LESS THAN ZERO

Humours of an ElectionDepending on the number of spares after the heir, the one-time tradition amongst the aristocracy was that the son lowest in the pecking order went into the Church; it was seen as a safe, comfortable option for the one with little or no hope of inheriting the family title – a bit of a booby prize, but better than nothing. With the clout of the Church in British society now even more diminished than that of the aristocracy, one wonders if the preferred profession of the second or third son of the nouveau riche dynasties in the 21st century is politics. Very few new arrivals in Westminster Village appear to be particularly intelligent individuals, so perhaps the smart sons (or daughters) are earmarked for the same big business daddy made his fortune in whilst politics is reserved for the idiot offspring. It would certainly explain the deterioration in the quality of our political leaders over the past couple of decades; indeed, if one goes to the very top, has there ever been a worse run of Prime Ministers than Brown, Cameron, May and Johnson? Sure, history has had its fair share of Downing Street disasters, but four in a row seems a bit extreme.

Perhaps it’s no real surprise that politicians tend to quit earlier nowadays; few betting men would put their life savings on any of the current crop possessing the staying power of a Dennis Skinner or a Ken Clarke, for sure; and when they prematurely bow out, where do most go? Big business seems to be the career of choice – on the boards of all the companies, corporations, banks and financial institutions that donated to their party whilst they were in office; this suggests the business world was the desired destination all along and politics was merely a stepping stone to a place where political fame is a free pass to a directorship in the absence of business nous. So much for public service. In a way, this perhaps explains why so many of Westminster’s bright young things who not much more than a decade ago were singled out as ones to watch (in terms of potential future leaders) are no longer in politics and why the long-serving Parliamentarian could well be an endangered species.

The advent of the career politician travelling along the smooth conveyor belt has been discussed many times before, entering politics with no life experience beyond their social bubble and then quitting for big business, the kind that is equally detached from the majority of the electorate. Previously, most politicians made their journeys the other way round, beginning by earning a recognisable living and then politics being seen as the end goal, arriving with a wealth of life experience to bring to the table. For some, there was a vocational calling to politics, though it would be naive to suggest all past politicians were motivated by purely selfless good intentions; politics has always been a handy haven for crooks and charlatans, and though some of the more honest Honourable Members who avoid losing their seats gradually lapse into the geriatric irrelevance of an old retainer, many of the good men and women remain hard at it until age eventually catches up with them.

Still, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that the overall standard of politician and political leader has definitely declined in recent years. One could possibly argue the rot set in with New Labour and its emphasis on style over substance, a factor embodied by Tony Blair and subsequent Blair copyists like David Cameron. At the same time, watching the current BBC2 series analysing the New Labour era as told by its key players, some of that period’s big beasts now seem positively heavyweight compared to those who have succeeded them. One wonders how much worse things have to get before today’s gravitas-free intellectual lightweights are looked back on as political giants – and few voters these days would invest much faith in the sentiments of the 1997 New Labour Election theme song; who in 2021 could possibly believe things can only get better?

When the average IQs of most leading politicians were considerably higher than the same average today, the more nefarious amongst them were naturally dangerous characters to hold power; yet I’d much rather have a clever villain in charge than an idiot – the latter being characterised by its own unique dangers in the same way a blunt instrument is potentially more lethal than a sharp one. The events of the past couple of years have seen so much power ceded to the stupid that the world is far less safe than it would be if controlled by highly intelligent bastards. Not even this lot initially imagined they could get away with transplanting a totalitarian tool like lockdown from Communist China to Western Europe and across the global Anglosphere, yet they did it…and the people let them. When Jacindra Arden can shamelessly admit she’s deliberately creating an effective apartheid system in New Zealand based around vaccine status, and cannot resist flashing her equine incisors as her eyes glint at the prospect, it’s undeniable these fools can’t believe their luck.

Having realised how successful the politics of fear have worked in the absence of intelligence, the salesmen that terrified us into obedience during the pandemic have switched gear to the next alarmist crisis that will maintain the fear factor and keep them in power – Climate Change. It might appear that COP26 is brought to you in association with the BBC (on account of it being shoehorned into every f***ing programme being broadcast this week), but the Global Warming shindig in Glasgow is another example of these leaders’ idiocy. This idiocy blinds them into believing we actually can’t see through what they’re doing, that we somehow can’t discern the double standards as they fly into Scotland aboard gas-guzzling private jets that burn sinkholes in the Ozone Layer before proposing a series of expensive eco-policies that we have to live by whilst they continue jetting around the world unaffected. And, of course, they still insist we should wear masks mass-produced in China (a nation not in attendance at COP26, despite being responsible for a quarter of the emissions poisoning the planet); these masks will add considerably to the plastic pollution of the oceans, an issue they wouldn’t shut up about not so long ago and now tend not to mention.

There is so much hypocritical cant in the condescending proclamations of these idiots it often beggars belief. They broke lockdown and social distancing rules when everyone else faced fines for breaking them, and they remain exempt from a ‘green’ regime they’re determined to impose upon the rest of us whether we can afford it or not – an agenda outlined by leaders whose pit-stop visit to the UK sidesteps all the restrictions and limitations that apply to us when travelling from one country to another. Meanwhile, that prominent sufferer of Bonaparte-Bercow Syndrome, Lil’ Sadiq Khan of London Town, has recently extended the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’, a green measure aimed at drivers of older vehicles in the capital (i.e. basically everyone with a car bar those who can shell out a fortune for an electric one). This eco twist on the Congestion Charge places tolls upon the owners of pre-2005 petrol cars and pre-2015 diesel ones that could amount to £400 per month; yet again, genuine concerns about air pollution are exploited by penalising those who can least afford the sacrifice.

But, let’s be fair – it’s not just politicians who are at it. One of the biggest anchors on TV in recent years, former Channel 4 News frontman Jon Snow tweeted the other day that a tree which had blown over onto the railway line, thus disrupting his train journey to COP26, was yet one more indication of the climate catastrophe. Nothing to do with it being autumn, then? At the same time, Joanna Lumley thinks we should introduce eco-austerity to help the environment; she wants to bring back the Blitz Spirit via rationing. Yeah, great idea after all the privations the public have endured since Lockdown Mk I. Whatever planet these planks are on, one wonders if it’s really worth saving.

© The Editor

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?fan_landing=true&u=56665294

FROM AVARICE TO AUSTERITY

This wet and windy month of August 2017 is, if nothing else, awash in anniversaries – fifty years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act; forty since Elvis Presley died; twenty since Diana died…and so on. Perhaps the focus on these anniversaries helps distract us from the imminent apocalypse courtesy of Mr Trump and Mr Jong-Un, though one anniversary was highlighted today that is hardly cause for celebration, even if it has not only dictated the global political landscape for the last ten years, but has also impacted upon all our lives in one way or another.

If we cast our minds back a mere decade (easily done when you’re over 21), we find Gordon Brown, the so-called Iron Chancellor as was, finally ascending to the position he always felt his predecessor had promised him during their legendary dinner at an Islington restaurant thirteen years previously. However, it was ironic that a man who supposedly had his fiscal finger on the financial pulse could be so short-sighted when it came to the inevitable bust of the boom he had been happy to take credit for. Perhaps the prospect of finally getting his hands on the key to No.10 was too great a distraction for Gordon Brown in the summer of 2007 and he took his eye off the ball; after all, the US housing market bubble had already burst by the time he succeeded Blair; surely, just as what goes up must come down, a boom must be followed by a bust?

Although he was obviously keen to put his own stamp on the role of Prime Minister, Gordon Brown didn’t initially show that his predecessor’s fondness for dishing out knighthoods and Peerages to prominent financiers was about to be discontinued. The bankers were still the bosom buddies of New Labour; the partnership they had entered into on the eve of the 1997 General Election retained its cosy nature and the likes of Peter Mandelson, poised to return to Government as Brown sought to shore up his fresh-faceless Cabinet with a few experienced old hands, was the embodiment of New Labour’s love affair with the wealthy, forever sighted on the yachts of Russian oligarchs or quaffing champers in the City. Should the Government be accused of giving the bankers too much leeway and allowing them to exercise too much influence over the economy, Labour could simply point to the population and their plentiful status symbols as evidence that affluence was now available for all.

However, the crisis arising from the inevitable collapse of the US subprime mortgage market – with America already borrowing heavily from China (which had saved its pennies as the west was recklessly throwing its own about like bloody confetti) and banks no longer lending to each other – began to seriously affect international finance in the summer of 2007 and the first British casualty was the high-street bank, Northern Rock.

Northern Rock had centred its financial practises on securitisation – borrowing both home and abroad to fund the mortgages it sold before re-selling mortgages in the capital markets internationally; but when investors’ demand for securitised mortgages plummeted, Northern Rock could no longer repay the loans it had acquired around the world when business was booming. Moreover, ever since being caught napping by the dot-com crash, the financial markets had tended to second-guess potential crises, and the ensuing publicity afforded Northern Rock’s shaky foundations only served to bring about the disaster that was being predicted. Northern Rock approached the Bank of England for a liquidity support facility to compensate for the sudden loss of the funds it had previously raised in the markets; this move, reported with sensationalist relish by the British press, triggered the first run on a British bank in over a century.

Further scaremongering reporting from the media as customers queued around the block to empty their accounts before (so they feared) their savings evaporated evoked the panic at George Bailey’s Building and Loan bank in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’; it seemed as though the collapse of Northern Rock was becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy as the public believed the hype and sought to withdraw every penny they had stored in the bank’s coffers.

This remarkable event should have been anticipated by Gordon Brown; after all, he’d only ceased to be Chancellor for three months before Northern Rock’s dramatic downfall leapt from the financial section of the papers to the front page. But Alistair Darling was now in charge of the nation’s purse-strings and accusations of responsibility for a financial crisis that may have had its genesis on Gordon Brown’s watch were met with an effective ‘It weren’t me, Guv’. The Government observed from the sidelines as two unsuccessful attempts to rescue Northern Rock came to nothing and then belatedly intervened by taking the bank into state ownership. It was ironic that a party that had spent the best part of fifteen years dispensing with the nationalisation programme that had been integral to its constitution since its inception should have to end its days in Government nationalising the one industry that had always prided itself on its independence from the state; but once Northern Rock was pulled back from the precipice by nationalisation, the legacy of living beyond one’s means began to spread.

If Gordon Brown imagined slipping into Tony Blair’s shoes would be achieved without the need for a shoe-horn merely because he’d had his beady eye on those shoes for ten years, then the honeymoon period that had raised his popularity high enough for him to have won the autumn Election he’d baulked at calling was short-lived indeed. The Northern Rock debacle would act as the harbinger of an economic meltdown that would dog Brown throughout what would turn out to be the brief tenure of his premiership. Northern Rock was no one-off drama that could be glossed over as an aberration from the prosperous state of affairs Brown had overseen during his residence at No.11.

The global markets were sliding towards recession in 2007, and Britain, saddled with debts accumulated during the Blair boom years – a boom that had benefitted everyone from the million-pound bonus banker at the top to the designer-clad Chav at the bottom – was poised to pay the price for its reckless dependency on credit. A decade later, with the average British salary the same as the average British consumer debt per person (£28,000), the country is still paying the price.

© The Editor