Hugo Swire, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council – questions asked

Entry on Hugo Swire’s Register of Interest:

‘From 15 November 2016, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Address: Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. I expect to be paid £2,000 every month until further notice. Hours: 10 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment. (Registered 16 November 2016)’
https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/170502/swire_hugo.htm

Another post from Sarawak (see below) on this company again mentions Swire’s involvement in this company:

“As part of a lengthy over-view of the Malaysian Government’s interesting ties with SCL, the company behind the scandal-torn ‘deep data election agency’ Cambridge Analytica, Sarawak Report last week highlighted connections between the role of Brtish peer Lord Marland as a “great supporter of Malaysia” and the work of SCL, of which he is a shareholder.

Marland, a businessman and Conservative Party Treasurer and donor, whom the party nominated to be a working peer, spent a short time as a government minister and then as David Cameron’s ‘Trade Envoy’, before returning to private business.

However, as Sarawak Report has pointed out, the private company he now heads bears a title that might confuse the unitiated into thinking that he retains some form of official government role as an envoy of the Commonwealth. Marland’s Wikipedia page describes him as having become Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Limited (CWEIC) after stepping down as Trade Envoy.

In fact, Marland incorporated CWEIC as a £2.00 limited company, of which he was a joint shareholder together with a farmer named Oliver Everett, in July 2015 shortly after leaving political office. He therefore effectively appointed himself to the official sounding role.

Yet the confusion to an extent continues, since CWEIC’s website explains that the organisation is a ‘not for profit membership organisation with a mandate from Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote intra-Commonwealth trade, investment and the role of the private sector across the 52 member countries…”

The impression, therefore, is that Marland has decided to engage in a charitable role on behalf of the Commonwealth, which has been approved by Heads of Government and the Secreatariat based in the major public building, Malborough House, London.

So, is this outwardly rather strange arrangement with the Commonwealth Secretariat being conducted purely on a charitable basis or is there any danger that CWEIC’s voluntary role might play advantageously into the members’ other active business interests?

The incorporation documents of the company indeed make plain that the purpose of the company is not for profit:

“The income and property of the Company shall be applied solely towards the promotion of its objects as set out at Article 4.1. and no part of such property and income may be paid or transferred, directly or indirectly, by way of dividend bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit, to members of the Company”
[Article 4.1:

Article 4.1
Article 4.1

On the other hand, the constitution of the company goes on to make clear that such strictures do not preclude ‘reasonable remuneration’ of ‘members’ (shareholders) who are also ‘office holders’ (including presumably that of the Chairman) or indeed the coverage of expenses: one would assume these would include the costs, for example, of travelling about the world organising conferences and hob-nobbing with key political leaders in Commonwealth countries.

Marland is well connected in current government circles and the not for profit CWEIC has been apparently provided office space in the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Malborough House from which it organises its trade boosting events, which have been regularly held at Malborough House.

We have asked both the Commonwealth Secretariat and CWEIC for the details governing their arrangement. We have asked the following questions:

“Could you provide the terms of the ‘mandate’ [given to CWEIC] and explain the circumstances under which Heads of Government executed it?

Can you also explain the parameters under which the CWEIC conducts its voluntary role and occupies a space in Malborough House and holds events there? Are those events sponsored or subsidised by member governments and are there ticket prices or any other payments required of attendees?
Finally, are there any agreed rules governing the relationship between the members of CWEIC and the Commonwealth Secretariat regarding this not for profit role in boosting intra-Commonwealth trade? In particular, for example, are there any agreed caveats with respect to possible conflicts of interest regarding the company members’ other business activities linked to Commonwealth countries involved with their Malborough House events?

As indicated in our previous article, Sarawak Report is anxious for these clarifications in light of the fact that a separate company, of which Lord Marland is a shareholder, has been pitching for election winning contracts that favour the present Malaysian Prime Minister and his ruling party. Malaysia is described as a ‘Strategic Partner’ of CWEIC and the company has just opened a “hub” in KL. …

… It is on this level that SCL’s Malaysia ties and its connection to the high profile Commonwealth activities of Lord Marland’s not for profit CWEIC becomes a potential matter of concern. Just last November Lord Marland (the man who takes credit for bringing Malaysia’s investment in London’s Battersea Power Station development) undertook a visit to KL where he was hailed as a ‘great supporter of Malaysia’.

It was not pointed out at that time that he is also a shareholder of a company that has been paid to promote BN’s electoral chances.

Earlier, in 2016, Marland equally spearheaded the Malaysian Trade Conference at Malborough House, shortly after the DOJ had fingered Najib as ‘MO1′ [Malaysian Official One]. When questioned by British media over the inappropriate nature of the conference the peer claimed that there was no evidence to show Najib had anything to answer for.

He did not mention that his company SCL had been pitching for a US$2.1 million contract linked to boosting Najib in the Sarawak elections weeks.during the preceding period.

Likewise, a key ‘partner’ of CWEIC is the State of Malta, whose tarnished Prime Minister is also a client of SCL’s, according to information received by Sarawak Report.

Lord Marland has copiously praised Malta for its support in establishing CWEIC’s Commonwealth trade initiatives, along with five other ‘strategic partners’, one of which is also Malaysia. Lord Marland was awarded the Order of Merit of Malta in 2015, but SCL’s contract appears not to have been mentioned in the Annual Review of CWEIC Limited.

Last year CWEIC Ltd went so far as to set up what it describes as a “Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Hub” in Malaysia, headed by a full time Director Malaysia, a former trade official, Tony Collingridge.

Although the Malaysia Trade event (above) was described as “unofficial” by the British Government in 2016, various UK ministers none-the-less attended the event, including Hugo Swire, then minister at the Foreign Office for South East Asia. It provided a massive image boosting filip for the then beleagured Prime Minister fighting the Sarawak election, for which SCL had pitched for a million dollar contract to support him.

Last year Hugo Swire was dropped from the government and he now taken up a new post as the CEO [Owl: Actually he lists himself as Deputy Chairman – see above] of CWEIC Ltd.

Sarawak Report asks, therefore, if the relationship which CWEIC Ltd has developed with the Commonwealth Secretariat, by staging trade events at Malborough House, has the potential to promote tainted political clients of SCL who are seeking re-election in their own countries?

For there is little doubt that the potential effectiveness of SCL’s ‘big data’ campaigns, which have the stated purpose of tricking voters to support its clients, bears little comparison to the importance of the image boosting value of a Trade Event at Malborough House to a tainted leader like Najib.

There is another planned CWEIC Trade event due there next month, at which ‘Malaysia’ is scheduled to send a delegation, just before the 14th General Election.

Sarawak Report suggests there is a valid concern that whilst the CWEIC Ltd work is not for profit, SCL sells its services for money and that its members are connected. …

… Given CWEIC’s high profile links to the Commonwealth Secretariat and quasi official status full disclosure on all potentially related or conflicting interests of the members of this private company is deemed appropriate.”

http://www.sarawakreport.org/2018/03/more-on-malaysias-mysterious-links-with-scl/

And Swire gets mentioned here, too!

This article appeared on 20 March 2018 on a website called “Sarawak Report” which describes itself as a sister organisation of Radio Free Sarawak.  Radio Free Sarawak was created by investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown in 2010 and has won the IPI International Press Institue’s Free Media Pioneers Award 2013 and the Communication for Social Change Award 2014 for its “impact on the political debate” in Malaysia.  It is also recognised by the Index on Censorship for being a “champion against censorship”.  It reports that it has been at the forefront of exposing corruption about how”billions of dollars were borrowed then chanelled out of Malaysia under the instructions of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak”.  It goes on to say that the Malaysian Government unsuccessfully requested INTERPOL to place its editors on to its Red Notice list, normally reserved for terror suspects, as reported by Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders.  INTERPOL wrote to its 190-member national police forces not to use Interpol’s channels in this matter and also requested to remove any data from their national databases.

“EXPOSE! – Petronas Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election

20 March 2018

“The controversial UK campaign company was behind a covert contract designed to influence unwitting Sarawak voters into supporting BN, using secret ‘scientific’ and ‘behavioural’ methods that claimed to “innoculate” target communities against ideas promoted by the opposition, such as a higher petroleum royalty for the state……

… In July 2014, just before the issue of SCL’s Petronas pitch, Lord Marland resigned as then Prime Minister David Cameron’s Trade Envoy and set up a limited company confusingly named the Commonwealth Investment and Enterprise Council. Although the name might imply some kind of official Commonwealth status, it is in fact merely a small business entity.

Marland’s Wikipeida entry states he was then ‘made Chairman’ of the Council, whereas in fact, as the Director and 50% shareholder of the £2.00 company, he plainly accorded himself the title of Chairman.

The website of the Commonwealth Investment and Enterprise Council (CWIEC) is surprisingly uninformative about its limited company status in the ‘About Us’ section, preferring to concentrate on the apparent relationship with the Commonwealth Secretariat, which has provided the company with ‘small’ office space at its headquarters in Malborough House.

Indeed, the CWIEC appears to have acquired what it describes as “a mandate” to organise trade events for the Commonwealth Secretariat and says it is a not for profit company dedicated to boosting trade and enterprise within the Commonwealth. Notably, it was the CWIEC that organsied the face-saving Britain/Malaysia trade event for Najib at Malborough House in June 2016, shortly after the Department of Justice published its court filing over 1MDB that showed a billion dollars of borrowed cash had gone from the fund into Najib’s bank accounts.

That trade conference took place just two days after Cameron’s ‘Anti-Corruption Conference’ in London, which was in exactly the same location at Malborough House.

Questioned by Channel 4 News outside the controversial event, Lord Marland implied there could be no proof that Najib had taken the money, until his own appointed Attorney General launched a prosecution (thus ignoring the fact that Najib had just fired the previous AG, who had attempted to do just that).

Although the conference was described as non-official by UK government spokesmen, who claimed no ministers would attend, in the event Hugo Swire, then a Foreign Office Minister, none the less attended it. Swire at the time told the Wall Street Journal “I am not setting myself up as a judge and jury” on Najib, thus registering an apparent Government line towards the 1MDB affair.

Political Clout

The newly appointed Director of the ‘Commonwealth Investment and Enterprise Council’ is none other than Hugo Swire MP, who took up the job after losing Foreign Office post in a government re-shuffle in late 2016. Swire has now been registered as a controlling individual of this limited company as of July 27th last year. The good relationship with the pseudo-official company has therefore provided valuable political support for Najib in the UK.

Sarawak Report therefore questions the apparent conflict between Marland’s not for profit activities, organising trade links with Commonwealth Countries and high profile events attended by government leaders, and the various secretive SCL election campaigns being conducted to keep those leaders in power like Malaysia.”

http://www.sarawakreport.org/2018/03/expose-how-petronas-paid-for-bns-covert-cambridge-analyticascl-campaign-during-the-sarawak-election/

Swire: the alleged family connection to Cambridge Analytica

“The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”. This audacious claim was made by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in March 1991, only two months after NATO forces had rained explosives on Iraq, shedding the blood of more than a hundred thousand people.

To understand Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm, Strategic Communication Laboratories, we need to get our heads round what Baudrillard meant, and what has happened since: how military propaganda has changed with technology, how war has been privatised, and how imperialism is coming home. …

Not long after Baudrillard’s iconic essay was published, Strategic Communications Laboratories was founded. “SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide” reads the first line of its website. “For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries & have been formally recognised for our work in defence and social change.”

Of course, military propaganda was nothing new. And nor is the extent to which it has evolved alongside changes in media technology and economics. The film Citizen Kane tells a fictionalised version of the first tabloid (or, as Americans call it, ‘yellow journalism’) war: how the circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World arguably drove the US into the 1889 Spanish American War. It was during this affair that Hearst reportedly told his correspondent, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”, as parodied in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. But after the propaganda disaster of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam softened domestic support for the war, the military planners began to devise new ways to control media reporting.

As a result, when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, they pioneered a new technique for media control: embedding journalists with troops. And, as former BBC war reporter Caroline Wyatt blogged, “The lessons from embedding journalists with the Royal Navy during the Falklands war were taken up enthusiastically by military planners in both Washington and London for the First Gulf War in 1991.”

The UK defence secretary during the Falklands War when the use of embedded journalists was pioneered was John Nott (who backed Brexit). As my colleague Caroline Molloy pointed out to me, his son-in-law is Tory MP Hugo Swire, former minister in both the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign Office. Swire’s cousin – with whom he would have overlapped at Eton – is Nigel Oakes, founder of Strategic Communications Laboratories. It’s not a conspiracy, just that the ruling class are all related. …”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda

(Party) Politicians – an Easter treat

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.
~Oscar Ameringer~

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates not dimwits.
~Jay Leno~

The problem with political jokes is they get elected.
~Henry Cate, VII~

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office
~Aesop~

If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these State of the Union speeches, there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.
~Will Rogers~

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
~Nikita Khrushchev~

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.
~Clarence Darrow~

Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.
~John Quinton~

Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.
~Author unknown~

I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.
~Adlai Stevenson, 1952~

A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.
~ Tex Guinan~

I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
~Charles de Gaulle~

Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks.
~Doug Larson~

There ought to be one day — just one — when there is open season on Congressmen.
~Will Rogers~

Don’t count your (productivity) Unicorns before they hatch!

From David Daniel:

“The “Joint Committee” (representatives from 23 organisations across Devon and Somerset – political balance rules do not apply) has just endorsed the final version of the HotSW Productivity Strategy.

But would you buy the proverbial second-hand car from an organisation that takes such a cavalier attitude to presenting facts and figures? Would you trust it to invest hundreds of millions of pounds of your taxes wisely? And, if you did, would you have any faith in its ability subsequently to deliver the goods?

Let’s start with the press release statement: “The Productivity Strategy aims to double productivity in the area over 20 years”. It does no such thing. The maximum claimed productivity gain in the strategy is to jump from a currently “assumed” 1.7% local annual productivity growth (probably nearer 1.5%) to 2.2%. No doubling here even if you accumulate the change over 20 years. For interest, historic average UK productivity growth rate is 2.0% and in the league table of LEPs, HotSW ranks 32nd out of 37 (London and South East dominate).

The 20 year timescale is a bit fuzzy as well. The introduction to the adopted strategy says: “Our ambition is simple – to double the size of the economy over 20 years.” In the consultation draft, however, it said: “Our ambition is simple – to double the economy in 18 years.” So which is it? On page 36 the Productivity Strategy is clearly marked (as it was in the consultation draft) 2018 to 2036, and none of the other numbers has changed. In my book that is 18 years, not 20!

Anyhow, what is being doubled is not productivity but the size of the economy (a combination of growth in both productivity and employment). Except the economy won’t be doubled using any of the combinations of growth in productivity and employment mentioned in the strategy, in either 18 or 20 years. The best on offer is a 3% compound growth. If that started instantaneously this year, and it obviously won’t, it would yield 70% growth in 18 years or 80% in 20 years. To double the economy, a compound growth rate of 3.94% (4%) would be required. Long term average UK growth rate is 2.6%.

It is proposed to achieve this 3% economic growth by “holding” employment growth to 0.8% per annum (add 2.2% productivity growth to 0.8% employment growth = 3%). We are effectively at full employment now. The Office for National Statistic population projections do show the South West population as a whole growing over this period at around 0.8% (0.76%) per annum. However, we have an ageing population and the annual increase of those classified as of working age is only 0.16% (16 to 64 for all genders). This will leave a shortfall of around 83,000 workers by the end of 18 years. Pension age is increasing to 66 by 2020 and to 67 between 2028 and 2028. Even if all 65 to 69 year olds are added to the work force they would not make up the shortfall. They would probably not be at the cutting edge of productivity either. So the plan can only work with major inward migration. This could be difficult in the post Brexit world.

Having ambition is one thing; plucking numbers out of the air and throwing them around without regard to the real world is quite another. There is no discussion of how long the transition from the slow to fast lane might take, delivery considerations come later. The hype assumes instantaneous change. How can anyone take this seriously?

Perhaps the members of HotSW and the Joint Committee believe they will all be long gone in 18 or 20 years and can’t be held to account. But what they have signed up to is so dramatic that failure will very soon become apparent. Brexit, surprisingly, might herald a refocussing of minds as suggested by Philip Aldrick, economics editor The Times, 20 March:
“….One theory doing the rounds is that the Treasury wants to know if its business support schemes are working. A crunch is coming. England’s 39 local enterprise partnerships, designed to boost growth, are funded largely with EU grants. For 2014 to 2020, they secured €6.51 billion of European Structural and Investment funds. Of that, €2.5 billion was allocated to “enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises”, about a tenth of which went to less developed regions.”

“After Brexit, now formally delayed until 2021 after yesterday’s transition deal, the money will no longer make the round trip via Brussels. It will come directly from Westminster, bringing with it more political accountability. If the money is not driving productivity, which it patently isn’t, the Treasury may decide the financial medicine could be administered more effectively.”

Swire relives the old days … again … and again … but not those in East Devon

Not content with trying to relive the old days at the Foreign Office, Swire is going even further back in his old career. Still, reliving the past is quite common at his age.

“DUP leader Arlene Foster has told a Conservative Association meeting in England that she ‘cares for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland’ and wants to see a Brexit solution that works for everyone.

Mrs Foster was the guest speaker on Thursday at the Devon Conservative Association.

DUP’s Foster says a border in Irish Sea after Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ for Northern Ireland’s economy.

She was invited to address the gathering by East Devon MP Hugo Swire who also previously served as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. …”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/foster-tells-conservative-association-meeting-i-care-for-neighbours-in-the-republic-36757347.html

Wonder if anyone in the audience asked her about that billion dollars she and her nine other DUP MPs took from us to prop up their party.

Education spending on the few not the many

Pupils forced to learn in cramped and crumbling schools, says survey

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/pupils-forced-to-learn-in-cramped-and-crumbling-schools-says-survey

MPs criticise failure to tackle excessive salaries in Academies

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/mps-criticise-government-oversight-of-academy-school-finances