A very British coup – but made in Chicago

This post is highly likely to be provocative – and may lead you to think I’m paranoid. If so, ah well. The facts speak for themselves, I think.

I only started writing this blog about 6 weeks ago. The government’s decision to cut corporation tax and the top rate of income tax on the grounds that it would lead to growth was such obvious idiocy, and its insistence that there were no realistic alternatives to its worldview so patently untrue, that I had to write about it, so I set up this blog with really only a couple of posts in mind to begin with.

I didn’t really expect to write that often, or that many people would read it. But the constant flow of things to be justly outraged about has made it hard to stop.

And the cumulative effect of becoming informed enough about a wide range of these things to write about them has led me to a very deep conviction – something I now consider to be an inescapable conclusion:

The UK is in the middle of a subtle, very British (though Chicago-inspired), very audacious and extremely malignant coup d’état. And it’s anything but bloodless – it’s costing lives, especially those of the vulnerable.

There. I’ve said it. If you want to write me off as a conspiracy theorist detached from reality, now’s the time to stop reading. If you don’t – or not just yet – then I’ll tell you why I think so.

The inspiration for this coup lies in the ‘Chicago School’ of economic thought typified by Milton Friedman. I won’t clog up this post with great detail about his thinking & its consequences, but if you want to read up on him you can do so here, on Wikipedia or via a Google search. For now, suffice to say that according to Friedman, anything state-run (except possibly the army) is a Bad Thing and the state should be reduced to the absolute minimum, while privatisation is intrinsically good. Friedman’s ideas have been imposed via coups on various occasions, notably in Indonesia, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere in South America – and in every case they have resulted in massive enrichment of a small elite and impoverishment for the exploited majority. Our current government, and more importantly its corporate backers, adhere very much to this small-state ideology.

I’ve been reading up a little on coups. In a lot of places, they’re achieved by main force – the army simply rebels, deposes the current leadership, takes control and imposes what it wants. But this is Britain, and that kind of coup isn’t really practical in a country with a long tradition of democracy and ethical service to the State. So other methods have to be found.

It’s hardly unprecedented for a group to come to power electorally, and then proceed to perpetrate a coup – to dismantle the electoral mechanisms that might get rid of it and to restructure the country to its own ends. A certain Austrian housepainter did it in 1933 – very successfully, until he pushed his luck too far.

All coups have defining characteristics – things they have to achieve to be successful and to ensure its leaders remain in power. It’s only the means of implementation that vary. Here are some of the elements of a coup d’état

– Police co-opted or neutralised
– Media co-opted or neutralised
– Opponents eliminated/divided/marginalised
– Organs of state dismantled/co-opted
– Massive propaganda to persuade the populace to accept the new order
– Electoral threat removed
– Increased surveillance of the public
– Huge increase in wealth & privilege of the ‘elite’

Are we witnessing an attempted coup d’état in the UK? Do the actions of this ‘government’ bear the classic characteristics of one? Let’s take a look at each element in turn.

Police co-opted or neutralised

The government’s attack on policing has been relentless since it came to power, leading to the famous booing of Home Secretary Theresa May by the Police Federation. Pay, conditions and numbers have been cut, all while the government claims to be maintaining ‘front-line numbers’, and the government is trying to impose the man who recommended the cuts as Chief Inspector of Constabulary. Police forces are being pressured to outsource functions to the private sector. Chillingly, the purpose of this attack has become clear. David Taylor-Smith, the head of the disgraced private security firm G4S, has publicly stated his expectation, based on current regulations and trends, that there will be a mass privation of policing over the next 5 years.

If this move takes place as he predicts, private capital will effectively own policing in this country – and will be placed to enforce the wishes of owners and suppress dissent, rather than protect the British people with relative neutrality and integrity. The neoliberals are positioning themselves for more direct control. If this worries you, it absolutely should. Don’t be distracted by G4S’ current embarrassment over its shameful failure in its Olympic security contract, necessitating a ‘bail-out’ by army personnel who should be on leave. Theresa May’s response to the situation makes it perfectly clear that the agenda remains unchanged – and if G4S rules itself out via its Olympics screw-up, there will be no shortage of other candidates eager to step up.

If you’re a police officer of any kind reading this, please read this post too, which might be interesting.

Media co-opted or neutralised

There has always been a large section of the print media that is dedicated to supporting right-wing ideology. But since it came to power this government has managed to coerce or manoeuvre even the BBC into supporting its aims. Apart from small pockets of resistance, the BBC usually either parrots government sound-bites as if they were fact, or else remains silently complicit by failing to bring public attention to the damaging effects of government action – and if you complain, it claims it’s making its editorial decisions based on lack of importance and public interest! Only a small section of the print media continues to draw attention to what’s going on – but it’s largely preaching to an already-converted readership rather than reaching the deceived.

Opponents eliminated/divided/marginalised

This is Britain, so it’s not an easy option for the Tories to physically eliminate opponents. However, the government is doing everything it can to eliminate dissent, divide opponents and ridicule those who dare to claim there is a different way. Aided and abetted by their friends in the media, the Tories set segments of the population are against others: those who aren’t on benefits vs those who are; the able-bodied vs the disabled; the comfortable against the disadvantaged; private-sector workers vs the public sector; those whose pensions have already been stolen vs those whose pensions haven’t – yet. Whoever is to be the latest victim is systematically demonised, to reduce public support and the viability of resistance. And, as we’ve seen in the current case of government-sanctioned cartels to force down pay and terms of NHS workers in the south-west of England, the government is not above legalising criminal measures in order more effectively to corral its victims and deprive them of realistic options. This demonisation is costing lives, as suicides increase, especially among those deprived of support and hope, and as demonised groups are increasingly attacked physically by those who wrongly believe they’re somehow getting away with something.

Organs of state dismantled/co-opted

The neoliberal ideal requires the privatisation of every possible state provision – and that all profits go into private pockets while costs & losses are borne by the bulk of the population. Since before it came to power (its health bill was tabled less than 2 months after the General Election, far too short a time to construct such a complex bill), the Tories were plotting to privatise the NHS – and in rare moments of honesty, their key players even admit that they want not only the NHS but the entire welfare state to be dismantled.

In addition – and for a long time now, going back to Thatcher’s misuse of the police to smash the mining and print unions – the Tories have assumed the police will act as its paramilitary arm to suppress dissent. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 makes ‘Occupy’-style protests near Parliament illegal if a police officer or local authority official tells you not to, and even bans the use of amplifiers,  The infamous ‘kettling’ tactic used on protest marches are designed to keep protestors in areas of least effectiveness and to discourage people from participating.

This is a dangerous tactic, as the government has made itself an enemy of the police through its actions via Theresa May, but if they succeed in their privatisation drive, the danger of police joining the resistance instead of containing it will be removed or at least greatly reduced.

Massive propaganda to persuade the populace to accept the new order

I’ve already highlighted, in this article and various others, the way in which the Tories use propaganda and demonisation of target groups via the media to divide and rule. Once you see the pattern the first time, you realise just how saturated the news media are with this kind of disinformation. On top of this, the media and current affairs programmes speak of cuts, austerity and the perpetuation of the current financial system as if we all must simply accept that there is no other viable way, and to inhibit the spread of the notion that there might be better solutions and other points of view. Only rarely will a truly dissenting voice receive airtime, and then usually only to be treated as a foolish fringe. ‘Magic Money Tree’ jibes again, anyone?

Electoral threat removed

This is one of the most outrageous steps this government is trying to take – but yet again, even today on BBC News, reporters and commentators speak of Tory plans to re-draw electoral boundaries as if they’re simply another, slightly contentious ‘Westminster bubble’ issue.

And yet, if you look at what the Tories are trying to do, it’s appalling. The re-defining of electoral boundaries is not merely some kind of neutral re-balancing exercise – it’s deliberately designed to add weight and importance to every Conservative vote and to increase the number of Tory MPs that will result from a given number of Conservative voters. Put simply, these measures are designed to make it harder for the British electorate to vote out a Tory government. And if they succeed in this, you can guarantee that they will push it further and further, incrementally, until it’s virtually impossible to get rid of them.

Add this to the measures already implemented, of fixing Parliamentary terms to 5 years and increasing the majority required to carry a vote of no-confidence, which have guaranteed this shambolic, malevolent government at least 5 years to achieve irreversible damage to the UK state, and it’s clear that the Conservatives aim to tie up power to the greatest achievable degree while they change the fabric of our society to suit themselves and their paymasters.

Increased surveillance of the public

For a long time now, the UK has been the most watched nation in the world. The average person appears on CCTV 70 times a day. Now, with its draft communications bill, or snoopers’ charter, the government plans to give police and intelligence services an automatic right to monitor anyone’s electronic communications and internet activity. The supposed grounds for this are security against terrorism, but critics – including some Tories – say it will be ineffective in this. It will, however, be extremely useful for any official wanting to keep track of dissent and target resisters.

Huge increase in wealth & privilege of the ‘elite’

For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into this in detail, except to point you to these 2 posts, in which I outline the steepening increase in income inequality under neoliberal governments and the fact that in a neoliberal ‘recovery’, only the rich benefit, while the rest receive an unchanged or even reducing real income. Read those, and you’ll see the inescapable conclusion that the companies and rich individuals who fund the Tory party are most definitely expecting – and collecting – a huge payback for their support. The cost of this enriching is being paid for by stripping away the protections of our most vulnerable people -taking a toll in lives lost that will only increase as it’s extended.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Maybe you’ve read all this and think I’m overstating my case, or over-reacting to a confluence of accident and circumstance. I hope not, because I don’t think the evidence leaves any real room for doubt that we’re currently witnessing an insidious, subtle, but accelerating coup in this country, as a powerful clique expropriates our national wealth for their own ends and enrichment – and puts in place the measures it hopes will enable it to keep the rest of us in our ‘place’ for the foreseeable future. They may be putting a British, democratic whitewash on their actions – but we’re not fooled. Are we?

If you do agree with me, having read this post, then don’t tolerate the constant attempts to obscure the truth or to pull the wool over your eyes. There’s really only one sane course open to us: inform yourself and others, unite – and resist by every available means. The only other alternative is to bend over and take it, while the Tories and their sponsors laugh all the way to the bank at our expense. And no sane person would put up with thatwould they?


  1. I wouldn’t single out the Tories on this, they are the ones ‘in power’ at the moment, but the previous thieving bunch have laid the foundations…

    1. I wouldn’t disagree, but then Blair wasn’t really Labour, and he continued building on Thatcher’s foundations in too many ways. And the Tories’ neoliberal leanings these days are the main driver now.

      1. Ah – so the crappiest bits of Labour weren’t Labour! You’re amazing. Take denial to a whole new level.

  2. This is how it looks to me, too, except that the Tory/Labour divide is unclear and it seems to be more of a corporatist neo-lib mindset that drives this, with politicians of any hue being co-opted.

  3. Oh I wouldn’t rely on Labour to oppose this. John Pilger’s words come to mind: Single police state with two different types of presentation. But dead right on “Shock Doctrine” Glad someone else can see it.

    1. I didn’t mention Labour in this post. I think Ed Miliband has the nerve to change things, but the post is as much a challenge to Labour to step up and offer a genuine socialist alternative. EM attending Durham Miners’ Gala at the weekend was a promising sign.

      1. Yes, it was. On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past the Blairites to oust him in a LabourCoup. EdM needs to keep his friends close and his enemies closer still. Which is tedious when you want him to do something useful for us, rather than just political intrigue.

    2. Freudian slip there, should read “Single policy state”, but “police state” isn’t that wrong.

  4. I seen Teresa May interviewed on the lunchtime news today , and when she smiled it was a countenance of pure evil and malevolence … reminiscent of her reaction to the riots last summer , which she claimed were nothing to do with politics and ” gang ” led … both points subsequently proved fallacious …

      1. No, just a bitch – and incompetent. Definitely trolling now, mate. Make some good points and we’re on – but keep going like this and I’ll just unapprove your comments so the place doesn’t get swamped with troll-droppings.

  5. And, of course, one of the classic game plans in putting any coup in place is to engineer a ‘crisis’ so that extraordinary measures can be taken and explained away as unfortunate but necessary in the grave circumstances. The ruling elite have been playing a long game to redress the balance after their unprecedented loss of ground in the post war era. One of their first tasks was to break the power of the Trades Unions (Thatcher) and subvert the Labour Party to their own ends (Blair). Now they will dismantle the Welfare State and won’t stop until the poor are back in workhouses. How many people even noticed the legislation on Parliamentary terms and no confidence votes? How well reported was it by the media? Another cracking blogpost, keep up the good work!

  6. Excellent article, yet again. How do you do it? It’s so obvious to many of us what is happening yet not to others. Are those others bad people? They could be our nearest and dearest which is a frightening thought.

    1. I don’t think the unaware are any worse than the aware, for the most part. They’re just unaware – maybe they prefer not to be in some cases, which is bad but understandable. Ignorance might seem bliss for a while but it’s going to bite you in the arse eventually.

      As for how I do it, thanks for the compliment! I just watch what’s going on, listen to what’s said and join the dots. Glad you like the result!

  7. Ever since I read the “Shock Doctrine” I have watched this process with increasing alarm. Excellent blogpost I would have been proud of writing. Just to add that the professions also need to be subjugated, and this is well under way with ‘reforms’ of organisations like the General Medical Council to become an arm of the state apparatus, helped by useful fools high up in the professions. The guilty ones have all been rewarded by the state with shiny shiny baubles.

  8. A good quote from Einstein on Socialism ( copied and pasted from wiki )
    “I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.”

    — Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?, 1949

    1. We tried that, but the East Germans had to wall in their population, and the USSR and Cuba didn’t turn out too well either.

      1. That wasn’t socialism, just totalitarianism dressed up as it. Which is perfectly obvious to anyone.

        Wondered how long it would be before someone used the old ‘look at Stalin’ line, or something similar, though.

        It would be easy for me to compare the Tories to the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes, but I don’t – it’s not correct, and it’s cheap. You failed to pass the same test of fair assessment, mate.

  9. This is laughable – even with the little I know of economics & politics. For a start in the UK you can say a lot (but not all) aspects of neo-liberalism started over 30 years ago (and not recently) with Thatcher.

    And since 1979 we have had 7 general elections and have changed governments – so much for ‘dismantling electoral mechanisms’. Indeed since 1979 there has been an increase of democratic measures and not a decrease e.g. restructuring of the Lords, Scottish, Welsh and Irish devolution and a referendum on PR plus hopefully further reforming of the Lords.

    During this time Blair’s attempt to detain people for 90 days was defeated and these recent ‘coup leaders’ of the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition actually halved the 28 days of detention without trial back to 14 days. So much for the organs of state dismantles/co-opted.
    If you want to co-opt or neutralize the police then logically you don’t piss them off by cutting their numbers and pay. How are you going to run your police otherwise? G4S? Er…if they can’t police the Olympics then they aren’t going to be able to police the UK. When Thatcher came to power she increased police pay.

    If a group gains power electorally through legal means than by it is by its very definition not a coup. The Austrian housepainter tried a failed coup in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. It was a decade later he was elected Chancellor and not long after did he dismantled democracy with no coup involved.

    A lot of the media is either anti-government or neutral – The Mirror, The Guardian, The Independent and it’s not really hard to find anti-government rhetoric in the right-wing press either – or indeed the internet. The BBC certainly isn’t right-wing – it’s a political football and each side for many decades (e.g Tebbit & Pilger) cries the BBC is too far in one direction – opposite of its own – which is a healthy sign that the BBC actually doing a good job.

    As for opponents eliminated/divided/marginalized – that’s a tactic been going on since time began and is done by both left and right. Really is this a new debate? I’m pretty sure the disadvantaged has been demonized before 2010. Privatisation has happened on a large scale since 1979 and includes the time under Labour (inc British Nuclear Fuels, National Air Traffic Services & Qinetiq) but also there has been the full and semi nationalization of some banks. Also the privatization in the last 2 years is small fry compared to previous years. The debate on whether we need cuts or how deep cuts should be has been raging for several years now and is no way this debate is being stifled. Of course there is propaganda. Let me know of a UK government in the last 100 years which didn’t use propaganda.

    As for boundary review – that’s a regular exercise done by an independent commission to make sure the boundaries are as balanced in size as possible.

    As for neo-liberalism generally – one of its key points besides privitization, deregulation, free trade, lower inflation – is balanced budget. Now how often has that happened in the last 30 years? Instead we have had easy credit, huge debts and bank interventions. This is something I suspect Milton Friedman would be very much against. I shall file this conspiracy along with Dubya causing 9/11 and Obama is really a communist and wasn’t born in the US.

    1. You are of course entitled to make of the post what you will. However, you’re missing the ‘very British’ part, which is important. The government can’t impose its coup steps wholesale – we’re too used to democracy. So it’s having to be subtle and do it in phases.

      As for neoliberalism, it started longer ago – with Friedman and arguably with his mentor Hayek. However, its real foothold in UK politics and business dates to Thatcher’s accession – as can be seen from the inequality indices etc as well as the kind of policies she implemented, and how. Similarly, in the US, the upturn in inequality starts exactly with the presidency of her boyfriend Reagan, who shared the same worldview.

      Of course it continued under New Labour, although not as unalloyed. I’m no fan of Blair and believe Labour needs to return to being a genuinely socialist party – and that this represents both its best electoral bet and the best hope for a just Britain. The devolution measures progressed under Labour, but they don’t change the fact that the current government is trying to implement changes that will be very hard to undo even if it’s voted out because of them – it still amounts to a coup.

      With regard to co-opting the police, the Tories are adopting a ‘set up to fail’ strategy with all areas of public provision. Reduce the police to a shadow of itself, wait for the failures, then use those as an excuse for accelerated privatisation. We’re seeing the same in the NHS, education etc.

      And if you don’t think Hitler’s dismantling of democracy after he was elected amounted to a coup, you have a very naive view. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but it ends up skinned all the same.

      Neoliberalists want to be enriched at the expense of others. They have preferred ways of doing it, but they’ll adapt those to the situation if they have to. Every measure – from privatisation to public bail-outs – has enriched the same people, and that’s just fine with them

  10. The British were used to centuries of Monarchy and that didn’t stop Cromwell from seizing power. The British we used to centuries without democracy but that didn’t democracy from taking hold. So what do you think the chances are that there will be an election during or before 2015? If there is – which I am happy to make a bet on with you – then this ‘pseudo-coup’ is even more non-existent. Problem is that there are many people who are against the elected government of the day can’t accept that many people actually agree with them (and as an ex-Lib-dem I don’t support the Tories) – be it a Tory or Labour government and feel that somehow the government has cheated its way into power and is somehow going to grab power for an eternity through various nefarious means.

    If Labour returns to pure blooded socialism then I don’t believe it will be re-electable for a long time (see M Foot 1983) even with the current shambles of this government. Whilst mixed economy of capitalism and socialism has brought some significant benefits – socialism as a whole is a failed concept. As for Tories setting up public provision to fail – I think this is too cynical. The Tories are ideological driven which is stupid during a time of recession and whilst they are in a coalition but they are also more incompetent than cunning.

    The coalition haven’t dismantled democracy. Boundary changes have happened many times. The government isn’t about to launch a coup to overthrow the government – because they are the government! There may be many ways to skin a cat but putting a collar on it isn’t skinning. The coalition is doing enough damage without the need for hyperbole.

    As for bail-outs – well most of them happened under Gordon Brown – so is he I take it, a Neo-liberalist now? So do you disagree with free trade? Or should we have more tariffs for overseas countries e.g. African ones? Should we renationalize British Airways, British Gas, British Steel, the buses, trains, BP, BT etc? Reckon the country has the money to do that and that would gather popular support? Do you reckon we would get a better service from those companies if we did? Are you against lower inflation? Are you against balanced budgets? And who do the neoliberalists want to impoverish? And have ‘the people’ done better under countries which have adopted full scale socialism in terms of living conditions over the last 100 years?

    1. Great post. Can’t wait for our international-businessman blog owner to post his responses to this one…

      1. I think you just crossed the troll line. You don’t think that Britain would be a hard place to have a military coup? Of course it would. Whether it’s vulnerable to a popular uprising against an oppressive and corrupt government is another question entirely, however.

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