Brexit, It’s going soooo well isn’t it. The whole of the UK is basking in the sunlit uplands of empty supermarket shelves, fuel shortages, rising prices, a Northern Irish trade war which is teetering on the brink, plummeting exports, livestock being culled because of a shortage of meat processing workers, and a looming and entirely unnecessary trade war with the the EU which is being manufactured by the British Government for no reason other than its desperate need to assert British exceptionalism in the face of a world which sees only a poorly governed middle sized European state with an untrustworthy and mendacious leadership and a Great British nationalist Napoleon complex. However the UK and its institutions are so far up the colon of British exceptionalism that they don’t even see the irony that it’s a Napoleon Complex which is the defining feature of the modern UK.
Right now the Conservatives are still avoiding the consequences of their mendacity and their party politically motivated decision to inflict the greatest act of political and economic vandalism on the UK in recent history. They are doing precisely what their Scottish Tory Mini-Mes accuse the Scottish Government of doing – hiding behind the pandemic. Unlike the Scottish Government which is confronted by an overwhelmingly hostile media which magnifies any failing and trumpets the attacks of the opposition parties at Holyrood, Boris Johnson is blessed – and the rest of us are cursed – with a right wing media which goes out of its way to minimise the damage created by the Conservatives and is eager to deflect the blame.
The Conservatives are also aided and abetted by a Labour party whose leadership appears to be far more interested in opposing the Labour party than it is in opposing the Conservatives. Indeed, the politician who is working hardest to make the Labour party seem electable is Boris Johnson. He presents Keir Starmer with one open goal after another, each of which the Labour leader manages to miss, that is if he even seems aware that they exist.
Starmer shows very little interest in the radical constitutional reform of the UK which Gordon Brown promised Scotland in 2014 was a done deal. Radical is not in the makeup of a politician who doesn’t even dare to wear brightly coloured socks. Scotland scarcely rated a mention in either his speech to the recent Labour party conference or in the eleven plus thousand word essay he published a few days beforehand, an essay containing many more words than people who actually read the whole thing. He’s farmed out constitutional reform to a commission headed by Gordon Brown, as though that was meant to inspire confidence and not despair.
In Scotland the Labour party, with Starmer’s blessing and encouragement, has become as knee jerk British nationalist as the Conservatives and just as determined as the Scottish Tories to deny Scottish democracy and the mandate for another independence referendum. This is not the path out of the electoral oblivion in which Labour has been languishing in Scotland since 2014, it’s a road that leads only to further irrelevance. Labour likes to call itself the people’s party but in Scotland it is convinced that it’s the people who are wrong and who need to change, not the party. Election after election sees the same dismal result for the Labour party in Scotland but Anas Sarwar is determined to pursue the same self-destructive course. It’s the longest political sulk in history.
Meanwhile the Conservatives have been carefully watching the Trumpist Republicans in the USA and learning a few lessons from them. They have already started to copy the vote suppression and gerrymandering tactics the US Republicans are infamous for. The Elections Bill currently passing through the Commons will place obstacles in the way of voting which will disproportionately affect demographic groups which are predominantly anti-Brexit and Labour supporting. It will abolish the independence of the Electoral Commission and place it under the ultimate control of the Cabinet Office. The redrawing of Westminster constituency boundaries will create new seats which are most likely to return a Conservative MP, while Scotland and Wales will see their representation in Westminster decrease.
We already have an unfair electoral system for Westminster elections which gave Johnson a majority of 80 seats on just 43.6% of the votes. The Tories seek to entrench their position and usher in decades of minority Conservative rule. It will make the Thatcher era seem like a beacon of open minded tolerance an liberal values.
Eventually the Brexit chickens will come home to roost, although certainly not to a bare supermarket shelf. The working class Brexit supporters in the north and Midlands of England who have been so assiduously courted by Johnson’s Conservatives will one day realise that they have been conned and that Brexit has done nothing to remedy the decades long Westminster neglect of their communities. When that happens the Conservatives will double down on the populist Trumpian tactics of the American Republicans and will wrap themselves in the Union flag while they attack some new scapegoat and further undermine democracy, aided by the lack of a written constitution which puts few effective checks on the power of a Prime Minister who commands a majority in the Commons.
The Tories depend on finding some group that they can scapegoat and blame in order to depict themselves as the victims. The EU has proven to be a highly convenient bogeyman so far, but eventually the Tories will no longer be able to shift all the blame for their disaster of a Brexit onto Europe. When that happens they will seek some new scapegoats and will become increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic. They will blame Remainers for not backing Brexit, they will blame Scottish independence supporters for not believing in Britain and for supposedly hating the English. They will attack minority groups, environmental protesters, migrants, and anyone who doesn’t fully subscribe to their reactionary right wing Anglo-British nationalism. For all of us who don’t support the Conservatives’ Union flag waving Great British exceptionalism our only future in the UK is as the enemy within.
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