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B is for … Britain Breaker, Not Backer
Week B | Tory Time | Penny Mordaunt MP
Sinister nanny Penelope Mary Mordaunt scares me. I think she thinks she could be PM, and I think she could, too. Named after a warship, she’d make Thatcher look like a benevolent, principled genius. Penny’s the tenth MP I’ve dissected (see links to others below), and the first woman. I have a long queue of rancid Tories to examine, but moved her up the list because I believe she warrants keeping a firm eye on.
In For a Penny has been MP for Portsmouth North since 2010, and served among other things as Secretary of State for International Development. She’s a not naval reservist, and replaced Gavin Williamson as Secretary of State for Defence after he was sacked in a leak enquiry, being the first woman to hold the post (though not for long). She’s currently Minister of State for Trade Policy.
I’ve been playing a guessing game about how old Penny was when she first realised her initials were PM, regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew her plans against us.
She is the true ERG candidate, not Braverman. Their end game. Do you get it now?
I revised a meme by chiuki about the USA. Seems appropriate, actually.
I first noticed her because I have a horrified fascination with ‘freeports’, aka charter cities, aka Special Economic Zones (SEZs). I’ve been working on a piece about those, slowly, because it’s global and complicated, sometimes hard to find substantiation for some elements. I hope to share something about them soon; for now I’ll just look at Penny’s possible role in turning us into the Disunited Fiefdom of Freeports.
Penny had a challenging upbringing. She was 15 when her mother died of breast cancer, and her father was diagnosed with cancer the following year. Penny supported herself by working as a magician's assistant in the run up to university. She’s said to have become interested in politics while spending a gap year in Romanian hospitals and orphanages, which is hilarious as, according to They Work For You, she’s:
Generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed
Almost always voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
Almost always voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (the “bedroom tax”)
Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
Almost always voted against an annual tax on the value of expensive homes (the “mansion tax”)
Almost always voted against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents
Generally voted against a banker’s bonus tax
Almost always voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000
Almost always voted for reducing the rate of corporation tax
Almost always voted against slowing the rise in rail fares
Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change
Consistently voted for mass surveillance of and retention of information about people’s communications and activities
Despite having to work to save up for uni herself, including factory work, consistently voted for university tuition fees, and voted for raising England’s undergraduate tuition fee cap to £9,000 per year
Consistently votes for gay rights, perhaps because her twin is gay. Many Tories have a more progressive voting record on gay rights because it affects them.
Okay, so not hilarious. Actually just the usual martyr-ish, hypocritical Tory bollocks. Has difficult teens. First in her family to go to university. Moved by those struggling in a post-dictatorship country. Of Irish ancestry. Then says ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and slams the rest of us, like the fervent Brexiteer she is. Penny is, after all, the person who rebranded food banks as ‘pantries’. When you’ve made your voters so straitened that even former Waitrose shoppers now use food banks, what else to do?
She seems nice
But it seems to me that Penny’s more than that: she wants the UK to adopt the worst traits of the American clean slate libertarian late vulture capitalism I just touched on for Byline Times. And is actively working towards it.
In for a Penny was a Leave campaign mainstay in 2016 and the UK alternate co-chair of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee. So far her Brexit has been as successful and respected as her 2014 appearance on diving reality show Splash!, in which she competed wobbily against Gemma Collins off The Only Way Is Essex.
Going back a bit further, Penny started her career as a public relations professional. This included working, in 2000, as Head of Foreign Press for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. She worked for Bush again in 2004. In between, she helped set up an Anglo-American website called 'virtualconservatives'.
Her Anglo-American shell game never really ended. As Trade Policy minister, she’s been popping over there regularly. Because Trump disappointed the Tories by losing despite cheating and attempting a coup, the post-Brexit safety net of a US-UK trade deal hasn’t materialised. But she hasn’t given up trying to turn magic tricks, not our Penny. She’s been negotiating trade deals state by state instead.
Now, I was laughing about that when I thought about it from time to time. It seemed so desperate. Until today. Because the US Supreme Court as hijacked by evangelical libertarian nutters just issued a new decision, reverting to an extremist ‘states' rights’ position which will enable ‘red’ states to topple hard-won civil rights and deregulate for the benefit of corporations (which, following another decision known as ‘Citizens United’, are viewed legally as people). SCOTUS has also, this week, decided to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. No doubt more regulatory rollbacks are on the slate.
With the UK out of the EU, with the US splintering despite a Democratic win, disaster capitalists like Penny with US right wing connections at state level are going to be minting it. And who will suffer? Why poorer people, their working conditions, and their living environments, of course. Think Erin Brockovich. Or watch the more recent Dark Waters (2019), which I highly recommend.
Have a look here, a December 2021 speech Penny Mordor made in Atlanta, Georgia in which she compared Britain’s Brexit to America’s fight for independence from … Britain. In which she said, ‘We will work to tackle the systematic use of market-distorting practices, such as harmful state subsidies and more other pernicious government interventions which damage competition.’ And tell me if you want this lunatic slash-and-burn ideologue running the country. You’ll be working a dangerous sub-minimum wage contractless freeport job faster than you can say “laissez-faire economics”. Pernicious, indeed.
Such a sweet, diplomatic woman.
What is a ‘freeport’? Brexiteers said the EU prevented us from having them. This isn’t true, though in 2019 the European Parliament called for them to be scrapped across the EU after a report on tax evasion and money laundering stated that freeports are “a safe and widely disregarded storage space, where trade can be conducted untaxed and ownership can be concealed.” The lack of scrutiny means high-value items like drugs, stolen art, and who knows what else can be bought and stored free of the usual checks, controls, and taxation. There are up to 10 freeports planned for the UK so far. We’ve had them before, but they were all closed by 2012 because they were shit.
They’re also places where you can have workers with reduced pay, conditions, and rights, including foreign workers from such countries as India, which has a great many SEZs. Several are owned by JCB Tory pal Lord Bamford, one being the Crime Minister’s first business port of call when he went to India in April. Four belong to Infosys. Now, let’s see, who has connections to Infosys? It’s on the tip of my tongue.
I could conclude by talking about that time Penny said “cock” in Parliament five times and “lay” or “laid” six times, on a dare. A soul sister to Andrea ‘Fuck You’ Jenkyns. So respectful of the seat of our democracy. Pure class.
I could dive into the time she lied to Andrew Marr and was slammed for it by David Cameron, after divisive and dishonest Vote Leave posters were produced claiming ‘Turkey (population 76million) is joining the EU’. She’s still doubling down on this lie.
I could get into the weeds about the time that Penny Mordor, as Disabilities Minister, oversaw one of the most expensive, cruel benefits cock-ups ever, in which the DWP rewrote the law without consulting its own Social Security Advisory Committee, so that 220,000 people would not get higher disability benefits, to avoid complying with two tribunal rulings and spending £3.7bn (the High Court overruled it, but the Tories spent a fortune to make sure it happened anyway, of course).
I could review her stupid book, in which she praises Donald Trump and threatens to emulate him in the UK. [Edit, 20/07/22: I did. Ugh.]
But I’m going to conclude with The Bristol Port Company, co-owned by Terence Mordaunt and David Ord, who have reportedly donated over £640,000 to the Conservative Party since 2001. Terence Mordaunt was the thirteenth largest donor to the Leave campaign, and in 2019 donated £10,000 to In for a Penny through his company First Corporate Consultants Ltd. Terence is Chairman of primo climate change denial lobbyists the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The Crime Minister recommended Terence’s Bristol Port for freeport status, though it hasn’t happened yet.
Are Terry and Penny related? There are conflicting reports. It would appear, according to this Mordaunt genealogy site, that if they are it’s only distantly. The point is, does it matter? The only Tory ties that bind are the rubber bands around bundles of filthy lucre. Someday their descendants must become family, as they’ll be the only ones left sitting atop the pile of ashes and bones that was Earth, counting their pointless fucking money.
Penny thinks ‘lefty woke remoaners’ hold Brexit Britain back by not closing our eyes and wishing hard enough, as if the ailing economy is Tinkerbell. It’s easy to laugh at her childish taunts and magical thinking, but then, we laughed at Trump, didn’t we?
Next week: Conor Burns.
This takes a long time to do, but in the age of being bombarded with information and scandal so we can’t possibly keep up, I feel it’s important for knowledge about one public person to be put into one place. If you find it to be a public service but don’t want a paid, repeating newsletter subscription, you could help me get a new protest outfit together one time only. The old one is covered in Tory tears.
Last week: Andrew ‘Stinker’ Bridgen. Links to previous dissections on Twitter can be found at the foot of that one. Eventually I’ll transfer them all over: I think it’s easier for you to read them here than in long, disjointed Twitter threads.
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