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.



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.