rashbre central

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

how to thwart an investigation

In the olden days when I first started work, it was commonplace for people in our City office to have a tipple. In our case, the downstairs canteen served full meals at lunchtime and opposite the canteen was a full-fledged bar akin to one in pub, with bar staff, draft beer and a wide selection of other drinks. You had to walk past it to get out of the canteen. 

I worked abroad for a while after that, but when I returned to London, my new Plc employer also had a canteen and at one end of the floor were the kitchens and serving area and at the other end was the bar. We had flexitime too.

A promotion or two later and I was allowed into the senior dining area, which had silver service dining and before the meal it was possible to drop into the club-like bar for a swift subsidised drink or two. 

These perks started to be phased out around the time of the smoking ban when, for a time, a few rooms were set aside for the smokers. For us, that norm had passed.

Less so, it would seem for those providing governance. Activities simply extend to other nearby hostelries, much as the Red Lion serves the function today, both close to Parliament and sporting its own division bell. 

Of course, it is not the only external division bell around Whitehall (e.g. Marquis of Granby, Westminster Arms, The Cinnamon Club), but it is arguably the nearest.

So no wonder that from the 23-Mar-2020 national lockdown announced by Boris Johnson until last April, there were (according to press reports) at least 14 parties, leaving dos, prosecco Tuesdays, Friday frolics, quizzes and meetings-with-drinks at Downing Street, as well as other Whitehall offices. Only the suitcase used to drag wine from Tescos and maybe the purchase of a minibar seems unusual when compared to the olden days. I wonder whether the minibar was expensed?

But it is this sheer number of events which could thwart Sue Gray's investigation. The perpetrators of the various illicit acts are using studied language to provide wriggle room. It was only 'one event' in Ms Gray's  terms of reference and the Prime Minister even now is brazen-facedly denying he knew it was a party. 

Then wheel in a few legal people to look serious: 

"You cannot have a situation where a civil servant will make a pronouncement that could end the office of a prime minister. The consequence is that Sue Gray will inevitably have to stop short of that.”

No wonder Boris is 'painting by numbers' in all of his responses to this. He knows that if he (for once) follows the rules then Gray's findings will provide him a “get out of jail” card because lockdown laws were not in the inquiry’s remit.

It also provides a barrier defence to stop the Met from investigating the whole thing.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

under attack? use chaff.

Remember the old rhyme?  

under attack?

the best course of action
is to 
run a good distraction. 

One useful game-play is the deployment of chaff. 

Chaff, whether spectral / MTV chaff or flares enables Big Dogs to perform evasive manoeuvres. The effectiveness of this has been demonstrated on a wide range of political situations.

In trouble? 

Simply swap in chaff to replace the problematic situation. In no time, everyone will be talking about the new fireworks and shiny-shiny beads and have completely forgotten the old situation. 


Why not use old debates like fox-hunting, the BBC, or something with pensioners? And, like your pre-selected scapegoats, it'll all flare up nicely.

And don't forget that military backdrops can look, well, humungous, even to a Big Dog.. 

These chaffs are currently in proven operational use, engaged in everything from clandestine/furtive missions right the way through to full-blown parties. 

And that advice about lighting the blue touchpaper and retiring immediately? It is to stop it all from blowing up in your face.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Can't we just draw a white line around it?

With his impending cross-examination by Sue Gray, Boris must be rattled. He is bringing in the master of the punchy-three-word slogans, Australian strategist Isaac Levido, who (along with Cummings) supported Mr Johnson's 2019 election victory.
Mr Johnson has come up with the titles for his salvage campaign, evoking Big Dog and Red Meat metaphors to save himself, but mainly illustrating that his ego is bigger than his haircut. 

We've seen it before in modern times; that the Eton boys are still boys and treating the UK as a bauble to collect in some secretive Bullingdon game. Boris is a washed-up hack with an egotistical sense of self-preservation and a wish to cling to power. Now he's paying (I use the word loosely) for the witch-doctors to drum up his rescue.

He's already started, mounting an attack on the Civil Service by implying a pervasive drinking culture.  

Then to the BBC, which doesn't support the UK's soft power, instead it speaks an inconvenient line which implicitly is damning to his performance.  Or so he says.

Time, maybe, to sack a few people? Major Civil Servants. Maybe a chief of staff and/or a Principal Private Secretary? 

Sue Gray might be able to cut through this, but the size of the task keeps expanding. Instead of reductio ad absurdum, we get crescente ad absurditatem - growing to absurdity. Although I doubt whether it is as easy to kick into the long grass.

Johnson won't be able to stay away from the military either, probably bringing in the Navy on migration duty and making a speech in a Naval dockyard somewhere.

Then there will be the North, well beyond Hatfield, where he will need to come up with some gimmicks, so long as they don't appear too expensive to his comfortable south.

Not forgetting his credit piracy on all things COVID related.

I know this commentary sounds jaded, but unless Johnson gets his condition under control, the line he draws will still be as bleak.
  • There's the Missing Inaction of the Levelling Up White Paper.
  • Energy price hikes with their predicted hardships
  • Unusually high inflation at up to 6-9%
  • The National Insurance £12billion addition to the tax burden.
  • The greater hidden consequences from Brexit.
  • Chumocracy handouts to combat COVID
  • Partying so much the place needs redecorating.
But Johnson's amnesiac mind and talent for misdirection toward his blue chums can ensure a big fat white line is drawn with all of it behind him.

Or should that be big fat white lie?

Thursday, 13 January 2022

party man

Now it becomes a story about narrative control. Even at the expense of burning the Scottish leader of the Conservatives, a task attempted by lizardly Jacob Rees-Mogg, who even tells untruths that Douglas Ross was anti-Brexit.  

Who cares? It's just another lie to add to the accumulation. Although it can also backfire, when Scottish politicians rally around Ross. And it says much for Rees-Mogg's loyalty that he trashes his own Party  leadership north of the border.

Add to that Gove's unapplauded speech about Johnson at 1922 Committee, and we see the fractures. 

Loathesome men supporting one another, although it's entirely possible that they are both running dual agendas.

Johnson's advisors are telling him to wait for an air gap around the various stories and create something else personality-centred about someone else. 

I notice cross briefings about Sue Gray are emerging. It looks to me like desperate flailing, but Johnson  is remarkably resilient. I suppose he'll have a pop at the Civil Service too, who he'll suddenly remember were at his party.


Wednesday, 12 January 2022

how was I supposed to know it was a party?

So Tuesday's Urgent Question was answered by junior minister Michael Ellis, on a deserted Tory front bench. Johnson was probably hiding in a refrigerator somewhere, although he was let out for a run on but had to return, somewhat bedraggled, in a luxury car.
Meanwhile, today, Rishi is in Ilfracombe and Johnson is making up derisible excuses about not knowing that the bottles of wine, bags of crisps and Chumbawumba on the speakers represented a party. Authored by lawyers, what he says is also careful to sidestep personal culpability. 

Meanwhile the 'clean up your phones' message sent to anyone likely to be implicated hasn't yet surfaced. Last one to do it will probably become the scapegoat.

It must be unusual to work at No 10, if routine boozing makes it difficult to detect an actual party. Rosie Holt shows a good indication of the slippery line that Johnson is taking.

Monday, 10 January 2022

crickey, here comes Queech!!

Trying to work out the fickle Bunter's next move is almost impossible. With no moral compass and his attention span of a gnat, anything is possible. But suppose I should make six of the best for 2022.

1) He'll get away with the £12 billion NI increase (£230m million a week) to support NHS and care services. Those red and white spray cans have been well and truly hidden.

2) Through schoolboy skulduggery, the mysterious redecoration payments for his flat and other alleged misdemeanours will be trivialised, dodged, and then forgotten. And as I write this, the parliamentary commissioner for standards has announced he will be 'spared' an investigation into his controversial refurbishment.

3)The parties at Downing Street illustrate that an investigation to identify spoken truths may be simpler than one to find falsehoods.

4) He'll draft a a new egotistical project in the back of his Best Book called the Great Exhibition 2, or similar. Aside from being a cunning way to wash incoming donations, it can get an accidental Boris' branding (eg The Boris Bash).

5) The extra Bank Holiday and the raucous festivities associated with the renamed Brexit Day will be enough to swamp Labour and other party messaging ahead of an election.

6) The loss of the financial services sector from London won't get reported despite Amsterdam outpacing London in equity trading.

7) Two dozen large financial services firms will move £1.3tn of assets from the UK. Nothing to do with Brexit, of course.

8) Euronext, the EU’s largest stock market operator, will move the trading data centres from Basildon to Bergamo.

9) His chums' favourite, the €90tn derivatives clearing business, will stay in London, as a handy tuck box for the wealthy.

10) The cost of living increases at 7-9% will be the clearest indicator that he has not taken back control and his geography of the north will be seen as far as Uxbridge.

11) He will exploit the shift from pandemic to endemic and use Speech Day to look as if he masterminded COVID's defeat.

12) His Latin teacher will seek reassurance that his Greek is just as bad.

Sunday, 9 January 2022


The dystopian book club is starting to meet again, the next time will be Thursday, at a local pub. Having read about dystopia for a couple of years, the real thing then descended and we were blocked from holding the usual get-togethers. I've noticed that a few sporadic sessions took place, scattered around local pubs, but it looks as if now it will settle back into a rhythm.

First up is Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler. She wrote it in 1995, but it stands up well against the prevailing conditions in today's world. She describes pandemics and the violence of gun culture in a fractured and disintegrating world. 

The protagonist of the story is keeping a diary, and we see her thoughts about collapsing power and the ways that those with nothing to lose will play against the remnants of a system.

Butler portrays a rope unravelling a thread at a time. As things get worse, you start to dread turning the page to see what unfortunate scene gets depicted as one sinks further into the novel.

"Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all. EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING by Lauren Oya Olamina"

It is some diary. More an account of the deteriorating conditions on earth, or more specifically around Los Angeles, as the last remnants of shelter become corrupted. How people who move to the outside get viscerally damaged. There's feral dogs and raging men with Glocks outside of the so-called gated community. But the gates are more-or-less symbolic because strangers with wants can assail the walls at any time. Firestarters can easily thieve from what has been created.

Lauren Oya Olamina also has a condition known as hyper-empathy, where she can feel what those around her are feeling, even among animals. It creates new descriptions, but seemed to me to be under utilised in the story telling, like a dormant super-power.

All the while the mega-Corporations are busily buying the cities and towns, to create something akin to that feature of modern-day China - the company towns - operated by people who are effectively slaves.

This all sets up the imperative to move from Earth. A new planet and positive change. The book of verses being written by Olamina is Earthseed: The Book of the Living. She notes how it contrasts with the Tibetan and the Egyptian Books of the Dead. 

And there is a matter of factness to the descriptions of prevailing conditions. Whether it is shooting a new satellite toward Mars, handling the aftermath of a Pyro induced fire, or seeking more ammunition for the handguns, there is a levelling of tone which persists through the described aftermath of a fire created as a diversion to rob properties.

Butler has run the clock forward in the writing of this novel. Even without the internet's spinnery, we get a sense of the acceleration of earth toward an end-game. Just when we think it can't get worse,  Butler quietly offers us an alternative.

Friday, 7 January 2022


In the No 10 redecoration discussions, Mr Johnson apparently reverts to 'I don't recollect'. The messages were created on his prior phone, which he no longer uses. 


A missing phone? Used for discussion of the erstwhile tory-sponsored Great Exhibition 2 and redecoration of Downing Street? Surreptitious donations from supporters? 

It is like an excerpt from The Wire.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Sing me no more sad songs

I've clocked a fair number of miles celebrating Christmas three times and the New Year (once). 

On hotel television I've clocked a couple of road movies too. The Peanut Butter Falcon(2019) and American Honey (2016). 

I've seen American Honey before, and it has a dead-end teen named "Star" (Sasha Lane) trapped raising her trailer-trash mother’s children in the company of Mom’s violent ex-boyfriend. Star joins the flirtatious “Jack” (Shia LaBeouf) and the free-spirits of a door-to-door magazine subscription sales squad. All of them are kids covered in tattoos and piercings and with alternative back stories for the ride. 

English writer-director Andrea Arnold made a similarly themed movie “Fishtank” set in the UK, and there are various of her signature moves transferred into this movie. She adds animal spirits to blend into the mysticism. 

The bear scene is a powerful case in point.
Then, in Peanut Butter Falcon, there's Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a man with Down syndrome, who escapes from a state-run old age care facility with the help of his elderly roommate (Bruce Dern!), to train as a professional wrestler under the guidance of his hero, the Salt Water Redneck.
Meanwhile Tyler (Shia LaBeouf again) is fired for bringing in illegal crab catches, and decides to burn the gear of his rivals, Duncan and Ratboy, and flee. 

While on the run, Zak and Tyler meet, and embark on a journey to the Salt Water Redneck's wrestling school in North Carolina, joined by Dakota Johnson who was searching for the escaped Zak. 

There is much attractive bluegrass, American folk, and spiritual music along the way through these alligator laden bayou. I guess it's a river movie as much as a road movie, but none the worse for it. 

Feelgood to start the year.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

ETRM asleep at the wheel or novel inspiration?

Filling my car at the weekend, I was reminded of a time when I worked in the energy sector. There was a particular kind of software called ETRM (Energy Trading Risk Management) designed to predict and offset the effect of forward prices on most forms of energy. 

Now we see Saudi Arabia raising January official selling prices for all crude grades sold to Asia and the United States by up to 80 cents from the previous month. 

This, despite a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia (OPEC+) to continue increasing supplies by 400,000 barrels per day in January.

Add the diminishing prospects of a rise in Iranian oil exports after indirect U.S.-Iranian talks on saving the Iranian nuclear deal broke off. 

OPEC+ has maintained that the decision was purely based on market fundamentals although it is difficult not to see the hand of the U.S. at play, particularly given the concurrent visit of a U.S. delegation to Saudi Arabia. 

Notice also Russia’s total output has failed to rise as its major producers say they are facing technical difficulties.  

It has the components of a good novel, resulting in squeezes on oil, petrol and home energy.

I need a third theme in my Corrupt novel series. Corrupt, Sleaze and maybe Squeeze?