A friend said, “Hey, did you notice that Britain had an election, and everybody lost.”
Governments don’t usually fall because of a single mistake or policy error. They fall when ordinary people, unengaged politically, are fed up with patterns of unacceptable behavior and conclude that time has come to get the bastards out. However, when they view the opposition politicians as equally unacceptable bastards, confusion reigns. In Britain today, confusion reigns. Neither major party is well regarded throughout the country.
A map of electoral districts demonstrates the UK is a nation divided by wealth. The red/blue map of Labour/Conservative ridings is similar to the divide shown on Britain’s wealth map. Areas of core poverty, shown by the darker areas, are typically areas of strong Labour Party support.
Many traditional supporters thought that “New Labour” under Tony Blair would address economic inequality but they did not. The Joseph Rountree Foundation recently examined poverty and inequality and their study shows inequality at a 40-year high. British writer Johann Hari complains about New Labour:
“We thought we were voting for a more equal Britain when in fact the “filthy rich” – to use the term Peter Mandelson purred – became filthier and richer and crashed the global economy. We thought we were voting for “an ethical foreign policy” when we got a war that killed a million civilians, and complicity with torture.”
Loss of optimism and diminished faith in national purpose are precursors to social unrest. The Financial Times wondered if the British Disease – industrial unrest – already has reappeared and others now ask if the civil upset in Greece could be contagious. Currency and stock markets wobble and citizen anger builds as news confirms suspicions of gigantic frauds associated with bailouts of the financial industry.
The gathering storm in the Gulf of Mexico seems able to cause incalculable harm. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the west coast of Florida are now marshaling efforts to contain oil spill damage. Yet the scale of the disaster is so large that vital coastal marshes seem defenseless. They are like sponges to the poisonous oil. The extent is made worse by timing because for wildlife, this is the season of hatching and rearing. The Atlantic blue fin tuna, already endangered, spawns in the affected Gulf and the spill covers a vital breeding area.
Can one be optimistic for the near future? Unlikely. Environmental and economic disaster, failures in both war and diplomacy, rising structural unemployment, security concerns, inequality and many other problems, not least of which is the perhaps fatally fractured political system, suggest that pessimism is the only logical attitude in the USA.
David Sirota writes of gloom in his home country:
. . . America once flourished by valuing what “we”—as in We the People—need (food, shelter, infrastructure, etc.). Conversely, today’s America teeters thanks to a Reagan-infused zeitgeist that reoriented us to worship whatever I the Person wants. High-income tax breaks, smog-belching SUVs, cavernous McMansions carved into pristine wilderness—it doesn’t matter how frivolous the individual craving or how detached it is from necessity. What matters is that the “I” now assumes an entitled right to any desire irrespective of its affront to the allegedly Marxist “we.” . .
In British Columbia, despite the great Olympic distraction, Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government drops ever lower in public support. Yet, they move forward, or is it backward, as if totally separated from reality. Although more than 80% of citizens oppose HST, not a single Liberal MLA voted against it. So the hated tax that will transfer $2 billion a year from consumers to business begins. Senior bureaucrats, lobbyists and Liberal insiders reward themselves with huge salaries, pensions and expense allowances while the Liberals refuse adjustment to the ten year freeze of the minimum wage. As the politicians lay claim to the best economic performance in Canada – because of a temporary rise in part-time Olympics related jobs – they hold the line on what is now the lowest minimum wage in Canada.
The flow of private cash and favours from lawyers to Liberals and the payment of public cash and favours from the Liberal Government back to lawyers has been revealed to all. The legal profession is just one more cozy participant in the culture of entitlement. Cooperation for mutual benefit is the rule of the political game.
While Special Prosecutor William Berardino finally takes the Basi/Virk BC Rail corruption trial into court, public confidence in the administration of justice has never been lower. The CJB, allegedly independent masters of justice are demonstrated as partisans. Terrence Robertson, before he cleared Kash Heed, had cleared Campbell’s long-time pal Ken Dobell of influence peddling because it was not in the public interest to seek a conviction. An extraordinary conclusion.
But Liberals have done well for the legal business. They’ve driven up civil court costs so much that ordinary people cannot afford to use the courts without being victimized by the law profession. Even claimants with strong cases give away their rights by low value settlements or through extortionate contingency fee arrangements with lawyers.
British Columbia moves into a risky zone of threatened civil order. Gordon Campbell leads us toward the society described above by Johann Hiri: “The filthy rich are becoming filthier and richer.”