How the quest for greater independence is being usurped by power-hungry control freaks
I make no bets on the outcome of the snap General Election scheduled for 12th December. Last time a healthy Tory majority seemed almost certain until a couple of weeks before polling and after a disastrous Conservative election campaign. For the first time in recent history Labour did much better than expected. My hunch is Boris Johnson's party will win a comfortable majority of seats because the core working class electorate have lost all faith in Labour, but I doubt the resulting managerial team will do much to protect British workers from the excesses of globalism. I hope the government's ineptitude may oddly strengthen the resilience of ambitious youngsters as they realise the state will not help them fulfil their dreams and thus avoid succumbing to a prevailing culture of victimhood and entitlement.
We may well see another shift among the affluent managerial and business classes from the Tories to the misnamed Liberal Democrats (or the illiberal unDemocrats as I call them), while many traditional Labour voters either sit at home, strategically vote Conservative or flirt with the Brexit Party to keep out Labour, whom they now see as the party of unlimited mass migration, toxic identity politics and undeliverable spending commitments. However, in Scotland Labour will lose out not only to the Conservatives, but to a resurgent SNP capitalising on fashionable anti-English sentiment. They see Brexit as the brainchild of English Tories eager to resurrect the British Empire. If we assume current polling is correct, the political map of mainland Britain will be split into four. The Tories will dominate English shires and towns, the Liberal Democrats will do well in the most affluent neighbourhoods, while Labour will keep most of its metropolitan strongholds among its special victim groups, welfare-dependents, social engineers and trendy students. By contrast, owing to the vagaries of the First Past the Post system, Nicola Sturgeon's cult movement look set to snap up most Scottish seats, as the anti-SNP vote is too evenly split. The Brexit Party will be lucky to gain 1 or 2 seats in former UKIP strongholds, but they may succeed only in letting Labour hold on to a few more marginals.
The ongoing Brexit saga amid yet another General Election with very uninspiring choices has revealed two unwelcome realities. First most nation states have limited independence from global banks and corporations, supranational institutions and a well-funded network of nominally independent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) posing as humanitarian charities. Second, and perhaps more important, it has exposed what our ruling classes really think about democracy. If they cannot persuade the great unwashed masses to endorse their social engineering plans by electing a bunch of middle managers who will cooperate with the agents of change, they will destabilise your country and have you begging for their intervention.
Whatever the relative merits of the European Union may be, the outcome represented a huge kick in the backside for the metropolitan elite, who for decades have presided over the steady transfer of power from time-honoured local institutions to more remote international entities in the name of progress. Let us be under no illusions the EU is only a means to an end, not the end itself. There are many good reasons to welcome close cooperation among Europe's disparate peoples to protect our cultural heritage and defend us against the worst excesses of what we once viewed as neoliberal globalism, especially as a counterbalance to the North American and Chinese models with their extreme forms of plutocracy. Just 15 years ago in the aftermath of the joint US and UK occupation of Iraq, many of us wanted to distance ourselves from the British and American foreign policy establishment. Many of us hoped a Europe Community of independent peace-loving and democratic nation states with strong protections both for personal freedom and social justice could offer an alternative to Anglo-American capitalism.
While many other countries appeared insecure and in imminent danger of fragmentation, civil war and greater subjugation to imperial forces, Britain seemed impervious. Only the Northern Irish conflict ever posed a security threat, although behind the scenes the British Civil Service has long viewed the province as more of a burden than a strategic asset. Scottish and Welsh nationalism remained relatively tame disputes, quibbling mainly about the extent of autonomy within the United Kingdom. Few thought any major part of the UK would join another major superstate. The Republic of Ireland has since its inception remained steadfastly neutral, so even if Northern Ireland voted to join the Republic, there would be no fundamental shift in the balance of power. Leaving aside widespread opposition to the deployment of the Trident nuclear missiles in Faslane just northwest of Glasgow, Scotland has long been way too reliant on tight integration with the British military industrial complex for mainstream politicians to advocate military independence from the rest of the UK and from NATO, although this was the official SNP position until 2012.
Before around 2012 the European issue seemed very much off the radar. Transnational bodies like the EU, NATO and the UN were just facts of our increasingly internationalised lives, but not things we felt affected our everyday lives. Broadly speaking most Europeans opposed further centralisation preferring to keep control of economic, social and military policy at a more accountable national level, but many still believed our politicians somehow represented our interests at various international gatherings. We saw this in referendums in Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Denmark where voters rejected new treaties (respectively of Nice and Lisbon) only to see their votes either ignored or to be forced to vote again after cosmetic changes. However, we could also argue that the public have grown so disillusioned with the sorry state of national politics that they'd rather place their trust in shiny new progressive institutions that transcend traditional boundaries. For decades the establishment media has tried to persuade Europeans that they can trust the EU and NATO more than their local regimes with their chequered history of corruption and despotism. In the early 1970s not only was most of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain, but Greece, Spain and Portugal still had military dictatorships appealing to traditional Christian values to ward off the dual dangers of Eastern communism and Western decadence. Not surprisingly millions of younger Europeans welcomed the fall of these paternalistic regimes and embraced a new era of mass consumerism combined with a comfortable social safety net. While millions of Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese may be critical of the budgetary constraints imposed on their governments to keep alive the Euro, they still tend to associate the EU with the greater prosperity they've enjoyed since the 1980s. The situation in Britain is very different. The golden era of the British working classes was the 1950s and 60s. Sure we lacked many of the modern conveniences made more affordable by recent technological progress, e.g. many had outside toilets, coal fires instead of central heating and cars were still a luxury for many, but what mattered most is that the relative quality of life was steadily improving with a high level of upwards social mobility. A typical school leaver could aspire to getting a decent skilled job as an apprentice and earn enough to be able to marry, buy a house and start a family by his or her mid to late twenties, all without welfare handouts. We hoped progress would empower families to lead more independent lives while still enjoying the fruits of a civil society with a high degree of social trust and mutual respect. Little did we know that many of our mission-critical jobs would be first outsourced and then automated as big business had to rein in the collective bargaining power of trade unions. The long-drawn-out demise of British industry, kept on life support during the 1970s, weakened the resolve and resilience of the working classes, blamed for demanding unmerited pay rises, being too lazy and lacking the industriousness of their European and Japanese colleagues. Yet to this day, many observers simply blame Thatcher for turning off the life support machine that squandered countless billions on trying to save outdated industries that could not survive the challenge of global competition able not only to tap into a seemingly limitless supply of cheap labour, but to quickly close or retool outdated manufacturing facilities with little regard to job security.
I noticed even as long ago as the 1979 General Election that saw Margaret Thatcher's Tories win a healthy majority of seats, Labour had begun to shift its focus from standing up for workers' rights to championing welfare and public services. Thatcher managed to appeal to the aspirational working classes, the kind of people who wanted to own a house, drive a car, holiday in Spain and earn a decent living through a career in the growing service sector. While some workers adapted and some new light manufacturing outfits took the place of heavy industry, many youngsters in Labour's working class heartlands outside the more prosperous South East of England inherited the helplessness of their parents who had failed to adapt and thus became trapped on welfare or short-term jobs in call centres leading inevitably to dysfunctional households and social dislocation. Nonetheless a major rebranding effort saved the Labour Party as it embraced Thatcherite reforms, the information revolution and pop culture while promising not to raise taxes. I was an early sceptic of Blairite Magic. Somehow his soundbites lacked substance or analytical integrity, but one slogan stuck in my mind "Education, Education, Education". If you believed the hype, we were on the verge of a quantum leap in scientific excellence. The next generation would become talented doctors, inventors, bioscientists, software developers and robotics engineers. Alas very few did, but many more became recruiters, public relations officers, graphic designers, creative directors or worked on the peripheries of emerging high-tech industries in new-fangled specialisations such as forensic science or environmental science, learning how to engage with technologies that someone else developed to monitor other people's behaviour, market goods or ensure minimum healthy and safety standards. With such a dearth of tech-savvy innovators and entrepreneurs, British professionals have focused mainly on people management and persuasion, a sector encompassing not only advertising, public relations and entertainment, but behaviour and attitude modification through charities and education. For every engineer developing new technology to help us solve practical environmental challenges, there are many more climate change awareness officers or busy bodies lecturing parents on how to deal with tantrums without smacking. The net result is a dual culture of dependence, either on state handouts or on corporate largesse, and greatly reduced personal resilience. The first Blair government famously rebranded Britain as Cool Britannia, more about rock stars than scientific pioneers. Now the last gasp of British cultural innovation has been co-opted by the multibillion dollar entertainment industry and blended into a global culture disconnected from the specific locales of post-imperial suburban Britain. In the same period Global English has begun its shift from a high-status international language modelled on standard British or American English to a rapidly mutating form of NewSpeak inspired by a worldwide intelligentsia with little reference to the speech patterns of the transient residents of London or New York City. Native speakers have thus lost the relative advantage they once had over those who acquired the language later in life.
As a historical paradox the country that has given the world its dominant lingua franca now suffers from an acute identity crisis as progressive opinion leaders attempt to deny there is such a thing as a native English person. This mirrors trends in other European countries with almost identical claims going mainstream in Germany and Sweden too. National identity for many in cosmopolitan areas has been reduced to mere temporary allegiance to your country of residence in occasional sporting events.
What's left of Britishness anyway?
Many Ulster unionists are none too happy about Boris Johnson's deal to keep their province in regulatory alignment with the EU's Customs Union and Single Market with customs checks in the Irish Sea rather than along the meandering border with the Republic of Ireland. Increasingly only the Democratic Unionist Party defend traditional values, while Sinn Fein, claiming to represent the Catholic community, has recently endorsed positions on gay marriage, LGBTQ-friendly sex education and abortion perfectly aligned with the cultural left, but at variance with Catholic teachings. However, a growing proportion of the younger generation identify neither with Protestantism nor Catholicism and are very open to unification with what has become a secular Ireland. The British Deep State seems more concerned about the perceived Russian threat than subsidising Northern Ireland.
The begs the question whether the CEOs of UK PLC really care that much about the constitutional status of Scotland, now they know a nominally independent Scotland would both stay in NATO and join the new European Defence Union. Universalist media outlets treat Nicola Sturgeon's SNP much more favourably than the Brexit Party or even the Tory Party.
However, I sense a split between the Atlanticist and Europhile wings of British intelligentsia. Recent statements from Emanuel Macron, Guy Verhofstadt and the EU's new President Ursula von der Leyen have revealed a gradual shift from a unified European military command working within NATO alongside the USA to a European Army taking over from the USA in global policing operations in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. More disturbing is the growing hostility among the Western European elites towards Russia. In just a few years neo-conservative war hawks have shifted their lobbying operations from Washington DC to Brussels. To match US military spending, the Europe Union would have to double spending, something that would be very unpopular at a national level, but could only be justified by the spectre of a Russian and/or Chinese threat. Even if Trump is re-elected in 2020, US military adventurism has peaked. The federal government can no longer justify such a massive defence budget when they have bigger challenges at home with rapidly changing demographics. It's only a matter of time before someone like Tulsi Gabbard or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez becomes the president of a debt-ridden federation in a post-dollar world order, dominated by the Chinese and Indian economies.
Without Scotland and Ulster, England and Wales would be a very disunited place with London behaving more and more like a city state divorced from its geographic hinterland and parallel communities in many other towns and cities.
In all likelihood Boris Johnson's BRINO or Brexit In Name Only will avert Scottish Independence for a few years before other events overshadow it, Ulster quietly merges with a post-Christian Eire and the Scots turn against the SNP. Meanwhile continental Europe will struggle to cope with the fast pace of cultural and demographic metamorphosis, a looming banking crisis and an escalation of the civil unrest that has spread across France over the last year. We may just be able to salvage a federation of the British Isles, but with waning faith in traditional British institutions such as Monarchy (and far be it from me to comment on Prince Andrew's close friendship with American sex predator Jeffrey Epstein) this island seems ripe for Balkan-style destabilisation with the people's splat over Brexit serving as a trial run for a much deeper conflict over culture, identity and power.