inequality‘Notice whom for wheels are turning 
Turn again and turn towards this time’ 


This article was written just over 7-yrs after ‘Leave’ triumphed in the Brexit referendum. By coincidence I am writing this whilst holidaying in Ischia, just as I was 7-yrs ago

We now know that the inevitable has happened; Labour will form the next government, with a majority over C.170. There are a few observations to be made: 

  • The Lib Dems benefitted from tactical voting and a smart campaign supporting a clear message. 
  • Sien Fein are now the biggest party in NI 
  • The ‘Greens’ are gaining momentum 
  • A number of Tory big beasts have fallen including, Shapps, Rees Mogg, and Truss 

But, perhaps inevitably, the elephant in the room is Reform and Farage. In 2019, it was all about him standing candidates aside allowing Johnson a clear run, in 2024 it was about him standing candidates and splitting the right-wing vote. 

My dislike of the man, his party and what they represent is well documented. But, policywise, two things standout; he was the driver for Brexit which has set the country back years, and his support for the disastrous Truss budget, which he described as the ‘the best Conservative budget since 1986.’  

‘the elephant in the room is Reform and Farage’

The marks the end of an era of 14-yrs of Tory misrule, their key policies of austerity and Brexit have left the country markedly poorer. Their other key policy, ‘levelling-up’, never happened but then it was never going to. 

During the 14-yrs the Tories passed the premiership around like a parcel at a 5-yrs olds party. Three of them, Messrs Cameron, Johnson and Truss plumbed the depths, the other, Theresa May, I will make an honourable exception of.    

This electoral defeat leaves them in a more ruinous, perhaps life-threatening position than Labour after the 2019 general election. Then, Labour had a potential route to recovery via blending mainstream / centre-left opinion around a pragmatic programme for government, alongside eliminating all traces of antisemitism and marginalising toxic extremists. The only question was whether its leadership, membership and trade union backers had the capacity and want to pull it off. The answer is a clear yes. 

Today the same questions have to be asked of the Tories. Within this lays the role of their blindly ideological press, which, in recent years, has played an important role in reducing the party to the decaying ideologically bereft which Farage’s Reform party preys on. The centre right barely exists, and the party appears to lack the requisite skilled politicians to lead its resurrection. 

What is left is a disintegrating rabble of right-wing cults, obsessed with the traditional virtues of family, faith and national community. Their response to the poverty created by austerity, a cost-of-living crisis and  stagnant productivity and investment, intensified by Brexit, is to blame immigration, working-class fecklessness and high taxes. 


‘What is left is a disintegrating rabble of right-wing cults, obsessed with the traditional virtues of family, faith and national community’

In truth their stagnation and disintegration stems from their near religious veneration of Margaret Thatcher, something shared with Farage.  Her disciples still see her as the true Conservative who put the country on the road to recovery based on the principles of small state, low taxes, self-organising market, suspicion of foreigners (especially Europeans) and individualism. The question none of them have the courage to face is, if she was the author of such a majestic recovery, where has it gone? 

Too many Tories hide behind we have lapsed into ‘socialism’, as criticism often laid at Sunak doorstep. The truth is somewhat simpler; individualism in self-organising markets and rolling back of the state as the path to prosperity hasn’t worked wherever it has been tried. All that it is has achieved is to increase inequality, which led to Brexit and the rise of right-wing extremism. Successive Thatcherite tribute acts culminated in the greatest economic folly of all, the Truss budget.  

If this proves anything it is this; the liberal Tory ‘wets’ Thatcher so despised were right; the postwar settlement needed reform not dismantling. 

‘Successive Thatcherite tribute acts culminated in the greatest economic folly of all, the Truss budget’

Monetarism is today discredited; printing less money achieved neither a smaller state nor lower inflation. Instead, our industrial base was needlessly decimated, with manufacturing employment close to halving in a decade, meaning that towns across the Midlands, north of England and Wales were left to rot. North Sea oil revenues, instead of being harnessed in a Norway-style national wealth fund that today could have been worth more than a trillion pounds, were squandered, often needlessly on self-inflicted welfare benefits. 

Within monetarism and a small state is deregulation in which we were a leader. This led ultimately to thinly capitalised banks unable to deal with the US financial tsunami that became the GFC. Building societies became a symbol of this failed culture, replacing working-class solidarity with demutualised business and gung-ho lending. This deregulation led to a 20-year credit and property boom, that ended with every £1 of capital supported £50 of lending.  

David Cameron and George Osborne, both pound shop Thatcherites, were either too myopic or too stupid, to understand the problem, choosing to blame New Labour’s excessive public spending for the crisis. This was, without doubt, the worst electoral lie and ensuing government in living memory. Their policy of austerity, not only failed completely, but in the process hit people in areas still reeling from the first catastrophe hardest. 

This led to what is today’s failed Brexit, which has meant that both GDP and tax revenues have shrunk below trend levels, costing at least an estimated £120bn and £40bn respectively. 

The Liz Truss budget was simply the icing on the cake. 

Whilst it was clear that Messrs Cameron and Osborne had the diagnosis wrong in 2010, it only with the benefit of hindsight that the true damage can be assessed. Their folly is leading to a lost generation, and has put the country back incalculably. 

‘Their folly is leading to a lost generation, and has put the country back incalculably’

Such is the magnitude of their folly that bears deeper explanation. 

Whilst the 2008 GFC had created a severe global recession-, by 2010 the world economy was growing again, but all major economies, Britain included, were still operating far below capacity and had high unemployment. 

In this situation the classic response is to stimulate demand with reduced interest rates and fiscal deficits. The former were not an option as rates were already close to zero, leaving us with fiscal stimulus. 

Instead the Tories withdrew fiscal support from an economy still in need of it.  

Camerons’ claim that austerity was required to stop us going the way of the PIGS was complete obfuscation. The PIGS were being attacked in the bond markets, and were vulnerable because they didn’t control their own currency as members of the Euro, whereas we had monetary independence via Sterling. (1) 

The US also turned contractionary, but this was because a President Obama faced a deeply hostile Congress, which in effect blackmailed him into spending cuts by threatening to provoke a government default. 

In summary, austerity stopped the UK economy from recovering from the severe recession that followed the GFC, the cost of this is the diminution of public services, the rise of poverty and food banks. As this column has said many times before, for many the recovery has been ‘L’-shaped. 

‘That Sunak was so bereft of talent that he had to turn to Cameron shows how far the Tories have fallen’

That Sunak was so bereft of talent that he had to turn to Cameron shows how far the Tories have fallen, and how unfit for purpose they have become. The right of the party cannot, perhaps will not admit this.  

Even the baby boomers, who have been one of the few beneficiaries of monetarism and austerity have, in some instances, recognise the generational inequality these failed policies created. ‘We missed the world wars; enjoyed the benefits of a functional and free NHS; partied in the 1960s; and we have a triple-lock pension. Tuition fees? We were paid to party at university! And we own more than 75% of the private housing stock in the country.’ (2) 

Farage won some disaffected voters, but he remains, along with the discredited Boris Johnson, the author of the widely despised Brexit: it is delusional to imagine a politician who thrives on poisonous division could ever approach winning an election.  

The country has voted for change, and despite the hysteria printed in the Mail, we are not in a one-party socialist state.  

The Mail, along with the rest of the right-wing media have hastened the disintegration of the Tory party, supporting Johnson’s version of the night of the long knives that culled so-much of the parties talent. In their place is racist populism, and ever vengeful Farage    

The power Farage wields over a small percentage of the electorate is disproportionate to his influence over the Tory party. He is, if I am polite, nothing more than a pub politician, full of prejudices and one-liners.  

‘nothing more than a pub politician, full of prejudices and one-liners’

Despite his wealth, Farage has a common touch that Sunak will never be able to imitate. Whilst those who vote for him see him as one of them, he isn’t. He doesn’t want to be. Look at the hissy fit he had when Coutts didn’t want his business. He was offered an account with another part of the bank, but oh no, his snobbery won out. 

His decision to stand for election in Clacton was orchestrated. Almost 30% of its population are over 65,, it has the highest levels of economic inactivity of any constituency in England and Wales, at 51%, indicating a community in very poor health, and is 95% white. 

Immigration, whilst an emotive subject for many of them, isn’t at the heart of their fascination with him. Their real issue is their widespread and profound sense of alienation from mainstream politics, and a feeling that no one speaks for them. They are a manna from heaven for populism; Farage tells them, ‘No longer will you be at the end of the line. No longer will you be ignored.’ 

‘over the past 50 years, almost every government has overseen lower economic growth than its predecessor’

Reform’s manifesto, or ‘contract’ of pledges was devoid of serious intent, merely promising to abolish immigration and a series of extravagant expenditures, paid for by cuts to government spending (which cuts, of course, were largely unspecified). Anyone remember Brexit’s supposed saving of £350m a week? 

Along with the failure of monetarism / neoliberalism, perhaps we should be reconsidering the benchmarks used to measure the economy. 

For example, there is inflation, which, we are gleefully told, is now at its 2% target rate. Despite that, the prices of food and petrol remain C.25% higher than 2-years ago, as a result, >20% of households are reputed to be struggling to pay their bills or to make ends meet. The cost of living crisis was much more than just a  number on the consumer price index: it was a catch-all term, taking in everything from a punitive welfare system and poorly paid and insecure work to rising expenses. Millions of households were in a cost of living crisis long before it made the front pages, and this will continue 

Alongside this is income inequality. In their book ‘When Nothing Works’, the Foundational Economy collective of researchers show that of all the growth in take-home pay between 1999 and 2020, the 10% highest earners scooped 25%, while the bottom 10% got only 3%.  

Lastly, history shows that over the past 50 years, almost every government has overseen lower economic growth than its predecessor. 


Perhaps a new government means new economic measures, given the poverty endemic in the UK the GINI co-efficient should be considered. Or, the UN’s human development index that looks at life expectancy and schooling as well as income.  

Heroes will now be retired, but the column will live on. No doubt there will be plenty for me to consider, but the focus will still be on inequality, and the rise of hard-right extremism. Until then…. 

‘The public image belongs to me 
It’s my entrance my own creation 
My grand finale, my goodbye’ 


  1. PIGS was the anacronym given to Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece 
  1. Khalid Haneef from Watford, quoted in the Guardian 


Quite a day: ‘This is a momentous moment. The column, through its different incarnations, comes to an end.

The 14-yrs of Tor misrule is over, and, hopefully, we will see Labour become a more caring, honest and trustworthy government, and one which starts to deliver the equality a modern Britain requires.

However, my cause is not over, in fact it is just beginning. There has always been two underlying tenets to the columns; inequality and the rise of hard-right extremists.

Recent events in France highlight just how far the hard-right have come. This is also true of Italy, Holland, Germany, and much of eastern Europe. In the US, we have the terrifying spectre of a vengeful Trump with Supreme Court immunity and dictatorial powers.

Closer to home, the rise of Farage and Reform shows that the concerns of myself and others, regarding right-wing extremism, is real. Until we defeat inequality these politicians will continue to flourish.

This column will return with a new name, “Mr Brightside” later in the month.

Lyrically, we start with New Order’s “Ceremony”, as an entree to the Starmer years. To finish, we bow out in the manner this column has always done with Public Image” by Public Image Ltd. 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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