What was the Rocket’s Function?

“I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function.” In his final speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson offered his “fervent support” to successor Liz Truss – and referenced Roman dictator Cincinnatus “returning to my plough”.

There’s so much to take in the spectacle of today’s rearrangement of the Titanic’s deck-chairs as one disgraced Tory is replaced by another that barely fifty of her colleagues voted for. So everyone has to lie to everyone. Truss has to pretend that Johnson’s time in office has been a glorious success, Johnson has to pretend that his party is uniting around the new leader, even as Nadine Dorries and Priti Patel scuttle out of public office.

The scenes at No 10 were vintage Johnson – exuberant and bubbling with wild levels of hubris and self-deception. Here he was surrounded by his acolyte’s and enablers – his most faithful coterie, a ghoulish selection of the soon-to-be ennobled.

As Alex Andreou put it: “I think, to analyse Johnson’s leaving speech with any seriousness, is to give it credence. It is merely the mitigation speech of a conman in court, defending himself, before being sent down – a reimagining of the truth, by someone already convicted for fraud.”

But what was the rocket’s function?

By one story it was to ‘get Brexit done’ – by another to ‘defeat Jeremy Corbyn’ – by another to ‘save the union’. He also lays claim to ‘standing up to Putin’ and ‘delivering the vaccine’. You might also throw in to save the Tory party after the debacle of the Theresa May regime.

Taking them in turn, I mean ‘sure’ he ‘got Brexit done’ in such a botched and illegal manner that he seriously damaged Britain’s international reputation, threatened the precious peace of the island of Ireland and destabilised the whole economy. He did this while undermining systems of democracy in Britain, and threatening and attacking the devolution settlement.

Yes he defeated Jeremy Corbyn, but he did so with the massed ranks of the entire media and establishment forces behind him, and large sections of the Labour Party itself. So, you know, its less of a personal achievement and more of an inevitable outcome.

As self-styled Minister for the Union he engineered the deterioration of relations between Bute House and No 10 – and in a private Zoom call to 60 northern Tory MPs he dismissed devolution as “a disaster north of the border”. The prime minister described devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake” and during his time in office the most concerted and blatant attempts to undermine devolution were pursued.

Johnson has presided over this deterioration in relations in all three Celtic countries, and his hapless replacement lacks any of the skills to repair the damage:

His claim to have ‘stood up to Putin’ is better put in his relentless posturing – cosplaying Churchill – while dashing over to Kiev whenever possible for a media shot. Similarly Johnson’s much-vaunted claims in the ‘vaccine rollout’ are dwarfed by the fact that they happened despite, not because of him, and the claims are undermined by the deluge of sleaze and corruption which surrounded the pandemic, plus his multiple gaffs (‘let the bodies pile high’) and breaking of trust and of rules which characterise the latter half of his time in office.

At a time when ‘the country’ needed some leadership he exhibited the most exceptionalist privileged behaviour and a bewildering extraordinary Etonian insouciance befitting his name for himself: World King.

His regime was characterised by cowardice: cowardice to tell the public the truth about, well, almost anything. The reality of the pandemic, the truth about the climate crisis, or even how many children he had.

Just as we are processing the chutzpah of Johnson’s departure speech we witness the debacle of Truss’s acceptance speech, replete with plaudits for her predecessor worthy of the Memory Hole and with the added spectacle of witnessing a political leader LESS capable of public speaking than Theresa May.

There were no cheering crowds as the platoon of Range Rovers descended on Downing Street before delivering the offensive line of creating an ‘aspiration nation’.

Just as you think things couldn’t possibly gey any grimmer, they do.

One of the significant things that Sky News picked up on was her commitment to ‘securing energy supply’ by using oil and gas and fracking to do so. Beth Rigby said “using oil and gas in the short-term”.

This is a dangerous fantasy.

But the fraud hasn’t stopped it has just taken a new form.

But what was the rocket’s function? It was a spectacle and a sticking-plaster for the failure of the British State. It was a state teetering on the edge of lunacy when he entered No 10, as he leaves it’s a failed state now with a leader who is even more ridiculous than Boris Johnson in charge. That’s quite an achievement.



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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Henry VIII create a totalitarian England by merging state and religion with himself atop both, escalated the Tudor War on Nature with extensive deforestation, declared an empire, enacted a raft of draconian treason laws, blew the treasury on a golden tent, lost to the French king in wrestling match, fell off his horse, got fat, cheated at lot, partied hard, executed wives and remarried at will, and set the country on its path to racialised chattel slavery instituted by his daughter Elizabeth I (she of the private palace torture chamber, sugar toothpaste and lead makeup). Shakespeare’s play contrasts Henry VIII’s turgid vices with his spurned Spanish Catholic Queen (the only character in the plays shown ascending to heaven, if I remember, after making sure her servants got paid pensions).

    Boris Johnson brought back Henry VIII powers into use to rewrite legislation without Parliament, which he tried to bypass with the connivance of fellow democracy-hater the Queen, and awoke the sleeping dragon of English tyranny. Incidentally, this has echoes of another Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure, where old fatal laws are merely unenforced by the Duke, until replaced by his Deputy. Unlike the Editor, I don’t see the UK being taken back to the 1990s, nor even as some have reasonably suggested the Victorian era, but back to corrupt medieval court politics and a looming totalitarianism (the ultimate goal of the Conservative faction in the culture wars, after all, is to have only one uncritical national narrative). There are differences. Most (nuclear war, neoliberal economics, capitalist ecocide, war as a racket, climate catastrophe, pandemic unpreparation, diplomatic stupidity, system fragility and social precarity) are worse. There is nothing in the British Imperial quasi-constitution that will save us.

    Nuclear warheads sit atop booster rockets, and Liz Truss seems keen to move to the next stage and detonate our world. Do we accept that fate?

    1. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

      First The Editor rips off the veil, and now Sleeping Dog gives the larger context to all that.

      We really must make the most of the pantomime down south, and make the positive case for Scottish Independence, and agree on Plans B (Sturgeon) and C (Salvo). Prepare, prepare, prepare. We absolutely must not fail, or we also will be laughing stocks…

    2. 220907 says:

      A wee anachronism there, SD, applying a modern concept like ‘totalitarianism’ to a premodern phenomenon like Henry VIII’s kingship.

      ‘Totalitarianism’ was first formulated as a concept by Giovanni Amendola in his critique of Italian fascism in the early 1920s. It was later taken up and assigned a positive spin by Giovanni Gentile, fascism’s foremost theorist. Both used the term ‘totalitario’ to refer to the structure and goals of a state that provided a ‘total representation of the nation and total guidance of national goals’. Winston Churchill popularised the term in the anglophone world in his rants against both the Nazi and Soviet regimes, while George Orwell used it of his dystopia, in which society exploits technological advances in surveillance and mass media in order to establish a permanent and worldwide dictatorship that is incapable of ever being overthrown.

      Karl Popper traced the genealogy of the concept to Plato and his conception of the prosper role and function of the state. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer traced it to the European Enlightenment and its anthropocentrist conception of man as ‘the master of the world, a master unbound by any links to nature, society, and history’.

      The concept was developed during the Cold War as part of the United States’ geopolitical struggle with the Soviet Union.

      Hannah Arendt, for example, in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), ascribed the mass appeal of totalitarian regimes to their ideology, which functions to provide a single and comforting ‘grand narrative’ answer to the mysteries of the past, present and future in the global dislocation of all the traditional certainties by which we formerly anchored our lives. This narrative characteristically employs the trope of a class struggle: for fascism, all history is the history of ethnic struggle; for socialism, it’s the history of class struggle; for liberalism, it’s the history of man’s conquest of nature in both himself and in the world at large. Once the ‘grand narrative’ is accepted, the state can justify its every action and the establishment of an authoritarian state apparatus through which its actions can be delivered by an appeal to that history. Totalitarianism, for Arendt, is the use of ‘totalising’ ideologies through the apparatus of the state to mobilise the public in support of some private interest or ‘will to power’ and to repress activities that are incommensurable with that interest or will.

      Carl Joachim Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, in their book, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy (1956), developed Arendt’s concept by investigating the state apparatus by which the ‘totalising’ ideology is disseminated and enforced. They identified five mutually supportive instruments of totalitarianism:

      1. a single mass-membership party, led by reassuringly competent and charismatic leader, through which social privileges are granted or withheld;
      2. a system of terror (fear of punishment, destitution, disorder, catastrophe, and/or ‘others’) through which obedience is compelled;
      3. a state monopoly on weapons and the disarming of the public;
      4. a state monopoly on the means of communication or ‘media’; and
      5. central direction and control of our health, education, public safety, and economy through state planning and bureaucracy.

      More recently, the concept of ‘totalitarianism’ has been criticised over its heuristic value in a postmodern world that is marked by an ‘incredulity towards grand narratives’, the ‘weaponisation of airliners’, the explosion of the media, and the implosion of the capitalist welfare state. In his 2015 article, ‘How Words Reshape the Past: The Old, Old Story of Totalitarianism’, Juan Francisco Fuentes treats totalitarianism as a ‘reverse anachronism’: ‘the anachronistic use of totalitarian/totalitarianism involves the will to reshape the past in the image and likeness of the present’.

      Which brings us neatly back to the reverse anachronism in your understanding of the kingship of Henry VIII.

  2. Squigglypen says:

    Superb assessment ..and yet there are Scots who like Johnson and don’t want Independence……is there medication for this condition?

    1. John O’Rourke says:

      I’m afraid not squigglypen, still no sign of a cure for stupidity.

      1. DAVE says:

        The cure is actually very simple. The disease is aided and abetted by the deliberate informational BLACKOUT by the 95% English owned Scottish Media with the full co-operation of the British F.M. NU-S.N.P. Leader Sturgeon and her leader at Westminster Ian Blackford. Scots who vote NO are confused by the deliberate contradictions by F.M. Sturgeon.

        1) Scotland’s TRUE wealth. (Economics)
        2) Scotland’s TRUE History and Culture.

        Economics: The 2nd richest country in the world is NORWAY. The 4th richest country in the world is EIRE or Southern Ireland if you wish.
        Both countries have about the same population as Alba/Scotland. 5.5 Million. Here is the kicker: None of these countries have anywhere near the resources of Scotland. A detailed report I sent several times to F.M. Sturgeon over several years was completely ignored and still is.
        Sturgeon BLACKOUT fact: Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world if not the richest.

        History and Culture: Since 1707 Scottish H & C was gradually changed to English H & C. Do you know that it was a SCOTSMAN who defeated Napoleon ? Not the English Lord ? Admiral Thomas Cochrane from near Edinburgh was a genius. He went on to help Chile, Peru and Brazil to achieve their independence. There are streets in Chile and Peru named after him. NONE in Scotland. NO statue. Most Scots have never heard of him but we’ve all heard of Lord Nelson. The English Duke of Wellington has several statues.
        The North West Passage in Canada was discovered by a Scotsman, Doctor John Rae, frae the Orkneys not the English Franklin. There is a statue to Dr. Rae in the Orkneys which most Scots have never heard of it never mind our Scottish Explorer . That’s just for starters but you get the point.

        British F.M. Sturgeon has put a BLACKOUT on these two very important Facts. She knows that our true SCOTTISH HISTORY and CULTURE will install PRIDE in all Scots who have only been subjected to English lies and propaganda CONDITIONING THEM to believe that we Scots are useless, drunkards and too stupid to run our own affairs as to keep us under English subjugation. But she allows hate parades in Glasgow particularly while attacking legitimate protests by Independence supporters. F.M. Sturgeon has never stood up even once against the ridicule and lies directed at the Scottish people by the English parliament leaders.
        Sturgeon BLACKOUT fact: Never mention anything POSITIVE nor RECOGNIZE any Scottish person or accomplishment. To include the unbelievable number of inventions, sports heroes, etc. That way all English lies and propaganda hammering us daily will not be challenged and the NON -YES voters will think they are getting the truth. Bottom Line: 50% +- of Scots do not vote YES.

        So the cure is to destroy the BLACKOUT of the 95% English owned Scottish media and the BLACKOUT of F.M. Sturgeon.
        BELLA CALEDONIA is extremely important as facts are allowed to be posted. I have notified all the true independent parties, I know of, about BELLA CALEDONIA and urged them to get their members posting and contact all and every Scot they know to subscribe to Bella Caledonia
        Soar ALBA.

        1. 220909 says:

          Alba is bad and bad enough, but does it really want to be associated with such bigoted nonsense? I mean, imagine if you’d written instead:

          ‘The disease is aided and abetted by the deliberate informational BLACKOUT by the 95% Jewish owned Scottish Media…

          ‘Scottish H & C [history and culture] was gradually changed to Jewish H & C. Do you know that it was a SCOTSMAN who defeated Napoleon ? Not the Jewish Lord ? … The Jewish Duke of Wellington has several statues.

          ‘The North West Passage in Canada was discovered by a Scotsman, Doctor John Rae, frae the Orkneys not the Jewish Franklin…

          ‘…our true SCOTTISH HISTORY and CULTURE will install PRIDE in all Scots who have only been subjected to Jewish lies and propaganda CONDITIONING THEM to believe that we Scots are useless, drunkards and too stupid to run our own affairs as to keep us under Jewish subjugation… F.M. Sturgeon has never stood up even once against the ridicule and lies directed at the Scottish people by the Jewish parliament leaders.

          ‘That way all Jewish lies and propaganda hammering us daily will not be challenged… and the NON -YES voters will think they are getting the truth. Bottom Line: 50% +- of Scots do not vote YES.

          ‘So the cure is to destroy the BLACKOUT of the 95% Jewish owned Scottish media…

          ‘Soar ALBA.’

          Stop using ‘English’ as a pejorative term to demonise a whole class of ‘others’ as the Nazis used ‘Jewish’ in pursuit of their nationalist aspirations! It’s ugly and distasteful and tarnishes the cause of independence. It’s hardly going to win friends and influence the decent folk who comprise the vast majority of the electorate in Scotland, many of whom are ‘English’, and whose votes you need to win independence.

          1. DAVE says:

            YOU ARE A SICK RACIST.

          2. 220909 says:

            Oh Dave, oh Dave… As John O’Rourke says: ‘still no sign of a cure for stupidity’.

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