inequality‘I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday 
‘Cause you’re evil 
And you lie 
And if you should die’ 


As Brexit turns 4,  evidence of the folly continues to mount

All we hear now from Brexiters is it was about ‘reclaiming sovereignty from Brussels’. We are collectively poorer, we have a chancellor who prefers tax cuts to reviving on public services, which has forced many local authorities to contemplate bankruptcy, as there is nothing left to cut from vital services. 

Even the IMF points tells us there needs to be an end too. 

The government, ever quick to pass the blame, accuses local authorities of being profligate. The real blame lies with the 40%-plus reduction in the central government grant to councils started by George Osborne in 2010, and continued by successive Tory governments.  

Since the ascent of Thatcherism, the electorate have shown a preference for tax cuts they can feel rather than public spending increases whose benefits are often regarded as intangible. However, recent surveys suggest that public anger over the dilapidated state of the public services is such that the majority would prefer to avoid tax cuts designed only to appease the lunatic right, in favour of a focus on public services.  

‘the majority would prefer to avoid tax cuts designed only to appease the lunatic right, in favour of a focus on public services’

When you combine the government’s cynical approach to the public spending crisis with their blind devotion to Brexit that has achieved nothing, I wonder when the electorates disillusionment with right-wing politics will really begin. 

We are beginning to see some Brexiters running for cover as the realisation that the bureaucracy associated with the latest stage of Brexit negotiations takes effect, making life harder for exporters and importers. 

The business and trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, trumpets the success of Brexit; ‘The British people’s conviction that the UK would excel as masters of our own fate has paid dividends. My department is leveraging our post-Brexit freedoms to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.’  

Among the top achievements listed were booming sales of honey to Saudi Arabia, surging pet food exports to India, a rush of UK pork, worth £18m over five years, heading into Mexico’s restaurants and homes, and UK beauty products sales leaping in China, thanks to barriers being smashed. 

I don’t know any of our members who export any great amounts [to Saudi Arabia],’ said Paul Barton of the Bee Farmers Association, which represents professional beekeepers in the UK. 

He added: ‘I do remember years ago a chap, I think he was Kuwaiti or Saudi, just knocked on the door and bought a couple of buckets full of honey. I imagine he put it in his hand luggage.’ 

‘Among the top achievements listed were booming sales of honey to Saudi Arabia’

Turing to the government’s claim that ‘a barrier resolution worth £550m to UK businesses over five years’ has helped British beauty companies export to China, the barrier in question had nothing to do with Brexit, according to industry experts. In 2021, China relaxed rules on animal testing, which had been a big red line for UK manufacturers, making it easier to sell into their market. 

Millie Kendall, chair of the British Beauty Council, said the loss of trade with the EU outweighed the gains by a long way. ‘What we really want is to sell to Europe and the US. Economically, we’ve lost £853m in exports to the EU. Sixty-five per cent of our exports go to Europe – £550m sounds nice but it’s not even what we’ve lost.’ 

For larger sectors, Badenoch’s triumphs seemed trivial, experts said. The business secretary’s announcement said officials had unlocked £25m of exports for medicines and £17m of new business in Colombia. 

Together, these amounts represent less than 1% of the total value of the UK pharmaceutical exports of goods in 2022,’ said Dr Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete, a senior policy analyst at Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy, based at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing. 

‘Whilst the Tories desperately try to find Brexit benefits, Labour are still trying to ignore it’

In 2022, 46% of pharmaceutical exports went to the EU. She warned that Britain’s previously thriving pharmaceutical sector was now in a trade deficit because we have to import so much more medicine than before – the latest 2022 figures show a $5bn deficit globally, compared with a surplus of $9.7bn in 2010. 

While large companies have been able to spend money on warehouses, vets, distributors, customs clearance, extra shipping costs and all the other red tape that arrived with Brexit, smaller ones have not. 

Thomas Sampson, professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said the top 15% of companies had not seen a drop in exports to the EU, but for smaller businesses, there had been a 20% fall. 

 ‘The big gains in the next five years will come by focusing on what’s happening with the EU and trying to simplify our relationship.’ 

‘Reform regards the Tories as a left-wing party of net zero, high taxation and large-scale immigration’

Whilst the Tories desperately try to find Brexit benefits, Labour are still trying to ignore it. Terrified that bringing it up will revive the ‘leave’ versus ‘remain’ debate, allowing the Conservatives to again make this into a ‘Brexit election’. Despite this, the revenues lost due to Brexit will severely constrain a Labour chancellor. We need the single market! 

Ardent Brexiters, such as, Ben Habib, the Reform candidate in the Wellingborough byelection, sees the Tories, as still being constrained  by people who were ‘remainers‘ and ‘large statists‘. ‘The reason I joined Reform UK was to obliterate the Conservative party.’ 

From an ideological perspective Reform regards the Tories as a left-wing party of net zero, high taxation and large-scale immigration.  

One thing that the Tories still excel at is helping their mates. 

Emails reveal that Michael Gove was lobbied by the firm Unispace, an office interior design firm, that became the single biggest recipient of PPE contracts through the VIP lane in 2020 in the weeks before it was awarded the first of a series of deals worth £680m. 

Unispace was at that point controlled by the Australian businessman Gareth Hales – who is the son of the global leader of the Plymouth Brethren Christian sect, Bruce D Hales – and another church member, Anthony Hazell. 

‘One thing that the Tories still excel at is helping their mates’

It is calculated that firms linked to Plymouth Brethren figures won > than £2bn of UK testing and PPE contracts during the pandemic. The Plymouth Brethren Christian sect has about 50,000 members worldwide and follows a doctrine of separation from the outside world. 

Ministers were not involved in the decisions to award contracts to firms placed in the VIP lane, but the process has been criticised for making it more likely that firms with contacts among Conservative ministers and government figures won lucrative deals. 

Despite this, there a number of other links between Gove and recipients of the most controversial deals processed through the VIP. There is the referral of David Meller, a Conservative donor who had personally backed his leadership campaign. Meller’s design firm won six PPE supply contracts worth £164m. 

Gove was also mentioned in correspondence from Michelle Mone to another Cabinet Office minister in which she was offering to supply PPE ‘through my team in Hong Kong’, saying ‘Michael Gove has asked to urgently contact you‘. Mone is subject to a National Crime Agency investigation and Lords standards commissioner investigation over the supply of PPE. 

‘In addition to PPE procurement, there is the granting North Sea oil and gas exploration licences’

In addition to PPE procurement, there is the granting North Sea oil and gas exploration licences to EnQuest Heather, a subsidiary of EnQuest, owned by a major Tory donor. 

Campaigners have criticised ministers for rewarding ‘reckless and polluting behaviour‘, pointing out that EnQuest was fined £150,000 in 2022 by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) for flaring an excess 262 tonnes of gas on the Magnus field between 30 November and 1 December 2021, despite knowing that it did not have the necessary consent in place. 

Flaring is a controversial process as it burns excess fossil fuels, so is unnecessarily polluting. It is a cheap method of disposing of the associated gas that comes from oil production, and is banned by countries including Norway but allowed in certain circumstances by the UK. 

Before ending, I have decided to take another look at the Post Office ‘(PO’) Horizon scandal which just goes from bad to worse. And, as I wrote in the editorial to ‘Senatus Populus Que Romanus‘, highlights this country’s ‘big fucks small’ attitude. 

The inquiry is now in recess and set to reopen in the spring, following are the key takeaways to date: 

Fujitsu knew about Horizon bugs back in 1999, with their Europe chief, Paul Patterson, telling the inquiry he found it ‘shameful and appalling‘.  

Patterson agreed that both organisations had failed those accused. ‘I am surprised that that detail [that bugs had been identified] was not included in the witness statements given by Fujitsu staff to the Post Office and I have seen some evidence of editing witness statements by others,’ he said. 

Despite all its shortcomings, the Horizon contract will run to at least 2025, and is estimated to be worth £2.4bn. However, the inquiry heard from Gerald Barnes, a software developer at Fujitsu since 1998 who repeatedly raised the issue of bugs in the Horizon IT system, that the company did not fix the problem because it would have been too expensive and time-consuming. 

It also emerged that data from the Horizon IT system, which was responsible for the wrongful prosecution of more than 900 post office operators, is still used in continuing legal cases. 

‘Quarm, a father of five, died in 2012 not knowing he would eventually have his conviction for embezzlement overturned 11 years later’

The PO has admitted failing to properly disclose thousands of relevant documents and thousands of emails but its lawyers informed the inquiry that it was no longer realistic to ask them to work evenings and weekends searching for relevant evidence. 

Not only have the PO tried to hinder the inquiry whenever possible, some of their investigators seems touched by a religious fervour. 

One, Raymond Grant, told the inquiry that he still believed that the man he helped prosecute, William Quarm, was guilty. Quarm, a father of five, died in 2012 not knowing he would eventually have his conviction for embezzlement overturned 11 years later. 

Grant, who had to be legally forced to testify, provided the barest bones of a witness statement, just over 2-pages, criticising the inquiry for not giving him enough time to do more because it clashed with his Christmas plans! 

Frederick Thorpe, a former PO investigator involved in the criminal investigation of Alan McLaughlin and Maureen McKelvey, had to be reminded by the counsel at the inquiry that both of them were innocent. During his testimony he said McLaughlin had ‘manipulated the cash account’ and that ‘what he was doing was still wrong‘. 

Stephen Bradshaw, an investigator who denied claims he and his colleagues had acted like ‘mafia gangsters‘, disputed an account of him calling one female suspect a ‘bitch‘ but admitted to accusing another of telling a ‘pack of lies‘ during what he conceded were ‘not nice‘ interviews. He insisted he had acted professionally! 

In their closing statements of this phase of the inquiry, the legal representatives of PO operators, criticised the European boss of Fujitsu for his vague promises of compensation, to the middle-ranking PO staff who privately discussed shredding damning evidence and the incompetent investigators who were said to have bullied their targets for financial gain. 

Sam Stein KC, who is representing the largest number of victims cited a ‘whitewash‘ report  commissioned by the PO to hide the truth, while its investigators ‘hounded and harassed and in some cases drove decent and honest men and women to their graves‘. 

Stein added that the only consolation was that the Metropolitan police were closely monitoring the hearing, which has been running since 2021 and will resume for a fifth session of hearings in July. 

Stein said of the evidence that victims had been disliked and disdained by their employers ‘because, and I quote from a Post Office investigator, they are ‘all crooks’‘. 

I leave the last word to lawyers for the victims who said, the PO scandal inquiry has heard from a ‘chorus of cowards’ and a ‘parade of liars, bullies, amnesiacs and arrogant individuals‘. 

I know where you been 
And I know what you been doing 
Don’t lie to me  

More meaty content from Philip, but unfortunately little to satiate the GBP’s hunger to be treated with honestly and respect; anyone watching Andrea Leadsom declare that she is ‘hugely, hugely delighted with Brexit’ and not throwing a shoe at the TV has greater self-restraint than me.

The little twerp Sunak’s interview with Piers Morgan was probably right on deadline, but just how much punchable has he made himself by betting Piers Morgan £1000 that he will take massively vulnerable people to a god-forsaken country that few could point to on a map.

It’s little surprise that Piers lured the gullible little fellow into his gutter – he’s  rotten politician; doing the rounds today, Sunak said that he had been wrong-footed by Morgan’s offer of a wager, but that he didn’t really believe in gambling. Although that rather conflicts with a clip doing the rounds today of him on Test Match Special saying how much he enjoyed spreadbetting, whilst at the same time gambling on financial markets with other people’s money.

How do you know when a Tory MP is lying? FMOB.

In case you’d like to witness the adoration Piers enjoys, you may enjoy this, from I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue –

So, what was he thinking:

‘This week we start with Brexit’s fourth anniversary. What is there to say, other than the nebulous benefits of regaining our sovereignty, it has delivered nothing positive. But then, perhaps that was what was really behind the whole charade. Little Englanders sticking it to Johnny Foreigner, and showing we can be in control. Put another way, little things please little minds.

The rest of this piece follows familiar themes.

Firstly, austerity at both personal and local government levels, to fund tax cuts. Secondly, the aura of sleaze that surrounds the government firstly with the ongoing scandal of PPE procurement that, Michelle Mone aside, seems to be swept under the carpet, and also by Tory donors given North Sea exploration licences despite their poor track record.

Within this I have included the PO Horizon scandal, which just goes from bad to worse. It really is a very unfortunate summary of how this country operates.

This is truly a government for their mates and not for the people, who, I suspect, they don’t like very much.

Whilst I chose not to talk about it, I was interested to see that President Biden has issued an executive order targeting Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians, amid fast-growing frustration in Washington at Israel’s trajectory in the midst of its war in Gaza.

The order initially imposes financial sanctions and visa bans against four individuals, and US officials said they were evaluating whether to punish others involved in attacks that have intensified during the Israel-Hamas war.

According to at least one report before the executive order, options included the potential to sanction officials.

Palestinian authorities say some Palestinians have been killed, and rights groups say settlers have torched cars and attacked several small Bedouin communities, forcing evacuations.

In the order, Biden said that extremist settler violence in the West Bank had “reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region”.

He said: “These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom.

“They also undermine the security of Israel and have the potential to lead to broader regional destabilisation across the Middle East, threatening United States personnel and interests.”

What intrigues me about this is, for the first time, we have Washington acknowledging that it takes two to make a fight, and that, in this instance, maybe there aren’t any good guys.

It seems to me that this realisation can only be positive for the region, as, at some point, this mess needs to be properly dealt with, and to achieve this there needs to be compromises on both sides.

Lyrically, we start by recognising Brexit’s fourth birthday with the Smiths and “Unhappy Birthday”. To finish I am featuring Alex Cilton’s Big Star, who are relatively unknown but very influential. Rolling Stone notes that Big Star “created a seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations of rockers, from the power-pop revivalists of the late 1970s to alternative rockers at the end of the century to the indie rock nation in the new millennium“. Jason Ankeny, music critic for AllMusic, identifies Big Star as “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll”, whose “impact on subsequent generations of indie bands on both sides of the Atlantic is surpassed only by that of the Velvet Underground“.

The chosen track is “Don’t Lie to Me” from the bands 1972 debut album “#1 Record” Enjoy!




Philip 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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