Boris Johnson

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Trump and the Spectre of Mussolini

The big news today has been last night’s attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. They had been fired up to make the assault by Trump’s continued insistence that he is the real winner of the election, but it has been stolen from him by vote-rigging from the Democrats. As Mike himself has pointed out, Trump himself has not been averse to trying to do this himself. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump had tried to persuade Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, to find one more vote for him in the state more than those cast for Joe Biden. And a week or so ago it was also reported that he had also been considering calling in the army in order to defend his presidency. If he had done so, it would have been a coup attempt.

Microsoft News in a piece they published today about the attack state that among the mob were members of various far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club and supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory. This is the bizarre belief that Trump has been secretly fighting a war against an evil covert group determined to take over and subvert America. Last night there had been various messages posted on right-wing websites urging ‘Revolution’ and ‘Civil War’. World leaders have expressed their disgust and condemnation of the attack, though as Mike also points out, there has been no condemnation of Trump himself from Boris or Priti Patel. The attack is ominous, as it shows just how fragile American democracy is.

Indeed. Way back in the 1990s there were fears of a similar attack with the emergence of militia movement. These are right-wing paramilitary organisations founded by people, who really believe that America is in danger of being taken over by the extreme left, or the forces of globalism and the one world Satanic conspiracy or whatever. Many of them were explicitly racist with the connections to the neo-Nazi right. At one point a woman claiming to be a senior officer in the movement appeared online urging the various militias to unite and march on Washington. Her call was ignored, largely, I think, because the other militia leaders didn’t trust her and were extremely suspicious of her motives. I got the distinct impression that they suspected her of being an agent provocateur and that the march was some kind of trap by the federal government. There was no armed paramilitary march, and so America dodged a coup attempt, or whatever it was, that time.

But the attack is also reminiscent of an assault on government even further back, almost one hundred years ago. This was the infamous ‘March on Rome’ of Mussolini’s Fascists. This succeeded in getting him appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Italian king, Emmanuel II, and began the process which saw him overturning Italian democracy to forge the Fascist one-party state and his personal dictatorship. Of course, for such coups to be successful, the armed forces, capital and the civil service must be willing to collaborate with the insurgents. Mussolini had the support of Italian industry and the big landowners, as he offered to protect capitalism from the forces of revolutionary socialism. The Fascists also included a number of ex-servicemen, the squadristi, and they had considerable support within the regular Italian armed forces. However, the head of the Italian police had absolute contempt for the Fascists and offered to defend the Italian government from the Fascists. But the king turned him down, and caved in to the future Duce.

There are similarities to last night’s events. Many right-wing Americans do seem to fear that Communism and anarchy are somehow about to overrun America with the violence of some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in America and the supposed ‘cultural Marxists’ that have allegedly taken over the American educational system. And the fears that there really is a secret conspiracy to overthrow American democracy and enslave its citizens has been around for decades. Bizarre conspiracy theories appeared in the 1970s about the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission, claiming that these groups really ran the world. Then in the 1990s George Bush senior’s statement that he was going to create a ‘new world order’ prompted comparisons with the Nazis, as Hitler had also said the same about his regime. It was also linked to older conspiracy theories about the Freemasons because the Latin version of the phrase, ‘Novo Ordo Seculorum’, supposedly appears on American dollar bills along with various Masonic symbols. These theories claimed that America was being secretly run by a group of Masonic Satanists, who were planning turn America into a totalitarian, Communist state and send Christians to concentration camps. Even the collapse of Communism did not allay these fears. Many of those, who bought into these bizarre theories, thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was all some kind of ruse. One variety of these myths claimed that the Russians had established secret military bases in Canada and Mexico, and at a given signal Soviet tanks would roll over the border into America. The 1990s were arguably the peak of such beliefs, as shown in the popularity of similar stories of covert government pacts with aliens from Zeta Reticuli and TV’s The X-Files. But such fears have certainly not gone away. There was a resurgence during Obama’s presidency, when America’s first Black president was accused by the bonkers elements on the American right of being a secret Muslim. or atheist. Or Communist. Or Nazi. Whatever, Obama was filled with rage against White Christians. One pair of pastors told the listeners of their church radio station that Obama was going to establish a dictatorship and would massacre even more people than Chairman Mao. Alex Jones was repeating and amplifying similar myths over on his internet radio and TV station. He claimed that Obama was going to invoke emergency legislation under the pretext of impending environmental disaster to force ordinary Americans into refugee camps. Militant feminists and gays were part of this conspiracy, in which humanity was to be transformed into a race of genderless cyborgs. Jones lost a considerable part of his audience when he was banned from various social media platforms thanks to his claims that a Boston pizza parlour was really a front for supplying children to be abused by members of the Democratic party and that several high school shootings had really been faked to provoke popular support for gun control laws. This caused real distress to the bereaved parents, who were accused of being ‘crisis actors’. Jones has nearly vanished from the public stage, though he still appears here and there. Even when he had an audience, many people still regarded him as a joke. But it looks like the conspiracy theories Jones promoted, and the underlying distrust of the government, still have a powerful hold on many Americans.

Fortunately, yesterday was different from 1920s Italy. America’s military has so far shown no interest in coming to Trump’s aid and overthrowing democracy. Black Lives Matter is extremely unpopular in certain areas, but the police, security forces and private industry aren’t backing armed paramilitary units to defend capitalism. American democracy is being shaken and tested, but so far it hasn’t cracked. The problem is, it’s not clear how long this will last. By calling for people to storm the capitol, Trump has struck a blow against democracy. He’s been unsuccessful, but this might inspire a future president with the same inclinations to try again. And they might be more successful.

And we’re not safe from such assaults over here. Mike in his article has warned that the Tories appear to be taking notes from Trump, while Zelo Street points out that the same people, who backed Trump also back the Tories and Brexit over here. He concludes with a warning of who the Brexiteers will blame when it all finally goes bad:

Many Brexiteers believe it’ll be someone else’s fault – Remainers, ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, multinational corporations, those of insufficiently patriotic intent – when it all goes bad. It won’t be Bozo, Ms Patel, Gove, or Nigel “Thirsty” Farage they will be going after.

There is a real danger of America becoming, if not a dictatorship, then a very authoritarian, Fascistic state. And Britain following.

See also: Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Trump Insurrection – Next Stop UK (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Far Right Brexiteers Annoyed Boris Gave Award to Bristol Police Chief Who Allowed Attack on Colston Statue

The gravel-voiced anonymous individual behind the website ‘We Got a Problem’ got very annoyed yesterday about one of the peeps Johnson decided to reward in the New Years’ honours. ‘We Got a Problem’ is a pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant channel on YouTube. It views non-White immigrants as a serious threat to traditional British citizens and particularly concentrates on reporting crimes committed by people of colour. Such migrants are reviled in some of the crudest possible terms, which also clearly reveal the party political bias of the faceless man behind the website. One of the epithets he uses for them is ‘imported Labour voters’. This nameless individual was upset because Johnson has, apparently, given an award to the Bristol police chief, who resolutely sat back and did nothing to stop BLM protesters pulling down the statue of Edward Colston and throwing it into the docks. He therefore decided to put up a video expressing his considered disapproval yesterday, 6th January 2021. I’m not going to provide a link to his wretched video. If you want to see it, all you need do is look for it on YouTube.

Now I am very definitely not a fan of Black Lives Matter nor the destruction of public property. But the Bristol copper actually had very good reasons not to intervene. ‘We Got A Problem’s’ video contains a clip from an interview the rozzer gave to the Beeb about his inaction. He states that there’s a lot of context around the statue, and that it was of a historical figure that had been causing Black people angst for years. He was disappointed that people would attack it, but it was very symbolic. The protesters were prepared. It had been pre-planned and they had grappling hooks. The police made a tactical decision not protect the statue in case it provoked further disorder. They decided that the safest thing to do was not protect the statue. What they didn’t want was tension. They couldn’t get to the statue, and once it was torn down the cops decided to allow the attack on the statue to go ahead.

‘We Got A Problem’ takes this as an admission of incompetence by the Bristol copper, calling him a ‘cuck’, a term of abuse used by the Alt-Right. The YouTuber is also upset that while the cop got an honour, that hero of Brexiteers everywhere, Nigel Farage, didn’t. As all Brexit has done is created more chaos, and seems set to create more misery, including food and medicine shortages, the further destruction of British industry, especially manufacturing, and massively increased bureaucracy for trade and foreign travel, Farage doesn’t deserve to get one either. But this is lost on the fanatical Brexiteers like ‘We Got A Problem’, who cling desperately to the belief that somehow Brexit is going to lead to a revival of Britain’s fortunes, ending Black and Asian immigration and propelling us back to a position of world leadership.

As for the lack of action taken by the chief of Bristol’s police, I think he made the right decision. The statue the BLM protesters attacked was of the slaver Edward Colston. Colston was a great philanthropist, using some of the money he made from the trade to endow charities and schools here in the city. But understandably many people, especially Blacks, are upset that he should be so honoured with a statue. There have been demands for it to be removed since the 1980s. One Black woman interviewed on Radio 4 said she felt sick walking past it to work in the morning. However, the statue was retained because when Bristolians were asked whether it should be taken down, the majority were against it.

While ‘We Got A Problem’ presents the attack as a riot, in fact the only thing that was attacked was Colston’s statue. None of the other buildings or monuments were touched. Not the statue of MP and founder of modern Conservatism Edmund Burke, not the statue of Neptune or to the city’s sailors nearby, or of Queen Victoria just up the road by College Green. Nor were any of the shops and businesses in the centre attacked, unlike the riots of 2012. This could have changed, and the attack on the statue become a full-scale riot if the police had tried to intervene. The police chief doesn’t mention it, but I also believe one other factor in his decision not to protect the statue was the issue of racism in the police. One of the causes of the St. Paul’s riots in Bristol in 1981 was the feeling by the Black community there that the police were ‘occupying’ the area. It seems to me that the Bristol cop was worried that an attempt by the police to defend the monument would lead to further accusations of racism and a deterioration in their relations with Bristol’s Black community.

It was only one statue that was pulled down. It has been recovered from the docks, and I think is either now on display or awaiting going on display in one of the Bristol’s museums. No-one was hurt and no other property was damaged. I think four of those responsible for the attack have been identified and charged. Mike in one of his pieces about the incident made it clear that they should have been allowed to go free. I think this would be wrong. While you can sympathise with their reasons, it’s still an attack on public property. Allowing one set of vandals to go unpunished would encourage others to make similar attacks, possibly to monuments to figures much less deserving of such treatment. While I don’t think very many people are genuinely upset about the attack on Colston’s statue, attacks on others, such as that of Winston Churchill, may have caused far more outrage. While it was a good tactical decision not to defend the statue when it was attacked, it’s quite right that the attackers should receive some punishment in order to prevent further, far more controversial attacks, from taking place.

Happy New Year to Everyone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 8:19pm in

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season despite the lockdown, Brexit, the new, more virulent strain of the coronavirus, and the fact that Boris Johnson and his vile cronies are still in government. I wish everyone reading my blog a very happy New Year. I hope they have peace, good health and prosperity, and that things improve for all of us in 2021.

Silver Monoliths and the Great UFO Ball Invasion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 9:14pm in

I hope everyone’s having a great Christmas, despite the outbreak of an even more virulent strain of the Coronavirus, the consequent lockdown and Boris’ farcical deal with the EU. I haven’t posted anything over the past few days partly because I wanted to enjoy Christmas, and didn’t feel like dealing with all the misery Johnson’s coterie of thugs and entitled bandits and looters, and partly because I simply don’t find much of the news that’s surfaced over the past few days at all inspiring. I was intending only to publish odd, cheerful or uplifting stuff over the holiday period for a change, more in keeping with Christmas as the season of peace and goodwill. Well, that’s gone out the window, as I do intend to blog about serious issues. But for now here’s something far less grim than the faces and policies of BoJob, Gove, Priti Patel, Starmer and Rayner.

Among the serious news there have been reports over the last few weeks of a mysterious silver monolith appearing around the world. It first appeared in America, then disappeared, only to re-emerge in Britain, on the Isle of Wight or somewhere. It disappeared again and then moved to somewhere else in the globe. It’s a pity that some of the urban folklore magazines of the 1990s aren’t still around, as this is the kind of event they loved. Small press magazines like Dear Mr Thoms/ Letter to Ambrose Merton, Folklore Frontiers and the academic Contemporary Legend used to follow similar stories. Like the stolen garden gnomes that went around the world, sending their former owners postcards from whichever new location they turned up in. This is somewhat like that. But it most closely resembles a British UFO hoax from the early 1980s which was covered, I believed, by that venerable journal of the weird, the Fortean Times. I’ve forgotten quite when it all happened, but sometime in the early 1980s or perhaps the late ’70s, a number of silver spheres appeared around Britain making beeping noises. They were designed to appear like alien objects from a UFO. The silver monolith also looks to me like it’s intended to resemble the alien monoliths from Kubrick and Clarke’s classic SF film, 2001, but with the difference that theirs was pitch black. As far as I know, no-one has claimed responsibility for the supposedly alien spheres, although I think it was suggested they were the work of students. I think it’s highly unlikely that either spheres or the recent monolith are the work of aliens. However, latter did appear at the same time as an unexplained signal was received from Proxima Centauri. This is the nearest star to ours, at about four light years away. Scientists were excited about it because Proxima Centauri is believed to have two planets. One is a Jupiter-sized gas giant, but the other is a rocky planet like Earth. So there have been videos on YouTube asking whether what was picked up was another ‘WOW signal’, like the burst of radio noise from Eta Carinae in the 1970s that astonished radio astronomers. It was so close to what they expected a signal from an alien civilisation to be like, that someone wrote ‘Wow’ next to the printout of it. It’s been a matter of debate since whether it really did come from aliens or was natural. The signal was never repeated, like the recent signal from Proxima Centauri, so I think most scientists believe it’s almost certainly natural. I think the Proxima signal will probably prove natural too. But you never know, and we live in hope.

As for hoaxes and stunts like the silver monolith and beeping spheres, while they aren’t remotely the real UFO landing people hope for, they do no harm and keep people amused. And in these grim times, we definitely need everything we can get to keep our spirits up.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 8:12pm in

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and I just wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May you all have a very happy and peaceful holiday season, whatever your religious beliefs. And I hope you’re still able to keep in touch with family and friends despite the lockdown restrictions. The toast ‘Absent friends’ will be particularly resonant this year.

And most of all, may those spirits of Christmas truly grotty – Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Gove, Starmer, Rayner and all the other horrors be far from your thoughts and those you love.

Have a great time!

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

Did Boris Become PM and Back Brexit Just to Protect the City of London from EU Regulation?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 5:00am in

That’s the conclusion reached by Simon Matthews, the author of a new book, Looking for a New England, and a regular contributor to the conspiracies/parapolitics magazine and website, Lobster. It was also the opinion six years ago of Lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsay. The main man has updated his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, and included an observation from Matthews in a previous piece by Ramsay from 2014 on what seems to have been going on underneath the surface of Johnson’s decision to run for PM. Ramsay had reported in his column that the Torygraph had published a piece stating that Brussels was planning a ‘power grab’ over the City. Which tohim indicated that Boris, then mayor of London, was running for PM simply to stop the EU clamping down on the City and its role in money laundering and financial crime across the globe. The piece ran

Boris and the City

If you wondered what the subtext was to Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s announcement in early August that he would be trying to return to the House of Commons, the answer lay in a story in the Daily Telegraph on 8 August headed ‘Brussels plots fresh City of London power grab: European Commission calls for greater powers for Brussels regulators in move likely to inflame tensions between City and Europe’. Reading (just)
between the lines of his speech it is obvious that Boris is offering himself as the leader of the Conservative Party who will take the UK out of the EU to preserve the City of London as the financial crime centre of the world economy.

I don’t doubt that both Matthews and Ramsay are correct and that this really is the reason for BoJob’s decision to go for the top job. And this frantic desire to protect the Tories’ City backers is going to wreck our manufacturing industry and agriculture, raise food prices, and create shortages of food, medicines and other goods.

All so that the Tories can make the obscenely rich even richer.

See: ‘Simon Says’ in ‘The View from the Bridge in Lobster 80 at

The View from the Bridge (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

'V-Day', really? The vaccine should be a source of global joy, not petty patriotism | Fintan O'Toole

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 5:00pm in

Those who claim a ‘win for Britain’ want to distract us from the government’s incompetence and cronyism

They had to go and ruin it, didn’t they? Here is a great moment for humanity: lovely people getting a vaccination against a deadly virus that has been developed with breathtaking rapidity. And what is the image that has been injected into our brains where it will lodge like a parasite? Matt Hancock pretend-crying on Good Morning Britain like a no-hoper auditioning for clown school.

The health secretary staged his bizarre pantomime presumably because the simple emotions that any sane person might be feeling – relief, hope, a tinge of wonder at the extraordinary ingenuity of which our species is capable – are not enough. Another layer of sentiment must be slathered on.

Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with the Irish Times

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COVID-19 in the UK: A Choice Between Life and Lucre?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 8:45am in

By James MacGregor Palmer

1.8 million pounds.

That’s how much the UK government thinks our lives are worth.

Placing an economic value on a human being is nothing new. It’s standard practice in a growth-obsessed society that ascribes economic value to whatever it can. 

Boris Johnson

A servant of GDP growth. (Image: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Credit: Number 10)

The Economy Over All

Last week the UK’s COVID-19 death toll broke the 50,000 mark. With our own wild-haired leader of the post-truth era at the helm, Britain (or England more specifically—the devolved Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish administrations have taken a far more cautious approach) has followed in America’s footsteps, resisting lockdowns for as long as possible. We are nearing the end of a second national lockdown, albeit one with far fewer restrictions than the first. This could have been avoided had Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed his scientific advisers’ recommendations for a two-week “circuit breaker” a few weeks ago. Instead, he ignored the science, sacrificing common sense, expert knowledge, and human life at the altar of GDP. Ironically, the result is likely to cause far more of an economic impact than a short “circuit breaker” ever would have. Now, despite cases leveling off, the lockdown is set to end on December 2nd, with shops, pubs, and restaurants reopening.

All this begs the question: Why is economic growth more important than human life? Or, in the words of De Graaf and Batker, “What’s the economy for, anyway?”

The UK government might reasonably reply that it is not just lives but livelihoods they are charged with protecting. This is true, of course, and the pandemic has hit most of us in the pocket. Small businesses have folded. People have lost their jobs. The self-employed struggle to find work. Career-seekers have seen opportunities dry up. The thing is, all of this has happened even with the government’s insistence on protecting the economy at all costs.

The government has consistently acted upon the key logical flaw that the steady state economy aims to redress: valuing the entity of “the economy” over its real-world human impact.

“The economy” is not a number. It is not a growth rate reported on the nightly news. No, “the economy” is about us. It is about our livelihoods. Our wellbeing. Our standard of living. It’s about you.

If “the economy” isn’t a number, then you aren’t either.

You Are Not a Number

1.8 million pounds.

The UK government has built their pandemic response around that figure. Back in March, if a lockdown had been enforced just two weeks earlier, an estimated 20,000 lives would have been saved. If we treat each of those people purely as a number—that £1.8 million—then their combined worth is £36 billion. That’s a lot of value to take out of the economy. But it pales in comparison to the value lost by two more weeks of lockdown.

COVID London

CDC guidelines ignored on the crowded London streets. (Image: CC0, Credit: Lteixeira)

It should be obvious that human life has value that is not economic. But the ideology of the economy-over-all is so deeply entrenched, so advanced in the hegemonic war of position, that the government’s insistence on preserving the economy does not seem perverse until we recall that stark reality—that £1.8 million.

The net result is likely a less severe drop in economic activity than would have occurred with an earlier lockdown. The government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which subsidized 100 million meals in August, helped the economy grow. It’s also been linked to more coronavirus deaths.

This is a government that has its economic priorities all wrong. When the first lockdown began to ease, the reopening of the non-essential retail and hospitality sectors was sold as a gift to the British people. It illustrated starkly the disconnect between what the government thought was important to its citizens and what was actually important to us. They wanted us to consume; we wanted to hug our families. The things we missed were not economic but uneconomic—the ability to socialize with our friends, visit people, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. To the government, the value of reopening pubs was in the money exchanged for drinks; to us, it was in having the space to be social.

The government has fallen hook, line, and sinker for the consumerist ideology that tells us “the economy” is a sacred cow that must be protected for its own sake. Not that the economy is unimportant, but it’s only important in how it affects people. What good is it when it’s killing them?

The government protected GDP, yet furlough was capped at 80 percent. They protected GDP, yet the self-employed were left out to dry. They protected GDP, yet Universal Credit was raised by just £20 a week.

What is the economy for, if not to help us when we need it most?

An Economy That Serves Us

The COVID-19 pandemic has made economic shrinkage inevitable across the world. The UK government had an opportunity to manage this shrinkage in a planned way by redistributing wealth and moving toward a more sustainable future. Indeed, this global tragedy could have been the metaphorical Big Bang that resulted in the dawn of the steady state economy. But the desire for GDP growth was too strong, it turns out.

Keir

The Labour Party needs to rethink a “green recovery.” (Image: CC BY-SA 4.0, Credit: Rwendland)

In the UK, even the rhetoric of the opposition Labour Party falls woefully short. They are championing a “green recovery”: A restoration of the economy to its former state while supposedly ensuring the growth is environmentally benign.

This is a fantasy. There is no such thing as “green growth,” especially in the huge economies of the global West and North. We are past the point where our economy can grow without damaging the environment.

Aside from this, the linguistics are off. “Recovery” implies that the economy has been damaged and must be repaired. This language is loaded with neoliberal ideology. What we need is not a “recovery” but a “reimagining.” A “recovery” is a return to the status quo, no matter what color you paint it. It would enshrine the idea that the correct response to economic crises is to minimize the hit, then build back stronger.

Instead, we must learn the lessons from this pandemic. The reason the virus has hit us in the pocket is not that the economy shrank, but that the economy is structured in such a way that it does not work for people. The logical response, then, is not to rebuild but to restructure the economy.

James MacGregor Palmer graduated from Newcastle University with a BA in Music with Politics in 2019 and is pursuing a master’s degree in International Journalism at the University of Stirling.

The post COVID-19 in the UK: A Choice Between Life and Lucre? appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Boris Johnson's rebranding of No 10 should be shown the door | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 9:00pm in

From blundering tweets to Joe Biden to pimping the Queen’s air ride, why can’t he get anything right?

The sale last week of a gold coin issued by Caratacus, the ancient British warrior who unsuccessfully resisted the Roman invasion, has got me thinking about the branding of doomed British regimes. The coin fetched £80,040 and depicts a naked Caratacus on a horse (also naked). That sounded a bit grim to me. The emperor Claudius, Caratacus’s ultimate vanquisher, never went tackle-out on the currency. Caratacus’s nudey display seems a bit try-hard, a bit Vladimir Putin, although even he tends to keep his trousers on.

To be fair, the image is more tasteful than the description makes it sound – you can’t really see Caratacus’s bottom or penis, though there is, to my eye at least, a suggestion of horse cock. But is this the product of restraint or merely the limitations of late iron age minting technology? Who knows what oiled and rippling hairy-balled vulgarity Caratacus might have commissioned if he’d had access to full-colour 3D printing? So it was probably for the best that this exhibitionist warrior culture was soon to benefit from the restraining influence of a vast pan-European bureaucracy.

The aesthetic of the British state is stylish and unusual. It's more sophisticated than a president in a big mansion

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