The Strange Death of Corporatist Britain 125

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After the most intense bombardment of Tripoli yet, we are now deploying ground attack helicopters to intensify the fighting in Libya. Whether all this is really going to achieve the illegal objective of regime change is open to question. What is in no doubt is that it is killing people, and it is very expensive. In April 2011, UK net public sector borrowing exceeded £10 billion for the month – compared to £7.2 billion in April 2010 and a forecast of £6.5 billion. We are closing libraries and care for the disabled. Yet we still squander billions on neo-imperial folly.

The problem is that there is no opposition. The British political system has become an uncomplicated instrument of power for a united neo-conservative class. The Liberal Democrats have been neutered by Clegg and New Labour still seeks to attack from the populist right. Our established political system is not fit for purpose – it no longer provides a forum for the airing of views very widely held by disparate groups in society, and for the fair and agreed resolution of courses of action.

It has not always been like this. Even at the height of Britain’s formal Empire, major parts of one of Britain’s two main parties were actively and aggressively anti-Imperialist, and in the later Gladstonian period that included the leadership.

These aggressive wars are the most spectacular instance of the non-representation of important sections of public opinion. Involving less actual explosions and causing slower deaths, the banking bailout is a much deeper and more important example. No significant opposition was given to the lie that every single individual had to give tens of thousands of pounds to the banks to save us all from doom. As the payments are made over a lifetime – and multiplied many times in interest – the pain of realising that everyone was now vicariously paying off a very large mortgage on money somebody else has enjoyed, is only now starting to be felt. The vast mass of people did not realise what is happening, and did not do so because a united political class in the service of those taking the money from the people, conspired to mislead them and offered no alternative.

But the truth is that it will not last. A political system which has become as otiose as this one, which no longer reflects the interests of large masses of economically significant people, will eventually collpase. That process can take decades, and I am not sure how it will be replaced, nor that what replaces it will be better. But the current western liberal democratic model is looking bust. We need now to work on ideas which are both more libertarian and responsive to smaller communities which are closer to their people.

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125 thoughts on “The Strange Death of Corporatist Britain

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  • Anon

    Our politicians/rich peoples offshore bank accounts must not be taxed!….”The last official act of any government is to loot the nation.”

  • mary

    Spot on Craig. Your post is taken up on medialens. I wish those commenters would comment here, or perhaps they do under other names.

    The Strange Death of Corporatist Britain – pete f Today, 10:29 am
    The problem the media will not discuss – The Editors Today, 10:35 am
    Re: The problem the media will not discuss – Hidari Today, 10:38 am
    Re: The problem the media will not discuss – Keith-264 Today, 10:47 am
    Re: The problem the media will not discuss – pete f Today, 10:53 am

    There is also comment there on the orgasmic MSM reporting of Obomber’s visit, especially by the likes of Mardell on the BBC. He and his ilk carry the messages of the masters of the evil US and UK empires or em-pyres as I like to spell the word.

    PS Jon what are the odds for an acquittal for Harwood?

  • david

    Until we seperate our politics from European and American politics, especially in regard to over seas intervention then nothing will change. The UK a once proud nation is now nothing more than a puppet on a string. Makes me sick. Time to stop fighting wars that are not our concern and sort out domestic problems. But of course the last thing the government want is focus on domestic problems. Out of touch isnt even close to the state of our politics now. Our politicians are now not just out of touch, they are out of reach.

    And why the hell are we helping the french ? Maybe my history isnt great, but i dont remember them ever helping us. Let America fight its dirty little wars in the middle east, the french fight their equally dirty little wars in Africa and the UK start looking after its own interests for a change. It looks to me like fighting for oil has done nothing more than push the price of oil through the roof.. which of course makes the government happy with their dirty grubby little fingers snatching in tens of millions ( billions) in tax revenue, yet still cutting services that many people depend on.

    To top it all there is no alternative, we the people have no choice and no voice. If you let it, it will drive you insane with frustration.

  • Anon

    “It has not always been like this”
    It has really, its just a matter of degrees/scale.

  • Tom Welsh

    One of the best things you have ever written, Craig – indeed, one of the best things anyone has ever written. It’s very hard to find anyone with both the knowledge and the guts to say such things openly. (And, of course, it has to be someone who isn’t a member of the united political class!)

    The only part I am not sure about (sadly) is your optimistic conclusion. To my mind, the truly astonishing thing is that there is not more political unrest in the UK – along the lines of Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, and now even Spain. (Did you see Fidel Castro’s short piece on Counterpunch the other day speculating on whether NATO will now bomb Spain?)

    It seems that most British people have been so comprehensively brainwashed into thinking we live in a “democratic society” that they are quite incapable of imagining any change. After all, if the existing system is the best one possible, how can any improvement even be imagined?

  • douglas leighton

    A neat enough summary of where ‘we’ are. ( I wish I could define ‘we’).
    The depressing bit is that you mention decades and my personal view is that ‘we’ simply do not have decades. All options will be determined in the next five to ten years and for Britain, the position looks very bleak indeed.

    The simple truth is that ‘we’ do not have a credible political objectives.
    The majority are going along with the politically dominant mish-mash that has emerged post the Blair/Bush years. Calling it ‘neo-colonial’ is probably a compliment, for such a travesty of policy. Policy is being made up as they go along, to shroud the utter lack of vision and purpose of leadership. It is a default position of regression, in the absence of any real ideas.
    Bombing Libya is an act of desperation, not of policy.

    What is worrying is that it is becoming more and more clear that our leaders do not actually have a grasp of the issues. They are truly lightweight and their first instinct is to keep their moral inadequacy covered up.

    And the painful reality is that the people who have the intellectual powers to hold them up to the ridicule they deserve, are just not doing their job-partly because they are paid-off technocrats, or seduced by the media.

    The blogosphere is one area of hope, but it is mostly occupied by people who are aware of the problem but have no realistic way of articulating their concerns into coherent comment or political activity.
    It is a bit like the Tea Party without the party.

  • Tom Welsh

    Absolutely right, David! There is no possible reason why we should fight alongside either the Americans or the French. Indeed, we should NEVER fight unless our own existence or prosperity is seriously threatened.

    Remind me again – which British political party should I vote for, if I want our government to stop fighting illegal wars?

  • mark_golding

    You are ‘on a roll’ Craig – a beautifully composed and piecing comment that will cause ripples of intent through new media.


  • Paul Johnston

    Not sure that’s the right word!
    It is busy fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. Incidentally it is rather good at that.

  • Frazer

    Agreed. This is why I avoid permenant residence in the UK, I do not pay UK tax, nor do I pay the BBC for a TV licence. I have not voted in any election for over 20 years nor do I plan to in the future as I believe they are all as bad as one another. My bank accounts are offshore and away from the filthy grabbing paws of the taxman.
    I conciously spend less than 90 days a year in UK and when I am there, thoroughly enjoy walking around London giving the finger to every building mounted camera I can spot.
    I regard my British passport as a mere travel document of convenience and have little faith in the FCO rushing to my rescue if I am in the shit. When I am forced to register with a local Embassy, I get an e mail list of what they cannot do for me and a basic message that “you’r on your own mate”.
    I really do not wish to permenantly live in a country where I can be stabbed by a 14 year old, get the crap kicked out of me by the police just because I am on my way home and happen to pass too close to a demonstration, be arrested and held for days on terrorist charges just because I have a few dodgy country stamps in my passport.
    Britain today,fucking keep the place. Me, I’m retiring to SE Asia!!!

  • mary

    What’s all this about?
    Conservative peer Ashcroft gets defence review job Lord Ashcroft was made a peer in 2000
    Former Conservative deputy chairman and donor Lord Ashcroft is to act as a lead advisor on a government review of the UK’s military bases in Cyprus.
    More than 3,000 UK personnel are stationed in two bases, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, on the Mediterranean island.
    The study, due to be completed by the end of 2011, is part of the government’s strategic defence review.
    Lord Ashcroft was forced to reveal last year that he did not
    pay UK tax on his earnings outside Britain.

    Couldn’t Cameroon have found someone with a cleaner aheet?

  • Chezzy

    @ David

    British Establishment/Elite are right up there with the worst of the warmongers and have been since the days of Empire. They use the government and the media to facilitate wars of aggression for their own enrichment and power.

    Without constant media lies, deception and propaganda the vast majority of decent people in Britain, France or the U.S.A. would not support any war of aggression.

    @ Craig
    I agree that the present situation will not last as, just like with the super-injunctions, information technology now makes it harder for the Establishment to keep their dirty crimes a secret. More and more people every day are realising that they have been duped over the bank shareholder’s bailout; the official 9/11 story; “our complicity in torture; the 7/7 official bullshit; the original murderous sanctions on Iraq; the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; why we need to be killing all those Afghan civilians; the illegal war on Libya; “our” disgraceful support for the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians and the Lebanese; the clampdown on our liberties and freedom; the ludicrous version of Osama Bin Laden’s “assassination” and so on, and so on.

    We will need a revolution of our own to sweep aside the Establishment and their agents. Hopefully the British people will have the courage of those in the middle East and North Africa as the British Establishment will not go down without a bloody struggle.

    The “British bulldog spirit” is often used to describe the courage of the British people. However the analogy always makes me smile. The analogy is actually more accurate the deeper one thinks about it. The Master and owner(Elite/Establishment) of the bulldogs (the people), uses and abuses his dogs in terrible deadly battles against other dogs and animals for his own aggrandisement and enrichment. The exploited dogs take pride in doing their best for their masters and are willing to sacrifice their lives for his interests. All they require is a pat on the head and some scraps from the master’s table.

    Only when the bulldog realises that his real enemy is his master, can his “bulldog spirit” be used to set him free.

  • mark_golding

    Duped indeed Chezzy – but – ‘once bitten twice shy’ –

    Craig said, ‘The British political system has become an uncomplicated instrument of power for a united neo-conservative class.’

    I would also add ‘instrument of deceit’ – Soon we will hear of Gaddafi either being captured (to be lynched later like Saddam) or being killed and perhaps dumped into the sea, excuse my cynicism. Why? Because Gaddafi like Saddam knows too much – certainly for Mr Blair.

    ‘Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who overturned the miscarriage of justice convictions of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, has backed the call for a full inquiry into the Pan Am 103 debacle, and has directly criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in shoring up “layers and layers of deceit” in the case.’

  • mary

    Exchange between David Cromwell co-editor Medialens and Richard Norton-Taylor the author of the Guardian article linked to by Craig at the beginning of his post above about Apache helicopters being deployed to Libya. R.N-T, the ‘Security Affaaird Editor of the Guardian yet had not declared his interest in that he is member of the council of the Royal United Services Institute, a military think tank.

    See Lord Hutton of Dr Kelly fame is the Chairman!!


  • mary

    excuse typos.

    R.N-T is the ‘Security Affairs Editor’ of the Guardian yet he had not declared his interest……..

  • conjunction

    Thanks Craig, as ever for as other contributors have noted, exceptionally compelling and pentrative comments.

    I have to disagree with you on several important details however.

    I think it is unfair to blame only Clegg for the poor standing of the liberal democrats. Until very recently when they have started making vituperative noises, all the lib dems, especially
    Cable have lain down like lambs before the slaughter.

    Secondly Gladstone may not have liked imperialism, but when he did indulge in it – Khartoum – he cocked it up bigtime because he didn’t do it properly. The question is imperialism is a game that once started it has to be finished in a proper manner otherwise it comes back to haunt you.

    I agree with you about the political system seeming bankrupt. I don’t know the answer, but coincidentally or not it seems to me that this bankruptcy started to develop once the franchise became universal because all the politicians, from Disraeli onwards, realised that it was no longer sufficient to say what you thought, you had to also say what you thought the public wanted to hear.

    Most of all, however, I also agree that more important than any of this is our financial system, our meaning the planetary financial system.

    Its about regulation. What kind of regulation by government is appropriate? Left to its own devices the economic sector will always be destructive.

    • craig Post author

      Gladstone refused to send an army on time to aid Gordon as unlike Gordon he did not want to colonise Sudan. It was not that he did not do it properly – at all times Gladstone was firmly against colonising Sudan. What he did not do properly was the rescue of Gordon, but that was not exactly an error – he greatly resented Gordon’s attempt to blackmail him through public opinion into an occupation. Gordon (who was an employee of the Egyptian, not the British government) was ordered to evacuate numerous times.

  • KingofWelshNoir


    Or maybe the Taliban don’t really give a toss whether OBL was killed or not; have never given much of a damn about him; didn’t particularly want him in their jurisdiction in the years when he definitely was alive; and are now opportunistically expropriating the news of his death to suit their own purposes along the lines of my enemy’s enemy etc. I mean, is the word of a Taliban spokesman the best evidence we’ve got that the raid took place? If so, hand me my tinfoil deerstalker.

  • Vronsky

    “But the truth is that it will not last. ”
    – Craig Murray
    “But it is worth comparing the duration of the slave empires of antiquity with that of any modern state. Civilizations founded on slavery have lasted for such periods as four thousand years.”
    – George Orwell (Looking Back on the Spanish Civil War)
    I’ve pointed out before, perhaps here, that the present gang of ‘politicians’ are the best resourced in history – the most extensive surveillance, the most powerful and obedient military, a wholly-owned media, the most ruthless apparatus of state security. State oppression is now fully automated, a ‘lights-out’ factory. It’s not neocon rule, it’s silicon rule. This gang isn’t leaving anytime soon.

  • Phil

    Excellent piece, Craig.

    Clegg’s done his job – the Lib Dems are dead, changing the voting system is off the agenda, all threats to the Received Wisdom removed. As you say, there is no longer any representation

  • JimmyGiro

    Good post Mr Murray,
    My take is that Zanu-Labour spent its 13 years handing over all the parliamentary power it could to the civil service and the multitude of quangos.
    Simultaneously befuddling the voters with subversive levels of ‘political correctness’ and cynical neologisms, designed to cause people to lose sense of right and wrong, as their culture is redefined by ‘moral experts’. Coupled with the deliberate ‘uneducation’ of an entire generation in the public schools system.
    The result is no opposition, because their isn’t a real backdrop of morality in the populace any more, thus a ‘corrective political movement’ has neither compass nor popular purchase. It would be easier to catch smoke.
    When the KGB did this to a Nation, which fell into crisis, the Russians would swoop in to take total control. In Britain, we should not expect Soviet tanks to ‘liberate’ us, we shouldn’t expect the giant public sector, complete with police control, and armed traffic wardens, to assume the position either; even if the army is chasing wild geese in some benighted country, leaving us ripe for a takeover.
    The civil service take over, means we are run by them, yet they keep our parliament going as a Potemkin village of a democracy, to fool the masses that nothing is wrong; as Oxbridge millionaires play the game of debating… HEAR HEAR!
    So who is running the civil service? Since the last government were virtually all members of the Fabian society; and the biggest union of the civil service is Unite, I’m guessing that it’s these Marxist-Feminists that have taken over.
    I might be wrong.


    Dear Craig,

    I agree with everything you have said in this post. On the subject of opposition to Victorian wars consider the example of the great liberal MP and politician John Bright and his famous speech opposing the Crimean War in which he said that “the Angel of Death is abroad and come amongst us, one can almost hear the beating of his wings!” The House of Commons, where a majority supported the war, listened to Bright with attention and respect. There is no one of that stature around today and if there was he or she would be shouted down.

  • Greig

    Well, the credit agencies have been eyeing up UK banks today, in the wake of the latest deficit numbers.

    As to where this is all leading, in terms of a real political fissure – Scottish independence is beckoning, though will not happen properly unless the SNP get smart and inclusive, and quick. See this post today (including befuddling SNP comments on keeping the monarchy in an independent Scotland):

    Get ready, too, for UK, EU, US etc taxpayer’s money (USD 1 billion per year, the reports are saying) getting ‘deployed’ to Egypt and North Africa via the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This scenario is well and truly in motion now, with the EBRD set to step into a situation in Egypt – that has been caused by public anger towards neoliberalism and associated ills – with more neoliberal tools, eg privatisation of Egypt’s public utilities. More here:

  • its1789

    It’s not just a political crisis, that’s only the froth on the edge of the wave. We’re facing a deepening economic crisis as the system rushes up against the limits of the environment to support exponential economic growth within the boundaries of a planet of limited size.

    Recently a UN panel announced that by the middle of this century, with modest rates of economic growth, we’d be consuming around three times as much of the planet’s resources as we do today. Where exactly are we going to find the extra planets we’ll need to sustain limitless growth capitalism?

    So, clearly, we are facing a massive civilizational challenge or crisis, which makes our narrow ideological/political divisions seem rather quaint.

    May guess is that democracy is dead already and it’ll be replaced by a post-democratic order, as the consumerist model of capitalism collapses. Without mass consumerism and wealth what we capitalism look like? A new type of fuedalism as the super-rich move back into their castles protected by their men-at-arms, and leave the peasantry to fend for themselves.

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