Lifting the Veil on Underhand Political Tactics

Article excerpt

Byline: Mervyn Pauley

WHITEHALL jiggery-pokery is nothing new. Indeed, political trickery appears to be an element in the lifeblood of 10 Downing Street.

From time to time, the veil is lifted to reveal aspects of the political elite's Machiavellian ways.

It was tweaked aside last week to expose some of the tricks Edward Heath got up to in his efforts to bounce Britain into Europe.

After he became Prime Minister in 1970, we now learn, he set up a secret government propaganda unit to persuade the British people to accept the Common Market - a misnomer when we consider its various, subsequent incarnations.

Civil servants were engaged in a Foreign Office dirty tricks department to conceal the threat to UK sovereignty and to provide quick rebuttal of anti-Market arguments.

It operated up to 1972, while Heath negotiated Britain's entry into the Common Market. Yet, another secret unit, the Information Research Department, provided additional staff whose skills were used to 'soften up' the public for big price rises in basic commodities.

According to a Daily Telegraph report, a fact sheet on sovereignty was suppressed to hide the fact that Parliament would have to accept European regulations at odds with its own statutes.

Which bears an uncanny similarity to the sort of underhand activity No 10 is now being accused of in its approach to the draft new EU constitution and its implications for UK independence.

What price Downing Street's strenuous denials that the constitution poses a real threat to UK sovereignty? And what price its insistence that New Labour is not yielding up any new powers to Europe?

Heath's deceit came to light in confidential files made available at the National Archives in Key, earlier this month. His own No 10 files on the topic, released under the 30-year secrecy rule, contained nothing about the special unit's work. …