The first was the cinematic glory of a film-maker being ushered out of a building in Brussels where Theresa May harangued Jean-Claude Juncker for calling her nebulous was the star moment of the week. Apart from the thought that this was an extremely generous, even kind description of her, you couldn’t help think that it is Britain itself that is nebulous. It is not so much breaking apart in some kind of distinct defined rupture, as just drifting apart, becoming unidentifiable, as if its individual parts just became irrelevant, unusable, incoherent.
Scotland won’t leave Britain. Britain will just drift away. Brexit means dispersal.
in the form of a cloud or haze; hazy.
“a giant nebulous glow”
indistinct, indefinite, unclear, vague, hazy, cloudy, fuzzy, misty, lacking definition, blurred, blurry, out of focus, foggy, faint, shadowy, dim, obscure, shapeless, formless, unformed, amorphous;
“the figure was still nebulous—she couldn’t quite see it”
(of a concept) vague or ill-defined.
“nebulous concepts like quality of life”
vague, ill-defined, unclear, hazy, uncertain, indefinite, indeterminate, imprecise, unformed, muddled, confused, ambiguous, inchoate, opaque, muddy
“his nebulous ideas about salvation”
2018 was the year everyone realised Britain was broken.
Many of us had known this for some time but this was the year that it became a generally acknowledged and widely understood fact. This is not just in a constitutional sense as nationalists and democrats might understand it, but socially, politically, economically, culturally, psychologically.
Many of us had understood for a long time that the idea of a ‘partnership of equals’ was a mockery, but the process of interacting with England’s collective nervous breakdown (also referred to as Brexit) has confirmed this.
Brexit has accelerated the process, but Brexit wouldn’t and couldn’t have happened if Britain wasn’t already irreparably broken. Broken by years of austerity, broken by the stupidity of institutionalised hierarchy, broken by disfiguring inequality, broken by inter-generational contempt, broken by a crisis of housing that has been the source of great profiteeering, broken by a form of disaster capitalism laid upon a culture of casual racism and a superiority complex that has festered for years on the pages of our tabloids and now in their online equivalents.
Culturally Britain is a parody of itself filled with endless nostalgia and reflux films and tv from Mary Poppins to Bake Off. But whilst the Prime Minister’s Hostile Environment and the undercurrent of racism that flows with all of the Brexit rhetoric harks to a 1950s and echoes with a silent Make Britain White Again tune, it is much further back that we appear to be heading.
The divisions between the deserving and the undeserving poor, as decided by TV executives, and the normalisation of Foodbanks as a permanent part of the social landscape point us back to the Victorian era.
Don’t believe me, believe Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who ended a two-week fact-finding mission to the UK with a stinging declaration that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”, even though the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy.
Alston reported that an estimated 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty and 1.5 million are destitute, being unable to afford basic essentials, he said, citing figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He highlighted predictions that child poverty could rise by 7 percentage points between 2015 and 2022, possibly up to a rate of 40%.
“It is patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty,” he said, adding that compassion had been abandoned during almost a decade of austerity policies that had been so profound that key elements of the postwar social contract, devised by William Beveridge more than 70 years ago, had been swept away.
In an excoriating 24-page report, which will be presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva next year, the eminent human rights lawyer said that in the UK “poverty is a political choice”.
Alston said the government was in a state of denial and there was a “striking disconnect” between what ministers said and the testimonies he heard from ordinary people.
He stated: “Even while devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are frantically trying to devise ways to ‘mitigate’, or in other words counteract, at least the worst features of the government’s benefits policy, ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan.”
After Brexit there will still be poverty. In fact there will be a great deal more. The difference is we won’t be able to blame it on the Romanians, the Bulgarians or any other foreigners from Farage’s infamous poster.
This state of advanced decay, of living in a country of broken dreams, ruled by not just a selfish elite but a selfish elite supported by a baying mob, is a palpable sideshow to contemporary Britain.
But Alston’s comment about the devolved authorities should not be ignored. Britain’s economic decline – accelerated by and a motor to Brexit – has deeper consequences.
In 2014, one of the strongest motivators to older voters was a sense of continuity and security. This was a reasonable and understandable emotion for a generation of people who had experienced the war, and the subsequent post-war social rebuilding though the NHS and a sense of shared solidarity. Defeating Nazism – and surviving – were feats of social and cultural cohesion that a younger generation couldn’t conceive of. Britain as something to be proud of, is, for most people under 50 in Scotland just inconceivable.
But aside from a historical shared experience, Britain in 2014 was presented not just as rock of economic security but a place that was internationally held in high regard. ‘What currency are you going to be use?’ and ‘Are you going to have embassies?’ were used not just as logistical challenges by Unionists, but as messages of contempt. Poor silly little parochial Scotland with its anti-English racists was put next to massive, stable, solid Britain with its multiculturalism and its culture of openness and generosity.
It goes without saying that any attempts to resurrect the pillars of the Better Together campaign along these lines in any future Scottish referendum will be met with derision.
I said that there were two short films that summed up the strange state of Britain today. The second was a broadcast for Sky News by Faisal Islam, with his colleague Kay Burley. As he spoke from outside Westminster you could hear him being drowned out by Brexit supporters in Yellow- Jackets chanting: “You’re not British any more, you’re not British any more” along with abuse that he was a rapist.
Brexit Britain, driven by this putrid English nationalism isn’t just nebulous it’s toxically racist too.