Tuesday, 20 December 2011


The British tax authorities were accused by MPs yesterday of conniving with big businesses to help them avoid paying their tax. The biggest culprit appears to be Vodaphone - there are claims they have had up to £8 billions in tax written off by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs - they deny this, but whatever the truth, they have been given a whole 5 years to pay £1.25 billion in long overdue, unpaid tax - with no interest to pay!

The head of the HMRC meantime, has enjoyed on average of one meal per week with the owners of the very businesses he is meant to be chasing up to pay their tax. I'm sure it was always a very tense soup course. We should be thankful that the activist group UKuncut is pursuing legal action to make big business pay its taxes - though it looks like it will be in for a long haul.

In total, HMRC has written off around £27 billions of tax due but not paid by corporations in the UK. Worse still though it that when you take into account the tax lost through legal but highly unethical methods like moving money offshore, the loss to the Treasury rises to around £75 billions or even more. This includes the family trust fund of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, so no conflict of interest there.  To put into context, the Government annual deficit for the current year could be cut by nearly 60% if these grasping spivs were made to cough up their due. But somehow they are excused on the basis that it would be damaging to the nation if enforcing their tax payments drove them away - apparently we would no longer have the benefit of their presence.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Taking Tea With Adolf - the Tories' Nazi Fetish

Aidan Burley MP (right) said he regretted the behaviour of the others in the party...
Just hours after the Prime Minister called for "Christian values" to save Britain from moral decay, a Tory MP, Aidan Burley, has been fired from his post as Private Parliamentary Secretary at the Department for  Transport. The Cannock Chase parliamentarian had been seen as a rising star until he was photographed at a stag party where the groom was dressed as a Nazi. Although initially claiming (after the photo was published in a Sunday newspaper) that he had felt uncomfortable and should have left the party sooner, it came to light that he had actually hired and paid for the fascist outfit and was more than a tad instrumental in setting the theme for the evening. At this point, Prime Minister Cameron decided he had to go, more it seems to avoid the bad publicity than through any real regret about the offence caused/

So far, so tasteless, but Burley is far from the first Conservative activist to have a more than passing fascination with things Nazi and a strange desire to dress up in the clobber Hugo Boss designed and supplied (latterly using slave labour) for the Hitler Gang back in the inter-war years.
Hugo Boss: by appointment to Hitler

Both in the UK and USA, the supposedly respectable right in the Tory Party and the Republicans appear to have a good number of people in their ranks who have a taste for SS-chique. Last year, for example, a Republican candidate for Senate in Ohio defended his regular dressing up as a Nazi Waffen-SS officer to re-enact the glories of the Hitler years. And a letter in Private Eye in 2007 alleged that, while at University in the 1970s, former Tory MP and now UKIP big wig Neil Hamilton joyfully paraded with henchmen dressed in Nazi-style brownshirts.

Anyone involved in student politics in the 1980s, the heyday of Thatcherite triumphalism, will recall the rumours and the real sightings of members of the Federation of Conservative Students enthusiastically sieg-heiling each other after a few beers and the (particularly) odd ones who seized any opportunity at all to don alleged "fancy dress" with some sort of Nazi theme. But this is hardly surprising when you look at the actual politics of these people.

Tory students, 1980s
The FCS in the 1980s was well known for its extreme positions on a range of policy fronts, with racism and a taste for authoritarianism ranking high in their pantheon. This, after all, was the group that, under the chairmanship of current Speaker of the Commons John Bercow MP, repeatedly called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged and very enthusiatically voiced its support of vicious military regimes in Chile and elsewhere. In at least one case, its members sought to make common cause with the British National Party, formed by John Tyndall, who also had a strong liking for donning Nazi outfits. It was disbanded by the main party only after its 1985 conference at Loughborough University deteriorated into a drunken riot.

The BNP's Tyndall (left)
But today, their successors are little better - just a few weeks ago, Conservative students at St Andrews University burned an effigy of Barack Obama and just a few days before that Oxford University Conservatives were put under investigation after claims of members singing Nazi songs celebrating killing Jews at one of their "Port & Policy" meetings - one committee member who resigned in protest said that this is a regular event among a group which counts the current Prime Minister and Chancellor among its alumni and which is seen as a nursery for future Tory leaders and PMs.

Many Conservative have been repeatedly found sympathising and actively engaging with the most odious far right groups - Cameron himself pushed the Tories out of their links with mainstream Christian Democrats in the European Parliament into an alliance with very extreme, homophobic and fascistic eastern European parties. This includes blatantly neo-Nazi sympathisers in the Baltic states and Polish politicians who derided the election of Obama as the end of white civilisation.

So in spite of David Cameron's claims to have transformed the Tories from the nasty party of the past to one that represents the allegedly Christian values of the country, it seems if you scratch the surface, the putrid odour of racism, violence and repression is not far away at all.

British values? Fighting moral decay? I hope not.

2010 General Election debate in Hammersmith - the Tory candidate defends Cameron's alliance with European neo-Nazis. In the election, Hammersmith was one of only two seats where there was a swing towards the Labour Party.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

I, Commodity

"Free Market" - free for whom? (Amnesty International)
Yesterday, the British National Union of Students highlighted cases where students in England are increasingly turning to prostitution to make ends meet as their course fees and living costs rocket. The Government suitably wrung its grasping hands, claiming all sorts of measures of support are in place, but the evidence seems pretty incontrovertible. And, regardless of your views on prostitution itself, how surprising is it? In any recession in history, desperate people have turned to desperate means to survive.

The evidence of this and other research on prostitution does show that it is rarely a voluntary choice and it is a dangerous field to work in for all manner of reasons - violent clients, health risks, persecution by the police, and exploitation by pimps.

But it is the ultimate and logical outcome of free market capitalism. An economy that commodifies, prices and profits from any resource at all is hardly likely to stop at the exploitation of the human body. It very happily harvests the brainpower and physical abilities of employees in every walk of working life - capitalism rests on creaming off as large a premium on the value of employee labour over the cost of paying for it. So, if you are ready to squeeze excess value from people's brains, why would you refrain when it comes to the sex organs?

Angela Merkel's Germany, which in spite of its EU-philia remains an example to all neoliberal right wingers around the world, has taken this view of profit before people a step further.

Germany has legalised prostitution - brothels are now legitimate businesses. To the schlock horror concern of the ultra-capitalist Daily Telegraph, this normalisation of the sex industry has included threatening to withdraw unemployment benefits from unemployed women under 55 years of age who turn down the offer of a job working as a prostitute.

Back in 2005, a woman sent for interview by the local Job Centre faceshas her unemployment benefit after she refused a job providing sexual services in what turned out to be a brothel - although German legislators originally considered exempting prostitution from the benefit rules, they apparently concluded that it would be too difficult to determine the difference between brothels and pubs. Similarly, women who have worked in call centres in the past are being pressured into working on sex chat lines as some twisted form of suitable alternative employment.

No kidding, here is the story.

More recently, the avowedly right wing government has even made an exception to its normal tax-phobic beliefs to introduce sex-tax meters in Bonn streets, a sort of pay-as-you-earn scheme for prostitutes - as long as they keep feeding the meter, they won't be arrested for touting for business. On top of that, there is a slew of evidence and testimony that since it has been legalised, the use of prostitutes has become a not infrequent form of staff benefit for higher paid management in many German companies. Corporate orgies for meeting sales targets and as an additional bonus for the guys at the top are, according to Der Spiegel, now a common place event, no different to the traditional company golf tournament or booze-trip to the races - prostitutes or ponies, either are bought up as disposable entertainment.

How far are we from this German scenario in the UK?

Not far really - as noted above, every other part of the body is used economically, so it is only the legal status and practices around prostitution that stops this scenario arising in Britain. But things often just short of or even a cover for prostitution, like the chance to be a pole dancer or an escort, are already used as evidence for people proving whether or not they are genuinely looking for work while on benefits.

Prostitution itself  remains in a legal tangle which frequently leads to already victimised women being victimised even further while their clients and pimps are ignored by the authorities. But the libertarian right wing are among the most ardent proponents of legalising prostitution - for precisely the argument that sex workers should be able to use their assets - their bodies - to earn profit. In their world, any resource, service or product should be able to be exchanged for money.

What it often means in practice with prostitution is that it legitimises a sector which remains one of coercion, both physical and economic. As many surveys have shown, it is at the heart of the modern slave trade and legalising it does little if anything to protect the workers - arguably it can make their lot even worse. After all, if the Government  is keen to deregulate safety laws for factories and shops, it is doubtful brothels will even get a look-in. Perhaps one answer might be some form of licencing through a body like the English Collective of Prostitutes, which would give sex workers more ability to have some small degree of control over their lives as well as safer working conditions.

The capitalist economy sees humans as just one other factor of production, bought and owned by the holders of capital, and exploited for every last copper of profit possible. Women especially, but often men too, are commodified and objectified in thousands of ways by the media and the advertising industry: whether from selling the right clothes, the right perfume, the right size, through to the blatant exploitation to be found in increasingly "hard porn" on the internet and elsewhere. So why, in capitalist thinking, would you eschew the opportunity to be had from selling sexual intercourse?

The sad tales from Germany, while shocking, are not in the least surprising. By one stream of capitalist thought, our unique personalities, our amazing skills and our hard labour make us nothing more than "Human capital" - just one other segment of the system, one more cog in the wheel. No job is too degrading, no work too demanding, no wage too low, when there's money to be made - and you, your flesh and blood, are just one more commodity to be bought and sold.

The apotheosis of the  free market.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Captain Pepper - the last refuge of the ruling class?

Western democracy in action - 84 year old woman pepper-sprayed by the police in Seattle protest.

Remember the London riots? A week of smashed glass and free shopping across the big cities of England (Scotland was notably free of any trouble), coupled with assaults on passersby and the looting of peoples flats and cars. The Guardian has just run a fascinating series of reports into the motives of the rioters, many of whom clearly saw themselves at least justified in their actions by a political environment that permits politicians to survive their great expenses swindle with a handful of token sacrificial lambs, and bankers to be rewarded for greed, failure and deceit. As an earlier blog asked, what separated our rulers and rioters beyond a few shards of broken glass?

Yet how did this all start? Well, you should remember the shooting dead of Mark Duggan. The police failure to inform his family of his death and subsequent refusal to talk to them led to a demonstration which many see as the trigger for the riots.

It is bizarre how this aspect of the riots has become so downplayed. Instead, the riots have passed into the myth that those taking part were all young people involved in gangs - when in truth very few were gang members; there was a wide range of age groups involved; and most who took part did not have previous convictions.

What the statistics do show is that most were from poor backgrounds, many unemployed or in low wage jobs. And as any historian will tell you, throughout history, deprive people of any hope of a genuine stake in society, add grossly excessive inequality, and while your riots will not be spearheaded by the Vanguard of the Revolution, they will be prompted and justified by the ruling class' exploitation of those around them.

We have heard a lot from the Occupy Movement about the 1% and the 99%. And it is very true that a tiny, tiny elite control the bulk of the world's wealth. But while going for the 1% is pretty attractive - after all, by default, hardly anyone is one of them! Hell, we are nearly all part of the 99%. The implication then is that it is all the fault of the 1% - everyone else is clear.

And yet- consider this: to be in the top 10% of the income bracket in the UK, you need to earn slightly over £54,000 p.a. And the top 10% - some six million people- now own twelve times more than the bottom six million, a huge disparity, and around double the ratios to be found in France and Germany, who have a more socially oriented political settlement. British inequality has doubled in the last generation. In the times of plenty under neoliberal New Labour, the rising prosperity of the average person meant that the exponential rise in the wealth of the richest went unnoticed - Peter Mandelson was able to trumpet that Labour were "supremely relaxed about people who get filthy rich" (to be fair to Mandy, he did add "..as long as they pay their taxes" - though of course, New Labour made certain they had fewer and fewer taxes to pay).

But under the neoliberal austerity economics of the Con Dems in recessionary Britain, the excessive disparities in wealth are becoming more and more evident, especially as the richest continue to award themselves massive pay increases in spite of their telling everyone else to tighten their belts. In the USA, similarly with its full-on liberal capitalist ethic, the disparities are even worse - and the response, including the widespread deployment of vicious pepper spray against perfectly peaceful protesters (see the video below and the photo above), does not bear any explanation other than that the authorities are actively suppressing dissent of even the most mildly social democratic type.

And so, without a stake in society, what impulse is there to support and obey the rules of society? And what then is left to protect the rulers but the increasingly brutal force and more and more powers to intrude and intervene in people's lives - new laws, for example, will allow the authorities to enter peoples homes to remove political window posters deemed to be inappropriate if, for example, the leader of China is passing nearby and someone puts up a Free Tibet notice. We wouldn't want to threaten the terms of the trade, after all - the rich might be upset.

The recourse to increasingly militaristic crowd control tactics in pseudo-democratic capitalist states around the world is deeply unwelcome and a warping of good policing. More than that though, it is a real threat to democratic debate and freedom of speech.

The effects of pepper spray:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Newt Gingrich and The Invention of America

Nothing invented - the real tears of a real Palestinian, under  Israeli fire.
The appalling Newt Gingrich, a hopeful for the Republican nomination for US President in next year's election, has described the Palestinians as an "invented" people with no right to a state of their own. Like many a US politician before him, Gingrich is parroting a line used frequently by Zionists to excuse the dreadful treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli state.

Gingrich tries to redesignate the millions of people in Gaza and West Bank with the generic term Arab. This would be a bit like saying there is no such thing as English people or Greek people - but rather deciding they are all Europeans! To Gingrich's ignorantly blinkered eyes of course, Arabs are all just a homogenous bunch of bearded brown guys who spend their days chomping spicy food, shouting Allah-u-akbar, and plotting against America. In truth, Arabs are tens of millions of people across the Middle east. living in diverse countries with diverse cultures and diverse religions (there are millions of Christian Arabs, as well as other faiths like the Druze). The Palestinians are as distinctive as Jordanians are from Algerians, or Libyans from Iraqis.

Palestine itself is no more or less invented than any other state - all states are on some level invented when they are created: the creation of Britain was a union, to some degree forced, between at least four distinctive ethnic groups. Germany was forged by Prussian conquest of a myriad of German city states back in 1871, while a little later Garibaldi and Vittorio Emmanuel united the state of Italy from a number of different elements. Some states are ethnically based, others emerge as an amalgam - as Britain did.

By far the most invented nationality of all, complete with the most artificially created state of all, is of course the American identity claimed by the United States. Newt did not reflect on this before his bigoted tirade - but America was created through a combination of colonisation, bribery and bloody conquest in terms of its territories and though the gradual and far from easy or completed amalgamation of scores of different ethnicities, destroying the cultural distinctiveness of its component parts far more completely than any other empire in history. And all in the last two and a bit centuries - the Palestinians, by contrast, can better that history by over a thousand years.

So, if Palestine has no right to exist, why does America have any right to exist either?

The people who calls themselves Palestinians are the same people who have lived in the area of Palestine for over fourteen centuries. For much of that time, they did not have their own state because they were part of larger empires, latterly the Ottoman Turkish Empire which collapsed at the end of the First World War. Palestine was then transferred to be a mandate of the British Empire and it was at this stage that the Balfour Declaration decided that Palestine could provide a homeland for Jewish people from other parts of the world. Many Jews had of course lived in the area for centuries alongside their Muslim and Christian neighbours, mostly in peace. But driven by the dreadful victimisation of the Nazi Holocaust, anti-semitism among Europeans, and in many cases their own religious fervour, since 1945, millions of other Jews from elsewhere in the world have emigrated to Israel, driving out Palestinian people who had lived there for centuries. And this was done on the spurious basis that their Jewish ancestors had lived there even earlier.

Quite aside from the debate about how far back in history you can go to raise grievances, there is of course a lie peddled by the West, that the blood thirsty Muslim Arabs seized Israel and drove out the Jews and that the Christian Crusaders then made common cause with the Jews to retake the Holy Lands - and that their failure to do so was only put right by the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Many American evangelicals even send donations to Israel today in this belief.

But the truth could not be further away - the Jewish disapora from the Roman province of Palestina began in the second century, driven by both the persecution and the opportunities provided by the then pagan Roman Empire. When the Muslim Arabs arrived in the area five centuries later, they were welcomed by Jews and dissident Christians as liberators from the increasingly monotheistic totalitarianism of the Christian Byzantine Empire. A whole five hundred years later, when the Crusaders turned up and briefly captured Jerusalem, the Warriors of the Cross of Jesus indiscriminately slaughtered the Jews, "heretic" Christians and Muslims who had jointly defended the city. It was one of the greatest massacres in recorded history. (Notably, when the Muslims retook the city a century later, exiled Jews flocked back to live there in peace and prosperity.)

Understanding history is vital to understand why we are where we are, but it is today that matters. The bottom line is that millions live in the huge refugee camps that are the totality of Palestinian territory. They live in some of the most difficult conditions in the world - confined in small areas; shelled and bombed by a superior Israeli army and air force; deprived of many goods; deprived of life chances; and with the highest rate of depressive illness measured anywhere in the world. These people are not invented. They are not made up or artificial. They are real, flesh and blood, like you and me. And they are where they are because they lived in Palestine and the Israeli state pushed them out forcibly; and unlike Gingrich's weasel words, they had and have nowhere to go.

The problem is real and the solution has to be found - a real one, not the dangerous fantasy with which Newt Gingrich, in his bizarre little brain, seeks to dismiss the existence of millions and so excuse the violence and degradation to which they are constantly subjected. If Americans vote for this man, with his very much invented artificial reality, they will do so at great peril to themselves and to the peace of the world.

The area of the current USA in 1830 - only the red part was American then; the rest was invented later.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

COP 17 Youth Plea for Action on Global Warming - "Get It Done!" (from The Ecosocialist Blog)


 In response to the failure of COP 17 the Bolivian Ambassador has said that "only a 
movement from below can save us now" and this speech brings that movement from 
below  (in the form of Occupy) into Durban and toward action on climate change. 

I've been struggling to find anything I wanted to post about COP 17 - The expectations 

were low, the outcome was in line with those expectations - But this speech 'got me', 
reminiscent perhaps of the young Canadian Severn Cullis-Suzuki speaking at the 
earth summit in Rio in 1992 -  Anjali Appadurai ends by mic-checking occupy style ' Get it Done, 
Get it Done ' and this is the moment that for me lifts the gloom.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Batting for the Bankers

So with great fanfare David Cameron claims he has stood up for Britain's national interests by opposing every single one of the other European Union member states as they attempt to claw their way out of the Euro-crisis. With everyone now acknowledging the arrival of a two-speed Europe - 26 states going at one speed and Britain at the other - the chances of a General Election in the New Year have to have increased. Hoping to ride a wave of mindless xenophobia, "Bulldog" Dave will be watching the polls closely for his hoped-for bigot-bounce over the next few months so that he can call a snap election, pose as John Bull reborn and free himself of the pro-EU Lib Dems, who face oblivion at any polls. Given the long-term economic prognosis, it could be his only-ever chance of forming a majority regime.

And yet, how tragically confused the public mood will be - because the supposed national interests he claims to have stood up for are nothing to do with the interests of ordinary people. What he has vetoed is not any of the daft (though in total relatively few) regulations that emanate from Brussels on standardised food weights or what constitutes Wensleydale cheese, or not. Nor have his efforts done anything the tackle the corruption to be found in the workings of much of the Union's institutions. He has done nothing to stop the EU's ludicrous and damaging pursuit of biofuels, nor anything to challenge the wasteful transportation of goods over huge distances of the Continent. And there is nothing to stop the  dislocation of local communities caused by the single European market (unsurprisingly, that last is the bit that the rich backers of the  Eurosceptics are very, very keen to keep as it is).

Indeed, for ordinary British people, his actions may make things much worse - as Europe faces financial disaster, any economic meltdown across the Channel will inevitably shaft Britain as much as anywhere else, creating unemployment, inflation and misery for millions. By vetoing the proposed international financial regulations, Cameron has at least delayed and probably damaged longer term the struggle to restore economic stability to our key trading partners. Why risk that?

Simple - because for Dave it is worth it.

What Cameron has done is make sure that the City of London remains free of any effective scrutiny. Yep, Bulldog Dave has been out fighting on behalf of the bankers. He has used Britain's veto on this historic occasion to strike a blow against proposed internationally binding regulation of the international finance trade that flows in and out of London banks and City brokers' accounts, fleecing hardworking people of billions in thieved commission and forcing public service cuts through their myriad means of tax avoidance and tax dodging.

He has also put paid to the so-called Robin Hood tax - a tiny levy on bankers transactions that could raise tens of billions of pounds a year to cut deficits and fund public services. Instead, Dave sees it in Britain's interests to let the leeches keep the cash. The rest of Europe may go ahead, but given the importance of the City of London in international finance - a trade with little more than peripheral, trickle-down benefits for Britain - our decision to opt-out will blunt the impact of any transactions tax. This in turn will seriously undermine wider attempts to get the international community to tackle the excesses of the banking and finance cartel that has done so much to bring our world to its knees.

And of course by isolating Britain from absolutely everyone else, he leaves a European Union which will inevitably be dominated by Germany and France - British influence will diminish rapidly in spite (and even because of) all the jingoistic flag waving.

So, I hope Dave is proud of himself. The challenge will be for progressives to expose his claims of fighting for our national interests as a lie and cover for protecting his party financiers and former school chums; yet at the same time to keep advocating for a better, social Europe. The new, more integrated arrangements that every other country seems to be signing up to may not be the right answer either, but at least at its core is an attempt to create some international public control over the currently pretty much unregulated international finance markets which play games with ordinary people's jobs, communities and life chances.

Bulldog Dave? Not likely. Just Bull**** Dave, batting for the bankers.

1946 - and the Eurosceptics mascot calls for a Union of Europe: Winston Churchill's Zurich Speech.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's a Wonderful World

Sister Earth? We may need Keppler 22b - if only we can develop warp travel (solar powered!)
Just broadcast this evening by the BBC, the final episode of the Frozen Planet looked at climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic. Cataloguing the break up of ice shelves the size of Greater London, a 3C increase in local temperatures over the last fifty years and the ever southwards migration of penguins in search of colder climes, the crime and danger of global warming is never more evident. And yet this very week, as oil rich Arctic state Canada has been rumoured to be on the verge of withdrawing its already lukewarm support for the Kyoto Protocol, the massively under-reported Durban conference on climate change has struggled to make any progress at all. Yet again, humanity seems as far as ever from taking any real action on carbon emissions - which have risen faster than ever over the last twelve months, with Britain as culpable as anyone else.

This advert for BBC Natural History programmes played at the end - a touchingly melancholic celebration of our home. In the week that NASA revealed it has discovered what may turn out to be our sister planet - 600 light years away - and a sci fi film is released about Another Earth, it is a tribute to the power of public broadcasting that a series as powerfully thought-provoking yet visually stunning as this can still be made to highlight the reality that we have only one planet, and we need to start looking after it a lot better, very, very quickly.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Socio-Economics of Del Boy: Myth & Reality in the Court of the Cleggeron

The last three years since the banking crisis began in earnest have seen a transformation of popular views about wealth and its deeply inequal distribution in Britain and globally. For the first time in two decades, many more people have challenged the huge payments made to senior executives across a wide range of industries, including the private sector.

This has been against a background where, while bosses and owners have frequently called for pay restraint from their frequently non-unionised workforces, they have carried on paying out huge increases to themselves - even in recessionary 2010/11,  Chief Executive pay in the FTSE100 top companies rose by 43%, with other senior executives doing even better on 49%. At the same time, average pay for everyone else fell by over £2,600 p.a.  And this is part of a long established pattern - in 2010, before much of this last year's huge hike, the ratio of top to lowest paid in the top 100 FTSE companies was an utterly obscene 232:1. 

It is no surprise that, as recession bites and ordinary people find their living standards squeezed and services cut, we see both rising political protest and the crime wave of the summer riots. As Wilkinson and Pickett demonstrated so powerfully, highly unequal societies are more personally unhappy, physically and psychologically unhealthy, socially disrupted and prone to higher levels of crime than societies - even poorer ones like Cuba - where the disparity in wealth is much lower.

And so today Nick Clegg, hapless Deputy PM, has announced with great flourish his anger at the wealthiest being rewarded so highly and that he has decided that it is time to do something about it! Unfortunately, he has been typically vague as the different components of our dysfunctional Coalition Government try to respond to the wave of public discontent. Neither Government party is in any way instinctively egalitarian and both are unashamedly pro-capitalist. So we needn't hold our breaths in the hope of any concrete action.

From what we can see, the proposals are likely to amount to little more than requiring the publication of the ratio of the top paid person in a company with the pay, not of the lowest, but of either the average or, conceivably even worse, the median paid worker. This of course massively reduces the ratio, ignoring the lack of value placed on the lowest paid and often hardest working (and most stressed) workers in our society. Otherwise limited to requiring more information for shareholders (when most shares are held by other large businesses anyway) and some pious hope of capitalism caking itself in enough greasepaint to present a half-acceptable face to the public, this proposal is just a load of window-dressing from a Government too scared to challenge its own paymasters (that's if it actually wanted to!).

But why on Earth, at a time when the capitalist system is on the ropes with the Last Chance Saloon clearly in sight, are we not tackling the rapaciousness of the rich, the very people who in so many ways are ruining our world? Why, in a reality of inevitably limited resources, are we not setting maximum pay as well as minimum pay? We cannot tackle the poverty of the poorest without also tackling the wealth of the richest. Full stop.

Capitalism is vicious and deceitful, but it is also very clever - it sells the myth that it rewards effort when in fact it mainly assists those who already have wealth to engorge themselves ever more: it holds out the naive lie that anyone can share in the fest if only they work harder just that bit longer, etc. It is the socio-economics of Del Boy; this time next year, we'll all be millionaires. And the real tragedy, like the brilliant pathos of the comedy of Only Fools, is that so many still buy into the myth.

And that must be Mr Clegg's hope - that his tilting at windmills might yet fantastically transmogrify into a belief that he has miraculously slain the dragon of excess without even lifting his lance. That is the trouble with myth - it is at its most appealing when it tells its biggest lies to the most desperate of people in the most desperate of times. It bends and outlives reality, becoming exposed as fake often only when its premise has destroyed all around it and it finally stands naked and exposed as the lie it is. So the Government may cloak its inaction on inequality with fiery rhetoric about damnable greed, but in doing so it will allow the carnival of destructive excess to carry on yet longer, causing more and more irreparable damage to our social fabric and the well being of our country and planet.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Jeremy Clarkson...in a Microwave

Carbon wagon champion Jeremy Clarkson has been rightly condemned today for his comment that public sector strikers should be shot dead - and, to boot, in front of their families.

Clarkson, who fronts BBC car programme Top Gear, which is as good an example as any of the close relationship between large vehicle engines and the priapically challenged male, has always been something of a bete noire for any self-respecting environmentalist, liberal and, indeed, human being. His pathetic column in the Sunday Times reeks of the attention-seeking adolescent arrogance of the Prefect's Room in a boys-only Sixth Form .

This odious character conveniently ignores the fact that, with a salary reportedly around £1 million coming from the BBC licence fee, he is actually one of the few public sector workers whose terms and conditions are indeed truly bloated and excessive. Yet writing these very words is probably self-defeating, because this pathetic petrolhead appears to thrive on coverage of any sort.

So, never mind any further analysis or ranting about how different the response of the authorities and the Prime Minister would have been had a trade union called for bankers or Tory MPs to be executed in front of their families. No more comparing the disparity in the jailing for several years of two youths for briefly setting up a Facebook riots page when they were drunk compared to the apparently sober Clarkson's supposedly satirical call for violence.

So, instead, here is a video to make us all feel better.