till 2003, joining with Charles Grant, who has remained an associate since the ‘Blue Arrow affair’. Grant moved to The Economist in 1986, and in 1987 began a series of articles that (he claims) exposed the County NatWest-Blue Arrow scandal. Lord Boardman chairman of National Westminster, (and three board directors) resigned at the end of 1987, Lord Alexander — a trustee of The Economist— took over the bank and later appeared for the government in the Spycatcher case and the challenge from the civil service unions to the ban on unions at the GCHQ.
While engaged on a survey of the global defence industry (published in June 1997) Grant helped BP’s (and (BAP’s) Nick Butler and David Miliband set up the Economist-funded Centre for European Reform (CER), leaving The Economist in 1998 to become its first director. The CER contains an elite of intelligence connected figures such as Dame Pauline-Neville Jones, Antonio Borges (secretary of the Atlantic Council’s Atlantic Treaty Association, founding member of the Portuguese section of the European Movement), George Robertson (BAP, and Council of the British Atlantic Committee 1979-90) and many others who form a convergent nexus of neo-conservative, neo-liberal, neo-Labour Atlanticists.
Stevenson’s British Council work included their 2002 psychological operation ‘Connecting Futures Research:’ the UK’s reaction to September the 11th and its specific soft power/public diplomacy programme looking at the question of how the West and the Islamic world relate with the accent on contemporary counter-subversion (BBC, 2003c).
The then Chair of the BC, Sir John Kerr, when asked of its connection to SIS stated:
The division has got even clearer than it used to be because we have agreed with those in the Secret Intelligence Service a full cost charging system for cases where they use our services and vice versa. (Hansard, 2000d)
Oversight of SIS has now passed to the FPC’s Baroness Ramsay, who has also been the subject of allegations concerning the use of Youth groups by SIS (Dorril, 2000) and who also oversees the Mezzanine-based Foreign Policy Network.
Stevenson is a key board member of BAP, and joined in its early formative days in 1983, along with Sir Michael Palliser, a former head of the FO (Vander Weyer, 1998; Easton, 1997). Chaired by the former NATO secretary general Lord Carrington, the board includes: Alan Lee Williams the Treasurer of the European Movement (70-79) and Director of the Atlantic Council of the UK. Williams was involved in an older and more direct expression of American influence within the wider British labour movement in the Trade Union Committee for European and Transatlantic Understanding (TUCETU). TUCETU is the successor to the Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding, which was set up in 1976 by the late Joe Godson, Labour Attaché at the US embassy in London in the 1950s who had become an intimate of the then leader of the party, Hugh Gaitskell. Organised through the Atlantic Council, TUCETU incorporates Peace Through NATO, the group central to Michael Heseltine’s MoD campaign against CND in the early 1980s, and received over £100,000 a year from the Foreign Office (Ramsay, 1998).
The BAP board also included Group Captain David Bolton the former head of central planning at the Ministry of Defence the director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Chatham House; Sir James Eberle the former director of Chatham House, C-in-C Navel Home Command and Sir Laurence Martin, former director of Chatham House (a former Tyne Tees Director at the same time as Stevenson). It also included Christopher Coker again of RUSI, Chatham House and the Institute for European Defence & Strategic Studies. This organisation included Ray Whitney and Robert Conquest who were both in the IRD, Melvin Lasky the ex-editor of Encounter, Richard V. Allen (NSC), Dr. Edwin J. Feulner (president of the Heritage Foundation, Treasurer of The Mont Pelerin Society) and Chairman of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy U.S. Information Agency (1982-91). The IEDSS operated out of 13/14 Golden Square while 12a was used by Brian Crozier’s CIA funded Institute for the Study of Conflict.
Public and Private
Stevenson was member of the National Enterprise Board (NEB), the National Research & Development Corporation (NRDC), the British Technology Group (1979-89) and the National Building Agency (1977-81). The NEB was set up in 1975 to implement the Labour government’s objective of extending public ownership to the top twenty-five companies although its intentions became gradually watered down (Ellison, 1994: 168). Ramsay and Dorril (1991: 278) view it as the start of an assault on Tony Benn, the NEB chairman by MI5 and wider moves by Peter Wright against Harold Wilson. Benn and the Labour left were also advocating pulling out of the EEC, NATO and disarming nuclear weapons (Adams, 1998: 133). For, Benn, the NEB would: “allow for the acquisition of prominent companies that occupied a key role in the economy.” This was seen by the right and the Social Democrat factions of the Labour party as evidence of Benn’s increasingly powerful position within the policy-making process driven by “the belief that capitalism had broken down irretrievably and must be replaced by a new and predominantly publicly-owned economy” (Jones, 1996: 90).
The NRDC was created by Atlee’s Labour government to commercialise British publicly funded research. Both were combined in 1981 to form the British Technology Group (BTG). The BTG acted principally as a technology transfer company, licensing and commercialising the use of publicly funded developments. Fears expressed for its future (Coghlan, 1991) were entirely realized when the purpose of the organisation was entirely reversed and BTG was privatised and bought out by Cinven, a European private equity firm, in 1991. BTG was under parliamentary oversight but Cinven has cornered the market on Scientific research: its buy-out of BertelsmannSpringer tested the limits of US anti-trust law and is the subject of strong protest by Information Access Alliance, who argue it makes public and professional access to research prohibitively expensive and thus inhibits scientific research (IAA, 2007). Stevenson capitalised on this shift with his directorship of Korda & Co. a seed capital company and consultancy who provided venture capital to the bio-tech field.
He does not declare it but Stevenson was also a board member of The Diebold Institute, something of the direct opposite of the NEB, whose web site states that the Ford Foundation, “with the direct and personal intervention and encouragement of its President McGeorge Bundy, provided substantial initial outside financing of the Institute’s work on privatization during the early seventies” (DIPPS, 2006). Bundy was part of Council on Foreign Relations study of Marshall Plan aid to Europe which included such later luminaries as Dwight Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and George Kennan. This secretly dealt with the covert side to the Marshall Plan, Bundy was Chairman of the 303 Committee, responsible for coordinating government covert operations. The Ford Foundation was used by the CIA to fund “a raft of joint projects” including the World Assembly of Youth and was in effect “an extension of the work of the Congress for Cultural Freedom” (Saunders, 1999: 142).
Diebold contains an international business elite: Paul Allaire of the Xerox Corporation, Sir Michael Angus of Unilever; Peter Bonfield of BT, Sir John Browne of BP Amoco, Sir David Cooksey of The Bank of England, Carla A. Hills the former U.S. Trade Representative, Maxine Singer from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Sir Richard Sykes of Glaxo SmithKline and John Whitehead US Deputy Secretary of State.
The Institute aims to influence public policy initiatives to benefit entrepreneurial businesses. Diebold claims to have introduced the term “privatization” to Great Britain shortly after the election of Margaret Thatcher. Its conference work reveals it as instrumental in influencing the changes in the NEB, NRDC and BTG and the ‘emergence’ of entrepreneurship policy in the UK modeled on the US (DIPPS, 2006).
The Higher Circles
From being an appointee most of his life Stevenson is now an appointer. Although his attendance and voting record in the House of Lords is one of the worst, in 2000 Stevenson was ‘appointed’ (he maintains that he applied for the post) to the Appointments Commission, an accountably elusive body which has two main functions: to make recommendations for ‘non-political peers’ and to vet for propriety all nominations for peerages including those from the political parties (the applicants were actually vetted by PricewaterhouseCoopers).
The notion of the ‘people’s peers’ was based on a Demos pamphlet (Barnett, & Carty, 1998) and theoretically this was the PM giving away power and meeting a manifesto promise to abolish hereditary peers. In its first incarnation in 2001 individuals were allowed to nominate themselves for a peerage and win through a competition as it were. Eventually this was sidelined and replaced by the Appointments Committee more or less attempting to preside over the system as it was under the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee —both committees are similar in make-up. For a history of the reform process see: http://www.dodonline.co.uk/engine.asp?lev1=4&lev2=0&menu=16&showPage=article&ID=118
Both Lord Hurd and Brenda Dean were members of previous Scrutiny Committee.
The requirements of Stevenson’s post as head of the Appointments Commission were that he: “Was committed to making the House of Lords a body that is fully representative of all aspects of UK society and culture,” but Stevenson made it clear that certain undesirables would not be allowed because of a vague technicality.
You haven’t got your hairdresser in this list, but if you go back to our criteria one of them is that the human being will be comfortable operating in the House of Lords. (BBC, 2001)
The chair of the Commission also had to have ”undisputed integrity… and had no positions and interests that might cast doubt on their ability to act impartially” (Hansard, 2001). But the Commission was also described as “the British establishment’s typical halfway house, its historic method of survival: a modest gesture of improvement, masking the preservation of the essential status quo” (Young, 2000). The group of MPs who debated the issue in Parliament felt that Stevenson had “done a great service to the cause by showing his enormous snobbery, abysmal ignorance and insensitivity and by demonstrating that he is totally disqualified from selecting anyone.” How can a ‘parliamentary lobbyist’ (as Stevenson describes himself in the Lords Register of Interests) who has become close to Tony Blair for personal financial gain and donated his services in kind be seen to fulfil this remit? Having funding the ‘Stevenson Commission’, on IT in schools, Stevenson was appointed as the PM’s adviser on the application of IT to education. SRU and Lexington Communications (a Labour-connected lobbyist firm started with money from Stevenson) put together an anti-BBC alliance to attack their freedigital plans. ‘The Digital Learning Alliance’ brought together the British Educational Suppliers Association (advised by SRU) and the Publishers’ Association, with a committee comprising of financially interested companies: including Stevenson’s Pearson Education (BBC, 2003).
Stevenson argues that:
Our main task has been, and is, to take the process previously carried out behind closed doors in Number 10 and make it in effect into a proper, transparent and meritocratic job application process. (Hansard, 2002)
Yet Gordon Prentice MP met with secrecy and evasion when questioning Stevenson about the matter. (Hencke, 2004) Stevenson then tried to ‘spook’ Prentice. An envelope with the House of Lords stamp appeared on his private desk and inside was a letter from Stevenson saying he had identified Prentice as asking a lot of questions about the Commission and suggesting they met. Prentice describes “Lord Stevenson’s lair in Tufton Street” as separate from the main office of the House of Lords Appointments Commission and “like something out of ‘Smiley’s People,’” again implying an MI6 connection. Prentice stated:
Only a tiny percentage of the 3,200 people who applied were ever going to be seriously considered. That is pretty corrupt. Something else is corrupt. Who appointed the noble Lord Dennis Stevenson, the snob? (Hansard, 2001)
Tufton Street contains The Social Market Foundation (of which Stevenson is an advisor) the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, Lord Harris’ The Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies, the Centre for European Reform, Peter Walker’s TRG (and the associated Action Centre for Europe and the European movement) Peter Mandelson’s Policy Network, The Centre for European Reform, the Federal Trust, Government Communication Network, Cabinet Office. It is seen to be a base for senior opinion formers in the capital.
Even though the main problem identified in secretly funded organisations is that their findings will be regarded as tainted and restrained, Soft Power is now openly back on the political agenda: a key focus of the new Gordon Brown administration (IISS, 2007). Nevertheless the term can be quite usefully deployed (as with Public Diplomacy) as a general aid towards the comprehension of the history and development of previously scattered and fragmentary material that dealt with manifestations of the covert activities of SIS, IRD, CIA or their many ‘front’ groups.
This study took one of the UK PR industry’s main figures, Lord Stevenson, and beginning in the 1970s set out a history of political preferment and appointment to key development companies and public policy consultancies. This tried to explore the varieties of men and women that prevail in our society, and in what ways they are selected and formed, liberated and repressed in our society. Secretly and undemocratically is the simple answer in this case. Through analysis of Stevenson’s patronage and kinship ties the study also revealed connections to the main anti-subversion and intelligence gathering activities of the secret state engaged in repressing the left over a prolonged period to inhibit the process whereby they might prevail in our society.
It described the activities of the CIA-funded CCF as the start of a progression of US Public Diplomacy projects involving ‘Atlanticist’ networks that included Stevenson’s involvement in the creation of BAP and elements within The Mezzanine involved in the creation of New Labour. It also connected this to some of the more contemporary political and socio-economic impacts of Stevenson’s influence within the PR consultancy sector as a political lobbyist with SRU. It also highlighted Stevenson’s hitherto unexplored shift from a custodian of public ownership and welfare to an exponent of the shift to deregulation and privatization. The dissertation aimed to discuss the consequences of these developments to open up a new and expanded sociological understanding of the complexity of the role of the PR consultant and political lobbyist.
This has largely been an experimental approach, the effectiveness of which has been hard to assess. The attempt to engage with Mills’ methodology as set out in the Sociological Imagination is at the first stages, but is I feel worth developing further.
Some problems may arise here in assessing its worth academically. Is it grounded in theory? To follow Mills’ is to share his suspicion of sociological work that it can contain the presumption that to be objective was to be value-free, i.e., ‘scientific.’ Here Mills preferred to follow the example of Max Weber who personally engaged in politics, and issued damning indictments of the hypocrisy and irresponsibility of governing elites and the culture they very often fed off. What Weber termed the “Bureaucracy” Mills termed the “Power Elite.” Both concepts included the need for secrecy as an indispensable component. As Weber observed in 1922:
The pure interest of the bureaucracy in power, however, is efficacious far beyond those areas where purely functional interests make for secrecy. The concept of the “official secret” is the specific invention of bureaucracy, and nothing is so fanatically defended by the bureaucracy as this attitude, which cannot be substantially justified beyond these specifically qualified areas. In facing a parliament, the bureaucracy, out of a sure power instinct, fights every attempt of the parliament to gain knowledge by means of its own experts or from interest groups. The so-called right of parliamentary investigation is one of the means by which parliament seeks such knowledge. Bureaucracy naturally welcomes a poorly informed and hence a powerless parliament—at least in so far as ignorance somehow agrees with the bureaucracy’s interests. (Weber, 1922:233-34)
What if Mills’ structural analysis and his historicizing and radical social criticism cannot be separated from one another without violating the work’s raison d’etre? Accepting Mills’ structural analysis of the concentration and integration of power leads quite logically and necessarily to an analysis of those who wield that power and the historically specific projects to which they apply its use. Weber did this, as did Marx and Mills.
But what if Mills was wrong? With Mills social science runs up against a conundrum: a social science thesis that, if correct, cannot be sufficiently supported by evidence; but if Mills’ analysis was essentially accurate, then the very power elite he had identified would, by definition, enjoy sufficient power to more or less prevent exposure of its undemocratic acts.
If we say Mills is wrong, and maintain that we are not governed by an unelected, unaccountable, integrated and self-conscious power elite, how can we equate that with Mills’ most ringing endorsement: Eisenhower’s concept of the Military Industrial Complex?
Mills stated that as far as explicit organization — conspiratorial or not — is concerned, the power elite, by its very nature, is more likely to use existing organizations, working within and between them, than to set up explicit organizations whose membership is strictly limited to its own members (Dandaneau, 2006). But if there is no machinery in existence to ensure their aims they will invent such machinery. Mills example of this was the US National Security Council itself, the elite organisation from which most of the Atlanticist organisations mentioned here stem. I would argue that there is an evidence base for arguing that Stevenson was a key part of this network.
Dandaneau (2006) argues that if the power elite do exist then a social science of political power—in this society, at this point in its historical development—would be left looking for what ever skimpy evidence of such machinations is available. History is full with examples of the exceedingly powerful making mistakes, even the so-called power elite must necessarily leave traces, and reveal its workings. Elite structure, like all social structure, is in constant need of reproduction such as the example of BAP and the creation of a “Successor Generation.”
In ‘Propaganda’ (1978:47) Bernays tells us that the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses” is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the “unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power.” We are governed, our “minds moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of.”
Stevenson is a manipulator engaged in constructing the image of Public Affairs and its connections to government and business in the Bernays tradition. But he is also reminiscent of Mills’ ‘economic politician’ who accumulates information and contacts that permit an appropriation for personal use out of the accumulation of advantages.
Note — I have not included the references for this post , but contact me if you wish to see them.