Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The home-grown fascists and the forces of evil

Events in Norway should be a salutary reminder that terrorism is a two-way process - and the moral superiority brigade must be very wary of putting down too many markers at the moment.  Fortunately the usual litany of "it couldn't happen here" has been largely exploded by the increasing evidence of a link with our very own crackpot ersatz Nazi fringe.

The English Defence League epitomises all that needs to be cauterised.  It isn't difficult to identify how a self-appointed white underclass, fed by the xenophobic and inaccurate rantings of parts of the media (yes, the usual suspects of the "Scum", "Mail" and "Express"), and fearful that its cultural leanings are so weak, irrelevant and repulsive that they will be "swamped" by immigrants and the liberal conspiracy (if only!) that it mobilises.  Fed crap about how immigrants are stealing our jobs, and how all Muslims are followers of extreme, intolerant bigoted sects, it is hardly surprising that their limited powers of reasoning and articulation are directed towards bile-fuelled hate of anything different.

The irony that these idiots fail to notice is that they have become an even more extreme version of the alleged threat that the West faces - and that therefore, in a nice ideological volte-face, they subscribe to a Marxist interpretation of historical determinism.  It is their desire to see the troubles stoked and, apparently, while condemning the details of the atrocity in Norway, they are predicting, with some glee, that the same thing would be understandable if it happened in the UK.

Given the economic background, it is unsurprising that there is at least some upsurge in support for authoritarian parties that wish to violently take over and impose a dictatorial thugocracy, either with a nationalist or a millennarian socialist bent.  In some cases the individuals are so damaged that there is no reason or rationale for attempting to engage with them, as they have defined themselves as outcasts beyond the boundary that a society can be expected to accept.

These people are fringe nutters, but they do pose a significant threat to the practice of free speech and political discourse.  Their cousins are the Tea Party movement in the USA, and they have a great deal in common with the petty-bourgeois apologists who gave much support to the Nazis and to the Vichy Republic in France.  Purely calling for them to be banned and/or locked up is giving too much credence to their grievance, but their foulness needs to be understood as well as fought.  "Know thine enemy" is a vital admonition in the current situation.

The far right has never been more than a nuisance, but they need to be contained.  In the meantime, the priority is to expose the international terrorist network that looks like an amateur Al-Qaeda rather than a prelude to a thousand-year Reich.

Paying the price for George Osborne

You would have thought that there might be contrition.  Cameron and Osborne, when finding time to break off from their preferred pastime of brown-nosing News International, are presiding over an economy that is at best anaemic and most likely dangling over a precipice.  Instead, in a feeble imitation of Thatcher, the troglodytic "Chancellor" says that there is no "Plan B".

In the best tradition of Billy Bunter, to whom our cherubic Prime Minister bears an increasing resemblance each day, they are waiting for something to turn up.

In the meantime, the world is collapsing around their ears.  In the short-term we can be grateful that Gordon Brown did not permit Blair to follow his political instincts and take us into the Eurozone, given its inability to accommodate two-speed economies without a central fiscal policy.  The possibility of a collapse, hyper-inflation and social and political upheaval in what would have been regarded as second-tier economies (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland etc) is now looking a strong possibility with Italy fast approaching the basket-case status.

The US fiasco is depressing, if only because it tells us that free-market, right-wing nutters are the same the world over.  If the US credit rating is downgraded, this has major ramifications for the whole world economy, not least because of the symbiotic relationship with the Chinese trade surplus.  The consequences are unpredictable, but dire.

Gorgeous George increasingly resembles a rabbit in the headlights, incapable of grasping the fact that Britain is not in a good place.  He is right, as is Ed Balls and especially Vince Cable, that the structural deficit needs to be plugged and government expenditure contained.  However, we are wasting billions on the cargo-cult that is marketisation of essential services such as health and education, not to mention Trident replacement.  A creative response to the current crisis would be to prioritise investment in public infrastructure that will provide employment, support the private sector in growth and take advantage of the surplus capacity in the economy.

However, since university economics is now purely a matter of theoretical burnishing and showing off how much longer and more complex your equations are, before going on to a career in the parastic activities at the fringes of financial legality and morality, it is very unlikely that anyone will remind the Chancellor that his Coalition partners have the moral and historical legitimacy of Keynes, whose prescriptions for the Great Depression seem totally relevant in 2011.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

BBC news values - missing in action

There have been a large number of major, horrifying news stories in recent days.  The Norwegian atrocity is the obvious centrepiece, given the extent to which the unravelling of the new Right's agenda across Europe could be facilitated as a consequence - the links with the British far right, and the contiguity of the views expressed by the UK mass media are perhaps worthy of further thought.

However, the BBC News channel on television is guilty of dubious editorial judgement.  To spend the best part of thirty minutes with dubious face-to-face interviews of people for whom the interviewer's questions were at best asinine and at worst callous, then twenty minutes on Amy Winehouse "still dead" shock-and-awe with the same visuals repeated time after time and half-witted "showbiz journalist" commentary is doing a disservice to the huge number of other key issues squeezed into around thirty seconds before the sport:
  • the apparent mass killings in a Stockport hospital;
  • the ongoing famine in Africa;
  • the potential economic meltdown caused by the American political classes reaching an impasse;
  • the consequences of European attempts to stabilise the common currency zone;
  • new revelations about the extent of media corruption; and
  • not to mention, the performance of the England cricket team.
Whilst "earthquake" journalism works when there's an ongoing news story (such as Murdoch before the Select Committee) what is needed is for concise summaries as well as editorialising to a "human interest" level.  Understanding the motivation of a serial political terrorist is much more important than "we're still stunned" or "how awful was it for you"?

Time to exhume Lord Reith, perhaps.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Murdoch is not a side-show

We have a world falling apart around us - the horrific images of famine in Africa, the near-collapse of the US and Eurozone economies, the terrorist assault on Norway to name but a few causes of despair - which means that those with the most to hide in the current Murdochaplyse unravelling are attempting to raise people's eyes from the cesspit.

Perspective is obviously important, but the slow-burn arrogance and apparent lies fed to the Culture Select Committee in "evidence" by those at the centre of News International's currently-exposed criminality, and the extent to which this demonstrates that the market-based capitalist greed and supra-legal delusion continues to hold the Tories in thrall remains critical to democracy, and the ability to respond to the global challenges.

Murdoch's press has been the predominant acolyte of neo-con idol-worship in Britain, and, presumably, beyond.  The damage that this has done to social and international cohesion, through demeaning debate and the xenophobic imperative that puts the problems of "the other" below celebrity tittle-tattle, is only just becoming clear.  The attempts to place the behaviour of the plutocracy beyond the reach of national or international law are egregious, and they link through to the economic paralysis and the failure to address sustainable development throughout the world.

So we shall have to go on pulling the layers of cant and spin off the media machines - and not just Murdoch's.  The cauterising of the corporatist wound will take time, and the central nature of the corruption of institutions, the contempt and the willingness to become the lick-spittles of parasites on the part of senior Tory politicians are all priorities for exposure and cleansing.  Citizens have a right to government by consent, and the Murdoch issue demonstrates just how much further we have to go before we even have a sniff of it.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Melanie Phillips and Rupert Murdoch - the truth

We live in a world beyond parody.  My earlier musings on the evil of the "Daily Mail" were a generic piece of authentic disgust at one of the most repugnant manifestations of the petty bourgeois phillistines (a phrase coined by the great Scottish songwriter, Momus) who seem to dictate the agenda beloved of political focus groups.

Living in the end times, one of their prime columnists is Melanie Phillips, whose main claim to fame is that she has recanted any connection with the rational world, and now spews out filthy invective at anybody who is:
  • left-of-centre;
  • homosexual;
  • non-British;
  • receiving welfare benefits;
  • of an IQ greater than her shoe size (in UK measures);
  • intellectual;
  • interested in politics, culture and the world around them;
  • sceptical of being told what is good for them;
  • even remotely critical of the Zionist position; 
  • and on infinitum...
Mel also appears from time to time on Question Time, being the surest determinant that intelligent people will reach for the off-switch, and the Moral Maze (which since her grasp of morality is about that of an amoeba with learning difficulties is somewhat peculiar) - both of which appear to be produced by the BBC.

Tomorrow (Monday), the fatuous windbag has a column in the "Daily Mail" attacking Mister Ed for calling for the break-up of Murdoch's empire while not turning his guns on the BBC which should be broken up.  I would quite happily see such an event if that involved any of her broadcasts being confined to dissemination within a disused coal mine in South Wales, but this is the kind of cretinous crap that she comes out with to get her fellow droolers nodding their heads in comic unison about the evils of the leftist conspiracy that has taken over the world.

According to her, the BBC is gloating about the News International debacle, and pushing out all other news to one side.  This might be the case, but with the speed of the unravelling of the conspiracy, and the tentacles spreading beyond the media to the police, politicians and the governance of this country it is really quite important, and I suspect that most people would actually want their news from an organisation which, however feebly and imperfectly, has a charter for editorial impartiality rather than the craven dribblings of proto-Fascist scum who infest Paul Dacre's parody of "Der Sturmer". 

Since the delusions of Phillips are so egregious, so hilarious and so unbelievably deranged I can only postulate two possible explanations.

The first is that she does not actually exist, and is a parody created by a combination of Tariq Ali, Craig Brown and a number of other satirists.  Nobody sane could hold her views, so this wins around 30% probability.

The second is that she is so eye-poppingly delusional that she thinks that with Brooks potentially facing time enjoying the prisons that the right-wing consider to be so cushy, the lovely Mel can buy a red fright-wig and fill the space in dear old Rupert's heart so cruelly vacated by the conspiracy of left-wing, humanist, tree-hugging Muslim activists who have brought the neo-con delusion so close to the edge.

Truly she must live in Dagenham - four stops beyond Barking.

The turning of the tide?

There aren't many times in life when you feel as though there is a seismic shift going on, and, indeed many of them have led to grotesque disappointments (May 1st 1997 springs to mind as a prime example).  Given my grumpy, cautious disposition the current situation is full of future pitfalls but I am somewhat more optimistic than I would have been a few months ago.

A fortnight past, taking money on the demise of the "News of the Screws", the arrest of the former head honcho of News International in the UK and the rare sight of Rupert Murdoch eating humble pie (or, preferably, something worse) would not have been a punt that many would have signed up for.  The resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the clear indication that there is a considerable pile of further revelations about corrupt police, journalists and politicians to emerge would have been as implausible as anything dreamed up on strong hallucinogenic drugs.

The collapse of the thirty-year hegemony that the mass media has exercised is not inevitable, and it should not be taken for granted.  Pushing at an open door is not the same as dynamiting the foundations of a slum landlord's pride and joy which is the task that is needed.  There is at least some head of steam for righteous indignation at the way in which the press and party machines take the electorate as cretinous dupes, to be spoon-fed soundbites and mind-numbing celebrity pap, while at the same time preying on the vulnerable, the victims and those who are normally assumed to be incapable of answering back.

We need political leadership, and for once I think Mister Ed might have judged it right.  What is needed now is for the Liberals, who have never been done any favours by Murdoch and his equally-squalid cronies at Associated Newspapers, to be prepared to stick their heads above the parapet.  There's plenty of ammunition about fit and proper individuals in the media.

Where the biggest surprise may lurk is in the extent to which the corruption will undermine the Tories.  William Hague bumbled his way yesterday to defend his boss on the basis that supping with the devil does not diminish his integrity - to which the only sane response should be a manic cackle and a shout of "shut up you hypocritical Tory tosser" - while it becomes clear that the main protagonists in News International were confidantes, social companions and controllers of the Boy Dave and his merry crew, even when there was genuine suspicion of their malfeasance.  They can't claim ignorance - even those who wouldn't be suspected of wishing the Tories well warned them - and deafness is implausible given the extent to which they bent forwards to accommodate Uncle Rupert's demands.

The body language is fascinating, but the Tories and the police are looking to be wounded.  Douglas Hurd described Ted Heath's response to the miners in 1972 along the lines of roaming the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to.  This may well become the default mode going forward as the scandal develops, and I for one will enjoy this.  The acolytes and flunkeys are protecting their own backsides at the moment, for good reasons.  The Tories can't expect an easy ride - any more resignations in the top echelons of the police, and potential criminal charges do not play well with their own constituency.

The rottenness of the body politic, started by Thatcher and Major, near-perfected by Blair and embraced with necrophiliac glee by the new Tories, is now becoming apparent to more than a few grumpy old lefties.  Schadenfreude is for private pleasure, but the real task is to push sovereignty back to the people and away from the unelected, corrupt plutocrats.  We may just be at a turning point.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A calling to ordure - or the "Daily Mail" story

As the unravelling continues, the opportunities to settle scores with the enemies of enlightenment continue to multiply.  Impossible though it seems, the dethroning of the News Corporation toads may yet occur.  However, by focusing on the evils of one media empire, the tactics of much of the remaining ownerships are clearly aimed at ensuring that their own murkiness is left unprobed for a while longer.

The "Guardian" has had a good campaign to date, and is probably the least prone to upset (witness the facile maunderings of the Scum over its Brown revelations and the extent to which the "News of the World" used its police network to downplay the significance of what had been discovered two years ago). 

However, we should only rest easy when the other purveyors of pernicious brainwashing are forced to expose their methodologies to the world.  The sights must be trained on the "Daily Mail", with its obsession with immigrants, its petty-bourgeois intolerance and hatred of anything that might challenge the view that everything has been going downhill since around 1955.  The hysterical fear that is spread by this revolting parody of a newspaper is a Godsend to the Tories, who rely on distrust of "the other" as a means of shepherding the hard of thinking into their clutches.

I am often told that the "Mail" is technically brilliant - but whenever I see a copy it makes me think of the kind of propaganda that the Soviet Union would have rejected as too crude.  It is no defence when it sows such darkness into people's lives - and its veneer of respectability is a cover for a xenophobic, hate-filled agenda that would not have disgraced Goebbels in the 1930s.  The constant desire to do others down, the constant iteration that it's liberals and lefties who have got the country into the mess it perceives, and its distrust of anyone who dares to disagree are legacies that will shape our discourse for years to come.

Hopefully there are plenty of skeletons in its closet to emerge - notably the attempt to smear Nick Clegg for a realpolitik analysis of European geopolitics before the 2010 election - and indeed its constant attacks on the BBC.  The paper may look respectable, but it is sick to the core and its values should be held up to the same scrutiny that it applies to those it doesn't like.  In the meantime, wash your hands if you come into contact with it.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Has Murdoch killed capitalist anarchy?

The problem with blogging on the News Corporation self-immolation is that it is almost immediately overtaken by some new, jaw-dropping revelation.  The weakness of Murdoch's position is increasingly obvious - the vacillation about whether to put in an appearance at the Select Committee makes him look both exposed and diminished.

For what it's worth, the best historical analogy that I can think of is Hitler in the summer of 1942 (not suggesting any total correlation between the individuals' megalomanias) with the prospect of defeat looming.  Murdoch probably now sees the Select Committee as an equivalent of Stalingrad - bouncing through that would probably enable him to spew right-wing bilge in the USA (a far more lucrative market) at the expense of his UK newspapers and possibly BSkyB.  There will be attritional, vicious fighting as he will try to vilify and nullify those whose criticisms might be the most trenchant.

News Corp is hardly likely to be the toast of corporate behemoths the world over, as the seismic displacement engulfs the USA (the allegations of potential hacking of 9/11 victims' phones added to illegal activity abroad sanctioned by a US-run company are at least a double-word score).  The downside of American hegemony is that when its exponents are caught out publicly in their efforts to subvert other nations' democracy then the only damage limitation open to the country is to enforce its own laws. 

This will not be good news for multi-national corporations in other markets, as the principle is being established publicly that malpractice cannot be hidden up.  When the same scrutiny is applied to financial and ethical affairs then there is a chance that some of the sharper practices that have been imposed on people through the pressure to deregulate markets, reduce protections and safeguards for individuals and suck profits out of the places that generate them (in the grand cause of international tax avoidance) may be open to challenge.

Politicians must break free of the mantra of "business and enterprise can do what they like" to recognise that they are put in place to govern on behalf of the whole country.  The myth of the invulnerable, benign, wealth-generating entrepreneur has been exploded consistently over the last decade, and it is time that political discourse caught up with this.  Managed capitalism is the least bad economic system, but the combination of Stalinist trans-national corporations and craven client governments has been toxic on a grand scale, and removes moral legitimacy from all concerned.

Although Murdoch looks on his last legs, there are plenty of other monsters to be slain.  Collective disgust is not enough, but it is a basis to move forward from.  Ten days ago I would not have given any odds on the possibility that the House of Commons would unite against a pariah whose tentacles have enmeshed Tory and Labour politicians alike.  For once it is almost possible to be optimistic.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Blair-faced cheek

The reappearance of Tony Blair, slagging off Gordon Brown and the solitary mourner at the graveside of "New Labour", is a salutory reminder of why we are at the current state of political and moral bankruptcy.

For the most part, I shall forebear from continually linking My Little Tony to Murdoch, as there will be hundreds of others out there who will be happily doing just that.  Blair's real legacy is the venality and corruption that pervades politics, business and the wider society, along with the completion of Thatcher's desecration of the public realm.

Casting one's mind back to 1997, it is difficult to remember the extent to which Blair seemed like a better choice than the Tories.  There were a few solid reforms in his first term, mostly inherited from John Smith's programme of social democracy, such as devolution.  Everything else was fudged (Lords reform, electoral reform) or kicked into touch by the incredible policy of sticking to Tory spending limits.

Blair is a monster, and this became clear with his messianic zeal to promote some kind of moral crusade under the coat-tails of the USA.  Supporting Iraq, and playing the anti-European card whenever possible, placed him firmly in the neo-con camp of post-colonial gunboat diplomacy, while his fetish for privatisation by any other name means that many more of our public services are marketised, while cronies gain maximum snoutage at the expense of public service.

So for Blair to declare that the "New Labour" project died when he shuffled off to cash in his chips from the people he enriched is highly welcome.  Mister Ed is now unshackled from this appalling right-wing conspiracy and can start being genuinely radical, if he is either motivated or capable of stepping up a gear.

Labour should be capitalising on current disarray.  The government's economic policy continues Blair's regime of pandering to international capitalism, the banking sector and other non-productive cankers on society, while denying manufacturing the chance to compete.  This results in the economy bumping along the bottom, with the spectre of stagflation never far away..  The anger about the destruction of public service and the assaults on public sector workers both psychologically and financially should be harnessed.  Miliband does not need the support of the haute bourgeoisie - he needs to secure the trust of those who are disempowered and disenfranchised.

For once, Blair may have done us a favour.  Short of a suicide pact with his mentor, there is not much else that he can do to atone for his sins.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Recanonise St. Vince? If we can dance on Rupert's grave.

The denouement now occurring in Wapping is, hopefully, the first sign of the removal of malicious and unaccountable elements from the media.  Murdoch is wriggling in a way that he hasn't since he first acquired the "News of the World" in 1969, and the Tories and Labour are queuing up to have their memory cells erased given the extent to which backside-kissing has been the order of the day.

From the moment that Thatcher and the then-editor of the "Sun" started chewing the fat together, and creating the Poujadism that has blighted British politics ever since, the sight of the two parties cosying up to News International has become so commonplace as to be unworthy of comment - the way things are in a post-capitalist, post-national age, where governments are clients of large corporations whose accountability (and tax liability) is opaque and where, until now, Murdoch has assumed that the main-party consensus would protect his dubious activities.  However, the buck stops at the top - it does for public servants such as Greg Dyke whose immolation at the hands of the right-wing press still sticks in the craw.  Murdoch has tried to run News Corporation as a family fiefdom, and his judgements are now so totally shot that the kindest diagnosis is that he has decided on method acting after an overdose of "Citizen Kane".

The irony of this is that the Torygraph "outed" Vince Cable's suspicion of Murdoch before Christmas.  As a Liberal News International, and the remainder of the frothing, semi-rabid right-wing scum pack, are hardly likely to be favourably predisposed - witness the monstering dished out when Clegg outperformed during the election campaign in 2010.  Cable's previous reputation as the politician who explained the financial crisis and began to question the status quo is overdue for rehabilitation - especially since Jeremy Twat is now going to find it very hard, within UK and EU competition law, to block the takeover of BSkyB.  Cable might have been in a position to take a much more robust line on this than the Tories, who, after all, spend their holidays schmoozing with the odious Rebekah Brooks and taking their political cues from the "Sun" and its up-market cousins.

However, what is pleasing is that there are early manifestations of Dozy Dave's Big Society - the calls for boycotting of the rag that precipitated its early demise (both by readers and advertisers) and the refusal of reputable charities such as the RNLI to be co-opted into the final edition's crocodile tears and phony contrition.  I suspect that the Tories won't see it this way, though.  For them, and for Labour, who spent the best part of two decades ingratiating themselves through prostituting most of their remaining principles, this is an unwelcome example of grassroots democracy.  Brooks's tenure is an outrage given that she was in control throughout the first period of hacking, and her attempts to blame the situation on the "Guardian" would be nauseating if they weren't so clearly deranged.

The good news flows from the genuine outrage and the realisation that what forensic journalism from the "Guardian" has unearthed is probably the tip of a tabloid, Tory iceberg.  Proper journalism is professional, and doesn't rely on backhanders, technological terrorism and an agenda designed to make Torquemada seem like Mother Theresa  Apparently Ms Brooks told her soon-to-be-sacked hacks that there are at least two more years of revelations to come - and I for one can't wait.  Hopefully this will extend to the "Sun", as Murdoch's daily comic is so pernicious and so self-satified that the hubris and humble pie would provide much delight amonst those of us who think that the News International acquisition of Times Newspapers should have been referred to the competition authorities.

There will be apologists coming out from all corners - people who have taken Murdoch's shilling or wish to.  The first one to amuse me was Bouffant Bo-Jo, clearly unhappy at his re-election prospects, who probably saw Murdoch as a good negotiating pawn to screw more than £250k per annum out of the Torygraph, for reasons that one does not wish to speculate about without serving a Freedom of Information request on the Child Support Agency.  Murdoch, not single-handedly, but with dominance, has led and debased the currency of the media in his time in the UK.  For once, one is almost (but not quite) thinking that Maxwell's larcenies weren't as bad.

While crowing over all this is highly enjoyable, schadenfreude should not be allowed to take away from a number of key issues that the junior Coalition partners should seek answers about:

1.  The extent of police involvement and complicity.  The purchase of law-enforcement agencies by capitalists is totally unacceptable in a society where citizens have pretensions to basic freedoms - this could be a scandal in the Met greater than that of the Vice Squad in the 1970s.
2.  Corporate governance within News International.  If it is as poor as the amnesiac parasites have been putting forward, then they are clearly not fit people to control a free advertising newspaper on the Isle of Wight, let alone three (there were four) national newsapapers and the opiate of the people in the form of extortionate "let them watch sport" satellite television packages.
3.  The extent to which the warnings about Coulson and his cronies were ignored by the inner cabal of Tory party grandees.  If Alan Rusbridger is right then their judgement is so screwed that you have to question the entire premise of a Coalition based around trust and an agreement.  Cameron's platitudes are too little, too late - he is guilty by association and should be prepared to take the consequences.
4.  Introducing a "fit and proper" test for media ownership, and more stringent definitions of monopoly and competition.  There is also the question as to whether UK media should be controlled by organisations based outside the country - a strong case should be made for a majority of GB directors on all company boards, registation and full tax payment within the GB to qualify for permission to own and operate media outlets in the UK.
5.  Whether there has been collusion between Labour and the Tories - this is a systematic problem that neither party has demonstrated any wish to do anything about, and Blair's poodle-like devotion to Uncle Rupe does not inspire confidence.  Mister Ed needs to be clear that the Labour Party is repenting of its folly, and to make common cause with libertarians of all stripes.

For the rest of us, there is the need to keep up pressure, and encourage further investigation by those sections of the press and media not quivering from anticipation of future exposure.

Murdoch is cunning, but looks increasingly cornered.  A good utilitarian solution would be to administer the coup de grace and then start the process of genuine pluralism within the media.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Murdoch, Cameron and the corporate state - time to find a lamp-post

A previous plutocrat (and media baron), Tiny Rowland, was described by Ted Heath as the "unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism".  This does set the stakes extremely high for Rupert Murdoch, whose murkiness and tentacles are sufficient only to be actively defended by Jonathan Raab (MP, God knows how) and Nicholas Soames, and passively supported by the idiot Cameron - doubtless a result of the financial and political support that the tainted Ameraustralian has given to the Tories over the decades.  Watching this unravel is both frustrating and fascinating - if only because Cleggy's machismo appears to be confined to asking what the public enquiry should be looking at.

The real issue remains, as it has done, one of the liberty of the subject.  Just because Murdoch runs a malicious multi-national company cannot mean that he is beyond the grip of the law.  At last, what those of us who have been following his insidious stifling of free speech and freedom of expression for the last three decades (since the takeover and emasculation of Times Newspapers in 1981) are now joining forces with those with primal revulsion at the sanctioning of intrusions into the lives of those bereaved through criminal acts, be they those of lone lunatics, terrorists or victims of state-sponsored wars of aggression.

What Cameron and his cronies will be praying for, post-Coulson, is that there a few scapegoats that can be sacrificed and they can get on with selling out diversity, impartiality and competition in the interests of News Corp.  Putting the rhyming-slang Jeremy Hunt in charge of the media demonstrates their hatred of the freedoms they claim to support - even if the Evil Empire's attempts to take over the whole of Sky are thwarted - and the extent to which the Tories are clients of a multinational, unaccountable behemoth with the moral sense of King Herod at a children's party.

Individuals convicted of criminal offences are liable to the confiscation of their assets in the interests of the state, thanks (in some measure) to the screaming advocacty of the Dirty Digger's tabloid toilet paper.  The time is right for this to apply to shareholders who have connived with illegal, immoral and sick practices in the interests of short-term profit and the infallibility of the hypocritical, self-appointed tribune who thinks he has the right to bring down governments and for whose say-so My Little Tony prostitituted the whole of the Labour Party's moral integrity.  Perhaps the best penalty for Murdoch would be a ban on his companies operating in the UK, and for the nationalisation of UK shareholdings without compensation.  Murdoch hides behind a public corporation - let the stock-holders face the consequence through declining share prices, and the forfeit of their gambling stakes.

The Tories will continue to contain the damage, as the contagious pustules defile their entire party and makes their Blair-lite makeover look even more tenuous.  Harnessing rage about Murdoch is one way in which the status quo can be challenged - with moral outrage and with single purpose.  The lesson we should all learn is that governments are sovereign, and when corporations start to dictate to them they should be abolished.  The last attempt at a self-described corporate state was Mussolini - and although the sight of Cameron and Hunt hanging from a lamp-post would be temporarily cheering it is not an answer to unravelling the evil that is in our midst and fed to millions daily.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Maximum snoutage, minimum accountability

Of all the mantras peddled around the "outsourcing" and privatisation debates, the loudest and least defensible is the accountability and responsiveness.  With the fervency of doorstep evangelists, the apostles of private greed trot out the meretricious canard that their self-interest will in some way revolutionise the delivery of basic communal services and in some way generate efficiencies that will cancel out the skimmed-off snoutage.

In a parallel universe, where capitalists are benign, pigs fly and Nick Clegg is a hardened, radical leader, this might in theory be the case.  Yet everthing that has been inflicted upon the country since the 1980s tends to demonstrate that the real impact of washing government's hands of responsibility is to make it extremely difficult to work out who to blame when the inevitable disasters occur.  As it's outsourced, you can't blame your MP, councillor or even the bureaucracy.

The corpse of public service is a source of nourishment for parasites, be they regulators or lawyers.  Put together a contract to replace a simple proposition (for example that you are going to be providing the services of a local GP) and you end up with several hundred pages of legal language with service level agreements, penalty and performance regimes and a very large sum of money to be paid out both to the service concerned and to those responsible for drawing up the contracts, and supposedly monitoring and enforcing them.  However the complexity and the tedium tends to deter all but the most avid followers of regulatory footwork.

It's all designed to ensure that "not my fault" is the base option for government, and that you can't work out who the hell to complain to.  The one logic is that democratic processes should be in play, but the complexity of this defeats the party partisans who tend to dominate local government and the backbenches.  Listening to local government discussions these days the combination of the dominance by overpaid, unelected Chief Officers and the ovine tendencies of the lobby-fodder the Tories, in particular,seem to favour, the emasculation of elected representatives means that there is no challenge, and that any time someone threatens to rock the boat the politicians are advised that the "legal processes are expensive".

That the Tories hold the people in contempt is not difficult to recognise - after all the risible Eric Pickles is in charge of local government.  Labour and the Liberals have nothing to be proud of either - everything that has been done in outsourcing, be it PFI, PPP or any of the other accountant-feeding acronyms, has always been justified in terms of short-term cash savings and "protecting services", whereas in fact it has removed local control and created a long-term obligation that will dwarf the alleged economies, while tying in the extraction of profit from public service and services that are calcified into delivering a contracted output rather than responding to change as life develops.

Modern life is probably too complex to unwind all of this - but arrangements that are too complex and too greedy for politicians to understand, and where there is the suspicion of self-interest and sleaze are clearly not right.  The proposition should be that services are designed to be simple to explain, easy to find out who is responsible for their delivery, and where things go wrong they can be sorted out quickly, simple and without resort to legalese, contract-waving and compensation for missed snoutage.  If Pickles is serious about "localism",which is rather akin to suggesting that King Herod should take over child-care in Haringey, then there needs to be a simplicity and profit-minimising objective.

Turkeys don't vote for Christmas - we need to be able to vote for public services.