Tony Blair, once he saw that he was never going to make even an ersatz imitation of Mick Jagger for the circuit which included schools for children with learning difficulties and shelters for drug-addled derelicts, said that, instead, he 'wanted to serve his country'.
A letter in The Times or Telegraph a few days ago was written by someone who said that when he was leaving The London School of Economics after graduating, he asked a friend who had taken the same course, but had come from an African country in order to do so, what line of business he would be going into. His friend said: "Oh, I'm not going into business. I'm going into politics. That's where the real money is."
Of course, many people commented that Tony Blair's claim to want to serve his country was simply a way of saying he wanted to get behind the till; he wanted to have his fingers, not so much on the levers of power, as on the keys of the cash-register. If the two went hand in hand, so much the better.
We are used to the idea now that New Labour was all about leaving the ordinary people to their fate, while sidling up to and seducing big business.
New Labour under Tony Blair was the grinning air-head slapper who would jump into bed with anyone who had the money. The stupid little slut who would turn tricks, tears and tantrums or empty grins or anything else, as long as someone was paying for the party.
Gordon Brown was the grumpy old pro. The old whore who had been around so long, people imagined she must have extra special talents, but it turned out to be just the same service, but for those who were more needy and desperate and less discerning.
So, now we know that politicians are simply hookers with the morals to match, what are we going to do about it?
If history is anything to go by, we will, of course, just let them get away with it. We will pretend to be outraged, but not quite enough to really act and they will pretend to be contrite, but not quite enough to kick the habit of a lifetime.
Perhaps it is the fact that politics has adopted the same morals as business which is to blame. There is no social or political process which has not become subordinated to and controlled by business principles, from the career managerialism of politicians themselves to the fact that people are commodities to be sold to whichever enterprise wants to turn a fast buck on them.
In his book The Corporation, Joel Bakan argues that although many people in business at a high level exhibit tendencies towards psychopathy or schizophrenia, the large corporations for which they work are themselves essentially psychopathic in their constitution and operation.
This is a long quote from the book, which tends to spell out exactly where British politics now stands, after the template on which it is based was broken in America years ago.
The corporation itself may not so easily escape the psychopath diagnosis, however. Unlike the human beings who inhabit it, the corporation is singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context. Not surprisingly, then, when we asked Dr. Hare to apply his diagnostic checklist of psychopathic traits (italicised below) to the corporation's institutional character, he found there was a close match. The corporation is irresponsible, Dr. Hare said, because "in an attempt to satisfy the corporate goal, everybody else is put at risk." Corporations try to "manipulate everything, including public opinion," and they are grandiose, always insisting that "we're number one, we're the best." A lack of empathy and asocial tendencies are also key charcteristics of the corporation, says Hare - "their behaviour indicates they don't really concern themselves with their victims"; and corporations often refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and are unable to feel remorse: if [corporations] get caught [breaking the law] , they pay big fines and they...continue doing what they did before anyway. And in fact in many cases the fines and the penalties paid by the organization are trivial compared to the profits that they rake in."
Finally, according to Dr. Hare, corporations relate to others superficially - "their whole goal is to present themselves to the public in a way that is appealing to the public [but] in fact may not be representative of what th[e] organization is really like." Human psychopaths are notorious for their ability to use charm as a mask to hide their dangerously self-obsessed personalities. For corporations, social responsibility may play the same role. Through it they can present themselves as compassionate and concerned about others, when, in fact, they lack the ability to care about anyoine or anything but themselves.
Take the large and well-known energy company that once was a paragon of social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. Each year the company produced a Corporate Responsibility Annual Report; the most recent one, unfortunately its last, vowed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and support multilateral agreements to help stop climate change. The company pledged further to put human rights, the environment, health and safety issues, biodiversity, indigenous rights, and transparency at the core of its business operations, and it created a well-staffed corporate social responsibility task force to monitor and implement its social responsibility programs. The company boasted of its development of alternative energy sources and the fact that it had helped start the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. It apologised for a 29,000-barrel oil spill in South America, promised it would never happen again, and reported that it had formed partnerships with environmental NGOs to help monitor its operations. It described the generous support it had provided communities in the cities where it operated, funding arts organizations, museums, educational institutions, environmental groups, and various causes throughout the world. The company, which was consistenetly ranked as one of the best places to work in America, strongly promoted diversity in the workplace. "We believe", said the report "that corporate leadership should set the example for community service."
Unfortunately, this paragon of corporate and social responsibility, Enron, was unable to continue its good works after it collapsed under the weight of its executives' greed, hubris and criminality. Enron's story shows just how wide a gap can exist between a company's cleverly crafterd do-gooder image and its actual operations and suggests, at a minimum, that skepticism about corporate social responsibility is well warranted.
There is, however, a larger lesson to be drawn from Enron's demise than the importance of being skeptical about corporate social responsibility. Though the company is now notorious for its arrogance and ethically challenged executives, the underlying reasons for its collapse can be traced to characterisitics common to all corporations: obsessions with profits and share prices, greed, lack of concern for others, and a penchant for breaking the legal rules. These traits are, in turn, rooted in an institutional culture, the corporation's, that valorizes self-interest and invalidates moral concern. No doubt Enron took such characteristics to their limits - indeed, to the point of self-destruction - and the company is now notorious for that. It was not, however, unusual for the fact it had those characteristics in the first place. Rather, Enron's collapse is best understood as showing what can happen when the characterisitics we normally accept and take for granted in a corpoartion are pushed to the extreme. It was not, in other words, a "very isolated incident," as Pfizer's Hank McKinnel described it and as many commentators seem to believe, but rather a symptom of the corporation's flawed institutional character.
We now know what it looks like when a government, a Parliament, models itself on the boardroom of a shyster company.
We know Gordon Brown loves all things American; that he holidayed there when he did not have to pretend that he preferred some bed and breakfast in Skegness for PR reasons; that he almost snogged Obama on camera when he met him.
For Tony Blair, of course, America is just another revenue stream for him and his family.
So, now we know that Parliament - or the mother of all parliaments, as we are told to say when feeling patriotic (which now amounts to about never) - is really just another shabby business at best and a cash-machine or ATM for politicians at worst, we really need to work out whether we should continue to prop it up with our patronage, our custom.
Perhaps what we need to do is insist that all MPs are now de-selected by their constituency parties and new candidates found.
It could be that there are some politicians who are hardworking and honest, but we will never know who they are. For now, those not up to their elbows in filched cash and sleaze could simply be the incompetent or lazy ones.
If we are not going to have the opportunity to line them all up and shoot them, we should at least ensure that they are all cleared out to spend more time on their gardens or their home DIY projects or simply counting their money and their lucky stars for being allowed out with their lives and liberty.
Campaign locally hard enough and this could happen.
What is the point of our outrage if all we do is bottle it up and huff and puff and they just get away scot free and laugh over their shoulders at our stupid impotence?