inequality‘I won’t get on my knees
Don’t make me do that, please
I’ve been away but now I’m back’

This week we start with the summary. What’s the point? Nothing changes, corruption abounds, the courts are there to mete out justice, but only if the government approves.

Followed by my conclusion; we are simply pawns in a series of Tory experiments designed only to ensure they remain in government. We have the wrong government, run by the wrong people, with the wrong policies.

Thanks! You can all stop reading now. Or….

Even the Tory’s are sick of Johnson now, with his work party during the worst ravages of Covid being a step too far even for them. In my opinion they are sick of him because he has become an electoral liability. If they believed he had sufficient support in the country, they would be rallying round his ‘work event’.

On the subject of corruption, how about £14bn worth. That’s the total value of the 32bn items of PPE bought through directly awarded and negotiated contracts in the so-called ‘VIP lane’ which a high court judge today ruled illegal.

In a written judgment, the Mrs Justice O’Farrell said that the operation of the high priority lane was ‘in breach of the obligation of equal treatment’.

‘We have the wrong government, run by the wrong people, with the wrong policies’

Describing the allocation of offers to the VIP lane as ‘flawed’, the judge said: ‘There is evidence that opportunities were treated as high priority even where there were no objectively justifiable grounds for expediting the offer.’

Will these ill-gotten gains be returned? Not likely.

Continuing with ill-gotten gains we turn to Edward Colston, or more accurately his statue which was ‘removed’ by demonstrators last summer.

Now, I am sure many of you will be disappointed by the acquittal of these demonstrators and will now turn to ‘it’s our history we should be proud of it’.

Edward Colston became a very wealthy man and, like others before him, used that wealth to ‘endow’ his home city. That’s the plus side, now we turn to how he made his money.

Edward Colston was a shareholder and ultimately deputy governor of the Royal African Company. He was responsible for the enslavement of 84,000 men, women, and children, 19,000 of them died in agony, chained to the decks of the Royal African Company’s slave ships.

Yes, it is our history, but it’s nothing to be proud of. He was no better than the people traffickers who bring immigrants across the channel, much to the Home Secretary’s displeasure. The other difference between them and Colston is that the traffickers are taking people where they want to go.

Equally, the demonstrators’ action should not be viewed as unpatriotic. Patriotism is being proud of your country, not blinkered. True patriots see what is wrong with their country and are proud enough to stand-up and fix it, rather than hiding behind history. Cruelty and enslavement should not be cherished they should be seen for what they are or were. Colston was an evil person who made his money practising evil, to that there is no defence.

That is unless you’re a Tory, or right-wing fascist.

The government will, no doubt, add this ‘offence’ to the police, crime, sentencing and courts (PCSC) bill. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the PCSC bill would ensure that people ‘can’t just go round and cause vandalism, destroy the public realm, and then essentially not be prosecuted’.

You would have thought Shapps had enough on his hands messing up transport without sticking his nose in elsewhere.

The attorney general, Suella Braverman, is said to be considering referring the case to the court of appeal to clarify the law as the verdict was ‘causing confusion’. The acquittals cannot be overturned and there cannot be a retrial without fresh evidence, but judges could be asked to clarify points of law.

‘You would have thought Shapps had enough on his hands messing up transport without sticking his nose in elsewhere’

John Hayes MP, who wrote to Braverman on behalf of the ‘anti-woke’ Common Sense Group of Tory MPs, claimed the jury was devoid of an understanding of criminal damage because if ‘you damage, destroy or deface property without permission, you are guilty by definition’.

Not quite, John. Legal experts have pointed out the law does allow property to be damaged if there is ‘a lawful excuse’. The Colston verdict follows similar cases where juries have found environmental and anti-war campaigners were justified in damaging property to prevent greater crimes.

In addition, all the peaceful avenues were exhausted by those in denial, refusing to accept what a slave trader ‘represents in a modern Britain that is as delusional about the moral integrity of its colonial heroes as it is about the health of its race and ethnic relations’.

This refusal to accept past failings, to understand and reappraise is at the heart of our so called ‘woke agenda’. By clinging onto history and, despite all the evidence, glorifying it, reinforces and legitimises all the injustices of the present.

We now turn to levelling-up, which attempts to right another form of injustice. Last week’s annual house price data, a 9.8% annual increase, showed that this was the first recession post WW2 where prices have risen. (1)

In addition, by the 7 January, FTSE 100 chief executives had already earned more than the median pay for all full-time workers in the UK. (2)

‘clinging onto history and, despite all the evidence, glorifying it, reinforces and legitimises all the injustices of the present’

The latest ONS income inequality figures show that the gap between rich and poor in the UK, now at 36.3%, has now grown to its widest in a decade (3). This is awkward for Historically the 1970s were the most equal time on record; in the 1980s, there was a meteoric rise in top pay and wealth soared, while the lowest salaries fell behind. That great gap never narrowed again. The richest 10% of the population now own 43% of wealth, leaving the entire bottom half just 9%.

Ever the ‘optimist’ (actually, he lied) Johnson’s reaction at last week’s PMQ’s to these official figures was the claim that ‘inequality is down in this country’.

Those poor old ‘red wallers’ and the temporary-57, seduced by promises of levelling-up, were no doubt incandescent with rage as the south-east’s median household wealth rose by 43% in 16 years, while it fell in the north-east. It will take more than the pitiful £4.8bn Sunak has set aside to even a dent in this.

The cabinet is addled; Rees-Mogg is protest against the NIC rise, calling for a cut in the civil service pay bill instead; others want the pensions triple lock restored; and some want to axe VAT and green taxes on energy bills.

Mark Harper, a former chief whip, says he will declare a leadership challenge if May’s local election results are bad. David Frost, the Brexit bruiser, brays for ‘free markets and low taxes’.

‘the temporary-57, seduced by promises of levelling-up, were no doubt incandescent with rage’

After the last by-election disaster, and reports of the read wall being rebuilt they are a panicking rabble

And with good reason; in April households face £1,200 in extra bills as council tax rises and 5 million social housing tenants face the highest rent rises in a decade. Meanwhile, wages and benefits fall behind.

Levelling-up was the most un-Tory promise ever. If they had really meant it they could:

  • Restore the £20 a week removed from universal credit,
  • Impose a windfall tax on the six companies that made £16bn excess profits out of the pandemic,
  • The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, advocate of wealth taxes, has laid out Labour’s plan to cut £200 from all energy bills and £600 from those of the neediest households, paid for with a windfall on North Sea oil and gas profits. The BP CEO, Bernard Looney, unwisely said energy price rises had turned his company into a ‘cash machine’, while the North Sea company Serica promises its shareholders bumper returns.
  • Sunak could revive his dropped plan to lift capital gains tax from 20% to 25%, which would have brought in a handsome £14bn.

In addition, we could have avoided a hard Brexit, which we never voted for, and stayed in the customs union. Instead, we have lost 4% of GDP, depriving the Treasury of tax receipts.

A quote from a senior Tory to PoliticsHome sums them up; ‘There’s no point in saying you’re Conservative, unless you cut taxes’. What he should have said was ‘There’s no point in saying you’re Conservative, unless yourself and your mates’.

Too many Tory’s are caught in a time warp; Lord Frost, the former Brexit negotiator recently said, ‘We need to get the country going economically again and that means free markets, free debate and low taxes.

‘People need to look at this country and think: yes, something is changing here. You’ve got to set the direction of travel. If we’re going to get out of this little trough and win the election in a couple of years’ time, then we’ve got to develop that’.

‘That sounded great in 1979, but all it did was create the wealth gap’

That sounded great in 1979, but all it did was create the wealth gap (see above). It will do nothing to address the issue because, deep down the Tory’s don’t want to.

Continuing our time travel we turn to the US where they seem to have regressed to heaven knows when as, according to a Axios-Momentive poll, as > 40% of Americans still do not believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election, despite > 60 different court judgments ruling that Trump had lost .

Republicans have also been revealed to be three or four more times as likely as Democrats to say voter fraud is a problem in their state, despite such claims being thoroughly debunked.

In addition, surveys show 30% of Republicans say that ‘true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.’ Word the question slightly differently, and that figure rises to 40%..

Such is the situation that Trump is likely to be re-elected president and present an even greater danger than previously. The Republican party is in thrall to him, so much so that a year on from decrying the terror attack on Congress they now apologise for seeing it as such!

‘Trump is likely to be re-elected president and present an even greater danger than previously’

Such is their fear of Trump and his supporters they accept the big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and accept that political violence is not to be condemned but indulged when it comes from your own side.

Under normal circumstances you would expect a Republican party ‘led’ by a megalomaniac would see voters flocking to vote Democrat. But that is not how it’s playing out.

Except for Trump, Biden has the lowest approval rating of any US president at this stage of his term. Polls suggest that Democrats will lose seats in November’s midterm contests, thereby losing control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate too, leaving Biden a lame-duck president, unable to pass any legislation at all without Republican approval.

Should this happen the scene is set for Trump’s return as an autocratic president who decrees elections illegitimate unless he wins them, that he alone should hold office and that violence is justified to maintain his power.

As was the case in 2020, Republicans are working hard to ‘fix’ the result, rewriting electoral law to make it harder to vote, curbing the early or postal balloting often used by low-income and minority voters, and handing Republican-controlled state legislatures extra powers over the running of elections. The fair-minded election officials who ensured the integrity of the democratic process are being replaced with Trump loyalists.

Biden was dealt a difficult hand, seeking to govern with a diminished, razor-thin Democratic majority in the House and a 50-50 deadlocked Senate. Despite that, he has passed some major bills. As the former speechwriter to George W Bush David Frum puts it: ‘In 11 months, Biden has done more with 50 Democratic senators than Barack Obama did with 57.’

‘A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.’

Biden managed to pass a vital infrastructure bill, but his larger package of social spending and action on the climate crisis is stalled. His poll ratings took a hit with the speed of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after August’s chaotic US withdrawal. And his 4 July declaration that America could celebrate its ‘independence from Covid-19’ now looks horribly premature.

Politics is an unforgiving business. Voters are used to blaming the man in the White House, especially when they face rising bills and daily costs as they do now.

To conclude, there is a saying ‘when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold’. A return of Trump is not good news for anyone that cares about democracy. I have written several times that I regard our government, irrespective of who is PM, as more dangerous than Trump.

The terror tactics of the 6th January were typical of the man, obvious intimidation, our lot are more subtle but no less dangerous.

As Mario Puzo wrote in the ‘Godfather’, ‘A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.

‘A South politician preaches to the poor white man
‘You got more than the blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin, ‘ they explain’


  1. Source; the Resolution Foundation
  2. Source; the High Pay Centre
  3. Inequality is measured by the Gini coefficient, whereby 0% represents total equality and 100% represents total inequality.

Bob Dylan, ‘only a pawn in their game’
Philip’s preamble started with ‘another week, another article’ although I wonder if that underplays a week of high drama in which our PM was forced to dodge brick bats at the despatch box and then self-isolate; presumably in a fridge.

‘We start with Boris, I mean, what is there left to say. I had already called his downfall, but that wasn’t exactly a revelation; as to timing of Johnson’s leaving, I think March, first green shoots of spring, Covid in abeyance’.

Philip has long been vocal in his belief that the PM’s tenure would be short, but it is difficult not to feel a degree of sadness for the state of our democracy when Boris’ defence is that he thought that he had spent 25 minutes at a ‘work event’ and the oleaginous toadies that populate the cabinet form a ‘nothing to see here’ cordon around him.

However, far sadder are the pictures of HMQ sitting alone in Westminster Abbey as her beloved consort of 70 years was laid to rest; Boris said that he’d declined to attend so that family members could do so but unfortunately it seems likely that he spent the day in a darkened room with an ice pack on his head after yet another piss up at No10.

Prince Andrew was denied the opportunity to attend in full admiral’s attire and in future may look back wistfully at the amount of freedom he enjoyed at the solemn occasion; his claimed inability to sweat may soon be put to the sternest test should he find himself sharing a flowery dell with ‘Bubba’.

‘Levelling up’ is something that probably shares equal billing with ‘inequality’ in terms of the number of column inches Philip has devoted to them over the years, but in neither case have his instincts left him exposed.

Those unaware of his work may wish to check out @Coldwar_Steve – even Telly Savalas would have struggled to quantify the number of words his pictures paint:
esg investing
‘Who luvs ya baby?’ We do ma’am, and bless you for the serenity and dignity in ugly times. 

Possibly the most concerning thing about Philip’s article is his resignation that the world is now staring down the barrel of a second term for The Donald; it will almost certainly be wielded by a fourteen-year-old in dungarees with six fingers on each foot and three grandparents.

‘Lyrically, we start with the Jesus and Mary Chain and ‘Sometimes, always’, a song written and sung by two ex-lovers trying to get back together. We finish with a true protest song for the king of that ilk, Bob Dylan, with ‘Only a pawn in their game’. This was released in 1964 and serves to illustrate how little has changed in over half a century. Enjoy!



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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