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?