Boris Johnson – lies



Without the edgy direction of David Fincher the movie Se7en would have been recognised and perhaps dismissed as familiar stodge.  The plot even had the cool yet cynical detective visiting a library and searching for clues.  Bring back Agatha Christie, all is forgiven.  In Se7en, the director Fincher used endless and heavy rain to suggest modern nihilism. This summer we have the option of another metaphor for human folly.   Around the world, people and the poor in particular endure exceptional heat and record temperatures.  Brits loyal to the modern world soon stripped down to t-shirts and shorts.  Couples put on matching baseball caps and carry into the nearest air conditioned and energy consuming shopping mall their exposed and often ruined bodies, all courtesy of their devotion to a ruthless food and drink industry.  The alternative Fincher lashings of heavy rain still have a place.  His definitely effective metaphor will return in the increasingly wet British winters.  The problems with climate change and the environment are worth mentioning if only because the issue has been neglected by all the candidates for the leadership of the Tory party.  Their bodies may be melting in the heat but neoliberal dreams persist in their steadfast hearts.  No break then from an unregulated economy and pumped up consumerism.  And no surprise.   Without it how would the rich scavenge interest off the debt that the poor need to fill the cash tills.  

Ex-leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt has something about her that suggests a no nonsense plain speaking and perhaps old-fashioned Tory.  The steely grin does not persuade us that she is blessed with compassion but Mordaunt looks like a competent matron willing to intervene and sort the problems of others.  Her politics may be just as dangerous as her rivals but somehow she is more likeable.  If unwilling to accept the economic cost of addressing serious environmental issues, Mordaunt was the only candidate prepared to acknowledge that a wrecked planet was the price of maintaining a neoliberal economy.  Asked to consider this dilemma the others just stared into polluted air.  

Kemi Badenoch used to be a banker although she prefers to talk about a teenage student job when she worked at McDonalds.   Whatever she used to be, Badenoch has been affluent all her life and remains a woman on the make.  Badenoch is too busy living the neoliberal Hayekian dream with her banker husband to worry about anything.  But the direction of the Tory Party is such that in the future she might be offered the opportunity to implement the full Hayek vision.   Friedrich Hayek was the economics professor that said it was not important for a government to maintain democratic freedoms.  The objective of politicians was nothing more than to ensure the market operated unhindered.  The market would provide a functioning economy and that would be enough for the ordinary folk.  It makes a certain sense.   With right wing economics the only game in town, what is the point of political freedom?  Leave it to the masters, said Hayek.    Just how would a government ensure an unhindered market?  Well, one could crush the socialists for a start and after that you could shut up the people that in 2022 think 9.4% inflation and an average rise in house prices of 12.8% deserves at least wage increases to match inflation.  And rental charges are increasing faster than house prices, so full marks to Pritti Patel and her efforts to create a police state.   

Hayek and Ayn Rand are the gurus or couple of nutcases that shape the modern Tory party.   Anyone expecting the present floundering economy to raise doubts in these devotees will be disappointed.  Forty years of neoliberalism in the UK not only failed to make British industry competitive as was promised, it halved the annual rates of growth in productivity and wrecked the infrastructure that supported the British economy.  If anything, the followers of Hayek are as devoted as ever.  Badenoch will continue to be a rising star.  Mordaunt for a while looked a threat in the leadership contest but Paul Dacre, the owner of the Daily Mail, is not a fan.   Penny Mordaunt became Dormant Mordaunt.  The Tory party appears to be heading for the next nightmare scenario, party members choosing between anything but convincing Tony Blair soundalike Rishi Sunak and the empty headed Liz Truss, a woman more interested in tanks than Lamborghinis and dangerous in both.

The Hayek vision that has destroyed any common sense and Burkean responsibility within the Tory Party has inspired disenchanted non-Tory voters to promote an electoral alliance of the centre and the left.  That way, they argue, the next election will at least provide a half sane alternative to the politics of Batman imitators.   Yet in an odd way there is also a form of Hayekism in the Labour Party.  Those in charge of Labour are more than willing that party members and even the voters sacrifice political freedom and hopes of economic and social reform.  Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves may spout the same neoliberal nonsense as Sunak but the good news, we are told, is that with her in charge we will not have a Tory chancellor.  The alternative label will suffice.  Blair preached the same message, and without ever being given the credit helped create the disenchantment that led to Brexit. 

After two years of delay and hoping that a heatwave and a Tory leadership contest would be a distraction for the British media, Starmer has released the Forde Report.   The findings confirmed that the supposedly pragmatic moderates of the Labour Party exaggerated the influence of anti-semitism within its ranks.  They also resisted the attempts of the Corbyn administration to implement processes that dealt with the small numbers of anti-semitic incidents that had occurred.  And if that was not enough, the right wing of the Labour party sabotaged the electoral campaigns led by Jeremy Corbyn.  On the day the report was published, the Labour leadership was briefing the media with phoney conclusions that were the opposite to those outlined by Forde QC.    

Thus the anti-democratic spirit of Hayek and the less than privileged position that he advocates for ordinary people has spread beyond the Conservative Party.   Blair and Brown did not resist neoliberal economics, and Starmer has adopted the second Hayek principle.   Trust the economy to feed ordinary people but deny them a voice.  Labour Party members are entitled to a membership card but little else. Since Starmer was elected more Jews have been expelled from the Labour Party than ever before.  The charge against them is antisemitism.   Jews are welcome into the Labour Party of Starmer but not those that refuse to be uncritical of the existing bad-news and right-wing Israeli government.  The Forde report recommended that Jewish Voice for Labour be involved in developing anti-semitism training.  Starmer had sight of the report two years ago,  His response has been to expel members of Jewish Voice for Labour whenever he can.  

The impulse behind an electoral alliance has many causes but it is now popular on the left because some hope it is the only way a government and the British people will even hear left wing opinions.  After the disasters of the last twelve years an electoral alliance of the left deserves the opportunity.   But we should not be too optimistic.  The Tory Party resists proportional representation for general elections but saves the best for its own leadership contests.  Majority right wing votes from Tory MPs with the help of a form of proportional representation in the early rounds have ensured the redistribution of right wing support and the elimination of Mordaunt and Tugendhat.  The support from Tory MPs for Liz Truss was modest.  A decent majority of MPs do not rate the woman but the right wing swell that had supported other candidates has lifted the boat of Truss.  She has also the backing of the Daily Mail and the bookies make Truss the favourite to be the next prime minister.   No doubt the heat is having an effect but it feels like UK politics is trapped in a conservative cul-de-sac.  Rather than provide escape routes Vacant Starmer is leading us into a never ending neo-liberal loop that resembles groundhog day.  No wonder there is apathy.   Nothing in the political system is attracting electoral participation like votes for strike action.          

Never to be forgotten and future senior statesman Pfeffel has, though, mentioned the heatwave and future environmental catastrophe.  He compared the atmosphere that surrounds the earth to a tea cosy.  Why search for a metaphor when banal similes are on hand.  The remarks of Pfeffel were never likely to be taken seriously, especially as he added the compulsory rider that the environmental efforts of the UK were, like everything else done by his government, world beating.   The legacy of Pfeffel is being defined by the soundbite that he ‘got the job done.’  The truth is that he has left Britain in a much reduced state.  His remark about the supreme efforts of his government to improve the environment choked more than the fishes in British rivers that are swallowing buckets of sewage.  The concern of Pfeffel for the environment also followed a jaunt high in the sky in a RAF Typhoon fighter jet.   Inside the cockpit, wag Pfeffel took a photograph of himself giving a thumbs up to his mates and the people he had failed as prime minister.  And so it goes.  The appetite of the British for public school oafs has to be fed.  We have just seen from Pfeffel what must be the ultimate in selfies.  The best Jeff Bezos could do was a photo and an interview after his return from being fired into space, an experience that made Bezos put on a cowboy hat and pretend he was John Wayne.  Back to British minimalism.  Seeing that familiar English thumb erect against a clear British blue sky, the behaviour of Pfeffel as prime minister now makes sense.  Blessed with power and authority, some rule and are inspired by a vision of a better world.  Pfeffel had different ambitions.  He posed for endless photographs and stored selfies.  How gratifying it all must have all been for a man compelled to satisfy excess vanity.    

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.