Britain’s chumocracy: an affront on democracy

The NHS Test and Trace System, run by Baroness Dido Harding of Winscombe, is an abhorrent failure. If we had a functioning system it might be that Covid-19, which has now caused over 100,000 deaths in the UK, could have caused less sorrow. So, given this miscarriage, who do we look to blame? Cronyism is a defining feature of the Johnson maladministration.

Harding, married to Tory John Penrose, is a friend of David ‘Piggy’ Cameron who secured her a place as a member of the House of Lords. She became friends with Cameron during her time at Oxford, where he was part of the Bullingdon Club – a detestable elite dining society which allegedly burnt £20 notes in front of homeless people for fun. Ha! Contempt for the vulnerable! Dido, as useless as condoms on Boris, has also competed in horseracing against Charlotte Hogg, who is now part of the ‘Build Back Better Council’, the aim of which is to fuel economic recovery and future growth. No one from local government or trade unions was invited to join.

Furthermore, membership contains little environmental expertise and there is representation from the oil and gas industry. Hogg, European chief executive for Visa, is the daughter of Douglas Hogg – the MP who infamously claimed public expenses to clean his moat. Yes, moat. As if that wasn’t enough, guess who put Douglas Hogg in the House of Lords following his disgrace? Yes, Piggy himself. (Wait, there’s more!) Charlotte’s mother, Sarah, was a former advisor of Tory prime minister John Major. Blue blood indeed.

So, perhaps it comes as no surprise to find out that Charlotte – made deputy governor of the Bank of England by Tory Phil Hammond in February 2017 – had to resign that March for failing to mention her brother had a senior post at Barclay’s (a bank she was meant to be regulating). Some family.

The liberal commentariat also gleefully snorted that Kate Bingham, appointed by fellow Bullingdon Club member Boris ‘Woke’ Johnson to head of the Vaccines Taskforce, is married to Jesse Norman – an Old Etonian, Treasury minister and a friend of Johnson. Waiting with bated breath, they wondered: was it also going to be as ineffective as the Test and Trace system? Was it also going to sink, like a kind of [shit] Bismarck? Thankfully Bingham seems to be the right person for the job, but that is no doubt a happy coincidence, rather than her fulfilling the original job requirements. 

Paul Dacre, former editor for the Daily Mail – that redoubt of vigorous discourse, known for its searing intellectualism – is now tipped for becoming head of Ofcom. The broadcasting regulator’s staff are supposed to have political neutrality. However, the appointment of Dacre, a hard-line BBC critic (an organisation he would be regulating) is a blatant attempt by Johnson to fill the public sphere with figures who agree with his blinkered worldview. The Daily Mail is an Islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist and fascist (it had a dalliance with Oswald Mosley) paper – all of Boris’ calling cards. Sarah Vine’s (wife of prominent lizard Michael Gove) articles are the equivalent of a malicious cat meowing in an alley by a bin, just a repulsive succession of hateful screeching.

To put Paul Dacre, scourge of the metropolitan liberal elite, in charge is a dangerous affront to the neutrality of British broadcasting. Sneers that Dacre would be comically ill-equipped to head Ofcom miss the point: Harding was also ill-equipped to head Test and Trace. It’s not comedic, it’s dangerous and stupid. By appointing friends and fellow travellers to positions of power, Johnson is setting up Gramsci’s idea of a ‘cultural hegemony’ – making the ruling class’ outlook the norm. We have arguably already seen this with Fisher’s idea of ‘capitalist realism’, which argues we can no longer imagine a lucid alternative to capitalism. 

The last 10 years of Tory rule have slowly seen the fill important roles and the public sphere with their maladroit mates. It has cost lives in this pandemic. Johnson is deliberately stifling the public discourse, and as a consequence, democracy. This chumocracy must be stopped.

Image: David Dixon via Geograph