Britain at War

As if the disreputable state of British elite rule couldn’t fall any further in this year of covid and kleptocracy, the prosecution of Ghislaine Maxwell shines a light on a whole strata of society, a jet-set of sex traffickers rubbing shoulders with celebrities and royalty. But if there is relief that someone has been prosecuted in this sordid affair that feeling must be over-ridden by the lingering thought that she’s just a patsy.

As Maxwell faces the clink (found guilty on five of six charges of sexual trafficking) it’s worth recalling the Met decided to take “no further action” over allegations involving her, Epstein and the Prince formerly known as ‘Randy Andy’. This was the same police who wouldn’t look into Downing Street parties and have hardly covered themselves in glory in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard murder. The overwhelming impression watching Maxwell’s conviction is that of justice being served but an elite acting with impunity. That Prince Andrew, the ninth in line to the throne is one degree away from a convicted paedophile is the stuff of the wildest conspiracies, but in 2021/2022 it is a simple fact.

Such has public life warped that Andrew is now the subject of a frantic PR campaign; plus efforts of the rest of the Monarchy to create a firewall between him and themselves; ans the earnest procrastination of the fleet of Royal Correspondents employed by the State and Public broadcasters.

On Thursday Sabastian Payne the FT’s Whitehall Editor announced that the Prime Minister was to be cleared of breaking any rules about his flat refurbishment. The idea that Johnson would be cleared of breaking the Ministerial Code by an internal Whitehall inquiry surprised nobody at all, the code has been devalued to the point of irrelevance for years. A pal of Johnson’s letting him off the hook for whatever he was told to let him off the hook is not news. But if the politicians investigate each other and the police investigate themselves all this ‘marking your own homework’ has a cost.

The putrid edifice of Broken Britain that has been exposed through the pandemic staggers on. But if the powerful are beyond recourse the damage to what’s left of their credibility is further undermined. The whole super-structure of British rule is so damaged and broken by years of this process that it will collapse at the first opportunity.

As if knowing this the language has changed. Gone are notions of unity and alliance, gone is Johnson’s awful ‘Awesome Foursome’ or Cameron’s ‘Family of Nations’ – now Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are referred to as ‘territories’ or ‘principalities’. The pandemic has unleashed a new wave of British nationalism and a new language of vaccine-colonialism. As Rory Scothorne writes in The New Statesman: “In Scotland (as well as Wales and Northern Ireland) another Covid-19 ritual is being performed. Nicola Sturgeon’s devolved Scottish government has responded to the Omicron variant by strengthening its guidance and restrictions so that they are stricter than those in England, and it has done so with a finger of blame pointed south. Announcing new guidance for the public and businesses on 14 December, Sturgeon suggested that “our public health response is curtailed by lack of finance”. Without further funding from the UK Treasury, there were insufficient resources to support the hospitality sector through a tougher pandemic approach.”

The pandemic shows both the strength and weakness of the devolved settlements which ,more than ever are revealed to be a ‘process not an event’.

The idea of ‘coachloads of clubbers’ heading to England for Hogmanay was being punted this week by Simon Johnson (Scottish Political Editor at the Telegraph) and The Sun this week, as the English media tried valiantly to stem the flow of Johnson’s waning reign of error. But this media plot narrative of England as a sort of Bachannalian Honeypot for Jocks weary of Nicola’s Nanny State was rather undermined by reality. The concept of hordes of tartan revellers swarming irresistibly over the border to the petri-dish of sado-populism was just a media hallucination.

The hallucination stems from a populist understanding that the public are somehow seething about the terrible ‘restrictions’ we endure, rather than quite happy with the public health measures we share. The language is important. In all of this the devolved nations must be portrayed as outliers, out of step and endlessly peripheral, only maintained by the generosity of the central authority.

If the principalities are under attack, so too are the experts. The Pandemic Politics have grown out of the Brexit Saga and one of the ongoing populist memes is the idea of a problem with ‘experts’. This week saw Rees-Mogg announce that in response to the pandemic “We should listen to the people, not the experts like we did with Brexit”. It’s this psychosis which has left millions of people exposed to the virus in the past few weeks. It’s this weird populism which as united right wing authoritarians with self-styled libertarians and led Conservative MP Joyce Morrissey to rail against “a public health socialist state”.

And so it goes, a false libertarianism paving the way for a new authoritarianism. Just as the war against ‘the experts’ continues unabated so too does the Brexit obsession with war. As Richard Seymour points out:

“We have been treated to military metaphors throughout the pandemic, from Boris Johnson’s “great national effort to fight Covid” to Macron’s declaration of “war” against the plague. As Susan Sontag has pointed out, the war metaphor fosters imprudent zeal and sacrifice in a society that otherwise “restricts the scope and credibility of appeals to ethical principle”, and in which “realism” demands that we calibrate our actions with an eye to “self-interest and profitability”.

Britain, a construct that barely exists, is at war with itself, it is at war with its people; its constituent parts; its judiciary; its scientists and experts; in fact the only people it seems NOT to be at war with are the politicians themselves. The war is carried out across the airwaves and timelines by the phantasms of freedom and liberty while the warmongers create more and more the conditions for grinding poverty and exclusion. The war will only be over when Britain defeats itself and implodes into the atoms of its own absurdity.


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  1. Mons Meg says:

    Yep, the spectacle of ‘Britain’ deconstructing gladdens the heart.

  2. Alasdair Angus Macdonald says:

    Your link to Rory Scothorne actually links to a Herald article by someone else on a related theme.

      1. Alex Mackenzie says:

        nobody has reffered to Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland as territories ir principalities do you even understand what a principality actually is ? it would appear you don’t have a clue as a Principality is a very particular thing a place thst is or used to be rules by a prince if you’re going to comment on the state if Britain stick to reality and racts instead of just throwing words you think sound impressive around either you’re ignorant or you think the readers are and it’s not on either educate yourself and do the job properly or step aside and let someone else do it, as native Scot of almost 50 years and knowing it was the King of Scotland the crowns were united under in 1607 I find you calling Scotland a principality extremely insulting Scotland is an equal partner of England as set out in the act of union we sure as hell are not an English tertitory and never will be

        1. Mons Meg says:

          The English Crown passed to James VI of Scotland in 1603, not 1607.

        2. dougie macdonald says:

          Geoffrey Clinton-Brown Tory MP referring to Scotland as a principality

        3. Tim Slater says:

          Mr. Mackenzie,
          I suggest you get a good dictionary. You will find that the original meaning of “prince”, which is the one used in the law of national (the relevant context here), is the ruler of a state or similar sovereign power. So the King of Scotland was a bog-standard “prince”.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            Yep, ‘king’ is believed to derive from the old English ‘cynn’ (our ‘kin’ and ‘kind’) and originally meant ‘leader of a kind or people’. ‘Prince’ derives from the near-equivalent in Latin, ‘princeps’ = ‘the first among a group of people.

            Edward Plantagenet fought wars in defence of his claim to be the prince of kings within the composite monarchy of ‘Angevin’, whose feudal regime, towards the end of the early Middle Ages (1154 t0 1214), controlled the Atlantic Archipelago (the British Isles) and most of what is now Western France down to the Pyrenees. This wasn’t unusual; throughout Europe during the late Middle Ages (c. 1200 to 1500), kingdoms were often at war with each other as various royal houses asserted princely sovereignty over smaller kingdoms.

  3. Bill says:

    Once again Mike, you have hit the nail on the head. How much longer will ‘the people’ put up with this shower of shit. Brexit is proving to pose more problems than it solves, as was suggested by ‘Project Fear’ but Boris extols the virtues of putting a crown back on pint glasses and selling vegetables et al by the pound. You cannot believe it, they are making it up!!

    Happy New Year to you and all the readers, keep up the good work, this may be the year


  4. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    The way in which Ghislaine Maxwell and Prince Andrew are being deserted indicates the ruthlessness of this clique. They are prepared to destroy members to maintain the security of the group. A corollary of this is that as they see ‘Britain’ falling apart they act in spiteful and vengeful ways to ruin life for as many of us as they can. To use your ‘war’ analogy, they will adopt a ‘scorched earth policy’.

  5. James Mills says:

    Well , the British elite are sweating now – Andrew excepted ! Surely time to distract the plebs with another war ?

  6. Bruce Stuart says:

    Pretty much sums it up Mike. Bring on the deconstruction!

    1. Thanks Bruce, hope your well

  7. Iain Macphail says:

    Excellent piece – wishing you & your readers a happy & healthy new year.
    Literally the only thing I’d have added was, while Scotland Wales & NI are projected as the outliers, the international/European perspective is that we three nations are more in step with the neighbouring international community, and England alone stands in true isolation here.
    It feels like a metaphor for life in general as much as a description of pandemic politics

  8. Dougie Blackwood says:

    I watched the BBC news from Carlisle. They had found a Scots couple willing to spout that they came to carlisle to enjoy their traditional New Year. I wonder how difficult it was to find them? Clearly this was another “poke in the eye for Nicola”

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Barring illness, I’ll be in Carlisle this coming Saturday for the Bradford game. In line with guidelines, I’ll be taking a lateral flow test before I travel. And I’ll be chipping all my loose change into the game bucket for Cumbria Pride.

      I didn’t see it myself (I spent Hogmanay in the hoose with ane o my laddies, twa-three cans, and a bottle of mead), but The National reported yesterday that crowds of young people from Scotland descended on Carlisle and Newcastle to see the auld year out away from Covid restrictions.

      1. Welsh_Siôn says:

        The National reported yesterday that crowds of young people from Scotland descended on Carlisle and Newcastle to see the auld year out away from Covid restrictions.


        Fake News.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Jings! The National spreading Unionist propaganda… What’s the world coming to?

      2. Derek says:

        I won’t, but I did find a 2002 Carlisle programme during a bout of excavation to the back corner of the back room in the flat! In the cupboard there, I found a pile of programmes – football, speedway, motor racing – and amongst them were Carlisle, Darlington and Hartlepool ones that I’d been to to watch Southend. I have a pal from Billericay that used to live in Edinburgh, so we’d go to see his team with him.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          That wasn’t Billericay Dickie, was it? I hear he’s doing very well. (Though he followed the Blues rather than the Shrimpers.)

  9. SleepingDog says:

    While the deliberations leading to the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell on five counts relating to her sex trafficking crimes were drawing to a close, the BBC broadcast the animated adaptation of poet Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and the Whale, where the eponymous Snail plays the same Judas Goat procurement role as Ghislaine Maxwell did for her trafficking ‘whale’ Jeffrey Epstein.
    Apparently Ghislaine Maxwell’s victims (who would otherwise have steered cleer of Jeffrey Epstein) saw her as a trustable older sister, until it was too late. This doesn’t mean that Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson is a chief propagandist for an international cabal of sadistic elite paedophiles; far more likely that the poet has made an honest, if extremely stupid, unreflective and dangerous error. And is a timely example that you should not place any trust in the axioms of poets. That the many eyes at the BBC did nothing to cancel this pro-trafficking-propaganda project says much about the BBC. Apparently they are quite happy with the message targeting tiny children that if someone like you asks you to trust a complete stranger who promises to take you round the world on a life of adventure and exotic islands, you should immediately accept and crawl aboard.

  10. Stan Reeves says:

    “petri-dish of sado-populism“. Brilliant!!!!

  11. Islander says:

    Scots aren’t seething at restrictions, but if the football grounds remain. empty into February while 75000 pack Old Trafford, clubs and their fans will wonder why

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Aren’t the football stadia currently empty in Scotland because the SPFL decided to interrupt the 2021-22 playing season with a January-long winter break for purely commercial reasons?

    2. Dougie Blackwood says:

      I understand the planned foot ball winter break has been brought forward. That would seem like a reasonable idea. It appears that England has decided to let Covid rip and our porous border means we will suffer the consequences. The decisions of the S.G. try to ameliorate the damage to our essential services. In the end we will see how things turn out but in my view, better safe than sorry.

  12. Alistair says:

    Late to the show on this thanks to working in a collapsing care sector, but finally on enough time of to do something other than sleep, eat or shore up a semblance of normal life.
    But – DAMN!

    Stands and applauds.

    Cracking job.

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