Business, society, UK Politics

Cameron’s cronyism exposes an out-of-touch political class

Upon leaving Downing Street, David Cameron must have thought himself finally safe. He had at last escaped the media’s relentless eye, some of which had orchestrated his downfall. But this week’s revelations have only pushed Cameron further into already scalding hot water.

Last weekend, The Sunday Times revealed leaks of David Cameron’s Royal honours and peerage proposals. The Queen’s regal accolades should reward exceptional service within society, courage within conflict, and breakthroughs within academia. But Cameron had to cement his privileged legacy one more time. Numerous Conservative Party donors, beside a handful of Cameron’s closest aides, are included in his resignation rewards.

46 individuals are to be rewarded in Cameron’s cronyism. Exchanging financial support for political power is shameful, with big money controling politics. Such closed-off politics should not exist within consolidated liberal democracies.

Andrew Cook, donating over £1m to the Tory party, is to receive a knighthood. Jitesh Gadhia, another deep-pocketed donors, will assume a peerage. Party Treasurer Andrew Fraser, will be a peer, too, having recently donated £2.5m to Cameron. Just one of many, his millions have won him a place in the ‘Tory Leader’s Group.’ But let’s blow away the smokescreen – this a club for right-wingers with most mint.

Secretaries Gabby Bertin, Ed Llewellyn, and Liz Sugg will each receive peerages, too, with no guarantee that they will regularly participate in parliament. These figures will become the undemocratic backseat drivers of today’s Conservative Party.

Allowing big business to drive the Conservative Party, our politicians drift further away from the people. The British establishment only sinks lower, the approval ratings of which are already at rock bottom. Ipsos MORI found earlier this year that only 21% trust UK politicians. David Cameron’s nod to the upper class, whose funds cascade through the Conservative Party, is unlikely to restore confidence.

Cameron’s nominees will doubtless have done their duties impeccably, down to every last letter of the Prime Minister’s memos. The obligatory last day office dos will have taken place, already swollen bonus packages will have been paid, and a Michelin starred dinner, courtesy of the party, was perhaps thrown in. But this undemocratic cronyism should not pay reward party loyalists.

Here, the issue of Lords reform arises again. Why should those with the largest money dominate British democracy, and those who have laid their dossiers to rest overstay their welcome? One study found that, for the 2009-10 period of House of Lords activity, only 47% of Lords regularly attended parliament. The Times reported on Saturday that half of all Cameronian Lords invested last year have sat in parliament only five times ever.

The nepotistic political elite, continuing Blairite cronyism, degrade national democracy. Handing out peerages and honours effortlessly, those up in the eaves of the society, with big money, are polarising politics. Supposedly accountable politicians have left their morality behind, and an unrepresentative class controls proceedings.

The Panama Papers’ have already laid crafty politics bare. Global political trust is low. It was David Cameron who felt compelled to lead an international corruption crusade a few months ago, but politicians are in denial. South African President Jacob Zuma has been condemned by his own people for allowing big money to interfere with governmental appointments. Our political elites evidently believe that corruption is rife only within developing nations, but it appears that supposed liberal democracies are alive with corruption of their own.

Somewhat frustratingly, Jeremy Corbyn this week trod back into the establishment minefield he claims to despise. The Labour leadership candidate’s recommendation of ex-Liberty head Shami Chakrabarti for a peerage comes as a huge blow for left-wingers all over, and much of the grassroots Labour Party.

After speaking out against the right wing’s biased politics, what hope is there for increased trust if the opposition indulges in similar practices? An elected House of Lords will fix this problem. In the meantime, Labour has missed out once again on a boycott of the Tories’ undemocratic agenda.

When Theresa May assumed office several weeks ago, her Downing Street speech was one of social justice, increased equality, and faith in British government. But the new Prime Minister has already fallen short of her promises. Torn between upsetting her biggest donors and upholding democracy, it seems that Theresa May has cold feet, afraid to condemn David Cameron’s appointments. The £35,000 donated to the Conservatives upon May’s premiership must have got the better of her.

Perhaps our expectations are just too high. Perhaps juxtaposing democracy with self-interested is too much. Theresa May might have pledged to stand with the British people, but her mishandling of the honours fiasco has nullified that statement.

Does the new Prime Minister really want her government to float further away from mainstream society? Theresa May could reconfigure her party, by instead running an honest government working for all British people.

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Business, UK Politics

Businesses mustn’t get too big for their boots when it comes to tax

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Google, Amazon, Vodafone and Apple are just a few of the multinationals which have made the headlines in recent months, but not only because of the revolutionary products and services upon which so many of us rely.

Over the past few months, the aforementioned companies, amongst many others, have received stark warnings over heinous tax avoidance schemes. Towards the end of December, it was revealed that Apple owes at least €880m in tax to the Italian government. Only in the same month had a startling report been published detailing over 500 corporations who had not paid their fair share in Australia, and this month it has come to light that Google has failed to pay anywhere near its 20% corporation tax. It seems that there will be no end to the corporation tax saga anytime soon.

Whilst our government takes away support for those whom day-to-day struggles for necessities is a reality, we should in fact be turning our attention to the activities of big business.

Many of the most prominent household name brands are simply not punished enough for this staggering wrongdoing. The extent of tax exploitation indeed involves only the very few, but the extent of the problem is far-reaching. In actual fact, Google has only had to pay back £130m in taxes, a mere fraction of their dues which have spanned the past decade. Further to this, Apple paid back to Italian authorities only €318m to ‘settle’ the dispute, a fee which again does not amount to full payment. Here, there is a fundamental flaw. The point of this repayment should not be to ‘settle’ any arguments. Companies should have to pay back their full debts in order to feel some real pressure and eradicate such fiendish tactics.

One thing is clear. Tax avoidance is eroding our society’s core economic values and our precious rule of law. Hard punishment for culprit companies must become real. In this era of capitalism, which has albeit seen a sparkling global economy, the organisations with a monopoly have an increasingly strong hold over political and economic agenda of our nation. Once one company takes advantage of the system, the rest will follow. The Conservative leadership is evidently failing to attack the underhand game plan of some companies, a government strategy which is punishing the poor and rewarding the deceit of the wealthy.

Without the contributions of organisations at the centre of our society, development of our nationwide economy will become slow and arduous. Multinational companies must give something back in order to support the small businesses which may one day grow to follow in their footsteps.

The European Union’s plans to finitely control tax payments from businesses in the light of these revelations is thus reassuring. Chancellor George Osborne must indeed keep businesses on his side but regulate them strongly, in the same way that the ordinary citizen is kept in line. Britain’s tax body, HMRC, must become more transparent and accountable to the public, making sure that all contribute their fair share.

A market economy like that of the United Kingdom can be hugely successful, but the recent tax scandals have proven that a degree of real state regulation is paramount. Britain’s monetary future must have fairness in its roots, a concept which must further become the spirit of our large businesses.

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