Monday, November 15, 2004

People in "preferring their mates" shocker!

Gordon Brown was on the Today programme this morning plugging a report he commissioned by Labour crony Alan Wood, chief executive of Siemens, which sounds like one long whinge about how the other kids aren't playing fair, and keep on not picking us to be on their team.

According to Brown and The Times, which has apparently seen it, the main gripes include "the award of contracts to national suppliers even where foreign bidders are believed to offer better quality or price; the drawing up of contracts to suit a national company; putting pressure on suppliers to use locally-based sub-contractors; and inviting foreign bids simply to beat down local businesses on price, not because they have a chance of winning the contract."

Now this is all naturally not on, as the EU is - after all - intended to promote "free" trade throughout the union. Favouring local companies at the expence of foreign - i.e. British - ones deserves lots of tut-tutting even if it is entirely understandable.

Unsurprisingly, the Eurosceptics have already started picking up on this story as yet another example of how the EU is a corrupt waste of time (with an added dose of anti-French xenophobia). All these points (well, bar the anti-French jibes) are pretty much fair enough.

However, as anyone who regularly reads Private Eye will instantly recognise, for anyone from the "New" Labour brigade to criticise other governments and companies for favouring their mates is laughable.

There's Paul Drayson of Powderject, a multiple donor to Labour to the tune of over £100,000, who was awarded a £22 million Ministry of Defence contract, as well as shares of serveral other contracts to produce vaccines, even though other bidders were offering competitive prices.

Then there's the on-going shock and horror of ever more government contracts going to the piss-poor Capita, headed by one Rod Aldridge, who has attended numerous Labour party fundraising events, has advised the government on outsourcing, and chairs the CBI's public services strategy board.

Added to this are the Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal affairs, where the big Labour donors got government favours in exchange for their cash - including in Mittal's case an assurance from Tony Blair that one of Mittal's companies was British even though it was based overseas.

There are also umpteen allegations that the once-socialist Labour party are - as are most politicians - in thrall to big business. To list all of these examples would be as lengthy as it would be stating the obvious (just read any back issue of Private Eye for thousands of these tales from every British government there's ever been).

To claim that other European countries are doing something dodgy by awarding contracts to domestic companies may well be perfectly fair and valid, but is also massively hypocritical when Labour are doing exactly the same thing. Only in Labour's case it is even worse, as it is the party which most directly benefits, not the country. At least if the French government awards a French company a contract ahead of a British bidder it is through the understandable desire to protect and promote French business and the French economy - when Labour awards contracts to BAE Systems or Crapita it seems largely to be to protect the party's own finances.

And in any case, how would being out of the EU make things any better? At least there are EU regulations designed to prevent this sort of thing happening, even if they aren't enforced very effectively. Without the EU, any European country could erect protectionist tarrif barriers AS WELL as preventing foreign companies from being awarded lucrative contracts. I don't know a great deal about economics, and I'll be the first to admit it, but surely it's a good thing that this is no longer possible?

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