Odd finding

More than one in four business leaders believe bribery and corruption is rife in the UK, according to survey conducted by accountants EY.

Twenty-eight per cent of UK respondents said corruption was widespread – an increase from 18% a year earlier – although lower than the 39% average of respondents to the survey conducted in 62 countries.

There’s definitely areas where what we could call corruption thrives. I would happily call planning gain for planning permission corruption. As I would some of the grant making to publicity outfits.

But actual real corruption? It’s something I’ve actually done (when it was legal for British people to do it abroad). Handing over wedges of cash for some official decision or favour. And as far as I can tell that’s something that simply doesn’t exist in the UK. My general impression is rather the opposite: even polite inquiries about who one should pay in order to get that favour are likely to see you dobbed in for making the inquiry.

One country I’ve worked in your first question is: who do we pay? That’s just not true of Britain.

I have a feeling that people are getting confused in their responses here. What Brits complain about being corruption is not what much of the rest of the world considers it to be.

28 thoughts on “Odd finding”

  1. I saw a study showing 96% of Britons believe the world is getting worse. People believe negatives regardless of actual evidence.

  2. Handing over wedges of cash for some official decision or favour.

    Or, more commonly, getting some bureaucrat or official to do the job he’s already been paid to do.

  3. I do think there is subtle corruption. For instance, when Patricia Hewitt was in the non-executive directors of Eurostar, was that because she knew about running trains, or because she might be able to get people to say, put money into HS2, raise airline taxes etc? Was Tim Yeo on the board of a green taxi company because of his knowledge of fleet management, or what laws/taxes could be passed?

    No-one’s handing over a briefcase of cash, and there’s no direct quid pro quo, but a lot of “outside interests” are basically bribery.

  4. One country I’ve worked in your first question is: who do we pay? That’s just not true of Britain.

    Quite right, since the answer in Britain is always: The State. Our version of the question is more like: which part of the government quangocracy do I have to watch out for?

    Corruption is everywhere in this country, it’s just that nearly all of it is government approved corruption and far more subtle than a briefcase full of money.

  5. Having worked in Continental Europe and experienced “real” corruption, I agree with your general conclusion. It would be risky even to initiate such a discussion in the UK. However, there *is* actual Continental-style corruption in parts of the UK which are effective one party states at the local level. When a member of my family refused to sell a piece of land cheaply to a permanently Labour council oop North, it revoked a valuable licence in relation to that land. It was clear maladministration and could have been litigated, but it actually enabled some useful inheritance tax planning and so backfired. Another member of my family has been crudely threatened with disruption of his construction contracts by a Health & Safety official unless he paid a cash bribe. It’s less rife, but it exists. We are not morally superior to our Continental brethren and are as prone to monetise political power as they are. We can reasonably infer that from the wealth of some of our national politicians who have no discernible skills. We simply have a slightly more effective legal system and a much more litigious tradition.

  6. All councils need to be investigated. Councillors and higher up staff–not small fry council workers–will reveal massive corruption.

    You are right Tim that there is no widespread “hands out” type corruption much in the UK–yet..

    But as RoP numbers and voting power rise they will bring with them the same style of endemic corruption that has helped ruin their own countries.

  7. Corruption exists. I had to give a council employee some “cash for drinks” for him to pick up rubbish using his council truck. Small beer, and at least the job got done, but as the saying goes, rot starts at the head…

  8. Like monoi, I used the council refuse department to clear our building waste. And very efficient they were. Council refuse truck’d pull up & a great pile would vanish in seconds.
    Then there was the fat wad of readies bought top spot on the housing list. Or the council surveyor I worked with on his private property developments. Done with council materials & council workers.
    Like anywhere else, it’s just knowing who to pay.

  9. The other form of corruption that is rife in Britain is neoptism and conflicts of interest. Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs is full of stories of juicy contracts at local authority level being handed to companies owned by the wives of those running the authority.

  10. Neoptism should be a word, really. Coined for New Labour but still current under Caring Sharing Conservatism.

  11. Neooptimism? The resurgence of belief in Socialism despite its history of abject failure and human catastrophe?

  12. Yep, local council corruption isn’t quite as blatant as envelopes of cash but it still exists. In my neck of the woods, there’s been a scandal over unnecessary statutory repairs being ordered by council officials and then contracts given to their mates at hugely inflated prices

  13. Yep, it’s local corruption. Anecdotally it seems to happen a lot more in poor / Labour areas. Lambeth yes, Wandsworth no. As Mr Ecks says, any area where both bribers and bribees are from a closed social group will suffer greater corruption.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    Do you think as many as one in four British businessmen know Keith Vaz? How about Peter Mandelson?

    Not that it is relevant. Just asking for a friend.

  15. We never discovered how it was that Mandelson went from needing a loan from Geoffrey Robinson to buy a £450,000 flat in the mid 1990’s to buying an £8 million mansion in 2011, despite earning less than £200k a year as a minister or EU commissioner, and for many years just a lowly MP with supposedly declared outside interests.

    Must have invested in Blairmore.

  16. Yes, I’d agree with the above – the poorer the area, the more parochial it is, the greater the corruption in local government. I have friends in Pembrokeshire – they say their county council is as bent as they come, masonic a lot of it. Certain companies get all the local contracts and regional grant monies, if projects go wrong no questions are ever asked. Senior council officials are bessy mates with the successful bidders, its all very incestuous. Its because the State is the main source of money in the area – there’s not enough private money to counter its malign effects. Where I live (not SE but close) there’s plenty of private money floating around, and any attempt to close off State contracts etc would soon founder on some legal battles with pissed off under bidders.

  17. Surely you can simply inflation-adjust the £1000 cost of a parliamentary question to get a ball-park estimate of the price of top-end corruption in Britain?

  18. I have friends in Pembrokeshire – they say their county council is as bent as they come, masonic a lot of it.

    Yeah, that’s my old stomping ground. My brother even worked for South Pembrokeshire District Council. Problem down there is the population of the towns are small, everyone knows everyone, and most are related to one another. And they hate the people in the next town. As you say, that was as parochial as it got, at least in the 80s and 90s.

  19. Back in the 70’s and 80’s it was often noted that those working on the roads for the city council in Birmingham were unusually well blessed by lovely tarmac’d drives and, very often, attractive paved patios.

  20. I have to pay the Bar Standards Board a wad of cash to be allowed to work without fear of being prosecuted for doing so.

    How is this not a corrupt protection racket?

  21. In the late 80s I was working in Spain, setting up a subsidiary of a British insurer. Our plan was to sell products based on those at home, which would be new and exciting in what was (then) a pretty staid market. A few months before launch we discovered that our new product was not entirely compliant with Spanish legislation. A big conflab took place with heads of departments – a mixture of ex-pat Brits and Spaniards. I told them changing the product spec would probably delay the launch by a couple of months, but the Spaniards didn’t see the problem – why not just bribe an official in the Finance Ministry? It would only cost a few million pesetas and the problem would go away.

    The moral of this tale is not that Spaniards are evil, they simply viewed bribing a government minister in the same light as we would driving at 80 mph on the motorway. Everyone knows it’s illegal, but almost everyone does it and you won’t become a social pariah if you’re caught. I wonder how much things have changed nearly 30 years later?

  22. There is corruption everywhere. But there is huge variability in the amount and flagrancy. I find Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index to be a pretty accurate measure. http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015

    According to the latest rankings (and they are pretty stable), the UK is the 10th least corrupt country (score = 81/100). The top spots usually go to the Scandinavians, who really are among the most painful honest people on earth, followed by the Kiwis, the Swiss, the Dutch and other decent blokes.

    US is #16 at 76.

    At the bottom? NKorea, joined by the likes of Iraq and Venezuela.

  23. I’d agree with the anecdotal evidence of corruption in the UK at a local level, seems anything to do with building and planning is rife with it.

    However, since moving to Asia and talking to people who do business in China, India, Indonesia etc I have realised that the UK is a long way ahead (behind?).

    I used to manage a young Greek chap, English father, Mum a scion of a wealthy Athens family. He’d been largely brought up in Greece and was frankly a bit sniffy about Britain and Britons (I think his early life was insulated from the lower orders). The only time I heard him fulsomely praise the UK was after he had been to Petty France to get his passport renewed. “It was all done on the same day, and it’s right, and I didn’t have to bribe anyone!” He was genuinely astounded.

  24. You can get a survey to say whatever you want it to say.

    “Eight hundred businessmen have been tried for corruption in England. Question: do you believe the is corruption in the UK?”

  25. So Much For Subtlety

    Sub Specie Æternitatis – “At the bottom? NKorea, joined by the likes of Iraq and Venezuela.”

    White northern European protestant countries at the top? Socialist utopias at the bottom?

    You don’t say.

    Now is this causation or correlation? And if it is causation which way does the causation flow? Are Northern European Protestant countries rich and corruption-free because they are Protestants or the other way around? Are they rich because they are corruption-free or corruption-free because they are rich?

    If it was not for PC hysteria people could try to answer these questions.

  26. The is a recent report about a man who gave $300k to Hillary’s Foundation and in return received $13,000k in grants from Hillary’s State Department. Not a bad rate of return. But she’s not corrupt, no indeed!

  27. @So Much For Subtlety:

    You are right. These are very interesting questions. And no sane person with an academic career or public regard to protect will ever even try to give a serious answer to them. PC has poisoned that well so thoroughly.

    And, what’s worse, many of the outsiders, cranks, and eccentrics who do try to give serious answers to these questions have embraced a type of group mentality which treats any deviation from their anti-PC stance, no matter how well supported in evidence in a particular case, with as much vitriol as the PC crowd does them.

    Movements! To hell with all of them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *