This is the name of the talk held by the High Pay Centre last week. We have previously shared their brilliant work and along with this event, they also released a booklet with insightful essays that we suggest you read – you can download them here.
The talk began with Professor John Kay highlighting the stark reality of how entrenched the heavy and unfair hand of business in our government has come to be accepted:
“Prof Kay cited a case in the US in the 1870’s where a lobbyist had been hired by a company that subsequently refused to pay him as they didn’t like the outcome. The lobbyist sued the company.The case went to the Supreme court that took the view that lobbying was so repugnant, the contract was unenforceable.
“He contrasted this with a decision by the US Supreme court in 2010 that took the view that lobbying was protected by free speech.”
We are given a mantra day in, day out that business interests are somehow the interests of us all. That paying bank managers more is what we must do to ‘keep the talent’ that has overseen the corrupt architechture of the banks, with full impunity. So much so, that further damage is allowed, further corrupt practice, further lives ruined by the allowance of these interests to oversee the ‘solutions.’
Business in Government
Everyday we see our ‘leaders’ bowing to corporate interests. Blair is believed to have once said of his alliance with Murdoch “It is better to be riding the tiger’s back than let it rip your throat out.” Throughout changes in party colours and faces in government, Murdoch has remained a presence in 10 Downing Street. Blair is Godfather to Murdoch’s grandchild, The Chipping Norton Set describe a village of affluent, connected power which include David Cameron, Rebekah Brookes and more. Not forgetting Cameron’s PR man throughout the election and beyond was former editor of the now defunct News of The World, Andy Coulson, who presided as editor during the phone hacking scandal. Indeed, have we ever seen a more successful ‘solution’ for corporate interests than in Leveson? The public are sold the idea of the investigation like no other, that justice will be served, before revealing that Blair advised Brooks to hold a public inquiry as he had done with Chilcot to peter out, to make some noise, but of no real consequence. Blair walked free. As did Brooks and Murdoch after plenaries of amnesia.
Government decisions are now always made with corporate interests in mind. Murdoch’s power to distort the news with a 40% hold on UK media, is more important than public interest, or indeed, the truth to our politicians. Those funding political parties have sway over our laws and policies. Corporate lobbying is an investment, not an expense – the power given to companies, businesses and billionaires is access to the society we live in, a proven, working system of manipulating laws and motions to the interest of profit – with no interest paid to public feeling or indeed lives.
In the booklet from the High Pay Centre, Luke Hildyard, Deputy Director, describes in the foreword how controlled our politicians have come to be:
“During one meeting with a leading politician we were told that though they found a particular policy convincing, they were not prepared to say so publicly until business leaders do likewise….
Our experience at the High Pay Centre is instructive. Our polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of people support proposals to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest paid worker. When I discussed the idea on Sky news – owned by one of the UK’s biggest corporations – the interviewer suggested, probably correctly, that ‘it was never going to happen.’ The Spectator noted no mainstream politician ‘would embrace such a provocatively anti-capitalist measure.’
That the idea of capping executive pay, at say, a mere 75 times that of their lowest-paid worker is seen as more provocative than pay gaps of that size and larger is perhaps worrying. But the issue with corporate power is less about whether big business is right or wrong about certain policies, than whether it is sustainable for them to exert such influence in the face of public opinion.”
And this is part of the crux, if it can be assumed that all ‘mainstream politicians’ could not support anti-capitalist measures, or anything that bucks the trend of money flowing to the top, it means we have no real choice (Read 8 Reasons why the UK is not a democracy).
Further, as business controls the leaders who speak about policy, and the media that feeds us information, business has worked hard to instil us with an amnesia that there can be anything other than this system. But there are plenty of alternatives now and in history…
“By the 1940s high rates of taxation deterred people at the top from trying to secure excessive pay rises. What was the point? They would receive only a fraction of the extra money when top tax rates were taken into account. To imagine what it was like, think of what the re-introduction of higher taxation today might mean. A chief executive could receive as little as 10% today on earnings over £500,000 a year, if they could be taxed at 90%. There would therefore be little point in asking for pay rises once you were on £500,000. Double your pay after that, to a nominal £1million a year, and you would receive only an extra £50,000 for all your supposedly additional efforts.”
Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid
This kind of taxation was taking place not so long ago. The fact that we have come so far in the changes to wealth distribution, shows how destructive this path is. Take a look at the news to see the entrenched contradictions of punishment and reward. The week the bedroom tax came in, which of those it affected two thirds were disabled, 96% had nowhere to move to in order to escape the charge, and arrears increased after it’s implementation. Some £14 from a person on between £65-150 a week can mean the difference between eating or heating. That same week, there was a tax cut for the rich, that would in essence eat up any of that money saved through hammering the poor. This is how in favour of business our government and entire system is. The news is littered with these contradictions – particularly during austerity.
The protection of these interests as we have seen in Leveson, in Chilcot, in Teresa May’s inability to find someone to head a child sex abuse inquiry into government who does not have links to those in question, in Priti Patel’s ‘rebellion’ as Conservative MP against plain cigarette packaging when she was an ex-lobbyist for the tobacco industry, in ex-Sun editor Richard Caseby’s lash out at the Guardian for inaccuracies in welfare reporting when his current organisation (a senior communications position at the DWP!) have been publicly reprimanded for manipulation of welfare statistics to push through punishing policy, demonstrate how much a part of the fabric they have come to feel. But they still are working against the public interest.
Last night, BBC Panorama did an investigation into small businesses who were made bankrupt by their banks following the 2008 crash. They did this by manipulating house price valuations and cutting them in half in order to hurry on business owners to sell their assets (despite enjoying good business prior to this) and by bringing in administrators to ‘help’ who would then gain access to business information, and continue administrating for the bank when they demand the business sell up. This shows how free these companies are to manipulate our entire lives for their benefit. And this happens everyday.
Tamasin Cave, from Spinwatch, was also at this HIgh Pay Centre talk. She had worked to instate a lobbying register, to give transparency to the world of corporate lobbying. Unsurprisingly, there is always a way out. A register has been instated but it is shoddy, there is no obligation to record the meetings that would shed light on political affiliations and decisions, and therefore it is of no use.
What the real results of overbearing and insidious corporate interests really mean is a society where these interests are neither punished, nor questioned. They are above the law. As we are choked on the image of potential benefit fraudsters, our entire society is under a heist by the city. The Libor scandal, where the manipulation of inter-bank lending rates affected trillions of pounds of transactions has still seen no one jailed, but the government has introduced an increase to a 10 year maximum penalty for benefit fraudsters to keep us all safe.
“At the very lowest level of housing fraud is someone begging for money for a bed for the night or just for a cup of tea, only to use the money they are given to buy a can of beer…Whether it’s £20 of unwarranted housing benefit claimed, £2000 cash in hand to a builder or a £200,000 bonus secured because your Libor guesses were correct (after having manipulated them with your mates), it is still fraud. It is, however, fraud that increases by several orders of magnitude as you move up the spectrum. It would take millions of acts of homeless people all uttering the same lie to equate to a single lie of a single banker awarded a bonus.”
Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid