Tuesday 8 May 2012

UK Politics: Public Servants, Lies and the Future is Corporate?

We understand that humans will potentially behave badly when they have power or are faced with being able to make a lot of money. So with this in mind, we as a society have demanded access to information that allows the public and the press to monitor our so-called public servants. The Freedom of Information Act as George Monbiot points out in his article in the Guardian today, is of no use when it comes to the corporations, who are holding the taxpayer to ransom, and the consumer in contempt.

As it stands Corporations hide behind ‘corporate confidentiality’, aided by a willing set of politicians who are happy to defend the deals they have created on behalf of their paymasters. This behaviour and protection should play no part in a transparent society, but then again, our MPs and Lords are not only representing the needs of the corporations over the public, they are the corporations. They sit on the boards, they are the directors, advisors and seats in government, they make the rules for themselves, and they then vote on these rules despite the conflicts of interest.

Our politics is broken, 60% of our ecosystems are degraded, deregulation and greed is taking us to the brink, surveillance is everywhere, police monitor protesters who are legitimately using their right to protest, feeding information to the corporations who are being targeted; and create blacklists preventing politically involved people from getting jobs. We have seen how corrupt they are, taking payments from Murdoch’s hacks, and occasionally getting away with murder. All this happening without a privatised force, what will they be like once they are owned by a corporation? This frightening handing over of our services to corporations is increasingly in every area of our lives, our schools, energy, health, roads, water, housing, government, and it appears there is no limit to their greed.

What have the corporations actually given us? Name a public utility privatisation that has benefited the taxpayer and the consumer? The price of fuel is going through the roof, house prices are astronomical, trains are the most expensive in Europe, and so it goes on. In this regard I present a great quote by Arian Hamilton, formerly of the Institute of Economic affairs when writing in the Observer on January 2nd 1994 on the privatisation of British Gas.

‘Whatever else privatisation has done, it has done little for the consumer, at least in the case of the electricity and resource industries. The City has done well out of the sales of shares. The users have been bribed with the offer of cut-price shares. The management has been bought off with huge pay rises and substantial share options. (The present chairman of British Gas earns as much in a year as his predecessor did in his entire career of building up the industry)…Privatisation of British Gas has been a scandal. As a nationalised industry, it had converted the entire country to natural gas and revolutionized the energy scene. As a privatised company, it has done little more than sit back and reward itself and its advisers from the benefits of former investments and its dominant position.’

Society is falling into a deep dark hole and it will take a huge effort to reverse this malignant politics, spearheaded by corrupt, bigoted minds such as Francis Maude. What on Earth is someone like Maude, who wishes to eradicate the state provision of public services, doing in public office? Francis Maude like so many of our politicians are happy to take a wage paid for by us, reap the benefits of a good pension, and then do their utmost to destroy everything that has been built over the years. The idea that he is a public servant is laughable, and he should be treated as such by both us and the media.
One look through the MP and Lords register of interests highlights the sheer volume of corporate dominance in our politics. The staggering number of 142 Lords with financial interests in companies involved in private healthcare is evidence enough of who our parliamentarians represent. Take Margot James, who is seen on a video at a pharmaceutical conference saying: I keep saying ‘we’, but I’m not really part of the industry anymore, but I still feel it.’ This would explain why she was so keen to sit on the Health and Social Care bill committee in order to: ‘play a part in that debate and go on the committee to really iron out the details...’

How are we meant to trust them, when we watch Peter Cruddas offering access to the Prime Minister for £250,000 and he is allowed to resign rather than be placed under arrest, and investigated. It was remarkable that the Conservatives wheeled out Francis Maude to say the revelations were nothing more than: "embarrassing and wrong, and not true…That's not the way we do business and raise money, and we're very clear about that."

Why should the press accept anything he says as anything but a lie, fuelled by self-interests of his connections outside of parliament. Francis Maude who was a director a PR firm called Huntsworth, who are run by a Conservative Lord, called Lord Chadlington, who has donated money to Cameron as has his company. Why don’t the media with access to these interests challenge Maude’s authenticity when he speaks on such matters?

The list is endless. Cameron making Lord Popat a Peer after he donated money to the Conservative party,
Mark Simmonds, paid £50,000 a year to work just 10 hours a month as “strategic adviser” to Circle Health, George Osbourne who received donation through Conservative Campaign Headquarters to run his office from Julian Schild. Julian Schild’s family made £184million in 2006 by selling hospital bed-makers Huntleigh Technology. Andrew Lansley who accepted money from Care UK chairman John Nash to run his office.

They behave this way, because they are allowed to get away with it. The BBC utterly failed to challenge Andrew Lansley on his private healthcare links throughout the course of the Health and Social Care bill. In fact, aside from an article in 2008 highlighting the links between cabinet ministers and their private donations, their challenging of the Health Secretary was notable in its absence.

However the media can only accept some of the blame, we the public have not taken to the streets in the numbers required, the Unions have not called a strike to protect the NHS, and when Andrew Lansley was found to have cheated his expenses by selling his home after renovating it on taxpayers money, he was voted back in.

The latest vote however has clearly stated this coalition is not wanted, but what damage will they do before they are ousted. Will Labour, the likely beneficiaries, shed the skin of New Labour and turn away from a free market capitalist system that has caused so much damage to both our society and our environment? France has chosen socialism in times of austerity, do we have that option or is our Labour party still the same party that lied to us about the Iraq war, and continued the expansion of privatisation unabated?

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