+As luck would have it I was down in Westminster on Thursday, the day of Boris’s half resignation, for a meeting of the Association of Former MPs. The meeting was addressed by Bill Browder, of whom more later. Naturally, (breaching no confidences) I found myself before the meeting sitting on the Terrace next to a table of four Tory MPs, one of whom was planning to stand for the Tory leadership. I got the impression that any Tory MP who could garner the support of three others will be emboldened to put themselves forward. This I think is more a statement of desire for promotion to the new cabinet rather than a bid for the top job. Such young upstarts want to put down a marker for a somewhat more distant future. In the meantime they need to show they are rising stars. Needless to say I couldn’t recognise any of them.
+But an election has taken place amongst Conservative parliamentarians, and this is getting no attention at all. Two hereditary Tory peers have departed, and their places have been filled by a vote of the other 45 Tory hereditary peers. Appropriately enough the winners were Lord Remnant (no really) and Lord Wrottersley (I imagine the latter is pronounced Rotter-sly). So we have two new lawmakers who now qualify for ministerial posts! The Eighteenth century lives! Just don’t tell Jacob Rees Mogg (whose music hall act is surely up). Thanks to PoliticsHome for this info.
+To Bill Browder. He is what we may call an intriguing egg. An American who chose British citizenship decades ago, he fairly early on discovered that he wanted to be a successful capitalist (his own words) not least as a reaction against his Communist family upbringing – his grandfather was leader of the American Communist Party and stood against Roosevelt. Browder succeeded in his capitalist ambition, not least through his financing of Russian oligarchs, originally with Putin’s support. But Putin wasn’t controlling the oligarchs, whom Browder discovered were reaping all the profits leaving Putin out of the game. So Putin changed the game, and it became rather risky for Browder to stay involved. He pulled out, leaving only the title deeds of his companies in Russia. It turned out that these still had some value to Russian fraudsters who found a way to use them to defraud the Russian state of $230 million. I simplify all this of course, but when Browder’s Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky refused to play ball with the Russian ne’r do wells he was arrested, tortured and a year later murdered. Browder went on to campaign for a law (first in the US) to prevent the proceeds of Russian corruption benefitting its illicit owners in Western countries. The ‘Magnitsky’ law has now been adopted in over 30 countries, and extends beyond the proceeds of just Russian corruption.
This story, as told by Browder is impressive but I was left wondering. Browder was clearly somebody who saw the ‘opportunities’ thrown up by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The mad rush to turn the Soviet economy into the knock-down basket case it became was as corrupt a process as could be imagined. Anybody who had anything to with it at the very least needs to examine their conscience. I asked Browder if his experience had altered his attitude towards the desire to garner extreme wealth. I think he overlooked the answer to that one, since I had also asked him at the same time to comment on the role of the West in facilitating the deposit of corrupt earnings in the West – long after everybody knew how tainted the money was. He agreed it takes two to tango. His view is that 5% of this wealth is blood money. I bet that’s on the low side, but given the amounts involved it will still be a grotesque amount. He justly described London as the world’s largest trader in this corrupt flow.
Browder is an engaging, eloquent and convincing character. He achieved some unwanted fame when Putin, at his first summit meeting with Trump suggested Browder should be deported to Russia. Trump seemed happy with the idea but as with all things Trump it wasn’t pursued. Nevertheless Browder was Trump’s most wanted man for a time (now the No. 1 is Zelensky). Browder still takes protective measures for himself and family. I guess I will now have to buy Browder’s book Red Notice to see if he answers the many questions I have about his time during the post-Soviet period of economic collapse and corruption. He of course may be entirely blameless, but without Western support for the Dutch auction of a country’s economy, Russia might not be in the kleptocratic state it is today (he said). Had things worked out differently, there may not have been today’s crisis. Browder was an insider witness to the foundations of today’s Russia.
+You can rely on this blog to think ahead of the mainstream media about yet-to-break stories. So now’s the time to consider who will be included in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list. I imagine he wanted to carry on as PM for a couple more months just to focus on this task, the very kind of thing he enjoys most. First off will be a life peerage for his wife, for her dedicated management of No.10 and services to the wallpaper industry. Since he would be entitled to a life peerage on his own departure, she’ll be doubly a lady. His dad too should get a gong for producing the original spermatozoa, so arise Sir Stanley. I don’t know the names of all Johnson’s cousins, etc., but I’m sure their contributions will not be forgotten. To his political chums there will be some easy decisions. Just as Thatcher gave William Whitelaw a hereditary earldom (long after he could do much about it) Rees-Mogg should be considered for such an award. He has produced enough sprogs to merit it. For her services to our culture ‘Mad’ Nad Dorries should get something. She would probably find it orgasmic just to get a British Empire Medal from Boris, but I’m not saying the suggestion of a BEM is in anyway euphemistic. I can’t for the life of me think what Pritti Patel should get. It’s hard to come up with anything that’s quite fine enough. A jail term perhaps? Ooops! That’s not an honour is it? There are a great many Tory MPs out there who have clung onto Johnson’s coat tails like dud limpets. What will they get? And what about those who may yet have a role to play in the continuing Johnson saga – publishing deals, lucrative speechifying circuits and plain old ‘advice.’ Perhaps some space can be found on the list for future favours. Well, you can see this is growing into a bigger task than earlier imagined. He definitely needs another three months.