Thursday, 9 December 2010

A sad day for politics

In the May elections in Oxford, the Greens lost two council seats to LibDems in student-dominated areas - one by 14 votes - and failed to take a newly-created seat, again pipped at the post by the LibDems. During the campaign, the LibDems had taken every opportunity to make out that the Greens were "anti-student". They made great play of being the party that backs students all the way. On election day, students in East Oxford turned out in large numbers to vote for Nick Clegg, who had made a point of visiting Brookes University. Many we spoke to on the street that day knew nothing about the political set-up in Oxford, so simply voted the same way in the local election that was running concurrently.

So the spectacular LibDem U-turn on tuition fees in the Commons today is particularly galling for us. If it is true that Clegg was already minded to support the rise in tuition fees before the election then the message is, "Lie your way to power".

This could and should rebound heavily against them. It should mark the first step in their journey to political oblivion. As Lou Reed once sang : "Stick a fork in their ass and turn 'em over - they're done."

But what causes me most exasperation is the likelihood that the lesson the younger generation will have learned is that all politicians are liars whose word cannot be trusted. There is no excuse for what they have done, and there was no need for it. Every politician of integrity, of whatever party, is tainted, polluted by it.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The more information that comes out about the many wondrous ways big companies find of not paying tax on income generated from the British public, and the more the evidence accrues that the banking sector is being financially rewarded for its colossal failures, the more convincing are the messages that public sector cuts (Oxford City Council - 28% reduction in 4 years) are unnecessary.

The BBC and media generally - always (in true British style) happy to ramp up stories of gloom and despondency unless it's 'Weddings of Mass Distraction' - have colluded in this talk of 'hard choices' to be made. It's this sort of talk that got the ConDems elected.

Once it starts becoming apparent that we have been conned, and that there were ways of addressing the economic mismanagement of New Labour that didn't require an assault on ordinary people, the more the public anger will build. We're seeing signs of it already. But it may only be the tip of the iceberg.

For me, tax avoidance by big capital (with the connivance of cabinet and the Inland Revenue) is the issue that tips me over from frustration to downright anger. Private Eye has been reporting on Vodaphone's £6,000,000,000 tax avoidance scam via its 'flag of convenience' operation in Liechtenstein for months. Philip Green's Arcadia empire scam (see photo above, taken in Monaco I believe) is starting to result in occupations of Topshops, Burtons &c. Technically, I suppose I should say that Arcadia is his Monaco-resident wife's operation . . . What makes Green such a hate figure is of course that he's had the gall to accept a government advisor post to help Osborne the hard-right ideologue push through "efficiencies" for the rest of us.

Maybe he will suggest the British government set up its operating base in the Cayman Islands, where Tory donor Ashdown buries his own 'pieces of eight'.

Kraft, who bought out Cadbury's whilst promising to retain the Bristol plant then immediately closed it with the loss of 400 jobs, have now set up a scam in which a holding company in Switzerland 'sells' the products to Cadbury's UK, who then also have to pay the 'Swiss' operation for use of the branding. All of which significantly reduces (by hundreds of millions) Cadbury's tax liability in the UK.

Are there any major companies that aren't playing this game? Every day, the list of tax-dodging companies grows. How long will it be before the total tax avoided equals the total amount of cash needed to balance the nation's books without the need for any cuts, I wonder.

I find myself wondering how, if MPs - many of whom have seats on the boards of these companies I wouldn't mind betting - are going to be so limp on this issue for fear of upsetting their donor friends, whether there are ways in which, at local government level, we can claim back some of our stolen money. After all, the money came from their local outlets in the first place.