Saturday, July 07, 2012

angry but powerless?

In a week that saw the resignation of Bob Diamond as chief executive of Barclays over its role in rigging the Libor interest rate and parliament deciding on a review of the banking scandal by a joint committee of MPs and peers (instead of a judicial review), I’m finding myself becoming more and more disillusioned, angry and frustrated by the ethics of political and commercial life in Britain today. Yes, I know it would be incredibly unfair for ALL politicians and businesses to be “tarred with the same brush”, but you get my gist…

All this coincides with the publication of a study by Democratic Audit into the state of democracy in Britain over the last decade which warns that it’s in “long-term terminal decline”. The Guardian’s Juliette Jowit explained that, although the study acknowledged that there had been advances in some areas, “it found evidence of many other areas where Britain appeared to have moved further away from its two benchmarks of representative democracy: control over political decision-making, and how fairly the system reflects the population it represents – a principle most powerfully embedded in the concept of one person, one vote. Among its concerns, identified from databases of official statistics and public surveys, were that Britain's constitutional arrangements are ‘increasingly unstable’ owing to changes such as devolution; public faith in democratic institutions ‘decaying’; a widening gap in the participation rates of different social classes of voters; and an ‘unprecedented’ growth in corporate power, which the study's authors warn 'threatens to undermine some of the most basic principles of democratic decision-making'". In addition, the study noted a further 62 ‘new or emerging concerns’, including electoral fraud and declining newspaper sales and audiences for TV news.
Today’s Guardian included some other fascinating, related articles.
Marina Hyde summed things up beautifully:
The most recent years have visited all manner of calamities upon the populace of this septic isle, from the banks, to the politicians' expenses, to the phone hacking, to the banks (and possibly the politicians) again. Trailing in the wake of these disasters come the postmortems, the inquiries judicial and parliamentary, and the anger that never fails to spill over into mindless apathy… The form book suggests that we will continue to avoid considering the possibility that we get the press and the politicians – and by extension of the latter, the bankers – that we deserve. Hundreds of MPs who gamed the expenses system have already been re-elected once, and many of them will be again in 2015. Leveson's conclusions will doubtless make no mention of the millions who devoured fairly unjustifiable stories about people's private lives, and to whose likely provenance they may have exhibited their own version of wilful blindness – and anyway, most of those who read the News of the World now gladly buy the Sunday Sun. I fear no significant number of customers will move their money to ethical banks”.
Deborah Orr noted the following:
“Because bankers just aren't that good at picking up signals from government, even straightforward ones delivered in the form of repeated, public pleas such as: ‘Lend more money to small businesses’; ‘Tackle your appalling bonus culture’; ‘Pay your taxes’. In fact, banks seem marvellously able to do as they please, even when they have been bailed out by the state at breathtakingly massive public expense. The banks appear to have all the power in this abusive relationship, not the state. The banks have power without responsibility. The state has responsibility without power. This doesn't seem like a sensible way to arrange matters”.
JonathanFreedland, meanwhile, was urging the Labour Party to “voice this anger before it’s too late”.
“One by one, institutions that people once depended on – banks, parliament, police, press – have been exposed as, if not legally corrupt, then rotten with greed… If this mood of radical disillusionment persists, it could shake up conventional politics… For if this rage does not find a peaceful outlet, it will find another way. But make no mistake: it will out”.
Burying your head in the sand is clearly no solution and yet “doing something about it” is another matter. I’m not very good when it comes to trying to articulate these concerns and I certainly don’t have the necessary knowledge or experience to engage MPs and/or political leaders in constructive or fruitful dialogue. I’m feeling angry, but powerless… and yet, just doing nothing won’t help in the slightest. Who knows, maybe I’m going to become a political activist in my old age?
Answers on a postcard please!

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