The Road to Batley and Spen, (part two).

And thence to the wilderness?

Midshipman Johnson rules the wavesMidshipman Johnson rules the waves

George Orwell was a Socialist and prior to WW2 Socialism was the go-to cult of the more flamboyant section of the middle class. As we have seen the natural tendency of people like Orwell to preach on the subject was much of the reason his publisher did not like the second half of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. As Orwell had spent some time at Eton I think we can see the problem from the point of view of the publisher. History shows that on a general level Socialism fell out of favour with much of the population. However, the middle class are known for their determination to save others from themselves. And now the go-to cult for those intent on cutting a dash is ’wokeism’ which is very similar. It relies upon large amounts of money which the practitioners don’t have. Thus they are bound to spend other people’s money to get the desired result. Here we should remind ourselves of the thoughts of Margaret Thatcher, how Socialism eventually fails as you run out of: ‘other people’s money’. That sentiment is generally dated as coming from a TV interview she gave in 1976 and still applies today, though now we have:‘levelling up’. We part dealt with that slogan in the first section of this double post. The Conservative party cling to the notion that this slogan is a winner. What they fail to spot is that it is in the same league as:‘for the many not the few’. That both the Labour party and the Conservatives should have redistributive slogans of similar nature would have shocked Mrs Thatcher. This has not been lost on John Redwood the MP for Wokingham. He has written -

Conservatives should not try to define levelling up in Labour terms. They place all the emphasis on levels of public spending. Levelling up to them is more about place than people. Buy the town a new heavily subsidised tram system, put in more public sector community centres and provide new school and surgery buildings and the place will be levelled up. If only it were that cheap and easy.

But that is exactly how Andy Street the Metro Mayor for the West Midlands works! The ‘heavily subsidised tram system’ he is obsessed with is costing stupid amounts of money now and for all we know will never operate at a profit. Thus it will require to be subsidised for ever. The tax to pay for this will to some people be a burden so for them it will be levelling down. Not only John Redwood but other notable Conservative MPs have joined in with criticism of the Government. David Davis is not keen on the direction taken by the PM. Davis starts with the hike in tax to pay for social care. Naturally, as the PM wants to claim he: ‘got Brexit done’ he is keen to portray this move as having ‘solved’ the social care problem. Many people are already saying this claim is false. You can tell that Davis, a man with traditional Conservative principles, has not enjoyed writing critically of the PM. However, he is polite and fair and he makes valid points.

The history of the Conservative party shows that being the party of ‘sound money’ was vital for Thatcher,it brought victory at the polls. When John Major turned away from this the party lost.

So what of the Conservative party conference? It has been at Manchester this year and as far as the media is concerned is no more worthy than the Labour party’s attempts to show off. Comparing the reports of both, each has problems, party problems, to solve. They may be of a different nature but are problems none the less. For Labour the big part of their time in the spotlight was related to Keir Starmer shoring up his leadership. For the Conservatives it was not a single dominant focus, things were more dispersed. This may have been a deliberate tactic, an attempt to deflect criticism. Even so there can be a collective description of their efforts, namely: ‘all is well’. But is it? While it is true that Covid got in the way of their efforts it does seem that not much has happened. To applause Priti Patel announced yet another crackdown, on something. You need a heart of stone not to feel sorry for her, she’s always having a crackdown on something. But then what? Perhaps 150 people a day made it across the Channel in small boats during the Conservative conference. As the media was transfixed by what was going on in Manchester the final total may never be known.

Then we had Sajid Javid talking about the NHS, or ‘our NHS’ as the Government propaganda unit would prefer. Perhaps one of the best things he has done for the UK was not to remain Chancellor. It really looks like his idea of ‘reforming’ the NHS will simply cause trouble. Observers say his get tough approach could close Nursing Homes which in turn would lead to more lockdowns. You may think this would bother the Government but then perhaps they don’t care. But of course the big moment was the end of conference speech by the PM. It would be wrong to suggest all the other participants were wasting their time but it was close.

The performance by the PM was as to be expected, pure theatre, in fact it was abundantly theatrical. Naturally he listed the achievements of the Government, his Government. Again, naturally, we were not to muddle things up and heap all the praise on the PM. But if we did, so be it. The rhetorical trick was prominent. So the PM could ask the audience not only whatever he liked but give an answer that suited his purpose and things like relevance played no part. The PM is still stuck on levelling up, it’s the sort of rousing thing he loves. As part of his performance the PM asked his disciples:

Why does half of York’s population boast a degree and only a quarter of Doncaster’s?

The crowd loved it and roared their approval of this factoid. For that is what it was as the PM offered no analysis or explanation, knowing his audience, like himself, did not care. You do wonder who wrote his speech, for they should be ashamed. Did he write it himself, or was put together by his, ‘team’? It contained so much fluff and frippery. It was even deceitful for York has two universities while Doncaster none, hence the population of both would reflect this. How many deep sea trawler men does either York or Doncaster have? In view of recent events the pertinent question to the PM would have been, how many HGV drivers in York and Doncaster? We all know he could not truthfully answer either his own question or ours. He is like a salesman and uses words to distract the listener not inform. His patter is always high on drama but low on value. This is why he begins to bore people, they have been disappointed before. This is why he is so keen on ‘levelling up’ as it’s all things to all people, it requires no effort on his part. And this is why he will eventually fall into a trap of his own making.

There is a basic inequality at play here which opposes levelling up in a fundamental and practical way that the PM has failed to spot. Around 80% of all student loans are never paid back so this cost is carried by the taxpayer. However, to become an HGV driver the applicant must pay up first. Does the Government have plans to step in here and make this fairer? For remember it was a shortage of HGV drivers but not university graduates that caused havoc at petrol stations and continues in other areas. But the crowd at the conference loved it, although you got the feeling they would have cheered had the PM read aloud the assembly instructions for a flat pack chair bought from IKEA. This is why the party is viewed with suspicion. It takes more than a man careering along like a wordsmith on steroids to lead a nation. There are times when words count for very little but actions are vital. For example, how we get out of the £407 billion debt caused by recent Government borrowing is a pressing case looking for an answer. Lord Heseltine has spoken out about what he sees as a policy shortfall for this and you get the impression Heseltine will be the first of many to do so.

Soon after the conference the PM flew off to Marbella but before he left the new Head of the Armed Forces was chosen. The Ministry of Defence had a list of names but the favourite was not chosen. The job went to outsider Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. It is said that the PM, ‘went with his gut’ to make the decision; well why not what would the Ministry of Defence know about these things? Reports say that Radakin was being interviewed at about the time the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with Australia was passing through No 10 Downing Street. We know that Radakin is very knowledgeable about this kind of thing. It’s possible that the PM conflated the submarine deal with the entirely different selection process into something to suit his own thoughts. Then having done so passed it of as an act of great depth, wisdom and sensitivity when in fact it was nothing of the sort. It is both comedic and alarming that so much of political policy looks to be made in such a slapdash way. But what were the thoughts of the PM? Well he’s very keen on ‘Global Britain’ a concept as nebulous and ridiculous as levelling up. And both of these ideas will be seriously expensive. For the Global Britain idea to work the PM needs a navy to ‘rule the waves’. It’s so childish as to be tragic but that’s the delusion the whole of the Conservative party has bought into at the behest of the PM. Let’s hope the PM and his gut have got it right.

We laugh at the US being led by Joe Biden, a man seemingly incapable of rational thought, who will cause immense damage to his country. But are they in the US laughing at us? Remember our PM described the election of Biden as: ”a breath of fresh air”. It may suit the PM to have Biden about, it makes the PM look good on the world stage as, so he thinks, being not so daft as Biden.

Blair and the chorusBlair and the chorusThe Anglo US relationship is always tricky and even the Saintly Tony Blair got it wrong. Seeing an opportunity, for himself, he latched on to the coat tails of George W Bush. So began a particular period in the, ‘special relationship’. But who decides what special means? For many people all that happened was it became assumed the UK would follow the US regardless. Indeed in 2002 Blair said to Bush: “I will be with you whatever”, and so began the Iraq war. The effects of the Blair and Bush relationship lasted much longer than the terms of office of either man. In Afghanistan what they set in motion has lasted 20 years and cost well over $2trillion dollars according to research at Brown University Rhode Island USA. This period has only just ended with the Taleban retaking the country and doing so with nothing more than a militia with light arms and Toyoyta pick up trucks. It does make one wonder what Blair and Bush had planned, how much thought was put in to the original idea and how all that money was spent.

Bang up to date we can imagine that our present PM has got his own agenda with Biden which will be ideal for him but perhaps less than ideal for the UK. We can already see the costs of Net Zero will be astronomical the timescale immense and the benefits unproven; it could even lead to war. So as our sub-title suggests the wilderness could be our destination.

Foot note
Our top picture shows the ‘new look’ PM. He has ditched the dated Bob the builder look, the day-glo orange with the absurd HS2 hard hat, and gone all naval. What we see is a standard issue ratings casual jacket. This is the new fancy dress and we can expect to see more, much more of it. We should remember the PM sees himself as a latter day Winston Churchill who also loved to dress in naval uniform.

The picture below shows Tony Blair and some soldiers, a white shirt in a sea of khaki. This was Blair in his military period and note how the troops are a mere backdrop to Blair. He is not talking to them but simply using them as a theatrical prop for his performance.