London is the economic and political centre of Great Britain, and with such a lofty honour comes great risk: almost all nationwide disasters have London as their epicentre, and last week’s revelation of dishonest banking practices has shoved the reality of a truly ugly thing in the electorate’s faces. Time and again, we are reminded that financial services are one of the few industries London and the UK can claim global dominance in.

No wonder political participation is at an all time low: the economy and politics are such interdependent entities, a problem in one will inevitably manifest consequences in the other to the public. Nowhere has reality been more obvious than this disastrous week for the Coalition. It is true that only Barclays has been specifically targeted along with its CEO, Bob Diamond, but other banks are also going to be investigated and soon politicians will also be forced to re-examine their cosy ties to the suits in the City.

…a rather disturbing, almost overwhelming onslaught of cuts and slashes to the safety nets and lifelines of our society’s most vulnerable…

There is something perplexingly dysfunctional about our politics and economics. Not that our democracy is flawed as a concept, but some important pieces are not functioning the way they should. Anyone can tell that both our economy and political movements are stagnant, stymied, unsure of direction. There is no real dynamism in the UK’s political landscape any more, and even the drama of the Tories’ recent mid-term defeats did not highlight any change in social consciousness by the electorate or politicians. It was simply indicative of outrage or disillusionment in a sizeable segment of British society and apathy in the majority. And now we have this. Will the sleaze never end? Most dishearteningly of all, I doubt whether our politicians have the willpower or the authority to set things right. 

The Coalition’s politics and the rotten economics of British finance make an excellent intellectual exercise and juicy debate over coffee. However, it cannot be forgotten that real lives of flesh and blood and emotions are being affected by the stuff-ups and callousness of those responsible for the pile of bullshit that was left on our doorstep at the end of this week. In recent months we have been subjected to a rather disturbing, almost overwhelming onslaught of cuts and slashes to the safety nets and lifelines of our society’s most vulnerable.

…I wait with bated breath for his fiery, courageous challenge…

I’ve always avoided the fallacy of assigning different values to different parties (conservative = responsible; liberal = compassionate), but I always saw myself as vaguely left-wing. My gratitude of being brought up comfortably and given the freedom to pursue my interests has forced me to be mindful of how lucky I and many of my peers are. When you know how lucky you are, blaming everything on benefits scroungers and immigrants is only entertaining for so long. Then you realize that the most self-destructive thing one can do in times of hardship is to rally against each other, to be divided and conquered.

The vast majority of benefits claimants are not out of work, and I bet most of them are working very hard indeed. I presume David Cameron’s recent throw down against claimants is to lay down the law for scroungers and cheaters who claim more money than they should. But now we know who else has been claiming more money than they should, and it was through trying to manipulate an international financial system called LIBOR. If our PM can talk so tough with the benefits cheaters, I wait with bated breath for his fiery, courageous challenge to the banking cheaters, the ones who have cheated not only the taxpayer’s money, but so many small businesses that the government enjoys giving lip service to so often. The coming weeks will tell us even more about just what has gone wrong with our country’s political and economic infrastructure.

 

About The Author

A journalist of religion, Raymond is the editor of Buddhistdoor International. He divides his time between London and Hong Kong and can be reached at raymond@buddhistdoor.com.

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