14 GOD KNOWS WHEN
A sobering thought for Pfeffel. The two projects to rescue his political career, details of which emerged last week, are called Operation Big Dog and Operation Red Meat. The titles suggest rhetorical Pfeffelian flourishes. Whatever the circumstances Pfeffel retains his sense of humour. The sobering thought? Big dogs may like red meat but they do not live long. Too much strain on their loyal hearts is the reason according to the vets. Loyalty from the pups on the backbenches is what Pfeffel needs right now. And political loyalty is something he kind of understands. In 2017 and after what was a disastrous election result for the Tories the more restless Cabinet Ministers had to put their ambitions on hold and provide sufficient grief and respect to the wounded Theresa May. Pfeffel was at his sensitive best. The election count ended at ten in the evening. At one in the morning, three hours later, Pfeffel and his mates were seeking support for a possible leadership bid.
Almost as disloyal is Bury South MP, Christian Wakeford. Before what was, crikes, an awfully difficult PMQs for Pfeffel, and on a day that was not short of spectacle, Wakeford abandoned the Conservative Party for alternative rogue Keir ‘Stormer’ Starmer. The Tory MP, as the political commentators like to say, crossed the floor of the House. The move made sense. At the next election Wakeford would not have had ex-Labour MP and anti-Corbynite Ivan Lewis urging Labour supporters to vote Conservative. Without that intervention Wakeford would have been certain to lose his narrow 446 majority. Wakeford and Stormer had been planning the move since last October but timing is everything. What better than when poor Pfeffel was on the ropes and doing everything he could do with his stout English heart. But, as with almost everything that Stormer touches, the walk had unintended consequences. Losing a colleague, even one as unprincipled and calculating as Wakeford, inspired the Tories to take a deep breath, swallow the bile and give Pfeffel a stay of execution. We may be rubbish, said the backbenchers, but we are better than Wakeford. And they are right. The already in-house Labour equivalent of Wakeford is the disturbingly dreadful Wes Streeting, a man that believes change is impossible but providing everything stays the same and he can appear on television and say he cares then he will have a satisfactory career. Not that it is needed but Christian Wakeford is the alternative dark side to Wes Streeting. After that horrific thought not just torn Tories need to take a breath.
Someone whose brain takes more breaths than her lungs is Nadine ‘Nada’ Dorries. This woman thinks she understands loyalty as well as anyone. Nada Dorries has claimed that to not support Pfeffel is unpatriotic. The government has a big agenda, and leader Pfeffel has much to do, adds Nada. There is still the BBC to destroy and a plan to level up the North with the South. Nada is a Northern girl and from Liverpool where proud Tories are thin on the ground. The few on the right that do exist there appear to be real stinkers. Anyone remember the serial liar Paul Nuttal? Liverpool girls Esther McVey and Nada Dorries are more nimble on their feet than Nuttal but they do have people to help them walk in a straight line. Nada and McVey define themselves through expensive hair styles and wardrobes, Scouse free accents and flame resistant consciences. Nada has now pledged to create an alternative funding for the BBC media model or what will be left of it after 2027. I am repeating myself but this woman is the dope that insisted to a parliamentary committee that Channel 4 was funded by the public sector. Wait till the civil servants put detail and accounts on her laptop. Nada explaining rates of amortisation will be worth a YouTube clip.
Now they are in the news Operation Big Dog and Operation Red Meat need explanation but not much. Operation Big Dog is best summarised in the ‘how to’ policy that David Cameron used more than once for getting out of trouble. ‘I’ve made a decision. This has to stop. I’m stopping it.’ No need, folks, to talk about who was responsible for the cockup. Expect something similar from Pfeffel when he announces the findings of the independent report by ex-country and western singer Sue Gray. Her report that should have been released at the end of this week has been delayed. The generous explanation is that she has discovered more than expected. The not so forgiving suspect political wranglings. Gray in the past and in her career break performed country music with her husband. Timing is important for not just civil servants but musicians. Sue Gray and her husband had to hit notes together and keep three chords tight, so missing deadlines is a habit she needs to break. One country hit Gray will not be singing next week is the Hank Williams classic Move On Over.
Away from the steel guitar and mandolin, Gray earns a living as the Second Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office. This is not quite what the Patsy Cline substitute wanted. Gray had expected to become the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. Commenting on missing the number one spot, Gray reckoned the Irish pop pickers found her too challenging and disruptive. Well, if she is as disruptive as she thinks and Pfeffel dismisses her report, perhaps Gray can play her boss the old Johnny Paycheck country hit, Take This Job And Shove It. It could have been worse for us. Pfeffel wanted the report to be written by Simon Case the Cabinet Secretary but we all know where he was and what he was doing, think glasses of wine, suitcases and disco.
No one should sneer. Imagine having to dance in a cesspit. Those that think the word cesspit is too extreme should have regard to the remarks made by William Wragg in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Wragg asked Ministers to stop bullying those MPs that were considering a vote of no confidence in Pfeffel. Ministers have been threatening to reduce government funding in the constituencies of troublesome MPs. But because what really interests an MP are their own creature comforts, the Ministers have also promised to reveal to the newspapers indiscretions that would wreck lives and perhaps lead to imprisonment. To what extent this skullduggery began with the Blair governments is irrelevant. Without a written and fit for purpose constitution British political life stinks.
Operation Red Meat is what is meanwhile being fed to the Tory backbenchers to give merely disgruntled MPs hope and fill their anything but settled stomachs. It is the usual toxic mix. Sajid Javid is accelerating NHS privatisation through extra big and bright private sector contracts. Nadine Nadine, spot the reference to the Chuck Berry number, is grappling with the BBC and airwaves. Covid masks will not be required in shops despite daily deaths in hospitals approaching 400. And soldiers are standing on the English shore ready to capture immigrants. There is an irony in this final initiative. The soldiers will take ‘illegal immigrants’ to assessment centres where their entitlements to residence in the UK will be evaluated which is, of course, what the vast majority of them are seeking.
One person that has defended the efforts of those in the particular cesspit we call the British political arena is Charles Moore the editor of the Telegraph. His loyalty to Pfeffel was breached when his newspaper revealed the now notorious Number Ten party that occurred the night before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. The reason for the revelation was puzzling but soon explained. Moore had taken action while Prince Andrew was being summoned to appear in court to explain why women were making allegations about his singular notions of intimate chats. Moore believes Tory Prime Ministers and as many of the establishment as possible need to be defended against the restless herd. Of course, all this vigilance is rooted in hierarchy. That means rank, and for the Telegraph and its readers nothing ranks higher than the Royal Family. That particular day Pfeffel did have to move on over, but with one article about just one of thirteen or seventeen parties Moore was able to redefine the Royal Family as victims. Neat eh?
Meanwhile the lies continue. The chaos in Parliament was precipitated by Pfeffel the day before PMQs telling Beth Rigby of Sky News that no one had explained to him that the party at Number Ten, sorry possible work event, was in breach of the Covid restrictions. Forget the other thirteen or seventeen for the moment. Dominic Cummings wrote in his blog that an explanation was given to Pfeffel. Actually, there were two of them, and the latest we hear is that an email carrying one of the explanations has been discovered and passed on to a not so famous country and western singer. This was one lie too many for David Davis. For two years Davis has been willing to listen to the boastful lies of Pfeffel including the one about the successful management of the cost of living by the government.
There is a record cost of living increase and that is despite doctored government statistics. Jack Monroe is a chef that has created healthy low cost recipes for working families but even Monroe is close to admitting defeat. Collecting from the supermarket items that were essential to a not luxurious diet, Monroe was able to identify a 340% increase in food prices from twelve months ago. For obvious reasons budget items are more susceptible to inflation increases. The effect that this will have on poor families is exacerbated by energy prices that are doubling. Pfeffel may not be a traditional Burkean conservative but he does have a fondness for chestnuts. He has even grown a couple. He still maintains that his government is building 40 new hospitals and the UK is top of the growth league in the G7. There are two new hospitals. Civil Servants are frantically searching for a hospital that might be having building work, however modest. In the last quarter Britain was fifth in the G7 economic league. Where will it all end? Stormer Starmer and his stormers have the idea that the society and economy can improve but without any change. Rachel Reeves celebrates the loss of 200,000 Labour members. At least the members now all share the same values and think like me, says Stormess Rachel. Stalin said something similar about the kulaks. Stormess Reeves, though, does have some way to go.
Howard Jackson has had thirteen books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Long After This is now available here.