Monday, August 09, 2004

From rats to riches

Richard is absolutely right about those rats. And, thanks to what’s foisted on us as trust – often in the catch-all guise of national interest - we’re all complicit in the stunts the ratcatchers pull to protect their investment in rats. The ratcatchers’ reach is chilling and there are giants among the rats. And at the margin rats and catchers become indistinguishable from one another.

For instance, one day a top RAF officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir John Day, leaves his job directing MOD purchases from BAE Systems for the air board and the next day joins BAE Systems, giving a whole new meaning to the term Day-job in the process.

Likewise ex-Andersen ace Chris Wales, one day leaves the treasury after seven years as special adviser on tax to the chancellor and the next day joins Goldman Sachs, top of the range tax dodgers/avoiders (2002 profits £356m, tax paid zilcherooney) as chief tax adviser.

Wales’s move touches on a real rats’ nest of a story. The accounting giant Andersen, despite it being the height of the Tory government’s 1990s wave of sleaze, were denied access to any government work after it became impossible to ignore any longer their ratty role in the DeLorean fiasco. So the androids wooed the opposition – working for nothing - and reaped their rewards when Blair came to power in 1997. Now, amazingly, HMG’s Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is herself a dyed in the wool android who leapt in the other direction from Day and Wales in order to take responsibility for ‘best-practice’ in the rats’ nest she previously inhabited.

The Andersen rat eventually choked on Enron and is of course no longer with us so only four giant rats remain in this particular nest. It’s going to be a very brave ratcatcher who gets rid of one of those.

Nick Cohen's essay It Just Doesn't Add Up (Observer, Aug 8th, 2004) is a brilliant read on this painful POSIWID.

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