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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Boris Johnson's 'One Nation'

A landslide victory is not enough. Tony Blair had one in 1997 and even many of those who hadn’t voted for him were prepared to give him a chance; a chance he threw away with both hands, preferring to fight the next election from Day One. His student-ignorant ‘eye-catching initiatives’ didn’t tackle the roots of our economic malaise – for a touchstone, just remember the meretricious stupidity of scrapping the Royal Yacht, that floating trade mission for the UK.

Johnson doesn’t have the luxury of a honeymoon period: the malcontents have already started their civil disorder in London. He’s ‘on appro’ and we’ll need more than fast talk to retain the nervous new Conservative voters in the North and other long-suffering working-class areas. Mess this up and it’s ‘après soi, le deluge’.

In fact, it could already be too late, if the banking debt in the Eurozone brings the temple down around everyone’s ears before we can get out. BoJo’s vow to work around the clock had better be sincere. And he’ll have to work at the right things. It’s no good fixing the roof when the foundations are cracking. It’s structural and it’s not going to be a quick job, so he’ll have to start straight away.

The late Sir James Goldsmith clearly saw the threat back in 1994, at the time of the GATT talks – the first part of the interview is here. His argument was that sweeping trade liberalisation sets workforces across the world against one another and tips the capital-labour seesaw savagely in favour of the former, inevitably causing growing social tensions in the developed world. It may seem odd that a billionaire should make such a case, but that is to forget that his moral roots were in one of the three Abrahamic religions, all of which impose an obligation to care for the less fortunate.

We are in a secular doctrinal crisis, because the two principal political parties have long since become institutionally globalist. For the party of the CBI, Institute of Directors etc there was just too much money to be made from undermining the British workers (many of whom now have to claim benefits even when working); for New Labour it was too much fun being ‘intensely relaxed’ feasting with oligarchs and too easy to get votes for flinging bones to the dogs under the table while pursuing the neoliberal agenda. Man, what a party that was, and ‘I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.

What a stroke of luck it was for the Tories this time to face Corbyn, who traduced his own beliefs about the EU and tried to win popularity with a commitment to providing more bones; that, and his propensity for rubbing shoulders with people who shoot dogs. For I’m far from convinced that the life experience of our latest Etonian, though he is undoubtedly bright, has equipped him to understand the need for radical reform. I fear he feels it’s just a matter of ‘think pos’ and another dose of what’s made us sick, get it down you, mate.

If Boris is to prove me wrong, he needs to aim at what Sir James intended when setting up the Referendum Party: getting us completely free of the Lilliputian entanglements of the Berlaymont. If Gray May  and Bullneck Robbins had negotiated with the French after Waterloo we’d have ceded Kent and Essex and paid compensation to the Grande Armée; yet Johnson still clutches the awful Withdrawal Agreement and the even worse Political Declaration (that love-letter from Josephine to Napoleon) with only a few of the more compromising passages redacted.

The current system, globalism, is designed to enable a concentration of wealth and power, which is deflationary: the money boosts asset values rather than being recycled within the economy. So the velocity of money slows, ordinary people find it harder to make a living, the tax base shrinks even as the demand for financial support increases, and austerity eats itself like the worm Ourobouros. It’s great for the winners, until suddenly it isn’t – where are the rich Mayans now?

For all its talk of brotherhood, the EU is a scale model of globalism. Its ‘four freedoms’ allow companies to trade goods and services within the Union, challenging smaller businesses with both the costs of universal regulation and also their bigger competitors’ economies of scale (though, so I understand, discriminating against the financial services where the UK has an advantage); the free movement of capital allows companies to incorporate in the cheapest tax regimes while smuggling out profits from their foreign subsidiaries under the guise of internal transfers to pay for training and other services; and the freedom of movement of people is their liberty to go wherever work is to be had, racing to underbid their fellows.

We have to escape both the frying pan of the EU and the fire of unfettered global ‘free trade’. We can’t abruptly start a trade war with the developing world, but we have to manage the rate of change, compensating via tariffs and trade agreements for the unfair disparities in hourly wage rates that have turned the British working class into claimants.

Perhaps then we can become once again what Napoleon so despised, a nation of small shopkeepers; a nation of modest prosperity, self-reliance and the love of liberty.

Is Johnson’s mercurial mind up to such a detailed and sustained campaign?

1 comment:

Sackerson said...

JD comments:

My local newspaper yesterday morning had a large photo of the new PM overlaid with the words - "The North delivered this for you - now you must deliver for the North"

The general feeling here is that he is 'on probation' and he must give more than just empty rhetoric. And it is no good throwing money in this direction without giving proper leadership and, more importantly, proper and good management. Good management is rare in this country; I have worked in different parts of the world for American, British, German, French and Spanish companies and I can assure you that the British are far and away the least competent. I am not the only person to see this self evident truth -

And this book illustrates the malign effect of political interference -

In the same paper there was an article by Jamie Driscoll, the new North of Tyne Mayor in which he wrote that we should not blame the Labour Party for the collapse of their traditional vote. Well, he would say that: he is backed by Momentum according to the newspaper. In the aftermath of the election, all of the commentators are blaming Corbyn and/or Brexit for the result but they have missed the point as usual. The truth is that the common people have been ignored for too long, both parties have been contemptuous of the lower classes. We are uneducated and ignorant peasants who do not know what is good for us. That attitude was openly declared recently as we were told we 'didn't know what we were voting for' in the 2016 referendum.

If you look at history, the improvements in life never come to us from politicians. Helping hands are never 'top down' they are always 'bottom up' improvements. The Co-operative movement was a form of self help and it was an exclusive movement not a socialist one. Benefits accrued to members only. The same applies to the working mens clubs; exclusive drinking establishments with entry for members only and their guests. Those are just two examples, there are many more.

The working class of this country have been Labour voters but they have never been socialists. Socialism has always been a middle class endeavour with its aforementioned paternalistic attitude towards the uneducated simpletons of the proletariat!

Further re Boris:

Don't know if you follow the links that people put in their comments at The Slog. I click on the ones that look interesting and I clicked on this one -

It is very long but worth reading. About half way through it occurred to me that Boris is just like John McCririck, "Boris wore his class as a clown costume — never hiding it but subtly mocking it with a performance that was as eccentric as it was self-aware." McCririck went to Harrow and that is a stereotypical picture of old Harrovians so maybe Boris was sent to the wrong school! Churchill went to Harrow as did Julian Wilson, the Beeb's long time racing presenter (a mentor to initiate Big Mac into the arcane mysteries of bookmaking)

The article also points to Boris understanding the difference between 'cultural' Europe and 'political' Europe which not enough people talk about.

So we wait and see how it all turns out but it is going to be interesting!