How Brexit Gave Us Vile, Broken Politicians Who Despise Human Rights and Seek to Criminalise Refugees: Part Two

The home secretary Suella Braverman laughing hysterically, and entirely inappropriately, during a visit to the UK’s proposed “migrant camp” in Rwanda yesterday, March 18, 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seemingly emerging from a coffin while announcing the Tory government’s shameful ‘Stop the Boats’ policy on March 7, 2023, and then-home secretary Priti Patel smirking at a press conference in Rwanda, announcing the Rwanda plan, on April 14, 2022.

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The second of two articles in which I examine how the Tory government’s vile anti-immigration policies, pursued with such vigour by Priti Patel and Suella Braverman, have their origins in the dangerous isolationism of Brexit, and its unleashing of false and disturbing notions that, post-Brexit, the UK should no longer be constrained by international law. In this first article, I looked at how Brexit happened, how Theresa May paved the way for the shoddy and cruel lawlessness of Patel and Braverman, and how the Tories, even before Brexit, consistently sought to undermine the European Convention on Human Rights, with a particular focus on Theresa May’s obsessive pursuit of the Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada. (See Part One here).

Ruthlessly self-seeking and, morally, a complete vacuum, Boris Johnson swept to power in December 2019 by following the populists’ playbook established by Donald Trump — a three- or four-word slogan, hammered home at every opportunity. For Trump it was ‘Make America Great Again’, while for Johnson it was ‘Get Brexit Done’, delivered despite the evident impossibility of getting it done without consigning us to relentless economic decline and international irrelevance.

While Johnson’s dithering over Covid, his persistent lying and his corruption (not least in fast-tracking billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to cronies during the Covid lockdowns for services that they were patently unable to provide) defined his Premiership, what must not be overlooked is the extent to which he also empowered the far right of the Conservative Party in their rabid enthusiasm for a post-Brexit bonfire of fundamental rights.

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Under Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Fourth Tory Brexit Government, Already Obsessed with Austerity, Is Doomed to Fail

How the Daily Mirror, on its front page, responded to the news that Rishi Sunak had been chosen as the latest Prime Minister by Tory MPs.

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In the ongoing farce that is Britain’s Tory government, we now have our third Prime Minister in seven weeks — Rishi Sunak, the first Asian to hold the top job, but also the richest PM in British history, with a £730 million fortune via his marriage to Akshata Murty. The daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, who founded the technology company Infosys, she has a 0.91% stake in the company, which constitutes most of the Sunak family’s wealth. Sunak himself was a banker from 2001 until his election in 2015, working first for Goldman Sachs, and then for a number of hedge funds.

Promoted to the role of Chancellor under Boris Johnson, Sunak is credited with successfully preventing a total meltdown of the economy during the Covid lockdowns, primarily through the furlough scheme for workers, although, to be honest, any Chancellor in place at the time would have had to do the same. Defeated by Liz Truss in the leadership campaign in the summer, he is now seen as a credible leader by the majority of Tory MPs who backed him over the last week — many, no doubt, pressurised to do so to prevent the choice of leader going back to the untrustworthy Party members who elected Truss — instead of the other contenders, Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson, who somehow thought that he could miraculously return from the political grave into which he had dug himself.

Nevertheless, the painful truth for Sunak is that no one — not even the 81,326 Tory Party members who voted for Liz Truss — voted for him, and it will be hard for him to claim any kind of popular mandate as a result. Hopefully, the calls for a General Election that increased throughout Liz Truss’s disastrous premiership will not fall away now that Truss has gone, because the only way for Sunak to genuinely claim any legitimacy is to ask the public to support him — and not merely to claim that the result of an election nearly three years ago, fought solely on Boris Johnson’s risible claim that he would ‘Get Brexit Done’, has any relevance.

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Radio: I Discuss Liz Truss and the UK’s Ongoing Tory Brexit Nightmare – Plus Guantánamo and Julian Assange – with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak during the Tory leadership campaign in summer. After just 44 days in the top job, Truss’s departure has led to Sunak being appointed as her successor by Tory MPs.

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I’m delighted to have been interviewed on Saturday by Chris Cook, in Canada, for his Gorilla Radio show, available worldwide through the miracle of the internet, via his brand-new Substack account. The show is also available here as an MP3.

The first 20 minutes of our half-hour discussion involved the sad decline of post-Brexit Britain under a succession of witless Prime Ministers — most recently Liz Truss, who lasted just 44 days, but managed in her brief window of opportunity to crash the economy, as the markets reacted with revulsion to a ‘mini-budget’ that promised massive unfunded tax cuts for the rich at the worst time imaginable, during a time of rampant inflation and spiralling energy prices. 

Our discussion followed on from my recent article, Now that the Execrable Liz Truss Has Gone, Only a General Election Can Validly Deliver the UK’s Next Leader, and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss the role played in the mad ideology of Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng by a number of supposed ‘free market’ lobbying groups based in Tufton Street, close to Parliament — including the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Adam Smith Institute, Civitas and the climate change-denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) — who dress themselves up as think-tanks, and, shamefully, have secured charitable status, even though they have persistently failed to explain who funds them (although US far-right dark money is clearly involved).

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Now that the Execrable Liz Truss Has Gone, Only a General Election Can Validly Deliver the UK’s Next Leader

Liz Truss at a press conference, before her departure as the UK’s Prime Minister.

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So it’s over, then. Just 44 days since taking office, and with eleven of those days given over to the now almost forgotten funerary rites for Queen Elizabeth II, Liz Truss has resigned as Prime Minister, having crashed the economy and revealed, inadvertently, how the Conservative Party of 2022 is in its death throes, finally succumbing to the suicidal impulses of its defining obsessions — the privatisation of everything, tax cuts for the rich, and propping up the failed fantasy of Brexit as something liberating rather than the disaster that it so clearly is, was and always will be.

The trigger for Truss’s record as Britain’s shortest-serving Prime Minister was the outrageous ‘mini-budget’ she cooked up with her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, in which, with extraordinary arrogance, this delusional pair of shallow ideologues — marinaded in the far-right ‘libertarianism’ of the Tufton Street lobbying groups, who refuse to reveal their funding (although we know it involves climate change deniers and fossil fuel polluters) — sought to push through massive tax cuts for the rich at a time of rising inflation and spiralling energy costs. This was a recipe for disaster as the former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, repeatedly explained during the farcical summer-long leadership in which Truss, somehow, wasn’t adequately exposed as an empty vessel.

The ‘mini-budget’ — shielded by Truss and Kwarteng from scrutiny by almost anyone, including, to cite one particularly pertinent example, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), which was established by George Osborne to review the public finances — spooked the markets to such an extent that the economy tanked, leading to the sacking of Kwarteng, and now the resignation of Truss.

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My Interview with Riverside Radio’s Andy Bungay About the Horrors of the Truss Government, Guantánamo, and the Plight of Julian Assange

A screenshot of the Andy Bungay/Colin Crilly show on Mixcloud, featuring an interview with Andy Worthington.

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On Friday I was delighted to be interviewed by Riverside Radio’s Andy Bungay, for the last hour of an extended podcast of his Saturday night show, The Chiminea, for which, once a month, he is joined by Colin Crilly for the Colin Crilly Takeover Show.

The three-hour show is here, on Mixcloud, and our interview takes up most of the last hour, with some musical interludes.

For the first 20 minutes, from 2:02 to 2:22, we discussed the current collapse of the UK under Liz Truss, an unprecedented disaster that no one could quite have foreseen, even though it was clear — in that long summer of the campaign for a new Tory leader to replace the disgraced Boris Johnson — that she was a dangerous far-right ‘libertarian’ ideologue, heavily influenced by the unaccountable think-tanks in Tufton Street, who are obsessed with shrinking the state, and enriching the rich, and who are also ferociously pro-Brexit, and prominent players in the deranged world of climate change denial.

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The Death Throes of the Brexit Disaster: Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng Declare Class War on the British People

Architects of disaster: Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng in the House of Commons.

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Six years into the Brexit disaster, the malevolent anti-democratic forces who did so much to facilitate the success of the vote to leave the EU in June 2016 are finally where they always wanted to be: running the government, and able to implement their four prevailing obsessions: enriching the already rich at everyone else’s expense; shrinking the state (or preferably entirely obliterating the state provision of any services whatsoever); using the UK’s departure from the EU as an opportunity to scrap all the inconvenient ‘rights’ that have protected the British people and the environment from grotesque exploitation; and denying the existence of catastrophic climate change to further enrich the oil and gas companies that are driving the planet to extinction.

These anti-democratic forces, largely clustered in a handful of buildings in Tufton Street in Westminster, just a stone’s throw from Parliament, include the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute, all far-right ‘libertarian’ think-tanks representing “the extreme fringe of neoliberalism”, as George Monbiot explained in an article for the Guardian on Friday. Also related, though located 400 yards to the north, is Policy Exchange, another right-wing think-tank, and Tufton Street was also initially home to the Vote Leave campaign, which was registered there, as well as Leave Means Leave, which campaigned for a hard Brexit after the EU referendum. It is also currently home to the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

This latter group has been described by climate researchers and environmental groups as “the UK’s most prominent source of climate denialism”, as was explained in an OpenDemocracy article in May, when “two MPs, three Lords members and more than 70 scientists, writers, and campaign groups” sent a letter to the Charity Commission complaining that the GWPF was “not a charity but a fossil fuel lobby group”, after evidence emerged establishing that it “had received donations from a foundation with millions of dollars’ worth of shares in oil, gas and coal companies — despite claiming it would not take cash from anyone with a fossil fuel interest.”

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The Greatest Economic Crime in UK History? Liz Truss Caps Energy Prices By Taxing Us For Up to 20 Years Instead of Taxing Energy Companies’ Obscene Windfall Profits

Liz Truss,Britain’s new Prime Minister, and a fossil fuel drilling platform.

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So it’s official, then. On Wednesday, on her first full day in office — just before the death of the Queen froze all public-facing political activity for at least a week and a half — Liz Truss addressed the UK’s devastating energy bill crisis, which threatens to hurl two-thirds of the country into fuel poverty, and to bankrupt all small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as public sector organisations like the NHS, schools, universities and charities, by capping domestic energy bills at £2,500 a year until 2024, stemming the rise to £3,549 that was to take place on October 1, and which was forecast to rise to an almost unimaginable £5,400 a year in January.

This will still be a nightmare for poorer families — who, lest we forget, make up at least half the population — because last winter average bills were £1,277 a year, and even now people are struggling with the cap set at £1,971 a year, but what makes the announcement so poisonous, whilst appearing to be the act of a saviour, is that it will be funded not through a windfall tax on the estimated £176 billion in obscene and completely unearned profits of the oil and gas companies who have benefitted from the eleven-fold increase in gas prices since 2019, but by transferring the cost onto taxpayers.

Do you see how disgusting and disgraceful this policy is? Truss is refusing to tax the grotesque profits of the oil and gas companies, and is instead proposing to borrow at least £100 billion — and maybe more — to compensate them for their losses through the cap that is necessary to prevent the total collapse of the British economy, and then making us pay it back in increased bills over the next ten to 20 years, — in other words, increased bills every month into the 2030s or even the 2040s — simply to preserve the energy companies’ monstrous windfall profits.

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On the 37th Anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield, Gypsies and Travellers Face an Unprecedented Threat From This Vile and Bigoted Government

Top: Police swarm all over the last bus at the Battle of the Beanfield on June 1, 1985. Bottom: Gypsies and travellers campaign against the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill in London, March 19, 2022.

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37 years ago today, a event took place that has largely been shunted into the margins of modern British history, even though it remains a particularly chilling example of the state suppressing manifestations of dissent, and of ways of life that didn’t conform to a narrow interpretation of the ‘normal’ and the ‘acceptable’ in a manner reminiscent of the ways in which totalitarian authoritarian regimes deal with those regarded as an undesirable underclass.

That event is known as the Battle of the Beanfield, although ‘battle’ suggests the presence of two more or less equal parties engaged in conflict, when what actually took place was a one-sided rout of heartbreaking brutality, as 1,400 police, drawn from six counties and the MoD, violently assaulted and ‘decommissioned’ a convoy of vehicles, carrying 400 to 500 men, women and children, who were en route to Stonehenge to establish what would have been the 12th annual Stonehenge Free Festival.

For detailed accounts of the Beanfield and the wider free festival and travellers’ movements, my books The Battle of the Beanfield and Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion are both still in print, and can be ordered from me by clicking on the links.

The suppression of the festival — an alternative town that established itself every year in the fields opposite Stonehenge for the whole of June, and that, at its peak, in 1984, drew in tens of thousands of people from across the UK — was the justification used by the government of Margaret Thatcher to defend the single biggest peacetime assault on civilians in recent history, but it disguised other, even darker motives than the suppression of people’s collective assertion of a right to gather freely to listen to music and to practice alternative ways of living.

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The Evil Heart of Brexit Britain Under Boris Johnson’s Bigoted Government and the UK’s Rabid Right-Wing Media

A dinghy carries migrants to the UK from France across the Channel (Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images).

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For the last five and a half years, since bigotry, racism and xenophobia became official UK government policy following the disastrous EU referendum in June 2016, I have frequently been ashamed to be British; I might almost say, in fact, that I have carried with me a perpetual shame at the way in which the Brexiteers’ narrow victory in the referendum brought racism and intolerance out of the shadows, where decent people had been striving for decades to keep it at bay.

On occasion, events have conspired to make that shame flare up into full-blown anger and despair, and the deaths of 27 refugees in the Channel three days ago is one of those occasions. That these 27 people — men, women and children — were so desperate to get to the UK, in the hope of a better life, that they had become involved with people-traffickers, and ended up in a dinghy that couldn’t cope with the perils of the Channel crossing, ought to elicit, first of all, compassion for the plight in which they found themselves, and for their tragic deaths. However, the rhetoric regarding refugees has become so vile and so toxic in Brexit Britain that the knee-jerk reaction of far too many people has been to dismiss them as “illegal migrants” or “economic migrants”, and to revel in their deaths.

In this, the mainstream media and the government bear huge responsibility for having cynically encouraged racism, xenophobia and cold-heartedness as part of their various agendas for damagingly isolating Britain from the rest of the world in order to stay in power or to secure a pliable populace that will soak up their venom in an unquestioning manner.

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No Justice, No Peace on the Third Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire

The Grenfell Silent Walk on December 14, 2017, commemorating those who died in the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London six months earlier, on June 14, 2017. The Silent Walks took place every month until the coronavirus lockdown hit.

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Since the very public murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis three weeks ago, there has been a welcome and understandable resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that first surfaced back in 2014, after a spate of police murders of unarmed black men and boys in the US.

Today, as we remember the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, which occurred exactly three years ago, the resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement seems entirely appropriate. 

72 people died in an inferno that engulfed the 1970s tower block they lived in in North Kensington, an inferno that was caused, primarily, because the structural integrity of the building had been lethally compromised by a re-cladding operation designed to make the tower look more “attractive” — not only had existing windows not been repaired or replaced to make sure that they were fireproof, but the re-cladding involved holes being drilled all over the tower that, on the night that the fire broke out, allowed it to consume the entire tower is an alarmingly short amount of time.  

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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