A former minister in the last [British] government, Lord Green, ran HSBC while it engaged in money laundering for drugs gangs, systematic tax evasion and the provision of services to Saudi and Bangladeshi banks linked to the financing of terrorists. Sometimes the UK looks to me like an ever-so-civilised mafia state.
At next month’s Conservative party conference, corporate executives will pay £2,500 to sit with a minister. Doubtless, because we are assured that there is no link between funding and policy, they will spend the day discussing the weather and the films they have seen. If we noticed such arrangements overseas, we might be inclined to regard them as corruption. But that can’t be the case here, not least because the invitation explains that “fees associated with business day & dinner are considered a commercial transaction and therefore do not constitute a political donation.”
The government also insists that there is no link between political donations and seats in the House of Lords. But a study by researchers at Oxford University found that the probability of so many major donors arriving there by chance is 1.36 x 10-38: roughly “equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot 5 times in a row”. Why does the Lords remain unreformed? Because it permits plutocratic power to override democracy. Both rich and poor are kept in their place.
Governed either by or on behalf of the people who fleece us, we cannot be surprised to discover that all public services are being re-engineered for the benefit of private capital. Nor should we be surprised when governments help to negotiate, without public consent, treaties such as TTIP and CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), which undermine the sovereignty of both parliament and the law. Aesop’s observation that “we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office” remains true in spirit, though hanging has been replaced by community payback.
Wherever you sniff in British public life, something stinks: I could fill this newspaper with examples. But, while every pore oozes corruption, our task, we are told, is merely to trim the nails of the body politic.
To fail to confront this system is to collaborate with it. Who on the left would wish to stand on the sidelines as this carve-up continues? Who would vote for anything but sweeping change?