Let’s Have a Festival!

On the ‘Jacobite Express’ to Mallaig you cross the viaduct now touted as a Harry Potter location (was Charles Edward Stuart in Slytherin?). On the “greatest railway journey in the world” passengers tip their excrement directly onto the tracks, jobbies litter Glenfinnan and Arisaig stations like confetti at a Quidditch cup final.  In Rosyth decommissioned nuclear submarines lurk near the spot where there used to be a ferry to mainland Europe. The infrastructure of Scotland and wider Britain is a joke, and one that gets funnier as Boris Johnson rolls out his proposal to build a bridge between Scotland and Ireland as a sop to elite political failure. There’s still no motorway between Derry and Belfast – and travelling by train in Britain is a lottery of filthy privatised incompetence – yet this buffoon is trying to sell us a bridge?

In McFlurry Britain, where the deaths of homeless people have more than doubled in five years, the government has appointed a minister to oversee the protection of food supplies through the Brexit process amid rising concerns about the effect of a no-deal departure from the European Union. As if to confirm our status as a corporate whore the new for Minister is an ex Asda and PepsiCo executive. Expect Horse and Cola drinks to be on the post-Brexit menu along with your chlorinated chicken.

Competing with Johnson’s epically stupid bridge proposal is his Prime Minister’s new ruse, a festival to celebrate all that is great about Britain. The idea was originally put forward by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said earlier this year that it would be a “huge celebration”. He explained: “In the spirit of friendship of our European neighbours, upon leaving we should drink lots of champagne to say that though we may be leaving the European Union, we don’t dislike Europe.”

Theresa May’s announcement of a Festival of Brexit Britain is confirmation that Britain survives as a ruritarian sideshow festooned with endless flag-waving celebrations and street parties. Having exhausted the Windsor Buffet after a torrent of jubilees, weddings, divorces and engagements in recent years – and in the interregnum before the looming deaths of the key protagonists provides the opportunity for a further spasm of royal patriotism and celebrity feudalism Britannia Unchained has announced a Festival of Britain.

This is an advanced state of ‘postcolonial melancholia’ now drawing on the spirit of Labour’s 1951 Festival of Britain in a bizarre fit of historical capture and misdirection. Brexit reinvented as post-war Britain, steely in its acceptance of rationing and slowly re-building after the devastation of war, is perhaps a brilliant reconstruction. Will anyone notice as Kirsty Allsopp replaces Nye Bevan? Will anyone notice that the devastation wrought in British cities we was inflicted not by an external enemy but by austerity and Tory ideology? In the monumental stupidity of contemporary Britain, nothing is certain.

But where does this Festivalisation come  from?

As Michael Gardiner has written: “We also have to appreciate the tremendous size of the gap at the heart of English national life. The two-centuries-long interchangeability of ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ was never really a slip of the tongue; it was never a ‘whoops, I forgot to be multicultural’ moment – it was a creation firstly and most obviously of empire, which is where that combination comes from, as English culture had its shotgun wedding with Scotto-British technocracy, and then, since the 1950s, to the many institutions which relied on the ‘un-place-ability’ of England.”

This is a point picked up by Anthony Barnett in The Lure of Greatness, where he writes:

“Different forces, tangible and intangible, were at work. These included immigration, the refugee emergency, the effects of austerity, the outrageous rip-off of the financial crash, the loosening of loyalties thanks to the internet, the undemocratic nature of the EU, the implosion of social democracy. The popular response to these forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland was to seek closer relations with the EU, with more and better continental solidarity. A similar response came from London, the global city. But across the more numerous England-without-London, an overwhelming majority was for Leave and carried the day.”

“It was undeniably England’s Brexit. To understand why this was so, is to understand why it happened. The heart of the answer is the unique, hybrid nature of Anglo-British self-consciousness. This goes unchallenged by what can be called England’s ‘defining classes’ (its media and cultural intelligentsia) who adamantly refused to be English. Or ‘merely English’ as many put it.”

“It is not just that Brexit has been self-described as ‘liberation day’ or that many English voters see Brexit in relation to and often in competition with the ‘iniquity of devolution’, nor is it just that we are witnessing a constitutional power-grab as we speak, but that so many commentators fail to even acknowledge or comprehend this phenomenon.”

Brexit is in Barnett’s words: “as the people living in the debris of their land, watching on their screens the new skyscrapers of London rise and shine. The debris is not poverty or lack of money but something intangible and inescapable: the end of Great Britain.”

Let’s have a festival.

It sounds like a cheap one. What does £120 million get you this day? I think we can expect Tom Kerridge to re-work Coronation Chicken, and a Windrush Celebration of the Commonwealth sponsored by the G4S group, before drinking lots of champagne  and laughing at that time when Boris suggested building a bridge to Ireland. Chin chin!

Comments (14)

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    A festival with the only government present being a the option of a red pill or a red pill in the post-Brexit-Matrix.
    Count me out, watching the satellite data on decreasing ice and ozone, and increasing methane will be far more entertaining.

    A bridge you say? Presumably built out of the surplus wheelchairs, prosethics and walking sticks liberated from the DWP’s genocide of the sick and disabled. Gove will be able to put a “Green bridge made from recycling” sticker on it and there’ll be mutual pats on backs. Of course, it’ll be a privatised bridge, the tolls ensuring that any imagined profits from a post-Brexit free-for-all will remain securely in the hands of corporate elites.

    If you’re an atheist are you allowed to cry out “God give me strength!”? FFS, with these kind of people in charge, the collapse of industrial civilisation and near-term human extinction can be seen as quite a blessing.

  2. Dougie Blackwood says:

    a kind of bitter grump. Yes it’s all accurate but there is no need to glory in it.

    Brexit is an exercise in xenophobia conducted by Little Englanders who have no conception on how the poorest will be affected or how our services will collapse without the multitudes of MIGRANTS that have been keeping them running. Our poor suffering EX-PATS, retired to the sunshine and enjoying the full benefits of EU membership and reciprocal care, might be inconvenienced by nasty Johnnie Foreigner treating them like we treat those that come here to work, pay taxes and keep the less attractive jobs running. These same Migrants are leaving in droves and deciding not to come because of the personal abuse and institutional racism being inflicted upon them.

    Rule Britannia, England never will be slaves. We must keep a stiff upper lip and salute the flag as we sink into third world penury.

  3. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Don’t expect many takers for this in Scotland apart from the usual BritNats. As for dumped redundant nuclear subs at Rosyth then I go back to my previous idea of towing them to the Thames and parking them alongside the Embankment cafeteria of Wastemonster with a warning that any attempt to interfere would result in them being scuttled in the Thames and ‘Hell Mend Them’.

  4. Welsh Sion says:

    Johnson isn’t still hawking these ludicrous bridge ideas, is he? The London garden bridge was stopped in its tracks by Mayor Khan amongst allegations of cronyism, corruption, over-spending and under-researching featuring Boris, Joanna Lumley et al (see Private Eye passim). He then goes for a bridge linking the White Cliffs of Dover to the French mainland – a scheme blown out of the water (if you’ll excuse the expression) by the Maybot, when BJ tried to sell the idea to Monsieur Macron. And now he pontificates (sorry, for the initial syllable) about a bridge between ‘you up there’ in Scotland to ‘them down there’ in Norn Oirlnd.

    What is it with this person? He continually burns bridges metaphorically (including in his personal life) and yetexpects the taxpayer (you and me) to fund these personal vanity projects.

    This without letting my raising blood pressure allow me to comment on the nonsensical idea of the proposed 2020 Festival of Brutishness. All I can say, and Boris as a Classics scholar should know this – it’s merely “bread and circuses for the plebs.” Only that there is no bread – nor will there be.

    1. Dougie Blackwood says:

      There are conflicting stories. A bridge may be an impractical pipe dream but we are being told that as a matter of course regardless of practicality. Clearly it is further down the pecking order than London Crossrail, London Crossrail2, a bigger and better Thames barrage etc. but in terms of infrastructure and if it were possible, a crossing from the Stranraer area to Ireland would be a really useful asset. Something from Campbelltown really is a bridge too far and probably in the realms of over the rainbow..

      Get some real engineers to look at it and think about how it might be done, then tell us why it cannot happen. It might cost a lot of money but that sort of spending on genuine infrastructure is, like the Suez Canal, well worth the candle and would repay whatever it costs over time.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    What kind of creature has a bridge fixation?

    1. The kind of creature that has burnt all of theirs?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, perhaps, but I was thinking of something that might be on the end of a sharp comeuppance:

  6. Wul says:

    I’d be interested to see a GERS type analysis of the economic reality of England-without-London (fully subtracting any resources or revenue generated outside the geographic area of England)

    I suspect it may not look too rosy or inspire a party atmosphere.

    1. Dougie Blackwood says:

      Didn’t you know? GERS is manipulated to show we cannot afford independence. Every big company declares its profits in London; Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Distillers et al make their profits throughout the country, where gets the credit?

      1. Wul says:

        Thanks Dougie.

        In that case, the GERS type result for England-minus-London would be even worse than I thought. Much worse than Scotland I suspect.

  7. bringiton says:

    It’s going to be Chloronation Chicken post Europe.
    The UK cannot survive outside one of the global trading blocs and as Barnier and Juncker stated,
    the Tories have had to decide whether it is to be the EU or NAFTA.
    The USA,especially under Trump,see the exit of the UK from Europe as weakening the EU and giving
    them greater leverage in future trade talks with the EU.
    The Tories can celebrate that but it will make little difference to their diminished role in global affairs.
    The managed decline since Suez is about to become unmanaged.

  8. Jack collatin says:

    They’ll rebuild the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.
    The Mall will be festooned in Butcher’s Aprons.
    By Royal Decree every town and city in the Empire will be obliged to fly the Imperial Jack from all of its prominent buildings.
    There will be Armed Forces Days, bellicose parades in every town city and hamlet, and the Red Arrows will take to the skies buzzing every major city in the colonies emitting red white and blue jet streams over our subjugated skies.
    Britain will be Great again.
    Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding Sunday lunches, BBC TV will broadcast the Great British Sunday Car Wash Challenge, the winner receiving an invite for them and their family to attend the Royal Command performance at the Palladium, Lizzie will ride through London in her Golden Chariot waving to the peasants who will gather in their millions, sleep in Union Jack Sleeping Bags for days before, and cheer ecstatically as the Rich Famous and Evil ride in a procession of limos into Buck House for the Festival Royal Garden party.
    ..and Jesus wept.

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      Stop, my puke bucket isn’t big enough.

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