Boris Johnson lies



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.



Everyone has their limitations.  Bob Dylan is not a man that likes to acknowledge his own but whatever he might or might not lack in his make up the man has confidence.   No sweat for him to claim the times were changing back in the 1960s.  And they might be right now except our betters argue that, because of the flaws in human nature, there is no alternative to anything but hierarchy and capitalism.  Best staying in the jungle where it may not be safe but you know what is coming from behind the trees.  If those on the right believe human nature is flawed, it has never prevented them from embracing the idea of grace.  Fancy schools and luxurious playing fields exist for the blessed offspring of the powerful to be acquainted with superior manners, honour and all the rest.  The sharp wit of Evelyn Waugh had some fine moments but he weakened in Brideshead Revisited and laid bare previously hidden sentimentality.  We had to suffer a dollop of privileged entitlement and his conviction that the British aristocracy was blessed because it deserved to be.  If not blessed by God then something.  Actually, according to Waugh, it was God.

Right now, though, members of the British establishment must be thinking how they are ever going to prevail.  Pfeffel has the best lawyers in town helping him to complete a Met Police questionnaire about the law breaking in Number Ten.  Civil servants are also doing their best to persuade the Met not to release any of the 300 photographs and selfies that were taken at the lawbreaking festivities.  One tries not to be cynical but, sorry, there must be some right corkers in the police files.  The notion of politicians as role models for the plebs has long disappeared. The Brits, though, have a stiff-lipped Royal Family supposedly committed to self-effacing albeit very well-paid public service.  Well, the Duke of York or Prince Andrew or Andy the Randy and his escapades have left us bare facts that sound like jokes.   Rather than be offended by the allegations of Virginia Guiffre that Andy slept with her when she was underage and more than once she was raped by him, he has handed over £12m to Ms Guiffre, a woman the Duke of York previously claimed he had never met.  

More than a few powerful people think the twelve million quid to keep Prince Andrew out of an American civil court is money well spent.  But the Burkean role modelling that is supposed to unite us all behind the flag and inspire us to create civilised communities is long gone.  This is not even amusing celebrity fodder.  The Royal Family has lost so much moral authority it will soon struggle to muster a double page spread in Hello magazine.  Katie Price could return to being famous.   If there were not expanded mounds in the way, she could even look down her nose at Ma’am and the rest. 

The latest estimate is that the Royal Family costs the British taxpayer £375m a year.  Included in this is something called a Sovereign grant which is set at 25% of the surplus revenue from the Royal estate and its publicly owned portfolios. In Britain the nationalisation of industry starts at the top, and that must be a good place to be because the chief executive gets a quarter of the profits.  As a special bonus, all the security and armed vehicles that take the Royals between their various houses are charged to the budget of our egalitarian friends at the Met.   Trickle down economics this is not.  Nor should we forget the money that goes directly to the Royal Family, its income from the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall.  This amounts to over £40m a year.   The Queen ‘voluntarily’ pays tax on her private income but, like the politicians that bow and scrape in her presence, she has expenses.  And her investments tax havens in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda suggest priorities other than the public purse.  

To be honest the lady is not legally liable for much.  No need for a passport and a driving licence for the Queen.  Nor does equal opportunity legislation apply to the Royal Family,  which makes sense because with it we could all apply to be King or Queen and that is not happening.   What we think of as roles on behalf of the State, the Queen realises is a family business that will at least guarantee good jobs for the kids.   This, like not being legally liable to pay tax, is an important principle for the Queen, as is the non-payment of inheritance tax.  The non-payment of the latter means revenue funds have been forfeited by the British taxpayer for some time.  Already there have been murmurings and discontent over whether the £12m for the Guiffre settlement will be funded by the British taxpayer rather than the Queen.  The truth is that the £12m hush money that Andrew will send across the Atlantic was paid by the British taxpayer a long time ago.

It is not just the Brits who are sharing their dosh with the Royal Family.  In September 2021 the Sunday Times reported that Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid as much as £1.5m to fixers with links to Prince Charles in order that Mahfouz would secure a CBE.   So far the allegation is that the donations were used to fund renovations to residences used by Prince Charles and, every cloud has a silver lining, some of his charitable ventures.  Prince Charles has denied all knowledge of these payments and the rewards for Mahfouz.   The Prince Consort might be right but just in case we need, in the words of Sam Spade, a patsy, Michael Fawcett has stepped up to step down as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation.  Bin Mahfouz, according to a Guardian report, now has a British wood named after him.  The Mahfouz Wood, such a fuss and not even a forest, is just outside the 15th Century Castle of Mey which used to be the home of the Queen Mother.  Never mind bedrooms, these people do not even believe in shared castles.  The Castle of Mey is one, yes one, of the Scottish residences of Prince Charles.  We have to assume that the Prince failed to notice that someone changed the name of the front garden.

Money talks but the trial of strength between Russia and the West on the Ukraine border is about historical grievances. It is also being waged by people that are not just in charge of empires but take themselves awfully seriously and, on both sides, are served by lackeys too willing to spread misinformation to an in-heat media.  It is the usual depressing nonsense.  Time would be better spent thinking about the people lost to the Covid pandemic.  The lowest estimate of Covid deaths is five million but some reckon the number is four times higher.  In the last year there have been all the Covid deaths and a record number of trees lost in storms and animals burnt to death in forest fires.  The last thing we need is another war and more destruction and fatalities, especially as we have a couple of other wars already bubbling along nicely.  

Much has been said about protecting the poor people of Ukraine but the British government has never worried itself about the poor people of Russia that Putin has plundered and exploited since he has been in power.  England has is the money laundering capital of the world.  Obtaining a precise figure for the cash that is washed in London is impossible but the highest estimate is £100bn.  The Russia Report  was prepared by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.  The anything but bold committee members acknowledged that dirty Russian money was being laundered in London by Putin and his fellow robbers.  Not all the Russian kleptocrats with funds in London will be allies of Putin.  Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich is no friend of the wannabe Arnold Schwarznegger and an obvious exception. But, according to the Russia Report,  Putin and his mates do have money invested in London.   £5bn of what the Russia Report calls ‘suspicious wealth’ has been invested in London property.   One fifth of that little pile was attributed to Putin and his allies.   

Much of the money laundered may be hidden but there is no hiding for Liz Truss, the woman that everyone has seen.  Clenched teeth, no nonsense jawlines and vacant but hostile stares appear to be mandatory for female Tory ministers.  Dorries, Patel and Coffey are the other nightmare examples.  Their male counterparts specialise in smug smirks. At the rate of five snapshots a day generously shared with the British media, Truss has already posed for numerous photographs, even more than the Met is suppressing over at Number Ten.  Truss has promised that as part of the proposed sanctions against Russia the legislation against money laundering will be ‘widened’ to ensure more stringent action is taken against the wealth of the oligarchs.  Nothing new there then.  Britain already has the toughest anti-money-laundering legislation in the world.  The problem is it is not applied, mates and all that   As there is nothing to widen, we should not expect Belgravia to be full of empty properties just yet, especially from a government that recently put Yevgeny Lebedev in the House of Lords.  Lebedev is the owner of two British newspapers, the Independent and the Evening Standard.   No, the money that bought those two newspapers is not counted in the estimates of suspicious wealth.  The latter newspaper ran a sustained, vitriolic and not entirely honest campaign against Ken LIvingstone.  Back in 2008 the slurs from the indignant Russian editor about corruption in the Livingstone administration, pause for a sly smile, featured almost daily in the Evening Standard and helped Pfeffel win the Mayor of London election.   Lebedev was nominated for his position in the House of Lords by Pfeffel, and the recommendation was approved by the Queen who might or might have not raised an eyebrow.   Bet she was not thinking about signing off Russian oligarchs as quasi-relatives in 1953 when they put her on the throne in Westminster Abbey.  You do not have to be suspicious, wealthy or not, to believe Lebedev is in the House of Lords because his newspaper helped Pfeffel to become Mayor of London.   And how Pfeffel became a major player should make anyone wonder whether Brexit was always more about money than nationalism.

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.