Britain: The Land of Chumocracy and Cronyism

Covid-19 has wrought terrible devastation across the globe, and perhaps nowhere has felt the most amount of damage and uncertainty than America and the U.K. With record numbers of deaths per capita, a flood of terrible decisions and a onslaught of misinformation, managing the virus has been extremely difficult. The U.K especially have zigzagged in and out of lockdown enough times to confound any journalist, social commentator and of course, the millions of citizens who don’t know where they stand from one day to the next.

Throughout the entire ordeal, No.10 have had their feet held to the fire as Boris Johnson kept the U.K “open for business” and that it has also unravelled that the government has consistently handed out more than a handful of contracts to private companies – without going through the usual channels of putting said contracts out to tender. The test and trace scheme was handed to Dido Harding and produced by Serco with astonishingly bad results. For instance, the bespoke contract was delivered using Excel instead of custom-made software and, despite businesses across the U.K taking in all the information they needed from customers, it was all for nothing when the test and trace system failed to conglomerate the data. What’s worse is that the government still claims, at every opportunity, that it is the NHS test and trace system.

Please, don’t let them get away with that one.

The choice to give out contracts and not put them out to tender is not just an example “chumocracy” among the Conservative elite, it is also evidence of cronyism. The Conservatives have closed their ranks and they bully out those who might try to put forward their ideas and expertise or ways in which to improve the country. Conservative donors and friends (in one instance, a pub landlord) have widely benefitted from this chummy approach and, whilst this kind of treatment would be baffling at the best of time, it feels more like a slap in the face during such a turbulent period in our lives.

There is, however, a more severe level of cronyism which was highlighted in today’s newspapers, and that is the one in which a contract was given to a Russian-owned firm to design a new briefing room for No.10. The company, Megahertz, has also worked on projects for Russia Television (RT), Channel One and Public Television of Russia,  which has raised concerns regarding the security of No.10’s new media suite. This might seem unconnected to what has transpired throughout the Covid-19 crisis but we need to go back a little to understand why this briefing room debacle raises so many questions.

Back in 2016 ex-MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, released a document stating (among other things) that Donald Trump was subject to Russian control after Moscow had managed to acquire compromising material (kompromat) on the then-to-be president of the United States. The kompromat – the infamous prostitute sex tape recorded in Moscow’s Hilton Hotel. When the information that Trump could be a Russian puppet was handed further up the chain toward Theresa May’s office, a blanket was thrown over the investigation and interest dwindled. But this wasn’t the first time that Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s government have ignored crucial information regarding Russia.

The Russia Report has long been an article of particular importance to the U.K media, and for good reason. The report claims that Russian money has flooded into London and upholds (and has fractured) the London property market. Property investment a tool of choice for money launderers and Bill Browder (known as Putin’s number one enemy and proponent against corruption) even goes so far as to say that London is “floating on a sea of Russian money.” The Russia Report thus raises the question as to whether or not Russian Roubles have made their way into the U.K’s political system. The report has been constantly sidestepped by Prime Minister Johnson and, before him, Theresa May.

Although heavily redacted in order to (one would guess) protect people within the government “the report notes that links between the Russian elite and the U.K allow access to business and politics that can be used for influence. “To a certain extent, this cannot be untangled and the priority now must be to mitigate the risk and ensure that, where hostile activity is uncovered, the tools exist to tackle it at source,””. So, do we have a party in power who might very well be at the beck and call of Russian financiers and Russian interests?

Well, it might seem like a tenuous connection between the Russia Report and the hiring of Megahertz to design and build No.10’s new media briefing room, but the more you peel back the layers, the stronger the case becomes. After all, it is not simply a link between Russia, it is the way that the government now responds when faced with issues.

Over the last couple of days the U.K has been the subject of a new law which prohibits that thing we claim to love so much: free speech. Cancel culture is used by the right and left to claim that the other side is silencing their right to free speech. The truth is that both parties are involved in cancel culture but what we perhaps did not expect was that Home Secretary, Priti Patel, would push through a new law which prohibits peaceful protests, marches and public demonstrations illegal if they cause “serious annoyance”. The law also means that the Home Secretary can decide on what protests are legal and which are illegal. This could technically mean that the Priti Patel could allow protesters to walk the streets if they are marching for a Conservative party initiative, but block those who are standing against the government.

Barrister and author Chris Daw told the Big Issue:

“The bill hands over the power of deciding whether a protest is justified or should be allowed — decisions we as citizens have had for generations — directly to the Home Secretary. That’s an extremely chilling development. It’s completely contradictory to everything the liberty of the free citizen is about in Britain.”

“A politician could use that power to prevent protests in favour of causes they disagree with. This law gives power to whatever government is in charge to decide what causes can take to the streets.”

So what the hell are we looking at here? Why is it that a Conservative government, under a man who calls himself a libertarian, should act so willingly against the people whilst hiding secrets about financial backing from Russian interests? And we should never forget that this is all being done in a liberal democracy where we supposedly champion the people’s voices.

All the evidence points to Conservative links with Russia (though it might spread to parties beyond the Conservatives – time is yet to tell) but the truth is that we may never really know what is going on with money sieved through the London property market. What we do know, however, is that the British government have showed themselves capable of acting like Vladimir Putin’s own thuggish kleptocracy and we are happy to have RT’s own design company into an area where sensitive information is shared. Using a Russian company does not mean that the government is puppets to Putin’s regime, but why was the contract to design the room not put out to tender? Isn’t that something they do when their chums are involved? 

A new nuclear power struggle

On 8th August, the inhabitants of Moscow were surprised when their televisions flicked from their standard programmes to a blue screen with a single star. It was a weather warning telling the people to find shelter. It then disappeared leaving people wondering just what had happened. At the same time in Severodvinsk, a small town in the North-West not far from the Finnish border was exposed to gamma radiation 3x higher than is permissible for human health after an explosion at the nearby Nyonoksa top-secret testing facility.

The explosion at Nyonoksa facility killed several including nuclear scientists. Russian weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded levels of radiation 16x higher than normal levels within the vicinity of Nyonoksa. In true Cold War style, residents were quick to stockpile iodine, known to stop the Thyroid from absorbing radiation. The explosion killed several including nuclear scientists working on the project.

After more correspondence it was finally let on that the explosion was down to the failure of an “isotope” power source. Russia was testing the infamous Storm Petrel missile at the Nyonoksa site. The Storm Petrel missile – called Skyfall by NATO – was unveiled by Russian president Vladimir Putin at the State of the Union address in 2018 and boasts a propulsion system powered by a miniature nuclear reactor which gives a potential flight time that could be measured in days, weeks or even months.

Having extended range plus cruise-missile capabilities – meaning that it can change direction, move around objects and evade interception – would mean that the missile would be harder to detect and defend against.

Another new and chilling piece of kit that Russia are working on – Poseidon – is an autonomous drone submarine which is programmed to unleash nuclear warheads on key enemy locations on the US west coast should Russia “go dark.”

Due to a series of agreements, Russia and America have not tested nuclear devices for twenty years. However, Russia have breached the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Donald Trump responded by removing America from the pact. The New Start agreement which ensures Russia and the US have a limit on how many intercontinental nuclear missiles they can produce, runs out in 2021 and may not be renewed, thus giving America and Russia free reign to progress their arsenals and potentially make another power grab.

The US has been stepping up spending in nuclear warfare infrastructure with former President Barack Obama developing a $1.2tn plan to “maintain US air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.” Donald Trump has gone much further putting an additional $500bn including $17bn for the production of a “low-yield” tactical nuclear weapon, essentially a mini-nuke that can be used on the battlefront.

It is rumoured that some factions within the Pentagon and within the defence contractor sector believe that Russia’s move away from agreements is a step in the right direction.

America’s nuclear defence capabilities are ageing and therefore, like many wars before, this will drive innovation and strengthen America’s standing.

Tensions are rising not only between the US and Russia (who between them hold little over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal) but with China, Iran and North Korea all flexing their muscles, we could be looking at the age of a new Cold War with new frontiers.

The point by point scaling up of nuclear armaments is not the only evidence of a new Cold War. Russia and China flexed their muscles during the Brexit and Presidential election campaigns with industrial scale levels of spreading disinformation. Seeing their success during these campaigns, Vladimir Putin is pushing further. At what cost?

Suspicious…

I was left somewhat confused when Sir Kim Darroch stepped down as British Ambassador to the United States. Leaked documents had shown that Darroch had called the President of the United States, Donald Trump, “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional”. After much pressure from Donald Trump, who retaliated by calling Darroch “the wacky ambassador” and a “very stupid guy,” before claiming that “we will no longer deal with him,” Darroch handed in his resignation letter.

Before Donald Trump’s visit to the U.K earlier this year (in fact whilst in the air on his way to Stansted Airport) Donald Trump took to Twitter to openly accost Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling him a “stone cold loser.” This is alongside comments made regarding Theresa May regarding the Brexit strategy in which he all but trounces her for not listening to his advice on how to proceed regarding withdrawing from the European Union.

So why is it that a diplomat speaking in confidence is bullied to step down when a president can openly proffer trash-talk and see absolutely no retaliation?

Writing for the ‘i’ (09/07/2019), Kim Sengupta raises a very important issue regarding the backlash faced by ambassadors whose primary role is to comment honestly and freely regarding issues within the respective countries in which they are placed:
“The real risk of the UK being ill-served will come from an ambassador who fails to send a transparent, candid account of what is happening in Washington because of ideological reasons, such as adherence, for example, to the jihad of hardline, doctrinaire Brexit.”

Ambassadors are required to give honest accounts of their host countries. Are we prepared to believe that ambassadors within the UK are not reporting back to the superiors commenting on the shambles of Brexit or the ineptitude of the current government?

Perhaps the most controversial part of this story is that of the leak itself. It has been reported that two years-worth of emails had been stolen, stored and eventually leaked meaning that the information gathering had been taking place since roughly the time that Donald Trump became president. This is not an act of whistle-blowing (since it has already been ascertained that Kim Darroch was simply doing his duty) but is instead an act of political sabotage.

This became much more plausible when Brexiters called for a more Brexit-minded individual to take up the ambassador role. Nigel Farage used his LBC segment to call out Kim Darroch and push for someone else to take up the position. This is all the more severe when assessed alongside the recent finding that the leak of Kim Darroch’s emails were from Isabel Oakeshott, Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice’s partner.

Could we in fact be witnessing a political coup?

Conspiracy Theory Vs Conspiracy Realism

It is almost universally accepted that the public were fed a lie regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It would be hard going to find someone who didn’t believe that there is some kind of cover-up or some greater conspiracy at play.

Was it the appearance and disappearance of the Babushka Lady? Or perhaps it was the astronomical coincidence that the most notorious assassination in a generation was also the scene of the “magic bullet” which bounced around the car and struck Kennedy multiple times? And all this was pulled off by Lee Harvey Oswald, a man described as a mediocre marksman yet who was able to pull off two very accurate shots in quick succession on a moving target.

And we are more convinced of a cover up now than immediately after the shootings because we have the gift of hindsight.

With quick access to information (and disinformation) at our fingertips, the world has become a rife breeding ground for conspiracy theories and we are constantly faced with having to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Slender Man has a tailor on Saville Row.

Russia helped Donald Trump get into the Oval Office.

The world is run by reptilian overlords wearing flesh suits.

China are manipulating the weather.

Up to half of all global wealth is kept in offshore bank accounts and trusts.

Pyramids were built by aliens.

North Korea are experimenting with chemicals that will turn the world’s insects into a swarm of blood-thirsty killers hell bent on taking down the capitalist west.

We can separate the absolutely nonsensical claims from those that hold water. But what about those strange intermediary claims that could sit on the fence between theory and realism?

Well, China are manipulating the weather, but so are governments across the world. It is called cloud-seeding and it has been used to brilliant effect to get more rainfall over arid lands. There is also HAARP. Is HAARP a weapon that can be aimed anywhere the American government wishes? Unlikely. But does the HAARP having weather changing and atmosphere disturbing qualities? Yep. After all its sole focus is to heat up portions of the atmosphere. That is bound to have some kind of knock-on effect.

Above: HAARP – High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme

The difference between conspiracy theory and conspiracy realism is the application of Ockham Razor thinking followed by a small amount of research. And a touch of cynicism.

Do we really think that Area 51 is reverse-engineering alien flight technology and dissecting bodies, or is Area 51 a military base whose purpose is to create and test state-of-the-art, top-secret war machines?

This photo from the 1950’s shows investigators looking at remains of a so-called alien spacecraft.

Man inspecting what was believed to be a broken-up spacecraft

Whilst people may have believed this story in the 1950’s when there was a lot more trust in governments and figures of authority, nowadays we can look at that photo we can see that the material they are inspecting is the kind of foil used for weather balloons/stations.

The problem that many of us face nowadays is that disinformation can be spread so quickly that the proliferation of conspiracy theories can far exceed those claims that have been scrutinised.

We know that Trump colluded with Russia. If the Mueller Report shows no direct link between Russian involvement and the presidential campaign of 2016, we still know that Trump has laundered money for Russian parties before he took the White House. The difference between conspiracy theory and conspiracy realism is that the answer is often in the middle ground.

Using the above example of Area 51, are we looking at a top-secret facility? Yes. Is it likely that they are experimenting on alien craft? No. Is it more likely that they are working on terrestrial projects like high-tech unmanned surveillance drones? Yes. Then why is it so secretive? Why don’t they open up the facility to show that they have nothing to hide? Because that would mean that America runs the risk of losing the strategic edge in future wars.

Cynicism is also a great weapon when judging claims. If you question what EVERYONE says, chances are you will come to a sound conclusion somewhere in the middle.

Alex Jones of InfoWars, a name as strange as can be for an organisation purportedly providing news, claimed that the government is “turning frogs gay”.

Alex Jones – Info Wars

Alex Jones saw this as a move by governments to try and turn the populace gay which would in turn mean that there would be a drop in the population. Alex has also made claims that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama “smell like sulphur” in a bid to show that they were satanic.

But because a person’s claims border on the bizarre-fanatic spectrum, does that really mean we should discount everything that that person says? Not necessarily. Breaking apart the claim that government is turning frogs gay, you should first ask yourself whether that claim is even possible. Before asking yourself whether it is probable.

Alex Jones had actually come to the conclusion that the government was “turning frogs gay” after it was found out that there have been negative side effects of agricultural practises where runoff has turned out to be toxic and, as a result, messes with hormonal patterns in certain species. The fact that the government is purposefully doing this in a bid to lower birth rates is absolutely unprovable and therefore would demand an investigation of its own whereas we are certain that North Korea is chemically altering and instilling anti-capitalist sentiment into insects… right?

So, are there aliens out there? Of course. It is a statistical probability that life must exist elsewhere in the universe as we can observe it today, let alone in the possibly infinite expanse of the universe beyond what we can observe. Have the Americans reverse engineered alien machines? Well, if they had succeeded in doing so the chances are we still wouldn’t be so backward that we have to use fossil fuels, hydrogen or solar power to keep the machines in the sky.
I actually love conspiracy theories. I’m not just saying that. I really do. I love the possibility that there is so much more out there than what is written in journals or what has been documented throughout history. But sometimes the truth is much more interesting and magical than any fiction we create.

Think of the pyramids of the Egyptian and Mayan civilisations. Even today scientists and engineers have opposing ideas about just how it the peoples of these times managed to build such impressive structures and to such a great degree of detail. Much like the religious will often fill any blanks in the knowledge with ‘God’, there are certain sects who are quick to jump to the conclusion that aliens had come down to earth and showed humans how to undertake such feats of construction.

It is a lack of faith in humanity that leads to such answers. It makes more sense that an ancient tribe would first wonder from whence they came and, not seeing any real-time answer to the question, would turn their eyes to the stars. If there was (and still is) some magic to be marvelled at, it was those twinkling lights in the sky. If something was indeed watching them, it would be somewhere “up there”. Which would explain why Egyptian and Mayan constructions would follow the stars and why the Nazca people created such large and beautiful pictures – the Nazca Lines – aimed at pleasing the people in the sky.

Nazca Lines

You might think that this all points toward alien intervention. But why would a distant traveller in possession of vast knowledge and technological prowess request that the people sacrifice certain members of their tribes to worship them?

History is dotted with geniuses. Da Vinci, Gallileo, Einstein. Why could people of such genius not have belonged to these civilisations and created something incredible? Why can we not just understand that these civilisations were capable of amazing things like advanced construction? And of course some not so amazing things like human sacrifice?

The main argument though is that you should never discount fantastical claims just because they sound too “out there”. Every idea that is against the general norms is considered a conspiracy theory until it is proved to be fact. After all, the world was once considered to be the centre of the universe (and flat) and saying otherwise was not only considered ridiculous but was in fact heresy.

Should we consider conspiracy theories as true? Absolutely. But only until they start overstepping what is possible, and what is probable.