Cocking a Snook

It looks like something out of Dominic Cummings’s playbook; though it’s a pretty obvious idea, and is probably in The Prince too. Get all your most outrageous actions in at the very beginning of your reign, so that they’ll be less fresh in the minds of your public when the time comes for it to renew your contract – at the next General Election, in Britain’s case. It’s also a neat trick to do them all over Christmas, when people are otherwise distracted.

The particular actions I’m thinking of are the peerage granted to the Tory (and racist) millionaire Zac Goldsmith as his reward for losing three elections in a row in London; the knighthood bestowed on Ian Duncan Smith, widely seen on the Left as the architect of ‘Universal Credit’, and hence the murderer – or at least the manslaughterer – of tens of thousands of poor, sick people deprived of their social security, in the interests (of course) of ‘austerity’; and – less materially, but significant symbolically – Boris’s jetting off anti-environmentally with his new girlfriend to celebrate Christmas on a private island in the Caribbean, while Jeremy stays at home to help the poor in his London constituency. To this we might add Jacob Rees-Mogg’s hypocritical tweet welcoming the birth of a ‘Saviour’ who would have cast him  out of the temple at first sight. Can anyone imagine any of this ten years – or even one year – ago? It looks like a deliberate provocation, cocking a snook in the direction of the rest of us, born of post-election triumphalism and the arrogance of Johnson’s class; reminding us all of that infamous Bullingdon Club photograph of the lot of them, secure in a sense of inherited privilege that most people believed democracy had knocked out of them. You can see from that that they just don’t care.


There are also broad hints already of more substantial changes to follow: caving in to the United States over food standards, for example; undoing protective labour legislation; tying foreign aid to foreign policy; re-writing the British constitution to give a prime minister less fettered powers; and so on. All these new policies have been clearly signalled in recent weeks. They may come in very soon, for the same reason as those other outrages: to get them done before people can recover and rally against them. The last one in particular – coupled with Boris’s overt appeal to the new international tide of nationalist ‘populism’, and the recent entry into the Conservative party, if reports are to be believed, of 5000 acknowledged neo-Fascists ( – bodes ill for the survival of whatever scraps of ‘democracy’ we still retain. It may even presage a peculiarly British form of Fascism. That used to be dismissed as a paranoid fantasy. It can’t be any more.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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2 Responses to Cocking a Snook

  1. “Get all your most outrageous actions in at the very beginning of your reign, so that they’ll be less fresh in the minds of your public when the time comes for it to renew your contract – at the next General Election, in Britain’s case.”

    This perspective might unfortunately belong to an outmoded phase of politics. If the Trump presidency is any guide, ‘outrageous actions’ need not be hidden away at all. Instead they are politically popular means of entertaining the base by provoking the virtuous left. Trump and Johnson – together with their equivalents in Russia, Hungary, Poland, Brazil etc. – show off their power by proving they can easily transgress the norms that have previously restrained weaker mortals.

    The last decades have demonstrated that the owners of capital can get away with flagrant and outrageous excesses – which are well documented in Adam Tooze’s ‘Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World’ – and now politics is catching up.

    I wish you well for 2020, Bernard.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony says:

    All true, but the reason why Johnson will be so difficult to prise out of Downing Street are in Helen Thompson’s perceptive New Statesman article, in which she shows how much of a ‘pagan’ he is, entirely without principle or any known ethical base, and dedicated to achieving and remaining in power. He may be entirely purposeless apart from that, but Cummings and the ideologues in his cabinet will have other intentions. Like Trump, this populist does not mind making a fool of himself, because underneath is the beating heart of a narcissistic egoist, possibly a sociopath, who will be difficult to counter in conventional political ways. But government are helpless before external and uncontrollable events, of which Brexit is the most important and which may determine the fate of the government over the next five years, and Labours.


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