Monday, November 10, 2014

The establishment's game is up

By now, the British establishment's playbook is well-known. The establishment fails or commits crimes - miscarriages of justice, mass-murder, racism, gross negligence. The public learns and is outraged. The establishment announces an "independent" inquiry, headed by one of their own. The inquiry drags on forever, giving time for public anger to dissipate. When it eventually reports, it whitewashes everything and holds no-one accountable. Nothing changes. The establishment then goes on to commit further crimes. Delay, whitewash, repeat.

This particularly British solution relies on one thing: deference. The government's victims had to be too polite to question the inquiry, even if they know the game is rigged. That deference towards the establishment has now collapsed. In the past few weeks we've seen the second chair of the government's inquiry into the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal resign because, like her predecessor, she was too close to the people she was supposed to be investigating. And now we have human rights organisations denouncing the government's "inquiry" into rendition and torture and refusing to endorse it with their participation - again, because the inquiry agency, the intelligence and security committee, lacks any pretence of independence. The result in both cases has been to strip these inquiries of their credibility - and the establishment of its excuses.

The message to the establishment is clear: the game is up. Inquiries must be truly independent, rather than "safe", and they must result in justice, not more whitewashes. The question is whether the establishment will get the message - and whether, in the context of Britain's unfair, undemocratic electoral system, it will matter anyway.