As a decade of depravity draws to a close, the guilty men are not being brought to justice. The only way to change things forever is to stop the flow of monied influence into politics.
It’s been a helluva week, but when you think about it, it’s been an eye-opener of a decade. The sixteen paragraphs below are a potted and somewhat over-simplified summary of life since around 2002, but even allowing for simplification, it makes for wince-inducing, head-shaking stuff.
Advised by a media mogul often referred to as “the 21st Cabinet member” to get stuck into the threat of Islamism, Prime Minister Tony Blair concocted a case for war against Iraq, lied about it to Parliament, and had his press secretary Alistair Campbell rig the dossier in favour of war. Blair also ignored the negative legal advice (with the full knowledge of Jack Straw) and went into alliance with a chimp of a President out to avenge his Dad and do the oil sector’s bidding. A civil servant who blew the whistle on this was hounded and smeared by Campbell, and wound up dead in short order.
Soon afterwards, Blair perverted the course of justice by ordering the police (an apolitical branch of the Constitution) to stop investigating Arab bungs in return for selling weapons and fighter jets to the Middle East. Tony would’ve tried to stay on in Downing Street forever, but he was blackmailed out of the job by Gordon Brown in murky circumstances that have never been fully explained. While planning an early election and denying any intention of having one, Brown heard that Northern Rock was going under. It would’ve been easy to protect the investors and dump and/or sell off the bank, but as three Labour constituencies surrounded it, Brown ordered it nationalised. The only exception to this was the plum bit of the mortgage book, which was brokered on to JP Morgan by its new consultant….Tony Blair. During his period as Chancellor under Blair, Brown mysteriously sold most of Britain’s gold very cheaply. This was to help bail out failing international banks who had made bad bets on the gold price. Britain lost its inheritance, and so Brown got into bed with the bankers, but got nothing in return for it.
While all this was unfolding, Britain’s press media were illegally tapping mobile phones, blagging into vital emails, bribing the Metropolitan Police, and getting deals from Labour in return for a good press. The Sun, the Daily Mail, the News of the World, The Mirror and umpteen others were at celebrity voice-mail on mobiles from about 2002 inwards. The practice was common knowledge, first surfaced in 2006, and became a national scandal three years later. A decade on, not one member of any newspaper’s management has gone to jail.
Just before that scandal reared its hobgoblin head, it became clear via documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph that some two-thirds of Westminster MPs were fiddling their expenses bigtime. Much hoo-haa and demands for an enquiry resulted in just three MPs being arrested, and two going to jail. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, a much bigger heist was taking place, as some 15-20,000 senior local and Whitehall mandarins bumped up their pension entitlements without any scrutiny by Parliament. MPs simply will not talk about this, although the figures are there for all to see, and dwarf the MP embezzlements 200-fold. Fully one third of the UK’s national debt obligations in 2012 relate to these completely illegally obtained Civil Service emoluments.
These same civil servants went on to choose G4S, and pay them ten times more than the original quote given by the Olympic Games security company. The commissioning shell Locog consisted of some experts, and a lot of other very odd appointments; as a whole, its commercial naivety was staggering – as was the case in the Private Finance Initiative under Brown, which cost taxpayers £55bn and left them with a heap of shoddy hospitals and a further National-Debt fuelling credit bill. (Gordon simply moved the amount off balance sheet and forgot about it: had he been the CFD of a plc, he wouldv’e gone to jail. Maybe).
In the seven years since London was chosen as the Olympics 2012 venue, the budget has almost trebled. It is now at a level only £2bn short of the entire austerity savings effected by George Osborne since he became Chancellor in May 2010. But George’s savings are dwarfed by the £103bn (and counting) that Bank of England Governor has thrown at bank liquidity – to zero effect – over the same period. This in turn is completely dwarfed by the £1.16bn of write-off and liabilities accruing from the 2008-9 Bank bailouts and unwise merger cockups.
Those bailouts were needed because of insane gambling by the banks, undertaken in the knowledge that the taxpayer would make good any losses while senior staff at the investment banks paid themselves seven and eight figure bonuses. During this period in both the US and the UK, small businesses were starved of money but costly multinational mergers were underwritten with ease. When they realised how easy it was to massage the Libor rate, multinational banks exploited it criminally to make vast profits. When it was obvious their casino-days were numbered, they lowered the rate to save themselves, with the connivance of central banks. This week Paul Tucker, the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor, denied any knowledge of it, just as the outgoing Barclays CEO had done the week before. They were lying, and yesterday the Geithner New York Fed papers proved it. These newly-released documents are now implicating most of the political classes and central banks on the planet.
To counter the banking crisis and cut debt, the political elites introduced zero interest rates (Zirp) that slashed the incomes of retired people throughout the West, doing so solely to allow the banks access to cheap money. This was also used by large multinationals along with QE (from our taxes) to create bumper paper profits for those companies, and so keep the stock markets high – that is, rig them in what should have become a massive Bear market. They also persistently capped and sold gold to defend the stock markets by heading it off as a safe haven. When they stopped doing so for a year after Obama’s election, the gold price rocketed past $1800 an oz. The gold price is now falling, despite record prices being paid for gold coins, and bullion only being sold to punters in rationed amounts. Several EU countries have passed laws to enable them quickly to make all gold purchasing illegal.
When Obama claimed “Yes we can!” in 2008, the chances are he meant that we can do WTF we like and get away with it. Two years later, David Cameron’s coalition came to power in the UK, and promised that the NHS would be safe in its hands. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley then immediately embarked on a policy of obvious hospital funding starvation in readiness for The Big Sell-off. The South London Trust went bust two weeks ago: Lansley’s plan is working rather well, and the only losers are those who are ill and old and unable to afford private care.
Before this, New Labour’s obsession with surface gloss saw them throw billions at a digital comms network for the NHS. Called Connecting for Health, it has never connected anyone to anything. The Government claimed a £12.4bn write-off, but this too is a lie: the actual amount was closer to £23 bn…I know, because I have seen the Treasury tabulations.
But the one thing enabling Lansley to quietly get on with the job of dismantling the Health Service was the explosion of Hackgate onto the scene, and the growing awareness that Camerlot had completely sold out to Murdoch. For nearly a year, every day brought new allegations and increasing mountains of evidence to show that the PM’s own press secretary had been centrally involved in it, that his security clearance had been a shambles, that Rebekah Brooks (a senior Newscorp manager) was more or less telling Cameron who to hire, that while supposedly investigating Newscorp for wrongdoing, the Met Police’s senior brass had been dining with senior Newscorp staff almost every week, that policemen were being routinely bribed in return for rival-scooping information, and that the entire Murdoch family – plus Number Ten itself – had almost certainly known about it. It had been, almost literally, a coup d’etat in which power temporarily drifted away from Parliament to Wapping-by-Scotland Yard.
In the midst of this, Business Secretary Vince Cable (a known enemy of Murdoch’s desire to buy the rest of BSkyB) was illegally recorded by journalists and then gleefully fired by David Cameron…..to be replaced by a known Newscorp fan and business associate in the educational sector, Jeremy Hunt. Hunt went on to lie to Parliament about his relationship with Newscorp, and obviously work hard to get the bid approved. A week after Cameron condemned tax-avoidance, Hunt was found to have avoided £100,000 worth the previous year. He stayed in his job. Shortly after George Osborne criticised closed-shop quangos, Hunt was revealed to have made his fortune by supplying just such a quango in very smelly circumstances. He stayed in his job. The Prime Minister declared that Hunt had shown no favour to Murdoch, but by this time public disgust with Newscorp had canned the deal anyway. Jeremy Hunt is still in his job.
As Hackgate rumbled on, however, the Labour Party predictably turned a blind-eye to the previous activities of the Mirror in general and Piers Morgan in particular. Attention was now turned by Labour leader Ed Miliband towards the Libor banking scandal. He did so because the involvement of very senior Tories and their supporters in it was quite mind-boggling – even to the extent of infecting the Treasury Select Committee, which heaped disdain upon Bob Diamond – although one of their number at leatst. Michael Fallon, is a Libor broker, and must have known about rate-rigging for years.
Miliband may regret his eagerness for this fight, because his former boss and mentor Gordon Brown was also clearly inolved at some point, as were two of his senior advisors. But even as everyone tried to call the scandal a British Barclays event, it was obvious that Euribor had also been fixed during 2009-10, that another company Iswap was rigging the interbank derivatives rate on both sides of the Pond, and that Geithner had warned the Bank of England about crooked fixes in 2008. In fact, the BoE’s senior men had known about it since 2005 at the latest. As this last week proceeded, Thomas Pascoe in the Daily Telegraph confirmed the suspicions held by many financial writers for years: that the Gold market too was a sham.
Yet all this may yet be overshadowed by events in the EU. We now know that at least three ClubMed countries did shady deals with France and Germany to get a eurozone memership they clearly didn’t deserve; that Germany traded corruptly with Greece for years; that without being strongarmed into munitions deals with Germany and France, Greece would be more solvent than they are; that at last three French and two German banks are disastrously exposed to ClubMed debt; that the US tried to get Greece amputated in order to create ‘a firewall’, but that the Germans scuttled it – seeing what the Americans really wanted: military bases in, and the raw materials of, Greece; that Goldman Sachs illegally taught the Greeks how to lie to Brussels and thus borrow more money; that Mario Draghi illegally subordinated the Greek bondholders, and created the Greek ‘bailout’ from worthless paper; that Britain will wind up having to cough up yet more to help a currency it said from the outset was doomed; that the ECB has been rigging the bond markets by buying sovereign and bank debt; and that David Cameron’s supposed veto last December was a pointless bit of showboating that backfired almost immediately.
During this three year saga of mincing incompetence, the Brussels autocrats have ignored every election result they didn’t like, made the EU Parliament more of an irrelevance with every year, created a small unelected cabal to push forward a disastrous politico-fiscal Union, and illegally tried to influence the electoral processes of three EU members – Ireland, France and Greece. But still David Cameron shows no inclination at all to move away from an EU whose membership costs us around £80bn per annum, and within which we are now doomed to be second class citizens – if it survives, which remains very doubtful. The PM in fact has spent more time trying to appease his useless and truculent Coalition partner Nick Clegg, whose Lords Reform Bill is a dog’s dinner of no constitutional use whatsoever, and in which barely a single elector is interested.
What this history represents is a cavalcade of fraud. The police, the media, every major financial market on Earth, MPs, bankers private and central, sporting organisations, security companies, senior Civil Servants, most of our media, and a large proportion of the UK Cabinet are utterly covered in the malodorous filth that results from swimming without remorse in a veritable Olympic pool of sleazy mire.
This decade of depravity has ended – as such eras always do – in what I have called elsewhere the new Decade of Denouement. Gradually, we are all – left, right, apolitical and radical – discovering that almost everyone in a position of power wants to exploit that power in a venal manner, but evade the responsibility for doing so. But a coming age of media (especially internet) revelation will achieve nothing if we cannot rely on Judicial, police and political systems to bring the guilty to book.
For many years now I have argued that the most important equality of all is Equality before the Law. In fact, all other liberties and forms of fairness stem from that.
What this last decade has shown beyond any reasonable doubt is that the Rule of Law in Britain and the US (and in most EU States) will be suspended for those of influence – unless the Establishment chooses for Machiavellian reasons to throw one of its own to the wolves. The obvious impunity of its membership is evident in the continuing apathy shown by the West’s fame-obsessed electorates, and the consequently brazen manner in which the influential simply walk away from enquiries, feeling hard done by because they have lost a bonus or been forced to resign. It never occurs to the likes of James Murdoch, Piers Morgan, Bob Diamond, Lord Mandelson, Paul Tucker, Hank Paulson, Christine Lagarde, Tony Blair, Freddie Goodwin, or Michael Spencer that they might wind up in jail. Jail – me? No mate, jail’s for rioters and welfare cheats and the like. It’s not for me. Oh no. On discovering she would be put on trial, Rebekah Brook’s outburst outside the Courtroom was a gem of shocked aggression aimed at those with the audacity to accuse her of something criminal.
Two years ago a mentor and friend suggested a website idea to me called Trial by Internet. It was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to some extent, based on a revival of the old News of the World chestnut-headline, “We name the Guilty Men”. In 2012, you can name as many guilty folks as you like, the chances are there will be shown to be guilty, but never found guilty.
The central importance of this is lost on David Cameron (and most of Camerlot, actually). They come from the unearned privilege of an archaic class system that lauds the leg up and the funny handshake. But it is lost on the Opposition too, who would very gladly return the Trade Union movement to its former position above the law if it suited their book. Miliband’s rejection of Union funding for the long-term is a shrewd move based on the simple reality that, within a few years, the TUC will be neutered bordering on extinct. As we saw the last time they were in office, nobody apart from Clare Short gave a moment’s thought to the obscene degree of influence handed to Rupert Murdoch in return for a good press and a shedload of money.
From the start of The Slog three years ago, the same words have continued to crop up as the things we most need to get rid of: unaccountability, privilege, graft, lobbying, realism, radical reform of our Constitutional norms, Friedmanite globalism, State ownership, and unpunished Establishment crime. The last ten years have shown to anyone with two eyes and a brain that our current political system will never get rid of them. It’s why I long ago eschewed the idea of forming a political movement. The sole windows on the world of wide-boys left available to us now are the media in general, but above all those parts of the Internet still uncontrolled by politicians and moguls. And the only people we can make uncomfortable enough to ensure change takes place are those in business.
Unlike the political classes, they must sell in large quantities and avoid infamy to survive. Dissuading them from giving money to politicians is, to my mind, the best way to destabilise the major Parties and achieve real, root-and-branch reform. I recognise that most people either don’t know what I’m on about or think me completely wrong, but I really don’t care: for the foreseeable future, monied power will be the most pervasive and perverting force in our culture. Stop the flow of it towards Whitehall and Westminster, and you change the whole game overnight.