Baroness brazens it out

Stay in indoors but stay connected: Follow current affairs that’s important and professional, and it’s FREE: Baroness Scotland’s scramble to hold onto Commonwealth job; Britain’s Windrush crime; Baroness Scotland’s curious Commonwealth allies; Sharan Burrow, ex-ACTU boss, makes friends in Saudi Arabia, the Arab Gulf’s bloodhouse; When famous sayings were really famous; List of great sayings.

“Baroness Brazen” resisting scandals

Commonwealth leaders meet in June – perhaps by videolink to avoid catching a virus or avoiding a coup d’état at home – to extend the contract of Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth secretary-general.

A rabid Blairite and supporter of New Labour, Patricia Scotland has been showered with honours and cushy jobs. Known as “Baroness Brazen” or “Baroness Shameless”, Lady Scotland has been stalked by controversy and highly damaging publicity about her expensive lifestyle.

For example, when she moved into her “grace and favour” official residence in Mayfair, she immediately ordered a $700,000 renovation which involved re-painting the walls, buying new curtains, building new bathrooms, installing chandeliers and remodelling the lavatories. New carpets cost $80,000 and the painting bill was $35,000.

The media had a field day when it was revealed she had spent $700 on a toilet seat. The cost was more than the average annual pay of the 2.4 billion people in 52 countries she is supposed to represent.

Despite her army of critics, Baroness Scotland remains unperturbed telling one interviewer: “It’s unfair to refer to me as Baroness Brazen on a false premise that I have been profligate.”

With President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former chair of the African Union

Nevertheless, damaging stories keep coming her way. During her political career as Attorney-General of England and Wales, she was forced to pay a penalty of $10,000 for hiring an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper on a paltry $11.50 an hour.

Her “coronation” on becoming Commonwealth secretary-general involved a Marlborough House bash on The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace. One paper reported: “At a lavish ceremony featuring performances from a gospel choir, Caribbean dancers and a steel band, the New Labour peer, Baroness Scotland of Asthal accepted one of the diplomatic world’s most prestigious jobs.

“Clad in blue silk and a thick string of pearls, she was applauded by hundreds of guests, including Sir Trevor McDonald (the former ITN newscaster) and Cherie Blair, wife of the then ex-PM Tony Blair.”

Britain’s Windrush crime

In 1997 Patricia Scotland was made a life peer by New Labour and given the title Baroness Scotland of Asthal, after the village in Oxfordshire where she lived. Asthal is located on the banks of the River Windrush, named after the ship Empire Windrush which brought the first contingent of West Indies immigrants to England after WW2.

On arrival in England they were treated as third-class citizens and put to work in lowly-paid jobs which English people refused to do, such as cleaning public toilets and doing menial house work on menial wages for rich people.

Windrush protest

On 17 April 2018, Tory Prime Minister Theresa May apologised in the Commons for the treatment of Windrush citizens. It followed Brexit scare stories by Tory right-wingers that West Indians would be deported when Britain left the European Union.

“I want to apologise to you (UK citizens from the West Indies) today because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” she said. “I don’t want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the UK.”

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness met Mrs May at No 10 and said afterwards: “I believe that the right thing is being done at this time.”

Mrs May was Home Secretary when the first attempt was made to “de-citizen” workers from the West Indies and deport them. She ordered her Home Office successor, Amber Rudd, to make the government’s formal apology in the Commons. Ms Rudd condemned the “appalling” actions of her department but shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, wasn’t convinced, saying: “It’s acceptable for ministers to claim they don’t know how many Windrush citizens have been deported. A simple matter of checking Home Office records, surely?”

Baroness Scotland’s exotic friends

The New Labour life peer was helped into her job as Commonwealth secretary-general by the public relations efforts of Zurich-based financier Ron Wahid. Born in Bangladesh, Wahid began his PR career in Washington DC where he befriended Vice President Dick Cheney, principal architect of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. He then relocated to Switzerland to run finance company RJI Capital and Arcanum Global which boasts of offering “a host of bespoke and tailored strategic intelligence products to government entities and the private sector across a range of industries”.

Wahid hired Baroness Scotland in March 2015 as a “senior adviser”. Others to be awarded “senior adviser” status were the former head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and Lord Evans of Watford, a millionaire businessman and New Labour peer.

Ron Wahid and friends at the polo ©Edward Lloyd/Alpha Press

The flamboyant Evans generously provided Baroness Scotland with a parliamentary researcher and a private secretary. Evans’ largesse and Wahid’s public relations paid off: Commonwealth leaders easily voted for her to be the Commonwealth’s sixth secretary-general.

London’s well-informed magazine, Private Eye, reported: “In the run-up to the Commonwealth vote, Baroness Scotland wooed the leaders of five Caribbean nations with ‘knighthoods’ from an obscure Catholic order. A ‘Constantinian knighthood’ was awarded to Dominican Republic Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. By happy coincidence, six months later Skerrit nominated Patricia Scotland for the Commonwealth top job.” (PE, No 1516, 21 February – 5 March 2020). By another coincidence, Baroness Scotland was born in Dominica and retains dual citizenship. Prime Minister Skerrit has been dogged by allegations of immense corruption. A 2019 Al-Jazeera investigation accused him of receiving money in exchange for diplomatic passports and ambassadorships.

Baroness faces tough vote

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June will be a tougher assignment for the baroness. Awkward questions are being asked about payments made to her friend and fellow New Labour peer, Lord Kamlesh Patel, Baron of Bradford. A KPMG audit has found that Patel received AU$200,000 for a three-month “review” of the Commonwealth Secretariat followed by another AU$300,000 for a further six months. Neither contract was put out to tender.

Baron Patel with former PM Theresa May

There are also dangers in relying on Lord Patel for support. His lordship and Lady Patel run a private company, KYA Global, from their Bradford home in West Yorkshire. Private Eye reported: “The Patel company had assets of AU$2,000 and debts of AU$100,000 at the time with no website or phone number, and no sign that it had any employees or much of a reputation.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the company’s situation as has the election of Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He has been a vocal critic of the Commonwealth for many years, recently saying: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”

In Canberra, seasoned diplomats are at their wit’s end over rumours that Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne wants Australia to vote for “Baroness Brazen” at next month’s crucial meeting because “she is a woman”. But what are her ethical, moral and civic values? Aren’t they the chief consideration? Apparently not to Senator Payne, partner of NSW Minister for Jobs (!!) Stuart Ayres, horse-owning MP for Penrith, who is known as the “Minister for Football Stadiums”. No wonder Australia’s status in the diplomatic world has fallen to an all-time low.

News from the ACTU

Sharan Burrow, former president of the ACTU (2000-2010) is now based in Geneva representing the pauperised working men and women of the world. Her grand new title is president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, an organisation long suspected of being a front for the American CIA.

In all probability, Ms Burrow has never heard of the alleged links between the ICFTU and the CIA and it is probably none of her business.

Sharan Burrow

Ms Burrow recently attended meetings in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International refused to go saying that the reactionary Gulf regime “locked up most of its own independent activists” and practised “torture and murder” against social activists, mainly young women.
Challenged to explain her attendance, Ms Burrow said that “while there still a long way to go to achieve freedom of speech and assembly, some reforms do appear to be on the way.”

What is she talking about? Women can now drive luxury cars up and down the streets of Riyadh and some handpicked hackettes have been chosen to sanitise all-male boardrooms.

In fact, Ms Burrow’s own organisation, the ICFTU, said in a recent report: “There is not a single trade union in Saudi Arabia, as the law does not allow them to exist.” It also observes that immigrant workers from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere suffer a regime of labour abuses and that they are “trapped in modern slavery”.

Anyone who criticises the corrupt regime, the senile King or members of the royal family can be publicly flogged, jailed or deported. Holiday anyone?

Host of the Riyadh conference was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has redrawn the map of the Middle East with Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In the process, the Palestinian people subjected to overt racism, forced from their homes and terrorised by army-backed settler groups.

Burrow, right, in Saudi Arabia

MBS is the tyrant who authorised the abduction, torture and murder of his Washington Post critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey on 2 October 2018. The crown prince had the gruesome torture and execution filmed, and Khashoggi’s head cut off and sent back to Riyadh as proof of his demise.

Ms Burrow unashamedly proclaims her loyalty to her values: “I am a warrior for women and we still have work to ensure the inclusion of women in the work place and in our unions.”

Women everywhere will be delighted to know that Ms Burrow, a feminist glass ceiling-breaker, is giving them such unqualified support. By the way, does anyone know her salary?

A salute to memorable sayings

Listening to the deathly scripted platitudes of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Ministers reminded me of a time when quips and sayings by politicians were gems.

On Friday, May 8, PM Scott Morrison gave us the lumpen quotation: “You have to get out from under the doona.” He thought it was so clever, he repeated it: “You can’t go on hiding under the doona.”

Indigenous Australians looked at each other and asked, “What’s that?” while asylum seekers on Christmas Island were puzzled. They hadn’t heard of doonas either.

Someone in the PM’s office thought the quotation was so inappropriate it was removed from the official transcript of the press conference. Luckily it was captured by TV reporters and will be played again and again in the coming weeks, months and years.

Hundreds of year ago famous quotations were picked up by columnists and appeared in newspapers, sparking Letters to the Editor or cartoons. On some rare occasions they were even quoted in editorials.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was Australia’s most famous quipster and books have been devoted to collecting his memorable sayings. (The Wit of Whitlam by James Carleton, MEP 2014).

Another Australian PM, Paul Keating, developed a more acidic turn of phrase ,once humiliating a political opponent saying: “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”

A splendid array of great sayings

One of my avid readers has kindly sent me some classic sayings from the past when the cut and thrust of debate – and quips – were at their peak.

An MP in the House of Commons snarled at Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.”

To which Disraeli responded: “That depends, Sir, on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

Winston Churchill turned his venomous wit on an opponent saying: “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

George Bernard Shaw. left, and Winston Churchill

On another occasion, Labour supporter George Bernard Shaw sent a message to Churchill saying: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend, if you have one.”

To which Churchill replied: “Cannot possibly attend first night. Will attend second … if there is one.”

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), American lawyer and civil libertarian, once said: “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with a great deal of pleasure.”

Writing about fellow American author Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner (1897-1962) said: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, said: “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

Twain is also credited with this bon mot: “Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without an address on it?”

Mae West (1893-1990), actress, writer, comedian and Hollywood sex symbol, was also the source of great one-liners, once saying: “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” On another occasion she said: “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.”

Oscar Wilde

Sayings by the great Irish playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) have filled hundreds of books since his death in exile in Paris aged 46. He once said: “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” On another occasion he said: “Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.”

American film director Billy Wilder (1906-2002) dismally reviewed a cabaret musician saying: “He had Van Gogh’s ear for music”, while the legendary Groucho Marx (1890-1977) said: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.”

Quote of the Week

“People assume it is business as usual, which it’s not. We will never be business as usual. We will never have normal lives until the pandemic is over.”

  • NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday, May 10, backtracking on her Friday, May 8, announcement that NSW was “re-opening”.

Dumb, dumber, dumbest

Andrew O’Keefe, host of Seven Network’s The Chase:

Question: Colloquially, another reader examining something offers a fresh pair of what?

Contestant: Pants.

5 comments

  1. I’m particularly fond of Jean Giradoux’s “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake it you’ve got it made”

  2. If you will allow the indulgence, Alex….may I post two of my personal faves from Aussie Pollies!
    Bob Menzies…..
    Heckler at campaign meeting, Melbourne Town Hall…in the Fab Fifties.
    I wouldn’t vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel!
    Ming— If I were the Archangel Gabriel, I wouldn’t have YOU in my Electorate.
    Gough Whitlam…
    Being continually hassled by bystander on campaign trail.
    C’mon Gough….tell us your policy on abortion..
    Gough……Well…in your case…it should be retrospective…

  3. Your column is a joy in this time of darkness, keep it up Alex!

    On the Windrush: the river was there long before the troopship, which was named after the river. Although there was (usual for the times) racial prejudice the job opportunities meant very few returned home to the Caribbean, by choice. To name but a few, the newly established NHS, British Rail and the London buses and tube were crying out for staff. I think ‘menial’ service (being a servant) was greatly contracting after WW2 ended. I know that from Carol’s maternal grandparents, who met ‘in service’ in the 1920s and 1930s.

    Incidentally, Baroness Scotland herself was born in Dominica and her parents emigrated to Britain less than ten years after HMT Empire Windrush offered cheap passage back to Blighty. While you might query her ethics you can say, “didn’t she do well”!

    But I agree wholeheartedly the Home Office, in particular under that robot Theresa May, is just awful. If ever a government department was unfit for purpose that is it right there.

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