People are rightly angry about “partygate” — but moves to make it easier to scrap EU protections and “unleash the benefits of Brexit” imply things are more serious than this.
The widespread anger at lockdown-breaking parties at Downing St in May 2020 is justified. But it is also a surprise that anyone is surprised. Johnson’s unsuitability for high office has been obvious (at least) since his time as Foreign Secretary. John Major has described Brexit as “the worst foreign policy mistake of my lifetime”: partygate, serious though it is, pales in comparison beside that.
As “Partygate” comes to its (first) climax there’s the announcment of a “Brexit freedom bill” (to unwind EU-derived law), and the front page of the Daily Express says “Boris vows to ‘unleash the benefits of Brexit’”.
I can’t be the only person who years echoes in that of “unleash the dogs of war” — a corruption of “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war” in Shakespear’s Julius Caesar. Not a good omen.
Anger is a pretty raw emotion. I suspect that what is being expressed around “partygate” includes pent-up frustrations over Covid, worry over the economic situation, anxiety over empty supermarket shelves, and fears over the direction of Brexit.
Continue reading ““Partygate” and authoritarianism: a bigger problem than the breaking of lockdown rules”
The case for impeaching Trump seems overwhelming: but is it wise? The risk is that it inflames division and creates a future for Trumpsim.
Watching a documentary about the rise of Nazism on the weekend before Biden’s inauguration, I am struck by historical echoes.
I don’t buy the idea that Hitler “magically” cast a spell over the German people. In another time he might have been a failed artist ranting on a street corner, ignored by passers-by. The point is that his words struck a chord. They gave form to a range of not-quite-articulated grievances.
In another blog post I tried out the idea of “quasi-religious” support for Brexit, suggesting that some of the Brexiteer myths got support because they focussed people’s anxieties. An obvious example is immigration. “Immigrants taking out job” and “immigrants scrounging our benefits” don’t work together: an immigrant can’t be both taking our jobs and our benefits. They don’t make economic sense either — as the evidence is that the economic activity of immigrants boosts the economy. But the myth of “immigrants taking our jobs/benefits” might well resonate for people living with lack, who don’t hear their experience reflected in the words of political leaders. The problem is that the words are not on the lips of political leaders because things are more complex than that — which is heard as “politicians don’t care”. I’m mentioning Brexit, but one of the Hitler echoes is that there never was a “Jewish problem”, but it was a shorthand for issues that were more complex. Using that shorthand might have had an emotional appeal, but it did no more than enable immense suffering.
Continue reading “The Trump legacy: a reminder from history, and a mammoth task for Biden”