inequality“Well I’ve got my problems over here
You got yours over there
So stop throwing shit on me
Because you know it’s not fair”

Some people just have no shame. After being outlasted by a lettuce, Liz Truss is back, and, in the words of the Ramones, “all revved up, and ready to go!”

Loopy Liz has founded yet another hard-right Tory faction named the “Popular Conservatives” or “PopCon”. This begs two immediate questions; is there any such thing as a popular conservative? And, if hers are the popular ones does that makes the others unpopular?

Policy-wise it was same old “send ‘em back” schtick; Britons want to see lower immigration and want illegal immigrants deported, but ministers’ efforts are “constantly being stymied”, and that “Conservatives have not taken on the left-wing extremists.”

Here we go, all on the chorus; “It’s the will of the people!”

‘is there any such thing as a popular conservative? And, if hers are the popular ones does that makes the others unpopular?’

Truss said that for two decades Tories had tried to “appease these people”, and also argued that ministers have “responsibility without having power”, because of institutions having greater sway.

“I’m afraid we have not taken on the left enough”.

She claimed the ideology of leftists disguising themselves as environmentalists is about “taking power away from families and giving it to the state and unelected bodies”, and is drowning out the need for cheaper energy, and hit out at the government for “pandering to the anti-capitalists”, while ordinary people believe “the wokery that is going on is nonsense. Wokeism seems to be on the curriculum” in schools

“We need to restore faith in democracy and we can only do that by restoring democratic accountability”.

She said “the left have been on the march” in UK institutions, in the corporate world and globally, but “Britain is full of secret Conservative forces” of people who are ashamed to admit their values, and that the Popular Conservatives group must rally them.

Does she mean “closet” Tories? All I can think of is Kenny Everett and “Angry of Mayfair”…..

Apparently, “Liz remains very popular with the grassroots in the country and always enjoys engaging with them.” By that they mean the C.100k who comprise the party membership. Hardly, the will of the people is it.

Needless to say Nigel Farage was present but not involved, there in his capacity as a GB News journalist, just as he supposedly only attended last October’s Conservative party conference in the same capacity.

The best summary of PopCon comes from quite brilliant journalist, Marina Hyde; “As for those ideas, the group hail from the party that has been in power for the past 13-years, and for 31 of the past 44 years, but would now like to “reform Britain’s bureaucratic structures to allow Conservative values to flourish”.”

Truss is basically just another populist rolling off the conveyor belt, throwing out the usual red meat to the masses; low taxes, anti-woke, anti-immigration.

‘Truss is basically just another populist rolling off the conveyor belt, throwing out the usual red meat to the masses’

I was copied to an article this week which said; “Populism is experiencing a long drawn-out death in the UK. The country has lived with it since the Brexit referendum in 2016. It reached its political peak with the disastrous premiership of Boris Johnson, who rode roughshod over the constitution, and its economic nadir when Liz Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy so spectacularly.”

Addressing the point about the Truss/Kwarteng economic disaster is easy; it was just neo-liberalism on steroids by two idiots who had read the book but didn’t understand it. Little different to Tory economic policy post-1979. The choices are neoliberalism or austerity, both go hand in hand.

As to the first part, I disagree for two reasons.

Firstly, Farage is the key UK populist. Whilst he has tried and failed numerous times to stand for parliament, on a national level we have seen the extent of his popularity on two occasions; the Brexit referendum, and Johnson’s 2019 election victory.

In both instances his involvement, or perhaps, lack of in 2019, contributed significantly to the outcome. Currently, ReformUK are polling at around 10%, I would suggest that if Farage was fully engaged as leader that number could double. They might well be a ragtag bunch, and are unlikely to ever form a government, but their involvement will have a substantial impact on the outcome of the forthcoming election.

Secondly, the problems that have led to the rise of populism, not just in the UK but globally, haven’t changed.

In “Heaven Knows I Miserable Now”, and “Disappointed and Let Down”, I wrote about how a percentage of the electorate felt betrayed, forgotten. The so called “Red Wall”, which had traditionally voted Labour tuned Conservative because they felt that Labour’s citycentric, “trendy” ideas offered nothing for them.

In turn they have equally been let down by the Tories. The catalyst for their change of allegiance was Brexit ,but that has only delivered disappointment; immigration has increased, the £350m per week for the NHS has been exposed as shameless lie. In 2019, Johnson pretended to listen to them, Yes, he delivered a hard-Brexit which has caused nothing but chaos and disappointment, and his levelling-up simply hasn’t happened.

‘what do these betrayed, forgotten voters really stand for. Are they Tory or Labour?’

The salient question now, is what do these betrayed, forgotten voters really stand for. Are they Tory or Labour?

Many are neither, they are a mixture of the two. Irrespective, neither has delivered for them, as such they are cannon fodder for populists offering them victims to blame, non-sensical promises, all wrapped in a flag. Yes, Labour will likely win a majority, but what do these betrayed, forgotten voters really stand for. Are they Tory or Labour?

The simple truth is that too many families are struggling to make ends meet, and the country is fast returning to Victorian levels of inequality.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), Britain’s oldest independent research institute, estimates that Britain’s poorest households have suffered a £4,500 hit to their finances since the start of the Covid pandemic. Put another way, those on the lowest incomes have borne the brunt of the cost of living crisis.

For the poorest half of households in Britain, the report found that living standards would be C.20% lower this year compared with 2019-20, after taking account of inflation, and would not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2027.

Even after the payment of the government’s final £299 cost of living support instalment for 8 million people on means-tested benefits this week, the thinktank warns that this will be insufficient to overcome the hit to living standards.

“you’re basically talking about 15-20 years of no real improvement in living standards”

Specifically, when adjusted for inflation the living standards for the poorest tenth of families is 18% below 2019-20 levels even after accounting for government support.

“As a proportion of their budget, they spend a lot more on energy, food and housing [than wealthier households], so they took more of the brunt of the shock,” said Adrian Pabst, NIESR’s deputy director for public policy.

The report found that a combination of lower inflation and sustained wage growth should mean British households “start to feel better off” this year, forecasting a rise in living standards of about 1.5% on average over the next two years.

However, it warned this masked stark differences between different households and parts of the country.

After more than a decade of wage stagnation for workers, “you’re basically talking about 15-20 years of no real improvement in living standards” since the 2008 financial crisis, Pabst, said.

The article I referred to earlier did, in my opinion, correctly, identify the fact that populism is still on the rise in continental Europe, and beyond, especially the US.

The rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (“AfD”) was covered in “Deutschland, Deutschland….Oh Not Again, Surely!”, but it is worth revisiting.

Post-WW2 Germany was the benchmark; a robust economy and a stable and broad-based coalition against the far right. Today, the economy is faltering as the combined effects of mismanagement collide with a bureaucratic culture that makes investment and innovation difficult. Striking rail workers and protesting farmers have brought chaos to the cities.

It is reported that right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis have become involved in organising the farmers protests. Indeed, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the state is more supportive of protests organised by the far-right. In keeping with the anti-woke, right-wing stance, the tactics that have been permitted in the farmers’ protests have been subject to increasing punishments when deployed by climate activists.

offset by the racism and xenophobia that have become an increasingly normal part of German political life’

Whilst Germany made massive early investments in renewable energy, it also allowed the clearing of an old-growth forest to expand coal mining, and continues to resist reasonable steps to reduce its dependency on cars. Similarly, the country’s historic fixation for eliminating public debt has been paired with a consistent tolerance of political corruption and tax malfeasance. Debates over immigration policy become confused as the need to care for an ageing population and attract global tech workers, are offset by the racism and xenophobia that have become an increasingly normal part of German political life.

The recent revelation that members of the AfD plotted the deportation of millions of people in a series of clandestine meetings with neo-Nazis, for example, is only the latest in a string of scandals revealing the extent to which far-right extremists have infiltrated German politics.

The last thoughts on the rise of populism / fascism, go to the resurgent Donald Trump.

One of the areas Trump is expected to focus is the environment, where in a second terms he plans to drive forward fossil fuel production, sidelining mainstream climate scientists and overturning rules that curb planet-heating emissions.

“Trump will undo everything [Joe] Biden has done, he will move more quickly and go further than he did before,” said Myron Ebell, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team for Trump’s first term. “He will act much more expeditiously to impose his agenda.”

The prized target will be the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark bill laden with support for clean energy projects and electric vehicles.

Carla Sands, a key environment adviser to the pro-Trump America First Policy Institute who has criticized Biden’s “apocalyptic green fantasies”, said: “Our nation needs a level regulatory playing field for all forms of energy to compete. Achieving this level playing field will require the repeal of the energy and environment provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Trumps’ allies say he would also scrap government considerations of the damage caused by carbon emissions; compel a diminished EPA to squash pollution rules for cars, trucks and power plants; and symbolically nullify the Paris climate agreement by not only withdrawing the US again but sending it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, knowing it would fail.

“The Paris climate accord does nothing to actually improve the environment here in the United States or globally,” said Mandy Gunasekara, Trump’s former EPA chief of staff. She argued that the agreement puts too little pressure on China, India and other developing countries to reduce their emissions.

“A return of Trump would be, in a word, horrific,”

Recently, Trump has called renewable energy “a scam business” and vowed to “drill, baby, drill”. On his first day in office, Trump has said he would repeal “crooked Joe Biden’s insane electric vehicle mandate” and approve a glut of new gas export terminals currently paused by Biden.

“A return of Trump would be, in a word, horrific,” said Andrew Rosenberg, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official, now fellow at the University of New Hampshire.

“Anyone who cares about public health, the environment, science, international relations, you could go on, should be scared about another Trump presidency.”

In conclusion whilst loopy Liz might tell us that “the left have been on the march”, the only sound I can hear is the marching of jackboots.

“This world’s going to Hell
Don’t allow
This mythological hopeful monster to exact its price”

More powerful, and scary stuff from Philip. Truss’s chutzpah may have you rolling your eyes, and the fact that petulant Rishi thought it appropriate to score a few laughs at the expense of a murdered transgender girl – in the presence of her mother – shows what poor judgement and lack of basic political nous he posseses.

However, the real danger is likely to come from a rapidly escalating climate emergency, and recent announcements have confirmed that whatever side of the house you hail from, you are in stride with the ecocidal lunatic that is The Donald, and share his determination to ensure that humanity is destroyed sooner rather than later.


So what’s Philip thinking?

This week see’s the return of Loopy Liz and the PopCons.

Listening to the rubbish they put forward, only confirms my view that populism is still prevalent in the UK. It will only go away when the causes are dealt with.

Whilst I don’t agree with voters turning to politicians of this ilk, I can understand why they do.

In the last 45-yrs, since Thatcher came to power in 1979, the Tories have been in government for 32-yrs. Even when we had 13-yrs of Labour, the majority were under Tony Blair who was a Tory tribute act. Today, Keir Starmer is very little different. Therefore, the electorate has two parties that are little different, neither has done much for the majority of the electorate and they are looking for a solution.

In 2019, Johnson appeared to be that; levelling-up was the right idea, but, unfortunately it was only ever an idea!

Since 1979 the underlying theme has been neoliberalism. Small state, little regulation, austerity when needed to balance budgets, low-taxes supposed to deliver growth and entrepreneurialism, with a “trickle-down” in prosperity from top-to-bottom as the economy grows.

What actually happened was two-fold:

1.       Reduced regulations let the financial services sector run riot leading to the GFC.

2.       The supposed growth wasn’t forthcoming, instead income inequality, which had been in decline post-WW2, returned with a vengeance.

Result the rich get richer and the poor, who were / are the majority, get poorer.

There are times when you read or see something and all your thoughts coalesce around that. Last evening I watched “Inside Job”, narrated by Matt Damon available on Amazon (if you have it) and YouTube. It summed-up almost everything  I have been saying almost from day one.

For the US it was the Reagan years, but everything else from neoliberalism was there.

In both countries manufacturing jobs are fast becoming history. Instead, the brains that would have been engineers either go into tech or finance.

The head of China’s banking authority said something very apt; “why does an engineer who builds bridges, etc, earn up to 50x less than a financial engineer who builds dreams’ ‘?

Lyrically, we start with Be Your Own Pet and “Damn, Damn, Leash”. To finish, we have Bad Religion, a LA based punk rock band formed in 1980. From 2002 “Kyoto Now!”. 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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