Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning, we’re talking about offering the chairmanship to an incompetent politician, a hideous opportunist, a war criminal, someone not a stranger to the wrong side of the law, an alleged sex pest and a man who would stop at nothing to court the right-wing press – even to the depth of aping the language and policies of the BNP. The defenders of the approach to Reid have universally cited the fact that Reid held high office in the Blair government, as if that is an indication of ability. Let’s place such a career progression in context; Blair did not promote due to ability, he promoted on the basis of subservience or as he called it “being on message”.
Just as Blair saddled the country with the most hopelessly out-of-depth foreign secretary in the nation’s political history, so too did he continually hand John Reid ministerial responsibility on the basis that he would do exactly as his master commanded. Reid after all wasn’t shy about admitting this: “when Tony Blair asks me to do something I do it” . Remember, parents scold their kids over attitudes like this; if Jimmy told you to jump off a bridge would you do it? Presumably the young John would have answered from his hospital bed, “yes”.
Reid in fact is one of those Labour politicians that Scotland churns out with a monotonous regularity, shameless opportunists bereft of principle who simply view politics as a means of financial enrichment rather than an opportunity to serve their constituents. Commentators sometimes make something of Reid’s involvement with Communism while at Stirling University, like so much else in Reid’s career the stench of political opportunism hangs over this brief flirtation. Jim White the secretary of the Young Communist League at Stirling University at the time said this of Reid: “He told us he was a Leninist and Stalinist. Although I was suspicious about his transition, we couldn’t tell if he was acting. We let him join.” Reid in fact needed the support of the communists and the Labour students to run for, and win, the student union presidential elections and thus launch his political career. There’s damn little sign of any communist or even socialist leanings after this event, with Reid jumping onto the Kinnock bandwagon during the struggle for power in the Labour Party during the 80s.
Reid’s pre-cabinet career was noted for its involvement with the bottle rather than any historic speeches from the benches. It was in fact an ultimatum from the then Labour leader John Smith in 1994 that lead to the break between Reid and his beloved bevvy. Now there’s no problem with drinking, some of the greatest intellects have been hard drinkers – Reid though isn’t one of the greatest intellects despite his affectations to the contrary. The hangover from this period also allegedly put paid to any hopes Reid had of running for the Labour leadership following the resignation of Dubya’s Mini-Me. As the Daily Mail gleefully reported:
“John Reid’s surprise decision last week to scrap his plans to challenge Gordon Brown prompted a welter of speculation in Westminster. Just days before, as bruiser Mr Reid was positioning himself to take on the Chancellor, his enemies in the Labour Party were queuing up to reveal why they considered him a liability. Their accounts centred on drink-fuelled indecent proposals he allegedly made to one of Mr Brown’s closest allies, Treasury Minister Dawn Primarolo.” The Mail alleges that Reid sexually harassed Primarolo over a number of years; “‘John came lurching up and said to Dawn ‘I want to have sex with you, I want to f*** you, you want it as well.’ Ms Primarolo’s friend and neighbouring Bristol Labour MP Jean Corston intervened and, according to a source, told Mr Reid: ‘You are a disgusting creature. Get away from her,’ adding: ‘That’s it, I’m going to report him.’ Ms Corston, who is now a Baroness, told colleagues she raised the matter with John Smith, commenting: ‘It won’t be happening again.'” The final straw apparently came when Reid staggered onto the floor to vote and was stopped by an attendant, a flung punch and it was goodbye Glenfiddach.
Reid subsequently ditched the bottle, cleaned up his act and made it into the Cabinet for the first time in 1999, when he was appointed Scottish Secretary. Reid’s brief involvement in that post is mainly noted only for the description given to him by the Scottish First Minister at the time, Henry McLeish. Obviously not overly impressed by Reid’s manners, McLeish famously labelled the kid-on Doctor a “patronising bastard”. The “patronising bastard” you’ll note makes full use of the Doctor identifying appellation at every opportunity, something usually only done by those with actual medical doctorates or professional academics. Reid’s PhD is actually in Economic Science, having been gained through a thesis on the slave trade from a Marxist perspective, and he’s no professional academic. Yet when Reid was appointed Health Secretary in 2003, no opportunity was lost in the effort to hoodwink the public that someone with a background in medicine had surprisingly been appointed to this office. A typical Reid and New Labour sleight of hand that while was not in itself dishonest, as no actual claim was made, never the less followed standard procedure of using spin to manufacture a false reality.
As Health Secretary Reid was a stunning failure, quickly alienating NHS managers by his autocratic style and failure to consult on policy. The only other noticeable feature of his time at Health was a determined effort to scupper any smoking ban in public places. When not creatively interpreting opinion poll evidence (as if New Labour ever bothered about the public’s opinion) and wringing his hands over too much government interference (stop laughing at the back), Reid was amazingly trying to make smoking a class issue. Standing up for the rights of the proletariat to embrace poor health, Reid declared: “People from those lower socio-economic categories have very few pleasures in life and one of them they regard as smoking.”
If Reid wasn’t desperately trying to appease the tobacco lobby, then God knows what he was thinking. In the event his actions resulted in an unworkable mess of a policy, with the intent to exempt from any smoking ban private clubs and pubs that did not serve food. Reid’s determination to force through this policy resulted in considerable New Labour infighting with Parliament ultimately being given a free vote on the issue, and MPs opted for a total ban – no doubt an act of vicious class spite from the bourgeois.
Reid’s political career really took off in the build up to the war in Iraq. When Robin Cook resigned as Leader of the House of Commons immediately prior to the invasion, it was Reid who was drafted in by Blair to ensure that the illegal war and flounting of International Law was successfully promoted on the New Labour benches. Reid didn’t really get into his stride though until 2005 when he received his desired portfolio, Defence, which fitted nicely with the ‘hard man’ image he had carefully nurtured. Not only that, as an added bonus it allowed him all those marvellous steely-eyed poses in tanks and helicopters. Again you’ll be hard pressed to find one single success in Reid’s time at Whitehall, which spanned roughly one year.
Certainly not a success was Reid’s bizarre declaration that British troops would occupy and then leave southern Afghanistan without a shot being fired. It is worth noting that Reid while defence secretary actually demanded a redrafting of the Geneva Convention and sweeping changes to international law to legalise “extraordinary rendition” (kidnapping for torture to you and me), the deprivation of any rights to those deemed threats, and of course that New Labour/Neocon favourite, ‘pre-emptive’ aggression (being allowed to attack other states, which is actually illegal due to that pesky International Law).
Such was Reid’s attitude to the rights of suspects, international law and common decency that shortly before a video was released showing British troops viciously beating Iraqi civilians, he said to the BBC Radio 4 programme, Today: “Now, let me make one final comment on that [toleration and the Muslim furore over the publishing of cartoons mocking Mohammed ], which is specific to British troops as it happens. Similarly, we cannot continually have an assymetric, uneven battlefield for our troops where we are facing an enemy unconstrained by any legality, any morality, any international convention and at the same time subject our troops to a level of scrutiny, accountability, media intrusion, questioning and every conceivable opportunity to criticise. So I say, in that kind of world, where we’re facing that kind of enemy, let us be very slow to condemn our troops, our forces, and very quick to support them and understand them.” Ok let’s not condemn the beating of defenceless civilians, let’s instead understand thuggery.
It should be noted at this point that Reid was only getting into his stride, failing to realise in the meantime that New Labour had ignored the very international laws he was demanding to be redrawn as they were hampering the New Labour/Neocon nightmare. Every dog has their bad day though, and with Blair’s government increasingly coming off the tracks, Reid was dragged kicking and screaming from his beloved camoflaged combat jacket and marched instead to the burning ruin of the Home Office. If we all thought we’d seen a streak of megalomania in Reid before its full flowering erupted after May 2006. Reid’s time at the Home Office is a horrible mess of screaming matches with the Judicary, slumming into the gutter of racist outpourings against immigrants and asylum seekers in an effort to court right-wing press popularity, and an unprecedented assault on civil liberties in the guise of “protective” legislation in which Reid displayed a dangerous disregard for facts.
As Home Secretary one of Reid’s first acts was to start pushing for the deportation of Iraqi asylum seekers back to their homeland. Despite obvious concerns for the safety of these individuals, Reid began forced repatriation while warning the off the judiciary : “To ensure the viability of this operation and in line with enforcement operational instructions, the Home Office may decide not to defer removal in the face of a last-minute threat or application to seek judicial review.” You’ll note that so safe was the land these unfortunates were returned to, that the charter flights carrying them landed in Cyprus, before a second aircraft took them to Irbil in Kurdish controlled Iraq. The Kurdish government of that region has a notorious human rights record.
For such a self-publicising law & order totalitarian John Reid was remarkably blasé about the letter of the law when it came down to his own conduct, and of course the conduct of the New Labour government. When laws that had been rushed through in the usual orgy of unedifying opportunism fell foul of the courts, Reid’s attitude was far from contrite. Instead the standard dogmatic confrontational temper tantrum erupted with Reid vowing to push through further ill-thought out legislation in an attempt to shore up the previous botched job.
In August 2006, Reid found himself on the wrong side of the law on two separate occasions within a mere three days. In the first the Court of Appeal ruled that control orders imposed on terrorist suspects breached their human rights, in the second the court ruled that Reid could not impose swinging restrictions on nine individuals who had used the hijacking of an Afghan airliner to flee the Taleban regime and claim asylum in the UK. The M’Luds declared that there was a piffling little trivial manner that got in the way, namely that Reid did not possess the required powers as they hadn’t been granted by Parliament. In New Labour’s wonderful world of selective law application the Government obviously felt that a trivial matter such as legal authority could be bypassed by a Daily Mail interview.
On the subject of the control orders, condemned by the courts as unlawful, Reid showed his respect for the law by throwing his bottom lip on the floor and announcing he would “reluctantly” amend the orders so as to comply with the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
Reid’s curious attitude towards the law when it applied to himself was also mirrored in his bizarre interpretation of civil rights and just who they applied to. In a comment worthy of George Orwell, Reid declared that we had to surrender our civil liberties in order to enjoy them: “Sometimes we may have to modify some our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms.” The problem with this is that “short order” is dictated by those who desire the powers in the first place. New Labour, and British Governments in general, are notoriously adverse to giving up any powers they have gained, no matter how undeservedly. Reid and New Labour demanded the right to remove hard won civil liberties with the only very dubious offer to restore these at some undefined time in the future. Trust us? Remember the anti-terrorism legislation introduced in the wake of 9/11? We were told that draconian though these powers were, they would never be abused. Just this week the Government gave police the go ahead to arrest environmental protestors at Heathrow using said powers. Trust us? No thanks, never again.
To achieve his goals, Reid wasn’t above resorting to deception in order to sway public opinion behind increasingly draconian legislation. When Reid announced on TV that he “believed” that Al Qaeda had in fact attacked the UK prior to the invasion of Iraq, he as usual offered to no evidence or justification or even relevant details, secure in the knowledge that the right-wing press did not require such trivialities. Such was one of Reid’s favourite ploys. Another ploy was to seek to confuse, and blur the differentiation between suspect and criminal in the public’s mind. When Reid stated: “And let’s be clear. It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, life and limb of the British people. It’s wrong. Full stop. No ifs. No buts. It’s just plain wrong.” You’ll note the deliberate separation between “suspect terrorist” and “the British people”, as if terror suspects somehow cannot be British and therefore cannot expect the same rights. By trying to force in this separation, the public are condition to look on terror suspects, and therefore “anti-terrorism” legislation as somehow detached from the normal British judicial process, thus enabling an easier sell to a public which doesn’t believe the laws will have any effect on them.
If all the above wasn’t bad enough the full measure of Reid’s poverty of soul comes when he opens his mouth on the subject of immigrants and asylum seekers. On the BBC’s Breakfast Show an animated Reid stated: “It is unfair that foreigners come to this country and steal our benefits, steal our services like the NHS and undermine the minimum wage by working.” You would be forgiven for assuming that this was the outpourings of some disgusting BNP rock-crawler but it isn’t, it was a New Labour Home Secretary. Reid was also obsessed with appeasing the right-wing press on asylum seekers, forever attempting to reach new heights of what he believed was a strong-man image: “We are now throwing out more asylum seekers – failed asylum seekers – than ever before.”. The dubiousness of some of those repatriations Reid fails to mention of course, including those which resulted in unfortunate circumstances for those returned to state’s with horrendous human rights records. Why bother with that then there are right-wing tabloids to appease? It really was on immigration Reid warmed to this role as the Hero Of Little England and the darling of the right-wing press by adopting their language in yet another classic New Labour act of pandering to tabloid editorials.
Whether the government of Tony Blair was genuinely racist is open to question, more likely the manifestation of this disgraceful playing of the immigration card was a ham-fisted attempt to steal support away from the BNP, in other words political opportunism. True to form it was a incredible own goal, allowing the BNP to claim official legitimacy and a further alienation of Labour’s traditional core support – those that were actually left. A typical example of Reid’s swaggering aggressiveness came in the after math of the protests at the notorious Harmondsworth detention centre. Those rioting were not engaged in any legitimate protest declared Reid, they were in fact engaged in an “attempt to sabotage the enforcement of our immigration law.” The protests had in fact erupted spontaneously following the Harmondsworth management’s decision to prevent inmates watching TV news detailing a damning report on Harmondsworth by Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers.
As we have seen political opportunism is rather a noted feature of Reid’s political career, it’s no surprise therefore to find out that Reid is also a member of Labour Friends of Israel. The LFI according to Spinwatch “has become a powerful lobbyist for Zionist and Israeli interests in the UK”. One might wonder whether it is appropriate for cabinet ministers, and indeed the nation’s Prime Minister, belonging to a lobby organisation for a foreign government. The ‘oddity’ is explained though according to the same organisation: “It is considered one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks by Labour MPs.”
So that’s the career of John Reid, the would be Celtic chairman. In fact looking back at Reid’s career the question arises as to how someone with such limited ability progressed so far in the first place, the answer as already stated is that Reid was fortunate to find himself in a political climate where mindless loyalty counted far more than actual ability. Without doubt Reid’s short ministerial career is a litany of disasters, failures, discord and right-wing zealotry, and had it not been for the particular nature of the Blair government its more than likely all Reid would be remembered for is some shifting around in junior ministerial roles. So why on Earth was Reid offered the role of Celtic chairman? Why would someone with such appalling baggage be selected to run the club..well ok not run, we all know who runs the club, but someone who would be the official face of the club?
Well according to Katherine Griffiths, City Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph”, Reid was offered the post simply to further Dermot Desmon’s own business interests: “The appointment of Mr Reid, 60, has been pushed for by Dermot Desmond, the Irish entrepreneur who is the largest shareholder in the club. Mr Reid might also become involved in the airport security company, Daon, which is backed by Mr Desmond. Sources said the financier is keen to get access to Mr Reid’s formidable contacts book, which includes people such as America’s head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.” Griffiths then goes on to use the usual nameless sources: “Meanwhile, sources said Mr Reid’s potential involvement with Mr Desmond’s other interests might make him unpopular with Celtic’s fans. ‘Being chairman of Celtic is of great importance in Scotland. If it seems Reid is getting it so he will help Desmond sell his airport security company’s services around the world, it will not be popular,’ one source said.”
Doan if you didn’t know is involved in developing biometrics technology to identify people through physical features such as eyes, facial scans and fingerprints – in other words the same technologies the government is hoping to use in the proposed, and highly controversial ID Cards and other security projects. One would argue that a politician who has responsibility for such a policy, suddenly upping sticks and receiving money from a company that could benefit from his previous decisions, could be classed as out and out corruption.
If the actions of the club surprised me, I have to admit to even more surprise at the attitude shown to the news by a fair number of supporters; at best utter indifference, at worse complete agreement. More than one deranged individual responded to my negativity with a helpful reminder that Reid had held high office and must therefore be pretty clued up. It was difficult at these moments not to wander off to the nearest wall and then start cracking my head off it. I would have to say though that this opinion was by far a small minority, most simply didn’t care. They didn’t care that such an individual was going to worm his disgraceful carcass onto the chairman’s seat, and while it’s true that some deplorable characters have nestled there in the past, nothing compares to John Reid.
Sadly enough this crushing indifference isn’t unique to news regarding the chairman post, the same can be evidenced from many on a whole range of topics. It doesn’t matter who the chairman is, it doesn’t matter how we play as long as we win, it doesn’t matter who plays for us, as long as the trophies keep staggering in then.. who cares? It certainly has put the lie to some romantic myths we’ve built up around the club, probably some lyrical rewriting is required on the Willie Maley Song, blurring just what differentiates us from our warped cousins on the south side of the city. If Dermot Desmond was using the leak in early July to test the reaction of the support to what should be a hugely controversial appointment, he will have been no doubt encouraged and that is unfortunate for so many different reasons.
John Reid simply should be allowed nowhere near any official role, the very concept is far too outrageous to contemplate. If he has been approached by Desmond with an eye to furthering his own business interests then that casts a very dark cloud over the club and should have the alarm bells ringing. Whether the Daily Telegraph managed to beat its own impressive track record and actually hit on something factual may never be known for sure, especially if nothing more comes of the offer to Reid. What is factual though, what is beyond doubt, is that those running the club truly believed that someone like John Reid was the best person to act as the official face of Celtic, and that is worrying enough in itself.