Western European News Digest
Scotland Yard To Question Blair on 'Peerage-gate'
Scotland Yard has talked to Prime Minister Tony Blair's moneybags, Lord Levy, who has stated that he will cooperate in the investigation of the scandal now enveloping the Blair government, in which it appears that Blair made large Labour money donors into peers for life, with seats in the House of Lords. Two people who gave loans to the Labour Party in exchange for peerages have now asked the House of Lords to withdraw their names from nomination. With the growing investigation of this matter, the real question is how long Blair can hang on.
A senior British Parliamentary source commented, when asked about the scandal and what it means for Blair's future, that Chancellor of the Exchequer "Gordon Brown is sadly the only person seen to replace Blair, because there is no real leadership in the country, and there has not been any real effort to train younger leadership to step up and lead."
In a related development, on March 31, the Conservative Party revealed the names of 13 people who had lent it 16 million pounds. Among the 13 listed are former party treasurer Lord Ashcroft (3.6 million pounds) and Scottish philanthropist Lord Laidlaw (3.5 million pounds). Some 5 million pounds in loans were withheld, because the lenders had been repaid. Labour chairman Ian McCartney charged that the Tories had solicited loans abroad, but, it was, apart from Lady de Rothschild (1 million pounds), mainly current and former party treasurers on the remaining list of 13. As is already known, one lender, Bob Edministon, was nominated for a peerage by former Tory leader Michael Howard, and he converted his 2-million-pound loan to a donation.
Low German Voter Turnout Signals Widespread Discontent
The March 26 elections in the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Saxe-Anhalt had the lowest turnout ever in state parliament elections, with 58, 54, and 44%, respectively. That means that the "non-voters' party" was the strongest, by far. That also means that the majority parties that were voted in (SPD in R.P., CDU in B.W., CDU in S.A.), will form the respective state governments, with only 15-18% of the voters backing them. This is not proof of strong support for the establishment parties, and definitely not a vote of confidence in the Grand Coalition government in Berlin. The same discontent is also observed in Sunday's municipal elections in Hesse, with less than 40% voter turnout in numerous cities.
The results did, however, show the continued erosion for the "Green" ideology, which is occurring worldwide, as the economic crisis deepens. The Greens were voted out in Saxe-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate, and the leftist WASG failed to get in, in R.P. and in B.W. Ute Vogt, slate leader in B.W., a prominent representative of the ecology-leftist "networkers" in the SPD, lost 8% (down from the 33% in the election in 2001) and got the worst SPD result ever in that state.
Financial Times Declares Hegemony of 'The City'
The March 21 Financial Times ran a frank piece, by Hywel Williams, an adviser to the Tory government from 1993-1997, that unabashedly proclaims the imperial intention and power of the City of London. (It is excerpted from Williams' 2005 book Britain's Power Elites: The Rebirth of a Ruling Class).
Williams writes: "The political and cultural consequences of the City of London's hegemony over British life are as important as the financial and commercial ones.
"For here is an elite of the elites whose power has grown to a dimension that is truly imperial in the modern world stretching across countries and continents, able to ignore the previous constraints of national sovereignty....
"The fact that money markets can whisper and shout to political power, that they can determine the policies of governments and the strategies of armies, is as old as politics itself. The need for loans to finance's Britain's participation in the anti-French war of the League of Augsburg (1688-97) lay behind the establishment of a national Bank of England and the institution of a national debt."
Williams boasts, "The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) showed the cleverness of this rapacity as Britain negotiated the exclusive right to sell African slaves to the Spanish colonies.
"The City of London has become the central bastion of an elite whose attitudes are more like that of an offshore center, ... the true heir to the imperial legacy ... [that has] a self-serving preparedness to stand aside from the national cause and to go wherever money leads them."
Did Locust Funds Pressure Schroeder on Legislation?
Leading members of the American Chamber of Commerce visited Germany's then-Chancellor, Gerhardt Schroeder, on June 1, 2005 to pressure him to water down planned legislation aimed at reining in hedge funds, an informed source told EIR March 28. Months later, according to another source, the legislation which the government passed (one of the last acts of the Schroeder government, in early November 2005), created a "toothless tiger," which won't do much against the funds.
Fred Irwin, the head of the ACC, was one of those who went to pressure Schroeder. The other names are not known, but the Chamber has some rather interesting members: Cerberus, Fortress, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Lazard's branch in Germany. ACC kept feeding the media, during those weeks, with the reminders that locust funds provide many jobs in Germany, as member firms together represent 800,000 jobs.
The Chamber would not give additional names, but the Frankfurt-based spokeswoman said, "If you look at the 50 most important American investors in Germany, you get an idea who took part in that meeting. I'm not saying that the first 10 or 20 on that list took part. But there were prominent participants; that I can assure you."
Dresden Takeover by Locust Fund Mirrors N.Y.'s Big MAC
The recent takeover of the entire Dresden municipal housing sector by the "locust fund" Fortress, justified by the pro-privatization faction of Dresden politics using the "indebtedness emergency," stands in the tradition of Felix Rohatyn's 1975-1982 fiscal dictatorship over New York, through the Big MAC (Municipal Assistance Corporation) (see Richard Freeman's article in the EIR of Jan. 6, 2006).
What is happening in Dresden, however, is nothing compared with what is being done to Berlin, whose debt has increased from 45 billion euros to 60 billion, in spite of all the public service privatizations, sale of real estate, and so on, during the past five years. Whether Berlin Financial Senator (equivalent to a state finance minister) Theo Sarrazin (SPD) knows Felix Rohatyn personally or not, is not even relevant: The policy he is carrying out in Berlin, is actually the same as Rohatyn's MAC operation in New York 30 years ago (see "Felix Rohatyn, New York Dictator 1975-82," EIR Online, Jan. 3, 2006).
Maastricht Europe To Share Same Fate as East Germany?
At an event presenting his new book in Berlin March 29, Heiner Flassbeck, former Assistant Finance Minister of Germany, said that aggressive globalization and outsourcing will do to Maastricht Europe, what happened to the East German regime at its end: The regime was still there on paper, but the economy was gone. France and Italy are almost there already, and Germany will follow sooner or later, Flassbeck said.
The event was attended by, among others, Oskar Lafontaine, Flassbeck's former boss in the government, and by Claus Noe, also a former Assistant Finance Minister under Lafontaine.
French Not Fooled by 'Free-Market' Hype
Le Figaro Economie of March 25 published a poll carried out some months ago by the international polling institute GlobalScan for the University of Maryland, asking, "Are free trade and the market-economy system the best for the future of societies?" Only 36% of the Frenchmen who responded believe this is the best system for the future, as compared to 65% of Germans, 71% of Americans, and 67% of British. A previous poll by the German Marshall Fund, showed that 74% of French citizens believe that liberalization of trade "reduces jobs"; the rate in Germany was only 59%, even though they are also badly hit by the present crisis.
The study underlines that France is the only country, of the 20 whose citizens were polled, where a majority of those responding reject the market economy as the option for growth in the future. Concerning rights of labor, 79% of those polled in France by GlobalScan favor more regulation of large companies, against only 55% in Germany.