38 UNTIL IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO GO
Mickey Cohen was a hard case and a gangster. He ran the rackets in Los Angeles after the second world war. After he became rich the entrepreneurial and violent Cohen employed private tutors to teach him to read and write and understand arithmetic. Mickey Cohen acquired his wealth and authority despite not being able to count. He measured his wealth and the success of his operations by looking at the height of the bank notes that his various people collected. Cohen might be an extreme case but there are plenty of other examples of folk that are able to become rich without being numerate. It is a pity that Mickey Cohen is not alive today, British and a member of the Tory party. He would have stood a good chance of being the next chancellor.
We have cabinet ministers that struggle with mere numbers. Expecting those that have earned fortunes to understand basic macro-economics is a pipe dream. In the existing leadership contest within the Tory party all the candidates have pledged to reduce taxes while reducing government overspends. Even Rishi Sunak who a week before he resigned as Chancellor was proposing an increase in corporation tax is out there talking about less taxation and the need for Thatcherite balanced budgets. Such talk may horrify a large number of voters but the leadership candidates have other concerns. None of them will either win the leadership contest or survive as a leader without the approval of British billionaire plutocrats. Pfeffel was the previous poodle of the rich but after his demise eleven alternatives appeared and nodded their heads in the direction of big business. All pledged to cut taxes for one simple reason. It is what the billionaire backers of the Conservative party demand. This is why Sunak expected to be the favourite to win the leadership contest. The man is as much a businessman as he is a politician and he has powerful friends. The plutocrats are in charge and, although they were willing to run with Pfeffel because he had electoral appeal, what the big business boys and girls would really like running the country is one of them. Trump, because of his business background, had similar support in the States. Sunak, though, is already looking vulnerable. Under pressure the impeccable grooming could become a pristine shell that will crack. Penny Mordaunt has also emerged as a strong challenger for the leadership. If she makes the final vote by Tory members then Sunak will have problems. The billionaires will not panic if the right wing Mordaunt becomes PM but they would prefer Sunak.
Even the writers on The Economist have accepted that Britain, in their words, ‘is a mess’. This is the magazine that not too long ago was proclaiming that the neoliberal British model was outperforming the German economy. Well, look where that nonsense got The Economist. Britain is in the middle of a cost of living crisis, and its crumbling infrastructure is incapable of keeping its anything but skilled workforce fit and educated. And after they leave for work in the morning these already disadvantaged workers have to battle against inadequate transport networks and profit hungry rail companies. Thank God for home working. But in an economy that some believe can triumph as a service alternative to the export monsters of Germany, South Korea and China, the break from office routine creates its own problems. The Tories are not being gloomy. They want to cut taxes and balance budgets. Liz Truss, demonstrating her ability to utter hyperbole without blinking, has promised to create a society that will offer aspiration to all. Aspiration can always be promised. Whatever the advantages that tilt the playing field, aspiration and economic and social progress are always available for the exceptionally capable, industrious and fortunate. The privileged consolidate their position, and someone has to defy the odds. And the rest? Truss thinks that the losers, to kind of reference Pfeffel, have to pay the price of not having them breaks. Mickey Cohen piled up his banknotes. Perhaps we should line up all the people that will struggle to heat their homes and feed their families. We can then walk, wheel or carry them past Tory leadership candidates. Quoting numbers to empty headed freedom champions like Truss is about as useful as discussing percentage income growth with Mickey Cohen.
If the talk amongst wannabee Tory leaders is of aspiration, there has also been the odd reference to the need for sacrifices and radical change. Dreams of brave new worlds may swell Tory hearts but the appeal of the Tory Party to its working class support was, and is, shaped by devious propaganda. It has managed to encourage both selfishness and fatalism. Around the world five million people die each year because of excess temperatures. In the future the number will rise and, like the temperature, the increase will be dramatic. 40℃ temperatures are expected to arrive in Britain next week. Whether the Tory Party decides to address climate change or just continues to divert more money to the rich it will regret pandering to bullheadedness. The words flexibility and radical change will soon haunt those in government.
Pfeffel promoting groper Chapman Pincher has been described as the final transgression that created the rebellion. The notion that there was a moral reaction amongst MPs to the lax standards of Pfeffel is comic. The brouha in the Tory Party reached a peak after the two recent by-elections. The results were spectacular and for the Tories dreadful. Yet when the votes of the two elections are aggregated Labour had fewer votes than the Tories. The disaster in those elections was caused by tactical voting. And if the emergence of that phenomenon was the real cause of Tory unrest and rebellion then it means that Pfeffel was the first Tory prime minister to be sacrificed because of a serious commitment to tactical voting by electors. Oh dear, for once in his life poor Pfeffel is the victim of a changing world.
Nonsense might be coming from the alternative leadership campaigns but there is still enough noise from the hopefuls to wreck whatever plans Pfeffel had for exploiting the deferred date of his departure. The British government is yet again in suspense mode. The media is concentrating on the leadership candidates and forgetting about Pfeffel. If the blonde warrior is to emulate his idol then the comeback will have to happen in old age for Pfeffel, as it did for Churchill. Right now Pfeffel is backtracking on previous plans and looking at how he can redefine his legacy. He has already claimed that he will be able to hold his head high when he leaves the government. The day after this proclamation the United Kingdom recorded Covid victim number 200,000.
Under not so quick thinking Starmer the Labour party has become not just right wing but ponderous. The Labour no confidence vote in the government of Johnson was delayed until the leadership contest made it inconsequential. The delay also gave the government time to come up with arguments as to why a non-confidence vote that quoted the prime minister by name was not permissible. There is no rule in the British constitution that prohibits name-dropping no confidence votes. If the British Constitution had rules we would not have had to endure Pfeffel for three years. There is even a precedent that allows for name specific no confidence motions. Hanging on Pfeffel is still telling lies.
Already, though, it feels like the world is leaving him behind. The Guardian newspaper has half filled at least two editions with the leaks about Uber. And just when Tories were getting excited about the creative destruction of capitalism. The Uber leaks exist as further evidence of what has been plain to see for some time. Capitalists do not exploit the market. They distort it and crush competitors that might have adequate business models but lack the capital supplied by hedge fund companies. The Guardian may have succeeded in dragging out the Uber scandal to cover at least twenty pages but none of us should expect analysts, the media and politicians to stop confusing the market, competitive or not, with capitalism. Despite the attention given to Uber by The Guardian the behaviour of the company is unexceptional when compared to other intrusions by big moneymen. Neither was the business model of Uber that different from cab companies where drivers supply their own cars and the company sets up a radio to take telephone calls which are then redirected to the drivers.
All Uber did was put this process on an app. But because of its financial and networking strengths the company was able to launch it as a global model. This rather modest idea persuaded politicians to change laws, permit favourable financial treatment for the company and in most instances reduce human rights. The problems that followed were ignored by the malleable politicians. To create a backlash against the traditional alternative, Uber encouraged its drivers to engage violently with any existing taxi drivers that resented the intervention of Uber. Politicians justified the preferential treatment of Uber by arguing that it was a supply side initiative that would boost their economies. It is not the only wrong headed supply side argument out there. So far, no one has taken the trouble to explain just how the recruitment of alternative taxi drivers on lower rates of pay and with less money to spend would somehow boost an economy. Politicians make deals with capitalists and most of the time offer subsidies. Such deals help politicians to feel important and extend their own networks and business opportunities. I ordered an Uber cab once when in London. The damned thing did not turn up. So much for deregulation. While The Guardian was exposing the sharp practices of Uber a law was passed that allowed the government to break public sector strikes by hiring agency workers. Tory doctrine may insist that public sector expenditure is bad but without government departments responding to the demands of a battered population for state funded services the British economy last month would not have been able to register any growth. No doubt the irony will be ignored and a very rich someone will somewhere making a business proposal to attentive politicians.
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.