37 WHAT’LL KEEP ME OUT OF HEAVEN
Nothing exposes political ambition better than a letter of resignation. The dodgy promise to depart by Pfeffel was a cracker. ‘Upstairs for thinking, downstairs for dancing,’ my father used to say. An alternative, if we want to stay with the vernacular, is ‘don’t get cute with me’. Defining cute is difficult, of course. Some women, not a lot but some, look at Pfeffel and see a big powerful blonde bruiser with a hint of Robert Redford in the eyes. That kind of cuteness is exponential because it has not only led Pfeffel to a life of irresponsible adultery but subsequent lies that were used in attempts to preserve his previous two marriages. Pfeffel has been cute or deceitful for all of his adult life and not just with wives and women. Cute and guilty husbands often cling on to family life and hope for the best. In his promise to depart from government the word resignation was avoided by Pfeffel. Instead, there was a cute ruse. Pfeffel has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and he has pledged to act as a caretaker prime minister until the autumn. Aw, isn’t that nice of him. Little regard appears to have been paid to the fifty members of his government that resigned within thirty six hours. Members of the senior civil service must have sniffed and raised their eyebrows. They already hold Pfeffel in contempt. The bullying of the civil service, like the meeting of Pfeffel and Putin mate Lebedev, is another scandal waiting to happen.
The day after the promise to depart by Pfeffel there was a column in The Guardian by Simon Jenkins. In this column Jenkins claimed that the rejection of Pfeffel by the Tory Party vindicated Parliament. Come on, chaps. There is a convention that if a minister is discovered to have lied to MPs in the House of Commons then he should resign. Barely a week passed by that Pfeffel did not lie in the House of Commons. His evasions contained lies that contradicted previous lies. A responsible political party would have dumped Pfeffel at least a year ago. A half decent House of Commons speaker would more than once have ejected Pfeffel from the building. John Bercow, the previous and competent speaker, might have even broken Pfeffel. Lindsay Hoyle, the present incumbent, was wheedled in by the Tories because he lacked the backbone of Bercow. When faced with the roguish behaviour of Pfeffel the patsy Hoyle was soon out of his depth. And faced with a half decent opposition leader the absurd behaviour of Pfeffel and overall incompetence would not have sufficed for three years. The Tory MPs have acted to protect their interests and nothing more. The previous reticence shown by Tory MPs in their struggle against Pfeffel reveals how the majority of the Tory Party has contempt for democratic institutions.
The supposed resignation should fool no one about the intentions of Pfeffel. The promise to depart from Pfeffel is the equivalent of the adulterous husband dancing around the wife that wants to divorce him. These husbands will plead that just now is not the right time to sell the house. Do not worry, adds the husband, I will end the marriage as soon as a buyer is found for the home. Estimating how many mortgages have saved marriages is beyond even well qualified empiricists. We should not be surprised. Pfeffel has thought with his libido for some time. Downstairs for dancing indeed.
Three days before the hysterical panic amongst Tories began the man born and built to add unpleasant swell to a military uniform, or the present leader of the Labour Party, killed the economic prospects of Britain. Keir Starmer has ruled out the possibility of negotiations to at least secure a customs union or single market alternative to economic self-flagellation. But in the country that is more responsible than any for this political and economic mess, that is England, the tennis continues at Wimbledon. The grass is green, the white outfits impeccable, and after a bowl of strawberries and cream it must be difficult for a well-heeled patriot not to believe in British supremacy and style. Of course, the British are not that good at tennis and for most of the year the strawberries in the supermarkets are imported.
The adulterous husband that delays the sale of the house to preserve the marriage will often have a plan beyond just hanging around the living room and waiting for calm. Pfeffel steered his betrayed wives away from their grievances by taking them on luxurious holidays. Elvis Presley, who is in the news at the moment, used to buy his wife motorcars and send her on shopping sprees. The Pfeffel promise to depart in the autumn has not quashed the fears of a fascist coup that haunt political commentator Richard Murphy. Dominic Cummings, who himself is no slouch at subverting democratic institutions, has also warned us that Johnson will be scheming to hang on beyond autumn. Pfeffel is playing for time and although no one with any sense believes he intends to depart when he says few expect Pfeffel to still be the prime minister by then. He might not even last the week. And once a Tory leader is elected it should be goodbye Pfeffel. But if he does somehow last until the autumn, anything can happen between now and then. A real boost for Pfeffel would be a nuclear war over Ukraine. Follow that, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, the last British prime minister in history. Of course, after a nuclear war there might not even be history. If Pfeffel is still there when the leaves fall, he will hope to be able to call an election. Distanced from the Tory party, if not divorced, he will present himself to the electorate as their presidential candidate and saviour. The great blonde patriot and supposedly loyal conservative is more than capable of attempting to dismantle what is supposed to be a constitutional monarchy. Not quite dismantling perhaps but enough to cause anxiety in the various homes and palaces of the Royal Family. The threat of Keir Starmer to call a no confidence vote in the government if Pfeffel does not resign immediately was the only possible response from the opposition. Sorry, someone else can give him credit for linking two rather obvious and very connected thoughts together. Rather than issuing threats Starmer should have been in Westminster the day of the promise to depart. He could have organised the no confidence vote and done something more than threaten. And where was the lumpish parvenu? Starmer was at Wimbledon watching the tennis, sitting on the front row of the Royal Box and grinning, happy to be with the few that he wants to defend and protect and prefers.
A no confidence vote would oblige Tory MPs either to vote against the government and trigger an election or vote for a leader that they have abandoned and is probably already working on a soft shuffle coup. Most Tory MPs want to be rid of Pfeffel, and some of them will also be thinking what their party needs right now is a rest and a break from government. But an election that would see them lose their jobs has limited appeal. The strawberries at Wimbledon may be fresh but they must taste a little sour to Conservative supporters. British newspapers are now bulging with accounts of parliamentary drama and intrigue. This is the point in the action movie where the explosions rattle the surround sound. And if all that sounds a little too melodramatic, we have had ministers that were appointed on Tuesday and resigned on Thursday. At the end of the month these stricken souls will receive a severance package of £16,000 in their pay packets. This has been earned for a day’s work consisting of saying hello to staff they will never work with. There have been so many resignations in the last 36 hours that the total of severance pay being paid out to ex-ministers and aides will, so far and according to one estimate, amount to £420,000. This government has squandered a fair amount on education secretaries. It has had three in three days. To say the country is being run like the chaotic Watford football club is being unfair to the owners of Watford.
In the various resignations and speeches on behalf of Pfeffel and other rogues there have been numerous references to Jeremy Corbyn. Now the Tory party is facing uncertain times. Its MPs and members are terrified once again of the danger that Corbyn represents or what some of us call essential political and economic reform. Fear of social democratic alternatives soon becomes spine tingling terror in the Tory imagination. Paranoid thoughts drift into nightmare scenarios of an undisciplined working class insisting on industrial democratic rights. Why Tories worry is a mystery, especially when look at me in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and establishment toadie Starmer has an authoritarian grip on the Labour Party. It may not be rational but the British establishment does have a lot to protect. Much has been said about how Jeremy Corbyn would have created chaos, pause to look up from the rubble and grin. In the United Kingdom the politician that resembles most the previous leader of the Labour Party is the quiet and self-effacing Mark Drakeford. As it happens, Mark Drakeford is doing rather well as the leader of the Welsh government. Drakeford has not only lasted longer than Pfeffel but is a hell of a lot more popular amongst voters. His social democratic reforms have been successful. There is similar left wing success in Preston. Indeed the councillors of Preston wave the flag of Corbynism more than anyone. In the General Election of 2021 the British people had a choice between an honourable man that advocated social responsibility and a scoundrel that said it was okay to smirk and not give a damn. Because the British people made the choice they did and because they did it so soon after the Grenfell disaster, they carry the mark of shame. They or we will have to bear the consequences of this moral failure long after Pfeffel disappears. The Roman Empire did not fall because in its final days it had weak and corrupt leaders. Because the Empire was falling, it was left with nothing but weak and corrupt leaders.
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.