A Poison at the Heart of our Politics
Peter Kellow writes
Six weeks ago in issue No 68 of Republican Party Newsletter of Friday 27 May 2011, I wrote the following:
“The superrich belong everywhere and nowhere. We help them maintain their rootlessness by accommodating them with tax havens to ensure their profits do return to us to help the working nation.” David Cameron’s “whole direction of policy is to serve the offshore, stateless superrich of the global plutocracy? What we have now is … a democratic system corrupted by its closeness with finance and the City of London.”
That piece concentrated on the stranglehold that international speculative finance has on the political establishment. But that of non-financial multinational companies is as great. These operate in many senses within the same territory as speculative banks for, like them, they span across the world and, like them, use this extraordinary extranational power and reach to dominate and manipulate governments.
The fact that many of these governments have been democratically elected should in theory mean that they are immune to control by multinationals. But in practice this is often not the case, for politicians are all too ready to accept the favours of multinationals and, once having engaged in such a Faustian pact, cannot get out of it.
There could be no better illustration of how this kind of pact works than the currently unfolding drama involving Rupert Murdock’s News International, the Metropolitan Police, the last Labour government and David Cameron’s coalition government. The way that successive governments have been in thrall to Murdock and believed in the need to have his backing to win elections speaks of a massive poison at the heart of our politics.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday was forced to acknowledge political collusion with the Murdoch press, stating, “The truth is, we have all been in this together—the press, politicians and leaders of all parties—and yes, that includes me.”
Murdock has gained control of four of our national newspapers and he would never be allowed to control the percentage of the newspaper market he has here in either his home country of Australian or his adopted country, the United States. His current bid for BSkyB which he wishes to merge with his own Sky would further extend his dominance in the Kingdom. That bid, until a few days ago, looked like being waved through by Media Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
In an attempt to rescue his own ambitions Rupert Murdock has made a radical move. He has closed down the News of the World. The move has been described as cynical, but it is much more than that. This is the action of a gangster. Many journalists and others will have their jobs ruthlessly sacrificed for the sake of Murdock. And these are his employees to which if he were a respectable employer he would have some loyalty. Not all are, or were, phone hackers. If he judges that he is not a fit person to own the title, the reasonable move would be to sell it.
Behind his decision may lie the fact that with the paper defunct and its employees dismissed he will find it easy to go in to its offices and destroy all the evidence of misdemeanour and criminality. It is the same siege mentality that refused to accept the resignation of News International chief Rebekah Brooks. Free of NI she would not be a loose cannon – more of a loose thermo-nuclear device as far as Murdock would be concerned. He needs to keep her close at any cost.
Less secure is the position of Murdock, Jr., James Murdock. As the Observer reported:
On Thursday, Murdoch's son, James, … possibly opened himself up to criminal charges on both sides of the Atlantic. He admitted he had misled Parliament ... He admitted that, without apparently much questioning, he had signed cheques for £1.7m for two individuals among dozens more celebrities, whose phones have been hacked. Why did the young Murdoch authorise the payments? They paid out £700,000 to the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor. One of the conditions was that Taylor didn't speak about the case.
While the Murdock’s were engaged in these activities,
James Murdoch was invited to the 2009 Edinburgh International Television Festival to deliver the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture on 28 August 2009 . In his talk, entitled The Absence of Trust, he assured us that “people value honest, fearless, and above all independent news coverage that challenges the consensus”. He made some justifiable comments about the BBC using its position to stifle some independent broadcasting but the whole came across as a frankly self-serving exercise aimed at having a “free” market place where News International would have a clear field.
The real agenda was revealed in his last sentence: “The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit.” It is now more than ever clear that for Mr Murdock, “independence” means NewsCorp having freedom to bribe, hack, threaten and lie at will.
Thankfully the ability to carry on these activities is now reduced. There are surely many more stories to come out, as those once cowed into silence by the Murdock empire, by its usual means of threats of press crucifixion, may belatedly now find the courage to speak out. Hugh Grant has never been afraid on this score and on Question Time last week put Murdock’s methods in graphic terms and described a “protection racket” whereby MPs are afraid speak out.
If true, this is a truly terrifying state of affairs. Some of our democratically elected representatives are being gagged, they are afraid to do their jobs, because of the threats of a multinational news empire, eager to take control of as much of our media as possible. And let us remind ourselves, as our Prime Minister did on Friday, it is an empire that politicians of the two main parties have been cozying up to for years.
What should be the Civic Republican response to all this? Firstly we need to have restrictions on the number of newspapers that any one company can own such as other countries have.
Second when the monopolies commission makes its deliberations it should consider not just how much of the British industry the company under question already owns but also how much it owns worldwide. The world power it enjoys can be brought to bear on our country as the NewsCorp example makes clear.
But more fundamentally we need to drive a wedge between multinationals and our democratic processes. The more power that multinationals like NewsCorp have over us, the less power democracy has. Simple as that.
As I remarked in Newsletter No 68 the current political parties pursue anti-free enterprise, anti-free market policies. By getting into bed with powerful multinationals so fully, they deny the operation of the free market in our country. We need to encourage diversity of the press as everything else. And let us not lose sight of the fact that this story would not now be hitting the headlines if an independent newspaper had not tirelessly pursued it (just as a different independent newspaper exposed the MPs expenses scandal).
To those who say print media will be overtaken by the internet and blogging, the Guardian and the Telegraph can ask: who in cyberspace would have achieved what they have?
Trying to legislate for the Press to be well behaved is never likely to be very effective. But legislation for diversity of ownership is easily done. The only reason why it is not done is because the elected politicians are scared of Murdock and his like. Tom Watson MP stands out as an exception. Let’s see some backbone from the rest.
But to see a radical and permanent change of culture we have to address the question of the constitution and the development of the civil society. Our current politics is too prone to sickness like the NI scandal because there is little separation of power, and not enough in the way of checks and balances.
This gives elected politicians too much freedom of the wrong kind and too little power of the right kind. For this, financial links between politicians and international corporations must be prevented. This will encourage them to seek other constituencies of power in the civil society, the civil service and, yes, even their own electorate.
When that happens, fresh air can start to blow through our politics, through our enterprise economy and through our society.
Animals in Circuses. Think before you ban.
Ben Dyson comments
Brilliant article about the circus ban - very thought provoking.
COMMENTS ON NEWSLETTER NO 72
No Sign of Life in Youth, Politically Speaking?
Member Richard Middleton replies to Michael Portillo's comment
Politicians tend to think in terms of parties. They think that a waning interest in party politics is indicative of apathy about political issues. Young people have been turned off by political parties for twenty years or more but everyone is interested in politics [singular], even if he/ she detests politics [plural].
Some people just don't know it: politics is "the art of everything". In society, the distaste for rigid, highly organised structures has gone so far (and within the organs of the state, power has been concentrated so much in the hands of small elites) that people won't even join old-style pressure groups.
For one thing, they know there's no point in writing to their MPs, who are likely to be a public-school-educated robots under the control of the whips, or collecting signatures for petitions or handing out leaflets. Those in power aren't answerable to anyone: they can do whatever they like. People vote with their feet.
A decision to stay out of political organisations is still a decision. The rapid decline of "normal" or mainstream political activity is an indictment of politicians, who are the corporate state\'s figureheads; and their "partners" [in crime?] in business, the civil service, NHS etc, whose only loyalty is to their own, selfish interests.
UK Uncut's anarchistic structure illustrates the point perfectly. It has no corporate identity but is a confederation of like-minded individuals. I can't really say that I blame them. Perhaps individualism, not Marxism, is making a come back. Are students all reading Hayek and (unlike Thatcher) understanding what he meant? That would bode well for republicans!
Recommended article of the week
POLITICIANS’ FEAR OF MONARCHICAL POWER. That is what this Daily Mail story is about. If Charles wants to promote his views with ministers in private, the ministers are not obliged to receive him. If either party wants to go public on the matter that is up to them. Leaking it to the Daily Mail is an act of cowardice. But our politicians are too scared to tell Charles where to get off. What a pathetic bunch!
You are receiving this Newsletter either because you signed up to receive it on the Republican Party of Great Britain website or because you subscribed to the party. To unsubscribe click button below