Zombie Policy Apocalypse Part 1

Taking Britain and Putin’s oil and gas war-disrupted Covid-stricken world markets by storm is Trussed!, another spectacular episode of trickle-down and double backflip, a 45 day far-right detour in Little Britain’s post-Brexit Tory Story, an action-packed, adrenaline junkie’s in-flight entertainment featuring political jokes, fiscal hocus pocus, bitchy infighting, breathtaking ineptitude, self parody and inglorious failure. Spoiler alert. There is no happy ending. Whilst Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, the surreal spin cycle of UK Tory politics will continue to inflict misery and suffering on the poor. 

Have the Tories come full circle? “The UK is once again in the grip of austerity and anti-democratic politics – when we got into this crisis precisely because of austerity and democratic failure. The vast spending cuts made by George Osborne wrecked our hospitals, our schools and our town halls, and stoked the frustrations that ensured Brexit,” writes Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty. Now there will be more.

Mary Elizabeth Truss, is a product of Tufton Street, a hotbed of fossil fuel lobby groups and right-wing think tanks that have colonised government. Political activists Led by Donkeys’ latest video depicts three members up a ladder placing a mock blue plaque on 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, central London, a Georgian townhouse serving as HQ to right-wing zombie idealogues who spout the dud policies so popular with Truss.

“The UK economy was crashed here,” reads a “Liz Trussorative” sign, dated 23 September 2022, the day Ms Truss’s ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announces his uncosted “mini-Budget”, cunningly named to avoid Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) scrutiny. Proposing big tax cuts and heavy borrowing at a time of high inflation, lifts interest rates, shaves three percent off the value of the pound, upsets the bond market and has the Bank of England in damage control. 

Within days, high profile Sunak supporter, Jeremy Hunt, a former Health Minister under David Cameron and Theresa May, pops up like the White Rabbit and proceeds to shred every thread of the Trussian roulette crazy plan. He vows to set up a new economic advisory council, with four crack economists already on board, Rupert Harrison, George Osborne’s former chief of staff, and a JP Morgan executive. George Osborne, the king of cuts?

All is not lost. Hunt keeps the uncapped bonuses for bankers, a vital fiscal reform. 

Britain’s third PM in four years, a fanatical Libertarian Free Market Neoliberal, who acted her idol, Baroness, Margaret Thatcher in primary school, is dumbstruck; heartbroken to be booed off stage by The City, financial centre of the world, if New York. 

Trussed! is a cautionary tale of a hapless, half-baked Thatcherite who strikes fear and loathing into the heart of the market she worships; a tale which may help dispel some of the voodoo economics of neoliberalism if not point to its death –  as our own national living treasure, The Australia Institute’s Chief Economist  Richard Denniss writes

“It took Liz Truss just 45 days to destroy Margaret Thatcher’s life’s work. For 40 years the idea that tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to help the poor has not just dominated the rhetoric of Western politicians but aligned the ambitions of those who already have the most and those who wish they did.”

But it may be premature to dance on the grave of middle class welfare or government run by a privileged elite on behalf of that elite at the expense of the pathologically lazy wage slave, as Truss and her pals, all members of think tank The Free Enterprise Group, “encouraging classical liberalism” slander British workers in Britannia Unchained, (2012), her manifesto.

“Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

Truss is hounded into resignation soon after her opening solo, Trickle Down, an attempt to woo the oligarchy and schmooze the rich, leads to her being replaced by Rishi Sunak, a former Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund manager when the firm brought on the 2008 recession. 

“Dishy Rishi”, as tabloids dub him, goes on to marry fashion designer, venture capitalist and software heiress, Akshata Murty, whose father N.R. Narayana Murthy, founded tech sweatshop giant, Infosys which, incidentally, twenty years ago contracted to do a lot of IT work for Telstra. Whilst his affairs are hidden in a blind trust, the little battler, whose father was a doctor and whose mother owned a pharmacy, does very well for himself. 

It’s cheering to see Sunak unchained, slaving to overcome a privileged upbringing in Hampshire, one of England’s most affluent counties.  Our hearts go out to Rishi as he battles his way through an elite prep school, Stroud, before Winchester (£45,936 per annum) where he’s made head boy and then he’s up to Oxford, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)  Later he’s on a Fulbright Scholarship doing an MBA at Stamford. There follows a stint where he is director of his father-in-law’s company. But can he do something useful with his life?

True, only in a parallel Tory Universe could a billionaire whose family fortunes are linked with labour outsourcing and who keeps his affairs secret, ever be a successful PM, just as any government on behalf of a wealthy elite will tend to perpetuate injustice, inequality and indifference to those lower on the ladder. 

IT outsourcing itself is a paradigm of inequality, a neoliberal magic wand to make IT costs disappear, only to appear in a developing nation, for example, in 2017, a typical IT Indian worker would be paid $5,000 while their US counterparts can expect north of $100,000. Another part of the magic is that as IT costs disappear, so, too do jobs.

Already in the UK the poor are poorer. There’s plans to cut government spending because Trussonomics causes a £70 billion black hole, or so Hunt declares, (sound familiar?) which will mean cuts to schools and hospitals already in crisis due to under-funding. Even the fuel cap on household gas and electricity bills is cut from two years to a token six months.

Sunak is not popular with his party. Just last month, given a choice between Sunak and Truss, Tories voted for the untested, wild-eyed ideologue. Sunak solves his lack of support – for now – by recycling ministers from the fabulously impressive Johnson and Truss governments. Keeping RWNJs close. We’ve seen how well this tactic works in recent Coalition governments in Canberra.

Sunak strategically re-appoints, as Home Secretary, the anti-immigration, anti-protest right winger, Suella Braverman, who lampoons dissent on energy and environment policy as the work of “tofu-eating wokerati” an MP who sees opponents as “the anti-growth coalition”. 

Is Barnaby Joyce moonlighting? Or is the anti-progressive invective multinational?

But it’s a risky gambit. In forgiving Braverman for her breach of security only six days after she resigns over sharing a confidential document, the new PM inflames Tory divisions over political direction and probity that could cause him to lose authority. No big deal.

Former Tory party chair Sir Jake Berry accuses Braverman of “multiple breaches” of the ministerial code; calls herLeaky Sue”. He tells TalkTV that, far from coming forward and admitting her mistake, she has only fessed up when confronted with the evidence.

Minutes later, another Tory MP, Mark Pritchard, helpfully suggests that MI5 lacks confidence in Ms Braverman and that Sunak needs to do something about the situation. 

Also helpful are Harry Cole and James Heale whose ebook on the rise and fall of Liz Truss, Out of the Blue, to be published 1 November, (desperately brought forward one month), claims Braverman also leaked market-sensitive information when home secretary. These trifling matters aside, the MP is irrepressible; always keen to stir up racism, xenophobia and gratuitous cruelty.

Braverman will be cheered, she says, when the first plane load of asylum seekers is sent off to Rwanda. “I would love to have a front page of the Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.”

But rehabilitating Braverman who breached the ministerial code by sending a cabinet document by personal email, dog whistles the Tories’ right wing. And may win Sunak some Johnson supporters. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunak’s clearly no slouch. He’s also fixed up the misunderstanding which forced his wife to not pay tax on her £400 million share in Infosys, because of her non-domicile status saving her £20 million in taxes on her annual dividends of around £6 million. 

At first, Sunak argued his wife was entitled to the tax break but now declares that she will pay all taxes.  That’ll fix it.

To briefly recap the plot, with a warning that this account features names of people who are politically deceased, Liz follows Boris’ Level Up, an utterly gutted slogan so hollow it’s a virtual black hole, with Zombie Apocalypse Now, a free market-libertarian burlesque where Truss pledges to shower Londongrad, HQ of the UK’s fabulously wealthy oligarchy, in buckets of borrowed money. 

The City promptly swoons; the pound falls to a new low almost on parity with the US dollar, interest rates rise and pension fund managers struggle to keep away from upper-storey windows. Truss’ Bold New Plan involves unfunded tax cuts for the rich. And £100 billion in home fuel subsidies.  All on tick. But it’s less the plan itself than how it snubs the very idea of budgeting, a process which has morphed into a form of performance art about credibility. Balancing the books is prudent government  – if you believe the Tories and their tabloids. 

The City is thunderstruck. BT’s pension fund, one of Britain’s biggest, is filthy. BT loses £12bn in the mayhem after 23 May when Truss and Kartweng spin their mini-budget thingie. 

Pension funds are made up of a range of investments and encourage gambling with other peoples’ money and betting on interest rates and bond yields. 

Unfortunately, along with energy oligopolies’ price gouging and mortgage rate hikes, pension funds can fuel inflation. 

Increasingly, funds invest in basics which increase your shopping bill and what you pay for petrol. More than €30bn is tied up in European pension funds, which are used to bet on the price of raw materials like food and fuel. 

Nick Dearden, Director of campaign group Global Justice Now, explains that pension funds are “gambling on food prices, in the process driving up those prices and fuelling the cost of living crisis for all of us.”

The UK is the second largest source of foreign investment in Australia. DFAT says its stock of investment was valued at $574.8 billion in 2018. But we’ve nothing to fear. 

Otherwise, our media would be on it like a blowfly in a pickle bottle. If they’re not all worn out telling us our fundamentals are sound.

We’re all safe as houses because of the great shape that the Morrison government left the economy in, as Spud Dutton and his team of small potatoes keep telling us. 

Putting a trillion dollars of poorly structured debt to one side and overlooking his government’s energy, pandemic and environment catastrophes, ScoMo’s greatest legacy is the damage he did to the Coalition with his decision to whip up transgender prejudice, euphemistically termed culture wars instead of protecting Liberal heartland.

Liz Truss is similar. Like Morrison, she, too, inherits a party of disunity and disorder.

But take a bow, ex-Prime Minister Truss. Typhoid Mary of Torydom, is a huge role, in itself. Egomaniac, liar, grub and complete imposter Boris did a lot to wreck the Tories, single-handedly, although any party that would elect Boris as its PM has to be beyond all surgery. Yet now, the former Minister for Trade, who became a born again Brexiteer to get the gig, sends world financial markets into a death spiral. The Tory-fawning UK press is most unkind. Reviews are quite hostile. Bring Back Boris is the worst.

You can’t blame the actor. The superbly named Sir Tom Scholar, Treasury Secretary, is sacked. Experts ignored. Being “Trussed”, or showing contempt for reason, is part of a wider cult combining racism, tribal stupidity and borrowing heavily on the fashion for showing contempt for all forms of expertise, now taking the world by storm. All with Rupert Murdoch’s help. Let’s not forget, it was largely his company’s paper The Sun wot got Brexit done.

Truss blusters about how she’s going to take a stand against all that nanny state nonsense apart from the afterthought of a household energy cap which would rescue struggling energy corporations anyway.  Pensioners can suffer penury for their work-shy lifestyles and their wilful lack of thrift. Corporate welfare is cool. And cutting tax for the rich is a must if you are going to encourage entrepreneurs, attract startups and lure Russian oligarchs.

Eyebrows arch in the City of London. Or Londongrad. Wags note that the financial capital’s prime locations are now owned by Russian Oligarchs. The purchase of a pad in Hampstead, Knightsbridge or Belgravia was an easy way for Putin’s kleptocracy to launder fortunes amassed from stripping former Soviet state assets. 

Alas, it’s not so easy these days in an era of sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine. Blinds are down and drapes are drawn in entire Kensington streets, today. Asses are frozen. And who knows what else. Banks did fabulously well, of course, as did the City, as the financial district is known.

London was a mecca for Russian oligarchs seeking foreign capital-raising. Shonky operators flocked not only for the money but for a listing which would fake international financial respectability. Over twenty firms, with a total market value of more than 400 billion pounds ($536 billion), are listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). 

Financial skulduggery isn’t just something that happens in the UK; there has been a concerted and decades-long effort to encourage it to do so’ writes former Russia correspondent, Oliver Bullough, who has led “kleptocracy tours” of London notes Dean Acheson’s observation, in 1962, that Britain had “lost an empire but not yet found a role,” Bullough hints that it did find a role in keeping with its decadence, as a mum’s-the-word- butler  – full body massage or crypto-therapy, sir? -to Russian Mafioso and other Muscovy movers and shakers, opening doors to capital markets, prime real estate, shopping at Harrods, and the best private schools money can buy, 

Naturally, included in the deal were mining and Murdoch corporation-class tax evasion accountants, attorneys for legal spats, and “reputation managers” for inconvenient backstories. It starts with visas; any foreigner with adequate funds can buy one, by investing two million pounds in the U.K.

After permanent residency, sir?

Ten million pounds.

While the laundering of money, the growth of shadow lending and the growth in the power of dark money are international trends, Londongrad’s The Financial Times’ editorial board gets huffy, telling the new PM that she should stop playing free market libertarian and knuckle down current economic orthodoxy; play by the rules.

But did Liz fall or was she putsched? Her successor, “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look,” Rishi Sunak, is a power-hungry oligarch, a puppet of The City of London. Big Finance took over Westminster in the 1980s. Sunak’s a former Goldman Sachs chap, the firm that lit the touchpaper on the recession of 2008, that we choose to call the GFC. 

What iscertain is that Britain is once again in the grip of a zombie policy apocalypse – austerity is being touted as the only way out of a mess all of the Tories’ own making, when it can only lead to further suffering. Here’s Nobel Laureate, economist Paul Krugman writing seven years ago,

“… all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited. Widely touted statistical results were, it turned out, based on highly dubious assumptions and procedures – plus a few outright mistakes – and evaporated under closer scrutiny.

It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively. The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.” 

For Britain, substitute Australia. Could we be having our own zombie policy apocalypse, too? In Part 2, the sleaze, decadence and corruption of the modern Tory Party beckons.

One thought on “Zombie Policy Apocalypse Part 1

  1. Britain’s protest laws are now so tight so that a polite, silent, private shrug of disapproval is virtually the only form of dissent the no-longer-just-business but politics-captured state will permit. Even then, you need to heed the wording of any sign you may be carrying.

    A 22-year-old woman is arrested in Edinburgh, for holding a sign saying: “Fuck imperialism, abolish monarchy” and is charged with breach of the peace.

    Paul Powlesland, a barrister, films himself as he is threatened with arrest for holding up a blank sheet of paper because he might write “Not My King” as the latest Windsor monarch Charles III may but see him passing by. Powlesland tweets.

    “Just went to Parliament Square and held up a blank piece of paper. “Officer came and asked for my details. He confirmed that if I wrote ‘Not My King’ on it, he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.”
    Echoes of the March 2022 arrest of a Russian woman who is dragged away by police for holding a blank sign amid a brutal crackdown on dissent over the invasion of Ukraine.


Comments are closed.