Sunday, 23 November 2008

Big Corporatism on the back foot?

I don't know whether you've noticed, but something extraordinary has been happening over the past few weeks.

It started with the Ross-Brand scandal. This was impossible for the BBC to defend; unlike Jerry Springer, which had a strong case on freedom of artistic expression grounds, or even Clarkson's truck driver comments - funny in an adult way - there were no credible grounds to defend the BBC's editorial decision. Previously the BBC have just waited it out, knowing things will blow over, but not this time. They're on the defensive. There's a TV Poll Tax revolt in the offing, and the nation no longer unequivocally supports its biggest corporation. The BBC are now hyper-sensitive to further vulnerabilities.

Today the Mail brands the utility companies 'power thieves' (please take note Phil Bentley, MD of British Gas) for skimming the bank accounts of direct debit customers. Again, they would normally bluff it out - but this time there's a sort of embarrassed 'oops' from them, and a real fear that Darling will force them to regurgitate our gobbled dosh. Again, big corporations not normally so sensitive to public opinion are running scared.

And the banks, for so long hated tyrants against whom ordinary people were powerless, have been humbled. Tens of thousands of people are still waiting to reclaim unfair charges are waiting in the wings, the public are waiting to see the Bank rate passed on and the government are holding a sword over their heads demanding crap or bust. Even Barclays is on the back foot; having lost the moral advantage, Arab money won't help protect them much against a new intolerance now walking abroad.

Councils have also been told to lay-off using anti-terrorism powers to catch litter droppers and folk who put their bins out on the wrong day; retailers are finding how rapidly changes in the public's spending decisions can send big corporate retailers to the wall and are reacting furiously to retain market share; oil companies are actually trying to demonstrate that fuel savings are passed on at the pumps. Big corporations are all looking carefully at top salaries and bonuses, for even if these are strictly the private decisions of those that own the corporations, they are extremely sensitive to public opinion.

I'm hugely encouraged by all this. Big corporatism is allied to the Big State; one hand washes the other. For now, the mood hasn't yet shifted against the central State, and indeed Brown is banking on public support for Big State powers, but I have a feeling this isn't going to last. Just as one can smell snow in the air, I can smell a new zeitgeist in the wind, and it's anti-corporatist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some of this, of course, is down to the One-Eyed Bandit leaning on his clients to produce favourable headlines in the run-up to the snap election he is planning.

But you're right, it is an encouraging development.