Saturday, 16 July 2011

IF POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY, WHO THE HELL CAN WE TRUST?



As readers of these pages will know, the main topics of my articles centre around policing and the criminal justice system.

However, applying the principle of "cause and effect", it is clear that the problems that exist within our society today do not rest entirely with the police or the judiciary. When looking for causes, the problems and challenges our communities face are both "bottom up" and top down".

The root cause of many of our problems actually starts with the corrupt practices prevalent within hieracrch of the sectors that influence our lives most, politics, banking education, health, media and yes the criminal justice arena.  

"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition" Thomas Jefferson.

Venality Definition: "Prostitution of talents or offices or services for reward. The condition of being susceptible to bribery or corruption. The use of a position of trust for dishonest gain".

In an excellent recent article, Max Hastings tells it as it is. To read the article at source click here, or read on below.


Our great institutions are becoming tainted by venality and incompetence.
Where are leaders of integrity when we need them?


The resignation of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International represents a new eruption in the phone-hacking scandal that has damaged the media, police and the Cameron government.

Not impressed with "Curruption UK"
Yet this is only the latest in a long series of blows that have struck almost every major national institution in Britain in recent years: the bank bosses were exposed in 2008 as greedy incompetents, and both Houses of Parliament were rocked last year by revelations of systemic expenses fraud.

The British have always liked to see people at the head of their society to whom they could look upwards with a little respect, and I do not mean footballers or TV celebrities.

Yet today we find ourselves searching almost despairingly for leaders in politics, in the Church, in the professions, in corporate business and in public service who seem deserving of trust.

The historian G.M. Young asserted complacently in the 1930s that ‘the four most efficient institutions in England are the police, railways, trade unions and joint stock banks — all founded 100 years ago by the same Conservative government’. Not only would Young find it hard to applaud any of those bodies today, but he would struggle to find any national institution that looks untarnished.

When the dust settles from the phone-hacking row, the most serious reputational damage will almost certainly prove to have been sustained by the police. The public is justly cynical about Britain’s media underworld. People may be disgusted by the revelations of the past fortnight, but I doubt they are shocked.

The police, however, are a different kettle of fish. We need to believe that Britain’s law enforcers are honest and efficient. Yet this saga deals a body-blow to any such presumptions.

Whatever the findings of the judicial inquiry into phone-hacking and bribery, we can already see that some of Britain’s most senior officers had close and almost certainly improper relations with News International.

Some of us, including successive Home Secretaries, have believed for decades that the police culture is rotten.

An intelligence official told me recently how shocked he was by systemic and malicious police leaks about an important case in which the Secret Intelligence Service was involved.

The police record as catchers of criminals is patchy, to say the least. Yet their bosses close ranks to deny any shortcomings — except, of course, in their financial resourcing — and fight reform tooth and nail.

Some years ago, speaking at a conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, I suggested that the breakdown of the traditional alliance between the police and the middle class was a tragedy.

When I sat down, a succession of angry chief constables rose to rubbish my remarks. A senior BBC executive with whom I had shared the platform observed afterwards he could not decide whether I had been brave or foolish. But almost everything I said would be taken for granted by any ordinary citizen.

The police will never regain our trust until they get decent leadership and smash the so-called ‘canteen culture’ that pervades the force. Now, surely, the game is up. The decent officers, of whom there are many, deserve much better than they have got, and so does the British public.

Radical change must be forced on the police, for their sakes as well as ours. Because I am a historian, I hesitate before damning the current membership of the House of Commons because it is easy to catalogue shockers from the past.

Consider, for instance, a survey of MPs between 1790 and 1820: among 658 Members, 50 acknowledged having fathered illegitimate children; 220 were financially ruined and 35 died in exile abroad in consequence; five were expelled for fraud; and at least 19 committed suicide, while six went mad.

By that standard, today’s MPs are no worse than many of their predecessors.

But many people are deeply dismayed by the manner in which all the political parties and indeed this Government are dominated by people who have never done anything. That is to say, they have never held proper jobs, or served in the Armed Forces, or learned how businesses are run.

Few have ever been tested in the fires of conflict or even commerce. Their whole adult and even adolescent lives have been devoted to politics, unlike the Denis Healeys and Michael Heseltines, the Ernie Bevins and Willie Whitelaws of former generations.

They have exhaustively studied polls and focus groups, TV interviewing techniques and speech-writing, but they know next to nothing about what most of us would call real life. Moreover, ministers no longer have top-flight officials to cover for them: there has been a grave decline in the Civil Service.

Much as we love to mock Sir Humphrey Appleby, the devious under-secretary in Yes, Minister, he was jolly clever. So too were some of his real-life counterparts, men such as Sir Frank Cooper and Sir Michael Quinlan at the Ministry of Defence in the Eighties.


Do the police need a top down clean up?

Old Whitehall mandarins might frustrate ministers by running rings around them, but they had the brains to save them from their mistakes and keep the machine running.

I remember Quinlan sighing to me about the Ministry of Defence when diarist, serial adulterer and career scoundrel Alan Clark was a minister: ‘We’ve only got one politician here with any brains — and he’s mad.’


But most of today’s senior Whitehall officials are nothing like as bright as Quinlan and other big figures of past generations. A headmaster of Eton remarked a few years ago that, when he first went to the school, every autumn a handful of the best leavers joined the Home Civil Service.

Not any more. Nowadays, if they want fun they join the media; if they crave money they head for the City. In David Cameron’s shoes, I would recognise a priority to get better people into the top Whitehall jobs if he is to have any hope of getting anything done.

Revitalising the upper reaches of the Civil Service could do more than almost anything else to make us a better-governed country.

As for our religious leaders, we should acknowledge that the Church of England has always been an object of mockery.

A century- and-a-half ago, Anthony Trollope found plenty to laugh at, in his great tales of the clerical world of Barsetshire. Does anybody remember the Seventies TV comedy series All Gas And Gaiters?

But until recent times, the teasing was affectionate. Decent local vicars, of whom there were many, commanded the regard and gratitude of their communities.

Yet in the space of a generation, respect for the C of E has almost evaporated. It is racked by rows about gay and women priests. Nobody any more sings Onward Christian Soldiers, which we all used to love belting out, because prelates are terrified it might suggest enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan.

Fewer people regularly attend Britain’s churches than Britain’s mosques.

Gaffe Prone Dr Williams
The tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury of that absurd druid Rowan Williams has been embarrassing: he cannot open his mouth without inserting a ski boot in it. Most recently, he questioned the democratic legitimacy of the Coalition, claiming that ‘no one’ had voted for its flagship policies to reform welfare, health and education, which he said were causing ‘anxiety and anger’.

What most of us look for in a spiritual leader is wisdom. In Williams, instead, we see ineffable silliness. The C of E has lost its dignity, without discovering a role.

Britain’s judiciary is still full of clever people, but its reputation has been severely damaged by its assumption of powers that most citizens think far beyond its rightful competence, and often insulting to common sense.

Court decisions, often deriving from judges’ personal interpretation of the doom-laden human rights laws, make effective immigration control almost impossible, leave terrorist sympathisers at large in the community, and make Britain the world’s haven for both foreign benefits claimants and Islamic militants.

Respect for the medical and teaching professions has ebbed. NHS GPs now earn six-figure incomes for doing less work than ten years ago, but still they have their hands out for more.

After asking a local doctor to counter-sign an official form for me recently, I was amazed to receive a bill for £25 for doing so. I responded that the practice could sue for the money if it chose, then changed GPs. The demand reflected an attitude of mind wholly alien to that of service to the community.

As for teachers, I feel less cross with them for striking in protest about their pension changes than for refusing to teach our children what they need to learn to survive in the 21st century, and for their bitter resistance to reform.

The entire profession remains in denial about the debasement of exam results and university degrees. Where once the local teacher in a street or village was a figure to admire, today teacher training colleges turn out jobsworths clinging to Leftist ideologies even a Cuban might think outdated.

Not much more need be said about bankers, save that their armour of greed and complacency remains proof against shame or social pressure to change their ways.

Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mervyn King are bent upon reforming British banking. But, tragically, the Americans refuse to move in step.

Meanwhile, the British Army and the monarchy remain almost the only national institutions that still command solid regard, the latter chiefly because of the personal conduct of the Queen and Prince Philip. I doubt whether either has accepted an unsuitable ‘freebie’ in their lives. They simply know how to behave — as too many of their family do not.

The Prince of Wales seems increasingly detached from planet Earth. Yet he’s determined to impose his highly controversial views on the nation — and its government — and in a constitutionally ill-judged, if not improper, fashion.

Prince Andrew’s dalliances with foreign dictators and gangsters seem repugnant, while Prince Edward’s recent appearances in military uniform have made him seem ridiculous to the British Armed Forces from whom he once fled.

Many of us tremble for the monarchy’s prospects when the Queen goes — as, with luck, she will not for many years yet — unless Prince William and his new bride can revive the ethic of discipline and discretion which his grandmother has wonderfully sustained.

To preserve the crown, the Royal Family as a whole need to behave with grace, avoid unsuitable company and keep their mouths shut. Only if their advisers can reconcile them to these three things will this vital institution be secure.

There seems a common strand in the decline of respect for almost all the others: so ubiquitous has become the worship of money, and those who make most of it, that the old ideal of public service is close to collapse.

In former times, many good and clever people made a conscious choice to adopt careers in which they would not earn a fortune, but where they felt they could make a worthwhile contribution and enjoy the regard of society.

In other words, they made sacrifices in order to serve. This was true of parsons, doctors, teachers, civil servants, service officers and indeed MPs.

Yet not long ago, I was dismayed when a brilliantly clever middle-aged teacher at a great school said to me ruefully: ‘My pupils assume I do this job because I couldn’t find anything that paid better.’

We have conditioned ourselves to a grotesquely exaggerated respect for wealth, and those who achieve it.

Britain’s public services and institutions were for centuries the envy of the world, not least because they were untarnished by the corruption endemic in the U.S., much of Europe and, of course, most of Africa and Asia.

I do not suggest that today Britain has become a very corrupt place: the rest of the world laughs at how cheaply one can buy a few British MPs and government officials. But the recent flood of scandals represents a wake-up call.

The public must feel assured that public servants, from Downing Street to the humblest beat copper, are working to serve the interests of the State, rather than being in it for what they themselves can make out of it.

The people who run and influence our society need to preserve their dignity and command our respect. Too many have recently done too much that diminishes these qualities. We shall all be the poorer if we cannot win them back.

Ends . . . .


A FINAL NOTE ON CORRUPTION . . . . . . .
I can't think why an article on corruption should link so naturally to the release of the latest crime figures, but it does!  (I like the word veniality better than corruption, thinking of senior police chiefs prostituting themselves seems highly amusing and appropriate).

The latest work of fantasy from the Home Office Crime In England & Wales 2010/11 can be reached by clicking the link.

This year, the Home Office madarins thought detections deserved a seperate publication, such is the wealth of fantasy contained within the document, it is deserving of a place alongside messrs Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson on bookshelves everywhere. The detections publication can be read here.

For those of you with a particular interest in the numbers, (or in need of a cure for insomnia) the data files can be downloaded by starting here, and clicking the links for what interests you.

Now that the crime fgures are finally released, and having had the opportunity to examine the bulk of the documents and datasets, very little has changed. Recorded crime is still being wickedly suppressed and detections perniciously and fallcaiously exaggerated. Strong stuff you might think . . .  Our latest analysis of crime and detections has taken many months to complete and exposes the facts behind the "Cooking of the crime and detection books". The arrival of this final piece of fiction from the Home Office will enable us to complete and publish the report on this site over the net few weeks.

2 comments:

dickiebo said...

Strange, but I posted the same post today! Great minds think alike!

allcoppedout said...

My own view is that the corruption is worse than we can imagine. This doesn't make sense when I look around at people doing their jobs, or in some of the magnificent gestures made to me on the sports field. Yet I could almost swear I 'see' it everywhere now.

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