Posts Tagged ‘the Treasury’

C.A.R. Crosland on the Anti-Democratic Nature of the British Public School System

June 28, 2016

I found this description of the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the British public school system, and its pernicious effect in creating class inequality and blocking genuine modernisation and social, political and technological improvements in British society in C.A.R. Crosland’s The Conservative Enemy: A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960s (London: Jonathan Cape 1962). Despite the fact that this was written well over fifty years ago, it’s still, unfortunately, very true and is amply demonstrated by the current Tory government, headed as it is by the old Etonian limpet, David Cameron.

The public schools offend not only against the ‘weak’, let alone the ‘strong’, ideal of equal opportunity; they offend even more against any ideal of social cohesion or democracy. This privileged stratum of education, the exclusive preserve of the wealthier classes, socially and physically segregated from the state educational system, is the greatest single cause of stratification and class-consciousness in Britain.

It is not, of course, the only cause. The effect of being for so long a great imperial power, and the psychology of discipline, hierarchy, and master-subject relationships which this induced; the persistence (and indeed continual reinforcement ) of an hereditary aristocracy; the absurd flummery surrounding the Monarchy; the obsessive snobbery (even amongst a section of the intelligentsia) about birth and titles; the deep-seated differences in accent; the national propensity to kowtow and manoeuvre for precedence – these would produce strong feelings of social deference and superiority whatever the educational system.

But the school system is the greatest divisive influence. It is no accident that Britain, the only advanced country with a national private elite system of education, should also be the most class-ridden country. The Scandinavian countries, the least class-ridden, have no significant private sector; such few private schools as exist are mainly for backward children. In France, while many private primary schools exist, middle-class children normally go tot he public lycee at the secondary stage. In Germany there are half a dozen would-be-English public schools. But only an insignificant minority even of wealthier children attend them, and the carry no national prestige; an Old Salem boy may care as passionately about his alma mater as an Old Etonian, but his prospective employer or bank manager, let along the rest of the population, could not care less. In the United States, it is true, there are not only a large number of non-exclusive private Catholic schools, but a growing number of ‘smart’ upper-class private schools which, being often academically superior to the state schools, confer an advantage in getting into the best universities. But disturbing as this trend is, these schools still do not constitute a nation-wide elite system with the divisive social influence of the English public schools; nor, given the anti-elitist psychology of the American people, are they ever likely to.

No historically-minded champion of the public schools could possibly deny that schools can have either an integrative or divisive social influence. For it was indeed the historic function of the public schools in the nineteenth century to assimilate the sons of the new and self-made middle class into the ranks of the hereditary ruling class; and even today they fulfil an integrative role for the sons of self-made men. Similarly the American high school, whatever else may be said about it, has brilliantly fulfilled the function of assimilating ethnically diverse groups into a common national culture. (As a matter of fact, most of what else is said about it by English critics is false. They always assume that its lower educational standards are due to the fact of its being ‘comprehensive’, whereas in reality they are due, as the quite different Swedish experience demonstrates, to certain specifically American factors – the attachment to ‘life-adjustment’ education, the automatic ‘social promotion by age groups and the lack of grading by ability, the preference for vocational courses, the acute shortage of teachers, the low quality of many of the teachers, and so on.) A school system can either increase or diminish social disparities; and the British public schools manifestly increase them.

And they do not even, today, provide efficient leadership. It is again no coincidence that Britain, the only country with a national elite system of private boarding schools, from which its leadership is still disproportionately drawn, should be falling so badly behind other democratic countries in the achievement of widely-accepted national goals – behind western Europe in economic performance, Scandinavia in social welfare and urban planning, the United States in technology and innovation. In the nineteenth century the public schools, disagreeable as they may have been, did at least train a leadership perfectly fitted to the needs of a growing empire. For this training, their characteristic features – the boarding, the hierarchical discipline, the emphasis on games, the carefully-nurtured sense of innate superiority – were precisely apt. They are not, however, (although now considerably modified), equally apt for a mid-twentieth-century world full of computers, Communism, trade unions and African nationalism. This is hardly surprising. The quality of leadership is not, after all, an absolute and unvarying quality. It is specific to particular situations; and what makes for good leadership in one situation may make for bad leadership in another. The public schools today, although providing ‘a good education’ in a rather narrow sense, do not generate the right type of leadership for a democratic, scientific, welfare world.

Almost every emphasis which they inculcate – on manners and ‘character’, on the all-rounder and the amateur, on the insular, the orthodox and the traditional – is wrong from the point of view of contemporary goals. it is this which partly explains those national characteristics which are at long last becoming the subject of widespread hostile comment: the reluctance to innovate, the refusal to grapple with problems, the lack of pride in maximum professional achievement, and the cult of the gifted amateur, of the smooth and rounded Wykehamist who can turn his hand to anything with a natural, effortless superiority, and with no need to stoop to the humourless professionalism of Huns or Yanks. Fundamentally this reflects a failure of English elite education to achieve the highest of all education ideals: that of fostering inquiry, dissent, and critical intellectuality. A country in which the most damning insult which Lord Salisbury could fling at Mr Iain Macleod was that he is ‘too clever by half’ is not a good prospect in the modern world. Some of our upper classes are as anti-intellectual as the Know-Nothings.

But this attitude might be attributable to aristocracy, not to the schools themselves. Unfortunately, parallel faults can found in those fields which traditional represent the culmination of the British elite system of education: the Civil Service, and Oxford and Cambridge. Beautifully adapted to its pristine task of administering a going concern without excessive interference, the British Civil Service remains notable for its honesty, industry and administrative competence. But it has failed to adapt to a world which requires the long rather than the short view, active planning rather than passive administration, novel rather than traditional ideas. Thus the Treasury has been astonishingly behind France, Holland and Sweden in adopting long-term economic planning. The Foreign Office was ponderously slow to wake up to the existence of new and revolutionary post-war situations in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Ministries of Health and National Insurance have introduced new social policies without even a research unit to investigate their probably effects. The Ministry of Education takes decisions for or against different types of school without conducting any research into their different consequences, and has little idea of how many teachers we need to carry out its own policies. The typical Whitehall attitude of mind-thorough and precise, but pedantic and unadventurous – is in part a reflection of the Oxford and Cambridge background from which most Civil Servants come. But are Oxford and Cambridge really as good as Harvard and the Sorbonne! Their farcical performance over the introduction of sociology – a lamentable compound of hidebound traditionalism and facetious superciliousness – makes one doubt it….

The need is not for more public-school-type education for the top few per cent of the population. Indeed, the whole notion of an elite-type education is inappropriate in Britain today. For both our greatest need and our largest untapped resource now lie below the level of the cleverest few per cent – although disastrously many even of these are still slipping through the net. From the viewpoint of efficiency as well as equality, we need less concentration on an educational elite and more on the average standard of attainment.

The case against the public schools, then, has grown stronger even in the last few years. First, the type of leadership which they provide is seen to be less and less appropriate to the national goals of the 1960s. Secondly, as we grasp the fact that intelligence is partly an acquired characteristic, we see even more clearly that the whole notion of an exclusive and privileged education is inconsistent with equality of opportunity. Thirdly, despite the gradual process of democratic reform in other directions, the socially divisive influence which these schools exert show disturbingly little sign of abating. (pp.174-8).

This is clearly a dated piece, as Britain was, until we left the EU, something like the fifth largest economy in the world, and England has led the world in the number of patents that come out of our universities, quite apart from the more obvious points such as the collapse of Communism. But as this government’s policies amply demonstrate, the wealth is increasingly concentrate in a very narrow circle of the extremely rich, at the expense of everyone else. And while Britain may be scientifically immensely innovative, those innovations have tended to be developed elsewhere. Maglev transport is a case in point. The idea of trains powered by magnetic levitation was the idea of the British scientist, Laithwaite. There were serious experiments in its application by British Rail, until this was axed during the cost-cutting of the early 1970s. Research was then taken over by the Germans. Which partly explains why Volkswagen’s slogan, Vorsprung durch Technik – something like ‘Advance through Technology’, isn’t translated into English.

In short, the main function of the British public schools is to lock the upper classes in power, and the rest of the country in a quasi-feudal class servility. And one of its products, Boris Johnson, looks like he’s going to be the next PM.

Oh, couldn’t we have at last at least one leader, who went to a comprehensive!

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Jim Callaghan and Andrew Shonfield’s Alternative View of the British Economy

May 8, 2016

Simon Matthews begins an article on the career of Jim Callaghan in government, ‘Jim Callaghan: the Life and Times of Solomon Binding’ in Lobster 49 for summer, 2005, with a discussion of Andrew Shonfield’s critique of the British economy in the 1950s:

It is still possible to find an interesting Penguin Special that appeared in 1958, British Economic Policy Since the War, by Andrew Shonfield, then economics editor of The Observer, remains a striking piece of work. Among his conclusions were: that the maintenance of a separate Sterling Area, giving the comforting feeling and appearance of great power status, actually hindered the UK economy; that the UK should be more closely involved with Europe; that UK governments and the UK private sector failed to invest sufficiently in their own country and invested instead elsewhere in the Sterling Area; the City of London had a poor and distorting effect on the UK economy; that public spending in the UK was more restrained than in other European countries for reasons that did not make much sense; that the Treasury possibly had too much power; that although industrial relations in the UK were poor, days lost through strikes were often no higher than in other countries, but too much power resided with individual shop stewards (a fact that some employers actually quite liked); that the national offices of the big trade unions had surprisingly little input in either planning or negotiation within significant industries, with matters being handled at a purely local level; that because of the low level of pay and facilities offered by major employers a better relationship with the trade unions was difficult to attain; an that the UK spent too much on defence.

In 1958 this was prescient. Shonfield anticipated the essential economic debates of the 1970s and 1980s, some of which remain unresolved to this day. (P. 21). He notes that ultimately Shonfield’s views had little effect, though that doesn’t mean they went unnoticed. He considers that Harold Wilson arrived at some of Shonfield’s conclusions independently.

These issue are still, with some caveats, very much with us. Britain does not invest in public services at the same level as the other European countries. Spending on the NHS, for example, in the 1970s was below what other European nations spent on their health services. The City does not like investing in Britain, and most of the investment networks are geared towards the Developing World. As for government investment, you can see how reluctant the British government is to support British industry by the desperate efforts to find a foreign buyer for failing British companies or factories. The most recent example of this is the closure of the Tata steel plants in Bridgend and elsewhere. However, Cameron is cutting the defence budget to ludicrous extremes, and we have been saved much of the chaos that has overtaken some of the Continental economies because we kept the Pound instead of joining the Euro.

Matthews also has a broadly positive view of Callaghan’s government in the 1970s, which has been blamed for the economic failures that led to the rise of Maggie Thatcher.

It is convenient for contemporary politicians to say that the Thatcher years were something that Britain either needed or could not have avoided. But had it not been for Callaghan’s decision to postpone the election from 1978 to 1979 Thatcher might never have got to 10 Downing Street; or, if she did, would have been ousted very quickly. It is also true that the 1974-1979 Wilson-Callaghan governments made a reasonable job of recovering from the inflation caused by Heath and Barber in 1971-1973. ‘Old Labour’ id OK. It was just a shame it didn’t have a better leader. (P. 23).

So much for the conventional Tory wisdom that Thatcher was needed to sort out the chaos Labour caused. In this view, Callaghan was needed to sort out the chaos Heath had caused.

George Monbiot on the Political Power of the Supermarkets

April 20, 2016

As well as documenting the pernicious economic and social effects of the supermarkets, as they force out small business people and exploit their suppliers through some highly manipulative contracts and trading practices, Monbiot also discusses the political power of these vast corporate chains. He details the various chief executives and senior managers, who were given important political posts by New Labour and the Tories, and the various lobbying organisations they have set up to further their already extensive political influence. This goes on for several pages, but considering the immense power the supermarkets still hold, I think it’s worth reproducing this section of the chapter in full. Monbiot writes:

No commercial sector is better represented in British politics than the supermarkets. David Sainsbury, the chain’s former chief executive and the richest man in Britain, is a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which oversees competition policy. Tesco executives inhabit no fewer than six government task forces, including the DTI’s Competitiveness Advisory Group. A Tesco executive also sits on both the United Kingdom Eco-labelling Board and, alongside a representative of Marks and Spencer, the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging. The superstores have lobbied to ensure that regulations in both areas remain as ‘flexible’ as possible. Andrew Stone, Managing Director of Marks and Spencer, was made a life peer soon after Labour took office. the official spokesperson for the four biggest supermarkets at the British Retail Consortium is Baroness Thornton, a Labour peer and Director of the Labour Women’s Network, and previous Chair of the Greater London Labour Party. Delegates to the 1998 Labour Party Conference wore identification badges sponsored and labelled by Somerfield. While Tesco gave £12m to the government’s Millennium Dome, David Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) has personally donated a total of £5m to the Labour Party.

The Sainsbury family has long been blessed with a direct line to power. While David Sainsbury, a Labour peer, is one of the businessmen closest to Tony Blair, his cousin and predecessor as chairman of the firm, the Conservative peer Sir John Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover), appears to have been Margaret Thatcher’s most frequent confidant. His brother, Sir Tim Sainsbury, another member of the Sainsbury board, was a Conservative MP who once held the same government post as David Sainsbury does today.

The opposition is unlikely to challenge the superstores’ power. The shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who – if he took office – would be responsible for most of the decisions affecting the supermarket chains, is Archie Norman, previously the Chief Executive of Asda. Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, was one of Asda’s non-executive directors.

The supermarkets conduct much of their lobbying through their trade association, the British Retail Consortium. According to its Director General, ‘BRC is no longer an organisation that simply reacts to Government proposed legislation or White Papers but sets out to help shape them. By creating significant links with special advisers, policy specialists and the leading think tanks, the intention is to work in a non-confrontational way so we are involved at the beginning of any legislative process.

Its tactics appear to be successful. it has persuaded the government to allow 41-tonne lorries on to British roads and to consider its request for 44-tone trucks to be permitted in a few years’ time. It claims to have played an important role in the government’s decision not to tax out-of-town car parking spaces. Speakers at the BRC’s annual dinner have included the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, the Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, John Major and Tony Blair. the Consortium’s submission on the minimum wage ‘was read by Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Treasury and the Bank of England’ and was ‘influential in persuading the Government and the Low Pay Commission’ to hold the level down to £3.60 per hour and introduce a separate, lower rate ‘not just for young people, but for returners to the labour market’. The consortium successfully lobbied the government to introduce amendments to the Competition Bill to permit ‘vertical agreements’ of the kind the superstores strike with their suppliers.

The BRC is also ‘ready to shape the Brussels agenda in the same way it does the UK Government agenda’. In Europe it has lobbied for ‘flexible’ consumer guarantees and against the European legislation requiring companies to inform and consult their workers. It has influenced European food safety standards and defended its members against the European requirement that the pesticides used on the foods they sell should be listed on the packaging. It has succeeded in keeping the definition of ‘free range’ as broad as possible.

Government is not the only realm in which the influence of superstores and their employees raises public concern. Sainsbury, for example, is a sponsor of the Soil Association, which regulates organic standards in Britain. In 1998, the Sunday Times alleged that a chemist from Sainsbury’s presented much of the case for the preservative sodium nitrate to the government’s United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards. The chemical is banned from organic produce in Germany and Holland, partly because, in large doses, it has been linked to cancer. What the Sunday Times did not discover, however, was that one of the members of the register is Robert Duxbury, an employee of J. Sainsbury Plc. Sainsbury was also one of the three sponsors of the Town and Country Planning Association’s inquiry into the future of planning, a subject in which the superstore chain has more than a passing interest. The Chairman of the Post Office, Neville Bain, is also a non-executive director of Safeway. This causes alarm to some of the people campaigning to keep post offices on the high street and out of the superstores.

In 1999,. the government published the first of its ‘annual reports’, which would tell the nation how well it was doing. It was launched not in Westminster, but in the Kensington Tesco’s. The Prime Minister’s office had given the supermarket chain an exclusive contract to sell it. It officially entered the public domain when Jack Cunningham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, handed a copy of the head of Tesco. (Captive State, pp. 203-206).

So Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and the rest are involved in making sure that road and planning policy reflects their interests, as does employment and agricultural legislation. They have ensured that a known carcinogen is permitted as a pesticide in this country, and have campaigned to keep the minimum wage low. It is therefore absolutely no surprise that the same exploitative gang have been so keen to back workfare. One of the personal stories recounted on the Boycott Workfare website is from someone who was taken on by the supermarkets. At the end of their official stint, they were asked by their boss to stay on. When they asked if they would be paid, their boss stated quite openly that there was no need for him to do so, when he could simply get more unpaid labour from workfare.

Britain is rapidly descending into a corporate oligarchy like America, and the supermarkets are at the centre of this mess of political corruption. It’s about time they were cleaned out, along with the rest of the corporatists occupying government posts.

Private Eye on the Western Firms Seeking to Grasp the Iraqi Oil Fields

March 3, 2016

Private Eye in their issue of 9th 22nd December 2005 also ran an article on the ‘Production Sharing Agreements’ issued to British and other western firms, which effectively handed control of the Iraqi oil fields to them, taking millions from the Iraqis themselves. All under the pretext that it’s helping to rebuild the economy of the invasion.

Rebuilding Iraq
I’m Oil Right, Jack

Good to see that Britain is doing its bit to “assist” Iraq – and help private western oil companies bolster their already massive profits at the same time.

As is well known, the United States is putting pressure on Iraq’s fragile government to accept “production sharing agreements”, or PSAs, to develop the Iraqi oil fields. These PSAs, previously unknown in the big middle eastern oilfields, will mean vast profits for western oil giants. Indeed, according to a report from the campaign group Platform, War on Want and the New Economics Foundation, western companies could make returns on investment of between 42 percent and 162 percent, while Iraq itself could lose some $100 bn by agreeing to the PSAs.

While the pressure from the US for PSAs is well known, it now emerges that Britain’s own Foreign Office is equally involved in lobbying the Iraqis. It is doing so through a little known but powerful business group called the International Tax and Investment Centre (ITIC). Originally formed to help business get the right laws to “encourage” investment in the former Soviet Union, ITIC is now central to the oil industry’s efforts in Iraq. An Anglo-American outfit jointly chaired by a senior US businessman and the former Tory trade minister Lord Walker, it is funded by the likes of BP, Shell and Exxon.

ITIC began its “Iraq project” in July 2003 and claims it did so “following several requests from advisors from western governments and international organizations for private sector input as they prepare their technical assistance programs for Iraq”. Among those keen to hear ITIC’s advice were the World Bank and the British government.

Iraqi ministers were presented with an ITIC report recommending that their oil industry entre into PSAs with western firms at meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank in Beirut earlier this year. At the same time ITIC reported a “meeting held with UK Treasury and Foreign Office to discuss coordination and cooperation of Full Report presentation”. In other words, two British government departments became agents for ITIC, helping it persuade the Iraqis to accept PSAs.

The Foreign Office denies it has been involved in specific lobbying on Iraqi oil, but documents released to Platform under the Freedom of Information Act show the true extent to which the British government has represented ITIC. The Foreign Office presented Iraqi oil ministers with a ‘code of practice for the Iraqi oil industry” last autumn. This code was supposed to persuade the oil ministers they needed to have open, transparent deals to avoid corruption. However, the FO documents quoted extensively from ITIC’s own Iraq report – before it was published and without acknowledging that the report was itself funded by western oil firms.

The FO document also goes beyond its brief and says that “Iraq would need to engage with the international oil companies to provide appropriate levels of foreign direct investment” to develop its oil. Other solutions that do not hand such profits to western oil firms – like borrowing money and directing its own oil exploitation – are for some reason not discussed.

In addition the British government has, via the Foreign Office, paid £147,700 to fund advisers to the Iraqi oil ministry, including two BP executive, Terry Adams and Bob Morgan.

This adds more evidence to the revelations that the invasion of Iraq was never about protecting us from al-Qaeda or terrorism, but simply a cynical strategy to steal that nation’s oil.

Private Eye from 2006 on the Failure and Dysfunction of the Freedom of Information Act

February 28, 2016

Private Eye in its issue for the 6th to 19th January 2006 published a long article on how the Blair government’s Freedom of Information Act actually didn’t do what everyone expected, and lead to great openness and freedom of information from government. I’m posting it up here as it shows how there’s always been a problem using the Act to get information, as Mike and so many of the other disability activists have found out for themselves, trying to get information out of Ian Duncan Smith’s DWP. Here’s the article:

How FOI Doesn’t Work

“The culture of secrecy in Whitehall, and beyond, is cracking open,” announced Lord Falconer in the Guardian last week, reflecting on the first anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act.

“We have seen real change … We seek to achieve across the whole public sector a new culture of openness, fully embedded in each and every public authority, where information is made available to the widest possible audience at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Oh yeah? This has hardly been the experience of Private Eye and its readers of the last 12 months.

The law allows the government 20 working days (about a month) to respond to a request under the act, but it may judge that one of 24 exemptions (including some very broad let-outs such as the potential to harm “policy development” and the country’s “economic interests”) allows it to withhold the information.

Most exemptions only apply if disclosure would not be “in the public interest”, and once a suitable exemption has been found the government has another month to ponder this question. If the request is for something it doesn’t want to give up, after a couple of months (or longer: delays are common as there is no penalty for missing the deadlines) it will conclude that the public is better off remaining ignorant.

Anything but the most uncontroversial request can be rejected on these grounds and as a result many Whitehall departments refuse more than half the requests they receive. The Treasury is the most secretive, coughing up what it’s asked in just 26 per cent of cases.

To challenge a rejection you first have to ask for an “internal review” by the department that has just turned you down, which is when the snail-like pace decelerates. When the Eye recently complained to the Information Commissioner that a review by HM Revenue and Customs had taken almost three months before reaching the predictable conclusion that the reviewer’s colleagues had been right to block the request, the commissioner’s office replied that “there is no statutory time within which a public authority must complete a review. There is therefore no further action we can take…”

After several months, if you’re lucky you’ll reach the stage where the commissioner can consider your case. The Eye’s latest referral was met with the response that a “case resolution team” will be in touch “to explain how the refusal to disclose information … will be progressed”. Action at last? Not quite. “Due to the volume of complaints we are receiving [the backlog is over 1,200] at present it may be up to two months before you hear from us.” And that’s before the “case resolution team” even starts to think about it.

When the act came into force last year, the Department for Constitutional Affairs set up a “Freedom of Information Users group” for those such as journalists, academics and other researchers to comment on how the government answers requests. But when author and FoI campaigner Heather Brooke, one of the runners-up in last year’s inaugural Paul Foot Awards – asked the DCA for a list of members of the group, she was told the list was secret – as are the criteria on which members are selected.

There is no application process, so those picked get on only at the behest of civil servants and special advisers – the very people most opposed to FoI in the first place. “We have identified those contacts we deem most appropriate whom we believe will make a significant contribution,” said Rob Murphy, of the DCA’s Information Rights Division.

So who are these “contacts”? Even the chosen ones cannot be named, says Murphy, because they must first be cleared with ministers. How rigorous such an FoI “users group” can be, when it is micromanaged at every level by civil servants, is unclear. But at least the DCA was able to tell Brooke, who has written a book on FoI and makes frequent requests for information to government departments, one genuine nugget about the list. She isn’t on it!

Twelve months ago Lord Falconer wrote of his new act: “The real test is whether there is a change in attitude across the public sector during the next few years, and whether communication between the state and its citizens is strengthened.” So far the test has been dismally flunked.

So the Freedom of Information Act was always half-hearted. Nevertheless, it was a genuine achievement of Blair’s period in power, and did a little to attack the endemic culture of secrecy around British government. Now Cameron wants to end even that. According to the Conservatives, you should only use the Freedom of Information Act to understand how a decision has been made, not to question the decision itself, or the process by which it has been reached. Blair’s government was profoundly authoritarian, but it made a gesture of opening up government. This government is merely authoritarian, and while it still wants to retain a façade of openness, is determined to close even the minuscule crack in the edifice Blair and co opened.

Californian Entrepreneur Wants Politicians to Wear Sponsorship Badges

December 31, 2015

This is a brilliant little piece from Kyle Kulinski, one of the presenters at the internet news show, Secular Talk. I don’t support the channel’s secularist, anti-religious views, but do agree with much about what they say politically. This is one of the pieces.

A Californian businessman has become so fed up with the corporate corruption of politics, that he has launched a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’. In order to shame the politicians, who accept donations from corporations to represent their interests in Congress, he is pressing for those politicians to have to wear the logos of their sponsors. His acknowledged goal is that every politician, who enters Congress should have a clean suit. In other words, they should represent not their corporate donors, but the people, who elected them.

And the businessman pushing for this change is a Republican. Kulinski points out that this shows how bi-partisan the issue is. Everyone is fed up with the corruption in American politics. Here’s the video.

I think it would be an excellent idea if the same idea was tried over here. British politics is in a very similar situation. Politicians and political parties, including New Labour under Tony Blair, have shown themselves extremely keen to accept donations and sponsorship from corporations. Under John Major this ‘sleaze’ got so bad that Private Eye started publishing the various Tory politicos, who belonged to the drinks corporations when they started voting against the laws proposed to solve some of Britain’s emerging drink problem. And the situation has not got better. The Eye has run many articles over the years documenting the corporate sponsorship of events at the various party conferences, Conservative and Labour. One means by which corporations have entered party politics is by creating various think-tanks to press for certain policies. These are then taken up by the political parties. At the same time, corporations send senior employees to work in the various political parties, supposedly advising and helping them draft legislation. The most notorious example of this is the banks and large accountancy firms, which have sent their employees to work in the Inland Revenue and the treasury, to assist the government in producing ‘tax efficient’ and ‘business-friendly’ financial legislation. Thus the big banks are let off the hook for their role in wrecking the economy, corporations escape paying their rightful share of the tax burden, leaving poor to be hit by welfare cuts and tax increases. All in the name of fiscal responsibility.

I do differ strongly with Kulinski when he says that he wants to get union funding out of politics. The situation is different in America, where there is no real working class party as such. Here in Britain it’s different. The Labour Party was founded by various socialist parties and the trade unions to represent the working class. Hence the name. Thus the trade unions are part of the Labour party, and should continue to be so, whatever Blair or his minions think about severing ties with them.

But otherwise I think this is a great idea. We do need to shame the corporate whores at Westminster, by making them wear the logos of the companies, who bought them. After all, if they’re proud – or shamelessness enough – to display and boast of the firms sponsoring the events at the party conference, then they should have the guts to wear their badges in parliament.