Obviously I was not there in person, bloggers do not yet receive invitations to such events and bloggers who make it their mission to ridicule our leaders probably never will. No matter the whole show was broadcast and a camera even took us from the security barrier and through the labyrinthine and often surreal clearance process.
A huge temporary shed had been built onto the already ugly building. On getting through the first security check the reporter and cameraman were herded inside the shed. It turned out this was only a holding pen for people to await the real security checks. Vetting the journalists was a long, convoluted and tedious providing a taste of what was to come. So depressing did the prospect seem, several old – hands of the media circus extraordinarily-renditioned themselves away to The City where they could watch the event unfold on TV while comforting themselves with a pint of port wine and a slice of pork and game pie in The Back Bull, a pub that has provided such refuge and refreshment for over four hundred years. The G20 conference lacks a sense of history. The Black bull does not. No wonder The City (so called because it is the part of London that was enclosed by the ancient wall,) used to be known as The Gout Capital Of The World.
Really the whole venue was wrong, not only is Docklands a nightmare to get to and from by motorcade and very difficult to secure, it is also next to London City Airport so the noise of jet engines did nothing to help either speakers or broadcasters. It is a symptom of the governing political party New Labour’s meritocracy or should I say mediocracy that in a city so crammed with ideal venues for the making of history, they could choose one so drab, ugly and logistically unsuitable. We British used to excel at staging big occasions that require pomp and circumstance. Twelve years of, New now rebranded “NuLab” because change equals success, have turned us into a bunch of ham fisted amateurs at organizing everything. The old phrase “couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery” comes to mind.
The Guildhall is a wonderful eighteenth century gothic building crammed with priceless antiques, unique wall hangings and paintings by Old Masters. A far better place perhaps to remind G20 attendees of the difference between themselves, devotees of procedure and academic theory and the adventurers and buccaneers who laid the foundations of the modern world. If security for The ZGuildhall was the problem, though it could not be as much of a problem as the actual venue which is surrounded by immigrant areas, there are other venues in Whitehall, the government district that are almost as impressive and in an area already set up to protect the Royal Palaces and the Houses of Parliament are easily secured.
The ExCel is modern however and modern is the favourite word of NuLab politicians although since last November “change” is running a close second. Ladbrokes and other spread betting forms even run a book on how many times Gordon Brown will use each word in his speeches. NuLab politicians are always telling us they are committed to deliver the change Britain needs if it is to move forward to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Doing things well does not even make the frame. Buzzword obsessed politicians have forgotten change and improvement are very different things.
Once vetted the TV crew led us to the hall itself. Inside the blinds were drawn but the furniture was real. Not so the conference itself which took on a surreal quality as speaker after speaker, all of whom mistrust and hate each other, lined up to sing the praises of the other leaders. One point was repeated over and over again: the financial meltdown was not the fault of politicians Oh no, the world leaders and representatives of lesser nations had behaved with impeccable probity throughout the crisis. The sub – prime mortgage meltdown and the subsequent collapse of global financial markets had all been the fault of the greedy bankers. When organising a witch hunt the first task is to find a wicth.
The best way to put everything right, the speakers all told us, was to trust the politicians. One has to wonder how stupid politicians think ordinary people are?
The world leaders having agreed they are the only people who can save the economic system could not agree how it should be done. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama wanted a stimulus. instead they got a homunculus in the shape of Nicolas Sarkozy. M. Sarkozy said the French did not need any stimulating and directed the Special Relationship boys to Soho, the centre for London’s sleaze business where all sorts of stimuli are available in the sex shops, lap-dancing clubs and certain establishments that cater to gentlemen who “bat for the other team.”
Sarko’s resistance to Obama’s attempts to stimulate him were supported by Germany’s Angela Merkel, possibly the most unstimulating human being alive, Mrs Obama excepted. Poor Michelle is having a problem living up to her newly acquired sex – bomb and fashion icon label. As Shakespeare might have said: Some are born with sex appeal, some develop sex appeal and some have sex appeal thrust upon them. It’s hard to be sexy though when one’s best features are arms. Did anybody ever know a guy who after passing an attractive woman in he street would look over his shoulder and say, “Phwoar, nice arms?
After the politicians had praised each other and blamed the greedy, amoral bankers they moved on to demonising the tax havens. A few minutes of this and completely harmless and often beautiful places like Jersey, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Grand Cayman started to sound like Belial, Chemosh, Bel Shammoreth or Azazel. Let any of these places become your familiar spirit – erm, I mean tax haven of choice and you are going to be in so much trouble from the kind of people who find evil in a cuckoo-clock. The vile tax havens are depriving honest governments of much needed revenue that ought to be spent on socially desirable projects like jollies for politicians and mag-lev rail trcks to nowhere. What other projects might need these trillions of Dollars, Pounds and Euros? Well if you listen to the G20 leaders you will learn that the military need bigger armies, academics need bigger academies, environmentalists need bigger environments, bureaucrats need bigger bureaux and tax eaters* need bigger pork barrels
So recovery is simple then, have the greedy bankers burned at the stake and take control of the tax havens. The problem with attacking tax havens is they are in most cases sovereign territories. The big nations cannot tell them what to do. And of those that are not sovereign territories, well the biggest tax haven in the world with the most super-rich friendly tax regime, the mother of all tax havens, the Cthulhu of fiscal criminality is none other than London which has the most lenient tax arrangement for non – domiciled business.
A slight conflict of interest there maybe. Or an indication that nobody really has the first idea how to get out of the current mess. Instead of steering us safely away from the storm the leaders have misread their compass and set us on a course towards the maeldtrom that may drag us down into the abyssal depths of slump.
One thing people need to be clear about to save them for falling for the hogwash politicians use to clean out the pork barrels is that tax havens are not involved in tax evasion any more than the hot dog vendor in your town is involved in tax evasion when not asking each customer, “Did you come by the money you paid for this dog honestly and declare the income on your tax return?” Do we really want a society in which we are all required to spy on each other for the government?
Tax havens do not ask many questions. Does your bank question you about how you came by the money when you deposit cash? If they do, change your bank. Business, from the hot dog vendor to the international banker has always depended on good faith. The business tax havens are really in is tax avoidance which is legal. Tax evasion is a crime and no government is keen to assist criminals from other countries.
The people who make use of tax havens merely exploit laws made by the same governments that are now denouncing tax havens. If those governments were more competent at framing their laws and not so greedy for tax revenue to feed the insatiable appetite for money of bureaucracies tax avoidance would not be a problem.
Governments will never accept that maybe they are approaching a problem from the wrong direction so what the G20 delegates agreed to do after pointing the finger of blame is have a Witch Hunt. They have their devils, the tax havens, they have their witches, the bankers. The next step will be trial. During the witch hunts of the Inquisition it was trial by ordeal; the accused would be ducked in water, buried under heavy stones, thrown on a fire or tossed from a church roof. If she survived it proved her guilt because The Devil had obviously helped her, if she did not survive she died without a stain on her character. I suspect the bankers and the people who govern tax havens will suffer a worse fate, trial by media.
Be wary, the hysteria of witch hunts is extremely contagious. The sad thing is the bankers though not blameless are not entirely responsible for the crisis. irresponsible government spending played a big part too. The only thing we can conclude from the G20 is that the world leaders are clueless and their hugely costly exercise in diversion was a festival of windbaggery.
Belial and Chemosh should be familiar to people who read The Bible and Azazel to Jewish readers. Bel Shammoreth is an Archdemon in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld comedy novels and Cthulhu is from H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.
*tax eaters: a phrase coined by 19th century social reformer William Cobbett.
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