+Listening to today’s BBC PM programme I heard that the 1990s TV series Our Friends In The North is being translated into a radio series. I think the original series captured very well a sense of the suffocating corruption that was exemplified by the era of T Dan Smith and John Poulson, the corrupt architect, not to mention Andrew Cunningham, a leading trade union official, or perhaps we should say a leading north eastern fixer (and the father of Blairite minister John Cunningham aka Baron Cunningham of Felling). In the 1960s and 1970s corruption could amazingly lead to a prison sentence. A detailed study of north eastern corruption (which included the police) was written up in No Shining Armour by former Labour MP Eddie Milne (who was bounced out for his troubles). Anyway, during the PM programme it was seen fit to give Baroness (Hilary) Armstrong a former Blair Chief Whip a soft interview about Our Friends In The North being transferred to radio. Would she enjoy it? Does she enjoy binge watching TV series? Instead of 10 episodes, would it be great to have 90 episodes? Did she enjoy the original? Baroness Armstrong, who took over her father’s seat as MP for North West Durham had little difficulty answering these probing questions. The whole interview was rather pointless. I am minded to blog about it because I once fell foul of the Baroness for writing a letter to the Guardian complaining about how senior figures in the party, now out of office seemed to glide effortlessly into private sector jobs. One such person was Blair acolyte Sally Morgan (aka Baroness Morgan of Huyton) who excelled in her new roles as her Wikipedia entry affirms:
She was a non-executive director of Southern Cross Healthcare from 2006 until it had severe financial problems in 2011, before the company declared insolvency the following year . She also serves as Advisor to the Board of the children's charity Absolute Return for Kids (ARK ) and has been chair of the board of Trustees of The Future Leaders Trust, as well as its successor organisations, since 2006 .
In July 2017 Morgan was appointed as senior non-executive director of building and support services company Carillion, serving on the audit, business integrity, nomination, remuneration and sustainability committees . The company, which had many large government contracts and 43,000 staff, went into liquidation in January 2018 , with the UK Government ordering a fast-track investigation into the directors to consider possible misconduct .
I suppose you get these jobs with a good nod and a wink. But it was my contention that the rush of Labour ex-ministers into private sector jobs—some with clear interests in the further privatisation of government services—didn’t do the Labour Party’s reputation any good whatsoever. Where’s the distinction between us and the Tories? Anyway, such criticism didn’t go unnoticed by the former Chief Whip, who upbraided me at a party conference for my impudence. She noticed I was a councillor at the time, and seemed to suggest that this was equivalent to having a nice nod and wink seat on the board (as opposed to trudging the streets). This episode reminded me that the expectations of the so-called ‘great and the good’ in this country never seem to be far apart regardless of party allegiance. My letter called for a ban on such appointments. I think the phrase is ‘pissing in the wind.’
(Just to be clear: I am not alleging any corruption on the part of any of the peers mentioned in this blog)
+Here is a badge from my collection. It needs no further comment.