IN CONVERSATION : NICHOLAS AT ETHICAL TOWERS, HASTINGS

 

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One of the more benign facilities offered by the City of London, here on Aldermanbury in Bassishaw ward.   

 

AUDIO Coming soon

Nicholas Wilson, aka Mr Ethical, discusses whistleblowing, corruption, and how to fight it.


TRANSCRIPT

JO: Do you want to start with a sort of quick, potted introduction?

NW: yes

JO: I have to say, just to start with, I’m extremely glad that you’ve managed to take part, and that you’re happy to take part ’cause I think you’re a very, very good example – an important example to people actually – of many different things .. One is, ha ha ha, that not all lawyers are shysters …

NW: yes

JO: but, whistleblowing as a way of being an activist … as a way of being an active citizen …

NW: yes

JO: what goes with it … what happens to you if you do that … then the fight you’ve had … your tenacity … the experiences you’ve had of the welfare system, so-called welfare system … sort of a warfare system these days …

NW: yes, exactly

JO: those two things .. but also, you’ve had an interest in, I think, joining in Labour, ’cause I followed all of this .. I think .. a lot of this on Twitter over the last few years …

NW: I joined Labour and then they threw me out because I stood for parliament

JO: yes … so you’ve got some experience of that … then you’ve got the actual experience of being a PPC .. the now famous … the famous session with Amber Rudd and co …

NW: yes … over 5 million views

JO: yes … which, I can, by the way, of course, link to all these things … although I suspect they are all very visible through your website …

NW: [ ]

JO: yes .. so, in innumerable ways, I think you’re an extremely valuable person to have aboard so I’m really glad so thanks very much

NW: I’m honoured …

JO: So, what shall we say? What’s a potted bio?

NW: Do you want me to start then?

JO: Yes

NW: My name is Nicholas Wilson … also known as Mr Ethical … I’m a whistleblower … I discovered and reported massive, industrial scale fraud on behalf of HSBC bank … and I got the name Mr Ethical from my bosses … [ ] I kept complaining that the contract they had entered into with the bank was illegal .. so I was dubbed ‘Mr Ethical’ … so I kept that name for my campaign

JO: yes

NW: Being naive at the time, I thought blowing the whistle … which I did to the Law Society, now the Solicitors Regulation Authority … that something would happen and the whole thing would stop and people would be recompensed who had been ripped off .. That wasn’t to be the case. This was all in 2006. I originally told the bank when I had my first meeting with them in 2003 … that what they were doing was illegal .. but my firm carried on doing it

JO: yes … so you were raising it as a concerned insider …

NW: yes, I was complaining to the boss of my bosses that they shouldn’t be doing it and I was basically hung out to dry … I was effectively constructively dismissed … they took all the work away from me .. it ended up with me reporting them because it was clear they were going to carry on doing it … but that was … in my naivety, I thought it would all be sorted out but it was the worst thing I could have done and it has destroyed my life … and it still hasn’t been properly dealt with … and this is 14 years later now …

JO: yes, sure …

NW: The Solicitors Regulation Authority did uphold my complaint. It did say that it was an illegal contract but they didn’t take any action and they said it only happened in a small number of cases .. Jumping forward, it carried on until 2010 when the Office of Fair Trading finally made an order against the bank telling them to stop doing it.

JO: yes

NW: and I’d been campaigning in one form or another all these years to try and get the bank to repay people .. [ ] … in January of this year, the FCA announced that they had reached an agreement with HSBC that HSBC would voluntarily repay £4m … I don’t know what voluntarily means when you are talking to a regulator … I mean, as far as I’m concerned, there should be about 8 people in prison because of it …

JO: yes

NW: £4m is a joke. In my evidence, at least £100m should be repaid ..

JO: yes

NW: over the years, the whole period of this illegal contract, over a £1bn has been applied to people’s accounts ..

JO: yes

NW: but that’s … so that’s a very brief background …

JO: yes … and you’ve been therefore … in your personal life … financially and professionally speaking … you’ve been in an extremely awkward position for … ten years or so .. now?

NW: yes … well I was sacked for blowing the whistle in 2006

JO: no recompense for that, of any sort?

NW: well, yes … I was going to take them to a tribunal

JO: yes

NW: but I reminded them about tribunals … you know .. employment tribunals are public .. public … so .. you know … the whole details of their fraud would be public .. so they wanted to go to mediation instead

JO: yes, sure …

NW: I agreed to because it would have been much quicker …

JO: yes

NW: we settled at mediation and I signed a confidentiality agreement

JO: yes

NW: with a gagging clause … but then I discoved, not long after that, that they carried on doing it anyway … and there was another firm that I was aware of that were doing it too …

JO: yes, sure … so if people …

NW: [ ] I decided to start campaigning to get money back for people and to get the thing stopped. The thing has stopped now because of the OFT order but … [ ] still …

JO: the point is .. your life became a pretty difficult affair from that sort of time, yes?

NW: [ ] sold my house in London and moved to Hastings to cut down on costs but effectively … well I have been unemployed now for at least 10 years .. I’ve had two short term consultancy jobs with solicitors … but apart from that .. I’m unemployable … whistleblowers are not very welcome in the law …

JO: yes … if I may say … you’re doing extremely important work … but, of course, as I know .. getting an income for important work is not necessarily very easy …

NW: well, the reality is .. ’cause I never qualified as a solicitor … I just worked my way up from the post room but I ended up being Head of Department … if I had been a qualified, career solicitor, I probably wouldn’t have blown the whistle … because by now, at my age, in my position, I’d probably be on £500,000 a year … and you don’t rock the boat if you are earning that sort of money … so, it was … I mean … in retrospect, what I should have done is found another job before I blew the whistle .. but I was so naive, I just thought everything would be cleared up and I would be welcomed with open arms by [ ]

JO: yes … someone would say thank you …

NW: yes … but I am a pariah … I still am … [ ]

JO: well, not to the decent people who are aware of what’s going on, yes?

NW: [ ]

JO: we’ll leave that there … if people want to find out more about all of that, everything is available via your website, isn’t it?

NW: yes, it is … nicholaswilson.com

JO: yes … and I shall link to that if you don’t mind … as part of the material online …

NW: yes

JO: so …if we … if we whizz forward to where we said we would start … I think you said .. I mean .. probably it makes sense to start with the data dump …

NW: well, yes … so that might happen next week … the position is that I was sent … anonymously and unsolicited .. a couple of years ago .. a database of County Court Judgements .. but the first tranche of material I received was only about 400,000 records… and I knew that was not really sufficient so I didn’t do anything with it.

JO: yes

NW: After the January announcement of the £4m … the agreement was they would pay £4m to 6,700 people … well, I know, because I was Head of Department doing this work, that, you know, that is a joke … ’cause when I left the firm, there were 70-80,000 cases that we handled

JO: yes

NW: and there was another firm doing a similar amount of work … and I know that … and I now know that for the period from 2003 – 2010, over £200m in these illegal charges was added to people’s accounts … but realistically, I think the bank should be repaying about £100m .. So, after this £4m agreement, I went back to the person who sent me this data, who is anonymous … I mean, I don’t know who they are … and said, “do you have any more?” .. and he said “well, what do you want?” … and he sent me the data for … I think it was 3 years … 2006-2009 I think it was ..

JO: yes

NW: millions … millions … it was just basically a dump of the all the County Court Judgements for those years … which meant I … and it was raw data … it was an unformatted database ..

JO: yes

NW: so I worked with an IT expert for about three weeks … extracting the information that I needed from which, I can prove my figures .. so after the January announcement, I had a meeting with the FCA in February .. saying, you know, £4m is a joke .. this is how … this is how much it should be … and I gave them the information … I don’t think I actually gave them my whole database …

JO: yes

NW: I said to them … you know … County Court Judgements is where you can find the information … it’s public record …

JO: yes

NW: you’re the Financial Conduct Authority … you should have access to it ..

JO: you should be offering the same information that I have access to

NW: yes … I mean I don’t have the copies of the judgements … I mean .. that’s another step ..

JO: yes

NW: along the line … I have a copy of the record of the judgements … if you like

JO: yes …

NW: and what you’d have to do next is contact the Ministry of Justice to see a copy of the judgements …

JO: yes

NW: I can’t afford to do that … you know … it costs … I think it costs £5 or something [ ]

JO: so it’s like metadata … sort of metadata …

NW: yes, exactly … I’ve got this metadata which was unformatted … but I managed with this expert to extract the information I needed …

JO: yes

NW: and I’ve got 139,000 records … of judgements which would have included these illegal charges

JO: yes

NW: but that’s only 1/5 of the amount of debt that these two firms were dealing with … between themselves … so you can extrapolate that up to the figures I am talking about … Anyway, the bottom line is the FCA have done nothing

JO: this is the Financial Conduct Authority …

NW: The Financial Conduct Authority … have done absolutely nothing … and this is … this is on … in the background of a history I’ve had with them … I originally reported this to the Financial Services Authority … which then became the Financial Conduct Authority … and they covered it up … they … Originally I did a Freedom of Information request to the FCA saying “what have you done about my complaint?” and they sent me a letter which was identical to a letter that HSBC sent to another campaigner … we compared notes and it was just copy and pasted … and it was 100% untrue … so what happened was the FCA said to HSBC, “we’ve got these guy who’s made this complaint … what do we say to him?” and HSBC sent them this text and they just copied and pasted it and sent it to me .. [ ] HSBC had sent to this other guy. So, we caught them out, and there’s a financial journalist in Scotland, Ian Fraser

JO: yes

NW: who blogged about this …

JO: yes

NW: it caused a stink .. and parliament … questions were asked in the Treasury Select Committee in parliament and the FCA admitted it all … they admitted it had happened … they weren’t very apologetic … they just said it was a misjudgement … they apologised to me … and  then they agreed they would reopen their investigation … and that was in December 20- … where are we? 2015 …

JO: a couple of years ago, yes …

NW: [ ] January 2016 …last year … the first thing they did, having agreed to reopen their  investigation was appoint two new non-executive directors to their board .. One was from HSBC and one was from John Lewis who was one of the other companies doing these charges .. illegal charges …

JO: yes

NW: yes … that was their first opening gesture …. anyway they did … they did reach this agreement with the bank to pay £4m … voluntary agreement … but as I say … since .. since that they’ve done nothing with the information that I’ve given them …

JO: sure …

NW: and they won’t … they keep telling me the investigation is still open …

JO: yes … and without going into too much detail, all of which is covered on your website, you’ve basically been hard at it, in various ways, to try and keep the pressure on ..

NW: yes

JO: and they’ve just done nothing …

NW: they’ve done nothing so what I’ve decided to do and this is all happening today .. I’ve sent a letter today to the Lord Chancellor, who is the head of the whole legal system .. I’ve sent it to the FCA … I’ve sent it to Nicky Morgan who is the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and I’ve sent it to the Chairman of Registry Trust which is the company that administers the county court judgements … and I’ve said, if the FCA don’t confirm by the 21st December that they are going to take appropriate action on this, I am going to dump all that data on the internet … I will strip out personal details … I don’t see why innocent debtors should [ ] bear any …

JO: sure

NW: inconvenience … because of my actions

JO: sure

NW: but the fact is … and for most people, it will be completely irrelevant and uninteresting but I know there are people out there who enjoy analysing data and they will be able to do the same analysis that I did and it will again show what the true figures are … so basically, I am making public the data that FCA have and should be acting on …

JO: yes

NW: so, we’ll see what happens as a result of that …

JO: yes

NW: but I’m also quite fired up by the fact that this week, there was the premiere of a film, made in France, called Gangsters of Finance … which is about HSBC

JO: yes

NW: a documentary … but at the moment, it’s still in French … and doesn’t have subtitles .. my French is not good enough to watch it all .. but whilst it was showing, a colleague of mine whose French is perfect was tweeting various details about it and what I’m excited about is … I mean one of the aspects of my campaign is that in the UK there is a complete media black-out on HSBC crimes …

JO: yes

NW: I mean they do report some things which are in the news anyway … like the Swiss Leaks … you know they can’t not report that because it’s worldwide news

JO: yes, sure …

NW: but they don’t report all the other minor infractions that go on with HSBC … you know … almost every week, there’s a multimillion pound fine somewhere in the world … involving HSBC .. .

JO: yes

NW: and I’ve also been saying and this sounds like a conspiracy theory … but it’s not … [ ] effectively HSBC are running this country … the MPs basically do …are lobbying for HSBC all the time … and this film, which, as I say, I haven’t seen … but I am told .. particularly brings that out … because I’ve blogged about Hinkley Point C which is the new nuclear power station in Somerset … and the involvement of HSBC, the Home Secretary …. she’s now Home Secretary, Amber Rudd … [ ] at the time she was Energy Secretary … and her involvement with her brother who is a lobbyist for the firm that got the building contract .. I mean the whole thing is completely corrupt …

JO: yes

NW: and it’s going to cost the users of electricity three times as much as wind power … it’s … the whole project, you know … it’s widely criticised as being outrageous and it’s completely corrupt

JO: yes

NW: and in the film .. they apparently say … it’s the Chinese who are building it … and it’s EDF, the French company who are, you know, operating it …

JO: Electricite de France, I believe …

NW: yes … exactly … and the film says the UK gave up its sovereignty for China to please HSBC … they actually say that …

JO: in the film …

NW: now I’ve said that in a blog … I’ve been blogging similar things … I mean, it’s not just Hinckley. I’ve said similar things about Saudi Aramco which is going to be the privatisation of the Saudi oil company … there’s a lot of corruption going on there … which I blog about .. but you don’t hear any …[ ] any of this in the UK press

JO: yes

NW: but this French film … it doesn’t deal with Aramco because it was made last year .. [ ]

JO: yes … it’s hard to keep up …

NW: it’s hard to keep up but I try to keep up on my website … I blog about a lot of things .. a lot o my blogs should be front page news but they’re completely ignored …

JO: yes … Are there any sections of the British media … thinking about that … excluding your own website … but … are there any writers or publications that are doing any sort of a job?

NW: Not mainstream … there are individual writers … and there are some very good ones … [ ] guy called Nafeez Ahmed ..

JO: yes .. I know

NW: very good journalist and he’s written a very good article about my case … but, I think a couple of years ago now … [ ] as I mentioned, Ian Fraser, who wrote a very good blog ..

JO: yes

NW: I mean .. there are individual blogs written by these people and articles but nothing in the mainstream [ ]

JO: I think I remember seeing something of yours on the Real News …

NW Yes, Real News did something recently …

JO: ’cause I’ve got a lot to say for them … I know the work of Paul Jay and co better than … I think they’ve teamed up with a British outfit more recently

NW: right

JO: but … I think they are super …

NW: they do do good work and it’s now quite good quality …

JO: but we’re talking very … a very minority audience … at the moment, yes?

NW: yes … sure … but I quite like them because they .. just let you speak and they interviewed me in the summer when I was standing for parliament and they did an interview around that. I was standing against Amber Rudd … who is my [ ]

JO: in Hastings and Rye …

NW: Hastings and Rye indeed .. and as you mentioned earlier, there was this famous episode during the hustings when she [ ] .. she had me shut down from discussing HSBC … I mean the common belief on that film is that she was censoring me for discussing Saudi Arabia but it wasn’t … she started moving to write her note to the Chairman when I mentioned HSBC … that was her trigger …

JO: yes

NW: and that’s what’s going on … HSBC are out of bounds … for media and for politicians ….you cannot criticise them

JO: I mean … listening … just to give you some feedback … I haven’t actually seen the film although I know of it ..because of you actually …

NW: ok … well, it’s on my website …

JO: it’s not the only good effort, I think, at trying to produce some sort of coverage of these sorts of things … so there are …. there’s another film that’s just been released in the UK called The Spider’s Web which you know about I suspect …

NW: yes …. well I’ve written a review of that… on my …

JO: yes .. yes that’s right … I think I read your review actually, as well …

NW: I know … well I know one of the people in there … very well … and the other people I know through … like Nicholas Shaxson and John Christensen … through Twitter …

JO: yes

NW: I mean …we are all in touch with each other …

JO: well, I think the world … I know from experience that when one tries to describe these sorts of phenomena … these sorts of behaviours … these sorts of structures … to someone who has only ever really heard mainstream discussions or coverage … there is a resistance to … to what you have to say …

NW: completely …

JO: and it’s not an easy thing to … to break that down … people … I don’t know … you know there’s probably some psychology to it … but I’m certainly very ready to hear those sorts of things after just years and years of reading and studying and viewing and listening …

NW: well you are quite unusual in that respect …

JO: yes

NW: a lot of people just consider me to be a conspiracy theorist …

JO: yes

NW: as I have been lucky to be able to point out recently … HSBC don’t pay out £4m based on a conspiracy theory …

JO: yes, sure …

NW: and what … that’s why I am excited about the French film … because apparently a lot of what is in there vindicates a lot of what I’ve been blogging about …

JO: yes

NW: the past few years …

JO: yes … but I mean .. I think … I would say to you … I haven’t settled my own thoughts on this … I haven’t sort of deliberately tried to reach an answer on this for myself yet .. I would straight away describe … I would say I’m really quite … I’m not comfortable … that’s the wrong way to say it but I accept the description of academics who study this in the UK … is it Professor Whyte?

NW: yes

JO: who has described the UK as being corrupt … and he says it’s corrupt in a particular way ..

NW: he calls it ‘collusive corruption’

JO: yes … so it’s not … it’s not … if you say to most Brits, “it’s corrupt”, they think of people taking money to let you go through and park in somewhere you shouldn’t park or something – i.e. low level stuff … it’s not that kind of a deal …

NW: you’ll know about that famous statement from Robert .. Roberto Saviano .. who is [ ]

JO: yes … the mafia .. [ ] yes

NW: the mafia expert … he says Britain is the most corrupt country in the world …

JO: yes

NW: and I say that on Twitter and people throw their arms in the air and say [ ]

JO: well I’ve got … I’ve got … I think that’s just a description of reality … you know

NW: yes .. well

JO: I think there is an argument and a body of evidence that supports that …

NW: absolutely …

JO: so I don’t know that I would say … ’cause I haven’t done the work that would be needed to make my mind up … I don’t know that I would say it’s … and I don’t know that you would say, it’s just HSBC …

NW: no …

JO: but clearly that institution and the people .. you know, the bums on seats … are some of the characters and structures that are at fault .. I think there’s no question …

NW: yes .. but I don’t just say this because it’s my campaign … I do think HSBC are in a special class … I mean the Head of the BBC until recently was an HSBC Director … there are six Lords … six Peers in the House of Lords that are HSBC people …

JO: yes

NW: I mean .. they are .. one of the HSBC Directors … Jonathan Evans .. used to be the Head of MI5 … he’s also Director of a company called Ark Data Centres who supply data services to all the government departments … so MI5, MI6, GCH … so in theory … every … the personal details of everybody in the United Kingdom are accessible to HSBC …

JO: yes …

NW: I mean … and one MP … I won’t name him … ’cause this was said in a private meeting … one MP said to me … well he used to sit on the Treasury Select Committee … said they were very concerned about HSBC’s infiltration into the Security Services …

JO: yes

NW: but nothing is done about it …

JO: yes

NW: even beloved Jeremy Corbyn won’t go there … and it’s very frustrating … so I have to do .. you know … maverick, unorthodox things .. just to try and draw attention to itand then I get labelled a nutcase and so it goes on …

JO: well, you know … I don’t … I don’t see how anyone could describe someone who produces an argument and lots of evidence … you know … whether you agree with entirely or not is another matter but that is not the behaviour of a nutcase, is it?

NW: well, to give you an example, I was tipped off … again I won’t name him .. but a BBC … the … it wasn’t the Treasury Select Committee … the Public Accounts Committee …headed by Margaret Hodge … were having a meeting with HSBC … or with Rona Fairhead of HSBC and I was tipped off by a BBC journalist that they might be discussing this HSBC fraud [ ] … so I went to the meeting … the Treasury … the Public Affairs Committee .. and I waited .. and I waited … and they didn’t discuss it so in the end I stood up and tried to [ ] you know … and I was bundled out of the building … I was thrown out and it was very unpleasant actually …

JO: sure

NW: but after that the said journalist said “I can’t help you if you do eccentric things like this” … well I said to him “would you describe the Suffragettes as being eccentric?” .. you know .. I mean .. it’s just activism ..it’s just what you have to do … but that’s the BBC attitude … you know … we won’t go there because it’s all a bit … it’s not English

JO: yes … my friend put me onto a … in fact, he put me onto the series, which seems to have passed me by … do you remember After Dark?

NW: I do .. well … because it was open ended, wasn’t it?

JO: yes … there’s a … on YouTube .. still … there’s a three hour episode .. there are many episodes .. but there is a three hour episode called British Intelligence

NW: yes

JO: and anyone … I mean … not that these sorts of people are likely to invest three hours in watching this but anyone that is protesting or resisting the idea that the world and Britain as part of that world is rather like this … could do worse than just watch …

NW: do you remember who was on it?

JO: yes … Do you? Do you remember? Do you know?

NW: no … David Shayler?

JO: no he wasn’t, although his name is familiar to me … so there were some much less familiar people … there were some private investigators who had worked with the Security Services … and then thought better of it very quickly … Merlyn Rees, the ex-Labour

NW: yes

JO: was he…. He was certainly in the Cabinet … was he Northern Ireland Secretary?

NW: yes

JO: yes … he was part of the discussion .. there were some old Security Services operatives from years back … a couple of writers … these positions overlap, I think, as well … there was a Vice-Commodore and he was amongst the most … this is actually what caused me to remember this … he was amongst the most critical of all those present and he described … and don’t forget this is in about 1988 .. this went out … he described the BBC as having been “filleted” of anyone that was willing to stand up to the government …

NW: well .. yes .. now I’ve said … I’ve got a friend who now works for Channel 4. He used to work at the BBC and he told me that all their news broadcasts are vetted by two members of MI5 … now .. I’ve tweeted that before and I’ve been shot down … and I don’t know if it’s true … but certainly it used to be the case … [ ] it used to be that all .. employees of the BBC were vetted by MI5 .. that’s public knowledge … that operation was given a name .. I can’t remember what the name is … but I think it’s naive to think that the BBC are not still monitored by MI5

JO: yes

NW: it would be stupid to think that ..

JO: I think .. I think it’s probably a combination of that and what I think Chomsky said … I think Andrew Marr pushed back at Chomsky and said “don’t be ridiculous! There’s no-one in my ear telling me what to ask and what not to say” and I think he said “they don’t need to”

NW: exactly … well, I’ll give you another example… there’s a guy who supports me called[ ] and he now lives in Sweden … he’s a sort of journalist … and he wrote to Rona Fairhead at the BBC … she was the Chair of the BBC Trust …

JO: yes

NW: he wrote to her asking to interview her … in connection with my stuff … but he didn’t mention HSBC in his letter … and he got the reply back from her office saying that the request had been forwarded to HSBC .. that is what’s going on … you ask the Head of the BBC for an interview and they send it to HSBC … it’s quite extraordinary .. and they …. I challenged them about that and they said … and again they said it was a misjudgement.

JO: Yes. I am thinking of Professor Whyte when I hear phrases like ‘misjudgement’.

NW: yes … everything .. I mean ‘ethical drift’ we’ve got. Mark Carney refers to ‘ethical drift’ … I mean there are all these euphemisms for [ ] .. misselling … euphemisms for crime …

JO: yes

NW: in the old days, it was fraud and you went to prison for it …

JO: yes … one of the most persuasive voices, I think, in our midst, at the moment, is Bill Black

NW: yes

JO: he is an ex-regulator ..

NW: yes

JO: and he calls it fraud … and I think his book, which kind of tells you the story … his

academic work on this … or one of them anyway .. is called The Best Way to Rob a Bank

is to Own One.

NW: yes … unfortunately because of my mental state, I can’t read books … I can hardly get through a newspaper article

JO: yes .. sure …

NW: I can’t concentrate on anything for long

JO: sure

NW: anything … especially in that area … it brings up a load of stress for me …

JO: I can imagine … you said just before we started speaking that your present … your present endeavor is going to be tough

NW: yes … it’s very stressful … I mean … you know .. I could be raided at any minute because I am threatening to dump this data … even though I won’t be doing anything illegal … you know .. they … it won’t matter to them … you know … if they can cause me maximum inconvenience … like …

JO: and who is it that you think would do that?

NW: well, I think MI5 … [ ] they might just phone the local police … and say “we want you to have a word with this guy”

JO: yes

NW: … you can’t do things like that … I mean … it’s the same with my house … I am not a conspiracy theorist … I don’t think there’s a cabal of people sitting in an office saying “how can we make his life hell?” but I do think there is a mindset that hates people like me … and my house is owned by the government because I’m an old Northern Rock person … it’s now the UK asset resolution … the people who own my house .. the Treasury basically … twice now, they’ve issued repossession proceedings against me … twice I’ve managed to fight it off through people donating on Twitter which has been absolutely amazing …

JO: yes

NW: but it goes … and you know it’s still going on … the arrears are building up again …you know .. it’s never ending … fighting …

JO: yes .. well you’re doing really well just to keep going …

NW: well, I have to Jonathan … I’m 60 now and I’ll never work again … you know, not in a conventional job anyway …

JO: yes

NW: I might get a job with an NGO or something but …

JO: Here we are again … so if I can .. we’ve been quite a while now … so thanks very much .. can I just put a couple of things to you and just get a reaction? And if you feel like talking a bit more, then I’ll … then I’ll listen. I’m trying to argue … I’m the calling the system …. I’m calling it a system … a system we live in .. a ‘Live and Let Die’ system … some people ..  you know … it’s a class structure … some people live long, materially intense lives … many people, if not a majority, are immiserated and/or suffer a premature death … and this is the case globally … it’s less so but still very much the case somewhere like Britain and I’m also arguing that it’s an emergency situation … because of climate change …. I think … I would agree with writers like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists who say the combined risks from nuclear weaponry and from climate change mean that humanity … I think even two years ago they were saying humanity is in ‘extreme danger’ .. Does that sound about right to you?

NW: that sounds exactly right to me … in fact yesterday I tweeted … only half tongue in cheek I tweeted that the biggest threat to mankind’s survival is climate change and whataboutery … now by that I mean … and I think it’s partly the problem of social media … and the short attention span that the internet has created in people … but you mention something like climate change and then somebody will say “well what about this?” … and you can’t .. there seems to be now no focus on a campaign or an issue … you can’t say anything without “what about pedophiles?” … “what about climate change?”

JO: yes

NW: and there is no focus … I find .. I think people … there’s always sort of pseudo activism but no focus and no real direct action …

JO: well, that’s very interesting ’cause I worry that there is a lack of coordination

NW: that’s what I mean …

JO: yes

NW: and I think it’s partly because of the network of the internet and it’s now so easy to slide around all over the place and … you know … put your tuppence worth in here and there but there’s no coordination and there’s no focus …

JO: yes

NW: even MPs … I was watching … today I was watching a thing on the news about Chris Williamson … is it? The Labour MP. … he was … they were talking about why the BBC hadn’t reported Corbyn’s peace prize … and I think Labour are making a bit too much of it ..but, even so, the BBC didn’t report it … it was Jo Cockburn … that politics show and she said “well, did you tweet about it?” as though tweeting now is the … you know …

JO: the litmus test …

NW: you know .. she … this is the BBC … the British Broadcasting Corporation .. so, basically she was blaming Labour that the BBC didn’t report it …

JO: yes… “you didn’t tweet about it!!”

NW: “you didn’t tweet about it” … well she didn’t … she didn’t just say that .. she said “well, did Labour know about it? Did Corbyn announce it?” … you know … she was basically blaming Labour for the fact that they weren’t reporting the news …

JO: yes

NW: I mean … it’s bizarre … it ties in with what you are saying … there’s no coordination .. there’s no joined up thinking …

JO: Do you feel we are in an emergency where we need to fix things pronto?

NW: well .. I don’t think … personally I don’t feel an emergency … apart from my own personal situation … because I might lose my house … I don’t … do you mean politically like Trump?

JO: no, I mean in terms of .. if you are going to fix the climate …

NW: you’re talking about climate

JO: you’ve got to fix it in three to five years or something …

NW: yes …. I do ..

JO: is that the sort of time frame you think is …

NW: yes but the problem is .. as you know … obviously you think about this more than I do … but the investment and the problem with the investment in oil and fossil fuels … I mean we … you know .. I mentioned it before about HSBC and Saudi Aramco … there’s huge corruption going on because it’s going to be the biggest ever IPO .. you know, Initial Public Offering … shares … worth up to $100bn … and it’s oil … we should be putting that money into renewable energy …

JO: yes

NW: I mean, as somebody said … I can’t remember who it was … but it was a beautiful thing .. we .. you know ..most of our energy comes from under the ground … from coal or oil … but we should be taking our energy from above the ground …

JO: it’s a nice way of thinking about it …

NW: [ ] wind… and sun … which is a very nice way of putting it … but yes … so in that sense it’s an emergency because we need to do a massive U-turn and start investing in renewables in a big way …

JO: So .. I mean .. if I asked you … it’s unfair really … but very succinctly to try and flesh out and describe what a better world looks like … stop laughing … do you feel that’s easily done?

NW: not at all

JO: I’ve got a feeling we’re not terribly good at that …

NW: no … I mean .. I’ve never thought that big … I mean .. I … in the past, I’ve always been interested in Buddhism and in the past I used to practise it as well … and I came across a very nice saying when I was doing that … it would be nice to cover the whole of the Earth in soft leather so we can all walk around bare feet … and it would be wonderful … but … you know …we can’t do that … it’s impractical … so .. but what we can do is cover our own feet in soft leather and that’s … that’s my attitude … you know … I think each person has to do what they can …

JO: yes

NW: but if they act right … which is something that’s important in Buddhism … although I am not … I don’t now call myself a practising Buddhist … but the ideas are still relevant …

JO: you mean doing the right thing … on an individual basis …

NW: … I don’t mean morally … I mean just doing … you know what the right thing is .. you know … if a child runs into the middle of the road and a car is coming … you run out and pick the child up … you don’t have to think about it … you know what the right thing is … I think where people do the wrong thing, it’s where they are corrupted by money and power and all these other things which get in the way of right ..

JO: do you think most people’s moral instincts are cultural or are they deeper than that, or?

NW: I think … that’s a question I’ve never thought about either …

JO: no, I probably haven’t either …

NW: I think they’re deeper than that … you know .. I don’t think it’s just a moral …

JO: yes … I suppose what I’m trying to get at is .. do you think this is something that a majority of British people know? They know when they’re not doing the right thing …

NW: yes … yes …

JO: ok

NW: definitely

JO: what do you think … if I said .. equally succinctly … what in terms of institutions or which institutions and who needs to do what to address this emergency .. do you have a feeling about that or is it the same answer really …

NW: the emergency being climate change …

JO: yes … the sort of macro emergency … I see it all as connected really … so the whataboutery thing .. you know .. I totally understand … ’cause if you don’t understand that all these things are connected ..

NW: well, deep ecology is what it’s about really, isn’t it? It’s understanding that … and again, to go back to Buddhism .. everything’s contingent on everything else … and … but we are so single minded about fossil fuels, and investment, and the money to be made … I mean I’m going back over the old ground but … I don’t .. it’s not an issue … I don’t campaign and do a lot of reading about climate change … I can’t really answer your question …

JO: I suppose I’m not … when I say “climate change”, I’m not necessarily asking you just to think about the environment but it’s very much of course … certainly in the Anthropocene as I think it gets called now … what we do as humans on the planet is in a very intimate relationship with ecology …

NW: yes

JO: so I feel sorting out the social injustice is at once going to sort out …

NW: yes … I mean the military industrial complex and that … the whole thing that is tied in with oil and gas … which is destroying … oil and gas which is destroying the planet [ ]

JO: yes .. that’s what I am talking about .. I guess … ’cause a lot of what we began our conversation talking about … are the operatives and structures of the military-industrial- financial-fossil-fuel-complex … you could call it, almost, couldn’t you?

NW: yes … that’s the problem …

JO: so how do we get past that? And the entrenched individuals and institutions … I’ve just read a suggestion in Andrew Sayer’s book … I’ll be talking to him tomorrow …

NW: right

JO: that the energy companies must be nationalised …

NW: yes

JO: because their balance sheets make no sense whatsoever .. if they can’t burn oil any more ..

NW: yes .. but I also think if corruption itself was also dealt with properly .. and a few people went to prison more often … there might be less incentive to … I mean … you know .. as we’ve mentioned before … corruption is the way it works … it’s the oil which runs the City … you know .. it’s so ingrained … and not recent … you know … for hundreds of years … it’s been the same

JO: yes … sort of business as usual …

NW: yes … but the rewards are so great now ..as … we mentioned that film, Spider’s Web .. you know … it’s a massive, massive, massive industry .. it’s corruption, and tax avoidance and offshore trusts and so on … and all of that has to be dealt with first … because that is what underpins … I mean it’s the drug’s trade which basically underpins … when the financial crisis happened in 2008, it was drugs money that basically kept the world economy going .. so unless we deal with corruption …

JO: people don’t necessarily understand that, do they?

NW: no … but most loans … that was pointed out in the Spider’s Web film … most loans are facilitated through offshore money … and the reason HSBC didn’t need a bail out is because they had all that drug money … I mean it’s … and until you deal with the underlying corruption which motivates these people in the City, then I think climate change is inevitable

JO: I mean I can answer … I will bring this to a close because I think we are over an hour now .. but .. one way of dealing with it is what you are doing, yes?

NW: well .. [ ]

JO: is for people to fight where they find themselves in the structure … do the right thing .. as you said …

NW: yes

JO: in your case we can look at what you’ve done … and what you are doing …

NW: but look at what it’s done to me …

JO: well, this is what people need to understand …

NW: so they won’t do it .. I mean my public position now is not to blow the whistle …in financial matters …

JO: you think the cost is too much for one individual …

NW: yes … [ ]

JO: are there other ways of doing it?

NW: say again …

JO: are there other ways of doing it that would exact a slightly less toll on any particular person ?

NW: [ ] just get another job … I mean … I’m not talking about in medicine or building site or something .. when it’s a matter of life and death … but if it’s just money … the money men will win … they’ll grind you down .. [ ]

JO: yes … that suggests to me that a number of different fronts have to be opened … and energy put into it in a coordinated way …

NW: yes

JO: whistleblowing being one strand but there being many others … do you feel electoral politics is part of that?

NW: I don’t really understand the question …

JO: I suppose what I am saying is … I would argue I think that you need extra-electoral political effort .. outside of the electoral system … you need campaigns … you need boycotts … you need what you are doing …

NW: yes … I mean that’s why I stood for parliament … I mean obviously I didn’t expect to win but as far as I can see there is nobody in parliament that deals with corruption …

JO: but you can’t fix it without getting into the power structures

NW: no … so ideally I would like there to be a party with me in it … not leading it … but me in it … that deals with corruption … I think party politics is irrelevant frankly … an analogy I use for the last election is … I use this analogy of … all these speeches and so on which is just people skimming stones off the surface of a lake but the lake is corruption … and they’re just seeing who can skim the furthest … but they’re not actually dealing with the underlying problem …

JO: do you think that there are no parties out there that look like the ticket?

NW: no … because they don’t understand it … I mean … the problem with Labour … they don’t deal with it … they’re making noises now about tax avoidance and the city and so on but they don’t really attack the city because they don’t understand it … they’re not businessmen in that sense … and they don’t really understand how it works .. and … [ ]a lot of the things that Corbyn says sound great but 50% of them he won’t be able to achieve because of the power of the city of London.

JO: so that power needs to be attacked somehow …

NW: yes … it needs to be abolished, the City of London

JO: which would then enable a party to be able to get something done …

NW: yes .. there should be a nationalised bank …. all the energy [ ] … rail should be nationalised ..just like in the rest of Europe …

JO: yes

NW: most of the rest of Europe …

JO: ok ..

NW: alright

JO: that’s lovely …

NW: good

JO: thanks very much … I hope it was a slight change from your habitual interview …

NW: yes … I’m always happy to chat …


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