PFEFFELS AND PIFFLES – A YEAR WITH BORIS

25 I SLIPPED, I STUMBLED, I FELL

One thing at a time.  The Partygate lawbreaking of Pfeffel, Sunak and Mrs Pfeffel will have to wait another seven days before being discussed here.  And no mention of the wife of Rishi Sunak either, or at least for another fifteen hundred words or more.  Tory MPs and Cabinet Ministers have discovered political correctness and are now telling us it is seriously bad form to criticise a minister for the behaviour of his wife.   The truth is that Sunak was always a second rate politician, with or without the missus.   Philip Roth identified what he considered the two qualities that would qualify anyone for the post of CEO in a modern corporation.  If my memory is correct, the novel was American Pastoral.   The two qualifications are working hard without needing to pause too often for breath and having a permanent smile for everyone.  Intelligence and ability, according to Roth, were irrelevant.  Not everyone will agree with Roth but his theory does explain an awful lot about the never ending infiltration of mediocrity into the ranks of our betters.  Sunak is a striver, and an anything but sincere smile never leaves his face, but bright and adept he is not.   

The Tory Party has been impressed by Sunak but only because rather than thinking about the limitations of the man it has contemplated instead what really impresses, the magnet behind the moral compass, money.  Having wealth and keeping it so it can grow is no laughing matter in a political party stacked with landlords.  And the man who has always been rather glib about the lack of available cash floating around the British economy has plenty of his own.   If  the one talent of Sunak appears to be making money, he concentrates his efforts on accumulating cash for his own household, one that requires at least twelve houses.   The man has expanded his bank accounts from an early age.   Even at the beginning he picked the right womb for his embryo to think ahead.   His mother and father coughed up the annual fee of £40,000 a year for him to attend Winchester College.   After the required Oxbridge education Rishi married money, actually the richest woman in Britain.  With cash in his back pocket he found a job in the gambling casino that some people call the finance industry.  Amongst like minded spirits he did the same as everyone else and used his money to make more money.   The smile and his work ethic would have helped but becoming a rich hedge fund manager is evidence of nothing.  A hedge fund that does not make money is a rarity.  

The record of Sunak as chancellor is poor.   His budgets have been like flies.   They pass by without making much noise and a day later they are without consequence.  The furlough scheme for which he was praised was an idea borrowed from other Western governments.   The inferior scheme designed by Sunak was, despite warnings from others, full of holes and is second to none in money lost to fraud.  And that level of fraud would have been higher if Sunak had not deliberately excluded 3m of the self-employed.  Sunak and Johnson were the two voices in Cabinet that insisted on either delaying the introduction of lockdowns or removing them quickly.   Despite it being explained to him in Janet and John language by the IMF and the World Bank the not so impressive Chancellor has still not grasped how early lockdowns not just avoid deaths but keep more of the population fit and able to work and support the economy.   

Thanks to Sunak, and with a serious help from Pfeffel, Britain has an appalling number of Covid deaths, now approaching 200,000, and an economy that is suffering prolonged recession.  Covid restrictions no longer apply, and yet the economy still has almost zero growth.   The Eat Out To Help Out scheme, like everything Sunak devises, helped the affluent more than the poor but worse than that contributed to a wave of Covid deaths that could have been avoided.  Without any sense of intellectual rigour his response to the cost of living crisis was to taper a previous National Insurance increase.  While wallowing in shortsighted confusion he introduced an inadequate £200 loan to mitigate the increase in fuel bills.   The initial proposal from Treasury officials, folks not noted for soft hearts and compassion, was £500.  Sunak resisted.  He is the only chancellor or equivalent in the other Western economies that has increased taxation after the impact of Covid.  But then no one else has given tax rebates to bankers.   During Covid and when times are bad Sunak is able to find an annual £1bn tax cut for his mates.  There might be no money in the budgets to help struggling British families but Sunak has merely shrugged his shoulders when faced with funding the eight nuclear plants promised by Pefflel.  Admittedly the number eight is really four.   And if the project is like any of the others we have heard about in the last two years the only hot air coming out of the reactors will be that blown by Peffel.

More than 500 words in and still no mention of the skinflint sneakiness of Mrs Sunak or Akshata Murthy.  She is not the only rich person to be tightfisted, so something about non-doms in general.  Labour MP Jon Trickett has revealed that three out of every ten individuals that claim non-dom status are earning £5m or more a year.  Of those that earn less than £100,000 each year three in one thousand people seek the non-dom alternative.  Prem Sikka, professor of accounting, states that HMRC admits that it has failed to collect over £400bn since 2010 through tax avoidance, evasion and, when needed, fraud.  In that figure there is also a marginal loss caused by error.  Tax officials, though, worry that the figure could be as high as £1500bn.  No one can blame them for being paranoid when their own boss, Sunak, is listed as a beneficiary of a tax fund that is registered in a tax haven in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.  And before we buy this nonsense that non-doms have loyalties to other countries, 230,000 of the tax dodgers were born in Britain.  The four billionaires that own the right wing mass circulation newspapers in the UK all have non-dom status and pay no taxes to the British government that they insist must be right wing.  

No wonder Ed Milliband and just about everyone in the Labour Party wanted to abolish non-dom status for tax purposes, everyone that is apart from frightened of his own shadow Keir Starmer and off the shelf neoliberal warrior Rachel Reeves.   This Sunak impersonator is baffled as to why nurses would want higher pay.  Austerity and years of no pay rises for the nurses have escaped the notice of anything but imaginative Rachel.  And while all this is happening 1.3m of the British population will be added to the numbers that are already in absolute, not relative, poverty.   Absolute poverty is not having enough to pay for food, heating, rent and clothing.  Odd is it not that a cost of living crisis has emerged in the UK around the same time the establishment stopped being an oligarchy and became a plutocracy supported by the two main political parties?

The movie director John Frankenheimer died in 2002.   If he had still been around, he could have directed the sequel to his classic The Manchurian Candidate.   Britain was a step away from having an American citizen as a Prime Minister. Well, we always knew the plutocracy was bigger than Britain, just ask Rupert Murdoch.  The Gerard Depardieu movie Green Card only half explained how American immigration works.   Although there are special categories for war casualties and victims of abuse the standard Green Card applications fall into three main categories.  These refer to people that have a spouse or relative in the USA, immigrant workers that are needed for jobs and, we all know what is coming, immigrant investors.   Once eligibility has been established the applicant has to state that he or she wants to become an American citizen and intends to live there as a permanent resident.   If the Green Card is approved but there is a delay in the applicant arriving in the USA, think wealthy investor, then each year the applicant fills out a repeat application and states he still wants to become an American citizen and the rest.   America has its own problems but at least it has the occasional journalist that knows how to keep awake.   At a White House briefing a journalist asked why a member of the British government was, against the law, granted what amounted to American citizenship.   This alone should have forced the resignation of Sunak.   In fact it should be a major scandal.  What we have instead is nonsense, Tory MPs claiming the Green Card application being something that penny pinching Rishi forgot about and let drift.  Sunak made nine repeated Green Card applications, all successful.

Not that anyone can expect anything other than untruths from Sunak.  And at this point we have to talk about his missus.  Sunak was challenged about his wife claiming non-dom status and living in Britain tax free with her favourite Cabinet Minister in his taxpayer subsidised constituency home.  Sunak replied that his wife needed non-dom status.   Oh dear, the sacrifices these people make, and they work so hard for our benefit.   Just to be clear, both clauses in that sentence are sarcastic.  Sunak argued that the non-dom status of his wife enabled her to retain citizenship with India.  This, of course, is nonsense and a lie.  Under pressure Mrs Sunak has agreed to pay tax in the future, not as much as she should perhaps but some.   Odd how future payments of tax by Mrs Sunak will not affect her citizenship of India.   There is a time and place for everything, and a misplaced self-serving and government supporting chivalry has done nothing more than line up the Tory equivalents of footballers that do not understand the offside rule.  Para 7.3 of the Ministerial Code states, ‘this also covers the interests of the Minister’s spouse or partner’.  Whether Akshata Murthy likes it or not the rules that apply to ministers apply to her.  And so they should.   The money grabber is no slouch when it comes to taking money from the British government for her companies.   She also takes money off the Russians but that is another story.        

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.