Freeport Convention

Everything flows now. As Boris fleetingly visits his northern kingdom and Jacob Rees-Mogg channels the collective wisdom of the tabloid culture his party have nurtured like a petri-dish of hate for decades, the true nature of Brexit Britain (aka Britannia Unleashed) reveals itself.

Last year the New Statesman reported: “the EU is planning a new transparency law that would compel multinationals to report the tax they pay in each member state. But not every country is on board with such reforms. One state – the global leader in tax avoidance – actively resists a more effective global tax system: the United Kingdom.”

Here’s your fun fact of the day: estimates from the Tax Justice Network suggested the UK, together with its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, is responsible for 42 %of the $427bn in tax revenue that is lost globally to corporate and private tax avoidance. At $160bn per year, this is more than Britain spends on education and defence combined.

So if your community is feeling the pinch you know who’s got all the lolly,

Now everything flows.

From the hills to the rivers of shit to the (free) ports harbours and outlets England has not just dragged us out of the EU it is dragging us into its inevitable consequence, a haven of deregulation. We know this cos they told us. But if all of this feels new it has a long tail.

For Fintan O’Toole Nigel Farage is the architect of the present debacle. Johnson is just the inheritor of the rumbling shambles of the last fifty years which has culminated in the current crisis. For O’Toole after a close reading of Michael Crick’s ‘One Party After Another’ Farage is the true ideologue. He rejects the idea of their being a ‘Faragism’, just a warmed-up Powellism.

This is uncomfortable but important.

Powell’s Undead Spirit

O’Toole writes (‘When Nigel met Enoch, British nationalism, neo-fascism and Nigel Farage’): “Farage’s gift was to refashion Enoch Powell’s rather extraterrestrial persona as down-to-earth bluff English blokeishness. Undoubtedly, however, this was a repackaging of old content: Powell’s twin hatreds of immigrants and the EU.”

Farage watched Powell when he visited Dulwich College in 1982 and was spellbound and “dazzled me for once into awestruck silence”. In 1992 at a byelection in Berkshire, Farage drove Powell to a rally. O’Toole remarks: “This was one of Powell’s last public speeches and one of Farage’s first party political acts. Though it would not have seemed so at the time, it feels in retrospect like a neat moment of apostolic succession. Farage, more than anyone else, reanimated Powell’s undead spirit.”

For O’Toole this was possible for Farage by: “… realizing a possibility that was always present but lay dormant during Powell’s career: the forging of a reactionary English nationalist project that could bring together the right of the Conservative Party and the neo-fascist movements with which it was in competition. Margaret Thatcher, who admired Powell almost as much as Farage did, managed in some respects to bridge that divide, but she could never use that success to realize the Powellite goal of undoing Britain’s decision to link its destiny to the EU. Farage did it by creating a political space that was neither Conservative nor fascist but that overlapped both domains.”

The contradictions between the far-right roots of Brexit and the appeal to ‘liberty and freedom’ which are constantly (and desperately) invoked are apparent in every passage of repressive legislation from Westminster from the ‘levelling up’ as ‘punching down’ agenda to the rapid extension of police powers and the criminalisation of protest.

But it all makes sense. As the boozy fumes of partygate fade it’s clear that Boris Johnson is in the clear and off the hook. Starmer’s polling lead has faded and Big Dog’s visit round Scotland looks just like rubbing Douglas Ross’s face in it.

Johnson’s exceptionalism is a mirror, and that’s why people love it.

Anglo Piss-Up

Two years ago, on the 20 March Boris Johnson announced the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Even as he did so, however, he made it clear that this decision was “an assault on the national character.”

He said: “We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that.”

“To repeat, I know how difficult this is, how it seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people.”

Some of this got lost in translation. Whose ‘national character’ it was an assault on wasn’t clear.

Spot the difference.

The Sun reported the prime minister’s remarks like this: “Mr Johnson said he realised it went against what he called ‘the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub’.” In the Sun’s version, the freedom to go to the pub was conferred not on the “people of the United Kingdom” or “the British people”, but on “people born in England”. It didn’t apply to Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish people and certainly not to anyone ‘born abroad’. It is an Anglo-Saxon Booze-Up.

No Way Back

Yesterday Keir Starmer announced there “is no case for re-joining the European Union.” You can understand the reason for him doing so, he is sealing off the assault from the right and the Attack Dogs of dark money and media influencers who will frame him as ‘traitor’ and ‘remoaner’ (Liberal Elite yada yada…).

But in doing so he puts himself in the ridiculous position of having to celebrate the ‘benefits of Brexit’ and stand alongside the Tories cheerleading a debacle and chasing invisible positives while explaining away tangible costs to ordinary people.

Obviously but hardly mentioned it puts him in an impossible position in Scotland.



It also puts them all in a strange position in terms of sequence.

It’s all got a bit confused.

Boris you’ll remember was the man who ‘Got Brexit Done’, then, fabulously, ‘Got Covid Done’.

The Brexiteers of Left Right and Centre want you to believe this, that it’s all in the rear view mirror, it’s the, er, settled will of the people and all that jazz. “Let it go” as Colin Fox told me.

But now it’s not in the past at all, it’s emerging in the future.

Coming Soon

As Rees-Mogg and the Sun readership search for things to get angry about Europe, the Sunday Express declares the great benefits are “coming soon”.

Brexit is simultaneously something in the past and yet to come.

It all seems quite elusive.

As Brian Monteith and the gatekeepers of Scottish media go into pension meltdown and attempt a rerun of 2014 Scare Old People tactics this timeline of Brexit as something that is both done and dusted and something to ‘move on’ from – and – something to really look forward to – is odd.

Monteith tries to scare people with the prospect of a ‘Tartan Curtain’ across the border and pops-up on GB News with Neil Oliver underneath a banner reading ‘Are We a Nation’?


This is the other aspect of the current interregnum.

As the British state fails and smothers their attempts to celebrate the elusive and the indefensible, two things happen. The Scottish gatekeepers and columnists become more hysterical and move into war-footing as they sense that the spectacle we are all witnessing is a losing prospect for any future constitutional poll. Some, like poor Stephen Daisley let the mask slip this week and basically argue for permanently repressing any democratic vote. I mean this isn’t a million miles from what the rest argue more subtly but it’s done without the grace and prose of his colleagues.

Second the likes of Oliver and Monteith and the really wild uber-Unionist gang double-down on their new framing that Britain is simply one singular nation. The idea of defending a union of four nations has been abandoned by these people.

The problem for both these groups is that one approach contaminates another. So Britain is just one nation aye? Okay, how is it looking? And for some supposedly very smart people targeting pensioners is a law of diminishing returns.

If O’Toole is right and we are facing a convergence of neo-fascism and English nationalism that presents a different challenge for the Left in Britain and the Indy Left in Scotland,

Everything flows now.

From Rivers of Blood to Rivers of Shit was a process that took half a century, but we’re nearly there now. The sunlit uplands are just over the horizon.


Comments (13)

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    As an adjunct to this glorification of fascism, Prithi Patel’s assault on protest, especially Insulate Britain, clearly shows this government is more afraid of the truth tellers than of the truth itself, even when that truth will lead to their own extinction.

  2. Hugh McShane says:

    Great analysis-hitting on my dislike of status-quo /union defenders, using the clear eyed outsider view of O’Toole, + by teasing out the,now obvious, links from Powell to Farage. co-coincidentally rubbishing the much used Unionist trope of saying attitudinal behaviours are very similar, over these Blessed Isles. No they’re not, + haven’t been for decades, save for the diminishing ultras of the football bigotry brigade.

  3. Jacob Bonnari says:

    There isn’t an organised Indy Left in Scotland that can get the ear of the mass of the working class and under classes. While there are some effective voices out there, they don’t appear to be willing or able to lead.

    It’s all just morally comforting chat unless the words become action “I coulda been a contender”.

    What’s required:
    3-5 well-motivated and charismatic individuals to organise and lead the Indy movement.
    Understand what the Scottish people want rather than what you think they need.
    A simple set of objectives, again 3-5 in number, which together build up a coherent claim that indy is the only logical way to go.
    A plan for getting that information out to the elctorate and backing it up.
    Enough financial resources to achieve it.
    The resolve to keep the eye on the prize and not be side-tracked into other policy areas. Bury past hatreds and avoid purity wars. We all know that the left likes a good split and the indy movement does too.

    1. Sounds like you’ve got it sorted Jacob!

      1. John Watson says:

        Maybe he has. It certainly sounds a lot better what we’ve got just now.

    2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Jacob, those who claim to be on the ‘indy left’ (as you describe them) AND, to whom the media gives a platform are ones for whom the grievance/complaint/ injustice is their raison d’etre. Their existence/status as a ‘media voice’ depends on the grievance/complaint/injustice continuing. So, their kneejerk response to any constructive proposal is along the lines of, “too little, too. late”/”makes things even worse”/ “only tinkers with the problem”/ “tokenism”/etc. So, they attack those who are actually trying to bring about change and that is why the media invite them on.

      In the cases where what is proposed is so self-evident that even the ‘purist’ (and they consider themselves to be pure in ideology) can find nothing to attack, they do the “Ah, but …..” and introduce a different grievance.

      I think there are many people who consider themselves to be both ‘on the left’ and ‘pro-independence’. Where did all these people, such as I and my wife who voted Labour on many occasions go? They are the ones who produced majorities for YES in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee and came pretty close in many other former “Labour heartlands.” The only three directly elected Labour MSP/MP’s are all in place because of tactical voting by Tories and LibDems. Most of the former Labour voters voted for SNp or Green.

    3. 220215 says:

      Re. your list of requirements: doesn’t the Independence movement already have this in Nicola Sturgeon?

      1. She employs values-based, symbolic, and emotion-laden leader signalling (a.k.a. ‘charisma’).

      2. Her electoral success and populist programmes in government demonstrate a good understanding of what the Scottish people (in general) want (i.e. maximal disposable income).

      3. The coherence of her claim that independence is the only logical way to go depends on a selective number of simple objectives (e.g. escaping Tory policies).

      4. She has a huge advertising and publicity office. (In 2019-20the Scottish government’s spending on its media operation was more than £2.8million; it employs 54.9 full-time equivalent frontline media roles – the BBC in Scotland has only 34 reporters.)

      5. Her party ran a £1.1m surplus in the year ending 2020 – so she’s not short of the financial resources required to promote her product.

      6. And she filters every policy area through the prism of the need for independence.

      I can’t really see any alternative to Nicola as the Eva Perón of the Independence movement.

  4. Wul says:

    Richard Beard’s book “Sad Little Men” (Private Schools and the Ruin of England) contains the following words:

    “…In another prestigious private school, seventy miles to the East in Dulwich, a teacher was writing to her headmaster to advise against making Nigel Farage a prefect. The boy had professed racist and neo-fascist views”, and according to another member of staff Farage had marched through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs. The headmaster dismissed Farage’s behaviour as “naughtiness”. Another Dulwich teacher conceded that Farage was “a fascist”, but that was no reason why he would not make a good prefect. “

    1. 220216 says:

      Should a member of any community be discriminated against and excluded from its opportunities on the basis of her/his political opinions and their expression?

      1. Hugh McShane says:

        Only professional contrarians…

        1. 220218 says:

          But where would we be if those who oppose or reject popular opinion or current practice as a matter of principle rather than conviction (‘contrarians’) were excluded from participation in civic life of our schools or other communities?

          We’d be in a sorry state, that’s where.

  5. Jim Sansbury says:

    It was interesting to hear MP (Con) Robert Buckland on Radio 4 Question Time (Saturday) answering a question about the current situation in Ukraine.
    He said it was up to the West to “defend Ukraines inalienable right to self determination and independence.”
    What a shame he cannot be similarly supportive of the rights of his immediate neighbour.
    As we say,….mair faces than the toon clock!!

    1. 220221 says:

      And what about Donetsk’s and Luhansk’s inalienable right to independence from Ukraine, which Russia is poised to defend? What does Rab Buckland have to say about that?

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