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Ben Bradshaw’s links to the Henry Jackson Society make him unfit to be Deputy Leader

BBradshawLast month Labour Deputy Leader-hopeful Caroline Flint was outed as having received donations for her campaign from corporate lobbyists Sovereign Strategy. Vice’s article points out Sovereign’s links to Maximus, the company contracted by the government (replacing ATOS) to carry out Work Capacity Assessments. Despite Flint soundbite calling for Labour to be a ‘grassroots movement – not a Westminster elite’, being in the pocket of corporations and abstaining on parliament’s vote on benefit caps suggests that her opposition to elites is little more than projection. The article is right to raise the question of ‘what influence those funders could have’.

Flint’s corporate sponsorship may conjure up images of smoke-filled backrooms in Westminster, but in this regard it is at the very least matched by another candidate: Ben Bradshaw’s links with the Henry Jackson Society. A neoconservative think-tank, recently exposed for its extraordinary influence within Westminster, the Henry Jackson Society was forced to withdraw its funding for two parliamentary groups ‘after refusing to disclose its donors to the Commons’ standards watchdog’.

As if the stench of dodgy dealings weren’t strong enough, Spinwatch’s 80-page report exposed it as supporting a clamp-down on the civil liberties of British Muslims as part of the ‘War on Terror’. Henry Jackson is also a ferociously pro-Israel organisation, supports PREVENT, an agenda which treats student activists as ‘extremists’ and supports ‘interventionist’ foreign policy (the effects of which can be readily seen in Iraq and Afghanistan today). Despite their efforts to distance themselves from the neoconservative label, insisting that it is a non-partisan organisation, this simply does match the reality.

The organisation was named after American senator and foreign policy hawk Henry Jackson. Jackson was a fervent anti-communist, politically active until his death in 1983. Jackson supported the Vietnam War, one of the most destructive and definitely the most infamous conflict in the Cold War. The think-tank’s formation in 2005, well after the end of the Cold War, makes it as anachronistic as it is horrific. The Henry Jackson Society claims this historical legacy, almost in a nostalgic way and reminiscent of what Edward Said once wrote about the way in which Islam had replaced Communism as the embodiment of all things evil and which must be opposed. This Manichean outlook has claimed countless lives, resolved none of the political and humanitarian problems it sought to solve and will continue to cause death and destruction for as long as it influences intellectuals, politicians and governments.

It was set up in response to a social movement of over a million who marched against the Iraq War, a war voted for by Ben Bradshaw who later voted in parliament against investigations into it.

Ben Bradshaw sits on the Henry Jackson Society Political Council alongside numerous politicians from Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and lone UKIP MP Douglas Carswell. Among them are Margaret Beckett (former Foreign Secretary), five former junior ministers in the Foreign Office, Jim Murphy (former Shadow Foreign Secretary) and the current chairs of the parliamentary committees on defence, foreign affairs, public administration and selection. It is clear that even with the set-back in their influence after Spinwatch published their report, the Henry Jackson Society continues to hold enormous sway over British foreign policy.

Bradshaw wrote in 2012 that ‘Gaza is on a Knife Edge’, criticising Israel’s actions in Gaza, the expansion of illegal settlements, and expressing hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Last year he voted in parliament to recognise Palestinian statehood. However Bradshaw’s position within the Henry Jackson Society flies straight in the face of this. Their position on Israel and Palestinian is one which provides ideological justification for Israel’s actions and the continuation of the persecution of Palestinians.

The Henry Jackson Society’s position within Westminster and its relationship to some Labour politicians is disgraceful. This embodies much of what has caused widespread disillusionment with the political system. They stand for a politics which cannot see solutions for humanitarian crises and conflicts beyond more bombing.

The Labour Party is in the middle of possibly its most soul-searching, contentious and polarising leadership elections in recent history. It is clear that the majority of Labour members – including the numerous newly registered supporters – are as sick of undue influence on politics by shadowy neocon think-tanks as they are of the whole pro-austerity and pro-war establishment. Bradshaw’s connections to this organisation make him totally unsuitable as deputy leader.

11 Comments

  1. swatantra says:

    Carlus should know that its important to have a cross fertilisation of ideas and engage in debate with people not entirely on your side; other you become moribund, stagnant and blinkered, repeating the same mistakes time and time again as Labour do. Its called evolution Carlus, and all Parties have to evolve otherwise they become extinct, and the way things have gone in the last decade, Labour was well on the way to joining the dodo’s.
    I shall be supporting Flint for DL despite the carping from Carlus.

    1. James Martin says:

      Flint – utterly useless Blairite. Campaign manager for leading X’s fiddler Hazel Blears (*spit*) for deputy last time. Flip-flopped her homes for her own X’s fiddles and voted to try and keep them secret. As EU minister admitted she hadn’t bothered reading the Lisbon Treaty that she was supporting. Complained that Brown treated her as ‘window dressing’ but was happy to drape herself horizontally across sofas for a ‘sexy’ Sunday paper photo shoot that appeared to be all about her looks as a minister and nothing about politics. Latterly she has done nothing with the energy brief and despite the pressing need for public ownership of energy production and supply has been happy to support the privatised companies continued milking of a rigged market.

    2. David Littlewood says:

      You have not answered any of the criticisms of Flint or Bradshaw here. Simply claiming that Labour does not respond to new ideas is to walk straight into your own trap. These candidates are the old guard now. There is a new dawn, wake up and understand before you get pushed aside in the rush.

  2. gerry says:

    Carlus – this is a disgusting article. Bradshaw is a very good Labour MP who recently trebled his majority in one of our most inhospitable electoral areas, the LibDem/Tory South West.

    The Henry Jackson Society is a cross party lobbying group with strong views about many political issues but as a longstanding Labour person I share their analysis on Israel/Palestine, the massive threat of Islamic extremism to all our secular lives, and the middle East in general. I don’t share their more neoconservative interventionist analyses, and know that intervention in Iraq, Libya have been catastrophic, primarily for the people supposed to have been “liberated”!

    But stop trying to make this a wedge issue against Bradshaw – I don’t know if you are a Labour member or not but we are a broad coalition and your attempts to demonize him and others in the party who share some of the Henry Jackson Society’s concerns, not all by any means, will fail and deservedly so. And as for bias, Spinwatch has a dreadful reputation – pro- Islamist, conspiracy theory driven, and hysterically unbalanced re Israel!

  3. historyintime says:

    I am old enough to remember Henry Jackson and am amazed that any lLabour party member would want to be in a club named after him. He embodied the big spending big bombing Democrats who later became neocon Republicans. Such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz who both worked for him. His policy point of view is an historic failure both domestically and in terms of foreign policy. And btw I too support Israel but that’s not enough justification to support the Henry Jackson Society. In fact if they were were wise they’d join a Jimmy Carter society. His domestic policies were a necessary but civilised retreat from the overstretched Keynsianism of the early 1970s ,and his foreign policy prefigures Obama’s intelligent liberal realism.

    1. John P Reid says:

      So an American, who had appeal and wasn’t right wing, shouldn’t be something labour has anything to do with? Nonsense
      And yes Swat and Gerry are right

      1. historyintime says:

        In 1960 he was a relatively mainstream Democrat and could be compared with the Gaitskellites By his death he was right wing, except on government spending. His total contribution to US policy was bellicosity and waste.

  4. James Martin says:

    Why anyone would want to defend the HJS and those Labour MPs who disgracefully play a role in it is beyond me. The HJS is not some kind of college debating club for politically curious people. It is one of the more open ‘atlantacist’ groups that has been deliberately infiltrating the Party and some unions for many decades. Pro-US intervention and bombing, pro-war, pro nuke WMDs, pro-NATO and pro-apartheid Israel. Like the more secretive atlantacists its role is to try and prevent socialist influence or socialists gaining power. These groups also tried to ensure communists were witch-hunted in the unions – a previous good example of this was in the form of Barry Reamsbottom, the previous CPSA (now PCS) general sec who was a leading light on the NATO funded secretive Trade Union Committee for European and Transatlantic Understanding (TUCETU).

    These are very nasty and dangerous people indeed.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Is beyond you, but it’s an important part of labour, remind me if the CLpD backed labour shouldn’t people be worried

      1. gerry says:

        Agreed. Labour is a broad church and working with HJS is perfectly compatible with being Labour…I loathe the Stop The War Coalition, and see them as a disgusting collection of Islamic extremists and pro Putin SWP fellow travellers, but Jeremy is its Chair…I don’t argue that makes him beyond the pale, though I see them as a very nasty organisation. Live with diversity, James and Carlus.

        1. Mervyn Hyde says:

          If it is serves a worthwhile purpose joining these right wing organisations, why are some of them held in secret? (Bilderberg)

          Why also do those that support them, then are ironically at odds with the aims and aspirations of those with real socialist principles.

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