Feral Rats; Feral Finance..Both need sorting out

A bewildered shop owner in Ealing whose shop had been trashed in the London Riots, described the young people who over-ran the area as ‘feral rats’.  This was an emotive term to use, but tempers and emotions have been running high, and whilst I don’t condone this language, I can understand the extreme situations which create terms like this.

The riots seem to have polarised political and popular opinion in terms of seeking explanations for the truly appalling behaviour of the rioters over the last few days. Most of us have stared on aghast as the seemingly iron shutters which we believe hold society in check melted into the thinnest of veneers and disappeared completely amidst scenes of violence, looting and thuggery. We have all been looking for explanations, and largely people seem to divide into those who wish to blame the actions of the rioters totally on the rioters themselves and those who seek some wider social and economic factors. In sociological terms we are locked into a claustrophobic debate about structure and agency.  The theory of ‘structure’ emphasises the material conditions in which people live as an explanation for their actions, the ‘agency’ part the individual movitations and choices which an individual makes.

We are set for an almost endless cycle of analysis, judgements, soul searching and navel gazing over  the coming months but one thing which struck me was the use of ‘Feral’ from an article I read last week.  This article by Richard Murphy discusses the feral finance strategy of companies and financial organisations which are able to move large amounts of money around without reference to national borders, governments or tax regimes.  We have seen feral finance tactics in the UK, an example being Vodafone wheedling out of a £6 billion tax bill. Now if Cameron is serious about fixing broken Britain, he has to get a hold of these corporations who make a mockery of our tax regimes, and instead of colluding with these (as the Labour government before had done), or turning a blind eye; make them pay their tax.  Of course politicians are scared of taking on multinationals, they see them as the goose laying the golden egg; standing up to them, they argue, will lead to investment going to other countries. But the single biggest factor to ensure that investment in the UK falls off is scenes of violence and anarchy like those of the last few days so politicians have some very tough choices to make in the coming months.  The coalition government has been extremely gung-ho with their insistence on cuts to public spending, seeming at times to relish being tough as they cut spending, and professing the lack of any alternatives to bring the UK deficit down and avoid the wrath of the ratings agencies. The ratings agencies themselves are the epitome of undemocratic, unaccountable organisations able at will to downgrade any sovereign debt rating, without ever having to face the very real social consequences which can result from this.

Politicians have been queuing up to condemn the looters and promise justice for those who engaged in looting. But the double standard which vows to hunt down every looter and punish them, but turns a blind eye to corporate tax avoidance will ultimately fuel the widespread impression that politicians have no empathy with the underclass and are doing nothing to help their plight.  By all means we should hunt down every looter and make them pay for every single item they have taken, but let’s be equally tough on multinationals such as Vodafone and clamp down on their wrongdoing too.

I won’t insult your intelligence with a full description of what £6bn of tax could buy, but it would pay for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) at its pre-cuts rate for 12 years.  Or £40 million for each and every Local Authority in England to spend on youth and community provision.

Author: mjp6034

Education consultant specialising in educational technology and change management.

6 thoughts on “Feral Rats; Feral Finance..Both need sorting out”

  1. I agree with all that is written here. There is no doubt something is very wrong with a government that allows corporates to evade £billions in tax and at the same time is weilding the axe in areas of public spending that can least afford it.
    I was dissapointed, but not surprised, that Boris called for the government to rethnk the funding of the police. What about rethnking about the funding of education, training, and job opportunities. Once again we will seek to find a cure and not the cause.

    It is also true that there has been a lot of criminality recently and it occurs to me that all this talk about youngsters ‘wanting stuff’ is relative. I suggest that these thieves plug in and turn on the TVs they have looted and take a look at the misery that people in Somalia are living in and then think about how deprived they are.

  2. I also agree with everything written here. The acts of cheating and fraud by corporates and others who are in a position of seniority and power which are tolerated, ignored or simply hidden do nothing to encourage those in society who survive on little or nothing to act differently. At a time of hardship, our government (whatever the flavour) should be looking at “the funding of education, training and job opportunites” as Nigel rightly states.

    The young people who have laughed in the face of anyone watching as they have enjoyed rampaging around our streets with no apparent concern for those made homeless or whose livlihoods have been destroyed have not been created overnight. They are the result of years of neglect and as a result, they are not going to be turned into law abiding citizens overnight. This could just be the begining as we cannot sustain the levels of policing seen recently in a few cities for very long.

    We need strong and informed leadership, but where is that going to come from?

  3. Toni said ‘We need strong and informed leadership’ I agree but we also need some empathy, understanding and a move away from the political elite that have re-emerged in this country, especially since the early 1980s. It is getting the people more involved that will fix soceity, ironically the recent events may be a wake upi call to the apathetic majority. Why they are apathetic is a whole differnt subject.
    I watched Have I got Old News For You tonight and one of the items was dealing with the tax avoidance of the billionaire Philip Green whose wife is based in Monaco. Ironically he was, maybe still is, advising the government about waste.
    We had a Welsh torry MP calling for more money to be spent on police and less on third world aid today. Ye Gods!

  4. As usual, this debate has polarised into the rich blaming the poor and vice versa. Yes the moneyed class have been and still are guilty of appalling acts of greed and indifference. Yes the underclass have been and are guilty of dispicable acts of lawlessness and vandalism. However, they are both products of the environment/societal structure that empowers/drives them. The rich will always seek to needlessly increase their wealth and the underclass will continually indulge in sloth and the succor of the state.

    So what changes and what drives this change? Governments and therefore policies change and these changes tend to swing towards providing better advantage for the traditional voters of the parties. But, who is it that brings about this change? Not the rich who will always vote Conservative and not the underclass who, if they vote at all, will always vote Labour. The responsibility for these swings lies with the greed and aspirations of the ‘middle class’. The middle class are never happy to be as they are and aspire to joining the moneyed class so they swing fom voting Conservative to voting Labour always based on blatant self interest. They vote Conservative in the belief that Tory policies will aford them entry to the moneyed class. Only when they realise that very, very few will be allowed to join this group and that the policies they supported only serve to widen the gap do they turn to voting Labour in the hope that their policies will benefit them more. They then realise that the Labour party are equally as good at supporting the moneyed class and that the few beans that are dispersed elsewhere fall into the laps of the poor. ….and so it goes on. This fickle heartedness bred from the greed and aspirations of the middle class means that our governments are ephemeral things and fully understand that they will only hold the reins for a term or two. This understanding leads to all policies being aimed at popularism and self interest and extremely rarely on any long term, sustainable strategies.

    Since the major focus of this blog is education this means that no government is going to implement the truely radical changes that it is acknowledged need to be made to our education system since doing so would only lead to them being in the firing line during the time of change and adaptation and they have the full knowledge that they are extremely unlikely to be in power to be given the credit for any improvements. So all changes are cosmetic and popularist.

    i appreciate that much of this is obvious but it is worth bearing the above in mind when all the mud starts flying.

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