The furore that has dominated Britain's media over the case of Maria Miller MP, UK Culture Secretary and member of Prime Minister David Cameron's government who is the latest in a long line of politicians to become embroiled in scandal over their expenses, is a reminder that rather than the exception, corruption is now the norm within the key institutions at the heart of the British establishment. For a country whose political leaders, intelligentsia, and media commentators have made a habit of pointing the finger at governments, countries, and political systems around the world, adjudging them to be corrupt and morally deficient, the scale of the hypocrisy in this regard is truly astounding.
In recent years we have witnessed scandals involving the City of London, the main driver of the UK economy, surrounding the greed and recklessness responsible for an economic crisis that has delivered thousands of people into destitution. Yet at time of writing not one British banker has been prosecuted or faced any legal sanction for the economic chaos that has engulfed the country. Worse, the bonus culture that is prevalent in the City of London, and in corporate boardrooms in general, rather than being curtailed, has remained in place, thus ensuring that an emphasis on short term profits and personal enrichment continues to take priority over long term investment and sustainability when it comes to the UK economy.
The phone hacking scandal which initially emerged a few years ago, whereby the illegal practice of hacking people's telephones was revealed to have been widespread among leading newspapers in the UK, exposed the fact that the press in Britain has for years been an out of control monster, used a weapon by editors and newspaper owners to further their own political agendas, regardless of the lives - many of them innocent - destroyed in the process. Moreover it exposed the lie that anything resembling a 'free press' exists in Britain. In truth the newspaper industry in the UK is owned by a small number of extremely rich individuals, some of whom, like Rupert Murdoch, are not even eligible to vote in the country yet wield an unhealthy influence over its democratic process. The resulting Leveson Inquiry into the phone hacking scandal concluded with a set of recommendations designed to apply some measure of legal oversight to the press industry and its practices, curtailing its ability to exist and proceed without any accountability other than the status quo of self regulation that is manifestly broken. The sight of the press asserting the role of victim, in essence asserting the right to continue as before, is a prime example of the adage that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
London's Metropolitan Police has been embroiled in more scandals than you will find in your average French novel by this point. Allegations of institutionalised racism, brutality, criminality, and financial impropriety on the part of police officers investigated and convicted of taking bribes, arrive on a regular basis at the door of Scotland Yard. Indeed it has gone well past the point where the problem can de credibly described as down a few rotten apples. By now it is evident that the entire barrel is rotten, institutionally corrupt as a culture of impunity risks the public perception of the Metropolitan Police as no better than a criminal gang rendering null and void the principle of 'policing by consent' that we are told informs its methodology and relationship to society.
But it's not only the Met where corruption has been exposed in the police in Britain. The Hillsborough disaster of 25 years ago, now the subject of a long overdue public inquest, constitutes the most egregious example of police corruption Britain has ever seen. Statements doctored, a cover up involving the collusion of certain newspapers and newspaper editors, the smearing of the dead and their families and communities, all this leaves little doubt that rather than protecting the public and upholding the law, in far too many cases the police in Britain do the very opposite.
Corruption within the British political system is now so commonplace that when another example of it is made public, as we've just seen when it comes to Maria Miller, it no longer shocks or surprises us. What it does do is re-enforce the view that a sense of entitlement and privilege is so embedded within the British establishment as to make a mockery of words such as integrity and democracy. Making it even worse is that it comes at a time when the most economically vulnerable in Britain are on the receiving end of a vicious assault by the government, seeing their benefits, wages, and conditions cut to the bone on the justification they are no longer affordable because of an economic crisis they weren't responsible for creating in the first place.
The next time we hear politicians and newspaper columnists in the UK excoriating their counterparts in other countries, we would do well to recall the words of Noam Chomsky: "For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit."