Handbags and Handshakes
The idea that £15 million is to be raised for a Thatcher Museum is a perverse one when the whole of Britain today is a memorial to Thatcherism and her vindictive ideology. With Allan Massie smelling blood in the air and worrying about “harrying the great estates” we seem to be hovering somewhere between Downtown and the Wolf of Wall Street.
‘Wolf Street’ as the exposé today informs us that HSBC helped their wealthiest clients hide money and evade taxes on an industrial scale.
It’s just the latest in a series of ‘exposés’ about the banking industry, an unchanging rota of stories about endemic corruption and wholesale theft from the public to the private realm that we’ve now become completely inured to.
HSBC was led during the period covered in the files released today by Stephen (now Lord) Green – who served as the global bank’s chief executive, then group chairman until 2010. The amount of money involved relates to accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets and 7000 British clients. Not only did HMRC take no action against HSBC’s mass tax dodging, but David Cameron made Green a government minister. Worse still, the man who did the deal that gave HSBC immunity went from HMRC to work for HSBC according to the Tax Research UK.
This at a time when 40% of British families are reported to be ‘too poor to play a part in society’.
We shouldn’t pretend that this is anything other than standard banking practice not some kid of weird aberration. The fact that he was made a Lord shows you the buckle that fastens the new rich to the old order.
Not all of the rich is exempt from the law.
The fear in the air amongst the Dukes and Viscounts is palpable, even if the modern-day bankers and numinous Robber-Barons have little to worry from regulation or even (at the most basic level) being required to abide by tax law.
You can hide money but you can’t hide land.
Certainly the poor 10th Duke of Buccleuch is rattled. He’s spoken of his “absolute dismay” about the SNP’s land reform plans:
“I can understand people who have a deep-down visceral dislike of others who own large amounts of land. All I can do is try to make a case for our stewardship of it as being good and responsive to the best interests of the community. There always been an umbilical cord almost linking these great houses with the land around them. Within a generation or two it will become increasingly difficult to look after them.”
Would it be unhelpfully obvious to note that umbilical cord’s serve a useful function, then need to be severed?
His neighbour in the borders, rugby-corresepondent and Daily Mail writer Allan Massie, explained that “lack of respect for property rights is characteristic of all socialist regimes” and that “It is private spite dressed up as public interest.”
He seems to have confused Nicola Sturgeon with Nicolae Ceaușescu.
This is Downtown Britain, signposted ‘Welcome to Yesterday’.
The idea that this enshrined privilege is some kind of guarantor of good management or ‘stewardship’ of employment in the area has no foundation in fact and ties us to a feudal set of relations. It’s part of Memorial Britain, a bizarre backward-facing dump where the aristocracy still rule cocooned in Barbour, mini-celebrities like Spencer and Co. in their ‘structured reality’ tv shows.
The myth that Thatcher was a radical reforming PM overseeing some kind of populist shake-down is shattered by the enduring institutions of the British aristocracy.
Though she was deeply unpopular at the end the Thatcher Museum of Handbags is a sign that she is resurrected in death, her ideas having become mainstream even if she is vilified in pockets of British society. David Cameron said yesterday he was: “Delighted that young people will be able to come to the Thatcher Centre and learn about her achievements, and ensure her legacy lives on.”
Today, a besieged elite rules under fire from allegations of extreme decadence and moral collapse, hiding behind a veneer or secrecy and snooping.
Her Home Secretary, Leon Brittan was buried in an unmarked grave.
It’s a country breaking (or broken) into five parts where the politics of the far-right has been allowed to fester into the mainstream. Tebbit’s Cricket Test is still in play.
Even Labour’s meek attempts to protest about the deluge of cash sloshing about the Super Rich and exiting Britain are testimony to Thatcher’s legacy.
Not just Britain’s business leaders but ex-Blairite ministers like Alan Milburn and Alan Hutton have been turning on Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham for even their most modest attempts to halt NHS ‘reform’.
Seamus Milne reports that ‘Hutton has glided through the revolving doors from defence to the nuclear industry’ – while Milburn has as ‘made a fortune out of private health companies moving into the NHS‘.
He’s worked as a consultant to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm which has been heavily involved in financing private health care companies moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group, as well as Pepsi and Lloyds Pharmacy.
He’s on the Labour leader Ed Miliband’s strategy team for the next general election.
What else should be in the Thatcher Museum?
The values of compassion could form a special exhibit with the effects of mass unemployment, the growth of obscene wealth and perhaps a tableaux of closed industries and broken communities forming the entrance before being welcomed by a wax effigy of Tony Blair, the oleaginous heir apparent.
The ideas of a mixed economy, where public and private ownership would be considered where most appropriate, that’s certainly a museum piece now, along with the welfare state and the publicly owned NHS, affordable housing and free education in England.
Values and the institutions that upheld them could be on display with each floor in a descending catacombs dedicated to a different part of British public life, destroyed, sold off or given away, starting with BP (1979), then followed with British Aerospace (1981), British Telecom ( 1985), British Gas (1987), Water (1989), British Steel and Rail (1984) and on and on.
“In spring this year, Oxfam revealed that some 85 of the world’s richest people now had as much wealth as the poorest half of all humanity. A few weeks later, Forbes magazine updated that estimate to just 67 people. Then, within days, they corrected that estimate on their website to 66 people, so fast was the wealth of the multi-billionaires rising in the world during early 2014. “