2007 - 2022

Fresh Hate, from Partygate to Pastagate


The waves of raw contempt for ordinary people that are emanating from Westminster and the ‘upper’ (sic) echelons of Anglo-Britain are like a stench. They come in layers.

Layer One – Blue on Blue Tory Wars

As partygate disappears into the rearview mirror of public life, obscured by Tory hypocrisy, Kiev PR stunts and The Next Tory Corruption Scandal, life goes on at Nos 10 and 11. In this context commenting on the UK governments extraordinary ‘energy strategy’ policies is difficult as we are all transfixed by the scale of elite collapse and 24/7 rolling-revelations.

First up the Prime Minister is basking in his colleagues chaotic demise as allegations about Rishi Sunak’s Green Card status and his wife’s tax-dodging swirl around them. Sunak is as unprepared for the dark arts of Tory politicking as anyone, having arrived fresh-faced and unblemished – a gilded Cuckoo parachuted in to a safe seat then quickly arriving as Chancellor. Sunak is the epitome of privileged Britain. But the non-dom and tax-dodging is more than the latest front page news, it is also the first time the ideology of the Sovereign Individual has really taken centre stage. This is a bizarre far-right libertarian idea (see The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age, co-authored by William Rees-Mogg) that suggests:

“The definition of a “sovereign individual” has come to describe individuals that choose to live a selective lifestyle and is used by many persons of this belief. Some of these beliefs are the perception that the human being is owned by the individual and government has no claims to their person as being property. They maintain an active obligation to the rights of the individual.  They hold no trust in a political democracy,”

“Their beliefs maintain the right to both financial privacy as well as personal privacy. They are enthusiastic to think and act outside of the government imposed box. They do not hold respect to be obligated to being ruled by existing Nation States.”

Layer Two – PastaGate
But if the Tories are chock full of offshore accounts, tax-dodging and senior politicians who don’t even know if they want to live in the country they nominally run, that’s not really much surprise, though their chaotic mishandling of the narrative is. But the raw contempt shown by such casual arrangements spilled out in another way as Kevin Edger, partner of Conservative MP Elliot Colburn tweeted in response to a nurse talking about how she misses meals to feed her kids:

Predictably poor Kevin was schooled by Jack Monroe who tore him apart in this magnificent rant (‘It’s not about the pasta Kevin‘) before throwing down a challenge:
“…it’s not about the pasta, Kevin. And we both know that really. Its about the ghoulish, dogged insistence that the Better-Off repeat, day in, day out, that they would be better at being poor than actual poor people would be. That they, with their Blossom Hill White Zinfandel aspirations and pompous declarations on their rancid social media trash fires, could do this shit with their eyes closed. So I threw a gauntlet down to Young Kevin, and challenged him to put his bone-dry pasta quite literally where his mouth is, for five days straight. A 500g bag of budget pasta is, as we established, 29p. That’s 5 meals there of 100g of plain pasta, with no butter, no salt, no sauce, and no nutrition, and a whole 147 calories per gruesome meal. That’s only 441 calories per day, but hey, it’s not as though nursing is a physically demanding job that requires you to be on your feet all day every day and night, working shifts, is it? (Note, this is sarcasm. My mother was a nurse.) Operating at a calorie intake lower than half that of the guidelines for Auschwitz prisoners is apparently perfectly sustainable according to the Magic Pasta Brigade. So I have a challenge for them all. Walk to your local Asda or Tesco and pick up three packets of Magic Pasta for just under a quid. That’s 15 meals, apparently. Eat nothing but 3 meals each consisting of 100g of plain pasta for five days straight. Nothing else. No salt in the cooking water. No butter. No oil. No pepper. No sauces. No proteins. No vegetables or fruits. No snacks. No Mcdonalds. No wine. No other meals. Nothing in the storecupboard. No help. No cheating. No tea. No coffee. No squash. No energy drinks. Just five straight days of this Magic Pasta that you all trumpet as the answer to everything. And come back to me five days later …”

Layer Three – Predatory MPs

But if pastagate and the chancellors misfortunes expose a pattern of contempt, so too does the tale of Imran Khan and then the subsequent actions of Conservative MP Crispin Blunt.To refresh those leaders stunned into a state of delirium by the tsunami of sleaze, the Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a house in Staffordshire in 2008. 

Khan tried and failed to ban press reporting of the case, saying his life could be at risk were the case against him made public.

He argued that as an Ahmadi Muslim, the consumption of alcohol and homosexuality are strictly prohibited within his faith, and the reporting of those matters would expose him to “a risk to his safety both here and abroad”.

The court heard that Khan had plied the boy with gin and tonic before dragging him upstairs to watch pornography and groping him in a bunk bed.

Incredibly Khan was SELECTED then ELECTED as a Tory MP in 2019 despite the party being made aware of allegations of historic child sexual abuse PRIOR to the election.

Incredibly Khan refused to stand down so was eventually sacked. Hours after Imran Ahmad Khan was expelled by Conservatives, MP Crispin Blunt defended him. He said: “I am utterly appalled and distraught at the dreadful miscarriage of justice… his conviction today is nothing short of an international scandal”

In a classic non-apology Blunt – who resigned as chair of the LGBTQ+ parliamentary group said:

“Blunt said on Tuesday he would be resigning as chair of the group. “It is a particularly difficult time for LGBT+ rights around the world and my statement risks distracting the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights from its important purpose I have today offered the officers my resignation so a new chair can be found to continue the work of the group with full force.”

From Expenses to Backwards Britain

Layer one is contempt for democracy and contempt for any sense of collectivity to be part of a society; layer two is open contempt for ordinary people and seismic exceptionalism and hubris; layer three is contempt for the rule of law and a sense that sexual predation is somehow normal or acceptable.

While none of these behaviors are new they do seem more intense and more out of control, Previous governments have made efforts to either hide their behaviours with good PR or messaging which holds some narrative about their strategy, however misguided, irrational or deceitful it actually is. This government can’t even do that.

How did it come to this?

It’s worth remembering where this coterie came from.

As John Harris writes: “The awfulness of the government’s current image is largely about what privilege looks like in the midst of massively rising living costs, but there is also something to be said about recent political history. Johnson and Sunak, let us not forget, are where they are because of the victory of the Leave side in the Brexit referendum of 2016, and its successful tapping into a lot of people’s longstanding view of politicians as a distant, cosseted elite. That kind of opinion had been given a new intensity by the Westminster expenses scandal that broke in 2009, revealing that mess of “second” homes, publicly funded swimming pools and receipts for packets of biscuits. The result was a white-hot fury about the gap between power and everyday life which fed into the referendum, and still lingers.

In the wake of the vote for Brexit, the people who first took control of the Conservative party seemed to have decided on a response to all that resentment. If you want a flavour of the thinking at work, have another look at the speech Theresa May gave to the Conservative conference in the autumn of 2016, chiefly famed for its somewhat ugly jibe at “citizens of nowhere”. May talked about “a sense – deep, profound and, let’s face it, often justified – that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them”.

It’s astonishing to remember but its true, from the rhetoric about ‘the Red Wall’ to Taking Back Control the energies and momentum that created these governments came from a sense of betrayal and exclusion (not for viewers in Scotland).

This disjuncture between failed elite rule and a movement against failed elite rule has seemed to have passed everyone by.

In a piece that failed to make any distinction between England and Britain, but was otherwise insightful, Hardeep  Matharu writes:”Inward-looking, insecure and with delusions of past grandeur, ‘Global Britain’ in a world of Putin’s aggression, a global crisis in democracy and climate catastrophe cannot reconcile its infantilised state with the demands of reality.  With no new ideas, and imagination deeply lacking, it finds itself in a pathetic and perilous position – in retreat as an apparent form of advance.”

All of which is true, but very well known.

These layers of contempt are part of a wider and longer story about Austerity Britain, in which, for Sunak and Co, they are tax-dodging billionaires and hangers-on who don’t even know if they want to live in Britain, but insist there’s not enough money to help people in a cost of living crisis they have created. In all of this, tragically Keir Starmer leads a useless, feckless timid Labour opposition, seemingly terrified to take the historic moment.  Astonishingly, given what is laid-out above … Starmer is down:

 

Comments (7)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    UDI.

  2. Robbie says:

    From Teflon Tony to Brass Neck Boris and ALL THE CRAP in between , I think people are nearing exhaustion In this country ,we in Scotland MUST get out as fast as we can ( before the riots start)

  3. SleepingDog says:

    Quite. I find it amusing if absurd that one of the authors of the ‘sovereign individual’ should have the servile appelation ‘Lord’ on the cover. To be sure, a high-ranking subject, but a subservient role to their sovereign liege. Cognitive impairment, perhaps. But you have to formally swear your allegiance to take your seat in the House of Lords. Has the political climate changed between demises of the crown enough that a new parade of allegiance oaths could be an awkward occasion? (if not, why not?!) Apparently some of the current legal apparatus for this harks back to 1702: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demise_of_the_Crown
    To be fair to the Tories, and their Labour shadows, their monarch has a rather unimpeachable lead in gross criminality spanning many decades and continents.

  4. 220412 says:

    The nineties were a decade of grand millennial predictions, beginning with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992) and ending with Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which predicted that artificial intelligence would claim to be conscious by 2029. The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age (1997) by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg is of much the same futurist genre.

    How does ‘the most important book you’ve never heard of’ (as Alastair Campbell called it at the time) shape up a quarter of a century on, from the retrospective of 2022?

    The Sovereign Individual began with a quote from Tom Stoppard’s 1993 play, Arcadia:

    “The future is disorder. It is the best possible time to be alive when everything you thought you knew was wrong.”

    It predicted a revolution in our means of production, the death of the nation-state, and the dissolution of the world order into hundreds of overlapping sovereignties. The agent of this revolution wouldn’t be the industrial proletariat, which will be no more, but would instead be the class of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, the pirates who sail on the high seas of cyberspace.

    And here we are, in 2022. The international order is indeed fragmenting (but hasn’t this been its normal condition?). Nationalism has become a major rallying point for those who are being left behind by the revolution and who are nostalgic for certainty as the old order collapses into the chaos of globalisation. Anarchy rules, okay?

    In a sense, The Sovereign Individual predicted a kind of return to the premodern mediaeval order of contested territories, private security, conflicts between powerful private interests and the state, and small-scale artisanal/green production of food and energy. This was Davidson and Rees-Mogg’s vision of how new technology would transform the world. And it doesn’t seem to have been too wide of the mark.

    But other of their prophecies have not come to pass and seem increasingly unlikely to do so. For example, they reckoned that superstates like China, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America would be close to collapse by 2025 and would thereafter reform into loose syndicates or ‘voluntary associations’ of smaller political units. Hell, yeah! In your dreams, perhaps.

    Of course, prophets get specific details wrong all the time without this undermining their broader narrative. But the important thing to remember about prophecy is not that it sometimes gets things right and sometimes gets them wrong; it’s that it conflates objectivity and ideology to an extent that it’s not always easy to distinguish what’s prediction and what’s programme, what’s descriptive of how we *shall* be living and what’s prescriptive of how we *should* be living.

    It is clear, for example, that Davidson and Rees-Mogg were die-hard anarchists who believed in the spontaneous power of leaving well alone. For them, the state was the sluggish artefact of a bygone age. As information technology decentralised power, moving much of it into the ultimate offshore of cyberspace, the state would – like the Catholic Church with the advent of modernity – become obsolete.

    So, the state is by now supposed to be a relic of the past. But it’s proven remarkably resilient. National identity may be dissolving in the great melting-pot of global cosmopolitanism, but has information technology reduced our reliance as citizens on national and supra-national states? If we look at China’s relationship with Big Tech, for example, we see technology and the state working in lockstep rather than at loggerheads.

    Some of Davidson and Rees-Mogg’s predictions also rested on some pretty contestable claims about human nature. They constantly assume that individual ‘rational cost-benefit analysis’ will always trump identity and community at every turn. Yet people remain in 2022 just as ‘stupid’ when it comes to acting in their own self-interest as they’ve ever been.

    Hence, Rees-Mogg and Davidson’s flirtation with plutocracy: the demos are too ‘stupid’ to run things rationally, in accordance with enlightened self-interest; only the revolutionary vanguard of tech-savvy entrepreneurs are capable of running things right. Thus, The Sovereign Individual presents various options for moving ‘beyond democracy,’ with its messy desire-driven conviction politics. This is now programme rather than prediction, prescriptive of how things *should* be done rather than descriptive of how things *shall* be done.

    What’s most remarkable about The Sovereign Individual, however, is its almost Marxian techno-determinism. It’s the means of production, not popular opinion, that’s the most important driver of change. Its theory of history is premised on the supremacy of technology. The welfare state, according to this theory, did not emerge out of bourgeois compassion, but from within the system itself as a structural consequence of the technology of industrial capitalism and its need for a fit and well-trained supply of factory labour. So, they argue, will the state eventually in its turn wither away as a structural consequence of our post-industrial technology.

    Brexit offered the UK an opportunity to put some of these prescriptions into practice. The European Research Group (ERG) was a band of British MPs committed to leaving the European Union with or without a deal after the Referendum in 2016. They championed a vision of a pirate Britain that would be free of the EU superstate to sail the high seas of the world economy. ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ – a London that could emulate the hyper-efficient East Asian global city-states – was one of the ERG’s main selling points.

    Ironically, however, though, is that the British ‘Brexiteers’ realised that the community, identity, and belonging of ‘nativism’ couldn’t be so easily consigned to the dustbin of history. It needed the ‘stupid’ and the patriotic appeal of nationalism to deliver Brexit, and ‘taking back control’ or ‘independence’ became a key marketing message.

    Nevertheless, we can look at how the world is now changing – with the rise of a global stateless entrepreneurial class that’s driving that revolution, the faltering of the international order of sovereign states, the decadence of both the political right and the political left in their shared nostalgia for the industrial past, the ‘green’ downscaling of our energy and food production – and find these predicted in the futurology of The Sovereign Individual. However, we can also see in it a prescriptive programme – a manifesto if you will – for plutocracy.

    We can’t fully separate empirical analyses of what’s likely to happen from moral opinions as to what ­ought to happen. Yet in its boldness, The Sovereign Individual harks back to what for many of us was a heroic pre-millenarianist era, when chaos was predicted with joy and confidence rather than gloom and pessimism.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      “Hence, Rees-Mogg and Davidson’s flirtation with plutocracy: the demos are too ‘stupid’ to run things rationally, ”

      I understand that Lenin decided the communists should be in charge because the proletariat were incapable of governing themselves. The assumption the common people cannot think rationally seems universal among elites. Unfortunately a good case can be made that the elites are right, or at least right most of the time. Think of the old Edinburgh mob for example.

      1. 220413 says:

        Indeed, plutocracy (dictatorship of the wealthy) and ergatocracy (dictatorship of the proletariat) are both forms of oligarchy (government by a privileged class). (‘Dictatorship’ here just indicates having full and exclusive control of the means of production through the apparatus of the state.)

        Lenin’s contribution was to insist that the proletariat was ‘sheeplike’, polluted by false consciousness, and ignorant of its own true interests, and that it needed a vanguard party to assume power of the state – the economy, the media, and social services (education, health, etc.) – on behalf of the proletariat and to construct a totalitarian state that would govern by command to realise its true interests. Thus, as far as Lenin was concerned, the dictatorship of the proletariat was to be organised not by the principle of subsidiarity, in accordance with which the power of control is devolved to local workplace and neighbourhood councils or ‘soviets’, but by the principle of democratic centralism, in accordance with which the power of control is concentrated in a supreme soviet and its governing committee.

  5. Wul says:

    These “Sovereign Individuals” are just free-booting, lazy, useless parasites though. They are kidding themselves.

    If they want to be truly sovereign, let them live alone on a remote island (Gruniard? ), make their own laws, trade whatever goods they can scavenge from the land and do exactly what they wilt. They wouldn’t last a weekend without a tit to suck. How can anyone be “sovereign” at the same time as leeching a thieved living from the host of a country’s workers and tax payers?

    “The Vermin Individual” is a more accurate name for them.

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