PART TWO – THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
Article by Beth Porter
Chapter Five – Pulling the Sultan’s Strings
Can you think of a disparate, hand-chosen group of mainstream luminaries who meet once a year to provide advice to the dictator of a country considered our ally? They also share lavish dinners both in Britain and abroad to exchange views relating to that ally.
None is paid a salary, nor are they held accountable in any legal jurisdiction. They all do, however, receive first-class flights on chartered military aircraft, indulge in banquets lasting for days, and review global policies which particularly impact on the oil industry.
The country is Oman; its covey of UK advisors are collectively dubbed The Privy Council, and with the recent death of Sultan Qaboos [whose rule lasted over fifty years], his designated heir and cousin, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, carries on the absolute monarchy of his predecessor.
Remember those companies who proudly declare that they only have the best interests of the people at heart? In the hallowed tradition of the hidden state, that’s exactly the parroted rhetoric of these advisors and their defenders should their covert activities come to light.
And come to light they have with the recent publication of The Thick of It, a kiss-and-tell chronicle by former MP Alan Duncan. Recognising Duncan’s bulging contact list and catalogue of buried bodies, Prime Minister Johnson appointed this former Minister of State in the Foreign Office his Special Envoy to The Privy Council.
The unavoidable implication of the appointment is to ‘keep one’s enemies close’. As another Johnson [36th US President Lyndon] once said of J. Edgar Hoover, the untrustworthy head of the FBI: “it’s better to have him in the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.”
“I sat on the Council for 14 years,” says Duncan, who first visited Oman in 1986 while working in the oil industry.
Over the years, he’s maintained friendships with many Council members, including Mark Carney, former head of the Bank of England; former head of UK military General Sir Mick Carter; Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, at least half a dozen members of the House of Lords, and two of particular note.
Sir Eric Bennet, former RAF Air Vice Marshall who served as personal advisor to Sultan Qaboos since the 1990s; reliable sources claim The Privy Council was allegedly his idea.
The other Privy Council member with an extraordinary complex back story is Sir Christopher Geidt, another Johnson designate with a hidden agenda. Only a month ago, the PM created the new official post of Ministerial Standards advisor, asking Geidt to fill it.
A former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth, currently on the Board of arms supplier, BA Systems, Geidt was relieved of his royal duties after inadvertently blotting his copybook. It took some diplomatic sleight of hand to restore a balance between right-wing Tories and Buckingham Palace.
The appointment was to placate the Queen, after her son Prince Andrew took offence at Geidt’s recommendation that he return to the US to face official questioning about his relationship with the disgraced and now dead Jeffrey Epstein.
In this context it’s notable that on the announcement of Sultan Qaboos’ death from cancer followed immediately by the elevation of the new Sultan, selected members of the Privy Council were flown to Oman in first-class luxury on a specially chartered military jet.
The alleged purpose was personally to praise Qaboos as “a wise man,” and to fly the Union Jack at half-mast over every Commonwealth building.
But the real reason was a series of photo opportunities. The three most notable passengers on the flight were Prime Minister Johnson, Prince Charles, and Prince William. They stayed overnight in the Sultanate’s guest palace. The cost of the trip was calculated at £350 million pounds sterling.
There’s not even a hint of irony in Duncan’s comments about an equal amount of money being pledged for the NHS on the side of a bus!
It is undeniably true that Oman’s approach to social and political progress has been as wavering as the Council’s members themselves. Opportunities, for example, have been offered to women in the field of education, though many appear frightened to take advantage of them. The use of British air bases and its loan to the Sultan of 90 military ‘advisors’ is under review.
Meanwhile, poverty throughout the country has increased, widening the economic gap between rich and poor. The people cannot vote and have little or no say in the governance of the country. Meanwhile, millions and billions of pounds are lavished on shows of military might, duly broadcast on the sole television channel, proving the government has their interests at heart.
Duncan appears to revel in his inclusion on the Privy Council, without expressing much objectivity in denouncing the secret and corrupt nature of its existence. These cross, after all, a web of relationships binding ‘the great and the good’, and who knows what plans Duncan may be chasing next.
I’ve now read a hefty chunk of his book, in which he finds it difficult indeed to hide the political ambitions he craves and which he feels have been stolen from him.
He’s quite open about the planned and unscheduled meetings with Privy Council members, but lurking beneath the bonhomie is the expectation his reward will be not only be imminent, but he’ll have the say in what form it will take.
In fact, threaded throughout his book are constant reminders that it was Duncan himself who was responsible for the direction of political travel taken by the Tory party, primarily when such decisions chime with his own political views.
When they don’t, he castigates without delicacy the likes of then speaker John Bercow [“the shitty little Speaker Hobbit”], the vacillating “buffoon” Boris Johnson, the ineffective junior Matt Hancock, the vile Andrea Leadsom, and the traitor Michael Gove. Duncan quotes himself with all the glee of a school-boy entertaining his classmates. He assumes he’s being witty. He ain’t.
As for the opposition parties, in particular the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, Duncan can barely keep the vomit in his throat when he mentions them. He falsely intimates that Corbyn’s leftist approach will turn the country into a communist state, failing even to realise that the Labour leader shares his own views about Palestine deceptions meted out by Netanyahu’s Israel.
Only Theresa May and the Queen are dressed with the frills of uncontested praise. He simply won’t hear a word against either of them. And he’s ever ready to ram home the part he’s played in influencing each in her own way.
Perhaps the biggest sin of omission related to the deceptions of the Privy Council is the complete absence of its existence on Parliament’s requirement to declare their external financial interests.
These are meant to be an updated list of detailed accountable expenditure, both by the Lords and the Commons. Yet not a single declaration appears by any member of the Privy Council. Remember that national scandal about an MP’s undeclared shell-out for a duck house on his private property?
Alan Duncan cannot have failed to note the absence. After all, he learned how to ignore inconvenient truths from a master. It was billionaire Marc Rich, Duncan’s one-time mentor, who presented deception as a substitute for truth.
Throughout the book, Duncan reveres wealth over decency. He’s blinded by Rich’s dosh, paying scant attention to its sources as a hedge fund manager, tax evader, and founder of Glencore, the oil trading giant which gave Duncan the entrée into his subsequent career.
Despite what seems to be his only pause for some altruistic praise at the fatal shooting of opposition MP Jo Cox, Duncan seems have lost his moral compass.
Categorised in: Uncategorized
This post was written by LPJAdmin