The Establishment: And how they get away with it by Owen Jones
|The Establishment: And how they get away with it by Owen Jones|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A scathing critique of the way that the UK is run for the benefit of the rich and influential. It should be read by everyone.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368/14h52m||Date: September 2014|
|Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks|
|External links: Author's website|
I've been confused since the financial crash of 2008: the crisis was caused by the actions of bankers, but no banker has found themselves on the wrong side of a cell door. In fact it seems that for them life has continued much as usual and to say that they're thriving rather understates the case. You could even be forgiven for thinking that successive governments are going out to bat for them. And who is paying for the actions of the bankers? Well, the disadvantaged, of course. Before the crash David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, pledged to match Labour's spending plans but as Bankers walked out of Lehman Brothers carrying their belongings in cardboard boxes the crisis became an opportunity to backtrack and austerity was born - except that it would be austerity for those at the bottom of the financial ladder rather than those at the top.
As you read The Establishment it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that government predominantly acts in the interests of business and the wealthy elite rather than for the benefit of the whole of society. As Jones interviewed people from the right and the left (predominantly from the left, I felt) from many sectors of public life I became increasingly despondent about the state we are in - and about our ability to make any changes. The examples are too numerous to go through in detail, but his analysis of the actions of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the form of its head, Dave Hartnett, in cutting sweetheart deals with major corporations - and then going on to a job with Deloitte, one of the big four accountancy firms - will leave most people gasping. But Hartnett was not alone. In the decade before the book was published, ex-ministers (including two former Labour Home Secretaries, a former adviser to the deputy Prime Minister and an ex-head of the No 10 Policy Unit as well as senior civil servants moved to the big four.
This might sound suspicious but then consider that the big four second staff to the Treasury and give advice on taxation policy - and they're then giving advice to their clients on how to minimise their liability under the legislation they've been forming. You might remember the government outcry against comedian Jimmy Carr who took part in a tax avoidance scheme: had Carr had friends in high places he might have avoided this. It was quite noticeable that major city figures doing much the same thing didn't suffer the same fate.
Jones looks at every aspect of society with the same rigour. I listened to the audiobook more than a year on from first publication and whilst some of the situations have changed or people appear in different incarnations (Ed Balls was in the Shadow Cabinet, Douglas Carswell was still a Conservative MP and we had a coalition government, for instance) the principles on which society is run have not and may well have got worse. It's often easy to point out what is wrong with society and less simple to lay out a way in which it could be put right or at least improved. Here I was a little disappointed in Jones as I felt he could have been more radical in his suggestions, although I had to agree that a limit on political donations and more transparency about ministerial links with business (just two of his ideas) would be a good start.
I listened to a recording of the book narrated by Jonathan Keeble. Initially I was disappointed that the book was not read by Jones himself. I've heard him speak and found him compelling, but I think on balance that Keeble was the better choice because of the range of voices which he brought to the recording. Jones conducted hundreds of interviews which he draws on and quotes from for the book and a straight reading might have been difficult (if not impossible) to pull off well. I have to say though that his Neil Kinnock was not great!
At this point, I normally thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag - but I bought this download and thought it money well spent.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Campaigns that Shook the World: The Evolution of Public Relations by Danny Rogers.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Establishment: And how they get away with it by Owen Jones at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You could get a free audio download of The Establishment: And how they get away with it by Owen Jones with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Establishment: And how they get away with it by Owen Jones at Amazon.com.