The ‘too difficult’ box: Britain’s pre-election charades sidestep all the key questions
One thing's for sure, the straight-talking of traditional hustings, where prospective MPs ran the gamut surrounded by querulous voters in town centers, is history. Nothing original or spontaneous can permeate the squeaky clean studio as party leaders sleepwalk into Britain's latest US import, the TV election debate.
Traditionally the Conservatives represented the wealthy and Labour the poorer halves of society, then as Labour lurched to the right in the late 1980s the Liberal Democrats emerged to take the middle ground and hopefully hold the balance of power. In the last few years, each with only one or two MPs the Greens have emerged as a more socialist stalking horse to Labour, and now the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has surfaced to stalk the Tories. In May 7th's general election though the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is the joker in the pack.
While they all bemoan apathy and the relentless slide in voter turnout, party leaders and producers that could inject new life into the body politic have gone coy and 'risk averse', afraid to take the bull by the horns. Neither political parties nor broadcasters, these two great estates of national power have the will or the imagination to broach any of the most difficult questions which will really make a difference over the next five years of government.So here goes.
The markets ride 100 percent on confidence, and what underpins financial markets, the casino economy, is our willingness, and ability, to pay ever more for the most important thing we will ever spend our money on, our home. Whether that’s by paying rent to a buy-to-let landlord or mortgage repayments to the bank it’s these regular payments, for domestic and business property that make the financial world go round.
The trouble starts when sweeteners are brought in by the Treasury or City to bolster rents and property values to make the housing market ‘look like’ everything is going well. Measures like George Osborne’s 2013 ‘Help To Buy’ scheme, more properly known as 'Help To Sell'. Encouraging more lending and borrowing and higher prices for homes than people could otherwise afford is the same mistake as the US sub-prime mortgage which many believe brought us the 2008 crisis. Mass migration is also nudging property prices artificially higher, stoking 'Financial Crisis II'.
What all householders really crave is good old-fashioned security of tenure, followed closely by decent homes. Instead of bringing security of tenure Britain's housing shortage has seen tenant evictions in 2013 of 38,000 families, the highest rate since records began. Is threatening tenants with eviction good for the economy? Think enclosures, think Irish famine. It wouldn't be the first time the threat of being thrown onto the street had been a blunt instrument of British government policy.
So what should they be doing? One of the most successful moves ever to give householders security of tenure came in 1905 when Irish MPs, before independence, held the balance of power at Westminster. They drove a hard bargain with the then Whig government and forced, through the ‘Wyndham Land Act’, giving government loans on excellent terms so Ireland’s small tenant farmers could buy their farms outright and build decent homes on them.
Hundreds of millions of mortgagees and renters across Britain, Europe and the world would vote for such a switch from rent to ownership. That would bring the weekly payments for a home into line with the average cost, spread over 200 years, to build a house of around £60,000, or about £6 a week. Cut out the parasitic landlords and banks and restore the almost lost idea that a home should cost to live in what it cost to build.
There are at least two questions about 2014's modest 0.6 percent UK figure of economic growth. One is that much of this has come from the slowly inflating bubble in asset prices and financial markets. Hot financial air is being pumped into this bubble both by Quantitative Easing (QE), otherwise known as the greatest counterfeiting operation in history. Allowing people to get at their pensions early also pumps the bubble just as any other way savers can be coaxed into moving from safe havens like retail banks, into the casino economy where they might just lose it all.
Then there are the things we now have to pay for that, just a few years ago used to be free. Payments for elderly care, new water charges in Ireland and new fees for motorists to park outside their own homes. Our masters are getting rather handy at opening up entirely new markets and coercing us into them. So even this modest 0.6 percent growth may be a fiction.
The entire basis of ‘austerity’ cuts in services, that there is not enough money to go round in the world's sixth wealthiest nation is a bare faced lie. The reality is that we are being drawn ever deeper into a whirlpool of debt, doubling under David Cameron and now standing at £1.5 trillion. To attempt to repay it is folly; the bankers know it's a numbers game from which the pound, the euro and the dollar can never escape.
Immense forces protect the markets from the cold hard truth that a nation will have to default on its national debt and, yes that many of the major banks will collapse, as they threatened to do in 2008. Their so-called assets, great unacknowledged black holes in their balance sheets, may turn to dust.
When will Western governments legally taking away the power to create money, withdrawing licenses from private banks and handing that power to democratic institutions like the Treasury? Once that power to supply money is in the hands of people that truly represent everyone's interests, money can return to its proper place as the oiler of the wheels of society, becoming an instrument of our liberation rather than slavery. And we can have all the hospitals, schools and care homes that we need.
The secretive government department GCHQ, that began as the wartime Enigma code breakers of Bletchley Park, has been thrown into the spotlight as never before by the former Booz-Allen NSA contractor Edward Snowden. With as much data as could fill a USB memory stick Snowden has confirmed everyone's worst suspicions about Big Brother and shaken the ‘securocrats’ to the core.
In the 1972 US Watergate crisis the revelation that intelligence services were targeting domestic politicians as if they were enemies of the state brought down the president. Nowadays it has only slightly raised government eyebrows. Why? Because in Britain the interests of GCHQ have coincided with Conservative party leaders and the City of London financial establishment they represent.
Journalist Michael Hastings died in 2013 while investigating CIA chief John Brennan's appetite for exactly that, spying on congressmen and representatives. Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks, Snowden and journalists like Nicky Hager and Glenn Greenwald have shown, like never before, just how far the intelligence agencies have smashed our right to privacy, we who pay their wages.
Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo should remind us why we need to guard against over-mighty security state and as Jewish writer Edwin Black pointed out in his ‘IBM And The Holocaust’ the US corporation did not baulk at the uses their Hollerith machines were being put to by the Nazis to select, round up, torture, kill and inter those of entire ethnic groups and faiths. The Nazis paid up right through the war so IBM turned a blind eye.
After being caught in a journalistic sting selling his services to 'the Chinese’ in February 2015, chairman of Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) and arms firm consultant Sir Malcolm Rifkind still sits on the ISC. Nothing whatever has changed and as this is another of the pre election taboos, nothing will. It is as if Cameron and Rifkind want to see how far down the road to a police state Britain can be driven.
Bilderberg and the EU
When the Bilderberg Conferences began in 1954 few commentators realized the extent to which those invited to these secret gatherings of royalty, big business and banking would come to dominate economics and policy across the NATO countries. It was in Bilderberg’s secret conclaves that the European Union and euro were first mooted and where the first whispers were heard of the 1999 Kosovo and 2003 Iraq wars.
In the sixty years of its existence Bilderberg has grown as democracy has been withering on the vine. Which is hardly surprising since the participants hold the transatlantic purse-strings. It is largely due to their working in concert to buy into all the main political parties that governments have become an instrument of the banks, rather than the money system serving to oil the wheels of society.
The truth is today that unless Europe and America's political parties wake from their slumber their elections and parliaments are in danger of becoming a total irrelevance. The corporate heavyweights that gather at Bilderberg every year now paint “the backdrop against which policy is made worldwide” according to Bilderberg attendee and former Observer editor Will Hutton.
Elections to the European Parliament too mean very little since policy is spelt out to European Commissioner appointees by the same Bilderberg corporations through the European Round Table of Industrialists. Yes, MEPs can slow new laws down but they can't stop them coming back again and again. Until the nettle of the corporate takeover of policymaking on both sides of the Atlantic is grasped rich shareholders will only get richer, and as for the unproductive sick and elderly or the powerless poor? Well, by Bilderberg, Europe and America's law of the corporate jungle, they will fall by the wayside.
Perhaps we will only awake after the tsunami of a financial crash?
So perhaps one of these difficult questions will bring a brief touch of reality to the 2015 general election campaigns? But as the lily-livered London media are unlikely to break any taboos which really strikes the root of social injustice in Britain, less and less of an increasingly internet savvy public can be bothered to vote. It is as though the media and the political parties are heading off into the desert leaving the rest of us scratching our heads.
As retired BBC Newsnight anchorman Jeremy Paxman put it when he retired in June 2014, “Newsnight is made by 13-year-olds.” The nation’s national discourse has been “dumbed down.” Producers get awards and managers are promoted not for the excellence of their work but for the plausibility of their charade.
Newspaper election coverage and TV debates end up shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic. And the SS Britannia is going full steam ahead across the North Atlantic toward some of the most colossal icebergs she’s ever faced.
Hostile takeovers of political parties by banks and big business and fascism resurrected with EU support in Ukraine are way off the radar. Until the stranglehold on the media and politics is broken the 'too difficult box' of Western politics will remain shut. All the time the lid stays on, the power of money, plutocracy and tyranny is growing.
The one iceberg like object Britannia's good ship might do well to beach herself on though is Iceland. Whether it is the harsh winters or the fact that it’s not so easy for bankers to hide in the office blocks of Reykjavík but these plucky Norsemen have made two important changes Britain and the rest of the Western world would do well to duplicate.
Icelanders had a national debate on the economy in 2009 and decided that the government and courts need to move to seize assets, revoke banking licenses, cancel unpayable debts and lock up crooked bank executives and directors, almost entirely under existing laws. Then the government spent money to get the economy moving again.
But it was by beefing up privacy laws and supporting the freedom to publish on the web, and elsewhere, that Iceland has played its finest hand. Encouraging dissent free from the banking and big business taboos that have dogged the 21st century West.
Icelanders have asked the difficult questions and are much the better for it. Knowing now that however the future unfolds a fearless national dialogue ensures Iceland will not be caught napping again. It’s a simple way forward, and from Iceland to Scotland is less than 500 miles. London though is a wee bit further. Let’s hope it’s not too much for Britain's politicians and press to manage.
Back in Westminster, whoever wins, the economy will continue define political life in Britain for the next five years. The BBC will play the most important role in how that narrative unfolds but with Rona Fairhead from HSBC in the chair and BAE Systems boss Roger Carr by her side will the corporation have the courage to challenge the interests of the banks and arms manufacturers?
Our politicians appear to be sliding down the food chain and the military industrial complex and bankers fiercely defending the apex of power. When all the votes are counted at the 'mother of parliaments' on May 8, will anything really have changed?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.