I’m wondering how long it will be before the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently with the House of Lords, is used not just against peaceful protests in the streets but also to silence those who would speak out in defense of our democracy. Such action might include bloggers. Even puny ones like me…
There’s a protest march in Parliament Square tomorrow (Wednesday 12Jan2022, 10:00 to 11:30 GMT), to protest for the right to protest. I’ve registered to go… but it would seem that I’ve left it too late to book a train journey that won’t cost me an arm and a leg and require me to arrive hours before the event. Pity. I want to see the Houses of Parliament again – before they’re blown up. (For which, see the foot of this post.)
Peter Jukes: What in the modern day is the greatest threat to democracy? It is oligarchy. Back in the 6th century BC, Plato recognized that the greatest threat to his idea of democracy was a few rich individuals taking over and an oligarchy forming; and that is what Britain is showing today.
The Owen Paterson affair – egregious lobbying in Parliament without declaring it – it’s just the tip of this iceberg. This is not a rare case. It’s not an exception. It is the rule. That’s why Boris Johnson wanted to completely get rid of the disciplinary process and the Standards Committee because they’re all in the frame, particularly him. The leadership is important because the fish rots from the head down, and he’s setting a standard which other MPs, particularly Conservative MPs, not always exclusively Conservative MPs, want to follow.
In a way, you can blame Tony Blair for this. Tony Blair started up that tradition. You go into politics and then, like an American President, you make hundreds of millions. Just as bad: David Cameron, he leaves Parliament, gets all these jobs, is working for a health company, lobbying for them, but with this banker Greensill, he was paid £7million to lobby government for them, texting his old pals in the Treasury and things like that. If you’re Owen Paterson, and you’re only making half a million, you feel rather short changed, don’t you? I mean, you’re just like the start up level of oligarchy.
Oligarchy is the combination of money and power; of the State and money and power. This is a few individuals getting right under the table of the State and kind of taking it over. And this value is at the heart of the Conservative Party project these days. You can see it in their donors; they have millions in donations, much more than the Labour Party, particularly from those over £100,000 who pay for these special dinners and get access to senior Conservative ministers.
Now, why would you, as a businessman, would you want to have dinner with Rishi Sunak or with the housing minister? Well, we know what happened at one dinner with Robert Jenrick and Richard Desmond, property developer and former Express owner: he wanted to get his housing project passed. So business people are not stupid. They don’t pay this money in the Conservative Party just for niche – they want them in power, and increasingly, we can see they want favours.
More than anything, the most disgusting bit, perhaps, of the pandemic we’re seeing under emergency legislation these kinds of people rushing towards the Conservative Party to get contracts. £15billion or so of dodgy PPE contracts; I say ‘dodgy’ because lots of them didn’t come to fruition, were not delivered properly, and others were clearly done through this VIP backchannel. This goes straight to the Owen Paterson affair, who was a consultant to a big company which got £500,000 in contracts from the Conservatives under this emergency legislation, which the government had enforced. He met with the then Lord Bethell, the minister in charge of procurement for the NHS, and we have tracked £3billion of these contracts going towards Tory friends and donors.
Why would you, as a business man or woman, bother setting up your company to compete with others? Why not get a friendly politician to help you out? That is oligarchy. As this goes on, there’s a kind of cash carousel between a political party – almost like a one-party state – and those who don’t donate to it, who then get the contracts, who then get increased profits and add more to the Conservative Party, and we have tracked this. And it is illegal to solicit honours, peerages, in return for donations; but as openDemocracy have done the top £3million-plus donors, we’ve done the £100,000 donors. You are highly likely to get an honour or a peerage if it’s 55% of those who donated more than £1.5million get an honour or a peerage.
This has now become a system – an unspoken system – which there is a law against, but it’s so easy to breach. You just have to reverse the influence; that this ‘just happened’, and it’s the problem with the whole corruption mechanism around the contracts. Now, I’d be very careful to say I am not alleging any of those companies of corruption because they’re offered these contracts; they don’t know they’re just going to get ‘VIP lane’. The government is corrupt. The government is corrupt in terms of our public interest by awarding our money without proper scrutiny, without looking to see if there are conflicts of interest; and this kind of cycle of corruption begins like a laundromat, gets faster and faster and faster and faster. And what it does is not only encourage the wrong people to get into politics, encourage the wrong kind of politics, you’re only looking after a narrow section of super-rich elite; it also undermines the whole trust of the political system in democracy of the public.
And this is a problem which affects all the parties going back to Blair’s time, we had issues of donations given for honours, of Formula One guys, maybe influencing policy for donations to the Labour Party. This is a problem with Parliament, a problem particularly, when so many MPs see being an MP as actually a second job; their first job is to lobby. They come out of lobbying companies, you know, they make their living. The image is bad, you work for a think tank. There is a political nexus which people want to move through, are normalised by, and they don’t see how far away that is, living in the Westminster bubble, from the ordinary lives of British people.
So, what’s the problem? Parliament. That Parliament is falling into the river, it’s rat infested, it’s a fake gothic building built in the 19th century and doesn’t reflect modern day life.
No party is immune from this, and no party seems to be able to deal with Johnson, partly because of this constitutional issue. The constitutional issue is we have a system which relies on ‘good chaps’ but has no breaks or sanctions on ‘bad chaps’. So, Priti Patel can be accused and found guilty of bullying a person who did that; they resigned. If Owen Paterson is found by the Standards Committee to have broken the rules, well, just get rid of that committee. Every time, there’s no real constitutional break. There’s no law; the Met, which is partly controlled by the Home Office, is reluctant to investigate. Police forces do have an element of political funding and control. So, no, it won’t solve it, just electing the Labour Party or a coalition, unless that is on a platform of root and branch reform.
What all this has revealed is the system was broken already. It was a sick system in that it was just waiting for somebody to exploit these crony contracts. The lack of scrutiny in public life is down to the fact that we, as citizens, did not demand the best for ourselves, demand the best of our politicians, the way our money is spent, and only we can reverse this. This is where Double Down comes in. This is where Byline Times comes in.
These people only thrive in darkness. It is shameful when they are shamed. I can tell you how shamed they are because I get the legal letters trying to stop us trying to write this stuff, and we have to stand up against that. And, gradually, a bit like the effluent flowing into our rivers and seas, this pollution of the public domain, of our political life, begins to stink. People can’t help noticing when they swim in the seas or kayak in a river, that they’re getting ill. They see the sewage floating down their streams, accumulating on the beaches. This will happen with this. This is happening with this.
We mustn’t be distracted. Follow these trails; two years of this carousel of cash, this cutting of public services, this holding back of public wages with our money. We have a right to demand how that money is spent. You must pass on this message even if you have a Daily Mail/ Conservative supporting neighbour. Tell them what’s happening to their money. As you might tell them what’s happening in their rivers and seas. We live together in this world and this country, and things will get very bad, very quickly if we don’t do something to stop it.
The key way to solve this pollution of our public realm is to filter it out, show what’s happening; and the only way that can really cleanse the body politic is good media – and what’s good media? Double Down News: subscribe now on Patreon.
The transcript above was made with the help of Sonix, which did most of the donkey work for a tiny fee (I did have to spend some time tidying it up). Note that I do not have the copyright owner’s permission to publish this transcript here. I’ve investigated the copyright rules regarding transcriptions (more about that here), and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s no defence to make a disclaimer like “these aren’t my words, no copyright infringement intended.” However, I offer the transcription here as a service to society (especially the deaf community). I do hope the copyright owner won’t object. And I hope that you find this video as interesting as I did.
I once thought that ‘V for Vendetta‘ was just fiction, not prophecy…
Military commander: Jesus bloody Christ.
Big Ben: bong!
Evey: It’s time. Tell me… Do you like music, Mr Finch?
Finch: … that music…
Evey: Yes. His music.
Finch: Who was he?
Evey: He was Edmond Dantès. And he was my father. And my mother. My brother. My friend. He was you. And me. He was all of us.
No one will ever forget that night, and what it meant for this country. But I will never forget the man, and what he meant to me.