The Stew of Corruption 481

British democracy has lost its meaning. The political and economic system has come to serve the interests of a tiny elite, vastly wealthier than the run of the population, operating through corporate control. The state itself exists to serve the interests of these corporations, guided by a political class largely devoid of ideological belief and preoccupied with building their own careers and securing their own finances.

A bloated state sector is abused and mikled by a new class of massively overpaid public secotr managers in every area of public provision – university, school and hospital administration, all executive branches of local government, housing associations and other arms length bodies. All provide high six figure salaries to those at the top of a bloated bureaucratic establishment. The “left”, insofar as it exists, represents only these state sector vested interests.

These people decide where the cuts fall, and they will not fall where they should – on them. They will fall largely on the services ordinary people need.

Meanwhile we are not all in this together. The Vodafone saga only lifts the lid for the merest peek at the way the corporate sector avoids paying its share, hiding behind Luxembourg or Cayman tax loopholes and conflicts between international jurisdictions – with which our well provided politicians are very happy. The often excellent Sunny Hundal provides a calm analysis of the Vodafone case here:

Let me tell you something else about Vodafone. Vodafone took over Ghana Telecom three years ago. They paid an astonishingly low price for it – 1.2 billion dollars, which is less than the value of just the real estate GT owned. The value of the business was much higher than that, and there was a substantively higher opening bid from France Telecom.

The extraordinary thing was the enormous pressure which the British government put on Ghana to sell this valuable asset to Vodafone so cheaply. High Commissioner Nick Westcott and Deputy High Commissioner Menna Rawlings were both actively involved, with FCO minister Lord Malloch Brown pressurising President Kuffour directly, with all the weight of DFID’s substantial annual subvention to Ghana behind him.

What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?

And why exactly was it a major British interest that Vodafone – whose Board meets in Germany and which pays its meagre taxes in Luxembourg – should get Ghana Telecom, as opposed to France Telecom or another company? Was privatisation at this time the best thing for Ghana at all?

This Vodafone episode offers another little glimpse into the way that corporations like Vodafone twist politicians like Mark Malloch Brown around their little fingers. It mioght be interesting to look at his consultancies and commercial interests now he is out of office.

BAE is of course the example of this par excellence. Massive corruption and paying of bribes in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania end elsewhere, but prosecution was halted by Tony Blair “In the National Interest”. BAE of course was funnelling money straight into New Labour bagmen’s pockets, as well as offering positions to senior civil servants through the revolving door. Doubtless they are now doing the same for the Tories – perhaps even some Lib Dems.

It is therefore unsurprising the BAE were able to write themselves contracts for aircraft carriers which were impossible to cancel and that their New Labour acolytes were prepared to sign such contracts. It is, nonetheless, disgusting. Just as it is disgusting that there is no attempt whatever by the coaliton to query or remedy the situation. There is no contract in the UK which cannot be cancelled by primary legislation.

Meanwhile, bankers’ bonus season is upon us again and these facilitators of trade and manufacture are again set to award themselves tens of billions of pounds to swell the already huge bank accounts of a select few, whose lifestyle and continued employment is being subsidised by every single person in the UK with 8% of their income. This was because the system which rewards those bankers so vastly is fundamentally unsound and largely unnecessary. Money unlinked to trade or manufacture cannot create infinite value; that should have been known since the South Sea Bubble.

Yet even this most extreme example of government being used to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else, has not been enough to stir any substantial response from a stupoured, x-factored population, dreaming only of easy routes to personal riches, which they have a chance in a million of achieving.

Conventional politics appears to have become irretrievably part pf the malaise rather than offering any hope for a cure. But political activity outwith the mainstream is stifled by a bought media.

I see no hope.

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481 thoughts on “The Stew of Corruption

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  • Johan van Rooyen

    Very lucid! The only possible fix will be through a total collapse of the old system. Capitalism must die before there can be any hope. 😉

  • Sylvia

    I’m afraid you are correct, politicians are bought and sold and elections do not matter. Everything is for the elite and we are all doomed to go back to the master and servant era.

  • kathz

    I don’t think you should blame the electorate. Without political honesty in campaigning how can the voters act? see

    The government capacity to ignore public action, as with the demonstrations against the Iraq war, doesn’t help. And MPs are not always honest about constituents’ actions. I was fascinated to see that our new tory MP claimed that minimal protests about the privatisation of the post office meant voters were happy about it during the course of a parliamentary debate. Simultaneously she complained in the local paper about the avalanche of postcards she had received objecting to the proposals.

  • Davie Park

    What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?

    Same as it ever was.

    The UK will save us from exploitative globalisation doncha know.

  • Vronsky

    “I see no hope.”

    That’s my view – until I see someone else saying it, and then I want to disagree. Is hope really necessary? I’m sure the elite would want us to think so – to regard it as a sort of fuel with out which we can’t move. You can fight because you consider it necessary. Sun Tzu was too pragmatic – probably the unwinnable battles are the most important to join. Said Vaclav Havel:

    “Evil will remain with us, no one will ever eliminate human suffering, the political arena will always attract irresponsible and ambitious adventurers and charlatans. And man will not stop destroying the world. In this regard, I have no illusions. Neither I nor anyone else will ever win this war once and for all. At the very most, we can win a battle or two – and not even that is certain. Yet I still think it makes sense to wage this war persistently. This must be done on principle, because it is the right thing to do.”

  • Bumpkin

    Unfortunately the bankers are gambling on asset bubbles they create.

    It is time to purge the parasites.

  • Ishmael

    After 2nd paragraph, Stalinism, or Communism entered my mind.They don’t try and hide the contempt anymore, they did in the past.

  • Clark


    cultivate your hope. Avaaz have a campaign against corporate corruption and lobbying in the EU:

    and Greenpeace are making “adverts” like this:

    Human nature is the same mix as ever it was. The balance of power has swung towards the elite. They are pushing in that direction with all their might because they are scared. As they see the increasing problems in the monetary system, their response is to grab as much of that money as they can, apparently undeterred that unrestricted credit steadily diminishes the value of that money.

    Humanity has bigger problems than ever before, but also more powerful tools than ever before – it’s anyones guess as to how it’ll all play out. All we can do is try our best, and to me it seem that you always do that.

    Do nurture your hope Craig, because you help to support other people’s hope, including mine.

  • StefZ

    The majority of people in the West have had it relatively good in recent years and were bought off easily enough with some cheap tat and the illusion of rising asset values

    They have grown complacent

    There’s only one cure for complacency as far as I’m aware

    As far as hope is concerned, as long as you’ve been true to yourself and done the best that you can, sod it

  • StefZ

    or, to put it another way, does someone only do what they believe to be the Right Thing because they expect some chocolate biscuits and a pat on the back at the end of it?

    Or do they do it because they believe it is the Right Thing to do?

    People who rely on hope to get by run the risk of losing it

  • Ruth

    Craig, I can’t see why you say there’s no hope. You’re proactive. You run this brilliant blog which always appears to be under attack from the state. Your blog’s so important in educating and drawing people to discuss what’s going on so they can start to realise that the state doesn’t protect them and that their country is manipulated to appear as a democracy. Most probably people will do nothing about it until they suffer economic hardship. And then who knows what’ll happen.

  • Anonymous

    just a query, bet you wearnt moaning about your (bloated?)salary working for the foreign office in UZbekistan whilst you were in post?

    didnt think so, but I actually agree with your comments, however craig im against the ‘for profit’ and errosion of staff protections that comes from outsourcing.

    oh and if you are gonna outsource have the gumption to put in pace something like Mr Cameron said he was going to serioulsy look at taking this fordward…I say bollox

  • Ruth

    Scotland has just inceased state power over the population by giving judges the right to not even consider a reference from the SCCRC if it’s not in the interest of justice. Hence, the judges are being asked to judge themselves. If an appeal involves sensitive evidence such as the Lockerbie appeal the appellant is scuppered.

  • James Chater

    Bread and circuses. That’s how Nero kept the plebs tame and it is how our current masters keep us tame (cheap supermarket food, The Sun and TV). But what happens when the “bread” becomes impossibly expensive? Revolution? dictatorship? anarchy?

    I am afraid that, as things stand at the moment, people are not suffering enough for radical change to be possible. Hunger drove the French and Russian Revolutions; it will drive the next one. But will things be better as a result? In France and Russia they weren’t, at least not for several decades.

  • Dunc

    “The political and economic system has come to serve the interests of a tiny elite”

    You say that like it was ever any different. “British Democracy” was *always* principally about protecting the interests of a tiny elite against the rest of us.

    There was *never* any hope.

  • writerman

    Dear Craig,

    I must really get hold of the cocktail of meds you’re on. It reminds me of being strapped to the front of the Flying Scotsman on a wild ride from London to Glasgow at breakneck speed, as in the old black ‘n’ white film they used to show on the telly. Or seeing Planet of the Apes high on Purple Haze, oh, those were the days!

    Hope. Whatever happened to it? Hope springs eternal. It has to. That’s why we call it hope. Though one shouldn’t confuse it with Obama’s version. Which is really hype and being short-changed.

    Even though you’re a “Liberal” you’re a damn fine one, and not nearly as obtuse as most. In fact your intelligence and clear-sightedness are more of a blessing than a curse. Which is something. Which is a great deal in fact. You seem unable to look away from the truth when you see it, no matter what the consequences. This is both a rare, valuable, and profoundly dangerous quality. It usually has price. An extraordinarily high price. The price, or curse, of insight.

    I used to know lots of Liberals in the old days. They were mostly great fun, and on numerous issues far, far, better than Labour or the Conservatives. But then they had the luxury of virtually no real power. I especially liked the female members of the party who even at this distance still seem to glow in my memory as young women who were close to being Godesses. God, if only I could go back for just a weekend, and really savour the gifts that were given so freely by those wonderful, gorgeous, bright, and lovely girls. It seemed, at the time, surrounded by murk and gloom, something close to paradise.

    And this “interest” is probably what keeps me going still. The search and promise, the hope of finding and entering… paradise, here, on earth, just for a while.

    I’m probably even more of a romantic than you are.

    But back with a bump and a thud in the dreary real world, we have to understand that the State and the Market have merged to an extraordinary degree. Or perhaps, as I suspect, and see hard evidence for, it was always like this, only we never noticed.

    The concept of the Corporate State raises it’s hydra-like head here, and the snakes are speaking with forked tongues.

    I think we’ve entered the post-bourgeois, post-Liberal, post-democratic, era. This will have profound consequences. Especially for the middle class. Who for better and worse, defined this era to a large extent. Arguably this also means the end of the line for the emancipation of the working class too. One still, at least formally, has a vote, only without real representation, which kind of undermines the entire idea.

    The recent elections in the United States appear to support this view. If, by spending vast ammounts of money, at a ratio of perhaps ten to one, it’s possible for the newly energized Republican Party to effectively “buy” an election, or at the least, influence the result in their favour, then what has happened to Democracy and free and fair elections?

    And this parody of Democracy, which was condemned in Athens and Rome when they had elections, is incredibly dangerous. It means that the masses can be bought by the corporations to further their narrow interests at the expense of everyone else.

    The democratic system is being successfully manipulated, and the voters are voting, whether they realize it or not, to dismantle democracy, repalcing it with a form of neo-fuedalism, which is where, I fear, we are heading.

  • somebody

    Tinkering with one of the (s)tinkers.

    Phil Woolas immigration leaflets case: high court orders election rerun in Oldham East

    Specially convened election court heard that Labour MP stirred up racial tensions in successful attempt to retain his seat

    Polly Curtis, Whitehall correspondent, Friday 5 November 2010 11.38 GMT

    Labour’s shadow immigration minister, Phil Woolas, was today ejected from parliament after a court ruled he had breached election laws by making false statements claiming his Liberal Democrat opponent had “wooed” extremist Muslims in the run-up to the 6 May poll.

    For the first time in 99 years a specially convened election court has overturned the result of a parliamentary poll and ordered a rerun after two high court judges ruled the result of the Oldham East poll void. They upheld the claim by Elwyn Watkins that Woolas knowingly made false statements.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    We have an opportunity to break the cycle of corruption. The tools are in place – Twitter – Facebook – Wkileaks – Blogs.

    No lucid commentaries or exotic words or wanting or hope will suffice to initiate the rebirth of purgation. Geopolitics is waiting to collapse, the executioners are poised to roll the deceivers into the baskets of absolution.

    The finger that pushes the first domino is YOUR finger, connected to YOUR eyes, YOUR brain and YOUR mind.

    The false-flags, the infiltration, the lies, the deceit, the cover-ups, the baptism of 911 and 7/7, the torture, the shock & awe, the WMD, the assassinations the illegal war, the murder of civilians, the massacre of children – how much does it take for your push, how much does it take to support the initial ground-work for this action by truth-seekers, scientists, preachers, janitors, house-wives and the bereaved.


    Get involved or shut-up!

  • angrysoba

    “We have an opportunity to break the cycle of corruption. The tools are in place – Twitter – Facebook – Wkileaks – Blogs.”

    I thought Twitter was set up to undermine Bwilliant Wadical Wegime in Iwan!

    And the rest were all Zionists!

  • Tom Welsh

    “What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?”

    That is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana.

    You weren’t under the illusion that national governments give “aid” to other countries to help those other countries, were you? Apart from anything else, that would be betraying their own citizens who elected them to increase (or at least maintain) their standards of living.

  • anon

    somebody –

    Our so-called democracy is an illusion. It probably always has been.

    ….every fucking democracy is an illusion….there can be no such thing

  • angrysoba

    “….every fucking democracy is an illusion….there can be no such thing”


  • MJ

    “You weren’t under the illusion that national governments give “aid” to other countries to help those other countries, were you?”

    Yes. The uses to which the DFID budget is actually put is truly scandalous. It is essentially a slush fund used to assist large corporations engineer very beneficial contracts in under-developed countries.

    No wonder the DFID’s budget hasn’t been cut.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Societies by their definition need leadership and thus leaders. Some of us are richer and thus have more influence over the course of actions that are to be undertaken. Elites have existed in any kinds of society. Even Lenin understood that he was wrong when he stated that ‘scullery maid could lead the nation’. This ended up in formation of new soviet elite (educated, cruel and with will to more power).

    I also agree with someone here who said that democracy was never a reality. Society need leadership and yet again there will always be someone who has more power and more influence than the other. This is natural to all of us humans, and societies that we have established.

    The disbalance here is that quantitative majority of us are at the same time qualitative minority when it comes to a decision making, that by definitions affects more of us because we are larger in quantity. This allows government increase taxes, tuition fees, cut benefits and funding for those who need it (that affect most of us) and at the same time spend billions on supporting of financial services and allow richest people to dodge taxes (this is beneficial for minority). The aim should be to turn us to a majority when it comes to a decision making. How to do this in a real world is very difficult question.

  • Anonymous

    “….every fucking democracy is an illusion….there can be no such thing”


    Such cutting debate…

  • MJ

    “Most probably people will do nothing about it until they suffer economic hardship. And then who knows what’ll happen”.

    It is possible that the banks will come round for seconds. What measures has the government taken to ensure that a fiscal crash/trillion pound bail-out doesn’t happen again? None really.

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