Sorry for the protracted pause in writing – I wish I had other writers to share responsibility for this blog with; sometimes this project gets a bit overwhelming and I take a step back to take stock!
Bill Nighy, ambassador for the Robin Hood Tax campaign in the UK writes about the continuing (and deepening) controversy about the banks and their failure to take responsibility for the economic meltdown and the resulting crisis, which the poorest in society are now being forced by the Tories to resolve:
Now, no less a figure than Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, has laid the blame for cuts in public services and welfare squarely at the door of the City. “The price of the financial crisis is being borne by people who did absolutely nothing to cause it.”
The evidence supporting him is overwhelming. The International Monetary Fund has warned that British government debt will be 40% higher as a result of the financial crisis. That’s equivalent to a total of £28,000 for every taxpayer in the country.
But King’s subsequent comment that he was “surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has” suggests that either he had a very high expectation, or that he has misread the public mood.
I’m an ambassador for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which calls for a tiny tax of just 0.05% on every casino-style financial transaction in order to help poor people, reverse public service cuts at home and abroad, and tackle climate change. In this role I’ve seen how people’s sense of fairness has been stretched to the limits by the continued spectacle of huge pay increases and bonuses in big companies while ordinary people suffer. Every time people turn on the television news they are bombarded with stories of job losses, disabled children forced into care, public sector cuts or young people left without a future. Meanwhile one of the country’s leading bankers claims “the time for remorse and apologies needs to be over“. If there has been any remorse it has escaped my notice. Of course people are angry!
I think it’s a slight misrepresentation of what King said. There’s no question people are angry – the fights at town halls and on the student demonstrations has more than amply proven that. But we’re nowhere near the level of, say, Greek anger, where large swathes of the population demonstrate violently against the government. Is that to come? I’d say the British character mitigates that, as does the violent, pre-emptive behaviour the police have displayed so far (violent agents of the status quo? I should say so!). We also have a serious problem in the media where a disproportionately right wing press constantly misrepresents the economic crisis as only able to be solved by the ConDems’ shock therapy. Of course that’s complete bullshit – the country has been more than able to bail out Ireland at a time when we apparently don’t have enough money to keep libraries open. Would we be more inclined to follow the Greek lead if we were better informed? I wonder.