Saturday, 4 February 2012

"Public interest" and the hypocrisy of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Whatever the ultimate outcome of prosecuting Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce, about the only statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions that made coherent sense was his final recognition that they have a right to a fair trial.  Not being privy to all the information (one hesitates to use the term "facts") available to the prosecution, or indeed the defence, makes it inappropriate to have any opinion on the guilt or otherwise of the protagonists.  The situation has moved from Feydeau to Strindberg with shocking speed.

The DPP is a public servant, and therefore his or her role is to serve the public interest.  What would be more interesting is to understand the definition of "public interest" that is now being used to determine the actions of state servants.

Last week the man whose actions were at least partly responsible for the depression was stripped of his knighthood.  Leaving aside the asinity of the British honours system, this was a near-costless body-swerve by politicians whose main aim was to be seen to be addressing the corrupt and self-serving system that has brought the country to its knees.  It didn't actually achieve anything, as Goodwin is long gone and tarnished goods licking his wounds on a generous pension, but it did make the politicians look good while doing precisely nothing to address banking regulation, excessive rewards and the failure to reform business practice.  Was this the "public interest"?

Simultaneously, the bankers that we, as the public, have bailed out and continue to support in the style to which they were accustomed while they were pillaging pension funds and creating a bubble economy, thought that they might take advantage of Goodwin's humiliation while taking their annual bonus round. While pumping milliions into the London property market is clearly good news for those already there, it is difficult to see how you can justify rewards for failure - profitability down, lending seized up and no immediate prospect of even starting to compensate the taxpayer for our enforced largesse.  And again the smokescreen gets put up with a couple of highly-paid sacrifices at the top of RBS, while millions still get allocated to the tier below them. 

This is hardly recognising and learning from past mistakes.  As an aside, "Dame" Angela Knight, the apologist for the parasites, was given a skewering by Polly Toynbee on the radio this morning and for once I can forgive the latter her simplistic pro-Labour simpering - the cretinous Dame considers that rewarding failure and creating distortions in the labour market is an appropriate stimulus for the economy, as without the banks' fabled wealth-creating ability, where would we be?  I rest my case.

Mister Ed has finally awoken to the reality that people are fed up with bonuses that are either seen as a reward for failure or as a means to avoid tax and further class envy for simply turning up to work.  This is not an anti-capitalist argument, but one of justice.  However, there remain incentives to maintain this culture as the bonus issue is much less pervasive, and not even as fundamental, as the complete ineptitude and unaccountability of leaders of politics, government, banking and industry.  That would be a real public interest issue.

Which is where we come back to the case of the MP for Eastleigh (blighted role, in retrospect, albeit profitable for greengrocers).  In the cosmic scheme of things, the "conspiracy to pervert" is not exactly on the scale of Jack the Ripper, the Krays or even the Farepak Christmas Club debacle. Indeed, you could argue that with Dave the Hamster's constant harping on about marriage as a state elevated above all other, that there should be a defence that your criminality is my criminality.  One suspects that had the events not involved a Cabinet Minister they would have been left on file, but the "public interest" requires media coverage and the marketing of newspapers - many of whom detest the Liberals and whose quarter-witted cheerleading for the Tories is well-served by the subconscious linkage to eccentric figures down the ages (Thorpe, Lloyd George) that will doubtless get trotted out at some point in the future.

The DPP doubtless enjoyed his moment in the spotlight - what will be interesting is how far this has merely taken a personal tragedy for the accused and turned it into a media feeding frenzy.  If this turns out to be the case, then it will be another fissure in the decaying carcass of English public life.

2 comments:

  1. There certainly seem to be some double standards. Nobody is perfect and we need to recognise that. Clearly someone has stripped the K as they place the subject on a par with Blunt. As you will recall, he was dealt with in a suspiciously lenient way, when, technically, he could have been executed. Perhaps the risk of downfall is inversely proportional to the volume of dirt that one has on one's opponents.

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  2. Agreed - and it's interesting to note that this is causing ripples across all those who currently hold or might receive honours. The prospect that you can be judged retrospectively is quite interesting - Blunt was after all guilty of a criminal offence as opposed to mere incompetence. If they're seriously suggesting organised fraud in the banks then there should be criminal proceedings.

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