Monday, June 06, 2005

There was an interesting feature on the radio yesterday about the jailed Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. A Russian commentator was asked about the reaction of the people to Khodorkovsky’s nine year prison sentence. The overwhelming majority of the population are in favour of it, he replied. Irrespective of the charges of tax evasion and fraud, they have seen state assets handed over to private individuals who have made fortunes beyond their imagination out of companies which once belonged to the people. Despite what seems to be reported in the media overseas, there has not been few signs of sympathy for Khodorkovsky amongst ordinary Russians , he added.

This got me thinking. Surely the overwhelming majority of people in this country would feel exactly the same…. if only they were asked the same question? How do you feel about the British Government handing over state assets, and in the case of fuel, water, telecommunications, transport, (and latterly education and health) etc, vital necessities for people’s everyday existence, to private individuals who accumulate massive wealth as a consequence of this asset stripping operation?

One person who has shown sympathy for Khodorkovsky, though, is George W. Bush. Leaving aside any natural empathy he may have for corrupt individuals who make a fortune out of crooked oil deals, Dubya, who doesn’t do irony said, "Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial." This would make interesting reading (if only there were allowed to read it) to those who have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for three years without charges or access to any legal system at all.