‘How Much Is That Minister In The Window…’

We don’t want capitalism, we want democracy.

Capitalism is not simply people going about their lives setting up businesses, providing goods and services and jobs.  Most of us need some of the stuff that businesses offer.

Capitalism is one-dollar-one-vote.  The more dollars you have the more votes you get.

This power of money goes to the heart of the Fox scandal.

Liam Fox travelled the world with a man whose time was paid for by people with vested interests in the defence industry.  That man, Adam Werrity, arranged off-diary meetings for Fox away from the gaze of civil servants.  In short Fox travelled the world with a man who constantly whispered in his ear on behalf of weapons manufacturers.  He didn’t travel the world with someone gently reminding him about injured service personnel, about retired veterans, the Ghurkhas, or the ex-service people sleeping rough on Britain’s streets (ex military personnel reportedly make up the largest group of homeless after those brought up in the ‘care’ system).  There was no one there reminding him about Deepcut or speaking up for Iraqis or Afghans who felt the rough end of British Military ‘justice’.  His ear was open to those with the most cash and, by extension, the most power.

It also goes to the heart of the Murdoch scandal.  In the 14 months following the election George Osborne met with senior News International figures 16 times, Michael Gove met the Murdochs or Rebekah Brooks 21 times and Baroness Warsi, the Tory Chairman had dinner with 14 senior NI. Executives last October.

It’s consistent with the picture painted by figures in today’s Guardian.  It identifies more than 1500 ministerial meetings with corporate lobbyists in the first 10 months of the coalition alone.  Aside from education corporate ear bending sessions make up the lions share of meetings with outside interests.  Even in the education department there were 70 meetings with corporates and only 14 with unions.

The education department’s official figures for meetings also hint at what we don’t see because only one meeting with the media is listed, though we know Michael Gove went on bended knee before the Murdochs and their henchwoman 21 times.  Those meetings were ‘informal’ and are thus not included.

Given that ministers want to be seen to be meeting charities and the public and given also that one might expect any potentially questionable meetings to be ‘informal’ and thus not included in these figures, we might not un-reasonably suspect that corporate lobbying dwarfs anything else in ministerial diaries.

All most of us want is for our elected representatives too govern for all of us.  Yes that means they will spend some time listening to business and trying to create an environment where it’s possible to create goods and provide services and jobs, but that has to be in balance with the wider needs of our society.

I met a senior tax lawyer late last month who declared that what had happened with the banks had started to make him feel like a communist.  A less likely would-be-communist you could not hope to meet.

It’s simply one small sign of the depth and breadth of the anger out there.  It comes from a realisation that our system is out of balance, that the needs of the very wealthy have been overly tended to and the needs of the 99%, for housing, health, education, food and the means to live with dignity and in reasonable comfort have been relegated to at best second place.

This anger isn’t the province of what might once have been called ‘the working classes’ alone.  If anything the artificial divide between those of us who work with our hands and those who work with our heads is withering away.  The ‘us’ is almost all of us, and the ‘them’ those very few whose assets have transcended mere wealth and have bought them power.

It’s not a revolution if you’re simply asking for what you have by law, by tradition and by right; a one-person-one-vote democratic system whereby our elected representatives govern for and on behalf of the nation, or at least for those who elected them, and not simply for those interests whose financial power allows their voices to drown out all others.

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