Monday, 28 March 2016

Honour Where It Is Due

Another anniversary, another plea for a statue to go up in memory of a figure of the past central to the politics and policies of his time.  In November it will be 25 years since Cap'n Bob, that is Robert Maxwell, full name Ian Robert Maxwell, a Scottish name in place of his original Czechoslovakian one, died after falling from his yacht.

Perhaps his memorial should be outside the Treasury building looking towards Parliament.  He did six years there as a Labour M.P. for Buckingham in the late 1960's but on losing the seat in 1970 failed to gain nomination for a safe seat.  In those days of Trade Union power and large Labour local memberships the sons of toil looked askance at high rolling financial men.

Nowadays the serious end of the media and internet discussion on economics and finance goes deep into complicated analysis of the various schools of thought and how far this one or that one are critical to the thinking of those who make, shape or nudge policy.

After trying to get my head round this I have come to the conclusion which others may agree with that all those very busy people in politics and in government do not have the time, or maybe even the interest to study it.  So we have to look back at what or who may have been crucial to their thinking.

Looking at the Osborne or Osbrown or Brownian budgets etc. of recent years, instead of all the high theories that are suggested as the basis, I have concluded that the central influence on policy has been the ideas and actions of Robert Maxwell.

When Major, Blair and Brown and then Darling entered Parliament, not forgetting Jeremy Corbyn, the Main Man of the Media and the big dealer and operator was Maxwell.

They were not the only ones, a great many new M.P's of that period could not avoid knowing about him and the scale and power of his financial operations.

Often they would try to gain his favour and good opinion in the pursuit of their own careers.  Peter Mandelson's paean of praise to the filthy rich might have been a testament to the Maxwellian Theory and Practice of looting the public.  The Wikipedia page gives the complex history of his forty years of high powered business and financial activity.

In 1971, the Department of Trade and Industry had an enquiry which reported " We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell's acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company."

In some ways he was only just beginning.  There were complicated structures of interwoven companies with money being moved and accounts not telling full stories.  There was tax avoidance for certain and very likely a good deal of evasion.

There was secrecy, complicate dealing difficult to explain and all the rest.  But the media and too many politicians loved him, if only for the cash he handed out.

He did after all achieve the pinnacle of society.  He bought a football club, Oxford United, and took it into the top division of the English League.  It did not last long, the money needed to keep it there did not happen.  It then had money problems.  By then he had moved to Derby County, they went bust.

He was big on borrowing and spending, claiming to be good for British business.  He did not tolerate criticism, his manic pursuit of "Private Eye" did have some success.  But how far that was due to teams of expensive lawyers and sympathetic judges is a question.

There was one great project after another, too many either never completed or if achieved at costs vastly greater than estimated or accounted for, all in the name of growing the business.

He knew how to play and pay the media, they were remarkably tolerant and supportive.  He stripped out pension schemes, he stripped out reserves, he borrowed high and lent low, he quickly moved from one thing to another leaving others to clear up the mess.

As I look at the course of the economic and financial control of
government in recent decades more and more they resemble the Maxwell years of business and action.

There is activity for the sake of activity with the bodging and deceits of the figures.  There is one tale after another which never stacks up.  There is financial disaster time and again in the handling and management of so many activities.

He deserves his place at the centre of affairs.  Subscriptions, cash please, for a special account in somewhere I can't reveal and I regret that receipts will not be available.

1 comment:

  1. "After trying to get my head round this I have come to the conclusion which others may agree with that all those very busy people in politics and in government do not have the time, or maybe even the interest to study it."

    That's my conclusion too. They rely on established policy and advice but are not in a position to analyse either to any depth.

    It takes too much time and their minders make sure that time is what they never have. Most have to be satisfied with their PR role and the illusion of power.