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Thursday 4 November 2021

Tories Revisit Black Wednesday

This morning, the realisation belatedly hit home that the Tories’ effective legitimisation of corruption yesterday was not A Very Good Thing. So it was that the member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg, who has been elevated to Leader of the Commons, announced to the sound of loud screeching and laying down of serious amounts of rubber that there would be the U-Turn to end all U-Turns: Owen Paterson was being thrown under the bus.

There will be no junking of the current Parliamentary Standards régime, no more demands for the Commissioner of Standards to resign. Instead, there would be a vote next week on Paterson’s 30-day suspension, which would most likely confirm it. That would mean a recall petition and a potential by-election in a safe Tory seat, but then, so was Tatton in 1997, and Neil Hamilton lost. Badly. One reaction to the news was telling.

That was from veteran journalist and commentator Peter Oborne, who musedYesterday feels to me like Johnson’s Black Wednesday. The beginning of the end and no coming back”. That moment in September 1992 when John Major’s Government saw its reputation for economic competence shredded: it was not a sleaze moment, though that followed with the certainty of night following day. What happened can be put simply.

Major had won an unlikely General Election victory earlier that year; the key factor for swing voters was not wanting to risk the economy. But the Tories had previously made a serious economic misjudgement: Major, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had taken Sterling into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. In doing so, he had assumed a value of one Pound Sterling to 2.95 Deutschmarks. This proved his undoing.

As the Wikipedia entry on Black Wednesday points out, “In 1989, the UK had inflation three times the rate of Germany, higher interest rates at 15%, and much lower labour productivity than France and Germany”. Interest rates had eased to 10% by 1992, but Sterling had been overvalued and came under severe pressure on the currency markets.

(c) Steve Bell

The Government jacked interest rates back up to 15% during September 16: the markets were unconvinced. Ultimately, Sterling was withdrawn from the ERM and sank over the next few months to less than DM2.20. From this, all Major’s other troubles followed.

Although the economy slowly recovered, partly through devaluation, nothing went right for the Tories. Hard on the heels of the ERM débâcle came the Murdoch press’ sting on Major’s cabinet colleague David Mellor, who had decreed that the press was “drinking in the last chance saloon”. Rupe’s troops, it seems, decided to take him out.

Mellor’s conversations with his mistress Antonia de Sancha were bugged. A variety of creative claims about him were added to the mix, including the claim that Mellor made love while wearing a Chelsea shirt, and with the Sun, then edited by the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth, trumpeting the headline “FROM TOE JOB TO NO JOB” after Mellor resigned. There was no tightening of press regulation.

By-elections came and went; Major’s Parliamentary majority sank from just over 20 towards zero. The claims of sleaze only intensified when Neil Hamilton, he of “cash for questions”, sued the Guardian, only for his case to collapse at the last minute. The paper did not spare Hamilton: “A liar and a cheat” was the next day’s headline.

On top of all that came the split in Tory ranks over Europe - the issue that did for Mrs T., and would come to define the party as it slid slowly but inevitably from Euro-pragmatism in 1992 to the screaming Europhobia that brought us Brexit. Every one of Major’s efforts to draw a line under the sleaze, ineptitude and infighting failed.

There are already echoes of 1992 coming to haunt alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson: part of the case against David Mellor was that he had accepted the gift of a month-long holiday in Marbella for himself and his family. Today it was revealed that Bozo’s recent break in, er, Marbella was a freebie from the Goldsmith family. Zac Goldsmith was recently ennobled by Bozo. The value of the gift is as yet undisclosed.

But, unlike Neil Hamilton, Owen Paterson will not be digging his heels in and embarking on a series of lawsuits: he is resigning as an MP, a move which will undermine Bozo yet further. It will get worse: Brexit cannot forever be laid at the door of the rotten foreigners, and nor can the UK’s diminished status around the world. The Tories’ inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen too many citizens die needlessly.

Cronyism and corruption continue to be unearthed; this, too, will continue to dog this Government. And now that the Standards Commissioner and Committee has been vindicated, it may soon go after Bozo himself, given the news from Marbella. Worse, the decisions Bozo has ignored, like Priti Patel breaking the ministerial code, will keep being thrown back at him. He cannot keep on jollying and lying his way out of it.

In every instance, a Government’s decline begins with the passing of a tipping point, the moment when credibility finally expires, when supporters begin to think better of their allegiances and quietly slip away, when the media class finally conclude that the game is up. They lingered around Bozo maybe too long, willing one of their own to come good.

Back in 1992, it was the panicked jacking up of interest rates in a vain attempt to prevent the inevitable decline of Sterling, only to be abandoned as reality hit home. This time, it’s the attempt to ditch the last vestiges of Parliamentary standards to let a disgraced MP off the hook - only to be abandoned as reality hit home. Both were a sign of weakness. Both were a signal to the wider world that the Government had lost its authority.

Bozo and his party are now on the way out. All the country needs in the meantime is an opposition that can do the job, and help him out the door. And stop fighting itself.

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Anonymous said...

I shall be interested by the declared runners for North Shropshire.

J said...

Bozo might be on his way out... but I'm sure that any second now Keif Stalin will be along to throw the tories a lifeline (or perhaps the recent hacking of Labour members data from some unnamed third party was his attempt?).

Keif can never let the enemy be undisturbed when its making a mistake.

Hell I'm just amazed that he hasn't publicly shown his support for the man, who were he in any other job would have been accused of accepting a bribe for favours and had the cops called in... only for Bozo to undermine Keif "captain catastrophe"Stoma by doing the sensible option of making the alleged bribe taker fall on his sword (which he's done anyways).

Anonymous said...

Expect nothing from Peter Oborne and the "Labour opposition"....except opportunism to do in a factional enemy.

Oborne is, and always will be, a far right tory. Starmer is in the same sewer up to his armpits - see his disgusting treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Loach and bribery of internal saboteurs, plus overt support of Zionism. Their "opposition" to the Bozo faction is simply a wish to be rid of too-obvious spiv looting in the kozy klub of Parliament.

The Bozo Gang were always going to trip over their own corruption sooner or later. Which is why I always felt they are far from a shoo-in at the next election. But don't kid yourself the Starmer Gang would be a radical change - some mugs thought that of the Bliar/Brown Gang... and that brought only temporary relief to be rid of Nastzis, then EVEN WORSE horrors at home and abroad.

Fact is, Britain's socioeconomic and political systems are broken beyond repair. A deliberate process that started 40 years ago is now close to completion. So far there isn't a single sign that lessons of the 20th century have been learned, that the very same evil insanity looms.

We KNOW what comes next. But few seem to care. Maybe all the West deserves is greedy self-immolation.

Burlington Bertie from Bow said...

A quietly thoughtful, reflective and considered piece, as ever, Anon.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Burlington Bertie in this.

After all, quiet thoughtful reflective consideration has served well in creating a quarter of the UK in poverty, the break up of Britain, concentration of assets around London, mass killings in the East, creation of millions of refugees, destroying the societies of Iraq/Syria/Yemen/Afghanistan/Yugoslavia and Yemen, creating the biggest Depression in three centuries, widening the gap between the undeserving rich and the inflicted poor, increasing racism and xenophobia, forming a Parliament of barrow boys and girls, and creating en masse "entrepreneurs" and "creators of wealth" like Owen Paterson.

Yeah, that's the kind of quiet thoughtful reflective consideration that's needed. It's done so well.

Gonzoland said...

It's worth noting that Bozo is out to destroy Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, for daring to investigate who paid for his holiday to Mustique in 2019.

Gulliver said...

As our blogger alludes to in his last paragraph, Labour was fortunate to have a credible & authoritative leader during the ERM fiasco, he was also a leader with integrity and despite whatever revisionism some on the right of the party might want to attempt, it was that leader who built the foundations that took Labour to power in 97 (I have always been of the view that Blair did not need to cosy up to Murdoch to win, Smith never would have).

What the LP has now is a leader who has ditched pretty much every pledge he made to get elected (ring any bells) and has spent the time since becoming leader throwing any good will he had with the left of the party under the bus (along with quite a few actual members).

There will be no unity in the LP until the right stop their factional war with everyone else, and for this reason I don’t think this is necessarily going to be the tipping point our blogger thinks it will be (they may well get rid of de Pfeffel but he can easily be replaced with a nice haircut in a well pressed suit), although as always I hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

To 10:24.

Bliar/Brown were "credible"?

Maybe they were until their own actions and other events showed otherwise. After which they and their apologists were shown to be mass murdering charlatans and toadies to US militarism. Ask the millions of victims in the East.

1997? By then it was impossible to ignore blatant corruption instigated during the previous eighteen years. A reasonably erudite ape could have won that election, let alone a lying red tory hypocrite in a suit. Deception "won" that election....but social decency lost - again. This time deception has a quiff, but it's the same old lies and hypocrisies peddled in a different suit using slightly different words. Which is why a "win" for Starmer and co would mean a repeat of the same insanity.

This time the warnings are obvious. But there are none so blind as those who don't want to see.

Burlington Bertie from Bow said...

I blame the M25

bluepillnation said...

The late John Smith was Labour leader in 1992.

Esmond said...

You missed out the pit closure campaign which resulted in a massive public outcry, tens of thousands of people demonstrating in London and other cities organised in a few days and previous Tory supporters ripping up their membership cards publicly and calling radio phone ins to express their disgust.

Pendragon said...

Apparently Margaret Thatcher's husband, Dennis, wanted Labour to win the 1992 election. Dennis was no fool: he knew that the UK had entered the ERM with an exchange rate for the pound which was far too high. It was inevitable that there would be a financial crisis because we could not maintain that exchange rate.

Dennis knew that the press would see that Labour would be blamed for the crisis---even though it had come from a Conservative decision. He hoped that Labour would only serve one term and then lose the next general election. The Conservatives would be re-elected and perhaps serve consecutive several terms in power.

Unfortunately for Dennis, the press did such a good hatcher job on Neil Kinnock, that John Major won.

Anonymous said...

What for?

A quarter of the UK in poverty, the break up of Britain, concentration of assets around London, mass killings in the East, creation of millions of refugees, destroying the societies of Iraq/Syria/Yemen/Afghanistan/Yugoslavia and Yemen, creating the biggest Depression in three centuries, widening the gap between the undeserving rich and the inflicted poor, increasing racism and xenophobia, forming a Parliament of barrow boys and girls, and creating en masse "entrepreneurs" and "creators of wealth" like Owen Paterson?

Anonymous said...

As we celebrate, or otherwise have the infamous deeds of one Guy Fawkes re-injected into our consciousness, I cannot help but reflect upon 416 years of progress: from "Gunpowder, treason and plot" to "Bungpower, reason and twot".

Sam said...

Gulliver is correct. Before Blair's win the Australian PM Paul Keating at a conference in Queensland warned Blair not to accept Murdcch's poisoned entreaties as he did not need him and not only would Murdoch extract a huge price but he would turn on him at the right time. And thus it came to pass.

Anonymous said...

I too have always been impressed by quiet, thoughtful, reflective consideration. Gordon Brown was always thus. See:

But that was before 2008.