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317. That first religion was the most rational of all others till the nations corrupted it. (Religion & Corruption) Isaac Newton, On the Origin of Religion and its Corruption c.1690
75,223. The franchise operator in Guatemala in the 70s was John C Trotter, a Texan who believed that godless communism had infiltrated everywhere except the Coca-Cola company. Guatemala has one of the worst records on human rights. Death squads murder with impunity while four out of five children suffer with malnutrition. Trotter paid his Coca-Cola workers less that two dollars a day. And when they began to unionise, three union officials were murdered and two union lawyers were kidnapped. (Guatemala & Trade Unions & Corporation & Corruption) John Pilger, Burp! Coke versus Pepsi
99,023. How contrite their former heroes now seem. On 17 May, the Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, who is alleged to have spent £10,000 of taxpayers’ money on ‘media training’, called on MPs to ‘rebuild cross-party trust’. The unintended irony of her words recalls one of her first acts as social security secretary more than a decade ago – cutting the benefits of single mothers. This was spun and reported as if there was a ‘revolt’ among Labour backbenchers, which was false. None of Blair’s new female MPs, who had been elected ‘to end male-dominated, Conservative policies’, spoke up against this attack on the poorest of poor women. All voted for it.
The same was true of the lawless attack on Iraq in 2003, behind which the cross-party Establishment and the political media rallied. Andrew Marr stood in Downing Street and excitedly told BBC viewers that Blair had ‘said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right.’ When Blair’s army finally retreated from Basra in May, it left behind, according to scholarly estimates, more than a million people dead, a majority of stricken, sick children, a contaminated water supply, a crippled energy grid and four million refugees.
As for the ‘celebrating’ Iraqis, the vast majority, say Whitehall’s own surveys, want the invader out. And when Blair finally departed the House of Commons, MPs gave him a standing ovation – they who had refused to hold a vote on his criminal invasion or even to set up an inquiry into its lies, which almost three-quarters of the British population wanted.
Such venality goes far beyond the greed of the uppity Hazel Blears.
‘Normalising the unthinkable’, Edward Herman’s phrase from his essay ‘The Banality of Evil’, about the division of labour in state crime, is applicable here. On 18 May, the Guardian devoted the top of one page to a report headlined, ‘Blair awarded $1m prize for international relations work’. This prize, announced in Israel soon after the Gaza massacre, was for his ‘cultural and social impact on the world’. You looked in vain for evidence of a spoof or some recognition of the truth. Instead, there was his ‘optimism about the chance of bringing peace’ and his work ‘designed to forge peace’.
This was the same Blair who committed the same crime – deliberately planning the invasion of a country, ‘the supreme international crime’ – for which the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg after proof of his guilt was located in German cabinet documents. Last February, Britain’s ‘Justice’ Secretary, Jack Straw, blocked publication of crucial cabinet minutes from March 2003 about the planning of the invasion of Iraq, even though the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has ordered their release. For Blair, the unthinkable is both normalised and celebrated.
‘How our corrupt MPs are playing into the hands of extremists,’ said the cover of last week’s New Statesman. But is not their support for the epic crime in Iraq already extremism? And for the murderous imperial adventure in Afghanistan? And for the government’s collusion with torture?
It is as if our public language has finally become Orwellian. Using totalitarian laws approved by a majority of MPs, the police have set up secretive units to combat democratic dissent they call ‘extremism’. Their de facto partners are ‘security’ journalists, a recent breed of state or ‘lobby’ propagandist. On 9 April, the BBC’s Newsnight promoted the guilt of 12 ‘terrorists’ arrested in a contrived media drama orchestrated by the Prime Minister himself. All were later released without charge.
Something is changing in Britain that gives cause for optimism. The British people have probably never been more politically aware and prepared to clear out decrepit myths and other rubbish while stepping angrily over the babbling brook of bullshit. (Great Britain & Parliament & Labour Party & Corruption & Blair) John Pilger, article May 2009 ‘Britain: The Depth of Corruption’
6,174. The mistake you make, don’t you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You’re trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can’t. One’s got to change the system, or one changes nothing. One can’t put things right in a hole-and-corner way, if you take my meaning. (Society & Corruption & Capitalism & Economics & Change & System) George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
47,744. I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt. (Good & Evil & Corruption & Virtue) George Orwell, 1984 starring John Hurt & Richard Burton & Gregor Fisher & Suzanna Hamilton & Cyril Cusack & James Walker & Andrew Wilde & Corina Seddon & Rupert Baderman & John Boswall & Phyllis Logan et al, director Michael Radford, him to her
17,009. These obituaries were written in the sort of reverential tone which might have been reserved, say, for the prodigal son. The general theme was that here was a man who had strayed and should be pitied by all decent upper class people.
The real reason for the sympathy was, however, not that Poulson was a crook but that he was caught. Tories are always singing the praises of self-made men and John Poulson was certainly that. His background was the very essence of stout-hearted English self-help.
... He was a Tory, but he noticed that Tories often charged more (and expected higher bribes) than Labour politicians, so he built his practice on the bribery of Labour councils in the north of England and Scotland.
Of course if a greedy Tory came his way Poulson snapped him up. He welcomed with open wallet a Tory cabinet minister, Reginald Maudling, and a prominent Tory backbencher, John Cordle, whose membership of the Synod of the Church of England in no way precluded him from accepting generous bribes from John Poulson.
Poulson built one of the biggest architectural practices in Europe by the simple device of bribing politicians, council officials, sheikhs and sultans.
No Labour chairman of committees was too lowly for Poulson. Vast inedible dinners in hotels were his speciality for Labour councillors.
There was no reason at all why John Poulson should ever have been knocked off his pedestal. The business world then (and now) was full of gangsters and charlatans who lived out their life in the full glow of their contemporaries’ high regard.
Poulson was done down by his own greed. Like Robert Maxwell in a later period, he became obsessed with obtaining riches which were beyond his grasp. He borrowed too much and spent too much.
When he finally went bankrupt, journalists who had honoured him and fed at his table turned on him to gloat at the ‘greatest corruption story of the decade’.
Poulson went to prison for seven years. Yet he did nothing more than what other more skilful ‘entrepreneurs’ have done.
In many ways he was a model for the ‘enlightened self-interest capitalism’ which became known as Thatcherism. He helped himself at others’ expense, grabbed what he could from his workers, sold his customers short with shoddy goods, built himself a palatial house and promised to do his duty to God and the Queen. (Gangstas & Business & Corruption & Bribery & Capitalism & Architecture) Paul Foot, article 13th February 1993 ‘Bribery & Corruption’
17,010. Since he was elected Tory MP for Tatton in 1983, he [Neil Hamilton] has rested the extreme Thatcherite right, constantly baiting true unionists, the unemployed and the dispossessed. He flaunts the sterile wit and pervasive arrogance of all the Thatcherite Young Turks who grew rich and famous at the expense of others in the Golden Years of Private Enterprise. Hamilton denies being paid £2,000 a time to ask questions, but he does not deny a sumptuous weekend in Paris at the expense of the ghastly old liar and cheat Fayed, the chairman of Harrods. Dinner each night for the MP and his wife cost the Harrods boss £232. How that figure must have delighted ‘scroungers’ in bed: breakfast accommodation so often mocked by Hamilton and his ilk.
The media have discovered something they call ‘parliamentary sleaze’. Yet this is one the most time honoured institutions of our mother of parliaments. Many and varied are the ways in which corporate power in capitalist society cuts down all semblance of representative democracy in parliaments and local councils, but the most obvious of them all is buying the representatives. If MPs are paid more by an ‘outside interest’ than by their constituents, then it follows that they will consider the interests of the corporation before those of their constituents. The MP for Loamshire (£31,000 a year) prefers to be the MP for Blue Blooded Merchant Bank plc (£50,000 a year and rising). Representation plays second fiddle to corporate public relations.
Before 1975 MPs didn’t even have to declare which firms paid them. The Poulson scandal of the late 1960s and 1970s revealed a clutch of MPs using questions, motions, dining rooms and debates to promote the interests of the corrupt architect. One MP had to resign, and the Register of Interests was set up. No-one took much notice of it, even during the 1980s as the number of consultancies, directorships and perks showered on MPs, almost all of them Tory, rose to obscene levels. One Tory MP was so bemused by the way in which his colleagues were growing rich that he actually advertised for a company to take him on as a consultant. The private dining rooms of the House of Commons – why are there private dining rooms there anyway? – became a huge commercial undertaking whereby corporations offered their customers the best food and drink, all consumed in an intoxicating atmosphere of democracy. How wonderful to drink a toast to the hierarchs of the Hanson Trust after a glamorous dinner in the ancient seat of parliament!
By the mid-1980s the buying of MPs had become a public and obvious scandal. No one noticed. On and on it went, with the blessing of both prime ministers. Thatcher and Major both used 10 Downing Street as another watering hole to pour booze down the gullets of generous donors to the Tory Party:
If parliament was indeed composed of representatives there should be no ‘outside interests’ whatsoever, MPs should, get their salary and not a penny more. Their perks and trips abroad should be ruthlessly wiped out, and their activities subjected to the most rigorous public scrutiny and disclosure. That is what the new House of Commons Privileges Committee should recommend. But since the committee consists of seven Tory MPs, all with business interests, sitting in secret, the chances of even the mildest restrictions on rampant sleaze are spectacularly low. (Gangstas & Parliament & Bribery & Corruption & Capitalism & Business & House of Commons) Paul Foot, article November 1994, ‘Parliamentary Privilege’
68,556. In his 1987 book Corruption in British Politics 1895-1930 G R Searle notices how the natural tendency to corruption of the British political system in the 19th century under Liberals and Tories began to wane after 1918 with the advent of the labour movement and universal suffrage. This was because the power and thrust of Labour came not from above, from the big corporations or mega-rich individuals, but from below, from individuals hostile to great wealth, and from trade unions. The more democratic the trade unions, the less vulnerable they were to corruption. As long as Labour relied for its finance on its own constituent organisations, notably the unions, corruption was held at bay. Paul Foot, Corruption: Big Business
68,557. Neil Hamilton, perhaps the nastiest of all the extreme right-wingers who went to parliament in the 1980s, enjoyed a standard of life far beyond anything which could be bought with his parliamentary salary. He was apparently quite prepared to distribute ‘favours’ to people who would pay him (or set up an account at John Lewis for his wife) even when he was a minister.