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How Corrupt is Britain?

How Corrupt is Britain?

Edited by David whyte
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    How Corrupt is Britain?
    Book Description:

    Banks accused of rate-fixing. Members of Parliament cooking the books. Major defense contractors investigated over suspect arms deals. Police accused of being paid off by tabloids. The headlines are unrelenting these days. Perhaps it’s high time we ask: just exactly how corrupt is Britain? David Whyte brings together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, offering a series of troubling answers. Unflinchingly facing the corruption in British public life, they show that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere; corrupt practices are revealed across a wide range of venerated institutions, from local government to big business. These powerful, punchy essays aim to shine a light on the corruption fundamentally embedded in UK politics, police and finance.

    eISBN: 978-1-78371-284-7
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface (pp. vii-viii)
    Will McMahon
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. ix-x)
    David Whyte
  5. Introduction: A Very British Corruption (pp. 1-38)
    David Whyte

    The idea that British institutions are fair and democratic is one of the foundation stones of our self-imagined national heritage. Historically we have construed corruption as something that is exclusively a problem in developing or economically ‘primitive’ societies, rather than our own. Yet the almost daily reporting of all manner of corruption cases in our most prominent and powerful institutions is beginning to unravel the idea the British establishment is predicated on civilised values of ‘fairness’, ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’. As the façade shatters, it reveals the residual racism in the claim that we are not corrupt like other countries in...

  6. Part I Neoliberalism and Corruption
    • 1 Moving Beyond a Narrow Definition of Corruption (pp. 41-46)
      David Beetham

      In his introduction to this collection David Whyte refers to the World Bank’s definition of corruption as ‘the abuse of public office for private gain’, and he challenges the limitation of corruption implicit in this definition to the personal gain of office holders. Like him, I want to propose a wider conception which serves better to capture the different concerns of the contributors to this volume. These concerns include the following:

      the capture of regulators and public officials by the corporate sector and its consultants

      the ever-revolving door between government and business

      the preferential access to ministers and officials enjoyed...

    • 2 The New Normal: Moral Economies in the ‘Age of Fraud’ (pp. 47-58)
      Jörg Wiegratz

      Many countries around the world have been transformed since the late 1980s by a range of neoliberal policies and reforms: extensive privatisation, trade liberalisation, a lowering of protective regulatory standards concerning the economy, numerous public sector reforms, the promotion of a more commercialised and entrepreneurial society, and various measures to strengthen the power of the capitalist class and their economic allies. A closely connected strategy has been the weakening of the power of workers’ organisations and other social movements capable of restraining capital’s maximisation of profit-taking. These changes have deeply altered not only the economic and political structures of affected...

    • 3 Neoliberalism, Politics and Institutional Corruption: Against the ‘Institutional Malaise’ Hypothesis (pp. 59-70)
      David Miller

      What is behind the major ongoing wave of scandals and wrongdoing in British society? One public institution after another has been brought low as dishonesty, corruption, scandal and ethical and criminal misdemeanours have been exposed in the police, media, both Houses of Parliament, the banks and many other institutions. This chapter examines some of the answers given to that question, and focuses in particular on those given in a recent book by prominent British political scientists David Richards, Martin Smith and Colin Hay.¹

      My argument here is that many of the indications of scandal and corruption in the British landscape...

  7. Part II Corruption in Policing
    • 4 Policed by Consent? The Myth and the Betrayal (pp. 73-84)
      Phil Scraton

      On 19 September 2012 the UK Coalition government’s chief whip, Andrew Mitchell MP, was involved in a brief but hostile altercation with Metropolitan Police officers on duty at the Downing Street security gates. Leaving his office, adjacent to the prime minister’s residence, he was told to dismount his bicycle and leave via the pedestrian exit rather than the main gate. Mitchell’s reaction was petulant and he admits to swearing at the duty officers. The official police log of the incident, however, records that Mitchell addressed the officers as ‘fucking plebs’. Via email the following day this version, contested by Mitchell...

    • 5 Hillsborough: The Long Struggle to Expose Police Corruption (pp. 85-93)
      Sheila Coleman

      It is no longer controversial to say that the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster is marred by police corruption and the manipulation of evidence of mammoth proportions. It has been a long struggle to get to where we are today, and it has been a struggle that has involved the smearing, bullying and intimidation of those who dared say these things. But now they are accepted, and Prime Minister David Cameron was eventually forced to apologise for them.

      But there is a bigger picture than the prime minister’s apology – and any other apologies for that matter. That bigger picture has...

    • 6 Justice Denied: Police Accountability and the Killing of Mark Duggan (pp. 94-102)
      Joanna Gilmore and Waqas Tufail

      On 4 August 2011, Mark Duggan, a young black man from Tottenham, North London, was shot dead by a police officer from London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). This killing followed a period of surveillance from MPS officers, eventually resulting in a ‘hard stop’ of the taxi cab Mark Duggan was riding in. Shortly after exiting the taxi cab, Mark Duggan was shot twice and died at the scene. In the immediate aftermath of the killing, which took place in broad daylight on a busy Tottenham street, it was reported by mainstream media institutions that a ‘shootout’ had taken place resulting...

  8. Part III Corruption in Government and Public Institutions
    • 7 British State Torture: From ‘Search and Try’ to ‘Hide and Lie’ (pp. 105-112)
      Paul O’Connor

      In June 1975 an eminent Harley Street doctor flew to Dublin. The purpose of the trip was to carry out a medical examination of a patient in the St John of God Hospital in the Irish capital. The patient was suffering from severe angina, a condition which is ‘always associated with the risk of sudden death’ according to the doctor.¹ The doctor was Dr Denis Leigh, a leading consultant psychiatrist at the Bethlem Royal and the Maudsley Hospitals in London, and more importantly, medical consultant to the British Army.

      The patient, Sean McKenna, was a former member of the IRA...

    • 8 The Return of The Repressed: Secrets, Lies, Denial and ‘Historical’ Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Scandals (pp. 113-123)
      Chris Greer and Eugene McLaughlin

      This chapter may seem like an awkward fit for a book on the causes, extent and consequences of institutional corruption, which is conventionally defined and understood as financial and political malfeasance: that is, fraud, bribery, fraud, extortion, embezzlement, insider dealing, market manipulation, nepotism, buying influence and so on. However we would argue that there is a need to widen the frame of institutional corruption to include moral touchstone issues such as institutional child sexual abuse. This is a classic case of institutional corruption because it involves exploitation of the most basic kind, namely the sexual abuse of the vulnerable, powerless...

    • 9 Politics, Government and Corruption: The Case of the Private Finance Initiative (pp. 124-134)
      Michael Mair and Paul Jones

      In this chapter we trace some of the ways in which the United Kingdom’s private finance initiative (PFI) – a species of ‘public private partnership’ (PPP) whose operations and effects we explore in what follows – can be treated as an example of ‘corruption’.¹ Through an examination of associations between practice, process and context in the implementation of PFI, we focus on the role of the state and new forms of governmental arrangement in establishing contexts in which corruption, understood in different ways, can flourish.

      As David Whyte points out in his Introduction to this book, corruption is too often cast in...

    • 10 Revolving-Door Politics and Corruption (pp. 135-144)
      Stuart Wilks-Heeg

      The term ‘revolving door’ has long been used in US politics to describe the process through which senior figures move from the public to private (or private to public) sectors. It is closely associated with concerns that collusive relationships have developed between the US government and business in policy areas such as defence contracting and food regulation. Until recently, there was little research into such personnel movements in the United Kingdom, and doubts were expressed about whether the notion of the revolving door was applicable to British politics. However, in the last few years, a distinct body of research has...

  9. Part IV Corruption in Finance and the Corporate Sector
    • 11 On Her Majesty’s Secrecy Service (pp. 147-156)
      John Christensen

      This chapter explores Britain’s role as the world’s leading purveyor of financial secrecy. In conjunction with its overseas territories (OTs) and crown dependencies (CDs), the City of London controls around a quarter of the global market for offshore financial services. Importantly, British OTs and CDs rank among the world’s most opaque secrecy jurisdictions: in the Tax Justice Network’s 2013 Financial Secrecy Index, for instance, Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Turks and Caicos Islands were assigned secrecy scores of 80, 79 and 78 respectively, among the highest scores in the world. Jersey, where this author grew up and worked as government economic...

    • 12 Accounting for Corruption in the ‘Big Four’ Accountancy Firms (pp. 157-167)
      Prem Sikka

      This chapter looks at the involvement of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG – in corrupt practices. The Big Four originated in the United Kingdom. Through a series of international mergers they have become ‘too big to close’ and wield enormous financial and political resources to resist reforms and effective regulatory action. During 2013, they employed over 717,000 people worldwide and their combined global revenues¹ were around US$ 115 billion (£72 billion), of which some $65 billion (£41 billion) came from consultancy services, including selling tax avoidance schemes. In 2013, they...

    • 13 Corporate Theft and Impunity in Financial Services (pp. 168-176)
      Steve Tombs

      Since 2008, public criticism and condemnation of ‘the banks’ has been commonplace. Beyond the rhetoric, however, and despite a massive transfer of national wealth to the sector which has restored profitability, what has been most striking has been nation-state failures to examine – let alone act upon – their harmful and criminal risk-taking. The focus of the state has been to impose class-targeted austerity to meet the cost of socialised private debt. But even this stunning achievement notwithstanding, retail banking has continued, at least in the United Kingdom, to steal and defraud on a massive scale with relative impunity.

      In the past...

    • 14 High Pay and Corruption (pp. 177-186)
      Luke Hildyard

      The runaway growth of top pay for corporate executives has been a vexatious issue in public debate since the Thatcher era. The huge windfalls for executives of privatised utilities provoked outrage in the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading to the publication of theCadbury Report(1992)¹ and theGreenbury Report(1995),² and changes in the way that pay for the senior managers of publicly listed businesses was set. Following the onset of the financial crisis in 2007, the continuing growth of executive pay, in contrast with falling wages and declining living standards across most of the UK population, has...

  10. List of Contributors (pp. 187-190)
  11. Index (pp. 191-198)