2007 - 2022

Protocol

“Yes, I agreed it (NI protocol), I hoped and believed our friends (the EU) would not necessarily want to apply it.” – Boris Johnson

It’s suffocating to have to live through this. There isn’t a visible set of policies or ideas you can contest because it is all just a contrived shit-show of orchestrated chaos. If we’re bored and exhausted by the constant flow of lies and distortion that spews out of the Prime Minister’s mouth it is also mesmerising.

Future historians will look back at this period (from 1990 – today) and wonder how a tiny faction of the Conservative Party (literally classmates) and a tiny faction of the Northern Irish population, held four nations to ransom and oversaw social chaos. We should wonder too.

Meanwhile at a meeting of the Treasury select committee Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, and deputy governor Dave Ramsden, gave evidence.

Bailey’s account was astonishing.

At least 80% of the underlying causes of inflation he has no control over at all, he said.

He could only sit back and let the rise in energy prices continue, he said.

“I don’t want to panic you,” but there would soon be a food crisis, he said.

There was nothing he could do about any of it.

Bailey blamed the war in Ukraine for the highest inflation in the UK for three decades, and warned that “apocalyptic” food prices caused by Russia’s invasion could have a disastrous impact on the world’s poor, before repeating his call for workers to “reflect carefully” about taking a pay rise amid concerns it could fuel inflation. He let slip that he too had taken a “pay freeze” (though admittedly on a salary of £575,000).

Staring at a coming disaster our glorious leaders go in front of parliamentary committees and just hold their hands-up and say there is nothing they can do at all. Faced with people’s actual hunger and cold and poverty, our leaders response is just to shrug.

Actually it’s far worse than that.

Concentrating Minds

The government’s response to this is a mirror of Bailey’s complete intransigence, and, while the sort of disgraceful comments by Rachel Maclean create shocks they are coming – and will continue to come – thick and fast from the Conservatives. They will continue with bromides about foodbanks, budgeting and a cascade of contemptuous comments about people living in poverty.

Good Morning Britain asks plaintively: “Should you work harder to get by? Journalist Sophie Corcoran asks what is wrong with giving people the option of working longer hours.” The ubiquitous Corcoran is just the latest invention of an ideological surround-sound of vacuous culture war media.

As Frances Ryan, author of Crippled: Austerity and the Demonisation of Disabled People puts it: “It would be easy to dismiss such comments as thoughtless anger-bait, but they serve a political purpose. Discrediting food banks or casting work as an easy route out of poverty suggest that hardship isn’t down to low wages, benefit cuts, high energy prices or unaffordable housing, but rather that working-class people are too stupid to budget properly or too lazy to look for a better job.

This reduces the fact of millions of people going hungry and cold in this country to a few families who can’t cook. Fundamentally, such remarks attempt to shift responsibility from the government and place it firmly on the individual. If a single mum is wasting her universal credit, why should ministers increase benefits in line with inflation? Tory MPs are playing their get-out-of-jail cards, taken from the old deck that if only the poor tried hard enough, they wouldn’t be in poverty. Or as right-wing commentator Isabel Oakeshott put it recently: having to survive on low rate benefits “concentrates the mind”.

So we have the sort of studied, patient indifference of politicians and bankers as a new deeper wave of poverty washes over society. They can and must do nothing at all. That is an ideological choice. So the outbursts of ‘terrible views’ that blurt out of politicians aren’t a mistake, they aren’t an aberration or an embarrassment, they are completely inevitable. They are also the outcome of a long-line of a curated story about class and poverty and they are playing to the crowd.

But this may no longer be tenable in the way that it has been in the past.

Demonising the poor and ridiculing people relies on divide and conquer – the creation of the myths of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. But if economic forecasts are right things are going to get much worse very quickly. As millions of people descend into further economic chaos that trick of playing folks against each other will have diminishing returns.


The evidence is everywhere.

A new report out today ‘The Price to Play Report’, reveals the bleak outlook for grassroots football clubs in Scotland as a result of the deepening cost of living crisis. The report details how 32% of Scottish parents said the cost of living crisis will impact their ability to afford football (for basics like subs and kits), and a further 26% of Scottish parents said they will not be able to afford football in the very near future. 20% of Scottish parents said they are only just able to send their child to football, because they have made sacrifices elsewhere. This might not sound important but it’s the sort of basic healthy activities that give people exercise is a vital life-line for family mental-health and socialising.

Elsewhere we’re told that soaring food inflation could soon force schools to choose between offering smaller portions at lunchtime and using cheaper ingredients, according to the boss of one of the UK’s largest food wholesalers. As someone who has worked on school meals I know we are already starting from a very very low bar of quality and spend, and as food campaigners have been telling us for years, the importance of a school meal to the poorest kids is critical.

Reports all tell the same story. According to the National Institute for Economic & Social Research (NIESR), more than 250,000 households will “slide into destitution” next year, taking the total number in extreme poverty to around 1.2m, unless the government acts to help the poorest families hit by the energy price shock,

They won’t.

The research tells us that more than 1.5m households will see the rise in food and energy bills outstrip their disposable income, forcing them to rely on savings or extra borrowing to make up the shortfall, said the thinktank, which blamed welfare spending cuts since the Brexit vote in 2016 for leaving millions of families in a vulnerable financial position.

Yet another report yesterday tells us that 45% of adults in the U.K. have less than £500 in savings. There’s nothing to fall-back on. They have created a profoundly unstable society. What has this got to do with the Northern Irish Protocol? What does Britain’s social chaos and rapidly deepening poverty have to do with the constitutional crisis in Ireland? Just the lies. Just the constant lies and complete abdication of responsibility.

In a (re) shared moment of 2020 Ed Miliband  berated Johnson and really tore him apart about the shambles of the Northern Irish Protocol. “For the first time in your life it’s time to take responsibility for something” he said. Of course he won’t – but here is the bitter irony. While political leaders act with complete impunity, the consequences for everyone else are appalling. As the Johnsonian political world descends into farce and a bizarre surreal series of staged performances large sections of society are catapulted into crisis. All of this is presided over by a media class that looks more and more like a oleaginous cult.

The anger-bait and blame-shift that goes on daily needs to be avoided and called out without it consuming us.

The problem for the established order is that they are entering unchartered waters along with the rest of us.

The divide and rule / tabloid class and culture wars may have worked before but it has less leverage when millions more are tipped into the social category that is supposed to be the object of derision. And the Trumpian tactic of ‘flooding the zone’ with chaos and disinformation might work as you are tossing bait to your mates in the press and manipulating the backbenches of dense Tory functionaries – but it doesn’t really work with the EU who live in another world.

Finally we are experiencing the most extreme profiteering from fuel poverty in the history of Britain, and while that is survivable as Britain’s enters a summer of climate emergency ‘heat waves’ – it is un-survivable after that.

Your Dogma Ran over My Korma

This reality often provokes the question: why aren’t we rioting in the streets? Or the far less exciting: why isn’t Starmer 40 points ahead?

We probably thought that the degeneration of British politics into weird tabloid bile reached its peak the other week with the ‘It was really all Angela Rayner’s fault’ followed by (somehow) ‘Beergate is the same (or worse) than Partygate’. It was such a farcical conclusion that it sent Starmer’s Heir to Blair Labour Party into a tailspin of terrified paranoia.

Apart from the dressage of sincerity that Keir Starmer’s entourage are engaging in – and avoiding the obvious flaw that goading Boris Johnson with the idea of ‘principles’ is an exercise in futility – both point to a Void Level of meaninglessness. The Labour Left have no credible strategy to cope with their own irrelevance and the Tory Right engage in these escapades with a gay abandon of a political group who simply don’t care about anything at all. British politics has a structural problem that all discourse and framing has been long-ago reduced to the level of Channel 5 era Big Brother, a sort of bored ultra-cynical staged moronism.

Meanwhile, other outlets juggle with the historical moment of Sinn Fein’s breakthrough victory and the Continuity SNP’s annoying success with puerile glee. The ubiquitous Tom Harris foams and froths that: “In embracing Sinn Féin, Nicola Sturgeon has shown her true colours. She calls herself a ‘civic nationalist’. But there is nothing civic about Sinn Féin’s brand of politics…”

For some Sturgeon is a Fifth Column Secret Republican, for others, she is a deep mole at the very heart of a vast conspiracy (Abla/Murray etc etc). Clearly these things can’t all be true, but this doesn’t matter, we are in post-truth, post (ish) Brexit mania in which the Tories are Untouchable, and Labour are Unelectable.

Up in fair Scotia the (presented) polls veer from pro-indy hysteria (55!%) to “nobody is interested!”.

There are of course structural problems in Scotland/Britain about the SNP gaining momentum and breakthrough too. This adds to the overwhelming feeling of stasis that pervades everything.

To say that all of this experience is depressing or that ‘standards in public life have been eroded’ is to miss the point and engage with a level of banality that is beyond expression and beyond cliche.

To discuss whether Angela Rayner uncrossed her legs (phoar!) or whether ‘Sir Keir’ had a curry is just to descend into the vortex of imbecility you are presented with. But if this used to be the territory of the red-tops and Freddie Star, it’s now pounced on by the rLeft as a sort of replacement for serious politics.

But among this torpor there is hope. The British government are suppressing democracy in Scotland and ignoring elections in Ireland. People’s patience has run out. Shutting down all of the avenues for democratic expression might have seemed like a good idea, but it really isn’t. As Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič statement following today’s announcement by the UK Foreign Secretary (Liz Truss!) said: “Unilateral actions contradicting an international agreement are not acceptable.”

The ‘party of law and order’ is the party of misrule illegality and lies.

None of this is defensible. For those who have supported the Union in the past it is time to observe this unravelling social and constitutional disaster and wake up to the reality of the state they demand we claim allegiance to.

 

Comments (19)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    Excellent as usual. …
    ‘time those who have supported the Union in the past wake up to the reality of the state they demand we claim allegiance to…’
    And how long will it take them I wonder…for those to ‘wake up’..
    I watched an interview with Nicola Sturgeon after the SNP’s usual brilliant performance..and I quote from her euphoric statement….’It’s not about independence ‘
    So Nicola…whit is it aboot ???
    What was the SNP set up for if not independence.
    Your excellent statement re ‘wake up’…..somebody want to wake up Nicola?

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      For the SNP it IS all about independence.

      For the Scottish Government an SNP majority must mean Independence is a priority but not perhaps the most urgent one.

      in other words for the good of the country it may be necessary to push Independence a bit down the list.

      I suspect that her statement may have been planned to prevent the Unionist media going into rabid attack mode.

    2. Alan says:

      “This reality often provokes the question: why aren’t we rioting in the streets?”

      Good question. One might take it a step further and ask Why has there never been a British revolution? (The Glorious Revolution doesn’t count for obvious reasons.) Why are the British not more like the French, Irish or Americans who have in the past all said we’ve had enough of this shite and taken matters into their own hands (for better or worse)? One answer is that a lot of that energy got displaced into looting, enslaving, and what have you elsewhere. But the Empire is long gone. Why isn’t the sun that never sets collapsing under the weight of it’s own contradictions, not just on the Empire but that fantasy country of convenience (currently) known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

      Observing Starmer and the Labour Party one has to ask: what’s the narrative? They have none, certainly nothing remote compelling. Let’s do some Union Jack flag waving! That’s about the limit of it and it’s pathetic. The same can be said for Sturgeon and the SNP. What a bloody shower. The wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. No imagination. No real sense of reform. No compelling narrative. No taste for the risk taking that’s necessary. If Sturgeon holds an Indyref in 2023, as she has apparently promised, I’ll be very surprised. I actually hope she doesn’t. Not that I don’t think Scotland desperately needs to be independent but because I don’t think Sturgeon and her Party have it in them to win it. They’d have to get out the way and let others get on with the job. That’s unlikely as they fear that the first thing that would get the boot in a genuinely independent and reformed Scotland would be the current political leaches that occupy Holyrood. That’s the trouble. All the parties in Scotland, the SNP included, they are all comfortable and doing quite well under the current corrupt UK regime. Which brings us back to Mike’s question. It’s not happening folks unless its coming from the grassroots.

      1. I think ‘it’s not happening folks unless its coming from the grassroots’ is the essential message here – yes, absolutely.

        “Observing Starmer and the Labour Party one has to ask: what’s the narrative?” – the answer is 1) I’m not Corbyn 2) I’m safe 3) I’ll change little of substance.

        1. Alan says:

          I agree. But I think Corbyn also articulated in his own way a rather traditional and conservative narrative as well (and like Stamer he had no clue about Scotland). The trouble with the Labour Party, no matter whether more lefty or centerist is that it really rather likes British institutions and the existing levers of power. It loves FPTP, the Lords, the monarchy, etc.

          But the fundamental issue in the UK is that the central institutions are rotten to the core. There was a small possibility of reform in 1997 after years of Thatcherism and then the death of Diana but Blair and company bottled it. Of course they did. We got some tinkering round the edges (devolution) instead of a serious attempt to implement Charter 88. None of the political parties in the UK are serious about reform even now when the consequences of previous failures to reform are plainly evident. Is there any serious discussion of reform? No. We get occasional reports, or some committee ponders this or that, or Gordon Brown gets rolled out but anyone with half a brain knows it’s all shite. It’s more endless words and no action or a sticking plaster on head wound gushing blood. And the SNP are party to all this. Where’s the reform talk? Where’s the action? They are tinkerers, can kickers, and bullshitters like the rest of them.

          I think we will continue on in this fashion, maybe for quite some time. It will continue to spiral down and Brits will do what Brits do best: smile and carry on. When will we reach the point of inflection? Will we reach a point of inflection? And if we do will what follows be better or even nastier because everyone sat on their hands for far too long?

      2. 220518 says:

        “This reality often provokes the question: why aren’t we rioting in the streets?”

        The question as to why capitalism has proven more resilient to its immanent collapse than the prophets prophesied is one that has vexed the Left for over a century now.

        Notwithstanding the flag-waving idealism of bourgeois political activists, the fact is that capitalism has not yet realised the material conditions of revolution; namely, the global impoverishment of the mass of humanity. Only such anarchy will give birth to the dancing star of revolution; the rest is just so much p*ss*ng and f*rt*ng in the wind.

        It’s not happening because the so-called ‘grassroots’ (for all their local grievances about the various economic, environmental, and social injustices to which they’re subject and on which, at the same time, their relative prosperity is premised) are on the whole content with the status quo. Their impoverishment isn’t yet absolute.

  2. Meg Macleod says:

    Look further and deeper as my poetry mentor told me….well what’s true in finding the root of a poem is true when looking for the root of this political brainwashing that is hiding the core projections of an elite cabal working their cauldron of evil intentions for humanity…science fiction coming true right before our blinkered eyes……

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Great article Mike. It reminds me a lot of the film ‘The Big short’ where those with any sense knew the crash was coming but for years the financial sector played out as if there was nothing wrong and the markets continued to reflect those views. When I look at MSN you’ve got The Express and Mail peddling the view that Brexit has been a great success and, despite the astonishing indifference of Tory politicians to the cost of living crisis, there’s still no shortage of clowns posting positive comments about them. In fact most criticism of them arises from not stopping immigration.

    The comments on the anti-independence articles (they’re coming thick and fast now) are equally depressing if totally devoid of content (mainly from “Wee Krankie” thickos). As you say, we can but hope the reality will set in soon but I wouldn’t bank on it. I mean you’ve got the DUP complaining about the protocol despite the fact their people seem to have done better (or ‘not as badly’) than rUK. It’s almost as if they feel they’re being denied their Dunkirk spirit flagellation. Going by the comments many English & some Scots are revelling in the same nonsense and feel “It’s not Boris’s fault. it’s a global thing.”

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      The ” “Wee Krankie” thickos” are not only the nasty trolls and bots who flood BBC Scotland Have Your Say, but also, the smug self proclaimed ‘progressives’ of The New Statesman, “Prospect’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Observer’ and Labour MPs such as Lisa Nandy.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Indeed Alasdair. The number of articles in the last week proclaiming “The English & Scottish govts aren’t doing enough to ease the cost of living crisis” in order to lump in the Scottish govt with Westminster’s couldn’t care less was off the scale.

  4. Gavinochiltree says:

    The latest hysteria surrounds an independent Scotland’s hysteria in removing “the UK’s” nuclear weapons.
    There won’t be a UK, any more. A Greater England will appear, ruled by the offspring of the present lot.

    So independence. Ross wants us to have nukes, just not OUR nukes.
    How would that work?
    Would Scotland have a veto on their use? Of course not.
    The Budapest Memorandum had the potential to lead to a nuclear exchange. Scotland wiped out.

    The new security arrangements with Sweden/Finland are similar.
    Presumably Greater England would hold on to Treaty obligations, so a nuclear exchange is possible, and with these countries outside NATO, an independent Scotland with no say, would face destruction.
    Scotland cannot base these weapons here. Scotland cannot trust the unstable infants who run Westminster.
    Independence allows independence of thought.
    Ross cannot conceive of refusing London having their way. Droit de Seignior. He is relatively young, but already obsolete in his views.

  5. Malcolm Kerr says:

    “There are of course structural problems in Scotland/Britain about the SNP gaining momentum and breakthrough too.”

    Think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, Mike! The SNP has just obtained the support of 15% of voters (34% x 43%), around a million less than voted ‘yes’ in 2014. A party unable to cooperate with its own members, let alone its allies, isn’t going to lead us to independence.

    1. Hi Malcolm – I didn’t quite mean in that way – though the figures you point to are true – I meant more in the sense of there being structural problems in the same way as there were structural problems that prevented Corbyn (or Foot, or, arguably Kinnock) making headway as Labour leader. These problems are about the nature of the British state, media, power, hierarchy, culture: hegemony. The established order has power and control in Scotland too, and yes the SNP is emeshed (sp?) in some of that. So I agree partly with you – some of the problems are of the SNP’s own making and some of which are the nature of the environment they are swimming in.

      1. Malcolm Kerr says:

        Yes, that’s correct. The British establishment is in its comfort zone, suppressing and parasitising its people, as it has done for centuries. The national movement needs to be at the top of its game, searching for unity of purpose, forming alliances, valuing inclusivity. No one can claim any of that is happening or about to happen.

        1. Sure none of that is really happening true. But there’s a disconnect in this message/strategy imho. ‘We’ should be forming alliances and making connections and solidarity with people across Scottish society, rather than with key members of a political sub culture much of which has acted in the opposite way that its now demanding. In other words some (not all) members of other tiny tiny indy parties have acted with a viciousness against the rest of the indy movement but now turn around and say ‘be inclusive’ and ‘join us’. That’s a bit weird. It’s also weird to witness these tiny groups being categorically rejected at election after election – and then they turn around and say ‘we are absolutely VITAL to the cause’. Are they? How are they?

          1. Malcolm Kerr says:

            I wasn’t meaning my contribution to be about Alba, Mike. I’m not all that interested. While their experience(s) of leaving the SNP (or being actively purged) isn’t entirely irrelevant to the discussion, Alba is, as you suggest, a tiny tiny fraction of the million 2014 yes voters who now won’t vote SNP. Who are the million? Do they vote for other parties? Why are they so disengaged? How many have moved to ‘no’? Are there even more who have fallen off the voters roll? There isn’t much dialogue about this in the wider movement, and none at all in the SNP. We need to know more about them. And there is something really dysfunctional about an independence party hailing the support of 1 in 7 voters as a ‘seismic victory’, while standing back to watch unionist coalitions across the country cooperating to form council administrations!

  6. Alan says:

    This is an enlightening read: Chartbook #122: What drives inflation?
    https://adamtooze.substack.com/p/chartbook-122-what-drives-inflation

  7. SleepingDog says:

    It’s odd, then, that Ukraine is notable by its absence from the UK food imports section of the government’s Food Security Report (Updated 22 December 2021):
    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021-theme-2-uk-food-supply-sources#united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021-theme2-indicator-2-1-3
    As for who is responsible for food security in the UK, the report introduction says:
    “Agricultural and food supply policy is devolved to each national administration. National Security and Counter Terrorism (CT) policy is a specific reservation under the Home Affairs heading. As lead departments for food as a Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector, Defra and the FSA manage those risks specifically relating to National Security and CT across the UK. For all other areas of risk, food supply chain resilience and security are the responsibility of Defra in England; DAERA and Department for Communities in Northern Ireland; Scottish Government in Scotland; and Welsh Government in Wales. The FSA is responsible for food safety and tackling food crime in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Food Standards Scotland are responsible for food safety and food crime in Scotland.”
    Food security is a national security issue, related to the primary and basic duty of governments (one hears) to keep its own people alive.

  8. Derek says:

    Maybe not the same street, but the same load of flags. Spotted this article and thought that I’d seen the view before.

    https://www.spiked-online.com/2022/05/23/no-the-union-flag-is-not-fascist/

    “benign display of mild patriotism” – aye, right!

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