Just when you think politics in this country can't get any worse, it gets worse. Politicians show themselves up to be even more incompetent, arrogant, selfish and greedy than most people can possibly imagine. Scumbags with no values, no soul, no spirit, and not much intelligence of any sort. Pretty much what people were thinking anyway, but to have it all exposed on camera in close up and in detail is a gruesome spectacle.
Apart from that, it was quite amusing watching the excellent Channel 4 'Dispatches' documentary last night on the way in which politicians of both the major parties vie with one another for jobs as 'consultants' (ie lobbyists) and 'advisory board' members (ie lobbyists) for whichever companies are prepared to give them £3 - 5,000 to influence serving politicians on their behalf. That's not £3 - 5,000 per year for a few days "work" on their behalf. That's £3 - 5,000 PER DAY.
One after another these people present themselves for a kind of job interview, during which they bend over backwards to sell themselves by lying and boasting about how much clout and influence they have in Parliament and Whitehall, how many 'contacts' they know, and even claim they can get the likes of Tony Blair to go along to little soirees for wealthy businessmen.
Since Blair himself has made over £20 million since leaving office it's not very hard to believe it either. Though it's not exactly clear what Blair would actually do for the said businessmen when he turns up. Perhaps it's enough for them that they can go home afterwards and say they've had a drink and a chat with Tony, or smoked a joint with him, or whatever.
The repulsive greaseball Stephen Byers MP, caught on a concealed video camera, called himself a 'cab for hire' - whereas he's actually a fucking Westminster rent boy who'll put out for anyone who'll offer him the going rate. Sucking the devil's cock comes so very naturally to people like Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon.
Prior to this programme I hadn't realised just how big a 'lump sum' politicians are given when they're either thrown out of parliament or they just jack it in in order to earn some really big bucks elsewhere. £50 - 70,000 seems to be the range for a few years (or a few days per year) on the green benches. (A few years back I hadn't even understood that these 'representatives' of ours even get big pensions as and when they retire from - or get kicked out of - Parliament. Is being an MP really thought to be a public service? How can ego-tripping, sucking up to the party whips and behaving like lobby fodder be classified as public service, when it's the exact fucking opposite?)
I certainly hadn't realised how much some of these people still 'earn' in addition to their MPs' salaries when they give themselves days off and trot off to do 'consultancies' for big companies - like BT, in Hewitt's case.
There was even a female MP, Margaret Moran, on last night's programme who hasn't been seen in either Parliament or in her constituency for the past few months on account of being on 'sick leave', but turned up looking eager, perky and fit to do business at the offices of the bogus lobbying company who'd asked her along for 'a chat' about future employment. The sting worked perfectly. When the programme makers then phoned her secretary and asked for an appointment for a chat with this lady they were told she couldn't see anybody at all as she was on sick leave!
The fact that Byers, Hewitt and Hoon were, and are, architypical Blairites is quite wonderful. So is the fact that these three are selling themselves on the basis of being thick as thieves with their old mates Blair, Mandelson and Adonis, who have in the past, according to them, and will in the future, it is presumed, be willing to act in the interests of industrialists and financiers.
Jack Straw on the radio this morning was moved to say, "These people are clearly more interested in making money than in properly representing their constituents". Obviously! New Labour has instantly said they're 'taking the whip away' from all three of them. That'll teach them! Jack says it's on account of "bringing the Labour Party into disrepute". HEL-LO JACK! The Labour Party IS already in disrepute - thanks to the likes of you and Blair making Byers, Hewitt and Hoon part of your gang.
Polly Toybee says this in today's paper -
Lucre poisoned New Labour.
A budget for fairness and a living wage can uphold the party's true values – trashed by the greed of Blair and his acolytes
The damage done is well beyond the here and now of this election...............................................................
Tony Blair and those followers cashing in on their years in office have vandalised their own history books.
Ministers as well as Labour toilers in the field are incandescent with anger.
If a fish rots from the head, Labour's contamination with money was smelled from those earliest days of being "intensely relaxed about the filthy rich". But Tony Blair's behaviour since 2007 defies the ravings of his worst enemies. No conspiracy theorist guessed he would take money for Iraqi oil from a South Korean company – to add to £1m from the Kuwaiti royal family, an estimated £20m from anyone anywhere, £4m for his book, plus properties fit for a Brunei prince.
That all this mammon is collected in the name of God is worthy of the faith-based business school of L Ron Hubbard: God can make you very rich indeed. Did Blair go to war in Iraq to get rich quick? Almost certainly not, but the cashflow from American adulation ever since will leave the slur on his tombstone. His friends and colleagues shake their heads in disbelief. They warn him, but he inhabits a stratosphere of hyper-wealth, where their words drowned in the purr of Gulfstreams.
Peter Mandelson, twice scorched for flying too near the rich, still holidayed with Tory tax exiles numbering George Osborne and unsuitable oligarchs among their friends. To Labour people the puzzle is, what they talk about, where's the fun? Why spend precious holidays playing court jester to Rothschilds with obnoxious views? Sun, sea and Petrus can't be enough. Enjoying such company suggests that Blair, Mandelson and others who cross the line are not serious about Labour politics, it's all a bit of a game, a job they do well. Only little people let politics get in the way of pleasure. Worldly and blase, this is politics as a pastime, not a way of life.
Perhaps it is no surprise that Blair's and Mandelson's followers lost their bearings, too. Byers will be anyone's cab for £5,000 a day, boasting of helping Tesco wreck a food-labelling scheme. Geoff Hoon gladly trades his contacts for "something that frankly makes money". Patricia Hewitt is only one of the health ministers and special advisers cashing in with private health companies. Alan Milburn, honorary president of Progress, is paid by a string of health companies as well as Pepsico. Never mind the rules, this is about understanding public service. When it's over, and the Prius and the red box are gone, it's over. There is no entitlement to that world of banqueting and dining with plutocrats which belongs to the job, not the person. Ministerial pensions are excellent, with no need to prostitute one's previous office for cash.
The sheer naivety and idiocy is as significant as the gargantuan greed.
23 Mar 2010, 8:10AM
Ministers are incandescent? Would they be the same ones about to flog off the Channel Tunnel Rail Link? The ones complicit in privatising the "services" of Ofsted? The ones who are insisting on PFI as the answer to all problems? The ones who want to flog off the Royal Mail to anyone at all?
The problem here is that the nexus between the Labour Party and the commercial world is so strong that many ministers are annoyed at the bad publicity; but they cannot understand that the cause is the uncontrolled entrance of commerce into the heart of government
Labour is like one of those caterpillars taken over by parasitic wasp grubs (Blair, Mandelson, Byers etc). The grubs have eaten it from inside so it is now only a corpse while they fly off to better places.
In the run-up to the 1997 election, Stephen Byers was portrayed as a towering figure of the future with a sure grasp of high politics. Yesterday he joined the long list of other rubbish we were meant to believe about New Labour. The journalistic sting that snared him was absolutely predictable to almost everyone but his dim self. It was a shoddy end to his political career and an apt memorial to disastrous era of smoke and mirrors ruled over by what turned out to be Berlusconi-Labour.
Thank you, Ms Toynbee, for pointing out what so many of us have been saying for so long now: "Labour" since 97 has become a gang of greedy, dishonest, promise-breaking, self-serving mediocrities of absolutely staggering hypocrisy and incompetence.
The best we can hope for is a wholesale eviction of the worst offenders and a hung parliament, so that the LibDems, as the only party which has sustained even a few scraps of credit, may have enough influence to ensure electoral reform.
The funny thing about all this is that when someone suggests Blair and co have simply sold the nation and its services to the highest bidder in an openly corrupt way they are accused of hysteria and "student politics" etc . . . reading too much Chomsky perhaps. Sadly its the reality. Politics, like everything else, has now been privatised. It doesnt serve the public interest - it serves the interests of its members, it is just another part of the business arena; putting a suitable spin on the pillaging of the nation, a grand PR exercise for budding millionaires.
An excellent Steve Bell cartoon here, plus some good cifs:
Byers is - like Hewitt and Hoon - a crook. They should all be in jail. If indeed they haven't broken any laws or "Parliamentary rules," then the laws/rules need to be changed.
It is outrageous that MPs are allowed to represent any interests other than those of their constituents. Ever. They've fat salaries, perks and gold-plated pensions. They can shove their consultancies and directorships up their arses and retire like the rest of us.
I say, I say, I say;
What's the difference between Stephen Byers and Neil Hamilton?
No, I'm serious. I'd really like to know.
I say, I say, I say;
What's the difference between Stephen Byers and Neil Hamilton?
One is a deceitful, conniving, thieving TORY bastard, and the other is Neil Hamilton.
The Guardian's editorial on this matter said this -
MPs' sleaze: Byers for sale
Mr Byers and his colleagues have only themselves to blame. They should not have been so greedy
He stands exposed today as both stupid and sleazy and, most important of all, as an embarrassment to the progressive politics that he still professes. Stupid because he ought to be sharp and experienced enough to have seen through the cash-for-influence sting that was mounted against him by the Sunday Times and Channel 4's programme Dispatches. Sleazy because he has no business – if that's the word – offering his services as a lobbyist at a daily rate that most people in his North Tyneside constituency do not come near earning in a month, while occupying a seat in parliament.
The things Mr Byers told his undercover interviewer are shameful. Has he learned nothing from the events of the past couple of years? If Mr Byers was not leaving parliament already, there would be a case for deselecting him. His only defence, a threadbare one, is that he did not actually do what he offered and that he realised within 24 hours that he was an idiot. But Mr Byers is not just an idiot. He is a disgraced political figure.
Mr Byers and his colleagues have only themselves to blame . . . They should not have been so greedy. They should not have been so disconnected from the values for which not just their party but the British people stand. Mr Byers let himself down, and that is his problem. But he also let the progressive cause down, and that's our problem too.
Courtesy of Peter Preston's column yesterday, here are "the Seven Principles of Public Life, the bedrock that Lord Nolan first carved . . . selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Openness? Honesty? You had to laugh, watching the Dispatches programme, at the number of times the sleazeballs said to the interviewer, speaking of the lobbying they'd been doing, and were prepared to do in the future for £5,000 a day, things like, "This is for your ears only" . . . "This is highly confidential" . . . "This is completely off the record" . . .
Here's a good article to follow up yesterday's thoughts about Obama's healthcare reforms:
Healthcare: victory for America's soul
A vicious fear offensive backed by establishment Republicans has failed: US healthcare will be reformed
Obama's victory speech here -
Working Class Hero
Last night's Channel 4 news had the good sense to speak with Michael Moore - author, activist and documentary film maker - about Obama and the American political scene.
Moore is a self-described liberal who has criticized globalization, large corporations, assault weapon ownership, the Iraq War, U.S. President George W. Bush and the American health care system in his written and cinematic works. - Wikipedia
MM's dad worked on an assembly line in a General Motors factory. After dropping out of his local university Michael started writing for and editing local political magazines and newspapers.
As the son of a blue-collar father who'd spent his life campaigning on behalf of working class people against the dark side of capitalism I reckon Michael's still entitled to feel he speaks on behalf of the working classes, which is what he does very well indeed. In a very reasonable and eloquent way he demands reforms to the political system, reforms to the banking system and the regulation of Wall Street, and the adoption of a genuine national health service.
Now is the time for all of us to stand up and be counted. If there's anyone who doesn't want capitalism, banking and industry to be better regulated and made to work on behalf of we, the people, and not just the 10% of the population that owns all the serious money, then let them also stand up and be counted. Fence sitters should be forced to get down off the fucking fence.
The Guardian printed this Jackie Ashley piece yesterday about setting up a People's Bank:
Post offices can kickstart Labour's radical agenda
A People's Bank would herald a new version of back-to-basics – valuing the reality of people's lives, and their institutions
Labour now wants to put the future of post offices at, or near, the centre of its election manifesto. As the Guardian revealed on Friday, they would be linked together by a new People's Bank, giving them a key role in communities around Britain. Not only is it a great idea, but it ought to give a pointer to the future of centre-left politics that takes us beyond the grim argument about public spending cuts.
After the years of bubble, hubris and boom, this is a time for reassessment. Too much was thrown out too eagerly. Old centres were demolished. Privatisations were pushed by consultants and financiers who lined their own pockets and left us with private companies that haven't been astonishing success stories (British Airways and Network Rail spring to mind). Glib tear-it-up-and-start-again radicalism is at last out of fashion.
This takes us directly to the post offices. They are a fantastic national asset, which matter most to the people at the bottom of the pile, the ones Labour should be most concerned about. This is about bricks and mortar, real places and real people in real communities.
Labour's response will cause more children to suffer
Madeleine Bunting's latest column deals with the way New Labour's been fucking up social services and child protection - thanks to "the audit culture - a familiar aspect of Labour's reform across all public services: improve accountability through micro-management of procedures, impose targets and performance indicators."
Guidelines have poured out of the departments responsible, probably prompting that haggard look evident on the face of directors of children's services. Last week there was another huge batch of new guidelines. At the same time, Sir Roger Singleton's first report as child protection adviser to parliament offered a quiet howl of anguish, pleading with government to stop generating guidelines and prescriptions.
Social services is perhaps where the audit culture has been most disastrous; in other services, such as the NHS, the absurdities of targets were exposed. But as Professor Harry Ferguson of Nottingham University points out, while the government and successive inquiries have focused on flows of information and how agencies – police, health, social workers – communicate, the crucial central issue is ignored: the complexity of emotional relationships.
What happens when a social worker sits in a room with a child and carer – as they did with Baby Peter – two days before his death and fails to notice anything amiss? What crucial skills does the social worker lack, or not use, to make difficult judgments? These are questions of personal development, experience, confidence: they do not fit neatly into public management tick boxes.
Training has been distorted so that more attention is given to "doing a section 48 inquiry than in understanding people and relationships. We met people who thought social work was filling in assessment forms. Welfare bureaucrats."
Lack of authority is also about the wider context in which social workers are operating: do they feel they have the backing to use their judgment? And the answer is obviously no: management culture distrusts them, wider public culture has turned them into figures of contempt.
Labour's other innovation, energetically and proudly pursued, was full of good intentions. Labelled progressive universalism, it was the Every Child Matters agenda in which children's services and education would be merged as part of joined-up government. It promised more investment in better services for all children: Sure Starts, children's centres – it was stuffed full of wonderful ideas.
But wise heads were immediately worried that the historically under-resourced social services would be lost in the educational agenda. The most vulnerable wouldn't get the targeted intensive help needed to prevent terrible tragedy. Some of these fears are already evident: 80% of local authority directors of children's services now come from an education background. Frontline social workers are left stranded, handling complex caseloads without a boss who understands their work.
The result is a social work profession in turmoil: there is a national recruitment and retention crisis – some local authorities have been struggling with vacancy rates of 30 to 40%. The reliance on agency staff is chronic, and the churn rate in many areas makes continuity of case supervision impossible.
Every child only matters if you put in the money and the people who can make that meaningful. Social workers have been given an impossible job; you have to be mad, desperate or heroic to want to be one. But it is abused children who will end up paying the steepest price.
Here's Professor Costas Lapavitsas writing about the Eurozone crisis, which Larry Elliott wrote about last week. He was the lead author of the SOAS report.
The eurozone's largest economy is also to blame for the crisis, despite its moral posturing