Corruption

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The Creation of the Great British Plutocracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 6:45pm in

Money rules in modern Britain, writes Rachel Morris

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One of the most disconcerting aspects of existence today, running as the subtext below a once-in-a-century pandemic, a re-emerging nuclear weapons threat, and an existential economic crisis, is that truth is subjective. Words don’t seem to mean what they used to.

At such a time, language should matter more than ever to those who don’t wish to play this dangerous game. That includes how we talk about our Government, old and ‘new’. Mea culpa: I’ve flung about terms like ‘kleptofascist’, without knowing if they’re even real words, let alone accurate descriptors.

In the interests of personal responsibility and a commitment to the truth as it used to be known, I’ve explored terms of use and held them up against our country’s leadership team to see how well, or ill-fitting, they are. It’s necessary to examine the source of power defined by each label, then how and by whom power is wielded, for what purpose. Bear in mind that not all of these terms are mutually exclusive.

Let's take the four primary forms of governance: anarchy, autocracy, democracy and oligarchy.

We can rule out the first, as the UK isn’t a non-hierarchical country without laws. Autocracy is when unlimited political and social power rests with one individual or polity, who or which is above the law and any means of being held to account besides violent outbreaks.

Some may say this echoes the current UK situation given what’s happened to accountability and transparency in recent times, but we’re really talking about a Sultan of Brunei-type situation there. (The commonly-used word ‘fascism’ also doesn’t apply, as it’s a belief system, whereas fascism-like actions are increasingly taken here simply to enable other things).

So, what and where are we nowadays: a democracy, an oligarchy, or somewhere in between?

‘Democracy’ means ‘rule of/by the people’, and is of course the representative system we have, in the strict sense. But the Conservatives won an 80-seat majority in 2019 via only 43.6% of the popular vote. 32 million people voted, on a turnout of 67.3% of the registered population, 13.9 million for the Conservatives (29.2% of the registered population).

That party has just, for the second time in four years, chosen its leader – and thus the Prime Minister – via an opaque system allowing unknown foreign elements a vote, or perhaps multiple votes.

For these and a myriad of other reasons, while we nominally have a democratic system, it cannot be said to be representative by any means. This tips us along the scale towards oligarchy. How far along?

A subspecies of representative democracy called ‘electocracy’ gives a government almost total power; citizens vote for it but cannot participate directly in its decisions; a sub-sub-species, totalitarian democracy, is a more extreme version.

Then there’s electoral autocracy, which looks like democracy at a glance, but institutions and norms are a cosplay façade, authoritarian methods prevail, and electoral processes are short on fairness and freedom. This brings Russia to mind, where the President and Prime Minister have simply changed places every few years, though the electoral aspect feels curiously familiar.

The UK doesn’t fit squarely into any of those sub-categories, but has inched towards some characteristics since 2019.

‘Oligarchy’ has become associated mainly with Russia and its cabal of wildly wealthy men and their families, enriched by theft from the country’s people and resources thanks to their always-precarious membership in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. But the word can apply anywhere.

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The Exchange Rate

Meaning ‘rule of/by the few’, oligarchy lends power to a small number of people who may or may not be linked by birth status, corporate ties, military or religious control and/or wealth. This category can be sub-divided, and that’s where things become more applicable to the UK. But first, let’s eliminate what we’re self-evidently not.

We have, but are not, an aristocracy. While social class still has huge influence over people’s life experiences from cradle to grave, it appears that money is now more of a determinant in the allocation of power, American-style, than simply social inheritance.

Which is where we stumble upon plutocracy: a system in which the leadership is dependent on, in debt to, and/or under the influence of the wealthy and their goals and interests, whether individuals or organisations. Whatever the type of government under discussion, plutocracy can change its nature and how it’s described. It’s simply a question of degree.

Of course, all major ‘democracies’ have always had a smear of plutocracy in their make-up. Before Liz Truss took over from Boris Johnson as leader, there were long-standing concerns about the degree of influence over that Conservative Party by the wealthy, including their involvement in bringing about Brexit.

Some such wealthy people are Putin-connected Russians, some of whom have been ennobled or are rumoured to be soon. Others have been provided with means of privileged access to Government decision-making. The Conservative Party has accepted some £5 million in donations from Russian sources since 2012.

By way of non-Russian examples, there have been many un-minuted meetings between senior ministers and malign global influencer Rupert Murdoch or his representatives. My Freedom of Information request to the Cabinet Office for details about this earlier this year went unanswered.

Six Conservative donors have been given high-level cultural positions of influence, such as trusteeship of the National Gallery. Earlier this year, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) allowed the auction of a private tour as a prize at a Conservative function, before hosting the Conservative Summer Ball. The museum’s chair is a party donor.

One V&A trustee, Ben Elliot, was until very recently the Conservative Party chairman. Elliot used his concierge firm Quintessentially to provide services to Russian oligarchs, and is alleged to have earned an income by setting up meetings between his uncle and wealthy, fee-paying businessmen. His uncle King Charles III, that is – Elliot is the nephew of Camilla, the Queen Consort.

All of that self-evidently breaches the code of conduct for public body trustees. However, as the certainty with which a plutocratic democracy can be described as such increases, compliance with rules and norms relating to public accountability, ethics, conflicts of interest, corruption, and transparency correspondingly lessens. How else are they to get away with it?

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s nakedly rich-favouring mini-budget also brazenly ripped the mask off any pretence that we’re a representative democracy, lurching us into the realms of corporatocracy and kleptocracy.

If you’re still in any doubt, I ask you to consider three things. The relationship between Kwarteng and his former boss Crispin Odey, and Odey’s financial relationship with the health or otherwise of our currency. And watch the City of London documentary The Spider’s Web on Netflix or YouTube, if you haven’t already. Welcome to the Hunger Games. This is feral capitalism, facilitated by those in charge.

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Can Truss survive this?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 4:30pm in

The IMF issued this statement last night:

Moody's rating agency did, two hours later, threaten to downgrade the UK's credit rating.

The Bank of England had already indicated that very large increases in UK interest rates are now likely in November.

Mainstream media are now reporting that the cost of mortgages will increase by the sort of sums I have been suggesting for a while and that 2 million households might be hit by these increases in the next year when they will very clearly not be able to afford them in most cases.

The reality of the mess we are in is dawning, and all of it because Truss and Kwarteng have set us on what is very obviously an unsustainable and utterly irresponsible economic path which was not the choice of the people of the country or even of Torty MPs, but of the Tory membership.

I have one simple question that follows on from this, given the scale of this crisis so early in the premiership of an unelected leader of the UK, and that is can Trss survive this? Remember that to do so she must have the support of the House of Commons. That is the essential quality that determines who can lead the country. Usually this is easy to work out because the leader of the largest party usually has an overall majority in the UK's rigged electoral system.

But Truss was elected with the support of less than a third of Tory MPs.

There is no guarantee she has the support of most of those MPs now.

The chance that she can get policies through the House to continue on the course she has set when it is already so glaringly obviously disastrous is very low.

So can she be prime minister? I candidly doubt it.

I gather that George Canning was the prime minister with the shortest ever term, of just 119 days. But he died in office. Truss could take his record. Why would Tory MPs want to support this disaster knowing that whatever happens now many of them will be losing their jobs at the next election?

I am sincerely hoping that Truss does not last, for the sake of the people of this country.

And what then? The country needs government more than it needs an election at this precise moment. So I would hope that a very short-term minority government, probably on a cross-party basis, could be put in place to enact measures to stabilise the economy before an election. But we need that election after that. And we need it to be a truly radical government, committed to real reforms, enlightened economics and the green agenda.

Maybe I am too optimistic. But I have to live in hope when for many Truss is destroying it. This country needs enlightened thinking to get us out of this mess. Will it get it? Who knows?

Mitigating the ‘abacus economics’ of the Chinashop budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 10:36pm in

Chancellor Kwarteng disallowed any Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) report on the impact of the budget plans, because the budget decisions were simply based on ideology. And as was shown with the OBR’s Brexit impact statement, that is not ideal if your beliefs trump evidence. So the OBR was not required to point out that... Read more

Fracking Minister Funded by Fossil Fuel Investor

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 1:15am in

Nafeez Ahmed investigates Jacob Rees-Mogg's relationship with his former hedge-fund mentor and political donor Robin Crispin Odey

Liz Truss’ new Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – noted climate science denier Jacob Rees-Mogg – has received £22,000 in donations from a top hedge-fund manager who regularly profits from betting on the collapse of the British pound, the failure of top British firms, and rocketing energy prices, Byline Times can exclusively reveal.

Rees-Mogg’s donor also reaped millions from investing in a Russian mining company owned by a Russian oligarch close to Putin, and by betting on oil and gas price spikes after the Russian invasion of Ukraine which have driven a devastating cost-of-living crisis for ordinary Britons.

Rees-Mogg is well-known for his open denial of climate science, and his role as a founding partner at hedge-fund Somerset Capital Management which enjoys fossil fuel ties. His longstanding relationship with Robin Crispin Odey, however, has been largely unreported until now. It throws new light on the ‘disaster capitalism’ mindset that appears to animate Mogg’s policy ideas.

Odey, who is on the Sunday Times Rich List for his £775 million fortune, is a founder of hedge-fund Odey Asset Management, where he personally managed some $4 billion in assets. A long-time Conservative Party donor, back in 2007 Odey’s firm incubated Jacob Rees-Mogg’s just-launched Somerset Capital Management before it had even received regulatory approval.

But this was just the beginning. Throughout his career since becoming the Conservative MP for North East Somerset – nearly a decade – Rees-Mogg received repeated donations from Odey. He received £2,000 from Odey in 2010, £9,000 in 2013, £6,000 in 2015 and £5,000 in 2017.

It’s well known that Odey is an avid Brexit supporter. In 2016, he gave £217,192 to the hard Brexit lobbying outfit Global Britain Ltd, during which its director Brian Monteith was seconded into becoming Leave.EU’s communications chief.

Odey, who previously made millions short-selling bank stocks during the 2008 crash, made millions after the Brexit referendum by betting against the pound in 2016. In 2019, when he donated £10,000 to Boris Johnson for his Tory leadership campaign, Odey again bet around £300 million against British firms like Royal Mail and retail owner Intu.

Odey is also a fossil fuel investor. Odey Asset Management owns shares in Jadestone Energy, a Singapore-headquartered oil and gas producer; Equinor, Norway’s state-owned oil and gas giant; and Aker BP, a Norwegian oil firm jointly owned with British Petroleum.

In the first two months of 2022, his hedge fund surged over 30% from fossil fuel investments that many pension funds and endowments refuse to hold due to their link to climate risks.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Odey escalated this strategy by cashing in on bets that oil and gas prices would soar. While Odey and his firm reaped millions, most Britons are alarmed at how they will cope as the cost-of-living crisis resulting from these energy price hikes shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon.

Then in April, while other companies were fleeing Russian investments, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s hedge-fund patron was doing the opposite. He bought shares in Russian mining giant Polymetal International Inc., whose founder and largest shareholder is billionaire oligarch Alexander Nesis.

In 2018, Nesis was on a US Treasury Department list of oligarchs identified as close to President Vladimir Putin. Nesis is also among four Russian oligarchs who, since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, received over $4 billion in dividends from investments in companies on the London Stock Exchange.

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Fracking

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s longstanding friendship and financial relationship with Robin Crispin Odey could go some way toward illuminating the thinking that appears to be behind his decision to lift the ban on fracking in the UK.

The decision seems to be little to do with any genuine desire to solve the cost-of-living crisis or alleviate Britain’s actual energy woes. The concern is that these political decisions are more to do with ensuring that powerful interests, like Rees-Mogg's Mogg’s patron Odey, continue to be in pole position to reap millions from a crisis that will make Britons poorer and more insecure. 

These conflict of interest concerns are heightened given Somerset Capital Management's relationship with the British Government and Conservative Party.

Dominic Johnson, Somerset's CEO, was vice-chair of the Tory Party from 2016 to 2019. In 2020, he was appointed to the role of Chair of the Department of International Trade as a non-executive board member. But in 2007, Johnson was involved in working with Rees-Mogg to set up Somerset while it was being incubated by Odey Asset Management. And in 2013, Johnson donated £1718.41 to his colleague Mogg according to the register of interests.

It would seem that Odey’s explicit strategy on Brexit, climate risks, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is something Rees-Mogg’s career has been invariably aligned with. Allowing fracking to resume in Britain – despite even the founder of UK fracking firm Cuadrilla describing it as uneconomical, costly and unable to provide a meaningful supply of new gas – looks like more evidence of this alignment.

Rees-Mogg may be aware that fracking will not succeed. The danger is, given his new position in the Cabinet, that he is more aligned to the interests of his hedge-fund and fossil fuel investor donors rather than the public interest.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was contacted for comment.

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As the Bank of England threatens to crash the property market Truss steps in with a stamp duty cut to keep the older middle classes happy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 4:57pm in

The Bank of England will increase interest rates tomorrow. The only question is by how much. Their relentless plan to raise rates will continue. The markets still seem to think a 4% base rate is possible and we are a long way from there as yet.

As I have long warned, the result will be massive numbers of personal insolvencies. The impact of this increase on mortgage payments - increasing many by maybe £600 a month in a little over a year by the time this process is compere - will be massive, and will dwarf the impact of the energy crisis for many hiusehodls, as journalists are now beginning to realise based on the number of calls I am getting.

So what has Truss decided to do? She's going to have a stamp duty cut, leaked by The Times this morning:

Note my comments. There is not a lot more to add. Except to note that this is another tax giveaway to those already rich at cost to those who are not. How very Liz Truss.

The IMF says trickle down does not work and we all know they’re right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 4:48pm in

There were some interesting exchanges on economics yesterday.

President Biden said in a tweet that he did not think trickle-down economics works.

At the same time, Truss was in New York promoting the idea that it does.

Who is right? The IMF put it like this in the abstract to a 2015 paper:

This paper analyzes the extent of income inequality from a global perspective, its drivers, and what to do about it. The drivers of inequality vary widely amongst countries, with some common drivers being the skill premium associated with technical change and globalization, weakening protection for labor, and lack of financial inclusion in developing countries.

We find that increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down. This suggests that policies need to be country specific but should focus on raising the income share of the poor, and ensuring there is no hollowing out of the middle class. To tackle inequality, financial inclusion is imperative in emerging and developing countries while in advanced economies, policies should focus on raising human capital and skills and making tax systems more progressive.

I am not sure that the second paragraph could be clearer.

Truss is aiming to increase inequality at cost to growth, and everyone but the wealthy in the UK economy. To achieve that she says she is 'willing to be unpopular. I should think her backbenchers will be extremely worried, already.

This is Trussonomics.

Funerial reflections…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/09/2022 - 6:22am in

So probably, the UK knows how to put on rather a good funeral and it is actually entirely (surely not?) all organised by the public sector. I think we can conclude that the public sector is more than capable of ‘delivering’ – it just needs investment in the wherewithal so to do. This really shouldn’t... Read more

Coalition Says No To ICAC As The Price Of Lettuce Is Too High

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 8:40am in

The Dark Lord led Coalition has come out strongly against a proposed Federal ICAC due to the high price of lettuce.

”It’s all well and good for Mr Albanese to come out and want to set up this and that but they need to deal with the trillion dollar debt that they have,” said the Dark Lord. ”Can you imagine how much lettuce we’ll need to buy to flog people with?”

”Why Angus alone could add an extra billion to the debt.”

When asked why he, as a member of the former Government wasn’t taking any ownership of the trillion dollar debt, the Dark Lord replied: ”That’s not my job.”

”Scott was in charge of the Government and as we’ve learned pretty much every ministry so as far as I’m concerned the debt is on him.”

”And Albo, as he should’ve stopped Scott.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a long week, I’m off to strangle a puppy or two.”

Mark Williamson

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The UK is very clearly in breach of the UN Declaration on Human Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/09/2022 - 5:04pm in

I posted this Twitter thread this morning:

Like many, I was shocked by the arbitrary arrest of protestors suggesting that King Charles III was not their choice of head of state yesterday. Support the monarchy or not, the issue of free speech is fundamental to all our freedoms. A thread….

The UN Declaration of Human Rights, put in place in 1948 with support from the UK provides very clear indication that these arrests are a breach of human rights.

Article 19 says:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

That is unsurprising given Article 18, the core element of which says:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

These rights are reinforced by Article 9, which says:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Remember why it was thought so important to express these human rights. The world had just lived through the horror of fascism. It had seen what totalitarian regimes did to those who protested. It was determined that dissent should be allowed so that democracy might flourish.

What the Declaration made clear was the right to dissent was fundamental to our freedom. And what the Declaration also made clear was that we had the right to express that dissent, whoever we might be, and that we should be able to do so without fear.

Of course those preparing the Declaration knew when saying this that some who might dissent would express inconvenient views that might offend some. That’s why it had to be said that they had the right to do so.

And then we come to yesterday. A monarch has been put on the throne without any form of consent by the people of the country being required, and without an alternative choice being made available contrary, I suggest, to Article 21 of the Declaration.

The first key part of Article 21 says:

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

The second crucial element of Article 21 says:

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

And yet in the UK we have a monarch who acts not just as Head of State but who also plays a fundamental constitutional role, with a right to hear and be heard before consenting to legislation, whose appointment involves no such process of popular consent.

The UK does not, as a result, provide the people of this country (who are subjects and not citizens as a result of this arcane system where the monarch is our feudal liege lord and we are their vassals) with the human rights we should enjoy.

Worse, it now seems that our human right to object to this abuse has been removed, and we might be subject to arbitrary arrest for doing so.

What is there to conclude? It is that in the UK not only do we have an unacceptable system of government in that what we have clearly contravenes international standards of acceptability, but that we may not say so for fear of arrest.

Now let me loop you back to 1948 and remind you why these human rights were declared inviolate. It was precisely to stop oppressive regimes from preventing those from within their borders the right to protest about the form of government they suffered.

That is now where we are. People are being denied the right to dissent by a UK government intent in removing our human rights, our equal right to participle in democracy, and our freedom to protest, whilst granting the power of arbitrary arrest to the police.

Today’s royalists taking offence might be those arrested tomorrow. That’s what happens when there is arbitrary power that does not respect human rights. They should be as worried as I am.

We have a regime of precisely the sort the visionaries who drafted the UN Declaration on Human Rights sought to protect us from, and politicians of exactly the type they knew might re-emerge when the lessons of history were forgotten.

Worry, a lot. Your freedom depends on dissenting from the oppression that our government is imposing, contrary to our internationally declared human rights.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Charles III where dissent is not permitted

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/09/2022 - 5:45pm in

There have been two reports of people being arrested yesterday for protesting at proclamations of King Charles III. Both the protests appear to have been personal, rather than organised. Neither protestor did anything more than express an opinion.

In the land of Liz Truss and, apparently, King Charles III, such protest would appear to be unacceptable.

I have already noted the absence of any apparent democratic consent to the ascent of Charles to the Throne. That troubled me. That those who wish to express their dissent about his ascension are arrested for doing so troubles me even more.

As I understand it, the reason for the multiple proclamations of the monarch was to gauge the level of support that they might enjoy. In other words, the process recognised that consent was not automatic, and might even be withheld.

This, apparently, is no longer the case. Now the proclamation is an edict that we must take or leave, without our opinion being sought, and with dissent not being permitted.

It is a standard right wing argument to suggest those dissenting from the opinion of those others with power are very rude to disagree, and must be suffering some sort of affliction for doing so. At the very least, dissent is cast as rude, and as justification for ostracism within society.

Alternatively, the person complaining must be very jealous, and so we get the narrative of the politics of envy.

Move just a little further, and the dissenter is a threat to peace, law and order and must be detained. They become a criminal.

But that is not what dissenters are, of course. They are expressing their human right to free speech, and so to disagree. This right is at the very core of all human liberties. It is the bedrock of democracy too. And that, no doubt, is why fascists and Tories alike loathe that freedom, and seek to constrain it, through legislation and inappropriate police intervention of the type seen yesterday.

I would rather we did not have a new King. I think the demands of monarchy an impossibly unfair imposition to place on anyone by accident of birth when I think none more suited to a task by reason of birth than any other. I am also a democrat, and would rather have a say in who is my head of state, and to have a chance to remove them. And I am convinced that endorsed privilege needs to be removed from UK politics when the harm it has caused is now so obvious.

And yes, I think I have the right to say that and that no one should be arrested for doing so.

As they have been, read that for what it says that we have: a fascist, police state.

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