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.



Pfeffel has been in hospital for an operation on his sinuses, and some people have been sniffy, and not just about the rumour that the nasal repair was a response to cocaine abuse.  Wondering which days Boris is off his head or not on cocaine helps us to recall the crack from Dorothy B Parker when she was told that ex-President Calvin Coolidge was dead.  ‘How can they tell?’ said Parker.  The less than a day record recovery from a general anaesthetic by Pfeffel has made conspiracy thinkers doubt the integrity of the Number Ten spokesperson.  But it is not the first time an overweight and unhealthy human has defined medical expectations.  Guõlaugue Friõpõ was a hefty Scandinavian seaman that fell overboard on a fishing trip.  His blubber and will power kept him alive in the cold sea for six hours and well beyond normal endurance limits.  The medics did, though, keep Guõlaugue in hospital for weeks to work out how he had survived.  The mystery has persisted, and the epic escape was retold in a movie that was not as interesting as it could have been.  

Pfeffel also previously claimed record recovery time after receiving intensive care for Covid.  Two superhuman feats are grounds for Pfeffel being thrown into the North Sea while the rest of us wait and see what happens.  Pfeffel could be given the title Emperor Chubb, symbol and key for the next stage in human evolution.   Any man that takes a hard line with Trade Unions demanding pay rises when there is high inflation and full employment is not without courage, or something.  Total pay growth in the public sector in the last twelve years under the Tories amounts to 1.5%.  In the private sector it is 8%.  Inflation is 10% and rising.

Many of the foreign workers that have left Britain after the Brexit result slipped away quietly and avoided the chilly North Sea.  Some reacted to what they thought were their weakened economic prospects.  After Brexit they either expected their jobs to disappear or be less remunerative.  Others talked about their changed view of the British, and said that they felt unwelcome.   These unwelcome folk are now being missed, and it would do no harm to any Brit that has hurled racist abuse at an immigrant worker to think about those remarks when they look at the prices in their local Tesco.   Both Brexit and Covid have reduced the British workforce.  The 200,000 victims that died of Covid cannot be added to the labour market.  So far, Pfeffel has not given them a second thought.  The dead are not that productive although in their favour they never ask for a pay rise.   Lockdowns have convinced some of the workforce that they have had enough of working, and somehow these workers have found alternative ways to survive.   And there are those suffering from long term Covid.  The medics insist that this is a serious problem but only a fool would expect the less than eagle-eyed and Ayn Rand freak Sajid Javid to know the numbers.  

Whatever the relationship between these three factors the size of the labour force in the UK has shrunk by an estimated 1m people.  There are 1.3m job vacancies and there are around the same number of the unemployed.  Tory governments have been fiddling unemployment figures for decades but, because a portion of the unemployed will always be switching jobs, it is safe to assume that after a fifty year hiatus the British economy has returned to full employment.  Admittedly, this requires high numbers of people categorised as self-employed.  The Tory record on waged employment over the last twelve years has been disastrous.  There are fewer waged employees than when the Tories arrived in 2012, and overall working pay and conditions have deteriorated.  Of course, the existence of too many rubbish jobs also contributes to the shortage of manpower.  Anyone that doubts that this labour market shortage exists and that it is serious should check with an airline CEO cancelling flights or a fruit farmer whose crop is rotting in a field rather than being picked.  

These days Pfeffel no longer has an ethics advisor.  Pfeffel has decided that he does not need one.  He might be right.  Mere days after the resignation of Lord Geidt the issue had been forgotten by the ethic free British media.  And after all, you cannot make a runny and undercooked omelette without breaking a few eggs.  An ethics advisor is the kind of chap or woman that insists you wear a kitchen apron.   Pfeffel may have no ethics consultant to break his stride, and his constitution might qualify him for a prolonged sojourn floating on the surface of the North Sea.  But there are other reasons why this might not be the best time for Pfeffel to provoke the public sector into industrial action.  Pfeffel could win a few disputes but with even fewer public sector employees to deliver services the wheels will fall off more than a few railway carriages.  

The always late with the news New Statesman has at last noticed that Britain, in its words, isn’t working.  The front page headline refers to an article by centrist Andrew Marr.  Centrists shift with and adapt to the status quo, and we should not expect too much from Marr, but when centrists register social and economic carnage the situation is serious.  Marr is a kindred spirit to Observer columnist Will Hutton who for all his adult life has preached the benefits of capitalism while arguing for regulation to prevent asset stripping.   Hutton is now as gloomy as Marr.  Falling house prices have alerted Hutton to the possibility of an investment strike.  Faced with a broken economy, the investors and their capital will seek more profitable alternatives.  Hutton is nothing if not an optimist.  The asset strippers, finance industry and British governments have ignored the good intentions of Hutton for years.  Hutton hopes that a new political leader will emerge to create a new economic order and identify national missions.  You can bet your life that if Hutton ever makes an omelette he will need a bigger kitchen than Pfeffel.   We should all wish Hutton well but will the new order arrive?   

The political cycle that gloomy Plato described consisted of aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny.  This theory has been refined and extended over the years.   Chaos, theocracy, aristocracy, democracy and chaos is a catchy alternative.  If the British people had a sensible core, it would soon have enough of the present nonsense and move, as Will Hutton hopes, towards a more democratic economy and society.   Much fuss will be made of the two by-election defeats for the Tories this week but it might be best to pause for breath.  The prospect of a heavy defeat for the Tories at the next general election offers hope but all this right now feels like the end game for British democracy.  Will chaos or tyranny come next?  Take your pick but I know my limitations.  No way am I going to bet against Plato.   

Yet the results of the two by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Ollerton have inspired not just optimists.  Even this Jeremiah can imagine a 2024 electoral coalition that yields a Tory wipeout.  It is not without significance, though, that the two by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Ollerton were the consequence of sexual scandal.  One Tory MP had to resign because he was found to have made sexual advances to a teenage boy.  The other Tory MP was caught watching pornography in the House of Commons.  Ayn Rand would have said fair play to both of them but Sajid Javid should take note.  This is what can happen when you believe in libertarian entitlement and the virtue of selfish wants.   No chance of Pfeffel setting standards.  It has emerged that as foreign secretary minister he tried to get his then mistress Carrie Symonds a £100,000 a year job in his department.  It is not just pole dancers that Pfeffel thinks should be helped with taxpayers money.   Britain has seedy politicians and a half alert electorate. 

Not quite as enthusiastic about embracing chaos as their English counterparts, the Welsh government has agreed a pay settlement with the rail workers represented by the union RMT.   The transport company Stagecoach has also awarded their bus drivers in Worthing a 15.8% pay rise.   Superhuman Pfeffel and his gym conditioned Minister of Transport Grant Schapps, though, have decided to take a stand and refuse the RMT demand for a below inflation 7% pay rise.   Pfeffel has threatened the RMT with legislation that will allow the rail companies to hire agency workers.  The British economy may have full employment but it does not impress.  Yet if those in work are often poorly paid and working less than a full week, they do have jobs.  Only the skilled and well-paid jobs in the rail industry should attract a significant number of other workers.   Jobs for rail drivers at £63,000 would tempt but, although quoted by a not impartial press as the reason why a below inflation pay rise is not deserved, the rail drivers are not involved in the dispute.   Rail drivers are represented by the union ASLEF.  It is possible that the government moves RMT out of the rail industry and then brings in non-unionised agency workers to work for existing rates of pay.   But if it is simple as Pfeffel and Schapps think, we have to wonder why rail company CEOs wanting to sustain £500m profits have not thought of this before.  None of these CEOs, though, have bounced back super-speed from a general anaesthetic.  The only potential superman to emerge so far in this dispute is RMT leader Mick Lynch.   Cool media interrogators and anything but cool backbench Tory MPs have perished in debates with the union leader.   Sky News interviewer Kay Burley suffered more than most.  Fumbling for words she proclaimed that she was older than she looked, as if she sensed the plastic holding her face together might crack under pressure.  Lynch, a little like Mulder and Scully in The X Files, has been stepping forward and shining his torch, scorching a previously secure but narrow minded and empty headed neoliberal hegemony.  There will be resistance from those that find the union leader threatening.   Fiona Bruce did her best to undermine Lynch on BBC Question Time.  Mr Lynch is doing good work but he needs to be careful and watch his back.

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.