‘No more distressing moment can ever face a British government than that which requires it to come to a hard and fast and specific decision.’
– Barbara W Tuchman in The Guns of August (1962)
I recall reading of the death of Barbara Tuchman in 1989 and later reading some of her work in the early 90s. Her comment on the British paralysis in 1914 was among the many incisive observations that earned her the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for her writing about men.
All through this time of reactive politics in Britain over Brexit and Covid-19 I’ve been wondering why the indecisiveness seemed so familiar. Then it came to me, it’s just more of the same 1914 thinking. If the view of today’s world is coloured by the imagined glories of an imperial past, it makes sense that the current thinking would be similar to that of the admired era. A century of social development not withstanding. Which is my way of saying that Britain is in regressive mode, that Britain appears to be redefining itself in an image of a former self without peer review while under the influence of hack journalists turned dilettante politicians.
It’s been a tough year for the British cabinet, 2020, no doubt. But soon they’ll have their desire and be adrift from Europe. The donkeys at the tiller will continue to guide the lions (harking back to the Crimea) of their nation with false hopes, on a diet of lies wrapped in historical revisionism. They’ll be struggling to prevent a citizen’s revolt and avoiding Starmer taking charge, unsure which is least-worst for the Tory party. Thinking of Hilaire Belloc’s advice in Jim, to ‘Always keep a-hold of nurse for fear of finding worse’, I wonder if ‘nurse’ has become cherished memory reimagined rather than fraught union with Europe.
Among the current difficulties, as if fishing was ever a real issue, perhaps someone should ask why British fishing industry sold their fishing licences to Johnny Foreigner.
It’ll be hard to increase arms sales from 25% of national earnings without significant consumption in foreign lands. But they’ll be free of those truly dreadful Europeans who are making it hard to sell weapons of mass destruction to countries where human rights are compromised? Of course, the fishing fleet might need a navy to protect it so perhaps this is why fisheries sovereignty matter to PM Johnson.
If UK tax doesn’t rise to pay for ten years of post-partum haemorrhage, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But I expect they’ll use revisionism to blame Covid and the Europeans who made it hard to do a decent deal.
By then England might not have to worry about the perfidy of Scotland, the beggary from Belfast and the unemployed Welsh. The English may have decided that internal unions are luxuries as expensive as they once thought was their membership of the European version. Perhaps it’s all good news for Jersey and their island economy will boom as bankers move ascendency cash out of sight of The Exchequer?
Perhaps the English cabinet will have moved Parliament north to Dudley to save money and put all MPs on zero hours, two term maximum contracts after rescuing themselves and their mates using the politician protection programs of new identities in the House of Lords. On reflection, that’s the kind of self-affirming decision that should be easy.
But on departure without a deal, there will be serious collateral damage here in Ireland. Neither the British nor the Irish governments seems to be ready for the reality of Brexit nor Covid. Both are promising Christmas festivities for everyone and not saying much about Brexit for fear of compromising the negotiations. These are both quite irrational but perhaps I’m not taking into account the mental health of the citizens. Then again, a No Deal Brexit doesn’t do long term mental health much good either.
I predict No Deal and a third wave of Covid within days of the New Year.