By John Charles Dyer, UK Correspondent
Tory Whip Andrew Mitchell resigned 19 October, a month after losing his cool in what became known as “Plebgate.” Within 24 hours railway officials caught Chancellor George Osborne in first class with a standard ticket, the second time in five months. An embarrassed Lord Norman Tebbit, an old hand with a serious Tory pedigree attacked the “dog of a Coalition government.” The Daily Mail asked, “Who do they think they are?”
The question resonates with the British
From Plebgate to LOLgate with Savile in between, Britain reels from the shock of one bad headline after another.
Recently ITV revealed that the late Sir Jimmy Savile -- a BBC icon for more than a generation -- may have been a serial pedophile. Subsequent police investigation has already confirmed Savile was for over 50 years a predatory pedophile of epic proportions. BBC & organizations for which Savile was a patron stand accused of enabling the conduct and protecting the secret. It may be the most serious crisis for the BBC in half a century.
Last week also revealed 27 MPs let their homes in order to rent another, whereby they could justify taxpayer reimbursement for “expenses.”
Prime Minister Cameron withheld from the Leveson Hearing emails he sent Rebekah Brooks. Cameron claims “advice of counsel.” He argues the emails were “not relevant" to the hearing.
The Attorney General announced he would not release Prince Charles’ famous (or infamous) “Black Spider letters” (so named for the scrawl not the secrecy). The Guardian requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. The Attorney General justified it to Parliament as necessary to protect Prince Charles’ “neutrality” in his future role as King.
One wonders. If protecting Prince Charles’ credibility was the reason, why did the Attorney General choose a very public forum to say release would damage the future King’s neutrality? Incompetence, Lord Tebbit? Perhaps the Mail uncovered a reason. Recent letters focus on promoting green alternative energy and fuel. One can see why a Conservative government would worry about his neutrality. They would, wouldn't they.
Why is Prince Charles any less free than me to speak his mind? What other multimillionaire is expected to refrain from influencing policy? It may not be wise for the monarchy, but now it seems a perverse freedom that denies freedom of expression to anyone.
Regardless, one point does remain. Prince Charles is a taxpayer funded public figure expressing opinions about public policy. Refusing to release only plays into a growing sense that a culture of "I can get away with anything. I'm untouchable” is out of control, rampant and blatantly uncaring who knows it.
If the idea was to divert attention from government, it failed spectacularly.
I can get away with anything. I'm untouchable.
Working poor who do not receive benefits, the British media, and Conservative politicians complain regularly about “something for nothing culture.” Move aside “something for nothing culture.” The new concern is the “I can get away with anything” culture at “the top” of society.
While his career as a pedophile predates his great success, Savile allegedly thought he could get away with anything because of his connections. He was untouchable because the elite are untouchable.
No where is this alleged insulation of the elite a more touchy issue than with "LOLgate" -- the Prime Minister's failure to turn over his emails to Leveson.
If the emails are merely delicious, he is of course right. They’re irrelevant to Leveson. He called Leveson to investigate the Press not Ministers, per se.
But the public only have Mr. Cameron’s word for that. Relevancy should have been determined by the Judge. He could have done so in camera had Mr. Cameron claimed email content would cause high visibility disrepute without providing relevant information. Perhaps as importantly, Mr. Cameron's advice of counsel necessarily contradicts his claims that Leveson exonerated Jeremy Hunt. One wonders how Leveson can now submit a credible report in November.
Why does a Party heavy hitter brief against a Tory led government in a left-leaning newspaper? Perhaps the clue is in word choice. The “Coalition” was "the dog," the fault “incompetence,” not “flawed policy.” To whom was he speaking? He wasn't reaching out to Tories in the Observer, was he. He wants someone to focus on competence not policy.
Others do draw a link to government policy. American newspapers in particular rapidly connected Cameron's “bad week” with Saturday’s anti-austerity demonstrations.
An estimated 400-500,000 people turned out in London alone to demonstrate against public sector cuts. More turned out in simultaneous demonstrations in other major UK cities. These demonstrations, organized by the 6 million member TUC, may represent how all those members feel. It does represent how many outside the TUC also feel.
The UK's destabilization is an object lesson for America. Remember it not only this November, but in the policy debates the forthcoming election will not really settle. Sometimes "the cure" is considerably worse than the disease.
This noted, the revulsion the headlines embody transcends class, political and policy loyalties. Many still discount their intuition about policy and the misery those policies inflect. They defer to the echo chamber of experts paraded by the media and government.
But they know corruption when they smell it. The experts don’t have a “corner on the market” when it comes to that. This is something into which everyone can sink their teeth and focus their anger upon.
No more "I can get away with anything"
Time may or may not settle whose “take” on the ins and outs of policy and economics is right. More likely time’s verdict will oscillate.
But for the moment, whether Conservative, Leftist, Third Way or just not all that philosophical, Britain convulses in a paroxysm of outrage against unfairnes and its symbols, however large or small. People are mad as hell. They aren’t going to take it anymore. The weeks ahead will likely be at least as bad for the elite as last week.
Good. It has been 83 days since Channel 4 Dispatches and BBC Panorama exposed the ATOS work capability assessment. Nothing's been done. Advocates claim to have documented over 10,000 cases where those found "fit for work" died shortly thereafter. From ATOS to workfare, from Plebgate to LOLgate, it is past due to end "I can get away with anything."
Let us write "not any more" in vivid red across the ugly black of "I can get away with anything."