Britain is on the Skids, Economically and Morally

Photograph Source: Bradley Howard – CC BY 2.0

Countless millions in Britain are suffering economically and/or medically from the effects of the government’s erratic whack-a-mole approach to the Covid-19 crisis.  On the other hand, criminal gangs and some very rich citizens have prospered greatly from the effects of the pandemic, and morally it is difficult to draw a line between these elements of the community.

Scams by criminals have included fake websites offering supposed cures for the virus, and bogus claims for job support.  There have been many news reportsabout such things but these are just the ones that have surfaced because their originators have been inefficient or unlucky.  There are countless other scams out there, with evil people making a lot of money by defrauding innocent citizens. It was ever thus, but the charity Age UK has listed a number of particularly squalid con-jobs aimed specifically at cheating the old and vulnerable, and when one examines them it is difficult not to doubt that human beings are indeed far from being nature’s last word in moral development.

Which brings us to Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest person and vulgar creep who was honored by being made a knight in 2018 for “Services to Business and Investment”.

Britain’s honors system is discredited and devoid of utility.  It is officially intended that a distinction such as a knighthood or the Order of the British Empire (patently an anachronism) is given to those who have made a “major contribution” to the nation at a national or local level.  Deterioration set in during the prime ministership of David Lloyd George in the 1920s, when a series of squalid shenanigans devalued the system.  A conman called Maundy Gregory sold honors, with a knighthood, for example, being available for the equivalent of half a million dollars in today’s money.  Official inquiries cleared those involved (they always do), and the system continued, with lots of what we might call colorful persons being given honors for indefinable services.

On 25 September it was reported that Britain’s richest person had ditched the country that had honored him for “Services to Business” and that “Ratcliffe, a petrochemicals magnate with an estimated £17.5 billion fortune, has . . . changed his tax domicile from Hampshire to Monaco, the sovereign city-state that is already home to many of the UK’s richest people. It has been estimated that the move will save him £4 billion in tax payments. People who live in Monaco for at least 183 days a year do not pay any income or property taxes . . .”

There have been several periods during which Britain was greatly in need of money for reasons of national survival, but this time the situation is desperate. The Financial Times noted the Bank of England’s “forecast that the coronavirus crisis will push the UK economy into its deepest recession in 300 years . . .” and it is obvious the country needs every penny it can get in order to weather the present economic typhoon and try to get back on the rails of development and progress.  So it’s just the right time for Britain’s richest man to conjure up a scheme whereby he can avoid paying billions that his country so urgently needs.

The casual obscenity of this man’s greed would be entirely his own business (used in the widest sense) were it not for the fact that if he condescended to pay tax in the country that has provided him with his fortune, he would not suffer in the slightest.  He would still have his bling-bling yacht and his flashy mansions confetti-scattered over England (and now Monaco).  He would still have his four luxury jet aircraft, each of which cost over 50 million dollars. His lifestyle is redolent of his immense wealth and would not change in the slightest were he to live in Britain and pay his taxes, and unfortunately he exemplifies the moral tenor of the country’s rich and influential top dogs: it’s all for me and nothing for them.

Which leads us to the British government, headed shakily by Boris Johnson, a cartoon figure with the morals of an alley-cat on happy pills whose accession to leadership of the Conservative Party was the result of a campaign of squalid deviousness. The Conservative Party has an indestructible majority in Parliament but is lurching from crisis to crisis because of ham-fisted management and the machinations of unelected “special advisers” (known as Spads) and other highly-placed political appointees who are paid by the taxpayer and wield power without responsibility.  Johnson’s chief Spad, a repulsive scumbag called Dominic Cummings who has all the charm and attraction of a dirty sack full of cold wet spaghetti, continues to perform unprincipled antics which give a good indication of the government’s overall character, but there are other signals that are equally alarming.

A former Australian politician, one Tony Abbott, has been appointed Britain’s international trade envoy, a post of considerable power and importance, given that he will be required to negotiate international trade agreements from the UK’s position of post-Brexit weakness.  His competence to do this is open to question, but the main doubt about his selection by the British government is not his lack of technical ability but his totalitarian convictions.

It is barely credible in this time of plague crisis that any prominent individual would declare that the media had spread “virus hysteria” and that people should be allowed to make their own decisions. Abbott regrets that governments around the world have policies designed to save “almost every life at almost any cost” because instead of trying to save lives these governments should behave “like health economists, trained to pose uncomfortable questions about a level of deaths we might have to live with.”  He costed the value of life in cash terms and said that “if the average age of those who would have died is 80, even with roughly 10 years of expected life left, that’s still $200,000 per quality life year or substantially beyond what governments are usually prepared to pay for life-saving drugs.”

In other words, Abbott and his disciples believe that older people aren’t worth much and should not be protected from the Covid-19 virus and in order to save money should just be allowed to die.

His callous and pitiless stance has no doubt been welcomed by those in the British hierarchy who intend to introduce a system whereby refugees seeking asylum in the UK will be confined in centers “offshore” in small desolate islands or disused ferries or cruise ships (as in Australia which operates several establishments resembling the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay). The crass inhumanity of such a procedure might pass belief in the minds of real people but is consistent with the convictions of many in power in Britain.

In the Covid emergency the UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe and is the worst hit of all major world economies. It is in the middle of complex Brexit negotiations with the European Union, and will suffer even more when its exit is final. As always, it will be the poorest and least technically or academically qualified who will suffer most, but, like the old people who aren’t worth much, the poor and underprivileged do not figure on the screens of the rich and influential. And they can’t go to Monaco.

Britain is on the skids, economically and morally, and is approaching catastrophe.  Certainly there is blame to be allocated — but what the real people need is support and guidance from a considerate and responsible government. They won’t get it ;  and all we can do is pity them.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.