Sunday, 21 April 2013
Blair aide reopens bitter feud with axed 'mad cow' mandarin - in speech to Kazakh dictator's cronies
- Jonathan Powell gave speech in oil rich former Soviet state Kazakhstan
- But he launched personal attack on Sir Richard Packer
- He previously compared Blair’s government to Hitler’s Third Reich
PUBLISHED: Mail on Sunday 23:17, 20 April 2013 | UPDATED: 23:17, 20 April 2013
Tony Blair’s former chief of staff flew 3,000 miles to an oil-rich former Soviet state run by a brutal dictator to tell them how they could learn from Britain’s long history of democracy.
Jonathan Powell started out by explaining how Kazakhstan would be a vastly better country if it could have its own Rolls-Royce-class Whitehall civil service system, free of corruption.
But he ended up reopening an old domestic feud by launching a personal attack on a fellow former British mandarin who compared Mr Blair’s New Labour government to Hitler’s Third Reich.
Feud: Jonathan Powell, right, reopened an old domestic feud by launching a personal attack on former British mandarin Sir Richard Packer, left, who compared Mr Blair’s New Labour government to Hitler’s Third Reich
After complaining how hard it was to get rid of troublesome civil servants in Britain, Mr Powell said the Government was forced to give a £1 million payoff to the official who was ‘to blame for the mad cow disease’ crisis in the early days of Mr Blair’s Premiership.
He did not name the official, but he didn’t have to: Sir Richard Packer, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture in the late Nineties, last night said he had no doubt Mr Powell was referring to him.
Mr Powell, along with Mr Blair, has been advising Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in a deal reportedly worth up to £16 million.
Kazakhstan has faced widespread concern over human rights abuses, the treatment of the president’s political opponents and brutality and murder by its police force. Its civil service is riddled with corruption and nepotism.
Speaking at Nazarbayev’s State Management Academy, Mr Powell told his audience of the dictator’s apparatchiks: ‘When we came to power in 1997, there was a high-ranking official in the Agriculture Ministry who was fully accountable for the outbreak of mad cow disease in the country.’
Aide: Jonathan Powell is pictured with Tony Blair in 2007
According to a Kazakh news agency, Mr Powell said: ‘Nothing happened when we asked him to resign. We were told it was impossible to fire him and the best option was to promote him off this position.
'In the end, we had to pay him £1 million worth of termination fee. It is very difficult to get rid of such unwanted officials.’
Sir Richard told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I have come across reports of Jonathan Powell bad-mouthing me before. It is something he has got in his head for some reason, I don’t know why. I might have spoken to him twice.
‘It all seems very strange and is also quite factually wrong. He seems to be accusing me of being responsible for BSE. I don’t see how anyone who knew anything, which doesn’t include Powell, could say that. The BSE report says something completely different. Mr Powell should check his facts.’
After leaving his Whitehall job, Sir Richard was fiercely critical of the Blair government. He told the BBC: ‘In one respect . . . [the Blair government] reminded me of the Third Reich where . . . nobody would know where ultimate responsibility lay.’
Last night, Sir Richard denied having received a £1 million payoff, saying: ‘It depends how you add it up. I was there for more than 30 years (and) you can make up a very big figure with pensions and what have you.
‘The implication of the £1 million is that I was paid over and above what I was entitled to. It was fully within the rules. Once again, Powell’s rhetoric is completely at variance with the facts.’
Mr Powell was unavailable for comment.