Sunday, August 21, 2005

Ken "Must Cut Tobacco Tie"

Recently we picked up some flak for raising the old issue of Ken's directorships, and the conflicts of interest they entail. Indeed, we were 'moderated' on another blog, and even accused of polluting the unsullied blogosphere with "bile".

So we're heartened to see today's Observer picking it up:

'Clarke is not expected to sever his business links unless or until he actually becomes leader, meaning they would be fair game in a leadership contest. The issue is already increasingly discussed on the widely read leadership blogs run by David Davis supporters and within other rivals' camps.'

Eh? Hang on...hang on- don't they realise that DDFL is the premier DDfl blog? We want a PROPER PLUG!

Anyway, they home in on his Deputy Chairmanship of BAT:

'He could kind of get away with it then [in 2001], and say "I'm just a bloke down the pub who smokes" and people think, "Well, Ken's Ken",' said a source close to David Cameron's camp. 'There is a new climate now, a younger set of MPs who take a different view.'

Actually, for us it's not the cigar smoke per se, but the conflicts of interest- we think outside paid employment is incompatible with being an MP, let alone being leader. And the article shows exactly how such conflicts can arise:

'Clarke's portfolio as non-executive deputy chairman of BAT includes corporate social responsibility, which an internal discussion document suggests is regarded as a way of fending off criticism. The 2000 paper notes: 'The process [of CSR] will not only help BAT achieve a position of recognised responsibility, but also provide "air cover" from criticism while improvements are being made.'

A second document obtained by The Observer shows that Clarke attended a meeting in Geneva in 1999, in which the company discussed with Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco ways to ensure that the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - the first global attempt to curb tobacco consumption - would not hurt their profits.

Among the topics discussed were ways the tobacco firms could work together to resist advertising bans and fund research into the links between smoking and disease, countering claims made by anti-smoking groups.'

In fact, CSR- or Corporate Social Responsibility- has been a major growth industry over recent years, and is a notorious exercise in PC box ticking. All large companies want to be seen as nice rather, nasty, so have rushed to set up CSR committees and codes of practice. They are glossed up in annual reports and even TV ads, and the key is to establish some veneer of "independence". Hence the widespread employment of ex-Cabinet members and superannuated public servants.

Because when it comes to "air cover", a couple of barrage balloons will always come in handy.


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