We are living in uplifting times. Across Europe the ground is trembling, setting off a ripple whose final destination we cannot know. But if you’re one of the state professionals in government or institutions, you are not safe. Old certainties are in flux and the centre cannot hold.
The Yes movement didn’t know it, but it was part of people power in Greece that changed the government and could redirect the EU. Restless people are impatient with institutional failure and the arrogance of power in a way that transcends affiliations. Try this: ‘The fundamental question at stake in the Greek election, and in the Scottish referendum, and in the rise of Ukip is actually exactly the same: who governs a country? Is it the people who live in it, or a government chosen by them, or is it an international elite of financial interests and the institutions which serve them?’
That’s Jeremy Gilbert, Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/professor-jeremy-gilbert/greece-elections_b_6580254.htm
He says there is a mass of evidence that since the 1970s, the opportunities for citizens collectively to influence the course of government policy on any scale – from parish councils to the EU – have significantly reduced. ‘In the UK, most of Thatcher’s initial supporters thought they were voting for an end to multiculturalism, the restoration of the traditional family, and the preservation of Britain’s imperial greatness. What they got was privatisation, inequality, and the deregulation of the financial sector. Most people who voted for Blair in 1997 thought they were voting for a return to a modernised version of post-war social democracy. What they got was more privatisation, inequality, and deregulation of the financial sector. Today, it seems, you can have any policy you like, as long as it’s the one that suits the hedge funds.’
At last there is a serious and growing challenge to the corrupt powerbase that patronises the voters every four or five years and in between lines its pockets and flirts with the corporate influence.
In total 76 MPs have recent past or present financial links to companies or individuals involved in private healthcare. Of them, 61 are Conservative MPs, 8 are Labour MPs, and 4 are Liberal Democrats, leaving 1 other from the Bishops. This means, 81% of MPs with these links are Conservative.
They are Chairman of estate companies involved in PFI deals, partners in legal firms that make those deals, advisors to private hospitals, they represent companies in pharmaceutical media, medical equipment, care homes, lobbying, and insurance. You name it, they have it covered and the list of vested interests in both the Commons and the Lords is so great, that it can best be described as a healthcare coup d’état of our parliamentary institutions. These parliamentarians coupled with the 142 Lords with the same interests, make a total of 206 parliamentarians with financial links to companies involved in healthcare.
All of these public servants were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill, helping it pass into Act.
Recent released research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed 124 members of the House of Lords ‘benefit’ from the financial industry.
On the back of the MPs’ expenses scandal this kind of knowledge is sickening the public and driving them to find some credible alternative. It may not matter to them if it’s UKIP or the Greens – it is enough merely that they are not associated with the Establishment which in turn is the SNP’s unique bonus of being in power and getting credit for good government while at the same time objecting to the British Establishment. Attempts to decry the Nationalists for poor service delivery or cost-cutting largely fail because of the good will built up and the understanding that ultimately budgets are determined in London. (An intriguing tableau illustrating this appeared on Twitter today when Labour MSP Hugh Henry expressed his fury that his mother-in-law had to wait all night for an A and E bed – accompanied by her no-doubt anxious daughter. He demanded Nicola do something about it. I sympathised with him and his human emotion at a disturbing experience. But the online response was not to excoriate Sturgeon but to point out that austerity meant public sector cuts and that was in London’s hands – a policy he supported. The public isn’t buying the party line any more. Personally, I have to say I think it’s as much a hospital management issue as it is a ministerial one anyway).
The public sees one arm of politics routinely blaming the other and never taking direct responsibility. They are fed up being fooled and told the economy is growing when their own income has fallen…tired too of the burden being carried by the poorest and of a social structure which guarantees it stays that way.
Britain has some of the lowest social mobility in the developed world – the OECD figures show our earnings in the UK are more likely to reflect our fathers’ than any other country. Social mobility hasn’t changed since the 1970s – and in some ways has got worse.
24% of vice-chancellors, 32% of MPs, 51% of top Medics, 54% of FTSE-100 chief execs, 54% of top journalists, 70% of High Court judges …went to private school, though only 7% of the population do.
Education is an engine of social mobility. But achievement is not balanced fairly – for the poorest fifth in society, 46% have mothers with no qualifications at all. For the richest, it’s only 3%
There is a strong link between a lack of social mobility and inequality – and the UK has both. Only Portugal is more unequal with less social mobility
If you are at the top, the rewards are high – the top 1% of the UK population has a greater share of national income than at any time since the 1930s (Source, The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts
You can see why – the Scottish Nationalist movement apart – people are moving away from the established British parties and becoming increasingly confident in their assertions and demands. So far it is the Yes side that is open to this change with the SNP offering all members full access to make policy (how the knees of the old Labour fixers must knock at this idea). But even they don’t know where this will lead and what parties and politics might look like in five years time. I don’t think the public care, the mood now is to scare them all, knock down all the skittles and then pick up the pieces.
But Whitehall and Brussels are on a warning which they would do well to heed, unlike the German Chancellor whose instincts have deserted her. Angela Merkel is on the wrong side of the austerity debate and dragging nation states with her. Her once impregnable position is threatened now and if people in other EU states see Syriza making progress they too will be heartened.
Scotland’s anti-Unionist movement is part of this trend and looks determined to punish the guilty. The lesson is simple – people are angry.
So the idea that there is no element of bitterness or revenge in politics is to deny reality – and human experience. Ask Hugh Henry. But don’t ask Gerry Hassan who has turned queasy at online arguments that seem to me to be normal cut and thrust, however at times, juvenile.
We are living in the past, it seems, consumed by bitterness, according to Professor Hassan. We are constantly rewriting the referendum and there is no political intelligence in this. Thus spake the Sage of Strathbungo. And he has a degree…
This all emerged after I was upbraided for daring to write about politics by the ‘political editor’ of the Daily Record who was joined in a collective sneer by the other giants of the art – his opposite number at the Daily Mail and Euan McColm – who all masterfully guided us through the complexities of the campaign, as you will recall.
In fact, in the space of an hour it was as if a Unionist sewer pipe had burst and in short order I had the heroes of Her Majesty’s Press (including David Clegg and Alan Roden) after me on Twitter along with McDougall from Better Together/Murphy, McTernan, Margaret Darling and Jill Stephenson. You’d think they all worked together, wouldn’t you?
I think Gerry wants us to stop arguing and play nice which is fine except when I checked back on my time line I find McTernan describing me recently as a paranoid lunatic. Even I won’t own up to that. I agree with Gerry that at times it can go too far but you can’t afford to be squeamish or delicate. The big change today is that people – yes, the punters, the paying customers – are actively engaged and they don’t do Hassan-style political science. People call a spade a spade. They argue and swear and fall out. It’s all an on-going dialogue, as it says at the top of the page, it isn’t a university paper or think tank report.
What I resent is the hacks who dragged Scottish journalism through the mud in the indyref preening themselves like media luvvies rather than the spoon-fed sycophants they are. For example David Clegg tweeted to Blair McDougall congratulations on getting a job with Scottish Labour. What do you think? Polite? Friendly? Or a**e-licking obsequiousness? It’s like emailing that nice Blair in company accounts to say ‘Congrats on yr promotion to the management team. You soooo deserve it!’
This, mind you, to a political party he’s supposed to monitor and scrutinise…to a man he’s supposed to hold to account. On the back of Cochrane admitting he spiked stories Darling didn’t want printed, it gives me the dry boak to see what’s happened to the old trade in modern Scotland.
Sorry if I sound bitter but the toe-curling hypocrisy needs to be pointed out. The Daily Record played a crucial part in the referendum and to a large degree its success is tied into Labour’s in their suicide pact. David Clegg found it funny I had predicted a Yes win and was wrong, omitting to mention that it was fear of that very same Yes win that prompted his own paper to panic and fabricate the Vow with Gordon Brown and the Labour Party. The Record thought Yes might win. The British government thought Yes might win. The SNP believed it would win. Who’s re-writing history and reliving the referendum, Gerry?
Interestingly, I’m being monitored by the Murphy team so we’ll probably encounter a new cybernat story in the Record soon. Yawn.
But what I detect in the trolling by McTernan and McDougall is that they really don’t like being linked to Better Together. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The campaign with the Tories has destroyed Labour’s credentials and the last thing the Murphy mob want is Labour swing voters to be reminded that the BT team moved en bloc to Murphy’s side to win them back. BT has become death on a stick for Labour so I suppose I’ll need to tweet about it all over again.
Can you feel the ground shaking…