If you ask people who runs Britain today, they will almost certainly focus (correctly) on the banks, media and corporate bosses, plus the police, lawyers and accountants who are their agents in protecting their supremacy. Politics and finance have become one, with business leaders trooping into No.10 as regularly as heads of state. There’s nothing so calculated to get Whitehall into top gear as the allegation that something is ‘bad for business’.
Politicians dote on business people; they swoon before billionaires like Murdoch, Branson and Green. Sometimes they appear to run after them like teens begging them to autograph their body parts (like Blair before Murdoch’s court at Hayling Island, Australia, in 1996). Since all these lords of the universe have now been humiliated by the recurring scandals of the last decade, what at this election should be the order of the hour is reining in these powers that have so besmirched the face of Britain and exerting a firm democratic imprimatur and control over their activities to change the structure of power in Britain which has been too long delayed. The politicians should take advantage of the weakening of these former oligarchs to establish a new Magna Carta.
The excesses of the banks are execrable and ever new wrongdoings continue to be brought to light almost every day, and so far from feeling any remorse apart from empty window-dressing they push back by demanding an return to a failed and despised status quo ante. The corporate bosses are hated for their colossal betrayal of the social compact by industrial scale tax avoidance/evasion at everybody else’s expense as well as by their shameless feathering of their own nests. Even the media are now at bay. Cameron ran after Murdoch by announcing that as PM he would abolish the Ofcom broadcast regulator, by promises to cut or end the BBC licence, and by quietly giving every assistance to deliver BSkyB into Murdoch’s hands. None of this proved enough, and indeed backfired when the News of the World hacking saga finally lost Cameron his right-hand man Coulson and forced him to set up the Leveson inquiry. Both Cameron and Miliband have nothing to lose now in calling the press to order.
It is this political reordering of the power structure so badly tarnished that the British people are now crying out for. It is rare that the secret power-brokers have so shockingly destroyed the public’s trust all at the same time, but like all crises that should not be wasted it offers an unparalleled opportunity for the politicians to redeem the trust they have lost by re-establishing the power of democracy against the disgraced usurpers, and they will not be forgiven if they pass up this duty.