How Corrupt is Britain?
Edited by David Whyte
(Pluto Press, £16.99)
THE CONCLUSION of this excellent book is that institutional corruption in Britain is endemic and Professor David Whyte has assembled an impressive list of academics and campaigners to prove the point. Some of the attendant issues are familiar enough — police practices that include infiltration, entrapment, manufacturing evidence, killing unarmed men, ignoring evidence of child abuse and evidence of high-level corruption, revealed with worrying regularity.
The use of torture in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and the withholding of evidence and lying about it to the European Court of Human Rights in 1978 certainly has had regrettable consequences. So too has the unregulated lobbying and the “revolving doors” between government and business, enabling private corporations to exert their influence on Westminster.
The details of deregulation enshrined in the 1986 Financial Services Act, and how public-sector workers were persuaded to cash in their pension contributions and transfer them to private schemes, the endowment mortgages scandal and the payment protection insurance racket are familiar enough too.
But not so well known is Britain’s connection to tax havens. In conjunction with its overseas territories and Crown dependencies, the City of London controls a quarter of the global market for offshore financial services and they’re among the murkiest. David Cameron may moralise about tax havens but his father chaired an offshore investment company based in Jersey and co-founded an investment company registered in Panama.
Complicit in this culture of sleaze are the “big four” accountancy firms — Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG — creators of almost half of all known tax avoidance schemes, some of which are highly dubious. Helping the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us is the norm.
The book is a catalogue of disasters and it ends by looking at the runaway growth in the pay of chief executives which may be legal but has entrenched the position of the rich and powerful, worsening economic inequality with all the potential for the abuse of power to the detriment of the powerless.
As it also demonstrates, neoliberalism has created an economy where self-interest and opportunism are the norm and fraud and corruption are prevalent.Britain’s state and corporate corruption rivals any in the developing world.