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Theresa May’s Government: a Parcel of Rogues

Farewell our ancient glory…
What force or gile could not subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor’s wages
I would, or I had seen the day
That treason thus could sell us
My auld gray head had lain in clay…
But pith and power, till my last hour
I’ll make this declaration
We were bought and sold for…gold
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

I was listening to Steeleye Span’s rendition of the traditional Scottish ballad ‘A Parcel Of Rogues’ (aka ‘Rogues In A Nation’) the other day. The song is actually a lament about the ‘traitors’ who ‘sold’ Scotland to England for ‘English gold’ back in 1706.

It struck me what a similarity there is between the parcel of rogues who sold Scotland and the parcel of rogues who are selling the United Kingdom’s wealth, prosperity, standing in the world and unity of 4 nations for the ‘gold’ from the plutocrats. Those plutocrats who wish to destroy the European Union and reduce the UK to a low wage economy – with few worthwhile workers’ rights and protections, minimal public services, a significant reduction in living standards for the majority and an increase in severe poverty for some. All to increase the wealth of the plutocrats and their Elite lackeys. See: How the Plutocrats are Waging War on the Bureaucrats.

In Edinburgh in 1706, as in London in 2018, the government was dominated by the incompetent, the corrupt and the greedy. The economy had been underperforming for decades and many of Scotland’s noble and powerful were ruined or on the verge of ruin as the collapse of the Government’s ill-conceived attempt to establish a ‘Caledonia’ colony on the isthmus of Panama wiped out the huge amount of both public and private investment in the project. Union with England precipitating a large influx of English money was perceived by many of Scotland’s noble and powerful as the way to restore their personal fortunes (Christopher Whatley, 2001). There is even evidence of substantial bribery of leading influencers in the Scottish Parliament to sway them towards union with England (Douglas Watt, 2007).

Clearly a parcel of rogues in Edinburgh in 1706!

The difference between Edinburgh in 1706 and London in 2018 is that union with England, Ireland & Wales, while denying Scotland its independent political decision-making, actually worked out well in many ways for most Scots. Not only have they been represented substantially in UK decision-making through a run of prime ministers from John Stuart and George Hamilton-Gordon to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; but they have benefited in terms of distributed wealth to a degree it is highly doubtful they would have done as an independent nation. In all fairness to the Scots, they have contributed a great many innovators, engineers, scientists, and military personnel, as well as political leaders, to the United Kingdom project. See: Why Scotland and rUK need Each Other.

The parcel of rogues who sold Scotland inadvertently benefited their country by selling it into a union with a much more powerful and robust economy.

In contrast the parcel of rogues currently in government in London are undermining the wealth of the UK by taking it out of a union – the EU – with collectively a much more powerful economy.

In December it was widely reported – eg: The Independent’s Larry Elliott & Phillip Inman – that International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde was decidedly “gloomy” in reporting on the latest post-Brexit forecasts for the UK: “We feared that if Britain decided to leave, it would most likely entail a depreciation of sterling, higher inflation leading to a squeeze on disposable income and a reduction in investment. People said ‘Oh those experts’, but we are seeing the narrative we identified as a potential risk being rolled out as we speak. This is not the experts speaking, it’s what the economy is demonstrating.” Only last week, a draft government report was leaked which made it clear that, whatever option the Government ended up settling on in terms of ‘soft Brexit’ (pretty bad) or ‘hard Brexit’ (very, very bad), the United Kingdom is going to be significantly poorer as a result. Yet, in response to the leak, Theresa May made it clear to journalists like The Independent’s Rob Merrick that “…the British people want us to leave the European Union and that is what we will be doing.”

In continuing to claim she is enacting the ‘will of the British people’, May is being disingenuous. Polls over the past 6-9 months have shown an increasing trend of people in the UK turning against Brexit. For example, a YouGov poll in October found 47% of respondents saying it was wrong for the UK to vote Leave compared with 42% who believed it was the right decision (Hannah Lawrence, The Independent). In December the Daily Telegraph reported a BMG poll finding 51% supported Remain with just 41% for Leave. While polls cannot possibly have the totality of a referendum, repeatedly having similar findings does suggest the poll results are reliable. Which makes it extremely unsafe for Theresa May to insist she is carrying out the ‘will of the British people’ because it looks increasingly like that will has changed substantially. Factor in the anti-EU vitriol being peddled relentlessly by the Elite media barons in the likes of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun – see examples left -and it is perhaps a reflection of just how strong anti-Brexit feeling is becoming in the UK that the polls could still show such results.

So why is the UK leaving the EU?
It has taken time for the so-called ‘Project Fear’ projections of economic doom to start to be realised – and even now they’re not quite as bad as some predicted – but they are increasingly bad and every indication is that they will get worse – substantially worse. Additionally, leaving the Customs Union and not having a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic are simply incompatible desires – whatever May says about (some as-yet-not -conceieved) technology somehow allowing goods and people to cross the border without hindrance and inspection. As for poor Gibraltar, no one in government seems to have thought through how being in the EU together enabled the UK and Spain to fudge over the latter’s territorial claims and thus protected the Gibraltarians. With the UK out of the EU, Spain will have no reason not to pursue its claims and is likely to receive tacit support from the EU.

So why is the UK leaving?

After all, the 23 June 2016 referendum was advisory only so there is no legal obligation on Parliament to implement the result of the referendum. The public were blatantly misled – see So the Turkeys did vote for Christmas?!?; just the run-up to Brexit is seriously damaging the UK economy; the very unity of the United Kingdom is threatened by the Irish border issue; and many Scots, the nation having voted decisively for Remain, see Brexit as a justification for revisiting Scottish independence.

Clearly there are genuine zealots in Parliament, powered by a RED/BLUE vMEME harmonic, who genuinely believe that Britain should be completely independent of the EU – although many of them can’t articulate reasons for that beyond a vague sense of English nationalism more appropriate to the days of empire. These ‘Little Englanders’ collude with fellow zealots to create a groupthink which only gives credence to their own shared memes and ignores and/or thoughtlessly discredits all other viewpoints. They know what’s right for the country and only their version of Brexit can save the UK from becoming a ‘vassal state’ to the EU. Iain Duncan Smith and Bill Cash might be deemed to be such zealots. (Duncan Smith may actually lose out if Brexit goes through as his wife’s farm will no longer receive EU subsidies.)

Unfortunately there is a very different but equally narrow-minded groupthink on the Labour benches in the Commons which is fuelled by the party’s leader! Below is a clip of Jeremy Corbyn on the 28 January Andrew Marr Show (BBC1, copyright © 2018 BBC TV, via The Guardian) sticking to his pro-Brexit stance, even though acknowledging 2/3 of the party membership want the UK to remain or at least have a second referendum.

 

It’s astonishing to watch Corbyn, seemingly ignorant of his own hypocrisy in calling the Government “undemocratic” while wilfully ignoring the wishes of his own party members.

Corbyn’s defenders and apologists will insist that he is a man of integrity and that his opposition to the EU derives from it being a ‘Capitalist cabale’ promoting globalisation. According to this perspective, the EU is a vehicle for transnational corporations (TNCs) to exploit working people around the world. Via the New International Division of Labour, the TNCs chase the lowest wages available globally, dumping the current workforce (into unemployment and perhaps poverty) in favour of a new workforce they can exploit even more. The EU, as a major facilitator of global Capitalism, is therefore culpable. There is much in this perspective…and one can well imagine Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and their sympathisers huddled together reinforcing their groupthink of disgust at the world Capitalist system.

Yet they miss the point that the ORANGE-driven plutocrats and their Elite lackeys are anti-EU precisely because the BLUE-oriented bureaucrats appointed to the European Commission actually try to hold the Capitalists to account through regulations, taxation, etc.

So there are a number of zealots in the Commons who have a ’cause’ of one sort or another to fight for – the end result of which is getting the UK out of the EU. Some of them might be deemed to have a sort of integrity.

Yet there are also ‘rogues’ on the political scene – greedy, corrupt and often incompetent – for whom Brexit isn’t about a nationalist cause or an anti-Capitalist crusade. It’s about defending or advancing their own interests with little or no care for the consequences for the majority of Britons. No one could accuse these rogues of integrity.

A parcel of rogues
The ‘rogues’ in and around Westminster tend to be rich and/or have connections deep into the Elite. Some of them may even hobnob with the Plutocracy. They know clearly where their financial interests lie and who can further their ambitions. Appallingly, many of them are senior Cabinet ministers. They are, of course, unabashed Brexiteers. Among the most prominent are:-

  • Boris Johnson
    In The Irish Times Philip Stephens says of Johnson: “…[his] calculated mendacity is matched only by inflated self-regard, is determined May should be ousted. Personal ambition burns more brightly here than any convictions. The foreign secretary has no project or purpose in mind. He wants to be prime minister because, well, he wants to be prime minister.”
    Johnson’s buffoonish gaffes – Libya to be a good tourist destination once the bodies are cleaned away, reciting a colonial poem in a Mayanmar temple, etc, etc – are legion and May has been forced to defend him against worldwide accusations that he has made the UK a laughing stock (Kevin Schofield, 2017). Perhaps even more worryingly for May, given Stephens’ comments, is that Johnson has at least twice tried to manipulate her by putting his views on Brexit strategy into the media ahead of a Cabinet meeting and beyond his remit as Foreign Secretary: the ‘4 ‘red lines’ statement of September last year undermined her much-vaunted Florence speech; and his demand last month that the NHS be given an extra £5 billion a year after Brexit brought him into conflict with both May and Chancellor Philip Hammond. Both of these instances could very much be argued to be in breach of Cabinet collective responsibility and thus earn Johnson the sack.
    After Johnson’s campaigning for Leave in the referendum, a number of commentators – eg: Graeme Demianyk on HuffPost – seized on the leak that he had written 2 articles for the Daily Telegraph explaining in strong robust terms the reason for his position – only one of the articles was for Leave and the other for Remain. In other words, Johnson was hedging his bets to the last minute, calculating which position was most likely to further his political ambitions. Johnson, a highly intelligent and articulate man, clearly has strong ORANGE but his RED vMEME all too often trips him up as he fails to anticipate consequences. Given his impulsiveness, temper and appetite for womanising – according to the Daily Mirror’s Susie Boniface (2014), he’s had a string of affairs and got 2 of his mistresses pregnant – it’s likely he’s also high in the temperamental dimension of Psychoticism, making him even more of a dangerous ‘loose cannon’.
    According to the Daily Mail’s Tim Sculthorpe in 2016, Johnson earned over £2M over the previous 4 years from a combination of salary, author’s royalties and investments.
  •  David Davis
    Despite having been Europe Minister in John Major’s government and Conservative Party Chairman, Davis had a relatively low profile until suddenly elevated to the position of Brexit Secretary by Theresa May. Since his appointment, he has consistently displayed what might be termed ‘genial incompetence’. The more public displays of such incompetence include being photographed with no briefing papers at a meeting with the clearly well-prepared EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (see below).

    Copyright © 2017 European Commission

    Possibly Davis’ most embarrassing blunder so far was to claim the Government was carrying out “about 57 sets of analyses”  covering “85% of the economy” to forecast the impact of Brexit and then admit later in select committee that no analyses had been carried out. Although he seems befuddled in the video below (courtesy of The Guardian), Davis only narrowly escaped being held in contempt of the House of Commons. 

    The exposure of such incompetence would normally lead to a minister resigning or being sacked.
    According to OpenSecrets.org, in 2007 Davis was worth £2.3M. 

  • Liam Fox
    The Secretary of State for International Trade has a real rogue’s history. In the 2009 expenses scandal, the then-shadow defence secretary was found to have the largest over-claim on expenses – £22,476 in mortgage interest payments – and, as a result, was forced to repay the money. In  October 2013, the money-grabbing politician made the news again after documents showed he claimed 3p for a 100 metre car trip a year earlier. He also made an additional 15 claims of under £1 for car travel approved in 2012-13, 2 of which were for 24p and 44p.
    In October 2011 Fox resigned as Secretary of State for Defence, for breaking the ministerial code by bringing his business associate Adam Werritty into Ministry of Defence meetings without security clearance or declaring potential conflicts of interest.
    Last October – as widely reported by the likes of Business Insider UK’s Adam Payne & Adam Bienkov – Fox promised the UK would be signing 40 trade deals within seconds of leaving the EU in March 2019, with dozens more to follow. This, in spite of having spent £52,198 of taxpayers’ money since being appointed, jetting around the world in luxury and failing to secure a single trade deal – according to the Daily Mirror’s Andrew Gregory. To date, the only trade deals Fox has landed for definite were the ones signed in China last week which even he has acknowledged were not affected by the UK’s membership of the EU.
    It appears Fox is a delusional, self-indulgent fantasist. His RED is clearly more dominant than his ORANGE as he makes a lot of impossible promises with little or no idea how to make them happen. As he seems to have little sense of accountability, one can but assume his BLUE is seriously deficient too.
    According to the Mail on Sunday’s Glenn Owen in 2010, Fox was worth at least £1M and had exploited an out-of-London MP’s need for a second home to build his personal fortune.

So what of the rogues’ boss, Theresa May?

I argued in Is Theresa May going to bring about a Constitutional Crisis? that she was effectively a ‘prisoner’ of Brexiteers like Johnson, forced to do their will if she wanted them to retain her as prime minister – which she does seem clearly to want to. Which may explain why Johnson, Davis and Fox have kept their positions in spite of appalling incompetency and behaviour which has been little short of treasonous sedition. However, as the UK’s growth rate has slowed, sterling has continued to perform abysmally and the overwhelming impracticalities of untangling the UK from the EU have become more and more obvious, reluctant ‘soft-Brexiteers’ in the Cabinet like Hammond and Amber Rudd have begun to apply pressure to May too.

If May previously seemed to be a ditherer without a vision, driven forward stumbling step upon stumbling step by the Brexiteers, in trying to placate both camps her statements are becoming ever more self-contradictory. We are leaving the Customs Union…but we will have a bespoke customs agreement with the EU. We will not accept ‘free movement of people’ during the transition period but we will have ‘frictionless trade’. It’s delusional Boris Johnson-type have-your-cake-and-eat-it stuff, all fantasy and bluster. It’s put into the public domain to get May through whatever the immediate pressure is. She seems to little or no idea how to resolve the conflicting fantasies which suggests the RED vMEME is dominating in her vMEME stack, with BLUE having only a perfunctory influence and ORANGE barely, if at all, present.

Further evidence of the dominance of RED is that May will not be shamed. She apologised once to the Conservative Party Conference for the disastrous 2017 election. In January she did, under enormous media pressure, sort-of apologise for people having their operations postponed but still insisted government strategy over the NHS winter crisis was right. That’s how strong May’s RED is. While she might concede ‘difficulties’, she never concedes that her policies aren’t working or that her policies are contradictory or impossible to fulfil. From the beginning of her premiership, May has demonstrated an astonishing level of indecision and incompetence.

It seems May is purely about May and whatever it takes to cling onto the title, salary and privileges that go with being prime minister, she will do with an indefatigable sense of self-righteousness.

Make no mistake, May is a rogue through and through. She and husband Philip have an estimated net worth of £3M. He is also a senior executive at Capital Group, controlling a £1.4 trillion investment fund. Philip Mays’ group is involved in tax avoidance for the likes of Facebook, Google and Starbucks through investments in tax havens (Adam Payne, Adam Bienkov & Camilla Hodgson, Business Insider UK, 2017). To add insult to injury, it has been widely reported – eg: the Daily Mail’s Martin Robinson (2017) – that between 2009 and 2017 Capital Group paid no corporation tax in the UK even though the directors were paid £43M in that time.

With the European Commission drawing up proposals to clamp down on tax havens and tax avoidance (Nolan Jazimreg, 2016), it would seem the Mays may have some very personal reasons for wanting the UK out of EU jurisdiction. It may even be another factor in explaining why Theresa went from being a Remain campaigner – albeit a relatively reluctant one – to being such a willing servant of the Brexiteers.

Theresa May campaigning for Remain (Photo copyright © 2016 James Melville/Twitter)

At the very least, Philip May’s business activities present a clear conflict of interest for his wife in leading the UK out of the EU.

Not that Theresa May will acknowledge that. To admit your husband’s activities and your own self-interest make you unfit to lead your country is to admit weakness and to be shamed, and May’s RED vMEME simply cannot accede to that.

So, at time of national crisis, we do indeed have a government dominated by the incompetent, the corrupt and the greedy.

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

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  1. David Burnby says

    Good piece Keith – I always enjoy you trashing the Tories and exposing them for what they are. I obviously disagree with you about Corbyn. I am a member of the Party and have not been involved in any poll about a second referendum; such a ‘poll’ I suspect is pure speculation. There are those Remainers in the Party (the Blairites currently represented by Lord Adonis) who are attempting to destabilise Corbyn and the Left by campaigning within the Party for a second referendum, but as Corbyn said (in the rather conveniently clipped TV interview) “I want to win the next election”. He knows that if he disrespects the referendum result, he will lose the support of around 50% of voters. The polls being quoted now show a very similar margin of victory for Remain as the polls taken before the referendum; it’s probable that little will change as people seem to regard (somewhat bizarrely) the importance of respecting the result of the referendum more than the issue at question. That’s democracy for you.