The Peoples Democratic Republic
I’ve been meaning to have a good rant about this ever since Private Eye surpassed itself with that utterly brilliant headline The Ego has Landed in its Loon Landing Edition, blending the two topical stories of the ascent of Boris and the moon landing anniversary.
Not so long ago I thought May making him Foreign Secretary was a stroke of genius: surely the national embarrassment of so many idiocies would save us from seeing him as the next Prime Minister. The stark revelation of that classic public school trope, the Bully and Coward, certainly cured me of what remained of my one-time admiration for him. But I was wrong: he (like Flashman) has momentum, and Boris’s Momentum is a lot more powerful than Corbyn’s, so it can purge its party of all opposition.
So what’s he doing now? Apart from threatening us with national perdition while waving a Magic Money Tree that would shame Labour’s wildest promises? I think the whole key to it is, provoke the opposition into making itself look bad. And not just the opposition: there’s the media, the judiciary. Either you’re with us or you’re part of a great conspiracy. With his media background, not as reporter (where an effort to tell the truth would be expected) but as a successful columnist, he knows how to pull the strings of both the media and of the public. Or rather, in the latter case, his tribe.
Thus on brexit, keep them guessing. He has to request an extension, what will he do? If the EU see nothing coherent in UK politics – no plan that a sufficiently-united opposition might conceivably pursue – why would they agree to prolonging the agony? And who are the opposition? Two Labour parties that hate each other, Libdems who won’t go near Corbyn, and a handful of others including Tory rebels who. Shouldn’t be too hard to keep them from presenting a credible alternative. The Scots Nats valiantly try a constructive proposition (Corbyn on a very short leash), but even that fails to gain traction.
Meanwhile Boris presents himself as a tribal leader, shorn of any pretence of admitting contrary voices such as those of other tribes in ‘his’ nation. He’s seen that succeed elsewhere, albeit usually with ugly consequences (including Northern Ireland – the part of the UK with a strongly tribal recent history). He’s an obvious master of the dead cat, not least in the stories about sexual misdemeanours that play right into his hands by sending the Chattering Classes into a frenzy while being insufficiently serious for normal people to care. I thought (and nearly blogged) about the Carrie row during the leadership contest, which looked staged to provoke excess outrage and collect a sympathy vote. A few of these stories, and even if the next one were were a credible accusation of actual rape, who would believe it after so much fuss?
On the subject of brexit, the differing opposition attitudes are interesting but unhelpful. Libdems seek a mandate to stop it outright, but they’re too far from a ‘main party’ for that to be realistic. Corbyn presents a coherent plan – to do what Cameron should have done in the first place and present a referendum on an actual plan rather than a blank slate – but his party won’t unite and the media tell us it’s unclear. Looks like too little, too late. And – crucially – while they’re all panicking about WTF Boris might do (possibly in defiance of the law), they’re not uniting around a coherent plan, and what the world sees is headless chickens.
A grand narrative of a PM implementing the “will of the people” against a great conspiracy (conveniently forgetting of course that his predecessor would have delivered brexit if her own party hadn’t voted it down). These past few weeks have given me an insight into how the world got “Democratic Peoples Republic“s: someone pursued an agenda with a genuine belief that it was the “will of the people”, and gradually dispensed with all opposition that comes from democratic checks-and-balances.
As for the latest row over language? There’s another brilliant dead cat. The “surrender act” is nasty, but Labour hasn’t got a leg to stand on in criticising it: that kind of language has been their own bread-and-butter for longer than I can remember. On the other hand – and what finally provoked me into a rant about it, Boris’s rabble-rousing conference speech to his acolytes was seriously scary. If we put aside alarming precedents from within living memory, it was at the very least a conscious effort to cast his opponents as turbulent priests: serious intimidation.
Indeed, one striking aspect of politics today is how the Tories have taken on Labour’s mantle. In my youth it was Thatcher who talked mostly sense while Labour pursued tribal dogma in the name of socialism; now it’s Boris’s fanatics who are putting quasi-religious dogma ahead of the country’s interests in the name of ‘the people’. That’s deeper than just stealing Labour’s spending mantle to try and crowd them out, or provoke them to yet-more-loony promises.
What will happen at halloween? If I could get instant information, I’d be watching the hedge funds’ bets. Especially those that help bankroll Boris and the Party, or are controlled by or closely connected to government insiders like Rees-Mogg and Leadsom. They remember how Soros made gazillions betting against Blighty in 1992, but perhaps conveniently overlook the fact that he at least wasn’t doing so as a government insider.