Three Long Years
Three years after the biggest exercise in mass political education met a professional propaganda campaign backed by the British State to protect its own power, its own economic interests and its own political class, the lies are being exposed day in day out, but it’s a crowded field.
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is facing a torrent of condemnation for wheeling out (again) his discredited line about £350 million for the NHS that he used to twist the Brexit vote. Sir David Norgrove of the UK Statistics Authority took the step to write personally to the Foreign Secretary condemning his actions:
Boris Johnson has now been rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority twice. Both times he responded by personally attacking its chair. pic.twitter.com/WogyR18vin
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) September 17, 2017
He’s not alone though. It’s not about Boris. He is the seventh Conservative cabinet minister to be rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority since 2010. All the efforts to personalise this into the issue of Boris is a sideshow. It’s aim (whether conscious or not) is to deflect attention from the legal coup that’s going on at Westminster and the cataclysmic impact of the outbreak of English Nationalism that’s leading Britain off the cliff through Brexit.
In a previous era the confirmation about Boris Johnson’s lying would have been a sackable offence, now it’s just part of the normal practice of politics.
Iain Martin tries in vain here to make it all look like a bit of cock-up, just a bit of bad-timing and all that (“This looks like a bit of a shambles. It is, after all, Boris”). But if BoJo is caught looking like he has all the morals of a snakeoil-salesman (not exactly a newsflash to anyone), his party is riddled with politicians who are “economical with the truth”. In a move that won’t come as a surprise to anyone at all, the Scottish Secretary is competing valiantly with the Foreign Secretary at efforts in public deception.
In July 2017: David Mundell stated #Brexit means a “power bonanza” for the Scottish Parliament. Two months later, not so much.
Michael Settle reports in the Herald that “David Mundell today clearly signals that while some extra powers will be devolved to Holyrood post Brexit, others will be reserved to Westminster to help maintain the integrity of the UK’s internal market. The Scottish Secretary, in a keynote speech during a trade mission to Paraguay, will also call on Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, to “decouple” for good Brexit from her campaign for Scottish independence.”
I’m not sure what the significance of Paraguay is, but Mundell’s efforts to exert pressure on the Scottish Government will surely fail, and the invention of the “UK internal market” as a thing evokes the same “family of nations” narrative that has been exposed as just more duplicity and nonsense. It’s simply not credible to simultaneously ignore, sideline and abuse a ‘parter’ whilst also talking of great common interests and collective unity. It doesn’t make any sense.
But what is the effect of serial lying? Are the Conservatives resurgent – north and south of the border – as commentators have been hailing for months?
In fact two polls over the weekend report a surge in support for independence three years on and after a summer of being told that the idea is dead in the water.
The Survation poll for the Daily Mail shows 55% in favour of a second referendum.
The Survation poll asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and revealed, or confirmed a generational gulf:
“Should Scotland be an independent country? (under 34s/over 55s): Yes: 66/33% No: 34/67%
(Survation, 14/9/17, http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Final-SDM-VI-Tables-1c0d1h6-080917MBJRFSTJNHCH-I.pdf … p13)
Meanwhile a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times Scotland revealed that 65% of Scots want to remain in the EU, up from 61% in January and 50% believe Brexit will damage the Scottish economy.
You might ask yourself, given the debacle that’s unfolding why these figures aren’t higher. Why aren’t we seeing 75% in favour of indyref2? Why do only 50% think Brexit will damage the Scottish economy?
On the generational gulf, the SNP’s Ross Colquhoun asks:
“Question: What separates these two demographics? Answer: How they access political news and the sources they trust.”
Which is true only in part.
Three years ago, by their own proud admission Better Together ran a campaign of fear.
UK:OK translated as “everything’s fine”. It aimed to, and succeeded in appealing to those for whom this was true, and for those with such a low sense of aspiration that “everything’s fine” was true even if they lived in poverty, poor housing, or low pay. Being British and poor was enough. We were after all, a “family of nations” and Britain represented a place of stability. The idea of ‘Scotland’ was given as being a state of parochialism, nationalism, separation. We would be ‘separate’. Britain was inclusive, all-embracing, multi-cultural, outward looking.
Such a representation today is not possible. Not even the combined efforts of the army of celebrities wheels out to dazzle us could portray Brexit Britain in this light.
“The derangement of Theresa May’s minority government in the United Kingdom is something to behold, and it is also more than a little frightening. Even in the America of Donald Trump, there has not yet been any real attempt, save a few controversial executive orders, to strip Congress of its powers. But in Britain—the Mother of Parliaments, according to the Victorian reformer John Bright—we stand idly by as May attempts to neutralize our elected representatives. It seems incredible to me that I am reporting on this, but even more alarming is that there is so little concern expressed by the majority of the press and the generally acquiescent BBC. The point is that after the referendum last year, and despite the poor result in the General Election, the right-wing of the Conservative Party has continued traveling in an increasingly undemocratic direction and has, so far, swept all before it. The normally rather sober Hansard Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening democracy, has called the “broad scope of the powers in the Bill, the inadequate constraints placed on them, and the shortcoming in the proposed parliamentary control of them” a “toxic mix” that will undermine Parliament’s ability to hold May to account or to meliorate the most damaging policies arising from Brexit.”
As well as the surge in support for independence amongst younger people, this week threw up some other salient facts. Roy Greenslade of the Guardian reported:
“Tabloid print sales cliff fall, August 2017 compared to August 2016 (ABC figs): Mirror -19%, Star -14%, Sun -9%, Express -8%, Mail -7%”.
Hope springs eternal.
Three years on Britain is a harsher place led by a small elite of ideologues who seem incapable at a very simple level of operating their own trade of politics. They seem both inept and corrupt in equal measure in ways that seem new and even darker than their inglorious predecessors. But there is hope in that this just seems abundantly clear to everyone. Characters like Boris Johnson may come from such obscene privilege that they are impervious to exposure, but that doesn’t mean that exposure isn’t being seen and understood.
Three years ago one of the most inspiring aspects of the referendum was young people imagining the future against a backdrop of cynical propaganda. Today that remains exactly the same. The future hasn’t been defeated by lies. Another Scotland is still possible.
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