Wednesday 17 April 2024

Smoke Without Fire?

Taking up smoking is very bad for teenagers' health. As would be conscripting them into wars with Russia, China, Iran, and so forth. Laugh out loud at anyone who supported the Tobacco and Vapes Bill without opposing that. Or who opposed the Tobacco and Vapes Bill without having opposed the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act, the Nationality and Borders Act, the Elections Act, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, the National Security Act, the Online Safety Act, and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, while still opposing the Criminal Justice Bill, and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

This Bill smells like a Trojan Horse for identity cards, but what do these libertarians have to say about the Kenova report, since several of those pieces of legislation have legalised Stakeknife-type activities? What are these libertarians doing for Julian Assange? One of the MPs who voted against that Bill was Assange's strongest political supporter, but no one would call him a libertarian, and at the same time he would certainly have voted against that prior legislation. That said, among the numerous abstentions last night were twice as many Liberal Democrats as had voted in favour. There is plenty of time between now and Third Reading. Keep an eye on the Lib Dems.

Libertarianism is not historically very Tory at all. It is far cry from submission to the Lord's anointed Sovereign. Nanny was a Tory, and so is Nanny State. Liz Truss, originally a Lib Dem and indeed a republican one, is the latest in the succession of Country Whigs, Patriot Whigs, Liberal Unionists, Liberal Imperialists, National Liberals, Alderman Alfred Roberts's daughter, the founders and funders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and so on, who have taken over the largely bovine Tory machine so completely that almost all Conservatives now assume "free" market economics and a foreign policy of military interventionism to be "traditional Tory values" that their party has always held. Nothing could be further from the case. More indirectly, the strands of Liberalism that accrued to the Labour Party and then seceded to the SDP have provided key, if mostly unseen, players around every Conservative Leader since John Major.

Why, then, measures such as those in the first paragraph? While pre-existing conservative phenomena have been known to ally with Fascism, usually to their own ruin, it is the liberal bourgeoisie that keeps Fascism in reserve for when it might ever face any serious demand to share its economic or social power with anyone who did not have it before the rise of the bourgeois liberal order, or to share its cultural or political power with anyone at all.

Thus, how Wes Streeting laughed in the House of Commons at the attempt to shut down the National Conservatism Conference in Brussels. He would do the same to us. As would those conferees, of course. Centrism and right-wing populism are con tricks to sell exactly the same economic and foreign policies to different audiences by pretending to wage a culture war. What are the economic and foreign policy differences between Streeting and Suella Braverman? Some of us have been cancelled by the Right for as long as we can remember, so they may spare us their wailing now. If you call peaceable expressions of majority opinion "hate marches", then do not surprised, much less affronted, if people who saw you the same way came for you. Alas, the centrists will never find out. But they should.

Even beyond the total agreement between the centrists and the right-wing populists over Ukraine and over Gaza, Labour opportunistically pretended to oppose the abolition of the 45p rate of income tax, the only mini-Budget measure that had not been in Truss's prospectus to Conservative Party members, but it supported every single one of the others. Had Kwasi Kwarteng's loony list ever been put to a Commons vote, then the Labour whip would have been to abstain. While calling themselves PopCons as ostensible adults, and in Mark Littlewood again directed by a former Lib Dem, certain people are looking for a Trusssite Restoration. They are looking in the wrong party.

Just as, like anarchist parties, Nationalist Internationals such as have conferred in Brussels bring the ridicule on themselves, so it is undeniably funny that Truss, of all people, wants to abolish something called the Office for Budget Responsibility. But her original party decreed it into existence. Without a manifesto commitment, Labour farmed out monetary policy. The Conservatives have created the Economic Advisory Council out of thin air. Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves want an Office for Value for Money that would be the last nail in the coffin of democratic political control over economic policy. Truss does have a point about the lack of such control.

The problem is that she always used to be, not only in favour of that lack, but of the school of thought that it was a law of physics, about which nothing could be done. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were derided for exploring the possibility that their policies might have led to a run on the pound, but Truss and Kwarteng obviously never even considered it. The City did not like many of Corbyn's and McDonnell's agenda, voted against them, and gave plenty of money to the other side, but had those agenda become Government policy, then the City would have factored them in, because that is what it does.

People who always held the absolute infallibility of the Bank of England, the City, the money markets, and the American Administration of the day, have now spent a year and a half bewailing those forces' removal of the worst British Prime Minister that they had ever seen even as a realistic possibility, never mind as an actual fact. Those same individuals had considered it an unanswerable argument against Corbyn and McDonnell that those forces would never have stood for them. If their expectations in relation to Truss were anything to go by, then they would have been wrong about that. The Bank, the City and the markets have been wargaming a Labour Left Government forever. They would have got by, as they still would. It was the mini-Budget that they could not countenance.

If Trussonomics had been accompanied by spending cuts, then the markets' reaction would have been even worse. The fantasies of the Walter Mittys on Tufton Street and on the former Fleet Street bear no resemblance to the views of the Masters of the Universe. Since October 1997, when I was a fresher at Durham, types from the City have been telling me that I "would be surprised" at the real political centre of gravity there. I believe them. Ken Livingstone worked very effectively with it for eight years, his office largely staffed by Socialist Action, which was what Tariq Ali's International Marxist Group had become.

As Shadow Shadow Chancellor for decades, and then on the frontbench, McDonnell cultivated all sorts of links that Truss, Kwarteng and the rest of the Tufties simply never did. They assumed that they had the Square Mile on side, when in fact nothing could have been further from the case. The City might not have liked any of McDonnell's fiscal events awfully much, although it is rarely all that keen on anyone's, but it could and would have lived with them all. It simply could not live with Kwarteng's only one, to the point of forcing first his removal from office and then Truss's.

At 35, Kwarteng was making so little in the City that he could afford to become an MP instead. We now know why. Truss managed all of nine years in the City before being unemployed for three, and then spent two as Deputy Director of some Westminster Village thinktank while she slept her way into a safe seat. She may be known only for a speech about pork markets and cheese, but she was and is a disciple of Professor Patrick Minford, who wants Britain to have no agriculture, as would be the "free" market in action. Truss and Minford ought to be made to defend that position on the stump in South West Norfolk.

As you should laugh out loud at anyone who opposed the Tobacco and Vapes Bill but not the many assaults on civil liberties, so you should laugh out loud at anyone who supported that Bill but did not support the vigorous enforcement, and the strengthening, of the existing drug laws. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwarteng was obviously off his face at the funeral of the late Queen. The Truss Government was so awash with cocaine that it scandalised the servants. That, too, is the "free" market in action. The Labour frontbench's continued support for that Government's policies does not speak to that frontbench's sobriety.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start.


  1. You're on fire all right.

  2. Kwarteng hasn't voted in a month.

    1. Failed academic, failed City boy, failed politician, and still only 48.