Follow the Money

But why so shocked? You’re a journalist for God’s sake. When a minister’s adviser sets up a company to secure a PPE contract, and then delivers unusable face masks while trousering £50 million in profit, what you should be thinking is ‘there’s a pattern here’. Disaster capitalists rule the roost in Westminster right now.

Yes, I am one of them. But I think of it this way: we’re seeing Captain Tom Moore’s £33 million go up in smoke right now. Profiteering from the NHS in the middle of a pandemic simply isn’t a good look.

My advice? Follow the money. Lawyer up. It’s really the only language they understand. Take my word for it: they won’t stop otherwise.

No, please don’t contact me again, old chap. Too much cognitive dissonance. Wishing you all the best of British, though.

See also: ‘We May Ask Ourselves

Singapore Sling

I’m Dyson’s Dyson. Yes! I am the Chosen One, plucked from the obscurity of the production line to tend to my Maker’s every vacuuming need in his £43m Singapore penthouse suite.

He spends lots of time here now, which puzzles me a bit. After all, he must have been delighted when Brexit went his way. And if he’s right in saying ‘the UK will create more wealth and more jobs by being outside the EU than within it’, then why move his HQ to Singapore and cut 450 jobs in Wiltshire? Nothing to do with the looming risk of a no-deal Brexit, I’m sure.

Can you keep a secret? I think he’s homesick. He’ll get me out at 3 a.m. and vacuum all 21,108 marbled square feet while humming a gloomy ‘Jerusalem’. As my nan (a DC04 De Stijl limited edition) used to say: ‘be careful what you wish for, lest it come true…’

Hillingdon Lido

Hillingdon Lido re-opened at the end of July. Marge, who’s swum there since she was a kid, was the first back in. The water’s always freezing, so you need to get moving pronto; after four lengths you’ll be toasty, cares melting away.

But today she’s cross. The plaque Boris unveiled at the opening of the revamped leisure centre winks at her every other length. It fuels her outrage. Peerages for his brother, rich Tory donors and a shitload of Brexiteers — who rant about ‘unelected’ EU bureaucrats but are perfectly happy to accept seats in the House of Lords.

‘Lord Lebedev’ takes the biscuit, though. Billionaire owner of the Evening Standard. Son of a former KGB agent. And this a mere week after the Russia Report! The sheer contemptuous brass neck of it all!

Marge fumes her way through another sixteen lengths. The one and only upside: she does her best time in months.

#FarageGarage

After retiring twelve years ago, Geoff Harper moved to Nightingale Close in Ashford in Kent — ‘for the quiet life’.

His house is near St. Mary’s, an old Norman church that overlooks twenty-seven acres of idyllic farmland where bluebirds sing, wildflowers bloom and butterflies cavort. Verily, ’tis the Garden of England!

That same twenty-seven acres has now been bought by the government, without any consultation, as a post-Brexit lorry park for 2000 HGVs waiting to process their export paperwork.

Geoff voted for Brexit, and is trying hard to understand how Vote Leave’s promises of cutting red tape have led to lorries thundering past his house 24/7. A house, moreover, whose value has just plummeted considerably. He would very much like to blame the EU for all of this in some way, but a sinking feeling in his stomach tells him the discomforting truth. He’s been had.

Hope in the Dark

In all honesty, Monday was a real low. Sure, we knew we were going to lose given the parliamentary maths, but it still hurt watching Tory after Tory vote our amendments down. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to stop the NHS being part of any future trade deal? Or keep chlorinated chicken off our tables? No, don’t answer that.

I know what you’re going to say. Why bother. Because, mate, we’re playing a long game. We forced them to show their hand; now their votes are on public record. Ammunition for when the election comes round.

Apart from this fine glass of Belgian beer, there’s a Rebecca Solnit quote that’s keeping me going. ‘Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you can’t win. But hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.’

Amen and cheers to that.

We May Ask Ourselves

And you may find yourself
Running a confectionery wholesaler
And you may find yourself
Selling nuts, chocolates and sweets
And you may find yourself
In receipt of a large PPE contract
And you may find yourself
In a beautiful house
With a beautiful £108 million
And you may ask yourself
Well, how did I get here?

Letting the days go by, got mates in high places
Letting the days go by, no competitive tendering process
Who cares if the public asks, where has the money gone?
Once in a lifetime, our Covid Bonanza

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was?
Worse than it ever was
Much worse than it ever was

And we may ask ourselves
How does a confectioner land a PPE contract?
And we may ask ourselves
Where does that audit trail go?
And we may ask ourselves
Is it right? Is it wrong?

And we may tell ourselves (if we voted Tory)
My God! What have I done?

H/T Talking Heads, ‘Once in a Lifetime’

See also: ‘Follow the Money’

Heavy Weather

Yes thanks, I’ve had a pretty good pandemic. Focus groups view me as youthful, personable and competent — at least in comparison to all those other dimwits in the Cabinet. Someone who’s risen to the occasion in these unprecedented times.

A blind spot when it comes to Brexit? Certainly not. I stand by my comment: one thing I’m very humble about is the ability of economic forecasting to be that accurate.

No, my aversion to a new Brexit impact assessment has nothing to do with the Government’s gloomy 2018 prediction that our GDP will drop by 4.9% to 7.6% on leaving the EU. Or the fact that Covid has now made everything immeasurably worse.

Look. The future’s inherently uncertain. There’s really no point in trying to forecast anything.

Are we done? Great. Don’t suppose you’d mind if I borrowed your umbrella? It seems to be raining pretty heavily out there.

Suntrap

The Sun, Zoom editorial meeting, Sunday 12 July

Editor *sucks on a fag and exhales*: Right then. Gove’s launching his ‘Get Ready for the Shitstorm’ campaign, so we’d better look lively. I want a set of articles out tomorrow detailing all the extra Brexit charges in a helpful, sympathetic, but slightly surprised way.

Les: Like we never supported a Hard Brexit, or dubbed four years of expert and Remainer warnings ‘Project Fear’?

Editor *takes another drag*: Exactly. So Les, you do a sayonara to the European Health Insurance Card. We’ll call it ‘EHIC-UP’. Levi, you take mobile roaming charges… Headline: ‘Roam Fee’. And Qin can cover holidays and working abroad. I reckon a sassy ‘EU Need to Know’ for that one.

Levi: But Guv, won’t our readers think we’re a bunch of hypocritical bastards?

Editor *wreathed in smoke*: Hell no. They’re all too f*cking thick.

*Collective sniggers* *Zoom call ends*

Pillar 2

25 June 2020. Stan ‘Stats’ Robinson works in the bowels of a government building. He’s been number crunching for years, but this pandemic’s something else. Now he gets how data can mean the difference between life and death.

Leicester thinks it might have a new outbreak. It’s been pleading for updates for days. But he’s been under strict instructions to withhold Pillar 2 — the results of testing outsourced to firms like Deloitte. Some half-baked crap about ‘data ownership’. And that means the city’s been in the dark about 90% of its new cases.

Stan was finally allowed to send the info this morning, but he hates that he was part of this shameful delay.

Scrolling on Twitter, he sees the latest Covid figures from the Financial Times. It’s got a stats team after his own heart, using data to tell it like it is.

He leaves the office early, whistling a little tune. Then he calls the FT.

Double Whammy

29 June 2020. About tea time. Jeffries rushes into the Prime Minister’s office.

Jeffries: I’m glad I caught you before tennis, sir. I’ve got Michel Barnier on the line — he says he’s still happy to extend the Brexit talks. Deadline’s tomorrow.

PM: Tell him to f*ck off.

Jeffries: Sir… Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all calling for an extension. They’re really struggling with the fallout from Covid.

PM: Tell them to f*ck off.

Jeffries: Sir, the pandemic means our GDP’s likely to drop by 11.5% this year. Are you sure a January exit is wise? Perhaps extending might be a g—

PM: Nope. Non. Nyet.

Jeffries: But sir, how will businesses survive the double whammy of Covid and Brexit? It’s like chucking dynamite into a burning house!

PM: Just tell them all to…

Jeffries (wearily): …f*ck off, sir?

PM: Exactly. Now fetch me my racket, there’s a good chap.