Friday, 12 August 2011

The Plates Shift......

Peter Oborne is the Telegraph's chief political commentator. He is an ex-editor of the Spectator and is still (I believe) a contributing editor to that journal. In other words he's a pillar of the right-wing journalistic establishment and great defender of the conservative (and Conservative) cause.

So it appears (to me at least) highly significant when such a figure as Oborne writes this sort of stuff in his newsblog;

"...there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington..."

There's a lot more in that vein...he attacks Richard Branson for hinting that he wants to move abroad to avoid tax, and Philip Green for already doing so.....

But such behaviour has been common among businesses and businessmen for decades, encouraged by the dominant neo-liberal economic philosophy and the "me-first" and "no such thing as society" politics of the right. And right-wing journals and journalists have attacked or ignored calls from the left for fairer taxation and for more vigorous pursuit of tax evasion and tax avoidance. Being successful was not just, as in the past, a reason for reasonable reward. It had become an excuse to maximise income and minimise contribution and the hell with those at the bottom. We have not quite reached the situation in parts of the USA with gated communities to keep out the undesirable poor, but morally and practically, it sometimes feels very similar.

And now? Can it be that the moral bankruptcy of encouraging the rich to be greedy, to take the rewards and demand ever more, and insisting that the poor remain honest, pay their taxes and accept what they get, is finally becoming untenable and undeniable? Even those like Oborne, of a naturally right wing bent, and who until now have questioned the very need for taxation and celebrated tax cuts and service cuts, have woken up to the consequences of the glorification of greed. Those who encouraged the increases in inequality and the increasing physical and psychical distance between rich and poor, are now beginning to question the moral and practical basis of such a policy.

Is the neo-liberal right finally in retreat? Is Peter Oborne the first unlikely cuckoo of a new, fairer, more equal, less divided and divisive spring?

*hattip Richard Murphy at the excellent Tax Research UK

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