Zombie Policy Apocalypse Part 2: Cruel Britannia
Continued from Part 1
From Cruel Britannia, Land of Grope and Tory – a scandal-ridden post Brexit economic basket-case, The Sick Man of Europe, or gaga but stable as described in Colin Hay’s “catastrophic equilibrium”, a simultaneous failure and stability, comes news of a new probe into old allegations against former party Whip, Chris Pincher, MP for Tamworth, who now sits as an independent while The Australian Solution to asylum-seekers offers no quick fix at a time when City puppet Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is preparing another set of cuts to spending and tax increases which will do nothing to ease stagflation or the long-term damage caused by George Osborne’s austerity measures in his first budget in 2010.
Chris Pincher is to be investigated. Revisiting “Pestminster” is the last thing Rishi Sunak needs. The oxymoronic office of the UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone OBE, opens the investigation on 20 October, into “actions causing significant damage to the reputation of the House as a whole, or of its members generally”.
There’d be a horde of Tories ducking for cover under this rubric – notorious serial sex pest, Chris Pincher is the fifth in three months – but Johnson whose regime is a string of scandals since 2019, promotes a known abuser, normalising abuse by describing Pincher as “handsy” and referring to him as “Pincher by name and Pincher by nature”.
All of which speaks volumes about Tory sleaze-baggery and locker room culture; while for Johnson, his trivialising of Pincher’s sexual offending means his lies must find him out.
Pincher allegedly, sexually assaulted two men at the elite, members-only, Carlton Club, a Tory political incubator. Battling to keep the lid on the Tory dumpster-fire, is poor little rich kid, billionaire PM Rishi Sunak, another City of London catspaw, who rues the day he re-instated failed Home Secretary, Cruella Braverman, rewarding her support in his bid to be PM.
Crazy Braverman breaks Home Office security rules six times, whilst ignoring legal advice on catastrophic overcrowding in Manton, a former RAF base in Kent, where four thousand men, women and children are crammed into a facility designed for a thousand.
Children’s hands reach out through chain mesh and tarpaulin covers. Hungry youngsters huddle together under a thin blanket on the plywood floor of a marquee. Such highly visible reminders of policy failure and the public spectacle of an ineffectual and rogue Home Secretary, are already casting doubt on Sunak’s political judgement.
There’s a fabulous plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda but that’s run into a legal hitch.
Johnson’s government cancels its first deportation flight in June when the European Court of Human Rights rules that the stunt carries “a real risk of irreversible harm.”
The scheme is now being tried in the UK’s High Court. But there’s no shortage of support from the arse-end of the earth from a former Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister who tells The Weekend Australian,[paywalled] he’s set his sights on becoming the next Lord Mayor of Adelaide.
“Put them onto stable craft and drive them back to France – that’s the simple solution and would destroy the smugglers’ business model in a week,” Alexander Downer chortles.
“Short of that, [make] sure they can’t settle in the UK under any circumstances – the [agreement the] government negotiated with Rwanda – is a good solution as well.”
Sound familiar? The eternally vigilant Liberal Party’s elder statesmen never sleep.
“Suppository of all wisdom”, Tony Abbott hawked his boat-stopping to former Tory governments, even though asylum seekers boats had stopped under his predecessor, Labor’s Kevin Rudd, 19 July 2013, two months before the election.. It’s become Liberal Party dogma; a xenophobic, cynically opportunistic, contempt for international law and human decency, not merely inhumane but gratuitously cruel. When you sell someone else your barbarism, it makes your own monstrous indifference to others; your squalid moral bankruptcy; your poverty of mind and spirit seem less abhorrent.
Downer always seems to be able to go lower. In February, former Johnson regime unparalleled failure, Home Secretary Priti Patel invited him on to her Rwanda committee – bugger-human-rights-and-international-convention-send-them-on a one way journey to a Central African nation with a bad human rights record. He’s into it like a rat up a drainpipe.
Now Big Al or Bunty as he’s fondly known at home, a patrician fop with a lordly sense of entitlement honks out the heartless xenophobia that has worked so well for MPs here.
Drive asylum seekers back to France from whence they come like moths to a flame? Or shivering from hypothermia, drenched to the bone, exhausted, in leaky, overloaded rowboats, navigating only by eye toward the white chalk cliffs of Dover.
Over 35,500 asylum-seekers cross the channel this year; up from 28,000 in 2021.
Dozens have drowned in the attempt.
All hands to the bilge pump to dispel the “southern invasion” of Albanian economic migrants as asylum-seekers in small boats are misrepresented in The Daily Fail and by Home Secretary, raving Cruella Braverman.
The Home Office worries that the make-up of people on small boats is changing. From January 2018 to June 2022, it claims that Iranian (28%) and Iraqi (20%) nationals represented nearly half of all small boat arrivals. In the first six months of 2022, over half (51%) of small boat arrivals were from three nationalities – Albanian (18%), Afghan (18%) and Iranian (15%). These figures are unverified.
From May to September 2022 Albanian nationals alone comprised 42% of small boat crossings, with 11,102 Albanians arriving by small boat in those five months.
The Home Office claims that Albanians don’t need asylum because they come from a “safe” country. The data suggests otherwise. In the year ending this June, 53% of Albanian claimants were granted asylum, or other forms of leave to stay in the UK, on first decision, and a higher proportion on appeal.
Dressed to kill, in Top Gun pilot’s helmet and flak jacket, Braverman commandeers a Chinook military helicopter which “can lift anything and go anywhere” to travel thirty kilometres from Dover to an overcrowded migrant gulag at Manston. Is Suella morphing into android or super hero mode? What’s clear is she will fight them on the beaches in her own chauvinistic Churchillian movie, acting her socks off as a loyal defender of the realm.
But don’t sell her short. Ruthless Rishi’s record sprint to the top job means he’s done deals all over the shop. Crazy Ms Braverman who is unlikely to outlast a Tesco tomato, owes her unholy resurrection to a Sunak deal. Who knows whom else he owes? Virtual political Mayfly, Truss, a fifty-one day dud, is a well-grubbed Tufton Street mole.
Is the fast-tracked Sunak human? A bot, programmed, like the Tory Party itself, to self-extinguish? The political knackers’ yard beckons the new PM, even without his Infosys slave-trading gig or his “brave” deal to reinstate Leaky Sue, (Send them) Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Tory arch bigot and anti-immigration dog-whistling xenophobe.
“Either he appointed a home secretary with a vicious demagogic streak knowing she is useless, in which case he has wilfully sabotaged one of the most important departments in Whitehall for no obvious gain, or he did it because he is blind to Braverman’s deficiencies, in which case he shares them,” writes The Guardian UK’s Rafael Behr.
On the third hand, it’s certain that the tabloid-orchestrated chorus of xenophobia – an “invasion on our southern coast” according to Sue, is the Sun and others running distraction for a Tory regime that’s a vortex of ineptitude, bad policy and worse PR.
What possessed Sunak to boast to Tunbridge Wells’ Tories he was Robin Hood in reverse; that he had diverted public funds from “deprived urban areas” to “areas like this”?
Sunak has blood on his hands. As BoJo’s Chancellor, Sunak’s £850 million “eat out to help out” meal and drink subsidy stunt drove new COVID-19 infections up by between 8 and 17% in the second wave of the pandemic in 2020.
Sunak, like BoJo or our ScoMo, doesn’t consult any experts.
It’s all part of our postmodern, post truth, faux-populist, global right-wing politics’ anti-intellectualism. Why would Chancellor Rishi Sunak consult public health experts before inflicting his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ stunt in the UK Summer of 2020?
What would they know about a healthy economy? The £10 discount scheme, which provides cheaper meals to diners going out to their local curry house, restaurant or Pizza Express, (plus a bonus free COVID exposure), is “epidemiologically illiterate” sniff experts interviewed by The Institute for Government (IfG) for its report – a formal indictment of the cloud of unknowing at the heart of Torydom from BoJo to ScoMo.
“At times it was very unclear, outside the inner circles, just who would be involved, how decisions were taken and on what basis.”
Similarly self-harming are Sunak’s vows to stop crops of solar panels popping up in fields; or halt onshore wind farms, pledges aimed to attract party carbonari during his summer campaign failure to outbid Tufton Street muppet, Libertarian crash test dummy Liz Truss.
His emotional bypass may suggest Rishi’s a robot – as with Liz, but it’s not true. They’re zombie economics fanatics who will do whatever it takes to make the rich even richer.
So, too will LNP serial dud, Peter Dutton, another political Loaded Dog who claims “tax cuts boost economic activity” but who shows he doesn’t know his Yeppen from his Yeppoon, a gaffe which Coalition women try to bury by accusing Albo of bullying Michelle Landry.
Truss believes that if you just make the rich richer, (an imperative in an era of record profit, off-shoring and price-gouging), through tax cuts, subsidies and deregulation, it creates a virtual Niagara Falls of wealth for everyone else.
Oddly, no-one has ever seen it. In reality, wealth tends to trickle-up. Yet this is to miss its true function. Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s Chief Economist explains,
“The power of trickle-down economics has never been its economic logic but rather its political logic. Thatcher created a suite of rhetorical and policy tools that consistently united middle-class and high-income voters in the belief that the lower their taxes, the better their country would be.
The genius wasn’t selling the direct benefits of tax cuts to those who would get the cash, it was arguing that helping the rich was actually the best way to help the poor. And so “compassionate conservatism” was born.”
Truss is a rusted-on devotee of the IEA, a “”cell of Libertarian extremists which styles itself as “an educational research group which furthers the dissemination of free-market thinking” but like our IPA, won’t disclose its donors.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you? Spoiler alert, ExxonMobil gave Policy Exchange $30,000 in 2017.
The “think tank” went on to recommend the creation of a new anti-protest law targeting the likes of Extinction Rebellion, which led to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. Protesters can be banned from future protest, be fitted with tracking devices and worse.
Labour peer Lord Hain sees the law as “the biggest threat to the right to dissent and the right to protest in my lifetime.” It would have “throttled” protests by the suffragettes, he adds. Suella Braverman says it is not a human right to vandalise property.
Or not pay their power bills. E.ON, a German-owned energy giant which forecasts a profit of £3.6bn in global pre-tax earnings for 2022 spent its last summer lobbying Kwasi Karteng against capping of energy bills and also warning about what it sees as an “existential” risk posed by campaigners who threaten to stop paying their gas and power.
Also clear is the link between fossil fuel industries and the IEA; Truss’ mother-ship. The American Friends of the IEA pocketed a $50,000 gift from ExxonMobil in 2004, while the UK branch HQ of the IEA has received donations from BP every year since 1967.
OpenDemocracy reports, ‘Truss is particularly close to the IEA, having founded its parliamentary wing FREER in 2011 and hired its former communications director Ruth Porter to run her campaign, later rewarding her by making her deputy chief of staff’.
Tim Montgomerie, a former Johnson advisor, tells Twitter the Truss budget is a “massive moment for the IEA”. “They’ve been advocating these policies for years. They incubated Truss and Kwarteng during their early years as MPs. Britain is now their laboratory.” Director General Mark Littlewood is said to be distraught over how the market repudiated his group’s free-market experiment.
Some Trickle-downers trace their faith to a Will Rogers joke or a sketch on the back of a table napkin in the 1980s, the Laffer Curve, drawn by Reagan era economist Arthur Laffer, who also argues that government spending depresses the economy.
In reality, cutting taxes to increase prosperity is David Hume’s idea in his 1756 essay Of Taxes, as University of Newcastle economist Professor Bill Mitchell patiently points out.
It defies all evidence. Especially historical. In the 1940s and the 1970s in the US top rates were anywhere between seventy and ninety-four percent, yet the nation posted record growth in GDP. After the 1980s, top rates began to come down yet GDP never recovered Iits post war boom. In reality, the rich tend to hang on to a tax windfall or spend extra funds buying back shares in their own company boosting its market value.
Zombie economics get another run in the UK. Coined by economist and Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman it’s the free market gospel that somehow comes back from the dead to despatch the hapless Truss. It helped turn the US into the world’s biggest creditor nation into the world’s biggest debtor nation in Reagan’s two terms in office.
Frydenberg’s stage three tax cuts are a brazen, unfunded, unnecessary bribe to its donor class to vote for the Liberal Party, wrecking a progressive tax system and promoting inequality.
Labor promises to keep the cuts – who wants to get wedged in an election campaign? -but now Lucky Jim Chalmers calculates that the cuts will cost $254 billion over ten years, meaning so much less to spend on schools, hospitals, or the NDIS just to benefit a wealthy elite who already have the means to access tax minimisation schemes and don’t need it baked into the system.
Bank CEOs, surgeons, and federal politicians will get a windfall tax cut of $9075, while aged care workers, disability carers and those on minimum wages will get nothing.
Despite all her policy nonsense, it is chilling just how quickly Truss is trounced, bounced and hounded into resignation by the 1922 committee of hacks or backbenchers the Conservative Party keeps under the counter for just such emergencies.
It was only yesterday that Tory “grandees” were praising the new PM for her refreshing iconoclasm. Her show of blithe unconcern as to where the money was coming from? Too much. A volatile market was spooked and it cost the Bank of England at least $65 billion in a bond buy- back as it frantically- and far from convincingly – tried to calm the farm.
Her resignation speech mirrors her premiership or footage of Truss being received by the Queen at Windsor “haphazard, uncomfortable to watch, and almost comically short.”
Will the myth of trickle-down also be laid to rest? Not with Jeremy Hunt at the helm. Brought on by Truss to replace Chancellor Kwasi Karteng, with just a little prompting from Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, who hints of a glass of whisky and a revolver, is Jeremy Hunt who caused a stir when he set up arms sales to the Saudis, worth at least $20 billion since 2015.
The issue is not how quickly Truss is undone but how she became PM at all. And how quickly and cruelly she is disabused of her delusions. Johnson’s, prank candidate, Libertarian free-marketeer and Maths whiz, Liz- as she prefers to be known-goes into a dizzy downward spiral of U-turn after U-turn, desperately trying to dodge a barrage of opposition to her mini-budget’s rejection by the market – only to be bullied into resignation. Humiliated as Jeremy Hunt publicly, sadistically, undoes every strand of her £460 billion bold new plan.
A plan not to raise corporation tax, and a plan to cap energy bills without resorting to a windfall tax on energy company profits. It ends with us having none of these things, writes Loughborough University, London’s Dr Gerhard Schnyder who notes that the battle was not between good and bad economics but which bad prevailed over worse.
Luckily, austerity is well in hand. In two weeks, rhyming slang Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and his PM will collude in ruining the lower orders with “fiscal tightening”, a fertile formula for the ruling elite, which involves cutting government services for the masses, raising interest rates, just as gas and electricity corporations price three quarters of households out of the market while a quarter must buy groceries on their credit cards.
Austerity is calculated to line the pockets of pawnbrokers, loan sharks, usurers, banks and other money lenders while energy corporations jack up the price of gas and electricity (elevenfold since 2019), leaving the poor to starve in the cold and dark as winter approaches. UK natural gas prices rose nearly 96% in the year to July.
The Conservative Party itself is riddled with corruption far more toxic beyond Johnson’s faux populism, his vainglorious loutishness or his malignant narcissism, making it more of a push of spivs than an outfit seeking to revive life as it was in 1922, only with a personal hedge fund manager, a peerage for beer money and a personally curated concierge service.
Revelations of dark money contributions and paid lobbying abound in conservative parties worldwide, although UK Tories have an edge. Even its honours system is up for sale.
Fifteen out of 16 Tory party treasurers in the past seven years donated £3 million to the Tory party. Every one of them is offered a peerage. The sublimely named Peter Cruddas, a former Conservative Party treasurer, donated £30 million over ten years only to give the Tories £500,000 three days after taking his seat in the House of Lords in February 2021. Cruddas was busted soliciting cash for access to David Cameron, ten years earlier, a process now streamlined into a club named The Advisory Board run by Tory entrepreneur Ben Elliott.
Elliot, who sees himself as a “willing slave to the stars”, a luxury lifestyle consultant made his name running Quintessentially, a “concierge” company and aristocrat life support ecosystem that caters to the caprices of the rich, from shipping a dozen albino peacocks to a party for Jennifer Lopez to airlifting elm tea bags to Madonna.
All in a day’s work, the 45-year-old Etonian and son-in-law of rock star Steve Winwood tells the Financial Times in 2011. Securing services for his wealthy clients is all about “knowing the right people to contact for the right favour.”
Elliot has the right connections. The nephew of Camilla, he was once accused of offering access to then Prince Charles in exchange for a lucrative Quintessentially membership.
But there’s more. With wealth comes power and with both comes The Advisory Board. Businessman and Tory donor, Mohamed Amersi tells The Guardian that Elliott’s Advisory Board Conservative club is “like the very elite Quintessentially clients’ membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben.”
Elliot has made the Advisory Board the number one club in the Conservative Party. Members got monthly access to Johnson or then chancellor Rishi Sunak, say insiders.
Tory Warlords claim the Advisory Board evolved before Boris took power, but won’t say when. Nor is it named in any party literature. A senior minister in David Cameron’s administration says: “I’ve never heard of it.”
Interviewed by The Guardian UK, Labour party chair Anneliese Dodds is blunt:
“This appears to be less of an advisory board than a means for a select group of elite donors to gain privileged access to the prime minister and the chancellor.”
Above all, the seeds of Brexit bear bitter fruit. Leaving the EU helps create division and instability while conferring none of the riches its advocates promised. Gone is instant EU access, exporters now face thirty days’ delay. The bureaucracy of the EU is now replaced by UK officialdom. Trickle-down Trussonomics builds on Brexiteers’ magical thinking; blending a defiance of expert consensus and the market with contempt for Britain’s partners.
Brexit has proved an unmitigated disaster to the UK economy, according to a wide range of commentators from academics and left-leaning journalists to growing numbers of bankers such as Citibank’s Chief Economist, Benjamin Nabarro.
But rotten as it may be, the party has its elite stormtroopers who move like a wolf on the fold when self interest is at stake. The party that pays lip service to liberty calls in its own Bank of England stooge, Jeremy Hunt, when the market panics at rising interest rates fuelled by a Trussian October Revolution of unfunded tax cuts, fuel subsidies and state spending.
Truss’ vision of an agile, lightly-regulated, innovative, entrepreneurial Britain with a Melbourne Cup field of “investment zones” where can-do capitalism can knock itself out free of red tape (or green) would not be out of place in a Malcolm Turnbull speech and is cut from the same international think-tank boiler plate. Build it and they will come. Especially with favourable tax and planning approval. It is more Singapore on Thames, critics sniff, than a practical solution to Britain’s real economic challenges of under investment, inflation, spiralling inequality and recession.
Others point out that it’s handing a blank cheque to businesses who’d have to force themselves to have a ten year tax holiday at the government’s expense. In the meantime, the government still has to pay to keep its projects afloat.
Pet projects grow into white elephants. Turnbull’s Snowy 2.0 pumped Hydro pipe dream with subsidies boondoggle – a bargain at $2 billion in its initial “under-cooked” quote – is now estimated to cost at least $10 billion and could be on stream by 2028 at the earliest.
It’s a snip compared with Inland Rail, the Nationals holy grail, which experts advise the Senate will cost at least $20 billion and counting.
Lean green machines, they are not. Utopia’s Rob Sitch, says the grid as it stands means that “pumped hydro is like trying to charge a Tesla with a diesel generator.”
Liz is a fizza but shadow lenders, unregulated, unaccountable and untouchable, increasingly deal themselves into the high-stakes poker of the biggest game in town.
The Tory Party’s abrupt reversion to orthodox, austerity economics is testament to the power of the old guard at the City of London to dictate economic policy.
Or is it a last-ditch attempt to dictate government economic policy by the unelected BoE board? As our Reserve Bank is currently making. Unfortunately, full steam astern will only lead the nation deeper into recession.
But it will be cruel Britannia all the way with all the help that tabloid media can supply about the need for a nation to take its medicine – and not to fuss itself over the prescription. The Bank of England Bank Governor and his pliant board will raise interest rates on household mortgages to halt inflation caused by corporate price gouging at the supermarket, the privatised supply of gas and electricity and the economic disruption of Russia’s War on Ukraine.
If that sounds like our own charismatic dynamo, Philip Lowe that ‘s because he’s reading from the same zombie apocalypse script. It will help protect the fortunes of the ruling elite but it will be the average wage earner who is forced to pay for it all.
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