The strange demise of David Cameron?
Most of us knew it already – workers, students, unemployed, women and men, young and old, of all abilities but not all classes – we knew a Tory government would be bad news. Same old same old: pigheaded foreign policy, irreversible cuts to welfare, local government spending, NHS and public services, the same fat old white men MPs with their overhanging bellies and flop-mop combovers, gloating and jeering by day, pocketing corporate backhanders and beating up sex workers at night.
We tried to be optimistic, we tried to highlight what was happening in our actions and our writings , but most of us were cynical. There wasn’t so much a consent but a boredom with politics, a more realistic if fatalistic acceptance and submission that constituted an delusion of democratic consent.*
The current media coverage of the NewsCorp meltdown in the West offers a number of precise insights into how power functions and invests the Western political-social-economic-juridical structure. Attacking the state or Rupert Murdoch for all this alone is totally naive – power is far more complex and subtle. But there’s been no synthesis, and contemporary responses by the Left opposition have got sidetracked by internal politicking. A clear picture of the collapse of the current British establishment is required to work out just how to respond, if we need to at all.
We identify a number of weak-points in the UK establishment:
– the collapse of Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp in the UK began with a domino trail well-tracked by the New York Times, beginning prominently with the allegations of phone-hacking a murdered schoolgirl’s phone on July 4, speeding downhill since then. The story of the scandal is now well known, with its state cover-ups and collusion, its sacrifice of journalists, and its first David Kelly moment in the death of Sean Hoare.
Several effects emerge: up until early July 2011 Murdoch was on course to own via his takeover of BSkyB a near majority of British Media. NewsCorp’s political endorsements of the Conservatives in 1979 and 1992, of Labour from 1997 and of the Conservatives in 2010 have had an inestimably profound role in shaping election results – consider the SkyNews mic and palavar that caught Gorden Brown ranting against Gillian Duffy. The phone-hacking carried out by the media, and their role in unveiling the MPs Expenses scandal encouraged a climate of fear in the political class which encouraged its cooperation with Murdoch, Desmond and other media barons. With the collapse of NewsCorp share prices, the fall of Brooks and Hinton, as well as the possible fall of James Murdoch and indeed Rupert Murdoch, this hegemonic ideology apparatus looks in danger of wobbling. Piers Morgan and other slimeballs should be nervous.
Though this is unlikely to change the behaviour of the political class, cynicism, scepticism and anger by the public against all political infrastructures will be growing.
– collapse of Eurozone and possible collapse of the US economy, thereby precipitating a collapse of UK banking. From the pervasion and mutual interpenetration (imagine a sweaty M25 S&M orgy full of over-aged baldies) of media and the political class, the contagion is spreading to economies. The failure to agree to tax increases in America, as in the Eurozone, could mark the watershed of neoliberal ‘monetarist’ economics. Without public spending or bankruptcies, the continued accumulation of capital by the international wealthy can only continue for a certain amount of time before the speculation bursts. A failure of political agreement, alongside a new xenophobia and narrow-mindedness winning the day in Western democracies, signifies that further economic collapse will continue beyond what Western states can afford to bailout.
– collapse of consent in UK parliament. This began 1. with the MP’s Expenses Scandal of 2009-10, and has been further fuelled by 2. the betrayal of voters and policies by Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, as well as the continued cynical language and u-turns of the Conservatives, be that in NHS, prisons or forest privatisation. 3. despite the hot noise of labour politicians coming out to denounce Murdoch now, UK consent in parliament has collapsed in the failure for MPs, government and state security agencies to tackle the monopolisation of media by Murdoch. This of course hasn’t been so much a failure, but an active collusion.
Maybe we’re missing the point here. Politicians have been widely loathed and distrusted for years. The only problem is that now there is no possibility or veil left that we can even pretend to believe them, pretend to cooperate with them. They are now entirely corrupted, untouchable.
– collapse of CPS and Met Police. The Met police has been corrupt for a long time – consider the long history of black men killed in custody, the mysterious death of Daniel Morgan in 1987, the failure to properly investigate the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, or the killings of De Menezes or Ian Tomlinson by Met officers who have yet to be punished – there’s plenty of examples. Each time the Met says it can clean up its act but the evidence piles up – racist stop and search tactics increasing, the Scarman Enquiry into institutional racism within the police, the McPherson enquiry over the mishandling of the Stephen Lawrence case, the resignation of the last Police Commissioner Ian Blair over the Menezes killing. The Media have backed the Police by continuing to put out scare stories about terrorism, murders or teenage gun crime which have intimidated ordinary voters into demanding more police on the streets, and even armed police. In turn perhaps (perhaps it’s even more insidious), Met police were paid by NewsCorp journalists to leak information where necessary, and obstruct investigations into phone-hacking. But now the second Commissioner in a row, Paul Stephenson, has been forced to resign for some gross political illegality, alongside his complicit assistant John Yates. How can the police be trusted at this rate? And can the police trust their allies in the political class, where not even the Home Secretary (surely a goer?) has been pushed into resigning over this.
So much for that, we know the police are bad. But the CPS too has now been charged with withholding and suppressing mass amounts of politically sensitive information. The cases against the UkUncut protesters have largely been dropped.
See we know all this – that there is a single ruling bloc, distant and unaccountable in a Kafkaesque sense, but one made up of a small number of ties and business deals in the political class, media, finance, judiciary and state security agencies. But for this to be unveiled? A contagion is unleashed on the system. Large monopolies of power are always vulnerable to single precise viruses. Sometimes a certain decadence brings down the edifice before the barbarians come to the gates. The delusion of consent looks in danger of collapse. Opportunities emerge in the weak spots.
– collapse of discipline. The public sector and the public sector worker are ready to be privatised and deleted. The factory exists elsewhere. Unemployment no longer exists, is negated as jobseeking, as workfare scheme. Wages and savings are collapsing – rising rents, fuel and energy prices plus general inflation, combined by frozen interest rates (+ wage freezes across the board) mean that we are all collectively becoming poorer. We have less and less to lose.
– the strange demise of David Cameron. Roy Greenslade speculated back in November 2009 if there was a pact between David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch. Cameron was then in opposition but his political career has been founded on the support and cooperation of NewsCorp executives, most notably Andy Coulson. Coulson was editor of the News of the World from 2003 to January 2007, when he was forced to resign over a royal phone-hacking scandal. In May 2007 he was appointed head of the Communications team of the Conservative Party under Cameron, becoming head of Communications of the Conservative-led coalition government from May 2010, and was forced to resign again in Jan 2011 over the phone-hacking of Andy Gray. Uh!
Cameron’s friendships with Murdoch, Brooks and Coulson – the Alistair Campbell ideology-machine of his network – have shaped his policy in government, but now this structure, and his relations with it, look close to collapse. Cameron’s time in government has largely been unsuccessful despite pollings, defined by an unwinnable Libyan war, student and worker riots, and numerous attempts to entirely dismantle public services. Perhaps the only reason for his continued power is that the alternatives, Clegg and Miliband, are as loathsome, politically clumsy and identical as himself. What difference?
But a certain operational consent can only continue for so long. Murdochs might be sacked, some constitutional reform might be attempted and later postponed, Miliband might get a few more votes. A Lib-Lab coalition would result in the same kind of upper-class government we have now. But something’s changing. The contagion has been operating within the system for a long time now – these problems are little different from the crises of the 70s, 80s and 90s. It’s consent which is now collapsing. Whether this cynicism can be used by the opposition to direct some real socialist change, or whether a new public desire for revenge via xenophobia and reactionary politics is activated remains to be seen. But the edifice is dangerously weak. Nothing can be believed anymore.
For now, the opposition doesn’t need to do anything. The virus is consuming the corpulent, bloated monopolistic body. Neoliberal structures have been under increasing pressure to maintain the high level of capital accumulation at the expense of largely stagnant economic production and decreasing agricultural fertility. We know of the financialisation of life – we see it in inflation, redundancies, how bad the cities are getting. Cameron’s funders in the City are under pressure. He’s rotten, untouchable, seeping bad news. We’re witnessing the strange demise of David Cameron by the cancer of long-standing corruption. Whether this signifies the coming fall of the political class, or the living standards of proletarians, remains to be seen. In the mean time, let’s sit back, play Rupert Murdoch bingo (made by excellent Inpressmag) and watch the structures collapse. As ever, we are optimistic.
Prof. Effra, faculty member of the University for Strategic Optimism.
* The UK population in the year leading up the mid-2010 stood at 62.3 million. At the last UK election of 2010, the total electorate numbered around 47 million. Of these, 65% turned out to vote – a figure of around 30.5 million. Of this 30.5 million, 36% voted Conservative, the eventual minority government which ended up forming a coalition with the Lib Dems which they have since dominated, and of which the Lib Dems subsequently abandoned the majority of their manifesto pledges and policies to adopt a neoliberal Conservative agenda. 36% of 30.5 million is about 11 million, the number who have ultimately ‘democratically’ elected the government, against 51 million who did not.