inequality‘I saw her on the cover of a magazine 
Now she’s a big success, I want to meet her again’ 

Sometimes I wonder what goes through politicians minds, often it seems little more than naked opportunism. 

Perhaps that is how we can describe the former Tory MP, Natalie Elphicke, being welcomed into the Labour party. Or, as the song suggests maybe Kier ‘saw her on the cover of a magazine’. 

Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour party has defended the decision to admit the staunchly right-wing MP while Diane Abbott remains suspended and has been under investigation for more than a year. 

Dodds said she believed Elphicke was a good fit for Labour because her remarks on border security and housing were ‘absolutely fundamental to the Labour party‘. 

The decision has been controversial among many female Labour MPs because of Elphicke’s defence of her husband, Charlie, who was convicted of sexual assault in 2020. Shortly after his conviction, Elphicke told the Sun he had been the victim of a ‘terrible miscarriage of justice‘ and she cast doubt on his victims’ testimonies. 

This feels like Labour once again trying not to be Labour, keeping a ‘traditional’ Labour person out in the cold, whilst opportunistically embracing someone who clearly isn’t Labour. 

‘Labour once again trying not to be Labour, keeping a ‘traditional’ Labour person out in the cold, whilst opportunistically embracing someone who clearly isn’t Labour’

This stance really sums-up where we are. Labour don’t believe they can win as Labour and are trying to be all new Labour / Tory lite. In truth, last weeks local election results were a landslide defeat for the Conservatives rather than a landslide victory for Labour. 

Starmer has been at pains to point out that the party is repairing the damage done to its traditional coalition of support in recent years, evidenced by the big swings to Labour in the biggest leave-voting areas, where Brexit had driven a wedge between the party and formerly loyal voters.  

However, this needs to be considered fully; Brexit and the results of the 2019 election were an outlier, caused by unique circumstances. Austerity, inequality and the feeling of left behind created unlikely bedfellows.  

In addition to the unique circumstances, there was a unique blend of characters; Farage the rabble rouser igniting the electorate, Cummings the media guru who knew how to exploit this, and Johnson, the clown prince who had the charisma to stand-up and deliver the necessary oratory. In a word, populism. 

As is well documented, populism works best in opposition because it is based on negativity, and wild ideas. Once in-power those wild ideas can rarely, if ever be put into practise. The return of the red wall to Labour says everything about the failure of Brexit and levelling up, and very little about a resurgent Labour party,  

The country Labour will inherit is very different to the one Tony Blair and New Labour inherited in May 1997. Whilst the Tory’s were then engulfed in a sea of scandals, the economy had turned and it was a good election to win. 

‘The country Labour will inherit is very different to the one Tony Blair and New Labour inherited in May 1997’

This time around the situation is very different. 

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (‘Niesr’), a leading thinktank, believes that the next government will be forced to hit voters with post-election tax rises and delay net zero investment unless it is prepared to rip up Treasury rules for managing the state finances,  

In ‘Armageddon Time’ I made reference to the fiscal rules governments impose on themselves, which, in recent years, have served as an inhibitor to growth. The primary reason is that there is no distinction between public spending on consumption and spending on investment. 

The current fiscal rules state that the debt-to-GDP ratio – which is now just below 100% – should be falling within a five-year horizon and the annual deficit-to-GDP ratio should be below 3% by the end of the same period. 


As a result of its findings the thinktank is calling for a radical overhaul of these self-imposed constraints on government borrowing and debt as it warned that persistently weak growth and lower inflation would make hitting the rules more difficult. 

They found that whilst the economy had emerged from recession the ‘not-fit-for-purpose‘ fiscal rules meant there was no scope for Jeremy Hunt to offer fresh tax cuts before polling day. 

Niesr said debt would still be rising as a percentage of national income in 5-years’ time, and the government would still be borrowing more than 5% of GDP to balance its books. These forecasts exclude the additional £75bn over the next 6-years needed to increase the defence budget to 2.5% of GDP by 2030. 

Prof Stephen Millard, Niesr’s deputy director for macroeconomics, modelling and forecasting, said: ‘Despite the welcome fall in inflation, UK growth remains anaemic. This will make it difficult for any incoming government to carry out the much-needed investment in infrastructure and the green transition, as well as increase spending on public services and defence, without either raising taxes or rewriting the fiscal rules. 

‘This makes clear the need to reform the fiscal framework to enable the government to do what is needed for the economy in a fiscally sustainable way.’ 

Given the promises on the unholy trinity of Farage, Cummings and Johnson it was interesting to note that the found few signs of levelling up and that there was some evidence of widening regional disparities. 

After the squeeze caused by the cost of living crisis, living standards are expected to rise by 6% on average in 2024-2025 relative to 2023-4 but with differences between poor and well-off households. 

Above-inflation rent increases would mean those in the bottom income decile would see a 2% drop in their living standards, while those on middle and higher incomes would enjoy a 7-8% rise. 

‘those in the bottom income decile would see a 2% drop in their living standards, while those on middle and higher incomes would enjoy a 7-8% rise’

These findings are not good news for the would-be chancellor, Rachel Reeves. In her Mais lecture in March, she laid out her ‘securonomics’ programme, a smaller-scale Bidenomics to kickstart investment for growth. It relies on 1.5m homes to be built after a planning reform ‘blitz’. Her national wealth fund seeds investment to boost jobs with a ‘skills revolution’ and a ‘genuine living wage’. Her green prosperity plan still offers £28bn by the second half of the next parliament, and an increase to the windfall tax on oil and gas. 

Nothing comes for free, and, if as the Niesr reports suggests, we are going to have to think outside of the current fiscal rules to maybe even stand still, I have my concerns.  

Labour are always under the microscope of the blinkered and bias Tory press who continue to trumpet ‘tax and spend’ whenever a Labour government looks likely. This, alongside, Labour’s belief that they cannot triumph as Labour suggests that there will be more samo, samo from them. 

As a result the current chancellor, Jeremy Hunts, legacy might be leaving Labour the poison pill that undermines their economic plans, leaving the Tories to remind us that ‘Labour cannot manage the economy’. Whereas, the truth is that 40-yrs of economic mismanagement and supply-side economic theory as purported by the Tories is the true culprit. 

Perhaps, my lasting memory of how Tory governments allow workers to be treated goes back to the underhand ‘sacking’ of 786 employees by P&O which in March 2022, which was covered in ‘Treated With Contempt‘. 

At that time Peter Hebblethwaite, who runs the business, appeared in front of a joint transport and business committee to explain the decision to sack his staff and replace them with low-paid agency workers. 


At the time he told parliamentarians that the lowest-paid agency worker would receive £5.15 an hour, but an investigation this March revealed that some were receiving hourly rates as low as £4.87. 

This week, prompted by these reports, Hebblethwaite reappeared before the business and trade committee, and was asked by the chair, Liam Byrne MP: ‘Are you basically a modern-day pirate? … You seem to be robbing your staff blind.’ 

‘Asked whether he could live on £4.87 an hour, Hebblethwaite replied: ‘No, I couldn’t.’ 

The UK minimum wage is £11.44 an hour – but the rates do not apply to maritime workers employed by an overseas agency who work on foreign-registered ships in international waters. As P&O uses that model, the pay rates onboard its vessels are legal. 

Asked whether he could live on £4.87 an hour, Hebblethwaite replied: ‘No, I couldn’t.’ 

But then, of course he doesn’t have to; he earned a £325,000 basic salary and received an £183,000 bonus in April 2023. 

Which, as I written several times in recent weeks shows that system does work, for the few. At the time of the sacking there was much huffing and puffing, but, as the then PM, Harold Wilson, told us, ‘a week is a long time in politics’. 

And sure enough, it was quickly forgotten and the government moved onto messing something else up.  

The question is did they ever really care? I doubt it. Whilst Hebblethwaite and P&O might be the unacceptable face of capitalism, capitalism had long since failed to serve the majority.  

This week the last word goes to Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, who seems to have a better understanding of the Tory party that its leader…. 

But there are lots of people who are involved in the problems with the Conservative party. It’s a bit of chaos at the minute, right, isn’t it? 

There’s lots of people fighting with each other in the Conservative party, there are defections going on and ultimately the public do not vote for parties who are not united and are not presenting a united front and also aren’t talking to the public.’ 

‘Everything is my fault 
I’ll take all the blame’ 


Lyrically, we pay tribute to the late-Steve Albini, the hardcore artist and producer. With his own bands “Big Black”, “Rapeman”, and “Shellac” he did much to further the genre. We start with the Big Black’s cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model”, which is dedicated to Natalie Elphick and Keir Starmer.
In terms of his production we finish with Nirvana whose final album “In Utero” he worked on. from that we have “All Apologies”, which should be the Tory’s election song! 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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