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DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...

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Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron,

Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?

As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values.

Even worse, your neglect led him to fall in with a bad crowd. He became best friends with a young man who set fire to buildings for fun. And others:

There’s Michael Gove, whose wet-lipped rage was palpable on Newsnight last night. This is the Michael Gove who confused one of his houses with another of his houses in order to avail himself of £7,000 of the taxpayers’ money to which he was not entitled (or £13,000, depending on which house you think was which).

Or Hazel Blears, who was interviewed in full bristling peahen mode for almost all of last night. She once forgot which house she lived in, and benefited to the tune of £18,000. At the time she said it would take her reputation years to recover. Unfortunately not.

But, of course, this is different. This is just understandable confusion over the rules of how many houses you are meant to have as an MP. This doesn’t show the naked greed of people stealing plasma tellies.

Unless you’re Gerald Kaufman, who broke parliamentary rules to get £8,000 worth of 40-inch, flat screen, Bang and Olufsen TV out of the taxpayer.

Or Ed Vaizey, who got £2,000 in antique furniture ‘delivered to the wrong address’. Which is fortunate, because had that been the address they were intended for, that would have been fraud.

Or Jeremy Hunt, who broke the rules to the tune of almost £20,000 on one property and £2,000 on another. But it’s all right, because he agreed to pay half of the money back. Not the full amount, it would be absurd to expect him to pay back the entire sum that he took and to which he was not entitled. No, we’ll settle for half. And, as in any other field, what might have been considered embezzlement of £22,000 is overlooked. We know, after all, that David Cameron likes to give people second chances.

Fortunately, we have the Met Police to look after us. We’ll ignore the fact that two of its senior officers have had to resign in the last six weeks amid suspicions of widespread corruption within the force.

We’ll ignore Andy Hayman, who went for champagne dinners with those he was meant to be investigating, and then joined the company on leaving the Met.

Of course, Mr and Mrs Cameron, your son is right. There are parts of society that are not just broken, they are sick. Riddled with disease from top to bottom.

Just let me be clear about this (It’s a good phrase, Mr and Mrs Cameron, and one I looted from every sentence your son utters, just as he looted it from Tony Blair), I am not justifying or minimising in any way what has been done by the looters over the last few nights. What I am doing, however, is expressing shock and dismay that your son and his friends feel themselves in any way to be guardians of morality in this country.

Can they really, as 650 people who have shown themselves to be venal pygmies, moral dwarves at every opportunity over the last 20 years, bleat at others about ‘criminality’. Those who decided that when they broke the rules (the rules they themselves set) they, on the whole wouldn’t face the consequences of their actions?

Are they really surprised that this country’s culture is swamped in greed, in the acquisition of material things, in a lust for consumer goods of the most base kind? Really?

Let’s have a think back: cash-for-questions; Bernie Ecclestone; cash-for-access; Mandelson’s mortgage; the Hinduja passports; Blunkett’s alleged insider trading (and, by the way, when someone has had to resign in disgrace twice can we stop having them on television as a commentator, please?); the meetings on the yachts of oligarchs; the drafting of the Digital Economy Act with Lucian Grange; Byers’, Hewitt’s & Hoon’s desperation to prostitute themselves and their positions; the fact that Andrew Lansley (in charge of NHS reforms) has a wife who gives lobbying advice to the very companies hoping to benefit from the NHS reforms. And that list didn’t even take me very long to think of.

Our politicians are for sale and they do not care who knows it.

Oh yes, and then there’s the expenses thing. Widescale abuse of the very systems they designed, almost all of them grasping what they could while they remained MPs, to build their nest egg for the future at the public’s expense. They even now whine on Twitter about having their expenses claims for getting back to Parliament while much of the country is on fire subject to any examination. True public servants.

The last few days have revealed some truths, and some heartening truths. The fact that the #riotcleanup crews had organised themselves before David Cameron even made time for a public statement is heartening. The fact that local communities came together to keep their neighbourhoods safe when the police failed is heartening. The fact that there were peace vigils being organised (even as the police tried to dissuade people) is heartening.

There is hope for this country. But we must stop looking upwards for it. The politicians are the ones leading the charge into the gutter.

David Cameron was entirely right when he said: “It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to think that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and that their actions do not have consequences.”

He was more right than he knew.

And I blame the parents.

*** EDIT – I have added a hyperlink to a Bullingdon article after a request for context from an American reader. I have also added the sentence about Nick Clegg as this was brought to my attention in the comments and it fits in too nicely to leave out. That’s the way I edited it at 18:38 on the 11th August, 2011 ***

***EDIT 2 – I’ve split the comments into pages as, although there were some great discussions going on in them, there were more than 500 and the page was taking *forever* to load for some people, and not loading at all for others. I would encourage everyone to have a poke around in the comments, as many questions and points have been covered, and there are some great comments. Apologies if it looks like your comment has disappeared.  ***

Since writing a blog post about those film-makers who were happy to see the back of the Film Council, I’ve had a couple of debates with people who thought that I supported the closure of the UKFC. To make it clear, I’ll repeat what I said in that post:

So, whilst I have sympathy with those who say that the Film Council was exclusive and a force that stifled the industry; whilst I agree that the slate of films produced since 1999 is, apart from those of Andrea Arnold, staggeringly mediocre (compared to the exuberance of the 1990s); whilst I agree that the enormous sums spent on salaries and offices don’t seem like the best use of limited resources, and that way in which the Digital Screen Network was implemented was a scandal, I’m not whooping with delight to see the back of the Film Council. It was an ideological move, the implications of which have not been thought through, and that could potentially be devastating for inward investment if that work is not maintained. [emphasis mine. Well, obviously, I wrote it the first time too, but, you know…]

I think that the UKFC has been a moderate success in promoting Britain as a centre for production for Hollywood films. I think it has been a relative failure in promoting a self-sustaining British film industry outside that template.

Today, news has emerged in The Independent that Ed Vaizey, stung by the high-profile defences of the UKFC, the 5,000 people on Facebook who want to save it, and the 25,000 signatures on a petition to that effect, has called members of the Film Council in to demand an explanation. In Vaizey’s world, these people only hold these opinions because the UKFC told them  to.

In the Fantasy Land of Ed Vaizey, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood have nothing better to do with their days than to get involved in funding disputes in foreign countries that will not affect them one way or the other. In the FLoEV people think that the UKFC is symbolic of the British film industry as a whole because they are wilfully being misled by radicals like Bill Nighy rather than the fact that that’s exactly what it was set up to do. It was meant to be the visible face of the British film industry, your one-stop shop for film in Britain. The fact that people think it is tends to suggest that it was quite effective in at least one way…

Mr Vaizey’s letter seems to be most infuriated by the fact that the UKFC claim that they are actually doing a good job: “It looks as though sources at the Film Council have been overzealously briefing in order to protect their interests. As a result they may be damaging the film industry that they purport to represent.”

Yes, in the Fantasy Land of Ed Vaizey, a Film Council that said: “Actually, you’re right. We’re pretty incompetent. We were going to fund a good film once, but the script got lost in the aftermath of one of our larger money-fights. John Woodward had just copped a bunch of £20 notes in the eye, and may have shredded it out of pique.” That would be better for the film industry than having an organisation that champions its own work, when its major role has been to champion its own work around the world.

And the height of the flatulent, pompous imbecility that furnishes much of the Fantasy Land of Ed Vaizey is the idea that summoning the UKFC to his offices, like a headmaster who has just found an exercise book of ribald limericks in the boy’s showers, and telling The Independent all about it will, in some way, not make him look like a massive twonk. If this sort of thing doesn’t stop, he will be keeping the whole British film industry in after school. There will be no tax breaks for anyone, if you can’t behave. It’s your own time you’re wasting…

Perhaps he would like to interview the UKFC about their poor value for money whilst sitting on the £467 sofa he tried to make to taxpayer foot the bill for, sipping quietly from a nice glass of red balanced on his £607 table.

The most unnerving thing, however, isn’t the unnecessary and juvenile macho posturing, but the fact that this doesn’t seem to have been anticipated. Although the DCMS has claimed that there will be £3 million more invested in British films, and that the inward investment tax break will continue, they haven’t explained how this is to work at all, and it appears that they haven’t explained it because they just don’t know.

Generally muttering something vague about the BFI is not going to satisfy people that this isn’t politically motivated, or that the DCMS has given it any real thought. The fact that it was done without consultation as a testosterone-fuelled sop to the more frothing Tory commentators only makes it look worse. The people of Britain cherish the illusion that they have a film industry and the UKFC is a large part of that illusion, as it was designed to be. The DCMS may as well have oiled themselves up, dragged Richard Curtis into a gym and beaten him bloody with dumbells.

We’re told that the inward investment will continue, but we were told that immediate government cuts on the scale we have seen would cause a double-dip recession. We were told that the NHS was safe in your hands. We were told that the we would regain ‘a sense of decency and liberty’ when dealing with migrants.

The reason people are still worried despite your protestations, is that they don’t believe you. Your protestations have, on the whole, turned out to be, for want of a better word, arse-dribble. From the need to raise VAT to nuclear power stations, statements made by any member of the coalition government have turned out to be the worst sort of guffluent, excused by ‘the structural deficit we could not possibly have known about’. Apart from by looking at the budget in any one of the last 13 years.

When any department makes any commitment to future spending, we must assume that the minister responsible is crossing their fingers behind their back, when they’re not actively chuckling behind their well-manicured hands.

It’s not the UKFC’s briefings that make us fear for the future of the British film industry, Mr Vaizey, it’s you.

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