Tony Blair, in today’s Observer:
I would widen the police powers to seize the cash of suspected drug dealers, the cars they drive round in, and require them to prove they came by them, lawfully. I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact, I would generally harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country.
Note the word suspected. Not convicted. So much for innocence. I wonder if the new shiny police powers will be used against, say, this man, who is suspected of money laundering. From what the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman had to say, on March 1, the intention is clear:
Asked repeatedly if the Prime Minister believed Tessa Jowell’s assertion that the money had not come from Prime Minister Berlusconi, the PMOS said that answering the question would mean him getting drawn into the Italian investigation which he was obviously unable to do. He reminded journalists of the importance of keeping the two issues he had outlined earlier separate. He underlined the fact that, in this country, it was important for us to observe the same standards of justice in relation to a foreign case as we would expect in a domestic case. That meant maintaining the tradition that someone was innocent unless proven guilty.
You’re a suspect. My mate is innocent. Remember that difference.
Of course, there’s another case of allegedly nefarious behaviour doing the rounds, but luckily in this case there is no need for the police to seize the funds in question; the creditors are doing that job instead:
Two businessmen have demanded immediate repayment of their secret loans to Labour, threatening financial crisis for the party. The formal demands, for a sum totalling at least ?1.5m, will necessitate a fire sale of the party?s London headquarters to pay the debts.
The more it goes on, the more it seems the Labour Party is like an amalgam of every badly-run football club in history. The story fits so neatly: A long-supported but flagging institution is taken over by a flash individual who promises brighter times ahead for all. Initially, all looks well – though fans have reservations over the change in the team’s colours, there are some new signings, they start winning again. As time creeps by though, the honeymoon fades and the early achievements are soon forgotten in favour of more regrettable ones. The chairman comes to dominate the club, taking personal control of every part of its business. Unpopular decisions alienate the fans; he takes their support for given without ever considering their views; when a few start to protest, he responds by adding electric fences to the stands. With attendances low, he ramps up the prices and tries wooing the rich to use the executive boxes, or by setting up sponsorship deals with anyone, regardless of ethics. More fans desert the club; some even set up their own new clubs in response. Meanwhile, temporarily bolstered by the injection of new cash, the chairman wastes it on ridiculous signings that do nothing to help the club’s long-term future or assuage its now serious debt problem.
Labour have now reached the “mortgaging the club’s ground on future gate receipts, as the creditors start knocking on the door” stage; something which usually coincides with relegation and calling in the administrators, or alternatively, touting the club around wealthy Russian benefactors. Or, in a few heartening circumstances, the club is taken back by its supporters; it realises the dichotomy between success and its principles is a false one, sorts its finances out with a long-term sustainable plan, and starts anew; winning things while regarding its support base as a valuable asset that should be nurtured, not a resource to be plundered. But that depends on the supporters realising that the long-term problems afflicting them will not go away until they form a viable alternative, and them coming to terms with the fact that going along with the current guy in charge is only going to lead to further misery.