Against the Great Reset: 'China, Covid-19, Realpolitik, and the Great Reset'

Continuing today, and for the next 15 weeks, The Pipeline will present excerpts from each of the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, to be published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now for pre-order at the links. 

 

PART I: THE PROBLEM

Excerpt from "China, COVID-19, Realpolitik, and the Great Reset," By Douglas Murray

It is a good rule of thumb that one should become skeptical—and perhaps also concerned—whenever everyone in a position of authority starts to say the same thing. Particularly when they also all do so at the same time.

Such a moment arrived in 2020 when nearly every Western statesman, and a few others who might aspire to that role, began to use the phrase “Build Back Better.” Boris Johnson claimed that he might have used it first. Joe Biden seemed to believe that he had. But they were hardly the only people to use it from the early days of the Covid-19 crisis onwards. Almost overnight, it seemed as though absolutely everyone was using the same words. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it down in New Zealand. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used it in Canada. Bill Clinton used it as he was campaigning for Joe Biden. And the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, used it as he was campaigning for himself. Even minor royals could be heard parroting the same alliterative pleasantry. According to Prince Harry, speaking from his self-imposed exile in California, the Covid pandemic “undoubtedly” presents “an opportunity for us to work together and build back better.”

The prince is no stranger to political cliché, as he showed there, managing to pack in two of them into just half a sentence. Yet nor did people far more self-aware than him at any stage seem to realize that the phrase sounded strange in the first place, never mind that they should all also be using it at the same time. A year and a half after the phrase was first being used, President Joe Biden was still struggling to get his Build Back Better bill through the U.S. Senate. The phrase became so ubiquitous that almost no one in a position of power stopped to ask the question that ought surely to have loomed.

Why should a global pandemic be seen as simply an opportunity? In the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus leaking out from Wuhan, China, millions of people around the world died from the effects of contracting that virus. The global economy contracted at an unprecedented rate. Government borrowing soared to rates unknown outside of wartime in order to furlough millions of people who would otherwise have been destitute. Entire economies—including a U.S. economy that was roaring in an election year—were suddenly forced to a halt. None of this looked like a source of optimism. Ordinarily, the mass laying off of the workforce, the racking up of unprecedented peacetime debt, and the ordered shuttering away of the citizenry in their houses would be a source of concern and fury before it was a cause for optimism and opportunity.

But with only a couple of notable exceptions, during the Covid era, Western politicians skipped the rage stage. Indeed, they even skipped over the blame stage. Just as the WHO and other compromised international bodies failed to get to the roots of the source of the virus, so most Western politicians spent zero time or political capital on the question of why the virus had been unleashed on the world in the first place. Instead, they jumped straight to the question of just how much could be achieved by the unprecedented opportunity that the virus had allegedly gifted us.

Within a little over a year, politicians themselves seemed to be laughing at the phrase, even as they could not stop using it. In October 2021, Boris Johnson’s office seemed to imagine that the British public had become so thrilled by the “build back better” tagline that it was time for some riffs on the theme. At this stage, somewhere between lockdowns umpteen and nineteen, Johnson released a number of videos on his social media pages in which the slogan build back better was posted on the screen. Johnson seemed to imagine that the British public was in a playful mood around the theme. The videos included one of him spreading butter on some pieces of toast and looking at the camera and saying “build back butter.” In a second video, with the build back better motif over it, the Prime Minister could be seen unrolling a packet of fish and chips. “Mmm” he says appreciatively, before looking at the camera and saying “Build back batter.” Terms like “pathetic” and “inadequate” would fail to do justice to such political moments.

The obvious comparison to make at this stage is with great plagues in history. And though most were of a degree of seriousness that far outweighs the effects of Covid, it is a sobering consideration. Who, for instance, viewed the so-called “Spanish flu” of a century ago as an opportunity? Who would have dared in the early months or years after that pandemic ravaged the planet to see it as an opportunity to rebuild the global economy in a different way?

There are two things that are most visibly disturbing about the political reaction to all of this. The first is the desire to leapfrog over the most obvious stage in the post-pandemic era. Which should have been a clinical, careful and failsafe analysis of how this novel coronavirus managed to come out of Wuhan. The second disturbing thing is that the leap should have immediately moved on to a restructuring of the global economy and of free societies that seemed already to be sitting there, ready-made.

The extent to which that first stage was leaped over has many reasons. But one of these undoubtedly had much to do with the incumbent in the White House when the “China virus” first came into the world. President Trump was in an election year and was understandably intent on not shuttering the U.S. economy ahead of an election. He was also keen to attribute blame toward the place where he saw the virus originating. Whether the cause of the leak was a Wuhan wet market (as was early on deemed the only permissible explanation) or the Wuhan Institute of Virology (as soon seemed likelier), Trump was keen that China got the blame for releasing the virus into the world. And there was much to be said for this. Even if the leak had been an accident, it was one that the Chinese authorities did nothing to contain, allowing flights out of the region even as the first knowledge of the virus made the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) shutter flights and regions within Chinese borders.

But keen observers will have noticed that Trump was a divisive president and that what he said was the case was strenuously pushed back against by his critics when it was true as well as when it was not. Early in 2020, as Trump continued to talk about the source of the virus, his political opponents decided to claim that identifying China as the source of the virus would lead to an upsurge in anti-Chinese racism. And so Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for instance, not only deplored the president’s language but also implored Americans to demonstrate their contempt for the president’s “racism” in a practical way. Speaker Pelosi implored people to visit their local Chinatown and show solidarity with Chinese people. In Florence, Italy, the mayor went one better in the global game of grandstanding against Trump. On February 1, 2020, Dario Nardella urged Florentines to “hug a Chinese” person to combat racism. It is not known how many Italians contracted the virus through this demonstration of Sino-fraternalism.

The point is that from the earliest stage of the virus, the opportunity to point fingers appeared to have been queered by the fact that one of the only people in the world pointing fingers was a person who most of the political class around the world were ostentatiously opposed to. Even to speak of lab leaks or Chinese culpability in those days was to sound Trump-like, a fact that played very well indeed into the public relations campaign orchestrated by the CCP.

The effectiveness of that PR campaign was visible from the very start of the virus, and showed the extent to which a swathe of the scientific, media, and political establishments in the West were already literally or figuratively in the pocket of the CCP...

Next week: an excerpt from "Sovereignty and the Nation-State" by Roger Kimball. 

In Ukraine, Cold War II Meets the 'Great Reset'

Luckily for humanity, the outbreak of the Second Cold War has hampered the Great Reset project by fragmenting the international order on whose concerted coordination it is premised. The international order is split anew. For the first time since the end of Cold War I, Russian oligarchs were not welcome at the annual World Economic Forum gathering. "Russia’s absence at Davos," write Fidler and Simmons at the Wall Street Journal, "marks the unraveling of Globalization... The Davos meeting ... came to symbolize the era of globalization... Now, many participants are convinced that the era is over, its demise accelerated by the war in Ukraine."

Even before Putin's armies actually crossed the Ukrainian frontier, it was clear that an important part of the global world order had broken down. At a speech before the Munich Security Conference on Feb 19, 2022, three days before the invasion, British prime minister Boris Johnson said "we have to steel ourselves for the possibility of a protracted crisis, with Russia maintaining the pressure and searching for weaknesses over an extended period, and we must together refuse to be worn down. What Europe needs is strategic endurance, and we should focus our energies on preserving our unity and on deepening trans-Atlantic cooperation... After a generation of freedom, we’re now staring at a generation of bloodshed and misery."

Four months later, during a visit to embattled Kyiv, Johnson confirmed his prediction based on battlefield events. "I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war, as Putin resorts to a campaign of attrition, trying to grind down Ukraine by sheer brutality... the U.K. and our friends must respond by ensuring that Ukraine has the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail. Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its capacity to attack... Our task is to enlist time on Ukraine's side."

Time running out for Plucky Little Ukraine?

Historians in the future may well regard Boris Johnson's "strategic endurance" speech as the equivalent of Churchill's Iron Curtain warning, when the unity of the anti-Nazi coalition collapsed into the first Cold War. "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent," the old lion warned less than a year after Nazi Germany surrendered. It took a little longer after the fall of the USSR to happen, but Russia and China are also building a separate world.

Foreign Affairs puts the date the split formally began as Feb 4, 2022: "There they were, meeting in Beijing on February 4: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Shortly before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the two leaders released a remarkable 5,300-word joint statement about how the partnership between China and Russia would have no limits: "the existing world order, which aspired to build a global commonwealth, had already been failing." Twenty days later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Yet neither the Davoisie nor the Biden administration saw it coming. Instead of recognizing the pandemic that China covered up as the death knell of the global world, they saw it as a chance for its fulfillment. Up until the outbreak of the war both Europe and America were obsessed with "climate change," so when Russian oil and Ukrainian wheat went off the world market Washington was caught completely off guard by the energy crisis and threat of famine that ensued. Biden, reports Politico, is racing against time to unlock Ukraine’s trapped grain. "The Biden administration is desperate to find ways to move as much grain as possible out of the war-torn country. They estimate the blockade is holding back more than 20 million tons of grain from the world food supply, driving food prices and world hunger to near-crisis levels." The current world clearly has higher priorities than the diversity, inclusion and environmentalism envisioned by the Great Resetters. It needs in the first instance, simply to eat.

Time for a volte-face?

There are no quick fixes. The fuel crisis has forced Biden to wrench his energy policy into reverse. But even those desperate reversals, says the New York Times, "which environmentalists and many Democrats oppose because they would retard efforts to combat climate change — would have little immediate impact because it takes months for new oil wells to start producing and pipelines can take years to build." Bill Maher ripped Biden for getting off fossil fuels without a replacement and with the president now begging Saudi Arabia for oil. "But the truth is that when people get off fossil fuels before they have a replacement, they wind up going back to even worse fossil fuels," Maher added, "Germany said, 'We don’t want nuclear power anymore,' which is the cleanest, and what did they have to go back to? Coal."

Coal is what China and India have never stopped doing in a big way. "If you think the world is moving beyond coal, think again. The post-Covid economic rebound and surging electricity demand have resulted in big increases in coal prices and coal demand. Since January, the Newcastle benchmark price for coal has doubled. And over the past few weeks, China and India have announced plans to increase their domestic coal production by a combined total of 700 million tons per year. For perspective, U.S. coal production this year will total about 600 million tons." Edward Grey's famous remark from August 3, 1914 comes to mind. "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

But today Grey might add that the oil would keep the lamps burning in China. Few realized that at best renewables would take decades to implement; that it would take trillions to revamp the grid and other infrastructure before wind and solar could be depended on to any major extent. Biden and the Western Europeans failed to account for this, or assumed that the Woke West could surreptitiously make up the difference from Russian imports indefinitely -- and are now paying the price.

A British military think tank  argues that if the West is to have any hope winning the new long war against Russia and China -- acquire strategic endurance in Boris Johnson's words -- it must reindustrialize immediately. "The war in Ukraine has proven that the age of industrial warfare is still here. The massive consumption of equipment, vehicles and ammunition requires a large-scale industrial base for resupply – quantity still has a quality of its own."

This reality should be a concrete warning to Western countries, who have scaled down military industrial capacity and sacrificed scale and effectiveness for efficiency. This strategy relies on flawed assumptions about the future of war, and has been influenced by both the bureaucratic culture in Western governments and the legacy of low-intensity conflicts. Currently, the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war.

Even achieving stalemate in Ukraine would mean re-shoring industry and reducing dependence on China/Russia. That would mean the end of the global world, and for the moment at least, a halt to the dream of Davos and the Great Reset. While this would be a cruel disappointment to the Left there's no help for it. The West will need vast quantities of everything Woke doesn't make to win Cold War II: food, energy, freedom, healthy demographics and testosterone. It is possible to win Cold War II or be Woke, but not both. This is the fundamental choice Western politics must wrestle with in the coming years.

Boris in the Last Chance Saloon Again

Boris Johnson survived a vote of no confidence among Tory MPs by 211 to 148 votes earlier tonight and thus remains Leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. His share of the total vote amounts to fifty-nine per cent of the Tory Party in Parliament—a decisive victory in most circumstances—and the circumstances in this case are quite favorable to Boris. Under the party’s leadership rules, no further vote of no confidence can be lodged against him for another year.

On paper, therefore, Johnson is safe from a challenge until the middle of 2023, which will be eighteen months before Britain’s next general election has to be held. And the nearer the election, the more nervous MPs become about changing their party leader—or, worse, trying to change him and failing.

Yet immediately after the result was announced, most commentators and a good many anti-Johnson Tory rebels were declaring their belief that Johnson had simply not done well enough, would continue to face additional unrest, and was still at risk of being ousted as party leader well before a general election.

Of course, it was because the rebellion against Johnson had been plotted, nurtured, and pushed to last night’s no-confidence vote by more or less the same coalition of anti-Johnson Tories and media commentators that many Tory MPs had rallied to his support despite their serious misgivings about the apparently aimless drift of his administration.

The so-called “Partygate” mini-scandal had played out over months. Photographs showing Johnson and civil servants sharing a drink in Downing Street—apparently taken by someone inside—appeared on the front pages in a calculated succession of leaks about boozy government office parties during the Covid lockdown. Johnson was accused of breaking the rules he imposed on the whole country, and then of lying when he denied the accusations. An official report found that he had been present at only one party—a surprise birthday party for him that had interrupted a business meeting—but that partial exoneration only led to further charges of a “cover-up.”

This whole farrago of suspicion and accusation went on for all of 2022. With its relentless depiction of Johnson as a “serial liar,” it undoubtedly weakened him. At the same time it deeply angered Johnson loyalists who declared that the media must not be allowed to mount a “coup” against a democratically elected prime minister. It also caused bitter conflicts between Tory rebels and loyalists at Westminster. And it may even have won Johnson some support from Tory backbenchers otherwise disappointed by his record who felt that he didn’t deserve to fall before this campaign of personal destruction.

For the main threat to Johnson in last night’s vote is that the 148 dissidents who voted against him came from all wings of the Tory party, including some he thought he could rely on—Brexiteers, Tory traditionalists, free-market supporters, small business people, and the rest. They see a drift to statist and costly government programs, a failure to effectively oppose the take-over of important British institutions such as the British Museum and the National Trust by woke left-wing radicals, a taste for grandiose utopian enterprises such as Net-Zero which will impose huge energy costs on ordinary citizens until they have a fatal crash with reality, neither an ability nor an interest in controlling government spending, the breaking of explicit promises to control immigration, and the imposition of higher taxes in contravention of manifesto pledges.

It's a serious indictment. A former senior colleague, Lord (David) Frost, who had earlier resigned from Johnson’s cabinet because of the government’s “direction of travel,” tweeted in response to last night’s vote:

If the PM is to save his premiership and his government he should now take a different course - bring taxes down straightaway to tackle the cost of living crisis, take on public service reform, and establish an affordable and reliable energy policy for the long term.

Moreover, Johnson needs to embark on this conservative turn more or less immediately. His opponents are hoping that the Tories will lose two special by-elections coming up in a few weeks. Those elections are in safe Tory seats, and if the current opinion polls are correct, they will fall to the Opposition—and undoubtely set off a new round of demands for Boris’s departure by the media and internal Tory dissidents.

The smart money says he’ll go. So he will he probably stay. Here are a few random reasons why:

  1. Given the shellacking that Boris and the Tories have received this year, the opinion polls asking “which party will you support in the next election” aren’t that bad. The Tories are a mere four points behind Labour. Two-and-a-half years before an election need be called, that’s actually a favorable position—at least it is if he adopts policies that succeed.
  2. Boris is offering extraordinary international leadership in the Ukraine crisis. Not only does that justify Brexit because it shows what Britain freed from E.U. control can achieve independently, but also most Brits strongly support Ukraine and are proud of what Boris is doing. That will influence their opinion of him on domestic issues too.
  3. He’s still popular with the Tory faithful in the constituencies—unlike Theresa May in 2019, whose weak Brexit approach caused Tory associations to pass votes of no confidence in her and Tory voters to flee to Nigel Farage’s party in the European elections. And Boris's high standing with Tory activists is important to MPs because they're the people who will choose candidates next time.
  4. Margaret Thatcher resigned as Tory leader because her cabinet colleagues broke her will to fight when—in a long night of betrayals--one after another told her that she couldn’t win the next round of the leadership election. Boris’s will has not been broken or even much bruised by the opposition of colleagues. And it's hard to dispatch a prime minister who is absolutely determined to stay on.

The final reason is also the reason he won last night: Boris is a synonym for Brexit. He’s the reason why Brexit finally happened, and Brexit is the reason why the Remainers in the Tory party and in the wider political and media establishment hate Boris. They hope and believe that if they can get rid of Boris, they can reverse Brexit in time. And because the Leavers in the Tory party also believe that if Boris goes then Brexit may go as well, they therefore turned out to vote for him one last time.

One last time? Probably. Unless he delivers the other policies to make a post-Brexit Britain succeed too, he’ll bring down Brexit all by himself. In the end, everybody finally runs out of chances at the Last Chance Saloon.

There's No Green Way of War

When last heard from, I was pointing out that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, though undoubtedly a monstrous crime by every decent standard, had produced one worthwhile consequence. It had forced the political leaders of the Western world to be much more realistic about their policies on energy. The first expression of this realism was the strategic decision of several European countries, above all Germany, to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

There’s been more talk than action on this front since February 24, with commitments followed by qualifications, but European governments now seem on the verge of agreeing upon a collective plan to substantially cut their demand for cheap Russian energy. That will have a massive impact on the world’s energy markets with innumerable secondary effects that we can only dimly foresee but which we will shortly be experiencing.

Among them, however, is that this decision will complicate even further what is the invasion’s second major consequence for energy policy—namely, it has made the legally-binding commitment by Western governments to a Net-Zero policy of reducing carbon emissions by 2050 completely unrealistic so that it will have to be substantially re-thought.

Governments aren’t good at rethinking bad policies even when they’re minor policies, and Net-Zero isn’t a minor policy. Once President Biden entered office, every government in the West had committed itself to Net-Zero policies and Boris Johnson had held a vast international conference to make that commitment as dramatic and as unsayable as possible.

In happier times: David Attenborough and Boris Johnson.

You see the problem. If you nail yourself to a sinking ship, you must learn not only how to swim but also how to remove nails from planks. That’s too embarrassing for modern Western governments to admit publicly. They want to combine—and camouflage—these two exercises with lectures on the unchangeable necessity of nails remaining in planks. Accordingly, as the priorities for energy policy change in order to resist Putin’s Russia, all the secondary policies that Net-Zero requires are trundled out to establish the falsehood that energy priorities remain unchanged and unchangeable. The result is what’s known as “cognitive dissonance” or following contradictory policies simultaneously.

Here, for instance, is a recent report from the Guardian via Yahoo News that Northern Irish farmers have been instructed to cull their herds by more than 500,000 cattle and 700,000 sheep to reduce methane emissions (from cow and sheep farts) in order to meet “legally binding climate targets” required for Net-Zero. You may have missed this news. Understandably. But you are more likely to have come across two much bigger current news stories.

The first is that Britain is fighting a major diplomatic war with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol that imposes an internal United Kingdom customs barrier in the Irish Sea damaging to, among others, Northern Irish farmers. The second is that the British people are facing a massive “cost of living” crisis as the bills for Covid, lockdown costs, and Net-Zero regulations cascade onto the U.K. Treasury which promptly passes them onto the voters in the form of higher taxes and soaring energy bills. Both these crises will now be made worse for British people, and in particular for the farmers in Northern Ireland, by the need to abide by Net-Zero policies even though they’ve been made irrelevant by the post-Ukraine energy re-think.

The farmers will face serious loss of income, the government will be mired in a political crisis, and the hard-pressed U.K. consumer will have to pay higher prices for beef and lamb—when he or she can find them that is, since the (quietly stated) aim of the policy is to get people to eat less meat by providing less of it in supermarkets. In practice many people will reduce other purchases in order to continue eating the same amounts of meat at considerably higher prices. The cost of living crisis will be aggravated, tax revenues will fall, and market signals will be replaced by administrative commands--with the usual results. A policy of making people poorer turns out to be quite expensive—as the next news story shows in spades.

In happier times: beef on the hoof.

Britain has a National Infrastructure Commission—not many people know that—which is looking at ways to fund the change from heating homes with gas boilers to doing so with ground-based electric heat pumps. It will offer the government its advice next year, but the NIC chairman, former Whitehall mandarin Sir John Armitt, has kindly given us a preview of how its collective mind is working.

He told the Daily Telegraph that a ban on new gas boilers would have to be imposed in order to force consumers to buy heat pumps instead. In his own mellifluous words:

 Why would you move to a heat pump at somewhere between £5-£15,000 as long as you can buy or exchange for a new gas boiler for £1,500? The only way that you can make such a significant shift is by saying, well, ‘from a particular date, you will not be able to buy a new gas boiler’.

Good question—and one that the political class answered some time ago in Whitehall but that the voters are really being asked for the first time. Not unfittingly therefore Sir John replied to himself as follows:.

As long as we hold 2050 net zero targets, close to our hearts, there is going to be a tension. Because to get to that point, it’s going to require very big long-term decisions which will cost money. And then at the same time, no politician wants voters on its back because the price of energy is going up. So yes, there is a tension, which requires a very honest debate and discussion. [My italics]

The most honest response to that is that the only people in Britain who seriously hold Net-Zero targets close to their hearts are senior civil servants and the kind of radical environmentalist protesters who glue themselves to the road and obstruct traffic in preference to rational argument. Government ministers used to be in that category, but the Russo-Ukraine war is forcing them to confront the facts of life and death and of politics too.

In energy policy the facts are that the West can’t afford to sustain Ukraine in its resistance to Russia by relying either on Russian supplies of oil and gas or on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun. Both are inherently unreliable. Inevitably, therefore, we will be later in switching to renewables, using fossil fuels for longer than we had planned, and looking for new sources of fossil fuels and employing new methods such as fracking to do so.

In short we will gradually abandon—or in the softer language of bureaucracy—extend the Net-Zero targets to a later date. That being so, why do we prevent people eating what they wish and force them to spend large sums on expensive heat pumps that—final piece of honesty—don’t actually warm their homes as well as the heaters they already have. It shouldn't cost so much money simply to save a government's face.

Coming to Our Senses, Slowly

In my article last Friday I defined the most important issue of the day as follows: “how energy policy can be intelligently designed to enable us to provide cheap and reliable energy to the populations of Western countries while reducing our reliance on oil and gas from Russia in the aftermath of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

My guess that this claim is also the opinion of a comfortable majority in most Western countries. Others might argue that securing an early and just peace in (and for) Ukraine is more important. Greta Thunberg would probably counter-claim that reaching Net-Zero by yesterday should be our lodestar. But the shock to the system delivered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has converted people to the necessity of getting energy policy right for strategic and economic reasons as much as for environmental ones.

Confirmation of this was not long in coming. Almost simultaneously with The Pipeline’s publication, the Epoch Times  reporting from Capitol Hill on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, quoted its chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as saying that “the recent action taken by Democratic commissioners [on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] served to elevate environmental considerations above American energy reliability, security, and independence.”

Manchin in the middle.

Manchin remarks were noteworthy on several grounds. He was attacking his own party’s appointees on the regulatory commission. He was challenging what has been until now the Green orthodoxy that grips both the Democrats and elite opinion generally. And since he is both the “swing vote” in a narrowly divided U.S. Senate and chairman of the committee wielding “oversight” authority of energy regulation, he has more practical power to change how that regulatory power is exercised than any other government official except the President of the United States—and perhaps more than him as well. To remove any doubt about the impact of the Russo-Ukraine war on his reasoning, Manchin went on:

To deny or put up barriers to natural gas projects and the benefits they provide, while Putin is actively and effectively using energy as an economic and political weapon against our allies, is just beyond the pale.

He wasn’t alone either. Another committee member, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), said that FERC’s new policies would “make it next to impossible to build any new natural gas infrastructure or upgrade our existing facilities in the United States.” In fact, as sometimes happens when a lone voice challenges a sacred orthodoxy, the floodgates holding back skepticism open and a torrent of disbelief pours through them. Over the next few days, the following voices joined Manchin’s to swell a chorus of legislators and public notables singing such old favorites as “I got the Net-Zero Blues” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Elon Musk tweeted out:

Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil and gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.

And you can’t say that Musk, the poet of the electric car, is a mere tool of the fossil fuel lobby. In fact, he’s an example of what’s called the Cantuar Gambit: “If the Archbishop of Canterbury says that he believes in God, well he’s simply doing his job. But if he says he doesn’t believe in God, he must be onto something really big.” Elon’s clearly onto something big.

Man of the hour, person of the year.

Dissent spread quickly to Canada where the only announced contender for the vacant post of Tory Party leader, Pierre Poilievre, gave a truly Canadian patriotic response: “Elon, it should be Canadian oil and gas—the most ethical and environmentally sound in the world.”

In London a war broke out within the pin-striped establishment. Lord (David) Frost—the Cabinet Minister who helped Boris to push through Brexit and then resigned over the leftwards drift of government policy—sent out this cheeky tweet: “The former head of the Foreign Office tweeted this week that the crisis “will severely weaken international capacity and will to take urgent steps needed to address climate change”. Let’s hope he’s right. For now, we need to focus on energy security and cost.

In Whitehall’s corridors of power, them’s fighting words.

Next door in Parliament—which voted for the Climate Change Act in 2008 by 646 to five votes, thus making Net-Zero targets binding on the government as well as the citizenry—forty Tory MPs have now formed a Net-Zero watch group, and many more are arguing for various changes in energy policy such as an end to the ban on fracking and a switch to more nuclear power stations. Boris is due to announce a new U.K. energy strategy later this week, but the inside dope is that it has been neutered by civil servants who see themselves as Guardians of the Green Galaxy.

Outside Parliament, the formidable Nigel Farage, tanned, rested, and relaxed six years after his Brexit triumph, is returning to electoral politics according to a recent tweet: “I am launching a new campaign to kill off Boris Johnson’s ruinous green agenda. We demand a referendum on Net Zero.” The Farage tweet ends somewhat ingloriously with the injunction: “Read all about it in the Mail on Sunday.” All the same, it’s a great deal more than a newspaper ad.

Comeback of the decade?

Vladimir Putin has burst the dam that held back the fears of people everywhere across Europe and the West that the costs of climate change policy were rising out of sight even before the invasion of Ukraine added new costs to rebuild Europe’s and NATO’s defenses.

Minds are now changing in the most surprising of places. Both the German and Belgian governments are having second thoughts about their abandonment of nuclear power. European energy independence—regarded as a strategic irrelevance since 1989, is now back on the agenda. Even coal is likely to survive much longer, thanks in part to Merkel’s closing down of nuclear energy, which forced the Germans to make up shortfalls by using the least green fossil fuel—but one that is found in abundance in their native land.

All that stands in their way is the Green Blob of bureaucracy with its devious tactics of ignoring what their political masters want and distorting what the law plainly says (until they interpret it.) A Tory MP in the U.K. complains that civil servants refuse to obey ministers if they propose policies that run counter to the “legally binding” Climate Change Act. Joe Manchin’s ally in the FERC case, commissioner James Danley, points out that the purpose of the National Gas Act “as the Supreme Court has held, is to ‘encourage the orderly development of plentiful supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices," whereas the new FERC regulations do exactly the opposite. And since the principals are increasingly alert to their agents’ tricks, this battle will be fought out in government after government on both sides of the Pond.

Read all about it here.

When Western Governments Help Putin

How does government work? If that’s the old joke rather than a serious question, the punch line goes: “Well, it doesn’t really.” If it’s a serious question, however, the reasons are that there are two governments and that one gets in the way of our seeing the other clearly.

Back in the 19th century, Walter Bagehot, a journalist on the Economist, realized this when he distinguished between two functions of the English government of his day: the “dignified” (the Monarchy, the Courts, etc.) and the “efficient” (the civil service, MPs in Parliament, etc.) The efficient side made and enforced laws and regulations, and the dignified side ensured that the people were overawed by how impressively they were governed. That essential division remains true except that whereas once MPs and Congressmen, presidents and prime ministers, were government workers on the “efficient” side of the table, today they have half-migrated to the “dignified” side of things.

They debate national issues and pass impressive laws on grounds of high principle, which we follow and which sometimes thrill us, but the laws they pass are full of gaps and aspirational hopes where concrete instructions and practical rules should really be. Written in invisible ink are the words: “fill in this passage, director” or “think of something suitable here, judge.”

World's greatest deliberative body in action.

To see how it works and why it’s a bad system, neither dignified nor efficient, consider what is now the most important issue of the day—how energy policy can be intelligently designed to enable us to provide cheap and reliable energy to the populations of Western countries while reducing our reliance on oil and gas from Russia in the aftermath of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

That’s a very big deal.

But look at how the “dignified” side of government has handled this challenge. Former Democrat presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, now President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, expressed his serious concern about the crisis, the people of Ukraine, democracy, the principles of international law at stake, and so on. He then went on:

But it [the war in Ukraine] could have a profound negative impact on the climate obviously. You have a war and obviously you’re going to have massive emissions consequences to the war. But equally importantly, you're going to lose people's focus, you're going to lose certainly big country attention because they will be diverted and I think it could have a damaging impact.

He ended by hoping that President Putin would “help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate."

It’s not hard to poke fun at this as if Senator Kerry had made a foolish gaffe—which is probably what most people think. In reality Kerry’s words perfectly express what the West’s political elites have believed until recently and may still believe—that the long-term and uncertain risks of a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees above that of the early industrial period are an urgent threat to the West and the world at least as dangerous (and maybe more so) than Putin’s brutal murder of Ukraine and his assault on peace and international law. We therefore need to continue working with him, however distasteful or strategically unwise that may be. That belief now goes very deep into our societies—particularly among the higher-educated, both intelligentsia and lumpenintelligentsia.

Did someone say lumpenintelligentsia?

That said, there are signs that Putin’s actions have provoked a greater realism among government leaders in the dignified ranks on both sides of the Atlantic. There will at least be serious debates about energy policy, the climate, Western defense, and the links between them in the next few months. If the announcement of massive hikes in defense spending and severe economic sanctions on Russia by German chancellor Olaf Scholz to the Bundestag—described by British prime minister Boris Johnson as a speech of "world-historical' importance—is any guide, realistic changes may be attempted in policy too.

But what effect will those debates or policy changes have on the “efficient” sector of government as it interprets and applies the broad general principles of Kerry’s climate and energy policies in practice? I have a feeling that he has little to fear from their interpretations. The threat of Vladimir Putin will pass smoothly over their heads.

Let me give two examples, one Canadian, one from the U.S.

Under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must announce a carbon emissions reduction program by the end of March this year. He is currently consulting a universe of “stakeholders,” including Canada’s provincial governments, indigenous peoples, a net-zero advisory group, environmentalist NGOs, etc., etc., on how to achieve various priorities and commitments. These include mandating that fifty percent of cars and pick-up trucks sold in Canada will be zero-emission by 2030 and 100 percent of them by 2035; and placing the same mandate on heavy-duty vehicles by 2040. These mandates will require serious expenditures by government, industry, and private citizens that will be beyond the means of some.

But what stands out to Canadians is the commitment to cap “emissions from the oil and gas sector at current levels and require that they decline at the pace and scale needed to get to net zero by 2050.”

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change demands action!

Canada is the fifth largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. Canada’s oil and gas industry employs 247,000 people and supports another 150,000 jobs. Its share of the country’s GDP is 6.4 percent. And all of these figures are probably rising because of the increase in the price of fossil fuels on the world market. Unless there is a dramatic scientific breakthrough that enables the industry to capture and store carbon from fossil fuels much more cheaply—and specific innovations cannot simply be conjured up by politicians—there is no way that this commitment can be met without huge and irreparable damage to the oil and gas industry and to Canadian living standards.

As for Canada’s contribution to the West’s need for cheap reliable energy in the darkness of the Russo-Ukraine war, Justin Trudeau risks doing for Putin in Canada what Angela Merkel did for Putin in Europe—namely, making his energy weapon against Ukraine and the West substantially more valuable and thus more threatening.

Now, the U.S. example: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. Last month FERC issued two new regulations that had the effect not of regulating energy transmission but of reducing it by increasing the obstacles to building natural gas infrastructure.

For instance, the FERC expanded its framework of what it takes into account when making infrastructure decisions in order to include broad and ill-defined subjects such as “environmental justice.” In addition to being the kind of cloudy idea that shouldn’t be in any legislation for any reason, such provisions are often inserted by activist congressional aides so that sympathetic agencies or judges can fill them with whatever the bureaucratic Blob wants but can’t get legislators to approve explicitly.

It also seems to be the case that the FERC went beyond its authority by including in a carbon-emission estimate for an infrastructure project those “indirect emissions” from industries upstream and downstream of it over which it has no regulatory authority. If so, not only was that illegitimate, but its would also greatly increase the risks and disincentives for companies and investors interested in the project by making it impossible to estimate costs, profits, or (more likely) losses.

Finally, the FERC announced that it will in future expand the number of those invited to comment on “market need” and future demand for gas to include third parties such as environmental and academic groups. These will undoubtedly include groups and “experts” who see no need or demand anywhere at any time for any fossil fuel, however clean, nor for nuclear, nor anything but “renewables”—and maybe not even them since Michael Moore among others has pointed out the heavy environmental costs of wind turbines when they grow old and rust.

All these devices are tactics in the political game of multiplying obstacles to the development of pipelines and other projects until potential investors and business in general depart in frustration and look for profit in a less hostile environment. It's a much more honest definition of "Greenmail" than the one aimed at corporate takeovers.

That at least was the opinion of one of FERC’s Commissioners, James Danley, who in dissent described the majority decision “contravene[ing] the purpose of the NGA which, as the Supreme Court has held, is to ‘encourage the orderly development of plentiful supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices.’”

Across the Pond, Russian state and industry helped to fund “Green” protest groups that used all these tactics to block the development of energy project in Western Europe which helps explain the continent's current dependence on gas supplies from President Putin.

In Canada and the U.S., we don’t leave helping Vladimir Putin to private enterprise. Government agencies do it for us.

Now They Tell Us

You've got to hand it to the institutional Left: they managed to string out "two weeks to flatten the curve" into two years of "safety" fascism, and to fan the flames of Covid hysteria long enough to win a national election and install a feeble, senile old party apparatchik in the White House. What did they think this was? The Soviet Union in 1984?

Now comes this admission of something we pretty much knew all along:

lab leak in Wuhan, China, is now considered the most likely origin of the Covid pandemic “behind closed doors” in the Government, it has been claimed, after Boris Johnson signalled that security measures would be enhanced to prevent accidental escape.

On Monday, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the UK biosecurity strategy would be refreshed to protect against “natural zoonosis and laboratory leaks”, in a public acknowledgement of the threat from insecure research facilities. There is mounting suspicion that Covid-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology which had been collecting and experimenting on dangerous bat coronaviruses in the years before the virus first emerged in the city.

From the jump, it was clear that the proximity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the yummy bat comestibles sold at a nearby "wet" (i.e. disgusting) market was a handy way to deflect Chinese governmental complicity in Covid-19 scare. Hey, don't blame it on our scientists, blame it on our charming and vibrant third world penchant for dining on pangolin gizzards and bat rectums! The fact that the entire Western world "elite" now leaps to China's defense in any and all circumstances—how about those amazing Peking Olympics, sports fans!—is simply an indication of how deep the dragon's financial claws are into our society now.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, an expert on chemical and biological counter-terrorism and former British Army officer, has submitted evidence for the strategy. He said: “I think the official view [within Government] is that it is as likely as anything else to have caused the pandemic. A lot of people like myself think it is more likely. I think attitudes have changed a little bit. The zoonotic transfer theory just didn’t make sense.

“There is a huge amount of concern about coming out publicly, but behind closed doors most people think it’s a lab leak. And they are coming round to the fact that even if they don’t agree with that, they must accept it’s likely, and they must make sure the policies are in place to stop it.”

Those policies ought to begin in China, but of course they won't. Anthony "gain of function" Fauci will see to that. Because while bat soup may not be his thing, he surely know which side his bread's buttered on.

 

 

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Partygating

Annabel has transformed her country house into a glittering wonderland for my birthday celebration, there are fairy lights and flowers as far as the eye can see. I would say she really shouldn’t have done, but with England finally emerging from Covid restrictions, we all need a celebration, and the prettier the better.

She’s calling the party ‘It’s just wine and cheese’ as a play on the very naughty lockdown-busting parties at No. 10 which exposed Boris and Carrie’s bacchanalia, now officially dubbed #partygate. And swiftly followed by a Labour MP calling Boris out for being ‘surrounded by alcohol, food, and people wearing tinsel’.

Normally I’d be on their side but Boris, (who daddy claims was never liked by anybody) is not doing himself any favours being joined by third wife Carrie, who it is rumoured ‘cuts dead anyone who isn’t useful to her’. My frustration with the newly-minted Mrs Johnson is the pall she casts on those of us who are truly committed to saving the planet.

Perfect spot for a wine and cheese party.

Apparently when she’s not furiously texting 25 missives per hour to her PM hubby, or seeing anyone who threatens her sacked, she finds time to be a senior advisor to Oceana, a charity dedicated to protecting the oceans. What she obviously doesn’t realise is that when one puts oneself forth as a beacon of righteousness, and a caretaker of the planet; there is a responsibility not to be smugly sanctimonious or hypocritical.

I texted my father to ask if he felt I was being too harsh and he rang me right back: ‘Maybe not too harsh but why do you green-niks seem to use wine and cheese as the excuse for everything? Prince Charles also tried to excuse his grossly inefficient car by claiming it too ran on excess wine and cheese’.

I had forgotten that… Ugh. But I continued, ‘I just mean, is it too much to think she shouldn’t put herself out as a climate activist if she’s going to make us look bad?’

‘I think she’s showing real team spirit—like most of your clients, circumnavigating the globe in private jets to talk about saving it. That is what you do isn’t it?

I was quiet.

‘Listen… ’ he continued, ‘Forgive the tinsel and frankly forgive the gold wallpaper—£840 a roll isn’t exactly Ceaușescu territory’.

'She bought gold wallpaper?’ I asked.

‘Well, eventually, yes. But first she tried to get taxpayers to pay for it, and then some scheme with a private donor before Boris finally shelled out the £14k. But give the girl credit—she did get us to pay for her gold iPad, which was £538. Her email explains it was for ‘a special advisor’.

Double ugh.

‘Now if you ask your mother,’ he continued…

OMG there’s more?

‘Mummy’s more put off by the fact that Miss Symonds made the Queen uncomfortable by sharing a room with Boris at Balmoral whilst still an unmarried couple. But in truth, only Carrie was unmarried, Boris was married—just not to her.’

‘So I’m not off base to say she makes us all look bad—yes?’

‘Well, OK, yes, but I think that little troll with the braids shouting “how dare you-how dare you” was really a low point’.

Daddy had a point. ‘So I take a stand against her?’ I asked.

‘An actual stand? Jennifer, you’re not really going to vilify the gal who made Boris do a volte-face on climate change are you? He’s one of you now… fully committed even though that same set of facts initially lead him to say that climate concern is “without foundation”.'

Umm… no. I was not going to take down the girl pouring green into the ear of our PM. Still, I felt this was bad for her to be using the planet as her platform to promote herself, and being a huge hypocrite. But save that for another day… it’s my birthday!

As always Annabel gets the best people to come, and such an interesting range. She introduced me as single-handedly saving our planet, and also rather surprisingly… spilled the beans about my biggest client following with ‘But mum’s the word on that.’ Gotta be the wine and cheese talking.

One person who remembered me from my equestrian days, said; ’So… environment, way cool. And you must be thrilled that your colleague is right there at No. 10'.

Life's a beach when you're PM.

WOT? Had she been reading my mind? I downed my glass of champagne and moved to chat with someone else—a gentleman who only met me today as the birthday girl and via Annabel’s introduction. He introduced himself as James and squired me to a slightly less crowded corner before leaning in as though telling me some state secret…

’Just a quick note about the current Mrs. Boris… look out', he said. I wanted to say too late for that…she’s invading my birthday! But I asked, exactly what for?

‘Just as a sort of birthday present… I’m telling you don’t join forces. They might well be sent packing after all'.

And with that, he began to tell me much more than Daddy had done. Apparently Mrs. PM had given her friends the secure passcode to enter No. 10 when popping over for tea or to play draughts, or as turned out to be the case… to snoop around in Boris’ office where in fact, some classified documents had gone missing. This was bigger than tinsel.

She is also known to be heard whispering in the background of Zoom calls, telling Boris what to do when she disagrees. And when it suits, physically taking his phone and sending directives out to anyone and everyone… often taking positions of which he is entirely unaware. Only to find himself insisting the next day in meetings that he has taken no such position. And even then to return home at day’s end, and be instructed to call back and completely reverse his position again.

What to do with all of this information? I am not sure… right now it’s my #partygate.

More Green Insanity in Great Britain

Despite the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, the British Oil & Gas Authority (the same government department that banned fracking in 2019) has ordered resource company Cuadrilla to "permanently seal the two shale gas wells drilled at the Lancashire shale exploration site, with the result that the 37.6 trillion cubic metres of gas located in the northern Bowland Shale gas formation will continue to sit unused."

British politics site Guido Fawkes points out that this self-sabotage is utterly insane since "just 10 percent of this volume could meet U.K. gas needs for 50 years [and] U.K. imports of Natural Gas are expected to skyrocket to over 80 percent by 2050." Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan had this to say:

Cuadrilla has spent hundreds of millions of pounds establishing the viability of the Bowland Shale as a high-quality gas deposit. Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK’s energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point. Once these wells are filled with cement and abandoned it will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake at the PNR site.

Safe shale gas offers us a chance to combat the cost-of living crisis, create 75,000 jobs and deliver on the ‘levelling up agenda’ in Red Wall areas, in addition to reducing our reliance on imported gas so that Britain becomes more energy secure. What’s more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder. Emissions from importing gas are far higher than those from home-produced shale gas. I don’t think that this has been properly thought through.

Of course it hasn't. The Johnson government is in a tailspin at the moment. This situation in Lancashire should afford Boris a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to a skeptical citizenry that he's up to the challenges of his office. He should counteract the Oil & Gas Authority—an office within his government after all—and get those wells pumping. This, along with a more generalized pro-energy pivot will help to combat soaring energy prices, stimulate the battered economy, and deliver jobs for those traditional Labour voters in Northern England who "lent" him their support in 2019, giving him his majority.

Johnson needs to realize that right now he's just renting those voters. If he lets these "permanent" closures go ahead, and continues down his current path, fecklessly ignoring the details of policy beyond spouting whatever environmentalist drivel his elitist peers—including his newest wife—are feeding him, and expecting his Wodehousian persona to keep him in the good graces of the public, he's going to lose, and badly. He'll deserve it.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Boris in the Wrong

When the great 19th-century Tory leader, Benjamin Disraeli, came to his friend (and fellow-novelist) Edward Bulwer-Lytton and asked for his political support in a forthcoming parliamentary debate, Lytton said: “Well, I will support you if you're right.”

“That’s no use to me,” responded Dizzy. “Anyone can support me when I’m right. What I want is people who will support me when I’m wrong.”

That’s the unenviable position in which the U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson finds himself today. He is seeking support from MPs in his own Tory party when he’s in the wrong. And not just mildly, mistakenly, accidentally, or partly in the wrong, but massively, seriously, undeniably, and stonkingly in the wrong.

"What have I done?"

How wrong this particular wrong is—well, that’s a matter of dispute. What Boris Johnson did was to impose a series of tough anti-Covid regulations on his fellow-citizens—staying at home, wearing masks, social distancing, not going to marriages, funerals, or the deathbeds of dying loved ones—while ignoring the same regulations himself when he attended parties in Number Ten Downing Street (his official home as well as an office) where “alcohol was served.”

On top of that, the truth had to be prised out of Boris’s possession by a series of damning tweets, Downing Street memos, Fleet Street scoops, and eventually an official report by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, who made strong criticisms of the behavior of Downing Street staff but whose report had to be heavily redacted until the police determine whether any of them, including Boris, will be charged with the criminal offense of drinking in company during a pandemic.

It’s clear from all this that Boris broke the rules he was imposing on everyone else. For most of the last few weeks, his denials of this made matters worse when they gradually disintegrated under the weight of evidence. His popularity—which two years ago was enormous when he won a landslide election, fell ill, and then emerged from hospital having almost died from Covid—collapsed in recent days to below sea level. He faced demands from all sides, including Tory M.P.s and ordinary party members, that he should resign in disgrace. Many of his critics as the week ended were still hopeful that Boris would feel the policeman’s hand on his collar when they checked the evidence and found an armory of smoking guns.

Even then Boris might leap free with a single bound. Until now we’ve been assured by Boris’s media and opposition critics that “the Prime Minister must be treated like anyone else who’s broken the law.” But it now transpires that those charged with illegal partying are not hanged, drawn, and quartered—as the Labour Party, the tabloids, and Remainer Tories seem to have been hoping—but merely informed of their offense by the cops, asked to pay a modest fine, and let go without being properly “named and shamed.”

'What would Disraeli do?

Naturally, the forces of political morality have switched lines and now declare that a prime minister should be treated as an exceptional case and arraigned in such cases. But Boris refuses to make that promise; there doesn’t seem to be a way of forcing a change of mind on him; and any leaking of his hypothetical criminality would probably be a worse criminal offense than having an illicit drink with a maskless man.

By the time that Boris stood up to make his parliamentary statement “accepting” the criticisms of the civil servant’s report this week, there was a growing sense that Boris might well get away with it. He then lived uncomfortably through the worst two hours of any politician’s life as he had to apologize and grovel in response to a torrent of attacks, insults, gibes, flouts, and sneers.

But he survived, however unheroically, and later the same day he glad-handed his way around the 1922 committee of Tory back-benchers where he received a friendly reception. Though his approval ratings are low, they’ve stopped sinking, and there are signs in the opinion polls that support for the Tory Party has not fallen as far as most pundits expected because “shy Tories,” embarrassed by the Boris scandals, are getting over them and returning to the fold. And though the Telegraph tells us that a steady stream of MPs are still calling for Boris to go, its own list of them stops at twelve (or did at the time of writing) and one of them has since removed his letter of no confidence.

Boris meanwhile jetted off to Ukraine where he met the president and encouraged the Ukrainians to stand firm against Russian threats. He was pursuing the usual tactic of a political leader under fire of “getting on with the people’s business.” The Downing Street machine also let it be known that he would be installing a whole raft of reforms to improve the government's delivery of prosperity. In particular he would light a “bonfire of regulations” to take advantage of the U.K.'s “Brexit freedoms” now that it’s no longer bound by E.U. rules. Normality was returning—that was the message on Wednesday.

The Ukraine is nice this time of year.

On Thursday four senior Downing Street aides resigned. On Friday another aide followed. They included Johnson's chief of staff, his director of communications, and his principal private secretary--all key members of his entourage. The papers carry stories suggesting that at least some of the resignations were examples of "going to avoid being pushed" following less than stellar performances in office. One official had supposedly spent two days watching cricket in the week Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.  Whether or not such stories turn out to be true, the leaking of them is a standard operation by the government press machine to protect the boss. For the moment, therefore, keep a grain of salt at hand.

But one resignation may have a wider significance than the others. Munira Mirza was the head of the Policy Unit in Downing Street with a government-wide brief to advise on policy and strategy. She was not a civil servant who came with Downing Street but a personal friend and long-time aide to Johnson who served with him in his two terms as mayor of London. Johnson called her a "powerful nonsense detector" and relied considerably on her judgment and intellectual support.

Why did she jump? It's hard to believe that her stated reason—Boris's parliamentary gibe that opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer had failed in his duty a decade ago to prosecute the serial child molester and BBC disc jockey, Jimmy Savile—as the sole or even the main reason, though she doubtless disapproved of it. She certainly had other possible motives for resignation. In particular, she had set up a committee of distinguished social scientists of different ethnic backgrounds and national origins to report on racial and ethnic disparities in the U.K. It produced a thorough and well-documented report essentially arguing that though racism still exists in Britain, the "claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.”

That was controversial and strongly attacked by Labour, the wider Left, and "the race relations industry." It was also well-argued, supported by other social scientists, perfectly defensible, and a necessary attempt to ensure that race, ethnicity, and migration can be honestly and fairly debated. But the government failed to give the report its full backing. It was allowed to die. That must have pained Ms. Mirza, and it was probably not the last occasion on which her boss disappointed her by failing to fight important political battles in which "the Blob" would have been against him.

Sherelle Jacobs in a Daily Telegraph column noted that though public anger was fading over “Partygate” itself, its long term impact might be a more dangerous one: to suggest to voters that the Tories are faking it when they promise conservative policies or strike conservative attitudes.  Many voters—indeed, not a few Tory MPs themselves—feel exactly that. Nor will Boris’s latest promise of de-regulation comfort them. Here’s a quote from a Telegraph report the day after Boris promised his bonfire of regulations:

The Government watered down plans for a post-Brexit bonfire of Brussels regulations – often cited as a major benefit of leaving the EU – and opened fresh divides between the embattled Prime Minister and his backbenchers. A plan devised by Lord Frost, the UK’s former Brexit negotiator, to cut two retained EU regulations for every rule written was dropped. It was said not to fit in with Mr Johnson’s ambitions to cut Britain’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 .

As the old saying goes: You couldn't make it up.

Stiff upper lip, and all that.

Notice in particular that what seems to have blocked the government's program of de-regulation is its commitment to Net-Zero. For though there are undoubtedly other causes contributing to Britain’s growing energy crisis (with its immediate threat of energy prices rising one third this year), Net-Zero is the single most important reason. That truth has been denied and wished away for years, but its breaking through at last. Today's papers report that senior cabinet ministers in the U.K. now favor scaling back Net-Zero plans and encouraging more production of Britain's plentiful natural gas.

All  that stands in the way of this commonsense is Boris Johnson's zeal for Net Zero. But the prime minister’s resilience will not save him when the public is angry not over a few parties but over fuel bills they can’t pay and blackouts that chill their homes when both of these disasters are direct results of government policy.

Either Net-Zero goes, or he goes.