inequality‘I’m standing alone, you’re weighing the gold, I’m watching you sinking 
Fool’s gold’ 

On one side is a man thought to be the richest in the House, a public schoolboy who never had any working-class friends and for whom politics is a hobby; on the other, a politician unrestrained by commitments to anything other than her own advancement, and whose success lies in realising that she can tickle the Tory tummy by talking about British cheeses and Yorkshire tea while looking as if she’s imagining the execution of her speechwriter.’ (1) 

The unedifying contest continues: Sunak, obviously desperate to win is offering 4p off tax, whilst Truss is offering solutions to everything imaginable. And, if you close your eyes and wish hard her imagination might just come true! 

Sunak loves this country for all the opportunities it had given him. So grateful is he, that he is going to make sure no refugees have the same opportunities. Did no one tell him that being English means having a sense of fair play not being a selfish……. 

Ironically, other than being seen as the man who did for Johnson, Sunak’s Achilles heel is that he has a record in government to defend. There is the man who gave us furlough and the other crisis measures, whilst his enemies now focus on his tax increases.’ 

Truss, by comparison, has little to show for a decade as a minister, eight of them in the cabinet.  This suits her rhetoric as she positions herself as an insurgent ‘change’ candidate. In addition, her selective memory and desire to be on the winning side, has led to her repeating ad nauseum that she was appalled by the terrible failures of the governments she served in. 

‘So grateful is he, that he is going to make sure no refugees have the same opportunities’

He offers up back-of-a-fag packet placebos dreamed-up to appease members, whilst optically appearing to be benefit those most in need. As the Resolution Foundation has pointed out, only 15% of the benefits of reversing the NICs increase would go to the poorer half of the population against 28% going to the richest 20%. The average boost to incomes in London would be more than double that in the north-east of England or Wales. 

Perhaps her shouty, insurgent populism will be exposed as people begin to challenge the numbers and assumptions behind them, as is the case with her ‘ludicrous‘ claims on cutting civil service salaries and reducing expenditure, recouping a proposed £11bn a year in a ‘war on Whitehall waste‘ have been exposed 

The most significant element of her plan was the introduction of regional pay boards, designed to ‘tailor pay to the cost of living where civil servants actually work‘. She claimed this would save up to £8.8bn. 

Interestingly,  Alex Thomas, programme director at the Institute for Government, said: ‘If you’re just talking about civil servants, that is ludicrous; it doesn’t add up at all. The whole [annual] civil service pay bill is around £9bn.’ 

As Sunak’s campaign correctly surmised to make this work requires cuts across the whole public sector, including teachers, nurses and the armed forces; an average of about £1,500 each for employees outside south-east England. 

‘Red wall’, MPs including Jacob Young and Richard Holden raised alarm at the policy, as did Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor and a backer of Sunak, who said. ‘There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5 million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London. So much that we’ve worked for in places like Teesside would be undone.’ 

‘a massive pay cut for 5.5 million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London’

If I was a ‘red wall’ MP I would be deeply worried; her attitude to British workers can be found in the book ‘Britannia Unchained’, which she  co-authored with Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel and Chris Skidmore) in 2012: ‘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.’ 

All the authors have ‘safe’ southern English seats however for those in the ‘red wall’ she had this to say: ‘We should stop indulging in irrelevant debates about sharing the pie between manufacturing and services, the north and the south, women and men. Instead, we should focus on trying to make it easier for firms to recruit people and ensuring the tax burden is less onerous.’ 

Other gems include: 

  • We must stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness.’  
  • ‘The bald fact is that the only successful approach to poor performance has turned out to be hard work.’ 
  • ‘The average Singaporean works two hours and 20 minutes a day longer than the average Brit.’ 
  • ‘There is no need for managed decline, but Britain will only get there if people are willing to take the tougher options.’ 

In summary the average British worker is a lazy git, relying on handouts, with no aspirations, whilst those ‘left behind’ should stop moaning and be grateful for what they have. 

The more I read of the Tory’s the more I despair, they are deluded, unrepresentative of the country as a whole, and mired in the past. 

Take good old Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, who appears to be fighting the Battle of Balaclava. His initial response to Russia’s  invasion of Ukraine was that his old regiment had ‘kicked the backside‘ of the tsar in the Crimean war and could ‘always do it again‘. 

Boldly they rode and well, 

Into the jaws of Death, 

Into the mouth of hell‘ 

Reading the verse, I am starting to understand how they felt! 

Whilst Sunak is a more credible candidate he is very much ‘samo, samo’, a part of the Tory version of UKIP. This hard-right, libertarian, nationalism, has bought out the worst in them; there is a smug self-centredness, there for themselves and the ‘best’. The ‘best’ being a moveable feast from ancient landowners to new entrepreneurs creating wealth and allowing it to trickle down, largely dependent on the party’s funding requirements. Or, in more recent times, the wife’s decorating requirements, and free holidays. 

Essentially, there is a belief that they were born to rule, which gives them a licence to break the rules because they serve a greater vision, especially the mystical will of the people.  

Crucially, this licence has grown post-Brexit, and now includes the decisions of judges, and ignoring international treaties that no longer suit you purpose. 

What has happened is that the Tory’s have become UKIP, just another bunch of populists living in la-la land. Now they are about It’s being hard on asylum seekers, tax cuts, being sceptical about net zero measures. 

Under Johnson, any past semblance of restraint on the authoritarian right-wing opinion, by a more centrist Tory’s all but disappeared. 

Anna Soubry, the former Conservative minister who quit the party for the ill-fated Change UK, argues that people with views like her, Kenneth Clarke, David Gauke and Dominic Grieve were once ‘pretty much the mainstream‘. 

We weren’t the radicals, we were the norm, and now everything has changed. Almost none of us are in parliament any more, and the ones who are left are now the fringe. And the mad people are running the government.’ 

The question I see as most relevant is, is their populism still popular? 

The question I see as most relevant is, is their populism still popular? On net zero, polling for the Onward thinktank has shown that Conservative voters are supportive of 2050 target, with C.25% saying they would no longer back the party if the commitment was ditched. 

Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, argues that on immigration and taxation the party also risks becoming ‘increasingly out of line with where the public, and even the Conservative-voting public, are‘. 

On immigration, long-term YouGov tracking of the three issues voters view as most important has seen the percentage picking immigration more than halve since before the Brexit referendum in 2016, while the proportion citing the economy has shot up. 

Ford said, ‘Attitudes towards immigration are more positive now than they have been at any point for which we have polling in modern politics…..People care about paying their gas bills. The bit of the Home Office they’re concerned about is getting a passport in time to go on holiday. It all risks looking out of touch, which wasn’t true in the past.’ 

Whilst they offer placebos that give the appearance of tacking the cost-of-living crisis, the energy providers who are the key protagonists are coining it in. 

the energy providers who are the key protagonists are coining it in

Last week Shell announced record profits of nearly £9.5bn for Q2, and promised to give shareholders pay-outs worth £6.5bn as the company benefited from the surge in energy prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The results showed a 26% increase over Q1 and were over double the same period in 2021. 

Shell paid investors $7.4bn in Q1, and last week announced a further $6bn share buyback and $1.8bn in dividends. 

This week BP said its preferred measure of profit, which it describes as its underlying replacement cost profit, rose to $8.5bn (£6.9bn) for Q2, up from $6.2bn in Q1 the first three months of the year, and three times BP’s underlying profits of $2.8bn in Q2 2021. The $8.5bn is only marginally behind summer 2008 when BP made a record $8.8bn. 

BP also said it would hand investors $3.5bn through a share buyback programme, while it increased its total dividend by 10% to about $1.1bn. 

The way our ‘big oil’ companies are taxed is scandalous, especially as we are supposed to be aiming for net zero and cutting the use of fossil fuel, instead we are giving them 80% tax breaks for new investments, allowing them to reduce their tax bills by drilling for more oil. 

The following data sums up the oil company’s attitude to low carbon emissions, and the governments lack of desire to police them: in Q1 BP made $3.5bn worth of share buybacks, and its planned spending on low-carbon energy for the whole year is $2.5bn. 

Summary; neither big oil or the government cares! 

As Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said ‘People are worried sick about energy prices rising again in the autumn, but yet again we see eye-watering profits for oil and gas producers.’  

Sharon Graham, the general secretary at the Unite union is totally right when she says, ‘The British economy does not work for workers and their families. Britain’s real crisis isn’t rising prices it’s an epidemic of unfettered profiteering.’ 

‘People are worried sick about energy prices rising again in the autumn, but yet again we see eye-watering profits’

In addition, British Gas owner, Centrica, has reported operating profits of £1.3bn during H1, its highest adjusted operating profits since 2013, enabling them to reinstate dividends. 

Chris O’Shea, Centrica’s chief executive,  obviously has had no PR training as he said it was ‘the most challenging energy crisis in living memory. 

Chris, mate, I don’t wish to be rude but are you dim! Challenging is paying your bloody bills not banking super-profits. 

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, accused the government of being ‘asleep at the wheel‘, amid a Tory leadership contest, adding that ‘as profits soar to record levels for oil and gas producers, we face a serious and worsening energy bills crisis, far worse even than a couple of months ago,’ Miliband said both Truss and Sunak were ‘living on another planet‘ when it came to the ‘cost of living emergency‘. 

The Tory’s have remained silent, even Liz doesn’t have a policy for this. The only utterance was from Rees-Mogg who said he said he wasn’t in favour of an extra windfall tax. 

Jacob would be well to remember a quote from former PM Edward Heath: ‘the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism’.  

This lack of interference and ‘the market knows best’ attitude is part of the Tory’s obsession with shrinking the state. At the risk of sounding corny, size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do that counts. 

An example, previously when the electricity tariff  was controlled by the ‘big state’ Central Electricity Generating Board, it was the average price of electricity produced by varying power generators, which effectively smoothed-out price volatility. Now, in Tory ‘small state style’, prices are pitched at whatever price is needed to bring the most expensive producer into the grid to complete the necessary base load – not reflecting the contribution from low-cost renewables and nuclear. 

Put simply, tariffs are therefore the highest they could possibly be, reflecting the rising spot market price of gas. 

Electricity is an intangible, invisible product, it doesn’t matter where it comes from its electricity. But, to small-state Tory’s who believe that markets know best, the varying producers, be they wind farms, nuclear energy, or gas-fired power stations form a market selling electricity to one another within a short time-frame. Long-term contracts, and averaging out the costs across all generators, rather than being keyed into the highest cost generator are all too big state to be considered. 

War in Ukraine has shredded their experiment with C.30-suppliers failing. Whilst it is inevitable that household bills would have risen, their irrational system along with a lack of incentives to construct low-cost renewable capacity fast has exacerbated this.  As UCL’s Professor Michael Grubb argues, the price differential between cheap renewables and hyper-expensive gas is now ‘unconscionable‘. 

In situations such as now businesses such as Centrica should be forced to put the consumer interest before profit as their corporate purpose. Ofgem should gather their now open book costs and calculate a standard tariff for all consumers that reflects the lower production costs of renewables and nuclear energy.  

The problem is that for a prospective PM such as our two would be hopefuls, its political suicide to propose policies such as these to ageing Conservative party members. Instead, it’s more beneficial to attack cheap renewables as ‘woke’.  

Further proof that the gap between the real world and Tory world is growing. 

To paraphrase a great former Tory PM, never have so few benefitted at the expense of so many.  

‘Ask yourself this question 
Do you want to be rich?’ 


  1. Alan Finlayson, professor of political and social theory at the University of East Anglia 

A pretty gloomy picture from Philip this week as Mr Sunak and Ms Truss remind us of Boris’ redeeming features.

With a handbrake turn comfortably behind him, Mr Sunak is pressing ahead with his new tax-cutting agenda, and Ms Truss is keen to put her Lib Dem, remainer (and unfortunately ‘teenage eco-warrior’) days behind as she forges ahead with pay cuts for nurses and teachers, sporting a small brain in line with the quest for small government.

In truth, why are we having the ghasly hustings rammed down our throats? The number of people eligible to vote is tiny, and none of these promised reforms will see the light of day.

Meantime, the cost of living crisis just gets worse and worse as energy bosses get stuck even further into the trough and make sure that ‘crusty’ investors that were sucked in by all that ESG nonsense miss out on the fortunes being returned to investors in fossil fuel companies via buy-backs and dividends.

As the party apparently becomes increasingly out of step with the public on virtually all the key policy areas, 25% of voters said they would abandon the Tories if they ditched pledges to hit net zero by 2050.

Except they won’t – just as its ludicrous Jet Zero ‘policy’ allows people to fly ‘guilt free’ and for unfettered growth in aviation until the carbon fairy arrives – they will just publish ridiculous targets which they will miss with impunity.

The Tories really don’t GAF about the environment – thank the Lord for the younger Sunaks.

Meantime, the good ole BofE has heaped on some more misery by increasing interest rates in a move that will do nothing other than give those with mortgages something else to be gloomy about.

So, what was Philip thinking?:

This week the shit-show is about style over substance. In the blue corner there is Sunak with his earnest managerial style of a minister holding a line in a broadcast interview, whilst, in the black corner, Truss behaves like an opposition MP addressing a party conference fringe event.

On Monday she proposed a “war on Whitehall waste”, then, on Tuesday, when it became apparent she would be cutting the wages of teachers and nurses outside London, she denied ever having had such a policy.

Whilst a few doddery die-hard unionists loved her dismissal of  Nicola Sturgeon as “an attention-seeker”, all she has done is set the majority of Scotland against her. It’s just more of the same old English Tory arrogance

It seems to me that she loses popularity every time she proposes something new, primarily because its back of fag packet populist nonsense.

She rubbishes a failing economy and pledges a departure from prevailing orthodoxy, in a way that seems as if she was never part of the government, appearing to believe that we have been badly ruled for as long as anyone can remember. Whilst, at the same time, Johnson was a fine PM.

As far as I can see there is little to differentiate her from Johnson. She has the same relationship with the truth, the naked ambition, and the same lack of belief in anything but herself. If there is a difference it’s her ego; Johnson was good at the “what” whilst the “how” was never forthcoming, mainly because he didn’t know. Truss does the “what” and the “how” and that’s her failing. Johnson would never have tripped-up over the “war on Whitehall waste.”

Whilst YouGov suggests she is a shoe-in, a later poll, conducted by Techne for a private client of 807 Conservative members, has been made available. This suggests the two are almost neck and neck, with Truss ahead by a point, with one-third as “don’t knows”. The “don’t know’s” aren’t surprising as collectively they don’t have a clue.”

Other news centres on the energy providers scandalous profits. There isn’t much to add to what is in the text. They don’t care, neither do the Tory’s. As long as the market is happy and the rentiers are content, the rest can go **** themselves.

Lyrically, we start with “Fools Gold” by the Stone Roses, and finish with the Pet Shop Boys “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)”. Obviously a favourite with energy company bosses. Loadsamoney.

Please check out @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

Click on the link to see all Brexit Bulletins:

brexit fc

Leave a Reply