Wednesday 6 December 2023

hbomberguy on Plagiarism

To my knowledge, I've been plagiarised twice. Once was teaching 20-odd years ago. I gave a student written feedback on their cultural studies essay and laster found nearly all of it had been lifted and placed in their text. The second was a bit more recent. According to a confident of said plagiarist, when they went for their big politics reporting job - the one that has established them as a fixture in mainstream analysis and comment - they impressed their interviewers with detailed knowledge of a then big news story. Detail they had incorporated into their presentation without attributing the source. I.e. Me.

Plagiarism is bad. But it is rife. Not only in politics, but especially so online and in the world of YouTube content creation. In this video, good egg hbomberguy has provided a four hour take down of noted plagiarists on the platform. It's long, entertaining, and sadly necessary.

Monday 4 December 2023

Scorching the Earth on Immigration

The Tories have lost the next election, and a quick bounce back from the expected heavy defeat is not terribly likely. Facing a historic reckoning and no obvious means of recovery, they're playing politics in the end times. Nothing the Prime Minister or his front bench of the clueless and the gormless can do will reverse this situation. Even reviving the career of yesterday's man won't cut the mustard. But that doesn't mean the Tories will abstain from causing more damage between now and whenever the election is called, and today's announcements on immigration are a case in point.

Since Suella Braverman was exiled to the backbenches, sundry MPs and Tory editorials have pressured Rishi Sunak to "do something" about immigration. This has become a constant buzzing in his ear since the ONS revised its 2022 figures last week, revealing net migration was 745,000 for the year - the highest on record. For a government that routinely talks tough about hard borders and reducing the inflow of people, this is nothing less than an embarrassment. Meanwhile, the execrable Reform UK have been doing the media rounds, reminding the Tories of UKIP ghosts of the recent past. Something had to be done!

Unfortunately, that "something" is counter-productively stupid policies. James Cleverly re-announced the repeat attacks on higher education with a clamp down on overseas graduates remaining in the UK, a ban on care workers bringing dependents with them, the abolition of the 20% below market salary scheme (which happened to exercise Keir Starmer on Sunday). And the most damaging - raising the minimum salary threshold for foreign workers from £26,200 to £38.7k.

It's not difficult to see what this means in practice. Because the Tories have systematically defunded health and social care and held wages down, there are acute labour shortages as workers move out of these industries for better pay. To stop them from collapsing utterly, the Tories have overseen the largest waves of migration this country has ever seen. But because the problem they caused has not gone away, and that the pull factors - low wages by UK standards but high wages by global standards - cannot be fixed over night, slamming the shutters down on migrant workers will jeopardise not just health and care, but all sectors addicted to poverty pay business models and not a few paying near to or the average salary. Starmer likes to peddle the "country, not party" rubbish as his signature sideswipe at the Labour left, but it has never suited anyone more than the Conservatives.

In the backrooms, there might be some Tories congratulating themselves on a bold move. They might be daft enough to think it will go down well in the so-called Red Wall. The proles aren't competing with foreigners over jobs in KFC and Sports Direct any more. That and the handsome minimum wage hike will help us see off Labour. There might be others welcoming it as a forceful correction to the labour market. I.e. Instead of doing the hard work of planning and investing, a few years of pain will ensure low paid sectors sort themselves out in the absence of cheap overseas labour. And if you're dependent on health and social care and will be affected by the sudden exacerbation of labour shortages, that's hard cheese.

It's also a barely-disguised elephant trap. Or so the Tories think. Yvette Cooper got the centrists tittering over her sweary reply to Cleverly in the Commons (some of us observe how she often drops a shit bomb in her speeches), but predictably she committed Labour to doing nothing. Not to unwinding this ridiculous policy, setting caps, or tackling the structural pull factors. This isn't just because there's a complete void where the shadow front bench sits, but because saying anything in opposition might make Labour look "weak". And when they do undo it because it's so obviously a Tory scorched earth effort, that gives future Tories something to attack Starmer's shiny new government on. They're so transparent.

Going from comments in The Telegraph, Tory MPs are well pleased. Danny "Freddy" Kruger of the miserable New Conservatives was "delighted". John Hayes, one of Braverman's pathetic cheerleaders, said the government had finally "seen sense". But immigration is not the magic bullet the Tories think it is. Years of scaremongering and the amplifying of racist "real concerns" won them their precious Brexit, but immigration is now widely and rightly seen as distraction tactics. Poll after poll shows immigration trumped by other immediate and visceral concerns, and even on the issue specifically the Tories are trailing Labour. They don't even own the issue any more. That only means one thing: the more they highlight it, the more out of touch they look. And the harder they will hit the brick wall of electoral defeat.

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Sunday 3 December 2023

Embracing Thatcher?

On this Sunday's Laura Kuenssberg, our eponymous host asked business shadow Jonny Reynolds if Keir Starmer's Telegraph article was "trolling the left". To be fair to Starmer, he wasn't. But the Tory house journal certainly was, with their cover piece appearing under the bannerline "Starmer heaps praise on Thatcher as he woos Conservative voters". Not that the leader's office is going to complain about the framing. They want to give Labour the appearance of responsible right wingery, and the Telegraph have duly obliged.

On the point about Margaret Thatcher, it's a very small sentence. Starmer discusses the stagnation and decline of Tory Britain, and that meaningful change only happens when politics is in alignment with the wishes of the people. A banality some undoubtedly celebrate as a profundity. On the Tories' blessed pin-up, he writes "Margaret Thatcher sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism." And that's it. This is followed up with a couple of tributes to Tony Blair (optimism!) and Clement Attlee (duty and patriotism). But we should contest Starmer's enthusiasm for Thatcher. Her counterrevolution destroyed communities and funnelled billions in state aid (and oil money) into the pockets of the wealthiest. Her attacks on the working class wrecked countless small businesses that helped tie our communities together. And the kind of entrepreneurialism she was most successful in promoting was that of the poorest having to stretch every pound to make ends meet. As if hard knocks, suffering, and misery are worthwhile celebrating. It's especially bad taste doing so when it was not your own lot.

Apart from that, this is the sort of article any Tory leader since 2010 - excepting Liz Truss, perhaps - could have written. The opening paragraph signals where we're going. Among Starmer's brief survey of a broken Britain, he notes "crumbling public services that no longer serve the public". An interesting phrase that buys directly into right wing framing of the state. Everyone can agree that the public sector is on its knees, but suggesting they no longer serve the public recalls Blairist broadsides that public services primarily serve themselves. The old producer vs consumer conflict is never far away and is ready to provide a rationale for more for-profit involvement in running state institutions. Which we have seen in Starmer's invocations of public sector reform as a cure-all, and appointment of Liz Kendall to the DWP shadow brief.

Starmer also goes out of his way to emphasise how changed his party is. The spectre of Jeremy Corbyn is present through his absence, as the article stresses Labour's hard won sensible sensiblism. We listened to those who did not vote for us, writes Starmer, and we have moved toward the voters. Except on issues like nationalising utilities. Or committing to public spending that can fix broken institutions. Or questions of war and peace in Palestine. In other words, Labour are "now ready to deliver" on anything but what public opinion desires. And so we get the tedious reiteration of the "iron-clad fiscal rules", which has "stick to beat us with" written all over them. We also see Starmer keen to play politics with immigration and small boats in the Channel. A bit of a gift considering Rishi Sunak has no intention to address the issue. But because this is Keir Starmer, we see no attempt to move the dial on migration and asylum. The pledge to reverse that Tory policy on allowing business to recuit overseas staff on wages up to 20% lower than the going rate is a welcome one, but also promising to smash "criminal gangs" that facilitate Channel crossings does nothing to address the concerns that exist out there about immigration. Concerns that exist because everyone in front line politics has cultivated and pandered to them. Not least Labour governments of the recent past.

And then we have the final rhetorical flourish. Order. Stability. Security. Protect and preserve. National renewal. The kind of vibe, as recently noted, that used to be the unsolicited advice proferred by this blog during my unfortunate soft left phase. Useful for a Tory-loyal audience, and nothing too worriesome provided one is ignorant of or indifferent to Starmer's authoritarian politics.

Since becoming leader, Starmer has gone out of his way to court The Telegraph. Certainly more so than dwindling mass market tabloids like The Sun and Daily Mail. Therefore, his concern has not been one of chasing Tory votes. Instead this is a strategy of elite reassurance. Only the most dyed-in-the-wool Tory can possibly think Starmer's going to into office, undo the Thatcherite settlement abd squeeze the rich until the pips squeak. With the election in the bag, when Starmer tacks right he absolutely means it. Yes, there might be some progressive-sounding policies. Despite the daft self-imposed rules, there might be more wealth taxes. But in all fundamentals Britain at the start of the 2030s will be little different to the Britain of the early 2020s. The rich will carry on getting richer. The asset price bubble won't be deflated. And absolutely under no circumstances is there going to be a hint of leftism. The political legitimacy of British capitalism requires its B team to step up and protect its interests, and Starmer isn't about to disappoint.

There will be some that think this "audacious" pitch in The Telegraph is a masterstroke, but it only if one's politics is a parlour game, of determining which set of managers get to manage. Should it be Starmer with his nice haircut, or Sunak and his suits and briefcases? But this is not the whole story. Labour's self-fancied boffins and politics understanderers are making the same sorts of assumptions once subscribed to by Blair. That the core support has nowhere to go. Unfortunately for Labour, as the party powers ahead in the polls we are seeing signs of fragmentation among this base - as forecast on here more or less since Starmer became leader. And though it doesn't matter much this side of the election, when Starmer is in Number 10 his lack of a loyal hinterland, apart from only a portion of his own natural base, will cost him and the party dear.

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Friday 1 December 2023

Local Council By-Elections November 2023

This month saw 36,965 votes cast in 26 local authority contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. 10 council seats changed hands. For comparison with October's results, see here.

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- Oct
+/- Nov 22
Lib Dem
   - 1

* There was one by-election in Scotland
** There were three by-elections in Wales
*** There were eight Independent clashes
**** Others this month consisted of Alba (66), British Unionist Party (96), Farnworth and Kearsley First (1,081), Freedom Alliance (7), Molesley Residents' Association (523), Monster Raving Loony (20), Reform (58, 82, 121, 101), UKIP (24) Yorkshire Party (38, 35)

A low, low score for the Tories. A not terribly convincing percentage for Labour. And council seats changing hands as if they were going out of fashion. Yes, November was a curious month in council by-election land. But it's seats that matter the most and the Tories emerge just one down while Labour are up and the Liberal Democrats are racing ahead. A bit of a rare occasion to see the Greens come out with a net loss as well.

Distorting the percentages is the frankly ridiculous vote for the Independents. 32 candidates for 26 seats? We have to remember there were three contested City of London elections, where the convention is that parties (except Labour) tend not to enter the fray for boring reasons. But of interest among the results was the Green result in Camden - Keir Starmer's back yard. This seat, formerly held by Sian Berry who's now their candidate replacing Caroline Lucas, went from a marginal to a safe seat. A mix of local and national reasons is the word from the doors. As I've long argued, this is where the electoral discomfort will come from when Starmer enters office.

Next month is probably going to be a quiet one for Labour as the 15 seats that are up are nearly all Tory and Lib Dem defences.

2nd November
Argyll & Bute, South Kintyre, Ind hold
Buckinghamshire, Buckingham East, LDem gain from Con
City of London, Cripplegate, Lab gain from Ind
City of London, Langbourn, Ind hold
Elmbridge, Molesey East, LDem gain from Oth
Melton, Asfordby, Lab gain from Grn
Rotherham, Kilnhurst & Swinton East, Lab hold
Trafford, Bucklow St Martin's, Lab hold

9th November
Lewisham, Deptford, Lab hold
Lincolnshire, Grantham North, Con hold
Powys, Crickhowell with Cwmdu & Tretower, LDem hold x2
South Holland, Spalding St Paul's, Con gain from Ind
South Kesteven, Grantham St Wulfram's, Con hold

16th November
Bolton, Kearsley, Oth hold
Bolton, Westhoughton North & Hunger Hill, LDem gain from Con
Ceredigion, Aberystwyth Penparcau, PC hold
Doncaster, Rossington & Bawtry, Lab
North Lanarkshire, Motherwell South East & Ravenscraig, Lab gain from SNP
North Somerset, Wrington, Grn gain from Ind

22nd November
Powys, Talybont-on-Usk, LDem hold

23rd November
Cambridge, Queen Edith's, LDem gain from Ind
Newham, Plaistow North, Ind gain from Lab

30th November
Camden, Highgate, Grn hold
City of London, Farringdon Without, Oth hold (uncontested)
City of London, Portsoken, Ind hold
Durham, Dawdon, Lab hold
North Yorkshire, Sowerby & Topcliffe, LDem gain from Grn

Five Most Popular Posts in November

November is done! So here is the customary round up of the posts that attracted the numbers.

1. The Demise of Rosie Duffield
2. A Curious Case of Reluctant Authoritarianism
3. After Braverman's Bovver Boys
4. How Damaged is Keir Starmer?
5. Suella Braverman's Feeble Revenge

I suspected writing about Labour's best known transphobe would be a red rag to passing internet traffic, and so it proved. Rosie Duffield's actions have brought the party into disrepute many times, but so far her right wing politics and palling around with the bottom feeders of Britain's opinion columnists has protected her. But for how long? Does the investigation into her behaviour suggest Starmer's office have lost patience with her provocations? Coming in second was a quick consideration of the row surrounding Suella Braverman's efforts to ban Palestinian solidarity marches, while November's third-placed offering looks at the immediate aftermath of her exhorting into existence a far right mob that, predictably, descended into violence. In fourth was a look at whether Starmer sustained damage after the biggest front and back bench rebellion of his leadership over a ceasefire in Gaza. The resumption of the attacks following a "humanitarian pause" demonstrates the inadequacy and bankruptcy of their position. And lastly, following her overdue defenestration, we reviewed what was billed Braverman's blistering revenge on her former boss and found it all rather feeble, truth be told.

Thinking about which post deserves a second chance to shine, I've gone for this one on Dave's return to front line politics. What it doesn't consider is the change in tone his appointment has meant for foreign policy on Israel and Palestine, which is a point explored in Peter Oborne's latest on his strange resurrection of Tory Arabism. Worth a read.

Now we're into the Christmas month, past behaviour indicates a greater crop of posts incoming. I still want to write about the Greens' four-for-24 strategy, I've got something bubbling under on Socialist Appeal's "communist turn", and a few other things too. As ever, if you haven't already don't forget to follow the free newsletter, and if you like what I do (and you're not skint), you can help support the blog. Following me on Twitter and Facebook are cost-free ways of showing your backing for this corner of the internet.

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Thursday 30 November 2023

The Case Against Henry Kissinger

Christopher Hitchens was a contradictory character with some iffy politics, but among his best work were the attacks on the now late but very much lamented (by, among others, Tony Blair) Henry Kissinger. It's because this repugnant creature was never held to account for his crimes that today war crimes are committed with impunity by Netanyahu's government and the Israeli military. Who's going to hold them responsible for the needless death and destruction they have caused?

Monday 27 November 2023

The Demise of Rosie Duffield

Oh dear. The Times reported on Sunday that Rosie Duffield is under investigation by the Labour Party and is no longer on the NEC's list of approved candidates for the next general election. This is despite her being reselected by her local party last year. The sticking point is her liking a tweet by notorious transphobe and obnoxious celebrity troll, Graham Linehan. Eddie Izzard, who's hoping to represent for Labour against the Greens in Brighton Pavilion, tweeted about how in Nazi Germany someone like him would have been murdered for who he was. Linehan responded with the line "Ah, yes, the Nazis, famously bigoted against straight white men with blonde hair." Anyone who knows anything about the Holocaust are well aware that hundreds of thousands of gay men and women perished in the death camps alongside Jews. "Liking" such a statement is, of course, grotesquely offensive and brings the party into disrepute.

Duffield has, since this occurred, been on the receiving end of an investigation by the party's compliance unit. According to her "friends and allies" - who were much hotter on the Holocaust when the politics of the occasion demanded it - this is all a put up job because of her "gender critical" beliefs. "They haven't been able to get her on trans issues" they whinge, "so they've gone for her on antisemitism". Quite who this "they" are, given how Keir Starmer completely controls the Labour Party apparatus and has capitulated time and again to the transphobia on his front and back benches, is a complete mystery. LGBT Labour who, despite being a right wing organisation are pretty sound on most LGBTQ issues - as you would expect - aren't exactly powerful nor listened to by the leadership. So who is doing the targeting, and why?

As far as Starmer's authoritarian project is concerned, now the left have either been chased out of the party or forced into a Trappist-like silence, it stands to reason to widen the offensive against imagined and would-be opponents and critics. We saw how, in early September, Starmer moved against two prominent women in his shadow cabinet. Better for him to surround himself with pod people lest they outshine the dear leader. We've also seen how Angela Rayner has systematically been sidelined and humiliated by Starmer's office and the apparat. It also makes sense to take out no mark right wingers, like Duffield, who can only give the party grief further down the line.

Starmer might not know politics, but he's employed people who do. Despite his many surrenders to the lobbying of the gender cops, they are not satisfied and they will keep open this line of attack on Labour as the party enters into government. When it encounters difficulties, as it surely will, would they rather suffer someone like Duffield who can open lines of right wing pressure on the authoritarian modernisation project, or dispense with her dubious services now while there is a big poll lead and most of the media are soft soaping his leadership? The smart money should go on exclusion now. Headlines today are chip wrappings tomorrow, and Duffield will be a name seldom heard once Starmer's got his feet under the table in Number 10.

Dumping Duffield also serves another function. As we know, there are plenty of Labour MPs who are too cowardly to openly declare their transphobia. Removing their self-appointed spokeswoman reinforces the message that they should keep their views to themselves. Not because Starmer cares about trans people, but again because of party reputational issues. Unlike Rishi Sunak's contracting out of racism and anti-woke politics to the dear departed Suella Braverman, Starmer does not want Labour identified with the extreme transphobia associated with the likes of the Linehans and other gender obsessives. He has fixed Labour's prejudice at the level of "genuine concerns" and not outright bigotry, and for entirely cynical political reasons that's where he wants it to stay.

Still, it's not a done deal yet. Starmer and his friends might be spooked by the backlash from all the worst people who fought in Labour's antisemitism wars and who, ultimately, paved the way for his leadership. But just as they made him they are entitled to think they could destroy him too. If Duffield is reinstated is peace now at the price of strife later. The alternative is a few moans, whinges, and trending topics on Twitter now for one less headache in the future. What's it to be?

Saturday 25 November 2023

The Party's Over - Stoke-on-Trent, Friday 8th December, 6.30pm

Of all the speaking gigs I've done since Falling Down/The Party's Over came out, this is the engagement I'm looking forward to the most. Organised by North Staffs Trades Council, which I once had the privilege of being a delegate to, and Stoke's excellent new community book shop, Drop City Books, on Friday 8th December you can hear me talking about the book, the state the Tories are in now, and undoubtedly the conversation will drift on to Keir Starmer and the Labour Party.

This is a ticketed event, and they're available here. Looking forward to seeing you on the 8th!

Thursday 23 November 2023

Carnage in Croydon

I've told this story ere before, so please indulge me. Many years ago, a comrade of mine went for selection in a seat designated by Labour as safe. The long and short listing exercise was observed, and they made it to the final three. Not wanting to mess about, they got the members' details and visited the first house on the list. They introduced themselves, and was told politely but firmly to save their patter. Why? Because they'd returned their voting papers by post the previous week, several full days before the shortlisting for the ballot was officially finalised. Knowing the selection was blatantly stitched for a favoured son of the machine, my comrade refused to participate in the farce, packed their bags, and went home. There might have been some shadenfreude when the party lost the seat at the subsequent election.

Stitch ups are as Labour as the NHS, SureStart centres, and bombing people. We've seen leftwingers excluded from selection votes on the flimsiest of pretexts, and sitting officials barred from re-standing on spurious grounds. Because selections are screened right from Keir Starmer's office, via the ministrations of Morgan McSweeney and his allies and subordinates, nothing happens without their knowledge. Where stitching has to be done because someone left wing or someone whose face doesn't fit (i.e. allies of Angela Rayner), this clique nods it through. Any complaints about dodgy practice go straight in the bin.

Which makes the selection shenanigans in Croydon all the more interesting. The Croydon East constituency has been resurrected following the Tories' boundary review, and is a dead cert win for Labour at the next election. The CLP for the new seat doesn't exist yet, and so London region - a notoriously factional structure - imposed interim officers to decide the long list and the short list. Party democracy, such as it is, was entirely circumvented. As a result, four candidates got the rubber stamp. These included one Joel Bodmer, who happens to be a close ally of Steve Reed, the Croydon North MP and Starmer's shadow for DEFRA. Like Reed, Bodmer has a chequered history with the local Labour Party who, you might recall, bankrupted the council after turning the local authority into a property speculator.

But allowing the members to freely make a choice from the shortlisted four is too much democracy for the powers behind the scenes. Complaints reached the ears of Michael Crick, who has spent the last 18 months running a Twitter account publicising and investigating party selections. Earlier on Thursday, he reported that complaints had been made to London region and national HQ alleging fraud and tampering with membership lists. One member complained that an email address claiming to be her had requested an online vote, while noting she knew of others in the same boat. She also added she had left the party a year ago. Crick also says he has been handed the membership list that is given to shortlisted candidates for canvassing, noting it has been tampered with. "Dozens of members have had home addresses changed in ways which suggest systematic not human error." Egregious stitching in other words. However, following publicity the selection meeting has been postponed and all votes cast voided, with region announcing it will undertake an investigation/cover up.

Last year, Labour changed its rule book to say fairness and natural justice had no bearing on the expulsion process. That was merely a case of saying the quiet part out loud when it came to the party's operation in general. However, the Croydon case is so blatant and corrupt precisely because the McSweeney clique and their little helpers have grown accustomed to doing things their own way. The party is theirs, they are judge and jury so it doesn't matter how amateurish and in-your-face their stitching is because they control the process. But this relies on two things: that not enough people care and the media turn a blind eye. Crick is a famous and retired mainstream journalist, but his reporting has brought some of the Labour right's dark arts out into the light. And because the carnage in Croydon is so bad, is linked to a key Starmer lieutenant, and goes all the way up to his own office there is plenty here for an increasingly desperate Tory party looking for anything they can hit Labour with in this pre-pre-election period. And the likes of the Mail and Express to get their teeth into.

In this case, the ducking and a diving of Labour's new "grown up" politics is potentially very damaging and could, if it becomes widely known, knock holes in Starmer's reputation as "Mr Rules". Most people reading this know he's deceitful and shameless, but many don't. And already with the prospect of his replacing Rishi Sunak regarded an inevitablity absent any enthusiasm or hope for something better, this is another one of those moments that chip away at his legitimacy. Even before he's entered office.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Jeremy Hunt's Pre-Election Give Aways

At first glance Jeremy Hunt's second and, in all likelihood, last Autumn statement is unexpectedly good news. A cut to National Insurance, giving back £450/year to those on average salaries. This is due to come into force in January. Pensioners can look forward to a big hike in the state pension, with it increasing by 8.5% April. Social security up to match inflation. Local housing allowance was also put up, alcohol frozen, and the minimum wage cranked up to £11.44/hour, translating into a pay rise of £1,800/year for the lowest paid full time workers. Where has this Conservative Party been? Isn't Hunt trying to outflank a Labour Party who have said nothing and promised nothing on any of these issues?

Not in the slightest. These are measures designed to dazzle and bedazzle. The Tories know full well that their press allies are going to be effusive with praise. I can almost see The Sun's front page now, leading with the pension and wage increases superimposed onto a frozen bottle of booze. And this is exactly what any Tory chancellor would do. In an election year, it's the done thing for hitherto tight-pursed, penny-pinching occupants of Number 11 to shower the electorate with a generous helping of goodies. And the more mean spirited they usually are, the greater their largesse is talked up. Indeed, the fact the NI decrease is coming in imminently instead of waiting for the start of the new financial year suggests that election is coming sooner rather than later.

But this is smoke and mirrors stuff, and does not depart from Rishi Sunak's political strategy to manage expectations by dampening down belief in the capacity of the state to do anything. In Hunt's statement, this intent manifests in two ways. With £27bn more than expected to play with, rather than plugging gaps in eroding public services the Tories elected to give it away. The second is his announcement that state spending should never exceed economic growth, virtually guaranteeing even more cuts if the economy heads south. And his expectation that the public sector should strive to be more productive, with bureaucracy - that old Tory favourite - singled out as the barrier to efficiency. Never mind they're dropping to bits because the Tories have starved them of funds for nearly 14 years.

And consider who benefits from thse measures. Increasing benefits after holding them down so long still leaves this country the meanest in Western Europe where supporting the poorest are concerned. The big increase in the minimum wage is not before time, but only partially addresses the real terms erosion of wages that has characterised the sunset years of this Tory government. The state pension reaffirms their fidelity to the triple lock, hoping a generous bung to the pensioner base will turn them out at the next election and deliver them from a deserved drubbing. And that National Insurance cut? This applies to the 27 million workers who pay 12% on their salaries between £12,571 and £50,270. Higher paid employees pay two per cent on monies over the £50k mark. What that means is the higher the salary, the bigger the cut. Someone on an average salary will keep £450/year, but those at the top and beyond can look forward to pocketing a £750 saving. A subsidy for the wealthiest paid for by crumbling public services. Still, that's nothing compared to the billions handed to business. They will permanently enjoy a tax cut of 25p for every pound they invest in their firms.

The "good news" around benefits is tempered by a renewed assault on disabled people. As trailed last month, the Tories have now decided the flexible working that usually irks them offers a new excuse to tighten the screws. Their so-called back to work plan comes with more conditionalities, a more brutalising range of sanctions, and a new campaign of demonisation. As Hunt puts it, "Anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers will lose their benefits." Red meat, they hope, for the crueller sections of the Tory base who might be Reform UK-curious.

In all, this is a short term budget designed to get the Tories over the electoral finishing line. There's nothing to address the anaemic growth forecast by the OBR. And no, reducing business taxes won't magically cut it. The headline grabbers are designed to bamboozle and hoodwink. But for most people, particularly working age people, they can see how even with higher benefits and/or NI cuts that they're worse off than before the pandemic. The prices have gone up and they keep going up, and the extra money can't stretch far enough. And that's why the Tory fates are sealed. They could have made other choices, but they didn't. Therefore, come the Spring it is their turn to suffer as the British electorate turns out and chooses to bury them. Possibly permanently.