Yesterday, Radio 4’s Today programme told its listeners that David Cameron was going to urge the leaders at the G7 beano summit that they must do more to stamp out corruption. The FIFA corruption scandal seems to have acted as a spur for him to cast himself as the world’s anti-corruption champion. As we all know, this is all an act with Dave, the flim-flam man. Look, the guy wants to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a cheap imitation. Doesn’t that seem like an excuse to further legitimize other forms of corruption?
It’s tempting to think that corruption is the sort of thing that only happens in other countries like Egypt, Zimbabwe and Guatemala, where human rights abuses are an everyday occurrence. Corruption goes against the British ‘sense of fair play’. It simply isn’t cricket. After all, we’re told by mainstream politicians and our [less than] free press that Britain, unlike some other countries, has something called ‘the rule of law’. And that makes everything just peachy and kopesetic. I mean, so what if free speech isn’t enshrined in statute or The Daily Mail traduces your name on its pages? You can always sue them for libel. Can’t you? Well, the best you can hope for is some mealy-mouthed apology buried on page 45. That’s it. Only those with substantial sums of money can sue someone for defamation in this country. That’s how satirists in this country are silenced. Not through violence and intimidation but through the courts. It’s the rule of law. It’s so terribly English. No one cracked George Cruikshank’s skull for painting immoral caricatures of the George VI, he was given a hundred nicker and told never to do it again. So civilized.
People will often say that politicians are corrupt. I wouldn’t go that far. However I would say that some politicians are certainly corrupt and that Tory governments, in particular, tend to abuse their power. Remember, this is the party that abolished the metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council because the people didn’t vote the way they wanted them to. Now apparently unrestrained by the Liberal Democrats, the Toerags want to impose a 50% turnout threshold on strike ballots with 40% of eligible members supporting strike action. This is from a party, when it was in coalition, that allowed many Police and Crime Commissioners to be elected to office on an overall national turnout of 15.1%. Dude, where’s your mandate?
The present Tory regime intends to redraw the electoral boundaries because it claims that it’s fair (sic). Their chief complaint is that the electoral boundaries “work against” them. Yet, they managed to win in the 1980s with more or less the same electoral boundaries, albeit with some modifications. There were no complaints back then. So what’s changed? Nothing. They want all the power. They will not stop until they have created a one-party state modelled along the lines of Pinochet-era Chile. Any change in the electoral boundaries will be categorically unfair, since such changes will effectively ensure the Tories hold power indefinitely. Redrawing electoral boundaries without including the necessary reform to the antiquated voting system amounts to little more than gerrymandering. But the Tóraís also want to reduce the number of Commons seats from 650 to 600. Guess which constituencies won’t disappear? Uh huh. Not many Tory seats. Remember this is the party that benefited from the Rotten Boroughs. Therefore the very idea of playing fairly and according the rules (as opposed to the rules they’ve rigged or reinterpreted) is alien to them. It’s like a foreign lingo.
Consider also the change in the voting rules the took place under the Coalition regime: around one million voters (many of them students) were simply erased from the electoral registers, ostensibly in a move to prevent voting fraud. This had the intended or unintended effect (depending upon your perspective) of helping to provide the Tories with an admittedly slender majority. It was a victory that apparently had surprised them as much as those of us hoping for something better than five more years of cuts and wanton cruelty. Would you like another shit sandwich, sir/madam?
Corruption in Britain isn’t confined to governments and political parties. Consider the close relationship between the state and private capital. Britain’s privatized railways are an instructive example of a form of licensed corporate corruption, and the government will bend over backwards to keep them sweet. According to Channel 4’s Dispatches, the train operating companies are legally permitted to bend the rules of time (and possibly physics) to avoid claims for compensation. There are apparently two different timetables: one is called the public timetable to which the public has access, and there’s the working timetables that the train companies use. If this sounds confusing, then you should have look at the fares: it is often more expensive to buy a ticket from a machine than a ticket office and even if you purchase a ticket from a ticket office, you may not get the cheapest deal. Split-ticketing in another peculiarity of the privatized system. Buying singles in stages to your destination is sometimes cheaper than buying a single or a return, but booking offices often keep this secret. The Dispatches documentary is worth watching. Just click on this link. Sadly, you may have to register to watch it (available for 26 days).
Corruption, far from being something that happens in other countries, is alive and well in the United Kingdom. Sustained and protected by the law and the institutions of the state, corruption perverts democracy and impedes justice. Corruption is what allowed Jimmy Savile and his gang groom and rape children with impunity. Corruption is what allows privatized companies to slip out of their obligations to provide a service. Corruption is the glue that holds the union together and keeps the people subjugated.
So Dave, before you lecture others on the subject of corruption, how about you deal with it closer to home?