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.
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.
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’?
‘Nicola Sturgeon did not take the opportunity she could have done to heal the wounds’
The Scotsman columnist Brian Monteith gives his verdict on the Scottish First Minister’s handling of the pandemic.
Watch on TV: Freeview 236, Sky 515, Virgin 626 pic.twitter.com/ooFJz65hHR
— GB News (@GBNEWS) February 11, 2022
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.