HP Source: Standing alone, or simply isolated?
We Don’t Need this Fascist Groove Thing, 12th November 2020: Standing alone, or simply isolated?
‘I am the world’s forgotten boy
The one who searches and destroys..’
In the aftermath of the most unpleasant US election in history the column passes it heartfelt congratulations to Joe Biden on defeating the monster, and wishes Donald Trump many things, none of which are pleasant!
We start by considering the impact of a Biden presidency on the UK, followed by looking at what the future might hold for Trump, Trumpism, and acolytes such as Nigel Farage in the UK.
By losing Trump as his opposite number, Boris the Brexiter has lost his soul mate. Like Trump, Johnson is a ‘disrupter’ intent on tearing up and rewriting the rules of the game (and of international law) and attacking various parts of the British Establishment (the Courts, the civil service, the BBC, among others).
Boris the Brexiter has lost his soul mate
There is no relationship to speak of between Johnson and Biden, albeit that Biden’s once described Johnson as the ‘physical and emotional clone of Donald Trump’.
Obviously Johnson is keen not to disappoint the newly elected president, and has immediately put himself on a collision course with his administration after Downing Street said it would press ahead with legislation designed to override the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.
This is despite the Lords voting 433 to 165 to remove measures that seek to ‘disapply’ parts of the Northern Ireland protocol; measures that Biden has said would put the Good Friday agreement at risk.
Just before the vote result came in Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, warned that there would be no Brexit trade deal if the UK passed a bill ‘designed to break international law’.
Northern Irish peer Lord Empey blamed the ‘mess’ on Boris Johnson’s decision to opt for the border down the Irish Sea last year, a decision Ken Clarke said was one of the most ‘inferior’ options available to the government, which, he said, was now acting like a dictatorship to remedy its errors. No 10 reacted to the defeat by saying: ‘We will retable these clauses when the bill returns to the Commons.’
This is confirmation that Johnson et al are a one policy party, ‘Get Brexit done’, and damn any consequences. With Trump gone, Johnson has lost his transatlantic cheerleader, not only does Biden view him as Trump 2, there is the picture of Gove grinning, thumbs-up, with Trump with their mentor, Rupert Murdoch, lurking in the background.
Lest we forget Murdoch can be a fair-weather friend, he dumped John Major for Tony Blain when the latter looked certain to win in 1996, and he did the same to Trump past week.
Murdoch’s publishing empire played a key role in the outcome of the Brexit referendum in 2016, today public opinion is changing: when asked ‘in hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?’ people say ‘wrong’ by 54% to 46%.
Johnson is now at an inflection point
Johnson is now at an inflection point; he either opts for a hard Brexit to appease the Eurosceptics in his own party and incurs the wrath of a hawkish Farage waiting in the wings to keep Brexit ‘true’, or he appeases Biden by abandoning the internal markets bill and ensuring that goods entering Northern Ireland will meet EU standards so the Irish border stays open.
One of the key tenets of Brexit was trade, freedom to negotiate our own deals, with the US replacing the EU open markets. Beyond seeing Johnson as Trump II, Biden is also catholic, proud of Irish ancestry, he was a key player in the peace process, he invited Gerry Adams to the US against British wishes, which proved to be a pivotal point in the IRA turning away from violence. Reneging on the Northern Ireland protocol now would make the UK a pariah.
Therefore, by appeasing Biden we end-up with a watered-down Brexit. Also, what is the point of leaving the EU if signing a trade deal means obeying their food, environment, work, and animal welfare standards?
Why submit to their courts ensuring a level playing field for business subsidies without a voice in those rules?
Reneging on the Northern Ireland protocol now would make the UK a pariah
In fact, what is the point to Brexit? In effect, it was a series of lies fed to Little Englanders bolstered by the disaffection of those feeling ‘left behind’.
There is no ‘oven–ready’ easiest deal in history.
The referendum was over 4-years ago yet our importers, exporters, manufacturers, hauliers, the professions and financiers still don’t know what rules, tariffs, quotas, licences, certificates, data or paperwork they’ll require: government webinars list possible options. The National Audit Office warned last week that our borders faced ‘a risk of widespread disruption’.
There is a second question to ask about how we leave the EU; does Johnson care? Unlike, Farage and well-known Tory Eurosceptics, Johnson’s conversion came at the time of the referendum, it smacks more of the opportunity presented by the cause, rather than belief in the cause.
‘He’s just trying to tell a vision.
But some thought that this was sad..’
The grand project that Brexit presented with its promises of sovereignty and greatness was ideal for Johnson’s sensitivities, the reality, which is customs declarations and standards certifications aren’t.
The compromises required to keep healthy relations with other EU and a pro-EU America does not meet Eurosceptics dreams of purest sovereignty.
As above, it appears that Johnson must appease either his backbenchers and Farage, or the US and its new president.
However, this ignores the wonders of populism which can provide a win-win situation. Before we continue, there is another possibility, i.e. that Trump somehow overturns the result of the election.
If this were to happen his administration would be totally discredited, with the country likely to descend into civil war; any trade deal would be worthless.
Johnson must appease either his backbenchers and Farage, or the US and its new president
If Johnson seeks to appease Biden and the EU, even with a poor deal, it would allow Johnson to claim a victory, proving the naysayers wrong, allowing him to bask in the glory of delivering in 10-months what they said would take 10 years.
If it goes the other way and we have No Deal, then its scapegoat time. Our sovereignty is sacred, we are a great country and can plough our own furrow.
A row with Brussels could suit him, distracting MPs from his botched handling of the pandemic which has alienated so many that even an 80-seat majority is no cushion against Commons defeat. Even the US might fall into line as Brexit is only a part of the transatlantic partnership, areas such as security policy, mediated by agencies and institutions will carry on regardless of the leaders.
Despite this bigger picture, Johnson’s avowed intention to repudiate the Northern Ireland protocol which Biden views as sabotaging the Good Friday agreement, and Biden’s dislike of Brexit could see Washington taking Dublin’s side as the underdog, being bullied by Britain turned rogue.
With Trump gone the idea that a US trade deal replaces the loss of access to EU markets is history. Any deal with the US deal is now predicated on reaching agreement with the EU. This is what Johnson must sell to the Eurosceptics; compromise with the EU is the price we must pay to reach Brexit’s holy grails.
the idea that a US trade deal replaces the loss of access to EU markets is history
Of course, should the EU overplay their US trump card, Johnson will not be afraid of No Deal, the outcome he most wants to avoid is one where the mess is no one’s fault but his own, whereas No Deal provides the opportunity to blame France, and, or, the EU. Something his supporters will empathise with.
And, from No Deal we turn to Nigel Farage, a man who seems destined to be a thorn-in-the-side of the Conservatives, and the launch of his new party, Reform UK.
Whist Farage has decided that pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns will be Reform’s first hobby horse, don’t expect him to take any compromise deal with the EU laying down. He will be out there in true John Bull style rattling the sabre for Queen, Country, and Empire, demanding we leave with No Deal.
Speaking about the current Covid-19 lockdown, he said, ‘I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again … the cure is now worse than the disease,’ Farage said, adding that there was no ‘political voice’ articulating this. ‘Well, I think that may change very soon,’ he concluded the video.
His argument centred on the Great Barrington Declaration – signed by a group of scientists and medics who advocate the quarantining of those at high risk, with no restrictions for anyone else. Farage also heralded ‘herd immunity’, despite the lack of science showing this could end the pandemic, although he does seem to have forgotten that in March, he criticised the government’s own alleged support for herd immunity!
Farage maybe attacking the Tories weaknesses, however, there is a bigger picture which goes back to his UKIP days, which looks to the success of the radical Reform Party in Canada in the 1980s.
In Canada, Reform attacked the traditional centre-right party, the Progressive Conservatives, with plans for sweeping tax cuts, tougher law-and-order policies and more direct democracy through referendums, as well as opposing multiculturalism. Sound familiar? The party’s argument was framed around the need for reform of institutions such as Canada’s senate, much like Farage’s calls for the House of Lords.
Reform outgrew the Progressive Conservatives, and in 2003 merged with them to form today’s Conservative party of Canada.
UKIP considered this model, too, e.g. in the 2015 election, the example of Canada’s Reform party influenced UKIP’s manifesto. Some members were pushing hard for UKIP to go in this more radical right direction, and right-wing Conservatives including Michael Fabricant and Daniel Hannan were, according to Matthew Goodwin’s Ukip: Inside the Campaign to Redraw the Map of British Politics, even calling for an alliance between the two parties.
The Brexit party may have not won seats in the 2019 general election, but by standing down in key Tory constituencies he pushed Johnson’s Conservative party hard to the right. In addition, Johnson withdrew the whip from 21 moderate Tories who had drawn the ire of Farage and had been targeted as ‘remainers’ by Arron Banks’s Leave.EU. This shift to the right alienated many traditional Tory donors, leaving them increasingly dependent on a smaller number of big-money donors and libertarian-minded hedge-fund managers. Farage’s long-term goal of reshaping the British right seems very much on course.
Farage’s plans such as this to radicalise the political right always had a transatlantic link, hence his friendship with Trump, who, whilst he may have been defeated still secured 70m votes. The election was not a defeat for Trumpism.
I believe he will ape Farage and create his own party
Should Trump ‘accept’ defeat, I believe he will ape Farage and create his own party. Both will sit in the wings as agitators ready to pounce and take their place at the top table. Remarkably, the situation in almost identical in both countries; a small nucleus of right-wing loonies, with the rump of their support coming from those left behind.
A good example of those left behind can be found in Cornwall, which was covered in a television program over the weekend. It featured real Cornish people discussing their situation, the unaffordability of housing, low wages, and poverty.
The man who runs one of the largest food banks in the country pointed to a beach and said many of the local kids have never been because their families can’t afford to take them. The only ‘jobs’ now are seasonal and poorly paid, those wanting a career leave.
‘This’s the kinda place where no one cares
What your livin for..’
This is a situation echoed in many towns and regions across the UK, with little being done to ensure meaningful growth outside the London sphere.
Successive governments from either party have failed to treat Regional Policy as critically important to the wellbeing of the country.
The situation in the US is no different which is why Trumpism survives. Back in 2012, when Obama won his second term in office, the press reported Republicans as if they were dinosaurs, out-of-date and soon to be extinct, welcome to a future slew of Democratic administrations.
Only, for many it wasn’t like that, towns like Pittsburgh, which was built on the steel industry were fast declining. As one young graduate wrote, ‘I don’t think I’m ever going to earn as much as my parents. I don’t think my husband and I will ever have the same life as they did.’
Other areas such as Pennsylvania, often seen as the home of blue-collar aristocracy and true-blue Democrats, have seen industry and manufacturing shrink in the face of overseas trade deals.
These so-called rustbelt states are the ones that deliver Trump the White House in 2016. These, like the ‘red wall’ in the UK, are not traditional Republican states, but Trump realised that a new electoral coalition could be forged out of downwardly mobile white voters. ‘The people that have been ignored, neglected and abandoned,’ he called them in Ohio in 2016. ‘I am your voice.’
a new electoral coalition could be forged out of downwardly mobile white voters
And, just as Johnson was to do in 2019, he completed the great inversion of American politics, turning the Republicans into a party whose future is tied to those left behind.
Unfortunately, all the promises were forgotten once he became president, and he handed out billions in tax cuts to rich people and tried to deprive millions of low-paid Americans of decent healthcare. All he offered the poor whites he seduced into voting for him was racism.
The Brookings Instute analysed the data from last week’s election and found that the 477 large and densely populated counties won by Biden accounted for 70% of America’s economy, whereas Trump’s base of 2,497 counties amount to just 29%. (1)
Between 2010 and 2019, the US created nearly 16m new jobs, but only 55,000 of them were suitable for those who left school at 16. (1)
Two economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, have found that working-age white men and women without degrees are dying of drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide at unprecedented rates. In 2017 alone, they calculated that there were 158,000 of these ‘deaths of despair’. (1)
There are very real problems in both the UK and US. In either country the traditional two-parties have consistently failed to address these issues, leaving many people feeling left behind.
It is these people that agitators such as Farage and Trump will continue to target, both will continue to flourish using the traditional media and social media to incite and influence their followers.
There might not be a place for their extremism, but its hard to argue that there isn’t a need for change, the current situation is unsustainable.
‘Don’t feel too hurt
As distance heals the strongest pain
Things are much better now..’
- The Guardian, 12-11-2020
Another hard hitting piece from Philip this week, and a reminder of just how quickly some things can change, while others stay the same – this time last week we had no vaccine for Covid-19, now we have hope; this time last week The Donald was president and, er, still is.
However, assuming the incumbent can be lured out of the White House with a massive cheese burger, in just a couple of short months President Biden could be peering over his specs at a proposed trade deal for the ‘newly sovereign’ UK, and not liking what he sees; as ‘Our-Harold’ put it, a week is indeed a long time in politics.
Shortly before Boris gets to deliver what he had hoped would be the Brexit money shot, the wheels are apparently coming off – Sleepy Joe is becoming more Irish by the hour, Cummings is going and Farage is humping his leg.
Over a number of months Philip has highlighted the parallels between the twin populist blond bombshells, surfing on an apparently unstoppable wave of the left-behinds; however, the tide’s gone out revealing an awful lot of raw sewage.
Where Trump changed the politics of the rust belt, Boris clambered over the red wall; however, the downwardly mobile white voters that had been ‘ignored, neglected and abandoned’ remain so. Will they go back to their roots or seek a more radical solution to redress the unfairness of the situation they find themselves in? Only time will tell.
A big week for lyric spotters this week – an unusually generous 33 points up for grabs; mandatory recounts for those achieving 35 and above.
First off the rank ‘the definitive track of what people say is the first punk album’ – 3 pts for The Stooges, 3 pts for ‘Search and Destroy’ and a 3 pt bonus for naming the producer*.
Next, ‘1975 New York postpunk debut single that signalled a way forward for those in the UK’ – 3 pts for Television, 3 pts for ‘Little Johnny Jewel and a bonus 3 for ‘the singers original bandmate who went on to form another definitive punk band’**.
Then ‘a mix of the Stones and Bowie on heroin, or as whiperin’ Bob said, “mockrock”; 3 pts for New York Dolls, 3 pts for ‘Jet Boy’ and a further bonus 3 for ‘the English member of the punk establishment who managed them’***.
Lastly, ‘the singer was never so cool when he cut his hair’ – 3 pts for The Human League and ‘Mirror Man’. Enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s