One Foot Out the Door
It’s Black Friday and Thanksgiving. I can’t travel to Musselburgh but I can fly to Magaluf. We face the biggest economic slump in 300 years and everyone is worried about where they will pull their crackers. Excessive screen time is causing bit rot as we face an onslaught of truth decay and disinformation. We face a combination of impending poverty and delayed mental health trauma as we stagger out of covid through a haze of what people are calling “melancholy delirium”.
In all this we are told that this isn’t the time for change. It’s like being catapulted over a waterfall and being told to stay dry. We are in the midst of epic social change. We are witnessing an epochal shift in how we see the world, how we understand community, family and the relationship between the local and the global. We are experiencing new insights into what work means and whose work matters. We are witnessing new opportunities for how we might change urban life and we are being exposed to levels of precarity and vulnerability that we couldn’t previously comprehend. Political elites in the UK are exposed like never before as the chumocracy is laid bare for all to see. What did those in power do at the time of crisis? Profiteered. What was their response at the time of our greatest public health threat? Arm up and cut overseas aid.
Yet we are being gaslighted to believe that all of this goes away with a vaccine. A quick jab and everything will be back to normal. The idea that we as a society will just revert back to the way we were before is delusional. It’s not just individual businesses that will not be returning, it’s whole sectors of the economy, whole cultural phenomena.
This isn’t overly bleak, it’s just that we have honed ‘denial as a coping method’ to a fine art. We already practiced it to cope with climate reality.
For every Unionist who tells you that this is “not the time” for independence, remind them that this can’t be the time for No Deal Brexit either.
A confidential Cabinet Office briefing this week talked of a “perfect storm” of “simultaneous disasters”:
“Winter 2020 could see a combination of severe flooding, pandemic influenza, a novel emerging infectious disease and coordinated industrial action, against a backdrop of the end of the [Brexit] transition period.”
The briefing laid out for government planners the possible impacts of the last stage of Brexit, detailing “reasonable worst case scenarios” across 20 different areas of national life from oil and healthcare to travel and policing. It summarised Whitehall’s views on the current state of the nation to provide context for those warnings, depicting a country struggling to overcome difficulties posed by one crisis, yet bracing for a second, as all departments are told to prepare for a “no deal” departure.
Global and British food supply chains will be disrupted by “circumstances occurring concurrently at the end of the year”, the paper warns. Stockpiles built up at the end of 2019 were diminished during the pandemic and cannot easily be replenished. It states that problems could reduce availability of some fresh supplies and push up food prices. Low income groups will be most at risk of food insecurity if there is a no-deal Brexit, including “single parents, children in large families and those with disabilities.”
The briefing talks obliquely of “an increase in community tensions and public disorder.”
This is precisely the time to leave this carnage.
Project Fear told us in 2014 “Would you move house in a storm?” Now people have realised: Britain is the storm.
As often happens in these circumstances Gordon Brown makes a speech or writes a thing. In a much praised speech article in the New Statesman Brown did just this. He wrote:
“It is too early to say whether Britain will break up, but we can say already that it is breaking down. Wales, Liverpool and Manchester have been declaring their version of independence over their response to the pandemic. And as No 10 implodes, my own nation, Scotland, already has one foot out the door of its 300-year-old Union with England. The virus and recession – and the well-publicised splits over local lockdowns, over who manages public health and welfare best, and who pays for what – have exposed a centre that does not listen and outlying areas that do not feel they are consulted.”
“The pandemic has brutally exposed a centre that has control over the country’s resources but does not know what’s happening on the ground; whose own ignorance has been juxtaposed with outlying communities who have far greater local knowledge but few resources.”
Not for the first time he’s exactly right, though he seems acutely unaware of the ironies of his complaint about centralisation.
The pandemics shocks will reverberate far beyond our current obsession with a timeline currently focused on Santa.
Unsurprisingly the British governments botched handling of the coronavirus is now morphing into jingoist nationalism.
The Huffington Post report that:
“Downing Street has attempted to get doses of the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine labelled with Union Jacks. newly-formed “Union unit”, tasked with fighting calls for Scottish independence and other campaigns to break up the UK, wanted injection kits to bear the flag.”
Britishness injected into your veins, how dystopian. It’s like they’re trying to inoculate us against democracy.
In six years we’ve gone from UK:OK to CoronaBrexit Britain.
The Age of Political Transformations
“Ruth Davidson took a seat in the House of Lords at the end of July: that might precede the offer of a post in Boris Johnson’s cabinet (she has said she won’t take one). Yet if the Union is lost, she might be persuaded, and persuade herself, to climb a mountain again, to be prime minister of an independent Scotland. This is the age of political transformations: and she is a proven great transformer.”
These are desperate times for the Union’s commentariat now descending into self-parody.