As we enter the final few days of the 2015 General Election campaign, the only real sense of the establishment parties getting a well-deserved kicking is with the SNP assault on Labour in Scotland. The fact of the matter is that the neoliberal establishment parties will still be forming the basis of our next government and nothing much will change. However appallingly they act, the British public seem reluctant to seek out radical change.
Sleaze has become the accepted norm it seems. We have had ‘cash-for-questions’ and we have had the MP’s expenses scandal. Plenty of those involved are still on the scene and there even MPs forced out by expenses scandals in 2009/10 that have the audacity to seek election again this time.
The big scandal in recent years (2013) came to light when a Tory MP and a bunch of peers were caught on camera taking cash from journalists posing as representatives of foreign companies. The Right Honourable Lord (Jack) Cunningham of Felling (pic>), Blair’s cabinet ‘enforcer’, was caught asking for a mere £12,000 per month – which I am sure he only wanted to support the food banks in his former constituency in Whitehaven, being a good Labour socialist!!
Cameron and Clegg were suitably horrified (by the indiscretion at least) and pledged to stamp out such corrupt parliamentary influence-peddling. And their first, and so far as I know only, target was? …….. Why, of course, the Trade Unions! They hastily created a register of lobbyists, allowing the policing of union membership lists, and also curbs on union spending on election campaigns . I somehow doubt Lord Fucking’em of Cunning has his Union membership paid up these days.
Cameron’s and Clegg’s cynicism has been breath-taking. The register has done absolutely nothing to to prevent most of the high level lobbying carrying on as before, as it only applies to lobbying firms (aka influence brokers). Those taken directly onto corporate payrolls remain exempt. So it may be a bit trickier for backbench sleaze balls – but the big guns will continue to lap up the cream.
Cameron, was of course, a former lobbyist himself, so he knows only too well how it all works. His election adviser is that well known “master of the dark political arts”, Lynton Crosby. As a prominent lobbyist for those nice corporations peddling tobacco, alcohol, oil and gas, he has ensured proposals for plain fag packets and minimum prices for alcohol have not got anywhere.
Conservative Party treasurer, former banker Peter Cruddas had to resign when he was exposed for selling access to Cameron in return for a party ‘donation’ of £250,000. Liam Fox quit after it was revealed he had obtained £157,000 from Tory donors purely to allow his chum Adam Werrity to hold his hand on global trips as Defence Secretary. And these are just the ones that we know about – the tip of an iceberg, no doubt.
But even all this doesn’t begin to cover the full extent of corporate influence. We have been rapidly learning (or been taught) about how it works by the masters of it all based in the USA. Read Chomsky’s ‘How the World Works‘ for a readable account. Over half of the Tories’ funds come from bankers and financiers. Six-figure donations routinely buy a government jobs. In fact, there is an ever growing merry-go-round of politicians, lobbyists, civil servants, bankers, corporate advisers all just swapping jobs. Thus business and Government interests become mutual and interchangeable.
A bit of googling and Wikipedia research quickly throws up some interesting examples:
- David Hartnett – was the head of tax at HMRC who let Starbucks and Vodafone avoid paying billions in tax. Moved to Deloittes accountants in the City, who work for …… Vodafone!
- Hector Sants – was head of the FSA, and thus in charge of regulating the banks. Left to join ……. Barclays!!
- Jeremy Heywood – moved from the Treasury to join Tony Blair’s office, from where he moved onto Morgan Stanley investment bakers, and then on to working for David Cameron.
- Tony Blair – rakes in at least £20m a year from banks and dodgy governments. The ultimate champagne socialist!
All just choice examples of common place practices. There is a constant flow of people between the big auditing firms and government. How else are they to devise new loopholes for the big corporations quicker than we can close them? Government regulators often become the prized assets of the corporations they used to regulate. There are plenty of ex-military and defence ministry people making good money from arms companies. Politicians, civil servants and intelligence officers often have portfolios of lucrative directorships to ease them towards their dotage.
In this context, the inexorable march of privatisation in our public services is assured. Let’s not forget, Labour lambasted John Major for introducing some piffling PFI contracts to the Civil Service, but it was Labour who embraced it and introduced it to the NHS. It has proven to be more expensive, less accountable and have lower standards, yet with 142 (cross-party) peers in the Lords involved with private healthcare companies, the 2012 Health Bill heralded a new round of outsourcing.
As with the US, corporate and financial power have usurped government power. It is patently obvious that things cannot change with any of the Con/Lab/Lib collaborators in government. Radical alternatives are on offer from the Green Party and others.
We can ban ministers and civil servants working for private companies. We can reverse the tide of privatisation. We can implement a redistribution of income that caps executive pay. We can bring manufacturing back to the skilled hands of people in this country, rather have an economy built on the sands of financial wheeling and dealing. We can, but there is, sad to say, negligible chance of it starting next week.