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Foundation X round-up

Ex-haulier Alan Barr behind secret organisation Foundation X that offered Government £22billion loan

The man fronting a secret organisation that offered the Government £22billion to help it out of a hole has been revealed as an ex-haulier.

Alan Barr, 62, insists Foundation X wants to make a no-strings, interest-free loan to boost the economy. He said extra is available to build hospitals, schools and London's Crossrail and he is “quite hopeful” the PM would accept.

Barr, who lives in Cheshire in a £200,000 home with his girlfriend Jane Barry, said he spent 10 years in the Far East brokering similar deals.

He said: “I have devoted 26 years to altruistic work. I've met many heads of state.”

Barr said his girlfriend knew nothing of the offer: “I don’t want her thinking I’m going crazy, do I?” [Daily Mirror]
A less telegraphed, and therefore presumably less mystifying, article ran in the Sunday Times last week unmasking Alan Barr but, as far as the internet and most newspaper readers are concerned, that all but makes it a state secret. What isn’t clear from this Fisher-Price version is whether Barr is claiming to be Foundation X in its entirety or whether he is just the public face of it.

The smart money is still on the organisation in reality being the Office of International Treasury Control, whose language and methods it is closely aping. Lord Myners certainly thinks so:

Written Question

Asked by Lord Myners
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether ministers have any contact with the organisation calling itself the Office of International Treasury Control.

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Treasury has had no contact with an organisation calling itself the Office of International Treasury Control. [Hansard]
Note Lord Sassoon’s careful tread: whoever the government may have met [see below], it wasn’t anyone who was using the OITC’s name—as you would hope, given its easily Googleable reputation and, specifically, the fact that the last occasion it was known to operate on British soil was its questionable offer to buy the ailing MG Rover in 2005 for $5 billion, although the only down payment it offered was a £1 postal order (it claimed it had a letter from Tony Blair authorising its massive bid, but no-one ever saw this). There is a curious detail here: the OITC submitted its bid shortly after another one was withdrawn. A consortium had hoped to revive the sports car brand but was forced to abandon its plans. That consortium was led by... Lord James of Blackheath.

There isn't any suggestion that Lord James has ever knowingly had any involvement with the OITC, but it is possible that in researching him around that time, possibly even encountering him, its agents thought that he might prove to be someone they could do business with—all the more so when, five years later, he had been ennobled and appeared to have a direct line to the heart of government...

But that's to suppose that the OITC is indeed behind this kind offer to the nation, which of course it might not be. After all, right now, according to the Sunday Times—which of course has never once been used as a conduit for dodgy intelligence or diplomatic information for disinformation purposes—the trail stops at a retired businessman in Cheshire, and there is nothing to see here. Surely that's your curiosity sated right there.

Probably too much has been made of the fact that a meeting with any government minister took place at all. Lord James claimed that he introduced Lord Strathclyde to a representative from Foundation X, very probably Alan Barr. If this did happen, there’s no reason to think Lord Strathclyde did anything other than humour one of his back-benchers and exchange requisite pleasantries, something at which he excels.

Meanwhile, Lord Sassoon’s response in the debate where Lord James dropped his bombshell was a masterly example of Lordly politesse, designed mainly to protect his back-bench colleague from the ridicule of the opposition, but it has been taken up elsewhere as some kind of acknowledgment that the Treasury got involved in the whole affair. That’s really not what he said at all:

Lord Sassoon: I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Myners. He had great trouble keeping a straight face. [This was true, but sets up Lord Myners as an irresponsible clown.] I have to say that I took extremely seriously my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath's suggestions that there were people who could help us out with our financial difficulty. [This fair drips with gravitas but doesn't actually suggest that he did anything more than nod earnestly while Lord James talked at him.] The noble Lord, Lord Myners, thinks it is all a joke. [Evil opposition! They don't care about the financial crisis! Broken Britain!] I have been in detailed discussions over the past number of weeks with the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath [but not anyone else], and of course we take seriously anyone who wants to invest in our economy [general, nebulous statement to contrast, once again, with frivolous opposition]. I know many people believe that there will be great opportunities in our infrastructure programme to invest in rebuilding our networks to underpin growth. [Standard boilerplate.] [Hansard]

Whatever the upshot of Lord James’s Foundation X adventure, it has already been neatly summed up for me. A couple of weeks ago I was telling a colleague’s daughter about all this. I had reached the part where Lord James is telling everyone that this mysterious organisation has offered to give Britain billions of pounds for free and they don’t want anything in return. She frowned and said, “That sounds really dodgy”. She is 11.

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