Notes From the Margins…

Johnson and His Cabinet: A Confederacy of Bastards

  • July 25, 2019
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Watching Netflix’s documentary The Great Hack last night, I was struck by the ‘Breibart philosophy’ ascribed by one of its contributors to Steve Bannon, to the effect that it is necessary to destroy and break countries in order to be able to rebuild them on Bannonite lines.

Yesterday marks another milestone in our ongoing collapse as a serious country, that Bannon will surely take some satisfaction from in his ongoing ‘culture war.’

It was a day when 0.13 percent of the British population replaced the worst government in British history with the worst government in British history, when a politician with an unrivaled reputation as a liar and a charlatan devoid of any principles beyond his own advancement became Prime Minister, in order to pursue a political outcome – leaving the EU by 31st October –  that, as things stand, will plummet the UK into an economic, social, political and diplomatic crisis without precedent beyond wartime

As is his wont, Johnson celebrated the occasion with a jingoistic outpouring of meaningless verbiage, filled with promises that can’t be kept, jokes that aren’t funny, and empty protestations of ‘belief’ and ‘optimism’.

Depicting your political opponents as the ‘doubters, the gloomsters, the doomsters’ who ‘bet against Britain’ – in other words, as traitors – may not seem the most promising strategy for ‘uniting’ the country.  But there was more, so much more.

In Johnson’s post-Brexit wonderland we will have a new NHS, more police, better broadband, a ‘fantastic new road and railroad infrastructure’.  There will be ‘equalities’ – for everyone!  ‘whether  race and gender and LGBT’!

There will be ‘ battery technology to help cut C02’,  ‘thousands of high-skilled jobs in left-behind areas, ‘ UK assets orbiting in space’, ‘ blight resistant crops that will feed the world.’

Of course there will be free trade deals.  Dozens, hundreds of them, all to be signed off – poof! Just like that! – now that ‘three years of unfounded doubt’ have been superseded.   And there will no checks on the Irish border and no backstop either.

Poof!  All gone with a wave of the Great Man’s wand, dispensed to the realms of doubt and disbelief, replaced by herds of unicorns and flocks of flying pigs that will proliferate through our green and pleasant lands, as soon as we have freed ourselves from foreign domination.

‘With high hearts and growing confidence, we will now accelerate the work of getting ready,’ he promised.  ‘And the ports will be ready and the banks will be ready, and the factories will be ready, and business will be ready.’

All will be ready, because the blonde bombshell says so, and even it isn’t, we will still have £39 billion for ‘extra lubrication’  and if there are ‘difficulties’, no matter, because ‘ I believe with energy and application they will be far less serious than some have claimed.’

So all this was a moment to savour, for those who have abandoned any capacity for critical and rational thought, at any rate.  For the likes of Trump, Salvini, Pauline Hanson and the AfD, who sent Johnson their congratulations.  Such friends no doubt have their reasons for feeling so happy on our behalf.

There were also the likes of Piers Morgan, who chuckled happily at the thought of the ‘PC snowflakes’ on Twitter who are not enjoying Johnson’s coronation.

Last, but by no means least there was Johnson’s team – a government which even before it has done a single thing has already become the last thing that any country facing a crisis should have to rely on.

It includes onetime ‘rebels’ like Nicky Morgan and Amber Rudd, who had once promised they would never serve under Johnson or contemplate no deal, and how now shed those principles like last year’s skin in return for avoiding the wilderness of the

If you think they lack scruple, consider men like Grant Shapps, a politician who once lied about a second job, who was forced to resign from government after he ignored warnings about the bullying of a young Tory activist who killed himself.

There was the truly awful Priti Patel, who was also forced to resign after conducting her own foreign policy in Israel while on holiday, and who suggested that development money should be channeled to Israeli hospitals in the Golan Heights treating Syrian ‘rebels’ who may include Islamic State or al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

More recently Patel recommended that the Irish might be pressured with the threat of hunger into doing the UK’s bidding.   Now – hallelujah! – she’s Home Secretary.

And let’s not forget Dominic Cummings, the former Vote Leave campaign director already found to have been in contempt of parliament, who once claimed that ‘accuracy is for snake-oil pussies’.  Or Matt Hancock, who was rewarded for weeks of shameless and contemptible sycophantic groveling by keeping his job as health secretary.

And Liz Truss or ‘the Truss’ as she calls herself, – the same Liz Truss who once said that drones were frightened by dogs and will now be pursuing those fabulous trade deals for us.

And then there Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary, the man who admitted that he hadn’t even read the Good Friday Agreement at a parliamentary hearing to discuss the Irish border, who didn’t understand the significance of Dover or Calais to the UK economy.

Not to mention Gavin Williamson, forced to resign for leaking details of  national security council briefing, now resurrected as…Education Secretary, which makes about as much sense as asking Frank Spencer to give a Reith Lecture.   Even Rees-Mogg has found a place in this government-of-the damned, because Johnson is loyal – for a while at least – to those who serve him.

In short, the hellmouth has truly opened, and every kind of monster is here, in a hard right, hard Brexit government that is currently locked in headlong pursuit of the unobtainable with nothing but bluster and fantasy to sustain itself.

This is what we have done to ourselves.  We, the public, and our politicians.  We might take some consolation from the very likely possibility that a government like this cannot succeed in anything it tries to do, but its failure will also be ours, and right now, you would really have to inhale some of Johnson’s ‘optimism’ and ‘belief’ not to believe that, beyond this collection of bastards in this fuck-you cabinet, there may be even worse things waiting in the wings.

All of which may please Steve Bannon, but it really doesn’t make me feel very good at all.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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