Dominic Cummings’s advice and instructions to the Tory government could be delivered by him without the need to be classified as an adviser to the Prime Minister; there are several other determined proponents of extreme market-oriented economic theories who could replace him were he to be removed; his reputation in the world of hard-right philosophy and think-tanking is neither more nor less impressive or problematic than many others; his communication skills with the government, other advisers and Tory MPs lack finesse and he does not have personal or business information on Johnson that would embarrass the latter because nothing embarasses Johnson.
Cummings’ retention and the unequivocal backing he received from Johnson and from the cabinet – support that necessitated a deluge of excruciating contradictory lies from all protagonists – was not a consequence of what Cummings offers to the government. As a connected person Cummings does have his uses but they are not so peculiar to him that an entire cabinet and lots of other Tory MPs had to prostitute themselves with absurd logic-defying, translucent cries of camaraderie in the face of near-total condemnation of Cummings from outside the government including from ardent Tory supporters in the media.
So, why does it appear that Johnson cannot remove him?
To sack him, or to accept a convenient resignation, would require Johnson to make a decision directed by opinions outside of the government. His refusal to agree to that was not borne of ego or stubbornness – despite his Eton machine education Johnson is not so erroneously confident that he always thinks he is right and everyone else wrong.
The reason Johnson could not allow outside persuasion to be a factor in decision-making on Cummings’ employment was that if Johnson acquiesced once then there would be pressure and coercion to do so again and again whenever the government did something that was clearly wrong, and there will be a stream of awful decisions, acts and laws from the Tories in the foreseeable future that will have catastrophic consequences for millions of people due to either Covid-19 or Brexit.
Johnson and his cabinet colleagues know their plans for Britain will be more than unpopular. The purpose of the current government is, via Brexit, to restructure society to favour a few wealthy exploiters. The majority of people will lose. The government cannot allow any compromises no matter how obviously defective its behaviour might be because all its plans are entirely defective from the perspective of most people and, so, acceptance of any change or challenge to a very poor decision by the government would mean every decision made would be similarly challenged because all will be similarly wrong. Any compliance with unambiguous logical criticism for anything unjust, unethical, undemocratic or stupid done (or not done) by the Tories – meaning everything that they plan to do (or not do) – would lead to compliance by them on all their plans.
Johnson’s erroneous imperturbability regarding Cummings was not protection of his adviser nor of himself; it was protection of the project, protection of coming decisions and acts and trade deals. The wilful intransigence was not intended to be a display of strength and had nothing to do with Cummings’ skills or his standing in the think-tank community. It was purely pragmatic. The Tory government’s aim is destruction. All criticism must be eschewed.
Post Brexit, Boris Johnson and his cabinet colleagues will enable the destruction of public services for the benefit of disaster capitalists and market gamblers – The Uncivilised – who prepared for and assisted Britain’s departure from the EU.
In civilised nations necessities for life are provided by public services. The Uncivilised view public services as potential endless sources of income for themselves. Tory privatisation of public services from 1980s onward was and is a scam to forge new streams of free money for made-up businesses at the expense of users and tax-payers. Rampant Tory Brexit will expand that scam exponentially and destroy what remains of civilised society.
Tories’ Brexit focus will be to develop tools to enforce the removal of public services via a binding and extremely constrictive trade deal with USA. Given the intrinsically deceptive language of economic extremists, such a deal will have the description “free trade deal” but “free” means freedom for a few to exploit exhaustively everyone else via ownership of the entirety of public service infrastructure. The “free trade deal” will be the resignation of the British government as an elected body accountable to the public. Removal of public services will reduce the public to renters of the necessities for life.
Johnson and his cabinet lack knowledge and intellectual aptitude. They are directed by and their scripts are written by their employers’ associated PR and sales industry otherwise known as think-tanks. Key protagonists from think-tanks are embedded in government as special advisers and almost all Tory MPs receive direct payments from think-tanks. The relationship between Tory government and think-tanks is analogous to the relationship between a colon (think-tanks) and an anus (Tory government).
Right-wing think-tanks are in syndicates; they share personnel and fund each other to hide their real donors. Most British think-tanks are subsidiaries and/or associates of US think-tanks. Cato Institute is an USA-based umbrella organisation for other think-tanks including some in the UK – Centre for Policy Studies, Politeia, Adam Smith Institute and Institute of Economic Affairs. According to Cato, it is “shaped through consultations with, contributions from, and representatives of” other think-tanks. The latter, and other UK think-tanks such as Tax-Payers’ Alliance and Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), were created to describe, promote and enable destruction of public services and of associated democratic accountability.
In 2018 Cato Institute published a paper – USUKFTD – that “endeavors to describe the principles that should be reflected—as well as the substantive issues, elements, and provisions that should be included—in what free traders would consider the ideal free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.” (page 6) The paper was an example of how The Uncivilised were (and are) preparing for Tory Brexit. Written by Cato members Daniel Ikenson and Simon Lester and by IFT director Daniel Hannan, a Tory ex-MP and ex-MEP, it presented itself as a technical document that proposed legal requirements for countries in a US-UK free trade deal. The key axiom of the authors’ proposal was authority of international corporate entities over elected governments.
Cato’s political philosophy (shared by IFT) is capitalist exploitation must be worldwide. It demands that businesses can search the globe for people to exploit and should not be hampered by governments’ actions. Its paper asserted repeatedly that its ideal free trade deal would make partner governments powerless to act on behalf of their people against acts and consequences thereof of international businesses.
Despite the intent of USUKFTD being a description of how to erase public services, the authors used the couplet “public service” only four times: Twice (in the same paragraph) in the phrase “public service function” and twice (in the same note) in the phrase “Public Service Obligation.”
The paragraph on “public service function” appeared to allow public services exemption from the yoke of the proposed free trade deal but an “except” clause made clear that any public service should be targetted:
“[Some technical requirements of USUKIFT] shall not apply where the state-owned enterprise is subject to government mandates defining its public service function, such as universal service obligations, or requirements to provide services at below-market rates or on a cost-recovery basis that are not imposed on similarly situated private companies, except where that public services function is being fulfilled in a manner that unnecessarily damages competition or restricts trade.” (p 163)
A second except clause pretended to excuse public services from corporate control but the note on “public service obligation” emphasised the former should be wholly subservient to the latter’s interest:
“Except to fulfill the purpose [see note] for which special or exclusive rights or privileges have been granted, or in the case of a state enterprise to fulfill its public mandate, and provided that the enterprise’s conduct in fulfilling that purpose or mandate is consistent with the provisions of this chapter both Parties shall ensure that any such enterprise acts in accordance with commercial considerations in the relevant territory in its purchases and sales of goods, including with regard to price, quality, availability, marketability, transportation, and other terms and conditions of purchase or sale, as well as in its purchases or supply of services, including when these goods or services are supplied to or by an investment of an investor of the other Party.” (p 154)
Note: “Such as a Public Service Obligation. The Public Service Obligation shall be constructed in such a way as to be the most pro-competitive and least trade restrictive consistent with regulatory goals. Violation of the principles shall be grounds for violation of this Agreement.” (p 238)
Nowhere else in the paper’s 239 pages was “public service(s)” written. The near omission wasn’t for aesthetic reasons. For Cato Institute and its associates, public services must be denied existence, a denial that goes beyond political opposition and seeks to eradicate the concept of public services, in the present, the future and historically; an attempted collective memory wipe.
Throughout USUKFTD the authors used the phrase “state-owned enterprise(s)” (sixty-two times) instead of “public service(s).” “Enterprise” not “service” to negate entirely the human concept of society and collective support, and “state-owned” not “publicly-owned” or “public” because a constant con-trick of extremist economic philosophy is the depiction of a state being in opposition to the public rather than a publicly-elected democratic administration. The phrase replacement had the additional corollary of making the description of how a supposed free trade deal would affect public services seem less dramatic.
Notes For clarity, in the selected quotes below from USUKIFT, I re-replaced “state-owned enterprise(s)” with “public service(s).” By “party” the authors of the paper meant countries that are signatories of a free trade deal agreement described by the paper.
Some governments (democratic or otherwise) value the necessity of public services. USUKIFT depicted such economic systems negatively: Social responsibility and having an administration that values all of a nation’s inhabitants were described as “intervention“: “Other countries’ economies are less open and have more state intervention.” (p 15) Reversal of fiscal policy that favours humanity would be a prerequisite for a country to be allowed to join Cato’s proposed “free trade agreement:”
“therefore, it is worth having the United States and the United Kingdom work out rules in this FTA that could apply to others who join later. Examples in this regard are transparency, the behavior of public services, and government regulations that are anti-competitive (anti-competitive market distortions).” (p 15)
Access to necessities for life was called “reliance” and support for such access called “discriminatory.” The authors objected to governments’ restrictions on inhumane exploitation; that is, they opposed discrimination against enemies of society:
“And some countries still rely on public services for a significant part of their economic activity. Defining these entities, and requiring them to act in a nondiscriminatory and commercial manner, can push them toward more market-oriented practices. The TPP was a first step in this direction, and a U.S.-U.K. FTA should push further.” (p 16)
Public services must exist outside of the vagaries of the “market” and that separation is objectionable to Cato:
“The purpose of this chapter is to ensure that the reduction of border barriers is accompanied by reductions in ‘behind-the-border’ barriers. This chapter includes provisions to discipline the potentially market-distorting practices of public services by focusing on their effect on the market, while being somewhat agnostic about their structure.” (p 27)
Above, “public services” were cast as wrongdoers for “market distortion” but that is exactly why public services exist, and why they need to exist. The use of the word “discipline” was neither causal nor mundane.
USUKIFT’s definition of public services (or its phrase “state-owned enterprises“) eschewed any reference to the necessity of their existence or their benefit to society:
“Public service means an enterprise that is engaged in economic activities and meets the following criteria: i) is owned, or controlled, by a Party’s government; or ii) in which a Party’s government appoints or has the power to appoint the majority of members of the board of directors or equivalent governing body; or iii) is controlled by a Party’s government through a control person or control persons.” (p 145)
Contrary to the assertion quoted above, public services are not “owned” by a government. They are owned by the public. They are administered (not “controlled”) by a government on the public’s behalf and in the public’s interest. It is public ownership of the necessities for life that Cato wants to eliminate.
The authors demanded that the point of public services in public control was removed by disallowing lower costs for users:
“Each Party shall endeavor to apply its national competition laws to all commercial activities in its territory, including the activities of public services both in their commercial sales and their procurement activities.” (p 146)
“Each Party shall ensure that its public services and designated monopolies, when engaging in economic activities, do the following: (a) act in accordance with commercial considerations in their purchases or sales of goods or services; and (b) accord to enterprises that are covered investments, goods of the other Party, and services suppliers of the other Party, treatment no less favorable than it accord to, respectively, like enterprises that are investments of the Party’s investors, like goods of the Party, and like services suppliers of the Party, with respect to their purchases or sales of goods or services.” (p 153)
A key tool to enable corporate control is subservience of law to corporate desire. Thus, a key facet of a free trade deal proposed in USUKIFT was the gift of authority of judicial power to the wealthiest covetters of public services to use against decisions made by democratically elected governments:
“Each Party shall provide its courts with jurisdiction over civil claims against a foreign public services based on a commercial activity carried on its territory.” (p 154)
Surrender of legal control of vital public services by a government to the ability of wealthy exploiters to manipulate civil claims in court is a retreat from government and is diametrically opposed to democracy.
A characteristic of a publicly-owned necessary public service is that there is no siphoning of money away from the service. Publicly-owned services ensure vital necessities for life are available to everyone, that no-one pays more for them than the real cost of their supply and that no third party makes money out of them, and that is precisely what Cato, its financial backers and associates want to eradicate; Cato is vehemently opposed to the denial of free money for The Uncivilised. USUKIFT emphasised that any advantage for the public of a public service being out of commercial interference should be destroyed:
“Each Party shall ensure that no public services that it establishes or maintains causes adverse effects to the interests of the other Party through the use of noncommercial assistance that the public service provides to any of its public services, where the Party explicitly limits access to the noncommercial assistance provided by the public service to its public services, or where the public service provides noncommercial assistance that is predominately used by the Party’s public services, provides a disproportionately large amount of the noncommercial assistance to the Party’s public services, or otherwise favors the Party’s public services in the provision of noncommercial assistance.” (p 155)
“Neither Party shall cause adverse effects to the interests of the other Party through the use of noncommercial assistance to enterprises active in markets open to trade. Adverse effects are effects that arise from the provision of a good or service by a Party’s public service that has benefited from noncommercial assistance that, for example, consist of a significant price undercutting by a product of the Party’s public service compared with the price in the same market of a like product that is an originating good of the other Party or a like product that is a good produced by an enterprise that is a covered investment, or significant price suppression, price depression, or lost sales in the same market.” (p 155)
In the summary the authors recognised how “controversial” dismantling the NHS would be; however, they demanded its erasure within a single parliamentary term of government – five years:
“As for other services areas, health services are an area where both sides would benefit from openness to foreign competition, although we recognize any changes to existing regulations will be extremely controversial. Perhaps, then, for other areas the initial focus should be on other fields such as education or legal services, where negotiators can test the waters and see what is possible. That said, we would envisage a swift, time-tabled implementation of recognition across all areas within 5 years.” (p 233)
The quote above is the only mention of health service in the paper. Omitting discussion of the destruction of the NHS was tactically astute but the single paragraph tucked away at the end revealed starkly and coldly the intent.
Cato’s proposal for a “free trade deal” sought to remove all effective public ownership of public services not just by giving away public services to The Uncivilised but also by making it illegal to have a functioning publicly-owned public service.
Water, light, heat, healthcare, education, sanitation, welfare provision, fire service, police, etc. are necessities; the public does not have an option of whether to use them. Their necessity means that their owners, if privateers, can enrich themselves continually. Cato opposes public ownership because it is beneficial to the public and not a stream of income for a few wealthy exploiters.
Tory strategy and acts of parliament in 2020 will lead inexorably to no-deal Brexit in order to facilitate a “free trade deal” between UK and USA similar to that proposed in USUKIFT. Everything else said or done with respect to Brexit by the Tories will be distraction and misdirection. The handover of public services, of society, to The Uncivilised is the single objective of Johnson and his cohorts.
It’s grimes up north. Protagonist of various Leave campaign groups, beneficiary of broadcasters’ desire to hand platforms to libertarian hard-right mouthpieces no matter how thick and dishonest the contribution, part-time professional northerner and full-time Git Darren Grimes persists in regurgitating the same tired trashy mantras, clichés and phrases of the hard-right confidence swindler’s handbook.
Reading like a mini version of the despicable Turning Point fart machine, Reasoned is Grimes’ latest concocted stain created as a ruse to get more airtime and column inches.
It’s/his “mission” is to “challenge the pervasive left-wing bias in online content, much of which originates from the UK’s mainstream media and activist groups.” Grimes complained that the politics he supports is “cancelled” on twitter. He didn’t mean banned, he meant his politics is criticised, mocked, debunked, dissected and destroyed because it is nonsense. Like a typical Git Grimes cannot cope with being exposed as a fraud and his trash being ripped to shreds by intelligent people.
Echoing the aim of Tory MP Lee Rowley’sNext Generation Capitalism, Grimes is worried that younger people have not been conned or coerced into supporting the destruction of public services, society and community and are not worshipping the gods of extreme free-market capitalist exploitation.
Grimes: “Many people – and particularly younger people – don’t have a view on the merits of conservative values simply because they haven’t been exposed to them. Advocates of those values need to make the case for them. It is on us to ensure that the next generation is introduced to market-based solutions to the environment, housing and the cost of living crisis.”
Rowley: “The challenge for free markets, and for capitalism, is manifold: the message is tarnished, the frames are poor, and, fundamentally, the moral case for what they achieve is missing. We need to rectify each of these shortcomings. To do that we need to understand the problem, understand what drives the coming generation, and find ways to remake the argument for an economic system that, however imperfect, is still providing the greatest opportunities in the history of mankind.”
Reasoned is just another label for Grimes and his associates to enable more media access and to make more money.
Update (July 4th) Grimes uploaded an interview with David Starkey to Reasoned website this week wherein Starkey complained that “slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain would there?”
As a consequence of his racist comments Starkey was removed from various historical societies and university fellowships.
Grimes’ reaction to criticism of the Starkey interview was extremely dishonest. He claimed “I am very new to being the interviewer  I should have robustly questioned Dr. Starkey about his comments.” See Grimes’ excuse. But, he also said – after the interview – “they say never to meet your heroes, well, I virtually [online] met one of mine and it was bloody fantastic.” See Grimes praises Starkey.
Starkey’s disgusting remarks were exactly what Grimes would have wished for from the interview: After the broadcast donations to Reasoned increased including from several well-known far-right characters.
Grimes’ post-interview grifting included a demand for payment from the BBC via a legal threat. Grimes’ publication of his lawyer’s letter to the BBC was alongside a link to a funding page for Reasoned. Every far-right bloviator of a demanded right for free speech does an about turn when criticised or exposed and, suddenly, objects strongly against free speech.
The Grimes-Starkey incident followed a familiar pattern of behaviour by far-right grifters:
Promote an extreme and offensive viewpoint accompanied by claims of free speech
Use the controversy as a tool to increase income
Use legal threats to try to stifle free speech criticism of the promotion and to increase income
Today, May 24th, is within the midst of a furore about the behaviour of the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings regarding Covid-19 lockdown rules and associated responses from the Prime Minister and some of his cabinet colleagues. Prevailing consensus of opinion and reaction among the public is that Cummings was wrong to avoid the lockdown rules and was more wrong to lie about his avoidance and that Johnson and colleagues were undemocratically wrong to continue to support Cummings even as more facts emerged about his behaviour.
Politicians (including some Tories), journalists (including several Tories) and an eclectic collection of centrist observers, columnists, talking heads and celebrities expressed their shock, emotionally, with dollops of incredulity. Apparently, never in the history of British democracy has an elected Prime Minister behaved as Johnson did recently and never have these keen observers ever witnessed such venality and contempt.
Some of the conservative and centrist analysis of Johnson and co.’s mendacious obfuscation, misdirection and evasion was accurate but infused exhaustively with hypocrisy and faux surprise. Conservatives wanted a Tory government regardless of who was its leader and they knew where Johnson sat politically, to whom he chose to be accountable and were fully aware of his abject lack of integrity, professionalism, moral compass and honesty. How can they expect their protestations of surprise and despair at his decisions and performance following Cummings’ transgressions are reactions that could be accepted as genuine?
Centrists are aghast at what happened, or didn’t happen; they announced the birth of a new epoch whose key feature is depravity that eschews civilisation, society and democracy. Shocked and stunned into stupor, the centrist kittens couldn’t comprehend the creation and evolution of such a calamitous and evil government and they were amazed at the fantastic grotesque that materialised inexplicablyin front of them. Knowledge of Johnson and cohorts’ previous acts, words and objectives disappeared from the centrists’ memories as did any concepts of libertarian hard-right proposals for the fiscal economy.
Centrists clung to an imagined prediction, founded in quicksand, that Boris Johnson, a typical product of the Eton machine with a long history of lying, offensiveness and obedience to the desires of extremist capitalist exploiters, would magically transform into a different person when elected Prime Minister. They chose to cling to that fantasy because, for the awful centrist gloop, anything but socialism was, and is, the only principle. Johnson, who, in a just society, would have been imprisoned indefinitely long ago, was preferable for the centrists than a genuine shift toward socialism.
Astonishment and disillusionment were real consequences of how the Tory government behaved regarding Cummings’ lockdown breaches but even some of the reactions speckled with veracity were displayed by people who chose to stifle their acquired knowledge of what Johnson and colleagues were and chose to resist easy deductive analysis of how the government would proceed and conduct itself.
Johnson and Cummings, two like-minded characters with similar agenda, are, and have always been, opposed demonstrablyto a functioning civilised society. Their faith lies elsewhere as gofers for economic extremists. Their aims and ambitions were always visible brightly but wilful ignorance by observers consumed the latter so completely that they believed their own cries of amazement at what the former said and did.
Factually, the current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is exactly as he was expected to be. He is dim, a sociopath and an employee of a capitalist elite who want to use him and to use Brexit as tools to steal Britain from its inhabitants. Cummings, an experienced manipulator and conman, is an important cog though not indispensable. Nothing that Cummings said or did was surprising and nothing that Johnson or his cabinet colleagues said subsequently was surprising. They are what they are.
The Tory government’s utter contempt for the public, and for the law, is reprehensible and it is right to be violently angry in response. However, conservatives’ and centrists’ responses are not grounded in consistency.