This blog isn’t patriotic enough. It needs to be published with a red white and blue background and a rousing chorus of Rule Britannia ought to start automatically whenever you load the page. Andrea Leadsom said so. Asking questions about the negative consequences of Brexit means that you’re in cahoots with Brussels and are a purveyor of fake news. Whenever anyone in the British government mentions Brexit, the only appropriate response is to click your ruby red white and blue slippers together and say “There is no place like outside the EU” three times, while waving a union fleg. In fact, really, you ought to have one tattooed on your face so that you can display your patriotism at all times. While you’re at it, you can also get plastic surgery so you can get union jack buttons implanted into the back of your head. All the easier for Tank Commander Ruth to parade in uniform all over your brain.
Tories are very keen on parades. Well, at least certain kinds of parade. The Tories don’t mind Orange parades, because Orange parades don’t question the status quo. But they especially like military parades, and the reason the Tories like military parades so much is becase soldiers have to obey orders. The glorification of the military means that the focus is on the instrument and not on the intent or the purpose. They stop us asking what the UK military is for, why we spend so much more on it than other countries of a similar size, why it is prioritised over other issues like providing decent homes. Patriotism and pageantry mean questions don’t get asked and rights don’t get asserted. The fleg waving and bunting is what the Tories think that public involvement in a democracy should be, and not the parades of angry residents of London estates protesting that their homes are too dangerous to live in. In the Conservative world view, the role of the citizen is to march obediently in uniform, or to wave a flag and cheer.
Andrea Leadsom’s comments about patriotism give us an insight into what the UK so narrowly avoided. Had Theresa May won the crushing majority she’d been looking for, the British government would indeed have crushed all opposition and marginalised all criticism. It would have had the power to define Brexit entirely by itself, a Brexit designed to destroy the regulations, rules, and standards that allow those of us who aren’t blessed with great wealth rely upon to ensure that there is a basic standard of decency and humanity. Pointing out that living standards, jobs, and public services were at threat would have been given much the same reception by the government as a reporter from the Sun at a convention of Liverpool fans.
The reason that Andrea is so keen to silence criticism of Brexit is because Brexit is shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions, and all the innovative jam on the planet won’t get the UK out of the jam its in. The country is lurching from one crisis to another as the consequences of Tory, and previous Labour, mismanagement catch up with us. Cuts to councils and inadequate fire regulations and inspection lead to housing that’s unfit for habitation. Cuts to policing exacerbate the risk of terrorism that’s inflated by a vain and aggressive foreign policy. Cuts to the civil service, and there’s no one left to negotiate a path along the yellow brick road of Brexit to the land of Out.
During the EU referendum the constant refrain from the leave campaign was that leaving the EU would allow the UK to make its parliament sovereign again. It was about taking back control. It now transpires that they really meant it was the office of the Prime Minister which was going to take control. Brexit means the final reduction of the Mother of Parliaments to the Smother of Democracy, a rubber stamp for decisions made by the Prime Minister. England had a civil war over an attempt by the monarchy to seize absolute power, but when the Prime Minister seizes absolute power it gets fawning praise on the front cover of the right wing newspapers. That’s not patriotism, that’s the theft of democracy.
Theresa May wanted to use Brexit so she could seize power for power’s sake. The Tories have no visions, no dreams, nothing for us to hope for. All they can offer is more of the same, more austerity, more private gain at public expense, more axes taken to public services, more broken families, more restricted horizons, more tears and hunger. Now the only reason she’s still in office is because no one else wants to take responsibility for damage that will be wrought by the tempest that’s looming on the not so distant horizon. This is what happens when politics has been debased to the extent that it’s simply a means for political parties to put their own interests first and foremost.
There’s the patriotism of the Tories, which is a false patriotism and a false participation, controlled, directed, and serving no ends other than the reinforcement of existing power, or there’s real patriotism. Real patriotism means being engaged with your country. It means getting informed. It means debating the issues. It means getting angry at politicians who take you for granted. It means having a voice and using it to ask difficult and awkward questions. The Tories don’t like real patriotism, but then they don’t understand the difference between patriotism and jingoism.
The Tories want us to shut up and obey in the name of patriotism. Real patriotism means that we must continue to ask questions, continue to demand answers, continue to be engaged, to be involved, and to protest and complain. Real patriotism means that we remember that once democracy ceases to be an exercise in mass participation it ceases to be democratic. Real patriotism means demanding that citizens have a right to decent housing, to food for their families, to jobs and participation in an economy that doesn’t strip them of dignity. Real patriotism means remembering that Scotland is a nation that voted against Brexit, and insisting that Scotland has a say on its outcome. Real patriotism means resisting the jingoism of the Tories, the false flag patriotism.
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