Who else… and how?

Whoopeedoo. Our friends at AOL are reporting that the unseasonably warm weather in October has probably saved our glorious government 260 million smackers: monies that would have gone out to the Great (Undeserving) Unwashed to cover heating costs. Rishi and the team will no doubt crack open a coupla bottles of something half-decent to celebrate.

I may have missed the stories about how a #WindfallTax on the energy giants – plainly a legitimate, popular and equitable solution – would have fixed this particular inconvenience. And I may have been distracted when the unanswerable arguments for taxing the super-rich were pumped out, along with the other urgent stuff about Strictly, Meghan’s make-up and the new Three Lions vid. Forgive me for being so lax, you AOL-peeps.

260 mill is obviously a smidge of a deficit – or bonus – when we do the Whole National Math. (I get that most of us never do and are indeed ill-equipped to do the Whole Math, but yaknowhattamean?) Even dumbos like me understand that the Brexit-sized, post-Truss-&-Kwarteng-sized hole we’re in is a fucking monster. Interest rates, food prices, fuel going or gone scarily up: political choices heavily squeezed. A time for good, responsible government.

Fat chance. Rishi may have rather skilfully been positioned as the gentleman-who-knows-what’s-good but with his personal powerbase and charisma negligible and his party still in the throes of a weird, exceptionalist and deeply nasty ideological mud-wrestle, sustained careful steering seems unlikely. Sunak (the Impossibly Wealthy One) may have a wee bit of credibility amongst those gullible enough to associate his working experience with financial competence but he’s also, patently, another obscenely privileged toff. The plebs may easily turn.

The PM does have the advantage of not being as crass as Truss and Kwarteng. He’s less noisily, stupidly strident, ideologically, and probably less stupid, all-round. He will allow himself to be guided, to be considered, you suspect, in a way that his predecessor and her oddball Chancellor shunned. They were consumed by a sharp, masturbatory, Tufton Street-curated frenzy; Rishi is too well-groomed, too self-aware for that. He’s quietly mad – Freeports, hedgefunds, that depressing ease around Market Forces – as opposed to barking and under-equipped, like Liz and Quasi. Despite the pitiful incompetence of a succession of Tory governments, Sunak is likely to seem okaay… and to close the yawning gap in the polls, over time. Incredible-but-true.

‘People’ (or enough people ) may forget Partygate, Dido H and the systematic looting of the Covid resources. Despite both being offenses of a contemptibly filthy nature; despite that almost shocking, ‘un-British’ stench of corruption and deceit. Some are already either forgetting or have been consistently beguiled by the amoral clown that is Johnson: let’s put it on the record, the worst and most grotesquely shallow Prime Minister ever to have smooched with the dispatch-box. It will be fascinating and probably cruelly depressing to see how ‘things settle’, in Sunak’s favour, as the various oven-ready catastrophes fade into history.

Large swathes of the media will obviously either make it their business to distract, or somehow acquiesce to the endless protection of the great families, the shadowy elite, the Establishment*. Johnson and Harding are unlikely to face justice. The roster of palpably hopeless and/or careerist Ministers of the Realm escaping scot-free with a pay-off will be noted but then slung in the chipper with the rest of the old news stories. Politics of a sort will resume.

This may be a difficult period for Labour, depending upon how the execrable mob still labelled The Government can handle the next few months. Starmer has, understandably to some extent, been a non-protagonist throughout the chaos: no doubt advised that it’s wiser to keep his counsel re- Brexit, immigration, even the modest redistribution of wealth. He’s both failed to lead – been a kind of silent passenger – and chosen not to. Some of us find that abdication-by-focus-group depressing and unwise. Not only does it feel a dereliction of duty to allow politics itself to become bland to the point of meaningless; it also deprives the country of hope.

When a succession of appalling Conservative governments shamelessly and endlessly allude to (and deliberately conflate) race/immigration/’invasion’, dragging the discourse into the swamp, it must be the job of the Opposition to oppose, articulately and with moral force.

Currently Braverman is an obvious national disgrace – as was the Johnson/Cummings campaign before her – with regard to that lowest common denominator, racial signalling. Sadly, bigotry, so heavily supported in the national press, appears to draw as much positive agency as revulsion. But people understood that there was something powerfully wrong about Partygate. Then something cruelly cynical about unlimited bankers’ bonuses and tax-breaks for the rich. So there is a measure of decency out there. A Labour Party that proudly champions things that are right and just and explains the rationale in terms the population can understand is a) fulfilling its purpose and b) (probably) grabbing hold of the political narrative.

Those of us who sympathise with the centre-left understand Starmer’s cool determination to win. We see the barriers. We suspect, however, that any movement needs leadership; that if Sunak gets a smooth ride – remains essentially unchallenged – things will conspire towards restoring a general faith in Tory competence, however ludicrous that may seem.

A final thought. With philosophical discourse drowned beneath either a general disillusion or the acidic rants of the Twitterverse, there is a worrying vacuum. There are dangers here, which bots and Press Barons might be/have been quick to exploit. On the plus side is there not the possibility that a single individual with manifest decency, integrity and appeal (horrible word but…) could transform this vapid/wretched environment?

If any one of the progressive parties could find such a voice, in such a void, surely people would fall-in, and an Alliance Against Xenophobia and that other Nasty Stuff might begin to heave us all back towards civility and a certain level of social justice?

You may (I hope) have names in mind and agree with my good self that this feels like a job for some cross-party cooperation? Beyond Labour I can’t help but think that in Sturgeon and Lucas – very much ‘for example’ – we have people who could make a contribution.

But who else… and how?

*Some folks argue that the likes of Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Truss, Farage, even, are too right-wing, too bursting with fervour to be of the Establishment. Cobblers. They are all cosseted, all protected; they all reek of money, exceptionalism and privilege.

Pic (I think) is from Spectator, Australia. Forgive me if wrong.

A Christmas Puppy?

(An apology: the last thing I wanted to do is to make everything ‘all about him’ again. But the reason I do that is because I really do have some hope that this really might be it, for Johnson – an ending. I’m not optimistic about a Sunak Premiership, however short, what with likely roles for Braverman and other Nasty Party rightists but there would be some satisfaction at the thought that BJ’s time was rather unceremoniously snuffed-out. Let’s hope that proves to be the case).

So could the Age of Embarrassment finally be over? Might the Bumbling Buffoon, the Etonian Mess really be done?

It’s possible. In a characteristic veil of porkies and shameless, conscience-less swerves between the reported fact, his Urgent Gatherings and the forbidding fridges of a life lived in cosseted anarchy, Johnson really may have spent himself. It’s possible. The lies and the deceit and the vile uncaring will of course go on, endlessly, but it may be that his time in the Real Spotlight is over.

Rees-Mogg’s insipid declaration of confidence proved as thin as the man himself. His ill-matched bedfellow (the lard-arsed one) never, ultimately stood, preferring to come over all ‘tactical’ until defeat slapped him in the kisser. It’s widely believed that the 102 MPs were as genuine as de Pfeffel’s protestations of love, and that Johnson’s toying with politics may now be short-lived. The good people of Uxbridge have barely seen the former PM, what with all the foreign holidays: they are unlikely now, to be graced by long-term service – nobody (but nobody) gets that.

Boris doesn’t do contributions of this sort. Ever since Eton, his singular egotism has blinded him to the whims and needs of the un-Boris. Surely the whole charade that is his life has been a kind of gristly reflex towards the destiny that family and place had promised? Masses of fame, masses of moolah; fawning women and footmen a-drooling. The irresistible fact, then, of Great Office (briefly) precursing comely adventure, from exotic break to highly-remunerated Public Speaking Engagement. In so far as Johnson is capable of planning ( I think in his case these things tend to be assumptions), this has been The Plan. Tick the big juicy boxes, proffered by happy circumstance towards one; reap the rewards.

Much to its shame, the universe has provided. Women got on their knees, blokes laughed at the ‘quirkiness’, folks voted, presumably out of that feudal inferiority complex that defers to Them Who Know Best: yaknow – the toffs. Silver Spoon-dom; Eton; Balliol. Boom.

Even having the Most Embarrassing Father In History somehow failed to work against him. Five missed Cobra meetings; patent corruption and murderous incompetence around Covid planning and response; relentless extravagance and grotesque indulgences within Downing Street itself (largely at some mindless but presumably mortified sponsors’ expense). None of this seemed to register against; except, perhaps Partygate.

Finally the clowning seemed unfunny. Enough of the ordinary Mail-reading psycho’s felt a twinge. There was a cover-up, there were further blanket untruths and omissions but even without a Kuenssberg or a Peston Revelation – like how could they not know? How could they not have personal experience?!? – Partygate stank the place out. People could smell it. That whole culture of taking the piss, of being superior, of not needing to care because the rules just don’t apply… leaked out. And there was no other place for that to be centred than on B J.

Boris, we all knew, had been guilty all his life of believing in his divine right to indulge, freely and without conscience. But now it was obvious this included during lockdowns. Whilst we were – whilst the Queen was! – behaving or making cruel sacrifices for the common good, Johnson and co were popping the corks. We’re not so foolish as to believe they will ever be truly held to account… but we know they were guilty of this. That transgression landed. Shockingly, a miniscule number of Tory MPs acknowledged the nature and the heft of the betrayal and the Opposition seemed – appallingly – unable to call out the great sin of the age. But it landed enough.

This is why Boris was unzipped; disowned by 60-odd MPs, ultimately. They finally found safety-in-numbers and finally called him out. Now his unseemly bundle back has been stymied. A last porkie – 102 supporters, lols! – waived in front of a gullible press. A phone call to Mordaunt to schmoozle her into backing down. But nope. That old magic has waned.

Sure there were a few spineless cretins calling him ‘boss’ right until the end. Some actually believed there was a future in it – a Boris 2. But it’s likely now that neither those hand-relievers nor the Press Barons themselves can keep the Johnson delusion afloat. The bloke’s still under investigation – and again whilst natural justice on the matter is unlikely, ultimately to be enacted, I’m guessing now that (hilariously, finally!) enough Tory MPs view him as a serious, short-term risk to the party’s credibility.

It may be possible that lots of people would, if given the chance, still vote for the Big Dog. But a sufficient consensus has arisen, within Westminster, to keep the unkempt beast chained. He may yet become, in political terms, at least, a Christmas Puppy: loved briefly then ‘too much trouble’ – forgotten.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, born New York. Made for life, of course. Will flit from speaking gig to courtesy holiday. Will play the jester and delight those predisposed to crawl. Never, actually, a serious political figure: now, quite possibly, ‘over’.

I. Moral.

The word ‘immoral’ has been bandied about, eh? In politics and on social.

Fair enough, in fact thank god; any sentient being must have felt the creep of depravity and self-interest swilling over from the nauseating Johnson administration (hah!) to the newly-hatched but similarly reptilian Truss Crew. It may even be that A. B. de Pfeffel (etc)’s only profound contribution to British Public Life was the re-ushering of considerations around goodness and decency… because the twat was so manifestly bereft of both.

Yup, surely beyond dispute that the dishevelled clown was amoral – lazy and utterly uncaring? Secure in his repellent cocoon, protected by generational privilege and just enough ‘quirky’ wit to seduce a sufficient percentage of morons out there in The Country, as well as a few fading, doe-eyed, probably aspirational debutantes within his, or The Party’s clutches. He raised the flag for the slags – male and female – and the heartless.

Hard to be sure how much Truss loved and/or admired him, but plainly there are *connections*. Johnson’s weird ‘libertarian’ bullishness becomes her Free Market Mania. His wallowing in pomp and casual signalling about race and value becomes her pointy-thin English nationalism. Neither give a toss, nor know anything about the lives of ordinary people.

I confidently expect Johnson to be the worst P.M. of my lifetime but in that grubby contest, fair play, Truss has gotten off to an absolute flyer. She is less obviously steeped in entitlement but more openly pro- Those Who Have than he was. Astonishingly. The now infamous mini-budget, concocted with fellow servant-of-the-toffs-and-corporations Kwarteng was perhaps the most mind-blowingly brazen genuflection towards concentrated and unlimited wealth-gathering within the great families and corporations that this country/these countries have ever seen. Truss and Kwarteng shoved it in our faces. Those Who Have will get more – you other fuckers will get less, to pay for their ‘growth’.

Growth. Say it like the swear word it is. On a dying planet; in an ‘advanced society’. Four billion years of evolving life and these evil puppets are saying this is how we should work? Forget that which is decent. Forget equality or any sense of philosophical civility. Forget the Climate Crisis. Let the obscenely rich… be richer?

Biden’s notable but understated rebuke around the laughable and patently discredited ‘trickledown theories’ – unacknowledged by Truss and co, but plainly at the empty core of their vacuous ‘policies’ – was one of the minor highlights of recent political badinage, on the Twitters. (Put your hands up, friends, if the sight of a serving Brit PM getting called out for so obviously being a dumbo, made you smile – albeit ruefully). Even the (centrist) Yanks are laughing at us; at our hopeless, mean, un-educated transparency.

But maybe there is hope. Because it’s not just Andy Burnham using that word immoral. Despite the relative absence of political intelligence in the population, there is some decency. Folks know that there really is something foul about bought-Tories (like Truss) and Outed Toffs (like Kwarteng) opting to line the pockets of their allies. There is no windfall tax on the energy giants. Tax cuts *do*, barely credibly, favour the rich. The lurch both to the right and away from that which is right has found another gear. Oh, the arrogance! Did they think we wouldn’t figure this out?

On top of the willful, cheapening, xenophobic project that was Brexit, the Truss Conspiracy piles more economic and cultural madness. There’s an argument that the key driver here is prejudice – certainly it’s powerfully present. Prejudice (or lack of care) around ordinary folk, because they ‘barely contribute’. Or because they will never grow. Prejudice (of course) towards Others; those who are foreign, whose value is less than us, the Exceptional English. Prejudice born of estrangement from normal lives.

Whilst the Tories plainly got in because of this prejudice – the whole Johnson/Cummings campaign was constructed around it – something’s changed. It’s possible that many of those gullible to racial constructs are less persuaded by strategies built around class: particularly where the thrust of advantage seems mono-directional; that is, to the overwhelming benefit of the rich.

Interestingly, Truss feels relatively isolated. Even before she shocked some (but not all) of her party colleagues by being embarrassingly shambolic, it seemed like few Tories actually believed in her, or were following. (The figurehead that is Truss has always felt decapitated, has it not – even from the nonentities and bit-players that now make up her cabinet?)

The Conservative Party may, post-Boris, have been ripe for more nationalism and more strident neo-liberalism, but I’m not sure they expected this shite. Appalling competence, woeful messaging and startlingly reactionary economics.

One of the most telling allegations against the Tories since the asinine May era is that there’s been no voice for the good. No-one protesting for decency and fairness. Under Johnson, naturally, urgent or mindful voices were subsumed by the essential hedonism of the individual. Bojo was expressly amoral: nobody called him out. That cowardice – the absence of conscience – may yet decimate the party. They deserve it.

Truss is an ideological fool, soon to be caught in amber with her arms-length colleague, Kwarteng. They may actually believe in their growth theories but nobody trusts their intentions. Events – funding/’contacts’/the facts of their upbringing – present them as neck-deep in either corruption or privilege or both. They have outed themselves and some would say, the Tories, as Defenders of the Haves. They have done it more shamelessly than any government we might remember: even Johnson was less economically-wedded to the class he burst forth from.

The government are indeed immoral. Though that might not be the word that Everyman might find, it is the sentiment that will bring this callous cohort down. Soon. The people know.

They – the Tories, these Tories – are #theveryworstofus.