Rishi Sunak: the Worm Turns

Writing a few days ago on Britain's new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, this author expressed some hope that his decision to reimpose a nationwide ban on fracking (a ban which Sunak had opposed when standing for leader, it should be noted), "was merely Sunak recognizing the reality on the ground, which is that fracking isn't particularly popular among elected MPs," and suggested this objectively bad decision would be offset by other, saner resource sector tweaks. Sunak himself argued that the platform the party was elected on in 2019 promised a fracking ban, and he felt bound to respect that. Fair enough.

But now Sunak has deflated those hopes. After saying on several occasions that he had no intention of attending this year's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (known as COP27), Sunak has once again changed course, and while spouted hackneyed warmist jibberish to boot:

Sure, Rishi, all of human prosperity depends upon the rich-and-powerful flying their private jets to Egypt to sit around in air conditioned rooms talking about how important you all are.

Sunak's elevation has been widely touted as a return to "grown-up" governance. But, as the British journalist Ben Sixsmith points out in a piece about Sunak, to call a major politician "a grown-up" is to damn him with faint praise. "Grown-up" in politics, Sixsmith argues, is a codeword for someone who makes journalists feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They invariably wear nice suits, have sensible haircuts, and speak fluidly and confidently when a microphone is in their face. What they say is of little importance.

This writer is less certain on that last point. To me, the title "grown-up" is bestowed by the media upon those who have promised not to offend elite sensibilities on any important topic. It isn't a partisan designation -- there are plenty of ostensibly right-of-center figures who have been so complimented, with George Bush the elder, John McCain, and Mitt Romney being standouts in this category. Of course, it is worth mentioning that ultimately losing elections is what allowed those three to maintain their "grown-up" status.

This is something Rishi should probably take note of as he begins his Green-ward turn. Meanwhile, his change-of-heart is winning praise from all of the wrong people in British life. For instance:

Funny how the Strange New Respect a move like this inspires can't even sustain itself for the life of an entire tweet.

The Coming Struggle to Stay Warm

One of the first columns I wrote for The Pipeline almost three years ago employed the metaphor of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object to forecast the likely consequences of Green politics. The irresistible force was the imposition of a policy of Net-Zero carbon emissions upon the populations of the West, in particular those of Anglosphere, and the immovable object was the democratic electorates of these countries.

It might take time, I argued, but when the voters found that Green Deals and such meant higher energy prices, higher taxes, immiseration of the less well-off, and harshly puritan lifestyles for the rest of us, an almighty smash-up would ensue.

And so it has. Indeed, the smash-up has come sooner than I expected, namely this year, and it will almost certainly be harsher because the negative impact of Net-Zero has been aggravated by the Russo-Ukraine war and sanctions adopted by the U.S. and the E.U. in response to it.

To stop train, pull handle. But think first.

What I didn’t expect, however, is that the smash-up would take place in slow-motion. But that is what’s happening.

Almost wherever you look, there’s some not-very-important story that tips you off to a subterranean explosion whose full impact won’t be properly felt for a while. The effect is something like the delayed impact of depth charges or deadpan jokes.

Here, for instance, is the London Daily Telegraph telling us that the Brits will be wearing new styles of underwear this winter—and not because they’re hoping for a more exotic sex-life:

Households are stockpiling thermal underwear to avoid turning on the heating this winter as energy bills spiral. John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store chain, said shoppers had rushed to buy warmer clothes in recent weeks, with sales of winter thermals having doubled last week compared to a week earlier. Sales of dressing gowns are up 76pc compared to last year.

That’s the precautionary principle reduced to the bare essentials. Like everyone else in the northern hemisphere, ordinary Brits are expecting a chilly winter this year because of the following factors (which didn't start with Mr. Putin’s war); Like most Western governments, the U.K. powers-that-be have neglected to invest enough in energy security because they quite consciously preferred to invest in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. That is the orthodoxy of Net-Zero (sometimes enforced by treaties) in E.U. countries such as Germany, non-E.U. countries like Britain, and the U.S.

It’s a massive enterprise because until recently fossil fuels provided more than 85 percent of total energy to even the most technically advanced economies. In pursuit of this vision of a future of all-renewable energy, Germany has shut down almost all its nuclear power stations, keeps equivocating over whether the shut down the few remaining ones, and ends up relying on “dirty coal” now that cheap Russian energy is as unreliable as "renewables."

California, dreaming...

Over the Pond the Biden administration has been refusing to license oil-and-gas explorations on federal land with the embarrassing result that it has to import oil from Venezuela. And the U.K. government too has banned “fracking” that would exploit the nation's plentiful reserves of natural gas. As a result almost all of these countries are facing the risk of energy shortfalls to the point at which energy “blackouts” and rationing are seriously entertained by utilities and regulators if the winter is severe. California too.

Moreover, the costs of transitioning to renewables are not only high, they are rising. The International Energy Agency has just revised its estimate of the investment needed to limit global temperatures to meet the Net-Zero target under the Paris Accords upwards. That will now rise from the 390 billion dollars annually today to 1.3 trillion dollars a year between now and 2030. If met, those targets would eliminate emissions from the energy sector by 2035 in the advanced world and by 2040 in developing countries. But they are unlikely to be met. On present trends Net-Zero won’t be achieved until 2060—and present trends look too optimistic in the light of the present energy crisis.

The upshot of which is that almost all the West’s governments face slightly different versions of two serious problems: uncertain energy supplies, and existing high indebtedness.

Take energy supplies first. Germany is facing a serious crisis of its fundamental economic model in the post-Ukraine world, Its two foundations were exporting cars to China and importing cheap energy from Russia. For the foreseeable future, neither now looks like a reliable prospect or even a possible one. Berlin must now struggle to replace the Russian energy half-forbidden by the sanctions it supports diplomatically.

Artifacts of an ancient civilization, if Greens get their way.

Similarly, because Britain neglected nuclear investment—its target of 25 percent of energy from nuclear power stations will be reached in 2050!—the country is heavily dependent on imported natural gas which it needs to solve the renewables’ “intermittency problem”: there are days when the wind doesn’t blow nor the sun shine. As Andrew Stuttaford points out, that makes the earlier decision of the U.K. government to close down its biggest natural gas storage capacity an especially shortsighted one. Even the French, who sensibly went nuclear in a big way in the 1970s, now have to spend on repairs and modernization.

What of the second aspect of the crisis: overspending? Two sorts of spending need to be financed here—that for Net-Zero, and that to finance the energy security national governments have neglected. Unfortunately, however necessary they are, they come on top of the massive sums of money that the same governments have already spent during the Covid-19 pandemic on locking down their economies and paying their people to stay at home. That backlog of indebtedness explains why the financial markets are becoming nervous of lending money to governments that don’t make financial responsibility their top priority. Interest rates are rising again in response to rising inflation, and that's a problem for governments that want to borrow money.

We saw that very recently when the British government fell because the markets thought it was adopting a cavalier attitude to debt. That impression was both exaggerated--the U.K.’s national debt as a percentage of GDP is one of the lowest in Europe--and largely the result of rash but trivial political misjudgments by ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. All the same, the market brought them down because they were planning to add to an already high total of government spending.

Long johns, here we come.

When that happens, every spending program becomes the enemy of every other program. If restoring energy security becomes a priority for governments, then spending on Net-Zero will—and should—come under pressure. After all, Britain's short financial crisis became a political one in part because it was leading to a rise in mortgage payments. Like rising sales of warm thermal underwear, rising mortgage payments are another symptom of the price that the Brits will be paying for ill-judged energy policies. Voters' shoes are beginning to pinch; the immovable object is beginning to stiffen.

Of course, the irresistible force (in the form of support for Net-Zero from an alliance of the establishment and radical Green anarchists) has neither vanished nor much diminished. At almost every stage it has objected to policies that looked likely to prioritize energy security over the transition to renewables. With the arrival of a new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, it has been flexing its muscles to warn him that it will tolerate no lifting of the ban on fracking that the doomed Liz Truss tried to bring about. Net-Zero is an obstruction to restoring the energy security that it undermined in the first place. The circle closes.

My impression is that Sunak is taking his time to assess what Leonid Brezhnev used to call “the correlation of forces.” On the one hand, he has said that he will keep the ban on fracking unless evidence appears that suggests it is not dangerous to the environment; on the other, he has decided not to attend the U.N.’s COP 27 Climate Summit on the grounds that, in effect, he’s got more important things to do in London. My translation: he doesn’t want to attend and be trapped into making commitments on Net-Zero that might later be inconvenient to his overall energy and budgetary policies.

He may also think that Winter when the snow falls and Britain’s bedrooms freeze will be time also when the irresistible force of Net-Zero becomes much less irresistible and the immovable object of voter resistance much more resistant. And irremovable.

No Fracking Please, We're British

When last we looked in on the soap opera of British politics, Liz Truss had resigned as prime minister after 44 days in office, and it looked likely that the recently-defenestrated Boris Johnson might be on his way back in, much more quickly than even he had imagined. Well, Johnson himself scuppered that possibility, deciding at the last minute that he didn't have enough support among the Tories in parliament to govern effectively, and withdrawing himself from consideration. That left Rishi Sunak, who had placed second to Liz Truss in the long form leadership race just a few weeks ago, as the only serious candidate, allowing his colleagues to declare him the winner without all of the hassle of having to consult the actual members of the party. Very neat and tidy, that.

In any event, among his first acts as prime minister was to reimpose the Johnson's governments ban on fracking, which Truss had briefly done away with. Reversing what was perhaps the best policy of his predecessor -- one which laid the foundation for dealing with the country's long-term energy needs after years of environmentalist arglebargle -- doesn't speak well of him. Perhaps, as Andrew Stuttaford suggests, this was merely Sunak recognizing the reality on the ground, which is that fracking isn't particularly popular among elected MPs, even those in his own party, and that "this was not a drill worth dying on." The roundabout way that this policy was announced -- half-heartedly in an exchange in the House of Commons, with a confirmatory press release later -- suggests that this might be the case.

Stuttaford continues, "It will be more interesting to see if he retains Truss’s plans to issue up to a hundred more licenses for oil and gas. His past record suggests that he will, which is encouraging." Lets hope for the sake of the country that he does.

Still, this issue is not going to go away. As so-called renewables fail to live up to the promise of utopians, nations without reliable energy sources will be increasingly left behind. Some will lean into nuclear. Some will bring back coal. Some are blessed with oil and natural gas; and if they want to remain major powers, they'll make use of it.

And some will just return to the Stone Age, which has been the goal of "environmentalists" all along.

As Truss Falls, Does BoJo Loom?

Things are moving so fast in British politics that by the time this post goes to (digital) press, it's possible the U.K. will have gone through several more prime ministers, and Meghan Markle will be crowned queen.

Here are the basics: Newly minted prime minister Liz Truss has resigned after just 44 days on the job, the shortest ever term for a prime minister. She came into office hard on the heels of Boris Johnson, who resigned after he was caught lying about violating his own government's Covid restrictions on several occasions.

Determined not to be merely a caretaker P.M., Truss immediately initiated a bold -- some would say "foolhardy" -- plan to transform the British economy by slashing taxes across the board, with the biggest cuts for businesses and the wealthy, while also increasing spending. Much of that spending would go towards an energy "price freeze," which would cap the amount that Brits would pay for heat and electricity going into what is looking to be a brutal winter for heating and electricity rates. The bill for such a plan was projected to run into the hundreds of billions of pounds, but her hope was that it would it would keep the heat off her government while her Thatcher-on-steroids tax plan supercharged the economy and brought about elephantine growth.

The Iron Lady she wasn't.

Now here's what actually happened. The markets were disturbed by these sudden movements, and by the massive amount of new debt the government would have to take on to make this all work, especially at a time of significant and rising interest rates. Sterling tanked and bond markets went crazy.

Truss vowed that she would not change course. Then she started changing course, with new back-tracking announcements becoming an almost daily occurrence. She sacked Kwasi Kwarteng, her right-hand man and Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a desperate attempt to hang onto power, and appointed the establishmentarian, globalist, anti-Brexiter Jeremy Hunt to take his place. Hunt promptly got to work dismantling the rest of Truss's program.

Eventually the pressure got to be too great. After a tense vote on a Labour bill whose object was to prevent the government from reintroducing fracking, which the Tories won, despite several notable defections, the humiliated Truss was compelled to offer her resignation.

What is so strange about all of this is that it is easy to imagine a counterfactual scenario where Truss turned out a success. She ran for leadership as a continuity candidate: Boris, but without the erraticism, dishonesty, and drama. That was a pretty attractive proposition! Had she actually governed that way, pushing back on some of the negatives of the Johnson government while generally trying to steady the tiller, she might have had a long and illustrious career.

Kicking Boris' environmentalism to the curb would have been a good start -- Britain has a lot of natural gas, but environmentalists have been lying to the people about natural resource extraction for years. The politics site Guido Fawkes, for instance, recently wrote about a speech in the House of Commons by former Labour leader Ed Miliband about the possibility that fracking would bring with it earthquakes registering a 4.6 on the Richter scale, which could crack the plaster in houses and cause notable damage. This is ridiculous -- though fracking has been known to trigger tremors, they're rarely strong enough to be felt, only to be detected by powerful instruments. The strongest one ever, according to Fawkes, was a 2.9, which is comparable to "a pound of sugar being dropped on a kitchen floor."

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Boris famously leaned into this misinformation, including in his farewell speech as prime minister. A successful Truss could have checked it, while noting the absolute necessity of developing domestic energy sources in light of growing scarcity. Doing so wouldn't have required abandoning all Boris' plans. It could even have reinforced some of them. There's an obvious match between his "leveling-up" project, meant to improve those forgotten, working class regions of England's north (where he scored a stunning success in the last election), and the jobs which an expanded resource sector could provide.

At the Telegraph, Lord Frost even argues that Truss could have gone ahead with her own program, had she actually laid the groundwork for it over time:

Truss tried to deliver worthwhile reforms and set the country onto a much-needed new direction. I supported this policy direction and still do. But it was rushed and bungled. The markets were spooked. The mistakes were opportunistically seized on by her opponents to undermine her leadership, to blame Brexit, and to stop the party getting out of the social democratic tractor beam of the past few years.

In any event, yet another party leadership race will be held as soon as possible to determine who will govern, with Rishi Sunak -- the wealthy establishmentarian who came in second to Truss last time -- seen as the front runner. Unless, that is, Boris Johnson decides to throw his hat into the ring, as voices both inside and outside parliament have started calling for him to do.

Unfortunately for the Conservative Party, polling seems to indicate that the British people are getting sick of this ongoing Tory psychodrama. The Labour Party has started calling for an early election, which they are in a good position to win. And losing might ultimately be good for the Tories -- having squandered a huge mandate with Johnson, they could do with a good long stretch in opposition to figure out what they actually stand for.

Still, as Labour's policies; fiscal, social, and environmental; are so much worse than those of the Tories, the country as a whole would probably be much better off if they would just get their act together. Don't hold your breath.

Enemies of the People: Harry and Meghan

Charles' Choice: 'Climate Change' or the Crown

Within hours of of her passing, Politico published a lengthy obituary of Queen Elizabeth II entitled "The Short, Unhappy Life of Elizabeth Windsor." That title is meant to surprise -- Queen Elizabeth was 96 years old when she died. She lived to see the births of several of her great-grandchildren. We should, all of us, be grateful to live for such a "short" time.

But the point is that, while her life as Queen was long, her own, personal life lasted for just a few of those years. She was only 10 when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated, leaving her father king and her the heir apparent. After her 1947 wedding, Elizabeth was able to live as herself again for a few short years in Malta, where her husband Philip served as a naval officer. But her father's early death in 1952 changed all that -- for the next 70 years, Elizabeth II took center stage and Elizabeth Windsor, a woman with interests, opinions, preferences, had hardly any public existence at all.

The triumph of Gloriana, 1953.

Of course, this was the key to her success as a monarch. While those who knew her well describe the Queen as a close follower of politics and world events, and she had clear favorites in the political realm—she was quite close to the Labour leaders Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, while her relationship to the Conservative Margaret Thatcher was reportedly frosty—Elizabeth was conscious of the supra-political nature of her role.

And in the world we live in, where every movie we watch, magazine we read, and friendship we attempt to maintain is sucked down into the morass of politics, that is a rare and precious thing. The Queen's success at remaining above the fray is precisely why, in our acrimonious age, her subjects continued to love her.

Which is why there is reason for concern about her son, King Charles III. We all know of his green enthusiasms, the environmentalist causes he's championed as the heir apparent, from solar panels, to electric cars, to biomass. We all laughed when he gushed about his Aston Martin running on wine and cheese. We were a bit more perturbed on the numerous occasions when he broke into his Henry V-meets-Klaus Schwab imitation, saying things like, "We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal. We have to put ourselves on... a warlike footing,” and when he sympathized with the extremists from Extinction Rebellion. But many of his countrymen—certainly most of this author's British and Canadian friends—held out hope that, when the time came, he would follow his mother's example and disappear beneath the crown.

For those people, now his subjects, recent reports have been disappointing. Details are hard to come by—the focus in Britain remains on the departed Queen—but the BBC has reported that Charles's confidants say he has no intention of backing down on "climate change." And the politics website Guido Fawkes has heard that the King made it a point to emphasize his dedication to "the protection of the climate and the planet" on a phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron.

Queen Elizabeth, 1926-2022.

In his first address as king, Charles reflected upon the life of his mother, and said "I, too, now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation." But, as the Queen well understood, the "constitutional principles" to which he refers include the apolitical nature of the monarchy. Those principles were, of course, established on the blood of Englishmen over the course of the English Civil War, a conflict which saw the present king's predecessor, Charles I, executed for his refusal to accept the primacy of parliament in the political affairs of the nation. After the original Charles's death, the monarchy was dissolved and British Commonwealth was ruled by the murderous Puritan dictator, Oliver Cromwell.

Those events should serve as a warning to the new King Charles. The institution he now presides over finds itself in a tenuous position. If he isn't careful, as his mother was, it could all come tumbling down.

Liz Makes Britons an Offer They Can't Afford or Refuse

The U.K.'s new prime minister, Liz Truss, finds herself in an unenviable position. Britain -- along with the rest of Europe -- is facing out-of-control energy prices with winter fast approaching. Her predecessor, Boris Johnson, by unreservedly embraced his wife's net-zero enthusiasms, left the country's domestic energy industry in a parlous and perilous state. And the Labour Party has risen in the polls in part by proposing a massive windfall tax on what they suggest are the "excess profits" energy companies are pulling in due to the rise in oil and gas prices that have followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and using it to fund a "price freeze" on British energy bills.

Hoping to stall Labour's rise, the Johnson government enacted its own (smaller) windfall tax, but Truss has announced her intention to scrap it immediately, arguing that it amounts to a punishment for firms that invest in Britain. Instead she has proposed a plan which might be even more radical -- a "price freeze" funded by all British tax payers. Starting October 1st, British households will pay no more than £2,500 per annum for the next two years.

(Labour's plan, it is worth noting, would also have been largely funded by the taxpayer, because their windfall tax wouldn't have come close to paying for their pricing plan. But it sounds better to say that greedy oil companies are footing the bill.)

Of course, in reality there is no such thing as a "price freeze." What the plan actually amounts to is the government paying the bills that aren't covered by that £2,500 per household. Which is estimated to amount to a lot of money. How much exactly is unclear -- we don't yet know how real energy rates will go this winter or how cold it will get. Though, as Kate Andrews says at The Spectator, "a less generous package... was estimated earlier this week to be approaching £200 billion." It would be surprising to see this proposal cost less than that. Andrews points out one of the great dangers of this plan -- that it makes winter blackouts more likely:

We have a global shortage of energy – an ugly reality that domestic governments can do nothing about overnight. Truss’s decision to lift the fracking moratorium signals that the government wants to increase domestic energy production, but the policy change is unlikely to produce any quick or meaningful uptick in supply as local areas – which get the final say on whether fracking goes ahead – remain deeply opposed. So, we all need to use less energy this winter.... But by covering so much of the cost, Truss’s government has removed a lot of the incentive to cut back energy usage. Indeed, some people will probably increase their energy usage as bills will be so heavily subsidised by the state.

Economics 101 tells us that price increases are, in essence, a response to scarcity. By picking up consumers energy bills beyond a fixed point, said consumers are shielded from the reality of scarcity and consequently have no reason to consume less. This is especially true, Andrews argues, for wealthy Brits, whose bills will be capped at the same semi-arbitrary amount as the poor, despite their being better able to afford higher rates while also having bigger houses to heat and power. Instead of turning down the heat, they and their countrymen are just as likely to turn it up.

Truss's counter to these objections would no doubt be that there are really no good options, which is often the case in a crisis. Her hope is that keeping energy prices lower at the point of consumption will help get inflation under control, off-setting a new round of massive debt accumulation (and so soon after Covid lockdowns necessitated record borrowing of its own), while giving her other pro-energy, pro-free market policies a chance to beef up domestic production and turn the economy around. And, hopefully for her, just in time for the next general election, to be held no later than January, 2025.

Maybe it will work. But it's a hell of an expensive bet.

 

The Decline and Fall of the Blue Wall

For a view of civil society’s steady unraveling, few professions offer a better vantage point than that of the police officer. Regardless of how someone may have arrived at a crisis, whether by his own self-destructive impulses or the cruel predations of another, it is the cop who is expected to respond and begin the process of making things right.

Speaking as someone who has spent more than 40 years in the trade, I acknowledge that a police officer’s arrival at the scene of some misfortune is not in every case a blessing to all involved. The amount of help a cop can offer is circumscribed by the available resources in his community, which in most places are limited. And when it comes to dealing with lawbreakers, the cop on the street is merely the usher into a system whose many components are intended to mesh together and deliver justice. For the crime victim, this means seeing the guilty punished; for the perpetrator, it means a sentence sufficient to deter further crime while allowing for the possibility of rehabilitation.

That’s the theory, anyway.

For the cop on the street, the knowledge that reality only occasionally conforms with the theory can be dispiriting, but he knows the pursuit of the ideal cannot be abandoned for inconsistent success. The fight goes on, no matter how dim the prospects.

Or so it was not so long ago. For most of my career, even as crime surged in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, as the bodies piled up in the morgues and it seemed America’s cities were in irreversible decline, we who worked the streets could find strength in the knowledge that among the political and media elites there was still a desire for improvement if only a way to achieve it could be found.

And a way was found. Developments in law enforcement such as those instituted by the New York Police Department under William Bratton proved that, as Bratton himself is fond of saying, “Cops count.” In 1990, the NYPD investigated a horrifying 2,245 murders. In ten years the number had been reduced to 649, and in 2017 the figure dropped below 300 for the first time since 1951, a remarkable achievement in a city of 8 million people. Cops found great satisfaction in bringing this about.

Now murder and a generalized disorder are again on the rise, in New York City and many other places. But, unlike in the ‘90s, when there was broad societal agreement that something needed to be done to stem the bloodshed, today’s elites turn a blind eye to the chaos on America’s streets in the name of “social justice” and “equity,” terms used to obscure the fact that a disproportionate number among certain ethnicities are committing the majority of these crimes, and that consistent enforcement of the law would necessarily result in a similarly disproportionate number among those same ethnicities going to jail or prison.

And we can’t have that.

So the cop on the street, faced with this escalation of disorder, is left to wonder what he is supposed to do about it. In years past, he was told to go out and find the shooters, robbers, burglars, and car thieves inflicting themselves on their law-abiding neighbors and, if the provable facts allowed, arrest them. Today, a cop who happens upon someone wanted for a crime, or whom he suspects is unlawfully carrying a gun, confronts the suspect at his peril.

Not merely the physical peril posed by a fight or a shooting, for which the cop has trained, but the peril to his and his family’s future should the arrest unfold in anything but a manner preferred by the elites who hold him in contempt. “If I try to stop him,” the cop thinks, “I may have to chase him, and if I chase him, I may have to hit him or, God forbid, shoot him, either of which will be judged by people who seldom if ever have had to make such fateful decisions.” In any violent encounter on the street, especially those in which the racial calculus attracts media attention, the cop knows there is at least some chance that it is he who will be punished for it and not the suspected lawbreaker.

Safer this way.

With this in mind, in ever more instances the cop elects to go on his way and allow the suspected lawbreaker to do likewise. In short, the risk-reward calculations favor the criminal, and the results are unsurprising and everywhere to behold.

There was a time I attributed this dynamic to naiveté among political and media elites, whose members I assumed simply could not fathom the depravity in the criminal element to which they are seldom if ever exposed. No more. So rapid has been the rise in crime since the summer of 2020, so inept has been the response from our elected leaders, so willfully blind to both have been the media, it can only be by design.

Call them Marcusians, neo-Marxists, neo-Jacobins, or whatever label you may choose, they have achieved dominance in every last institution shaping popular opinion in America and much of the world: politics, academia, the news media, and the entertainment industry. Recall for example that when Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, he claimed to oppose same-sex marriage, an opinion considered uncontroversial at the time even among most Democrats. Imagine the uproar that would ensue if a candidate of either party espoused such a position today.

Yes, in the ensuing years a majority of Americans have come to accept same-sex marriage, but they are now being asked – no, compelled – to embrace the proposition that the very definitions of male and female are so amorphous and elastic as to include anyone who, despite his or her immutable biological makeup, fancies him- or herself to be one or the other or neither. And if you dare object, if you voice even the slightest skepticism about this madness, you will be silenced on social media, denounced in the press, hounded from your job, and evicted from your home.

Bursting with pride.

And soon, perhaps, you will be arrested for it. With the police now deterred from taking action against violent crime, police departments will see its most talented officers drift away to other types of employment or to agencies not yet in the grip of this modern thinking. They will be replaced not by crime fighters but by social justice warriors who will take it as their responsibility to squelch heretical opinion.

Do you think it can’t happen here? Witness the plight of one resident of our cultural mother country. Darren Brady, a 51-year-old veteran of the British army, was recently hauled into the dock for having caused someone “anxiety” by retweeting a meme showing four LGBT pride flags arranged so as to form a swastika. As if to prove the very point Brady was making, the Hampshire police came to Brady’s house and arrested him, handcuffs and all.

How long before such a scenario comes to pass here in the United States? The civil society continues to fray. In just a few short years, America’s cops have gone from being active opponents of societal breakdown to helpless spectators to it. The next step, as has already occurred in the United Kingdom, apparently, is their becoming active accomplices in it.

I’d rather die.

Post-Boris, a Battle with Biden and the Blob

In the end, after a good night’s sleep and some reflection, Boris Johnson did not cling raging onto power like Donald Trump, as his critics in Parliament and the media had predicted. Instead he resigned his leadership of the Tory party, made a wry and thoughtful speech (“them’s the breaks” gave translators a hard time), appointed some ministers to fill the jobs in his caretaker government made vacant by earlier resignations, and waited for the Tory Party to elect a new leader so that he could resign as Prime Minister too.

His exit was far more dignified than were the embittered demands of his parliamentary enemies (on both sides of the House of Commons) that he be driven into the streets, made to apologize for his sins, and in general treated as a criminal released on bail but bound to end up inside before too long.

Make no mistake about what’s going on. This is scapegoat politics.

BoJo: no longer PM, but still an honorary Cossack.

Boris is having to shoulder the blame for the pandemic, the lockdown, the cancelation of most other medical treatments in order to treat Covid patients promptly, the closing of schools and universities, and the accumulating costs in billions of the shutdown of the economy to save lives. All of these now look like serious errors since the Swedish “experiment” of protecting the elderly from Covid rather than maintaining everyone at home at the taxpayers’ expense saved billions of public money and kept the Swedish economy humming along. Was Britain's lockdown—and all its attendant costs—really necessary? That looks increasingly unlikely.

And if not, was Boris responsible for these disastrous decisions? Well, he was prime minister and therefore in principle responsible for all the decisions of his government. But the political reality is that in the early stages of the pandemic, the politicians had no realistic alternative to adopting the remedies prescribed by the scientists in Whitehall and Imperial College and by the U.K. medical officers of health.

If they had rejected their advice and instead followed the Swedish example, the opposition parties, a hostile media, and influential tabloid personalities would have accused them of risking wholesale slaughter—and a frightened risk-averse public opinion would have believed them.

As it was, all these forces wanted the pandemic restrictions to be tougher and longer. For a long time Boris and his ministers were more or less ventriloquist’s dummies speaking lines written by scientific and medical officialdom in London. Boris struggled to break free and eventually ended the lockdown. But he took a lot of heat for doing so sooner than the Whitehall committee of SAGE, plus “Independent Sage,” the media, Labour, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all wanted.

Did Covid help do him in?

Britain today and tomorrow will be paying a heavy price for their miscalculations, risk-averse science, and economic ignorance. Boris is paying it today.

In other respects he had real achievements to his credit. He got Brexit done. He sent the extreme left Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, packing in the 2019 election. He put together a broad-based national coalition of all social classes to win his 2019 landslide victory. He was personally popular--a well-known public figure who had edited the Spectator magazine, written a column in the Daily Telegraph, and appeared for years on a popular radio comedy program about current affairs: "Have I Got News for You." And he still has lots of supporters throughout the country who are indignant at his defenestration.

Why then is he Out with a capital O? The answer is his policies. More and more voters, especially those who voted Tory in 2019 for the first time ever, thought he had let them down over policy. And, sadly, they're correct. His policies were almost more socialist than Labour, hiking spending and raising taxes. He was a passionate advocate of a “Net-Zero” carbon emissions that threatened to reduce living standards, increase taxes and electricity prices, and make the energy crisis a permanent one.

Why did he embrace these policies? I believe it was for the same reason that he initially bowed down to the consensus of doctors and scientists: he believed he had no alternative. It’s vital to say that clearly now because almost exactly the same thing is likely to happen on a very different playing field, the Tory leadership election, unless we wake up.

The candidates seeking to succeed Boris—and there are now about twelve of them—almost certainly believe that Net-Zero and other Green policies governments are pursuing throughout the West are set in stone because the Blob of international bureaucrats are telling them so. They have signed treaties saying so that they must enforce--the Paris accords in the case of Net-Zero. There's no alternative.

Going "Green" kills.

But the practical results of these policies are becoming clear and disturbing: their costs are rising; governments are forced into more and more absurd postures to meet their obligations—e.g., Germany is now reliant on "dirty" coal because it's closing down its remaining nuclear power stations; and the threats of energy blackouts and forced lifestyle changes are becoming more real to the voters. Net-Zero is a particularly visible and painful case of this government spending by international treaty obligation--but not the only one.

The same is true of many other policies that the bureaucratic groupthink of international bodies sanctifies as politically essential or a done deal—for instance, the Biden administration's push for all countries to agree on a high (15 percent) uniform rate of business tax that benefits high-spending governments such as France and Germany and disadvantages smaller economies like those of Ireland and Hungary. Britain's chancellor under Boris, Rishi Sunak, didn't like this tax which is higher than the Brits want, but he went along with Biden for the sake of a quiet life and agreed the Brits would raise it too.

Well, in the race to succeed Boris, all these issues are up for grabs. Democracy is no respecter of international bureaucratic stare decisis. Rishi Sunak may be stuck with his 15 percent business tax that disadvantages U.K. companies, but none of the other candidates are. Ditto Net-Zero. And if one candidate comes out against these policies and the higher taxes they require, he creates an incentive for all the others to do so—and with luck starts a policy auction.

Indeed, if one candidate were to put together a policy package that included Thatcherite cuts in both taxes and public spending, a shift of resources into defense, a more rational energy policy that stressed security, reliability, and price rather than “renewables,” a post-Brexit policy that makes Britain more competitive by diverging away from the E.U.’s burdensome regulations, and a defense of Britain’s traditions and achievements against the Wokerati in the establishment and civil service, he might break through the log jam of progressive policy-making by international bureaucracies and restore democratic control of taxation and public spending.

Blown away, but the fight goes on.

As it happens, Lord David Frost, who resigned from Boris's government at the end of 2021 because he objected to its “direction of travel,” made the case for just such a policy package in last Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph. He’s not in the Commons, but he's prominent in Tory debates, and he might well return to the Cabinet under a new leader. He's already leading the way in policy formulation and he won't object to candidates in the race accepting that baton from him.

Already, one of the candidates, former Attorney General Suella Braverman, has done so. Others are likely to follow:

In order to deal with the energy crisis we need to suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net-zero by 2050. If we keep it up, especially before businesses and families can adjust, our economy will end up with net-zero growth.

It won’t happen overnight. It took Margaret Thatcher seven years from her election as Tory leader to get the kind of leadership colleagues who supported her radical and highly successful reforms—and she was building on thirty years of intellectual hard work by the Institute of Economic Affairs. But the log jam is finally breaking.

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.