Imagining accountability in police, business and politics

Professor David Whyte
Monday, 1 June 2015

Imagine there was a popular movement to wipe out inequality and corruption in business, politics and the police in a major city in Europe. Imagine that a Mayor was elected who immediately declared that all major political decisions would be made openly in consultation with the people and that development projects in the city would only go ahead with the agreement of the people that were being evicted. Imagine if companies exploiting their workers were told by the Mayor that they have to increase wages. Imagine if energy companies that cut off their supply to vulnerable people were told they would be blacklisted and their license to conduct business would be under threat. And imagine if the Police Commissioner was appointed not for loyalty to the police, but because of a long record of fighting police corruption and violence.

This is precisely what has just happened in Barcelona where Ada Colau, the former leader of the social movement that fought housing evictions, has been elected as mayor of the city. Her campaign was organised around exposing and challenging the rampant corruption of power and deepening inequality. And it was supported by a very wide range of community-based grass roots campaigns.

We can take encouragement from what has happened in Barcelona.  After all, this is a city that has been dominated by the centre-right for some time.  Catalonia and Spain may seem like a very different places to Britain, but they are riven with exactly the same collusion between government and business and the same absence of accountability in key public institutions that we are experiencing here.

On 19 June, our one day event in London will bring together activists, journalists and academics who are all involved in demanding accountability in our public institutions.  It builds on previous conferences ‘How Corrupt is Britain?’ and ‘How Violent is Britain?’ and will discuss the way that we can develop more collective responses to the crisis in accountability that is currently facing Britain.   We invite anyone who is committed to working with us to demand accountability in government, in business and in our police forces to join us in this discussion.

We may not live in Barcelona, but this is not to say we can't be inspired by people who face exactly the same crisis in accountability and are working together to do something about it.