36 BLOWING LIKE A BANDIT
And the scandals keep coming although in the circumstances restraint insists on an alternative word, arriving perhaps. One not quite latest scandal to have people sweating and excited is the revelation from Private Eye. Carrie was discovered in the ministerial office performing fellatio on Pfeffel. This happened when he was foreign secretary and trying to land Carrie a £100,000 a year job in his department. No one should begrudge a couple having fun in their private moments but oral sex on government property in Whitehall does leave a bad taste in the mouth. The resolve of those Tories dissatisfied with Pfeffel as prime minister is not weakening. If anything, opinion is hardening and the drama of a potential overthrow remains. A ‘rebel slate’ of alternative candidates for the 1922 Committee has been prepared, so we are told. If Pfeffel wanted to facilitate his sexual preferences, he might have been safer waiting for his tree house to be built. Maybe not the tree house because it was intended for his infant son and the tree, innocent in all this, has remained as nature intended. For the tree transformation, not quite innocent Pfeffel solicited £150,000 from never too far away Lord Brownlow, the equity fund manager that helped pay for the Downing Street flat refurbishment. If Brownlow ever compared the £150,000 backhander to the cost of the average home in Britain, he is not telling. £850 rolls of wallpaper and the rest weakened his resistance a while back. Just in time the bodyguards of Pfeffel noticed that the proposed tree house would be visible from the road that passes by Chequers, the country residence of the prime minister. Assuming that the infant son could have been on xbox and Carrie and Pfeffel might have been relaxing in the tree house in the way they know best, then a shot to the head would have made a hell of a story for the British media.
No need to be fanciful. Parliamentary question time is no match for what sometimes happens in ministerial offices but Dominic Raab did his best to add to the never ending unsavoury behaviour. Raab criticised Angela Rayner for attending the opera. Raab regards this as not consistent with left wing aspirations, especially if the leftie has the working class background of Angela Rayner. At some point in the debate this week Raab also gave the deputy leader of the opposition a patronising and flirtatious wink. The deputy prime minister has defended the decision of the government to leave the ECHR and reduce the human rights of the British people. The government has also failed or refused to accept the articles of the UN convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Restraint free, we should expect more winks and leers from Cabinet ministers. If it keeps them happy. Not everyone in the government enjoys the benefits of their anything but upright leader.
The Tory human rights reforms were described by a letter writer to the Guardian as not a British bill of rights but a bill of rights for the British. Even that might be flattery. Folk born in Britain and of British parents may have protected citizenship, unlike some people that have lived and worked here all their lives, but even the right to protest of those stamped as British will be restricted. As always with immigration, we have to wonder why the fuss. The New Statesman quotes the following figures for immigrants. The UK has 174.5 k. Germany may have a population of 83m compared with the 67m of the UK but it does have 2m immigrants. The number of immigrants in the UK is anything but high. More immigrants are also accepted by Pakistan, Columbia, Uganda and Turkey. Amongst these Turkey is the champ with 3.9m but none of those other countries take less than 1.5m. No offence to Columbia and Uganda but the numbers of immigrants now living in those countries does suggest that the notion of large numbers of economic migrants is a right wing myth. Well, there are plenty of them, myths not immigrants.
If the neoliberals had any sense, they would never have voted for Brexit. Like the fishermen, the farmers and more, the poor right wingers in the Tory party failed to notice when they were well-off in the EU. The European politicians and bureaucrats were also seduced by the nonsense of Thatcher. After the lady became powerful and with the help of statistics prepared by the myopic, the EU model has become increasingly neoliberal. This is the irony. Brexit can be made to work but it does involve sacrificing key global markets. And that means the only future operational alternative for Britain is a form of old-fashioned social democracy that is at least equivalent to what happens in Scandinavia. The right wing of the Tory party might think it great to remove European restrictions and reduce protections for workers so that they can line their pockets. But in not too many years that will only reduce the size of the British economy. As Keynes said in rather different circumstances, in the long term we’re all dead. But who needs a bankrupt future to dismiss when already the economic performance of the UK has slipped behind everyone in the G30 except a somewhat distracted Russia. At this rate Pfeffel will have a lot more than Carrie on their bent knees.
And it looks, though, as we will have to wait some time for the leader of the opposition, and famous Thunderbird puppet impersonator, Sir Keir Starmer to make a telling point against Pfeffel. The idea of Labour having an alternative economic strategy would not even appeal to a comedian practising his act. The timidity of Starmer compares badly with Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neil. That the British economy is loaded in favour of the rich should be obvious to anyone with two thumbs and eight fingers. Yet for challenging the imposition of austerity and refusing to accept reduced living standards for working families O’Neill deserves credit. The first minister has asked the basic but important question. Why are the rich stacking up billions while the poor are struggling to feed their families and heat their homes? British living standards have dropped in each of the four quarters of the last year. When so much money is being transferred to the rich it is not surprising that the government has authorised a well above inflation bonus of £30m to be paid to the Queen over the next two years. Note the word bonus.
This is what happens when a government stops governing and steps aside for the plutocracy. The American social psychologist Jonathan Haidht has said this. ‘The worst number of political parties to have in a country is one but the second worst number to have is two.’ A two party system may give the two main parties electoral advantage but it also corrupts and breaks them. This has happened in both the USA and Britain. Neither are the other political parties in Britain squeaky clean. The Lib Dems have been playing sneak through the back door for years. But you do not have to wish away the problems of a party that produced economic infantile Nick Clegg to hope that the Lib Dems have learnt the error of their ways. This time round the Lib Dems could have a useful, even decent, role in restraining the odorous authoritarianism of Keir Starmer if, or whenever, a coalition left of centre government replaces Pfeffel. If that task is beyond the Lib Dems or they become embroiled in petty politicking then there is always the possibility of a pincer movement from O’Neill in Northern Ireland and the ever pugnacious Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland. They should sort out Starmer.
What fun it sounds except Pfeffel is in full resistance mode. He is doing his utmost to involve Britain in the conflict in Ukraine. Whereas the sensible are trying to engineer a diplomatic breakthrough, Pfeffel envisages the defeat of Putin. This will enable Pfeffel to wave a victory flag from a specially reserved tank, providing Liz Truss is not there already and waiting for a hug. If the opportunities in the Ukraine are not what Pfeffel expects, there is also a summer of industrial action to exploit. Workers are going on strike to accept pay rises that do not match inflation but at least soften the economic blow. Inflation proof Tory MPs with six figure expenses are lining up to describe the workers as militant. There are plenty of these supposed militants, rail workers, barristers, nurses, postal workers and more to come. The not very long lasting prime minister Ted Heath thought that his opposition to the industrial action of workers would secure him electoral victory. The ploy was not a success but the opposition leader Harold Wilson was much more adept than Starmer. Pfeffel and his predecessors have been waging war in Britain for years, so he might be useful in Ukraine after all. Since 1990 the prison population of the UK has increased by 70%. Britain has the largest prison population in Europe. Authority versus the people? Well, whichever side you land on, it feels like someone is waging war on someone.
In this barbarous alternative to civilisation it should be no surprise that polio bacteria have been found in British rivers. Because of the relish with which the British water companies have dumped raw sewage, there is not one single river or lake in Britain that is sewage free. Sewage discharge occurred on 372,533 occasions last year. You cannot do that kind of thing on a weekend and on your own. Sewage was dumped for 2.7m hours. That means a lot of people are dumping sewage. The CEOs of British companies look at water companies elsewhere in the world and think if they can behave badly then why not us. Dumping of sewage in rivers and on coastlines is an international problem. The government has said it will reduce the dumping of sewage by 40% by 2040. Apart from the modest ambition, no one has much confidence in the plan. The government prefers to talk about outcomes rather than plans. Thinking about all these problems must be depressing for Pfeffel. He needs to be cheered up. No, not what you are thinking. Perhaps we can show him a photograph of that reserved Ukrainian tank.
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.