In the third new year intervention by the main party leaders on what is being described as “responsible capitalism”, the prime minister revived a signature theme of his time in opposition when he said he would preside over an era of “popular capitalism”.
“I want these difficult economic times to achieve more than just paying down the deficit and encouraging growth,” he said. He also announced a co-operatives bill to give public sector workers a greater chance to create mutuals to deliver public services.
“I want them to lead to a socially responsible and genuinely popular capitalism,” he said.
Meanwhile, the truth about capitalism, high-level corporate managers and the relationship they have with their ever-so-absent shareholders probably runs more along these lines than Cameron would care to admit:
The UK government assumes shareholders are the owners and main risk-bearers of companies. This is not the case. Most shareholders are traders and speculators and have little long-term interest in invigilating companies.
And I do wonder where in the world – when something breaks so profoundly as latterday capitalism – the solution is then to be found in spreading even more of the risk amongst its poorest participants: the working-classes. But I suppose, in this, I ought not to be at all surprised: the ways of the world may always have been as described. So it is that whilst risk is spread cleverly amongst the poor – and its downsides, when they come, as in fact they always must, are eventually paid for by the same – any benefits that ever emerge out of the brutal cycle that is unrepentant capitalism will always be reserved for those who manage our economies principally for their own advantage.
So will we, the voters, readily swallow this political hook of Cameron’s? I’m sure we will – if only because anything which denotes “the people” is surely a “good thing”. From that “people’s car”, then, to the rancid right-wing and now governing Partido Popular in Spain (more background here), when politicians get hold of the epithet that describes “common folk” we can only expect the very worst instincts to flourish.
Trends like these – and others we may perceive – are working together hard to make our blessed Big Society nothing more than an old boys’ network of the retired and semi-retired. Putting people in their places and pigeon-holes is the game we’re playing now.
We are in the process of disenfranchising politically and democratically whole swathes of the population, re-engineering society’s wider expectations and leaving in the hands of both the conservative and the Conservatives amongst us the running of our schools, hospitals, local communities and neighbourhoods.
And all the above will – one day – be a breeding-ground for petty corruption.
Everything this government is doing is all part of the same long-term strategy.
And in the trees that are the detail of a truly popular protest, outrage and revulsion, we lose sight of the fact that the Coalition is still rapaciously destroying our woods. A generation to destroy; a generation to repair; and barely two years to initiate a final countdown none of us could have expected. This is the story of British politics since the 1980s.
And it’s only just begun.