Monday, 9 July 2012

Bob Diamond, the criminals and the vermin

There was something pathetically unprepossessing about Bob Diamond, the disgraced former Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, to give him his honorific descriptor, when he appeared before a Commons Select Committee last week.  Diamond's fall from grace, hopefully not cushioned by a massive pay-out at the expense of shareholders and customers, has a marvellously satisfying quality to it.

For the last four years, first under Brown and now under Hamster-face, bankers and the so-called wealth creators in the City have been seemingly immune from the consequences of their own cupidity and stupidity.  Diamond himself suggested that it was time to call the dogs off bankers - the equivalent of Dave's hoodie-hugging gaffe - and let them get on with their unscrutinised usury in peace and quiet.  Yet the Serious Fraud Office is now investigating his bank's manipulations and potential illegal trading (not that the SFO's own reputation inspires much confidence), and there is a growing chorus of disaffection.

No sane economist suggests that the entire banking model is wrong - fractional reserve banking has been accepted for centuries as a means of ensuring that saving and borrowing can work together to create wealth.  What has been different in the last three decades (post Reagan and Thatcher) is that the wealth has been a money illusion, through complex financial instruments that nobody understands, asset bubbles and recycling of money between financial institutions whose accountability and internal probity are as microscopic as George Osborne's competence.

Yet the fictions remain.  Every month there is new evidence of economic decline and depression, which the Bank of England responds to by leaving interest rates low and by pumping money into the economy through Quantitative Easing.  QE is now being used to rebuild bank balance sheets - not to promote lending to businesses and individuals that could create wealth - a far more effective policy would be a Keynesian-style public works programme using the creditworthiness of government and not syphoning off profits to the cronies.

Diamond is part of a global capitalist conspiracy, and one which should unravel before too much longer.  Preserving the myth of entrepreneurship has been a pre-requisite of government policy, even when their pet plutocrats are only kept afloat by hidden subsidies such as the Private Finance Initiative.  Last week it emerged that £300bn will be the cost of PFI over the next five years, or almost all the budget deficit that is being used as a justification for austerity and the Tory assault on the poor.

Any party wishing to achieve an electoral victory (anyone listening?) in 2015 and beyond needs to articulate the lunacy that we now live with - where profit comes before service and where totally inappropriate activities have been given to a bunch of shysters whose moral compass is non-existent rather than defective.  Being "all in this together" requires expropriation of excess wealth from the self-styled top of the tree before any further attempts are made to further pauperise the rest of us.  Diamond's £20m potential parachute compares very nicely against the reduction in employment protection, theft of pensions and pay restraint that most other people are putting up with.

The Tories talk about "reward" for wealth-creation.  Most of the people who create wealth, through manufacturing or providing professional services, only dream about paying higher-rate tax.  Much of what has been done in the name of global capitalism is morally offensive and probably criminal, and totally at odds with what is needed for a decent society.  This is not about enterprise but cronyism, and the sooner radical politicians start reminding the world that the emperor is not merely naked but repugant, the sooner we can get on with bringing down these parasites.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Tory delusion marches on

Two years ago, in scenes reminiscent of the storming of the Bastille or the taking of the Winter Palace, the revolutionary vanguard of the Conservative and Unionist Party inflicted the most humiliating defeat on an incumbent government in recorded history, taking the entire population of the United Kingdom into the sunlit uplands of cronyism and the suffocating embrace of the "country suppers" set through a combination of democratic spirit and popular acclamation.

This parallel universe, clearly the product of strong hallucinogens that even Louise Mensch would have thought twice about snorting, seems to inform the entire Tory worldview.  The "natural party of government", hubris dripping from every pus-filled orifice not spewing bile, considered that the upset inflicted upon them by Labour in 1997 and the general revulsion at their venality and cupidity was an aberration caused not by their own repulsiveness but an inexplicable flirtation with Blair's pseudo-Toryism.

Therefore the reality that, had Labour been blessed with more tactical leadership than the ineptitude of the exhausted Gordon Brown, then the result would have been significantly different and alternative kaleidoscopes of political realignment could have delivered, is something that the Tories still fulminate over.  The Liberal Democrats, after two years of being an apparently passive patsy to the ineptitude of the arrogant and inept Conservative leadership, are showing the occasional sign of desiring the Coalition agreement to be implemented.

So a further public service announcement should be made to the Tories: 

YOU DID NOT WIN THE LAST ELECTION.  YOU WERE THE LARGEST PARTY IN TERMS OF VOTES, SKEWED UPWARDS IN TERMS OF SEATS BY A DISTORTED SYSTEM.  YOU HAVE NO MAJORITY AND NO MANDATE.  YOU DID NOT ACHIEVE A MAJORITY EVEN OF THOSE VOTING.  LESS THAN A QUARTER OF ELIGIBLE ADULTS SUPPORTED YOU.  THIS PROPORTION IS DIMINISHING FAST.

The Liberal Democrats, increasingly recognising their suicidal mistakes, insist on the Tories pursuing both their own manifesto commitment to Lords reform and the agreement they made.  Clegg's Faustian pact will unravel under the weight of Tory stupidity if they fall into misplaced assertions that nominated upper chambers are somehow desirable, rather than a repository for superannuated party hacks and politicians who have been found out by the electorate but whose blackmail potential requires them to be handed out baubles from the apparatchiks.

This is a matter of principle, and it should be the test by which the Liberal Democrats determine whether they stay in the Coalition.  It's not a matter of a minor side-show in the light of economic collapse, but a symbol both of whether there is an appetite for honesty, consistency and change.

Tory delusionists are generally reckoning that their approach will steamroller everything to their own advantage.  This assumes that the electorate are worthy of the contempt that the Conservative machine holds for them, and that the patrician scum can prevail.  Away from Westminster the tectonic plates are shifting, and this final delusion could set the seal on the Tory myth of entitlement.