Whitehall Farce

If present-day American politics is scripted by Hollywood – see my last post – who’s responsible for our British stage show? My guess would be Brian Rix (hon. MA, Hull University), if he were still alive; a great comic actor ever associated with the ‘Whitehall Farces’ (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehall_farce) – a glorious series of low comedies staged in the 1950s and ’60s at the Whitehall Theatre in London, in every one of which Rix’s trousers had to fall down at some point.

(If son Ben is reading this: do you remember being his pageboy at the honorary degree ceremony? The degree was given for his sterling work in support of mental health, rather than the trousers.) 

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Better than Hollywood

I’m an American politics addict. I stay up all night watching the presidential election results – for several nights during the first George W Bush one (all those ‘hanging chads’); try and catch the rallies – exhausting in Trump’s case; and follow as much of the commentary as I can from over here in Sweden. I enjoy it all thoroughly, albeit guiltily. One reason may be that I virtually ‘majored’ in US history as an undergraduate – three courses out of eight; another is that I have lived in America for a significant number of years. So I know the rules. Of course I follow British politics just as avidly, but far less pleasurably. That’s because I have more invested in them. I’m also affected by Swedish politics; but I’m afraid I find those rather dull. They’re much politer and more reasonable than either the Americans’ or the Brits’. Even their neo-Fascists look harmless, even if they really aren’t. 

Maybe it’s this that really explains my obsession with American elections. As well as affecting me less – less immediately at any rate – they are far more vivid than ours. In fact they are stranger and more spectacular than most fiction. I’ve often wondered whether they’re not, in fact, scripted by Hollywood film writers. Watching the elections on TV is better than watching a movie; even a movie featuring American politics. I can’t wait to get my first shot on the night of November 3, lying on our sofa with a beer and some wholesome American food within arm’s reach – hamburgers, grits, toasted marshmallows, and the shrivelled up streaks of fat they call bacon. The perfect evening; so long as one isn’t an American.

But now I don’t need to wait until then. The scriptwriters have been brilliant in conjuring up unlikely pre-election scenarios for us: Hitler-type rallies, conspiracy theories to satisfy even the craziest tin foil hat wearer, a presidential ‘debate’ that resembled an infantile spat, lies and ‘fake news’, and of course the continual nonsense pouring from ‘Christian’ conservatives, white racists, neo-Nazis and of course Trump himself, in the run-up.

And now this! Which Hollywood screen-writer was it that came up with idea of striking the President down with a potentially fatal disease that he had always played down – ‘hoist him with his own petard’, you might say – just a month before the election? Give that person an Oscar!

But first let’s see how it plays out. Already the op-ed writers are at work predicting the effect on both sides in the election, of Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, whether he dies (who will take over, as President and as candidate?), or survives it heroically, like Boris did. Following closely in their tracks there are the sceptics, tin-hatted or not, wondering – just wondering – if this isn’t all a conspiracy, a trick to gain sympathy and martyr-status for Trump; or, alternatively, a Democratic plot to put him out of the race. 

I’m afraid my undergraduate expertise and personal experience of that great but deeply troubled nation can’t provide any answers to that; or even an inspired guess. That’s frustrating; but it makes the ‘thriller’ aspect of the whole drama far more exciting: a ‘cliff-hanger’ in the best Hollywood tradition. I’ll be hogging that couch in front of the TV – or, more likely, my computer, for American news sources, like the New York Times, the Washington Post and of course the Onion – for another month at least. (More if a beaten Trump refuses to let go.) 

So, my American friends and followers: send me over some grits. We can’t get them here. (I’m not altogether surprised.)

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Incompetence and Evil

Two things we can say about the present UK government are that it is (a) incompetent, and (b) evil. Its level of incompetence is undeniable, as illustrated by the last (plagiarised) blog I posted. The evil may lie more in the eye of this Leftish beholder, personally inclined to regard unfettered capitalism and incipient Fascism in this light. Usually one would expect these two qualities – incompetence and evil – to cancel each other out. Evil is generally competent, if nothing else, with incompetence leaving it easily counteracted. 

In this case, however, the one may mask the other pretty effectively. Look at what is being done by the government presently to turn us into an authoritarian state: undermining the checks and balances in our constitution, neutering Parliament, seeking to forbid left-wing books, education and even humour, deliberately flouting international law and abrogating Human Rights legislation, indulging in levels of corruption unseen since the days of the East India Company, using means of propaganda beyond even the wettest dreams of Josef Goebbels, appealing to the worst instincts and prejudices of the misled masses; and all in the service of what appears to be a new (or new-ish) authoritarian turn in our historical development, reminiscent of the time of James I, or the old British Empire at its worst. 

And yet – and this is my point – all the public attention just now is directed to the Government’s incompetences, especially in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, where its mis-steps are scarcely credible, and ministers widely and openly ridiculed for their criminal confusion and lack of grasp. Here’s one well-known example:

Concentrating on the plague is of course understandable, with our all being so frightened of it. Except, that is, those who don’t believe in it – think it’s a ‘hoax’ – who generally, incidentally, come from the political Right themselves. But that – ‘conspiracy theories’ – is another thing distracting the rest of us from the real  conspiracy taking shape under our noses; which is the one represented by Cummings and Gove, and fuelled by our right-wing press, to restore governmental ‘authority’ to our politics, anti-democratically, and to the advantage of those who have been exercising that authority for centuries. (Look out for Gove, by the way. Despite his silly cod-like visage, he may be the most dangerous of them all. He’s a buddy of Murdoch’s.)

Could this be part of the subtle plot? Hide all this under the laughable mistakes of the government, and behind the faces of clowns – none more clown-like than Boris, even without Matt Lucas’s assistance; with the deliberate intention of disarming us, and so giving ‘Evil’ a free run. I wouldn’t put it past Cummings, an emissary of Evil if ever there was one.

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A List of Tory Inanities

I took this anonymous post from Facebook (with permission from Terence Francis). It’s very long – the government’s mis-steps are legion, after all – but cumulatively devastating.

1. Theresa May couldn’t agree a Withdrawal Agreement (WA) because – in news that will shock the millions who warned about this – it’s impossible to do without accepting EU rules, or harming NI, or breaking up the UK, or crippling the economy, or all of the above.

2. Nevertheless, Boris Johnson agreed a WA with the EU.

3. Then Tories voted to accelerate the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament, specifically so it wouldn’t have to face scrutiny.

4. And Boris Johnson withdrew the whip – sacked – 21 Tories who didn’t support the delay.

5. Then he won an election by promising the WA was “oven-ready” and “brilliant”.

6. Later, in a massive shock, it was discovered the WA contains all the problems that prevented May from agreeing it.

7. So the govt announced it would just break the law and ignore its own treaty.

8. Each MP’s Oath of Allegiance includes “I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom… uphold its democratic values… and observe laws faithfully”.

9. All 5 living ex-PM’s oppose this plan.

10. Every living ex-Tory leader opposes it (except IDS, but c’mon, it’s IDS).

11. So now the govt which sacked 21 MPs for opposing the WA is threatening to sack any MPs who support the same WA.

12. The actual Police Minister said it’s OK to break the law.

13. The Lord Chancellor, Britain’s highest law officer, said it’s OK to break the law.

14. The Attorney General, responsible for advising the govt on legal matters, said it’s OK to break the law.

15. The Lord Chancellor and Attorney General are barristers, and the Bar Council guidelines say you will be struck-off if you “knowingly advise a client to break the law”.

16. Same day, Foreign Secretary and irony no-fly-zone Dominic Raab said Iran “must comply with its legal commitments and treaties”.

17. Gavin Williamson and Mark Francois were nominated for the MP Of The Year Award.

18. This was the last known sighting of Mark Francois.

19. Michael Gove said in a July speech “failures of policy and judgement” are generating a “crisis of authority,” and “Politicians like me must take responsibility for the effects of their actions”.

20. Gavin Williamson is still in his job.

21. But the head of Ofqual was sacked.

22. And the most senior education civil servant had to stand down.

23. In fact, resignations by senior civil servants are up 14% in a year.

24. But 44% of new senior appointments are personal friends of Michael Gove, in one of those amazing coincidence things.

25. Other amazing coincidences, a sub-thread:

a. Public First, a company led by Govt and Cummings associates, was handed a contract to help Ofqual with the exams fiasco. The contract wasn’t put out to tender.

b. Gove appointed ex-girlfriend Simone Finn as adviser to Cabinet Office. Finn immediately paid her own company to “shake up the Cabinet Office”.

c. Gove handed a contract (without tender) to PWC, a company that pays him £5000 per hour to give speeches.

d. Gove gave £21k to Signal AI, a company associated with Gove and Cummings, to ask Tunisians what they think about Covid.

e. Faculty AI, associated with Gove and Cummings, got £400k to analyse tweets by UK citizens. So if I vanish one dark night, tell my family I tolerated them.

f. And another contract went to the cousin of Tory MP Tom Tugendhat to “analyse the awarding of govt contracts”, which is like a spiral, wrapped inside a Möbius strip, encased in a corkscrew, and tethered to a wanker.

26. Anyway, back to the fun: Home Secretary and Nurse Ratched cosplayer Priti Patel authorised “more painful” Taser guns, clearly anticipating more determined rioters.

27. She then abandoned a deportation flight after it was found every passenger had leave to stay in the UK.

28. Matt Hancock said we should get back to work as there is “little evidence” coronavirus is passed on in offices, having seen Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings catch coronavirus in their offices.

29. He then voted for himself to continue to work remotely for 11 more weeks.

30. Tories told us to lose weight.

31. Then they paid us to go and eat out.

32. Then they told us face-masks were essential.

33. But not in schools.

34. Then they were essential in schools.

35. Then they told us to keep social distancing.

36. Then they held a meeting of 50 PMs in a room with a capacity for 29.

37. Then, just 8 minutes later, they tweeted that the were updating advice — to ban meeting in groups of 30.

38. Then they banned you from meeting more than 6 people.

39. But you can still go to the pub, 30 of you can attend a wedding or (more likely) a funeral, 30 of you can join in a rugby scrum, and you can sit on a packed train carriage with 80 other people.

40. Oh, and obviously, grouse-shooting is exempt. After all, what are we: French!?

41. And the new ban didn’t start for a week, and excluded the St Leger horse racing meet, where 3,640 people crowded together making money for The Jockey Club; and isn’t it amazing that Matt Hancock is MP for Newmarket, where his major donors The Jockey Club are based?

42. So now the R number (which Boris Johnson was “absolutely committed to keeping below 1”) is at 1.7.

43. Matt Hancock made a big deal of £60k compensation for families of NHS workers who died fighting Covid. The govt simultaneously stopped all their benefits.

44. Hancock then started a scheme to financially support those forced to self-isolate, paying them up to (that’s “UP TO”) £13 a day.

45. In preparation for the forthcoming homelessness epidemic, Tory councils voted to fine people £1,000 for being too poor have anywhere to sleep.

46. The govt said it was “ramping up to 150k tests a fortnight” 3 months after they claimed they were doing “over 100k tests a week”.

47. Matt Hancock said he was changing the law to allow nurses to give flu vaccinations, unaware nurses already give over 93% of flu vaccinations.

48. Then he launched a campaign to fight obesity, and immediately closed the agency responsible for delivering it.

49. And then he advertised for a person to replace the head of Public Health England. The advert said no experience in health is required. In a pandemic.

50. The govt announced Operation Moonshot!, an exciting-sounding £100bn plan to test 10m people a day using technology that doesn’t exist, delivered by the people behind the PPE crisis, Brexit, Gavin Williamson, and Chris Grayling literally failing his own intelligence test.

51. Meanwhile, we ran out of home testing kits.

52. Then more shortages led to us sending people on 500-mile round trips for a Covid test, in what experts have dubbed “the full Cummings Experience”.

53. Six months after the first case in the UK, despite having diligently spent over £1bn on contracts with sweet suppliers and dormant companies with no employees, the UK still is not capable of producing a single piece of hospital-standard PPE.

54. Researchers from King’s College London found Tories “employed overt disinformation” with “new levels of impunity” in the 2019 General Election.

55. The govt was “formally warned for threatening press freedom” (putting us in the same classification as Russia) by the Council of Europe, which the UK co-founded in 1949 to protect human rights.

56. It was then reported Boris Johnson plans to opt out of human rights laws.

57. Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs is threatening to sue Boris Johnson if he continues to ignore calls for an enquiry into Russian interference in UK politics. People connected to the Putin regime paid £160k to play tennis with Boris Johnson.

58. The leader of Scottish Tories tweeted “I would have no hesitation in voting against any legislation which would allow chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef. That’s a categorical assurance.”

59. He then voted to allow chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef.

60. The govt voted not to implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower enquiry.

61. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was quoted as saying “it is not my job to worry about people starving to death in the UK”.

62. The govt announced new Covid restrictions with a densely worded 10-page legal document, released at 11.38pm on Sunday night, just 22 minutes before police, hospitals, health officials, local councils, schools and businesses had to implement them.

63. The document ends: “no impact assessment has been done”, surprising nobody familiar with Brexit.

64. Environment news, and as a liveable world slips relentlessly from our grasp, the UK spent just £2000 – not a typo – tackling environmental damage to the British countryside.

65. They spent £46m (2,300 times as much) telling us to get ready for a Brexit that didn’t happen.

66. And the Tory-appointed head of the Environment Agency endorsed proposals to weaken laws on the cleanliness of rivers, lakes and coastlines.

67. Meanwhile the Fisheries Minister posed “catching mackerel” with a rod that had no line in a sea that has no mackerel, and I had to order a fresh barrel of satire.

68. Nine months into Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda, the gap between rich and poor pupils has grown 46%.

69. And finally, because no list of abject failure is complete without him, Chris Grayling literally resigned from Intelligence.

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And it Gets Worse…


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Letting a Good Crisis Go to Waste

The thing about capitalism – well, one of the things, at any rate – is that it works in good times, or may seem to, but never in bad. In both the world wars of the twentieth century the British state had to resort to interventionist measures, like popular mobilisation and state-directed industrial production, in order to fit it for the fray. Until then it did badly. In the present Coronavirus crisis the countries that appear to have coped worst are those with the most neoliberal governments, namely Britain and the USA. In Britain the failures of capitalism have been shown up in a dozen ways, from the deficiencies in ‘outsourcing’ vital necessities like testing for the virus and the manufacture of PPE to private companies, to the capitalist-derived individualist ethic that lies behind all those right-wing demonstrations against lockdowns, social distancing and the wearing of face-masks. 

It didn’t need to be like this. Nick Cohen (whom I don’t always agree with) published this account of the situation in my adopted country of Sweden in today’s Observer: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/26/welcome-to-libertarian-covid-fantasy-land-thats-sweden-to-you-and-me.  That rings pretty true to me. Despite the damage that has been done by the global capitalist behemoth to the ‘Swedish model’ in recent years, that country still retains much of the socialist and egalitarian ethos that used to make it admired by British social democrats, and loathed (because of its success) by the American Right. Sweden’s far more generous Welfare State put it in a good position to withstand the crisis both medically and economically; at least in relative terms, and up to now. 

So, Stockholm today looks normal, with scarcely anyone needing to wear a mask. The shops, cafes and cinemas are open, and we have a trusted public scientist to keep us honestly abreast of events. I feel far safer here than I did in the UK at the beginning of the pandemic (although, to be fair, I am living pretty isolated on an island an hour’s boat-ride from the city itself). Sweden’s underlying communitarianism has kept its people at least a little bit safer, and certainly saner, than the countries where ‘grab what you can, and the devil take the hindmost’ is the rule.

The last time we in Britain were forced by an existential crisis to make this switch from capitalism to socialism, in 1945, the transformation lasted for perhaps twenty or thirty years. The new post-war electorate, comprised largely of still serving soldiers and their families, determined that it was not prepared to return to free market anarchy again. Hence our post-war welfare state, nationalisation of key industries, and the rest. All that was wrested from the capitalists by the Left. Never let a good crisis go to waste! At the beginning of the current crisis I half-wished that something similar might happen after it, with people coming to realise the structural flaws in our post-post-war society (after Thatcher’s counter-revolution) that had made the coronavirus situation so much worse. That would be some comfort, almost making the coronavirus worth suffering; just as the welfare state had been a consolation to us after the horrors of the War and the Great Depression years.

Sadly, and indeed tragically, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The ones trying to exploit the crisis – not let it go to waste – are the Rightists in and behind the present British government, hoping to use it, and the concurrent Brexit chaos, to restore capitalism ‘red in tooth and claw’, underpinned by a very British kind of Fascism. Just look at what they’re plotting now: emasculating Parliament, the civil service and the higher judiciary; splitting away from our friends in Europe; credibly rumoured to want to privatize our National Health Service; sucking up to Trump’s America; bringing the media to heel with a new Fox-type TV news service; and (allegedly) appointing the worst poachers to regulate the newspaper press: see https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/sep/26/pm-offers-top-media-body-jobs-to-critics-of-bbc-say-reports. Just a very few years ago all this would have seemed impossible. That’s what a crisis can do for you, if you have Dominic Cummings’s Mephistophelian skills. 

And it’s difficult to see the Left countering it effectively, with the Labour Party in the appeasing mood it seems to be in now. Perhaps this will change if the present situation deteriorates even further. But it would be cruel to hope for that.

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School for Scandal

Here we have yet another Old Etonian fucking us all up: https://www.ft.com/content/572cac01-008f-4f71-8800-ac1d838c1561?fbclid=IwAR27oPVt__xhUJGLuWJxz_t7umPqMs_Orr27tkBdVk4fc1BOnQfbtvqXYD8. – Nix, of course, was the boss of Cambridge Analytica, which was involved subvertly in the manipulation of votes in the Brexit referendum, and in the subsequent British and American elections.

Of course where we are today is not only – or even mainly – Eton’s fault. But it raises the question: when on earth are we going either to abolish or to nationalise this over-privileged institution? It’s been a drag on the whole country now for nigh-on 600 years. Nix is an unusual example of the Eton breed – he understands numbers, for a start, and seems to be more cunning – but his upper-class amorality is pretty typical. Unfortunately this current judgment on him has come four years too late to undo the harm that Cambridge Analytica has done, and probably too late to serve as a warning for the future. ‘Floreat Etona’, indeed.

I recall John Betjeman’s famous poem: ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!’ Eton is not far from Slough. Perhaps a few of those friendly bombs could be diverted.

PS. Look Alexander Nix up in Wiki. Another example, together with Murdoch et alia, of the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ syndrome.

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True Marxists

Are Conservatives and Republicans aware of how essentially Marxist they are? Marx taught that the underlying dynamic of capitalism would eventually destroy it from within, even if it wasn’t opposed from without. In the meantime it would grow more and more socially oppressive, until (he hoped) it would trigger the workers’ revolution that would replace it.

Late capitalism therefore, which is where we are at now, is exactly the stage we should be at according to his schematic. Over the last century or so it has been temporarily delayed by devices like social democracy, the welfare state, ‘New Deals’, imperialism and wars, but none of these can put off the evil day for ever. Even social democrats, who have been the true ‘anti-Marxists’ up to now, cannot cheat history. The genuine Marxists – a.k.a. the capitalist class – are bound to win. – Until, that is, ‘the Revolution’ and the establishment of a genuine communist society; which, however, Karl was always a bit hazy about. (How can we know, when ‘history’ hasn’t reached there yet?)

That we are presently at this late Marxist-capitalist stage should be obvious to anyone looking around them. In Britain it’s half hidden by the faux-aristocratic clownishness of our leaders, but is still to be seen in the privatisation of public assets, including the media, and of ‘democracy’ itself; in capitalist ‘austerity’ allied to the boom in private wealth; in the theft of the ‘people’s game’ (soccer) from the people themselves by rich international capitalists (sorry; that’s a sore point with me); in the decline of – I would say – any sort of morality that doesn’t serve a commercial purpose; and in the diminution of the social sphere generally. In the USA the Marxist takeover should be much easier to make out, in the figure of its President (for now): a cheating and amoral property developer who almost personifies the excesses and the evils of late-stage capitalism pur. There’s no disguise here; no Old Etonian – or even Yale/Harvard – polish to obscure the atrociousness. What you see is what you get. Trump hardly represents America – or at any rate the America I know and admire. But he’s the image of the stage of economic, social and moral development that America has reached and that Marx foresaw; the quintessential Marxist, in other words. He might not like that.

PS. I hope Marx was wrong. I’ve too much to lose in a revolution.

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The Unseen Coup

Not mine, but I wish it were. I found this, originally by Mike Carter, posted on Facebook by my old friend Miriam Margolyes. Bang on.

“The United Kingdom has fallen. There has been a right wing coup in this country… . And nobody noticed. We did not notice because it was years in the making. We did not notice because when it came, it came in a blonde wig and a mask of buffoonery. We did not notice because it lied to us and hid its true intent. We did not notice because the foreign manipulation was hidden from us and continues to be hidden from us. We did not notice, because the lies when they were discovered were hidden by more lies, until lack of truth became normal and acceptable. We didn’t notice because it appealed to our basest nature. It cried racist, it cried xenophobe, it falsified a threat to our way of life and blamed others. We did not notice because we accepted all the promises and lies and now we cannot admit to our gullibility.

Make no mistake it has been moving steadily and stealthily. Have you not noticed how Parliament has been emasculated and how decisions are now taken by a few in a closed room? Have you noticed how the judiciary is being sidelined? Have you noticed how the media are controlled & access to news is restricted? The BBC merely mouths faceless government sources and the papers howl racist xenophobic and government-fed lies? Have you noticed how the police, under cover of COVID, are being encouraged gradually to interfere more and more in our lives? Have you noticed how we are being encouraged to report ‘unsocial behaviour’ in our neighbour’s? Have you noticed how the impartial Civil Service is being packed with yes men and government cronies? Committee after committee is rigged with government-friendly sympathisers. Even now a review of the Armed Services is underway. Have you noticed how every means of objection or complaint is being stealthily closed? Have you noticed the intention to lower food standards, animal & environmental standards and abandon the guarantees of our basic human rights? Have you noticed how measures trumpeted as keeping foreigners out, actually make it harder for US to leave?

Finally have you noticed how the government is engineering circumstances under which everyone’s lives will be so much harder and under which we will have so much more to worry about than complain about our government? Meanwhile the rape and asset-stripping of the country has already begun, with million-pound contracts awarded to cronies with no apparent expertise, siphoning money from the public purse to the private pocket and delivering nothing. It may already be too late but surely the time has come to cry enough! To stand up against the lies, the manipulation, the takeover of our Society. This government does not govern for the people; this government is governing for itself. It has become an enemy of the people, its actions are treasonous. Surely it is time to demand better, time to TAKE BACK CONTROL.” – (From Mike Carter.)

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Democracy Under Threat

Do we need to give up on democracy? There’s no doubt that democracy as we have it in Britain and America these days is looking pretty threadbare. But then these might not be the ideal conditions for it. 

In order to work well democracy requires two things: first an educated and knowledgeable electorate, and second elected rulers who are decent and honest with the people. Binding these desiderata together are two more: a reliable machinery for translating the wishes of that electorate into power; and secondly respect, each side for the other. Today none of these conditions exists in either of our two countries. It’s partly the fault of the mechanisms, chiefly ‘first past the post’. But much more serious are the ignorance of our respective electorates, too easily manipulated by propaganda; and the bad faith of our rulers, too willing to use those powers of manipulation – in Britain the press, in America attacks on the press – to mislead their electorates. Trump, Johnson and the far cleverer men behind them are adept at ‘gaming’ what passes as ‘democracy’ in their respective countries in this way; to what end can be debated, but probably involving capitalism in some way. 

This is relatively new, at least to this degree, and certainly in Britain’s case; and is the reason why Britain is falling apart just now. From the point of view of the manipulators the ‘game’ seems to be working famously; but at the expense of a display of governmental incompetence, lying and even blatant corruption which at any other period in our history, surely, would have sunk this government, and delegitimised British ‘democracy’. From which the only recourse would be either a new authoritarian dispensation (’fascism’), or revolution, or – of course – both together. It’s difficult to see liberal or social democracy, even in the very imperfect form it takes in both our countries now, remaining unscathed through this crisis.

It might be able to if an effective broad-based opposition could be marshalled against the present (British) government. It’s astonishing that the grotesque mistakes that Johnson and his inadequate ministers are presently making all along the line, in respect of both the Coronavirus and Brexit, are not arousing more anger – or more public manifestations of anger – among the general public; none of whom can be impressed with the government’s response to the virus, and very few of whom want the kind of Brexit settlement that the dominant Right-wing clique in the governing party looks like foisting on them. There must be a majority in the country against all this – indeed, undoubtedly was at the last election, judging by the ‘popular vote’ (as in the USA) – and yet this more reliably ‘democratic’ opinion has no purchase at all. Boris doesn’t need to take any notice of it. That may be the crucial lesson that Dominic Cummings has taught him, exemplified by Trump and Putin: that you can get away with almost anything, whatever past historical experience and maybe your conscience tell you. You don’t need to be honest and decent in order to win. And if ‘winning’ is your only purpose in life, lying and corruption are what you have to do.

How to counter this? Political education for a start – but not in the sense in which it’s taken in totalitarian regimes. The liberation of the media – especially the British newspapers – from their thraldom to tax-dodging right-wing capitalists would be an immense help. Voting reform would be another. That will be for a start. But it’s difficult to see it all coming. People aren’t interested. For the moment we may have to depend on a significant number of Conservative MPs’ being revealed as rapists or paedophiles to turn the tide. That’s something the great British public does care about.

(Purely incidentally, where is Mark Francois?)

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