Our part time Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has responded quickly, decisively, and with alacrity to a threat. Huzzah! Hurrah! It’s just a pity that the threat he’s responded to is not a threat to your actual human lives. It’s a threat to some statues. Johnson is far more concerned about a threat to some inanimate objects than he was worried about averting the huge and ever increasing death toll from Covid-19. Although since his cabinet is populated with statues lacking in anything approaching human feelings, or indeed in most cases sentience, that’s possibly not surprising.
Incidentally, and while we’re talking about statues. Scotland is fair littered with the statues of slavers, imperialists, and colonialists. But nowhere in Scotland will you find a statue to one of this country’s greatest sons, the socialist, trade unionist, and anti-imperialist James Connelly who was born and raised in Edinburgh. The Tories and the Orangemen wouldn’t like it. Statues that celebrate slave traders and those who dispossessed people from the Highlands are just fine, but you can forget about celebrating those who resisted British rule.
Johnson is hoping that he can take a leaf out of Donald Trump’s tattered playbook and start a culture war with Labour. By posing as the great defender of British tradition he hopes to paint Labour as being on the side of anarchists and rioters. It’s the kind of cynical move you’d expect from Johnson, a man for whom principles are things that he once read about in a book that he borrowed and never returned. That British tradition that he’s defending is a tradition of looking the other way while Great Britons enslaved, robbed, despoiled, and killed. It’s the British tradition of hypocrisy. Johnson is a master at that. He has empowered and embolded today’s racists and fascists.
The current focus on statues is a massive distraction technique. There are far more important things going on right now to be concerned about other than statues, but those are things that show up Johnson in a bad light. They would be things like the British Government’s increasingly discredited attempts to come out of lockdown too early. Things like the abject failure of the Government to plan properly for the return of children to school in England before their summer holidays. Things like the appalling mismanagement and chaos in which the track and trace system is mired. Things like the systemic racism which means that black and minority ethnic people are far more likely to die from the virus and to suffer poorer outcomes in all aspects of life than their white counterparts. And they’d be things like the worsening damage to the economy which is only going to be compounded by Johnson’s determination to pursue the hardest Brexit imaginable, a Brexit which will further enrich the disaster capitalists who fund his party while it impoverishes the rest of us.
It’s noticeable that Johnson, who has spent most of his time in hiding, has popped up to defend some statues when he’s usually so keen to delegate his job to his lackeys. Johnson has spent most of his short time in office hiding from scrutiny and hiding from the public because his record is so woeful. He’s not the only one.
The only cabinet minister more part time than Johnson is Alister Jack, and even he managed to pop up this week, in Jack’s case it was to repeat some lies on Good Morning Scotchland on BBC Radio Scotchland about death rates in Scotland’s care homes being twice what they are in the rest of the UK. In fact the death rate in English care homes has been systematically underreported. A recent report from the London School of Economics found that current UK Government data only accounted for 41.6% of excess deaths in care homes in England. This makes the death rate in English care homes 30% higher than that in Scotland. Naturally Alister wasn’t corrected by the presenters of Good Morning Scotchland. (See http://www.carehomeprofessional.com/research-estimates-put-real-care-home-covid-19-death-toll-at-over-22000/ ) Jack wants to distract from the British Government’s woeful handling of the epidemic by lying through his teeth about the Scottish Government. It’s a familiar pattern from the Conservatives.
Where has Alister Jack been during the past few months? According to the Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman he and his office have been entirely absent in discussions between the Scottish Government and the British Government during the Covid-19 epidemic. On those rare occasions that he does put in an appearance, it’s never to defend Scotland at the UK level. It’s never to stand up for Scotland’s interests. It’s always to attack and undermine the Scottish Government. And yet this is the man who has the official role of representing Scotland in the British Government. We’d be far better off with a statue than with Alister Jack, at least a statue has a public presence.
The Tories are empowering and emboldening racists and fascists. Their negligence and failure to perform the most basic tasks of government adequately are costing thousands of lives. They are deliberately compounding the greatest economic catastrophe the UK has faced since WW2 by taking us into the hardest Brexit imaginable in order to further enrich the disaster capitalists who fund the Conservative party. They are systematically undermining and weakening the devolution settlement. They ignore Scotland as a matter of course and seek only to reduce and diminish public trust in the Scottish Government as it struggles to deal with the biggest global crisis in decades. And yet we get apologists for the British state like Tom Gordon in the Herald telling us that it’s not a Plan B that the independence movement needs, but a new prospectus for independence. Tom, we already have a new prospectus for independence. Boris Johnson and the Tories are delivering it to us on a commemorative plate bearing the name of an imperialist and slave trader.
The first independence referendum campaign was characterised by proving that Scotland is capable of becoming a successful independent state. The second will be characterised by a debate about whether Scotland can be safe as a part of the UK, because the actions of the British Government itself have seriously called that into question. The new prospectus for independence will be about the failures of the British state to defend Scotland, to protect Scotland, or to keep Scotland safe from extremism, harm, and death. We have a British Government which is more concerned to assert that statues’ lives matter than it is about keeping its citizens safe from harm.
And finally, here’s a very appropriate and timely song from Barcelona based Scots singer-songwriter Louis Rive
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