Editorial: How to lose friends and alienate people

It would be hard to devise a scenario more likely to set the UK media drooling than the storyline that developed during late October. A couple of indiscreet politicians and an aristocrat enjoying the hospitality of a Russian oligarch’s superyacht moored off Corfu is not newsworthy in itself of course.

What really attracted the attention of the media was the Tory shadow chancellor (George Osborne) and his indiscreet breach of the code of honour of his old upper-class binge-drinking club, and particularly his friend Nathaniel Rothschild, – who’s guest he was – and who is also apparently worth a bob or two.

Osborne made the mistake of gossiping about a conversation he had on board with Peter Mandelson. At the time he was messing around in boats this summer he was an EU Commissioner for Trade but has since returned as a peer to Labour (previously known as New Labour), after various spells as the “architect” of New Labour (previously known as Labour).

If you’re feeling confused, don’t worry – what is of interest to socialists is how the whole episode has lifted a grubby stone to uncover many examples of the shenanigans of our ruling class. For example, one person in the vicinity was Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth who had her own boat nearby and was spending a week in the Mediterranean just to plan her 40th birthday celebrations. ( If that’s how long the planning takes, what were the actual celebrations like?).

Anyway, upset that his mates were bitching about each other only a few weeks after the yacht-party, Rothschild dropped Osborne right in it by accusing him of soliciting funds for the Tories, from the yacht owner. His name is Oleg Deripaska and he actually comes over better than most in this episode, despite being alleged to be a thug who has effectively extorted billions of roubles out of the state-owned industry through close involvement with the Russian mafia. This is of course outrageous, but if we are being consistent, it is pretty much how most of today’s capitalist class got their wealth, whether a few centuries or a few generations earlier.

This story of thieves falling out in the playgrounds of the rich sheds a little light on how our increasingly inter-connected economic and political upper-class spend their money and time (what Peter Mandelson might term “serious relaxing”). But all parties to this grubby exchange – the economic sugar-daddies and their political lapdogs – appear to have now conveniently agreed to call a truce rather than risk damaging their collective reputation.

Discretion in their discussions with each other obviously counts for more than transparency and accountability to the rest of us who actually create the wealth they go to such lengths to consume. Entering a period of rising unemployment and re-possessions is probably not the best time for the “have-yachts” to rub our noses in the details of the marvellous parties they always seem to be throwing for each other.

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