Leading the World

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Self-doubt, like guilt, are useful emotions. They can be crippling but like everything in moderation they can be essential correctives too: ‘Can I do this?’ ‘Should I do this?’ ‘Should I have done that?’ Sadly Liz Truss seemed to have not a shred of self-doubt not a moment of Imposter-Syndrome as she arrived in Moscow representing us, however improbably, as Foreign Secretary.

While the Cabinet is riddled with truly ghastly bastards, awful sick people, none of them exude the sort of wanton uselessness of Truss who arrived into a scene of international crisis-diplomacy looking like a child waiting for someone to collect her from Lost and Found. She was completely unprepared, had no message, her tone and body-language were pitiful and she talked over the translators before blundering in basic Russian geography. Sergey Lavrov left her at the podium like a jilted bride. There is the possibility that this was an expensive joke but Truss’s botched trip certainly made things worse in a situation of very high stakes. Ben Wallace was sent the next day to try and fix her mess.

Unfettered Destiny

The reality of Britain’s post-Brexit standing, alone in Europe is beginning to become clear. This Conservative collection of misfits and charlatans are filled with hubris and self-deceit, but on the world stage they are exposed as never before. They talk tough but look pathetic.  Jacob Rees-Mogg used his first day on the job as new ‘Minister for Brexit Opportunities’  to delegate his entire role to The Sun readership asking them to crowdsource benefits of Brexit.

Apparently years after the historic victory, he has to ask Sun readers what the actual benefits are.

Improbably Rees-Mogg explains: “Before Brexit, many of my constituents would write to me to complain about regulations that burdened them daily. From farmers to electricians, on so many issues I had to tell them that even as an MP I could not help to solve their problems, as these rules were set by the EU, not the British Parliament.”

Examples are thin on the ground, you just have to imagine Mogg’s postbag bulging with letters from irate sparkies.

Now in full flow of undiluted gibberish Mogg continues: “Just as the Government is combing through our statute books and regulations to get rid of obsolete EU laws, it is also squeezing efficiency out of the British state, making public services more responsive to modern needs and breaking the government out of its Whitehall ivory towers with a relocation programme.”

I thought the terrible EU laws were the source of much anger? Why do they have to comb through the statute books to find them?

In the final paragraphs of the Super Soar-Away Sun Sermon Mogg explains: “I implore you all to write to me with the regulations you want abolished — those which make life harder for small businesses, which shut out competition, or simply increase the cost of operating. Through thousands of small changes, we can enact real economic change — which means The Sun’s readers will feel a real Brexit bonus in their pockets and in their lives  every day.”

Deregulate yersels, innit?

Premature Success

The scenes from Moscow, where a Minister so out of her depth it wasn’t funny jar harshly with the triumphalist Tory rhetoric. When the Prime Minister announced the Brexit deal in December 2020, he said: “We have taken back control of laws and our destiny. We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered destiny.”

The Conservatives are captured by their own self-isolation, supreme exceptionalism and, frankly Russian cash.

Now, desperate to move on and looking more and more likely to survive his partygate debacle, Boris Johnson is returning to the familiar ground of covid populism declaring with great bravado that he aimed to abolish all Covid regulations, including the requirement to isolate after testing positive, in England from 24 February. This includes testing people entering the country and counting the numbers of people infected.

Epidemiologist and public health experts around the world expressed a mixture of scepticism and confusion about England’s move.

“These are political choices, not scientific ones,” said Roberto Burioni, a professor of microbiology and virology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.

Closer to home our own experts were less sanguine.  Prof Devi Sridhar – the Professor & Chair of Global Public Health, at Edinburgh University Medical School said what many were thinking as Johnson announced the relinquishment of basically all public health guidelines: “It’s too early to be lifting the self isolation rules… when we still have over 200 deaths a day to Covid… this is clearly been done to distract from the problems Boris Johnson is facing over breaking lockdown rules..”

Sridhar told Channel 4 News that ending Covid self-isolation laws is “declaring premature success”.

But “premature success” is Johnson’s regime all over. Grandiose and reckless rhetoric while revelling in a bizarre exceptionalism is the current Tory creed. England is the best, the greatest, the first, the only. In ever decreasing circles, the less this is actually true the more it HAS to be true. The gap between the harsh reality – England/Britain as a peripheral lower-league power sustained by its nuclear status but greatly diminished and isolated – and it’s willy-waving rhetoric of Imperial Greatness is huge. To sustain this requires massive self-deception.

As Fintan O’Toole outlines this starts from some basic untruths. Take for example the idea that it was the wily/maverick Dominic Cummings who coined the phrase ‘take back control’. This is the fiction portrayed in James Graham’s hit television film, Brexit: The uncivil war (2019). But as O’Toole points out, this is complete nonsense.

O’Toole writes in the London Review of Books (‘British nationalism, neo-fascism and Nigel Farage’): “As Michael Crick reminds us in his absorbing, richly detailed biography of Nigel Farage, One Party After Another, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had been using the slogan since at least 2010, when his campaign brochure for the General Election urged: “Let’s Take Back Control”. At least six years before the Brexit referendum, Farage had fused for prospective voters hostility to immigrants with antipathy to the European Union: “We must take back control of our borders from the EU”. In 2014, when he debated with the then leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg during the elections for the European Parliament, his harangue followed the same crescendo: “Let’s take back control of our country. Let’s control our borders and have a proper immigration policy”.

This truth – that England’s latest emission of sado-populism springs not from some clever libertarian maverick wild-card, but some ‘Pound Shop Enoch Powell’ is an unsettling reality. As all restrictions are lifted in England lets hope that we live in a world where nothing is connected, where variants are impossible and where international travel is unlikely to have any consequence at all. This is after all is our unfettered destiny.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Jim Sansbury says:

    Minister For Brexit Opportunites!
    Sounds like a cushy job for JRM.
    Bit like being a tree surgeon in Shetland.

    1. H. Neary says:

      As one of the few who did find Brexit opportunities, he seems reluctant to dish out Cayman Islands techniques for dodging UK taxes, or a guide to select sites in Dublin for a bit of post Brexit cash grabbing.

      I have been employed by a couple of companies where things got so bad the management asked the workforce for ideas. The final outcome was not good.

      I’m just wondering how the Tory faithful still retain any ideal that Brexit wasn’t just a complete disaster instigated purely by Tory lies.

      1. Wul says:

        Yeah, Rees-Mogg is being very modest, allowing all the wealth-creating Sun readers to take credit for naming the opportunities unleashed by Brexit. He’s a card that one!

        The biggest and best opportunity (as any fule kno) is our escape from the EU Directive on Money Laundering and hiding of Beneficial Ownership of shell companies and the like. Us UK types can now safely stash our ill-gotten millions and billions hidden away from the tax man and any public scrutiny. Our cash remains unfettered and free!


  2. Tom Ultuous says:

    For the last 6 years I’ve been asking Leave voters to name 3 EU laws they disagreed with. Many are struck dumb but the rest rarely got beyond freedom of movement. One guy on MSN did attempt it a few months back but ended up giving the impression he was unable to sleep pre-Brexit due to the 5% tampon tax. Rees-Mogg’s in tray will be empty.

    1. H. Neary says:

      There have been a few suggestions as to the benefits of “taking back control”, but the common theme is that the EU were forcing unwanted trivial laws on the UK for the sake of it.

      It was an easy one for the English gutter press to push as the reason for regulations need some consideration as to things like peoples expectations when they open a box of goods from another EU trading partner. Sure, if you pump sewage into rivers it’s only Britains business, but the hard of thinking then blame the EU for being difficult when they refuse to accept the nice plump British shellfish. So a town in France has a party and half the population get sick on British seafood, who pays for the low regulation results? What court upholds the laws?

      I wonder why these people that were so concerned, didn’t wonder what would happen if the no rules philosophy extended across borders?

      On a final note, free movement is great, we cannot get enough EU citizens, so the Irish government have invited undocumented migrants who have been living here in Ireland for four years or more to apply for citizenship.

      It’s nice to get work done by people that are truly competitive too, and not some bunch of prima donna’s who’s main concern is having competition from abroad rob them of their nice cushy existence. Of course everyone pays tax here and the gig economy such as it is in the UK is not legal, workers have protection on the number of hours they do.
      This is just how a responsible government works, Britains sweatshop system was o/k when in the EU, but the downsides are not accepted by many countries.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Good post H (you’re not thee H from Red Dwarf are you?). What you’re saying about the difference between local and foreign workers is most evident over here in tradesmen. Now that many of the Poles have went home the local tradesmen will give you a date, not turn up and then repeat 6 times. They’ll then charge you £100 an hour for a botched job that necessitates calling in at least one other tradesman in to repair the damage. I’m glad I’m adept at DIY.

        1. H. Neary says:

          Maybe your experience is different.
          I worked with a number of Polish Engineers and found them very professional and had an enthusasm for the job that went way beyond some of the home grown material.

          We used to employ graduates straight out of Uni and I got sick to death of the blank glazed expression that met pretty simple requests or statements. In fact at my last UK job, I had a Spanish Engineer interpret for me, he had the patience to try to translate what my English colleagues said into something meaningful.

          My mother had care workers calling in. I still remember “Magda”, she stood out over the rest completely. The English workers let people into the house without authority, [my mother had dementia], including someone who’s habits I was aquainted with who wanted to borrow money!
          My sister had a note on the kitchen cupboards asking the care workers to remove their gloves and wash their hands before giving my mother her meals.

          It turned out that “Magda” was degree qualified, hers was the only name I remember, the others were just bodies to attend and collect the cash.

          If you didn’t have a good experience with Polish workers, I wonder why you kept calling them?
          You are no worse off if you have local traders and you are happy with them.

          I worked all over the world and in almost every company there were a few key dependable workers, and you took a chance with the rest. This was even the case with multinationals, although there were exceptions where every staff member was capable, responsive and inspired confidence.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            You’ve picked me up wrong H. I was implying the good tradesmen had went home and we’ve been left predominately with cowboys. I don’t know how you could possibly interpret my post as suggesting local tradesmen were in any way competent.

        2. H. Neary says:

          Apologies Tom, I did misread your post.

          Funny isn’t it, the Tories were always on about “choice”, yet they seem to think restricting the market is a win, win.

          It’s a very simplistic outlook to think that removing the foreign competition will be the answer to Britains problems.
          What I totally fail to comprehend is that the people that are most xenophobic and are reputed to have voted for Brexit on that issue are my age.
          The age where strikes were a daily event and the car industry was a joke.

          If it were not for the opening up of the car market we would still have waiting lists for whatever rot box was finally delivered, strikes permitting of course.

          I often thought it odd incidentally, that I, with my English accent was welcomed all over the world, I dealt with all levels of staff in quite a number of industries too so I did mix a bit.

          Odd when I think about what was said about “foreigners” back home.

          Funnily enough, the only place I ever encountered racism in my life was when a colleague from Birmingham and I were interrupted in mid conversation by what appeared to be a local who took offence at our English accents. The location was Wetherspoons in Dunfermline. Fair play to the bar staff, although they had obviously made a lot out of him that night, he was removed rapidly 🙂

      2. John Learmonth says:

        How would you feel if competition from abroad robbed you of your nice cushy existence?
        No idea what you do for a living but I’m guessing your not a self employed tradesman and thanks for clarifying the elitist disdain for the ‘lower orders’ that made them overwhelmingly vote for Brexit.

        1. H. Neary says:

          But I worked with people from “abroad”, I also worked abroad. Where I came from did not matter, if someone has skills that are required then they get the market rate.

          The world is a small place, despite people trying to make the UK an insular backwater, the news should make it abundantly clear that Bozos cabal want to make the UK a destination for every “foreigner” that will grant the poor desperate bunch a trade deal.

          To employ someone who cannot do the job or pay over the market rate, simply because they are of a particular nationality or ethnicity, is doing a disservice to Ones company and the clients that have to pick up the tab.

          If at some point I could not do my job effectively, I would stand down or transfer to another post. The nationality of my replacement would not have any relevance, and my feeling for the person would be immense gratitude, because If I reached the point where I had to stand down, the removal of the stress would earn my replacement my eternal gratitude.

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    I was hoping you might do a piece on the so called “pensions row” that has blown up Mike. The unionist press are having a field day printing misinformation about Ian Blackford’s statement and, judging by the reactions on MSN, they’re winning their case. I posted the following on the latest unionist blog which appeared in The “Scotsman”.

    “You pay national insurance towards your pension. If you’ve got 35 full years you get a full pension, if you’ve only got x full years (minimum 10) you’ll get x/35 times the full pension. EU citizens who return home to their own INDEPENDENT countries will receive a “UK” pension once they reach “UK” pension age provided they have 10+ full years of national insurance contributions. Why would Scots be different? There is therefore no need for Nicola Sturgeon to do any negotiations on this aside from requesting the transfer of the NI contributions of those who haven’t had the chance to achieve 10 full years (mainly young people who left school less than 10 years ago). Any Scot with the required number of NI stamps who wishes to have their state pension paid by the “UK” govt will be legally entitled to do so. Ian Blackford is 100% correct with his “no ifs, no buts” assertion.

    The fact the “UK” govt borrow NI money rather than put the money into a pot is irrelevant.
    Suppose England declared itself independent tomorrow and it just so happens everyone in the 3 devolved nations happened to turn 66 on the same day having paid NI for the last ~50 years. According to the Tory rags England would bear no responsibility towards the retirements of the people in the 3 devolved nations because they were now independent countries.”

    In response to the thick backlash I think Nicola Sturgeon has made a bit of a bloomer by backtracking on Ian Blackford’s assertion. She’s stated it would be resolved by the “UK” transferring the amounts due as part of the divorced settlement. While this would be a reasonable solution were Scotland dealing with a sane partner I can’t imagine it will put the minds of any older undecided voters at rest. Rather than damage limitation we should be highlighting the imbecility of the yoon argument and winning over people who are worried about their pensions. They are after all the group most likely to be against independence.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      Brian Monteith is now at it in the “Scotsman”. Is nobody else as angry as me about these lies or as worried about the impact on the older vote?

      1. 220215 says:

        Investment banker and businessman, Ian Blackford, and leader of the UK Parliamentary SNP, said on Sky News yesterday:

        “One of the things that we will do when we become independent is we will take responsibility for pensions in Scotland and we will use our taxes overseas to make sure that pensioners are looked after and of course, what we want to make sure is our pensioners get a better deal.

        “We’ve just seen the removal of the triple lock for example so we will take our responsibilities. But of course, in these negotiations, we want to make sure that when we’re talking about assets and liabilities, we will be properly compensated for the contribution that people have made in anticipation of a pension.

        “But let me be absolutely crystal clear: pensions in Scotland will be the responsibility of the Scottish Government.”

        As Holyrood magazine points out, this is essentially what the Scottish government said its 2013 white paper on independence: “responsibility for the payment of [the UK state] pension will transfer to the Scottish Government”.

        The idea is that an independent Scottish government would be ‘compensated’ for assuming this responsibility in the divvying up of the UK’s assets and liabilities on its liquidation.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Thanks 22. While they aren’t exactly backtracking it’s coming across that way. They should state that anyone who wants to have their pension paid by the “UK” govt they have every right to do so just like e.g. a Pole who goes back home with 10+ years of NI contributions.

          1. 220215 says:

            But if the Scottish government wants to be independent of the UK government, then surely it has to assume responsibility for the payment of a state pension to its citizens and negotiate a ‘share’ of the existing pensions pot accordingly as part of the division of the UK’s assets and liabilities (as per the 2013 white paper and Ian Blackford’s position). Why would an independent Scottish government want to still be dependent on the rUK for the payment of its citizens’ pensions?

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            It will take responsibility for pensions but that doesn’t block people’s legal right to have it paid by the “UK” govt if that’s what they want. If, at the time of independence, someone has rights to a future reduced “UK” pension they should be able to have that reduced pension paid by Westminster when they reach retirement alongside a reduced Scottish pension based on the number of years they paid NI (or whatever) in Scotland.

            A clean break with transfer of the existing pot would be the most desirable option but Project Fear will prey on pensioner’s fear that an independent Scotland will go bust and be unable to pay pensions. While that isn’t going to happen that doesn’t mean pensioners won’t believe it. I think the Scottish govt should make it clear they have a legal right to their full or reduced “UK” pension being paid by Westminster to combat Project Fear.

          3. 220216 says:

            The most that the Scottish government can promise, though, is that citizens of an independent Scotland WILL be legally entitled to have their pension paid by the rUK government rather than the Scottish government IF the Scottish government negotiates a social security agreement with the rUK as part of the independence settlement. That’s the current situation with regards EU citizens who previously worked long term in the UK when the latter was part of the larger Union.

            What Scottish pensioners will be legally entitled to after independence will hinge on the Scexit deal that the Scottish government can negotiate. Maybe an independent Scottish government won’t want to have a social security agreement with the rUK; maybe it will want a ‘hard’ Scexit. Maybe the rUK won’t want to have a social security agreement with an independent Scotland; maybe the rUK will want a ‘hard’ Scexit. No one can say ahead of the horsetrading what an independent Scotland will look like.

  4. Robbie says:

    Suppose England did declare themselves independent tomorrow and not honour NI pension plan ,what would Scotland do about Trident and the Warheads in store ,tit for tat? God Bless The Day Scotland is Free of Them

  5. DonDon says:

    Truss “talked over the translators”,

    Sorry to be picky, but it was the interpreters she talked over.

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