By John Charles Dyer, UK Correspondent
28 July 2012.
It is quiet tonight.
The nation focuses on the Olympics. GS4’s failure to deliver on its security contract, the call up of hundreds of troops to rescue them, Lord Ashcroft’s £7 million NHS profits, even new “hackgate” arrests, are just shadows at the edges of the Olympic sunrise. The Olympics – and the nation’s pride and celebration at holding them – have overwhelmed political news.
To be sure, it is also the Parliamentary recess. But for the moment the warm glow of the Olympics has overtaken the political fuss and fury. The focus engenders a surreal calm, an inexplicable good cheer given the actual state of affairs not only in the UK, the Eurozone and the US, but across the globe.
A good time to reflect.
Mitt Romney triggered a brief flurry. Romney provoked universal indignation commenting negatively on British preparations for the Olympics.
Romney’s staff exacerbated the outrage. Someone “leaked” an alleged security briefing by British intelligence. That just isn’t done. The secrecy of the intelligence service is sacrosanct. Briefings are reserved for a select and cleared few.
An American criticizing British performance is tricky ground indeed, as I am only too aware. I've lost friends offended by mine.
It raises a fair question. How is me being critical any different from Romney?
When I retired to the UK, I embraced my tax paying responsibilities under the Tax Treaty between the US and the UK. I pay full tax on my entire income. I do not avoid those responsibilities by taking advantage of the non domicile provisions of the tax code (which could minimize my tax burden). I pay full freight. I'm proud of it.
Romney allegedly built his wealth in part by minimizing his US tax. When confronted with that allegation, he failed to produce tax returns from a time before he knew he would be running for President so the American people could see the documentation.
Romney, a rich man, allegedly avoids the taxes of the nation he aspires to lead. I, a retired public servant, pay full freight.
I participate actively in civic life. The government (and friends) may not always like what I say, but I am an equal opportunity critic. I am sometimes also positive (as in my comments on the Queen, the actions of the Church of England, and the British Foreign Office). Even when critical, I make constructive suggestions.
Romney simply implied the negative to an American audience without providing constructive suggestion to his British hosts.
Romney came to take for himself the unearned mantle of international prominence. Indulgent fellow Conservative hosts too eagerly agreed. He promptly bit the hand which fed him, by 1) casting a negative shadow on his hosts' preparations (of which they were – and are – very proud), and 2) by his staff, in their eagerness to portray their man as “in the know,” leaking something British politicians with a right to briefings are reluctant even to mention.
I expect nothing from the government not given everyone. Romney used connections to steal an unearned boost to his credentials. Kind of like wearing a purchased Silver Star when one has never seen combat.
So I think it is fair to say my critiques differ from Romney's. Whether the government likes what I have to say or not, even if sometimes stingingly critical, I seek to be a responsible and constructive member of the community in which I live. I believe more Brits recognize that way than do not.
A positive vision for Britain
I have a positive vision for Britain. It isn’t "mine" in an inventive sense. Danny Boyle presented this vision best this very week via the opening ceremony at the Olympics.
It is clear from Britain's response that Boyle's vision is also that of the British public. It remains the British vision despite the earthquake of the so-called “debt crisis”; despite the efforts of the Coalition to associate that vision with irresponsible, profligate spending, and that spending with the cause of the crisis; despite relentless Conservative propaganda that the NHS “needs to change” (ie, by further privatization); despite the smear campaign against so-called “scroungers”; despite the utilization of every sophisticated PR device known to modern advertising in a concerted effort to convince the British they want a "more aspirational” and “competitive” vision for their future; and despite a captive BBC’s daily almost-total emersion of the British public in the viewpoints of “neo-liberalism,” “the markets,” and the government.
Soon the competing visions will once more be tested against reality.
This year’s Olympics will end in a blink of the eye.
Parliament’s 10 week holiday will soon end.
The reality of a failed economy based on a failed economic plan based on a failed neo-liberal vision will not go away. Nor will basic British values. Nor will activists like me. Nor will, now that Boyle has given those values “voice” and vivid form, public awareness of their own vision. It is not an exaggeration to suggest Boyle's ceremony could turn out to be one of those historic moments when a gifted artist's insightful and brilliant presentation changes history by making things suddenly clear.
Is that "Ode to Joy" I hear?
The eye of the hurricane
Tonight’s quiet is the quiet of the eye of the hurricane. The raging storm will return, full force, very soon. The current government will adapt to Boyle’s vision or fall. The British will teach their children, and teach their children to teach their children, to “never again” allow themselves to be seduced by the temporary into abandoning the permanent.
That's Britain …
Are you listening, America?
Consider carefully the British and European nightmare. I've described it over several articles.
Consider carefully your choices this election year.
The GOP may not have put up its best. I can think of some good people are who far more interesting than Romney or any of his competitors in the primary. But make no mistake as to the attractive candidates not running. The GOP embraces the neo-liberal framework.
As a recovering neo-liberal I can love those I knew without losing sight of what they would do given the chance – or the consequences of their doing it. I can love another less, yet know who will be better for my children's future.
Make the wrong choices in November, America, and the storms that beset the UK and the Eurozone today will come all too soon to a shopping mall near you.