HP Source: The Sleazy Empire Strikes Back
We Don’t Need this Fascist Groove Thing, 18th November 2020; The Sleazy Empire Strikes Back
‘Oh, see the fire is sweepin’
At our streets today
Burnin’ like a red coal carpet
A mad bull lost its way’
Last week we made little mention of the saga that passes for an election in the US, this week we start with Trump’s baseless allegation of vote rigging.
On Thursday, a wing of the department of homeland security, part of the government that Trump still heads, declared that last week’s election ‘was the most secure in American history’, and that there was ‘no evidence’ of any malpractice, still less of the mass-scale fraud that Trump has groundlessly alleged.
Whilst the lack of evidence will neutralise the judicial courts, there is another, potentially more powerful court, the court of public opinion. A court that has C.70m judges and jurors.
another, potentially more powerful court, the court of public opinion
At the weekend hundreds of thousands, gathered by the Freedom Plaza for the Million Make America Great Again (‘MAGA’) march, singing sang the national anthem, and sporadically cheering for the president.
One protester who was interviewed said, ‘I want this nightmare to end. I haven’t slept much since the election because I’m sad that Donald Trump is not our president. He’s gonna be our president though.’
Another said Trump was the best president he’d ever had, one who ‘did everything he said he would’.
Many supporters believed that Trump had won, and distrusted state ballot counts and the media. As one said it was ‘mysterious’ how Trump had been reported to have lost the election. ‘Trump was winning, he had the election in a landslide, and then in the middle of the night they stopped doing the count, and mysteriously all these votes showed up for Joe Biden. I don’t buy it.’
There was a heavy presence of minority groups, mainly Asian Americans. This initially surprised me, but even minorities can be part of the left behind generation that he appealed to.
One, a Muslim, said Trump had condemned white supremacists and racism, and that Trump’s Muslim ban wasn’t a ban against Muslims but happened to concern countries with large Muslim populations. As he spoke, the crowd behind him broke into a ‘Four More Years!’ chant.
By late afternoon, Trump supporters thronged outside the supreme court, where they were met by a crowd of counter-protesters. The two groups were separated by a barricade and law enforcement officers, but still briefly collided after rumours spread that members of the Proud Boys extremist group were present. Some supporters were seen cheering for Proud Boys and wearing Proud Boys hats.
Where this goes, we can only guess, but if, at some point, Trump’s supporters don’t accept the election result, even after all legal challenges are defeated this could get ugly.
Trump has succeeded in what I warned about; he has convinced the public that the election was rigged and stolen from them, the question we should be asking is what the 70m will do about it?
‘There’s a loser in the house and a puppet on a stool
And a crowded way of life and a black reflecting pool
And as the people bend the moral fabric dies
Then the country can’t pretend to ignore its people’s cries’
From the left behind in the US we turn back to the UK where, in spite of our left behind and the Temporary-55 that represent them, our government is still helping its ‘mates’.
A favourite of this column, Robert Jenrick the communities secretary, 6-months after helping Tory donor Richard Desmond by acting unlawfully in overruling Tower Hamlets council and the Planning Inspectorate to grant approval for a housing development, has moved onto to bigger things; the mishandling of the £3.6bn towns fund.
This was established in July 2019 to support the economies of struggling towns; the fund selected 101 places, 40 based on need and the other 61 chosen by ministers. Tory seats and targets were the big beneficiaries, leading to Labour concerns that the money was used to win votes.
‘A report by the cross-party Commons public accounts select committee accuses the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government of dishing out billions based on vague justifications, scant evidence and sweeping assumptions. One town, Cheadle in Greater Manchester (Conservative, majority 2,336), was given cash despite being ranked by officials as the 535th priority out of 541 towns.’
Then there is the story of Kate Bingham, the wife of a Treasury minister and cousin by marriage to Boris Johnson’s sister.
our government is still helping its ‘mates’
By her own admission Kate has no vaccines experience, this hasn’t stopped Johnson appointing her to head up the vaccines taskforce, making her responsible for investing billions of pounds of public money, whilst remaining as MD of a private equity firm specialising in health investments.
If this wasn’t sleazy enough, she awarded a £670,000 contract to a tiny PR firm, whose last accounts show net assets of less than a third of that sum. Its directors include Collingwood Cameron, a longstanding business associate of Humphry Wakefield (better known as Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law).
This isn’t the only example of the government favouring direct appointments over open competition for key Covid roles, there is also the appointments of Mike Coupe as director of Covid testing, and Baroness Dido Harding as head of test and trace, neither of whom had any previous related experience.
Last, but not least there is the £100bn reported to have been spent on Operation Bullshit, sorry Moonshot, for mass testing; apparently undertaken without consulting the national screening committee, its own body of experts, or seeking the consent of parliament.
This has all been bought to the fore again due to a report from the National Audit Office (‘NAO’) which found that PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a ‘high-priority’ channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful.
More than half (£10.5bn) of contracts relating to the pandemic were awarded without competitive tender, according to the NAO. The watchdog found that some paperwork documenting why suppliers had been selected was missing, and that in some instances, contracts had only been drawn up after the companies had already started the work.
Around 10% of the suppliers referred to the high-priority channel by a political contact were awarded a PPE contract, the NAO reported. Suppliers without such links, by contrast, had only a 1% chance of winning a contract (104 out of 14,892).
There is nothing new in politicians helping their own, and the Tories are no exceptions. But the current governments sleaze runs deeper, there is the cynical way it uses the media to attack its opponents, and then manipulates the electorate to keep it in power. The latter fed lies and promises, but with Cummings, ‘their champion’ gone their time will come.
Taking the media first, I refer to the Mail on Sundays article about Marcus Rashford, run under the headline ‘School meals Marcus’s £2m homes empire,’ which referred to five properties recently purchased by the Manchester United forward in Cheshire. The author was also particularly keen to point out that Rashford has begun the process of trademarking his name in the US, and that his own house is worth £1.85m and has six bedrooms.
This isn’t in the public interest, everyone knows top footballers are highly rewarded, what is in the public interest is they children are starving, and it has taken someone such as Marcus Rashford to do something about it.
It is simply nasty and pernicious, a warning shot if you like. This is an escalation of the growing Stop Rashford movement begun by right-wing pundits and Conservative MPs on Twitter in recent weeks. Last month the Guido Fawkes website sardonically praised Rashford’s ‘ability to eloquently and magnanimously oppose verbal attacks on Tory MPs just minutes after the end of a football match’.
‘But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate’
Rashford is everything these people hate, not just a 23-year-old footballer, but a young, black, working-class campaigner who refuses to accept there is anything contentious or left-wing about wanting hungry children fed, and getting it done.
How did Marcus respond? With a metaphorical two-fingers, he is launching a book club and his own range of literature with the aim of giving children from lower socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to embrace reading from an early age.
He has joined with the Macmillan Children’s Books to promote reading and literacy among children from all backgrounds, and he talked about his own lack of access to books as a child, saying, his family had to prioritise food over books, and with the partnership he wanted to reach the ‘380,000 children across the UK today that have never owned a book’.
This column offers a word of advice to the Temporary-55 who occupy many of the so-called ‘ red wall’ seats; I would ditch Johnson and the old reactionary Tories, Marcus cares far more about your constituents than they do.
The man who enabled Johnson to win these seats, Dominic Cummings, was fired by his master at the weekend, the likely victim of a backbench rebellion led by the very people that Cummings disliked and tried to marginalise. Whilst the truth may never be known, I suspect the backbenchers gave Johnson an ultimatum; either be replaced, or fire Cummings and change direction.
the backbenchers gave Johnson an ultimatum; either be replaced, or fire Cummings and change direction
What they are missing is that a useless, incompetent government will not suddenly become competent just because it changes direction.
As one backbencher said, ‘It has been made plain to the PM that there will have to be major changes. I want to see an MP as chief of staff and a second-to-none political operation which stops walking into traps laid by Labour. We [also] need a parliamentary relations unit to transform relations with MPs.’ He’s obviously a bit dim, Johnson walked into his own traps!
But a former Downing Street staffer warned that MPs expecting a permanent shift towards more collaboration with backbenchers would be left disappointed.
‘The contempt for MPs does not come from Dominic Cummings, ‘he’s just a harder version of the smiling frontman. The basic contempt comes from Boris Johnson. This is not a guy who does the Commons tearooms, who fraternises with fellow MPs. This is a guy who gets blown around by whatever storm; he has no political compass. Cummings was his ultimate human shield, the lightning conductor for all the hostility from Whitehall and politicians but it is Johnson’s leadership that is the problem. He is an outsider, a personality. There’s very little seen of him building a support base within the party.’
Before we consider what might change, we need to consider what Cummings did, and what he influenced.
Many Brexiters were simply reasserting the values of working-class communities which had been neglected for decades, this, in turn led to the fall of the ‘red wall’ seats in the 2019 election December. Both ‘victories’ were engineered by Cummings’, whose rise to power were based on two insights.
The first was that past Conservative governments had demonstrated that Tory MPs cared little about those in poverty or the NHS.
Tory MPs cared little about those in poverty or the NHS
The second was that, in swathes of Labour-voting England, particularly in the post-industrial north and Midlands, there was a deep nostalgia for a lost politics of solidarity – which was partly why the NHS had become so symbolic.
These insights first came to the fore in 2004, during the referendum campaign on a proposed north-east assembly. Cummings successfully mined that progressive nostalgia and put it to work in the interests of a nascent populist right.
His slogan then was, ‘More doctors, not politicians’, which became the precursor to Vote Leave’s ‘£350m for the NHS’. Cummings understood the desire voters had to bolster the fraying social fabric within communities and deployed it against the disinterested ‘elites’ of Westminster and Brussels.
There is little to show he was actually concerned with the plight of the these people, rather it was a tactic that owed more to cynical manipulation, albeit one that helped Cummings and his Vote Leave faction develop an acute understanding of the class dynamics of 21st-century English politics.
With Cummings gone, the question is where now for Johnson?
With Cummings gone, the question is where now for Johnson?
With Biden in the White House, it comes as no surprise that we are now seeing the ‘green’ Johnson, as highlighted by his 10-point ‘build back green’ plan.
At the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow next year, he will burnish his internationalist credentials.
Assuming we can agree a Brexit deal he will seek to position us as an ally and friend to both the European Union and Biden’s United States.
Domestically there could be a renewed emphasis on deregulation, low taxes and as small a state as can be managed, post-pandemic.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is an orthodox economic liberal and a deficit hawk who, prior to the pandemic forced the Treasury to take on huge levels of debt, was wary of a shock-and-awe ‘levelling up’ investment programme for the north.
There are reports that he is resisting pressure to offer generous long-term funding for a jobs-rich green recovery programme.
Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s a return to pre-Brexit Toryism.
The influence of the northern working-class MPs will be replaced by return to the traditional Tory ‘southern comfort zone’. Perhaps more austerity beckons….
The Temporary 55, many of whom represent the red wall seats, will fiercely resist low taxes that benefit only the better off.
However, if these MPs lose their influence, and without a large-scale programme of state investment in the regions, red-wall voters will conclude they have been used and abused once again.
‘All that rugby puts hairs on your chest
What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?’
This austerity is exactly what Gordon Brown warned of in a speech to an event organised by the Resolution Foundation think-tank this week.
Brown warned that unless the government comes up with an immediate anti-poverty programme it will face a rebellion from a deeply divided Britain, and called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to announce that the one-year £20 a week increase in universal credit (UC) announced at the start of the coronavirus crisis would be extended and that child benefit would be made more generous. ‘Action is now urgent because March’s planned withdrawal of £20 from weekly universal credit payments will automatically bring 700,000 more into poverty, 300,000 of them children, as £6bn of spending power is removed from an already fragile economy.
‘500,000 of the already poor will be plunged into even deeper poverty as they lose out on £1,000 a year.
‘I see a country very fragmented, very polarised and very divided – more divided than I have ever seen it before’
Brown told the event that Sunak was falling behind the curve and that instead of ‘levelling up’ the government was ‘levelling down. If they don’t announce a new anti-poverty programme they will face a rebellion across the country.’
‘I see a country very fragmented, very polarised and very divided – more divided than I have ever seen it before,’ Brown said. He said Britain was on course for an ‘angry and really desolate’ new year.
Brown said millions faced a Christmas with ‘falling savings or savings reduced to zero, and thus little cash to buy even the most basic of Christmas presents for their children without going into debt’.
Despite the worst pandemic in a 100-years nothing changes.
The rich get rich and the poor get poorer, and anyone trying to change that will be called-out by the media, how dare a young black guy have a £2m house and question Tory policies.
The Tories need to learn if you kick a dog too often it will turn round a bite you.
‘Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I’ll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage.’
One thing that Philip will seemingly never be short of is pithy material; US election, Cummings, Brexit, Covid – it keeps on coming at breakneck speed.
It seems bizarre to have to start with The Donald, but Philip’s absolutely right to do so; it may be tempting to make the ‘L’ sign on your forehead, but there are 70m voters out there who backed him, and many of them, possibly heavily armed, are not ready to ‘gimmie six’ and move on. Watch this space.
Just another example of the machine gun delivery is that since Philip parked his quill, the Home Secretary has apologised for bullying, carping that she was ‘not being supported’ by her department; a bit like half of the country.
Boris said he ‘did not think Ms Patel was a bully and had ‘full confidence’ in her; Standards chief Sir Alex Allan disagreed, finding that Ms Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour and promptly quit.
Need any further evidence of just how much levelling up there’ll be – google Robert Jenrick, Kate Bingham, Mike Coupe, Dido Harding…..
Compare and contrast their snouts in the trough with the sincere attempts by Marcus Rashford to afford the least advantaged the basic right to a square meal; and then look at the sniping backlash.
Despite Boris’ desperate and almost certainly cynical attempt to appear greener than Sleepy Joe’s spiritual birthplace, Brexit is coming, we’re short on friends, and massively in debt; austerity 2.0 – be afraid, be very afraid.
And Cummings? I’d really hoped to know for sure, but in time I sense we’ll know where the rot really lies.
Lyrically, a journey through time, and I’ve scored one of my better weeks – I’ll be submitting an electronic claim in the time-honoured fashion.
First up – ‘an English band that upset the establishment, today, of course, they look harmless’ 1 pt for The Rolling Stones, 3 pts for ‘Gimmie Shelter ‘ and a bonus 3 for ‘naming the guitarist who debuted with the band on this album as a replacement for the bands founder’*
Next ‘these guys hated Reagan and weren’t afraid to say so. 5 pts for Bad Religion and 5 for ‘You Are (The Government)’; then ‘the clue is ‘The Voice’ – ‘great song from a great band’ 5 pts for The Black eyed Peas and 5 pts for ‘Where is the Love?’.
Fourth ‘this week’s gimme, as relevant today as it was 41-yrs ago’ 1pt for The Jam and 1 pt for ‘The Eton Rifles’; lastly ‘England’s Bob Dylan? Not really, but some great lyrics’ – 3 pts for Billy Bragg and 3 pts for ‘Between the Wars’. Fabulous stuff – enjoy!
*Ronnie Wood who replaced ‘Little Mick’ Taylor
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