Boris Johnson



Apart from providing huge expenses claims for the world leaders and their lackeys the Cop 26 Conference has four formal objectives.  The intention is to ‘secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’, ‘adapt to protect communities and natural habitat’, ‘mobilise finance’ and ‘work together to deliver’.  I am as fond of elliptical prose as the next person but those objectives are distinguished by imprecise wording that misses more than it identifies.  A few more references to carbon, waste and temperatures would have helped.  None of it feels likely to keep an apocalypse at bay.  In times like this one is obliged to remember at least some of the words of The Waste Land by T S Eliot.   As the famous and perhaps notorious Jeremiah once said in an equally troubling decade, ‘What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?’

Not a lot when the conference is chaired by Pfeffel.  In the past this man has had much fun making cheap jokes about environmental corruption.  He has enjoyed belittling the earnest concern of everyone from just about everywhere.   If that sentence sounds vague, just wait until later.    Pfeffel once proclaimed that fulfilment is best achieved through owning new BMWs and having blonde wives with big knockers.  We should be wary of attributing higher motives to Putin and Xi Jinping but if they are going to fail to turn up to an environmental world conference then this one, with our Pfeffel in charge, has to be the favourite.   The norm before these get-togethers is that the host in advance of the meeting puts in some hard miles travelling the globe and cajoling the other heads of state into making commitments prior to the conferences.  The approach of Pfeffel has been different.  He has been on holiday.  No wonder the advisors of Putin and Xi Jinping have advised their bosses to put their feet up and take it easy this year.   No point in risking catching Covid to listen to the thoughts of not always truthful Pfeffel.

World capitalism, the economic system that is now $1.2 trillion in debt and that needs continuous and accelerated growth to service that debt, is supposedly going to deliver global net zero by 2050.  There is a joke in there somewhere but time might be spent better looking for the wind farms and new heating systems that will be needed.  But at least some people have been working hard.   Just in time for COP 26 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has produced a ten point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.  We know that this is a really important document because it has two forwards and an introduction.   Pfeffel is the skilled scribe responsible for the opening paragraphs and, no surprise, he has been thumping his bosums again.  Little old Britain will be the number one centre for green technology and finance.   Most of us would settle for just keeping pace, something equivalent to a football team in the Premiership qualifying for a European competition.  Pfeffel, though, is different.  So he should be.  Prep and public schools maketh this man.  Pfeffel had his proud heart first swelled in Ashdown House Preparatory School.   Ex-Tory Minister David Mitchell was also a pupil and he remembers the headmaster one day caning every boy in the school.   What it did for hearts is not known but the headmaster boasted that it helped his golf swing.  Britain will be number one at something or the suffering of well bred buttocks will have been for nothing.  Pfeffel has previously promised that Britain would benefit from a world beating response to Covid.   One day last week a fifth of all the Covid deaths in the world occurred in Britain, and yesterday alone 50,000 people tested positive for the Covid virus.  Bulgaria is anything but a world beating number one but that country has had no more than 55,000 Covid cases since all this began.   Six million people are on NHS waiting lists.

No need, though,to remain trapped in the gloomy present.  Pfeffel, always looking to a horizon filled with sunshine, has goodies in his green recovery plan.  The government will invest $12bn in green technology and ‘mobilise potentially three times as much investment from the private sector’.   Even the innocent will be suspicious of the word potentially in that promise, especially as Pfeffel is referring to a British private sector collection of casino capitalists that is infamous for its woeful record on investment in industry.  Hate to be one more Jeremiah but it is a struggle to forget what these people did to the railways and utilities.  Pfeffel is excited about replacing gas radiators with heat pumps which work fine unless the temperature drops to 5℃ and below.   

The less innocent, the types that look at spreadsheets and numbers, are even dubious about the very specific £12bn promised by Pfeffel.  Shadow business secretary Ed Milliband has an alternative green recovery plan, and it quotes the need for £30bn to be spent in the next 18 months.  Boris forgets to mention the timescale for investment in his forward to the Green Recovery Plan.  More than that, and this is where Putin and Xi Jinping are permitted a throaty chuckle, Milliband and his people have discovered that not all of the £12bn is new money.   The actual investment is no more than £4bn.  Ah well, the hope was nice while it lasted. 


There is some good news in the Green Recovery Plan.  Funds may be tight but the Government has made a pledge to plant 30,000 hectares of trees and, wait for it, 30,000 football pitches.  Odd how Pfeffel manages to quote the number 30,000 twice in a handful of paragraphs.  And why football pitches in a plan that is supposed to be taking seriously the task of avoiding the long predicted apocalypse?  Were they that short of sound ideas?  Well, serious these people are not.   If Nadine Dorries Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the world beating United Kingdom remembered to mention the football pitches and earned a gold star, there will be no prizes this time round for rival Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of we all know where.  This not too bright economic libertarian has just signed a trade deal with Australia.   To secure agreement between the countries key pledges on climate action were deleted.   

Pfeffel is at his best when he promises in his forward to the Green Recovery Plan that there will be grid system installers ‘everywhere’.   Hate to be pedantic but everywhere is not just a big place but it is also all inclusive.   Will each of the 30,000 hectares of trees and football pitches each have their own grid system installer?  The use of precise terminology and understanding of detail is, of course, not how Pfeffel will be remembered.  The chap will have to get off his once bruised buttocks, though.   Thinking vague nonsense and then pretending he has a plan could mean that he might not be remembered at all.   Apocalypses are notorious for not being forgiving.

There has been some relief from the urgent bluster that defines the present government.  The interruption was the consequence of a murderous and alarming attack on a member of parliament.  Sir David Amess was the popular and respected MP for Southend West.  His attacker appears to have been an aspirational terrorist.  The grief over the death of the Tory MP has been significant and so it should be.  This is a tragedy for the victim and his family.   So far MPs have been attacked three times by men with murderous intent.  All three attacks have resulted in deaths.  Joe Cox and Sir David Amess are the two MPs that have died.  Andrew Pennington died trying to protect MP Nigel Jones.   Something has to be done.  Entry into Parliament means negotiating your way through a security barrier that requires the presence of both security guards and policemen.  The obvious comparison is with the absence of protection that exists for MPs in their constituencies.  If we can be that casual about security for MPs once they leave Parliament, what is the in-depth security system in Westminster designed to achieve?  Is it protecting people, the building or nothing more than the reputation of the establishment?

In response to the death of Sir David Amess much has been said about a toxic political culture that encourages hate.  The comment from MPs and the media has now drifted towards hypocrisy.  There should be no dispute over MPs having a right to protection and to them being treated with civility.   But the same arguments also apply to the British people.  Recent reports have claimed that the economic policies of always too self-satisfied George Osborne not only diverted funds from ordinary people to the already rich but created 130,000 unnecessary deaths.  Neither did the terrible Grenfell tragedy give the prolonged pause for thought that it would have done in a compassionate society.   And the response of Pfeffel and his gang to the Covid epidemic has been not only slapdash but at times appeared conscience free.  Lives have been needlessly lost.  Churlish folk, of which there are more than a few in the UK, have looked critically at the grief and alarm generated by the death of one Tory MP.   That grief, though, should not be begrudged.   The problem in Britain is not that there is too much grieving.   In the political battleground that defines modern times there is not enough grief.  Not just those in power but the people of Britain have given inadequate attention to the victims of the last forty years, those that have suffered because of the implementation of an economic doctrine that was disgraced a century earlier.  Some MPs think the death of Sir David Amess justifies them now being entitled to keep private their excessive six figure expenses claims.  Extra security for MPs and awarding city status to Southend-on Sea in memory of Sir David Amiss are not begrudged.  But to those MPs that want to keep their greed away from prying eyes we have to say that civilisation begins at home.   If these careerist and often heartless utilitarians had been made of sterner stuff, they would have stood against newspaper proprietors that created the toxicity within political life in Britain. Cordial civilisation might now consist of something more than what we remember. 

Howard Jackson has had eleven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism.  His latest book Offended Shadows is now available here.



Pandora had a box and she looked like Ava Gardner.  Eve had an apple and looks-wise was not much of an improvement on Margaret Thatcher.   Different dames but similar stories.  Whether Pandora opened the box or Eve munched the apple, what was left was evil, greed and the rest.  Considering what was in the box, it is a shame that someone forgot to put a decent lock on the lid.  Pandora was poor at keys, and algorithms have hackers.  Pandora’s Papers part two is more of the same revelations, numbers of dollars that are impossible to comprehend and the usual gallery of po-faced rogues that have just stepped off red carpets.  No discernible bulges in the pockets of those tailored suits.  The current estimate is that $7.6 trillion dollars have found their way to obscure islands.  Although these trillions began their life as humble cash in the hands of ordinary folk the assorted treasure is right now nothing more than potent numbers in anonymous bank accounts and the ledgers of shell companies.  The islands where these accounts exist would sink to the ocean bed if the dollars were ever converted to paper currency.  

When the numbers strain human comprehension, old-fashioned fractions can help.  Well, it worked in school anyway.  Right now a third of global GDP is stashed away in tax havens where it can do no harm like building hospitals and alleviating world hunger.  In the last five years this hidden money has increased by a quarter.  No need to worry about reducing inequality for the moment.  Providing we keep the poor underfoot and do not worry too much about world hunger and increasing homelessness these are good times.  Life expectancy for the British people may be falling and the retirement age increasing, pause to think through that contradiction, but in the last year the number of proud to be British billionaires increased by 7%.   There are now 171 British masters of the universe.  

In the same week as the latest revelations from the Pandora Papers appeared the NatWest bank was found guilty of money laundering £365m on behalf of Bradford jewellers Fowler and Oldfield, a company whose boss was as early as 2016 pleading hard times and anticipating closure of a shop that is about the size of the local newsagents.  £365m is obviously not worth what it used to be.   There has been speculation that someone in NatWest would have to go to prison but the talk around punishment soon changed to fines.  No point in being punitive with decent chaps.  The figure quoted for a fine began at £340m but that has already dropped to £240m, a mere drop in your average tax haven.  Not much sticks to these people.  

Talking of mud or whatever lands on the well-dressed not sticking has echoes of Pfeffel.  This is the man that in the same week of these sordid revelations was proclaiming the virtues of unfettered capitalism and, to use his words, ‘backing bankers’.  But first some applause.  Despite his reputation for deceit and untruths Pfefell in response to Pandora’s Papers has managed to utter a truth.  He claimed that he had not read any of the details in the latest revelations.  We know he was being honest because Pfeffel, as weary civil servants have testified, never reads the details in anything.  His friends claim that Pfeffel is a prolific reader.  Right now the blonde hulk may be on a sun lounger but his eyes will not be closed, they say.   Boris does like to read but only if there are plenty of metaphors and similes to prop up his limited attention span.  His weakness with dry analysis might explain what previous Thatcherite friends this week have described as his economic illiteracy.

Even in 2008 when the banks would have crashed capitalism if it had not been for the interventions of governments Pfeffel was reminding us that he would never waive in his loyalty to money lenders and venture capitalists.  Most were being gloomy about bankruptcies, excessive leverage and bank-runs but Pfeffel kept his warm-hearted optimism intact.  Pfeffel has a taste for high culture.  Zeus, Hephaestus, Pandora and the rest are like mates to Pfeffel.  It might have helped him understand how banks really operate if he had watched the movie ‘Mary Poppins’.  

Pfeffel, though, is not so generous with businessmen, people whose economic concerns he famously dismissed with one of his favourite expletives.  Pfeffel prefers wealthy dilettante conquerors to the industrious.  And they appear to like him.  Zac Goldsmith has let Pfeffel stay for free in a villa that most weeks rents for £25,000.  No danger of the blonde hulk coming to a sun lounger near you, and no need for Pfeffel to worry about towels and Germans.  In his conference speech this year Pfeffel claimed that without capitalism there would have been no Covid vaccine to save lives.  

More pause for thinking is required.  No one should be too critical of the addictions of others but the dependency of Pfeffel on oratorical exaltation can become wearing, especially as governments have already been warned of the need to prepare for the arrival of more viruses.  Because of the global cost cutting interdependence that provides the funds for those tax havens, more infections will appear and spread.  We should also hesitate before assuming that it was old-fashioned greed and competitive individualism that motivated those that developed the vaccine.  Self-interest played its inevitable part, most of us would rather not die just yet, but so far the impact of greed has been limited to the stumbles that have occurred in rolling out the vaccine worldwide.  The initial research was inspired by the kind of decent motives that Thatcher, Hayek, Rand and Friedman were all too keen to dismiss as inconsequential.   

Call it churlish but there is also an obligation to mention the support of governments in this great capitalist triumph.  97% of the Oxford vaccination research was funded by the British taxpayer, the same people that coughed up £37bn for a private sector test and trace scheme that would have put a smile on the face of Pandora.   The vaccination rollout in the UK, which is NHS managed and supported by non-remunerated volunteers, has been a success.   Almost 50 million Brits have received 95m jabs although those numbers are now mirrored in other European countries.   The CEOs of the capitalist companies that own the patents, though, are not quite so enthusiastic about saving human lives worldwide.   In fact, they soon remembered their number one priority is to make money, the kind that inspires accountants with in-depth knowledge of tax havens.   Pleas from Joe Biden have been resisted, and patents have not been waived by the pharmaceutical companies.  This has prevented low income countries from manufacturing the vaccine cheaply and distributing Covid relief in large numbers.  95% of people in low income countries are yet to receive their first Covid jab.

Pfeffel was last seen relaxing away from the sun lounger and dabbing the canvas with a paintbrush in imitation of his hero Winston Churchill.  Landscapes were the preferred choice of Churchill.  One subject that Pfeffel will sidestep in Marbella is Lake Windermere, the largest lake in England.  Sewage from the private septic tanks of tourists and the local sewage plant is destroying foliage and bird and animal life.  The dumping is not continuous but in 2020 sewage flowed into the lake for 1,719 hours, an average of almost five hours per day.   If this sounds like something from a horror movie, it is.  The environmental destruction in the Lake District replays what happened in ‘The Bay’, an accomplished apocalyptic horror from director Barry Levinson.  

But who needs regulations when there is fun to be had.  Swimming in Windermere may require a nose peg but life for those in the Tory party is going very swimmingly.  In 2019 the chairperson of the Tory Party, Ben Elliott, through jolly hard work managed to raise £37m for the Tory party election campaign.  It is a pity, though, that the Tory Party refuses to publish the membership lists of the secretive clubs of donors that give at least £250,000 per year.  These donations allow the donors to have regular meetings with the prime minister and chancellor or the people in government that make the really important decisions.  Three names that no longer raise eyebrows and are also in the Pandora Papers are Mohamed Amersi, Lubov Chernukin and Victor Fedutov.   All have been accused of corruption and all, despite not being native Brits, donate to the Tory Party.  The going rate for these three showing concern for the future of Britain is around £700,000.  But for some that is chicken feed or poultry sewage if you prefer to think that way.  

The online magazine Open Democracy revealed that one elite Tory dining club has given more than £130m to the Tory Party since 2010.   We know that Pfeffel enjoys dinner with these fine folk because he has attended the club so often.  Move over the oligarchy and say hello to a plutocracy.   Actually, these days nice to meet you might be more appropriate.  The members of the donors in the elite clubs are said to be worth £45.7bn.  In the first week of the 2019 election campaign the Tory Party raised £5.6m from their big donors, much of it from foreign chaps that take time out of their busy schedules to be reassured about the fate of their British neighbours.  In the same week in 2019 the Labour Party raised £220,000.  If all this feels a little unfair then have a think about the poor Lib Dems and the Green Party.  The rich not only like to gamble, they understand the importance of loaded dice.

But there are ripples besides those that arrive at the corroded banks of Lake Windermere.   Industrialists that remember Pfeffel expletives are now fretting over the rising energy prices.  The CEO  of British Steel claims these increased costs make it impossible for the company to be competitive with firms located in other countries.  Recessions have a nasty habit of following increases in energy prices.   The countries most likely to avoid recessions will have contingency plans that minimise price increases.   Not only does the UK have high energy prices, contingency plans are anathema or bad form to liberterian dilettantes.  The latest parliamentary report has criticised the government for its handling of the Covid pandemic.  Without contingency plans lives were lost unnecessarily.   Right now the guilty have not been named.  How long that will last is something for the Pfeffel to think about on his sun lounger.   Parliamentary reports are not the equivalent of Pandora’s box but this particular one could be the start of something.  

Howard Jackson has had eleven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism.  His latest book Offended Shadows is now available here.