So the Tories’ newly appointed Director General of the BBC is pulling a popular satirical TV show because it’s too left-wing (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9354927/BBC-axes-left-wing-satire-Mash-Report-presenter-Nish-Kumar-hits-back.html). This comes on top of the (Tory) Home Secretary’s bringing in new draconian laws against peaceful (but noisy) political demonstrations (https://www.politics.co.uk/comment/2021/03/11/silencing-black-lives-matter-priti-patels-anti-protest-law/?cmpredirect), and this shortly after she had been forced to settle a case against her of bullying, at the cost – to the public – of £340,000: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2021/03/why-do-politicians-keep-getting-away-scandal; the PM’s refusing to correct a downright lie – among many – in the House of Commons (https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-slapped-down-speaker-23681360); and the High Court’s adjudging the government to have acted illegally in granting Covid-related contracts to Conservative Party donors (https://dpglaw.co.uk/high-court-declares-government-acted-unlawfully-in-its-ppe-procurement/). All this in the last week alone; and probably much else besides.
With the Government’s Commons majority of 80 having been won by rank deception; all decent Tories having been effectively expelled from the Party; the official Opposition demoralised and toothless – Corbyn’s teeth having been pulled by the Tories’ propaganda agencies; 80% of the press in the hands of proto-Fascists; and Ministers setting aside Britain’s centuries-old democratic ‘checks and balances’ in order to force through Parliament their Right-wing agenda: Johnson seems to be on a roll. He’s had an extraordinary run of luck recently, especially with the coronavirus, on which he can lay the blame for the effects of Brexit – that together, of course, with the evil EU, which his tame Press is still stoking up popular hatred against.
Or has it all been, not luck, but a deep-laid plot? Not the virus, of course; but the moves – including Brexit – that have allowed the Tory Right to pursue its neo-Thatcherite late-stage exploitative-capitalist program with impunity: impoverishing the poor, protecting the tax havens of the rich, stirring up xenophobia, and giving Israel a free hand against the Palestinians – and the Saudis weapons to use against the Yemenis. In almost any other period of British history any one of these scandals could have been impeachable, by one means or another. In this new situation Johnson, despite his blatant inadequacies and character flaws, must feel that he and his mates can now do whatever they like; unless, of course, the present situation is only temporary, and turns against them. The fear of that must be why they’re in such a rush. Strike while the iron is hot. They might not get another chance to complete the not-quite-finished Thatcher revolution, and turn Britain into the essentially Fascist state – though of course it wouldn’t be called that – it seems to be headed towards. From my viewpoint, self-isolating in the frozen but sensible North, it looks dispiriting, to say the least. Does it really feel like this in Cardiff or Colchester or Clackmannan or Coleraine? Or are they inured to it? Or simply blind? Or ignorant? Or apathetic? Or deceived by the propaganda? Or all of these? – Or am I wrong?
Kajsa thinks I shouldn’t go back. She’s also cross about Britain’s stealing the EU’s Covid vaccines away from us. (Is that true? We still haven’t had our jabs; our local vårdcentral tells us it’s run out of them.) I’m more worried generally, about what is becoming of the once-beloved country of my birth. It has always had its dark underside, of course: exploitation of workers, poverty, homelessless, gross inequalities, shocking treatment of Ireland, Enoch Powell, Eton College, perfidy in its foreign relations, much (not all) of what went on in the Empire; and plenty of other stuff. But Britain – and especially, perhaps, Wales and Scotland – also used to have some brighter aspects: literature, science, enterprise, the welfare state, the NHS, a kind of democracy, liberalism (before that became ‘neo’), toleration (of immigrants, even), cricket, humour, village churches, religious nonconformity, a thriving social-democratic movement: all those things celebrated in Danny Boyle’s glorious 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. That seems to have been a turning point. There’s not been much to celebrate since then.
For the moment I’m seeking a mental refuge in the past: 1838 to be precise, when ‘my’ Samuel Laing, the Liberal Orcadian, visited Stockholm while it was in the middle of a controversy over Press freedom, with an editor being sentenced to death for criticizing the King, provoking popular riots. In the end the editor – one Magnus Jacob Crusenstolpe – won. Laing’s foreign take on that is interesting. So I thought I’d write it up. It’ll take me back to a far more hopeful historical era. Laing thought they were on the Road to Heaven then. Ah, to live in equally dark, but crucially more optimistic, times!