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Thursday, October 23, 2008

George Osborne: Neocon Pin-up Boy (and why the Times chief leader writer rubbishes his own newspaper's story)

The Times has gone understandably big on its scoop about George Osborne’s activities in Corfu. Many have been taken aback by quite how hostile the tone of its coverage has been... But in all this there is one notable absence: The Times has not yet run a leader on the matter. On Tuesday, one of its editorials did refer to Deripaska but the reference was to his financial difficulties not to the hospitality that he had extended on his yacht. It does seem odd for a newspaper to lead on a story for two days in a row but not think it worthy of an editorial.

writes perceptive commentator James Forsyth in on The Spectator Coffee House blog.

Not only has The Times failed to run a leader on the Osborne affair, the paper (or at least its 'Comment Central' website) has referred to the story- one which the Times itself broke- as a 'non-scandal'.

George Osborne did not take money or arrange to take money from an illegal donor. Even Nat Rothschild does not say that he did. And Peter Mandelson did not distort aluminium tarrifs (sic) at the behest of anyone. Or at least no one has presented any evidence - not a bit - that he did. So what if he had a drink on a yacht?

I can't recall a time in all my years in journalism when a paper has rubbished its own story as much as The Times did today. The author of the article on 'Comment Central' was a certain Daniel Finkelstein, who also happens to be Chief Leader writer of The Times. Finkelstein is- and I don't think he'd take issue with this description-an uber neocon. He's written hawkish articles on the need to take tougher action on Iran. He was a strong and unapologetic supporter of the illegal Iraq war, a war in which up to 1m people have lost their lives. While comment editor of The Times (a position he held from 2004-8) Finkelstein shamelessly promoted neocon writers and transformed the comment pages of the paper into a British version of The Weekly Standard.

I've written before of how a small group of neocons within the Tory party engineered the successful rise to party leadership of David Cameron. This group- which included Finkelstein, the Tories' influential 'modernising guru', were terrified that the man they call 'The Beast'-Ken Clarke, would succeed IDS as Tory leader in 2005. But not only was it imperative to 'Stop Clarke', a man who had openly ridiculed the claims that Iraq possessed WMD and who opposed the Iraq war, it was also important to promote the career of George Osborne. Why? You see, Osborne, like Finkelstein, is a fanatical neocon. He was a strong supporter of the Iraq war. And like Finkelstein, he wants a 'tough' stance against Iran. In a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel this summer, Osborne said "We should not rule out military options. It's not the same as ruling in military options, but it does mean not ruling them out, and I think we have to be very hard-headed and realistic about the world in which we live". Standing alongside Osborne as he made that hawkish speech- was- you've guessed it Daniel Finkelstein.

I don't think we need to wonder any more why The Times has not run a leader on George Osborne's recent embarrassments, especially when you bear in mind that the man that many grass-root Tories are calling to take over from Osborne is...... Ken Clarke!

While millions are now questioning his actions in Corfu, Osborne, is according to Daniel Finkelstein, " a person of integrity.....and huge ability - it is not an exaggeration to say that he has been the big driver of Tory success in the last three years - and if this affair had taken him out it would have been a disaster for the Tory party".

For 'the Tory party' read 'the British neocon movement'.

UPDATE: The Exile gives his views on this story here.


olching said...

A great article, Neil. I loved your description of of Finkelstein, and it is so accurate. Absolutely true: what we have witnessed in all three parties are take-overs by neo-liberal Trojan Horses. This particular issue of Osbourne being covered by his mates and protected from Clarke is very interesting indeed.

It is no less than scandalous that British politics are utterly dominated by rich neo-liberals who offer no serious political competition an choices. The myth of post-ideology is one of the most dangerous myths perpetrated since 1989. It should be constantly exposed.

robin carmody said...

Keep it up!

We need to expose the full scale of the nightmare that Murdoch and the neocons who have hijacked the Tory party are planning for this country.

It will be interesting to see if there is any significant future conflict between Osborne/Finkelstein et al and the much more Arabist (and thus much more traditionally toffist - the Cameronistas are, in their own way, as against the traditions of their class as Tim Westwood is) Boris Johnson.

Neil Clark said...

Thanks olching and robin.
The other noteworthy thing about Finkelstein's piece is that he sees nothing wrong at all about Osborne, Mandelson and co spending the summer on the yachts/at the villas of the likes of Deripaska and Rothschild. For him, its perfectly normal for the political 'elite' to spend their time with the business 'elite'.
This is the model of 'democracy' that neoliberals like Finkelstein favour- when the rich get together on each other's yachts and villas-and then, as if by magic, our political parties adopt policies which suit the interests of the said business elite. There's lots of words to describe this process-'democratic' isn't one of them.

In Britain we are sleepwalking into disaster- replacing a neoliberal neocon-infiltrated 'New' Labour government with a Conservative one in which the neoliberals and neocons have even more of a grip!

Anonymous said...


"The myth of post-ideology is one of the most dangerous myths perpetrated since 1989."


Whilst it is understandable that the likes of Bell and Fukuyama propagated this nonsense, it is utterly shameful that the stupid poseurs of the post-marxist and postmodernist liberal-left colluded in this necessary illusion; the myth of the end of ideology signified the reality of the triumph of ideology. Come back Althusser, all is forgiven!

- questionnaire

David Lindsay said...

Oh, but if only they were confined to one party, Neil.

Their tendency to be Murdoch-employed is, however, undeniable.

Davros said...

I love the story about George "D.C." Osborne's time amongst the Oxford Bullingdon Toffs. Read the following article to find out what "D.C." stands for:
Laugh? I nearly soiled myself.