Welcome to Powellite Britain (2015), where old men write of rivers of blood and BBC presenters talk of niggers and slopes, where people can’t make up their minds whether immigrants are here to steal jobs or loll around on benefits.
The world has tipped upside down when racists like Jeremy Clarkson are considered some kind of punk-rock subcultural hero (along with his friend Nigel), and where Spiked is a journal of the left. As Suzanne Moore wrote the last time he came under mild scrutiny:
“Clarkson is not stupid. Nor is he a maverick or outlier. He is a central part of the establishment. He parties with Cameron. Just as Ukip is not a maverick party, but made up of disgruntled Tories; just as Boris Johnson is not a maverick but a born-to-rule chancer; just as bloggers such as Guido Fawkes pretend to be anti-politics mavericks but are hard-rightwingers – this section of the right deludes itself that it is somehow “outside” the establishment rather than its pumping heart.”
The dictum that ‘money rules’ is crystal clear. So BBC apologists spent most of the day tip-toeing around the issue with terms like ‘fracas’ and ‘dust-up’ being employed as quaint euphemisms to describe punching a member of staff employed in a publicly funded organisation.
Tellingly, only MPs and professional boxers can get away with assault as part of their day-to-day work.
Moore again: “This is the rich and powerful deriding the powerless while pretending to be heroic victims. It is a revolting, sweaty lie.”
Politics and Imagery
Having possibly reached the bottom of the barrel with yesterdays Wrecking Ball hoot, the Unionist chatterati were positively slavering over the keyboards today over the GERS figures, of which more in a moment.
There’s a delicious irony with the ‘Sun Wot Won It’ paper playing such a bad hand and fuelling the downfall of the Union, daily. Their wrecking ball visuals managed a magnificent combination of misogyny, inaccurate reporting and hilarious cultural ignorance.
The week that kicked off with David Hamilton’s ‘wee lassie’ put-down is followed up by the Sun’s most crass sexist imagery. What they have in common is they have no politics to put forward, no arguments to make their case. They feel threatened, and so they should. Philippa Whitford and Nicola Sturgeon are formidable and will be hard to intimidate.
The attempt is to smear everyone. This is the politics of hate. It’s the bread and butter daily fare of tabloid Britain.
Sturgeon is of course a target – first of all simply for being a woman in public life, but secondly for challenging the economic orthodoxy on austerity. This would be bad enough but also “The SNP is unashamedly pro-immigration” they write and finally “soft on benefits.”
This is a full house in tabloid bingo.
Pete Wishart is worse still. His crimes? “In 2008 he told the Commons he’d ‘never felt British in his life’.” If there was ever a better sign of the gulf that has opened up between SunLand and Scotland it is here. I don’t know anyone under 50 who feels British.
They couldn’t be bothered to get an actual photo of Tasmina Sheikh, National Women’s & Equalities Officer and #GE2015 Candidate for Ochil and South Perthshire. Someone that looked a bit similar would do.
Welcome to Powellite Britain.
Although this is great knockabout fun, those of them with enough sense know that its desperate stuff.
More fertile ground was the Annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (Gers) report released today. The most detailed information available on the state of Scotland’s public finances has revealed a higher budget deficit in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.
The Gers report for 2013-14 identified Scotland’s deficit as £12.4bn in 2013-14 or 8.1 per cent of GDP compared to the UK deficit of 5.6 per cent of GDP. Scotland continues to record higher levels of tax revenue and higher levels of spending than the UK average. Tax take was £400 higher per person than the UK average, which has now been higher for 34 years in a row. Spending per person in Scotland was also higher than the UK average, at £12,500 per person.
John McDermott writes in the Financial Times: “If this year’s release shows the deterioration of Scotland’s relative fiscal position, then the effects of the oil price fall have yet to emerge in the official numbers. These will show up next year, when one can assume things look even worse for Scotland.” Well indeed, and presumably for the broad shoulders of the Exchequer too?
Most of the day was filled with gleeful renditions by columnists everywhere. David Maddox started gloating the day before.
Former Yes campaigner Ivan McKee noted:
“The bad numbers are due to bad UK management. If Osborne was a company finance director he’d get fired. Business is fundamentally sound but under performing compared to neighbouring Scandinavian economies. Looking at Scotland like a business, it needs corporate restructuring, a management buyout and a new management team,” said McKee.
But the argument that an under-performing Scottish economy is an indictment of a future Scottish democracy is an odd one. The other argument that a fossil-fuel based world is not only essential but the only possible model open to us is a form of delusional behaviour in the face of overwhelming and now pressing ecological reality.
Many, indeed probably most nationalists have based much of their thinking on ‘oil’. But this is changing. As Pat Kane wrote a few weeks ago:
One of the few benefits of a No vote, for Yessers like me, is that it gives us some thinking time to refashion the prospectus for independence. I’d like to suggest that one of the most interesting thought experiments we could conduct would be: imagine the viability of an independent Scotland without oil, gas or coal resources.
In the face of our botched energy inheritance, and in the teeth of a politics seemingly unable to think beyond a sort of 50’s Mad Men economics of growth, debt and mass inequality, re-thinking is about all we can do.
As the economist Hazel Henderson famously said: “The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise … economics is a form of brain damage.”
Breathing Life into a Moribund Patriotism
But as England glories in a new hero, there are voices of sense. Mary Riddell writes in the Telegraph (‘Our politicians must stop rubbishing the Scots Nats, and start copying them‘):
Scotland is not Mr Miliband’s biggest problem. His real difficulty is England, and the trouble is so acute that devising a Labour prospectus for the English is no longer a desirable extra but an existential necessity. Without a recognition of English identity, the Union may be doomed. Simply to tell Scottish voters that their votes do not count and their MPs are an irrelevance would defy democracy, kill off all Scottish fealty to a united nation and sound the death warrant on our (already shaky) winner-takes-all electoral arrangements.
She’s probably right.
But what effect would that have? Having created fertile ground for an English nationalism that celebrates Farage and deifies Clarkson, what would happen if there was now a united front of parties circling around an English nationalism? What would that nationalism look and feel like? Given the events of the last few days I’d hate to think.
Clarkson is clown and a patsy. He’s the real domestic extremist, not the old woman who has been in CND for 60 years or the young people fighting for a sane energy policy.
He may be a well paid thug but his real role is as poster boy for a set of values still cherished by an element of British society. We’re reaping the harvest of thirty years tabloid propaganda.
Welcome to Powellite Britain.