Today I was tweeting around the definition of a new label: capinhanditalism.  It’d be like what some of us might call “traditional” capitalism, except that where it existed, business, government and the body politic more widely would take every opportunity to exacerbate and impose on the less well-off the miseries of having to go cap-in-hand to obtain goods and services.  Whether you were a patient or a worker, a benefit recipient or a pensioner, everything and anything would depend on the largesse of this power-hungry, unabashedly shameless octopus of an updating of the social-democratic (but even so fundamentally capitalistic) instincts we all once so hopefully grew up with in the Sixties and Seventies.

This expression of capinhanditalism is currently being exhibited in the following ways by our Coalition government:

  • brutalising the labour market, so the working poor become the norm
  • brutalising the welfare state, so the disabled, sick and unemployed become the source of our problems and deserving of our condemnation
  • brutalising the perception of difference across the globe: whilst the wealthy are given free rein to cross frontiers at their whim, the less well-off are characterised as invading immigrants
  • brutalising the definition of what a successful life must be judged as: where it may be measured in monetary terms, it is good; where it may only be measured qualitatively, it is irrelevant

Capinhanditalism also attempts to replace evidence-based discourse and professionals with content and actors prepared to use anecdote and prejudice to base future process and procedure on.  And it even dresses up the battleground of society as basically ideological – evil left-wingers on the one hand, measured right-wingers on the other – when in essence the battleground is purely materialistic: a culture of the scrounging rich, massively aiming to divert public funds to private pockets versus a culture of the ever-undeserving poor, massively accused of living off the state.

The intellectual injustice – and, indeed, logical contradictions – couldn’t be greater.

But today I discovered a potentially alternative definition of this capinhanditalism I have stumbled across.  My last post joked in the following way:

So here we have it: not the McMenu of burger yore but the DemocMenu of 21st century Coalition democracy!!! Everything government wanted to know about monetising the relationship between MP and constituent – but never (until now) dared to ask:

  1. 10 quid for the honour of a surgery session with your MP (refundable if you’re proved not to be wasting their time).
  2. 100 quid for a letter to the PM (150 quid if you get a response).
  3. 1000 quid if your MP appears on “Daybreak”, representing your issue (non-refundable even if they bollock it up – after all, all publicity is good publicity).
  4. 10,000 quid if your MP darkens the House of Commons (God forbid!!!), and manages to get your name right (15,000 quid if the BBC reports on it live, and manages to get your name and age right).
  5. 100,000 quid if the outcome of your MP’s efforts actually addresses the issues you raised in the first place (and especially if it does so before you die of painful infirmity).

Never for one moment, in my naive state of ignorant bewilderment, did I think this actually happened.  But if you click to this webpage of the British Conservative Party, you will find (at least at the time of writing this post) a scale of payments which offers different levels of access to members – even executive members – of at least one of the current governing parties.  Meanwhile, below we have an example of what paying the full whack will get you at the very top table:

The Leader’s Group

Annual membership: £50,000 Chairman: Howard Leigh

The Leader’s Group is the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.

Now far be it for me to enter into the debate around party funding.  This evening isn’t about that.  The matter is quite different.

The analogy I used just now on Twitter would run as follows: imagine a corporate body where a new CEO gets to power by lobbying shareholders via a privately funded operation. They do it with their own money; it’s their own support network and is obviously their own victory.  Once at the top of the pyramid, they start to make the board entirely their own: bringing in new directors etc bit by bit.  They begin to use company communications/PR resources to lay the foundations of their control of the whole worldwide operation.  They then proceed to set up donation events, where money is channelled not into the corporation but, rather, back into their privately funded support network.  Now surely this would be an example of using a corporate role to privately enrich a quite separate body, which the leader (both corporate CEO on the one hand and support network CEO on the other) also led and controlled quite separately.  And so we would have the conflict of interests which is the object of my complaint – a serious conflict of interests, in fact, if there ever was one.  (Not illegal though, I hasten to add.  All above board in all their particulars.  But a conflict where even with the best will in the world, no one could humanly manage to do what would be democratically constructive.)

So just to underline: in the example of David Cameron, his being Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, the CEO would equal his role as PM, the corporation would be government and the Conservative Party would be the privately funded support network which brought him to power in the first place.  (We could even argue, if we were inclined to operate in bad faith, that the corporate communications/PR resources the analogous CEO went on to use could find their equally analogous structures in the recent journalistic impulses of our once treasured BBC.)

Mind you, I guess this kind of capinhanditalism upsets mainly only me.  The reaction on Twitter has been really rather muted.  It would seem such piggybacking of party funding on roles of stately and executive importance is so common and traditional, no one sees the moral incongruence.  And by saying “all parties do it” the problem is dismissed.

Well.  I’m writing this so it doesn’t get altogether forgotten.  If someone becomes PM, their job should be to represent us all.  Otherwise the way our representative democracy will begin to work means only those who can fork out the 50,000 quid in question can be adequately represented.  And even if you think that, in such a way, it’s OK for a PM (any PM) to use their public position to lever private funds into the pockets of their private support organisations, you must also accept that some of the pork-barrel implications for our clearly delicate democracies are not exactly the happiest in the world.

Oh don’t you just love these capinhanditalisms we’re forging so fiercely and determinedly together!

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