Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Carry On Up The Sphincter, with Paul Uppal

You and I might think that a multimillionaire MP who will be receiving a minimum of £40,000 extra this year thanks to the top rate of tax falling to 45p might shut up in case his constituents noticed.

Hogarth, Election: Chairing the Member

But not Paul. The Tories have been in trouble recently. Apart from that tax gift, funded by taxing old age pensions more, it turns out that the Tories have been selling access to the prime minister, at a knockdown rate of £250,000.

David Cameron was too scared to turn up in Parliament to make a statement about this (or perhaps he was hosting another profitable lunch), and delegated the job to some junior minister, ably supported by lickspittles like Uppal who are either incapable of recognising corruption when they see it, or are simply so institutionalised that they only see evil in others.

When reading Uppal's lines (or rather Conservative Central Office's), I'm reminded firstly of Richard Nixon ('when the President does it, it's not illegal) and the famous Kenyan saying, enunciated by the new corrupt politicians who replaced the old corrupt politicians: 'now it is our turn to eat').

We have heard terms used such as “casual corruption” and “shocking”. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that the rot set in when Bernie Ecclestone was able to change policy by paying £1 million? Does he also agree that that is the only example of a policy change having been bought?

Though I guess that shamelessness is Uppal's only route to power. He's already betrayed his constituents and his ethnicity by becoming a Tory, which usually leads to at least a knighthood and possibly a seat in the Lords, but he has no chance of becoming a minister because he's too useless - even ministers' responses to his self-serving question betray a fatal sense of tedium. So the only way he can make a name for himself amongst all the other back-bench fodder is to be even more slavishly loyal.

But let's take Uppal seriously for a moment (I know, but try). Does he really think that corruption started when Blair took £1m from Ecclestone? God knows I'm not going to disagree on that one: Blair was a corrupt Tory who found himself leading the Labour party through a supreme act of ambition, and this episode was a disgrace - though the donation was returned, unlike the £23m given by the six people Cameron dined with one evening.

However, for Uppal to claim this is where it started simply exposes his utter lack of historical knowledge. Parliament has always attracted fantasists, lobbyists, schmoozers and conmen:  and the Tories have always welcomed them with open arms. So have the other parties (Lloyd George openly sold peerages in the 1910s), but to a far lesser extent. Simply cast your eye over the House of Lords: Jeffrey Archer, who served time for perjury. Lord Ashcroft, colonialist tax-avoider and shady businessman… both Tories Uppal aspires to join on the red benches. I'd love to see Uppal's tax returns too.

That's only recent history too. Let's not forget the stranglehold the brewing and arms industries held over the Conservative Party in the 19th Century. Or their opposition to the Great Reform Act, and the granting of MPs to massive cities like Manchester, which previously was entirely unrepresented in Parliament.

All this talk of Ecclestone's disgusting behaviour in 1997 is simply a childish diversion from the fact that the Conservative Party is so blinded by its patrician assumption that it has a divine right to rule that it has no moral compass at all. The whole debate is a revolting demonstration of the Tories' inability to distinguish between the national interest and their own self-interest.

As to Uppal's claim that no Tories have ever sold policy changes… Did Cameron ever dine with someone who didn't qualify for the upper tax band? Did they discuss it? I rather expect so. Why did Osborne sneak in a tax-break for non-domiciled tax avoiders this budget? The budget was drafted over Cameron's dining table to soak the poor and reward the rich. The only mystery is why rich people need to give the Tories anything: they already govern for the plutocracy instinctively.

Does Uppal really think that people pay £250,000 just to spend an hour in the company of David Cameron or Eric Pickles? He's a businessman and he understands the value of money. I find the whole issue of political funding disgusting. It's not just cash either. All the big accounting firms - who make their money inventing new ways for companies to avoid paying taxes -  lend staff to both major parties, for example. How is any party going to develop new ways of thinking if they're dependent on the advice of corrupt and self-serving advisers?

None of the political parties believe in pure democracy any more. They can't afford to. Instead politics is about appeasing the bond markets and newspaper owners, and having a bigger ad budget. Trapped in a discourse which makes them hostages to billionaires, corporate interests and media barons, they dance on the head of the same microscopic pin, for fear of being accused of 'extremism' by the Daily Mail or Standard and Poor.

Anyway, moving on to Uppal's next bit of colon-cuddling: repeating the same tired old attack lines fed to him by the Whips:
The Budget and the coalition Government will ultimately be judged on how well we recover from the economic mess left to us by the last Labour Government, many of whose Ministers occupy senior positions in the shadow Cabinet. 
the Budget continues the work that the Government have done in their first two years and shows that we are building the long-term foundations that the economy needs.
That 'their' makes it painfully clear Uppal knows he's on the outside looking in. But 'long-term foundations'? Deficit up. Borrowing up. Unemployment up. Taxes up for median income owners and pensioners. Emissions up. The only things that are 'down' are: disabled children's benefits, bank lending and rich people's taxes.

But Uppal has a secret: he's a big gainer from this budget, as multimillionaire property speculator.
By reducing the complexity of our tax code and the rates at which businesses are taxed, we are signalling that we are again in a position to build on what Britain does best: creating innovative products that are attractive to consumers on the world stage.
What the hell has he ever contributed to the economy? His business doesn't add a single job, build anything or make anything. Pinehurst Securities simply gambles on the property market. It's probably a bit depressed at the moment - so of course Uppal's grateful for the free handout from the government, which will go straight into the profits column without doing a damn thing for the economy.

You may recognise the 'reducing the complexity of our tax code' bit. George Osborne didn't say in his Budget Speech that he was taxing pensions more highly. He said he was 'simplifying' the system. So we all now know what that means.
We have demonstrated that we are not only rebalancing the economy from public sector growth to private sector growth
Er… what this actually means is 'we've sacked hundreds of thousands of civil servants, and the private sector has employed some of them' (but nowhere near all, so in fact unemployment is going up).

Finally, and most revoltingly:
Many people have said in the Chamber that there are winners and losers from the Budget. They are right. The winners are common sense, long-termism and opportunity. The losers are those who try to make political capital and who always take the short-term view. 
Who are the winners? Paul Uppal MP and his multimillionaire friends. Who are the losers? The poor, the young, the old, the sick. You know, all those whiners who 'try to make political capital' and who 'take the short-term view'. Like when they wonder how they're going to pay for dinner, or the kids' clothes, or for childcare that week. Losers.

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