On 15th July (2021) Etonian grifter Boris Johnson egurgitated a garbled concoction of hollow platitudes, misdirection, blame-shifting and lies as part of the government’s fraudulent “levelling up” agenda.
The overriding theme of the Tories’ “levelling up” propaganda is, unsurprisingly, to claim they have solutions and the will to address inequalities despite being the primary cause of the problems and despite current and planned government policy designed to do the opposite.
The true intent of the “levelling up” process is further erosion of local democracy to assist further destruction of public services with the ongoing objective of more and more wealth concentration. It is part of the overriding theme of Tory policy: Stamping down.
All quotes below are from Johnson’s speech on 15th July 2021 at 10 Downing Street.
Johnson chose to focus erroneously on regional inequalities but any inequalities that can be viewed regionally, or town by town, are entirely within general inequalities in society. None is intrinsically local. Lower income means restricted choices of where to live. Lower income means people cannot afford university education. Lower income means lower life expectancy. Regional differences are consequences of inequalities.
Obvious solutions are higher wages, higher welfare support, free education and affordable homes to buy or rent but Tories are ideologically and unwaveringly appalled by those solutions. They erode workers’ rights continuously, they reduce welfare support to a murderous level, they raise the cost of university education each year, they sell off council homes to exploitative businesses and they are opposed fanatically to any control of rent costs.
Brexit was conceived as and is being enacted as a tool to smash what is left of responsible society. That includes the erasure of legal protections for workers and for tenants.
Tories do not want to reduce inequalities, whether expressed as regional or otherwise.
Johnson’s brazenness was displayed in a single long sentence where he observed (correctly) that everyone has potential but opportunity to maximise that potential is not universal.
“Everyone knows that talent and energy and enthusiasm and flair are evenly spread across the UK, evenly spread, it is opportunity that is not and it is the mission of this government to unite and level up across the whole UK not just because that is morally right but because if we fail then we are simply squandering vast reserves of human capital we are failing to allow people to fulfil their potential and we are holding our country back and so today I want to talk again about that project of levelling up and to define it more closely and in advance of a white paper later this year that will set out our plan to level up and we should begin by stressing – in all humility – that this is a huge undertaking that many governments have debated about and dabbled in before and though there have been some successes the overall results are disappointing and yet it could be so very different.”
The lack of universal access to opportunity to achieve what someone is capable of is a consequence of Tory policy that is driven by Tory ideology. Prohibitive cost of university education, absence of any financial support to study ‘A’ levels, underfunding of schools, closure of libraries, high cost of housing, high cost of public transport (and cuts thereof), extreme insecurity of employment and destruction of the welfare system have reduced access to opportunity and all are deliberate effects of Tory policy.
Johnson did not suggest that any of the obstacles above would be removed.
It was difficult to find in his “speech” anything that resembled a nascent policy proposal to acquire his supposed objective. After stating that “levelling up can only be achieved with a strong and dynamic wealth creating economy” he said “[the government will] begin with fighting crime because we will never level up our country while some kids face the misery of dealing with the county lines drugs gangs, and some kids do not and that is why we are putting rings of steel around towns that are plagued by these gangs” followed by promises of “tough sentences.” Treating symptoms rather than causes, Johnson suggested that locking up all current criminals will magically remove all criminality in the future.
His assertion that “we will invest in grassroots sports of all kinds” followed years of Tory closure of sports fields and venues and sell-offs of school fields to property developers. He claimed £50,000,000 will be spent on “high quality football pitches” but didn’t say who would receive the money and how accessible or affordable the pitches would be to use.
He blamed individuals for their own inequality:
“We won’t level up when so many people are sick, or off work because they are stressed, or because they suffer from obesity or problems with their mental health and that’s why we are tackling the problems of junk food and rewarding exercise.”
What he meant above was that employers don’t like people who are sick or who have “problems with their mental health.”
Tories do not intend to “tackle problems of junk food.” Post-Brexit, food standards regulations are being erased.
The comment about “rewarding exercise” meant people with health issues, physical or mental, will be further attacked with reduced access to work and reduced access to welfare support.
A key objective of conservatives is to use necessities of life to service the wealth of the wealthiest. Public services – necessities – are reconstructed by Tories as ginormous cash cows for racketeers. A common ruse presented by advocates of legalised theft of public service infrastructure is to downgrade and partially destroy a public service, point at its inability to operate at a level needed, claim to want to rectify the deficiencies and further claim that privateers are the only solution. The logic route in the quote below from Johnson’s “speech” was a precis of every anti-public service think-piece written for every libertarian think-tank.
“The single biggest thing we can do of course, is investing in public services to change their lives to give them the confidence and the natural serotonin they need to deal with the day is to help them into a good job on decent pay and that means the private sector has to invest to create those jobs and we must create conditions for business confidence.“
Privatisation of public services – gas, electricity, water supply, postal service, probation service, prisons, railways, bus services, sports facilities – raised prices, reduced quality and made a few offshore criminals very wealthy. That is basic Tory ideology. The NHS is the biggest target. The newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid was given that role to oversee further and more rapid privatisation.
Johnson paraded the Towns Fund as “helping local people to renew [where] they live, with another fifteen of them announced today.” Tories’ Towns Fund is straightforward pork barrel politics. Towns are rewarded for voting Tory. The corruption in the distribution of the Fund is an art form. The towns that receive funding are chosen by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government led by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick. His constituency, Newark, will receive £25,000,000 from the Towns Fund. Newark was selected by Tory MP Jake Berry who is a junior minister in the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. Darwen, a town in Berry’s constituency, was recommended as a recipient of funding by Jenrick.
Having noted that children from lower income families are less likely to go to university, without admitting that is due to huge debts incurred from university fees and living costs over three years resulting from abolition of financial support, Johnson mentioned a new apprentice scheme. Predictably, he omitted details of whether apprentices would have to pay for it, whether they would receive any income for living costs and whether employers benefitting from skilled apprentices would have to pay for their training.
He claimed the government will “invest” in research and development and the skills needed, particularly regarding new energy sources, and emphasised that new locations for such development would be throughout the UK. However, as always with Tories, “investment” meant using public funds to subsidise private businesses. “[We will double] public investment in R and D to £22 billion and we want to use that to trigger more private sector investment.” The concept of all “investment” and, consequently, all income being public is against the interests of the libertarian machine for whom Johnson works.
“We will use new post Brexit freedoms – such as freeports – to drive those investments across the UK.” Tories’ “free ports” are Charter Cities wherein no corporate tax is collected, there are no workers’ rights, no human rights, no independent (of corporate interests) legal rights and no democracy. They are rabid concoctions of the Hayek school. They separate extreme aims of exploitative businesses from society. Creation of Charter Cities is the exact opposite of levelling up.
Johnson did not avoid blaming Labour councils for his assertion that “our great cities that had seemed to be in long term decline.” He admitted that Tory governments had “relentlessly crushed local leadership” and he justified that policy by claiming cities were “in the grip of a real ideological conflict in which irresponsible municipal socialist governments were bankrupting cities and were so genuinely hostile to business in such a way that government [Tories] was forced to intervene. Now, with some notable exceptions that argument is now over.” What Johnson meant was that some Labour councils had chosen not to privatise all public services and had ensured that revenue raised wasn’t spirited away by faceless privateers; he meant that some Labour councils had tried to improve lives of people by building council houses and by providing many services that Tories later cut – libraries, sports facilities, cheap public transport. “The loony left remains pretty loony and we need accountability,” he cried, mysteriously forgetting that council elections are accountability.
Johnson’s objection was that some Labour councils had tried to do the job they were elected to do. With no shame he implied that the invention of “metro mayors” was devised as a method of bypassing non-Tory councils.
When he declared that “the most important factor in levelling up is leadership” and “most of the big metro mayors know that private sector investment is crucial” Johnson spoke as a PR guy for extreme libertarian economics. He is ideologically opposed to public ownership and equally opposed to any barrier to profit for exploiters. Libertarian “investment” is the handover of public services to privateers who use them as a source of free continuous income.
All of Johnson’s claims about the process of “levelling up” were bereft of details. However, it would be wrong to dismiss his presentation as merely another dollop of Etonian waffle. Within his rambling faux-childlike verbosity were statements that described Tories’ real objective: Intense privatisation facilitated by removal of local democracy.
Libertarian economics has no limit to how much exploitation and how much concentration of wealth it aims for. Charter cities are the next step toward ensuring that 99% of the people exist to feed the 1%. Genuinely accountable administrations are a hindrance to that step.
Tories gerrymandered the electorate base for metro mayor elections and they removed central funding of councils because local democracy is an obstacle to Tories’ intent. They will continue to manipulate the constitution of local democracy and electorate process until power is in the hands of compliant employees of economic extremists.
Beyond the waffle, Johnson’s “levelling up” is another tool in stamping down.