Saturday, 20 December 2008
Selling the family silver
The time has come for Professor Politico to tell you how George Bush came to own part of the British civil service. Professor Politico is a little hesitant. He has signed the Official Secrets Act - not that signing it makes a bit of difference. You are covered by it anyway. But if you work with sensitive information they give you a lecture and then with great seriousness get you to make your mark on vellum. Even that is a secret if they want to make it such. But Professor Politico is not telling you anything that is not on wikipedia. And he is not going to tell you anything that is not already in the public domain.
mind-boggling sums as a result of QinetiQ being sold off too cheaply . As the privatisation of QintetiQ was taking place, Professor Politico met John Chisholm and Graham Love who, it seems, negotiated their own fortunes. At about the same time he spoke to a very senior civil servant within Dstl about what QinetiQ might be worth. Professor Politico wondered how a top civil servant who knew nothing about the private world could know what QinetiQ might be worth. Very senior civil servants are very discreet. They say very little. That's how they become very senior civil servants. But Professor Politico received a polite reply, obviously intended to say essentially nothing, but he got the impression that he had asked the 64 thousand dollar question and that these people had not a clue what QinetiQ was worth. And the trouble was that there were a lot more than 64 thousand dollars involved. So the scene was set for a disaster and Professor Politico knew it. The rest is now history.
But what Professor Politico wants to explain is how we came to sell off the family silver in this way. Of course we know that recent governments of whatever hue have been hell bent on divesting the government of its various assets. But why would you want to put organisations that are custodians of our most important defence secrets into private hands? Does that really make sense? If you give people lifelong government careers to do secret scientific research, isn't that quite a good way of looking after your secrets? Once you have privatised such organisations and destroyed traditional loyalties, the workforce are more likely to move to other companies. And with them will go their knowledge and our secrets. They might in today's global village go abroad. None of this makes sense.
Now when the government made it clear that they wanted to privatise what is now called QinetiQ the US government could see the folly of this and protested. They didn't want our defence secrets in private hands. They could see what Professor Politico could see - that this was just not a wise thing to do. That anyway was the rumour. And the protests were said to be very strong. The Americans wouldn't back down and threatened to stop sharing defence information with us. So how did our government deal with this problem? What they needed was a sweetener for the US government. So they sold it to the Carlyle Group. And that was a bit of a sweetner because the Carlyle group was to make a lot of money out of this. And George Bush Sr was part of it.
So maybe our government never really wanted to sell off the family silver - they actually intended to give it away. And they failed to realise that ownership matters.
So that is how George Bush Sr ended up owing part of Her Majesty's Civil Service.
Not content with that and not having learnt from this mistake our government has now sold off the factory where we make our nuclear bombs. Hey ho.