2007 - 2021

The Awesome Foursome

Coining a new descriptor in a bumbling speech heralding the most far-right Cabinet in decades, Boris Johnson declared the UK to be the ‘Awesome Foursome’.

Like Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, Kung Fu Panda’s Furious Five and Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven – the Awesome Foursome all have unique powers. It’s tempting to see Northern Ireland as the Human Torch, England as Mr Fantastic, Scotland as the Thing, and Wales as the Invisible Girl.

Our power as The Thing is apparently is to tolerate the imposition of some of the most unhinged individuals into the upper echelons of power and to have our economy threatened by the elevation of a power-hungry buffoon high on his own triumphalism and surrounding himself with a mixture of discredited opportunists (under legal investigation), far-right ideologues and extremists.

Any corporate re-branding needs a new slogan – and the ‘Awesome Foursome’ replaces: ‘the Precious Union’; the ‘Partnership of Equals’; the the ‘Family of Nations’ as former brand slogans.

As a slogan it has its ups and downs. It’s not quite as Tolkienesque as ‘the Precious Union’ with its immediate conjuring of Gollum. It’s not quite as sickly as ‘Family of Nations’ with its immediate association with Philip Larkin’s famous line and it’s not quite as other-wordly and blatantly untrue as the ‘Partnership of Equals’ (sub-heading ‘We’ll elect your government for you’).

“Awesome Foursome” fits Boris Johnson’s all-action street-talk: “I say to all the doubters: Dude, we are going to energise the country, we are going to get #Brexit done”. Everyone knows this is not true but we’re all a bit tired of that whole “truth” thang, right?

But if the new Etonian PM talks like a character from an Ashton Kutcher stoner movie, we shouldn’t let the blether mask the ideological shift at play.

Yesterday was a blood bath of epic proportions, and the media class nodding blithely and treating this as a wholly reasonable process is hilarious. We now have a former Sky CEO as Business Adviser, someone found in contempt of Parliament as Policy Adviser, a devotee of Ayn Rand as Chancellor, Priti Patel – who talked of starving the Irish – now Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab – who had no idea Dover was a port now Foreign Secretary. Finally, of course we have Alister Jack, a non-entity risen from complete obscurity to replace the most discredited and useless Secretary of State for Scotland in a hundred years.

This is not normal.

Any last vestige of old-school Toryism has been abandoned and replaced with hard-core Britannia Unleashed ideologues. As Peter Jukes lays out, the emergence of this group is not some kind of accident, but part of a process and a strategy that has its roots in the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) (‘The Transatlantic Triumph of Trumpism: Boris Johnson – A Plan Years in the Making’).

As most of the media hide in tradition and process, our friends oversees aren’t so coy. Writing in the New York Times, James Butler writes: “Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.”

“That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well-practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.”

“The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain. In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule.”

Butler concludes: “…his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.”

The potent concoction of contempt, ignorance and disconnect that oozes from this Cabinet makes this prediction highly probable.

Boris’s entire plan is predicated on an interaction with the rest of Europe that’s a fantasy. As Fintan O’Toole said yesterday: “This strategy is based on an idea somehow that Ireland and the European Union is going to be scared by big, bad Boris.”

O’Toole asks: “At what point do you believe we mean what we say? How often do we have to say the Withdrawal Agreement is not going to be re-opened?”

The gulf between the Johnsonian rhetoric and the constitutional and political crisis Brexit has exacerbated is wider than even the super-stretchy Mr Fantastic can join.

It looks more and more likely that Britain will be broken by the hubris of English nationalism and the contempt of British elitism, not the cunning or force of Scottish or Irish nationalism.

Theresa May told us: “Now is not the time”. Johnson’s premiership means: “It’s clobbering time.”









Comments (17)

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  1. squigglypen says:

    Brilliant. I did laugh at the’ Thing.’..describes us perfectly. What an entertaining and clever article( if it wasn’t so sad)….and we shook our head at America and Trump..the asylum is empty…..and the inmates are running the planet….

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    “…his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.”
    “It looks more and more likely that Britain will be broken by the hubris of English nationalism and the contempt of British elitism,”

    Hmm, and that would be a good thing, no ? For the none-English at least. If the DisUnited Kingdom of Trumpland (as Boris’ choice of cabinet shows it should now be named) falls apart from within, it would save the Scots, Welsh and Irish a lot of campaigning energy & time – that could then be spent on buildings the institutions needed to transition to independence.

    As for us English, we’ll have full regional independence within dictatorship as the last vestiges of the social contract are stripped away under the full onslaught of neo-liberalism. In other words everyone will be left to fend for themselves whilst the shitbag that is fracking is imposed on the shires and the NHS becomes MediPharma plc, a subsidery of Bayer, Nestle and others. The only hope we have is the incompetence of Boris and his cabinet, where the actual details of running a country seem to evade them, and thus the actaul enacting of policy will be slower than it might otherwise be.

    Meanwhile, masked by the Boris/Brexit broo-ha-ha, that noise tapping on the underside of the cellar door is Mother Nature calling. It’s gonna get hotter ‘n hell in here, and that’s not just from the clusterfuck of Boris.

    PS the wild blackberry crop is going to be more fabulous than last year, pick ’em whilst you still can 🙂

    1. “It looks more and more likely that Britain will be broken by the hubris of English nationalism and the contempt of British elitism,”
      Hmm, and that would be a good thing, no ?


      1. Mike Adams says:


        No not really. In 2014 the Indy movement was largely a positive force for self determination and a progressive if not radical future. Now it’s about getting out of Gilead before it’s too late – and being Gilead’s closest neighbour won’t be a barrel of laughs.

    2. John B Dick says:

      My MSP, who is also Scotland’s Brexit minister was asked by a constituent how long it would be after independence till Scotland was back in the EU.

      More informative than the estimate or guess of an unidentified EU opinion, was the caveat that “…. if it took longer, the Scottish government should consider whether it has a proper attitude to doing its work.”

      Is there a developed country where the government doesn’t have “a proper attitude to doing its work”? Might the EU official have experience of the UK Brexit team?

      The first government I remember was the ’45 Attlee government. Like it or not, there is no doubt that they processed a huge amount of legislation, much of it deferred due to wartime priorities ot the first opportunity for the party to enact long developed projects.

      A few years later, a Conservative election leaflet boasted of the work they had done in the previous period, and listed it. Whatever the value of their changes, many of them were routine, or of regional relevance. The quantity was hugely less.

      There are many who are concerned that a BoJo led government will make many changes which are disapproved. American Beef, selling off the NHS etc.

      It is possible that even if the next election is not till 2022, that whether you are in favour or not, the list of achievement/failures will be short. Parliament may have to focus on changes to the name and identity of the state. By ’22 there will be no ‘United’ Kingdom.

      You can get odds on that, don’t take my opinion: watch the betting odds changeing. Yougov is followed by the SNP leadership. In 2014 it was said that the date of Indyref2 was outsourced to YOUGOV.

      Recently I saw on Quora a risibly precise date in 2018 when generation change on Brexit was calculated to have tipped the balance on the majority. In 2016, the Independence majority, similarly, was calculated to be tipped in 2022 by generation change alone.

      There can’t be a referendum campaign and vote in what is left of 2019. 2020 is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath (2014 was the anniversary of Bannockburn).

      So it is May 2020 to October 2022, and the question for the independence movement is “How much can a BoJo government bring forward a majority for independence?”

      If you think you can guess what the SNP’s answer to that, then can get down to your local betting shop and prepare to pay off your mortgage, Success in that could be more important to you than Brexit or independence.

  3. Douglas says:

    Hilarious, Mike….thanks for nailing the madness…

  4. Jo says:

    Interesting too watching the Scottish Branch of the Tories. Is Ruthie in peril from the young Tory Scots at Westminster?

    It’s been claimed that Davidson specifically asked Johnson to leave Mundell in place. He’s answered that very clearly. I can’t quite see her being widely courted at Conference this year. The mood has altered dramatically. I’m not sure Davidson knows what to do.

    Is a wider split developing in the Scottish Branch?

    1. There’s far-right takeover and some (most) of the rest of them will just suck it up – just as the Republicans did for Trump.

      Ruth will probably do the same – or just leave and return to being a C List media pundit. That’s my guess.

      1. Jo says:

        I wonder, Mike.

        We’re it not for Douglas Ross’s “wee bit of bother” in the Commons bar earlier this year, maybe Johnson would have recognised his efforts on his behalf! (Has that investigation ever got off the ground?)

        Mundell’s replacement has today refused to rule out backing a No Deal. I wonder how Scottish Tory members voted in the ballot. Will they back Davidson being dumped?

        Interesting times. I daresay Johnson will find lots of little jobs for wee Douglas meantime.

    2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Channel 4 News gave the Scottish Tories a party political broadcast, but dressed it up as a report on Scotland and the Tory surge under the ‘energetic’ Ruth Davidson.

      The broadcast media are uninhibitedly anti-independence.

      1. David G says:

        Channel 4 report today showed their usual anti-Indy bias.
        They mentioned a poll showing increased support for Indy with BJ as PM. – but not a the fact it showed a majority.
        The vox pop was like nothing you would find in a town that voted 51% for Indy. (Motherwell).
        The ‘best’ bit was finding two Tories – one a female councillor and working class and the other an MP from Buchan.
        He can’t wait for BJ to come ‘up here’. Apparently it’s just that we don’t get to see him enough due to our totally separate media network of myriad radio and tv channels! (No – he didn’t actually say that but somehow implied that we somehow can’t judge him until we meet him.)

        Fantasists all.

      2. Jo says:

        I used to like Ch4 News a long time back. It’s so bad now. What a transformation!

  5. Wul says:

    Good article Mike. Very witty.

    You have to laugh, or else you’ll cry. ( although I do both)

    You’re supposed to be on holiday Mr Small. Not much of a break for you! Look after yersel’.

    1. Ah! I had a good ten days off thanks. No wifi, no news just sun, rain and sand with pals and kids…

  6. john burrows says:

    The SNP has the answer to this dilemma in it’s own hands. Drop the writ for a Holyrood election. Force the issue of independence.

    I can some what understand the strategy of biding your time until simple demographics make independence inevitable. A careful approach was required while the Union presented Ruth Davidson as a significant voice, with a powerful national influence. It does not matter that this was more fiction than fact.

    While there was some semblence of sanity at the helm in Westminster, Scottish Tories could still present themselves as the standard bearers of Unionism in Scotland, hiding behind the false guise of Davidson, to seduce the fearful.

    But the rise of Johnson, his purge of the ‘moderates,’ and his total abandonment of reason, has iritreviably shattered this illusion. Our best opportunity to facilitate Scotland gaining its independence, before the calamity of Brexit descends, is now staring us all in the face.

    If the events of this last week have not persuaded Ms Sturgeon’s to abandon the Fabian strategy she has so far pursued, she should step aside in preference for someone more readily willing to act boldly in these current circumstances.

    She should either sh*t or get off the pot. She has no other alternative if she herself is to avoid being swept away by events beyond her control.

  7. MBC says:

    Why does Butler say the United Kingdom was formed in 1922? The current combination, ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ dates from then, but the United Kingdom of Great Britain dates from 1707; The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1800. Have I missed something?

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