The Big Con: Neck-deep in chicanery

Richard Lutz on seven days of shambolic politics.


Way back when, in 1780 to be exact, the British were making inroads into India as part of its empire building. One of the local heavyweights wasn’t too happy about how we handled things. He wrote of us: “They are so blinded by selfish interest that they never observe written agreement. God alone can fashion their base intrigues.”

Well…base intrigues, eh? Whatcha know? Some things never change. This week, we see the unending roll out of Brexit. And to be fair, whether you are for vacating the EU or staying inside its grasp, you have to admit the political skullduggery and governmental double speak is hard to digest.

Even hardline Brexiters such as former Tory leader Michael Howard and arch attack-dog former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are worried about an illegal attempt by the government to break international law on a written trade deal that includes the vexed issue of the Irish border.

Cabinet ministers admit that in specific cases they may have to carry out an illegal act by ignoring a signed agreement. That’s like saying I may have to break into your house to nick stuff, but only the cutlery, so that’s okay. It doesn’t add up and UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab is finding out this week just how unhappy American politicos are with mucking about with the Ireland accord that’s brought 23 years of relative peace.

So, it seems nothing has really changed much since that Indian statesman picked up his quill 240 years ago. The British are neck-deep in chicanery and double dealing, breaking not so much their word as their written promises.

Of course, chicanery is written into the sinews of this government’s psyche. It is scarred by it, tattooed by it, poisoned by it. The “world beating” campaign to reduce Covid-19 infection rates is a shambles. Boris’s Operation Moonshot- to test “literally millions per day” – is overwhelmingly unattainable. Everyone knows it. Even The Sun, a rabidly-foaming Tory paper, calls the Johnson plan Operation Moonshut.

And why not? Folks find out they can’t get a test or have to travel hundreds of miles to get a find one. An Aberdeen family was told the nearest depot was in Twickenham, in south-west London. That’s a mere 549 miles trip (each way). The reason for the blockage is that the backup lab work can’t be done, there’s not enough capacity to handle an increase in uptake. No one in government has thought this through.

I weigh these eye-popping hairbrained schemes as I enter Birmingham. I have have been sucked into the maw of the beast by returning to a city where no-one is allowed to visit anyone else in a home or garden. So, if my aged auntie knocks on the door, I have to tell her to go away. But incredibly, I can tell her to meet me in five minutes up the road at the Drunken Duck because all boozers are open.

Well, most pubs are open. My local has shut. A patron tested positive and the doors slammed. Admirably quick action. But then again, this is the same pub that rammed drinkers together elbow to elbow in its beer garden and was a YouTube sensation for a vid of a vicious fight outside its front door as drunks went at it until, reportedly, police tasers had to be used.

That said, to show how random and fluid the covid scene is, a member of my family was becoming increasingly worried about a three day hacking cough. She called the appropriate phone number at 8.30 am. She was tested at 10.30am. And as promised, received the all-clear result exactly 24 hours later by text. The system worked for us. But sadly does not for thousands of others. It’s a muddled, confused affair. And very worrying.

*The quote at the top of this article was written by Nana Phadnavis and is included in William Dalrymple’s book The Anarchy







4 thoughts on “The Big Con: Neck-deep in chicanery

  1. Richard, do you believe that all this is a Party Political issue, a legitimate cause for virtue signalling by the liberal elite? The ship of state is like a huge oil tanker sailing at 30 knots. Inertia is enormous and inevitable. The Civil Service are the standing officers and crew who do the donkey work for whichever brand of top brass are temporarily inserted into the bridge. Politicians can set policy and targets but have scant influence over their imposition save in the matter of supplying money from the treasury. This Government has supplied money to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 in absolutely biblical quantities but the Civil Service predictably under resourced to meet this huge challenge and weakened already by the constraints on working by COVID-19 simply cannot build a testing system fast enough and big enough to satisfy the huge demand for tests that a terrified public seeks. You can blame the Government for setting hubristic targets without first establishing what resources are there to meet them but to blame this Government in these circumstances for the predictable failures of a brand new and massive system being rolled out from a standing start( and it didn’t fail you, did it?) is just a cheap shot. Perhaps they should stop trying? This is not a party political issue. Carping of this sort does absolutely nothing to bolster unity or morale in what is a desperate battle to save our people, our economy, our prosperity and our way of life. Your piece demonstrates that all of that is under threat. The final cost of dealing with Covid19, financial and social with so much collateral damage to the wealth and health of the nation in prospect for decades is what should be preoccupying us. Give credit where it’s due, no Government of any stamp could have done more and at the end there will probably only be blame to be apportioned, not praise sadly.

  2. It’s either sweetly reassuring or darkly depressing to know the UK has joined us in the Dumbest Countries Club. All our hopes are piled on November 3.

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