In which the Mobility Commission walks away and the wisdom of the City is revealed…..

In a move adroitly timed to coincide with the Observer’s publication schedule, the entire board of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission walked out on Saturday night, thus presenting Theresa May with the biggest political crisis she had faced in at least 24 hours. Governments have a Social Mobility Commission in much the same way as most of us have jump leads – a theoretically useful sort of possession, but tending to hang around for years, unused and forgotten about at the back of the garage. Never one to allow himself to be forgotten about for long, Alan Milburn, who, up until its unprecedented act of mobility, chaired the Commission, jumped himself. Was this a politically-motivated act, the former Labour health secretary was asked? Not so, he replied, pointing out with absolute accuracy that Mr Milburn has a proud history of making difficulty for prime ministers of all parties.

Quite how much trouble the loss of her Social Mobility Commission will cause Mrs May is uncertain, but the answer is likely to be not as much as the Observer hopes. The week ahead may yet be the one in which she loses her deputy, Damian Green, should the long running inquiry into the nature of the pornography supposedly found on his computer comes, as it were, to a climax. That the porn was there seems not to be at issue in this case, although the de facto deputy prime minister denies having looked at it. It may be that the next stage of his defence is to point out that doing that sort of thing makes you blind.

And why not indeed, for this man is the master of the implausible denial. Two years ago, when Mr Green’s email address turned up on the lists held by Ashley Madison, a website dedicated to the task of getting people into adulterous relationships, he claimed then that it was not he who had logged on to the site on his computer using his mother’s maiden name. The hunt is clearly on across Westminster and Whitehall for the peculiar pervert who stalks Damian Green’s hardware, waiting until his back is turned to pounce on it for diverse sexual purposes. No wonder Sue Gray, Whitehall’s ethics czar, is flummoxed. For this kind of work you need a Depravity Czar.

Mr Green turned up at PMQs in the middle of the week, doing some de facto deputising for the prime minister who had gone to Iraq to seek some peace and respite from her problems. Facing him was Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, Emily Thornberry. She is one of those Labour figures who always causes Tories to burst out in an unsavoury admixture of bile and glee and who is never quite as bad at her job as they think she ought to be. Even though Mr Corbyn himself has been getting steadily better at PMQs for something like the last six months, Ms Thornberry’s historic role at questions has been to show-her-leader-how-it-is-done. She is always held to have achieved this goal –  by political reporters who wouldn’t recognise an original angle if Donald Trump tweeted it to them from the Oval Office.

Troublingly for the first secretary of state (for such is Mr Green’s official title), Ms Thornberry began with a question about ministerial standards – a line of inquiry that appeared to be heading inexorably towards his alleged browsing habits. Thusly to discombobulate the first secretary may have been her cruel intention and it was only when the colour had been satisfactorily drained from her opponent’s face that she revealed that what she was really on about was the number of nurses working for the NHS. Apparently, Mr Green may have held views on this topic in opposition different to the ones that he was pleased to entertain as Her Majety’s first secretary of state. Hence the accusation of double standards.

This was weak stuff. To demand that a politician maintain a consistency of view between opposition and government is like asking a hyena to try the vegetarian option. And, besides, this was not an area where any answer is enough. The police officers merrily releasing details of the investigation into Damian Green’s hard-drive may have been amazed by the number of dirty pictures they say they found there, but no one is ever amazed by the number of nurses working for the NHS, even though it is a number that grows inexorably upwards. Should Emily Thornberry ever get into government, she will find this out.

The idea of Ms Thornberry getting into government under the aegis of Jeremy Corbyn as PM has been worrying the City it seems, or at least it has been worrying that part of it represented by Morgan Stanley, the bankers. Mr Corbyn replied, in essence, that they were right to be worried. This put him at odds with his shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who claims to be on good terms with several asset managers, although he could not, on inquiry, remember any of their names.

It is a measure of how far the Labour Party has travelled under Mr Corbyn’s stewardship that it no longer adopts a posture of maximum cravenness when it comes to bankers. And even they, the bankers, have noticed. The Telegraph reported that big finance is making contingency plans for the so-called “nightmare scenario” of a Corbyn premiership.

On examination, this turns out to be a reference to a paper written by Mr Erik Norland of the CME Group, an organisation describing itself, rather mysteriously, as the “world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace”. How much money there is in diverse derivatives is open to question, though CME don’t seem to be able to afford more than one analyst. Mr Norland’s oeuvres dominate their website to the exclusion of anyone else. As well as telling us what to expect from prime minister Corbyn, he writes knowledgably (one presumes) on, among other things, the VIX-Yield Curve, which he maintains could be at the door of high volatility, and on future wheat prices.

He could, for all one knows, be very sharp on wheat, but Mr Norland’s political antennae seemed tuned to the equivalent of Radio Two. His paper includes such startling insights as “Theresa May’s position continues to deteriorate”, “the Brexit negotiations are not going well” and “the likelihood of another UK general election is growing”. Indeed it is not. Unless Mr Norland knows something about a Momentum-led coup to seize power and install Jeremy Corbyn as president-for-life, the likelihood of another UK general election is 100% and cannot grow beyond that. Still, if it is as easy as this to make money in the City, it is tough to imagine what Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell could do to throw themselves in the way of it.

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