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Donnachadh McCarthy is a former vice-chair of the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive. He will be speaking about his forthcoming book The Prostitute State at the Liberal Left fringe on Saturday 8th March at 8pm, room 5 in the Novotel. Ruth Bright is chairing, David Ward MP and Linda Jack will also be on the panel. Here Donnachadh outlines the controversial thesis of his book. 

The Liberal Democrats and The Prostitute State

Ten years after my resignation was demanded by the Lib Dem President Navnit Dholakia from the platform, for daring to tell conference that the Federal Executive was refusing to implement the ban passed by it on Lib Dem Peers selling their services as corporate lobbyists, I decided to write a book about how Britain’s democratic state has become The Prostitute State.   This state has four main pillars – a corrupted political system, a prostituted media, a hijacked academia and a criminal tax-haven system. And make no mistake but the Liberal Democrats are also prostituted.
Pillar 1 – Our Corrupted Democracy

With my colleagues in new radicalism, I got a wide range of eco-friendly and progressive policies adopted by the party-conference. But invariably the corporate lobbyists, who surrounded the party’s leadership, smothered almost every single democratic decision.  Whole swathes of the party’s top echelons are or were corporate lobbyists, including past and present leaders, and holders of senior offices. It is the same in the other major parties.  The political classes have become the corporate lobbying classes. Corporate lobbyists are calling the shots, not we the voters. An angry public is increasingly sensing that no matter who they vote for the lobbyists win.

And you only have to look at the recent plethora of donor scandals enveloping the party to understand that like Labour and the Tories it too has been dragged into the mud by its leaderships. These range from the Michael Brown scandal to the fact that private health corporations have dominated the party’s funding as it co-operated with the Tory privatisation of the National Health Service.  A party claiming to want to clean up British politics cannot be taken seriously when even its former leader David Steel admits that it is those with large open cheque-books who get the party’s nominations to the Lords, rather than those duly elected by the party.

Pillar 2 – Our Prostituted Academia

Our education system including our primary schools, secondary schools or university research departments are increasingly corrupted by corporate domination. Even in inner-city Peckham, the local academy’s teaching policies are now dictated by a Tory Party-donor rather than professional teachers. The same is happening to academies being sponsored by prominent Lib Dem donors. This prostitution of our education system threatens the extinction of independent thought being taught to our future voting citizens.

The national think-tanks which frequently guide government policy are now often merely propaganda fronts for corporations, whether they are oil corporations or the plundering private equity and financial institutions. All of the centre or centre-right think-tanks including the Lib Dem associated Centre Forum refuse to reveal their funders, despite the fact they are quoted in the captured media as “independent” think-tanks and thus helping to manipulate public opinion.


Pillar 3 – The Criminal Tax-Havens

Whilst Deputy Chair of the Lib Dem Federal Executive my efforts to clean up the party’s corrupt funding by rich-donors, who then received peerages or personal access to the leader, were blocked by senior Lib-Dems connected to the off-shore tax-haven cartel. When I examined the other parties, I realised that nearly all the major donors to all three political parties were connected to these appalling tax-havens. Nick Clegg’s General Election Treasurer Lord Clement Jones was a lobbyist for the truly obscene Cayman Islands, breaking both party and the lobbying industry’s rules on parliamentary lobbying.  Alpha Healthcare the Lib Dems’ largest recent donor is ultimately owned by a holding company in the British Virgin Islands. Almost all Tory Treasurers are or have been linked with tax-havens, as were almost all Labour party millionaire donors during the Blair years.

The UK’s web of tax-havens is instrumental in shifting the UK tax-burden from corporations to ordinary workers and the creation of our huge public-spending deficit. They are also the route by which the wealth of the poorest nations on earth is funnelled into UK and western banks, leaving a trail of poverty, disease, and environmental destruction in their wake. By funding our prostituted democracy they ensure their grip remains on international finance and power.

Pillar 4 – Our Prostituted Media
But it is the final pillar The Prostituted Media which ensures that all of the above corruption of our democracy is carried out without fear of the population rebelling to defend our rights and interests. Five tax-avoiding right-wing billionaires control over 80% of UK daily newspapers. 18% of the rest is largely in the hands of international financial corporations, leaving only the Guardian at 2.6% to represent the interests of the non-billionaires. These five billionaires also own vast swathes of our TV, film and book industries, thus exerting an iron grip on almost everything our culture even thinks about.

As long as Murdoch (Sun/Times), Desmond (Express), Rothermere (Mail), the Barclay Brothers (Telegraph) or their ilk monopolise our prostituted media, we will never create the social and environmental justice that so many of us dream and work so hard for.  The recent phone-hacking crisis created a unique legislative opportunity to reform the press but disgracefully Nick Clegg ruled it out from almost immediately.  One really has to question why?

Thus to summarise, as the rich elites and corporations control the production of thought, the dissemination of thought, the implementation of thought and the funding of thought, then we have to admit we no longer live in a democracy but The Prostitute State. And the consequences of this corruption are the destruction not only of social equity but increasingly a cataclysmic environmental destruction that threatens all our futures.

So What Can Be Done?

Whilst the forces ranged against our liberal democracy are immense, societies have successfully overcome such odds before as the UK did with the 19th century Reform Acts and the US did with their anti-trust laws. The first and simplest thing is for each of us personally to stop feeding The Prostitute State. Stop giving it your money. Move your bank accounts, energy supply, newspaper, food buying etc away from the corporate controllers. Buy local products, install or use green energy, read The Guardian, invest ethically and eat organic food from Farmers Markets. Every penny we remove from the corporate world helps cut the funds for the lobbyists hijacking our democracy.

But whilst personal action is crucial for our own integrity – it is not enough. Community action is also vital join whatever political movement your soul feels drawn to, whether that is Unlock Democracy, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, FOE, Greenpeace, the Green Party or fight to regain democratic control within the three main parties.

21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act

But finally and most importantly we must call on Civil Society, from the National Trust to our Trade Unions, from our churches to our credit unions, from our charities to our Transition Town Groups to urgently call for a 21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act as they did in the 19th century, when popular pressure overcame the dictatorial aristocracy through the Reform Acts.

Under such a 21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act politicians must be banned from becoming corporate lobbyists, our precious Fourth Estate freed from corporate-control, academia must be intellectually liberated and the tax-havens closed. We have no time to lose. The global environmental catastrophes and the destruction of social justice are in danger of overwhelming us if we do not act immediately.

The question for the Lib Dems is whether they will remain part of the problem or will the members roll up their sleeves and clean their own prostituted stables out and then join with wider civic society to restore The Democratic State?

Donnachadh McCarthy FRSA is a former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats. His third book The Prostitute State was published in 2014.

"We are seeking to organise opinion that is currently angry but uncoordinated, and unable to make its voice heard as strongly as is necessary."