Boris Johnson

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The Conservative Cash Carousel and Socialism for the Rich

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/11/2021 - 4:32am in

The Conservative Cash Carousel & Socialism for the Rich

Sam Bright and Peter Jukes analyse what looks to be a new economic and ideological form of Conservatism, far removed from its former free market foundations

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“There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money,” Margaret Thatcher famously remarked at the 1983 Conservative Party Conference. 

Inspired by the founders of modern neo-liberalism, the likes of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, Thatcher’s principle that public spending ‘crowds out’ or diminishes private investment has underpinned Conservative Party ideology for four decades.

“No one can buck the market,” Thatcher would also say, and the idea that the ‘market knows best’ goes back even further – to the 19th Century arguments about the role ‘free trade’ versus protective tariffs over the Corn Law tax. Tariffs to prevent cheaper foreign imports protected British landowners, but caused famine in Ireland – and a split between Conservatives.

Since then, the Conservative Party’s main attack on its left-leaning opponents has been their apparent failure to carefully manage public finances and the dire effects of intervention in the market. Labour governments of the past have overspent, so the narrative went, over-stretching the public purse and risking the nation’s economic health with endless cycles of ‘boom and bust’. Public ownership or tight regulation risked causing inefficiencies by ‘picking winners’. The lack of competition would ultimately lead to a commissar culture of cronies living off the public purse, they said.

Now all is changed, changed utterly, in Boris Johnson’s new Conservative Party. A terrible new ‘socialism for the rich’ has been born, whereby revenues flow from the Government into the bank accounts of Conservative allies and donors, while the party receives a large chunk of the proceeds. 


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Socialism for the Rich

Consider this: Byline Times and The Citizens have calculated that at least £3 billion in public contracts have been awarded to Conservative donors and associates during the pandemic – with many of these deals awarded in the haste of emergency procurement procedures, without a normal competitive bidding process.

Subsequently, we have shown, these firms (the ones that have filed their annual accounts) have amassed additional profits worth more than £120 million – with £600,000 of this cash flowing into the Conservative Party’s coffers through new party donations. 

This is the Conservative cash carousel: the enrichment of party benefactors through the public purse, enhancing their generosity and eventually bolstering the party’s war chest. 

It’s impossible to know whether the Government actively used the pandemic as a protective screen, justifying the distribution of public money to its political allies. After all, the minutes of the meetings between companies and ministers held at the outset of the pandemic have either mysteriously disappeared, or are being withheld from public view. 

The Government has admitted that it used “informal arrangements” in selecting firms for deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds and that ministers relied on “a very large network of contacts”. We also know that donating to the Conservative Party bequests access to senior ministers, allowing party patrons to develop the relationships that proved to be highly lucrative when procurement rules were eschewed in favour of secretive, backroom deals. 

A March Towards Oligarchy

The pandemic has exposed the Conservative Party’s onward march to oligarchy – a process that, in turn, is infecting British democracy. Boris Johnson successively attempted to stifle a report into Russia’s political influence in the UK – which, when finally released, warned that “[UK] lawyers, accountants, estate agents and PR professionals have played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, in the extension of Russian influence” by providing services to rich Russians with ties to Putin.

Since Johnson came to power in July 2019, £2 million has been donated to the Conservative Party by individuals with Russian links. These donations have been rewarded with access to senior ministers, as democracy is once again flogged to the highest bidder.

This is a facet of Johnson’s leadership, but one that has now seeped into the fabric of the Conservative Party. In his single-minded, narcissistic pursuit of power, the Prime Minister is not afraid of creating casualties – even if the body count includes his own party and the basic tenets of British democracy. 

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Seeing the opportunity to profit from Johnson’s moral deficit, various predators have circled around the Prime Minister – harvesting the spoils as he ploughs a path of destruction. Boris Johnson governs primarily in the interests of Boris Johnson, and those who have propelled his quest for power. The result – sustained by an 80-seat parliamentary majority – is a slide towards authoritarianism and oligarchy, whereby the actions of the state are orientated towards the benefit of one man and his allies. 

But these instincts are not solely confined to Johnson and his cabal. Over the course of the last five years, since the EU Referendum, the Conservative Party has been remade in Johnson’s image. The ‘One Nation’ conservative ideals of Benjamin Disraeli are no longer welcome in a party that preaches the gospel of Brexit purity. In September 2019, Johnson removed the whip from 21 Conservative MPs who dared to defy his elevation of Brexit above democracy, thus purging the party of its moderate flank. The Conservative benches are now populated by the foot-soldiers of Johnson’s personal war, unmoored from morality, well educated in the political benefits of deceit and fabrication. 

A Closed Society

There are two secondary questions: whether the nation cares about this democratic coup, premised on corruption and oligarchy; and, if so, whether the opposition can take advantage. 

On the first question, our polling suggests that people do care – 58% of people surveyed by Omnisis in early November said they believe that Boris Johnson’s Government is corrupt, while only 16% of people disagreed. 

This provides fertile territory for the Labour Party, which has belatedly realised the scale and significance of the cronyism perpetuated by this Government – today announcing new proposals to reform parliamentary systems, to clamp down on ‘sleaze’.

In this regard, Keir Starmer’s party may take some advice from its former leader, Harold Wilson. Attempting to wrest control away from the Conservative Party at the 1964 General Election, for the first time in 13 years, he observed that:

“Over the British people lies the chill frost of Tory leadership. They freeze initiative and petrify imagination. They cling to privilege and power for the few, shutting the gates on the many. Tory society is a closed society, in which birth and wealth have priority, in which the master and the servant, landlord and tenant mentality is predominant. The Tories have proven that they are incapable of mobilising Britain to take advantage of the scientific breakthrough.”

Whether you agree with Wilson’s sentiments or not, it is undoubtedly and increasingly apparent that the country is no longer governed (if it ever was) by good chaps motivated by a commitment to altruistic public service and the prudent management of state finances. Instead, as Wilson says, a “closed society” has been created, which radiates prosperity only to those with wealth and political influence. This presents a danger to Britain, and an opportunity for the opposition. 

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The post The Conservative Cash Carousel and Socialism for the Rich appeared first on Byline Times.

Boris Johnson is Addicted to Lying – But Now the Truth is Finally Catching Up with Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/11/2021 - 10:24pm in

Boris Johnson Is Addicted to LyingBut Now the Truth is Finally Catching Up with Him

The Prime Minister’s reckless disregard for truth is starting to destroy trust among his own party and could soon be his downfall. Adam Bienkov reports

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Boris Johnson lies “so blatantly, so naturally, so regularly, that there is no real distinction possible with him, as there is with normal people, between truth and lies” is how his former chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, described the Prime Minister’s modus operandi earlier this year.

Johnson’s record of telling lies is well documented. He was famously sacked twice for lying as a journalist and then as a politician.

As Mayor of London he routinely made promises that he had little intention of keeping. Whether it was bringing back bus conductors, eradicating rough sleeping or keeping London Tube ticket offices open, Johnson was shameless about breaking his word.

During the EU Referendum he pushed the claim that leaving Europe would hand the NHS an extra £350 million a week, long after it was proven as false.

Even his promise to lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent a third runway at Heathrow ended with him literally fleeing the country in order to avoid keeping his pledge.

Yet, it is as Prime Minister that his tendency to tell lies and break promises has finally reached a tipping point.

No longer constrained by a party leader or newspaper editor, Johnson has progressively broken all connection he once had with the truth. From his seat in Downing Street, he has created an entire administration that is based on deceiving the public, the press, and even his own party.

At daily media briefings, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman will routinely deny facts that journalists can see clearly with their own eyes.

After Johnson was recently caught on camera not wearing a mask during a hospital visit, his spokespeople spent more than a week denying that he had broken any rules. These denials continued despite the fact that the hospital’s rules on wearing masks were freely available on its website and despite mounting evidence that he had been reminded no fewer than three times to wear one.

Meanwhile, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson routinely makes up claims, with zero consequences after they are exposed.

Of course, almost all governments tell lies and break promises. But, whereas his predecessors would sometimes be forced to acknowledge the truth and even apologise, Boris Johnson simply denies any deception has happened and moves on.


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While such behaviour may have served Johnson well so far, there are signs that the truth is now finally catching up with him.

In recent weeks, Johnson’s tendency to break promises has started to destroy the fragile trust his own party has in him.

His multiple U-turns and broken promises on the future of Owen Paterson, HS2, sewage, second jobs and social care have started to badly break down trust between the Conservative Party Leader and his MPs.

On Monday, Johnson suffered a major rebellion from his own party when he forced them to vote to break the Government’s manifesto pledge on social care. One Conservative MP and former minister told Byline Times that such rebellions would only grow due to “a real breakdown in trust” in the Prime Minister.

“The reason why the Government didn’t have a lot of people with it [on Monday’s social care vote] was that people aren’t prepared to trust him anymore”, the MP said. “People are saying: ‘look I don’t want to be led up the hill, made to look a fool with my pants down on the top of the hill, and then just be left there to hang out to dry’. And every time he makes one of these mistakes, more and more people are aware of the problem and more and more people are sceptical the next time it happens.”

This breakdown of trust is spilling over into real danger for Johnson’s leadership, with whispers growing that he will soon face challenge.

“I hear rumours all the time about people setting up operations [to challenge him]”, one Conservative MP told Byline Times this week. “One or two people are putting their preparatory campaigns together just in case.”

Recent events have led to some in the party having serious doubts about the Prime Minister’s ability to do the job.

His stumbling speech to the CBI this week – in which he impersonated a car engine, compared himself to Moses, lost his way for 20 seconds and went on a long riff about Peppa Pig – has led to speculation on the Conservative benches about the Prime Minister’s health.

“It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen,” one former Conservative minister told Byline Times. “Obviously you don’t want to admit to a frailty, but if he’s ill then he should say ‘look I need a couple of days off’.”

Such worries have led to a strikingly blunt open briefing against Johnson from within Downing Street, with the bizarre development of his spokesman this week being forced to issue a denial that the Prime Minister is unwell.

This may all prove to be another blip in his career – Johnson has long shown the ability to shrug off scandals that would have killed off the careers of most other politicians and he may do so again. However, patience with the Prime Minister’s addiction to lies does now finally appear to be running out among both his own party and the public.

And, like the boy who cried wolf, the time will eventually come when the truth finally catches up with him.

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The Great Rail Con: The Conservatives Have Betrayed Their Rail Promises for the Last Decade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/11/2021 - 3:00am in

The Great Rail ConThe Conservatives Have Betrayed Their Rail Promises For the Last Decade

David Hencke tracks the ways in which successive governments have watered-down their transport promises to the north and the midlands

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The Government’s new rail ‘improvements’, intended to ‘level up’ the transport systems of the north and the midlands, are the latest in a long series of U-turns from successive Conservative governments.

Boris Johnson’s administration has cancelled the eastern leg of HS2, to Leeds, and has reduced the scope of high speed train services from Liverpool to Hull.

The Government’s plans are merely a dumbed-down rehash of what former Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced nine years ago – rather than a new, exciting project to reward Conservative ‘Red Wall’ voters.

In 2012, the Government committed to a version of HS2 that would have swallowed both Manchester and Leeds – alongside a huge electrification programme for the rest of the country. Instead, we now have some of the same promises repackaged, with the Government pretending they are part of Johnson’s supposedly transformative ‘levelling up’ agenda.

If the Conservatives had kept their original promise, the Midlands electrification from Bedford to Sheffield would have been opened in 2020. Yet, former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the bulk of the programme in 2017, essentially turning the project into yet another fast commuter route into London.

Grayling aggressively defended his decision in 2017, telling MPs on the Commons Transport Committee that “spending a billion pounds shaving a minute off the journey time to Sheffield at a time when there are capacity constraints elsewhere on the network still to be tackled, didn’t seem to be the best use of money.” Grayling claimed that he saved passengers years of disruption that would have been caused by the electrification works.

Grayling also promised new, untested ‘bi-mode’ trains – featuring both diesel and electric engines – which are heavier on the track and require much more maintenance. This led former Cabinet minister, Nicky Morgan, then Conservative MP for Loughborough, to say: “Now we see the decision to cancel it was based on fantasy trains that didn’t even exist and the Midlands being a guinea pig for an untested technology.”

We will soon know whether this is true. This part of Grayling’s plan survived his sacking. His successor, Grant Shapps, announced that East Midlands Railways had put in a £400 million order for 33 of these new bi-mode trains in August 2019, the first of which would be delivered in 2023 – even though they will only have seven years of use before the line is scheduled to be fully electrified in 2030.


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There was another small U-turn last year, when electrification was extended from Kettering to Market Harborough. Johnson claimed last week that this extension formed part of his new integrated rail plan. In fact, it is part of an earlier announcement. Work began last February, clearing vegetation to install overhead gantries and wires.

A similar picture exists for the trans-Pennine rail electrification previously announced by Justine Greening – linking Manchester and York via Huddersfield. If the Conservative Party had kept its promises, the line would have been electrified by 2018. Instead, it is still at the planning stage, having been shelved in 2015. Now, instead of 2018, electrification will arrive by 2032 at the earliest.

Similarly, upgrades to the east coast mainline were promised in 2012 but not followed through. They will now have to wait until 2035.

But, perhaps the biggest rail electrification plan to have been dumped was Justine Greening’s proposal for a £3 billion “electric spine” running north from Southampton Docks through the midlands and on to Sheffield – linking the north directly to freight export opportunities. It should have opened in 2019.

This scheme was scrapped by Grayling in 2017, despite millions spent on improving tracks and bridges. But, because it was overshadowed by his cancellation of the midlands mainline project and a cut back to the Great Western Railway electrification between Cardiff and Swansea, its demise seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

Overall, despite new rhetorical flourishes, several Conservative governments have now been playing the same tune on rail improvements in the north and Midlands – one set to the tempo of backsliding and disappointment.

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The Disaster that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/11/2021 - 8:48pm in

The Disaster That Dare Not Speak Its Name

From the October print edition of Byline Times, Jonathan Lis explains how Brexit has distorted British politics to such an extent that its untruths will now keep everyone trapped in its chaos

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Britain’s voters have witnessed more turbulence and mismanagement in the past five years than in the preceding 70, but it is sometimes only possible to focus on one thing at a time.

A few weeks ago, it was a shortage of essential goods in supermarkets and blood-testing vials in the NHS. Then it was rocketing gas prices. Then a fuel crisis that saw motorists queue for hours for petrol, if they could secure any at all.

Of course there has been a pandemic and pressure on global supply chains. And yet, the rest of the world is not experiencing this level of instability. The root cause is something unique to Britain – something we knew about and consciously enacted: Brexit.

A Succession of Failures

The reasons for the chaos are, by now, well rehearsed. 

A shortage of essential workers has placed critical pressure on services. Many of the EU migrants who kept the British economy afloat have gone, both because of Brexit and the Coronavirus crisis, and for some reason now prefer to remain in countries that grant them better working conditions and accord them the full rights of citizens. The UK’s offer of 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers simply highlights the UK’s treatment of migrants as a resource to be exploited and then dispatched. 

But the trouble around us is, curiously, not being balanced out by any discernible benefits. The only demonstrable Brexit ‘win’ so far has been the tentative announcement of a trade deal with Australia – yet to be finalised – and which would add under a tenth of 1% to the UK’s economy.

The country is injured enough not to need insult, but recent weeks delivered a further blow. On his trip to the US, the Prime Minister conceded that a trade deal with America would not, after all, be imminent. Ministers freely concede that such a deal will not happen in President Joe Biden’s first term and few expect it to take place any time soon after that. This is not just a matter of the UK’s weak global position and leverage when negotiating with larger partners. It is not even about the tiny advantages of a US deal (0.2% added to the UK’s GDP by the Government’s own estimates) compared to the loss from leaving the EU (5%). It is that a US deal was trailed as Brexit’s great prize: a like-for-like replacement for the EU and the sign of Britain’s buccaneering entrance to freedom. Now, at the moment of truth, the Brexiters shrug and say that it doesn’t even matter.

Britain appears doomed to endure a succession of economic convulsions – not through involuntary global movements, but by a direct failure to tell the truth

Old problems, too, have not gone away. The fishing industry has called for the Government to renegotiate its EU deal in order to improve quotas and market access; while the agricultural sector, still reeling from new veterinary checks, is bracing itself to be undercut by producers in Australia and New Zealand. In the meantime, a post-Brexit lack of butchers threatens an imminent and unprecedented cull of 150,000 healthy pigs.

And more trouble is brewing. Reports indicate that the Government is now certain to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, upending its already fraught relationship with the EU and discarding the last crumbs of trust. It will prove yet another exercise in futility. Not only is article 16 designed to provide temporary relief for mediation, rather than an emergency exit from obligations, but the move will trigger a package of retaliatory measures from the EU – all the while further destabilising the political equilibrium in Northern Ireland. Its only purpose seems to be to provide nationalist red meat to the British tabloids and distract the public from Brexit’s failures. It is unlikely that the sense of triumph will last long. In the end, the Government is likely to be humiliated into another climbdown, because it is not strong enough to prevent it.

The Impossible Problem

The fundamental issue is, in effect, unchanged from 2016: Brexit cannot present opportunities that do not exist and the Government cannot invent benefits it does not have. 

No number of slogans or press releases about ‘Global Britain’ or ‘taking back control’ can eliminate new trade barriers, bureaucracy, or costs to business and consumers. No amount of boosterism from Boris Johnson can replace the EU workforce that has left, or magic up Britons to replace them. Nor will it trump the evidence of people’s eyes and ears. The public will see for themselves whether essentials are getting more or less plentiful and whether goods and services are getting more or less expensive; whether, in short, life is getting easier or harder.

But here lies the main challenge. In contrast to the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, the economic catastrophe of Brexit would be relatively easy to resolve. The UK could quite smoothly negotiate membership of the EU’s single market, provided it was willing to join the European Free Trade Association, harmonise regulations, and accept the free movement of people. But it cannot. Like Theresa May before him, Johnson will not countenance any move to participate in the single market, because he places ideology above the economy. In practical terms, he and his ministers refuse even to acknowledge the single market’s existence.

The moment we begin a conversation about solving the problem we have to identify what the problem actually is. In the current political climate, that is unacceptable. According to the Government’s narrative, Brexit has happened successfully and is now ‘done’ – except in Northern Ireland, where it must be overturned – and other than that it must scarcely be mentioned.

Temporary fixes, such as short-term visas, can only skirt around the problem, because they fail to address what has actually happened. A departure from the single market necessitated permanent trade barriers with our largest partner and neighbour, and a permanent problem cannot be mitigated by answers which are both temporary and inadequate. Consequently, Britain appears doomed to endure a succession of economic convulsions – not through involuntary global movements, but by a direct failure to tell the truth.

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The Government cannot be honest about why we are facing economic difficulty or about the trade-offs of sovereignty. Ministers emphasise the importance of other factors, such as the Coronavirus, and of course that is an important consideration. But the pandemic makes the Government’s position even less defensible. Downing Street knew about the crisis last year and, against every piece of expert advice, pursued a hard Brexit to the original timetable. Indeed, it rebuffed every EU offer to extend the Brexit transition period, even though the EU was ready and the UK was not. In other words, the Government saw the disaster that was coming and deliberately chose to aggravate it.

Brexit’s cheerleaders are divided about how to proceed. Some, like the Government, deny the importance of Brexit. Others, like Nigel Farage on GB News, pretend that the crisis is Europe-wide. For the most part, a right-wing media which would gleefully report on trouble elsewhere remains silent, and resolutely fails to attack the Government for the policies which have brought chaos here. The Labour Party also cannot land any kind of attack because it, too, appears to have joined the conspiracy. Although Keir Starmer has begun, tentatively, to discuss Brexit, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge the disaster of leaving the single market or call to rejoin it. Labour’s calculation seems to be that basic economic pragmatism carries too great a political risk; the Opposition cannot offer to help the electorate in case it offends them.

Telling the Truth

The truth is that Brexit has infantilised British discourse and the British people. Political leaders refuse to tell voters what has happened and why for fear of upsetting or disappointing them. The Conservatives gaslight voters and Labour is scared of them.

Brexit is, in effect, the disease that dare not speak its name: its effects are toxifying the body politic but no doctor is brave enough to diagnose it. As a result, the Government cannot be held to account and the illness must simply spread.

This is not about relitigating the past or arguing about whether or not Brexit should have happened. It has. But someone in power now needs the courage to admit what it meant so that we can be honest about the cure.

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The post The Disaster that Dare Not Speak Its Name appeared first on Byline Times.

All Change at the Mail: Political Machinations or Publishing Priorities?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 11:59pm in

All Change at the MailPolitical Machinations Or Publishing Priorities?

Mic Wright looks at the replacement of Geordie Greig as editor of the Daily Mail, and whether the shadow of Paul Dacre has blighted his successor

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When the news broke yesterday that Daily Mail editor Geordie Greig is stepping down by the end of the week – shunted into a non-job as the newspaper’s news “consulting editor” – to make way for Mail on Sunday editor Ted Verity and a combined seven-day operation at the two titles, many people’s response was to cry: Ah-ha! Greig criticised the Johnson Government in a series of front pages and now he’s gone…

These theories often included references to Verity as ‘Paul Dacre’s man’, as if the newspaper’s former editor – who left his position as chair of the Daily Mail’s parent company Associated Newspapers at the beginning of this month – was the puppet-master. 

In truth, the explanations are probably more prosaic, less about external politics, and more about internal cost savings at the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, as the papers’ proprietor – Lord Rothermere – moves to finalise the deal to take the Daily Mail and General Trust holding private.

The notion that Conservative anger at Greig would lead to Lord Rothermere bouncing him out of the editor’s chair was laughed-off by one former Mail staffer, who said: “As if Associated lets the Government pick its editors!” 

Oxford-educated Edward ‘Ted’ Verity – a former editor of the Irish Daily Mail who replaced Greig at the Mail On Sunday in 2018 – is a company man. He’s been with Associated since 1990 and was variously described to me by people who have worked with him as “a pleaser”, “astonishingly awful”, “keen to demonstrate how hard he was”, “a total nightmare”, “obsessed with waging a ‘war on woke’” and “old school”. 

That Paul Dacre – a man whose morning briefings were described as “the vagina monologues” by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News due to his tendency to pepper them with the word “c***” – was headmaster of that ‘school’ for 26 years should provide some idea of Verity’s training.

When Verity was promoted to executive editor of the Mail On Sunday in 2008, Associated sources described him as “Dacre’s golden boy”. 


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Former Labour MP David Miliband was one of Verity’s contemporaries at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. When the elder Miliband brother failed to win the party’s leadership in 2010, the Mail man penned a reminiscence about the university years.

He wrote: “I sat in the oak-panelled dining hall of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, munching toast and marmalade for breakfast and agreeing with my fellow first-year students that one of our number was a future Prime Minister: David Miliband… None of us had ever met anyone like him – steeped in politics, burning with political ambition and know-how and seemingly born to be leader of the party he’d been campaigning for since the age of nine.”

If Miliband was “born to be leader” but whiffed it, Verity has been more astute in his career. As well as being a close ally of Dacre, he is on the right side – the hard-right side, you might say – of Martin Clarke, the equally demotic MailOnline boss. A company source told the Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson yesterday that the move to sideline Greig was a “power grab by Clarke”. 

There are also other potential reasons for Greig’s ousting that go beyond the (no) fun and games of Associated Kremlinology.

Greig, like Verity, is Oxford-educated but he is also a product of Eton and a courtier family (his father Sir Carron Greig was a gentleman usher for Queen Elizabeth, as well as a former army intelligence officer and businessman; while his twin sister Laura was lady-in-waiting to Diana, Princess of Wales).

Despite describing his first stint at the Mail – his second job after starting out as a reporter on the South East London and Kentish Mercury newspaper – as being “its most junior reporter on the graveyard shift”, Greig has never actually been an ordinary hack. 

An Old Etonian with an Oxford education and royal connections, Greig worked his way through the British media with inherited courtier’s finesse. After a brief period at Sunday Today (where Alastair Campbell was briefly the news editor), he moved to The Sunday Times in 1987, quickly becoming its arts correspondent then its ‘man in New York’ in 1991. He came back to London in 1995 to take up the post of literary editor before jumping to his spiritual home – the toff’s bible, Tatler, in 1999. 

A decade later, in 2009, Greig became a courtier to a new branch of aristocracy when he became editor of the Evening Standard after the Lebedevs acquired a controlling stake. Greig was friendly with Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev before he was hired. His previous boss, Conde Nast’s Nicholas Coleridge described him to the Guardian at the time of that move as “the world’s greatest networker”. 

That is why despite the nothing title – consulting editor – bestowed upon him in the Mail’s early evening of the sharp elbows, it is highly likely that Greig will quickly reappear in another senior editorial role elsewhere soon. And, unlike his recent nemesis Dacre, his next career move is unlikely to be an attempt to secure some government sinecure – he’s in with a more permanent establishment. 

As for Verity, he’ll be a far more pugnacious editor of the Daily Mail than Greig has been and will be far more likely to side with the Government. He reset the Mail on Sunday to a hard-Brexiter line after Greig’s Remainer years and made it markedly more Islamophobic in its coverage. He is currently – alongside Martin Clarke – enmeshed in the newspaper’s court battle with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. 


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Brian Cathcart

Verity is also less of a delegator than Greig. In November 2020, Private Eye reported that seemingly innocuous images of Carrie Symonds – now the Prime Minister’s wife – in fancy dress during her university days had been set to appear on the Mail on Sunday’s front page.

They were allegedly spiked after a phone call from James Slack – an ex-Mail political editor who was Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson at the time and is now the Sun’s deputy editor – alongside an intervention from the Sun’s political editor and former boyfriend of Carrie Johnson, Harry Cole. Finally, there was a call from the Prime Minister himself. Verity was on holiday but is still said to have stepped in to overrule the decision of his then deputies, Leaf Kalfayan and Dave Dillon, to run the photos. 

But, while Verity is considered far more amenable to Boris Johnson’s Government than Greig by both observers and Associated insiders, several former Mail staffers made the same point to me: it is a mistake to think that politics is the main driver of sales for the Daily Mail. It is not. Even under Dacre, the newspaper had periods of hammering the Conservative Party.

The Mail often has an agenda of its own and enjoys giving a Conservative Government a bloody nose. 

Boris Johnson may have talked about ‘borrowing’ votes from the so-called ‘Red Wall’ but, when it comes to ‘Middle England’, the Daily Mail considers itself eternally elected as its champion. The person in the editor’s chair at any one time is almost incidental – particularly when another promotion during the Associated reshuffle went to Lord Rothermere’s 27-year-old heir, Vere Harmsworth. 

Described by Tatler as “a chihuahua-obsessed, polo-playing hunk with a heart”, Harmsworth – who has worked as a “consultant” – has one true qualification for becoming a managing director in his father’s new pride and joy, Mail+: his DNA.

Ted Verity has worked for Associated for 31 years, but he is a useful servant. Lord Rothermere is taking the company private because he thinks in legacies rather than editorships or the lifetime of mere governments. 

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‘Nazanin’s Story Shames This Country’: Boris Johnson’s Apathy Continues Towards Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 2:27am in

‘Nazanin’s Story Shames This Country’Boris Johnson’s Apathy Continues Towards Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Stephen Delahunty evaluates the Government’s current approach to Iran, the debt owed to the country, and the plight of the imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

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Shouts of “shame” rang out around Westminster Hall in Parliament yesterday as a statement was read out on behalf of Richard Ratcliffe – claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had walked past and ignored him during his 21-day hunger strike.

The husband of Iranian-British dual-national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ended his protest at the Government’s inaction in his wife’s case after three weeks spent camped outside the Foreign Office without food. He described Johnson’s absence as “telling”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016. In September of that year, she was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of “plotting to topple the Iranian Government”. She was accused by the country of running an “online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said that she was in Tehran on holiday and not to train journalists. However, in 2017, then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson mistakenly said of her case: “She was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it, at the very limit.” He later apologised for the remark.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband is calling on the UK Government to pay a £400 million debt to Tehran that is owed as part of a deal that was struck with its former close ally, the Shah of Iran, in the 1970s. It is a payment which British ministers have already acknowledged is owed in letters to the lawyers of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

It is largely accepted that the non-payment of the debt has contributed to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s continued detention. Her local MP, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, has described it as the “elephant in the room”.

During the parliamentary debate on the issue, there was clear cross-party support for the Government to pay the debt and secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release – in what one MP described as nothing short of “failed diplomacy”.

Siddiq said that she was “increasingly frustrated” with the Government’s approach and that there was “no question about the fact that the debt is linked to Nazanin’s case”.


Making A MockeryI Witnessed Boris Johnson’sCasual Attitude to Yemeni Lives

Richard Ratcliffe went on hunger strike because he felt that he had no other option, Siddiq said. “He did it because he thinks the upper echelons of Government are not helping with his wife’s plight,” the Hampstead and Kilburn MP said. “I’m very disappointed to say that, in the three weeks that Richard was outside the Foreign Office starving himself, the Prime Minister of our country did not come to visit him.”

A day before the debate, Siddiq described her “shock” at being warned by parliamentary clerks not to make reference in Parliament to the £400 million debt, for fear of prejudicing court proceedings. Despite having raised the issue multiple times before, Siddiq said that she has never been given this warning previously.

“Why do Nazanin’s and the others’ lives matter so little that they can be left hostage for years over the Government’s debt?” Richard Ratcliffe said, in response. “Why is Parliament not allowed to ask the Government to explain? What really is the blockage here?”

The clerks’ letter was issued despite peers discussing the debt for more than half an hour on Monday. They gasped as Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said that paying the debt would undoubtedly be seen as a hostage payment and something that would not be in the Government’s interests.

Lord Goldsmith also repeatedly said that the debt was owed to pre-revolutionary Iran, suggesting that the Government may not believe that the debt was owed to the current regime. He was challenged to accept that the debt was a payment that the Government had been ordered to pay by an international court of arbitration.

A Sixth Christmas Apart

The Government’s unwillingness to pay the current regime is undoubtedly tied to the fact that the UK now considers Iran a threat, contrary to the historic ties of the two nations. The debt is owed from a deal struck with its close ally the Shah who was installed following a UK-US covert operation, known as ‘Boot’, in 1953. 

The Shah ruled for a quarter of a century with the help of a notoriously brutal internal security service, SAVAK, which the UK helped to train. In the mid-1970s, the UK sold more than 1,500 Chieftain battle tanks worth £1.25 billion to its close ally. 

Iran paid £600 million for the tanks in advance, but the UK’s arms sales export subsidiary, the International Military Services, refused to deliver the remaining weaponry when the Shah was deposed. Only 185 tanks had been delivered.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis said during yesterday’s debate that the fate of Zaghari-Ratcliffe “should not be tied to geopolitics and to arms deals”, but declassified files suggest that the Government has a decades-long history of negotiating geo-politically risky deals with Iran.

Indeed, it is clear then the UK Government negotiates with Iran when it suits its own interests and many MPs yesterday questioned when Johnson’s Government would start acting in the interest of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. 

Several MPs pressed Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly to outline what other options the Government has considered such as “translating that debt into humanitarian aid” to act as “a face saving mechanism”. 

Cleverly would not go into details but expressed his concern for Zaghari-Ratcliffe and all detained British nationals in Iran and their families. “Their welfare remains a top priority for this Government,” he added.

At the end of the debate, Siddiq read out a statement from Richard Ratcliffe – marking the 2,054th day of his wife’s detention. 

“We are approaching our sixth Christmas apart. A little girl has been without her mother for five-and-a-half years now. It did not have to be like this,” it read.

“The Prime Minister did not visit me on hunger strike, though he did pass me one day without coming over. His Government continues to put British citizens in harm’s way, Nazanin’s story shames this country.”

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Peter Oborne’s Diary October 2021: The Capture of UK Politics by Big Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 11:42pm in

October 2021The Capture of UK Politics By Big Money

Exclusive to print for a month, Peter Oborne shares his observations of the political media class. For the latest diary subscribe to the November Digital Edition

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On the Payroll

OLIVER DOWDEN, THE NEW CONSERVATIVE CHAIRMAN, faces an urgent and destructive problem: his co-chairman Ben Elliott. Dowden needs rid of Elliott, who has already done great damage to the party and threatens to do much more. 

Elliott had no serious political experience before becoming treasurer for his close friend Lord Zac Goldsmith’s Islamophobic London mayoral campaign. His credentials for the job of party chair lay in his experience as a fixer for the super-rich. His company, Quintessentially, makes its money by brokering billionaires into the highest levels of British society. Elliott now does something very similar for the Conservative Party. 

Pay enough and you can have dinner with Boris Johnson or Rishi Sunak. Johnson’s decision to appoint Elliott as party chairman was a powerful and unambiguous statement that donors are more important than members. As the Pandora Papers demonstrate, he has shown rotten judgment over accepting donations and the presence of Elliott as chairman of the Conservative Party is proof of the capture of British politics by big money. 

Reality Czech Required 

WHICH BRINGS ME ONTO THE BBC, which alongside with the Guardian, led the investigation into the Pandora Papers in the UK. 

BBC reporters were enthusiastic about reporting foreign beneficiaries from secret offshore accounts. When it came to Conservative donors, the corporation became craven.

The day after the news broke that several donors were implicated, Boris Johnson gave a 20-minute interview to Nick Robinson on the Today programme. Incredibly, Robinson did not even raise the issue. In telling contrast, the BBC sent a reporter to Czechoslovakia to ambush the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, with questions about his failure to declare investments in an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12 million in the south of France. The readiness to tackle a foreign leader, while giving deferential treatment to the British Prime Minister, once again raises serious questions about the independence of the BBC. 

I will fight to the death for the BBC, which is one of our greatest national assets, but it’s badly let down by its news service. Again and again, it refuses to hold the Johnson Government to account over corruption allegations and the epidemic of ministerial lying. The latest example is particularly grim. 


Peter Oborne’s Diary September 2021 The Magic Circle of Client Journalism
Peter Oborne

Oligarchy Openness

LAST MONTH, THE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSED A LAW aimed at reducing the influence of the super-rich in politics.

The bill requires citizens to register as oligarchs if they own significant financial assets and media outlets, while prohibiting wealthy individuals from funding political parties. I have long believed that it is time we considered something similar here in Britain. The Pandora papers show that the sooner it’s introduced the better.

Problems In Lebanon

IT IS NOT JUST BRITAIN THAT HAS BEEN SUFFERING a petrol shortage. Outside my hotel in Beirut last month, the queue for petrol stretched as far as the eye could see. I walked along it talking to the drivers, some of whom had been waiting for as long as 10 hours. Many told me they had lost their jobs and life savings thanks to soaraway inflation and financial collapse. Those who had stayed in work have seen the value of their salaries slashed by 90%. 

Grotesque financial mismanagement and corruption by the country’s billionaires, who have run Lebanon since the 1980s, is responsible for the latest shambles, and no one should be surprised to learn that the new Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, and the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, have both been named in the Pandora Papers as hiding their wealth in tax havens. Many do not like it, but Hezbollah has been the only force for stability. With the state powerless or indifferent, it has acted on its own to defy the US sanctions regime and bring in desperately needed oil from Iran through Syria. Opinion polls show that its vote is holding up strongly ahead of next year’s elections.

Hard Act to Follow

THE GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER ALEX FERGUSON is famously left-wing, but he becomes more like Margaret Thatcher every day. 

She made life impossible for successors and so does Ferguson, the latest example being his indiscreet and disloyal criticism of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s handling of Cristiano Ronaldo. Just as the Conservatives spent 13 years in the wilderness after Thatcher’s departure, I wonder whether Manchester United can ever recover its greatness with Ferguson a meddling presence undermining anyone who becomes manager of the team he curated with such distinction.

Sense of Service

NOT LONG BEFORE HE DIED, I asked Peter Carington about the Military Cross he earned as a tank commander during World War Two, an episode he didn’t even mention in his autobiography. He dismissed his award as “pot luck”. 

Everyone I ever spoke to who fought in the war was the same. Perhaps it is inevitable after a long period of relative peace, but I think we have lost a sense of duty, of humility and the sacrifices made by others. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel attended the Annual Service of Commemoration at Westminster Abbey for those who fought and died in the battle of Britain 80 years ago. After the service, she tweeted a picture of herself. She looked elegant and well-dressed; it was a fetching picture beyond doubt – but the service was not about her: it was about the very brave people who died in the fight against fascism.

For the latest Oborne diary subscribe to the November Digital Edition

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COP26: A Summit of Big Promises and Not Enough Action

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 4:01am in

COP26A Summit of Big Promises and Not Enough Action

The Government’s lack of commitment to ending fossil fuel production was indicative of a disappointing climate change conference, says Thomas Perrett

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As COP26 began in Glasgow, the Prime Minister enthusiastically proclaimed the significance of the conference in providing a final chance to halt ecological breakdown.

In his opening speech, he appeared to recognise the devastating ramifications of inaction on climate change, stating that “the children who will judge us are children not yet born, and their children, and we are now coming centre stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity and we mustn’t fluff our lines or miss our cue, because if we fail, they will not forgive us”.

He continued: “They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn. They will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today, and they will be right.”

At COP26’s conclusion, the participating nations reached an agreement to “accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies and adaptation of policies of transition towards low-emissions energy systems” – a deal which included provisions to “phase-down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable”.

This marked a change from the original iteration of the deal, which had promised to phase-out fossil fuel power entirely,.

The revision drew criticism from several groups, including Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa, the director of which, Mohamed Adow, was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “The needs of the world’s vulnerable people have been sacrificed on the altar of the rich world’s selfishness. The outcome here reflects a COP held in the rich world and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world.”


Boris Johnson and Climate DenialCan A Leopard Really Change Its Spots?
Adam Bienkov

Other voices from the Global South expressed their frustration at the meagre outcomes of COP26. Lia Nicholson, delegate for Antigua and Barbuda, said: “We recognise the presidency’s efforts to try and create a space to find common ground. The final landing zone, however, is not even close to capturing what we had hoped.”

The COP26 agreement expressed “deep regret” at the failures of developed nations to mobilise $100 billion to facilitate climate mitigation measures in the Global South by 2020.

The inadequacy of the conclusions reached at the summit were reflected in a report by the Climate Action Tracker, which predicted that although many countries’ long-term climate commitments seemed pragmatic, the more tangible 2030 targets set by the majority of nations would result in 2.4C of warming by the end of the century. The report’s co-author, Nikolas Hohne, has argued that the findings, which excoriated countries such as China, India and Vietnam for failing to phase-out coal power, presented a “reality check” for world leaders.

Despite the Prime Minister’s claims that COP26 signalled a “death knell” for coal power and that a “game-changing agreement” had been reached in the battle against climate change, Britain’s climate commitments have been met with criticism.

Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Ed Miliband claimed that, as a result of the summit, “keeping 1.5C alive is frankly in intensive care” and that a “chasm” still separates the rhetoric commitments that many of the participants – including the UK – have made to climate mitigation from the grim realities which are now due to unfold.

Throughout COP26, Boris Johnson committed the UK to a series of international agreements seeking to reverse the effects of deforestation and methane production, including the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use, signed by 131 world leaders, in which 12 donor countries have aimed to provide $12 billion of public climate finance to counteract deforestation by 2030, and a £110 million commitment to clean infrastructure in Asia, announced by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

But, while Johnson continually lectured other parts of the world about their contribution to averting climate breakdown, COP26 exposed the UK’s lack of a coherent strategy for phasing-out domestic fossil fuel production.

Many of the country’s contributions towards international funds have since been exposed as woefully inadequate. On the second day of COP26, for instance, Johnson pledged £1 billion towards international climate finance, which would take the UK’s total climate commitments to £12.6 billion. However, the money will only be contributed if the British economy grows as forecast, and is expected to be donated from the UK’s aid budget, which runs counter to an agreement brokered by the UN which promulgated that new climate finance contributions were required to be “new and additional”.


Even as the World Burns,Johnson has to Play hisAnti-Immigrant Fiddle
Hardeep Matharu

Johnson’s insubstantial climate finance contributions drew criticism from Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace’s head of politics, who described his proposals as “a complete distraction”, arguing that “it’s not new money and it’s not even guaranteed”. She went on to criticise the Prime Minister for having “left the door open to new oil and gas licences at a time when climate scientists and energy experts have made clear this is incompatible with the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees”. 

The Government’s inability to phase-out new fossil fuel production was among the most galling aspects of its presence at COP26, demonstrating the futility of criticising other nations for failing to do the same. A recent report by the New Economics Foundation think tank has shown that at least 40 new oil and gas projects in Britain are due to be confirmed before 2025, with the potential to emit a combined total of 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas – almost three times the country’s annual emissions. 

Moreover, the report examined British influence in financing overseas oil and gas infrastructure in Mozambique, where the Government has pledged the equivalent of $1.15 billion to financing a project which could emit up to 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2. 

The UK Government is currently facing a legal challenge from environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth, which back in April was given permission to sue on the basis that the project in Mozambique was unaligned with Britain’s commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Will Rundle, of the organisation’s legal team, described the Government’s hypocrisy as “astounding,” arguing that “on the one hand, it claims to be a climate leader, and on the other, we are providing $1 billion in financial support to a new gas mega-project that will sabotage all our efforts to stop climate breakdown”.

Johnson has also been heavily criticised for failing to rule out the continued development of a new coking coal mine in Cumbria. When repeatedly questioned on the issue, he has failed to provide a coherent answer, stating that he is “not in favour of more coal” but that he is unable to rule out the coal mine, which the Green Alliance think tank estimates could release 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 annually until 2049.

But recent Government inaction on climate change is part of a wider pattern. The Chancellor’s October Budget, which included investing £21 billion in road infrastructure and halving domestic air passenger duties, in addition to freezing duties on fossil fuel used by cars for the twelfth consecutive year, was criticised by Government advisory body the Climate Change Committee. Its head, Chris Stark, described the Budget as a “market-based approach” to achieving net zero, which contrasts sharply with the Labour Party’s proposed plan to spend £280 billion on green capital investment by 2030.

Furthermore, the green investments which Rishi Sunak has promised are themselves insufficient and highly unlikely to spur the decarbonisation of the economy. Only £1.5 billion of the proposed funding for public transport in Britain’s cities was new money, and the entire stimulus package for climate change fell £55.1 billion short of what was required to adequately address the scale of the climate crisis, according to The Green Alliance. 


COP President’s Decade of DefendingFossil Fuel Industry andTorpedoing Climate Action
Nafeez Ahmed

Another widely criticised element of Sunak’s Budget was the insufficient funding available for facilitating the decarbonisation of the housing sector, which is currently responsible for leaking 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Sunak only proposed a partial subsidy for 30,000 heat pumps per year for three years, despite the Government’s plans to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028, phasing-out gas boilers.

Moreover, an independent review of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy by the Climate Change Committee found that “concerns remain” regarding the implementation of the Government’s heat and buildings strategy which backs the electrification of Britain’s housing stock. It stated: “While there are some efforts to improve information, enforcement and skills, concerns remain in these areas. Funding overall, and specifically for heat networks, the public sector and heat pumps, appears to be relatively low.”

It is clear that the Government’s domestic policies have been woefully insufficient in divesting from oil and gas infrastructure, in retrofitting housing and in decarbonising transport. Yet, during COP26, its commitments largely focused on ensuring that other countries, such as China, accelerate the development of clean energy. China, meanwhile, is home to approximately two-thirds of high speed rail capacity, and has lower per capita emissions than Britain. 

While the Government’s commitments to international schemes to eliminate deforestation and reduce methane emissions represent improvements on past pledges, the hypocrisy of its pronouncements on other countries’ climate policies was one of COP26’s most striking aspects.

The Government’s domestic policies, which have prolonged the existence of fossil fuel production overseas as well as in Britain, provide a stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s lofty proclamations that this country is a world leader on climate change. If his administration is to set an example to the rest of the world in the aftermath of COP26, it must choose to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

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Predatory Power: I Witnessed the Conservative Party’s Sleaze Culture When I Was an MP

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/11/2021 - 12:09am in

Predatory PowerI Witnessed the Conservative Party’sSleaze CultureWhen I Was an MP

Parliament can often seem like a moral vacuum, says former Labour MP Emma Dent Coad

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I witnessed a lot of bad behaviour in Westminster during my two-and-a-half years as MP for Kensington. This was often, though not always, fuelled by alcohol. I well remember one evening on the Commons Terrace, watching a young woman surrounded by guffawing drunk older men, deliberately getting her drunk. They looked like vultures circling their victim. I decided to wait until she went to the loo, then offered to put her safely in a taxi.

I have spent decades in the male-dominated world of design and architecture publishing, which I felt was professional and respectful. I was therefore surprised to step into the Westminster time-warp, where a crude, seaside-postcard-esque, slap-and-tickle atmosphere continues to predominate.

Coming from the outside world to Westminster, you expect extreme formality, archaic uniforms and customs peculiar to the Mother of All Parliaments, but it was a shock to find a work environment in which sexual predation is normalised.

My staff suffered it, and we always reported it. I even had my leg stroked by a passing House of Lords member, during an introductory tour of the Palace of Westminster. Quite an introduction. So, when the ‘list of shame’ collated by staff relating to MPs’ conduct began to circulate in November 2017 – where the mildest comments were “inappropriate with female staff”, and the most extreme are unprintable – I was no longer surprised.

Then, of course, was the mistreatment of staff through various other forms of bullying and harassment. Westminster is a highly charged place; people get very stressed and tired, and staff are blamed for issues they may not have been able to foresee. One woman MP, whose staff office was in my corridor, would scream so loud at her aides that we could hear her with the doors closed. My own women staff would go to the loos to offer support for the poor victims, who would arrive sobbing uncontrollably. Certain MPs were famous for it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, in a Government led by a man with an intimate relationship with sleaze, there is a considerable overlap between the leg-strokers and chest-oglers, the shouters, the ‘drunk before sundowners’ – and the MPs accused of financial impropriety, rule-bending, and downright fraud. These MPs cling to excuses and mitigating circumstances, and I’ve heard a few. But none of these forgive the sexual predation or the sheer cupidity of MPs now being exposed on a daily basis.


How Political Corruption Worksin the UK
Sam Bright

As far as expenses were concerned, I was a rank amateur. There were moments soon after the Grenfell Tower fire, after a relentless day of phone calls, meetings and votes, that I just wanted to fall into a taxi and cry. But after long, complex discussions with the regulating body IPSA about what was and was not permitted in relation to taxis, I just stopped claiming.

As far as I can recall, I claimed for just three taxi fares in my 30 months, when going home on the tube after a late vote was not an option. I claimed nothing else at all. I know I was lucky in that I live in my constituency five minutes from the tube, have a travel pass, and my family are past the need for childcare. I’m also no fan of the transactional nature of ‘treats’ and what may be expected in return. So, when offered a meal out, my response was “meet me; don’t treat me”. I’m afraid that, in Westminster, I was little fun at all.

Consequently, when I hear about the MPs who grope their staff, call sexualised comments ‘banter’, cook the books, jet off to the Caribbean, demand extraordinary expenses, have second, third or apparently fourth jobs, who lobby, beg and work the old boys’ or old girls’ networks, my only response is that there is no excuse. They are simply displaying the worst traits of our political system, and our society.

Vested Interests

During my time in Parliament, I met three housing secretaries, and it would be hard to say which of them was least interested in tackling the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire. None of them had any knowledge or experience in the world of architecture or construction, and none were in the least bit interested in listening to my 40 years of knowledge. I kept thinking, I clearly haven’t explained in enough detail, or with enough persuasion, to get the message through.

Yet, whatever tactic I used, it was clear that they had a basic moral deficit. Each parroted the same usual platitudes, in an effort to eject me from their office as quickly and as pain-free as possible. The last of the three, as we now know, was heavily involved with senior figures in the property industry. Have any of his decisions been reviewed? No.

In this regard, I remember my first day sitting in the House of Commons next to a friendly MP, who pointed out the Conservatives opposite one by one: “Millionaire, millionaire, millionaire, landlord, landlord, billionaire, married to millionaire, banker, banker, banker,” they listed.

I met many Conservative MPs whose values I shared, despite our preferred methods of dealing with social problems diverging radically. Many of them are perfectly decent, honest and eager to serve their constituents; to progress through hard work and integrity. Many are good public servants. And many of them are appalled by the current crisis of lies, greed and corruption.

All we can do, for now, is to set the highest possible standards for ourselves, draw evidenced attention to the conduct of the worst culprits, and watch as their reputations fester and fade, and their careers founder. It will happen.

Emma Dent Coad was the Labour MP for Kensington from 2017 to 2019

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Boris Johnson’s Kodak Moment on Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2021 - 8:19pm in

Boris Johnson’s Kodak MomentOn Climate Change

The UK must uncouple itself from redundant fossil fuels and embrace energy innovation, contend James Arbib and Nafeez Ahmed

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On the eve of the COP26 UN climate summit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of the UK’s new plan for net zero – including a strategy to reach 100% clean electricity generation by 2035 – was a welcome development. But, although the goal is the right one, the means are questionable. In fact, the devil in the detail could slow, rather than accelerate, Britain’s path to net zero prosperity – and the world’s, if other countries follow the UK’s example.

Critics were quick to dismiss the Prime Minister’s proposals, depicting decarbonisation as the villain – and claiming more of it will only make our energy problems worse. 

They pointed to the slowing of wind speeds this year, which reduced the contribution of wind power to Britain’s electricity generation from about 22% to 14%. Thus, the argument went, it is a mistake to rely on ‘intermittent’ clean energy sources, and we should invest more in fossil fuels. 

But this argument is backwards. Our slow, half-baked deployment of solar, wind and batteries has made us more vulnerable to fluctuations in their supply, and therefore more dependent on foreign imports of expensive oil and gas from far-flung countries like Russia. Some 85% of homes in Britain still use gas for heating. 

As a result, we’re dependent on whether Russia turns on and off the tap. So, Johnson is right that we need more, not less, clean energy. But that means moving rapidly to deploy the most transformative and disruptive technologies, not clinging on as long as possible to doomed incumbents.


How ExxonMobilCaptured COP26
Nafeez Ahmed

And that requires a mindset shift. Solar, wind and batteries will not simply substitute for coal and gas, but create a totally new clean energy system with a fundamentally different architecture. Conventional analysts overlook this because they fail to understand the complex processes of disruption. An electric power system built on 100% solar, wind and batteries will be super-sized to deal with intermittency and to provide adequate power on the darkest days of winter. 

These clean technologies are already cheaper than fossil fuels in most parts of the world. Given their predictable cost curves, by 2030 they will be 10 times cheaper. This means we won’t need to invest trillions of taxpayer funds to deploy them. Rather, we only need to stop bailing out effectively bankrupt fossil fuel industries, and electrify key sectors such as heating and heavy industry, allowing markets to do the bulk of the work. This could get us to net zero in 15 years if we choose the right path.

The result would be a cheap, clean energy system – rather than one involving fossil fuels, hydrogen or nuclear. Due to the overcapacity of this solar, wind and battery system, for most of the year it will produce a huge surplus of power at effectively zero marginal cost. That in turn will cause many industrial processes to shift their demand patterns to take advantage of this free ‘Super Power’ – leading to the rapid decarbonisation of other sectors.

Once built, the system will have zero fossil fuel flows, making it resilient to the geopolitics, energy security risks and supply-side shocks beating down on Britain today.

A Disputed Climate

The scope for innovation in this system will be profound. Just as the smartphone spawned a dizzying array of disruptions across media, food, retail and beyond, we will electrify and power a vast range of services without carbon, and all manner of new business models will emerge. What’s more, we won’t suffer from fuel shortages or gas price spikes ever again. 

But the UK’s current net zero plan, which still sees important roles for carbon capture and storage, nuclear and hydrogen, would delay and decelerate this clean energy transformation. Neither hydrogen nor nuclear are disruptive. Both require huge infrastructure, investment, and long lead times. 

Alternatively, throwing more money at oil and gas projects, such as the one at the Cambo field in the North Sea – or trying to capture and store carbon – makes no economic sense given the superior economic performance of solar, wind and batteries. In fact, fossil projects are actually already stranded in the past, because they are far more expensive and vastly overvalued.

The Government’s failure to recognise this fact is because of its blindness to the speed and scale of disruption. Just as smartphones, digital cameras and cars disrupted landlines, analogue cameras and horses each within about 15 years, conventional energy industries too are about to face their ‘Kodak’ moment. 

Kodak – the iconic film-based camera company that once dominated its field – was disrupted by the exponentially improving superior economics and performance of its own 1975 invention, digital photography. Some 30 years later, Kodak filed for bankruptcy, and digital is ubiquitous. Today, most young people have never heard of Kodak.

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In the coming decades, fossil fuels and their associated industries will be a relic of history. They cannot escape the impacts of disruption. But if we fail to recognise how today’s disruptions will unfold, remaining wedded to incumbent conventional industries, Britain could face the worst of all worlds: a fragmented, outmoded and collapsing energy system, and a dangerous climate. 

As adoption of renewables accelerates, the utilisation rate for gas and coal will continue to drop. To keep the lights on we will soon end up subsidising conventional power sources even more than we already do.

So what’s really expensive and painful is not decarbonisation, but our refusal to concede that change is coming. Nothing could be clearer from the current convergence of climate, energy, and economic shocks which prove that the fossil fuel status quo and the conventional transport industries are in the midst of a vicious cycle of diminishing returns. By failing to go far enough, Johnson’s proposals could end up smugly sleepwalking Britain into its Kodak moment. 

In contrast, a 100% solar, wind and battery system along with a 100% electric vehicle fleet will face no security or supply issues. By accelerating the most promising clean disruptions, we can reach net zero while charging up a new era of economic revitalisation – making Britain one of the world’s first clean energy super powers.

James Arbib is a London-based technology investor and co-founder of independent technology forecasting think-tank RethinkX, who has advised the likes of BlackRock and Goldman Sachs. Dr Nafeez Ahmed is a systems theorist, senior analyst at RethinkX, and Byline Times reporter 

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