By John C. Dyer, UK Correspondent
11 Jun 2012.
Within hours of the final ceremonial curtain call a Grinch stole the limelight - and some of the joy- from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Guardian broke the story that a government security contractor, Close Protection UK, not only forced unemployed “workfare” recipients from the South West to work the Jubilee as stewards without pay, but to “sleep rough,” with only a thin sandwich at lunch for food. But the government paid Close Protection UK to provide these same services.
Close Protection UK. is among the private firms contracted to provide fire protection “marshall” services to the upcoming Olympic Games.
These are not the droids you're looking for
The new English bulldog, Lord John Prescott, demanded an explanation. The explanation was something on the order, "these are not the droids you're looking for."
Molly Prince, head of Close Protection UK commented back to The Guardian that the stewards had been treated well. The Guardian had sensationalized an “unfortunate logistics problem.”
Number 10 Downing Street dismissed the event as a “one off.” One could almost see the hand wave. Some called it the "rogue" logistician defence.
Baroness Stedman-Scott, CEO of Tomorrow’s People, a national employment “charity” and the overgoupenfurher for the services which included those of Close Protection UK claimed “all due diligence was done over Jubilee Stewards.”
The Daily Mail picked up the theme, publishing accounts allegedly from participants describing their experience as a “great time.” The Daily Mail accused the “Left-wing Guardian” of a “scandalous story ... reported gleefully on its front page.” Bad Guardian.
But they were
The Daily Mail's words would soon prove to echo (in more than one way) reaction to The Guardian's early "hackgate" stories. Within 48 hours of The Guardian breaking the story the head of Close Protection UK apologized to the stewards.
In short, the story was accurate.
By 10 June disturbing claims about an event had morphed into scandal.
Even more disturbing claims emerged concerning Prince and Scott. Scott’s company, Tomorrow’s People, had arranged for Close Protection UK to provide the stewards. Allegations now emerge that regulators at the Charity Commission previously reprimanded Baroness Scott’s company for contributing to the funding of the Tory Party "manifesto," a political activity prohibited to a charity. Regulators allegedly "struck off" five of Prince’s prior companies for failing to submit their accounts as required by law. Prince herself has allegedly been convicted of perversion of the course of justice, a very serious crime in Britain.
I should be clear these are allegations not officially proven at this point. But Lord John “Bulldog” Prescott continues to press for an official probe.
Britain's Teapot Dome
Prince and Scott now join a growing list of allegations a scandal-ridden government must handle.
Lady Warsi, who Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Chair of the Tory Party, faces an official probe over expenses and her dealings with her business partner. It may be only the beginning as to allegations concerning Lady Warsi.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s relationship with James Murdoch and Hunt’s involvement with and support of the Murdoch bid to own all of Sky continues to make global headlines. Despite evidence many saw as persuasive that emerged during Hunt's testimony to the Leveson inquiry, the Prime Minister took only 25 minutes to decide that Hunt had not violated the Ministerial Code. The House of Commons is expected to take up the question next week.
The credibility of the government’s banner “workfare” programme has been dogged by charges of corruption and fraud levyed against contractor A4e and A4e’s CEO, Emma Harrison. These charges threaten to damange the entire programme.
Adrian Beecroft, the controversial author of the government’s report on how to free private enterprise from "unwarranted" regulation, is the Chairman of Dawn Capital. He is also a major Tory doner. Dawn Capital is a firm with substantial investment in "Payday Loan" lender, Wonga. Wonga's loans carry interest rates allegedly running into the thousands of percent per annum. Wonga allegedly stands to gain substantially from the Beecroft report’s recommendations. Scotland Yard has begun a probe of former Tory Party co-Treasurer Peter Cruddas and allegations the Tory Party engaged in significant levels of “pay to play” fund raising. Speculation is that these allegation may in time lead to Beecroft (as well as other major Tory Party doners).
This week the Prime Minister appears before the Leveson inquiry. Osborne emerged largely unscathed 11 June. However, it is important to note that the inquiry was formed to look into Press standards not political corruption. It has nevertheless been led by the remorseless flow of fact to interrogating the politicos concerning the corrupting influence of some in the media. There is still a lot of testimony and indeed cooextensive processes ahead.
The list is long. I have difficulty keeping track of it all. The Prime Minister’s government may soon have the dubious distinction of joining the Administration of Warren G. Harding in scandal's Hall of Fame.
The Odious Grinch
The Jubilee Steward story broke after my last piece on the Jubilee. But no story makes clearer the point I sought to make. The story of the Jubilee Stewards (and of the government’s approach to dealing with it as the story broke) illustrates just how out of touch the government is, not only with its people, but with the values of public service that the Queen has worked so assiduously to embody.
Odious is not too strong a word for the Grinch who stole the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Should that not have been Number 10's reaction? Many feel the time has come to take the decision as to whether or not to investigate politico misconduct out of the hands of those who could be implicated and place it in the hands of an independently initiated inquiry.