inequality‘It’s years since you’ve been there 
And now you’ve disappeared somewhere, like outer space 
You’ve found some better place’ 

We start with some more total bollocks from the business secretary Grant Shapps, who claims his minimum service levels bill ‘will bring us into line with other modern countries such as France, Spain Italy and Germany’, which all have laws enforcing minimum service cover during strikes.  

This, of course, the government  that is committed to tearing-up all laws that align us to the EU, cherry-picking this new one to adopt.  

There is one slight problem, the right to sack striking workers isn’t what happens in these countries. 

Esther Lynch, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said this anti-strike law puts the UK right outside the mainstream, its. ‘The UK already has among the most draconian restrictions on the right to strike in Europe. The UK government’s plans would push it even further away from normal, democratic practice across Europe.’  

Shapps continued to deliberatly misrepresent other countries’ union laws, praising the International Labour Organization (ILO), claiming: ‘Even the International Labour Organization – the guardian of workers’ rights around the world – says that minimum service levels (MSLs) are a proportionate way of balancing the right to strike with the need to protect the wider public.’ 

With typical sleight of hand Shapps leaves omitted the ILO provisos that the right to strike, enshrined in its Convention 87 and signed by 157 countries, including the UK, states that MSLs should never render a strike ineffective. The ILO says MSLs can only cover ‘the safety of individuals and their health’. 

‘We start with some more total bollocks from the business secretary Grant Shapps’

More moderate Tory MPs seem equally outraged by the proposals; Stephen McPartland tweeted: ‘Shameful, shameful, shameful to target individual workers & order them to walk past their mates on picket line or be sacked. By all means fine the Unions, make them agree to minimum service levels, but don’t sack individual NHS staff, teachers & workers!!!’  

Ex-health secretary Stephen Dorrell said it was ‘simply extraordinary to waste parliamentary time by introducing legislation which removes the right of NHS staff to withdraw their labour in a future dispute at a time when ministers and MPs should be focusing on resolving the current dispute‘. 

There was more trickery from the government this week as James Cleverly’s first round-table talks with NI party leaders over Brexit were left in disarray after both Sinn Féin and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party refused to attend. 

Sinn Féin accused the UK government of ‘Tory petulance‘ claiming its leader Mary Lou McDonald, who had travelled up from Dublin for the meeting, had been ‘excluded‘ from the talks. 

This likely doesn’t matter overly as, according to the Democratic Unionist party (‘DUP’) leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, ‘At the moment, while some progress has been made on some technical issues, there are major political issues in those negotiations that have not yet been addressed. I don’t think we are anywhere close to a deal.’ 

At the same time, David Jones, the MP for Clwyd West and deputy of the European Research Group, renewed calls for the end of EU law applying in Northern Ireland, saying it was a ‘bizarre and exceptional‘ situation with a ‘colonising‘ effect. 

His remarks, along with the continuing opposition by the DUP to the protocol, highlight the fact that  Sunak is going to have problems closer to home if he is to reach agreement with Brussels. 

‘YouGov reports that 56% of the public regrets the country ever having voted for it, with just 32% still in favour’

Brexit has become the elephant in the room, something that both Sunak and Starmer stridently avoid talking about. Perhaps this isn’t surprising as YouGov reports that 56% of the public regrets the country ever having voted for it, with just 32% still in favour. Even among Conservative voters, more see Brexit as failing rather than succeeding. 

19% of those who voted to leave now regret it. In a poll of polls, a majority said they would vote to re-join, including a majority of all under-65s, and 79 per cent of under-24s. 

  • Economists regard Brexit as a prime cause of us being the only major world economy that has failed to return to its pre-Covid growth performance, with a 5.2% shrinkage in GDP and a 13.7% fall in investment in the last quarter of 2021, compared with the projected numbers had we not left the EU. 
  • The OBR reports that the negative impact of Brexit has been double that of Covid, reducing GDP in the long-term by 4%.  
  • The OBR said in November: ‘Brexit has had a significant adverse impact on UK trade,’ noting a decline in ‘trade intensity‘ of 15%.  
  • Brexit has added 6% to food prices.  
  • Make UK claims 43% of companies regard the UK as a declining place for investment. 

However, if you ask any Brexiters they still believe that one day we will benefit from leaving. The reason it hasn’t happened sooner is due to weak ministers and Whitehall sabotage. Ask why slashing EU immigration has driven up non-EU immigration, the answer is ‘short term‘. The promised ‘bonfire of regulations’ has led to traders, food scientists and conservationists all warning against permitting a collapse in standards. 

Politicians seem terrified of reigniting the debate. We have the 50 ‘red wall’ seats supposedly won by Johnson through leave voters deserting Labour for the Tories. Sunak is terrified of them going back while Starmer is terrified of the opposite. 

Once again the minority has control of the narrative, with both leaders afraid of trying to reach a new accommodation with the EU. Before Christmas Sunak supposedly proposed the possibility of a Swiss-style deal, he backtracked at the speed of light.  

Brexit is a considerable factor in why there are no coherent conversations on how best to avert forthcoming recession, as we lurch towards 1970s stagflation. Offshore islands cannot cut themselves off from their adjacent mainland. What control we might have taken back has come at the expense of additional regulatory and tariff barriers to trade and for the movement of goods and people.  

I discussed the situation in NI earlier, last week Sunak and an EU delegation agreed that digital technology could facilitate trade with NI by identifying destination. They need now to agree on standards regulation and dispute adjudication. 

‘Even if there was the desire to re-join the EU we cannot be sure of being welcomed back into the fold’

In the short-term amendments such as this and other adjustments to the 2020 EU-UK trade deal are the best we can hope for. Even if there was the desire to re-join the EU we cannot be sure of being welcomed back into the fold. 

As we saw from the negative remarks from the DUP leader, an alliance between them and pro-Johnson Tory’s/the ERG over NI would be tantamount to a minority veto. The fact that Starmer and Sunak cannot agree on Brexit risks allowing the DUP taking control of Brexit purely as a means to advance its unionist agenda.  

Ironically, the debacle that is Brexit has helped the EU. A report last week showed that in every EU member state where data was available, from Finland to the Netherlands, Portugal to Hungary, pro-leave sentiment has fallen through the floor. Even Europe’s most hardcore anti-EU parties have abandoned the goal of actually leaving the EU, preferring to reform the union from within. 

One of Brexit’s supposed benefits was cutting red tape; Nigel Farage said of David Cameron having the gall to speak about deregulation to help entrepreneurs: ‘How can he talk about cutting red tape but not the EU regs which cause it?’ 

‘Even Europe’s most hardcore anti-EU parties have abandoned the goal of actually leaving the EU’

Farage and his mob insisted that it was the EU that was causing British businesses to be snarled up in bureaucracy. Post-Brexit, the loudest complaint you hear from British traders hoping to sell their goods into their nearest markets, is the endless hours spent dealing with red tape – customs forms, delays, double-charged VAT imposed on customers at the other end. All because of Brexit. 

This is why the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, was right last week when he called for the Westminster omertà on Brexit to be lifted and for us to start talking about it openly and honestly. 

Labour’s official position is that the subject is closed,  based on the simple political logic that leave voters resent being told they were wrong, and Labour should do nothing that might fracture its electoral coalition.  

This is simply cowardly, attempting to win the election of the Tory’s mess. Brexit is the cause of economic and political harm. Any opposition party has a responsibility to talk about this. Clearly the remaining EU members can see it, it’s about time we had the courage to do so, too. 

Before signing off I wanted to highlight the appalling treatment of people struggling with their electricity bills by the industry, Before going into detail, let’s remind ourselves who owns the major suppliers: 

  • British Gas, Centrica (British owned)
  • EDF, Électricité de France (French government owned) 
  • E.On, E.ON Energie AG (German owned) 
  • Npower, E.ON Energie AG (German owned) 
  • Scottish Power, Iberdrola (Spanish owned) 

Rather than helping customers who are struggling, suppliers have stepped up the use of court warrants to force their way into homes to install prepayment meters, with some magistrates approving hundreds of applications at a time. For homes with smart meters, the change can be made remotely without even needing a warrant. 

It has been revealed that 3.2 million people were left with cold and dark homes last year as they ran out of credit. 

An estimated 600,000 people were forced to make the switch away from credit meters after racking up debt with their energy supplier in 2022, compared with 380,000 in 2021, according to a major report by Citizens Advice. The charity fears a further 160,000 people could be switched by the end of winter. 

Campaigners are warning of ‘disconnection by the back door‘, with suppliers protecting their bottom line as consumers struggle with increasing costs. 

‘suppliers have stepped up the use of court warrants to force their way into homes to install prepayment meters’

Electricity paid for monthly or by direct debit costs less than that paid for on prepay meters. This is counterintuitive, these people need to be helped not penalised. Customers in debt are often left with no choice but to ‘self-disconnect‘.  It is estimated that C.2 million people are being disconnected at least once a month. A fifth of those on prepay report going without heat or light for at least 24 hours, unable to cook or wash. 

There are rules in place to protect the vulnerable. Under the terms of their licence, suppliers are not allowed to move customers on to a prepayment meter if they have an illness or disability. Suppliers have also signed up to a commitment over the winter months to avoid cutting off anyone who is on a pension, disabled, chronically sick or has children. 

However, there are holes in the safety net, it is reported that over 130,000 homes inhabited by a disabled person or someone with a long-term health condition are being disconnected from their energy supply at least once a week as they cannot afford to top up. 

N.B., The numbers are estimates based on data from the energy regulator, Ofgem, and a representative poll of more than 4,000 adults in December commissioned by the charity. Using an average household size of 2.4 people, researchers estimated 3.2 million individuals across Great Britain live in households that ran out of credit at least once last year. 

Citizens Advice said its data showed suppliers were ‘forcibly installing meters where it isn’t appropriate’. 

The charity wants a review of all users of prepayment meters with a commitment to replace them with standard credit meters, where customers use the energy first and pay later, to remove the risk of disconnection. 

MPs have also called for a ban on forced installations. 

Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, told the Guardian: ‘I’m calling on government to get a grip on the situation to enable people to remain on energy contracts with support, and prepay meters need serious redress, if not being ruled out completely, as an option for people in fuel poverty.’  

This is just one more example of what a nasty country this has become! 

‘So I started to hit it (you couldn’t go faster) 
So I started to hit it, and I started to hit it (hit it)’ 

More winter chill from Philip, as the reality of life after Brexit becomes more apparent, and the ‘B’ word is seemingly off-limits to all.

Those looking for some good cheer may have been disappointed when inflation figures showed a reduction of just 20bps, thanks in no small part to a reduction in the price of footwear. Those unable to cope with the Laurel and Hardy diet may rue the fact that they are unable to benefit from a slight reduction in the price of their lunchtime shoe leather, whilst seeing the price of some foodstuffs rocket by more than 20%.

Jeremy Hunt’s toe-curling explanation of inflation through the medium of coffee brought to mind the other favourite of rhyming-slang afficionados, Gareth Hunt.

Philips describes a ‘nasty country’, and given the evidence of key workers at food banks and millions having their energy supplies cut off, it’s difficult to argue with; but then the sight of 1500 private jets, ferrying the ‘great and the good’ to Davos to lecture us on climate change suggests it’s actually a pretty nasty world.

Al Gore has received some criticism for warning of the potential for 1bn people to be displaced by climate change with political structures crumbling; historian Rutger Bregman addressed a room full of billionaires and said, and I’m paraphrasing, tackling climate change would be immeasurably easier, if you f**kers paid some tax.

But they don’t, do they; neither here, nor there. On LBC yesterday, Robert Jenrick swatted away suggestions that Nadhim Zahawi should issue a statement about his tax affairs. ‘Nothing to see here’ he said. 

I wonder if that’s the same Robert Jenrick who, as Housing Minister, tipped off his mate Lord Beaverbook, allowing him to dodge a tax bill of £45,000,000? Must be a different one. FMOB.

So what was Philip thinking?

‘This week it is primarily about the disasters fondly referred to as Brexit. One of the legacies of this and the inexorable rise of right-wing politicians is a general air of nastiness, meanness.

The article talks about how the electricity providers are supporting their bottom line by victimising those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. However, I decided to avoid covering the appalling mess that the Met, the upholder of lawlessness and disorder are in. suffice to say the case of David Carrick is beyond comprehension.   

Readers will remember that, in July 2021, Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard, which he had carried out while serving as a Met police officer. He had already pleaded guilty to her kidnap and rape. The then Met chief, Cressida Dick, admitted that there was the occasional “bad ’un” within the Met.

Occasional? The same month, an allegation of rape was made against David Carrick, which led to his arrest. Despite being arrested he wasn’t suspended, merely put on restricted duties. Carrick is now ranked as one of the country’s worst sex offenders.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is now looking at the decision(s) not to bring misconduct proceedings against Carrick.

This is the same IOPC whose director general, Michael Lockwood, was only last month forced to resign after the discovery that he himself was under investigation for a historical sexual relationship with a minor? Lockwood had until that point been told to keep working “as normal”, despite having told his deputy that he was facing a criminal inquiry.

800 Met officers are now being investigated for over 1,000 sexual and domestic abuse claims. Yet this week the new Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley Rowley, claimed: “There is such a residual basis of trust in British policing.” Really!!!!??

Racism is rife in this country post-Brexit. This week, Joan Salter, an 83 year old child survivor of the Holocaust, wrote an article for the Guardian responding to the home secretary’s, Suella Bravermans, latest piece of vitriol.  

In her speech Braverman told her audience that the many problems facing our country, from housing shortages to NHS waiting times, were caused by illegal migrants. It was up to her government, she claimed, to resolve this by deporting the problem.

It appeared from the audience’s reaction that many agreed with her. Comments criticising the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for saving these desperate boat people, instead of leaving them to drown, were shared openly and to applause from others in the audience.

Ms Salter wrote in response;

The Holocaust began in a country where Jews and non-Jews had lived together in peace for generations. The small Jewish population – less than 1% – was so integrated into German culture that the majority looked upon themselves as Germans, with a variety of degrees of adherence to Jewish culture and traditions. So how did this relative harmony turn to hatred in such a short period of time? Through the use of language. The language of hate and division”.

This was the method used by the Nazis to turn ordinary people, who went home each night to their wives and children, into the monsters capable of marching millions of Jews and other minorities – people just like them – into the gas chambers. It is what enabled ordinary soldiers to return to their wives and children, satisfied that they were protecting their country from social problems caused by people whom their government had convinced them were less than human”.

As I have written many times before, this country is turning to the hard-right. Racism and victimisation of minorities is a tool-in-trade for the hard-right. I will repeat myself again, with racism it isn’t about where it starts, it’s where it ends that matters.

Lyrically, we start with “ Missing” by Everything but the Girl, who’s haunting, ethereal beauty is everything that Brexit isn’t. We close with Death Valley ‘69, by Sonic Youth featuring Lydia Lunch. 



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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