inequality‘..Or maybe, maybe it’s our nowhere towns
Our nothing places and our cellophane sounds..’

Remarkably yet another year has passed. Over the last 12-months the song has remained the same; Brexit, Covid, Levelling-Up, Culture Wars.

One thing that has finally changed is Johnson’s Teflon coating, as, even Tory MP’s have come to realise the mistake that was the Johnson experiment they thrust upon us. As a party the hard right is more prominent than ever.

This was well illustrated in Lord Frost’s recent resignation letter, which sums up the prevailing mentality, minimal Covid restrictions, ‘a lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy’, aimed at liberalising health, safety and food regulations, and workers’ rights. Just how out of touch he is was shown in his recent speech at the party’s conference when he said, ‘The British renaissance has begun!’

They are carrying over the Brexit blindness into other areas with circa one-third of the cabinet resisting anymore Covid restrictions. Even Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, damned current restrictions as a ‘disastrous assault on liberty’ that evoke the Soviet Union

‘Over the last 12-months the song has remained the same; Brexit, Covid, Levelling-Up, Culture Wars’

Their contempt for the precautionary restrictions is out-of-step with the electorate who remain in safety first mode; pollsters at Savanta ComRes find half of voters support a two-week lockdown and 64% would ban large events

Johnson’s one rule for him and his mob and one rule for everyone else is equally damned by the electorate with 63% of people say the prime minister should resign if the allegations are found to be true.

The party has been quick to turn its back on the working-class red wall voters who underwrote its huge majority. Partying while the rest of us were locked-in shows how widely the values of the Tory elite and the average voter have diverged.

The concept of levelling-up was just that, a concept, a nice idea; the reality is that rich continue to get richer as the poor get poorer, especially in the public sector where recent TUC analysis found that:

  • Police sergeants and constables have had the biggest reduction, with inflation-adjusted pay £5,595 a year lower than a decade ago.
  • Nurses have had an effective wage cut of £2,715
  • Local authority care workers a cut of £1,661. Often elected wings are less extreme than its party members, whereas today its is the other way around, the party ‘elite’.

A study for the UK in a Changing Europe thinktank found Conservative MPs were more lost in right-wing ideology than Conservative members, Conservative voter’s, and the electorate as a whole:

  • 25% of Conservative members and 73% of the public agreed that there was ‘one law for the rich and another for the poor’.
  • Just 5% of the Conservative MPs surveyed believed it.
  • Large majorities thought that big business takes advantage of the public and that ordinary people do not get a fair share of the nation’s wealth. Conservative politicians did not.

Brexit may yet prove the revolution that undoes the hard right. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that Brexit will:

  • cause twice the long-term economic damage of Covid,
  • leave trade 15% lower,
  • bring a £100bn annual hit to national income and cost £40bn in lost tax revenue.

To cover this shrinking tax base, taxes will need to increase. Reducing the private sector means that the size of the state grows in comparison. And, leaving the largest free-trade area in the world will lead to economic decline.

The Office for National Statistics said GDP rose by 1.1% in the three months to September, down from an initial estimate of 1.3%. highlighting the fact that the growth rate was worse than initially calculated even before the Omicron coronavirus variant hit

Brexit, like many revolutions, is now devouring the people who delivered it, the right now cannot wait to be rid of Johnson. The Conservative culture has become a ‘cancel culture’, anyone not adhering to the ideological line is done for, just as Nadine Dorris was when Steve Baker deleted her from a WhatsApp group for praising the PM.

‘Brexit, like many revolutions, is now devouring the people who delivered it’

The challengers to Johnson have heeded this warning and are sabotaging his policies.

Last week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a bailout package worth around £1bn for businesses losing trade because of Omicron. At the same time he studiously avoided the measures recommended by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, who’s demands would force the closure of the hospitality sector, requiring the Treasury to reinstitute the furlough scheme, a short-term hit to the public finances that Sunak is desperate to avoid.

Then there was HS2, the government’s railway plans for the north, the centrepiece of Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ strategy. Sunak has cut the investment funding available, forcing the abandonment of part of the scheme and the critical trans-Pennine route.

The government’s net zero strategy was delayed for 6-months, because the chancellor refused to provide the levels of public investment needed to achieve the strategy’s emissions-cutting objectives. Independent estimates put the sums required at four times the £30bn he allowed.

The government’s social care plan has been roundly criticised because Sunak had seriously underfunded it, to the extent of recalculating the household cap on care costs in a way that will leave many poorer households at risk of being forced to sell their homes, precisely what Boris Johnson had promised would not happen.

All the above are because of the chancellor’s new ‘fiscal rules’. One is relatively sensible; in normal times government should only borrow for investment, with day-to-day spending covered by taxes. The other two have powerful side-effects:

  • the total level of government debt should be on a downward path within three years.
  • a cap on annual public investment, at 3% of GDP.

There is no logical reason for picking 2025 for the date debt should start falling. Whilst, at 95% of GDP, debt is higher than expected, historically low interest rates mitigate the impact of this.

The 3% cap on public investment is extraordinary, given that the economy is desperate for investment in areas such as building and insulating homes, renewable energy, railways, broadband, childcare and social care, schools, etc.

The private sector would have supported this in the past. Today, banks put more money into land and property than into productive businesses, and companies prefer paying dividends to investing for the long term.

Sunak’s position is political; he intends to cut income tax before the next election (due in 2024), but to do this public spending must be restricted. The vast majority of us will suffer on the bonfire of his ambition to be the next Conservative party leader.

Lastly, we turn to a different sort of trash, waste disposal.

Recent reports highlighted how millions of tonnes of waste, some of it extremely hazardous, are now being handled by organised criminal networks, and illegally dumped or burned, presenting major hazards to health. It showed how the Environment Agency in England and its equivalents in the rest of the UK have lost control, to the extent that anyone can now get themselves officially licensed as a waste disposer, using false information that can remain unchecked.

The fact that anyone can now be officially licensed as a waste disposer was proven in a recent Guardian article where the writer’s dead goldfish was granted a license. I won’t say more on this, you can read it for yourselves:

Now, you might think that I am overreacting and wasting words on this, but there is a very real reason; the same was allowed to happen in Campania (Naples), Italy, where the Comorra exploited lax rules.

In 2015, the small town of Calvi Risorta, near Naples, was dubbed Italy’s Chernobyl, as authorities uncovered Europe’s biggest known illegal dumpsite in history, spanning the length of 30 soccer fields, with tons of industrial trash feared to be toxic and adding to the region’s alarming cancer rate.

Sanitation workers excavated over two million cubic meters of hazardous material, including containers with flammable solvents that had turned portions of the soil pink and blue.

‘where there is muck there is money, and where there is money there is organised crime’

There are numerous other dumps like this, and the area between Naples and Caserta, is referred to as ‘terra dei fuochi ‘, land of fires, after the common mafia practice of setting trash ablaze, releasing untold airborne toxins.

Here the cancer rate is 80 percent higher than the national average.

The environmental group, Legambiente estimates that 10 billion tons of waste has been buried in the area since 1992. In 2013, the mafia’s eco-crimes netted nearly €17 billion.

As they say, where there is muck there is money, and where there is money there is organised crime

On that note I wish you all happy, health, and prosperous New Year. One that is free of the faux libertarianism that stalks government and the Tory party itself.

Let 2022 be the year we break free of the shackles of Covid, and become the progressive, free-thinking democracy they seek to neuter.

‘I’ve been blinded but now I can see
What in the world has happened to me
The prince of stories who walks right by me’


As the sands run out on another year, there is more than a hint of ‘plus ca change’; as Philip says – ‘Maybe I am a misery, but this government leaves so much to be desired. We have just become the playthings of a vast Tory experiment, much like what I wrote about in Trading Places‘ 

Certainly there are themes that have run throughout the year that are apparently no nearer a resolution; if there has been a dramatic change it is possibly behind closed doors where Boris’ ninth life appears to be hanging like a thread.

There is no doubt that Lord Frost’s resignation will be a body blow to Boris’ ambition to sugar coat Brexit; the red wall voters may struggle to feel the love when NI and tax rises start to bite, inflation really kicks in, energy bills land on the mat and promises of ‘levelling up’ disappear as quickly as the Tories pledges to tackle climate change.

An unscientific survey recently confirmed that if this government were a country it would emit as much hot air as Tristan da Cuhna.

Philip’s observation ‘It reminds me of those between the war period pieces where we all tugged our forelock, as those upstairs carried on exactly as they wished’ certainly rings true as yet more ‘Partygate’ type stories emerge; but is anybody really surprised – headlines such as ‘Tories commited to self-preservation’ should surely be accompanied by a photograph of a bear trudging off to the woods with a newspaper under its arm.

‘That’s close to 100-years ago and we haven’t moved on. Progression has died on the bonfires of the ambitions of a select group of Tories. They profess to be libertarians but they leave most of us in shackles, they are anti-establishment but actually they are the establishment’. There’s little to quarrel with here, but expect some extreme chicanery as the contenders for the top job start to sharpen their knives; if the Chancellor’s recent speech was an opening gambit, it suggests that he may be better off letting someone else take the media reins as he tries to cut spending whilst feigning benevolence.

One thing that may provide a welcome windfall is that rocketing energy prices will deliver an unexpected tax boost; however, in the spirit of equality, how fair is it that your granny pays tax on the fuel she needs to survive the winter, whilst those ‘hard working families’ that get the winter sun they ‘deserve’ pay no tax on aviation fuel or airline tickets?

Two years ago, anyone suggesting that we would be walking around in masks would have been dismissed as a crank; but here we are – 137,000 new cases yesterday and more than 12m infections to date.

Boris listens to the science, as long it doesn’t compromise his masters’ determination to keep business motoring; does anbody really believe that we are not staring down the barrel of massive infection rates? Herd immunity may be acceptable if the virus is a schniffle; if a really nasty variant comes along, failing to lock down could be seen as a cull of the elderly and infirm.

But then, be careful what you wish for, frontrunner for the keys to the executive toilets is Liz Truss who once said that in order to prevent contraband entering, prisons were using dogs to bark and scare away drones. The Lady’s not for thinking.

So, a tough year, with possibly a tougher one to follow and then Philip unleashes the prospect of a new fresh hell on us – international criminal gangs making £billions illegally disposing of toxic waste and destroying the environment. Good grief.

Two tracks this week, inevitably Suede with ‘Trash’ and the Velvet Underground with ‘I’m set free’. Enjoy, and have a safe and peaceful New Year’.  


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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