Posts Tagged ‘Directorships’

Observer Unveils Launch of New ‘Centrist’, Corporatist Party

April 10, 2018

On Sunday, the Absurder covered the launch of a new ‘centrist’ party, which it was claimed would break the mould of British politics. And talking about it with Mike, I certainly got the impression that the party sounded very mouldy indeed. It has been launched with £50 million worth of funding, backed by businessmen and donors.

Yes, businessmen and donors. This looks to me like more continuity Blairism: claiming to represent the centre, while instead promoting the policies and business interests of the corporate elite. Just like Blair did in New Labour, when he gave government posts to a whole slew of businessmen in return for their cash and support. The party’s launch was also covered by the Mirror, which quoted two of the leading officials in the Labour party about it. One described it as ‘a party for the rich, by the rich, and with the rich’, which sounds very true, although it also describes the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites in Labour. Another leading member mocked the new party for having no members, no rule book and no ideology.

Well of course it doesn’t. It looks very much like Tony Blair trying to claw his way back into British politics. I don’t know if he’s behind this, but he certainly made murmurings about starting a new party. This party has been set up a party to appeal to the ‘centre ground’ he thinks are being alienated from Labour by the ‘far’ left Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Corbyn is centre left, and is actually becoming increasingly popular as the corporatist, Thatcherite policies pursued by Blair and the Tories before and after him are increasingly shown to be failing.

He also doesn’t seem to have learned that far from being attracted by corporatism, voters are actually repelled by it. Blair’s time in office was marked by numerous exposes of his rewarding greedy donors, as well as George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, which described how, under Blair and his predecessors, the British state had been made into the vehicle for the interests of big business. Like the supermarkets, led by New Labour donor David Sainsbury, amongst others. Far from this attracting voters, the Labour party actually lost them as Blair continued to ignore the party’s traditional base in the working and lower middle classes in order to appeal to ‘aspirational’ middle class voters.

And its lack of ideology is part of its Blairite nature. Blair too described New Labour as having left ideology behind, by which he meant socialism, and would use instead what worked. By which he meant private industry, which spectacularly hasn’t. It also appears that Blair believes that this new party will also borrow, or work with members of other parties where necessary or appropriate. Which is back to Blair’s ‘Government Of All the Talents’, which included leading Tories like Chris Patten.

So far from breaking the mould, this new party is simply more of the same from Blairism. It’s also highly debatable how different it is from the other, existing parties. The Tories are dominated by corporate interests, which they have been representing since the 19th century. So too are the Lib Dems under Vince Cable. Statistics gathered way back in 2012 or so showed that 77 per cent of MPs had one or more directorships. This is a major problem for those trying to get our elected representatives to work for ordinary people, rather than the corporate elite. The same problem is particularly acute in America, which is why Harvard University issued a report stating that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but an oligarchy. Once elected to office, American politicos follow the wishes of their corporate donors, not their constituents.

This new party isn’t going to reinvigorate democracy. It’s unnecessary, unwanted, and if anything a real danger to it by standing to give even more political power to business people as its members and donors. It looks less like a serious contender, and more like a vanity project by Blair, trying to show that the public still want him and his increasingly worn out policies.

Tony Crossland on the Oppressive British Class System

March 29, 2018

I found this devastatingly perceptive criticism of the British class system by Tony Crossland in 100 years of Fabian Socialism 1884-1984, edited by Deirdre Terrins and Philip Whitehead (London: Fabian Society 1984).

Class feeling, and general social malaise, still persist in England to a deplorable degree. The feeling among workers of an external and irreconcilable conflict between wages and profits, capital and labour: their feeling too of non-participation in the control of the firm for which they work, and so of non-responsibility for its well-being: the acute sense of class that goes with different accents: the knowledge that differentials in education mean differentials in opportunity – these are all signs that Britain still is, and feels itself to be, a class society.

The purpose of socialism is quite simply to eradicate this sense of class, and to create in its place a sense of common interest and equal status.

From ‘The Transition from Capitalism’, in New Fabian Essays, 1952.

The situation is arguably worse now than it was when he wrote in 1952. Despite successive governments’ push to get more young people into university, the result has not been greater social mobility for graduates, but the reverse. Young people with degrees are instead forced downward to take unskilled work, which in turn puts more pressure on less educated, unskilled workers, who really need these jobs.

Social mobility died under New Labour, and it has most definitely not revived under David Cameron and Tweezer. Rather the reverse. The gap between rich and poor is now greater than it has been in over a hundred years. And working people are most definitely denied any say in how their firms are run, through the decimation of the unions and the imposition of exploitative contracts, and the repeal of legislation protecting workers’ rights.

As for the class basis of the British parliament, which legislates in favour of the upper and upper middle classes, you only have to look at the stats which show that something like 77 per cent of MPs have at least one or more directorships. Dave Cameron’s administration was a cabinet of toffs. So is Theresa May’s, even though she opened one session with the statement that none of those present were members of ‘the elite’.

And so is the Tories’ current darling, young master Jacob Rees-Mogg, a very patrician aristo, who has voted consistently to take money away from the welfare state and the poor and disabled, while voting in tax cuts and subsidies for the rich like himself.

It’s time to stop this, vote out the Tories and the Blairites, and vote in Corbyn and a government which will actually do something for working people.

TYT’s Jimmy Dore Talks to Outreach Head of US Anti-Corporate Corruption Movement

August 1, 2016

In my last piece, I discussed Mike article on the publication of Martin Williams’ book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which reveals that British MPs currently hold 2,800 directorships in 2,450 or so companies, with a combined turnover of £220 billion and a workforce of £1.2m. Although there is no wrongdoing involved, 40 per cent of these directorships are not declared, 6 per cent only partially, and 3 per cent with major flaws. The potential for corruption is immense, leaving Mike to wonder what we can do about it.

In this video by The Young Turks’ Jimmy Dore, the comedian talks to David Cobb, a constitutional lawyer and outreach director of Move to Amend, a campaign group fighting the corporatist corruption of politics. They’re at the Free Speech Zone at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Corporate sponsorship of American politicians began in the 1970s, when a court judged that it constituted ‘free speech’, and so was protected by the US constitution. Since then it’s become a national scandal. Both the Republican and Democrat parties are dominated by corporate interests, particularly Shrillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate for the presidency. About a year or so ago, one Californian businessman was so revolted by the corruption, that he started the ‘California Is Not For Sale’ campaign to force politicians sponsored by companies to wear corporate logos on their jackets.

Cobb explains the difference between free speech, and the basis of the American Constitution in that the people govern themselves, and what they say cannot be dictated or affected by the state. But he also states that corporations are not ‘persons’ with the same rights as people under constitutional law. ‘Money’, he states firmly, ‘is property’, and that property can be used to purchase ‘microphones, amplifiers and distribution systems to drown out the rest of us’. He makes the point that for 150 years there was legislation banning corporate sponsorship because it was recognised that this would corrupt the democratic process. When Move to Amend introduced its motions – to remove the legal ruling that corporations are persons with constitutional rights, and remove corporate sponsorship from politics – in the last Congressional session it had three sponsors. This time, it had 22, including one Republican, from North Carolina.

Move to Amend was formed in 2010, it was 12 people in a living room. Now its 410,000 people and growing. 17 states have called for a constitutional amendment, and 600 communities have passed resolutions in their city councils supporting their resolutions. They’ve also been on 350 ballots by individuals, winning in each one. This is not just in liberal strongholds, but also in Conservative towns like Salt Lake City.

We badly need similar legislation like this in Britain to clean out the corporate corruption from our politics. Don’t expect it from the Blairites in the Labour party, though. As Peter Mandelson said, they were incredibly relaxed about getting rich, and notorious for the donations and sponsorships they received from business. And don’t expect it from the Tories either. Previous attempts to get business out of parliament has been shrugged off by the Tories on the grounds that the Conservative

    is

the party of business. David Cameron made a pretence of reforming lobbying, but it was designed to clean out lobbying by charities and other organisations, including trade unions, while leaving the big corporate lobbyists untouched.

Vox Political on New Book on MPs with Undeclared Directorships

August 1, 2016

Earlier today Mike put up a piece about a report in the Business Insider on a new book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics by journalist Martin Williams , which documents the number of MPs holding directorships, many of which are undeclared.

There are 1,450 MPs, comprising 650 members of the House of Commons and 800 Lords. Together, members of parliament hold nearly 2,800 active directorships in 2,465 companies, with revenues of £220 billion and a combined workforce of 1.2 million people. Williams estimates that roughly 40 per cent of these directorships are not declared in the register of members’ financial interests. A further 6 per cent are only partly declared, and another 3 per cent declared with major errors, such as the misspelling of company names.

The book makes the point that there is no evidence that any of the MPs have broken any rules. However, the book, with the help of London technology startup company Duedil, did reveal many directorships that are potentially controversial .

Mike makes the point that Martin Williams himself states that there is no need for MPs to declare their interest in companies, except where this may influence the way they vote or Lords speak. However, it is only through books like this that MPs’ commercial interests can be revealed. Mike also compares it to the work of the journalists, who have uncovered the massive electoral corruption committed by the Tories.

He also makes the point that it shows the massive potential for unchecked corruption in our political system that has gone on for far too long, and asks what can be done about it.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/01/politicians-hold-undeclared-directorships-in-firms-with-huge-profits/

I came across the book about a fortnight ago in the ‘New Books’ section of Waterstone’s in Cheltenham. The book’s blurb makes the point that these politicians aren’t working for us, and to think so is a grave mistake. In fact, such corruption has been a feature of the British political system for a very long time. A few months ago a put up a piece based on the book, Your MP, by ‘Gracchus’, published by Victor Gollancz in 1944. This was an expose of the corruption within the Tory party, and the way its members had collaborated or fraternised with the Nazis before the War, and had voted against liberal policies, such as the condemnation of Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia, and for the immediate implementation of the Beveridge Report and is recommendation for the new welfare state and NHS.

As for what can be done about it, there is now a mass movement in America demanding the complete removal of corporate sponsorship from politics. One Conservative Californian businessman put up a internet petition ‘California Is Not For Sale’ demanding that any politicians, who received donations from corporate sponsors for their campaign, should have to wear sponsorship logos on their jackets when they entered Congress. There is also the ‘Move to Amend’ campaign, headed by an American constitutional lawyer, that is demanding a repeal of the legislation permitting companies to sponsor politicians as constitutional free speech. I will be putting up a very short – just under 5 minute interview by the American comedian, Jimmy Dore – later this evening, which shows the amazing progress this campaign is making in the US.

We badly need measures like this over this side of the pond, to make our politics less corrupt, and our politicos genuinely answerable to the people, not to their shareholders or board chairmen.

Vox Political: Amazon Boss to Get DWP Directorship

February 4, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political today posted this piece from the Guardian, commenting on Margaret Hodge’s disgust at Amazon’s boss of Chinese operations getting a directorship at the DWP: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/04/amazon-bosss-dwp-appointment-is-disgusting-but-when-did-government-departments-start-having-directors/ In his comment, he asks a very pertinent question: since when did the DWP, or the Civil Service as a whole, start having directorships? Traditionally, the heads of the civil service were secretaries over various descriptions, undersecretaries, private secretaries, personal private secretaries, etc. Secretaries by the bushel, secretaries by the bucketful. But no directors. So, he asks, is this indication that the Gentleman Ranker, Ian ‘Snollygaster’ Duncan Smith, wants to privatise another section of the DWP, or indeed the whole government department?

It’s a good question. IDS – just one vowel away from ‘AIDS’, and nearly as poisonous – and the rest of the Tories really do seem to think that privatising everything is the solution. They took this idea over from the Libertarians in America, who want just about everything privatised, even the courts. All in the name of small government. I don’t think even IDS is so stupid that he wants to go as far as completely privatising the justice system, but he and they do seem to follow the libertarian line about privatising the police force. This policy is based on the idea that private corporations are automatically more efficient and more effective than state operated enterprises or organisations. Even when it’s been proved again and yet again that they aren’t. The Civil Service was originally considered unsuitable for privatisation, so they did the next best thing. They quasi-privatised part of it, but separating the Department of Health from the Department of Social Security, and turned the latter into the Benefits Agency. Now it seems that they want to privatise it completely, at least piecemeal.

As for the title of ‘director’, there’s an element of vanity in there. IDS, Cameron and the others have all entered public service from business, and therefore don’t seem to be satisfied with simply having the title and job description as ‘public servants’. No, they want to be seen as hot-shot directors, not secretaries. So directors they must be, even if it’s completely inappropriate. Way back in the 1990s, a similar rebranding occurred in the Department of Trade and Industry. This wasn’t good enough for the responsible minister at the time, who insisted on calling it, ‘The Department of Enterprise’, in line with Thatcherite Yuppie ideology. Well, yuppies have come and gone. A lot of them finally gave up the game when the steam ran out of the part of the Thatcher Revolution, and New Labour came to power, only to carry on her legacy in a slightly less noxious form. But as the idea of directorships in the DWP shows, it’s still there. And it’s entirely inappropriate.

Directors are the heads of private companies, which are driven by the profit motive. The aim of private enterprise is primarily to make money, not to provide a service. The role of the civil service, on the contrary, is to provide a service in spheres which are outside the applicability of the profit motive. It’s why there are just so many regulations prescribing the correct conduct of civil servants and what constitutes corruption. They aren’t there to enrich themselves at the expense of the state or its citizens. They are there to serve the public. This latter point is important. It was imported into the Civil Service ethos by the Trevelyan in the 19th century. His idea of moral, responsible service by state officials was largely based on the old Stoic ideal of service to the state. Trevelyan himself was an utter b*stard in some respects. He had absolutely zero sympathy for the victims of the Irish Potato Famine, and did not want them to be given any relief in their most dire need. It’s an episode which has cast a terrible shadow over subsequent relations between Britain and Ireland ever since. But Trevelyan’s reform of the Civil Service did create an ethos of efficient, responsible public service. IDS’ creation of directorships threatens to undermine this, and throw the whole institution back to the corruption of the 18th century and previously, when officeholders believed that they had an absolute right to exploit their position to the full to enrich themselves.

And in that case, ideology will have come full circle, and the Tories will have gone back to their roots. Modern Neoliberalism has much of its ideological roots in 19th century radicalism. 19th century radicals generally wanted small, cheap, efficient government, free of the webs of patronage and corruption that stifled the economy and prevented individuals from developing their own talents and being rewarded by the fruits of their energy and enterprise. Thatcher and her Yuppy crew largely took power by muttering a lot of nonsense about ‘meritocracy’. It informs the very title of Norman Tebbit’s autobiography, ‘Upwardly Mobile’.

But for all that they mouth Neoliberal clichés about enterprise, efficiency, meritocracy and self-reliance, the Tories aren’t motivated by a desire to increase social mobility, or limit the stifling power of an hereditary ruling class, like the 19th century Liberals. Cameron, Osbo, IDS and their cabinet are toffs. They are the stifling hereditary ruling class. Social mobility under New Labour had all but ceased. Under Cameron it’s stopped completely. And they’re determined to hold on to power, and oppress everyone else. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd gave the game away in the Times in the 1980s when he loudly hailed Maggie Thatcher as bringing about a ‘social restoration’ of the old country house elite. The only difference now is that the ruling elite are corporations and their managers, rather than an agricultural aristocracy. But the ethos remains of a ruling class, which regards the state and its institutions as their instruments with which to govern and plunder, rather than to serve the greater national good.

Vox Political: Cameron Rejects Labour’s Anti-Corruption Measures

February 23, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political reports that Ed Miliband is placing a ban on Labour MPs and parliamentary candidates from holding directorships. This is in order to improve the parliamentary standards and public’s estimation of MPs after recent lobbying scandals, including that which has just broken out over Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw. They are also considering legislation to cap the amount of money MPs may earn from second jobs.

The article is entitled Cameron cold-shoulders calls to limit commercial corruption of MPs and begins

The Labour Party is banning its MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies, to ensure that their only interest is their duty to their constituents.

Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have been put on notice that, from the coming General Election, the party’s standing orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs.

The measure, which Ed Miliband has confirmed will be included in the party’s manifesto, would ensure no Labour MP holds a paid directorship or consultancy.

Labour is also consulting on legislative measures including placing a strict cap – similar to one that exists for members of the US Congress – on any additional money they can earn beyond their salary as representatives of the people.

Mr Miliband’s actions follow a series of allegations over recent years, about how MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have risked a conflict of interest by seeking or taking paid work from outside organisations.

Most recently, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) were secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.

He also reports that Ed Miliband has written to Cameron outlining Labour’s views on these issues. Cameron’s response to the scandal has simply been to remove the party whip from Rifkind.

He has also moaned about how Labour would allow trade unionists to be MPs, but not shopkeepers. As Mike points out, this is gross distortion what the legislation is about. In fact, as Mike says, Cameron approves of MPs having second jobs.

The article’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/23/cameron-cold-shoulders-calls-to-limit-commercial-corruption-of-mps/.

Cameron’s comment about trade unions was almost predictable. It is the standard Tory response whenever anyone has raised the issue of excessive corporate power and influence in parliament. But the Labour party was set up by and with the trade unions to represent the interests of working people.

The Tories, on the contrary, seem to see a parliamentary career as an opportunity to enrich themselves and their companies as the expensive of the state and the working class, the poor and the unemployed.

Public opinion of MPs reached a nadir under Gordon Brown with the expenses scandal. Cameron must be aware how badly MPs reputations and that of parliament itself has been damaged by lobbying scandals. Yet Tory greed and opportunism prevents him from doing anything to correct it.

Ed Miliband should be celebrated for taking such a bold and necessary step.

And for Cameron? He should be kicked out of power as venal and irresponsible as quickly as possible.