Heroes: Guns or Butter?
17 March 2023
‘You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns’
The Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ was released in 1980, yet the lyrics sound as distressingly apt today as they did 40-yrs ago.
This week, PM Sunak announced that the MoD will get an extra £5bn over the next 2-years to help replenish and bolster vital ammunition stocks, modernise the UK’s nuclear enterprise and fund the next phase of the Aukus submarine programme. It follows a £24bn four-year uplift in defence spending in 2020, the largest sustained increase since the cold war.
In addition, the prime PM plans to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP.
Back on the real world, hospitals have cancelled tens of thousands of outpatient appointments and operations this week as up to 61,000 junior, or trainee doctors stage a 72-hour stoppage in pursuit of a 26% pay rise. The increase is described as ‘full pay restoration‘ for the real-terms loss in their income they say has occurred since 2008/09.
One hospital chief executive said…’Do I think the strike is to any degree irresponsible? No, I fully support them striking. Junior doctors should be paid more because they do bloody hard jobs and do it under a lot of stress and pressure. They’re making a point. I do want to see the government pay them more.’
Never mind, so as long as we have guns, eh!
‘Junior doctors should be paid more because they do bloody hard jobs and do it under a lot of stress and pressure’
Whilst the BBC have finally seen sense and reinstated Linaker, we can rejoice that freedom of speech is still alive in this country. Whilst it would seem that Tim Davie, the Director General of the BBC will take the fall for this, I have no doubt that he was, at best, encouraged by the government to red-card Linaker.
My suspicions are supported by the comments from Conservative non-entity backbencher Philip Davies, who told Mail Online: ‘This pathetic capitulation by the BBC is the start of the end for the licence fee. His epitaph will read ‘Gary Lineker – the man who destroyed the BBC licence fee’. This is a watershed moment. It is now inevitable that the licence fee will end – and it will end sooner than would otherwise have been the case because of Gary Lineker and his left-wing friends at the BBC. And for that we can rejoice.
The BBC can no longer credibly claim that it believes in political impartiality and – more importantly – it has proved that it doesn’t have the stomach to enforce it. It is now a free for all at the BBC.’
Readers can decide for themselves about Davies. He is on the governing council of The Freedom Association pressure group, and is an organiser for the TaxPayers’ Alliance. He has been criticised by other politicians and prominent public figures for comments he has made on gender equality and women, homosexuality, ethnic minorities, as well as the disabled. He has stated that the disabled should have the option of working for less than the minimum wage, and that white, male ministers risk being ‘hoofed out’ of the government to make way for women or minority ethnic MPs. (1)
Gary Neville shares my suspicions; ‘They took on football and got beat up again. I’m talking about the Government who are at the heart of all this nonsense. They wanted to silence someone who is damaging them on a daily basis.’
Emily in Paris star Lucien Laviscount called it right on Good Morning Britain when asked by reporter Noel Phillips for his views on the row said ‘fuck the Tories.’
Even Oliver Holt in the Daily Mail gets it: ‘If you disagree with what he says, that’s fine, plenty do. Question his intellect if you want, question his historical knowledge, back yourself to deconstruct his argument and discredit it, but don’t try to silence him by resorting to half-baked rules about impartiality that are merrily ignored, without censure, by other high-profile BBC presenters, at a time when the BBC hierarchy is riddled with examples of political cronyism.’
‘the decision not to show the sixth episode of Sir David Attenborough’s flagship new series on British wildlife was made to fend off potential critique from the political right’
There is clearly a fear factor at play between the government and BBC. Senior sources at the broadcaster BBC told the Guardian that the decision not to show the sixth episode of Sir David Attenborough’s flagship new series on British wildlife was made to fend off potential critique from the political right. This week the Telegraph newspaper attacked the BBC for creating the series and for taking funding from ‘two charities previously criticised for their political lobbying’ – the WWF and RSPB.
The sixth episode is understood to be a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines. It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some right-wing circles.
The decision has angered the programme-makers and some insiders at the BBC, who fear the corporation has bowed to pressure from lobbying groups with ‘dinosaurian ways‘.
The BBC strongly denied this was the case and insisted the episode in question was never intended for broadcast, and will only be available on the BBC’s iPlayer service.
Returning to ‘Linakergate’, it has unfortunately overshadowed the ‘stop the boats‘ policy, which flouts democratic, legal and humanitarian standards, which is more than just another political controversy. It defines what kind of country we are becoming. Historically, authoritarian regimes have progressed, continually breaching human rights until there is nothing left. Remember it isn’t where you start, it’s where you end that matters.
Equally fundamental is government treatment of the media. Whilst broadcasters, including the BBC are regulated our newspapers are not. Newspapers, particularly of the right, play an increasingly important roles as propaganda tools of right-wing ideology, where facts are subordinate to political ends. The extremes of the ‘stop the boats’ scheme would not be possible without the poisonous climate they create. They criticise the BBC because it stands in the way of how they want to frame political and cultural arguments as a path to the unconstrained exercise of government privilege, the attacks on human rights and the diminution of our democracy.
Needless to say the right-wing press, have remained silent over the compromised chair of the BBC, Conservative donor Richard Sharp, for not disclosing his role in helping Boris Johnson find an £800,000 loan. His task is to ensure the BBC stays editorially compliant in the run-up to the general election.
This aside, there is one voice missing from both the ‘stop the boats’ and ‘Linakergate’ saga; that of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. To date, Labour has confined itself to criticising the policy only in terms of its workability.
In truth, the government’s bill for stopping boats will achieve little. The question is, was it ever meant to? Or, was its intent achieved on Monday night when opposition MPs voted against the proposed law at second reading in the Commons. Whilst there are more legislative hurdles to clear, this allowed Braverman to accuse Labour of wanting ‘open borders and unlimited migration‘.
Whist there isn’t a shred of truth in her allegation, it shows how the Tory’s want to fight the next election, presenting themselves as the last defence against a migrant armada and its accomplices. Scott Benton, the MP for Blackpool South blamed ‘lefty lawyers and celebrity do-gooders’.
‘Scott Benton, the MP for Blackpool South blamed ‘lefty lawyers and celebrity do-gooders”
The Tory’s are using parliamentary process to force Labour to cross a line that puts them on the wrong side of public opinion. This isn’t new but is now becoming a deliberate instrument of government policy. Brexit was the catalyst for this behaviour.
The legislative warfare post the Brexit referendum led to a fear of parliamentary scrutiny from hard-line Eurosceptics, who saw due process as a trap and parliament as a place where the will of the people was being ambushed and emasculated by unpatriotic liberals.
In their eyes Johnson was right to attempt proroguing parliament in September 2019 because MPs wouldn’t do his bidding, as was passing a Brexit deal that he had no intention of honouring, because the terms of the treaty were unimportant compared to the principle of emancipation from Brussels.
In effect, in their view, there is a disconnect between ideological ambition and practical government.
”stopping the boats’ proves he was never serious about being serious’
Sunak attempted to show grownup diplomacy with his solution to NI. Alas, that is now forgotten as his reappointment of Braverman ties his electoral fortunes to migration policy built to fail, ‘stopping the boats’ proves he was never serious about being serious.
We finish with yesterday’s budget. Numerous commentators, all more qualified than me, cover this, however I will highlight one part of the budget which provides yet more evidence that the government has no concern for income inequality. In doing so, they are utterly wrong, left untouched this will ultimately bring capitalism house of cards tumbling down.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (‘IFS’) the chancellor’s huge pensions giveaway for the wealthiest 1% opens a loophole for avoidance of inheritance tax, and ‘probably won’t play a big part, if any’ in increasing the number of people in work.
Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, said: ‘The lack of any coherent strategy here remains deeply disappointing. Don’t forget these changes are largely a rowing back on changes made just a few years ago by this government.’
Scrapping the £1m cap on tax-free pension savings, is an attempt to encourage older skilled workers not to retire early. As an example, Hunt argued the change would discourage NHS doctors from quitting.
Labour warned the tax giveaway would benefit only the wealthiest top 1% of earners, while promising that it would reverse the chancellor’s decision to scrap the pensions lifetime allowance.
In its verdict on the budget, the IFS said it was ‘implausible‘ for the government to argue that it could not increase public sector pay on affordability grounds.
‘UK plutocrats rank proudly fifth in the world for mega-wealth, whilst our poor have 20% less than the poor of Slovenia.’
Johnson said; ‘You can’t keep cutting the pay of teachers, nurses and civil servants, both in real terms and relative to the private sector, without consequences for recruitment, retention and service delivery. ‘Money will have to be found from somewhere.’
One of the best summations of income inequality comes from the FT’s John Burn-Murdoch; ‘Britain and the US are poor societies with some very rich people.’
The fact is that earnings for the top 1% have accelerated since the start of the pandemic. UK plutocrats rank proudly fifth in the world for mega-wealth, whilst our poor have 20% less than the poor of Slovenia.
‘We owe you nothing, you have no control
You are not what you own’
Almost another article in Philip’s preamble, and well worth publishing in full; there is some fascinating context, but also a look at the challenge facing our police service to restore trust. How many parents would feel comfortable telling their daughter to find a policeman if they felt imperiled?
A strange few days, but then isn’t everything strange with this government.
The BBC backs-down and reinstates Gary Linaker, however, there is no doubt the whole saga was caused by government oversight.
The stop the boats legislation has been holed below the waterline, but then was it ever serious. Or was it simply an electoral tool to show that only the Tories want to control “illegal” immigration.
This week’s budget was the usual fuss about very little, other confirming that the Tory’s care nothing about income inequality. They are best mis-guided this, left untouched, will be capitalism’s death knell.
In his new book, “Follows the Money”, Paul Johnson, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (“IFS”) director, says since 2010 we have seen “the most dramatic period of spending cuts in modern history”. At some point taxes must rise unless voters are ready to see public services disintegrate further.
His analysis shows that our warped tax system is riddled with reliefs for rich people and penalties for the rest. “Government’s dirty secret is that it chooses not to do the right thing,” he writes. As President Biden realises vast sums of money could be raised by squeezing rich people and ending their tax reliefs, however, he warns that real economy-changing investments require everyone paying more.
How much more should we pay in tax? That’s up to us, because “there is nothing in economics that says we can’t have a bigger state”, Johnson writes. Similar countries to us raise more tax to buy better services, while investing in growth, and succeed better than us: France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands all raise and spend far more, pulling away from us at a faster pace as we sink down the G7 in growth. Incomes in France grew in a decade by 34% and in Germany by 27%, while typical UK income dropped by 2%. Source; the Resolution Foundation
We finish this week with those upholders of lawlessness and disorder, the police. More than 1,483 unique allegations were reported against 1,539 police officers, 0.7% of the workforce. There were 1,177 cases of alleged police-perpetrated violence, including sexual harassment and assault, reported between October 2021 and April 2022, according to data from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
Of this number , 653 (55%), were conduct matters, which are usually raised by a colleague within the force. The remaining cases, 524 (45%), were complaints from the public.
Almost two-thirds of the complaints from the public were about the use of force, for example handcuffing or arrest, while 9% concerned harassing behaviour, 6% related to assault and 5% abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
For the conduct allegations, 48% concerned discreditable conduct carried outside working hours, while 19% related to sexual assault, 13% to sexual harassment and 6% to abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
Just under half the complaints and nearly three-quarters of the conduct cases still had not been finalised when the data was collected, but where cases had closed, 70% of conduct cases (136) and 91% of complaint cases (290) were thrown out, with just 13 officers and staff sacked for misconduct, and nobody fired as a result of public complaints.
Across the 40 police forces for which data was available, 428,355 cases had a recorded outcome, and a suspect was charged in just 6%. In most cases, there were problems with evidence or victims withdrew from the case.
Farah Nazeer, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the statistics revealed “the staggering scale of violence against women and girls” and had “deeply worrying implications for women’s already low levels of trust in the criminal justice system”.
I don’t think anything more needs to be said.
Lyrically, the opening track from the Jam shows that nothing has changed in the Conservative’s priorities since Thatcher. We finish with Fugazi’s “Merchandise”. 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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