Politics increasingly throws up bizarre contrasts. Or, as most would correctly see things, breathtaking examples of brazen hypocrisy. In this regard, these past two weeks have been particularly instructive.
On the one hand, the Tories announce a series of measures to deal with the latest spin on the old cash-for-questions scandal by… attacking the Trade Unions’ financial support for Labour. Even their own backbenchers appeared visibly embarrassed because, as everyone knows, there isn’t a single example of political funding, anywhere across the UK spectrum, that is as open, democratic and accountable as this. The strings, checks, balances and scrutiny and red-tape surrounding Labour’s financial support is simply unequalled in any other area (quite why the Unions continue to shovel cash into the coffers of Blue Labour while they consistently adopt Tory polices that are in direct opposition to their members’ interests, is a question for another time).
On the other hand, contrast that with Tory ministers’ privatising the NHS while sitting on boards of companies and owning shares in those ‘service providers’ directly benefitting from such a move and, well, that’s precisely the kind of hypocrisy that could make a person sick
Let’s be even-handed, though, and not just indulge in gratuitous Tory-bashing. Miliband’s disgusting spinelessness and complete capitulation to neoliberalism spawns equally nauseating examples of hypocrisy. Just the other day, for instance, UK capitalism’s second eleven announced its intention to retain Tory caps on benefit spending; buying wholesale into the despicable ‘scroungers versus strivers’ narrative.
For the ignorant, lazy-thinking and just plain nasty, this makes sense. After all, why should families who feature generations stretching all the way back to the Bronze Age who haven’t worked a single day between them, enjoy luxurious life-styles in ten-bedroom council houses with mile-wide plasma TV screens and a private jet parked next to the out-door spa? Just not on, is it?
One wonders, then, what Blue Labour might be thinking of doing in terms of really cracking down on these offenders. You see, If you’re a top executive with Goldman Sachs it seems you can arrange a cozy lunch-date with Her Majesty’s head tax bod and amicably agree to waive the £20 million in tax you owe the UK exchequer. Mind you, that’s just chump change compared to the £7 billion, yes, you read that correctly, that Her Maj’s generous tax officials decided last year to write off so those poor Vodafone execs could sleep a wee bit easier in their beds of a cold, winter’s eve. After all, struggling along on their multi-million pound salaries and bonuses, share options and gold-plated pension-plans must be hard enough without having the stress of worrying about such trifles as legal obligations, the law and tax. To pile insult upon nausea, it’s just been reported that the communications giant has avoided paying any corporation tax for a second year running.
So this company makes use of British infrastructure; roads, comms, transport, NHS, cheap labour and a great deal more but dodges the £12 billion it owes over the last two years? That’s some seriously impressive scrounging right there. Still, let’s be fair here; it’s not as though these worthies are grubby, sink-estate chavs cleaning a few windows on the side so the poor tax-payer is ripped off for an extra thirty or forty quid a week now is it? And at least these fellas are, mostly, white. It’s not as if they’re shifty Pakistanis or predatory Poles flocking over here in their millions and emptying the nation’s purse of those oh-so generous benefits, is it?
The Department of Work and Pensions estimates benefit fraud at around 0.07 per cent from a total benefits bill of £5.5 billion. Let us be brutally clear, here; it’s absolute chump-change compared to tax avoidance (immoral but legal) which, along with corporate fraud, swindles, con-jobs and tax evasion (all illegal and still immoral) costs us a significantly larger £150 billion per year. One rule for the rich and one rule for the poor. A carrot for those at the top and a big shitty stick for those at the bottom. That’s the reality of class war.
RMT President, Bob Crow, on Thursday’s Question Time, pithily observed, “You pay tax and you buy civilisation” and he’s absolutely right. While we have thousands of terminally-ill and disabled people scapegoated as scroungers and then witch-hunted off benefits by ATOS to die like dogs, we badly need some civilisation. While the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are subjected to an obscene and hysterical propaganda offensive as ‘shirkers’ we need, more than ever, some civilisation in our increasingly mean-spirited and vicious nation.
So let’s crack down hard on the real scroungers and shirkers. Yes, Vodafone et al; we’re looking at you.