Poots, Watt and the Anglo Antisyzygy

As I write this we are a few hours before kick-off in the England-Scotland match. I am flipping – like a lot of Scotland fans – between a strange mix of nihilism and dread and then completely misplaced bravado, alternating like Jeckyll and Hyde on a half-hourly basis. It’s probably some kind of inter-generational stress disorder. But the condition is being exacerbated by the public broadcasters ITV (via STV) and the nominally ‘British’ broadcasting service which seemed to have loosened any faint grip on impartiality and spent the last week regurgitating England’s victory from 1996 on a loop. 1996 is the new 1966 and in a cloud of post-Brexit glory the English media seem to have taken leave of their senses. The football atmosphere has just given a further edge to an already weird week.

Edwin Poots – the young Earth creationist who thinks the planet is 6,000 years old – has lasted a mere twenty days as the DUP’s leader. The unfortunate Mr Poots failed to navigate through the most unremarkable set of political obstacles. When Northern Ireland’s first minister changes, a deputy first minister has also to be nominated, in this case by Sinn Féin, or otherwise Northern Ireland’s fragile political scene crashes.  Sinn Féin said they would proceed but one one condition, the much-delayed lrish language provision. Irish language is a keystone for the nationalists and terrifies the loyalist community. Think the row about gaelic road signs here but on steroids. The Good Friday Agreement seems to be extremely precarious. In the background Poots issues not so subtle threats: “Street disturbances over Easter showed a fraught political climate … We saw riots on the streets of Belfast earlier this year. And I have serious concerns about the potential for conflict once again on our streets.”

But what on (young) earth do the DUP think they’re doing? This is after all the political outcome they orchestrated – dark money and all. One possibility is that what they really want is the abolition of the power-sharing executive at Stormont altogether. Maybe they want to bring down Stormont and abolish the Good Friday Agreement? Peter McColl writing in Open Democracy suggests: “Of course, if the UK reneged on an international treaty, it would make the country even more isolated internationally than it is at present. Although that’s hardly a concern for the DUP – or even, perhaps, many British voters – it would result in yet more impoverishment in the name of British chauvinism. The obvious solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol is a deal that looks like the one May put forward. That would also solve the problems that agricultural and seafood exporters are currently experiencing. It would be deliverable and, with the chances of a trade deal with the US diminished by President Joe Biden’s election, might offer the best way to maximise market access for British businesses.”

But we don’t have a deal like the one May put forward, we have the one that Johnson delivered.

We can’t retrofit international treaties to suit the squirming and multi-dysfunctional creationists.

McColl again: “The threat is that Brexit tough-talking appears very popular with Johnson’s voters, many of whom seem prepared to sacrifice both their own prosperity and peace in Northern Ireland in order to achieve the hardest possible Brexit. While the British electorate has the right to choose poverty, it does not have the right to plunge Northern Ireland back into violence.”

Loving the leather waistcoat man’s combo of Thor hammer necklace round his neck and G&T in his hand.

If violence is threatened in Norther Ireland it broke out in London with footage leaking out of ‘protestors’ threatening abusing and chasing Nicholas Watt, the BBC Newsnight political editor through the streets. Crowds had gathered in Westminster on Monday to protest against the government’s four-week extension of coronavirus restrictions in England. What came next was a mob screaming at him “Run you fu***** c**t” one man screamed, “Traitor Traitor Traitor!” they chanted “Scum Scum” and “Shame on you” as Watt, as terrified as anyone would be scuttles back behind fences and police lines to safety.

The scene was remarkable and could very easily have led to an assault or death as the mob were completely unhinged and the police looked completely useless. If only it was a peaceful women’s protest against police violence?

But the taunting and threats against Watt seemed to be a new low, a nadir that we’ve been descending towards since Jo Cox’s murder in 2016. The Trumpification of British politics, the rise of the new idiocy of GM news, the wildly stupid anti-vaxx movement and the swirling mass of Brexit protests that have continued for the past few years unabated seem to bring a convergence of the swivel-eyed, the eccentric and the dangerously radicalised.

The writer and author Owen Jones has been on the receiving end of similar abuse. He charts the links between a stream of seemingly disparate “takes”:

“In fact, many of the same far-right extremists who opportunistically latched on to Brexit have shifted their sights on to the measures taken to suppress the public health emergency. A quick glance through the Facebook profile of a man arrested after repeatedly screaming into Watt’s face yields predictable results: anti-vaxx and “Covid is a hoax” memes are posted side by side with QAnon conspiracies and denunciations of Greta Thunberg’s “communist agenda”.

What is the source of this radicalisation? Rampant misinformation online has rightly been identified as a problem as vulnerable people find themselves exposed to increasingly misleading content thanks to social media algorithms. In the case of Covid-19, online memes propose a vast conspiracy linking together western governments, deceitful scientists and journalists acting as their propagandists in order to strip citizens of their hard-won freedoms.”

Homophobic, vitriolic against the media, paranoid and locked into circular loops of online disinformation these groups appearance on the streets is incoherent and disorganised but deeply dangerous. Jones concludes: “Watt’s treatment should horrify and it should disgust – but if the assassination of a Labour MP did not provoke the long overdue national conversation about the radicalisation of far-right extremists, the harassment of a BBC journalist won’t either, and this country will descend into a much darker place.”

Tough Eddie and his Blue Wall.

Just to make a weird week even weirder – into this carnage steps the Chesham and Amersham byelection in which the Lib Dems’ Sarah Green overturned a 16,000 Conservative majority to take the seat by just over 8,000 votes, a swing of 25%.

Now I have a confession to make. I had almost completely forgotten the Liberal Democrats existed at all. I mean you see Willie Rennie doing a photo-op with a farmyard animal now and again but I thought they had kind of just gone away. I’m unsure that if you showed 100 people a photo of Ed Davey they would know who he was. Now the political pundits have invented a ‘blue wall’ representing the Tories south east stronghold. To help explain this, Davey, looking earnest and tough, stood for the TV cameras in front of an actual wall made of blue plastic bricks, and proceeded to knock it down with an orange mallet. So English politics can simultaneously hold these elements: the spectacle of benign but meaningless Liberal Remainer loyalists and malignant but meaningful 5G fruit-loops gathered in Westminster; the Orphaned Centrists of the Shires and the Paranoid Front of Chemtrails and false libertarianism.

You could call it the Anglo Antisyzygy.

The result is almost completely meaningless but as caused one of those “earthquake” moments for the chattering classes. The Greens came third and Starmer’s Labour Party were ushered into oblivion. In this strangest summer we seem again to be at a threshold. Everything seems broken yet the opportunities still seem available everywhere we look. It’s a very odd feeling to be both in constant dismay and anxiety yet also not having extinguished all hopes, a bit like being a Scotland fan.

Comments (28)

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  1. Jim Sansbury says:

    What a fine thing it would be for Scotland if we could have a protocol like Northern Irelands.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      Jim, Johnson knew exactly what he was doing when he signed the protocol. NI costs the “UK” 7-10 billion a year, why would he want to hang on to it? The hope is the reasonable unionists will see they’re better off in the EU (which Johnston knows) and go for a united Ireland. He’ll then move as many unreasonable loyalists as he can to the British colony of Scotland thus ensuring a unionist majority there until 1691. If he gave a million of them 50K compensation each it would only cost 50 billion which they’d recoup in 5-7 years as a result of having got rid of NI. It’s also much cheaper than a bridge or a tunnel between Scotland & NI. The next Scottish independence referendum will be Scotland’s last chance. Scotland – a green beacon of renewable energy or a ghettoised dumping ground for Eton toff problems of their own making.

    2. William Davison says:

      Why would it be “a fine thing” for Scotland to have a Protocol , like Northern Ireland?

      1. Jim Sansbury says:

        Because we’d be in the Single market and customs union and business would love that.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          The Scottish government did request it but were knocked back presumably because it would’ve shown the Scots that a border with England would be insignificant. Unlike the NI protocol a Scottish one would work just fine as we wouldn’t have a first minister dead set on destroying it.

    3. Colin Robinson says:

      But the NI Protocol was put in place to prevent border checks within Ireland. We already have an open border within Great Britain. Why would we need a similar protocol here?

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        NI is also in the EU. The Scottish govt asked why it was not given the same deal considering Scotland had the highest Remain majority.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          NI is not in the EU.

          And the answer to the Scottish government’s question is that there’s no land border between the UK and the EU on Great Britain and, therefore, no need for a similar protocol.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            Sorry, single market although any citizen in NI can choose to remain an EU citizen and students there can join the Erasmus scheme.

            Not sure what your point is regarding border on mainland. If the EU agreed then what’s to stop them (apart from the reason I cited) moving the Irish sea border to the border between Scotland and England and making NI trade with England / Wales pass through Scotland?

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Well, of course, if both parties agreed, they could have the border between the EU and the UK anywhere they wanted.

            And people in Northern Ireland do indeed enjoy the right to have an Irish as well as a UK passport, which would enable them to enjoy the benefits of Ireland’s EU membership. But what’s that got to do with the NI protocol?

          3. Tom Ultuous says:

            Nothing AFIK Colin. I doubt the “UK” will be as generous with its citizenship if Scotland decides to leave.

          4. Colin Robinson says:

            Why do you doubt that, Tom?

          5. Tom Ultuous says:

            They struck what they claimed was a good deal with the EU and now act as if they want to go to war with them because it was implemented. Similar “love” will come our way.

  2. Colin Robinson says:

    I love the idea of an Anglo Antisyzygy: England as an ever-shifting field of duelling polarities rather than a static identity; something to which an independent Scotland could aspire.

  3. Gavin says:

    I joined the Royal Navy in 1965. Something disturbing has occurred in England since then. They had a powerful manufacturing base, with a confident working class. An aspiring middle class and an upper class which had ruled for a thousand years. Two stable parties of government: an honest civil service and an ethos of fair play right across society. Now, that social cohesion is largely gone, jobs are short-term and confident internationalism has been replaced by aggrandisement and petty populist chauvinism.
    The ship I was on was in the Pool of London when they won the World Cup in ’66. London was totally quiet by 11pm. English fans were undemonstrative and well behaved. At Scotland-England games you might see a few white hankies being waved…………then it all changed for reasons that are hard to fathom, and England national and cluster supporters became the scourge of Europe.
    I always believed we would gain independence and remain friends with our big neighbour. No longer. Their media is hateful, neo- con and Anglo-nationalist. Ordinary people down south will be fine, but we should beware their rulers.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Happy days!

    2. DC says:

      I watched the 66 WCF on a ship full of anglos heading to Oz. No drunken triumphalism at result. The MSM are responsible for stoking a hateful populism which seems unstoppable.

  4. Mouse says:

    The Irish backstop failed because of the DUP, the SNP, and some Tory EU-sceptics. They are the people to blame for the Belfast sausage drought or whatever (there isn’t a sausage drought – nothing has happened yet, but there is whatever).

    Funny that brexit gets characterised as the preserve of swivel-eyed Nazis by people who really, really like an organisation who’s principle purpose, by far, is giving money to rural land owners, for nothing, and has a parliament that makes Russia look more democratic.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      “an organisation who’s principle purpose, by far, is giving money to rural land owners, for nothing, and has a parliament that makes Russia look more democratic.”

      A very accurate description of the current “UK” government IMO.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        Although, the current UK government has just got its wrist slapped big time for riding roughshod over the interests of rural landowners in the English shires. Go figure!

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Was it not their tenants interests that were trampled?

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Right enough, Tom; it’s the homes and businesses they own, not the land itself.

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      Is the European Parliament particularly unrepresentative? My own view is that it didn’t have enough power vis-a-vis the other two non-elected legislative branches for the EU to be by any stretch of the term ‘democratic’ and not just a creature of Britain, France, and Germany (the so-called ‘BFG’), but that’s another matter.

  5. Graham Ennis says:

    Well, I personally, wept with joy when I saw what happened in Northern Ireland (That section of Ulster still under British military occupation).
    The knuckle dragging sloth monsters that represent the political will of the Northern Ireland Unionist population have done Irish republicanism a huge favour.
    What that favour is is the exposure of what they are, and how maniacal and extremist they are, How bigoted, and how stranded they are, in the Irish politics of 100 years ago. There is now no rational way in which they can now be dealt with, Now that they have withdrawn into a Boer War Racist Lager, been exposed for the bigots and tunnel vision fanatics that the also are, and how they themselves, have created the funeral pyre of the Peace treaty . (yes it was a full blown international peace treaty, registered with the UNO, and under political guarentee of the Irish, United States, and
    UK goverments. It is now shreeded, breached, and non functional. This was done not by the Irish, but vy a tribe of fanatical fascist bigots, backed by the UK Goverment.
    In international law, it is essentially invalid. So what is to be done? Short of it being replaced by a new treaty, complete with teeth and UN /EU peace keeping forces, (Not very likely) then it will be replaced by realities on the ground. We are once again on the edge of replaying 1968. The situation has now gone full circle. In various Republican enclaves, they are now prepared for a replay done with violence. In Derry’s Bogside, there is a fully organised “New IRA”, which is now approaching nearly 2000 membners, fully armed and trained. On ther other side, there has been a mass walk out from the Police Service of Northern Irland, by those from the unionist community who joined. What could possibly go wrong. The situation in Belfast is the same. All of this, every act of the coming violence and bloodshed, can now be laid at the foot of BREXIT, neo fascist Tories and Boris the Mad. I weep with pity. The last war was about 30 years long. The coming one will be shorter, but even bloodier. international intervention will be inevitable. re-partition is highly probable. This time there will be no more ethnic cleansing of the Nationalist communities, but a very hard fought war against the Unionist fanatics and their Tory backers in london. Comments please. I say all this not out of any sense of Trimpyhalism, but out of a grim sense of grief. Unionism and and its backers in the north, are going to lose.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      And what do you base all these claims on, Graham? All this will come to pass… why?

      1. Niemand says:

        The man’s a fantasist liar

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      I agree with much of your analysis Graham. When the DUP agreed to a coalition with May they were interviewed by the BBC. Two of the statements they came away with were “the future’s bright – the future’s orange” and “we’ll be marching down the Garvaghy Road”. These “funny guys” are of the exact same mentality as those who sparked the troubles with their apartheid regime. They’ve made total @rses of themselves. The turkeys who campaigned for, cheated for and voted for Xmas. My hope is they will be shown the door at the ballot box and there are shoots of that happening. There is though a largish section of the unionist population who still consider their “culture is under threat” for no other reason than that they have to treat the other side as equals. This makes violence very possible. Had there been an English independence referendum instead of a Brexit one the red hand would’ve been forced. While the Tories would’ve been glad to be shot of the problem they weren’t willing to give up the British colony of Scotland for it.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        If Scotland votes NO to independence and Ireland votes YES to reunification disgruntled loyalists will be offered generous packages to relocate to the British colony of Scotland thus ensuring a unionist majority there until 1691. Scotland – a green beacon of renewable energy OR a ghettoised dumping ground for Eton toff problems of their own making. It’s your choice.

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