Boris Johnson’s Slash And Burn Brexit Cabinet

Photograph Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office – CC BY 2.0

The entirely self-serving Boris “BoJo” Johnson achieved a longtime dream by becoming British prime minister.

As several CounterPunch commentators have noted, the feckless BoJo has never been a success in any of the jobs he’s had– indeed, he managed to lose two of them when caught lying (lying being BoJo’s default setting).

A British political sketch-writer even said his dog would make a better PM than BoJo. Talk about a low bar!

While much has been written about BoJo, with few exceptions only social media in the UK has taken much note of his ultra-right-wing cabinet. Here are capsule sketches of some of this motley bunch of untalented opportunists, bigots, and scoundrels, all just as unqualified for their jobs as their leader:

+ Dominic Raab (sometimes known as Dominic “Raabies”), Foreign Secretary. He said in 2011 that “men are getting a raw deal” and that “feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots”. He refuses to apologize for this statement. Raabies wants to allow state schools to make a profit, and advocates scrapping all “levies subsidizing green technologies” on utility bills.

+ Sajid Javid (managing director of Deutsche Bank before entering politics in 2010), Chancellor of the Exchequer/finance minister. Made a huge fortune selling dodgy credit default swaps and other “exotic” financial products, as well as being architect of DB policies which contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown. The son of immigrants who arrived virtually penniless in the UK, he supports immigration policies that would now disqualify his parents.

+ Priti Patel (former lobbyist for the alcohol and tobacco industries), Home Secretary/interior minister. A member of Theresa May’s cabinet, but was sacked when she held 12 undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials in an effort to channel UK aid to the Israeli military. Patel suggested the UK should use the potential of food shortages in Ireland as a bargaining chip against the hard-border backstop being introduced. As interior minister Patel will be responsible for tackling the UK’s “knife-crime” epidemic. Everything she says indicates she can’t think beyond an “arrest and jail” approach to crime which, as similar methods around the world have shown, is unlikely to succeed. But it will please the “hang em, flog em” hardline brigade in her own party. Patel supports the reintroduction of the death penalty.

+ Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster/minister without portfolio. BoJo’s leadership rival. Previously education secretary, where he led the wholesale conversion of state schools into academies (known as charter schools in the US), and decreed that a leather-bound copy of the King James bible be sent to every school in the UK. Gove has admitted to a fondness for lines of stimulative white powder.

+ Andrea Leadsom (also known as Andrea “Loathsome”), business secretary. Was neck-and-neck with Theresa May in the previous leadership contest, but shot herself in the foot when she said that as a mother she had a better stake “in the nation’s future” than the childless May. Loathsome has voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry. It has also been suggested that some items in her CV do not survive close scrutiny—she was an office manager for a bank but called herself a “banker” in her CV.

+ Liz Truss, international trade secretary. Truss has links with rightwing US groups such as the Heritage Foundation. According to The Guardian: “Truss was keen to hear “what we can learn from ‘Reaganomics’ on things like regulation and red tape”. Truss also planned to tell the Heritage Foundation that she is “committed to”, and “personally interested in”, exploring similar reforms in the UK”.

Truss regularly calls herself the champion of “Uber-riding, Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating freedom fighters” by advocating “free enterprise”, low taxes, reduced regulations and more shit jobs in the gig economy. She contributed to a pamphlet which described British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”– tut-tut, time to work more low-paid overtime you Deliveroo laggards!

+ Gavin Williamson, education secretary. A former fireplace salesman, Williamson was a disaster in his previous job as defence secretary, when he said Russia should “go away and shut up”, and the Royal Navy could defeat the Chinese navy in a battle in the Pacific. Williamson was sacked earlier this year following allegations that he had leaked sensitive information from a meeting of the National Security Council to a journalist. He has voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry. Many say the show-boating Williamson is simply not up to mastering the complex education portfolio. There’s already evidence he’s not up to snuff in this position: one of the first things Williamson did as education secretary was to commission a study to explore possibilities for the creation of “military schools” (a euphemism for boot camps) for children from impoverished areas.

+ Amber Rudd (also known as Amber “Rudd[erless]”), work and pensions secretary. She once said she wouldn’t accept a lift home after a party from the sexually voracious BoJo. Rudderless had to resign as home secretary over the shameful treatment of the Windrush generation (the pioneering generation of Anglo-Caribbean immigrants), and lying to parliament about it.

+ Grant Shapps, transport secretary. Formerly a minister at the Department for International Development. In March 2015 he admitted, after 3 years of denials, that he had held a second job as a “multimillion-dollar web marketer”, using the pseudonym Michael Green, for at least year after he first became an MP. Michael Green/Grant Shapps has used at least one other pseudonym (Sebastian Fox). Shapps is known to be a Remainer, but he was a leading member of BoJo’s leadership campaign, and a cabinet position is seen to be his reward.

+ Jacob Rees-Mogg (also known as “The Hon Member for the 18th Century”), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. A conservative Catholic who dresses like an undertaker, Rees-Mogg opposes abortion even in the case of rape, but has a large financial stake in a company manufacturing the morning-after pill. He voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Rees-Mogg, ever the unintended cynic, has said the growing use of food banks in the UK is “rather uplifting”—instead of reflecting increased levels of poverty in the country, greater food-bank use simply demonstrated what a “good compassionate country we are”.

When appointed to his new post, Rees-Mogg caused much derision after he banned his staff from using “got”, “very”, and “unacceptable” because they are “sort of New Labour words” that don’t mean anything. Staff are also required to use Imperial measures instead of metric.

+ Esther McVey (also known as Esther “McVile”, she’s a former TV meteorologist), minister of state for Housing and Planning. McVile claimed £8,750/$10,650 in parliamentary expenses for a personal photographer, saying that these days politicians had to have a “visual presence” in order to serve the people. She voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

BoJo’s predecessor, the Maybot, was undone in part by her futile attempts to have a cabinet balanced between Brexiters and Remainers, who of course fought each other with no regard to her position as PM.

BoJo seems determined to avoid this mistake—only slash and burn Brexiters (with the possible exception of Grant Shapps) made it into his cabinet.

Each one of these slash-and-burners has backed, year after year, every item in the Tory austerity agenda. A byword for heartlessness and cruelty, they will continue imposing the crushing burdens on the poor and disadvantaged integral to this agenda.

Alas, something else will need to be addressed, collectively, by all concerned about the crisis, typified by BoJo’s cabinet, in Ukania’s political culture: namely, chronic lying by politicians, faked CVs, endemic corruption, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and outright charlatanry.

The political system underlying these developments has always shortchanged the majority of Brits. Tory rule since 2010 has now made this blindingly obvious.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.