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.
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?
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?
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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