An awkward conversation

“Hi, this is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Could I speak to the Foreign Secretary please?”

“Ah, yes. Ah. That would be me. Boris. Fluster, fluster, affable grunt.”

“Boris Johnson?”

“Um, yes. The very same.”

“Boris Johnson, the who first came to national attention for being sacked from The Times for making up quotes?”

“Yes, well, um, fluster, fluster. These things happen. But I’m very affable, and so let’s just forget about that, shall we? Thoroughly honest chap now.”

“But weren’t you also sacked by Michael Howard for lying about one of your many affairs?”

“Um, well. You know. Matters of sex. Keep it private and all. Not in the public interest.”

“Speaking of sex, didn’t you write a poem about me having sex with a goat?”

“Well, um, you know, defence of freedom of speech and all that.”

“Well you didn’t seem so keen on freedom of speech when you discussed with your friend Darius Guppy—a convicted fraudster and self-confessed ‘potential psychopath’—having a journalist beaten up for taking too close an interest in his dodgy dealings.”

“Ah, well, bluster, bluster, that was all a very long time ago…”

“Ah.” [Long pause.] ”So, do you think that freedom of speech extends to politicians blatantly lying to their voters? Because your fellow Brexit campaigner Penny Maudant repeatedly stated on the Andrew Marr show that there was nothing the UK could do to stop us, Turkey, joining the European Union despite the fact that the Treaty of Europe clearly states that accession to the union must be approved by all member states, and you condoned this and repeated the inference that Turkey’s accession was a certainty.”

“Well, um, I’m sure there’s some explanation which, if I fluster charmingly and affably you’ll think I’ve made when I’ve actually said nothing.”

“I’m afraid I don’t see your charm, Mr Johnson, nor your aff. Perhaps it’s just an English thing. Maybe you could clarify something for me. We’re not in the commonwealth, so I was wondering, do we count as piccaninnies or not?”

“Ah, um. Well. How about if I just flick about my blond hair amusingly?”

“I think we’re probably not, because wasn’t your great grandfather Turkish?”

“Um, well, yes the old boy was now you come to mention it.”

“And didn’t you once make a documentary lauding Turkey’s desire to join the EU?”

“Well now, yes. But, you know. Things change. Um. Realpolitik and all that.”

“You mean you thought you could get to be PM if you hung all your principles, your colleagues, in fact your entire country out to dry?”

“Oh, now, I say …”

“I don’t think I want to talk to you any more, Mr Johnson. I think you’re dishonest, dishonourable, bigotted, and solely interested in your own advancement. I think you’re a really nasty piece of work, in fact. I mean, you’re not in my league, that’s true. But for a British politician, you really are a quite a shite. So. I wanted to negotiate our post-Brexit trade deal. Perhaps you could put me through to Dr Liam Fox, I understand he is the Secretary of State for International Trade.”

“Phew, yes. That’s me off the hook.”

[A pause.]

“Hello?”

“Hello, am I speaking to Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade?”

“Um, well, he’s not available at the moment. This is a highly experienced trade negotiation consultant acting for him.”

“Ah. Could I have your name please?”

“Why, yes. It’s Adam Werrity.”

“Ah. And exactly how long have you been a highly experienced trade negotiation consultant?”

“Oh, since Wednesday.”

[Click.]

June 23rd was the day that Whig history ate itself

I haven’t blogged much about Brexit, partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because there seemed to be little I could say that had not already been said. Sure, I could have poured scorn upon the assorted narcissists, neo-nazis, and nasties who conned the country into this disaster. I could have reflected upon the irony that David Cameron—for whom an insinuation of a lack of patriotism is an easy, cheap hit upon a man who dares to not like the medieval hangover that is the monarchy—will doubtless be wearing a proper suit and doing up his tie when he sings the national anthem of the United Kingdom for the last time, as that very union that he hung out to dry in order to mop up a few votes from UKIP is dissolved. I could have ruminated upon the extraordinary duplicity and ego of Boris Johnson—that Brexiter who had us all running in fear from 80 million Turks, yet who not that long ago was ardently advocating their joining the EU, and to whom the achievement of that expansion, far from being a reincarnation of Third Reich or Napoleonic domination as he more recently claimed, would be a glorious unification of the East and West Roman Empires. Or, perhaps, I could have dallied a little over the backstabbing Michael Gove, whose impersonation of a human being is quite passable on good days, but who appears to have skipped Basic Human Interactions 101 (as well as instruction in simple co-ordinative feats such as drinking a glass of water or clapping), making him stunningly blind to the fact that the double-crossing of a double-crosser is not usually seen to cancel itself out. I might even, if I had the stomach, have pondered a little upon the human pile of excrement that is the loathsome Nigel Farage, that neo-fascist schoolboy barely grown up, spinning his campaign of hatred and racism for years on end only, upon achieving his aim, to up and run as fast as he can when he realizes the scale of the clusterfuck that he has unleashed upon the country.

But I shan’t waste my time with this hideous brigade of liars and fantasists, mainly because I can’t spell parallepsis. Instead I shall offer one slight observation which I believe is relatively novel, and I haven’t seen anywhere else: that June 23rd was the day that Whig history ate itself, and that if nothing else good can be rescued from this unnecessary and unworkable mess, it is at least this.

The Whig interpretation of history is a historiographic stance, an interpretation of British history, that presents the events that have transpired on this particular lump of rock as consisting of a slow and incremental progress towards better governance and greater liberty. It is a deeply ingrained narrative, one which dominates our schooling and our public discourse, and one that is utterly, utterly wrong.

Whig history starts at 1066—the last undeniable major upheaval—and claims that, from that point onwards, we have, in a good conservative fashion, inched our way bit by bit towards our (apparent) current glory. All other upheavals are minimized or ignored: what schoolboy learns of the Anarchy, the twenty year civil war between Henry I’s only legitimate child and her usurping cousin? The Barons’ Wars and the Peasants Revolt are footnoted, the stunning rejection of Rome by a previously devout Catholic (“Defender of the Faith” does not refer, as the idiotic Prince Charles seems to think, to the Church of England—it was a title granted by the Pope to Henry VIII for a theological tract opposing the Reformation and upholding Rome) gets reduced to the ins and outs of his marital bed and a money-grab for monastic gold. The subsequent bloody conflicts are largely smoothed away: the violent re-entrenchment of Catholicism under Mary is presented hindsightedly as guaranteed to fail, despite the fact that in her five years of rule she was highly successful in her progress towards the restoration of the faith, and that it was only the fact that she bore no children and the extraordinary coincidence that her right-hand man—Archbishop Reginald Pole—died the same day as her that stopped her project in its tracks.  Similarly written out as an aberration is the interregnum: necessarily Cromwell is portrayed as a hideous maniac (who hears of the Putney Debates?) and the Restoration of the monarchy is a glorious (and inevitable) return of the proper way of things. The 1688 Dutch invasion and overthrow of the King is presented as a invited takeover of power, purely on the grounds that some quislings in Parliament were in cahoots with it. England has been a kingdom, a kingdom within a union, a republic, even a papal fief. The Magna Carta was not a progressive constitutional reform, it was a peace treaty in a civil war (and one that was reneged upon almost as soon as the ink was dry upon it), the Great Reform Act was not a considered movement towards more representative democracy, it was forced by radical uprising—who hears of the Peterloo Massacre? Women’s suffrage was, similarly, forced upon a previously wholly unwilling government in the aftermath of the First World War.

Whig history takes the anarchic, radical, violent history of this country and smooths it away, soothingly telling us that England, and then the UK, is stable, it is well-behaved. History moves slowly and gently, and always progressively. As such, this interpretation is the tool of conservatism: it says that the British way is the slow, gradual way. Not for us revolutions and uprisings, we are the tortoise to the hare of radicalism. And it is still used: Michael Gove, when he was education secretary and had yet to discover a taste for sharp knives, rewrote the history syllabus expressly to have it taught in chronological order, with a clear “narrative of British progress.” I am not asserting active conspiracy here, of course: simply that those who run the country tend to have come up through a schooling which promotes this view, they find it meshes nicely with their political aims, and so it becomes convenient to believe it and to promote it yet further.

But, finally, their commitment to this view is what has caused them to come unstuck. Why did David Cameron take such a wildly irresponsible gamble on the future of the country? Because he never believed that we did this kind of thing. Why did Boris Johnson put all his pro-European ardour aside to campaign for Out? Because he wanted Cameron destabilized and unseated, and it never occurred to him that we might actually do what he was campaigning for. Why did none of the fuckers have a fucking plan: the Brexiters for what they purportedly wanted to happen, or the government because any responsible regime plans for all foreseeable circumstances? Because none of them thought it would happen, because those kind of things don’t happen here. Because they bought their own fork-tongued narrative of history, sat complacently upon it, and have now been bitten in the arse. The only leaders who really considered Brexit a possibility are the true bigots and maniacs—à la Farage— who have turned tail and run from the catastrophic consequences. Even they were Whigs to a certain extent: they could not believe that this would be catastrophic. Michael Gove, another True Believer, famously derided the massed ranks of “experts” who warned of disaster: how could there be? We don’t do disaster. They believed that change, being slow and gradual, could simply be reeled back: that we could easily turn the clock back a hundred years or so to Empire, glory, and dark people in their proper place. Finding that is not the case, they have scarpered.

So, welcome to Brexit Britain. We are economically screwed, probably on our way to constitutional collapse, a rainy little nowhere island viewed by the rest of the world with suspicion and derision. But at least we won’t have to put up with this silly, self-justifying narrative of establishment conservatism. A thin sliver of hope lies in the fact that maybe, just maybe, having put this nonsense aside, we may find room for the true, progressive, leftist radicalism that will be essential to preventing the poorest and worst off in society—those who have been fucked by thirty years of neo-liberal economics and were conned into believing that their destitution was the fault of foreign powers and not successive callous and indifferent UK governments—from suffering yet further as the fallout of this monstrously deceitful campaign continues.

A vision granted me, by the grace of God, from the not-too-distant future

A desolate wasteland with, amidst the smouldering ruins and starving wretches, a beautifully laid table, replete with the finest of dishes, at which Prime Minister Gove, Home Secretary Johnson, and Lord Farage sit stuffing their faces. “We’re in charge!” they cry in delight, wiping their greasy fingers with ten pound notes, now so much cheaper than napkins. “We’re independent!” they chortle as they chow down on—what is this? why yes!—roasted and skewered working people, done to a turn. So much easier to procure than expensive imported meats. Just regrettable that the meat tends to be stringy and underfed.

One of the dishes squirms and moves—it’s still alive! A tortured face turns to Michael. “But sir,” it protests, “this isn’t what you promised, it’s not what you promised at all. You promised utopia, and this is awful.”

“No, no,” replies Michael. “We said it might be wonderful. And you know, from where I’m sitting, it’s rather nice. And you can’t complain. You did vote for this.”

“The truth is,” blusters Boris, affably, charmingly old-boyishly, “we rather spun you a line. No, no. In fact, we blatantly lied to you. We were entirely interested in our own advancement, and knew that if disaster came about”—a rumble in the distance signifies the collapse of the smoking ruins of Threadneedle Street—“we’d be just dandy and you’d all bear the brunt. What on earth made you think that we’d look after you? I used to burn fifty pound notes under tramps’ noses, you know. Admittedly everyone burns fifty pound notes just for warmth now, what with energy costing a grand a unit. But I never, ever, ever gave anything remotely resembling a flying fuck for those of you who weren’t … well, who weren’t me, to be frank. I’m telling you all this because I’m so very affable and roguish that I know you’ll just let me off the hook.”

The face twists briefly into an understanding smile, until it is finally exterminated by a skewer thrust from Lord Nigel.

“Take it away,” he demands of the cowed waiting staff. “Looked a little over-cooked, if you get my meaning. A bit too dark for my liking. Only white meat in my Britain, thank you very much.”

If you are a decent person then your only option tomorrow is to vote IN

Listen:

It no longer matters what your economic views are, whether you have (justified) left-wing concerns about monetarist policies being written into the EU, whether you worry about the purported undemocratic nature of the institution (whilst living in a country with a wholly unelected upper house and a head of state who got her job by virtue of who her daddy was), whether you worry about sovereignty (which lies entirely in the hands of multi-national corporations, bankers, and a few super-rich individuals anyway), or anything else.

The last two weeks have seen the most toxic, vile incitement to racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia it has ever been my misfortune to witness in this country. No other real arguments for Brexit have been put forward, and one cannot claim that it is just the unofficial campaign headed up by Nigel Farage: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have equally engaged in demonization and racism. What else could be read from their scaremongering about an apparent imminent accession to the EU of Turkey, epitomized in their challenge to Cameron to guarantee to veto Turkish membership of the EU. What is this other than an indication that Turks will never be fit to be considered “one of us”? This is deliberate playing to the lowest common denominator, the basest of prejudices, and the worst of human nature; in Johnson’s case it is also stunningly hypocritical.

Everyone knows—surely—that Johnson’s volte face from being a pro-Europe, pro-Turkey expansionist to a nudge-nudge-wink-winking dog-whistle xenophobe is solely motivated by his personal ambition. That he is willing to shove his dick in the cesspit of racist sentiment to get there far outstrips his soon-to-be-predecessor’s favoured location for that organ. Could you really vote for that? Whatever reasons you have for doubting the EU, are you going to empower a man whose personal desire to run the country is so great that he cares not if the very country he ends up running be a bankrupt viper’s nest of racists and xenophobes?

Or would you rather vote for Nigel Farage, who has no illusions of running the country, and therefore is free to go Full Smethwick?breaking point

Racism and xenophobia are not the exclusive preserve of the Out campaign in our politics, this is true. David Cameron, though now bemoaning the stoking of intolerance by the Brexit camp, was more than happy to endorse Zac Goldsmith’s explicitly racist campaign for London Mayor, and indeed played his own part—under parliamentary privilege—in that vicious affair.

A vote for In will not purge this country of the racial politics in which it is festering.

But, without a shadow of a doubt, a vote for Out will endorse it. Whatever discussions we could have had about Europe and the UK’s role within it have been hijacked by a naked racist and a utterly self-interested opportunist monomaniac.

A win for Out will be, first and foremost, a win for racism and xenophobia. If you are in any way a decent member of society then—whatever justified concerns you may or may not have about the EU—this time you must vote, and you must vote In.

 

 

Just who are the unacceptable extremists, Douglas Carswell?

Douglas Carswell, UKIP MP for Clacton, has got into a spot of bother. Yesterday he tweeted a picture of a pro-Remain advert in the Daily Mail taken out by the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, with the comment “Quite something that the extremist Jobbik party in Hungary wants us to Remain. You want political union w/ them?”

Jobbik are, indeed, extremist and openly anti-semitic. And Viktor Orbán is a pretty nasty piece of work himself. But a member of Jobbik he is not: he leads the slightly-less-openly-extreme Fidesz party. But, this epic fact-checking fail aside, I’m fascinated by this, because whilst Carswell would seem to imply that we wouldn’t want to be hanging with extremists, UKIP appear have no issues with political alignment with quite a range of people who might rather easily be considered to fit that description. In the European Parliament their MEPs sit in the European Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group; indeed Nigel Farage himself is co-president of the group. This group includes:

  • Beatrix von Storch, MEP for the hard right Alternative for Germany and who, amongst other views, has suggested that trespassing refugees (including women and children) be gunned down;
  • Robert Iwaszkiewicz, MEP for the Polish KNP party which is so far to the right that Marine Le Pen ruled out aligning the French National Front with them and, at the time of the group’s formation, was led by Janusz Korwin-Mikke who thinks that the distinction between consensual sex and rape is “very subtle,” that Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated,” that the public “should not see the disabled on television,” and who has described immigrants as “human garbage”;
  • the Swedish Democrats, who were founded as a white supremacist group, though they have apparently “learned from their mistakes”; and
  • the Lithuanian Order and Justice party, whose leader Rolandas Paksas was impeached for his links to Russian organized crime.

The EFDD is a reincarnation of the former Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, of which UKIP was a member and Farage was also co-president. In this case, he happily co-chaired it with one Franceso Speroni of Italy’s Northern League, whose considered opinion is that “Anders Breivik’s ideas are in defence of western civilisation.”

But one need not even look outside UKIP to find such nastiness. I posted before about the range of charming, delightful views that can be found from within its very membership: to this list we can add their (thankfully unsucessful) parliamentary candidate Przemek Skwirczynski, who takes smiling selfies with Korwin-Mikke. And Nigel himself, of course, is “proud” to have taken a third of former BNP voters.

One wonders what Douglas Carswell’s definition of extremist is, that includes Jobbik but presumably excludes the assorted vicious racists, criminals, homophobes, and sexists whom his party happily embraces. Perhaps—and I’m going out on a limb here—it’s whether or not they support Brexit?