Do You Know Who I Used to Be?

As sundry wheels come off Boris Johnson’s Tory wagon as it careens from one U-turn to another, they seem to believe blindly incanting Zero Mostel’s mantra from Mel Brooks’ classic film, The Producers, will restore power and prestige to once-great Britain that he and his backwoodsmen supporters crave.

To be fair to him and acolytes like The Honourable Member for the 16th Century, he may actually believe he inhabits a Churchillian role: St Bojo of Wryslip rescuing an eyelash-fluttering Britannia from the clutches of Trotskyites at home and Juhnny Foreigners beyond the white cliffs. He will then escort her toward those sunlit uplands where green sward echoes to the ‘thwack’ of leather on willow, the shrieks of rosy-cheeked children and there is honey still for tea. Cue a swelling soundtrack segueing from Vera Lynn to Rule Britannia, with lyrics now gloriously restored.

Unless it stokes hostility towards others, there is nothing wrong with shared national pride and identity. But to be effective and unifying, it must also be relevant to the vast majority involved. Unfortunately, this resurgent brand of English jingoism comes unstuck on all three counts.

Firstly, it is largely not relevant because it is rooted in another era, when the world was a very different place. It is no wonder those tunes that stir Tory blood were composed when Britain did indeed rule the waves. Having overcome Louis XIV and Bonaparte, plus once-great Moghul and Chinese empires, who could stop us making mightier yet?. And a very nice profit we made from it too, without being too choosy about what goods were traded and how degraded the labour was to achieve it. The sop of Kipling;s ‘White Man’s Burden” served to salve the conscience. The disgrace of white superiority from that festers behind present Tory indignation over immigrants. Tory belief that Britain can again be an independent trade titan rests on naive nostalgia for when we possessed all the factories and could force the world to ship us raw material cheap and sell finished goods to them at high prices.

Secondly, it is not unifying because the present Tory government may talk about ‘the nation’ and ‘The Union’, but don’t seem to realise that they are an oligarchy of Home County types, those nabobs of South-East England who look increasingly like an alien occupation to people in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, quite apart from Wales, Ireland or Scotland.

Their vision of Britain is actually that of a subset of England whose social mores and ambitions Thackery was already lampooning a century ago. Tories gloating over their breaching of the ‘Red Wall’ in December’s election should examine the Trojan horses now flooding their benches. For most of them are genuinely local and not from the genteel confines of Tunbridge Wells. For example, Katherine Fletcher, pragmatic new MP for Ribble South, a qualified scientist channrling Victoria Wood on form, will be just one that reactionary traditionalists like Bill Cash, still celebrating Brexit triumph, must adjust to.

Tory assumption that the rest of England outside the 100-mile radius of Westminster, in which they feel most at home, share their culture and ‘Britannia Redux’ vision of the future are not only flawed, but threaten the joint prosperity of everyone else on these islands.  A hundred years ago, this culture drove the Empire. Its easy arrogance as tholed by all its beneficiaries, including a Times obituary for a Scot could get away with saying “he brought renown to England and all its dominions”.

Finally, this does not effective in binding the peoples of Britain. A result of the backwards-looking English Nationalism espoused by BoJo and masquerading as British patriotism, will have a shelf life no longer than his government’s. That is likely to end in the 2024 general election. At that point, the poor performance of his blundering: the worst handling of Covid in Europe; the sluggish economic recovery; a recovery exacerbated by declining exports and swingeing tariffs from a No Deal Brexit upon which he is clearly hell-bent. Four years from now, all will be dragon-sized chickens come home to roost on a re-built Red Wall.

But the resentment of the North at being sold a Brexit pup will be as nowt, compared to the wrath of the Scots. Having voted in another SNP government in May 2021, who put independence front and centre and a Scottish Tory loss of a quarter of their MSPs for following instructions to defend the union. With the attitude described above, things will get hot. BoJo may spend the balance of his tenure denying the Scots a referendum but even non-SNP voters in Scotland will lose all patience with authority exercised without moral justification.

That’s what lost England America and Ireland. The last colony will take the chance it gets, once a more enlightened government drops the Cummings autocracy, covered up by Bullingdon-club bullshit.

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The Missing GOP Manifesto

This year’s party conventions in America had to follow a non-traditional format. Instead of a blizzard of red/white/blue rah-rah and copious balloons, both were zoom meetings n steroids. But, whereas the Democrats presented a variety of contributors and some policy, the GOP (Grand Old Party = Republicans) seemed like a Trump family reunion by remote access and, beyond dissing ‘Slow’ Joe Biden as a slavering commie about to dine on your first-born, was a policy-free zone.

As it is hard to debate when you don’t have policies to debate, as a public service to its American readers, Atlantic published a list by David Frun—with heavy irony but poignant accuracy—of policies that all Republicans would agree on. See: The Platform the GOP Is Too Scared to Publish.

Unfortunately, it was rather long-winded and, for a European audience unused to American political shorthand, not immediately accessible, not least because of the irony mentioned. What follows is a ten-point synopsis for us aliens (as we are classified by the US State Dept). This may be considered the GOP manifesto AWOL from their convention.

  1. The coronavirus pandemic is over-hyped. It will soon burn itself out, so the economy should be restarted as rapidly as possible. Casualties will be worth paying to rescue prosperity.
  2. Trump’s 2017 genius cut in taxes to the richest citizens positioned the US for swift, strong recovery from 2020’s temporary setback.
  3. Exploit global dominance (c.f. British Empire circa 1890). Presume everyone wants to become American. Play hardball with equals (i.e. China); milk smaller developed economies through trade (EU, UK, Australia, Canada); leave small fry to corporations (c.f. United Fruit); hamstring international talking shops (WTO, UN) into impotence.
  4. Climate change is overhyped, not worth worrying about and certainly not worth paying trillions to ‘fix’, as regulations impede economic growth.
  5. Health care is a commodity to be purchased, like a car, house or vacation. Such markets require minimal government supervision. Those who pay get; others go without.
  6. Voting is a privilege. Voting fraud is rife among minorities. The U.S. Postal Service enables fraud by postal voting.
  7. Police departments are all that stand between upstanding citizens with property and the mob. Democrat-controlled cities are full of minorities and where unrest happens, leading to the mob. Priority to stop crime should be by empowering police.
  8. The constitutional separation of church and state has gone too far. The USA is a Christian country; Christians believe in the sanctity of life; abortion is an abomination and should be outlawed, overturning the 1965 Roe v Wade court decision.
  9. Overly strict rules against campaign donations bar wealthy and successful businesspeople from public service. The Trump family have met ethical standards in this regard.
  10. A southern border wall will slow illegal immigration; enforcement should not fall on businesses who hire them. full citizenship, voting rights, and health-care benefits for illegal immigrants should be delayed as long as possible as a deterrent.
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The American Delusion

The global superpower that is the United States was built on the common concept of the American Dream. Starting with a handful of colonists, it was eventually shared by over 300 million people in the country—and an even larger number outside of it.  By having the spirit and resolution to expand across a vast continent, together with the wit and skill to exploit its vast resources, Americans built a society that became the bedrock of Western prosperity. At its most basic, the dream was that anyone, no matter how humble, could be part of that richer society and “pull themselves up but their bootstraps”.

With the original colonists escaping the constrictions and persecutions of Europe and subsequent waves hoping to make a better life, the American Dream was born of a blend of aspiration and desperation. It needed little justification, given its palpable success for several centuries. But it was a delusion.

It was a delusion, based on something approaching a Ponzi scheme—that the frontier was infinite, that resources were infinite and that environmental and social consequences were negligible. The Founding Fathers declared:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

These are inspiring and noble words by which to live, especially as the were formulated in the era when Europe was a firestorm of warring states, Pavel Petrovich was Tsar of all the Russians and Louis XVI lived high on the hog in Versailles, sustained by his impoverished peasants.

But America built its noble Constitution on false premises. Leave aside the “all men” did not include black slaves or even native Americans, the idea that the revolution was a fight against tyranny is stretching a point rather far. Up until the mid-18th century, the American colonies had suffered no more than benign neglect. Although each was nominally run by a Governor appointed by the Crown in London, the real power lay in the colonial assemblies, who raised finance and printed (illegal) money to fight natives, and make local laws, etc. Each colony pretty much ignored the others until 1754 to organise defence for what they called the French and Indian was but the British refer to as “The Seven Years War”.

With the fall of Quebec in 1759, the threats from Canada in the north and Florida in the south cleared away any lingering threat from France or Spain and the British government, saddled with a national debt twice its original size, made moves for the colonists to contribute to their own defence, as it was now on a minor scale. The colonists railed against, and the Navigation Acts and evaded duty by smuggling, even going so far as to smuggle supplies to French islands in the Caribbean while the war was still on. They also resented a demarcation line for their western boundary down the spine of the Appalachians to minimise further costly wars with natives. These infringements of their rights, as the colonists saw it, were further exacerbated when, in 1765 a congress to oppose the Stamp Act harmonised opposition to being taxed at all.

King “Farmer” George III was active in ruling, so he and his Prime Minister Lord North, having no direct experience of the colonies, decided laws must be enforced. The colonists were well off as things stood. Apart from enjoying wider freedoms, they had bigger, richer farms than in Britain, they paid an average of 1 shilling a year in tax, as against the British average of 26 shillings.

Communication involving two-month voyages across 3,000 miles of ocean were badly placed to defuse the cultural drift apart. What the British saw as firm and fair government, the colonists saw as oppressive, The colonists saw the British in terms of the repressive catholic Stuarts, from whom many had fled, and so regarded British rule as “tyranny”. Despite provocation like Rhode Island’s burning of a revenue cutter, the British tried conciliation. But  the Boston Tea Party’s destruction of a fortune made hostilities inevitable. inevitable.

In the interests of trade, the new American republic was nothing, if not pragmatic. Despite the war if 1812, trade with Britain actually increased. Much of the industrial wealth of Glasgow and Manchester rested on American tobacco and cotton trade. The prospect of enhancing those riches were the wellspring of the American Dream. With the Louisiana Purchase, the idea of a firm frontier was history. With only the natives as resistance, pioneers flooded west in search of it. New territories that became new states unrolled west like a carpet, with neither Mexico nor Russia able to stand in the way.

Huge industries and massive wealth were created out of nothing: the industries of Pennsylvania; the cornfields of Iowa; the oilfields of Texas and Oklahoma; the wheat fields of Kansas; the orchards of California; the automobiles of Michigan created widespread wealth.

But, as the states filled the space between oceans, a change came. With eyes on the yet-un-built Panama canal, the Monroe doctrine looked beyond the borders to declare the Americas a zone of exclusive interest. As a former colony made good, the USA portrayed itself as an anti-colonial power that, thanks to excessive testosterone from W.R. Hearst and Teddy Roosevelt fabricated a war with Spain  and wound up with colonies of its own. This was the era of United Fruit and the banana republics, modelled on the corporate colonisation of Hawaii by the Dole corporation.

It was due to such local domination and the vastness of their own country that Americans understandably became convinced of the superiority of both their political and their commercial systems. Two world wars that decimated Europe and brought down any global competitor also spawned their lead in aerospace and electronics that hatched new highly profitable businesses that continue to this day in the shape of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Tesla, etc.. Little wonder that many middle-class Americans still believe the Dream is alive and well.

But the belief that each generation can earn ever-expanding riches, that the poorest child of the poorest immigrant can build a corporation or become president has, unfortunately, become delusion. For the ides of unbridled liberty, born of the revolution and unlimited riches from the scale of the continent has had its day. there is no more frontier to exploits—space is much too expensive and Alaska much too cold to offer another California Gold Rush.

The real problem is that nobody is prepared to admit this. The politicians don’t want to because their whole pitch is based on America’s greatness, with Trump being the worst offender. The rich have no interest in undermining their wealth and so shelter behind Republican efforts to preserve this in law. The middle class have a share in the still-immense wealth of a great country and believe hard work, dedication and a little luck will bring them further riches. Even a large chunk of the white working class believe that a $20/hour job on a Detroit assembly line giving them a garage full of quad bikes and a motor home in the drive like their dad had is still possible. Even some of the urban poor, whether a chicano sub-class in LA or a black sub-class on the south side of Chicago cling to such hopes.

All of them are cocooned in a society that has taught that America is the nirvana, to which the rest of the world aspires. Very few travel outside of their country to find out the truth. Most of those who do travel see the world from their room in a Sheraton or their balcony on a cruise ship, or even the cockpit of an Apache gunship. Getting under the skin of another country is largely left to young backpackers.

Now that the physical boundaries of the country and the limits of its resources  have been reached, the American Dream will have to adapt to limits imposed by the rest of the planet. It’s hard to see how it can do that. Large houses, cheap fuel, disposable goods and air travel cannot be made available to 8 billion people. It’s not even available to all 335 million Americans. In fact, many millions of mostly non-white Americans don’t enjoy such riches anyway—and their number is growing.

Demographic dinosaurs like Trump may appeal to increasingly disgruntled whites that America can be great again, but it is not based on the realities of a dominant and more efficient China and similar lower-wage/less demanding producers among the other BRICs. So far, the growing disenfranchised masses in America have been kept quiet by their own hope of achieving The Dream. But, as generation upon generation fails to move closer to achieving it and those who have build homogeneous suburbs and gated communities and send their kids to the schools/universities that repeat their own high salaries, the belief in any common dream will die.

It will not lead to another 1776. But the combination of a wholly irascible president  who embodies the worst traits of materialism with the demographically dispossessed flexing their civic muscles through Black Lives Matter will lead to stresses in American civic like that make Roe v Wade and the Selma march seem mild until a realistic dream—one again shared by all—can be conceived and believed in.

Until then, the dream is delusion.

 

 

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America’s Last Tsar

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Because he already acts like he knows everything, Donald Trump will have never read this pithy observation from George Santayana. As the days between now and November’s Presidential election fall faster than staffers who disagree with him, Trump seems increasingly less likely to “tak’ a tellin’“, as my granny used to say.  The byways of history are littered with wrecked egos bigger than ruined spaceships in “Independence Day“. But, instead of bulge-headed aliens getting their come-uppance, ordinary folk are suffering under autocracy that belongs in the Dark Ages.

But get one thing straight: ego and ambition are not necessarily evil. Few companies succeed, few countries prosper, few civilisations rise without ego and ambition in its leadership. The trick is to keep it all in balance.

This too shall pass

Wise leaders have kept this phrase in mind since an early Persian prince coined it. Its message helps retain a perspective, which those at the top find all too easy to lose. Though Abe Lincoln quoted it in a speech before he even became the 16th President. It seems unlikely the 45th president ever will, and not just because of pathological hostility to all things Iranian.

More successful leaders than Trump have kept such perspective. Truly great leaders—those whose people benefit from their rule much more than they do themselves—either exercised self-discipline or are guided by others they trust who know better. Elizabeth I of England was feisty, wilful and kow-towed to nobody, including the might of Philip of Spain. But she listened to Walsingham in matters of state and steered her country to the brink of global greatness.  Even Henry VIII’s rampant self-indulgence was modulated by Wolsey, Cromwell and Cranmer, enabling profitable pillage from his personal reformation with impunity. Reagan was no Rhodes scholar. But he was smart enough to know he didn’t know enough…and so selected a cabinet who did, and thus created an economic boom, the legacy of which today’s Republicans can only envy.

Unlike those listed above, there is a special place in hell, reserved for leaders whose autocratic self-belief, opportunity for power and deafness to sound advice conspire to create one of history’s powder kegs. From Caligula to Mugabe, the hubris that gifts them glory is also their nemesis. Neither Charles I, nor Louis XIV could grasp they no longer ruled a medieval rabble of serfs, who were suitably awed by absolutism. Few of their courtiers, selected for obsequiousness, displayed the cojones to question policy. The absence of opposition could be catastrophic (c.f. Hitler; Stalin). This stifles ‘feedback’, and gives scant insight into what is actually going on in the principality/kingdom/empire.

The most egregious example of unbridled autocracy was Tsarist Russia. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, was ill-prepared for office, as his father (Alexander III) thought so little of his capability in affairs of state, he disdained to train him. When Alexander died at 49, Nicholas began a 23-year reign that was a catalogue of catastrophe caused by his remote autocracy.

However, the serfs of Russia were so downtrodden and the nobility so rarified that it would take three famines, two wars and three revolutions before Nicolas’ head rolled. The man was out of his depth, hen-pecked by a Tsarina with messianic conviction of ordained superiority, and advised by lackeys. Little wonder he drove his country to ruin and his people to despair.

Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

Trump will be no more familiar with Euripides than the Romanovs. He clearly believes he is part of a dynasty ordained to rule. Both Nicholas and Donald hand-pick their advisers, discarding any with ambition beyond loyally executing Delphic edicts from the master. Trump outdoes Nicholas in this, as he need not select from a narrow nobility. What sustained Nicholas’ messianic belief in untrameled power was a feudal system, lacking any middle class in which opposition, let alone democracy, could thrive. What sustains Trump’s is a two-party system, ossified into the same thing.

Imperial autocracy emanating from the White House is possible only because America’s much-vaunted Constitution depended on reasonableness. Trump has spent his life behaving the way he does: unreasonably, and winning. Born into wealth, he has lived in a self-serving bubble that might as well have been the Winter Palace. Against all expectations, he surfed into the White House on a tsunami of adulation, driven by platitudes and promises selected from a used car salesman’s manual.

But only once in office could he channel Nicholas properly. The Founding Fathers ‘balance of power’ was an early casualty. The first 44 presidents respected their lofty calling and exercised power in moderation. Then came Trump. With presidential powers exceeding any Head of State outside a dictatorship. IN theory, this was catnip to his ego.

Like Nicholas, Trump sees power as his natural entitlement, not a privilege. Exercising it with scant restraint is not just to satisfy that ego but is required to evoke public adulation necessary to sustain it. The remote Nicholas may have felt little need for mixing with the masses; he used Cossacks to sabre down protesters, an act justified to keep those serfs cowed, Trump needs to be more subtle. He uses the trappings of presidency—sound bites from his helicopter; a deluge of erratic executive orders; a blizzard of supine staff appointment—as he uses the bling and brand that blare from his empire: for show. Whereas Tsar autocracy was plumbed into Russia’s DNA, Trump must overawe a bolshy America public. To make his reach as regal, he uses a torrent of tweets to feed bombast past the media, who are kept off-balance with misdeeds, denials, foreign ‘foes’ and barbs at the media itself.

Never make a defence or apology before you be accused”

Though he is clearly familiar with the more modern “Never explain; never apologise,” Trump has clearly learned from autocratic Charles I’s behaviour, if not from his quote. Such an attitude may not win friends. But it works in politics—as well as the cutthroat property business where Trump cut his teeth.

What brought Nicholas down was not imperious autocracy per se, but deafness to public outrage at its mismanagement consequences. Romanovs were always imperious—but usually learned how to rule. Alexander I lost to Napoleon at Borodino, but entered Paris in triumph three years later; His son, Alexander II after a trouncing in Crimea, reformed his army and swallowed up the Caucasus, Bessarabia and Poland. People forgive hardship/defeat, if given victory/plenty.

Nicholas’ disdain for the newly industrialised Japanese led to botched operations and humiliation in the Russo-Japanese War, triggering a revolution that nearly succeeded. Hen-pecked by his wife into more, not less, autocracy, the Great War was even more disastrous for Nicholas. The same fawning nomenklatura turned incompetence into disaster, for which soldiers paid in their millions. The resulting Bolshevik‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ became inevitable.

Which is not to say this fate will befall the USA. Like Nicholas, Trump may be insensitive and domineering, as contemptuous of Congress as Nicolas was of the Duma. Protesters in Portland were not ridden down by the 7th Cavalry.

Yet Trump is playing with fire. He is eroding the informal but essential amity and respect that makes politics happen in America. This miracle of a melting pot of 335,000,000 wildly diverse people from all over the globe, buying into the American Dream is precious, but fragile. Social stratification since the sixties has put that under threat. But it took Trump to campaign on polarising the debate with a divisiveness not seen since the Civil War. It is a vain effort to make Trump—not America—great again.

Even if his egregious self-immolation is on track to crater badly in November’s election, it will take a bigger, bolder visionary than Joe Biden to heal the rifts inflicted on the body politic. It will take serious examination of the Constitution and the degree to which presidential power can be abused and run counter to democracy. It will take some soul-searching by the American people.

It will take a woman.

 

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91-Divoc: The UK Has It Backward

The furore over quarantine for all passengers in flights from Spain sprung on hapless vacationers on July 26th seems not just ill-timed but ill-judged. If, as the UK Government claims their sole concern is ensuring the health of British citizens, they seem to have this , as the Americans say, “bass ackwards” .If they are indeed”following the science” to achieve this,, why aren’t they following the facts?

  • Daily average Covid cases in the Balearics: 1 =  0.9 per million inhabitants
  • Daily average Covid cases in the Canaries: 7 =  3.3 per million inhabitants
  • Daily average Covid cases, in Britain: 741 =  10.5 per million inhabitants

So, in its  concern for its citizens, does the UK Government not have things backward? Should it not be encouraging folk to vacation on the Spanish islands, where they would be between 3 and 11 times safer than staying at home? Travel firms, airlines and desperate Spanish hospitality businesses would all benefit.

Moreover, since they have had to borrow a stiff £180,000,000,000 already to deal with the 300,000 UK cases, the Government could afford to subsidise each citizen who avoided UK Covid by vacationing on the Spanish islands to the tune of £1,000 each—and still come out £599,000 ahead on each deal.

Andale!

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Nippy Sweetie’s Nifty Fifty

July is an intense month for dates ready-registered in your e-diary. From American independence (4th) through Battle of the Boyne (12th_ to Bastille Day (14th) and even the Plot to Assassinate Hitler (20th). Today (19th) is something of a non-day, with not much to celebrate. But that will change.
Because today is Nicola Sturgeon’s 50th birthday and she stands on the verge of achieving the goal to which she has dedicated her life: Independence for Scotland. Regular readers will know this reporter shares that goal, and might comment “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” But there is more to the assertion that that. For the first time ever, objective and even unionist scribes are sharing that view. It is not just veteran political observers like Ian MacWhirter, but respected academics like Professor. John Curtice and equally respected card-carrying sceptics like the Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson and Alex Massie.
In the barrage of issues that have charaterised the five months of Covid hogging the media spotlight so much that even the previous blitz of Brexit news has struggled for air time, a steady drift of public opinion in Scotland has gone largely unreported. This has been further muffled by a tendency—especially in the BBC—to talk of the success in the battle against the virus as being comparable between Scotland and England. When differences are mentioned, it tends to be assertion that care home deaths have been higher in Scotland. Much of the coverage blurs the distinction between UK and England. Even social media has missed what is going on, as evidenced by this:

Leaders

Nicola is absent from the second group. She deserves to be there. While UK media was trying to follow Boris’ administration bumbling England into the mody disorganised Covid handling in Europe, Nicola, after a bad start from following England, built a strategy, explained progress against it in front of the cameras herself, bringing the death rate down to single digits a week while England’s is still in the hundreds.

While British media may not have clocked this, the Scottish people have.  There is a UK poll on net approval rating done by YouGov that puts Boris at -4, compared to Nicola at -22. But a similar poll of Scots only, done by the Scotsman has Boris a -25, while Nicola romped home at +74.  This is going unreported.

Dealing with Covid dominates politics both sides of the border. Leadership shown in it is crucial and will influence Scottish Parliament elections, due in just over nine months . Ruth Davidson brought Scottish Tories back from the brink because she exuded competence. Her charisma reached beyond the Tory faithful. Jackson Carlaw lacks her breadth of appeal. Alex Massie has described him as “the kind of Tory you would find propping up a golf club bar in Newton Mearns”. Cutting and slightly unfair as this may be, it underscores the problems oppositions to Nicola’s SNP face next May.

If they contest the election on the union—their raison d’etre, Nicola will regard it a pre-referendum to justify a real one, The old argument that Scotland’s too poor can’t hold water, with UK debt at an unaffordable £2 trillion and climbing. She would be likely to win the election, make an undeniable case for and likely win “Indyref 2”. If the Tories fight on the SNP government performance on domestic issues, on which they have been lacklustre, that may be dismissed. Nicola remains popular, despite this,

People saw Boris as a shoddy journalist, a mediocre London mayor, a bumbling foreign secretary and a Brexiteer who fudged his facts. But his simple message, high recognition and ebullience won him a solid majority. Nicola is on track to do more than emulate him.

Even allowing for six months of wrangling,  referendum within two years and the actual separation within two more, this could make Nicola—provided the SNP won the first independence general election—Prime Minister before she was 55. Having clocked a decade leading the SNP at that point, it is unlikely she would serve another decade to full retirement. SO when she steps down in, say, 2028, don’t be surprised if July 19th becomes a national holiday.

Nicola came into Scottish politics when Labour dominated it but could do nothing against Thatcher with their ‘feeble fifty” MPs. My first sight of Nicola was at the 1993 SNP conference at Dunoon when, as a firebrand of the Young Scots for Independence, she railed against  Tory colonial rule , Trident on the Clyde and the poll tax. The SNP had just lost Govab…for a second time. She made it hers, fought it four times before she won and has held it since,

Clunking into National Executive meetings in sober suits and fashionable shoes, she does not exude Salmond’s lad o’ pairts bonhomie, nor John Swinney;s bookish earnestness but has presence. When she speaks, it is quietly forceful and well reasoned. She may not laugh as readily as her former Provost mother Joan, which has helped build her ‘nippy-sweetie’ moniker. But her humour is subtle and keeps a balanced view of herself

She would be successful even if husband Peter Murell did not run the party back office as Chief Executive. He is no Dominic Cummings, but that is a good thing. Let Boris and Dominic play fast and loose with a cranky and vulnerable English constitution. Nicola eschews such bluster, is ambitious for her country more than herself and is tough enough and smart enough to be awarded a holiday on her birthday.

It will be well earned.

 

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The Preying Fiends of Eton

The idea of a homogeneous, nation state is a comparatively recent development in history. Originally, mankind organised itself into a few empires, a herd of city statelets and a myriad of tribal lands with simpler cultures sprawling across the globe.

States that advanced accrued power, which they exercised over those that did not. Prior to the mid-18th century, the most successful organisation of government to best achieve this was a rigid (and therefore stable) hierarchy, consisting of:

  • a hereditary potentate ruling over…
  • an elite of nobles who, in turn, controlled…
  • a mass of peasant workers and soldiers

Flawed though simple class hierarchy may seem, it worked, leading to a variety of increasingly developed civilisations from Cuzco to Beijing to Delhi to Venice.

Half a millennium ago, the Spanish and Portuguese turned maritime adventure into an inflow of wealth by tapping into the riches of the Americas and Orient,. Thus wealth served mainly to enrich the upper class. It was not invested to catalyse development, nor to benefit the lower class masses. As elsewhere, noblesse oblige was a rarity..

Other Europeans tried to get in on this lucrative act, with France, the Netherlands and England having the geography and maritime technology to do so. The French and Dutch soon elbowed into the lucrative Portuguese spice trade with the Indies. The English started—with their Queen’s blessing—by plundering Spanish gold on its way home from the Caribbean. Though ennobled later, captains like Drake, Frobisher and Hawkins were brigands who set the tone for much of subsequent English exploitation of global trade opportunities. In colonising North America and the Caribbean, their plantations soon thrived on a trade in sugar and tobacco. What choked rapid growth was insufficient labour among colonists and indentured servants available.

The Portuguese ‘solved’ their labour problem by rounding up Africans from explorations there and transporting them to Brasil as slaves. The English soon followed, as James II & VII founded the Royal Africa Company. The RAC became so proficient that the largest portion of the 12 million Africans shipped to the Americas were transported by them and English plantations boomed.

The English also came late to the East with their East India Company. Competition on the spice trade was fierce, so they approached the Mughal Empire to permit modest trading posts on the Indian coast.

The EIC operated very different from colonisation elsewhere. The Mughal Empire was at its peak, more sophisticated in culture, manufacturing one quarter of the world’s goods. It was in no way inferior to that of the Europeans. Unlike in America, here respect, patience and humility were essential for success. EIC ‘writers’ (clerks) and merchants learned languages, adopted customs to trade cotton, calico, silks and indigo. The only aristocrats involved were investors and directors back in London.

Meanwhile, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought Protestantism, William III, and sophisticated banking to England from the Netherlands. Flexible access to capital accelerated economic growth: plantations and ambition overseas: factories to process the goods and canals to distribute them.. The revolution became industrial.

New wealth enriched the whole king/noble/peasant model, But it was split between the aristocracy and anew middle class of business men inserted below them.

A wealthy middle class challenged the aristocracy, never historically ones to relinquish prestige, wealth and the power they conferred. They did not meet this challenge head-on, but in five more subtle ways:

  1. invested in these new enterprises.
  2. restructured the land holdings they had, enclosing common lands, adopting methods of the agricultural revolution, like mechanisation and day hiring.
  3. exploited their estates for industry, building mines, factories, canals and railways of their own.
  4. built country mansions to impress, surrounding them with ornate parkland few could afford.
  5. circled their wagons linguistically by developing speech as an indelible badge of noble rank.

This last may seem inconsequential, but has proved to be the most durably effective.

For years, aristocracy and peasantry in each area of Britain all spoke a local dialect in common. But in the 18th century, English aristocracy developed a speech unique to them, known today as ‘received pronunciation’ (RP) or standard or BBC English. It is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as “the standard accent of English as spoken in the South of England”.

But it has a strange distribution. The vast majority of Southern England speaks a variety of dialects—Cockney,, Dorset, ‘Zummerzet’, and so on. RP occurs in this are in pockets: Belgravia; Oxford; Tunbridge Wells; Cheltenham. But it occurs still in pockets all across Britain, some as small as a country estates, some as large as Harrogate or St Andrews.

All accents have a range of intensity from mild to abrasively unintelligible. Broad Scots has a terrible reputation but most people find David Tennant or Nicola Benedetti pleasant to listen to. Similarly, the RP spoken by Helen Mirren or Jeremy Irons is mellifluous and engaging.

But, before getting there, RP went through a century or so of being the medium of authoritative command that expected obedience, at worst becoming a braying drawl that the Scots deride as “bools in the mooth”.. Remains of this exist to this day. Decent chap though he is, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP verges on the incomprehensible and quite deserves his moniker of “Member for the 16th century.”

Class distinction by accent blossomed the 18th century becoming a rigid pillar of society by the 19th. This was underpinned by elite education. Choice public (i.e. very private) schools—Eton; Harrow; Winchester; Sevenoaks; Charterhouse, Westminster and few others—dinned stiff upper lips as much as knowledge into would-be patricians. It was boot camp without the rifles..

Thus groomed, few outsiders could penetrate the ‘old boy’ network that resulted. To them as such, doors opened, careers bloomed—for the more adept as directorships; judges, bankers; civil servants.

For the less adept and younger scions of nobility, the Army, Navy and colonies offered more risk, but more rewards than staying home. Those who survived often became generals, admirals or governors. But. no matter the career followed, effortless, mannered superiority inculcated at school carried them through with the same authority.

By 1800, a linguistically unmistakable aristocrats had seen off middle class ambition for equality. Now it was now hard to tell where any of them hailed from; Kent or Cork, Sussex or Sutherland. All spoke an affected RP”. See almost any British film from the 1930s for reference.

At first, RP was seldom heard in the colonies, where stropily classless pioneers, artisans ad indentured servants were not given to forelock-tugging. India was distinct, with no colonists and just a few merchants clinging on under Mughal suffrage..

Then came Robert Clive.

Taking advantage of unrest in the rich Moghul province of Bengal, he used a stunning victory at Plassey to annex the place in 1757. This changed everything.

Despite Warren Harding’s best efforts to restore amity, a Bengal colony, driven purely by profit led to the serial pillage of others. The repatriation of eye-popping loot (an Indian word that came to English from this action) instigated by Clive continued over the next fifty years.

Prime Minister Peel sought to curtail excesses by posting aristocrats like Cornwallis, Wellesley and Dalhousie as governors tried to moderate actions as callouslt predatory as the slave trade in Africa. But they were steeped in class ascendency, amplified by racial bias of other British colonies where non-whites formed a slave class below even the peasant/working class. The idea of humble supplication to the Mughals was intolerable. The Moghul Empire’s fall was hastened by through EIS perfidy which learned to play its factions off one another to seize its riches.

So pernicious was this and subsequent treatment of Indian sensitivities, culture, language and taboos so disdainful that the 1857 Mutiny seems inevitable. The brutal suppression that followed brought a direct takeover by the British crown.

The leadership of a series of Viceroys under the Raj was paternalistic racism, peddled both in India and at home bringing enlightenment to the benighted. It was taken as axiomatic that, only when the Indians learned English, wore proper clothes and imbibed Shakespeare could they become civilised. To cling to the Qu’ran or the Bhagavad-gītā was to stay mired in the primitive past.

In the 1820s, Macaulay and Trevelyan started imposing English language, Englidh law and arrogant attitudes. The Raj built magnificent residences, exclusive clubs, polo fields and tennis courts. Pith helmeted white nabobs each dominated the lives of millions for the next century.

Under the Viceroy stretched a hierarchy of collectors and other administrators, who lived like lords, with a houseful of servants from factor to the punkah-wallah who pulled the fan. The complex Indian caste system was ignored and submerged beneath the lowest white sahib.

An objective observer might think that two world wars, Indian independence and the economic decline of Britain would have eroded its aristocracy and its identifying accent. But not a bit of it. While aristocracies across Europe crumbled into historic irrelevance, the English variety has survived, retained power as mandarins in key callings.

As when threatened by an upstart middle class, they have adapted. In the swinging sixties, Tory governments were still peppered with peers, bowler-hatted gents crammed the Waterloo & City line; debutante ‘coming out’ balls glittered; the Duke of Westminster still owned most of Mayfair and Belgravia.

In our egalitarian age, initiative, enlightenment and success are to be welcomed. , no matter what their starting point. But the inbred culture of a dew thousand English aristocrats have ruled the roost across Britain throughout centuries of transformation that sank their less adaptive peers elsewhere

Today, the old school tie may be less obvious, but RP still predominates where it matters. There is obviously still good reason why it worth paying £45,000 a year to attend Eton and the rest; is an investment, not an expense.

With a mere 7% of children in Britain attending public school, only 10,000 at the ‘good’ half-dozen, is it not amazing that, a half century beyond the end of empire, they still groom:

  • 62% of senior armed forces officers
  • 63% of diplomats
  • 50% of the House of Lords
  • 55% of Junior Ministers & 35% of the Cabinet
  • 55% of Permanent Secretaries
  • 53^ of newspaper columnists
  • 56% of public body chairs
  • 71% of senior judges
  • 44% of the Sunday Times Rich List
  • 54% of the Top 100 Media Professionals

It’s democracy, Jim—but not as we know it.

 

 

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Swamped

There is a typically pithy American phrase about losing focus:

“When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that the original plan was to drain the swamp.”

Unfortunately, governments seem particularly prone to suffer such distractions, perhaps because they are so fixated on popularity and appearing competent. Their short-termism can be even worse than companies whose horizons seem limited by the next quarterly results.

In this context, the Covid-19 virus appears to be having a particularly malevolent effect on the UK and Scottish governments in equal measure. Neither appears able to even recall matters on which they were fixated less than six months ago. For the UK government, four years of obsession with Brexit seems to have submerged beneath their attention like a blue whale diving, leaving only ripples on the surface. This may turn out to be a tactical ploy, concealing from public gaze a deliberate willingness to suddenly present a no-deal fait accompli as we approach the cliff edge of December 31st.

The Scottish government’s virus fixation is less easy to explain. Not quite following the UK government approach to exiting lock down without demonstrating a clearly superior strategy to do so gives more of a rabbit-in-headlights inertia, rather than any smart and effective alternative. More than that, they have yet to strike a credible pose to counter the obvious intransigence of Boris and his phalanx of a unionist majority who can look forward to another for years of stonewalling any constitutional adjustment, which is the raison d’etre for Ms Sturgeon and her impatient legions of party members, living on a thin gruel of hope for the last six years.

Other than among SNP faithful, independence is not on everyone’s lips and she is smart to accept that.  Meanwhile, her senior team seems swamped. .Jean Freeman bumbling over health and John Swinney unimpressively passive over education look like dutiful deputies out of their depth.. Weakest of all is Fiona Hyslop fluffing the key economy brief. Former SNP MP Geirge Kerevan was scathing about her efforts:

Setting up an advisory commission looks like activity when not a lot is happening”…” more a PR person’s attempt to pretend there is a strategy when there isn’t”

The impression of strong leadership that would drive Scotland toward its own sunlit uplands of prosperity when this is all over is sorely lacking.

Westminster and the Tories who run it have an abysmal record of seeing anything outside London as happy provinces in awe of the imperial Capital. Their record of understanding their needs, let alone taking any action to meet them, is abysmal too.

Exactly a century ago, the Fourth (!) Home Rule Bill was marched through Parliament. This was for Ireland, not Scotland but indicates just how obtrise Westminster can be when it wants to drag its feet. By the fourth time, you’d think they might get it right. But this resulted in revolt, repression by the Black and Tans, the entire cohort of 128 Irish MPs elected in 1921 refusing to go near Westminster and setting up the Irish Free State. The only part of the Bill that did not crash and burn even before take-off set up Stormont and the Six Counties as a sop to Protestants. That lopsided artificial institution limped along until disabled by the Troubles fifty years later and was finally put out of its misery by the Good Friday Agreement.

So, even if Boris the Blusterer and his Cabinet of Clones were to have a Damascene conversion and acknowledge that Scotland’s elected government reflects Scots’ aspirations with as much authority as his reflects England’s, his track record on this is bad. As my grandmother would say smacking my spoon away as it neared what she was cooking: “If you can’t be a help, don’t be an unhelp!”

So, Nicola’s Nats may have a majority, even of MP’s… but they’re on their own. With Westminster fixated on the minutiae of the pandemic in England, this is Nicola’s big chance to seize the initiative beyond lock down. Today is the time to rise above the humdrum daily dose of statistics and homilies. It’s time to get radical, rally the troops and reach out for friends who can help. If she sticks to her present caution, not only will May 2021 be unwinnable but so will any Indy referendum in the next decade—assuming she can conjure one.

So, how does Nicola drain the swamp? Wake up the slumbering place-holders around her who have the nerve to draw salaries as members of her Cabinet. Specifically

  • Put John Swinney back at Finance/Economy and give him his considerable numeric head to exercise fiscal powers to fund economic recovery. He is a disappointment at Education.
  • Replace John at Education with Mike Russell. He has the necessary experience, urbane nous and articulation. With a mandate to hold EIS’s feet to the fire to co-operate finding public spaces to get the maximum number of 15-pupil classrooms by mid August, staffed by retirees, trainees and disclosure-certified volunteers. Create a good cop/bad cop’ team with Kevin Stewart, who should round up the more creative Council directors of education and use COSLA as a forum for developing best practice in commandeering libraries, sports centres, halls, etc. for school use. Working with John to revise Council tax should occupy his spare time when he is not working with;
  • Joe Fitzpatrick on a wave of council house building to rival the post WW2 period. Not only would this undercut private property speculators but would help bump-start the building industry.
  • Lock Fiona Hyslop in a room with Fergus Ewing and let them out only when they have come up with a way to salvage the 2020 summer tourist season before mid-July. This must include indoor and outdoor attractions (with testing at entrance), as well as economic levels of occupancy for B&Bs and hotels. This should be in conjunction with;
  • Jean Freeman and NHS targeted testing to declare Covid-19-free areas. That aside, Jean must implement a rigorous and widespread test and track system including the app used in most of Europe because we’ll all be dead before Boris’ “world class” one is effective. In her spare time, she should get proper media training so she can look credible. To date, she acts wooden and starts every response to a question she does not want to answer with “So…”
  • Stop being so tribal, confiding in just an inner clique. The SNP is in desperate need of a proper think tank like Fraser of Allander Institute. There isn’t even the Business for Scotland outside experience advice Alec had 20 years ago when the stakes were not so high.
  • Send a high-powered delegation (preferably from the aforementioned think tank) to Eire, Denmark and Norway to learn how similar countries successfully dealt with the pandemic. While there , forge trade and cultural links for the future. The modern equivalent of Neil MacCormick, Stephen Maxwell and David McCarthy of 20 years ago (not fresh-faced SPADs on a jolly) are what is required. Use the info gleaned to forge innovative policies to trail this winter—and also upstage Boris and his incompetent minions in as statesperson-like a manner as possible.

After 13 years in power, it’s easy to lose perspective and focus on holding on, rather than moving on. Given the carnage in Labour support and ineffectiveness of a series of Leaders of the Opposition (Ruth Davidson being an honourable exception), there has been little incentive for the SNP government to stay alert, innovative and on its toes.

If the future is not brought into sharp and dynamic focus this summer, regret at a decimating election result this time next year will do little to salve the conscience, lat alone the cause.

 

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The Past is a Foreign Country

News in both the UK and the USA has recently highlighted demonstrations revolving around the Black Lives Matter campaign. The focus of this has been around for some time without any satisfactory resolution. The sentiment is strongest in the USA, despite the march on Selma and civil rights achieved in the 1960s, Treatment of black citizens—especially by white police officers—flares repeatedly into civil unrest there: Rodney King in South Central LA in  1991; Michael Brown in Ferguson MO in 2015; now George Floyd in Minneapolis MN.

With the continuing disparity in demographics between typically affluent white and typically impoverished black areas in many US cities, this is not about to go away by itself. The UK may have seen less violence since Toxteth and Brixton in the 1980s but our problems are similar. .However justified the frustration and intractable the problem, the cause is being damaged by by some asherents using the protest to deface, damage and even destroy icons of the past, such as statues. While not taking such direct action, many more want all such idons removed because they believe they symbolise the problem . This is where the laudable Black Lives Matter movement may be in danger of losing its way, if not the support.it needs..

The phrase “those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it” carries a lesson here. History is full of odious figures. For every Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela, or Martin Luther King,, you may choose from a panoply of flawed individuals. Regarded highly in their day, all were flawed and human, especially when taken out of their time and judged by modern ethics.

The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans laid the foundations of Western civilisation, bequeathing us science, and philosophy, architecture and culture we still admire and use. But they were bloodily warlike. They all kept slaves. They were racist and sexist. But does that mean we should denigrate Tutankhamun or Alexander or Caesar because they beat up the Israelites, Trojans or Gaul? Should we demolish the Pyramids or the Parthenon or the Colosseum because they were products of oppression?

Fast forward nearer our own times. There are some pretty iffy characters cast in bronze or hewn in stone populating our streets whom we might take to task for their behaviour. But we would be wrong to judge them by today’s morals. Clive and Raffles and Rhodes may have been cheerleaders of colonialism. But they were cheered to the rafters in their day. Would you put the entire Georgian or Victorian or Edwardian population in the dock when everyone then bought into Kipling’s “white man’s burden” mission and were grateful for the hand-up out of poverty it brought with it?

Certainly, the most obnoxious aspect of all this was the slave trade. It was started by the Spanish but, from Drake on, the British made a thriving business out of it during the 17th and 18th centuries. The cities of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow were built on its proceeds. Though voices like Wilberforce were raised against it, everyone else from government to seaman were for it. Even the African chieftains were complicit in lining up subjects ready for sale.

There were few heroes. You can pick on Edward Colston in Bristol, or Joseph Brooks in Liverpool, or John Glasford in Glasgow,, all of whom made generous—if not entirely selfless—contributions to their respective cities. Beyond them, there were dozens of others, as well as ships’ crews, plantation owners HM exchequer, etc, who lived from the trade in sugar, cotton, rum and tobacco. This catalised the British Empire as the leading power on the planet—as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all were in their time..

And, while we’re at it, why not condemn Thomas Cromwell for so enthusiastically seizing all the monasteries and abbeys for his master Henry VIII, so he could profit from his break with Rome, as well as marry his mistress? And why not the other Cromwell, who burnt the abbeys his namesake had seized? There is an endles catalogue of celebrated misceants to choose from.

Choose any era and you find the past is indeed a foreign country, whose customs, mores and morals clash violently with what you would consider civilised and acceptable behaviour today.

Condemning those who lived in the past is more likely to lead to frustration and dissent. We have no time machine to go back and correct shortcomings, even if we were so superior today that we might improve anything. Rather, we should be grateful that those who lived than—flawed as many were—contributed to the prosperity we enjoy today, where many more are enlightened and none of us are slaves.

More importantly, we should study those flaws, understand the motivation that bred them and get an insight they never had.

So that we avoid making the same mistakes as history.

 

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A Second Dunkirk

“Wars are not won by evacuations”—Winston Churchill, June 4th 1940

In the daily wringing of political hands over Covid-19 and unending media coverage of “our worst crisis since World War 2: we seem to have lost much balance and perspective from history, The 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation seems forgotten, ley alone earlier lessons learned from our long—and often prickly—relations with our continental neighbours.

But what does an embarrassung military defeat from another century have to do with our present pandemic crisis? They are both chapters in a long, long story. Because of the national psyche involved —largely formed by the dominant culture of south-east England and centred on London—rather a lot.

For over a millennium, the South-East’s wealth and numberrs dominated other regions and nations of Britain. The proximity of continental powers shaped foreign polocy infused with mistrust and paranoia towards neighbours. From the Norman Conquest, through the Angevin Empire, the ambitions of Luis XIV to Napoleon, a dense folk history looked askance at what lay across the Channel. Interludes when the Spanish, Dutch or Germans usurped the French as the bogey-man-di-jour did nothing to dispel belief that sea routes of the world offered far more reward than involvement on the continent.

The carnage and mediocre French leadership in WW1 did nothing to dispel such beliefs. British focus was on the Empire and a navy to secure it.  At the outbreak of WW2, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sent to France included all five regular divisions, plus five reservist. Though the best Britain had, they were trained for positional war. Like the French, their commanders thought passively. After eight months of ‘Sitzkreig‘, or ‘phony war’, Lord Gort’s command had still not absorbed the lessons of the Spanish Civil War, nor the swift obliteration of Poland, let alone those of their own advanced military thinkers like Hobart and Fuller.

As a result, on May 10th 1940, the BEF, flanked by the French 1st and 9th armies marched into Belgium to counter the German thrust there. It was a feint. They were completely flat-footed by three German Panzer Corps, led by experts like Guderian, Rommel and Hoepner, lancing through the Ardennes, overwhelming a sluggish French 2nd Army at Sedan and thrusting on to the Channel at Abbeville by May 20th. Neither the French, nor the British could react to prevent this, nor assemble a effective counter-measures.

Pocketed and squeezed within a shrinking perimeter with backs to the Channel, the British blamed the French and organised Operation Dynamo without telling them, It involved dozens of destroyers and smaller flotilla craft, plus hundreds of civilian small ships to lift their shattered army from the port and beaches of Dunkirk

This began on May 26th, rescuing over 300,000 troops being evacuated by June 4th. Initially, no French troops were embarked. It was only when Churchill discovered this that surrounded French Allies were included. The only British amoured division was dispatched to late to help and much of its equipment, along with all of the BEF’s and the entire 51st division trapped at St Valery, were captured by the Germans.

Dunkirk became the latest in a long line of lessons learned by the establishment  that involvement in the continent was both painful and unprofitable.  And so it was that thirty years and the total loss of empire was necessary before Britain would steel itself to join what would become the European Union—and then only after a confirmatory referendum in 1975. It was the last major nation to do so

But the establishment—and especially a major section of the Conservative party—never resigned itself to this fate. The largely right-wing and jingoistic British press kept things omn the boil, fulminating against EU rules, interference in things British, enforcing metric measures, drowning in wine lakes, pillorying invasive Spanish fishermen, deprecating inefficiency of French farmers. Thatcher’s regular hand-bagging of EU meetings caused resentment among what could have been friends. A growing chorus of Euroskeptic Tories caused on-going grief to Major with his wafer-thin majority.

From then on, various Tory splinter groups from the Referendum Party though UKIP to the Brexit Party  kept up a relentless drum-beat for glorious isolation that was a direct descendant of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Walpole, Pitt and Disraeli to disdain intrigues across the Channel and decline to be in any way controlled by them.

Britain’s gesture of involvement that led to Dunkirk underlay the same tentativeness prevarication leadung to 1992’s ERM debacle and the refusal to have any truck with the Euro. Seen from such long-held, ingrained bias, the over-promising enthusiasm of the 2016 NO campaign and the feverish flurry to “get Brexit done” follow as both logically and inevitably.

Though it would be churlish to describe all this as simple xenophobia, there is more than a whiff of the Tarot card of The Fool, stepping blithely into the unknown. Whether Brritain can rregain its Victoriam status of a standalone economic titam seems unproven It is clear that the 300 million people of Europe do not need Britain. Whether the reverse is true is yet to be determined.

It may not represent what the future holds, but in one respect, we already have an example of Britain going its own way—in our health services. The NHS is a fully British creation, always independent of the EU. As the Covid-19 pandemic enters its sixth month,  Britain is showing the second-highest total number of cases and the second-highest number of deaths per million people. Worse than that, we are running at 8,000 new cases each day when other countries are less than 1,000, made worse by there being no full test-and-trace system in place before the end of June.

If being medically independent means becoming the Covid epicentre of Europe, what does this portend if we puill off independent-as a moderrn Dunkirk rescuing our economy from the EU? What detritus of prosperity will we leave wrecked on continental beaches? When all the viral dust has settled how will we deal with £2,500,000,000,000 (£76,000 per household)of debt?

Alone, in our glorious isolation.

 

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