ROGER Stone is not exactly a household name on this side of the Atlantic, but a few details about his history give you a measure of the man.

He was up to his neck in the Watergate scandal. He set up a lobbying firm whose key clients include some of the murderous and corrupt dictators of recent decades, including Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now the Congo) and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

Stone was involved in the controversial Brooks Brothers Riot at a Miami polling station in 2000, successfully stopping a recount going ahead in time for the deadline – which probably robbed Al Gore of victory and paved the way for George W Bush and the Iraq War. And he is now under investigation by the FBI over Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election.

So why should we pay any attention to this flamboyant egomaniac who loves to show off his bare torso to the cameras, proudly displaying the tattoo on his back of a smirking Richard Nixon?

First, because he is the guru behind the most powerful man on the planet. For decades, Stone had been Donald Trump’s shadowy right-hand man, who after several unsuccessful earlier attempts, finally persuaded Trump to stand for the White House.

And secondly, because his influence is far-reaching, his brand of alt-right politics helping to reshape the world we live in. In a Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone, released this year, political commentators who have followed his career closely over the decades portray him as an evil genius, even comparing him to the fictional super-villain The Joker.

The documentary paints a picture of a highly skilled manipulator, who uses his network of powerful contacts ruthlessly to destroy anyone who dares to stand in the way of his rampant right-wing libertarian ideology.

Stone recently popped up on Channel 4 News to warn that the USA would be plunged into civil war should Trump be impeached – and was pointedly asked by the interviewer whether this was a prediction or a threat. It certainly came across as a menacing warning to Congress. Stone is also a master of disinformation – known these days as fake news – the power of which he learned as a nine year old campaigning, ironically, for John F Kennedy against his future hero Nixon in a school mock election.

“I told all the kids that Nixon had pledged to force them to attend school on Saturday – so the result was an unexpected landslide for Kennedy,” he recalls with relish. For me, one of the most fascinating revelations of the documentary is the way Stone drove the rebranding of the right, from a movement that quite blatantly represented the rich and powerful into what came to be portrayed as a resistance force against political and business elites.

He began that project during the 1980 US presidential campaign, when the phrase Reagan Democrats was coined to describe white working-class voters in the Rust Belt region, characterised by de-industrialisation, urban decay and depopulation, who turned to the Republicans. The strategy pioneered by Stone, which amounts to deception on a grand scale, reached its crescendo with the election of Trump.

Thus, people whose free market fanaticism created an epidemic of mass unemployment, low pay and zero-hours contracts now pose as avengers standing up for the dispossessed against the elites. The rich, powerful and corrupt rail against wealth, power and corruption. It’s a feat of mass hypnotism that would turn Derren Brown green with envy.

This is not just an American disease. It has crossed the Atlantic via a multitude of lavishly funded right-wing think tanks and social media campaigns. It tunes into the resentment and insecurity of those who have been left behind by the free market, and cynically employs the language of the left to create an Orwellian narrative.

Last week, a lot of people were left either scratching their heads or fuming with righteous indignation after Ruth Davidson made a speech about Scotland’s “housing crisis”, which she described as “the biggest challenge of our times”. She cited the massive post-war housing programme and even used the word “radical”. This came from a leader of a party that ripped half a million houses out of councils’ hands.

That led to a lot of misunderstanding, with some newspapers – even left-wing bloggers – misinterpreting her speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research as a call for more social and council housing. It was nothing of the sort. It was a classic example of a right-wing politician framing a regressive, pro-big business policy as a plea for social justice.

NOWHERE in her speech did the Tory leader call for a single new house for social rent. And there was most definitely no talk of council housing. She called for the building of eight new towns along the model of Chapelton of Elsick, south of Aberdeen, where 8000 new homes are planned by a company set up by the Earl of Southesk to promote the development of land owned by his father, the Duke of Fife.

It is a luxury private development. Of the 30 houses listed, the average price is £290,000 – which is £130,000 more expensive than the average house price in the Aberdeen area.

When Tories use the phrase “affordable housing for young people” as Davidson did last week, they don’t mean affordable for the hundreds of thousands of young people who work in bars, restaurants, hotels and call centres for the minimum wage, if they’re lucky. They mean affordable to the well-to-do upper middle classes who tend to vote for them.

The real agenda of the Conservative Party in Scotland and across the UK can be found tucked away in a corner of Ruth’s speech last week: “It appears increasingly the case that the new Planning Bill will fail to be sufficiently radical in making it easier to build private-sector housing.”

A few days letter, Jacob Rees-Mogg echoed that same idea on Any Questions, when he called for deregulation of planning, and for the green belt to be opened up for development.

The Tories, north and south of the Border, are contemplating the fortunes that can be made by landowners, developers and construction companies if they can only free up protected land for luxury development.

They have no interest in dealing with homelessness, sky-high rents, or overcrowding. They are looking after their own, as they always have done.

The only difference these days is that they have become more adept at hiding their greed-driven, privilege-ridden, profit-obsessed ideology – like someone carrying their Harrods shopping out to the Mercedes in an Aldi bag.