Plutocracy and bureaucracy or democracy?

Tony Hancock as <em>The Rebel.</em>

Equality of lobbying vs "Lobbygate"

Mid 2004, an anti-government paper, The Mail hired a New Labour insider, responsible for a scandal nick-named "Lobbygate". Derek Draper was "earning a fortune as a lobbyist". In a news-paper sting, he was taped boasting of his intimacy with the "17 people who matter in the government". This went beyond giving MPs "payments for questions" that typified the "sleaze" that discredited the previous Tory government. Because money talks, a few have privileged access to the state, to get what they want.

In the parliamentary ombudsman's annual report ( 10 july 2003 ) Ann Abraham complained she was not allowed to do her job properly, because government refused to comply with a recommendation to detail gifts to ministers. Freedom of Information campaigners condemned her being prevented from seeing key documents.

Cabinet ministers often retire to some highly paid boardroom position. Opening every conceivable public service to private contract has created new possibilities for such changeovers from influential government post to lucrative corporate position. Allyson Pollock ( Mail on Sunday 18 july 2004 ) traces how New Labour has also become "the party of big business" after taking over Conservative policy on privatisation. Most of the resulting private profits are deemed "commercial in confidence." The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee twice complained of lack of evidence on value for money, after 12 years of Private Finance Initiatives and £37 billion of new public debt.

"From health, education and transport to prisons and defence, no area of the public sector is immune..." Small private armies, of security personnel in Iraq, make private profits from their publicly funded training in the army. When a company, taking over an education authority, failed to meet educational standards, the target was lowered, so private profit, if not public education, benefited. Or a computer firm paid some thousands compensation for failing to meet its contract, whilst the public was left with millions to pay for securing the passport service.

One major private financing company, going bankrupt, could take hundreds of schools and hospitals with it. The public authorities, pressed into these deals by the government, would be contractually obliged to pay the private sector profits perhaps for 30 years. Instead of receiving government lending, the public authorities have been left to the banks and venture capitalists. One MP compared this to "taking your mortgage out on a credit card." City "poachers" have been allowed a Treasury "gamekeeper" role. Consequently, hospitals were built with 30% fewer beds and nursing budgets lowered by as much as 25%.

Competing firms for public contracts are accountable to market regulators, another growth industry in bureaucracy. To make public services directly accountable to the public would require the direct election of economic representatives. To give priority to the policies that are in everyone's interest, everyone must be equally represented in lobbying the government. Equality of lobbying requires the entire electorate to be represented. That implies a whole parliament elected on a lobbying franchise. That is to say all the vocations, callings or occupations must be proportionally represented.

The British constitution has a traditional place for the representing of special interests, the House of Lords. British politicians recently bungled another attempt to modernise this medieval institution. Instead, Britain has "people's peers" who are nothing but appointees. Their voting records are "exceptionally poor". There are "no hairdressers or refuse collectors" because the poorly paid couldnt afford to give up their day jobs on the Lords allowance. ( "People's peers aren't working". Herman Ouseley, The Sunday Times 23 november 2003.

A BBC correspondent ( on 18 march 2003 ) hailed "the latest inglorious indecision over the House of Lords". The government tried to prevent Robin Cook's amendment for an elected House. ( Politically elected, of course -- no contemporary politician has the imagination or the temerity to forward economic elections. ) Failing this, the government dropped altogether the plan to remove the remaining 92 hereditary lords. This could be left to the manifesto, with its distractions by lots of other issues, when it would be easier for Labour's bosses to get their way.

It's inevitable that big business should lobby to secure the legislation it wants. The Microsoft Corporation woke up to playing politics at last. Their breaking anti-trust laws could lead to a break-up of the company. Microsoft became one of the biggest corporate funders of political support. ( Nick Mathiason, The Observer 1 august 2004 "USA Inc pays cash for access". ) The point is that the undue influence of money turns a country into a plutocracy rather than a democracy. The interests of some should be seen to fit in with the interests of all. That needs equality of lobbying in an economic second chamber of government, for all to equally lobby, with their special interests, the political parliament or congress of the public interest.

Today's politicians dont understand that anybody but politicians can be democraticly elected. They think or they insist that anyone, who is to be elected, must be a politician. They have not got as far as Winston Churchill's concept, in 1930, of an "economic parliament". Experts could be elected. Their reputations have already all but elected some of the most distinguished professionals. Professional bodies and trade unions could elect economic representatives to the second chamber as a routine part of their elections as legally constituted bodies.

Economic democracy is needed to prevent the undermining of political democracy, as exemplified by "lobbygate". But, to be effective, both Houses of Parliament, and indeed all official elections need the democratic electoral system ( the so-called single transferable vote ). STV gives power to the people instead of the parties. Big business controls the Tory and New Labour parties whose control of parliament subverts the public interest.

Financially caused loss of freedom

At the time of writing, a fair example occured of the need for the voters to have constitutional power over the economy. The Confederation of British Industry comes out with a recommendation that the state pension age should be increased from 65 to 70. What business is it of theirs, I should like to know.

As the Trades Union Congress pointed out, working people tend to have shorter life expectancies, and such a change is condemning many to work until they drop. Retirement at 70 would see nearly one in four workers and one in three men die before receiving a state pension. In some poorer areas of England and Wales, one in three workers die before 70.

The public should have the constitutional power thru an elected economic second chamber to veto any such embezzlement of five years of freedom. In that case, there would be no question of big business passing on to the nation - "nationalising" - the debts of its anarchic and bankrupt system of ecological destruction. The moral perhaps is that freedom should be a way of life, and not delayed till one is put out to grass. Otherwise, the fate, of the long-houred British, thanks to the CBI, may be that of Boxer the work-horse in Animal Farm.

Maybe, the French limit on the working week will improve rather than impoverish their quality of life. Similarly, the continental practise of shorter school hours might be adopted. There, they may start lessons early in the morning but they are finished by dinner time. In Britain, children were left to stupefy on their dinners as the after-noon indoors drag on. I remember, long ago, how we youngsters tamely received the news that school finished quarter of an hour later than half-past three, at quarter to four. Allowing for the journey home, it was getting on for tea-time before you got home. And then there was home-work to fill your evenings.

A short working week used to be the prophetic boast of the Western economic system, best known by its opponents' name of capitalism. Instead, it invites people to ransom their freedom to usury. In october 2003, to the Treasury Select Committee of MPs, a major British bank boss admitted he would never borrow on a credit card because the interest rates are too high. Jim Cousins MP replied: "Bare-faced cynicism can be amusing" but credit card debt is a serious issue.

The Sunday Express Your Money ( 14 september 2003 ) demand for "tighter regulation of rip-off store and credit card providers today gets the full support of leading politicians and consumer groups." Liberal Democrat Vincent Cable said: "Britain is living in a fool's paradise, fuelling our economy with unsustainable levels of borrowing...As a nation we must stop mortgaging our futures. Aggressive lenders need to be reined in..."

Given Britain's trillion pound debt mountain, it's a bit hard to believe the Institute for Public Policy Research, that there are fewer people in poverty in 2004 than in 1997. However, the UK's richest 10%, who owned 47% in the nineties now own 54%. The Institute asked Labour to "publically advocate a fairer, more equal Britain." Anyone, who wants that, can "advocate" a vocational upper house of parliament, with fair and equal representation.

There is much that one can do to save oneself some personal freedom, if one wants it and is prepared not to spend on what one doesnt need. The consumer society is hostile to this freedom in self-restraint, that ignores the advertising of pointless fashions. The pushers of the drug of economic growth, use up the resources future generations need. They poison the air, the water and the land, so that the best things in life, the enjoyment of the beauties and fruits of nature, are no longer free.

Like their elders, children, who are prone to every fad, are indoctrinated by tv adverts for an endless stream of expensive toys. So, families are made potential enemies as to what each and every one can afford. The papers advertise how many scores of thousands of currency units it costs to hold a wedding ceremony. Investment education group Proshare ( in october 2003 ) said up to 40% of "laundered" corporate bulletins or press releases pass as "news".

The acquisitive society is biased against saving. Inflation breaks the promise of financial independence. Government subsidises spenders at the expense of savers, who have not drawn on the community fund. This encourages a dependence on state hand-outs instead of a free people.

A third of the population will need care in old age. Anyone who has saved more than £19,000 will have to pay all their own nursing home bills. Up to 70,000 people a year have to sell their homes to pay. A local authorities means test can include the value of the patient's home "however long ago it was given away." Children may be chased for the fees if they received the home less than six months previously. The premiums on insurance are too high for long-term care of those on moderate incomes. Their option is to keep from physical or mental illness. ( Sally Hamilton, Financial Mail 9 march 2003.)

Those who saved for their pensions have been let down by firms going bust. Only back-bench MPs' rebellion induced the prime minister to set up a fund for a modest provision if spread around some 60,000 people affected. The Liberal Democrats' pensions spokesman Steve Webb said the amount was little more than a tenth of pension losses. Government pensions adviser Ross Altmann stated "This is nowhere near enough. Many of these people have been saving their entire working lives and deserve 100 per cent of what they were told they would get." ( James Chapman and Darren Behar, Daily Mail 15 May 2004. )

Savings have fallen from ten per cent to six per cent of personal income, since Labour took office in 1997. The government's failure to end means testing means that retired people's savings are counted against the size of their pension. Savers are penalised. And many of the poorest would rather go without than beg, as the government has them do. National Pensioners Convention spokesman, Neil Duncan-Jordan says "The only people who are out of step with the argument that the basic state pension must be much higher are the Government." ( When will Blair act to avert pensions disaster? Julia Hartley-Brewer, Sunday Express 12 september 2004. )

The Liberal Democrats plan to abolish means testing for over-75s. Their manifesto also includes free care for the elderly, so that they dont have to sell their homes and deprive children of an inheritance. Funding will depend on a fifty per cent rate of tax for those on over £100,000 a year. In 2003, the Health Service Ombudsman found that scores of local authorities refused to classify care for the elderly as medical rather than social. Many were wrongly means tested and charged for nursing. Thousands of the elderly are likely to face long waits for compensation. ( Chris Torney, "Elderly caught in care fees scandal." Sunday Express 19 september 2004. )

Market researchers Keynote said senior executives' pensions self-payment of £5 billion during 2001 "is so huge that it amounts to a tax-free raid on company profits".  Meanwhile, pension schemes were being scrapped for new employees. ( Esther Shaw The Express 2 february 2003. )

Jeff Prestridge ( of Financial Mail 14 March 2004 ) drew some conclusions after the Penrose report. First, the sell-at any-cost culture continues to make a scandal of the financial services industry. For example, a top bank Lloyds TSB advising savers - not stock exchange gamblers - to take out risky 'precipice' investment bonds, that, well...precipiced. The Financial Services Authority intended to fine the bank. But David Prosser ( of Financial Sunday Express 9 march 2003 ) said the FSA fine of £750,000 on Prudential insurance for mis-selling endowment mortgages and such fines on many other insurers are "no help to more than 5 million customers facing shortfalls of tens of thousands of pounds on the sums they need to repay mortgages."

Second, Prestridge points to profitable obscurantism in board-rooms, and "most alarmingly" the desire to save "is being systematically undermined by a complacent Government and greedy financial companies." Lawrie Homes of The Daily Express summed up a report, by US investment bank Morgan Stanley, as Shares doomed to 'five dead years'. Norwich Union found three out of four of endowment mortgage customers, facing shortfalls, are not likely to invest further in the stock market. Financial Mail ( 9 march 2003 ) found this to be overwhelmingly the case, with a turn to building societies and banks. Beside Richard Dyson's article, Jo Thornhill reports on "Greedy banks and building societies" slashing interest rates at the expense of savers.

Robber Baron Capitalism

The robber barons were medieval lords who plundered the country-side, before the development of constitutional constraints. Nick Cohen commented ( The Observer 29 june 2003 ):

Companies which were little better than criminal conspiracies flourished in the bubble market of the late 1990s. Auditors, who were meant to police business, cheered on everyone from Enron to WorldCom because they were receiving lucrative contracts for consultancy work...Governments, which were meant to protect the public interest, did nothing because they had fallen for the line that deregulation would bring a capitalist Utopia. When the dotcom and telecom bubble burst, it was followed by a bubble in the property market and record levels of consumer debt...and no one will have the right to be surprised if there is a crash when the final demands come in.

Lord Evans is quoted in debate:

Under today's insolvency laws, insolvency practitioners do not break any laws or regulations when they force viable businesses to close, sell assets at a fraction of their real worth and charge fees which are more related to the amount of cash available than the work which has been undertaken. Insolvency practitioners, in their guise as receivers, gorge themselves on the cash and assets at the expense of the main body of ordinary unsecured creditors and shareholders.

Cohen says accountants have no independent regulator or ombudsman and tend to be very easy on their own. In my view, instead of an army of officials to check the standards of every profession, a publicly responsible parliament of all occupations would provide the balance of power to check excesses from any quarter.

The problem in making a case against the financial system is that its excesses beggar belief. Despite a sustained outcry against "Fat Cats", on 31 july 2003, a Guardian poll found directors at the UK's top 100 companies received a 23% average pay rise compared to an average earnings rise of 3.2%. Whereas the values of these 100 firms fell 50% in the past three years. Chief executive salaries with bonuses and share options averaged £1,677,685.

The above figures were similar to those from Management Today magazine, a month before. Chief executives of mid-sized UK firms were the second best paid in the world, after the USA, with Australia, France and Japan following.

In may 2003, Vodaphone's chief executive left with a £5 million bonus. The firm revealed £6.2 billion pre-tax losses but claimed "underlying profits" of £8.43 billion. Sir Christopher Gent defended "fat cat" pay-offs: People aspire to greatness in the US, he gratefully declaimed, while the UK was "bedevilled with envy."

David Prosser ( Daily Express 10 october 2003 ) claimed:

Britain's greedy bosses were yesterday exposed as money-grabbing fat cats who give themselves mammoth pay rises while offering staff miserly salaries....The independent pay analyst Incomes Data Services said executive pay at Britain's 350 largest firms had risen 288 per cent over the past ten years...Figures this week show that many bosses are now paid the equivalent of the salaries of hundreds of their workers.

A Business Week survey, in the USA, showed chief executives earn more than 280 times their average employee, compared to 42 times in 1982. Companies with the biggest redundancies, the highest short-falls in pensions and most generous tax breaks also had the highest paid bosses. ( Heather Connon, The Observer 31 august 2003. )

R H Tawney remarked that the extravagantly rich live other people's lives besides their own. A financial journalist said that all the press campaigns against fat cat pay rises, despite poor performances, had done nothing to curb them. Whereas Daily Mail ( 15 May 2004 ) Alex Brummer said:

By and large the energy that drove the revolts over pay at so many agms last year has dissipated. What we now have is timidity and confusion. Pay and nomination committees continue to cock a snook at investors almost daily with seeming impunity...
( He concludes: ) It is not corporate governance that is wrong but the flaccid way it is implemented.

The trade and industry ministry also seemed content to leave the problem to share-holders to defy the board-rooms at annual general meetings. They are expected to waste any spare time, as unpaid security guards of the funds they have placed in trust. Share-holders have been made as ridiculous and futile as the Keystone Cops in a chase after the corporate state. The public needs professional representation, in an ( STV ) elected economic second chamber, to make the contest an equal one.
Like Brummer, Simon Caulkin, ( The Observer 1 august 2004 ) answering his own question "Britain is a rip-off. Why?", concluded:

If we get the service we deserve, the conclusion is self-evident. Stop suffering in silence...Go on: rant, rave, whinge, moan, shout, scream, and complain. Be as embarrassing as possible. It'll make you feel better - and it's your personal contribution to raising the standard of British management.

In my opinion, the incitements of Brummer and Caulkin are about as useful as the advice, that to make foreigners understand, you must stamp your feet and raise your voice. Aggression is the behavior of tyrants encouraged in people given power without restraint. There is more than enough of that already, from those in authority. Even Colonel Tim Collins has fallen foul of them. That is: "The Gulf War hero famous for his rousing eve-of-battle speech to troops in Iraq tells of his toughest fight yet - with the faceless parking ticket tyrants." ( Mail on Sunday 11 july 2004. )

The democratic citizen is courteous and reasonable, following parliamentary standards of conduct. Tho, that assumes the houses of parliament are effectively elected by the public, so that the first chamber would no more be marginalised by party propaganda. And a second chamber proportionally representing all specialties could professionally redress grievances on every aspect of the community's work.

At present, freedom of information, imperfectly won in politics, remains to be realised in economics. As Graeme Beaton said ( in Financial Mail on Sunday 21 september 2003 ):

...the New York Stock Exchange, 211 years after its foundation, is sometimes called The Kremlin.
The princes of Wall Street who reign from the fortress-like building might like to make fine speeches about transparency, accountability and ethics, but they themselves don't seem to care much for such things.
The privately run exchange, which exists to provide a fair, convenient and regulated environment for the trading of shares, has been rocked by insider dealing scandals. Yet it remains steadfastly against opening its books to the public.

The title of The Sunday Times article ( by Louise Armitstead, Peter Koenig and Paul Durman, 23 november 2003 ) asked "Is there an honest man on Wall Street?" The previous week, an FBI Swat team arrested 48 New York currency traders "in the latest scandal to rock the financial world." The suspicions of fraud "included allegations of shootings, violence and drug trafficking as well as money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud." Following the scandalous involvement of investment banks in once darling companies, such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco, and the deceitful investment advisors, the office of the New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer "obtained evidence of widespread illegal trading schemes that potentially cost mutual-fund shareholders billions of dollars annually." The article authors say he showed "how Wall Street's most sophisticated players were robbing the little people." The American scandal is also reported to have spilled over into the City of London.
Mutual funds are like Britain's unit trusts, whereby small investors can hope to get better returns by spreading the risks of the stock exchange thru buying into bundles of shares, looked after by an institutional investor, who takes a commission.

According to Richard Dyson ( Mail on Sunday Personal Finance 14 march 2004 ) the Penrose report into the near collapse of a mutual insurer "exposed a culture at Equitable of autocratic, backward-looking management where board members rallied to support one another and squash outside criticism. Now the same accusations are being made of other mutual managements, including those at building societies." The same paper ( Patrick Tooher, 4 may 2003 ) looked at how well the directorship network is represented on the CBI's panel to curb 'rewards for failure' and labeled them 'the fat cat club'.

To prevent their own collapse, thru law-suits, the big accountancy firms lobbied the government for limited liability or a cap on ruinous awards against them due to negligence or incompetance. The Office of Fair Trading noted that Andersen, the world's biggest firm's collapse was due to a collapse in reputation, rather than finances, as the failed auditor of Enron. ( Sylvia Pfeifer, "The beancounters' bleat." The Sunday Telegraph 8 august 2004. )

The corporate law of limited liability is a law of privilege. Unlimited liability is the law for the rest of us. In a democracy, rather than a plutocracy, there is equality before the law. In other words, no one should be made liable beyond humane limits that ensure decent living conditions for all. "There is enough for man's need but not for man's greed."

A British accountant on the Enron payroll, and member of umpteen boards of directors, was made chairman of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords. The award-winning "They Rule" website ( ) showed that, among 92 of the top 100 US companies, the same few directors were to be found on their boards. Josh On has created a further website that links politicians to powerful lobbyists.

It is true that Lord Wakeham was about the last type of person suitable for opening the second chamber to the public interest. ( And indeed his committee were most anxious to prevent any other occupations than politicians, plus the entrenched lawyers and bishops, gaining occupational constituencies - politicians and lawyers often being the same people. ) A documentary on the Enron scandal showed John Wakeham, at some ceremony, in an Enron builder's helmet, looking like a lordly Mr Bean.

But Lord Wakeham's appointment was opposed not so much because he represented a vested interest, whose Commission would be determined to keep out all the other special interests with a proportionate right to vocational representation. Apart from his being called "a fixer", the complaint was that the prime minister should be giving jobs to those in his own party, not the other side, which had just enjoyed 18 continuous years in office. Such was the message of a guest article in The Independent. I wondered why an independent paper was wasting its forum on pork barrel politics.

Simon Caulkin of The Observer ( 5 october 2003 ) wrote: "The problem is that markets currently reward 'bad' behaviour - businesses that maximise short-term profits by externalising environmental and social costs on to society as a whole - as much as 'good'. A more combative earlier article ( 31 august 2003 ) covers The Green Alliance's accusation of hypocrisy over corporate responsibility. The government lost its nerve over the climate change levy "as a result of a spectacular barrage of whingeing and special pleading by industry organisations." The scare-mongering avoids having to create more economical and innovative products that ensure general benefits such as clean air and water.

The utilities standing charges have long been a regressive tax of people on low incomes and low users. Since privatisation, they are, in effect, private taxes on essentials. Privatised British water companies planned to increase water bills by around £100 a year, allegedly to fund the ageing pipe network. Sean Poulter ( Daily Mail 8 May 2004 ) reported:

However, consumer groups rejected the proposals and warned that those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners, will be driven into debt. And there are suspicions that the increases are designed to line the coffers of the companies in order to fund a new multi-billion pound dividend giveaway to shareholders.

The report expected the government to soften the blow before a general election. No doubt the water companies didnt expect their regulator to allow them the full increase. Old people may only have a phone to call when they are sick or need help or keep in touch with near kin. Their phone bill mainly consists of being forced to perpetually rent a line, regardless of value for money. This is the financial enfranchisement of the rich by the poor.

After three years, only 40 out of a hoped-for 2000 companies signed up for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs voluntary scheme, Make a Corporate Commitment. This was to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and waste production, and pledge to cut them. Green groups said good environmental and social behavior should be incorporated into company law. ( Conal Walsh, The Observer 29 june 2003. )

At the same time ( Nick Mathiason, The Observer ) 40 of Britain's most powerful firms were taking a group action, at the European Court of Justice, to recoup billions in tax from the Inland Revenue. Tax avoidance is being attempted by off-setting European losses against profits in Britain.

The average corporation tax in the world's 30 richest countries has fallen from 37.5% to 30.8% between 1996 and 2003. Accountants KPMG used their findings to urge the Treasury to lower Britain's 30% rate, to attract investment. "But the research tellingly indicated that as corporation tax rates plummet the burden will increasingly fall on individuals and small businesses - the little people."

The reference in the last phrase is to New York property tycoon widow Leona Helmsley, who was dubbed the queen of mean, for saying: "We don't pay taxes. Only little people pay taxes."

Joanna Blythman's essay "Off our trolleys" ( Daily Mail 24 april 2004 ) charts the course of supermarket chains to run our lives and rule the world. Their warehouses in effect lay seige to town centres, depressing their businesses and setting off a chain reaction of closures. To wipe out the rest, the supermarkets set up their own "convenience" stores where "prices are up to seven per cent higher than in the supermarkets' larger-format outlets". Saturation outletting and circumvention of planning restrictions, diversification into every aspect of life, down to the bus time-tables being listed according to the brand of super-stores on the route, are among the weapons of commercial imperialism. Another journalist commented on supermarkets' processed food, that since he knew what went into some of it, he wouldnt eat it.

Bureaucracy holds all to account but itself

Chris Grayling, the Tory Shadow education minister accused the government of "spending money on all the wrong things". Some schools and colleges were in cash crises. While all but one of the chiefs of 12 government agencies were earning over £100,000 a year, for a total of £1.5 million. The 12 bodies employ 8,521 staff. The Conservatives see double over some functions, for example, of the National College for School Leadership and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. ( Patrick Hennessey, The Sunday Telegraph, 8 august 2004. )

"Labour loyalist" and donor Gavyn Davies, after resigning as BBC chairman over the Hutton report, "criticised the government for setting up countless quangos and its love of bureaucracy". He called this 'New Labour's irritating tendency to design a new broom to sweep away every problem'. ( Tara Conlan, The Irritant Tendency, Daily Mail 24 april 2004. )

An article ( in Mail on Sunday Review 30 november 2003 ) by Tony Saint satirised some of these new brooms. The public sector now employs one in four Britons, and is expected to increase the taxpayers' bill from £203 billion in 1996-7 to £512 billion in 2005-6. The irony is that a miscellany of expensive petty official appointments are justified by titles with grand-sounding democratic functions of equality and diversity and inclusion. Tho, there is often no knowing from the pretentious job descriptions what, if anything, they actually do worth doing.

Appointing officials to look after minority rights is patronising them. If the government really wanted to empower minorities, they could start with the democratic electoral system ( STV ) for all official elections, so that minorities can empower themselves with their prefered choice of representatives, not applicants vetted by official committees.

Huge waste was admitted in a July 2004 parliamentary report on Information Technology, for example, in the Child Support Agency. Richard Bacon MP of the public accounts committee reckons there is a black hole in the public sector losing billions. "The Department for Work and Pensions, for instance, loses between £3 billion and £7 billion every year through fraud and error. Each year taxpayers spend £100 million training teachers who never set foot in a classroom. The government itself thinks the NHS loses 16% - 20% of its budget through waste, mismanagement, incompetance and fraud, while critics would suggest a much bigger estimate.
There are 40 new Apache helicopters worth more than £1.2 billion stored a cost of £6m, because the Ministry of Defence didn't train enough pilots in time. We have 103,000 civil servants to support 189,000 military personnel... And so on. It defies belief." ( Minette Marrin, The Sunday Times 4 january 2004.) But the unreformed government introduces more spy camera fines and instant penalties "and the excess of zeal with which they are being demanded is an offence against good citizens and good sense".

People are being landed with political and financial identity numbers, as if their minds were electronic data stores, that can automaticly cough up their PINs, whenever the state or the banks require them. Human bodies are to become so many genetic identification prints. It is a scientificly modernised version of making the individual into a cog in the machine.

The Financial Mail on Sunday ( 15 august 2004 ) did an article by Dan Atkinson on Pensions Roadshow "bullies". Tim Shipman's article  on official bullying ( Sunday Express 22 august 2004 )gives an idea, when read, of how many old people have been harassed with letters and phone calls and stressed with instantly forgettable PIN numbers and forms and phone hot-lines. Steve Webb said that the government forgets that pensions are the pensioners' own money. He says the way they have been treated is a disgrace.
The pension book is being scrapped and there is a drive to persuade the elderly to receive their money thru bank accounts. This turned into another Information Technology disaster with many pensioners receiving no payment or with others being over-paid and being threatened with court action, until the Express took up their cause. An alternative of a cheque in the post is also less than reliable. The editor wondered whether forcing pensioners to forego their books owed to a policy to close uneconomic local post offices. Since 2001, more than 1600 have been shut. Another national injustice upon injustice in the ongoing misgovernment of Britain.

British Chambers of Commerce say small firms are cost £40 billion a year because of red tape. 40% of all the new regulations come from Europe. Small firms are victimised because they rarely can afford the legal and tax advice to minimise the impact of regulations on profits. ( Robin Pagnamonta, Sunday Express 9 march 2003. ) By the way, the chamber of commerce approaches a local economic parliament, depending on how democraticly run.

The Court of Auditors "failed to approve" the European Union's accounts, in november 2003, for the ninth year running. They make it sound like the accountants' failure to cook the books. How many years would the tax office "fail to approve" the corner shop's accounts or those of any other small and vulnerable prey? The National Audit Office "vowed" to increase scrutiny of EU spending, saying it was "hard to tell if matters were improving." Again, can one imagine such temporising on behalf of the corner shop?

The persecution of the "metric martyrs" continued, since the failure of Steve Thorburn's appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, so-called. He died a month later from a heart attack. The fruit and veg trader obliged customers, with the choice to buy in the old Imperial weights, as well as the metric system. This from a government, whose watchword is choice ( short of the STV electoral system that actually gives voters an effective choice of candidates ).

Tory Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paice said of such traders: "Pursuing them through the courts, which is the Government's favoured method, is a gross waste of time, money and resources all at local taxpayers' expense."

The Danish sceptic Pia Kjaersgaard called the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia ( to become the European Human Rights Agency ) "a monstrosity set up by the EU to make freedom of speech and differences in opinion a crime." Human rights are not promoted by administrative diktat, however that may be the prefered means of governments.  Evil is pursued by suppressing the populace with bureacracy, as legalised robbery of the people with plutocracy is promoted as the good life, rather than set the people free with democracy.

A survey in december 2003 showed support for the EU down to under 50% in all member countries and just 23% in the UK. The hope was expressed that the new Constitution would bring the EU closer to the people. As this document concentrates power further into the hands of leaders, the only way it can bring people closer to the union is by putting them under their European rulers' thumbs.

Dr Dieter Helm, of the Independent Social Market Foundation ( january 2004 ) said that beyond the problems with red tape, regulation itself has become an industry and a profession. More people regulate the utilities than when they were publicly owned.

The lack of democracy in a second chamber directly responsible for the economy also harms companies. They are loaded with expensive and time-consuming red tape to have them watch themselves. But bureaucracy increases running costs and helps force firms out of business. Financial Mail ( 27 july 2003 ) found a decrease in firms going public on the stock exchange. 60% of of smaller quoted firms surveyed discussed leaving, and currently would not go public. Four out of five firms believe investors will not bother to read the explanations required by new regulations. This comes back to replacing the growth industry of regulators, administrative law or bureaucracy by an economic parliament representing and co-ordinating the whole economy.

Parties on the dole

In the 2004 state of the nation survey, a poll showed that 62% of those inter-viewed agreed "strongly" or "slightly" on the state funding of political parties. An academic said "This poll shows a breakthrough in attitudes towards state funding". Or as Disraeli said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics". "Strongly" in favor and "slightly" in favor are not close enough to be lumped together. It is like saying yellow is the same as green, in contrast to red.

You could say that there already is a slight state funding of elections. Candidates are given certain minimum free allowances, such as for the cost of postage or finding meeting places. This and probably more should be done in the furtherance of candidates' free speech. But that has nothing to do with giving party politicians a free meal ticket for life. They have no more, and no less, right to be financially enfranchised for their job than any other occupation.

The academic, who talked of a "breakthrough" for state funding of parties, sounded as if this poll showed that it was at last getting through the thick skulls of the public that there was some need for embedding these special interests, the parties, into the constitution of the supposedly public interest, the state. It should hardly need to be said that the countries that have identified the state with a party have been the most notorious tyrannies. Britain, it is true, has more than one party, and it is also true, as the state of the nation poll showed, that they are all disliked more than they are liked. In that respect, there is really only one party, as G K Chesterton said.

The contemporary by-elections in Leicester and Birmingham with their respective 41% and 37% turn-outs reinforced this finding of non-approval of the two main parties. This thumbs-down for party power politics was the real message of the state of the nation poll. So, it was telling of academic attitude, that on the slenderest of evidence, the statistics were treated as a thumbs-up for yet more power to political parties.

The 63% for proportional representation at Westminster was perhaps another indication that the public dont want parties to manipulate the voting system to keep themselves in power without majority support. When the British government has imposed proportional representation, it has always used party lists, which give the choice of members of parliament to their party bosses instead of the voters. Tho, there are signs that Scotland, and Wales, too, may alter their destinies by introducing the democratic PR system. STV gives equality of choice to the voters.

A beginning for economic democracy

The need for democracy to replace plutocracy and bureaucracy, the private and public sector exploitations and oppressions of the people, is generally true, not just for a nation's second chamber, but for a United Nations proposed "Economic Security Council" and for local Chambers of Commerce. And also for individual firms. In an article, "Give more power to the people", Simon Caulkin ( The Observer 28 september 2003 ) wrote of plants, short-listed for the Management Today manufacturing awards, that the lesson is the same.

...the mystery is not accounting for the successful firms - that's obvious. It's why the majority do not follow them...
At each and every level in the organisation, from the shop floor up, there are people who know what's wrong and can see ways of doing it better.
But despite the rhetoric, in normal circumstances they are not empowered to act - in fact the reverse: they are prevented from doing what common sense says. It's only when a crisis intervenes and some brave soul has the courage to challenge the rules that the spell is broken...At this stage the release of energy is typically described as phenomenal, and although it takes time - a few years - to embed the new assumptions and disciplines, the results are usually instantaneous and self-reinforcing.
So why isn't this the norm rather than the exception? The answer, regrettably, is that management, or rather its conventional assumptions, makes it so. Whatever they say, most firms are still organised on the invisible assumptions of the need for centralised command and control, most visibly expressed in the keep in check the regrettable human propensity to cheat or skive, and make sure people do what they are told.
Unfortunately, this results in structures and attitudes that impede rather than encourage individual contribution and improvement. Humans are natural problem-solvers, but in most companies they are required to check their brains in at the door. People treated as opportunists end up acting like them, justifying ever more constraining sets of sticks and carrots.

These successful manufacturing firms have reconstituted themselves on democratic lines. Opinion in The Sunday Express noted the interviewing of teachers, by members of school councils, before the Head was appointed. The editor says "This splendid idea is spreading around schools up and down the country. Many adults no doubt wish it would also be repeated in workplaces." Would that this hint became a positive campaign from the Press for employee participation.

The problem is, as pensioner Dennis Manfield said, that the government is "not democratic". This page's tiny sample of news reports, has been gathered haphazard. Everywhere one looks, one finds wrongs, especially money wrongs. To do justice to all the evils, that beset ordinary people, would be an overwhelming task. But one can safely say that their social cause is much the same.

To help make success with justice the norm for the nation, I have repeated, to the patient reader, these neglected reforms: improvements in political democracy, such as the democratic voting system ( transferable voting ), and creating economic democracy by constitutional means, including an elected occupational second house of parliament. There are ecological, libertarian, humanitarian and other reforms much better covered by others. My emfasis on the mentioned constitutional reforms owes to a belief that problems are solved by peoples much more than individuals, like myself, or party leaders and magnates.

Richard Lung.
Autumn 2004.

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