Economy

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Frankel: Australia’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/10/2022 - 4:57am in

1 in 28 indigenous people homeless, Australian rental market “hurtling toward disaster”, and $575 million committed to affordable housing in this month’s report on Australia’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis.  Read on for the latest monthly digest of articles, research reports, policy announcements and other material about housing stress/affordability and homelessness. Urban Indigenous homelessness: much Continue reading »

Liz Truss’ False Energy Bill Cap Claim has Misled Public, Poll Finds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 11:21pm in

Six in 10 voters believe the Prime Minister's false claim that the Government is capping total household energy bills at £2,500 a year, reports Adam Bienkov

The public are being misled by Liz Truss’ false claim about capping total household energy bills from next week, a new Omnisis poll for Byline Times suggests.

The Prime Minister was rebuked by independent fact-checkers on Thursday after repeatedly making the false claim that households would pay no more than £2,500 a year for their energy.

“We have taken action by the Government stepping in, making sure that nobody is paying fuel bills of more than £2,500," Truss told BBC Radio Kent. She went on to repeat the claim on other local radio stations over the course of the morning.

However, under her Government’s plans, which will come into force next week, only the unit price of electricity will be capped – meaning many households will in fact pay well in excess of the £2,500 figure quoted by Truss.

Downing Street has yet to correct the Prime Minister's false claim. However, new polling by Omnisis for Byline Times suggests that a clear majority of people listening to the Prime Minister's claims will have believed her.

According to the poll, 58% of those surveyed said they understood Truss' statements to mean that their bills will be capped at £2,500; with just 42% saying that they instead believed there would be no such absolute cap.

The chief executive of Full Fact told Byline Times that the Prime Minister must stop misleading the public.

 "The Prime Minister must correct the record to avoid misleading people and ensure they are not hit by unaffordable and unexpected energy bills", Will Moy said.

"The evidence is that significant numbers of people are confused about what the guarantee means for them, and that could be a very costly confusion.

"More than that, the PM is asking for people's trust - and trust is earned."

A Budget for the Wealthy

Omnisis' findings also suggest that the fallout from last week's mini budget has badly damaged public trust in Liz Truss' handling of the economy.

According to the polling, almost seven in 10 voters do not have confidence in the Prime Minister to manage the economy during the cost of living crisis. Meanwhile 63% of those surveyed said they do not believe her claim that cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals will grow the economy.

The Government's plans to scrap the top rate of tax, cut corporation tax and lift the cap on bankers' bonuses also appear to have damaged the Government's reputation.

Sixty-seven per cent of those asked said that the mini budget would "deepen inequality", while 81% said that the Government should instead be making the richest in society pay more.

Overall, 66% said that the budget would help people on higher incomes, compared to just 10% who said that it would help people on lower incomes. Just 4% said it would help people living in poverty.

The mini budget also appears to have damaged public belief in the Government's 'levelling-up' agenda. Seventy-two per cent of those asked by Omnisis said they don't believe the Prime Minister now cares about the issue.

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Brexit Regrets

Truss' Government sold its mini budget on a claim to be taking advantage of the supposed "opportunities" of Brexit. However, today's polling also found that most voters believe that the UK's exit from the EU has left the country worse-off.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they believe the UK would be better-off if it was still a member of the EU.

Public confidence in the Government's handling of Brexit also remains low, with 73% saying they believe that the Government is handling it badly.

Public support for rejoining the EU is also high, according to the poll – with 61% of voters saying that they would vote for Britain to re-join the bloc if another referendum was held today.

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Tax Cuts For The Rich, Benefit Cuts For The Poor?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 11:05pm in

Following news that benefits may rise with earnings, not inflation, Sian Norris and the Byline Intelligence Team asks: who will be hardest hit? And is this an inequality economy?

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The Government has mooted real-term cuts to welfare benefits to help meet the ongoing economic crisis that was exacerbated by the mini-budget announced a week ago. 

The Timesfront page on Friday 30 September led with the story that the Government was discussing raising benefits in-line with earnings, leading to a real-terms cut that would mean households already struggling to make ends meet risk falling deeper into poverty. A rise in-line with earnings would be 5%, while inflation hovers around 10%.

The Byline Intelligence Team has analysed who would be impacted by any decision to introduce a real-terms cut to the incomes of families currently claiming welfare. 

We found that low-income women and people in their 30s, living in traditionally “red wall” seats, would be hit hardest by a decision to increase Universal Credit against earnings, not inflation. 

Our analysis comes as the Government delivers big tax cuts to the rich, while potentially cutting benefits for the poorest families, as well as threatening more cuts to public services.

This represents a move by Liz Truss’ Government towards an inequality economy. 

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What Is The Plan?

Universal Credit is the welfare system pioneered by former Department for Work and Pensions Secretary Sir Iain Duncan-Smith. In 2018 it was criticised by the National Audit Office which concluded it could end up costing more than the benefit system it had replaced, could not prove it helped more claimants into work, and was unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

Benefits usually increase in April each year, based on the consumer price inflation of the previous September. This meant that in spring this year, benefits rose by 3.1% – in line with inflation six months earlier. However, by April 2022, inflation had already risen to 9%, before hitting 10.1% in July. It is currently at 9.9%. 

Johnson’s Government had promised to correct this imbalance before he was forced to resign over the summer. However, the new Government has made it clear that benefit freezes are on the table, although formal discussions are due to begin only once September’s inflation figures are received next month.

According to the Resolution Foundation, increasing benefits in-line with earnings instead of inflation would leave a low-income family with two children £1,000 per year off. This would follow the decision by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in October last year to cut the Universal Credit £20 uplift, which cost 5.5 million households an average of £1,200. 

It also risks cancelling out the changes to the taper rate announced last year, which gave an additional £1,000 more per year to two million working families on Universal Credit.  

Iain Porter, Senior Policy Adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It is shocking to hear the Government suggesting that they may not do what Rishi Sunak promised and uprate benefits by inflation next April as usual. This will mean yet another devastating blow to the finances of people on the lowest incomes and will cause fear for millions who have spent the past months struggling to feed their families, cook hot food and heat their homes”.

Where The Cuts May Fall

More than 5.8 million people in England, Wales and Scotland claim Universal Credit, and just under half (40%) have jobs. The amount a household receives varies depending on income and whether the claimants have children. 

Of that 5.8 million, 46.7% are single people with no children, and 13.5% are a couple with children. Single parents make up 36.3% of claimants. Half of single parent households are in relative poverty, and 90% of those families are headed by single mothers. 

London has the highest number of individual Universal Credit claimants, at 771,665, and in April 2022, 16.5% of people on the benefit lived in the capital. Just over 12% of people on Universal Credit live in the North West, or 618,572 individuals

Proportionally the region with the most people on benefits is the North East, at 8.76%. This is based on the number of claimants (236,709) as a percentage of the regional population as estimated by Varbes (2,702,539).

The North West had the second highest percentage of claimants per population, at 8.39%. London is at 8.08% and the West Midlands at 7.9%. In Wales, 7.2% of the population claims Universal Credit, while in Scotland it is 7.1%. 

On an individual city or county council level, Birmingham City Council has the highest number of claimants, at 160,164, while Rutland has the lowest: 1,793.

This regional breakdown demonstrates that many of those who will be hardest hit by a decision to raise benefits in-line with earnings and not inflation are in former Red Wall seats – traditionally held by Labour but which voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 on a promise of getting Brexit done and “levelling up”. 

Women will also be disproportionately impacted by a real-term cut to benefits levels – they make up 55% of Universal Credit claimants. The majority of claimants are in their 30s.

Should the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng pursue a plan to increase benefits in-line with earnings in order to balance the books, at a time when offering tax cuts and unlimited bankers’ bonuses to the richest in society, he will be sending a clear message that austerity is back, and risks increasing regional, gender and generational inequality.

“Many people across the UK will agree it is morally indefensible that the Prime Minister would choose to give tax cuts to the richest funded on the backs of the poorest in our society,” said Porter. “Those who will lose out if the Government continues down this track include people with low earnings, families with children, carers and people who are sick or disabled”. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The rise of Trussonomics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 4:40am in

It’s impossible to know whether the new British Prime Minister is genuinely serious about constructive policy or not. She is certainly interested in greasing palms and calming the storms, if only to delay the inevitable. Having proven herself the shallowest of candidates to succeed her disgraced, not wholly banished predecessor, Liz Truss has leapt into Continue reading »

What You Don’t Know Can’t TIF You

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 2:00am in

TIFs date back to the 1950s, and every state except Arizona has them in one form or another. There are thousands upon thousands of TIF districts all across the country. Chances are decent you’ve heard about one in your local area....

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Conservative MPs Fear Liz Truss is Pushing the UK Economy to Disaster

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 7:49pm in

The Prime Minister's Brexit-driven ideology is pushing the UK economy off a cliff and her own MPs fear they may not be able to stop her, reports Adam Bienkov

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The pound is plunging, Government borrowing costs are going through the roof and the Bank of England has spent tens of billions in order to stop a run on UK pension funds. Meanwhile, mortgage companies are pulling their products as traders warn darkly that the UK is on the edge of a Lehman Brothers-style collapse.

And yet the word in Downing Street is that absolutely everything is going to plan.

Government sources told reporters on Wednesday that there would be “no change” to its policy and instead suggested that the current crisis was a “blip” caused by international markets failing to understand the sophisticated nature of Truss’ economic plan. 

Rather than row back from proposals to hand massive tax cuts to millionaires, ministers have instead been asked to find “efficiency savings” from public services instead. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Philp, suggested on Wednesday evening that benefit claimants could also be asked to accept real terms cuts to the support they receive. 

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday morning, Liz Truss insisted that she will push ahead, as it is “the right plan that we have set out” and “we have to do it”.

For many Conservative MPs this is not just fantasy economics, but fantasy politics.

With polls suggesting that the party’s economic credibility is now in tatters, they fear that their new leader is pushing them to an “extinction level” event. One poll earlier this week suggested that the Conservatives now face a 1997-level electoral wipeout. 

One distraught Tory MP and former Cabinet Minister told Byline Times on Wednesday that Truss’ plan, and in particular her decision to scrap the top rate of tax, is causing serious damage to the party’s hard-fought reputation on the economy. “The 45p cut is really toxic," they said.

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What has particularly infuriated them is the fact that Truss' heavy focus on tax cuts for high earners has almost entirely distracted the public from the significant support the Treasury is also providing to households on energy bills.

“Colleagues are angry that the energy package has been completely overshadowed”, one Conservative MP said. “It’s huge expenditure to genuinely fix an extraordinary challenge for households and businesses and it has sunk without trace.”

Truss’ determination to push ahead with her plans, despite the many red lights flashing on the UK economic dashboard, has blindsided some of her MPs.

“There was no absolutely no pitch-rolling [for this plan],” one told Byline Times.

However, in reality, the Prime Minister's recent actions are entirely in line with the arguments she made during this summer’s leadership contest. 

For two months, Truss dismissed warnings from her rival Rishi Sunak that her plans would risk the stability of the UK economy, while insisting that the time for “hand-outs” for low earners was now over.

“To look at everything through the lens of redistribution, I believe is wrong," Truss told the BBC shortly after becoming Prime Minister, before adding that it was only “fair” that the majority of her tax cuts should go to those at the top of the income scale.

On her broadcast round this morning, Truss continued to take these lines, despite a brutal series of questions from local radio stations and their listeners.

Speaking in characteristically plodding and emotionless terms, Truss showed no sign of contrition or any indication that she plans to change course in any way. Under her current plans, the Treasury will not even re-examine its economic agenda for another eight weeks – and there was little sign this morning that this is about to change.

Brexit Ideologues Pushing Economy Over a Cliff

Conservative MPs are now hoping desperately that this is all merely bravado. They expect that, when faced with a growing crisis, the Prime Minister will inevitably be forced into a series of U-turns in order to stabilise the economy.

Maybe she will, but there is also a chance that Truss actually believes in the hardline economic ‘shock doctrine’ she is now applying.

There is a chance that, when her aides and outriders brief that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), currency traders, and the Civil Service, are all “woke” agents trying to block her glorious economic revolution, or that the whole crisis has somehow been manufactured by the Leader of the Opposition, that she actually believes it.

It is possible that the Prime Minister has become completely convinced by her own rhetoric and that, when the decision comes on whether to push the UK economy over the cliff or admit that she was wrong, she will enthusiastically do the former.

This is not as unlikely as it may seem.

Ever since the EU Referendum, the Conservative Party has committed itself to an economic and political project which even its own Government predicted would lead to the UK becoming significantly poorer. It has continued with this plan despite clear and growing evidence that it has made life and work significantly harder for businesses and individuals across the country.

In some ways, Truss' new hardline economic agenda is merely the logical end point of that process. If you believe, as Truss and her allies quite obviously do, that the UK can only prosper if it becomes a small state, low-tax, low-regulation economy, outside of the European Union, then you will be willing to take any means necessary to achieve that aim, even if it means crashing the economy.

Pushing ahead will be difficult, however. Conservative MPs are already warning that they will seek to intervene if she continues with all of the measures in last week's mini budget. One senior figure in the party predicted that there would be sizeable rebellions on their benches in the House of Commons when the Prime Minister puts her plans to a vote. The Bank of England and other institutions are also unlikely to stand by if the Government remains on its current course.

However, with Truss clinging on to the large majority she has inherited from her predecessor Boris Johnson, and with her apparent determination to ignore opposition to her plans, none of this may be enough.

Faced with similar pushback, Johnson was often criticised for his tendency to make regular U-turns. Yet as embarrassing as those U-turns were, they were also necessary to prevent his own Government, and the country, from heading towards outright disaster.

The terrifying prospect posed by the Truss premiership is that she lacks this same safety valve and that, when she insists that we all have no choice but to keep going with her reckless and dangerous economic plans, that she really does mean it.

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Defence Strategic Review-Prometheus bound – China the constrained superpower

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 4:58am in

Several contributors to this series have argued that China should not be seen as a military threat to Australia. Their arguments are based on historical, political, and cultural grounds, or all three. Henry Kissinger in his 2011 book On China concluded similarly. But should security policy be based on legitimately contested views of China’s past, Continue reading »

To all who care about humanity’s and the planet’s future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 4:56am in

Humanity has reached a tipping point. It is time for governments, international institutions and people everywhere to take stock and act with renewed urgency. The Ukraine conflict is inflicting death, injury, displacement and destruction, exacerbating a global food crisis, driving Europe into recession, and creating shock waves across the world economy. The Taiwan conflict is Continue reading »

‘The Iceberg Heading Straight Towards the Government is Housing Market Crash’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 10:38pm in

Experts explain how ‘the wheels could come off’ the British economy as a result of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng's reckless approach, reports Sam Bright

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UK markets have lost $500 billion in combined value since Liz Truss became Prime Minister three weeks ago, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

Thanks to the collapse of the pound, which has gone from $1.17 to $1.07 in the space of the last month, this financial hit is roughly equivalent to £350 million lost every 21 minutes from UK markets.

In other words, if we suspend reality and believe the Vote Leave claim that we ‘sent’ £350 million a week to the EU, the recent collapse in UK markets is approximate to 143 of these weekly payments. Nearly three years of alleged membership fees, burned in less than a month.

The Bank of England has now warned that there is potentially a “material risk to UK financial stability” and has adopted measures it hopes will help stabilise the economy.

This comes after the financial markets bet against the UK economy, following Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget last week. Kwarteng announced a range of un-costed (i.e. he didn’t explain exactly how he would pay for them) policies to benefit the rich – including lowering the top rate of tax, removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses, cancelling corporation tax and National Insurance rises, and cutting stamp duty.

As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said, “given elevated inflation pressures in many countries, including the UK, we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages at this juncture, as it is important that fiscal policy does not work at cross purposes to monetary policy”.

Ergo, in order to curb inflation – expected to peak at 11% in October – the Bank of England will be forced to elevate interest rates. The more that Government measures push up inflation, by increasing the heat in the economy (through the “untargeted fiscal packages” described by the IMF), the more that interest rates will rise.

This, it seems, could be the apex of a new, profound economic crisis in the UK.

“The iceberg that is heading straight towards [the Government] is the housing market,” Dr Jo Michell, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of the West of England, told the Byline Times Podcast.

The Government’s policies “will induce higher interest rates,” he says. “The Bank of England will intervene, interest rates will be high... that’s going to feed through into mortgage rates, and I do struggle to see how the housing market doesn’t [crash].”

The importance of property to the UK economy has intensified since the 1980s and Margaret Thatcher’s economic reforms. “Let me give you my vision: a man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master – these are the British inheritance,” she said at her first party conference speech in 1975.

The steady, consistent growth of the private property market – underpinned by the conscious erosion of social housing stock – has formed the basis of individual security and investment in Britain ever since.

The average selling price of a home in the UK trebled during the Thatcher era from £19,925 in 1979 to £59,785 in 1990. This figure hit £251,634 in 2010, and now stands at £286,000. In London, that figure is £543,517.

“So much of the economy, for better or for worse – mainly for worse – is driven by housing price valuations,” says Dr Mitchell, “and this is where I think the wheels can really come off [the Government’s] so-called plan.”

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This is reiterated by Professor Mark Stephens, Chair of Land, Property and Urban Studies at Glasgow University, who says that, “while the budget has triggered the crisis, it is the price for a decade of making every effort to support entry into home ownership while keeping house prices high”.

Indeed, we have already seen some evidence of this in just the last week. A number of lenders, including Halifax – Britain’s largest mortgage lender – have withdrawn some of their products until they figure out what interest rate to charge.

By 2023, monthly mortgage repayments as a percentage of household nominal disposable income is expected to hit 30% – the figure last seen immediately before the 2008 financial crash, which was spurred by unsustainable levels of property debt.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, says that if interest rates rise as predicted, the average household refinancing a two-year fixed rate mortgage in the first half of next year would see monthly payments jump to £1,490 from £863. “Many simply won’t be able to afford this,” he said.

This is particularly a problem in the context of the UK’s current household debt burden. Although household debt peaked in the second quarter of 2008 at 151.5% of household disposable income, it has not fallen markedly since the crash, still standing at 131.3% during the first three months of 2022.

Moreover, in the midst of an escalating cost of living crisis, arrears on personal debt have almost doubled from £1.8 billion in October last year to £3.8 billion this year. The average credit card debt per household in June 2022 was £2,229.

From a political standpoint, it is notable – and to some extent shocking – that the Conservative Party is pursuing these policies; battling against hedge funds and risking a housing market crash.

The party received £11 million from hedge funds and finance tycoons between December 2019 and September 2021, while 20% of Conservative donations come from property tycoons – equivalent to £60 million over a 10-year period. Truss herself received tens of thousands of pounds in donations from property developers during her Conservative leadership bid.

Boris Johnson’s infamous mantra – “f*ck business” – seems still to be a guiding ethos in the Truss era.

Additional reporting by Sascha Lavin and Iain Overton

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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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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