2007 - 2022

Tough Months Ahead

Feeling the squeeze? Rishi Sunak feels your troubles. “The next few months will be tough” he emoted just the other day while dining with the CBI. Sunak said: “There is no measure any government could take, no law we could pass, that can make these global forces disappear overnight. The next few months will be tough. But where we can act, we will.”

On Friday Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, were named on the Sunday Times rich list as the 222nd wealthiest people in the UK. They’re ‘worth’ a combined £730m. So the next few months won’t be quite as tough for the Sunak’s. But I do love that sentence. The idea that the crisis we face are just part of some ethereal unidentifiable force of nature – mysterious ‘global forces’ – that no government could predict or respond to is a wonderful side-step of any moral political or economic responsibility. It’s a bypassing of responsibility and a casual breaking of the social contract with a nonchalant swoop of Rishis’s expensively coiffured locks. I love too the idea that the next few months will be ‘tough’ and then everything will be grand. I wonder what Sunak’s personal experience of ‘tough’ looks like? Losing at billiards? Unexpectedly not becoming Prime Minister?

The payoff: “where we can act, we will” is beautiful. It’s so vague as to be utterly meaningless, promises nothing at all and still manages to expect or require gratitude for the nothing that is hinted at. This is the benevolence of the filthy rich handing out bawbees to the destitute. This is more punching down than levelling up, but with extra gaslighting.

Now, as the #partygate scandal peters out in a trickle of exhausted disinterest the country is reaching peak-inanity in the coming weeks. First we have the denouement of the Wagatha Christie trial followed by the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, an orgy of Union Jacks, advanced sycophancy, compulsory fealty and ridiculous 21C feudalism mixed-in with some weird Sex Pistols re-release.

Platinum Party

As the perpetual bunting gets hung-up the actual (supposedly functional) institutions of Britain are circling the sewer. First-up an MP from the Tory party is arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of rape, sexual assault, indecent assault, and misconduct in a public office – prompting a frantic speculation as to his identity. But given the deluge of corruption the whole incident had been forgotten about by Friday. Such is the state of ‘rolling-news’, concentration spans reduced to a nano-second and the collapse of expectations about standards in public life such events pass by with barely a raised-eyebrow.

Paul Goodman, the editor of the Conservative Home website described Boris Johnson’s ‘escape’ from #partygate as :“This greased albino piglet has slithered through the legs of the butchers, and he’s running away, oinking through open country.” And he’s a Tory.

But as the preposterous PM bumbles on through all of this he faces two up-coming challenges. In the coming weeks we’ll have two byelections – one being held because the previous MP (Neil Parish) repeatedly watched porn in the Commons chamber, and the other held because the previous MP was recently convicted of child sexual assault. That’s where we’re at.

Still, one of the truly great extra benefits of the Platinum Jubilee is the fact that Stanley and Wrexham has become a city. I’m not doing this right, am I?

British Future

If this all seems like some kind of weird dystopia festooned with Bread and Circuses and drowning in the moronism of popular culture it’s because it is. Are there any signs of dissent?

Maybe.

A survey out this week showed that support for monarchy in Scotland had dropped to 45%, and interest in the Platinum Jubilee was dismal. Seventy years after she ascended the throne, support for the monarchy in Scotland is the lowest in the UK according to a new polling by  ‘British Future’.

In contrast the survey showed over two thirds of people in England are interested in the Jubilee celebrations, while less than half of Scots feel the same. According to the comically mis-named think-tank just 45 per cent of Scots want to keep the royals “for the foreseeable future”, with 36 per cent ready to get rid of them altogether as soon as the Queen’s dies.

Does that matter? Maybe not a lot but at least it shows some levels of resistance to the Borg-like compulsory monarchism, and as Rory Scothrone writes in The New Statesman: ” …the monarchy is not a quirky add-on to politics and society; it is a fundamental part of how power and culture stick together across these isles, for it weaves the state’s conservative constitution into the popular imagination and invests our deeply unequal social structures with pseudo-familial legitimacy. It matters if – and where – things are becoming unstuck.”

I think this is right and it’s also significant that the Queen may be the institution’s last shot. It’s difficult to under-estimate the extent to which the current monarch carries significant goodwill and karma with her. But that is a personal rather than an institutional asset. When she goes – that goes with her.

None of this latent republicanism puts food on the table or wipes out the sort of gross inequality celebrated by the ‘Rich List’. But it does hint at an Exit strategy. The old order is creaking and cracked on every side. Britain as a late-stage decrepit and rotten regime is festering from the top-down. The fact that the Chancellor who plunged half a million more children into poverty with his Spring Statement has made the Sunday Times Rich List is an obscenity that can’t go unchallenged. The charges of sexual assault and rape that surround the Conservative Party aren’t going away and the upcoming byelections will expose and focus on the state of the Mother of All Parliaments.

#Partygate’s over. But the contempt and absurdism of it all lingers on. As Edward Docx writes (‘A smirk in progress‘):

“Partygate, though, is a great spewing fountain of contempt that has drenched the land. We all recall Johnson’s mock-serious demeanour at the dispatch box in December when he said that he was “also furious” to hear of these parties he had absolutely no idea about. We remember him smirking when asked on television if he had been interviewed by Sue Gray, who was tasked with leading a ludicrous investigation to establish what the prime minister saw with his own eyes. We recall the senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale walking out of a meeting Johnson held on the very day of his apology for breaking that law, because, as Gale said, he hadn’t been expecting “a lot of bluster and pantomime performance”. We are all soaked in a rain of Johnson’s fatuousness, and we blink at one another as the slurry thickens and the country starts to lose its footing.”

As Partygate fizzles out the Platinum Party kicks-off.

We need more, much more. We need to break from the ennui and dispirited cynicism that pervades all. We need to use the spectacle of the Jubilee as a focus for the end of Britain and all the brutal patronage hierarchy and wealth it represents. We need to become ungovernable. We need to make sure that the next few months really will be tough, and where we can act, we should.

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  1. Robbie says:

    Very good piece Mike you can’t hide the truth, to Johnson and Sunak ,the masses are for them is what you see scurrying when you lift a stone or lump of grass ,but Ithink its not only Scotland the royals are worried about when you see them calling bingo no’s appearing in soaps ,and visiting the Rovers Return my god what will they not do to keep their privileges . Time To Leave .

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    Speaking from England I can assure you I despise the parasitic class we misname Royalty as much, if not more so, than many Scots. I will be ignoring any jubilee malarky with earnest.

    Mathematicians and historians tell us that when societies reach the current levels of inequality and elite excess, revolution occurs. Pretty much inevitable. Not necessarily violent, but will entail people on the streets and a rapid change. The four nations ‘Berlin Wall’ moment is coming soon, possibly even this year. Be ready.

  3. Squigglypen says:

    We need to become ungovernable..excellent..but you don’t make an omelette without breaking eggs..Mark. ( not necessarily violent…really?)
    Sunak..millionaire looking after our starving kids..like setting a tiger to guard lambs . …Zahawi this morning on Sophie on Sunday stuttering and lying his way thro her excellent questions ..doesn’t know who put the meeting between Johnson and Gray in the book…state schools are fine..oh yes my kids are in private education cos that was a private family decision…oh and I was bullied when I came here as a kurdish refugee..sob sob….(wonder if it was a state school?)
    What a shower of shit. Who votes for this excrement? Stand up and be counted.
    Nicola Sturgeon going the same way…We’ll retain the queen as head of State ( did you ask us ?)And her latest gaffe..’it’s not about independence’……of course she’s going thro the menopause..sob sob…
    Go and watch Sophie’s brilliant interview with Zahawi..and puke.

    1. Mark Bevis says:

      “Mark. ( not necessarily violent…really?)”

      Possible. But very unlikely in England at least I must admit. The Westmonster village may find it difficult to order outnumbered Scottish police to shoot Scottish people en masse, but I imagine it’d be quite a popular pastime for some in the English police force down here. And energy restraints (we’ll be into the rationing phase by then) will prevent the movement of large numbers of English police into the three nations territory like they used to. Abandoned lorries laden with rocks at key points also comes to mind….

      The independence movements will have to exploit the enemy’s weakness. That weakness is neo-liberalism itself. Their own ideology baulks at the state spending resources on anything, other than short-term enrichment of some of their own class. So for them to spend resources in an already resource-constrained economy on enforcement (which doesn’t generate short term profits for their mates) is anathema to them. They will if they have to, but we can see from Boris’ reaction to Covid that it will be too late, too slow and impregnated with attempts for enrichment.
      In other words he’ll try and bung private security companies like G4S the billions to enforce English dictatorship, but we’ve already seen how useless they are. So there is some kind of hope of none-violent rearrangement of the deck chairs before ecological collapse arrives, in the 3 nations at least.
      When the relatives of even the most ardent unionists are being shafted by Westminster, I suspect the internal enemies of independence will be revealed as the paper tigers they have become and disappear out of sight or change sides.
      And never forget, the elites are not one homegenous mass. They are all competing with each other for share of the wealth and power. Everyone talks about “the corporations” as if it’s one alien entity, but they are all rivals trying to steal a march on each other.

      If England does degenerate into a civil war though, it is important that the 3 nations stay out of it. Celebrate, reinforce and defend the independence that comes, but for feck’s sake don’t join in. A humane refugee/migration policy with a firm non-intervention policy will probably do you a lot of favours internationally in the long run, and keeps your powder dry if the fascists do win down here and then try and reconquer the 3 nations.

      I don’t think it will come to that, due to resource restraints mentioned (eg we already given half of our firepower to the Ukrainian defence) and Gaia will have a thing to say about it too via catastrophic climate events. But either way, the tipping points are here, the historical evidence is clear. Something will trip, not even planned, just an accelerating accumulation of events, and independence will then be yours for the taking. It may be worth independence advocates to take the time to study German reunification in 1989 and the Romanian revolution of 1989 for clues about what may help and what may hinder. The loss of credibility of the ruling classes might be the key.

      1. 220522 says:

        Mark and Squiggly, what planet are you guys on? All this is pure fantasy.

        1. Mark Bevis says:

          Maybe, 220522, feel free to postulate an alternative scenario.
          I study history, I study collapsology, and synthesise the evidence of those more qualified than me who study these things. All outcomes are possible, some are more probable than others. Take your pick and present a case.

          1. 220523 says:

            What evidence? You present no evidence in support of the greater probability of your predictions. For example, why should we expect that Boris Johnson will to ‘try and bung private security companies like G4S the billions to enforce English dictatorship’? What dictatorship?

            ‘Collapsologists’ (we used to call the b*gg*rs ‘eschatologists’ back in the day, before the evangelical Christian right repackaged its exceptionalist theology as ‘collapsology’) have been predicting the imminent collapse of civilisation for much longer even than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Berossus was at it in the third century before the Christian Era; in fact, the Christians (along with Islam) seem to have caught it from the Ancient Babylonians via Judaism. It’s a long-standing and recurring cultural trope in the West.

            The belief that we are heading for some kind of all-consuming crisis is certainly in vogue once again. Wealthy Americans were buying spots in Armageddon-proof bunkers long before Covid-19, and militant environmental and social protest movements have been on the rise everywhere.

            But catastrophising isn’t just an American social phenomenon. A survey, which was published in November 2019 by the left-leaning Jean Jaurès Foundation, found that within Europe only Italy beat France for pessimism about the future. 71% per cent of Italians and 65% of French people agreed with the statement that ‘civilisation as we know it will collapse in the years to come’. 56% of Brits shared the same apocalyptic vision, slightly ahead of Americans at 52%. The Germans came in last with 39%.

            The authors of the Jean Jaurès study, Jérôme Fourquet and Jean-Philippe Dubrulle, also found that collapsology is driven at least mainly by economic concerns. The least apocalyptically minded country they polled, Germany, also had the strongest economy, while the countries where the movement has the largest following – Italy and France – are those where economic performance has been poorest of late and where social and political tensions run high.

            They also found that people in different countries think differently about the causes of the coming collapse. In Britain and Germany, the emphasis is on the climate crisis, as seen in the emergence of Extinction Rebellion in the UK. But in France, where they overlap to some extent with the gilets jaunes movement, collapsologists also consider society to be ‘sick’. The idea is that rampant consumerism, ever-accelerating technological advances, and permissiveness are leading French people to perdition.

            According to Fourquet and Dubrulle, the movement also cuts across the old conventional political classifications, embracing both the conviction politics of far right to the far left and the more pragmatic populism of the centre. What collapsologists of the old ‘left’, ‘right’, and centre all share is the neo-Malthusian proposal that there are too many people on Earth. and that there needs to be a post-apocalyptic winnowing of the human species, in which neglect in the guise of ‘nature’ will be used to determine who lives and who dies.

            The uncertainty created by ongoing financial instability, climate change, pluralism, and plague has shrunk the ideological distance between the two camps still further while at the same time swelling their followings. Eschatology – the theory of ‘end times’ and salvation – has become a subject of general preoccupation; it’s no longer restricted to the lunatic fringe. It’s become mainstream in the postmodern political landscape.

            Fourquet and Dubrulle also find in their survey that collapsology is mainly a bourgeois phenomenon. This is in part because you have to have the means to be able to contemplate the sort of radical change in lifestyle that ‘salvation’ demands. It’s also in part because you need to have grown up with certain expectations of stability and prosperity for those expectations to be frustrated and marginalised by what you perceive to be the deteriorating state of the world. It is also markedly urban, fuelled by bucholicism: a romanticised, impractical, and (for most folk) unattainable image of what it means to live self-sufficiently in a low-tech, rural setting.

            The unattainability of salvation, the doom-laden nature of collapsology, feeds the rise of guru-like evangelists like Pablo Servigne and Greta Thunberg (who has been compared to the earlier French guru, Joan of Arc) and their calls for ‘repentance’. These are the charismatic intermediaries to whom the doomed look for their salvation in a kind of authoritarian ‘bad faith’.

            Despite vaunting their scientific credentials, collapsologists have misunderstood the fundamental nature of complex systems, whether they be ecological, financial, social, or climatic. Servigne, for example, contends that the more globalised and connected human societies become, the more vulnerable they are to disruption. But it’s in their fluid complexity that the resilience as well as the vulnerability of systems lie; collapse is far from fated, just because the system becomes more complex; evolution is a far more likely outcome.

            Also, by predicting collapse, collapsologists shoot themselves in the foot. They are effectively saying that nothing we do will make any difference; mankind is too inherently corrupt to be trusted to do what it needs to do to attain salvation. But if that is true, we might as well sit back and wait for the end. They risk engendering a social attitude of fatalistic resignation, which again feeds the rise of guruism.

          2. Mark Bevis says:

            Thankyou for taking the time to reply. I see you have quoted verbatum from a October 2020 Guardian article which I read at the time:
            https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/11/humans-werent-always-here-we-could-disappear-meet-the-collapsologists

            I do prefer the ending line “We weren’t always here. We could disappear. But we could also do something different.”

            Have you not heard of the concept of overshoot? Hopefully you understand we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet?

          3. 220523 says:

            Indeed, ‘overshoot’ is the neo-Malthusian scenario in which population-growth exceeds an environment’s carrying capacity. It denies the possibility that human productivity might increase that capacity infinitely or at least until scarcity is abolished, on the assumption that human productivity is extractive rather than creative. That assumption can be challenged.

            We will undoubtedly be something different. We’re always on the way to being something different. That’s evolution for you. Catastrophising is inherently pessimistic and reactionary, and the authoritarianism of collapsology is (as it’s always been over the centuries) parasitic on the sense of hopelessness that its catastrophising cultivates.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    I have been watching the first series of the rather fine and gritty Secret Army series being shown on Talking Pictures TV, where the Germans occupying Belgium are getting the locals to put up bunting to celebrate Hitler’s birthday, while some of these locals are running an escape line for cloddish shotdown RAF types, their minds focused on matters of life, death and liberty. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075579/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

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