We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing, 29th October 2020; Johnson a muddled headed bungler and ‘Flashman’ style bully who’s out of time
‘Why can’t we just play the other game?
Why can’t we just look the other way’?
This week we continue with the theme of the demise of the Thatcher era and consider how the current situation is either a legacy of her policies, and how her leadership skills might have helped us today.
The virus is one area where, I believe, she would have excelled; Thatcher offered decisiveness and clear leadership, the confidence this would have instilled would have led to people following the guidelines.
In some ways she can be compared to Churchill in WW2, he may have made wrong calls but he was clear and people believed in him. By comparison, Johnson is a muddled headed bungler, people don’t believe in him and therefore ignore his guidelines.
Thatcher offered decisiveness and clear leadership, the confidence this would have instilled would have led to people following the guidelines
His 3-tier policy is neither clear or decisive, a fudge to get around a second lock-down which looks inevitable as more areas fall into tier 3, which is lockdown.
This lack of clarity means we are reactive, and behind the curve, whilst German is pro-active, squashing the problem before it becomes one.
Germany’s disease control agency announced 16,774 new infections in the last 24 hours on Thursday (today, 29th), whereas we had 24,700. The population of Germany is 83m compared to our 60m, statistically our daily infection rate is 0.41% compared to their 0.21%.
Johnsons failure to act is demonstrated by these figures; the React-1 study from Imperial College London found that the England-wide R rate has risen to 1.6 since the last findings, from mid-September to early October, when it was 1.2.
In the south-east, south-west, London and the east of England, R was over 2. Business before lives, perhaps?
We should, of course, acknowledge that there are other factors such as the obsession with out-sourcing to the private sector, which is a direct legacy of Thatcherism.
Proof that this doesn’t work is the £12bn debacle that is Test and Trace; this week contact-tracing fell to a new low with less than 60% of close contacts being reached and waiting times for test results reached 48-hours, almost double the target.
All Johnson, could say was, ‘I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.’
The system he said was helping ‘a bit’, adding, ‘The thing depends on people self-isolating and breaking the transmission. It is helping a bit already to break the transmission. About 1m contacts have been reached. But there is more that it can do if everybody complies once they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.’
Sage said in May that at least 80% of contacts must be reached for the system, described as ‘world-beating’ by the government, to be effective.
Documents published last week show Sage considers its success to be ‘marginal’.
Dido Harding, the interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: ‘Reducing turnaround times is our absolute priority to make sure we are reaching people as soon as possible’. Dido it’s time to face the facts, this is another job you aren’t up to.
Dido it’s time to face the facts, this is another job you aren’t up to
However, if you are one of the governments pet outsourcers its happy days; Serco last week was awarded a contract reputed to be worth up to £410m to provide services as part of the national test-and-trace system.
Another is the Boston Consulting Group, whose senior consultants are paid up to £6,250 a day to mess-up test and trace. In just one week they earn what nurses are paid in a year.
Our fascination with outsourcing, which started with Thatcher, shows that we recognised neither the value of public sector expertise nor of public service provision, preferring the false pretence that private competition in the public sector leads to improvement and cost-saving.
Successive government has measured the effectiveness of outsourcing as ‘doing more with less’, whilst this delivered short term wins, there was little consideration for the longer-term loss of capabilities and knowledge.
Austerity didn’t just cut budgets to reduce Britain’s deficit, it also restructured public services and outsourcing of management in a belief it reduced direct costs.
In just one week they earn what nurses are paid in a year
Today, the twin ideologies of New Private Management and austerity cast long shadows over the public sector. Structures within welfare programmes that provided the checks and balances necessary to prevent the decimation of the welfare state have been dismantled leaving the public sector under-resourced.
From ‘efficiency’ we turn to the old Tory hobbyhorse, Law and Order.
Now, before people get energised, I believe in it as a policy, but, like anything, success it dependent on how it is delivered and by who.
Previously, we looked at the police’s simple mathematical equation of black person(s) + nice car = stolen car, we can now introduce another sum, which is 2-black people = drug dealers.
Dijon Joseph, 30, and his brother Liam, 29, are two innocent black brothers wrongly suspected by police of drug dealing after they bumped fists in the street.
They were stopped and searched, and one was handcuffed. The brothers, from a devout Christian family in south London, told the Guardian that between them they have been stopped and searched by police more than 25- times, starting when they were children.
It is hard to see how this is anything other than racial profiling and discrimination. This leads to disorder rather than order, as we saw with the inner-city riots in the 1980s.
‘The fascist regime
They made you a moron
A potential H bomb..’
From enforcement of one kind we turn to another, that given out by a Tory government when someone defies them; they are dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly.
This time it’s Manchester, who, like the miners before them, felt the full force of the Tory jackboot, sending a clear signal to every other city and region that resistance is futile.
The cause of this was the government claimed not to have £5m to support hardship-stricken Mancunians, which could be true given that £10bn has already been squandered on an inadequate test-and-trace system and the government cannot account for £3bn frittered away on private contractors.
Poor Boris is reported to be struggling to get by on £150,000 a year, how does he expect Mancunians to survive on two thirds of the minimum wage?
Manchester, who, like the miners before them, felt the full force of the Tory jackboot
As one Mancunian said, ‘It doesn’t feel like the government is acting in the best interests of the people in Manchester. It feels like they just want to make an example of us for Andy Burnham daring to disobey them.’
This is the behaviour we highlighted last week, to counteract their constant failures the government turn inwards and become more authoritarian. If there was ever any doubt, those who voted Tory for the first-time last year and gave Johnson his majority were conned.
Conservatives care only for big businesses which forms their donor base, and affluent older citizens who are their core voters.
This is demonstrated by the saga of free school meals for children, the current score is Marcus Rashford 5 – Boris 0.
To continue the football analogy, those old enough will remember Diego Maradona’s magnificent second goal against England in the 1986 world cup he ran from inside his own half dribbling past five England players before scoring what became known as the ‘Goal of the Century’. Boris has done exactly that, only no one told him you change ends at half-time, meaning he has just scored the own goal of the century.
Not that he cares, MPs have a £25 a day food allowance
Not content with starving the kids Johnson is now further jeopardising their education, deciding that schools in some of the most deprived areas of the country will have their allocation of laptops cut by up to 80%.
The timing of this is bewildering coming two days after the government used its Covid-19 emergency powers to impose a new legal duty on schools to provide a remote education to any pupil unable to attend lessons because of the pandemic?
Vic Goddard, a co-principal at Passmores Academy in Essex, who’s allocation of laptops is being reduced from129 to 26, said, ‘We weren’t allocated enough in the first place.’
One in every four students at his school – about 300 pupils – do not have access to a device they can use to learn online at home during local lockdowns or periods when they need to self-isolate, he said, disadvantaging those children further. ‘It’s unfair on the children and it puts financial pressure on their families, who have all this anxiety that they’re letting their children down.’
Education has been a total afterthought for this government throughout this pandemic and it’s a disgrace
Headteachers will now spend the half-term break worrying about how they can fulfil their new legal responsibilities for remote learning without the resources they need to provide their most disadvantaged pupils with an education online. ‘We are now in a position where we have to offer remote learning within 24 hours of young people being sent home. We are actually breaking the law if we don’t,’ said Goddard.
I can think of no better end to this section than to quote Wes Streeting, the shadow schools minister who said:
‘Only this incompetent government could introduce a legal duty on schools to provide online learning for pupils isolating at home and then cut their allocation of laptops the very next day. We know that many families do not have the laptops or unlimited broadband they need for their children to be able to access lessons and resources from home. Education has been a total afterthought for this government throughout this pandemic and it’s a disgrace. Making sure pupils are learning must be a top priority and ministers need to get their act together to make sure schools and pupils have the laptops and internet access they need to make sure that no child is left behind.’
Before we forget, in April MPs were allowed an extra £10,000 (they already receive £26,000 p.a.) to support them while they work from home during pandemic, to cover items such as such as laptops and printers.
‘The past was yours,
But the future’s mine,
You’re all out of time..’
As I wrote last week, it is too simple to talk about a north-south divide, now it is have’s and have nots. However, on Tuesday over half the 207 Covid-19 deaths announced by NHS England were in the north of England, and the region was reported to have more than half of all patients on ventilation beds.
However, the 55 newly elected Tory MPs still see it as that simple, and they now form a significant power block within the party, christening themselves Northern Research Group, and highlighting the north-south divide.
I suspect with a degree of self-interest as the group feel that this could be the party’s ‘undoing’, leading to rebellions against Johnson unless he commits to moving northern cities and regions out of the harsh coronavirus lockdown. They are broadly correct, and I doubt Johnson will fool the electorate again, therefore the ‘temporary-55’ is a more apt name.
I doubt Johnson will fool the electorate again, therefore the ‘temporary-55’ is a more apt name
In a letter to the PM they called for a focus on ‘levelling up’ the regions and a roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions, implying that their numbers allowed them to inflict defeats on the government.
David Jones, the former Brexit minister, who signed the letter, said: ‘The seats of northern Britain delivered the government’s majority. So, what we’re looking for is an expression of commitment or a reassertion of the government’s commitment that they understand the need to level up the north and bring more equality to the country as a whole.’
Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness, said the group was ‘trying to essentially keep the government honest on its promises to the north’.
Some of the group, perhaps realising how swiftly Johnson takes revenge on those prepared to defy him said they hadn’t appreciated that their concerns would be made public and hoped they could make private representations to Johnson, stressing that the act of sending the letter was not ‘hostile’. Put another way they have 4-yrs more of a cushy life and they don’t want to rock the boat, after all, what’s a few more deaths between friends…
One southern Tory MP, with a bit more backbone, acknowledged. ‘These are MPs who delivered our victory, but far from a spending splurge in their towns they’ve seen their constituents placed under lock and key for months while the south gets more freedoms.
they’ve seen their constituents placed under lock and key for months while the south gets more freedoms
In response, government sources said there was no plan to set out specifics on how curbs could be lifted for areas under tier 2 or 3 restrictions, stressing that the emphasis was still on persuading people to follow the rules as cases and hospitalisations remained high.
The Temporary-55 should remember the electorate are only numbers and a cross in a box you need to worry about every 5-yrs. The plight of these constituencies highlights why populism isn’t long-term, its leaders are exposed when their promises become policy, at that point clever nationalistic catchphrases are exposed for what they are, hollow promises.
‘I wonder to myself,
Could life ever be sane again?’
Populism is, in many ways, the endgame of the ideology of Thatcher, and her stateside doppelganger, Ronald Reagan.
The cult of ‘strong leadership’ is a permanent feature, however populist leaders tend to be more flexible in their thinking or, more accurately, will say and do whatever is required to maintain power, described as implementing the will of the people.
They have a need to constantly be on the offensive, identifying ‘enemies within’, the so-called establishment being a favourite.
By nature, its impact in mature democracies should be short-lived. Once in-power they become the establishment and, as in Johnson’s case, how someone who’s background is Eton College and studying Classics at Balliol College, Oxford can be anti-establishment has always mystified me.
Secondly, once in power the promises need to be delivered if you are to implement the will of the people. Johnson, in true Tory fashion, is resorting to traditional right-wing policies of outsourcing and tax cuts for the rich which inevitably are at the expense of the disenchanted they persuaded to vote for them. All the pandemic has done is hasten the day of reckoning as the temporary-55 are discovering.
Brexit could come as a welcome relief for the government, any success in the exit negotiations will be hailed as strong leadership, clear thinking, and cementing the boast that ‘we are a great nation’.
Should we leave with No Deal, Johnson can invoke the Churchillian ‘we stand alone, proud’ mantra, falling-back on the traditional Brexit ‘saboteurs’, the EU, and ‘Remainer civil servants’ to keep the press and populace riled up.
Johnson’s Achilles heel could be victory for Biden in the forthcoming US presidential elections
These people have a long memory, after their defeat in 1975 EU referendum, Eurosceptics kept the ‘home fires burning for 4-decades until the 2016 referendum.
Johnson’s Achilles heel could be victory for Biden in the forthcoming US presidential elections.
Biden, unlike Trump, believes in the EU and, after Brexit, it is likely Germany will own the mantle of ‘best friend’ in Europe.
Johnson, until very recently has largely ignored the Biden campaign. Within this there is a total lack of relationship with Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, who, given Biden’s age (77) could well become president during his term in office. It’s hard to see her and Priti Patel becoming ‘besifriends’.
In summary, in the words of Basquiat, it’s ‘Samo’ (1); an ongoing saga of mismanagement, misjudgement, leading to an embittered government becoming more authoritarian with each mistake.
The lack of proactive leadership leaves us constantly behind the curve in fighting Covid, a mistake highlighted by the stance of the German chancellor, despite protests from the ‘freedom’ loving right.
Brexit is the governments ‘get-out-of-jail’ card, but for the wrong reasons.
The question I pose to you all is this; ‘ wouldn’t a strong, confident leader have postponed Brexit by -months, rather than subjecting the economy to a double-hit, and allowing negotiations to take place without the distraction of body-bags piling up?
‘One man on a lonely platform,
One case sitting by his side,
Two eyes staring cold and silent ,
Show fear as he turns to hide..’
- SAMO is a graffiti tag used on the streets of New York City from 1977 to early 1980. It accompanied short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, mainly painted on the streets of downtown Manhattan. The tag, written with a copyright symbol as ‘SAMO©’, and pronounced Same-Oh, has been primarily associated with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, but was developed mainly as a collaboration between Basquiat and Al Diaz, with help from a few friends.
Another epic piece from Philip this week as Britain faces a potentially ruinous second lock down, furlough comes to an end and deep division is all around, he paints a gloomy picture of where we are and possibly an even gloomier one of where we may be going.
Things are palpably coming to a head – those that had scoffed at the draconian measures that were suggested have little wiggle room in the face of the grim science.
Infection rates are mushrooming, yet again Boris has been slow to act despite the strict measures being enforced across La Manche and the country is deeply divided between the haves and the have nots – increasingly, those that have a job and those that have not, which could tragically transmute into those that have food on the table and a roof over their heads and those that do not.
Philip continues his theme of the end of Thatcherism and its role in shaping the country we see today; no great fan, he believes, however, that Mrs T would have fared far better that Boris in similar circumstances because she possessed one of the essential qualities he so sorely lacks, leadership.
Philip draws an interesting parallel between Thatcher’s treatment of the miners and Boris’ determination to slap down Andy Burnham; what is a mayor for if not to ensure the well-being of his residents?
Elsewhere, it’s just ugly – no money for the Mancs, no money for free school meals, no money for laptops; massive amounts of money for outsourced, and frankly piss-poor scams.
Anything else happening? Well, a Biden victory next week despite, or perhaps because, the Donald ‘invited’ Mr Farage to rally his supporters in Arizona, would see Boris passing on the baton as favourite European leader; any success in spinning whatever ‘deal’ Boris claims as we leave the EU should be award-winning.
One thing’s for certain, it’s not going to be a boring run in to the not-very festive season – and neither are this week’s lyrics; five cracking tracks and fully 40, count them, 40 points on offer this week. Barnard Castle rules apply.
First, ‘a very cool NY band’ – 3pts for Interpol and 3pts for the excellent ‘Evil’; next ‘this week’s gimmie’ one apiece for the Sex Pistols and ‘God Save the Queen – and ‘a bonus 5 for naming the artist who did the artwork for the cover of the 7″ *
Then ‘back to Madchester, put on your baggies and dance. 3 points for the artiste, and 3 for the song title’ – Stone Roses and ‘She Bangs the Drums’; next ‘a singer with a distinct way of dancing, and a wonderful lyricist’ 3pts for The Smiths, 3 pts for ‘Panic’ and ‘a bonus 5 if you can name the band who the singer was president of their UK fan club’**
Lastly ‘a band that was too cool for words’ 3 points for ‘Visage’ and 3 for ‘Fade to Grey’, and two bonuses of 5-points each – 2 of the four founded a famous and influential club night in Covent Garden, can you name the club?*** The other 2 were in another famous band, their biggest hit never made #1 held off by a novelty record, can you name their band?****. Enjoy.
Jamie Reid *
New York Dolls **
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s