In the hot July sun Britain feels like some kind of delirious literary experiment, something from the pages of The Cement Garden meeting The Road in a sort of incoherent pre-apocalyptic end-times novel. As the slogans of “taking back control”, “it’s coming home’ and “strong and stable” elide into a mesmerising McSlurry of anglo-normative nationalism and a howl of imperial decline.
In chapter one in front of the Shard, a Gareth Southgate lookalike mounts a smashed-up emergency vehicle in a victory pose after England’s victory against Sweden.
In chapter two a British mother dies after exposure to a Russian nerve-agent Novochok in Salisbury. A murder inquiry is launched.
In chapter three after vigil Mass at St Alphonsus, Glasgow, Canon Tom White is spat at and abused by loyalist marchers of the Orange Order, he is threatened with a bar as police who had been “guarding the church” had been called away to another incident and had “left the priest and the parishioners defenceless.”
Arlene Foster, whose party is propping up the UK regime with revealed (but ignored) Dark Money attended an Orange Order march in Cowdenbeath a few weeks ago.
In chapters four five and six, as the relentless heat builds steps the President of the United States. One chief constable has reported that the resources that had been asked for were on the scale required “if London was burning down”. Firearms officers, armed counter-terrorism units, public order officers and dog handlers are being deployed for the visit. Meanwhile the story moves north as plans are being set for his tour of his Scottish golf courses.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister gathers her Cabinet at her country house to try to desperately paper over the cracks over the Brexit negotiations and cobble together some form of coherence. The agreement immediately shatters in public acrimony.
Our Foreign Secretary calls the agreement a Turd, and anyone supporting it involved in an exercise of “polishing a turd”. Last week he blurted ‘Fuck Business” about complaints of economic damage.
After two years of negotiations, David Davis the man leading the biggest political process since the Second World War, but who has spent a total of four hours with his counterpart Michel Barnier during that period, resigns, leaving the beleaguered May government in even more chaos than was previously imaginable.
Like our treatment of Trump our treatment of David Davis, who has personified the sort of smug insouciance of the present elite, shouldn’t kid us that if only this process had been handled by someone better everything would be okay. As Jonathon Shafi has noticed: “Brexit handling is not really a “shambles” that a more “competent” leader could manage. That analysis fails to grasp the impact of Brexit politically, economically and institutionally. It represents much more than a leadership crisis for May – but for the whole British state.”
The problem isn’t the jaw-dropping incompetence or the awe-inspiring arrogance that has characterised British positioning, it is the fact that the position is irredeemable by the usual methods of fudge and bluster and endless equivocation. The supposedly ‘tried and tested’ diplomatic tactics of British bureaucrats can’t resolve the contradictions that are at the heart of the Brexit riddle. The ‘four freedoms’ of the European Union: the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders are simply incompatible with the endless iterations of compromise slavered out by Davis and his team. Like the four goalposts at a football game – they remain obstinately in the same position throughout the ninety minutes and the aim remains the same for all teams. The Conservative governments efforts to suggest there may be more goalposts, or different-shaped goalposts or five or six different goalposts dotted around the pitch which only the British and no other team can use, is unsurprisingly not gaining traction.
In one sense it’s surprisingly that Davis has remained in position for so very long.
Remember the impact reports?
The only explanation is that these people are sort of play actors of the spectacle with ‘real people’ negotiating in the Meat World. Maybe that’s too optimistic?
The unfolding British crisis has been going on for some time: Michael Fallon (Nov 2017) was followed by Priti Patel (Dec 2017) who was caught operating a parallel foreign policy in the Middle East, she was followed by Damian Green (20 Dec 2017), who was followed by the unfortunately named James Brokenshire (8 Jan 2018) then Justin Greening (Jan 2018), then Amber Rudd (April 2018) then the Big Kahuna, David Davis.
Now (chapter eight) we have Dominic Raab stepping into the Shitshow.
In an interview a fortnight ago, Raab said he supported a “full fat Brexit”, whatever that means. David Allen Green reminds us: “Many will remember Dominic Raab from his attempts at MoJ to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. He failed, primarily because he did not come up with a legally literate, viable or detailed plan of how to do it. Just slogans.” Others will recall that he was the guy who didn’t know that the national debt was at the last election.
If you had a glimmer of hope that Raab would be a safe pair of hands (he’s been called a ‘pragmatist’), remember he was part of a private Facebook group that called for workhouses for the poor and end to all council housing., has called for the Barnett Formula to be scrapped and has called feminists ‘bigots’.
There is no way through. There is no resolution. There is no ‘soft Brexit’. There is no credible unsullied side to Conservatism. English footballing success will not bring unity, or order or enlightenment or a new outward looking perspective.
In the final chapters as England win the world cup, Michael Gove and his colleagues push Theresa May out and the No Deal Brexit they’ve been longing for all along becomes reality and crashes Britain into economic isolationism. It’s coming home. Fifty Years of Hurt finally over.