Enron: Digging the Dirt on New Labour's Friends

Issue section: 
(260)

The fall of Enron is a very British scandal because it relied on a British cast as well as friendships with Bush and Clinton to give it respectability. Lord Wakeham sat on the board, chairing the firm's 'Audit Committee'. Labour invited Enron executives to its 'gala dinners'.

In return the party received somewhere between £15,000 and £30,000 a year from 1997 to 2001 from Enron. Even the queen was roped into the sanitisation of Enron, making Enron Europe chairman Ralph Hodge a 'Commander of the British Empire'.

Peter Mandelson let Enron buy Wessex Water in 1998. Enron wanted Wessex to act as a bridgehead to break into the international water privatisation market. The Labour Party was repeatedly warned to steer clear of Enron. However, as most of those who pointed to the firm's appalling human rights record came from the left, they were ignored. Blair and Mandelson also turned a blind eye to Enron's endless regulatory violations in Britain.

Enron traded commodities. Last July the London metals exchange fined the firm £190,000 for irregularities in settling trades. Enron also generated electricity at Teesside. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will not report on the deaths of three of its employees until later this year. However, in 1998 Enron was fined £10,000 by the HSE when another worker received burns after liquid naphtha leaked from a pipe at the same plant. The HSE also fined Enron £17,000 in 1992 after a worker was killed while working on the plant's construction. Enron does not recognise unions at the plant.

Enron also liberally and literally scattered shit across the south west. Last December Enron's Wessex Water was fined £3,450 for pouring 'crude sewage' into the River Trym. In June 2001 Wessex was fined £6,598 for pouring raw sewage into a Dorset stream. The month before it was fined £2,425 for discharging filth into the River Avon. In January 2001 Wessex was fined £1,800 by the Environment Agency after it pumped muck into the Avon. Last July Enron was fined £5,350 for flooding 9,000 litres of diesel fuel into groundwater near Wimborne. In May 2000 Wessex was fined £10,300 after letting effluent coat Somerset's River Sheppey with sewage fungus. In May of the previous year Wessex had to pay another £3,250 in fines after poisoning fish in Bitham brook with ammonia-filled sewage discharges.

Labour's response to Wessex Water's shameful pollution record was swift and sure. At the last Labour conference Robin Cook, Blair guru Charlie Leadbetter and Socialist Review's favourite commentator, Polly Toynbee, addressed a Fabian meeting sponsored by Wessex.