Thursday, March 15, 2007

Like a banana republic without the bananas (redux)

One of the myths that sustains your average Britisher through these difficult times is the persistent belief, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that British institutions are essentially straight.

Whenever a corruption story breaks, someone somewhere will inevitably comment ‘
We should always remember that British public life is largely free of the corruption that blights so many other countries, even some of our European neighbours such as Italy for example

Yup, not as bent as Italy. Now that’s something to be proud of.

Two of these three people are deceitful sociopaths. The third is dressed as a pirate

In order to maintain the belief in Britain’s essential incorruptibility it is also necessary to maintain another national myth and that is that the British are uniquely gifted when it comes to fucking things up to start with but always muddling through in the end.

So, that way, when we are told the projected cost of the Olympics has risen from £2.4bn to £9.3bn in a year and a half (with five years still to go) we can happily convince each other that this didn’t happen because people were lying through their thieving teeth but because they are shit at their jobs.

It's also worth noting that the British are also uniquely gifted when it comes to dissonance.

Lord Coe... having a laugh

How else can you explain the goings on surrounding the Serious Fraud Office’s decision to terminate a major corruption investigation into the UK's biggest arms company, BAE.

The new Eurofighter - now available with 'Cashback'...

I’m looking at two separate articles on the story; one from the BBC, one from the FT. The BBC article includes quotes from an interview with the head of the Serious Fraud Office and says…

The head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has defended his decision to drop a corruption probe into a defence deal between BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Robert Wardle said he had come under no political pressure to drop the inquiry.

Mr Wardle said he had made the decision independently, following warnings that continuing the probe could damage UK national security.

The FT article includes quotes from Tony Blair and a Downing Street spokesperson and says…

Tony Blair on Friday defended the government’s decision to halt a Serious Fraud Office inquiry into bribery allegations against BAE Systems, saying he took full responsibility for the move…

…the attorney general, decided to end the inquiry on security grounds and because of uncertainty over whether the case would lead to a prosecution.

Even if you manage to zone out the apparent contradiction between the SFO claiming that there was no political pressure and the politicians freely admitting that they exerted political pressure there’s still the small matter of both the SFO and Prime Minister freely admitting that Britain’s national interests are somehow dependent on paying massive bribes.

Hmmm… definitely not like Italy at all


And on a not entirely unrelated subject…

I saw an excellent little film last week called ‘Thank you for Smoking

The movie is basically a guide to how people gifted with a certain degree of ‘morale flexibility’ can effectively lobby for causes and interests which, on the face of it, appear to be indefensible.

The trick is never to try and win an argument but, instead, throw in as many new arguments as possible, whether relevant or not, and baffle the shit out of everyone.

So, if someone is pressing you about the harmful effects of cigarettes you start talking about the cholesterol content of cheese, or personal liberties, or anything else you can think of – just keep talking and always answer a question with a question and an argument with another argument. Even if there is only one side to a story always pretend that there are two or, if possible, a hundred

There was a nice illustration of the principle in action on the BBC last night. A reporter covering the OECD’s condemnation of Britain dropping the BAE fraud inquiry said something along the lines of...

'35 out of 36 countries are condemning the British decision to drop the fraud investigation but British officials maintain that national security was at stake and therefore Britain has done nothing wrong. So Jeremy, there is some debate as to the significance of the OECD's statement'

Sheer genius…


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