Notice To Blairites 2 / Revolving Doors
Part 2 of our look at Owen Jones' excellent book - "The Establishment"
Jones is unsparing in his detail on the rise of the phenomenon of "revolving doors" - the process by which politicians move into the more lucrative private sector whilst ambitious aspirants in the private sector take a shot at "public service".
Not least of these is his take on the scandal associated with MPs expenses. It wasn't just a few miscreants, it was an entire culture as the constant to-ing and fro-ing between elected office and private "consultancy" blurred the distinctions. Jones hits upon the renowned shampoo commercial showing some simpering woman claiming she deserves good shampoo "because she's worth it". All the to-ing and fro-ing created a desperate longing among similarly simpering MPs for the copious rewards and incentives of the good old private sector, causing them to whinge timorously “because I'm worth it”. They could see their cousins and contemporaries making money hand over fist as corporate short-termism exported jobs and production to third world countries awash with unprotected and desperate labour. You could sense MPs weeping as private sector executives creamed the bonuses that this “fiscal wisdom” earned them.
But “expenses” was/is only the tip of the iceberg.
"these hollowed out parties are husks"
Political parties “are no longer thriving political movements, full of grassroots activists who can hold politicians to account.” Instead of “democratic movements rooted in communities, these hollowed-out parties are husks.”
Nowadays, to get ahead in the Labour Party, just as much as in the Conservative, you have to be wealthy and well connected. Without connections to “special advisers and ministers”, you can't be “fast-tracked”. A profound distancing from the Party roots has taken place since “New Labour” lay down and accepted the changed political landscape fashioned by Thatcherdom and found friends and backers in the corporate world. The fact that these friends and backers could switch allegiances to “New Labour” so easily should have sent up screaming warning signals to all concerned, but most people were simply so relieved to be rid of Thatcher herself and her oily ilk that they couldn't bear to look more closely.
In point of fact, any jackass should have been able to win the '97 election, especially on a neo-Thatcher platform, and indeed, a grinning ninny, unencumbered by principle or economic sensibility and espousing “joined up” thinking, did.
But the rot really set in as political/private revolving doors began to spin at an ever increasing rate. In the middle of Blair's administration, “46% of the top fifty publicly traded firms in the UK had a member of the British political elite as either a director or a major shareholder.” In isolation this figure may seem meaningless, but it was “higher than for any other of the 47 other nations investigated, with the next-ranked developed nation being Italy at just 16% of such businesses.” Only Berlusconi could compete with the Blair regime, but even he could come nowhere near the corporate buy-in orchestrated by “New Labour”.
"because I'm worth it"
So the legacy left by Blair and co was an untouched Tory landscape of bloated rewards for politicians looking for nothing other than to “better themselves”. His supposed successor David Miliband was an undoubted leader in this regard. By the time he stood down as MP, it transpires that hardly any of his North Eastern constituents had ever laid eyes on him or been consulted in any way. Instead, he was busy building his “portfolio”. £75k for 15 days as a non-exec director at Sunderland FC; £14k for an evening with tax legals Cameron McKenna LLP; £14k for a speech at Global Arc wealth managers; £18k for 2 days at Oxford Analytica; £100k for 4 days at energy investor VantagePoint; £65k for attending 1 event courtesy of United Arab Emirates, and so on.
Patricia Hewitt – former Health Secretary - got £300/hour as special advisor to Alliance Boots; £55k for advising private hospital merchant Cinven; in the region of £75k each for directorships at BUPA and BT. Jones reminds us of the Sunday Times sting that caught Hewitt, Geoff Hoon, and Stephen Byers agreeing to “lobby for cash” to the tune of £5k a day. And “all three backed policies that benefited wealthy individuals and corporate interests, …..and stood to benefit personally from those policies.”
Alan Milburn, also a former Health Secretary, got £30k/year for advising private healthcare monger Bridgepoint Capital; £30k/year for advising Lloyds Pharmacy; £25k for assisting to boost the “healthy” aspects of Pepsico products, and so on.
David Blunkett got £50k/year as “Social Responsibility Advisor” to, of all corporate creatures, News International.
That former commie Peter Mandelson, not to be outdone, wets his beak as a consultant to the likes of Lazard International, Coca Cola, Lloyds Bank, BP, BetFair (sic), rain forest destroyer Asia Pulp & Paper, and dictators in Egypt and Kazakhstan.
And of course, the grinning ninny himself, Blair, also advises Kazakhstani dictators for the modest outlay of £13 million a year. He also got £1m from Kuwaiti dictators and £2.5m from renowned humanitarian bankers JP Morgan, while the charming Mrs Blair established a private investment vehicle for the purposes of setting up 100 private health care centres throughout the UK.
Many feel that what got us dragged into the Iraq war was the grinning ninny's helplessly hypnotic exposure to the unspeakable wealth of the Bush dynasty. He was so gob-smacked by all the joys that such wealth can bring (they even gave him his own golf cart!) that he was ready, at any cost to the nation, to buy into whatever christian fundamentalist wars it took to clamber on board the gravy train.
It goes on and on and on. This used to be the preserve of Tory grandees – directorships and consultancies in the corporate sectors coming out their ears whilst concurrently supposedly serving as MPs. But no longer. Our own “champions of socialism”, our standard bearers for the working people are not just in the queue – they are jostling and elbowing their way to the very front – even in “opposition”.
It has become so rife and standard and in-your-face that no Drain Stream commentators express any alarm or wave any flags. And the "new" grinning ninnies, Cameron and Osborne, and their baying mob of "because-I'm-worth-its" carry on the tradition by burying their snouts ever deeper into the multiplicity of troughs available, including side syphonings to uncountable offshore accounts, and if anybody does comment, they simply say, “Well, Labour did it….”
* "Our greatest achievement was Tony Blair."
Thus spake reviled ex Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to a gathering of her oily 1950s throw back acolytes at the now infamous gathering at the Botleigh Grange Hotel in 2002.
See Part 3 for an examination of "think tanks".....
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