The weekend was marked by the idiocies of Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary who decided to commission a ferry service from a company which had less experience in ferries than a pizza delivery guy who occasionally goes to Rothesay on holiday. You might think that this represented peak stupid from the Tories, and that’s a hard thing to achieve considering the competition.
We have Chris, and we have Andrea Leadsom, whose sole contribution to politics has been to allow us all to ponder the philosophical question of whether it’s sexist to point out that a deeply stupid woman is in fact stupid. We have the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley who didn’t realise that sectarianism is a thing in Northern Ireland. We have Dominic Raab and his belated realisation that Britain is an island. And then along comes Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson saying haud ma coat. That slapping sound you hear is millions of faces palming.
Gavin, who always wanted to be Defence Secretary because when he was a boy he demonstrated his military prowess by pulling the wings off flies for fun, has announced that all is well in Brexitland. Leaving the EU, he affirmed, will “enhance the UK’s lethality”. And this is true. After Brexit the UK will be a lot more lethal if you’re dependent on benefits, you’re disabled, or you have a chronic health condition. Conservatives have always been considerably more successful at killing off British citizens than they have been at terminating terrorists. Although if you’re a Tory then you do consider poor people to be enemies of the state, so by that token they’re a huge success.
Gavin’s macho pose would be somewhat more convincing if he didn’t bear a startling resemblance to Frank Spencer of the 1970s sitcom Some Mother Do ‘Ave ‘Em. Like Frank, Gavin is best known for his hapless incompetence, his self belief, and his high pitched squeaky voice. All we need is for the Defence Secretary to turn up for his next big announcement about how Great Britain, and by extension Gavin, is on roller skates and being towed by a Routemaster bus. And there’s a reference that millenials won’t get. The roller skating behind a bus would at least have the merit of being worth watching, which is a quality that Gavin has always sadly lacked.
His pose would be more convincing still if the Conservatives hadn’t run down the armed services in the same way that they’ve run down all other public services and the defence budget wasn’t £7 billion short of where it needs to be in order to fulfil the Ministry of Defence’s 10 year equipment plan. Although perhaps when Gavin spoke about unleashing swarms of drones he was referring to Conservative MPs. They are also, on all the available evidence, unthinking and robotic. There’s certainly little evidence of joined up thinking from Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives™, unless you count confusing men’s groins with items of furniture. Allegedly.
“We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership,” said Gavin. With a straight face. This UK. The one that’s currently shooting itself in the foot and the face and is the laughing stock of Europe – and the only reason it’s not the laughing stock of the entire world is because of Donald Trump. Sure, people around the globe will look to the UK for leadership when they want to know how to turn a successful democracy into a low rent tax haven with bad weather and food. They’ll look to the UK for lessons in maintaining the veneer of democracy while stripping it of meaningful content. But most of all, they’ll look to the UK when they want to understand how it is that people of the calibre of Gavin can get to the highest levels of government. If nothing else, he’s an inspirational role model for delusional idiots.
This is, let us not forget, the Defence Secretary whose strategy for dealing with Russia consisted of telling Putin to go away. Whenever I look at Gavin I can’t help but think of the nasty wee placeholder who gets killed off first in a low rent thriller movie.
Now he wants to send an aircraft carrier that won’t be operational for another two years and which doesn’t have any planes off to the South China Sea where it has no business being, so it can be a sitting target for the Chinese. And this at a time when it’s vital for the UK to make trade deals so that it retains some semblance of a functioning economy after Brexit. The only positive thing that you can say about Gavin’s leadership of the Ministry of Defence is that the man is a weapon.
Gavin’s embarrassing jingoistic willy waving muppetry is however, precisely what Brexit is all about. It’s harking back to the days when Britannia ruled the waves and could waive the rules with impugnity. It’s the fantasy of little boys who lost themselves in Commando comics and dreamt about getting one over the Bosch. We have a Defence Secretary who has wet dreams about gunboat diplomacy. We have a Trade Secretary who said he’d bestride the world making favourable trade deals, but who’s only ever managed to trade on his favours in the Conservative party. We have a Prime Minister who says she’s listening but who only ever listens to herself.
Brexit was always an exercise in fantasy and wishful thinking. It’s a dream of a Britain that never was, refracted through the misty eyed myth making of years of fetishising WW2. In 2014 supporters of Scottish independence were accused by British nationalists of basing their politics in romance and daydreams, of seeking a country that never was. But now we see that it’s Scottish independence which is based in a hard nosed reality, while British nationalism loses itself in the dreamscape of Brexit. Their dreams are dangerous. They’re going to sleepwalk us off a cliff and into a nightmare where the British state will prove its lethality by depriving the poor, the weak, the disabled, and the marginalised of the means of a dignified living. It will prove its lethality by stripping the NHS to the bones and privatising what’s left. It will prove its lethality by getting rid of employment rights and consumer protections.
It might be too late for Britain to wake up from its Brexit nightmare. It’s not too late for Scotland. The independence campaign is the alarm clock ringing to wake Scotland up to reality.
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