Last week (May 28th 2021) professional lickspittle (Baron) Christopher Geidt, Boris Johnson’s Independent Adviser On Ministers’ Interests, expectorated an obedient dismissal of one element of Johnson’s bulging set of corruptions.
Johnson asked Geidt to advise on whether method and source of funding of refurbishment of 10 Downing Street’s residential rooms were in breach of any rules. Geidt concluded that Johnson had not broken the ministerial code.
He was appointed as Independent Adviser by Johnson on April 28th which was after details of the source of payment for the refurbishment became public knowledge, and his assessment of that payment was the first task he was assigned.
Geidt was trained at two expensive private schools – Dragon School (£31,686 p.a.) and Glenalmond College (£36,900 p.a.) – to be a willing servant of wealthy elite and, simultaneously, to be a member thereof. He was taught to believe there exists a class of people who are above everyone else, who are beyond the law and for whom lies and truth are interchangeable.
Through his work as a diplomat and in a variety of made-up roles bowing and scraping to the queen, his was (and continues to be) embedded deep within the rotting bowels of the remnants of hideous upper class detachment from reality and accountability.
Geidt’s obsequious anti-explanation of Johnson’s dodgy deal was as unsurprising as it was nauseating. It was circling the wagons by the wealth concentration elite.
A malignant legacy of feudalism spews forth a debilitating rancid stench that infests conservatism and fills the decaying infrastructure of government, royalty and judiciary. Britain, beset by this archaic disease, is a long way short of democracy.
Bright Blue (BB) is a Tory party think-tank dedicated to pretending that conservatism can solve societal problems that were created and exacerbated by conservatism.
“Bright Blue is an independent think tank for liberal conservatism. We defend and improve liberal society. Our primary role is to create and vet government policy. We are a respected and leading think tank which delivers an extensive programme of research, publications and events. Our thinking and ideas have had significant influence on public debate and government policy.”
BB presents itself as different to hardline free-racketeer libertarian conservatism promoted and practiced by, for example, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, Narenda Modi, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsanaro.
“Markets are the best way of allocating resources, but they can be inefficient and inequitable, so government and social institutions can help correct market problems.” “Politicians and policymakers should focus attention and resources on supporting and empowering the most vulnerable, here and abroad.”
The alleged “liberal conservatism” of BB is partly basic electioneering by describing the Tory party as having a broader church than the insidious mob currently in cabinet, and it is partly a strategy to defend market-oriented politics in general. Its policy ideas and proposals do seep into Tory government decisions because the government, despite its rancid gung-ho crusade for oligarchical hoarding of wealth, knows that, occasionally, elections require some pretence of circumspection, but the list of successes for BB in directing government policy is short and non-radical.
Some of BB’s rhetoric is indistinguishable from that of Tony Blair or Nick Clegg and certainly is aligned with the political positions of Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau. It is not important how sincere or otherwise BB’s rhetoric is. Ultimately, BB is unambiguously conservative. Whether it is a killer wolf in a non-psychotic wolf’s clothing, or whether it is a rare non-psychotic facet of a killer wolf’s personality, makes no difference.
Its Advisory Councilshows that the description “liberal” of BB’s ideology is misplaced. Among the council’s members are destroyer of public health Matt Hancock, libertarian gimp Michael Gove, and key architect of wealth concentration policy Matthew Elliot.
BB tried to distance itself from its Advisory Council by claiming “our Advisory Council members are from different political and professional backgrounds. They do not necessarily share our philosophy or all of our policy ideas” but those with “different political backgrounds” are all hardline libertarians, and the rest are conservative.
There is a copious collection of papers and essays that BB callsResearch. Many are merely pictorial representations of polls; others are compendiums of opinions on a particular topic with the opinions ranging from conservative to more conservative. Volume of published words is not proportional to incisive or informative literature. Paid contributors espouse obvious tailored remarks. It’s a solid grift.
BB is primarily a show pony. Its reason to exist, beyond a simple grift, is to placate conservative waverers who are slightly uncomfortable with the arrogant authoritarianism of Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg, etc.
Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks:UK think-tanks
Activists, scientists and the public know that climate action must be radical and revolutionary. The capitalist system is philosophically and practically in diametric opposition to successful methods of slowing down climate change. This is obvious from basic analysis of how capitalism works – profit trumps everything else, and is confirmed by witnessing libertarian recklessness toward climate destruction, most notably from Scott Morrison, Jair Bolsanaro and Donald Trump who embody the embedded antipathy of endgame capitalism toward any considerations of a healthy future for the planet.
Ineluctable culpability of unfettered international free markets acts against effective action, and the public knows what obstructs necessary policies to protect against climate change.
The ensuing problem for exploiters is how do they maintain their capacity to exploit faced with increasing public knowledge of the obstacle to climate protection. The exploiters need a trick to deal with a scenario where public opinion not only acts against support for free markets but also recognises that free markets are the enemy.
As usual, PR teams for free market racketeering use an old trick: They pretend the free market is supportive of something it opposes and then further claim the free market is the only way to achieve an objective. There are three aims for this trick.
Absolve free markets of blame
Soak up energy and time that should be used to really address an issue
Denigrate genuine activists as a means of criticising their politics
The trick is used currently in debates on free speech, democracy and education. Right-wing bloviaters act out their earnest and dramatic worries about access to free speech, to democracy and to balanced non-political education while simultaneously restricting free speech, reducing democracy and interfering in teaching. Assisted by a plethora of secretly funded think-tanks the Tory government’s main objective, declared loudly in the queen’s speech of May 2021, is to clamp down on opposition via severe cuts to free speech, to balanced education and to human rights.
Using the aforementioned trick a think-tank/lobby group was invented,British Conservation Alliance(BCA), that is “dedicated to empowering the next generation to engage with the principles of pro-market environmentalism and conservation.”
BCA admits that it is charging in as an astroturfing fraudster. “Whereas environmental activism has historically shunned anyone on the pro-market side of the political spectrum, the BCA acts to re-engage on these principles, championing market-based solutions to environmental problems.”
It is in a symbiotic relationship with the Tory government. “The BCA takes both a reactive and proactive approach to policymaking and advocacy [including] responding to requests from government officials to comment on existing proposals.” BCA will have a mini summit at COP26: “We are working closely with the Cabinet Office to make this a keynote event for BCA in 2021.”
BCA literature In Bezos Climate Fund Is A Step In The Right Direction Amin Haque declared his worship of extreme exploiter and multi billion-pound tax-dodger Jeff Bezos. Like many of the world’s wealthiest corporate thieves Bezos attained the erroneous title of philanthropist by “donating” a small part of his ill-gotten fortune to charities. He created Bezos Earth Fund, allegedly as a source of funds to tackle climate change.
Haque expressed delight at Bezos’ promised donation of “7.7 billion pounds” of “his own money” to his earth fund.
“If the wealthy compete in their philanthropy then there are better outcomes for all. The end product, findings, and conclusions are what should motivate climate activists to support billionaire philanthropy.”
For Haque, for BCA, and for conservatives generally, the public’s lives should be dependent on the whims of wealthy people. He thinks we should thank very high net worth exploiters for the crumbs they toss at us.
Bezos’ huge fortune is a direct product of his total exploitation of his workforce. His workers are low paid with no workers’ rights and no job security. In a just world he would be rotting in jail. None of his wealth was earned by him.
He avoids enormous amounts of tax, a sum of many magnitudes of his contributions to charities. As activist and broadcaster Lee Camp said, a philanthropist is “someone who uses a small fraction of their huge wealth, accumulated by exploiting workers, polluting the environment and avoiding taxes, in order to manufacture photo opportunities with people and places that were destroyed by their greed.”
Haque doubled down on his preference for supporting the likes of Bezos via a bizarre comparison with genuine climate change activism.
“Grassroots campaigning, though useful in their localised aims, are hampered by their capacity, while the performative stunts of Extinction Rebellion come off as no more than moral posturing.”
If there were no “performative stunts of Extinction Rebellion” then BCA would not have been invented to counter Extinction Rebellion’s success at raising public awareness.
Haque did not mention public funding for tackling climate change. If all uncollected taxes from tax-dodgers like Bezos were paid then there would be no need for “billionaire philanthropy.”
In COVID-19 and the Environment: the Necessity of the Market Matthew Norris pretended to compare arguments for state-led responses to Covid-19 pandemic and to climate change. He did that in the context of commenting on assertions by others that both would be better handled by states than by the free market.
He observed how others’ analysis of the success of lockdowns to manage Covid-19 indicated that state control of addressing climate change would be preferable than leaving it to free marketeers, and he responded with a defence of market-led solutions.
His defence included a claim that
“different companies – from Dyson to Tesla – all around the world are competing and collaborating to produce PPE and medical treatments. vFace masks (including N95 respirators), CPAP machines, hand sanitiser, ventilators, antibody tests, vaccines, and so forth. The free market brings together a whole range of skills, resources, and projects from around the world to fight the virus. If one company’s vaccine doesn’t work, then there are at least a dozen other companies working to provide a vaccine that does.”
Norris neglected to mention that James Dyson was given a promise that he would receive a tax “fix” in exchange for ventilator supply. Dyson’s ventilators were never used.
Norris neglected to mention that the billions paid to Serco for test and trace in Britain were wasted because the process failed.
Norris neglected to mention the massive corruption of awards of Covid-19 government contracts to a variety of made-up businesses, many with direct connections to Tory politicians.
Norris neglected to mention that several manufacturers of vaccines refused the use of their vaccines in countries that couldn’t afford to pay.
Without evidence he claimed “the success in fighting the virus has largely depended on the free-market system, not central planning. A central planner could never match the collective expertise and capabilities of these competing market forces.” That is, Norris confused the existence of factories, haulage and laboratories with the existence of capitalism. He also confused advances in technology with the existence of capitalism.
In Norris’ world, everything ever invented or improved was because of rather than in spite of capitalism.
Covid and climate change worries are persuading people that fundamental economic alterations are desirable and the PR team for the exploited are scared.
On a similar theme in Free-market environmentalism in the era of Coronavirus Patrick O’Connor tried to award the free-market for fighting against Covid-19. He didn’t bother providing much evidence but did state that “where testing capacity has been limited in the UK, the private sector has stepped in to increase testing capacity.” That scenario is not an example of free-market being better than state organisation; it was merely unused space being available in an emergency, as it should be.
O’Connor confused closure of borders for people (to reduce transmission of the virus) with closure of borders for goods and supplies. “International co-operation has been a commodity in short supply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Notions of protectionism may become more prevalent in government thinking. Indeed, it may be a natural reaction to turn in on ourselves in the face of a crisis exacerbated by globalisation and our ever increasing interconnectedness. In doing so, however, such protectionist measures would cut off the possibilities of innovation and technological enhancement that could further our ability to tackle issues such as climate change.”
Echoing Norris, O’Connor confused advances in technology with the existence of capitalism.
Tax cuts Stuffing the bottomless pockets of the corporate world is always the overriding policy elucidated by right-wing think-tanks.
BCA demanded “Clean Tax Cuts” – “reducing the marginal tax rate for clean and environmentally beneficial private investments” – and claimed such cuts would incentivise “further innovation of clean energy.” It’s odd how the free market’s businesses need incentives in order to survive; is that not an intrinsic flaw?
BCS asked for more corporate welfare handouts via “Clean Asset Bonds & Loans (CABLs).” “CABLs would essentially allow companies to acquire tax-free private debt.”
The persistent con of demanding state support for capitalism was described by BCA. ” Tax-free interest would reduce the average interest rate by around 30%, thus directly stimulating entrepreneurs to enter the clean energy space and accelerate both development and innovation.”
BCA people BCA’sadvisorsinclude Ryan Shorthouse, Amber Rudd and Lawrence Reed.
Shorthouse is a veteran think-tanker including Social Market Foundation and Bright Blue. His professional role is to translate the desires of free marketeer exploiters into usable policies for conservative governments and to devise methods of presenting such policies to media and public in ways that hide the policies’ true intent and their beneficiaries.
Former Tory government minister Rudd ran the scheme that robbed Windrush generation of their nationality, livelihoods and, for some, their lives.
Reed was president of Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP) for twenty years in Michigan, USA. MCPP specialises in union-bashing and fighting against government support for citizens. He is President Emeritus of Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in USA that invades schools and colleges to indoctrinate students in how to be a free market exploiter. One of FEE’s “expert instructors” is Anne Bradley from Institute for Faith, Work and Economics that preaches hard work (for someone else’s profits) is god’s work.
Partner organisations Among BCA’s partners are Students For Liberty (SFL) and Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) .
SFL is a secretly funded extremist free market organisation that recruits and trains young people to spread the gospel of complete unfettered racketeering. By “liberty” and “freedom” SFL means the ability to exploit whoever you want, whenever you want and however you want. Its libertarian economic aims are standard hard-right sociopathic and are expressed deceptively. For example, “the best way to make healthcare affordable and accessible for everyone is to stop the government from interfering with our consumer preferences.” UK Board Of Trade member Daniel Hannan is an advisor to SFL
IFT promotes global tariff- and regulation-free “trade” whereby international businesses can exploit around the world without worrying about any government putting barriers in their way. IFT wants the world to consist of colonies of corporate entities. Daniel Hannan is president of IFT. Its International Advisory Board includes libertarian ex-prime minister of Australia (and UK Board Of Trade member) Tony Abbott and ex vice-president of Bolivia Jorge Quiroga who worked alongside president Hugo Banzer. Banzer’s violent USA-backed military coup in Bolivia in 1971 and ensuing dictatorship included assassination of elected president Juan José Torres and thousands of murders of political opponents.
British Conservation Alliance is a free marketeer lobby group and think-tank masquerading as an environmental charity.
Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks
Protection of excessive unearned untaxed wealth and concomitant protection of reputation are the focus of London-based law firm Mischon de Reya. Its services are available to wealthiest clients only.
Unless otherwise stated, italicised quotes below taken from Mishcon’s website: Mishcon de Reya.
Corporate lawyers “We are a law firm for the world of business” is partly true. Mishcon is a law firm for the owners of businesses. “At Mishcon de Reya we act for businesses, wealth owners and dealmakers to help them make the right choices for their private capital and ventures and then offer the practical support to populate, grow and protect their assets.”
“acting for a global media organisation, acquiring a substantial portfolio of business and subsequently making large scale redundancies; acting for a pharmaceutical company to collectively consult with, and subsequently dismissing, a significant number of employees; acting on large-scale collective redundancy at a professional Football Club; acting for a regulatory body looking to make substantial reductions in its workforce.”
Stifling opposition to exploitation is a recurrent theme in its ideology: “Achieving the strategic long and short term aims of the business, whilst minimising the risk of claims [against redundancy], is key.”
Mishcon attempted to support Tory party mouthpiece and disgraced businessman Charlie Mullins’ fraudulent classification of his employees (of Pimlico Plumbers) as self-employed to help him dodge his obligations with respect to workers’ rights.
Tax avoidance Mishcon declared, brazenly and repeatedly, its commitment to ensuring the wealthiest avoid as much tax as they can.
“advised an Ultar-High Net Worth family in relation to their tax and all other private client affairs, including offshore trusts. This involved advising on the restructuring of their multi-national business interests to segregate their shareholdings in foreign business and real estate for tax and dynastic planning purposes,”
“advised a High Net Worth individual relocating to the UK. We advised on all aspects including his residence and domicile status, pre-arrival tax planning, his ability to claim the remittance basis and tax exposure as a shareholder of various offshore companies.”
“advising an Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) family on the restructuring of their multi-national business interests to segregate their shareholdings in foreign business and real estate for tax and dynastic planning purposes; advising a UK resident non-UK domiciled individual on his UK tax and dynastic planning. In particular we have been advising on the creation of three separate tailor-made offshore trusts for different classes of beneficiaries; advising a Chinese billionaire property developer on his UK tax and estate planning including how to structure the purchase and ownership of a very high value UK residential property.”
“We look at the holding and investment structures (in many cases on a multi-jurisdictional basis), tax efficient financing arrangements and undertake the negotiation of the documents to deal with tax risks. Non-transactional tax matters, in relation to the establishment of new business start-ups, spin outs or transfers of teams to form a new business, whether these include corporate entities, partnerships or other arrangements or are a mixture of more than one of these. Where there is a significant overseas element in a transaction we can play a lead role in coordinating numerous advisers in several jurisdictions to achieve the optimal overall tax outcome given the commercial parameters.”
UK law does more than allow the wealthiest to dodge taxes with the guidance of firms like Mischon; the law is structured to enable avoidance. The Johnson-led Tory government’s Brexit will enhance the capability of Mischon’s wealthy clients to avoid their social obligations.
“In recent years the tax authorities have become far more aggressive in collecting tax that they believe is payable. However, this aggressive approach is often unwarranted and our specialist team have been able to persuade HMRC of the correct treatment at an early stage.”
The quote above damned Mishcon as an enabler of tax avoidance and damned HMRC as easily manipulated. The word “persuade” did a lot of work.
Reputation Protection and libel Reputation Protection for the wealthy is a big earner for Mishcon. Its services include advice on
“Challenging the publication of damaging or private material, both in the media and in a more limited, private or commercial context; online/social media attacks;press/pre-publication enquiries about personal/corporate affairs, including from NGOs/regulators/other public bodies.”
Mishcon bullies people into keeping quiet. Habitually, it sends threatening letters that demand a voice is silenced and that published opinions or facts are deleted. A threat of legal action for libel and/or defamation of character is a threat of extraction of a large sum of money. Mishcon knows that a threat is usually sufficient due to prohibitive legal costs and because of the ineptitude of many protagonists in the British judicial system who are willingly persuaded in court by Mishcon’s verbosity.
Arron Banks was among Mishcon’s reputation protection clients. Trying to protect Banks’ reputation was a difficult task. The assistance to Banks included a threatening letter sent to Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt.
In the letter Mishcon pretended to decide what readers of a tweet would deduce and it called Banks, who registered his businesses in offshore tax havens, a “pro-British patriot” and a “philanthropist.” Mishcon’s only objection to what Verhofstadt wrote was that Banks didn’t like it.
A recurring theme of Mishcon’s reputation management is high rate of failure in court but if it loses a case the victims of its behaviour can still face huge costs and this acts as a deterrent to others to proceed with legal action as plaintiff or else to defend themselves in court. Costs for Mischon’s clients, whatever the cases’ outcomes, are non-problematic because they are very wealthy. Thus, Mischon is indifferent to the veracity or otherwise of comments to which its clients object or of accusations that its clients make. The wealth of the clients allows threats to succeed in silencing people or coercing defendants to accept pre-trial agreements.
For example, Mishcon lost a case brought against UCU by Ronnie Fraser but UCU incurred six-figure costs that Fraser is refusing to pay. As Asa Winstanley noted in Fraser vs UCU, “even though Fraser’s case was so utterly defeated, [it] may still count it as a win if other [students’] unions are intimated by the prospect of footing massive legal bills.” The case was so pathetic that the judge was dismayed it even took place. In his judgement he said: “Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort was ever repeated.”
Mishcon’s preference for word salads as a tool of intimidation was demonstrated in a bizarre rambling letter it sent to former Labour NEC chair Jennie Formby as a response to a letter Margaret Hodge had received from Labour’s NEC regarding her behaviour toward then leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Mischon claimed “our client finds herself in an impossible situation of an investigation being opened against her in relation to which she has no knowledge of the particular allegations under investigation” but Hodge knew exactly what the investigation was about: She had set up a public confrontation with Corbyn and talked about it publicly afterward.
The letter whinged about media coverage of the investigation while ignoring Hodge’s public statements and those of her supporters, it mentioned some social media criticism of Hodge that was nothing to do with the NEC, and it concluded by issuing instructions to Jennie Formby with a threat that if the NEC did not follow the instructions then “the fairness of the proceedings will be further, and gravely, undermined.” Mishcon even gave a day and time by which Formby should respond. Absurdly, the letter was wholly unnecessary because Hodge had not been charged by the NEC with any offence.
Within a couple of weeks of Hodge’s wrongdoing, she expressed regret at her behaviour and accepted a warning from Labour’s NEC. A second letter from Mishcon to Jennie Formby denied Hodge had expressed regret. “She [Hodge] did nothing wrong” stated Mishcon – an opinion, not a fact. Mishcon mentioned some unrelated issues about other Labour members that were unconnected to any dispute with Hodge and included an insulting and libellous remark:
“It is clear you [Formby] were making the rules up as you went, and even in defeat you sought to spin your final decision in a disingenuous and false manner.”
The tone of the above comment should be understood in the context that a Corbyn-led Labour government (if it had been elected in 2019 general election) would have sought to crack down on much of the tax avoidance in which Mishcon’s high-paying clients indulge.
The letter concluded with “our client is pleased the investigation is now over, and welcomes your apology for the distress she has suffered in the weeks since 18 July.” However, Hodge stated in a social media post that Labour’s NEC had not apologised to her.
Russian oligarchs There’s an odd page on Michon’s website called VIP Russia that doesn’t mention Russia outside of its title. It contains links to other pages of the site, none of which are specific to Russia, and states that “the UK remains a destination of choice for High Net Worth (‘HNW’) individuals and their families. For many years, Mishcon de Reya has advised and assisted international HNW clients on establishing themselves in the UK.” Clearly, it is a begging page for custom from remnants of the oligarchs and disaster capitalists that acquired wealth via theft of public services and property after the termination of USSR.
Tax Evasion Mischon does not restrict its opposition to the wealthy paying tax to tax avoidance. It intends to prevent the British government’s use of the Common Reporting Standard(CRS) that is part of an international strategy to help to investigate tax evasion. Mishcon filed a spurious complaint with HMRC wherein they claimed that CRS infringes data protection rights. Quoted in Tax Evasion,Mishcon‘s spokesperson Filippo Noseda said
“There is a wealth of objective evidence supporting our proposition not least the comparisons made between the CRS and the Data Retention Directive – the latter of which was effectively declared illegal by the European Court of Justice in 2016. In a democratic society, the rights to privacy and data protection are an essential safeguard to protect compliant citizens against potential abuses and must be treated with the appropriate seriousness by the authorities.”
His comments were typical of distraction techniques used in written and oral correspondence by his employer: “A democratic society,” “rights to privacy,” “essential safeguard” and “potential abuses” were examples of emotive directional language favoured by Mishcon.
Mishcon claimed its complaint was issued on behalf of an EU citizen. If such a person exists, she or he was not named.
Execution of Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was executed in Malta on 16th October 2017 following years of investigative journalism into corruption in the Maltese government.
She investigated Henley And Partners who worked with the Maltese government to assist wealthy people to acquire Maltese citizenship. Henley And Partners tried to stop her investigation by threatening legal action. They used the British judicial system to issue their threats because of its history of accommodation to the demands of wealthy plaintiffs, and hired Mishcon to compose threatening letters that were sent to Daphne Caruana Galizia a few weeks prior to her execution.
Summary Mishcon’s summary of its operation was a self-satisfied soulless smirk: “We pride ourselves on the assertive and practical approach that we take to deals. We are responsive and we are decisive: our speed comes from our confidence that we have understood and fully appreciate the motivations of owners and dealmakers.”
“A law firm for the world of business” meant a law firm acting for the wealthy who want assistance to bypass laws, regulations and taxes and who want to suppress criticism and investigation of their behaviour.
The first act for any socialist government in Britain must be to stop billions of pounds of tax avoidance every year and the first step to take is to hit the enablers of tax avoidance hard. Mischcon, and their ilk, must be dealt with promptly and decisively.
A few weeks ago a dozen police officers were ordered to surround the plinth of a statue of Winston Churchill near the Palace of Westminster to protect the masonry from protesters. That absurd stunt by the heavily politicised Metropolitan Police was roundly and rightly mocked by observers.
Invention of a “culture war” by conservatives is one of many inevitable consequences of their desperate need both to distract people’s gaze from rabid government corruption and to induce public support for extreme nationalism. The latter is useful in lessening objections to authoritarian acts by government. There is the additional fear among the exploitative elite that if people reject prevailing perceptions of the history of Britain then they may also reject the entire undemocratic structure of the country.
Venal Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick expressed his horror that monuments to some of worst protagonists in British history were defaced, removed or dumped in a river. His response was to change the law so that councils will need planning permission to remove a statue.
Responding to publicly funded museums’ decisions to educate visitors Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden (update: succeeded by Nadine Dorries in September 2021) invented a quango, Heritage Advisory Board (HAB), to facilitate government interference.
In Dowden in Telegraph his explanation of the role of HAB was a contortion of language and logic. The quotes below, from the same paragraph in Dowden’s article and written in this order, revealed contempt for the intelligence of readers.
“Museums and other bodies need to have genuine curatorial independence.” “But, independence cuts both ways.” – This sentence is particularly meaningless. Independence is an absolute, not co-dependent. “Heritage organisations should be free from government meddling but the people who run them also need to stand up to political fads and noisy movements of the moment.” – The qualifier therein reduced anti-racism to a “fad” and a “movement of the moment.” “Heritage organisations should take into account the views of the entire nation whose taxes pay for them.” – No, heritage organisations should deal with facts. Dowden took out his dog whistle: “I want to make sure the boards of these bodies are genuinely diverse and not solely governed by people from metropolitan bubbles.”
The sequence of comments from Dowden above, and the rest of his article, used the familiar template of conservative exposition where a supposed intent is declared and then further explanation showed that the real intent is the opposite.
The Tory government is interfering in schools, universities, museums and BBC to try to direct political perspective, to censor knowledge and to encourage unthinking pseudo-patriotism. It is a pattern seen before in history. But, if Tories are successful, people in Britain won’t learn that history.
On Sunday (May 16th 2021) Keir Starmer and his merry band gathered at a (virtual) conference under the reactivated Progress banner to inelucidate what Labour doesn’t stand for and what its plans aren’t.
Starmer revealed his Bystander strategy soon after being elected leader and he reaffirmed that strategy every time he spoke or wrote on his lack of vision and lack of policies. The Progress event was an opportunity for him, MPs and advisers to present a variety of ways of saying nothing.
Immediately after May 6th elections this year Starmer proclaimed proudly that “I will change the things that need changing and that is the change that I will bring about.” Similar empty drivel was emitted on Sunday.
“We know we have shared values, but we need to explore exactly what they are.” – Henna Shah “Moving forward in life really is most people’s focus.” – Peter Kyle “We are very sincere about what we believe in. But we don’t pay sufficient scrutiny to why we’re losing. We too often define what Labour isn’t, not what it is.” – Jon Cruddas “We need to sell a positive vision of Britain’s future rooted in the reality that people can accept. We need to get this clarity right centrally.” – Peter Kyle
Peter Mandelson said “[there is] a need for a truly national UK party with aspirational voices.” “Aspirational” is not a real word. He continued:
“What progressives believe is that it is time for change. Time to turn defeat into a catalyst. It is not our leader that needs changing, but our party that needs to change. Keir must go further faster. People are looking for instrumentality from Labour.”
On Scotland Jackie Baillie said “we need to offer people hope and empathy that demonstrates we are on their side” and Russel Gunson said “Scotland wants to be a place of big ideas.”
I didn’t select the quotes above. They are quotes that organisers of the conference chose as highlights.
Unashamed nothingness was the theme. Empty statements about “connecting” and “listening” but no policies, no vision and no clarity of political position.
The conference was hosted by a new made-up group called Progressive Britain (PB). Self-described as “imaginative thinking to rebuild Labour and the nation” PB was invented to “to provide the spark and challenge that is missing from the Labour Party.”
PB’s launch statement included a cacophony of meaningless hollow cliches.
“revitalisation of the centre-left.” “stimulate fresh thinking.” “We believe there is a once in a generation opportunity for Progressive Britain to become the intellectual driving force for political change and reconciliation.” “We need a sustained effort to reimagine our policies and the battle for a Progressive Britain.”
Inbetween the cliches was a claim that PB wants Labour to not be as bad as the Tories. PB said it will “tackle deep-rooted structural inequalities” but the same people from PB campaigned vigorously and extremely nastily against Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues who had genuine workable solutions to “deep-rooted structural inequalities.”
PB is Labour To Win (LTW) with a different name. LTW was invented by Progress and Labour First in June 2020. It claimed it “aims to bring members together who share the belief that the party must change radically if we are to return to being election winners.” Its focus was defined as eradicating socialism from Labour. “[LTW] will provide a space in which old members, new members, rejoiners and those let down by Jeremy Corbyn can find support and encouragement.”
PB, LTW and Progress exist to stop Labour moving leftward and to launch attack after attack if Labour does take an interest in socialism. Waffled cliches and platitudes by PB are as sincere as similar rhetoric from Change UK mob most of whom are now in lucrative business “consultancy” roles that they obtained as thank yous for helping to stop Corbyn’s Labour from being in government.
Sunday’s conference charged “attendees,” otherwise known as online viewers, five pounds. The attendance for most of it was pitifully small, often barely over twenty people. Such low interest was a snapshot of how irrelevant PB’s stated philosophy is. Garbled indecisive odes to “progressive” politics are a sideshow in Britain right now.
Cohesive support for socialism is a real challenge to Tories’ fraudulent government and to its promulgation of extremism and pseudo-patriotism but socialism is anathema to Progress/PB and to Starmer and Mandelson. In May’s elections Labour succeeded where it retained adherence to Corbyn’s socialist tendencies – in Wales and in Preston; Labour failed where it adopted a woolly, ultra-centrist, vacant approach – in Hartlepool. PB’s launch statement said “consolidation of power in Wales” showed how “Labour in power changes lives” but success in Wales was because Welsh Labour did not reject socialism. Progress’s political perspective is opposed to guiding principles of Welsh Labour.
(The main protagonist of Progress and LTW, Luke Akehurst, lost his seat on Oxford’s council in May’s elections – the seat was gained by the Green party.)
The purpose of Progress (and of Progressive Britain and Labour to Win) is to ensure there is no real alternative in British politics. They do not care whether Labour is in government or not. What they do care about is preventing a challenge to exploitative capitalism.
The blandness, the emptiness and the hopelessness of the Progressive Britain conference were not accidental features. Professional “progressives” enjoy soaking up opposition to the Tories and then suffocating that opposition. Starmer’s Bystander strategy, observing, commenting but offering nothing, fits neatly into the “progressive” programme.
Yesterday’s (May 11th 2021) “queen’s speech” was a glib arrogant display of blatant unashamed disdain for democracy, for freedom and for humanity.
The future desired by the Tories in Britain is extreme exploitation and absolute division between an elite and everyone else. It is a future where the entire economy is based on methods of exploitation, of theft and of fraud. It is a future where education, housing and healthcare are not guaranteed and where employment is insecure and underpaid. Meanwhile, for the elite, the wealthiest, it is a future of endless unearned income, no taxation, multitudinous avenues of exploitation, and lawlessness.
Tories need to prepare the scene for their aims. The queen’s speech included a mixed-bag of policies that will aid their preparation for destruction of society.
Removal of means of opposition
With little opposition in parliament and even less offered by newspapers and broadcasters, Tories’ targets for suppression are elsewhere.
Judicial Review Bill will severely restrict the capability of legal challenges to government decisions. Free from EU’s legal commitments, Tory government will stop all legal checks and balances on its behaviour. Organisations that exist to protect freedoms and liberties and to prevent authoritarianism will no longer be able to take legal action whenever Tories operate outside the law or outside conventions of human rights.
Electoral Integrity Bill will demand photo identification in order to vote. It is straightforward, unambiguous voter suppression and will affect disproportionately non-Tory voters. Removal of the right-to-vote is an extreme tactic; its use reveals both how determined and how fearful the Tories are.
Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, already partially through parliament, will add further attacks on the right to protest. Its intent is to criminalise all in-person protests. This will not only remove physical protests but also remove visibility of protests on TV, in newspapers and online. Severe sentencing in the bill will jail vanguard activists for years and many others will be hampered by criminal records.
Online Safety Bill, presented fraudulently as if its intent is to protect people from harm, will censor social media use. Socialist and progressive politics benefit from successful use of social media platforms to share information, educate and organise; exposure of wrongdoing and promotion of solutions are broadcast in real time around the world leading to international solidarity. Tories know how much of a threat that is to international capitalist exploitation.
Control of education
Last year Education Secretary Gavin Williamson interfered in teaching with instructions that anti-capitalist literature should not be used in schools. Control of education, via both omission and imposition, is standard practice for authoritarian governments.
Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill is based on the modus operandi of eugenicist Toby Young’s Free Speech Union (FSU). FSU exists to enable imposition of far-right ideology on students and uses legal action to achieve its aim. The bill will remove the rights of students to decide who they invite to speak.
The bills above are designed to erect barriers to opposition and to challenges to the government. The bills below are designed to remove barriers to wealth generation for the wealthiest.
Reduction of costs for businesses
Profits are nice but even nicer when pesky taxes are avoided and when public funds are handed over.
Procurement Bill will legalise recent practices whereby Tories handed billions of pounds of public money to private businesses to help allegedly with supply of products and services related to management of Covid-19 pandemic. Bypassing tender regulations and delayed or refused publication of contracts were normal practice. Businesses, many with direct connections to Tory MPs and their friends, and some of which were invented solely to receive government contracts, were paid way beyond the cost of what they supplied, and some never supplied the products. The Covid-19 contract scandal is one of the most corrupt events in the history of British democracy and has lead to several court cases. The bill will ease the award of such contracts and stop legal challenges.
National Insurance Contributions Bill includes the creation of eight “free ports” or charter cities. Charter cities are internal tax havens created entirely for the benefit of large businesses by enabling them to dodge corporation tax, national insurance contributions, import tariffs, customs charges and VAT for all their activities therein. Residents and workers in the charter cities do not benefit. Charter cities are the ultimate objective for the ailing capitalist system. The wealthiest elite want to exploit society while, effectively, existing apart from it.
The Tories are free from EU laws, last week’s elections were generally good for them, the three amigos – Davie, Sharp and Gibb – are planted in BBC, and Labour is fighting itself. If the effects of Covid-19 continue to recede then the real work can begin. It will be worse than imagined. There is no limit to how far Tories will go.
Democracy is usually misrepresented as equivalent to access to elections.
The key problem with deceptive equivalence of democracy and elections is it causes the latter to be an obsession for politicians. Everything government and opposition parties say and do is an attempt to please or appease an assumed swing section of the electorate. Decisions, statements of intent and changes to law, regulations and practices are presented as if part of an election campaign.
Constant election campaign mode, characterised by reactive thinking, creates weak government where emphasis is opposite to good competent administration and productive policies. Instead, governance is erratic and inconsistent.
For politicians outside of government, obsession with elections obstructs development of cohesive ideology, of solutions to problems and of workable strategies to attain improvements. Expositions by opposition politicians of what they intend to do in government, how they will do it and, crucially, why it is the right route to take are stifled by constant electioneering that diverts attention away from progress toward fretting over opinion polls and fear of doing or saying anything that upsets anyone.
Supporters of Scottish independence had eighteen months to prepare for 2014 referendum. Rather than spend that time describing what independence would look like and explaining how a clear detailed vision of independent Scotland would be beneficial and preferable to remaining in the union, the campaigners focussed on trying to win a vote. It was combat between two competitors. Time was wasted in pointless “debates” with opposition. Independence supporters were so distracted by the contest that they forgot to prepare basic components of an independent nation including choice of currency, membership (or not) of European Union, ownership of fossil fuel reserves in North Sea, and whether a British monarch would be head of state.
Elections in UK in May 2021 were unsuccessful for Labour. Many potential Labour voters chose not vote. Their absence was motivated by lack of policy and ideology in Labour since April 2020. Keir Starmer and his shadow front bench colleagues were occupied with worrying about public opinion of any policy. Consequently, Labour chose to abandon the concept of being a political party. There were no policies, no opinions, no criticisms of Tory behaviour, and determination to not indicate what Labour was or where it was on the political spectrum. Fear of upsetting the electorate backfired and discouraged the electorate. Labour’s response to election results was to reaffirm its commitment to vacuity.
Fear of public opinion stops political parties from possessing boldness to recognise changes that are needed, to develop workable methods to attain and maintain those changes, and to explain concisely why the changes are necessary and how the methodology will succeed.
A second problem with elections is that they can remove democracy. The public can elect opponents of democracy and often do, though not always knowingly. Parties, or individuals (as president, mayor, etc.), can be elected who have no intention of exercising the key component of democracy: Working on behalf of the public. Donald Trump and Republican party, Scott Morrison and Liberal party, Boris Johnson and Tory party and Jair Bolsonaro were elected but none works for the people of their respective countries. All work assiduously for a small wealthy elite and, thus, are profoundly anti-democratic.
The purpose of many political parties is to help the wealthiest people and owners of large businesses. In most current democratic structures the choice for voters is limited between two or more such parties. This corruption of electoral process is a deliberate original feature of permitted democracy. Without the inclusion of this feature democracy would not have been allowed.
Obstacle Elections are a legacy obstacle to democracy.
Time and energy is wasted worrying about elections, and fear of election loss restricts vision and courage
Opponents of functioning democracy are elected easily
False reduction of democracy to mere existence of elections removes its greater part. Access to electability for opponents of democracy removes any democratic aspect of elections.
True democracy is not dependent on elections. If elections determine government in a democracy then they should exclude anti-democratic participants. The right-to-vote is not only not equivalent to democracy but it can (and does) work against democracy.
As a reaction to the invasion of The Capitol building in Washington social media platforms and application hosts banned Donald Trump, some of his family and political associates, and many of his supporters. The recipients of the bans lost access to social media accounts and extreme-right platform Parler lost its host and went offline.
The banning spree was not informed by moral considerations or by integrity, it was motivated by concern about the new USA (Democrat) government’s possible changes to law affecting large online platforms and businesses. Apple, Twitter and Facebook share a single objective: Profit. Every decision they make is calculated carefully to maximise their future incomes.
For the entirety of his presidency Donald Trump and his political associates used social media platforms, particularly Twitter, to misinform the public and rouse a rabble. None of the major online communication platforms restricted the misuse. They waited until Joe Biden won the presidential election in November 2020 before taking any action.
Prior to the assault on the Capitol building on January 6th 2021 there were no online restrictions on the organisation of and the promotion of the assault. Bans on organisers and promoters were imposed immediately afterward. Restrictions imposed by the largest online communication platforms after the assault on the Capitol were driven by fear of regulatory retaliation and were consistent with other restrictions inspired by fear of state suspension of service including self-censorship by platforms in, for example, China and India.
During Trump presidency Twitter, Facebook and Youtube closed social media accounts and video channels of socialist activists and governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Palestine. Those closures remain during Biden’s presidency and similar accounts were shut down on Biden’s first day as president. Profit is the platforms’ sole objective and political expediency is a tactic to maintain that objective.
Under the guise of responding to organised promulgation of far-right philosophy, self-appointed liberal arbiters of ethics intend to increase control of communication. Their disdain for far-right politics is partly theatrical and partly driven by desire to avoid electoral competition but, even if some of their concern is sincere, censoring extremism neither removes it nor restrains it as Caitlin Johnstone explained in Caitlin Johnstone on countering Trumpism.
Removal of extreme-right views from the web is done reluctantly by platforms and hosts but they know when it is pragmatic to do it. They know also when it is unwise to restrict access. If Trump had won the 2020 election there would have been no online restrictions of extreme-right opinions including those that called for violence. Communication platforms allow different degrees of freedom of speech in different countries. The differences match different political stances of respective governments. Business pragmatism, the surest route to profit, is the only ethic.
Pre-Biden, when interrogated by various governments’ representatives the responses of owners of platforms or platform hosts – Zuckerberg (Facebook), Cook (Apple), Dorsey (Twitter), etc. – were inconsistent, contradictory and evasive; they could not commit themselves to censoring extremism nor to allowing it. They waffled unconvincingly as they struggled inwardly about the balance between high user numbers and threats of government regulations and the balance between liberal complaints about extremism and the fact that an extremist was in power in the most lucrative country in the world for internet businesses. Post-Trump, those struggles concluded with a lean toward the demands of authoritarian liberalism. Now, in the world of conservative liberalism, social media platforms are hypersensitive to criticisms of their apparent lack of responsibility toward offensive, abusive and threatening content.
The post-Trump purge erased (temporarily) tens of thousands of hateful extremist far-right voices, both real and automated, from social media platforms and removed some extreme-right sites entirely. The clean-up was swift and extensive. As a by-product of an online purge of extremism, censorship of left-wing politics is not accidental. That should be obvious to all socialists and communists. Another analysis by Caitlin Johnstone in The Pendulum Of Internet Censorship Swings Leftward Again:
“That purge [of extreme-right] was broadly supported by shitlibs and a surprisingly large percentage of the true left, despite the overwhelming and growing pile of evidence that it is impossible to consent to internet censorship for other ideologies without consenting to censorship for your own.”
“You use it [social media] to bring consciousness and understanding to your ideas and your causes. Consenting to the institutionalization of the censorship of political speech is consenting to your own silence on this front, which will mean the only people who will be able to quickly share ideas and information online with the mainstream population will be those who support the very power structures you oppose.”
Left-wing accounts that were removed recently were, predominantly, organisational accounts for socialist activism and knowledge sharing. Success of online socialist action is the reason why some governments are worried.
Major platforms have been under pressure to censor socialist organisation for several years. In UK Theresa May commissioned Lord Paul Bew to concoct a report in 2017 on ‘Intimidation in Public Life.’ Bew concluded that censorship of social media was needed and that alleged perpetrators should be barred from voting in elections. In 2018 May asked the then Minister For The Constitution Chloe Smith to follow-up Bew’s recommendations for restricting access to voting. Later that year Tory chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport parliamentary committee Damian Collins created The Declaration that declared ‘Principles of the Law Governing the Internet.’ None of these proposals and statements had any worth. All were expressions of fear of the capability of social media to enable organisation, solidarity and sharing of information. The targets of the censorship were left-wing activists.
Whether enacted by governments or by media (news media or social media) censorship of extremists on the right is pragmatism, a publicity stunt and requires persuasion to combat deceptive cries of “free speech” but censorship of socialists is always a political decision. Censorship of socialists is aimed at effective opposition; it is deliberate.
Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Cook will do what is best for their respective businesses profits. Neoliberals will censor some far-right activists but their focus will be on censoring and neutering socialist activism.