Britain's Mafia State
Where does legitimate business end and organised crime begin?
Britain's Mafia State
By George Monbiot / monbiot.com
Sep 9, 2015

Be reasonable in response to the unreasonable: this is what voters in the Labour election are told. Accommodate, moderate, triangulate, for the alternative is to isolate yourself from reality. You might be inclined to agree. If so, please take a look at the reality to which you must submit.

To an extent unknown since before the First World War, economic relations in this country are becoming set in stone. Is not just that the very rich no longer fall while the very poor no longer rise. It’s that the system itself is protected from risk. Through bail-outs, quantitative easing and delays in interest rate rises, speculative investment has been so well cushioned that, as Larry Elliott puts it, financial markets are “one of the last bastions of socialism left on earth.”

Public services, infrastructure, the very fabric of the nation: these too are being converted into risk-free investments. Social cleansing is transforming inner London into an exclusive economic zone for property speculation. From a dozen directions, government policy converges on this objective. The benefits cap and the bedroom tax drive the poor out of their homes. The forced sale of high-value council houses creates a new asset pool. An uncapped and scarcely regulated private rental market turns these assets into gold. The freeze on council tax banding since 1991, the lifting of the inheritance tax threshold and £14 billion a year in breaks for private landlords all help to guarantee stupendous returns.

And for those who wish simply to sit on their assets, the government can help here too, by ensuring that there are no penalties for leaving buildings empty. As a result, great tracts of housing are removed from occupation. Agricultural land has proved an even better punt for City money: with the help of capital gains, inheritance and income tax exemptions, as well as farm subsidies, its price has quadrupled in 12 years.

Property in this country is a haven for the proceeds of international crime. The head of the National Crime Agency, Donald Toon, notes that “the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK.”

It’s hardly surprising, given the degree of oversight. Private Eye has produced a map of British land owned by companies registered in offshore tax havens. The holdings amount to 1.2 million acres, including much of our prime real estate. Among those it names as beneficiaries are a cast of Russian oligarchs, oil sheikhs, British aristocrats and newspaper proprietors. These are the people for whom government policy works, and the less regulated the system that enriches them, the happier they are.

The speculative property market is just one current in the great flow of cash that sluices through Britain while scarcely touching the sides. The financial sector exploits an astonishing political privilege: the City of London is the only jurisdiction in the UK not fully subject to the authority of parliament. In fact, the relationship seems to work the other way. Behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons sits the Remembrancer, whose job is to ensure that the interests of the City of London are recognised by the elected members. (A campaign to rescind this privilege – Don’t Forget the Remembrancer – will be launched very soon). The City has one foot in the water: it is a semi-offshore state, a bit like the UK’s Crown dependencies and overseas territories, tax havens legitimised by the Privy Council. Britain’s financial secrecy undermines the tax base while providing a conduit into the legal economy for gangsters, kleptocrats and drug barons.

Even the more orthodox financial institutions deploy a long succession of scandalous practices: pension mis-selling, endowment mortgage fraud, the payment protection insurance con, Libor rigging. A former minister in the last government, Lord Green, ran HSBC while it engaged in money laundering for drugs gangssystematic tax evasion and the provision of services to Saudi and Bangladeshi banks linked to the financing of terrorists. Sometimes the UK looks to me like an ever-so-civilised mafia state.

At next month’s Conservative party conference, corporate executives will pay £2,500 to sit with a minister. Doubtless, because we are assured that there is no link between funding and policy, they will spend the day discussing the weather and the films they have seen. If we noticed such arrangements overseas, we might be inclined to regard them as corruption. But that can’t be the case here, not least because the invitation explains that “fees associated with business day & dinner are considered a commercial transaction and therefore do not constitute a political donation.”

The government also insists that there is no link between political donations and seats in the House of Lords. But a study by researchers at Oxford University found that the probability of so many major donors arriving there by chance is 1.36 x 10-38: roughly “equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot 5 times in a row”. Why does the Lords remain unreformed? Because it permits plutocratic power to override democracy. Both rich and poor are kept in their place.

Governed either by or on behalf of the people who fleece us, we cannot be surprised to discover that all public services are being re-engineered for the benefit of private capital. Nor should we be surprised when governments help to negotiate, without public consent, treaties such as TTIP and CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), which undermine the sovereignty of both parliament and the law. Aesop’s observation that “we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office” remains true in spirit, though hanging has been replaced by community payback.

Wherever you sniff in British public life, something stinks: I could fill this newspaper with examples. But, while every pore oozes corruption, our task, we are told, is merely to trim the nails of the body politic.

To fail to confront this system is to collaborate with it. Who on the left would wish to stand on the sidelines as this carve-up continues? Who would vote for anything but sweeping change?

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 14,615 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 12,768 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 7,419 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 7,291 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 7,233 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong
6 min · 5,748 views today · What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-selling book 'Chasing...
Artificial Ethics and the Search for Intelligence
5 min · 3,487 views today · How to stop a robot turning evil.  It's 2027 and Mental Endeavours Ltd has a problem with their flagship robot Günther. How do you program an intelligent machine not to...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,547 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Two Ways to Build Global Community
Dan Hind · 1,613 views today · A platform co-operative approach to information, rather than the models of Facebook and legacy media, provide reason for optimism, writes Dan Hind.
Philippine Vigils Against Vigilantes - The Reign of Terror in the President's War on Drugs
7 min · 1,502 views today · The war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken more than 7,000 lives since its inception. It took the killing of a South Korean businessman by police...
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 1,402 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
Films for Action's Public Film Screening Guide
Tim Hjersted and Matt Toplikar · 1,288 views today · This guide will give you step by step instructions on how to host Films For Action sponsored film screening events in your city. It is intended primarily for people who have...
System Change Will Not Be Negotiated
Nnimmo Bassey · 1,153 views today · We frequently hear calls for system change, at public mobilisations, in conference halls and even in negotiation halls. The calls come as slogans, they come in anger and they...
The Coming War on China
John Pilger · 1,067 views today · A major US military build-up – including nuclear weapons – is under way in Asia and the Pacific with the purpose of confronting China. John Pilger raises the alarm on an...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,023 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 994 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 899 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
Murdoch and Trump, Sitting at the Tee, S-C-H-E-M-I-N-G
Frankie Boyle · 820 views today · Say what you like about Donald Trump but he's already done things people said were impossible, like made Twitter worse. Looking back, the Harambe situation is the closest...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 681 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 664 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Britain's Mafia State