inequality‘Though the world 
Is my oyster 
It’s only a shell 
Full of memories’ 

 
As the dust settles on the local elections there are several conclusions that can be drawn: 
 

  • ‘Partygate’ is a symptom not an issue. The real concern is the sleaze, ‘the rules don’t apply to us’, and the lies. 
  • There are two walls; the blue is turning to Labour / LibDems/ Greens, whilst the reds are still predominantly backing the Tory’s. 
  • Kier Starmer will never be PM 
  • Voters in the blue wall are concerned about real issues, E.G., the cost-of-living crisis, global warming. Quite what the red wall others think isn’t clear. 

 
But, looming large over everything is Brexit, the red wall is predominantly ‘leave’, the blue wall is predominantly ‘remain’. Brexit remains the defining moment of our generation. 

The best summary of the results that I have found comes from the Oxford University election analysts Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings: ‘The urban south is becoming more Labour as the north hangs on to its post-Brexit attachment to the Tories … but there is evidence too of a new demographic cleavage. Areas where more than a third of the population are university graduates swung sharply to Labour, those where graduates are thinner on the ground moved almost as much the other way.’ 

Ultimately the opposition will defeat themselves. The Tory’s standalone as the voice of the right, whereas there are three moderate parties, Labour, LibDem, and Greens. Unless they can agree on a cooperation pact, they will split the moderate vote letting the Tory’s in. 
 

‘Brexit remains the defining moment of our generation’

 
Other than Brexit, and it depends on your views as to whether that is an achievement, all the Tory’s have managed in the last 12-yrs is a move to the right. It is difficult to remember any policies  that have improved life for people other than the richest and most privileged 

The much-maligned Cameron governments of 2010-2016 saw a more inclusive type. of government passing legislation such as same sex marriage, and a successful Olympics. 

Other highlights over the 12-yrs include a higher income tax threshold for paying, a higher minimum wage, shared parental leave and automatic pensions enrolment, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, no-fault divorces, the law against coercive behaviour, an improved highway code, the carbon floor price, the soft drinks levy and payments for plastic bags.  

On the downside they have wreaked havoc. For example, since 2010 local government funding has been cut by C.60%, with further cuts expected next year. Several councils are now close to bankruptcy and must sell the last of their assets.  

Whist decimating public budgets, Cameron and George Osborne found £2bn for a pointless and chaotic reorganisation of the NHS. They spent £4.5 bn a year on the Afghan war, for reasons they could never clearly define 

More recently, of the £12.1bn the government spent on PPE in 2020-21, £8.7bn was written-off, due largely to cronyism inherent in the procurement process, equivalent to C.6x the national budget for rebuilding schools in England. 
 

‘Ultimately the opposition will defeat themselves’

 
Abandoning due diligence during the pandemic, against the advice of civil servants and other experts, has led to the loss of an estimated £3.5bn in ‘bounceback’ loans to fraud, a further £5.2bn of furlough payments ended up in the hands of fraudsters or was paid in error.  

Test-and-trace cost a reputed £37bn and, according to the public accounts committee, has achieved none of its aims and failed to make ‘a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic’. £37bn equates to double their entire cuts in the central government grants to local authorities.  

Despite the pandemic, during which accommodation for rough sleepers magically materialised as soon as they were deemed a ‘health risk’, the number of people living rough has increased by C.38% since 2010. 

The number of food parcels supplied by the Trussell Trust has risen from 41,000 in 2009 to > 2m today. Other data includes: 
 

  • C. 10% of parents expects to have to use a food bank this summer, 
  • > 2 million adults in the UK have gone without food for a whole day over the past month because they cannot afford to eat, 

 

  • There has been a 57% jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or skipping meals over the first 3-months of this year,  
  • 1 in 7 adults (7.3 million) are estimated to be food-insecure, up from 4.7 million in January. 

 
12-yrs of underfunding, has left the NHS in crisis, although this has been exacerbated by Covid; 6-million people in England, >10% of the population, are now waiting for treatment. 

All the succession of Conservative government has achieved is making our lives worse.  

Some who should care, don’t; polls show that the public views the government’s response to the crisis as woefully inadequate. But in one of the most deprived wards in Walsall, where 1 in 5 households are fuel poor, there was a 35% swing to the Conservatives. 

To date their best suggestions to overcome the cost-of-living crisis include enlarging the number of children carers can look after, urging people to claim benefits for which they are entitled, and making MOT tests biennial. 
 

‘All the succession of Conservative government has achieved is making our lives worse’

 
The cost-of-living crisis is a global issue, however other economies don’t have to deal with the own-goal known as Brexit. The new German government is pursuing a dual strategy of net zero and creating a new digital economy. Levelling up, creating globally competitive cities, could have been such a strategy, one that could potentially double GDP over a generation. Instead, along with net zero it was vetoed by the chancellor hoarding his cash for electoral bribes pre-election tax cuts in 2024. 

Equally, there is no strategy to lessen the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. It is becoming apparent that, even without windfall taxes, there is scope to do more. The Office for Budget Responsibility projects that in 3-yrs the government will have exceeded its target of a balanced budget by £31bn. The funds are there for the chancellor to stop households have to choose between food, heat and clothes, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority. 

What Brexiters fail to understand is that modern economies are densely interrelated, with supply chains that cross borders. Britain has too few corporates that lead their sector, instead we have lots of medium-size companies whose business is being part of a wider supply chain. 

‘Membership of the single market with common regulatory standards used to make that easy. Now, as Ulrich Hoppe, director general of the German-British Chamber of Commerce said last week, Brexit Britain is being cut out of these supply chains because the hassle of meeting common standards is too great. Out of the EU and strategy-free, deindustrialisation is accelerating across the Midlands and north.’ 

In place of strategy, today’s Queens Speech promises nothing more than frantic activity, with 38 new bills proposed. None of them deal with peoples falling incomes as prices rise against a backdrop of impending recession. 

Their flagship policy is the ‘levelling up and regeneration bill’. A government briefing note says it will ‘improve productivity, boost economic growth, encourage innovation, create good jobs and enhance educational attainment‘. 

However, when it comes to ‘how’, the ‘what’ is reached by way of measures no less drastic than ‘giving residents more of a say over changing street names and ensuring everyone can continue to benefit from alfresco dining‘. 

As part of the bill the government will set ‘levelling up missions’ with a statutory obligation on the government to explain how things are getting better. 

In summary the flagship policy is a token gesture to placate the red wall, because his all-powerful right-wing MPs will not, as a point of ideological principle, countenance anything that interferes with the accrual of wealth and privilege to those who already have them. Levelling-up will go the same way as David Cameron’s ‘big society’ agenda; a way to rehabilitate unhappy parts of the country without recourse to any of the explicit financial redistribution that Thatcherite Tories despise as socialism. 
 

‘the flagship policy is a token gesture to placate the red wall’

 
Another piece of legislation that defies levelling-up is the governments’ plans to privatise Channel 4. 

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership NPP, said on Saturday two bills to be announced for the next session of parliament in this week’s Queen’s speech – one on the privatisation proposals, and another requiring that all government policies contribute to levelling up, were completely at loggerheads and ‘utterly incoherent‘. 

Last year Channel 4 opened a new HQ for about 200 staff in Leeds and now aims to increase the proportion of its spending on commissions to companies in the UK’s nations and regions to at least 50% by next year. 

Murison said culture secretary Nadine Dorries’s plan would fall foul of a new bill drawn up by Michael Gove that will require all policies to pass a levelling-up test to ensure they contribute positively to equalising economic opportunity across the country. 

Based on what was in the levelling up white paper, our judgment is that the decision to privatise Channel 4 would not pass that test, and it does not reflect well on officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that in advising the secretary of state on her policy they did not think to check that they would be consistent with the other laws they are planning to pass.’  

If the saying ‘turkeys don’t vote for Christmas’ is true, I have never understood why red wall voters continue to vote Tory. Some of the answers to this lay in a paper published last year, entitled ‘Meritocracy and Populism.’ (1) 

A summary of the two main findings from red wall focus groups convened by Deborah Mattinson (now Labour’s director of strategy) were: 

Firstly the (predominantly leave) voters felt that good jobs and opportunities for younger people were no longer available in their communities. This grievance was compounded by the perception that, as old industries had faded away, the world belonged to new generations of degree-holders who looked down on them. These views ‘translated into a deep disillusionment with the Labour party. This was seen as now dominated by graduate, metropolitan elites – whether Blairite or Corbynite – obsessed with political correctness and more concerned with telling the people they were supposed to represent that they were ‘wrong’ than with trying to understand the conditions under which they were living.’  

This sense of alienation is largely shared by many former Labour voters. Whilst it could be described as an unfair caricature, a person’s ‘perception is their reality’. Whilst the explosion of higher education has helped us deal better with issues such as race and gender inequality, it has led to Brexiters being characterised as xenophobic, and reactionary. Whilst this might upset some readers this caricature typifies most of the ‘leave’ voters I have encountered.  

Nonetheless, if Labour is to win the next election, they need to reconstitute a relationship with leave-voting constituencies and re-engage with the working-class voter the way it did.  

As for Brexit, it’s a gift that keeps on giving for the Tory’s. They seem to be intent of creating a war with the EU over the NI Protocol they themselves negotiated. This will undoubtedly play well with ‘leave’ voters and distract them from issues such as not being able to afford food. 

There is, of course, a simple solution to NI, with Sinn Fein in the ascendence let’s reunite north and south into Ireland  
 

‘No fun to hang around 
Feelin’ that same old way 
No fun to hang around 
Freaked out 
For another day’ 

 
Notes: 
 

  1. The thinktank, ‘Changing Europe’, published the paper co-written by the sociologist and social mobility expert John Goldthorpe 

 
 

Media watchers this week could be excused for wondering whether we are actually living in some sort of sick enactment of the Far Side, with tales of almost unutterable barbarity and depravity in Ukraine being usurped by shouty headlines speculating that Sir Beer’s Meat Madras not only drew work to a close that fateful evening a year ago in Durham, but that it was all pre-planned.

Tales of poor old Elsie, 77, riding the buses all day to keep warm all day will have tugged at some heart strngs, but it was ‘ginger growler’ that was trending on Twitter.

Additional research would no doubt have revealed whether the story was related to Labour’s deputy leader, who definitely didn’t have a ruby with Keir Starving, but then apparently remembered she did, or to the fact that Elon Musk has pledged to restore the Donald to Twitter should he wrest control.

However, Philip says that ‘Brexit is the defining moment of our generation’ despite the eye-watering sums that have been lost to the pandemic and associated fraud – both within and without the HoP.

When it comes to boobs, there can be few bigger than the Department of Health shoveling £200m to Baronness Mone for duff PPE; these people certainly have some front, and for that she is now being investigated by the National Crime Agency.

So what was on Philip’s mind?:

‘The local elections dished up a bit of everything; the Tory’s did better than they deserved, Labour did ok but it’s clear Starmer still doesn’t resonate with voters, the LibDems and Greens both did well.

Wales and Scotland showed, again, that they have had enough of Westminster as the nationalist parties both made progress.

In England the song remains the same, “Leave” versus “Remain”. Brexit still looms large, clearly the biggest single event since WW2.

I have tried to highlight the fact that 12-yrs of Tory government has done next to nothing for the majority of the population. The cost-of-living crisis is just the latest example.

As a party, they have steered further to the hard-right, and are still in thrall to Thatcherism. Anything that looks vaguely like state aid is dismissed as socialism.

The bills for the new parliament are a blur of activity covering up little substance. It’s more of the same, picking fights with the EU, and stoking the culture wars. The war in Ukraine enables Johnson to trot round the globe pontificating and leaving an ever-greater carbon footprint. What it actually achieves is nothing other than showing “leave” voters that we’re still a global power.

We are in for the long haul; the moderate vote will split between Labour/LibDem/Green whilst the Tory’s standalone on the right. They are aided by an adoring media who can see little wrong in their actions and are quick to deflect negatives away with contra headlines.

Lyrically, we start with Brexit, and fond memories of what was in Roxy Music’s “Song for Europe.” We finish on an equally sombre note with the Stooges “No Fun”, because for many it ain’t! Enjoy!

Super limited edition versions of the Giant Jubilee @coldwarsteve

 
 

 


 
 

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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