Article by Beth Porter
Teasing Out The Tangled Yarn-Ball
There can be nothing more illustrative of this week’s rant than the shocking news of money-laundering at state-backed NatWest bank.
Just a friendly reminder that ‘state-backed’ means you and I bailed out the bank with our dosh in order to hold its tainted hand through the 2008 global financial crisis. Remember that one? The one that UK Tory-happy corporates blamed on Gordon Brown?
Back then it was anything, ANYTHING, to hold back the populist tide of a rising wave crested by Jeremy Corbyn. The uber-Conservatives as King Canute? Who’d have thought it!
The NatWest case implicated a Bradford jewellery firm, in twists and turns over the four or five years it traded as Royal Bank of Scotland. But it’s the 1st UK bank to admit such a breach of fiscal probity. And we ain’t talking chicken feed!
The prosecuting Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] cites well over £360 million of dodgy deposits between 2012 and 2016. What’s next, after this stock-market shattering revelation? Companies drawn and quartered? Burnt at the stake? Don’t be silly!
As FCA’s Clare Montgomery QC predicted to the salivating media, “the likely sentence is a very large fine.” Now, I’m no soothsayer, but I’m guessing even before permission to appeal is granted, that the bank will file the appropriate documents just in case.
There are dodgy grounds for this, and it probably won’t get the green-light. Most likely it’s a far-right Tory ploy to drag the case out while MPs play Santa, Carrie has a sprog, and the Punch and Judy show starring the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy paves the way for an early election.
More important is the way this case defines the reality of the governing elite.
Frankie Boyle Speaks True
Like me, plain-speaking comedian/social philosopher Boyle addresses the bigger picture. The NatWest saga, however it proceeds, will scream at you from various media reports over the next few months.
Boyle recently summed up its political implications: “The Conservative party now exists largely to misinform the public, to convince voters struggling through austerity that they have the same interests as billionaires and corporations.”
What would you guess was the worst job in the UK over several hundred years? How about Guardian of the King’s stools? [No, we’re not talking kitchen furniture!] In fact, it was the most sought after position and entrusted only to a privileged member of the Monarch’s advisory Privy Council. Yes, it frequently involved wiping the royal butt, though the actual emptying of the velvet-lined toilet was designated to household minions.
So what was the big attraction in standing guard amid royal farts as the King enjoyed a poo, or suffered from constipation, piles, or a painful watery discharge?
Political influence, bigtime! You may while away your crapping with a book, or on social media. But in centuries past, such a trusted pal and advisor could use those sessions to nudge the King into tithing commoners, waging war, encouraging extra-marital affairs, and other activities that coalesced into medieval capitalism.
New Brooms Sweep Clean
Cleaning every corner and cranny throughout the UK today is forcing us to examine which aspects of life we might like to retain and which to ditch. Let’s explore some of them.
That report is out; the verdict is in. The uber-Tory press are at it again – cleaning out so much of the inconvenient stuff, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s good news!
More careful perusals don’t pull any punches.
Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll, a landmark inquiry has found.
Groupthink, evidence of British exceptionalism and a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach meant the UK fared “significantly worse” than other countries, according to the 151-page “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” report led by two former Conservative ministers.”
Oxford Professor Trish Greenhalgh said the report hinted at a “less than healthy relationship” between government and its scientific advisory bodies. “It would appear that even senior government ministers were reluctant to push back on scientific advice that seemed to go against common sense interpretations of the unfolding crisis,” she said. Nor is hers the only harsh analysis.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the report was “damning”. Hannah Brady, of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, pointed out the report found the deaths of 150,000 people were “redeemed” by the success of the vaccine rollout.
“The report … is laughable and more interested in political arguments about whether you can bring laptops to Cobra meetings than it is in the experiences of those who tragically lost parents, partners or children to Covid-19. This is an attempt to ignore and gaslight bereaved families, who will see it as a slap in the face,” she said.
Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – “rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”, the report concludes, stressing: “This happened despite the UK counting on some of the best expertise available anywhere in the world, and despite having an open, democratic system that allowed plentiful challenge.”
Cleaning the Bake-Off Queen
In many areas of Britain, the so-called “Indian takeaway” has replaced fish and chips as the most popular, even rivalling the BigFood corporate suppliers of pizza and burgers.
But not many diners know their chicken tikka masala and tandoori are prepared in Bangladeshi restaurants. One enterprising interviewer questioned the degree of racism in a queue of white people waiting for their meal. Happily, that vox pop skipped the politics in favour of the food. One man said, “I’m not bothered where the chef comes from, the food is delicious.”
If there’s ever been a Bangladeshi to win over reluctant white challengers to the racial status quo, it’s the charming Nadiya Hussain. The former Great British Bake Off winner has appealed to their taste buds, making converts every time she appears on our screens. Her approach is so inclusive, we feel part of her family.
Yet her recent confession about growing up here is not only heart-breaking, it points to the ongoing problem of white entitlement: “There are times when I’ve wanted to bleach the brown out of me – because life would have been so much easier if I wasn’t brown, if I wasn’t Bangladeshi, if I could just be like everybody else.”
Nadiya features in a new BBC Three documentary, Being British Bangladeshi. Her own legacy was partly shaped by the courageous actions of Bangladeshi squatters back in the 1970s.
Researcher Shabna Begum has been interviewing former squatters and believes young Bangladeshis can now gain inspiration from the actions of their elders.
Her focus has been on raising awareness of the horrible housing conditions in East London, and how the women of the community sought to change their lives.
Instead of putting up with overcrowded, damp flats, invaded by rats and roaches, and trying to hold their landlords to account, they squatted in empty houses, and challenged the authorities to deal with the racist remarks against women just going about their daily lives.
The Moss Side Eco Squad
Hafsa Mekki exemplifies the dilemma between a truly inclusive Manchester initiative to clean up the streets, coupled with support by Facebook, one of the most pervasive social media companies. For several years it’s been the subject of protest against its questionable fiscal decisions.
Meanwhile, Ms Mekki admits being fed up with seeing litter in her local streets, and decided to organise communities into a positive action. She started the Moss Side Eco Squad Facebook Group which literally collects litter and rubbish. Not only are the streets cleaner, residents have a renewed sense of pride. Mekki is currently helping to spread the idea throughout the UK.
Leaving on the Boyle
I think you’ve got the picture of a nation deliberately at war with itself to retain total control. There are, of course, many further examples of cleaning or eliminating social options. But let’s leave Frankie Boyle with one of the most witty, relevant, and cogent observations of modern life.
“With no job vacancies, withdrawing benefits to encourage people into work is like withdrawing medicine to encourage them to become immortal.”
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This post was written by LPJAdmin