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Zombie Policy Apocalypse Part 1

Taking Britain and Putin’s oil and gas war-disrupted Covid-stricken world markets by storm is Trussed!, another spectacular episode of trickle-down and double backflip, a 45 day far-right detour in Little Britain’s post-Brexit Tory Story, an action-packed, adrenaline junkie’s in-flight entertainment featuring political jokes, fiscal hocus pocus, bitchy infighting, breathtaking ineptitude, self-parody and inglorious failure. Spoiler alert. There is no happy ending. Whilst Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, the surreal spin cycle of UK Tory politics will continue to inflict misery and suffering on the poor.

Have the Tories come full circle? “The UK is once again in the grip of austerity and anti-democratic politics – when we got into this crisis precisely because of austerity and democratic failure. The vast spending cuts made by George Osborne wrecked our hospitals, our schools and our town halls, and stoked the frustrations that ensured Brexit,” writes Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty. Now there will be more.

Mary Elizabeth Truss, is a product of Tufton Street, a hotbed of fossil fuel lobby groups and right-wing think tanks that have colonised government. Political activists Led by Donkeys’ latest video depicts three members up a ladder placing a mock blue plaque on 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, central London, a Georgian townhouse serving as HQ to right-wing zombie idealogues who spout the dud policies so popular with Truss.

“The UK economy was crashed here,” reads a “Liz Trussorative” sign, dated 23 September 2022, the day Ms Truss’s ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announces his uncosted “mini-Budget”, cunningly named to avoid Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) scrutiny. Proposing big tax cuts and heavy borrowing at a time of high inflation, lifts interest rates, shaves three percent off the value of the pound, upsets the bond market and has the Bank of England in damage control.

Within days, high profile Sunak supporter, Jeremy Hunt, a former Health Minister under David Cameron and Theresa May, pops up like the White Rabbit and proceeds to shred every thread of the Trussian roulette crazy plan. He vows to set up a new economic advisory council, with four crack economists already on board, Rupert Harrison, George Osborne’s former chief of staff, and a JP Morgan executive. George Osborne, the king of cuts?

All is not lost. Hunt keeps the uncapped bonuses for bankers, a vital fiscal reform.

Britain’s third PM in four years, a fanatical Libertarian Free Market Neoliberal, who acted her idol, Baroness, Margaret Thatcher in primary school, is dumbstruck; heartbroken to be booed off stage by The City, financial centre of the world, if New York.

Trussed! is a cautionary tale of a hapless, half-baked Thatcherite who strikes fear and loathing into the heart of the market she worships; a tale which may help dispel some of the voodoo economics of neoliberalism if not point to its death – as our own national living treasure, The Australia Institute’s Chief Economist Richard Denniss writes.

“It took Liz Truss just 45 days to destroy Margaret Thatcher’s life’s work. For 40 years the idea that tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to help the poor has not just dominated the rhetoric of Western politicians but aligned the ambitions of those who already have the most and those who wish they did.”

But it may be premature to dance on the grave of middle-class welfare or government run by a privileged elite on behalf of that elite at the expense of the pathologically lazy wage slave, as Truss and her pals, all members of think tank The Free Enterprise Group, “encouraging classical liberalism” slander British workers in Britannia Unchained, (2012), her manifesto.

“Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

Truss is hounded into resignation soon after her opening solo, Trickle Down, an attempt to woo the oligarchy and schmooze the rich, leads to her being replaced by Rishi Sunak, a former Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund manager when the firm brought on the 2008 recession.

“Dishy Rishi”, as tabloids dub him, goes on to marry fashion designer, venture capitalist and software heiress, Akshata Murty, whose father N.R. Narayana Murthy, founded tech sweatshop giant, Infosys which, incidentally, twenty years ago contracted to do a lot of IT work for Telstra. Whilst his affairs are hidden in a blind trust, the little battler, whose father was a doctor and whose mother owned a pharmacy, does very well for himself.

It’s cheering to see Sunak unchained, slaving to overcome a privileged upbringing in Hampshire, one of England’s most affluent counties. Our hearts go out to Rishi as he battles his way through an elite prep school, Stroud, before Winchester (£45,936 per annum) where he’s made head boy and then he’s up to Oxford, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Later he’s on a Fulbright Scholarship doing an MBA at Stamford. There follows a stint where he is director of his father-in-law’s company. But can he do something useful with his life?

True, only in a parallel Tory Universe could a billionaire whose family fortunes are linked with labour outsourcing and who keeps his affairs secret, ever be a successful PM, just as any government on behalf of a wealthy elite will tend to perpetuate injustice, inequality and indifference to those lower on the ladder.

IT outsourcing itself is a paradigm of inequality, a neoliberal magic wand to make IT costs disappear, only to appear in a developing nation, for example, in 2017, a typical IT Indian worker would be paid $5,000 while their US counterparts can expect north of $100,000. Another part of the magic is that as IT costs disappear, so, too do jobs.

Already in the UK the poor are poorer. There are plans to cut government spending because Trussonomics causes a £70 billion black hole, or so Hunt declares, (sound familiar?) which will mean cuts to schools and hospitals already in crisis due to under-funding. Even the fuel cap on household gas and electricity bills is cut from two years to a token six months.

Sunak is not popular with his party. Just last month, given a choice between Sunak and Truss, Tories voted for the untested, wild-eyed ideologue. Sunak solves his lack of support – for now – by recycling ministers from the fabulously impressive Johnson and Truss governments. Keeping RWNJs close. We’ve seen how well this tactic works in recent Coalition governments in Canberra.

Sunak strategically re-appoints, as Home Secretary, the anti-immigration, anti-protest right winger, Suella Braverman, who lampoons dissent on energy and environment policy as the work of “tofu-eating wokerati” an MP who sees opponents as “the anti-growth coalition.”

Is Barnaby Joyce moonlighting? Or is the anti-progressive invective multinational?

But it’s a risky gambit. In forgiving Braverman for her breach of security only six days after she resigns over sharing a confidential document, the new PM inflames Tory divisions over political direction and probity that could cause him to lose authority. No big deal.

Former Tory party chair Sir Jake Berry accuses Braverman of “multiple breaches” of the ministerial code; calls her Leaky Sue”. He tells TalkTV that, far from coming forward and admitting her mistake, she has only fessed up when confronted with the evidence.

Minutes later, another Tory MP, Mark Pritchard, helpfully suggests that MI5 lacks confidence in Ms Braverman and that Sunak needs to do something about the situation.

Also helpful are Harry Cole and James Heale whose ebook on the rise and fall of Liz Truss, Out of the Blue, to be published 1 November, (desperately brought forward one month), claims Braverman also leaked market-sensitive information when home secretary. These trifling matters aside, the MP is irrepressible; always keen to stir up racism, xenophobia and gratuitous cruelty.

Braverman will be cheered, she says, when the first plane load of asylum seekers is sent off to Rwanda. “I would love to have a front page of the Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.”

But rehabilitating Braverman who breached the ministerial code by sending a cabinet document by personal email, dog whistles the Tories’ right wing. And may win Sunak some Johnson supporters. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunak’s clearly no slouch. He’s also fixed up the misunderstanding which forced his wife to not pay tax on her £400 million share in Infosys, because of her non-domicile status saving her £20 million in taxes on her annual dividends of around £6 million.

At first, Sunak argued his wife was entitled to the tax break but now declares that she will pay all taxes. That’ll fix it.

To briefly recap the plot, with a warning that this account features names of people who are politically deceased, Liz follows Boris’ Level Up, an utterly gutted slogan so hollow it’s a virtual black hole, with Zombie Apocalypse Now, a free market-libertarian burlesque where Truss pledges to shower Londongrad, HQ of the UK’s fabulously wealthy oligarchy, in buckets of borrowed money.

The City promptly swoons; the pound falls to a new low almost on parity with the US dollar, interest rates rise and pension fund managers struggle to keep away from upper-storey windows. Truss’ Bold New Plan involves unfunded tax cuts for the rich. And £100 billion in home fuel subsidies. All on tick. But it’s less the plan itself than how it snubs the very idea of budgeting, a process which has morphed into a form of performance art about credibility. Balancing the books is prudent government – if you believe the Tories and their tabloids.

The City is thunderstruck. BT’s pension fund, one of Britain’s biggest, is filthy. BT loses £12bn in the mayhem after 23 May when Truss and Kartweng spin their mini-budget thingie.

Pension funds are made up of a range of investments and encourage gambling with other peoples’ money and betting on interest rates and bond yields.

Unfortunately, along with energy oligopolies’ price gouging and mortgage rate hikes, pension funds can fuel inflation.

Increasingly, funds invest in basics which increase your shopping bill and what you pay for petrol. More than €30bn is tied up in European pension funds, which are used to bet on the price of raw materials like food and fuel.

Nick Dearden, Director of campaign group Global Justice Now, explains that pension funds are “gambling on food prices, in the process driving up those prices and fuelling the cost of living crisis for all of us.”

The UK is the second largest source of foreign investment in Australia. DFAT says its stock of investment was valued at $574.8 billion in 2018. But we’ve nothing to fear.

Otherwise, our media would be on it like a blowfly in a pickle bottle. If they’re not all worn out telling us our fundamentals are sound.

We’re all safe as houses because of the great shape that the Morrison government left the economy in, as Spud Dutton and his team of small potatoes keep telling us.

Putting a trillion dollars of poorly structured debt to one side and overlooking his government’s energy, pandemic and environment catastrophes, ScoMo’s greatest legacy is the damage he did to the Coalition with his decision to whip up transgender prejudice, euphemistically termed culture wars instead of protecting Liberal heartland.

Liz Truss is similar. Like Morrison, she, too, inherits a party of disunity and disorder.

But take a bow, ex-Prime Minister Truss. Typhoid Mary of Torydom, is a huge role, in itself. Egomaniac, liar, grub and complete imposter Boris did a lot to wreck the Tories, single-handedly, although any party that would elect Boris as its PM has to be beyond all surgery. Yet now, the former Minister for Trade, who became a born again Brexiteer to get the gig, sends world financial markets into a death spiral. The Tory-fawning UK press is most unkind. Reviews are quite hostile. Bring Back Boris is the worst.

You can’t blame the actor. The superbly named Sir Tom Scholar, Treasury Secretary, is sacked. Experts ignored. Being “Trussed”, or showing contempt for reason, is part of a wider cult combining racism, tribal stupidity and borrowing heavily on the fashion for showing contempt for all forms of expertise, now taking the world by storm. All with Rupert Murdoch’s help. Let’s not forget, it was largely his company’s paper The Sun wot got Brexit done.

Truss blusters about how she’s going to take a stand against all that nanny state nonsense apart from the afterthought of a household energy cap which would rescue struggling energy corporations anyway. Pensioners can suffer penury for their work-shy lifestyles and their wilful lack of thrift. Corporate welfare is cool. And cutting tax for the rich is a must if you are going to encourage entrepreneurs, attract startups and lure Russian oligarchs.

Eyebrows arch in the City of London. Or Londongrad. Wags note that the financial capital’s prime locations are now owned by Russian Oligarchs. The purchase of a pad in Hampstead, Knightsbridge or Belgravia was an easy way for Putin’s kleptocracy to launder fortunes amassed from stripping former Soviet state assets.

Alas, it’s not so easy these days in an era of sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine. Blinds are down and drapes are drawn in entire Kensington streets, today. Asses are frozen. And who knows what else. Banks did fabulously well, of course, as did the City, as the financial district is known.

London was a mecca for Russian oligarchs seeking foreign capital-raising. Shonky operators flocked not only for the money but for a listing which would fake international financial respectability. Over twenty firms, with a total market value of more than 400 billion pounds ($536 billion), are listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

Financial skulduggery isn’t just something that happens in the UK; there has been a concerted and decades-long effort to encourage it to do so’ writes former Russia correspondent, Oliver Bullough, who has led “kleptocracy tours” of London notes Dean Acheson’s observation, in 1962, that Britain had “lost an empire but not yet found a role,” Bullough hints that it did find a role in keeping with its decadence, as a mum’s-the-word- butler – full body massage or crypto-therapy, sir? -to Russian Mafioso and other Muscovy movers and shakers, opening doors to capital markets, prime real estate, shopping at Harrods, and the best private schools money can buy,

Naturally, included in the deal were mining and Murdoch corporation-class tax evasion accountants, attorneys for legal spats, and “reputation managers” for inconvenient backstories. It starts with visas; any foreigner with adequate funds can buy one, by investing two million pounds in the U.K.

After permanent residency, sir?

Ten million pounds.

While the laundering of money, the growth of shadow lending and the growth in the power of dark money are international trends, Londongrad’s The Financial Times’ editorial board gets huffy, telling the new PM that she should stop playing free market libertarian and knuckle down current economic orthodoxy; play by the rules.

But did Liz fall or was she putsched? Her successor, “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look,” Rishi Sunak, is a power-hungry oligarch, a puppet of The City of London. Big Finance took over Westminster in the 1980s. Sunak’s a former Goldman Sachs chap, the firm that lit the touchpaper on the recession of 2008, that we choose to call the GFC.

What iscertain is that Britain is once again in the grip of a zombie policy apocalypse – austerity is being touted as the only way out of a mess all of the Tories’ own making, when it can only lead to further suffering. Here’s Nobel Laureate, economist Paul Krugman writing seven years ago,

“… all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited. Widely touted statistical results were, it turned out, based on highly dubious assumptions and procedures – plus a few outright mistakes – and evaporated under closer scrutiny.

It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively. The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.”

For Britain, substitute Australia. Could we be having our own zombie policy apocalypse, too? In Part 2, the sleaze, decadence and corruption of the modern Tory Party beckons.

Link to Part 2

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  1. David Tyler

    Britain’s protest laws are now so tight so that a polite, silent, private shrug of disapproval is virtually the only form of dissent the no-longer-just-business but politics-captured state will permit. Even then, you need to heed the wording of any sign you may be carrying.

    A 22-year-old woman is arrested in Edinburgh, for holding a sign saying: “Fuck imperialism, abolish monarchy” and is charged with breach of the peace.

    Paul Powlesland, a barrister, films himself as he is threatened with arrest for holding up a blank sheet of paper because he might write “Not My King” as the latest Windsor monarch Charles III may but see him passing by. Powlesland tweets.

    “Just went to Parliament Square and held up a blank piece of paper. “Officer came and asked for my details. He confirmed that if I wrote ‘Not My King’ on it, he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.”
    Echoes of the March 2022 arrest of a Russian woman who is dragged away by police for holding a blank sign amid a brutal crackdown on dissent over the invasion of Ukraine.

  2. Phil Pryor

    This long extrusion contains useful points for us to observe the insolence, arrogance, overconfidence, triumphalism and supremacist disdain of good old toryism, the set and established robbery, murder, occupation, invasion, humiliation and crushing classism of the old British imperialist outlook. But most of us are outsiders, nobodies, austerity fodder, upstarts, shit…

  3. calculus witherspoon.

    Enjoyable (?) read. Citizen journalism at its best.

  4. Harry Lime

    Thanks David,laughed my arse off…we all need a good dose of dark humour to retain our sanity.I wonder when Albo and co are going to realise they’re in danger of being mortared into the neoliberal bullshit…time is not on our side.

  5. David Tyler

    Thanks, Phil. In my opinion, Sunak will be as bad as Truss or worse in his own way. Plus he’s already got all her dud ministers in cabinet. We’re talking about a billionaire who just put an indoor pool and tennis court in one of his houses. It will cost 13,000 pound just to heat the pool. Meanwhile patients are dying in ambulances because hospitals are so short staffed and working people are wondering how they are going to pay their next gas or electricity bill. Then enterprising energy oligarchs are fitting out homes or the poor with pay as you go meters – the old put a penny in the gas meter has returned – which is more expensive to the customer but hell, the companies need ever penny they can get. Needless to say, as in Australia the big UK energy suppliers are posting record profits – helped of course by the same price-gouging that goes on here.

  6. Clakka

    Well nailed. But in the shape-shifting of Tory solipsism, and their endless ephemera of pretenders, to find solid ground and crosses to nail them to seems fraught. Appears to be an eternity of muck to hit the fan as they continue to be hoist by their own petard. Init.

  7. David Tyler

    Thanks, Harry. Mary’s a dark mare, though. For several days after her mini budget of fluffy unfunded tax cuts and energy subsidies fiasco, she pulls a ScoMo, prompting the scallywags at The Independent to run the headline Have You Seen this Woman?

    Eventually, Liz, clearly a big Harold Pinter fan and as wooden as any dumb waiter, emerges in a blitzkrieg of stilted media interviews which hands Labor the zinger; “Truss has finally broken her long painful silence with a series of short painful silences.”

    So it’s hello. I must be going? Before we’re properly introduced. Speed dating Mary prefers to be called Liz. Just as her potential successor, Boris, waiting in the wings, was born with a stage name, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, but was only ever Al to his family.

    And the odd pal. Nothing good rhymes with Boris unless you have a west country or North American accent – then it’s Sauris or Lizard. Of course, there’s orris but only if you are after a medicinal root.

    Beneath the Bertie Wooster act, however, Boris is a bit of a Jeremy Hunt, the rhyming slang who is now Chancellor for cutting welfare after Liz pushes the badly-punned-by Kami-Kwasi Karteng under a double-decker bus. Tells him he’ll have to go to restore market confidence. And the TINA principle. There is no alternative. It’s her “go- to” buzz phrase in their budget too.

  8. Douglas Pritchard

    Did anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable when reading:-

    “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. ?”

    Because that is a key ingredient for any society that is full of its own superior place in the world.

    I squirmed a bit.

  9. Ross

    This post has brought back something that has been puzzling me for a while.
    Something best ignored but can’t be.
    Government debt.
    Why should a government who uses the currency that it alone issues borrow back this same currency? This is a government with unlimited financial resources.
    Both governments, Australia and the UK, have a yearly budget to fund government services which in our case is financed by the Reserve Bank and the UK by the bank of England.
    Fair enough, but anything above this (a deficit) has to be financed by borrowings in the currency of issue and is called government debt.
    A debt that is hideous, awful and terribly bad says the politicians and parroted by the msm.
    Why do they have to borrow dosh anyway? Both governments own their central banks.
    To buy government bonds, or GILTS, (the debt) the currency of issue has to be used, the same currency the central bank has created out of thin air and the government spent into existence.
    When you take a step back and have a think it doesn’t make much sense, not to me anyway.

    Please note; I am not an MMT devotee just an innocent bystander.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Brilliant as always, David.

    The police officers (there were 4 or 5 of them) who arrested that young lass in Edinburgh, in my guess, would have hated doing so.

    The Royal Family have more love for Scotland than the Scots do of them.

  11. New England Cocky

    WOW!! Was this Pommieland or Australia? Great article!! The forth-coming stage production will be a smash hit with such rollicking tunes, Kamikaze Stomp, Trussed Off with Trickle Down, Squandering Serenade ….. the imagination fires up!! This could be an excitingly creative evening!!

  12. David Tyler

    Thank you, Michael. The young woman’s slogan is now available in a T-shirt. You could wear it to our local Legacy meeting, one of many groups who do a lot of good work organising electric blankets for widows for, example, but expect also to be asked to be upstanding for the loyal toast to the King.

    One of the small gestures of affection the new king could perform to show his love for Scotland would be to return Balmoral Estate, which at 50,000 acres is a deal bigger than Dubai.

    As for the 300 page bill criminalising dissent and clearing the streets of protesters, passed into UK law in April 2022, PCSC it was superfluous – but doubtless handy to have around for police – because the old breach of the peace offence is a common law offence in both England and Scotland. The young Edinburgh woman could get up to a year in gaol or a five thousand pound fine. The T-shirt is only US$20.

    There is, however, a hive of think-tanking around the world in what we fondly imagine to be democracies – beavering away designing ways to inhibit – if not prohibit – dissent. Often at the service of fossil-fuel corporations. Can’t have business being disrupted, can we?

    From The Guardian Australia, “Symon Hill, 45, was arrested in Oxford on Sunday on suspicion of behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. The offence carries a maximum penalty of a £1,000 fine, but Hill – who said he was detained after shouting: “Who elected him?” about Charles – was de-arrested before leaving the police station.

    Putting Suella Braverman back in charge of all this as Home Secretary will undo the new PM. Apart from the bitter division she’s already causing. Weak leadership. Dud political judgement.


  13. Michael Taylor

    Geez, David, soon they’ll be wanting Ron DeSantis as their PM.

    Boris was born in New York, which paves the way for DeSantis to follow.

    Oh, hang on, DeSantis might be POTUS if the nut-jobs get their way.

  14. leefe

    Most of this filters back to Murdoch and NewsCorpse. Without his media putsch to lead people into destroying their own lives and livelihoods, this world would be in a better and more stable place.
    Can we have him arrested for manifold crimes against humanity, or is the very suggestion lese majeste?

  15. David Tyler

    Charles III does have a fair bit of real estate he can’t possibly need or use but it would seem the king is reluctant to give up any of his properties, which include Windsor, Sandringham, Balmoral, Birkhall and his beloved Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, purchased for him by the Duchy in 1980 and where he is “tenant for life”. He also has the Castle of Mey in Caithness, the most northern of his estates, set on 2000 acres purchased in 1952 by the late Queen Mother who did some practical renovations then used it as an August and October retreat every year. Then there’s Dumfries House in Ayrshire, run by his charitable foundation. And Camilla has Ray Mill House in Wiltshire, just 20 miles from Highgrove, where she retreats regularly to a life sans flunkeys reports Private Eye.

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