Sir Arthur* is back from the South of France. A little sea bathing, walks in the hills of Provence and some photographs and theatre in Arles and Avignon, all beatific until he ran into a disciple of one of the high priests of a British crash-out from the EU.
‘We were friends once,’ said Arthur of this lady, ‘until Cameron slashed a cutlass across the country. More than friends, to be truthful, and she and I tried to rekindle the old fires with far too much vin rosé. She’s a sweet woman, but all that happened was that she grew garrulous.’
‘In vino veritas.’
Miss S_ told of her idol’s plans to send our nation’s economy into the stratosphere. Powerhouse was the word she used, Arthur remembered, global powerhouse.
Arthur learned that our GDP already includes the proceeds of the drugs trade. Yes, he told me, all those cocaine snorters whose money funds county lines and the knifing of young people to death can feel that they are doing their bit for the country’s growth. Nobody is paying import duty, income tax or corporation tax or VAT on any of this, but no matter, it’s the growth that counts. More of the same was the prescription.
For the trick that the likes of Fox and Rees-Mogg are planning, Arthur discovered, is to push deregulation to its logical extreme. Once they have tossed away food standards, employment protection and the like, the next step is criminal law. Get rid of that, and there’ll be no stopping us. ‘Unfettered growth’, apparently.
Where did they get such an idea?
Arthur is a wily old bird, and, as a psychiatrist, knows how to ask a question. Poor Miss S_ had no chance.
She revealed that Rees-Mogg was much taken with Samuel Romilly. Back in the early years of the nineteenth century, this Whig lawyer and politician had fought against a deeply reactionary legal system to have death sentences abolished for such crimes as consorting with gypsies. He was moderately successful. Some estimates reckon that the new freedoms boosted the economy by 0.003%. A few years later Romilly died by his own hand four days after his wife’s natural death. One obituary described him as the most popular man in England. This accolade caught Rees-Mogg’s eye, and seduced him into drawing flimsy parallels between Romilly’s take on the law and his own views. The poor man is just desperate to be adored, Miss S_ admitted.
After drugs, money-laundering is a top target for the Fox-Mogg Egregious Growth Theory (EGT), building on the Russian model that has already proved so beneficial to London and the South East. ‘Low-hanging fruit’, is how Arthur’s lady described it.
Next up, fraud, the internet type. Crucial in this, for Fox-Mogg, are the roles of computer studies in schools and universities and the work of GCHQ. Academics and spooks will be repurposed from defending our persons and country against electronic attack to making sure that we do fraud better than anyone else. Initial targets would be liberal-minded places where civil and human rights may leave security loopholes that a newly ruthless state actor might exploit.
Our actions would be suspected of course, but we could readily turn the heat up on any bleating country. Why else, say Fox-Mogg, do we have Trident and two spanking aircraft carriers?
With few taxes being levied on the well-off, trickle-down, Arthur learned, is how ordinary folk are to benefit in Fox-Mogg’s EGT. And the fact that trickle-down has been shown in the past not to work? Apparently that was because people were expecting too great a trickle. ‘It was never meant to be a torrent,’ say Fox-Mogg. ‘Trickle means trickle.’
And after money-laundering and fraud? It seems that Fox-Mogg are relying on an insultingly out-of-date view of China. They believe a trade deal with the Chinese state should include sharing technologies on counterfeiting. Our drug companies, already jolly successful, could completely take over the African and Central and South American markets if they mugged up cheap copies of the medications that research laboratories around the world have developed at great cost. Usual trick, same compound but molecules that are less effective but cheap to produce.
‘These innovative drugs will still improve health radically,’ say Fox-Mogg, ‘because in medically naïve societies desperate for any help at all, you elicit a more powerful placebo effect with your replacement pills than you do with the real thing in, say, Darlington or Penge where people are sceptical of GPs and their cautious ways.’
The witch-doctoring philosophy upset Arthur, who is a tender-hearted fellow. Next thing he knew Miss S_ was nodding off. While resorting to nothing as radical as waterboarding, Arthur was concerned enough by what he had heard to use interrogation techniques acquired from an old SAS chum. ‘Temporary discomfort only,’ Arthur reassured me.
The outcome? Tourism. Plans for how we can further monetise the behaviour of visitors to our sceptred isle. Fox-Mogg’s idea is that we continue to entertain people with our historic homes, picture book villages, the Royals, our railways, the Tower of London and Stratford-upon-Avon. We keep them safe and treat them well. But while they are here we gain as much information as we can about their identities, their sexual proclivities and their gullibility. Once they have left our shores – oh, and how we should give thanks for having ‘shores’ on a silver sea and not just lines on a map – once they are off to their less happier lands, the information we have harvested can be exploited, via certain third countries that will allow us to keep our reputation as hosts unsullied.
After that, Arthur told me, his best efforts could not keep his informant awake. Happily, next morning she had no memory of having spilled the beans. Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg can have no idea that their wonderfully detailed planning has been rumbled. Our challenge – Arthur’s and mine – is how to use this fresh intelligence to best effect. Could we co-opt the new editor at the Daily Mail? Would he like to make his mark with this? And given how powerful naming seems to be (think ‘Brexit’ itself and ‘Project Fear’) what should we name this plan? EGT is hardly catchy. Project Mafia anyone?