Democratic deficit: parliament and democracy

As the crisis surrounding MPs’ expenses exposes the level of blatant fraud in Britain’s parliamentary system Simon Basketter looks at why capitalist democracy fails us Continue reading

Corruption Goes Right To The Heart Of The System

There is a range of different ways of making money out of parliamentary expenses – and our politicians have milked them all.

Many of the recent revelations in the expenses scandal are centred around claims relating to housing.

Shahid Malik, the justice minister, resigned last week pending an inquiry into the unusually low level of rent he was paying to a landlord in his constituency in West Yorkshire while claiming £66,000 in allowances for his London home.

Elliot Morley, a senior backbencher, was stripped of the Labour whip after “forgetting” that he had paid off his mortgage and improperly claimed more than £16,000.

David Chaytor, a backbencher, was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 for a mortgage he had already repaid.

Plasma TV

Most people are outraged at the extravagance of many of the claims – such as those of Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antiques centre and had tried to claim £8,865 for a plasma TV.

But to claim expenses for mortgages that don’t exist takes corruption to a new low. Continue reading

Expenses Scandal: Jail These Corrupt Ministers

The government hammers those most affected by the poverty and misery of Gordon Brown’s Britain with hypocrisy and draconian laws. Every week people are jailed for not paying their council tax or are dragged in front of the courts for not paying their TV licence.

It is a cliché to say that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. But as it turns out there is no law for the politicians – except the rules they set for themselves.

If you are a government minister you can avoid tax, double claim expenses, have your council tax paid for you and even get the bill for a council tax summons paid for by us.

The easiest way to see the depth of the corruption, and it is corruption, is by looking at the New Labour cabinet. Continue reading

MPs’ Expenses – Kick Them All Out. A Look At True Democracy.

As the Commons’ standing falls to a historic low, with news of MPs claiming expenses for everything from piles of manure to tennis court maintenance, from cleaning moats to pruning  wisterias, there are now legitimate calls from all sections of the public for drastic action and change. Is it time to dissolve parliament, kick out all the MPs and for the public to brick by brick to build a new democracy? Let us look at democracy and what it really means:

Democracy: The Idea

Deriving from the Greek, Demos Kratos – People Power – Literally, direct self government and decision making by the people.

Today this idea is widely interpretated as indirect or representative democracy, where voters elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf.

Democracy implies varying degrees of people power, participation, representation, responsible government and consent. Democratic participation may take many forms, from voting and standing for political office to meetings, marches, demonstrations, peaceful lawbreaking and violent political opposition. Even riots and terrorist attacks have democratic claims, since they are ‘people power’ in the literal sense – although all states and governments will deny those democratic claims when such activities are directed against them.

Democracy: The Reality Continue reading

Commons Criminals

by Simon Basketter

Labour is at heart of this corrupt system

“I want to apologise on behalf of politicians of all parties for what has happened in the events of the past few days,” Gordon Brown said this week. “We must show that we have the highest standards for our profession.”

Notice that Brown apologised only for the events of the last few days.

He said nothing about the years of MPs scamming millions in expenses.

He did not apologise for the lobbyists and business interests who swarm around parliament and decide government policy over lunch, nor for the millionaires who donate to political parties and, apparently, get nothing in return.

And most importantly he did not apologise for the repeated attacks on workers’ rights and living standards. Continue reading

Anti-Democratic Nature Of US Capitalism Is Being Exposed

By Noam Chomsky

THE SIMULTANEOUS unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unraveling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature.

Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk.

The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as “a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close”, as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. Continue reading

How to Fix the Wall Street Mess

March on Wall Street

Demonstration on Wall Street

The richest 400 Americans — that’s right, just four hundred people — own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. 400 rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion — the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the “bailout.” Why don’t they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They’d still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!

Of course, they are not going to do that — at least not voluntarily. George W. Bush was handed a $127 billion surplus when Bill Clinton left office. Because that money was OUR money and not his, he did what the rich prefer to do — spend it and never look back. Now we have a $9.5 trillion debt. Why on earth would we even think of giving these robber barons any more of our money? Continue reading