James Moore, The independent
“A small chink of light for business,” is how the CBI described the parliamentary Rebel Alliance’s bill to block this gangster government’s brutally destructive no-deal Brexit. Director general Carolyn Fairbairn went on to say this: “With an election looming, many remain deeply concerned about the ongoing impact of uncertainty on the economy.”
There’s that word again. Its persistent use exposes a deep flaw at the heart of the business community’s messaging on Brexit, and no deal in particular. Why? Because the response of someone who’s not been closely following this deeply depressing saga might go something like this: “Doesn’t more delay just mean more of the uncertainty you guys keep banging on about?”
Chancellor Sajid Javid may have become his mafiosi bosses’ mendacious nodding dog, but while he’s clearly sacrificed his principles (look back at his comments on suspending parliament if you want evidence) for a ministerial red box he’s still a clever man. He slyly played to that argument a couple of weeks after being handed the job when he said: “We›re determined to provide certainty on Brexit – we are clear the UK is leaving EU by 31 October.”
Javid is surely well aware that if that means no deal it will do nothing of the sort because he’ll have seen all the assessments of the consequences that the government is too scared to publish. No deal will turn a gale force wind of “uncertainty” into a record breaking hurricane that will last for months, more likely years. Decades even.
The problem is, if you tell the truth in front of Dom Dominic Cummings and Don Boris Johnson — I still can’t work out which of them is the boss and which is the under boss — you get shot. Metaphorically (at least for the moment).
Javid’s cowardice stands in terribly stark contrast to the bravery of his predecessor turned Rebel Alliance leader Philip Hammond. But the knowledge of that doesn’t help the business community counter the false narrative the government’s muck spreaders are spraying all over the country.
The addiction to neutral sounding words and phrases such as “uncertainty” is understandable to a certain degree. Every time a CEO opens their mouth, their statements are put under an electron microscope by a battery of analysts and journalists. Regulators too. The statements of those who lead public companies are governed by strict rules and the penalties for falling foul of them can be severe, particularly in the US.
This, combined with the desire not to offend existing or potential customers, helps to explain why businesses regularly default to bland buzz, even to the extent of making themselves look very silly. At one stage I found myself wondering which retailer would be the first to describe shops as “customer solutions outlets”.
Lobby groups such as the CBI exist to say things they can’t, or won’t, but this culture still feeds through to the way these mouthpieces express themselves. Hence “uncertainty” when what they really mean (and will tell you off the record) is that it’s “a godawful mess” that will “get a hell of a lot worse if the idiot in Number Ten gets his way”. Or words to that effect.
This needs to end because if business continues to use mild and inoffensive words to describe the situation we face, they will inevitably be seized upon and manipulated by the likes of Javid.
Earlier this week I wrote about a notable exception to the rule. It came courtesy of the British Retail Consortium, which delivered a searing rebuke to no deal planning chief Michael Gove in response to his pooh poohing the possibility of fresh food shortages. “It is categorically untrue that the supply of fresh food will be unaffected under a no-deal Brexit,” the trade body declared, in refreshingly plain English.
British Prime Minister will move to call an Oct.14 election if lawmakers block the option of leaving EU without a deal, says a senior government source.
When Charles I arrived in the chamber of the House of Commons in January 1642, armed guards in tow, to arrest a group of MPs for treason, it was the speaker who stood in his way.
It is almost to Boris Johnson’s credit that he couldn’t keep a straight face. He is to lying what Simone Biles is to the somersault, but this one came with a difficulty rating even he couldn’t land without a wobble.
The coronavirus pandemic is the worst global crisis since World War II, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres points out.
Tuesday morning, Kim Kardashian-West — who, like President Trump, inherited wealth from her father but enjoys pretending to be “self-made” — went on The View to talk about how she’s coping in quarantine. I didn’t watch because, well, I don’t care what Kim Kardashian-West has to say, but judging from the response on Twitter, it went about as well as you’d expect.
Under normal circumstances, there would be considerable interest as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex step down as ‘senior royals’. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the world, the activities of the Sussexes are very low down on the news scale.
On March 1, Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health, outlined UK government’s plans for the “worst-case scenario”. These included relaxing rules about how many children could be taught in a class at school. Just 27 days later both he and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, tested positive for COVID-19. We are now far beyond that imagined worst-case scenario.