Wednesday, August 21, 2013

David Cameron and David Miranda: abuse of power and a culture of corruption

The latest revelations that David Cameron may well have personally sanctioned the detainment of the Brazilian partner of a Guardian journalist at Heathrow airport tells you all you need to know about the psychology of the British Prime Minister.

This is the latest event in a pattern of behaviour demonstrating that Cameron has a supremely casual attitude to his responsibilities; seems to have little understanding of the meaning of "corruption"; and with the Miranda detainment, supports the view that the rule of law and use of his position can be abused when it is politically convenient.

Cameron is hardly the first British PM to have overstepped his powers; Tony Blair's abuse of anti-terror laws led to the police and surveillance culture, whose resulting incompetence resulted in the death of another Brazilian, Jean Charles De Menezes. In that way, Cameron is following Blair's example, but with nowhere near as much acumen. While Blair may well be held indirectly responsible for creating the police culture that led to the death of De Menezes, he cannot be held directly to account for a series of chaotic police actions.
In the case of Miranda, the order for his detention seems to have come directly from Cameron personally, with the message then being passed on to the Home Secretary and the Americans.

This is politically stupid for a number of reasons that come to mind.
First, it makes Cameron look as if he was doing this simply to curry favour with the American administration, without any clear prompting from them; in other words, it gives the Americans plausible deniability. When Tony Blair was being accused of being "Bush's poodle", there was at least complicit agreement from the Bush administration that he was acting on their instruction. Over the Miranda affair, Obama's administration can hold their hands up and say that Cameron was doing it for his own reasons (such as his previous "War On Porn"), beyond US influence. In other words, that Cameron was acting "rogue", giving the likes of Vladimir Putin more excuse to hurl the accusation of hypocrisy at the UK when they accuse Putin of acting like a dictator of a police state when he targets political trouble-makers.
Secondly, the police were using anti-terror laws that preceded the "War On Terror". Lord Falconer, who introduced the law that the police used to detain Miranda, states that it was never meant to have been used in such a broad way, as a catch-all that included journalists or anyone else who is clearly not linked to terrorism. The law was introduced in 2000, specifically in relation to the threat of Irish Republican terrorism at the time. While the Home Secretary and the police try to make a square peg fit into a round hole, it adds weight to the accusation of blatant political intimidation, and that the use of this law in this case was potentially illegal, and could result in a lengthy legal battle between "The Guardian" and the government.
Thirdly, this precedent seems like an effective declaration of war by Cameron against certain sections of the media, using the law and the police as his weapons. Regardless of the truth, the perception will remain with "The Guardian" and other media outlets like it, that they are considered legitimate targets of political intimidation. The Miranda affair represents a sinking to a new low for freedom of the liberal media.

The question remains: what was Cameron thinking? Or was it, like many other of his decisions, an ill-thought-out, spur-of-the-moment thing? If it was an impulsive decision, it tells you much about the chaotic and dysfunctional way that the government of the UK is run. The government's Universal Benefit scheme, the responsibility of Iain Duncan Smith, is similarly shambolic in its thinking and organisation.

Some pundits on the right may be praising the government for the start of a "recovery", but that so-called recovery is not due to the thinking of competent, clear-headed ministerial insight. The "recovery" is based on simply repeating the same errors that the previous government committed, albeit now with a much more unsustainable and economically-disastrous model. Living standards have decreased significantly, working conditions and the structure of the labour market have deteriorated considerably, yet house prices are being inflated once again. In other words, the gap than existed before between incomes and house prices (and caused the last crash) is now getting even wider.
What do the government expect the end result will be? It is economic insanity.

The government is "ran" by David Cameron only in a very loose sense of the word: he rarely seems to take his responsibilities seriously or has any real ideas of his own, but is merely a good "method actor" who knows how to look serious and "statesman-like" in front of the camera, knows how to play the infantile and abusive points-scoring game of Westminster politics at the dispatch box once a week, and knows how to look earnest and "caring" when touring the country.
The ideological "revolution" that is being played out across the country is mostly channeled through the Treasury, Education, Health and Welfare parts of the government: Osborne, Gove, and IDS are the main antagonists in this story, with Theresa May enjoying her part as the legal enforcer of the "revolution". Cameron simply gives these ministers the space they need to carry out their work, and acts as the mouthpiece of their combined actions.

Cameron's carefree attitude to his job has meant he has presided over one of the most obviously-corrupt British governments in living memory. From what can be seen, Cameron and his allies simply do not accept that "corruption" exists. To them, "corruption" is what happens in poor countries. Because Britain is "rich", it means it cannot be corrupt; and the same goes for its government. But in the UK, "corruption" is simply a luxury good.
The evidence has been mounting since the Conservatives took office: the government's many links to Murdoch and his media empire; the conflicts of interests between the Conservative party and the "public service companies" like Serco and G4S; the appointment of political aides according to familiarity (like Boris Johnson's brother, for example); the vast influence that lobbyists have over the decision-making process; the list goes on.
That doesn't even mention the systemic failures of the political system at large, such the abuse of privileges by ministers and those in the House Of Lords
Then there are the countless instances of abuse of power: when information has been distorted to suit the purposes of ministers; when criticism within a department has been savagely silenced or civil servants have been psychologically intimidated. And these are all accusations that have come out of only one department alone: that run by Iain Duncan Smith (he also of "Workfare" fame). Michael Gove has faced similar accusations.

But all this flies over the head of "Call Me Dave".

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