How parliament and MPs have fallen into utter disrepute … Whither democracy? … Britain’s decrepit ruling class has run out of puff … Brexit marks the end of the road … Festival of Dangerous Ideas … Great Crashing Bores …
Seafood giants rule the oceans – and MPs
In centuries past, when MPs passed laws loyal citizens, respecting the authority of parliament, obediently obeyed the new legislation. These days, however, wealthy and well-connected people (and their companies) get around new laws even before the legislation comes into force. They have access to batteries of lawyers, tax experts and accountants to tell them how to evade the law and keep their fortunes intact – usually hidden away in offshore tax havens or family trusts.
People have started to ask the obvious questions: what is my vote worth when parliament is being flagrantly sabotaged by extra-parliamentary vested interests? Why should I vote for any of the mainstream parties? What is the use of parliament anyway?
Take the global cartel of companies making massive profits from catching, farming, canning and distributing fish and other seafood. Last year the ABC’s 4 Corners investigated Tasmania’s salmon farming industry and made some sensational discoveries. It provoked not a question in parliament, no ministerial statement was delivered, there was no urgency to debate and no commission of inquiry.
Award-winning reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna uncovered the fact that the biggest salmon farmer, Tassal, had obtained glowing certification credentials from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Heard of it? No, nobody has. Ms Meldrum-Hanna revealed that Tassal has also partnered with ASC’s co-founder, The World Wildlife Fund Australia, WWF. “Tassal is the only company in Australia able to use both the ASC and the WWF logos – proudly emblazoned on its packs of salmon,” she reported.
Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of World Wildlife Fund, Australia, told the programme: “So the idea of linking the WWF logo to ASC is to assure … Australian consumers that the product they’re buying is responsibly sourced salmon. Clear and simple.”
However, a jointly signed agreement revealed that Tassal pays WWF almost a quarter of a million dollars each year for accreditation, which O’Gorman explained thus: “They have contributed to our conservation work. If you’re trying to imply that that in any way compromises the credibility of our brand (the WWF), I have to disagree.”
Perish the thought!
One of WWF’s founders in 1961 was the Duke of Edinburgh a lifetime shooter of small birds, deer, rabbits etc and a fox-hunting enthusiast. His son, Prince Charles, another eager shooter, is the current president of WWF UK.
It’s a remarkable example of parliament being bypassed by constructing mutually beneficial arrangements behind closed doors.
Now meet John West
Don’t be fooled by advertising claims that John West is a struggling Hartlepool fisherman trying to make an honest quid from his catch in the North Sea.
John West doesn’t exist. The company John West is owned by a conglomerate called Thai Union with headquarters in Bangkok and subsidiaries in the UK, France, Portugal, Poland, United States, Ghana, the Seychelles, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. It catches/farms/cans and sells tuna, shrimp, sardines, mackerel, salmon and petfood. Its global profits run into billions of dollars.
Some of its products carry the “eco-label” of the Marine Stewardship Council. MSC’s blue tick on John West’s cans gives the products a “sustainable” award from “independent auditors”.
MSC was founded by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, another name for WWF, but its 1990s endorsement is now coming under fire from within the organisation itself. Because MSC receives 75% of its funding many of its business partners, like John West, stakeholders have begun to complain about conflicts of interest.
“The MSC has effectively weakened its processes to ensure that more and more products carry its distinctive label and sit on supermarket shelves,” said one critic.
Sainbury’s, one of Britain’s biggest supermarkets, has been unmoved by the controversy and still stocks John West products emblazoned with the MSC “tick” of approval. Sainbury’s so-called “head of brand” is Judith Batchelor OBE. By a remarkable coincidence she is a member of the board of MSC.
These couple of examples explain why voters are becoming increasingly disgusted by spineless MPs, corrupt political parties and roaringly incompetent governments.
Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons in 1947: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” It has become a mantra of Tories and Labor politicians determined to keep the present charade afloat because it suits them, not us.
It’s high time we took Churchill’s words at face value – “democracy is the worst form of government” – and tried to introduce something better.
Brexit for the Brit imperialists
The decrepit British ruling class has reached the end of the road. This prediction has been made many times over the decades of the 20th century but, like the eponymous Sir Harry Flashman, they always managed to produce something from their homburgs and with one leap sprang free.
But I can’t see it happening this time. Brexit, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union’s 27-nation single market, will doom the staggering UK economy, trade, sterling and what’s left of its former manufacturing base.
Last century they tried everything to retain the appearance of greatness: grovelling to the United States and creating a hypnotic delusion about the so-called “special relationship” between Washington and London. In truth it was no more than an unofficial agreement for Britain to supply arms, intelligence and business opportunities to the Pentagon, the CIA and Wall Street in return for crumbs.
After the UK junked the Commonwealth and its East of Suez defence role and withdrew from Africa during the “winds of change” humiliation, the titled desperados in the UK boardrooms decided their future lay in the [then] Common Market. They bludgeoned subsidies out of Brussels for closing steel, coal and shipyard communities and then looted billions of dollars from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to protect their estates in England, Wales and the north of Ireland.
For a decade or more, they became the world’s biggest arms dealers, selling missiles, tanks, weapons and supersonic warplanes to Gulf Arab regimes. Now that market is drying up because the US, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Switzerland, France and Israel have joined the arms bazaar offering bribes on a monumental scale to keep their factories open so their unemployment levels are manageable.
On the eve of being booted out of the EU, Britain’s rulers are trying to rekindle their pre-history as a trading power, begging for some unspecified “trade arrangement” with the EU, free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries and a “very special relationship” with Washington under uber-isolationist and feral Yankee nationalist President Donald Trump. Who are they kidding?
Theresa Maybe, Maybe not
The deeply divided British media has been trying to figure out the policy stance of new Prime Minister Theresa May. Is she going for a “hard” Brexit or a “soft” Brexit? The debate assumed that she has some say in the matter. But Brussels and the EU leaders hold all the cards and they will decide – not Mrs May – when and how Britain will be excluded.
This has led UK business circles to claim that Britain isn’t heading for a “hard” or “soft” Brexit, but a “train crash” Brexit.
The ruling class’s burning fear is the realisation that Mrs May is not up to the job. This week’s Economist, the voice of the City of London and the Foreign Office, called her “Theresa Maybe, Britain’s indecisive PM” and remarked: “Her vision of leadership, it seems, is focused on giving statements, installing processes, gathering up information and control – and little else.” (The Economist, 7 January 2017).
The truth is that she is a stopgap PM, put in place by the Tory grandees when her predecessor David Cameron lost the EU referendum and plunged sterling into its worst rout for 30 years. They consider that she is utterly expendable.
In the coming days 11 judges of England’s High Court will decide whether Mrs May must secure the consent of the House of Commons before triggering Article 50 of the EU Treaty for Britain’s withdrawal. It is very likely they will decide by a majority to uphold the sovereignty of parliament and force a reluctant Mrs May to propose legislation and hold a debate and vote on Brexit.
What would Cromwell do?
The British House of Commons derives its constitutional paramountcy from its December 1648 trial of King Charles I. Finding him guilty, MPs voted then voted to execute him for treason at a public beheading in Whitehall. Oliver Cromwell, leader of the “Roundheads” in the English civil war against the feudalists, was the third signatory on the king’s death warrant.
Today’s British parliament has no stomach for fighting for anything of a historic or principled nature. As proved during the long-running expenses scandal, MPs are a disgraceful bunch of social climbers and political opportunists: their main preoccupation is how they can use their seats in parliament to feather their own nests.
The July 2016 EU referendum was a desperate personally-motivated decision by David Cameron to save his own skin and his premiership. He didn’t tell parliament or seek its authority. Nor did he tell many of his own Cabinet about the surprise proposal.
The old Etonian and leader of the Tory Party’s “hooray Henry” faction thought he would canter home, win the referendum and carry on. What a miscalculation; what a boofhead.
Mrs May seized upon the result to conduct what amounted to a Downing Street coup to become prime minister and is now using the Brexit verdict to beat a reluctant United Kingdom into leaving the EU.
The amazing thing is that very few voters in Britain will now admit to voting Brexit; they wanted to protest against the arrogance, corruption and cold-hearted neglect of Westminster – but not to storm out of the European market and into the uncertain world of political and economic insularity.
A Cromwellian solution would be to unite pro-European Tory, Labor, Scottish Nationalist, Liberal Democrat and Welsh MPs in a vote against Theresa May’s Article 50 motion in March, force her resignation and go to an immediate general election.
Festival of Dangerous Ideas*
Come and meet Xantha Tarot, the world famous medium who founded the Mystical Gorilla Mountain Resort on the Southern Highlands of NSW. She’s treated thousands of celebrities restoring their hormonal balance, spiritual wellness, holistic tantric metabolism, boosted their self-evaluation and revived kinetic energy levels. Learn about her revolutionary campaign to stop state-directed vaccinations. If you want to play your part in halting the world population explosion, join Xantha’s anti-Vaxer army. You will be helping to spread measles, mumps, malaria, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, meningitis and flu. Her lecture is co-sponsored by the Holy Sisters of Ignorama and Dr Donald Duck of the Heavenly Medical Association (HMA). Book now.
Great Crashing Bores*
Believe me when I say that my life has been transformed by social media. It’s fantastic. I’ve now got friends all around the world. We send messages and photos to each other all the time. I’m spending about 12 hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit and Flickr. Hang on, here’s a text message from my friend Viola Skama of Tooting Bex in Enugu, Nigeria. She needs another $1,000 for her miracle cancer cure made from Congolese tea leaves. I’ll make a fortune when it hits the market. I send out messages on my social media sites every day, but nobody seems to be listening.
*FofDI and GCB are satirical fiction