It’s amazing and frightening what Johnson’s government is getting away with – being allowed to get away with – under cover of the pandemic and the football controversy, and on the back of a Parliamentary majority gained through lies and chicanery. First there was was its ‘extreme’ version of ‘Brexit’, pushed through against most people’s obvious wishes, with the results we’re beginning to see now. Secondly there was Priti Patel’s drastic limitation of the right to protest, which is usually regarded as a fundamental democratic liberty. Then there were the measures passed yesterday to facilitate privatisation in the NHS. After that came Priti Patel’s almost unbelievable – except it is Priti Patel – proposal to prosecute and imprison captains and ‘helmsmen’ of ships who dare to try to rescue drowning asylum seekers at sea; which goes against universally-accepted maritime law, as well as, of course, against any definition of morality. On top of all this there’s Johnson’s rampant inefficiency, cronyism and corruption. (Appointing an ex-Bullingdon chum to his Ethics Committee?! Is he serious?) Coming up, and well signposted in the last Tory Manifesto, are the limitations to Parliamentary and judicial scrutiny of legislation that Johnson and his cleverer Machiavels are no doubt working on now. Only the other day Parliament agreed to cut Britain’s foreign aid budget drastically. We know that Patel wants to bring the death penalty back – is that going to be in the next round?
Living just now in my own political asylum none of this is going to affect me directly, though I still feel depressed about its effect on the country I was brought up in, and whose virtues, I felt – if you can attribute ‘virtues’ to countries – always balanced out its defects. Like very many people in England just now, judging from their comments, I no longer recognise the nation I used to feel comfortable in, and – yes – even mildly ‘patriotic’ towards. I’ll be touching on that in the book I’m just now in the process of completing.
That is, if I’m allowed to. In order to do that I was planning to take a short trip back to Hull in September to check a few notes and references I can only access there – not through Google, for example – and which are fairly necessary to my apparatus criticus. (Or can I use the pandemic as an excuse?) The other day I felt encouraged by reading that travellers from Sweden to Britain would be allowed in without the need to quarantine, so long as they’ve had their two jabs: which I have, in Sweden (Pfizer). Then today I learned that the jabs would have to have been administered by the NHS. Can narrow nationalism get any more petty? None of those nasty foreign jabs! So I’m likely to stay in limbo for some time yet.
Well, there are worse limbos. And the longer I stay here, the more Swedish I’m beginning to feel. Which means British, but in the old way.