Boris Johnson

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

‘Great British Democracy’: Who Voted for This?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 9:17pm in

The UK's political system currently resembles an unelected autocracy rather than a truly representative democracy, writes former diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall

I feel a sense of utter helplessness and despair regarding the current political and economic situation in the UK. Amid all of the drama of recent weeks – the departure of Boris Johnson, the arrival of Prime Minister Liz Truss, the death of the Queen, the accession of King Charles III, and now the financial chaos unleashed by new Chancellor's mini budget, one thought keeps going through my head: we didn’t vote for this.

In the Foreign Office, we used to assess the quality of democracy in other countries not just by whether they held elections or not. Many countries possess this most basic component of democracy and yet are inherently undemocratic in nature, because the key levers of power are, in practice, controlled by one particular political faction or elite. 

Instead, we would look at the broader picture. To what extent are elections genuinely free and fair, and representative of the population as a whole? To what extent do checks and balances exist to guard against executive overreach – such as an effective second chamber, a free press, independent judiciary or active civil society? To what extent does the country respect broader democratic rights – such as freedom of information, expression and association, the right to form political parties or trade unions, or the equality and inclusivity of minority groups? 

This Government likes to claim that it is a champion of freedom and democracy – two words Liz Truss uses a lot in her speeches. And yet, it is increasingly behaving more like an unelected autocracy than a truly representative democracy.

In less than one week in early September, the UK acquired both a new head of state and a new head of government, without any input or say by the wider public. 

Upon the Queen’s death, King Charles automatically became the new monarch. The accession council to ratify that process was a mere formality. The decision to broadcast the ceremony on television for the first time did not make it any more democratic. 

The appointment of Liz Truss as the UK's new Prime Minister was equally undemocratic and, in some ways, even less transparent. 

There was little transparency in the process of ousting Boris Johnson, via privately submitted letters of no confidence to the secretive 1922 Committee, which supervises Conservative Party leadership contests. 

There was little transparency in the rounds of backroom bargaining and balloting of Conservative MPs to narrow the leadership contenders down to two finalists.

There was little transparency or democracy in the fact that only card-carrying members of the Conservative Party – a deeply unrepresentative group of the UK populace as a whole, representing less than 0.1% of the electorate and disproportionately white, male and older – were allowed to vote to decide who became the new leader and thus Prime Minister. 

Now Truss, the unelected head of the UK Government, has been able to institute the most radical set of economic reforms in recent history – despite having no explicit electoral mandate for this whatsoever.

Her reforms were not in the Conservative Party Manifesto, on which this Government was elected in 2019. Her Chancellor’s plans did not involve any vote of approval in the House of Commons – they were introduced without any debate or independent assessment of their impact, as the Office of Budget Responsibility was explicitly prevented from producing such an analysis.  

As the disastrous results roil the economy, the British public have no direct way to overturn them. 

The UK’s head of state, King Charles, cannot rein in the Government because, as an unelected monarch, his duty is to support the government of the day. 

The UK’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, cannot force a change of track by the Government because it is also an unelected body. It can ask questions and delay legislation but, ultimately, it has to defer to the elected House of Commons. Yet, the Commons has no say either, because the Government’s reforms have not required any legislation. The Opposition has not even been able to achieve a recall of Parliament to debate the current economic crisis. 

In theory, MPs could compel the Prime Minister to backtrack, by threatening a vote of no confidence. But, for this to succeed, a large number of Conservative MPs would need to vote against their own Government. Though many are reportedly unhappy about the Government’s trajectory, they are in practice unlikely to want to bring it down, lest it forces a general election in which, based on current polling, many would probably lose their seats. 

Nor can unhappy Tory MPs try to compel a change of Prime Minister through initiating another leadership contest because, under the current party rules, the new incumbent is safe from challenge for a year. If enough MPs become appalled by Truss’ leadership, they could insist upon a change in the rules – but they will know that it will stretch public tolerance to the limit to have yet another leadership competition within such a short space of time, let alone one which would again allow the wider electorate no say. 

A general election remains entirely in the gift of the governing party, which is hardly likely to go for one, given the risk of electoral wipeout. A public petition currently being circulated to demand an election does not have the ability to force one, even if millions of voters sign it. 

DON’T MISS A STORY

Sign up to email updates from Byline Times

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

Meanwhile, the Civil Service cannot act as a guardrail against executive overreach. Despite the fact that numerous Conservative critics have railed against it for allegedly 'thwarting' Government policy, in practice it is allowed only to offer its advice on policy and then implement it. Those who do dare to 'speak truth to power' risk losing their jobs – as exemplified by the sacking of Treasury Permanent Under Secretary, Tom Scholar, within days of the new Government taking office. 

Likewise, the judiciary cannot hold the Government to account for its mini budget as it did not break any laws. 

Though in theory we have a robust free press, in practice, much of the media is also failing in its duty to hold the Government to account. Some parts of the media are deeply compromised by being too closely associated with those in power. Newspaper owners and editors are rewarded with peerages for their 'loyalty' to the government of the day. Journalists are seduced with offers of special access, or revolve in and out of government themselves as special advisors. Critics of the government are shut out.  Other parts of the media, such as the BBC or Channel 4, are dependent on government for their funding or licenses to operate. 

Truss’ actions take the UK further down the same undemocratic path as her predecessor, Boris Johnson, who wrenched the UK out of the EU on the very hardest of terms, without any explicit mandate to do so, and against the will of a majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

His claim that he was enacting “the will of the people” contained deeply sinister authoritarian overtones, not least when you consider that under the UK's first past the post voting system, his party won with less than 50% of the overall votes cast.  

Whether you agreed with them or not, the lockdowns Johnson's Government imposed during the pandemic also represented an extraordinary intrusion of executive power over individual liberty. 

And, as has been well-documented, Johnson used his time in office to erode the few checks and balances on the executive which do exist within our system. His Government made unprecedentedly extensive use of so-called 'Henry VIII powers' – delegated legislation that allows ministers to amend or repeal primary legislation without having to create a new Act of Parliament that MPs must debate and vote on. Legislation was passed to limit rights of public protest; to circumscribe the powers of judicial review; and to increase government control over the Electoral Commission.

Johnson also stretched the boundaries of our unwritten constitution. He unlawfully prorogued Parliament to try to evade scrutiny of his Brexit strategy. He tried to change the rules governing the behaviour of MPs in Parliament to protect political allies such as Owen Paterson. He nominated political cronies and party donors to the House of Lords. 

On top of unleashing economic turmoil, Truss has reaffirmed her determination to pass legislation which would unilaterally breach the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, unless the EU agrees to renegotiate it on her terms. This is not just unlawful, but also fundamentally undemocratic, given that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland would prefer to keep the Protocol in place.  

Truss has declared that she has no need for an independent ethics advisor. She has also suggested that she would like to protect Boris Johnson from scrutiny by the parliamentary privileges committee over his actions during 'Partygate'. 

She has arrogantly dismissed critics of her economic strategy as out-of-touch or ill-informed. She is claiming, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the UK’s situation is no worse than that of other developed countries, and that the problems stem mainly from the war in Ukraine and the Coronavirus pandemic – rather than her own Government’s reckless actions. 

The famous joke in Soviet times was that there was 'no truth in Pravda, and no news in Izvestia'. I fear Britain is turning into a democracy where there is no longer much democracy. 

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat with more than 30 years experience, with postings in Bangkok, Washington, Delhi, Bogota and Tbilisi. She resigned from the Foreign Office in December 2019 because she felt unable to represent the Government’s position on Brexit with integrity

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

The Tufton Street Elite Takes Back Control of the Brexit Project

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 8:51pm in

The libertarian ideologues in Downing Street are taking a hammer to Boris Johnson’s Brexit coalition, says Sam Bright

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

Seventeen million votes were cast in favour of Britain’s departure from the EU in 2016 – a seismic event that has reframed British politics, even if it was a decision taken by a minority (37.4%) of eligible voters.

Within this sprawling coalition – 3.4 million more people supported Vote Leave than voted for the Conservatives in 2019 – were a number of internal contradictions, none more so than in relation to economics.

While Brexit voters are relatively united on social issues – Lord Michael Ashcroft’s poll of more than 12,000 people in the wake of the result showed relative harmony on the subjects of immigration, multiculturalism and liberalism (shown below) – they are not as symphonic on economic questions.

Photo: Lord Ashcroft

Leave voters were almost equally split on the question of whether capitalism is a force for good or ill, with 51% opting for the latter and 49% for the former. The 2016 British Social Attitudes Survey further reinforced this, showing how 55% of the most left-wing people in Britain voted to leave the EU, little different from the 48% figure among the most right-wing people.

In popular debate, Brexit has primarily been framed as a rebellion of ‘left-behind’ voters in former industrial areas. This of course has more than a kernel of truth – and was amplified by the shock of current and former Labour areas deciding to ally with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. However, while the ‘Red Wall’ narrative is compelling, it is an incomplete version of events. 

The south-east delivered the largest proportion of Leave voters – 15% of the national vote – and there were 4.1 million Brexit voters in London and the south-east, compared to a marginally higher 4.3 million in the north of England.

Brexit is an awkward alliance of small-state Thatcherites in the home counties who supported Brexit because they believe in the free market, and less affluent Red Wall voters who desire the state-led regeneration of their areas and local services.

As Deborah Mattinson, Keir Starmer’s director of strategy, argues in Beyond the Red Wall, Brexit promised to “bring the weaving sheds back into use in Accrington, reopen the mills, extend Darlington station, improve transport links across the whole of the north, create youth clubs and training opportunities, get us making things again. And growing things. And fishing things”.

This latter vision has, until now, been the dominant expression of Brexit in public debate and policy-making. Though the luminaries of Brexit – the likes of Daniel Hannan, Douglas Carswell and Matthew Elliott – are all disciples of a libertarian, small-state mindset, they have until now been drowned out by Boris Johnson’s interventionist rhetoric, promising “£350 million a week for the NHS”.

Johnson’s bluster and the cynical yet unifying anti-immigration tenor of the Brexit campaign, allowed him to ride the two horses, leading a critical mass of left-wing and right-wing Brexiters to water.

By contrast, the motif of Brexit among the libertarian crowd was the creation of ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ – slashing red tape and taxes in an effort to boost corporate investment, ostensibly emulating the south-east Asian nation. “If we are to thrive, our post-Brexit model should exactly be Singapore, a tiny country devoid of natural resources, but with a booming economy,” right-wing Brexiter Owen Paterson observed in November 2017.

Believing in the moral and economic superiority of free trade, these libertarian Brexiters were even relaxed on the subject of immigration. In the wake of the Johnson Government announcing a stricter, ‘points-based’ immigration system, the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), said that “by deliberately focusing on limiting low-skilled migration, the scheme is likely to have a significant negative impact on staffing levels in many industries, including the care system, construction and hospitality, especially in the short-term”.

However, as Johnson led the Leave campaign to an unlikely victory and himself into Downing Street, the libertarian ideology remained broadly in remission.

Masterminded by Dominic Cummings, the 2019 General Election provided further fuel for Johnson and his left-leaning version of Brexit, with the Prime Minister famously promising to deliver 40 new hospitals, 50,000 more nurses and ‘level-up’ left-behind areas of the UK.

The libertarian wing, sated by Johnson’s electoral success, didn’t put up much of a fight – choosing instead to cultivate new allies. Chief among this cohort was Liz Truss, who confederated with the Tufton Street think tanks – the influential, opaquely-funded pressure groups that advocate a radical free-market ethos – during her time as International Trade Secretary.

In October 2020, Guido Fawkes reported that Truss had appointed “a swathe of free market think tankers” to her “refreshed Strategic Trade Advisory Group” – a forum of businesses and academics, which meets regularly to consider the UK’s international trade policies.

These appointments included: Mark Littlewood, the director general of the IEA; Matt Kilcoyne, former senior staff member at the Adam Smith Institute and currently a director at the Initiative for Free Trade, founded by Daniel Hannan; and Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies.

Hannan himself was appointed as an advisor to the Board of Trade – a commercial body within the Department for International Trade – in September 2020. His Initiative for Free Trade was formerly based at 57 Tufton Street, sharing an office with Colvile’s Centre for Policy Studies, based around the corner from the Institute of Economic Affairs.

FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES. CLICK HERE TO FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

‘Britain is Now their Laboratory’

And so, after Truss’ recent elevation to the top job, this Tufton Street elite has a new HQ – 10 Downing Street. IEA director general Littlewood told Politico that Truss had spoken at IEA events more than “any other politician over the past 12 years”, and the new Prime Minister has begun to execute the agenda of her ideological tutors.

This was on display during Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s ‘mini budget’ last Friday, announcing an income tax cut for those earning more than £150,000 a year, a reversal of corporation tax and national insurance rises, cuts to stamp duty, and the introduction of low-tax, low-regulation zones across the country.

As former Downing Street advisor Tim Montgomerie said in the wake of Kwarteng’s statement, this was “a massive moment" for the IEA. "They’ve been advocating these policies for years," he wrote. "They incubated Truss and Kwarteng during their early years as MPs. Britain is now their laboratory.”

As Byline Times has previously revealed, at least five of Truss’ closest advisors are Tufton Street alumni – including her chief economic advisor – while six Cabinet ministers have links to radical right-wing lobbying groups in the US.

The economic theory behind these policies is to boost the income of supposed ‘wealth generators’ who will be able to invest and spend more – ultimately growing the size of the economy and increasing tax revenues. It is also hoped that diminished financial and bureaucratic restrictions on planning will increase the supply of homes and physical infrastructure.

This is an economic package borrowing from the most radical strain of right-wing thought; a clear departure from the Johnson era of state spending and (attempted) regional redistribution.

As a result of the tax measures outlined on Friday, the Government is effectively handing £1 billion to just 2,500 people, each of whom have an income in excess of £3.5 million. People earning £1 million a year will benefit by £55,000 a year – twice the average UK salary.

Households in London and the south-east are set to gain three times as much on average (£1,600) as those living in Wales, the north-east of England and Yorkshire (£500) next year. And a 50-year-old earning £1 million a year will have a lower marginal tax rate than a 28-year-old earning £50,000 (largely due to the latter’s student loan repayments).

Truss has even shown an affinity with the IEA’s liberal attitude to immigration, with reports over the weekend suggesting that the Prime Minister will introduce measures to incentivise the hiring of overseas workers in order to boost economic performance.

In just a fortnight, Truss and Kwarteng have dismantled the political project forged by Boris Johnson since 2016 – abandoning even the vague illusion of state redistribution promised by the former Prime Minister. Instead, the Tufton Street elite has been given the first opportunity to test its radical Singaporean theories. And we’re all the guinea pigs.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

Keir Starmer’s Labour is Starting to Believe it is Heading for Government

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 8:17pm in

Hope is overcoming fear for Labour delegates in Liverpool as they watch Liz Truss' Government begin to implode just weeks after its inception, reports Adam Bienkov

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

After 12 years in opposition, a strange new emotion is starting to take hold of delegates at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool: hope.

Across convention halls, bars and fringe rooms, party members are for the first time, since losing office in 2010, actually starting to believe that their time may be about to come again.

A YouGov poll on Monday found that Labour now has its largest lead over the Conservatives for decades. If repeated at a general election, Keir Starmer’s party would be projected to win a 182-seat majority. Tory MPs losing their seats would include Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith, Penny Mordaunt, Steve Baker, Grant Shapps, Andrea Leadsom, Andrea Jenkyns and Dominic Raab.

Such a victory would be an electoral wipeout on a scale even bigger than Tony Blair managed in 1997 and would be an extraordinary turnaround for the party, just a few short years after it suffered a humiliating general election defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson.

Yet as the economy teeters on the edge of disaster under Liz Truss, Labour delegates are not just starting to believe they are heading for Government, they are now beginning to prepare for what they will actually do when they get there.

MPs and Labour members are proposing bold solutions for everything from the climate crisis to devolution and the NHS. Not all of these proposals may appear particularly radical to some.

The Labour left’s view of Starmer, that he is too timid and fearful of drawing clear lines with the Conservatives, is still held by many here in Liverpool. Starmer's reluctance to endorse a conference motion calling for the party to back proportional representation in future elections, shows that party members are still looking for a bigger agenda from their leader than they are yet getting.

But after a couple of weeks in which the Truss Government has embarked on a calamitous experiment in hard-right economic theory, there are signs that the party is starting to gain the sort of political confidence that it has previously lacked.

Signs of this began on Sunday when Starmer announced Labour’s bold plans to massively invest in green energy, before the Shadow Transport Secretary on Monday committed the party to nationalising the UK’s railway networks. Elsewhere, Shadow Levelling-Up Secretary Lisa Nandy told Byline Times that the party plans to hand considerable new powers to city mayors and other regional leaders, including the ability to raise their own taxes. 

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE?
HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39.50 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.75 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

None of these measures are arguably a significant departure for the party, and indeed in some cases do not even go as far as pledges made under Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. However, the difference is that, for the first time since I started coming to these conferences under Ed Miliband’s leadership, it feels like the party has a real chance, if not outright likelihood, of actually enacting these policies in office. And that really does matter.

After 12 years of crippling austerity under David Cameron, Brexit chaos and inertia under Theresa May, divisive populism and lies under Boris Johnson, and now a hard-right and extreme economic agenda under Liz Truss, the possibility of a government taking even the smallest and simplest of steps to improve public services, tackle climate change and stabilise the economy feels, by contrast, like a genuinely radical departure.

Has Starmer Made his Own Luck?

In some ways, Keir Starmer has been incredibly lucky. For years, the Conservatives and their supporters in the press successfully portrayed Labour as reckless and irresponsible political hardliners. Although now regularly mocked on social media, David Cameron’s tweet warning of “chaos under Ed Miliband” was emblematic of a successful strategy of sowing doubt in voters’ minds about putting their trust back in the Labour Party.

But in just a few short years, the Conservative Party has completely abandoned that advantage, and instead succeeded in making Starmer’s party appear to be the most obviously responsible choice for worried voters at the next election.

As Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting pithily put it to the BBC ahead of Starmer’s conference speech on Tuesday: “The risk now isn’t change with Labour, it's continuity with the Conservatives."

Doubts will continue to remain about Labour among many of its natural supporters. The almost complete marginalisation of the left of the party, which has been very evident at this year’s conference, is at total odds with the platform which Starmer successfully stood on in order to become leader.

After years in which lying in office became the default behaviour under Boris Johnson, it is concerning that the man who is now most likely to become our next prime minister, stood for leader on a prospectus, large parts of which he has since abandoned.

But it is also possible that those shouting betrayal at Starmer may be speaking too soon. Like Tony Blair, whose words Keir Starmer will echo in his speech today, it is possible that the reality of a Starmer Government may be significantly more radical than its presentation may suggest.

As the possibility of a majority Labour Government continues to shift from an outside chance towards a racing certainty, it is possible that an increasingly confident Starmer operation may choose to shed more of the political caution and timidity which so defined the early years of his leadership.

It is also debatable whether the shift in Labour’s fortunes is due more to luck than judgement. Starmer’s former campaigns advisor Simon Fletcher has argued in these pages that the party risks attempting to win the next election by default, rather than through its own choices.

It is unarguably the case that Starmer has been lucky. At Labour’s conference this time last year, the party was well behind in the polls and there were even whispers of an imminent leadership challenge against him. That all changed after Boris Johnson chose to blow up his own Government over the 'Partygate' scandal and other matters, and after his successor chose to blow up the actual economy.

Starmer’s own relatively poor approval ratings also give credence to the argument that the recent surge in support for his party may have more to do with his luck in facing an imploding government, than in any individual strategic decisions he has made.

Yet in politics, as in life, luck only gets you so far. In order to win the next general election, the Labour Leader will have had to overcome a historically large Conservative majority in the face of a political press, which even now, remains largely in favour of the governing party. Even with the greatest luck in the world, these are not easy tasks and his party may fall short once again.

But while fear of a fifth defeat still grips delegates here in Liverpool, it is increasingly being replaced by hope instead. After 12 years of a chaotic and increasingly reckless Conservative Government, the Labour Party is beginning to set out a genuine alternative.

And while for some in Liverpool that alternative may seem too mild and too timid, for the first time in more than a decade, it is an alternative which the party actually looks likely to put into action.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

How an obscure intelligence-linked party fixed a second Brexit referendum and torpedoed Corbyn

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/09/2022 - 4:48am in

The pro-EU Renew party emerged from out of nowhere at the height of “Corbynmania,” pushing for a second Brexit referendum that led to the Labour leader’s demise. The intelligence backgrounds of Renew’s founders were kept under wraps – until now. When Britain’s little-remembered Renew Party officially launched in the heart of Westminster in February of 2018, its founders addressed a room of mostly empty chairs. The party’s youthful and little-known co-founder, Chris Coghlan, announced a bold pro-EU agenda centered on […]

The post How an obscure intelligence-linked party fixed a second Brexit referendum and torpedoed Corbyn appeared first on The Grayzone.

Liz Truss’ Economic Shock Doctrine Will Only Help the Richest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 10:33pm in

The Chancellor has announced a series of massive tax cuts for high earners and corporations, which have seen the pound slump and the value of Government bonds fall. Why is the Prime Minister risking turning an economic crisis into a disaster?

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

“Lower taxes lead to economic growth, there’s no doubt in my mind about that", said Liz Truss ahead of her Chancellor announcing the biggest series of tax cuts for high earners in decades.

The cut to the highest rate of tax, announced by Kwasi Kwarteng this morning, will reduce the tax bill of Britain’s 600,000 highest-paid people by an average of £10,000 a year, with cuts to corporation tax and the axing of the cap on bankers’ bonuses also putting millions of pounds into the pockets of the wealthiest.

Cuts to planned corporation tax rises will also be scrapped, with big businesses offered further tax cuts inside a nationwide series of "enterprise zones". Previous plans to clamp down on tax avoidance are also being wound back.

Truss and Kwarteng are justifying this bounty for Britain’s richest by claiming that it will somehow lead to a surge in economic growth. They claim that by making the richest richer, the rest of the country will benefit.

Hardly anyone else is convinced by this. Economists have long demonstrated that the main effect of cutting taxes on high earners is that they save more of their own money, rather than re-injecting it into the economy. 'Trickle-down' economics doesn’t work when the vast majority of the money is simply gushing in the other direction.

The financial markets don’t seem convinced either. The value of the pound against the dollar slumped following the announcement. Meanwhile, the value of Government bonds has fallen the largest amount since the last economic crisis.

So does Truss’ Government really believe that any of these tax cuts will significantly stimulate growth?

The Treasury claims that these policies will allow the UK's GDP to return to 2.5% at an unspecified point in the future. However, it isn’t putting its money where its mouth is.

At every other budget since George Osborne, the Chancellor has commissioned the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to assess what their measures will do to the UK’s growth rate. This time round, Kwarteng refused to do so and his spokespeople this morning repeatedly refused to say when, if ever, they expect the Government to meet its supposed ‘aim’ of reaching 2.5% GDP.

There are other signs that Truss and Kwarteng don’t really believe in their own spin. Giving his statement to the Commons, Kwarteng said that the package would somehow benefit ordinary working people.

Yet if he was so convinced by this, why did he not ask the Treasury to present any sort of distributional impact of his policies, as is normally done by the OBR?

The answer, as Kwarteng’s spokespeople refused to confirm to Byline Times this morning, is quite obviously because he knows that such an assessment would show a massive benefit to Britain’s wealthiest people, at the expense of its poorest.

By refusing to even make an assessment of the social impact of their plans, Truss and Chancellor are essentially revealing that they no longer care about distributing the UK's wealth to those who need it most. As Kwarteng himself told the House of Commons: “For too long in this country, we have indulged in a fight over redistribution."

The truth is that by censoring an independent assessment of his plans, Kwarteng is hiding the fact that the fight over redistribution is over and that the wealthiest side has won.

None of this should come as a surprise. Truss spent the leadership contest telling Conservative Party members that she believed in low taxes and was opposed to redistributing wealth to the least well-off. Some commentators suggested that this pitch was merely designed to win over her own party and that she would quickly pivot to a more centre-ground position once she became Prime Minister.

Today’s announcement shows that those predictions were wrong. Following three years in which Boris Johnson pledged to 'level-up' the country, Truss and her Government has now all but abandoned any pretence of seeking to more fairly share the wealth of the nation.

Indeed, while Kwarteng today announced that bankers will be free to earn more in bonuses, low earners will have their Universal Credit payments cut, if they fail to increase their hours. Meanwhile workers will see their right to strike in order to win higher wages restricted.

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE?
HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39.50 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.75 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

One might expect that such an agenda would please Truss’ Tories, as the Conservatives have traditionally presented themselves as the party of tax cuts. Yet the response to Kwarteng’s announcements this morning on the Conservative benches was incredibly muted. Privately, many Conservative MPs – a large majority of whom did not back Truss to be leader – are terrified that she is leading the UK to economic disaster.

But by engaging on this course anyway, Truss and her party are using the UK as a laboratory for the hardline right-wing economics of her closest advisors. These include senior figures from some of the most notorious, and shadily-funded, free market pressure groups in the country.

Few independent economists believe that the Government's experiment will be successful. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has already suggested that Kwarteng’s plans will lead to an unsustainable increase in the size of the Government’s budget deficit. Treasury spokespeople this morning were unable to point to a single other country which is responding to the current crisis in this same way.

Finding a motive for implementing these extraordinary measures is not easy. Giving hand-outs to the wealthiest people in the UK at a time of major recession and price rises, when Truss' own party is well behind in the polls, seems incredibly reckless – both economically and politically.

While some commentators will seek to construct an electoral logic to all of this, the only explanation that makes any sense is that it is ideological.

In her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein detailed how some governments use major crises to force through unpopular and extreme, right-wing policies, which ultimately only benefit the wealthiest and corporations. 

At the time, Klein’s thesis was dismissed by many critics as overly-simplistic. Yet it is hard to think of an alternative explanation for the radical and reckless agenda Liz Truss and her Chancellor have just unleashed on the country.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

Fabricated Buildings: The Conservative NHS Investment Myth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 9:19pm in

As the latest Conservative regime takes office, Rachel Morris considers one of the starkest failures of its predecessor

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

We’ve heard the word “deliver” an awful lot lately. Boris Johnson delivered his farewell speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street on 6 September. In keeping with his record, Johnson’s adieu was riddled with half-truths, untruths, evasions and misleading boasts.

Johnson claimed his Government got “this economy moving again… in spite of all opposition, all the naysayers,” egregious given the actual state of the economy, the number of desperate people and closing businesses, and the plummeting value of sterling.

The naysayers now seem to include Johnson’s replacements. New Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday slammed the low growth rate incubated by the last 12 years of Conservative rule and the highest tax burden since the 1940s.

This contrasts distinctly with the former occupant of 10 Downing Street, who had claimed just a fortnight earlier that the Government was “delivering on those huge manifesto commitments.”

One of those manifesto commitments was to deliver 40 new hospitals – a fact entirely and conspicuously omitted from the Chancellor’s non-budget. The NHS is a 21st Century service being run out of 19th Century buildings. Will 40 hospitals do the trick? Are they even real, or likely?

The NHS has been a site of political debate since its founding in July 1948. As a child in 1974, I went on a Manchester march with my nurse mum, holding a placard saying, “Underpaid, Understaffed, Under stress, Understand?”

Past disputes seem trivial, however, compared to the current NHS crisis. Sticking plasters will no longer do, and you can’t put a cast on tectonic plates.

The Government knows the national affection for our health service, which is why they make huge promises about its future funding. Notoriously, many were enticed into voting for Brexit by guarantees on a campaign bus that hundreds of millions more would be invested.

Moreover, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has even upped the number of ‘new hospitals’ pledged – to 48 – by adding eight existing ‘schemes’, all to be delivered by 2030. Johnson tweeted on 8 February that: “Whether it’s recruiting 50,000 extra nurses, building 48 new hospitals or delivering a record-breaking increase in funding, this Government has never been shy about its support for the NHS.”

The DHSC issued a communications guidance document in August 2021, sent to all NHS trusts, stating: “The schemes named in the announcement are not all identical and vary across a number of factors. However, they do all satisfy the criteria we set of what a new hospital is and so must always be referred to as a new hospital.”

These criteria, according to the document, can include: “a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains a whole clinical service, such as maternity or children’s services; or a major refurbishment and alteration of all but building frame or main structure, delivering a significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure.”

Do those definitions fit within your understanding of ‘new hospital’? No, me neither. Lest you think I’m splitting hairs, healthcare think tank the Nuffield Trust agrees, defining a new hospital as “a new building on an entirely new site”.

By their definition, of the Government’s 40 ‘new’ ones, 22 can be classed as rebuilding projects; 12 as new wings of existing hospitals; three rebuilds of non-urgent care hospitals; and three can truly be termed ‘new’ as people who speak the English language understand that word. Oh, but two of the three actually-new hospitals will open as old ones close, as replacements. Both were planned anyway, before 2019.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

Nurse!

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services treating patients and service users. With respect to the “initial” £3.7 billion investment pledged by the Government for the above schemes, it says an actually-new mid-sized hospital costs circa £500 million. So 40 actually-new hospitals would require £20 billion.

In July, NHS managers warned that the programme was “moving at a glacial pace”, with some schemes as much as four years behind schedule due to lack of funding, construction delays and huge cost increases, in part due to inflation. The chief executive of the NHS Confederation expressed the same concerns.

An NHS Providers survey found that half the trusts involved don’t believe the money needed will ever materialise. Leeds General Infirmary alone estimated the cost for two new buildings to be £75 million more than budgeted, thanks to delays in construction and the rising costs of works and materials.

The National Audit Office (NAO) also announced in July that it would carry out a “value for money review” into the programme, due to report in 2023.

The programme was given a ‘Code Red’ by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which carried out two reviews last year and found it “appears to be unachievable”. A red rating means “major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable”.

You have to wonder if the Government is playing a shell game, assuming the general public is thick and regulators unserious, or if they really are numerically illiterate and project planning-incontinent. The eternal leadership question: evil or stupid?

Yet, as Johnson shambled off into a sunset of after-dinner speeches, he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to this shambles. “Yes we will have… 40 more hospitals by the end of the decade… [laid on] great solid masonry on which we will continue to build together”.

At the time he uttered this statement, there were 6.8 million people waiting for NHS England appointments, a severe shortage of ambulances and beds, 132,000 NHS vacancies, and real-terms wage cuts.

It would be lovely to think this wasn’t all just gaslighting, and that the new Government feels the need to actually deliver on promises. However, all that Health and Social Care Secretary Thérèse Coffey has delivered so far is instructing NHS staff to “be positive” and avoid Oxford commas. Yet more gas and air, nurse!

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

Three Years On from ‘No Deal’ Emergency: Operation Yellowhammer is Our Reality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 12:22am in

We are now living through the bleak predictions made in the Brexit contingency report in 2019, says TJ Coles

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

Unaffordable food and energy bills, hours-long border queues, medicine shortages; these crises were the predicted – and predictable – consequences of a Brexit championed by successive Conservative governments and the right-wing media.

While Vladimir Putin’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine triggered the EU-wide cost of living crisis, Britain has seen some of the worst inflation in Europe – delivering on the warnings of the so-called ‘project fear’ campaign.

Operation Yellowhammer was the Theresa May Government’s secret contingency plan for the “reasonable worst case” outcome of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – in other words, the worst things that the Government anticipated in the event of failing to reach a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. After May had been replaced by Boris Johnson, a version of Yellowhammer was leaked to the Sunday Times. The Government was then compelled to release an official version, some of which was redacted. 

It was heavily disputed whether Yellowhammer was a ‘base’ scenario for a no-deal Brexit or anticipation of worst outcomes. In either case, its predictions are salient.

Before the no deal deadline, the Johnson administration cobbled together a Withdrawal Agreement, which former Chancellor Philip Hammond alleged had already been offered to May by the EU. The Johnson agreement was similar to no deal in certain respects because it left many loose ends, most notably the question of Northern Ireland and its relationship with the EU.

Moreover, if we compare Britain’s contemporary crises to Yellowhammer, it is clear that we are living the document.

Energy and Inflation

At 9.1%, Eurozone inflation is lower than the UK’s, which stands at 9.9%; among western Europe’s highest. For Britain’s closest economic competitors by GDP, inflation is as follows: France 6.5%, Germany 7.9%, and Italy 8.4%. Using France as an example, economists cite quality jobs, social security, and Government price caps as the main reasons for relative inflation control. 

Unlike in France, Britain’s measures to control inflation are likely to fall on the backs of poorer people. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies reports, in relation to the Bank of England’s decision to offset inflation with interest rate hikes: “older people with mortgages and those with lower levels of household income are more likely to be exposed to interest rate rises in the short term”.

But what’s Brexit got to do with it? In June this year, the business journal Bloomberg cited three US financial institutions: Bank of America, Citigroup, and Standard Bank. When it comes to inflation, each bank sees Britain as an “outlier in the developed world because of the economic damage wrought by the decision to cut ties with the European Union”.

Yellowhammer optimistically predicted that “Demand for energy will be met and there will be no disruption to electricity or gas interconnections”. In reality, UK energy infrastructure has proven to be more dependent upon the EU than the Government was willing to reveal. 

The Financial Times recently reported that the consultancy firm Baringa estimated that “Hundreds of millions of pounds are being added to UK energy bills because of the failure to implement a trade deal with the EU that would allow efficient movement of power via subsea cables”.

Duncan Sinclair of Baringa says: “A side effect of Brexit is a temporary step backwards in the way electricity flows between us and our neighbours. The system is now less efficient – leading to higher costs – at a time when concerns around rising costs and energy security are paramount.”

This was echoed by Sir Philip Lowe – an executive chair at the World Energy Council and the former director-general for energy at the European Commission – in an interview with Byline Times a year ago. “The EU’s long-term strategy, which the UK was very much in favour of, was to integrate markets as far as possible across Europe,” said Lowe. However, while the EU plans to integrate further, the UK has extracted itself from this policy through Brexit, while an energy agreement was not included in the free trade deal between the UK and the EU.

By EU standards, Britain has been notable for having low food prices. Yet, since Brexit, that has all changed. By July, UK food prices were up 12.6% compared to the previous year – something predicted by Yellowhammer, particularly for poorer people. 

A London School of Economics (LSE) study notes that two-thirds of international trade is in intermediate products used domestically, such as vegetable oil and animal feed.

Brexit caused a shortfall in imports from EU member states and, as they readjust to trading with non-EU markets, businesses have been stockpiling, which causes artificial scarcity and thus price rises. Between the end of 2019 and 2021, Brexit-induced EU trade barriers added 6% to food prices. Despite what the Government has otherwise claimed, the LSE report concludes: “COVID-19 is ruled out as a factor”.

Indeed, Yellowhammer even took into account the potential for a health crisis to compound the problems suffered through a hard Brexit – stating that “seasonal flu” and “severe weather” were both potential risks. The implication was that a severe outbreak or even pandemic should have been incorporated into Brexit planning.

Medicine and Border Delays

“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”, said Yellowhammer, referring to Dover-Calais and other key ports.

Leaked data from the Department of Health and Social Care in 2020 listed 209 medical products that had supply problems in the previous year; more than half of which were in short supply for more than three months. Drugs such as hepatitis vaccines and anti-epileptic drugs, faced ‘extended’ problems.

Now, with Brexit supposedly ‘done’ and the pandemic supposedly over, what is the state of UK medicine?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in July that it would be monitoring potential medicine and product shortages caused by supply chain issues. But, as the EMA announced the need to monitor, the UK had already experien

ced shortages. Over the previous six months, more than 700 pharmacists had experienced patients being put in danger by medicine shortages. 

In August, Mike Dent of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about medicine supply issues and the very serious impact this is having on both community pharmacy teams and their patients.”

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE?
HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39.50 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.75 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Hospitals had been advised to stockpile, patients had to search multiple pharmacies for drugs, and doctors expressed concern about using alternatives.

Yellowhammer likewise predicted that “UK citizens travelling to and from the EU may be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts”.

Since Brexit, Dover-Calais queues have become notoriously long, affecting hauliers and holiday-makers. Ferry operator, DFDS, recently said: “Calais was affected by ‘the perfect storm’ of summer volumes in combination with post-Brexit border checks, causing six hours of queuing”.

While new Prime Minister Liz Truss was quick to blame France for failing to streamline passport controls, other analyses point the finger at Brexit.

Truss will try to score political points among the Conservative Party’s pro-Brexit voter base by blaming the EU for everything while being obstinate with her European counterparts. This will be sold by the right-wing media to the public as Truss taking a ‘tough stance’.

A common anti-Labour attack line is that the party would take Britain ‘back to the 1970s’, were it to take office. But now it is the Conservative Party that is reviving the age of strikes, power outages, and civil disobedience – all predicted years ago by Yellowhammer.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

Government Refuses to Release Correspondence Sent to The Times Over Axed Carrie Johnson Story

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 11:45pm in

Under pressure from Downing Street, the newspaper withdrew a story about Carrie Johnson being offered a lucrative role by her future husband when he was Foreign Secretary

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

The cosy relationship between the press and the Government is a story familiar to regular readers of this newspaper – epitomised when The Times dropped a story in June about Boris Johnson allegedly trying to recruit his now wife Carrie to a £100,000-a-year job when he was Foreign Secretary.

The story, written by veteran Westminster reporter Simon Walters, was published in the first edition of The Times newspaper on 18 June, before being mysteriously yet conspicuously hooked from later editions.

As the New European reported in the wake of the affair, “after initially choosing not to make any comment about the story when Walters had approached her office, Carrie had her aides barraging The Times’s legal department with threats when it was discovered the story had made it into the paper”.

Downing Street later stated that it had intervened to complain about the report, after it had gone to print, calling it a “grubby, discredited story”. A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson likewise said that the allegations were “totally untrue”.

The claim made by Walters was that, in 2018, Johnson tried to hire Carrie as his taxpayer-funded chief of staff when she was a Conservative Party press chief. Johnson’s plan fell apart, allegedly, when three of his close advisors learned of the idea and threatened to resign. At the time, Johnson was married to Marina Wheeler.

Walters defended the story, after it was pulled, saying that he stood by it “100%” and that it had been confirmed by multiple sources. “I was in lengthy and detailed communication with Number 10 at a high level... and Mrs Johnson’s spokeswoman for up to 48 hours before the paper went to press. At no point did any of them offer an on-the-record denial of any element of the story,” he said.

The pressure subsequently applied to The Times following publication is therefore intriguing. However, the Cabinet Office has refused to release this correspondence, after a Freedom of Information request by Byline Times.

It said that "disclosure would be likely to limit press officers’ ability to engage internally in similar exchanges in future (such as how to draft or frame a response to the media), without the expectation that such internal discussions or drafts would themselves become an official  comment on the public record".

“In this context, disclosure would be likely to have a prejudicial effect on the way in which discussions take place, and thus hinder the effective and efficient operation of a press office,” the Cabinet Office added.

However, the precedent for this decision is unclear, given that similar declarations have been made by other Government departments. As previously revealed by Byline Times, internal press office correspondence showed how the Department of Health and Social Care deleted a tweet critical of the Daily Mail “for relationship management purposes”.

It could well have been the case that The Times made a similar calculation, albeit in reverse – erasing Walters’ article in order to maintain good relations with the Government.

The rejection of Byline Times' request means that it is not known how officials attempted to twist the arm of executives at the newspaper – whether they denied the substance of the story, made threats based on curtailing the paper’s future access to people in high office, or both.

The relationship between politicians and journalists in Westminster grew even closer during the pandemic, as the Government became the part-time paymaster of those tasked with scrutinising it.

Byline Times is one of the only publications to have covered the ‘bungs for billionaires’ scandal – exposing how the Government paid out millions in COVID subsidies to major newspaper groups, largely owned by right-wing oligarchs.

“Newspapers negotiated direct bungs to themselves with him [Boris Johnson]”, the ex-Prime Minister’s former chief aide, Dominic Cummings, said on Twitter. There were “no officials on [the calls]”, he added, and Johnson “told officials to send the [money] dressed up as ‘COVID relief’”.

Budgeted at £35 million for the first three months, the subsidy scheme still appeared to be operating two years later – the Guardian published a story under its banner in March 2022 – but the Government and the industry have repeatedly rebuffed Byline Times’ questions on how much has been spent in total.

Buy the May edition of Byline Times, and read more about the ‘bungs for billionaires’ scandal.

BUY NOW

Therefore, not only were reporters indebted to the Government for their stories – the Westminster ‘lobby’ system reliant on journalists maintaining ‘access’ to ministers and advisors – but their media outlets were also financially indebted to Johnson’s regime, which was helping their bottom line amid declining print circulation and commercial advertising revenue.

The most influential right-wing newspapers subsequently came to Johnson’s aid when stories emerged in other publications of repeated lockdown breaches in Downing Street.

From mid-January 2022 to the end of May – during the most intense months of the ‘Partygate’ scandal – 90% of the Daily Mail’s front page coverage of the episode was positive towards the Government, including one infamous splash, ‘Don’t they Know there’s a War On’, which attempted to use Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as political cover for the then Prime Minister.

Of the eight leading UK newspapers, only three (the Guardian, the Mirror and the Daily Star) ran front pages on ‘Partygate’ that framed the Government in a negative light the majority of the time, according to an analysis by the Press Gazette.

In 2018, Theresa May's Government formally dropped the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards launched in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. This would have examined relationships between journalists and the police, potentially exposing yet more wrongdoing in the upper-reaches of the media.

The phone-hacking scandal revealed that journalists had obtained confidential information by gaining access to the mobile phone messages of celebrities and, in the case of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, victims of crime.

Will this mutual loyalty between the press and the Government continue with a new Prime Minister at the helm?

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

What Does the New Prime Minister Mean For Britain’s Oligarchy Problem?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 9:30pm in

Oliver Bullough considers how a changing of the guard in Downing Street may influence attempts to crack down on kleptocrats

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

The below text was first published on Oliver Bullough’s ‘Coda Oligarchy’ newsletter. You can sign up here.

The campaign to be Prime Minister is over, the 170,000-odd (mostly-) old (mostly-) white (mostly-) men who got to vote have had their say, and life must now continue. Yay, democracy.

So, what does this mean for the oligarchy, for Britain’s role as ‘Butler to the World’ and for the prospect of a unified Western response to kleptocracy, above all to that coming from the Kremlin? Truthfully, I can see few reasons to be cheerful.

“While there are differences between [Rishi] Sunak and [Liz] Truss, neither gives much cause for optimism that the UK fully understands the Russian threat nor that it can help to lead in making Europe more secure, except in relation to the provision of equipment and training to Ukraine. The scale of the economic crisis facing the UK will severely limit both candidates’ scope for democratic leadership,” wrote Maxine David, a lecturer at Leiden University.

Credit where credit’s due: Boris Johnson was good at sending Ukraine the weapons it needed, when doing so was neither profitable nor popular, even though he increasingly came to resemble President Zelensky’s needy friend as his premiership collapsed. And his ministers talked the talk when it came to cracking down on oligarchs.

“Putin’s assault on Ukraine has shown the true extent of the international financial flows linked to Russia and the serious risks this poses to our country. We will never cease in our determination to change our laws to root out corruption, dirty money and protect our national security,” wrote Priti Patel last month. Until a few hours ago, she was Home Secretary and thus in charge of law enforcement.

But Johnson’s Government never did much about dirty money except talk. There is a lot of scope for improvement here, though I see precious few grounds for hope from Suella Braverman, who is taking over Patel’s job. Braverman has up to now primarily been famous for her attacks on ‘woke’ people, which is the latest enthusiasm of the tiresome-est stretches of the Conservative Party’s right wing.

One of the many things Johnson’s Government promised action on was Limited Partnerships, which have been used to conceal the ownership of laundered money for an age (including a large chunk of the $230 billion moved via Danske Bank’s Estonia branch, in what is probably still the biggest money laundering scandal of all time). So the first key test of Liz Truss’ intentions will be whether she keeps her predecessor’s promise to pass new legislation to open up their ownership, and thus prevent their misuse by criminals. If you’d like an example of what anonymity looks like in practice, look up SG000601 on Companies House. (Thanks to Richard Smith for this example).

Darvel Investment Trading (Scotland) Partnership SP is nominally a Scottish qualifying partnership but, if you look at its partners, you will see that they are a trust in South Dakota and a shell company in the British Virgin Islands called – no joke – ‘Untitled Managers Ltd’. If you wanted to find out who actually owned this supposedly Scottish structure, you’d need to bring cases in Sioux Falls and Tortola, so good luck with that. The proposed new law would force the owners to publicly declare themselves, and thus would be a valuable measure against misuse of shell companies, if it actually comes to anything, which is now even more in doubt than it was.

A second key test of the new Government will be whether it follows through on plans to make it harder for oligarchs to use British courts to bully journalists. The key sponsor of the reforms was former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab but he supported the loser in the leadership race and will not be retaining his position at the top table.

“We won’t let those bankrolling Putin exploit the UK’s legal jurisdiction to muzzle their critics. So today, I’m announcing reforms to uphold freedom of speech, end the abuse of our justice system, and defend those who bravely shine a light on corruption,” Raab said back in July.

Will this pledge be quietly dropped? A lot of Tory politicians’ richer friends, who are themselves rather fond of being able to bully journalists, would no doubt like it to be. So watch this space.

‘An Even More Extreme Period of Policymaking’

A third key test is whether Truss’ Government will be more generous in funding for law enforcement agencies, and abandon Johnson’s entirely random target of cutting the number of state employees by 20%. This is probably the most important test of all.

“The next Prime Minister will face pressure not only to declare war on dirty money, but to act to boost the confiscation of physical property,” writes Helena Wood of the think tank RUSI. “Despite this, the reality is that lawyers in the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service, who will be charged with turning the rhetoric into results, are facing diminishing salaries, are haemorrhaging staff and can expect another round of austerity soon.”

All that said, are there any actual reasons for pessimism, rather than just the learned behaviour of expecting the worst? Yes.

Liz Truss’ new chief economic advisor comes from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a libertarian think tank that purports to be a grassroots campaign for lower taxes, whose founder has expressed admiration for the Tea Party movement in the US. Reasonable people can disagree about the Tea Party’s influence on US politics, but few people would argue that it had helped reduce oligarchs’ influence.

“The immediate appointments by the new UK Prime Minister include former staff from the most extreme, opaquely funded lobby groups (‘think tanks’), and suggest the country may be entering an even more extreme period of policymaking – even as poverty soars and life expectancy falls,” tweeted Alex Cobham of the Tax Justice Network.

RUSI’s Helena Wood, quoted above, has previously argued that governments should consider empowering private companies to go after oligarchs’ assets if law enforcement agencies can’t afford to do so. A lot of officials feel a bit icky about this, and see it as equivalent to employing privateers to supplement the work of the navy (and thus, essentially, legalising piracy). However, it seems to me that it’s worth considering.

“The scale of the problem will continue to outstrip the resources of the public sector and, on this basis, it is better for victims of these crimes to receive a lower share of the proceeds in compensation, rather than no compensation at all,” Wood writes.

It is interesting to see that some of the most potent law firms are now publicly talking about going after oligarchs’ assets too, and looking for people prepared to fund the cases. If lawyers could be persuaded to turn from defending oligarchs’ wealth to attacking it, that would dramatically change the business climate in Western countries.

“I don’t shy away from the fact that this is ground-breaking stuff that we are looking at doing,” said Ben Brandon, a partner at London-based Mishcon de Reya. “It’s very much going to depend on the appetite of clients, the appetite of funders and the appetite of the courts to try and push this through.”

Again, watch this space.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

American Dark Money, the Mercers and the Conservative Party: A Network of Influence 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

A special investigation by Nafeez Ahmed exposes the transatlantic connections between an extremist US pro-Trump lobby and organisations influencing Liz Truss' Conservative Cabinet

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

Two powerful Conservative Party pressure groups with extensive financial ties to Liz Truss’ Cabinet have institutional and funding links to the pro-Trump Mercer Family Foundation, Byline Times can reveal.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are the billionaire philanthropists credited with being among Donald Trump’s biggest financial backers. They have funded a range of far-right groups in America – including white supremacists and supporters of the January 6 Capitol attack. Renowned Republican political strategist Steve Schmidt has described them as among “the chief financiers of the fascist movement”.

In a special investigation, Byline Times has found that six of Liz Truss’ Cabinet appointments have funding ties to Conservative organisations connected to the Mercer lobby. While two of her formal advisors, and two independent advisors involved in shaping ‘Trussonomics’, come from these groups.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary, the Chancellor, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Northern Ireland Minister, the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary, and the Leader of the House – and the Prime Minister herself – all have institutional and financial links to the controversial Mercer lobby.

Anti-Abortion

Liz Truss’ Cabinet appears to be ideologically aligned with some of the most controversial themes of far-right activism in the US, including women’s rights.

The parliamentary register of interests reveals that Thérèse Coffey, now Deputy Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary – who is well-known for her anti-abortion stance – received a number of donations from one of the largest anti-abortion lobbies in the UK, which openly supported the US Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe versus Wade.

A total of £20,040.14 was donated to Coffey by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales to fund interns in her parliamentary office from 2017 to 2019. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, it released a statement praising the judgment as the result of “the prayers, dedicated work and commitment of those who seek to protect women who are pregnant and the unborn child”. In its list of ‘further resources’, the statement linked to the UK branch of Rachel’s Vineyard – a US anti-abortion movement which organises hundreds of retreats each year and has played a central role in campaigning against Roe versus Wade in Republican circles for more than a decade.

The Supreme Court’s decision was a direct legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency, who stacked the court with Republican appointees and declared his “great honour” at having made the overturning of Roe versus Wade possible. His donors, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, have funded notable anti-abortion Republican political action committees.

Since taking office, Coffey has claimed that she is “not planning to make any Government changes” to abortion laws.

However her former special advisor – who is now advising Prime Minister Liz Truss on health – previously worked at a Conservative think tank that received funding from the Mercer lobby. Several other Truss ministerial appointees have more well-known links to pro-Trump networks. 

In 2017, Jacob Rees-Mogg – Truss’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary – met with far-right ideologue and former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon in America to discuss how conservative movements can win in the US and UK. Bannon was recently convicted of contempt of US Congress.

Byline Times can reveal how Bannon’s involvement with the UK Conservative Party began much earlier – due to the same Mercer lobby – which not only seems to have had some influence over the 2019 Conservative Manifesto, but also the new Truss Cabinet.

The connections between the Mercer Family Foundation and the UK Conservative Party. Diagram: Nicholaus Hall The Cherish Freedom Foundation

Last December, Steve Baker – now Truss’ Northern Ireland Minister – became chair of Conservative Way Forward (CWF), a think tank founded by Margaret Thatcher in 1991. The organisation claims that, since 1997, every leadership candidate its members have favoured has been successfully elected prime minister.

Baker’s colleague at CWF – the organisation’s long-time executive director and vice-chairman for around a decade – is Paul Simon Osborn. Although Osborn’s affiliation has not been mentioned on CWF’s website since last December, company records seen by Byline Times confirm that he remains a director of CWF.

Osborn has longstanding ties with Steve Bannon and the Mercers. 

Since 2011, Osborn has been a director and vice-president of an obscure Virginia-based non-profit organisation called the Cherish Freedom Foundation, which received extensive funding from the Mercer Family Foundation. US Government Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings seen by Byline Times show that it received $655,000 from the Mercer Family Foundation between 2013 and 2016.

Byline Times can also reveal that the Cherish Freedom Foundation provided a grant to top Conservative think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, in 2019 – just months before the General Election. 

The CPS was co-founded in 1974 by Thatcher and has been described by watchdog Transparify as one of the least transparent think tanks in the world, due to its refusal to identify its donors. 

US Government Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings show that, on 3 September 2019, the Cherish Freedom Foundation donated $60,000 as a grant to the CPS.

The 2019 Conservative Manifesto was authored by two CPS staffers – Rachel Wolf, who sits on CPS’ board, and CPS director Robert Colvile. The manifesto reflected a raft of CPS policies on tax, housing, welfare and business. It took up recommendations generated from its work with then Home Secretary Priti Patel, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and One Nation Conservative Caucus chair Damian Green. The manifesto contained, according to the CPS itself, “a range of policies advocated by the CPS”.

This funding has never before been declared, raising the question of whether it was lawful under the UK’s election finance rules.

Byline Times’ investigation has identified, for the first time, a financial connection between one of the Conservative Party’s most influential think tanks and the Mercer network – a connection that raises urgent questions about potential ideological influence on the premierships of both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

After 2019, Liz Truss gave speeches at the CPS and played a key role in bringing it into the heart of Government decision-making. As International Trade Secretary, she appointed Tom Clougherty, the CPS’ head of tax, to the Government’s Freeports Advisory Panel; as well as Colvile as an expert on the Government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group.

Now as Prime Minister, Truss’ plan for freeports, which suspend business rates and regulation, are straight from a CPS report published in 2019. Similarly, her plan to eliminate green levies from energy bills also came from the CPS.

In fact, the CPS had a direct hand in Truss’ leadership campaign, with its communications manager, Lauren Maher, seconded to Truss’ campaign team as its senior press officer. Truss’ new health advisor, Caroline Elsom, was also a senior researcher at the CPS. 

Robert Colvile told Byline Times that “to the best of my knowledge we have not taken money from or had dealings with the Mercer family, either directly or indirectly”.

However, he did not deny that the CPS received funding from the Cherish Freedom Foundation or provide a response to the foundation’s funding from the Mercer family. He did not explain what the CPS did with the money it received from the Foundation.

“As for my work on the 2019 Conservative Manifesto, it was undertaken in a personal, voluntary and unpaid capacity, and I took a leave of absence from the CPS for the relevant period,” he added. He said nothing about CPS Board member Rachel Wolf's role in also co-authoring the Tory manifesto.

Meanwhile, Cherish Freedom Foundation’s president is Terence Blaney, founder of Griffin Law in the UK. Throughout the 2010s, Osborn and Blaney organised a series of transatlantic gatherings between American right-wing activists and British conservatives under the mantle of the Young Britons Foundation (YBF), which Blaney described as a “Conservative madrasa”.

Blaney’s former law firm – he resigned as a director last year – shares the same registered office address as the YBF and Emerdata Ltd – the company set up to acquire all of the assets of the Mercer-funded data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, accused of promoting disinformation on Facebook on behalf of the Trump and Brexit campaigns.

In 2013, through the Cherish Freedom Foundation, Osborn convened a YBF event at Churchill College, Cambridge University hosting Bannon with soon-to-be Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassim. Bannon would later tell journalist Peter Geoghegan that this was the year he began frequently visiting the UK and meeting YBF members.

‘Trussonomics’ and Climate Denial

The CPS appears to have had a more direct financial connection to Liz Truss’ leadership campaign.

The parliamentary register of interests reveals that, on 2 August, Truss received £25,000 from CPS chairman, the billionaire City financier, Lord Michael Spencer.

Lord Spencer, who also chairs the Conservative Party Foundation, became chairman of the CPS in 2020, the year after it received a grant from the Cherish Freedom Foundation.

Archived deleted webpages for Conservative Way Forward, dated October 2021, show that Lord Spencer is also a CWF patron. He is therefore connected to both Conservative pressure groups linked to the Mercer lobby.

Two other major Truss appointees are tied to this lobby through Lord Spencer. In April, Lord Spencer’s company, IPGL Ltd, paid £5,000 to Brandon Lewis, Truss’ now Justice Secretary. Lord Spencer also previously gave Truss’ Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, £7,500 in 2019.

These connections throw further light on how fossil fuel interests overlap with the influence of the Mercer lobby.

Lord Spencer has built his fortune investing in spread betting finance, biometric authentication, data analytics, hedge funds, among other sectors. But last year it emerged that IPGL held a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, which has prospects for oil in west Africa.

While the CPS’ influence on the Truss campaign has been quite direct, the Mercer lobby’s influence has extended across the Truss Cabinet through the CWF group chaired by Steve Baker, Northern Ireland Minister. The result has been a deregulatory economic agenda which appears to serve the interests of climate deniers.

Nadhim Zawahi, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister for Intergovernmental Relations and Minister for Equalities – as well as Home Secretary Suella Braverman – participated in CWF’s relaunch last December.

Both Zawahi and Braverman endorsed its publication ‘A Charter for Tax Cuts’ by Julian Jessop, former chief economist at the Institute for Economic Affairs. Although Jessop was not officially part of the Truss team, he is among several economists “closest to the Truss campaign”, according to the Spectator. CPS business researcher Gerard Lyons is also among this group.

In July, Suella Braverman received £10,000 from First Corporate Consultants, founded by British entrepreneur Terence Mordaunt, whose net worth is more than £380 million. Mordaunt is a major Conservative Party donor, and the thirteenth biggest donor to the Brexit campaign. From 2019 to 2021, Mordaunt was chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation – a notorious climate denial lobby group funded by fossil fuel interests where CWF chair Steve Baker is also a trustee.

Mordaunt is directly connected to the Mercer lobby – like Lord Michael Spencer, he is a patron of Conservative Way Forward.

Mordaunt connects another Truss appointee to the Mercer lobby. Penny Mordaunt, Truss’ Leader of the House of Commons, received £20,000 from First Corporate Consultants between 2019 and 2021.

Britannia Unchained

The pattern of funding uncovered by this investigation demonstrates the extent to which Conservative policy, and Liz Truss’ Cabinet and ideology, appear to have come under the influence of the Mercer lobby. 

The links between the Prime Minister, her ministers, and two Conservative pressure groups with ties to Mercer funding also raise deep questions about how the US far-right could be seeking to shape UK Government policy.

Despite this, Downing Street and the Conservative Party did not respond to Byline Times’ request for comment. This newspaper also received no response from Conservative Way Forward and Paul Simon Osborne.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer’s funding of far-right and libertarian causes is motivated by the goal of destroying the liberal state. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal too,” Steve Bannon once famously said. “I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

The UK’s new Prime Minister and Chancellor co-authored Britannia Unchained in 2012, which railed against the “legacy of a bloated state, high taxes and excessive regulation”. Among its proposals were slashing workers’ rights to give employers greater scope to fire people, eliminating minimum wage obligations for small businesses, and cutting public spending while essentially liberating corporations from every rule in the name of prosperity.

The book may provide some explanation as to why the Mercer lobby would seek to radicalise British conservativism – to fundamentally change the state as we know it, in order to pave the way for extreme right-wing shock therapy. 

To what extent is this an ideology which the current Prime Minister and her Cabinet could seek to put into practice now they have the power to do so? 

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

Pages