Sunday, 5 March 2017

Opting out from the British dance of death

The irrational triumphs.  Recusing yourself from expressing extended opinions is an attractive option when the idiots and the trolls have the upper hand.  The last month has been a protracted exercise in the insane and the deluded, but the new landscape is becoming clearer.  Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn coalesce in a bizarre, jelly-like treachery, bringing the day of the collapse of British politics and the United Kingdom construct closer to its dawning.

May has demonstrated both cynicism and unfitness to lead.  The manipulative mendacity of her "will of the people" mantra, repeated with the cretinous certainty of a toddler forming its first words, plays to a gallery of cynical puppet-masters, who see her as an easy Sooty.  The Dacres of this world are queuing up to get their hands dirty, her willingness to subvert democracy and even the constitution of the country of which she has claimed to take back control should result in impeachment and criminal liability.  Nobody is arguing that she should not enact the result of an advisory referendum, merely that the role and responsibilities of government are to provide leadership and not to hide behind a mob whose intentions are impossible to discern.

Whatever Jeremy Corbyn's motivations, it is hard to dissent from Nick Cohen's comparison in today's Observer.  In describing him as a "wombat-thigh ignoramus", this is fine invective, but it fails to capture the sheer insulated arrogance that he is bringing to the role.  

The passage of the Brexit bill is instructive - Labour surrendered any corporate responsibility to challenge and oppose.  Yet when the Lords amend the bill for simple humanitarian decency, Corbyn's apparatus tweets that this is some kind of triumph of leadership.  It will be fascinating to see what unravels next; had Labour's leadership stood up for the amendments to the legislation in the Commons it might have emboldened Tory rebels to force the pace.  With a surrendered, fellow-traveller leading the official Opposition it took both those parties and members with conscience and independence to make a token protest, and the unelected placepeople to raise the stakes.

Over the last two weekends both May and Corbyn have displayed their true colours in their strutting parasitism and xenophobic treatment of Scotland.  In both cases, the message has been that uppity subjects must submit to the numeric if not moral superiority of England.  Both leaders have, on the surface, been rattled by the success of the SNP and the potential for further independence campaigning.  In fact, their advisers are probably secretly delighted for diverging reasons.

The hollowness of the Tory and Labour adoption of the "devo max" pledge, given to stem the momentum in 2014 towards full independence, is clear.  May, her repulsive Scottish Secretary and her mini-me Scottish Tory leader, are making their contempt felt.  Corbyn, bizarrely abetted by the formerly-reasonable Sadiq Khan, was basically doing her dirty work by insisting that Scotland had to accept the "decision of the people".

Perhaps this is less surprising when the calculations of the party hacks are taken into account.  For May, the SNP phalanx that sits in the Commons is an obstacle - knowing that the toxicity of the Tory brand will not allow this to translate into any significant representation for her corrupt minions.  Scotland outside her remit would, thanks to a gerrymandered and inadequate electoral system, more or less guarantee far-right rule in perpetuity.  Every time she bleats about the "sacred Union" it needs to be seen through the prism of narrow Tory electoral advantage - they have no form of ever putting people before party.

For Corbyn, the issues are the same, but worse. Labour seems likely to be thrashed in the local government elections this year, for reasons not connected with Brexit primarily but with the revulsion at the Scottish Labour sense of entitlement and incompetence in government.  Why bother?  If you have no desire, and no strategy, to win a General Election, then you can maintain ideologically-pure soundbites while at the same time blocking the path to a genuinely radical politics.

Whatever happens in Northern Ireland with respect to government, tectonic plates are shifting in politics.  The decline in the Unionist majority has many causes, but it is part of a process that could lead to a much less tribal politics and potentially a bespoke solution (another part of the former UK that saw European engagement as an opportunity and a necessity rather than a threat).  The model here is of a different political outcome that does not accept the inevitability of a bipartisan carve-up.

Labour now face a future bleaker than the 1980s.  Marginalised in Scotland to the point of near-extinction, and with support fracturing, it is an incredible abdication of responsibility.  There is now an imperative both for self-preservation and the kind of collaborative politics that are required to remove an authoritarian, quasi-fascist traitor from power.  In this existential crisis, neither the status quo nor a monolithic future are feasible - but the ineptitude and abdication of Labour's leadership renders extra-party action requisite.  It won't save them in Scotland, nor does it deserve to.

Paradoxically, though, this is a time filled with potential.  For individuals and parties to take advantage the ground of pluralism, internationalism and social cohesion is not being contested fiercely.  For Liberals, Greens, civic nationalists and others, there is a chance to opt out from this collective suicide and start focusing on the corrupt, the venal and the incompetent rats who currently dominate both sides of the dinosaur polity.

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