Who Can We Trust?

Recent media reports highlighted the worrying hold China has over the UK, after our government allowed it to become the North Sea’s top oil operator.  The communist-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) now runs two of our biggest oil fields, producing over 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

Boris in ChinaThis hold gives China leverage in negotiations with the UK Government, significantly weakening our control over our own energy sector.  Imagine what would happen if the Chinese were permitted to build and run a nuclear power plant in the UK, as is currently proposed?   Meanwhile, new Foreign Secretary, comedian Boris Johnson, has flow to Beijing to confound the Chinese with his buffoonery and buy time whilst the new post-Brexit administration works out what to do next.

For the British people, robbed of national assets through privatisation, the future looks bleak, as foreign governments, often hiding behind state-owned corporations, buy into our manufacturing, energy, transport and other key economic sectors.  Globalisation has done for us.  We have been asset-stripped and left powerless in negotiations with foreign governments, whilst our ruling elite have salted away fortunes in offshore bank accounts.  Is this really the country we want for our children?

Despite having a democratic system of governance, we seem powerless to make our political leaders turn away from the dark forces of global capitalism and prioritise citizen-focused issues.   Witness the London property market – locals have been priced out as it has been turned into a money haven for foreign ‘investors’.  We seem doomed to be patronised by the Westminster elite, doing the bidding of the super rich – hypocrites who are busy selling our country to feather their own nests.  They believe everyone is like them – obsessed with position and personal wealth accumulation.

Well, I have news for you.  Other nationalities have different perspectives and priorities, and in the case of the Chinese Government, it is to obtain ownership (through State-owned companies) of as much of the World’s mineral assets as possible.  To them, cash and barter of goods and services is a way to secure mining rights around the world, starting with developing countries.  This gives them both raw materials for their industry and political leverage that increases their power and influence.  They now have their eyes on Europe.

I’m sure the Chinese hierarchy look with amusement at the behaviour of BoJo the Clown and our other hypocritical political leaders who are self-obsessed and care little for the ‘good of the people’.  At least this last part chimes with the Chinese who see labour as a resource to be exploited.  Understanding this makes it easier for them to flatter and deceive our callow politicians into doing their bidding.

A report published in the mirror.co.uk on 24/08/16 talks about the Chinese using the positioning of oil rigs as ‘strategic weapons’, their rigs in a disputed area of the South China Sea described as ‘mobile national territory’.  For this reason the USA has moved to protect itself from Chinese ambition by blocking the sale of oil wells over security fears.  Paranoid or justified?  Meanwhile, the UK Government handed £2 billion in tax breaks to the CNOOC in 2015.  Oh, and by-the-way, General Nuclear Power, the Chinese state-owned corporation and the proposed partner in the UK’s £18 billion Hinckley Point project, is facing industrial espionage charges in the US.

The ‘investment’ of foreign governments, through state-owned corporations (including France’s EDF) must surely be a concern for the country.  In China’s case, it is a calculated bid to control energy generation in Britain to give them a power base – a toe-hold in negotiations with a weakened British Government.  Why would an elected British Government even contemplate such a deal?  Surely they have been put there by the British people to represent their collective interest?

Not a bit of it.  Global business interest thinly disguised as investment dictates our political agenda, and what is in the best interests of the country is relegated to a minor concern, tersely dismissed by our high-handed moralising politicians.  Will the British people really see the benefits of fracking for shale gas?  I think not – the gas extracted by private companies will be sold to the highest bidder on the global energy market.  We will have our countryside torn up to simply create wealth for a small elite, and still be paying through the nose for our gas supply.  That’s how it works.

All was going well for the Establishment until the unexpected Brexit vote.  The British electorate took umbrage at being patronised and instructed to Vote Remain.  They exercised the one bit of freedom they had left – the choice to vote against the hated money-obsessed Establishment and their Westminster-based toady politicians.  It was an embarrassing setback for the forces of Globalisation, but they have quickly re-grouped under a new Conservative Prime Minister, one with worrying similarities to Margaret Thatcher, who set the ball rolling on selling off our national assets some thirty years ago.

Has new Prime Minister, Theresa May, been given her instructions to return the country to a Victorian era voting system by removing those who are not property owners from the electoral register?  This would ensure no more disturbances from a peeved electorate to their capitalist agenda, and match nicely their plans to remove the Welfare State and its prize jewel, The National Health Service, tossing the welfare of the poor, sick and disabled into the arms of the charity sector.  It’s not as crazy an idea as you might think.  The soon-to-be-debated repeal of the Human Rights Act is just another attempt to strip us of our rights and return the country to an authoritarian system based on patronage.

At least we should be able to see the Chinese coming and veer away from their proposed ‘investments’.  However, our biggest danger remains the behaviour of our own Government.  How can we escape them?

Sir Greed and the Knights of Exploitation

Sir Greed banged his fist on the round table, “Bring me truffles!” he thundered, as the serving staff in BHS livery went scurrying. “’Tis treachery! The May Queen talks softly of helping the poor, yet it is the avowed intent of this fair kingdom to crush their will and keep them in grinding poverty, lest they get ideas and organise resistance!”

Knight on horse
Sir Greed rode out on his black stallion

He rode out of Castle Green at the head of his personal escort and made his way to the commission of poor men to give evidence for his alleged misdeeds. His squire, a mean and indolent fellow called Chappell, rode beside him.

“Chappell, heed my words. These villains will ask why I favoured thee with half my lands, to which you must reply, ‘My Lord put me in charge of the upkeep of the serfs in good faith, but I lacked the knowledge of my wise master to manage the estates and provide for their welfare’. Got it?”

“Yes, my Lord. And I shall remain in your favour by not mentioning that you stripped the silver and gold from all the holy places to pay for your new royal yacht.” Sir Greed glared at his snivelling underling, knowing full well that his deviousness and avarice had bound him to the villain.

“Look, my Lord! The May Queen awaits you before the humble parliament shed.”

“Good day, my Queen, to what do I owe this pleasure?” The portly knight said, quivering in his saddle as he attempted an ungainly bow.

“It is no pleasure of mine, Sir Greed! I have come to warn you not to mock my councillors and give truthful evidence, for I intend to reform this kingdom and reverse the culture of theft and oppression that has become your hallmark.”

“My Queen, I will doff my cap and tell them what they want to hear, but we both know your kingdom is based on a wealthy elite exploiting the serfs for personal gain, aggrandisement and displays of riches. For every rich man, there must be hundreds of serfs to support him, working his fields for a pittance, fighting his battles, and being grateful for a rat-infested hovel to live in and a handful of grain to feed his lice-ridden family.”

The May Queen eyed him with a cold, well-practiced withering look, and answered in a low and threatening voice. “That may be how we want it, Sir Greed, but we must at least make a show of appearing to care for the welfare of the legions of poor, for without their labour, our kingdom would falter and we would not be able to continue our lavish lifestyles… beware the dangers of arrogance and cruelty! They have been the undoing of many Lords, and I will move swiftly to strip you of your titles if you do not play along with our mocking game of deception and false hope for our minions!”

Sir Greed, suitably chastised, went before the commission, and smiled like a devious crook as he rebuffed charges of dishonesty, avarice, and cruelty to his people. For in truth, the commission had no powers to strip away his lands or titles, merely the power to chastise and humbly request some coins for the alms box.

Sir Greed and Squire Chappell rode away, laughing at the powerless rage and frustration of the councillors, and dismissing the paltry amount paid into the alms box.

“We shall recover our outlay with higher taxes, my Lord,” the heartless squire quipped.

As they rode through a dark, foreboding forest, making their way slowly under overhanging trees, their path was suddenly blocked by a band of outlaws.

“Out of our way, vermin,” Sir Greed demanded.

The leader of the group, an ageing man with a grey scaggy beard, approached on a mangy nag. “My Lord, I am The Corbineer, leader of, well, one of a number of bands of outlaws in this forest, having been duly elected by my peers, and I must now ask you for your purse, as we have many mouths to feed.” He waved a short, bent sword, and encouraged his men to laugh at his boldness.

“Out of my way, scum!” Sir Greed replied, spurring his horse forward and brushing aside the dandy bandit. He rode away on his black charger, closely followed by his whimpering squire. They soon cleared the forest and turned back to see their entourage beaten and stripped of their clothing.

“Shall we ride back to aid our followers, my lord?” the panting Chappell enquired, feigning bravery.

“No need,” Sir Greed replied, “There are plenty more where they came from. I shall send a group of knights from the Order of The Exploiters to deal with this troublesome Corbineer. The poor are too divided with their village rivalries to come to his aid. We will not kill him but instead capture him and keep him in our Palace of Westminster as an example to others of how hope of advancement is in vain and they must accept their subservient position in our kingdom. As my Uncle Avarice once said, ‘It’s their hope that kills ‘em’.”

They laughed as they rode to Castle Green, oblivious to the cries and screams of their abandoned followers, safe in the knowledge that order had been upheld in the Kingdom of Fear.

 

To find out about the future of the Kingdom of Fear…

http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B01EGDLHLW

 

 

On Being Patronised By Hypocrites…

It’s been a long time since UK politics got me agitated.  But now, in the run-up to the May General Election, I can see that this election is the British people’s last chance to save themselves from a miserable life of economic slavery.  We are being patronised by a bunch of hypocrites who expect us to believe that cuts to our Welfare State are justified and that ‘We are all in it together’.

We are not – we live in a divided society where our work prospects and standard of living are being eroded, along with our democratic freedom – witness the Metropolitan Police announcing that from now on all public demonstrations will have to pay for policing.  If you can’t afford the average £4,000 fee then you can’t demonstrate.  Shut up, stay at home and pay your taxes.

The current Coalition Government has systematically lied to us about the justification for their Austerity programme.  ‘We are all in this together’ they say, when clearly we are not, as the wealthy elite are encouraged to avoid tax and to exploit the population.

The latest scandal to hit the news is that major bank HSBC has been exposed for advising its wealthiest customers on how to avoid paying tax.  It is not a crime to have a Swiss bank account, but it is a crime to avoid paying tax.  The rich are mocking us, as they are the untouchables, guiding the hands of our political leaders and effectively dictating policy. “1,100 Super Rich Cheats, 1 Conviction”, is a headline in one of the dailies.  We are definitely not in it together, as the gap between the wealthy elite and the rest continues to widen.

Whilst the majority of citizens are heavily taxed in the UK, the super rich manage to keep their cash and accumulate vast personal wealth, much of which is externalised in overseas bank accounts and foreign property.  Meanwhile, at home, ordinary citizens are trapped in a shrinking comfort zone and are subject to punitive fines for any form of avoidance – late payment of income tax, TV Licence avoidance, and benefit sanctions for late attendance – all of which collects a fraction of what is lost in tax evasion by the wealthy – estimated to be £80 billion a year.

We are being herded like cattle, and if we don’t resist this deadly trend, we will find ourselves sleep walking into a return to Victorian poverty and loss of all the rights our forefathers fought for.  The wealth elite are happy for immigrants to come into the country as it creates competition in the labour market, leading to lower wages and greater profits.  They are happy to see our urban areas turned into slum townships, and for British people to be sucked into a world of squalor and degradation.  To the rich we are all just units in a labour market that serves them.

Resist!  Whilst you still have a vote.  Make it count and throw out those who are the puppets of the depraved super rich.  They will not all want to live in Luxembourg or Panama City when there are much better shows on in London’s West End!  Call their bluff and chase them for tax avoidance.  Some may leave – and good riddance – but the majority will grumble and pay up.  After all, how much money can you spend in one life time?  This is not about envy – it is about fairness and social justice.

It’s time for Britain to wake up and smell the coffee – we must say a resounding ‘NO’ to David Cameron and George Osborne.  They are cynical class warriors, intent on grinding our noses in the dirt and rewarding their rich friends.  This is not our vision of a free and fair society, where all are equal and can live peaceful and fulfilling lives.  Reject the patronising hypocrites who have evil plans for us, and free yourself!

Social Responsibility and the Super Rich

The Super Rich are attracted to the UK because of the Government’s covert policy of turning a blind eye to tax dodging in the mistaken belief that having lots of rich people in the country will drive the economy and create a ‘trickle down’ effect to the rest of us.  We will all somehow benefit from the scraps that fall from the tables of the wealthy elite.

For me, this is at odds with the notion of a developed society that highly values its citizens and hard won democracy and personal freedoms.  We can do what we like, say what we like, believe what we like and think what we like, provided we adhere to the Law of the Land, and understand basic citizenship mores and values.  In the eyes of the Law we are all equal, a reason why many choose to move to the UK from more restrictive or oppressive countries.

However, Britain is increasingly becoming a divided society. Life in Britain is polarizing at an alarming rate between the rich elite and the rest – a 1-99% split, in fact, with the 1% sitting on greater personal wealth that the remaining 99%, who under our capitalist system are seen as serving their needs.  We cannot be truly equal in such a society, where those who have the most pay proportionally the least towards the country’s running costs and have the ability to accumulate huge wealth from which the majority are excluded by low wages and high cost of living, exacerbated by high property prices.

“But I’ve earned it and I want to keep it!” shriek the super rich.  Of course you do.  But you should not shirk your responsibility to the society in which you live.  You freely enjoy the infrastructure of a developed country – airports, roads, transport system, street lighting, rubbish collection, luxury accommodation, shops, arts, leisure and relative good security – all the support services desired by the wealthy are in London and the South East (sorry the rest of the UK!).

They also seek to maximise profits by reducing wages, a process that involves the replacement of expensive, high maintenance British workers with cheap and easy to bully migrant workers, many coming from poorer countries – our celebrated multi-cultural society is putting pressure on health, education and housing, and is increasingly a cause of irritation with British workers. In the run-up to the UK General Election in May, austerity and real poverty in Britain has become a hot election topic.

In the news this week the billionaire boss of Boots the Chemist, one of Britain’s leading, and oldest, high street pharmaceutical stores, has claimed it would be a “catastrophe” if Labour were to win the election.  A catastrophe for him, perhaps, as Italian Stefano Pessina is a non-dom tax dodger living in Monaco, with an estimated personal wealth of £7.5 billion.  He would probably argue that he has earned his money, whereas I would counter-argue that he has amassed a huge fortune in part through over payment, bonuses, shares and tax avoidance. I’m sure he loves coming to London for board meetings and enjoys the privileged lifestyle, whilst making sure he doesn’t exceed his allowed quota of days to qualify for non-dom status.  Isn’t it time this tax loophole was closed and those who earn their wealth in the UK are made to pay taxes here?  They are selling goods and services to us because we are a wealthy country with an active consumer society.  Or maybe we’re just mugs – sheep to be shorn.

The other tax dodge which is reducing Government income is the avoidance of corporation tax by big international companies, who operate in a low tax framework in countries where they don’t have their head office.  The Sunday Mirror (01/02/15) reported that, “Six of the world’s biggest companies paid just 0.3% of their UK earnings in corporation tax last year.” The report says the accounts of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, ebay and Starbucks were examined, and found that they reported a combined revenue total for the UK market of £2.7 billion.  Many more billions worth of sales are recorded every year by sister companies often located in tax havens like Luxembourg and Switzerland.  However, they pay a pittance in corporation tax and move their profits off-shore, leaving us with the uncomfortable feeling that we are being exploited.

This comes against a back drop of a ‘miss’ by £9.4 billion on the target set by Government for corporation tax collections, due to a reduction in the rate by Chancellor George Osborne.  Government policy remains to indulge the super rich and encourage tax dodging by individuals and international companies.  This whole policy exposes the Government’s austerity programme as being little more than cynical ideological warfare against the poorest in our society – the rich get richer and everyone else pays for it.  Worse than that, real employment opportunities and quality of life are deteriorating in Britain, as people suffer from reduced income and declining services.  As the Government cuts funding to the welfare state, there is growing anger in the country as it becomes apparent that this is unnecessary if only the wealthy elite paid their dues.

My personal journey has taken me from the private sector to the non-profit sector, so I have seen life on both sides of the fence.  As such, I am not one to cry, “Tax the rich to pay for the poor!”  I believe those who work hard should enjoy the benefits of their labour.  However, what I can’t abide is the culture of insatiable greed by those who are already rich, and the cynical and cruel treatment of the most vulnerable in society.  We will all get old one day, so why make pensioners suffer?

This meanness is the nasty side of our capitalist system, and we now find that those who work hard are no longer rewarded as the fat cats get it all. It is a Tory lie that hard work brings reward – bankers are back earning their bonuses whilst the rest are told they must tighten their belts. We need to reverse this worrying trend for the sake of future generations and in the interests of decency and social accountability.  We will not be bullied by greedy capitalists with the ‘if you tax us we’ll leave’ argument.  They like the benefits of living and running businesses in the UK too much to leave for the sake of a few thousand pounds from their bulging off-shore accounts.  They like money but they don’t need it.  Call their bluff, and remind them of their social responsibilities.  Maybe, just maybe, some of them will be shamed.

Trickle Down to Revolution?

The thought-provoking and slightly hysterical BBC documentary series, The Super Rich and Us reached its climax on Thursday 15th January with a chilling warning of possible REVOLUTION if the divided society continues to widen.  With 85 individuals owning more than half of the personal wealth of the World, things have simply gone too far, and the super rich are now starting to fear a backlash from the disenfranchised majority.

The overriding theme of the new millennium has been a widening divide between the super rich 1% of the UK and USA populations and the rest, with Britain becoming a haven for the World’s richest people in higher concentrations than any other country due to successive Government’s covert policy of allowing tax avoidance.  This is done in the belief that the richest people generate wealth for everyone, with a trickle-down effect putting money in the pockets of the rest of us – a kind of return to feudal patronage in a society based on greedy exploitation and misinformation.

The stark warning of the programme makers is that we are heading for a crash, with 1% of the population having most of the wealth and charged with the task of growing the economy through capitalist and consumerist activity.  It is unsustainable and the cracks are showing.  The mouthpiece of the super rich in the UK is Chancellor George Osborne, who is ruthlessly driving through an austerity programme aimed at taxing the poor to subsidise the rich.  The middle classes are suffering as never before, with declining income and a growing cost of living.  Those interviewed on the programme give the impression they now realise that they are being excluded from the orgy of excess being enjoyed only by the super rich elite.

The programme charted the history leading up to the financial meltdown of 2008, starting with a nostalgic description of the 1970s as the most egalitarian decade ever.  Wealth was more evenly shared with a relatively modest gap between workers and bosses wages.  But wait…wasn’t the 70s the decade of power cuts and strikes?  Yes, it all went horribly wrong for Ian Callaghan’s Labour Government, with an oil crisis leading to recession and striking workers bringing the country to a standstill.

This opened the door for Margaret Thatcher’s capitalist revolution in the 1980s, and the age of greed and borrowing was ushered in.  Britain’s bankers mimicked their American counterparts, who were making millions on Wall Street gambling on stock futures and the securities market – creating massive wealth which eclipsed the value of all manufactured goods worldwide.  Thatcher cheered it on, encouraging the cynical asset stripping of British businesses and the cheap privatisation of national assets.  Fortunes were made and ordinary people were encouraged to get on board the consumer boom by borrowing beyond their means.

It was unsustainable and reached a peak in 2008 when the securities market gave way under the weight of too many defaulted mortgages, causing a domino effect across the banking sector, collapsing the property market and triggering a global recession.  What have we learned from this?  Not much it seems, as the same capitalist greed model remains in place, and the programme presenter solemnly reported that the super rich made profit from the big crash.  Most Government bailout payments ended up in the pockets of the wealthy elite who saw opportunity in disaster, and the gap between the wealthiest and the rest has continued to widen over the past five years.

The last five minutes of the excellent documentary deals with stark warnings from a UK military chief and a US IT billionaire, that our two societies are reaching a tipping point.  Already austerity protests in the West are hinting that the people have had enough.  If you exclude the majority to the extent that they feel they have nothing left to lose then watch out.  President Obama talks about the “Great Divergence” being the “defining moment of our times.”  “A highly unequal society is a recipe for revolution or a police state”, says a wide-eyed billionaire, who is already thinking of ways to increase security on his mansion.

The programme concludes with a piece on exploitation of workers through zero hours contracts, and an increasingly dog-eat-dog society where people must scavenge to survive.  The super rich have made money out of both ends of the market – luxury goods as well as pound shops, gambling and pay day loans.  We live in a modern capitalist culture that encourages people to aspire and better themselves, but is now seen by many as unattainable as the reality of inequality leads to increasing frustration and anger.

The solution lies with a re-balancing of values in our society, before our weak and easily manipulated politicians lead us blindfolded into a police state.  We are losing not only our jobs, quality of life and self respect, but also our hard-won freedoms.  Obama is right – it is a defining moment, and we need to fight for our rights if we want a better life.