Notes From the Margins…

Have Yourselves a Kakistocratic Brexmas

  • December 26, 2020
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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when the long-awaited announcement was finally presented to the world, hastily wrapped in cheap PR wrapping paper and served up by the grifter-in-chief in his very own Santa’s grotto.   Preceded by a hark-the-herald-angels fanfare from the government stenographers in the rightwing press,  the Supreme Leader of Brexitania, Comrade John-Son-Un, announced that a trade deal had been agreed with the European Union.

These ‘tidings of great joy’, as the Great Helmsman called them, arrived at a point when the Covid death toll has just reached 70,000, when millions of people saw their Christmas plans shattered due to yet another combination of the headline-grabbing over-promising, followed by last-minute U-turns that has characterised the UK government’s catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic.

Even as the Lord of Misrule took the podium, more than 10,000 lorries were stranded in Kent, without food or assistance from a government that had failed to liaise with the French before announcing the new Covid variant, failed to help the stranded drivers afterwards, but still took time out to lie to the nation about how many trucks were actually stranded.

In the midst of this mayhem, cameth John-Son-Un, with his tousled hair, his smirking dishonesty, and his pantomime-horse gravitas, to inform a battered nation that a deal had been done, that would ‘give certainty to business, travellers, and all investors in our country from January 1. ‘

Behind him the Christmas tree lights sparkled to remind us that John-Son-Un had become Santa Claus – in his own eyes at least – and that – hurrah!- he was giving his country the ‘certainty’ that any sane government should not have left till one week before the moment when it was required.

He even brought Christmas cracker jokes, as he promised that  his ‘oven ready deal was just the start – this is the feast, full of fish’ and  ‘the basis of a happy and successful and stable partnership with our friends in the EU for years to come.’

The Tory media and political machine duly hailed the deal as a ‘victory’ and a British diplomatic triumph.  That wise statesman Michael Gove – truly the Thomas More of our times – called for the end of the ‘ugly politics’ of the last four and half years.  Even Nigel Mosley-Farage declared that ‘the war is over’ – a ‘war’ that only ever existed in his mind and the minds of his fellow-ethnonationalist fanatics.   Arise Sir Nigel, Lord of Thanet – you heard it here first.

Johnson has since gone to claim that his ‘jumbo, Canada-style’ agreement has finally ended the ‘European question.’  Meanwhile social media has been awash with Brexiter gloating of the type that followed the referendum, telling Remainers to ‘get over it’ and suggesting that anyone who thinks this deal is a poor outcome must hate their country, and so on and so forth.

Never mind that many of those hailing the Comrade Leader’s Brexmas deal had only hours before been demanding No Deal as the only way to ensure full ‘sovereignty’ and denouncing anything less as a ‘sell out’ and a ‘surrender.’

In the end, they settled for this ‘surrender’, at least for now.

This tawdry fakery and triumphalism is a fitting end to a dismal four and half years in which nothing, literally nothing, has been done to make this country a better place.  Brexit has sucked in all the energies of government, brought down two prime ministers and an opposition leader, and put in power a man who has demonstrated time and again that he is unfit for anything except campaignin.

Now, after months of recklessly playing chicken with the EU, John-Son-Un finally baulked at the prospect of driving his country off an economic cliff-edge in the midst of a pandemic, and is now offering a thin bare-minimum trade deal that leaves the UK worse-off than it was in 2016 as a diplomatic triumph.

This is a triumph, in the sense that persuading Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter not to shoot himself in the head would have been a triumph, and I very much doubt that Santa Johnson or his team were responsible for it.

Nevertheless it is true that Brexiters have completed the destructive process that began in 2016.  They have cut the formal ties developed during a 45-year membership of the Common Market and the European Union.  They have trashed their country’s reputation, treated former allies and trading partners as enemies.  They have lied, grifted, and cheated, demonstrated crass ignorance of the consequences of their own red lines, made idiotic and unrealistic predictions, and they have not even batted an eyelid or express an iota of regret about any of this.

To bring us John-Son-Un’s Christmas gift, they have ruthlessly deployed the full arsenal of rightwing populist weaponry, using the ‘will of the people’ as a political battering to recast criticism and opposition as treason or undemocratic behaviour.

While claiming to uphold the sovereignty of parliament and the right to ‘make our own laws’, they have tried repeatedly to bypass or neutralise parliament in order to avoid scrutiny or accountability. They have attacked judges for trying to ensure that parliament had a role in the Brexit process. They have purged civil servants with knowledge and expertise entirely on the basis of their Brexit sympathies.

They have repeatedly appealed to the most xenophobic sentiments of the British population, whipping up paranoia and hostility towards EU nationals living in the UK.  At no time – not once – have any leading Brexiters ever acknowledged this or tried to do anything to stop it, and why would they, when it suited them so well?

Only today the execrable buffoon David Davis was telling Radio 4 that you can ‘never trust a Frenchman.’   And now these people have the gall to pontificate about ‘ugly politics!’

So their work of destruction is done, and now they must try to build, in the extremely unpromising context of the pandemic.  It would be an understatement to say that the government’s record doesn’t bode well for this endeavour.  Yet it must now unpick EU-derived law and regulations – many of which it once helped shape – and lay the basis for a post-covid economic recovery, and develop new trade linkages in a volatile world that has always watched – with more horror than admiration – our descent into the political vortex since 2016.

The government that ‘got Brexit done’ is not a government of builders, or a government that knows how to use the resources of the state in the best interests of its citizens.  Throughout the pandemic, it has taken action too late, and generally when it has been shamed into it.  It has failed to build resilience and has often seemed more concerned with generated positive headlines or providing financial opportunities to cronies and insiders

This is not the government to build Jerusalem in England’s green, pandemic-ravaged land.  On the contrary, the destructive impetus of Brexit has placed this country’s future in the hands of a radical rightwing government that is only a few posh accents away from Trumpism; a government that is the closest we have ever seen in this country to what the Greeks called a ‘kakistocracy’ which the Oxford Dictionary defines as ‘government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state/a state or society governed by its least suitable or competent citizens.’

So this government will fail, because its promises and predictions were unrealistic and unrealisable in the first place, and because it has preferred loyalty to knowledge, experience or expertise.  And as it fails, it will slip easily back into Brexit mode. It will reignite conflict with the EU, over this or that trade dispute or regulatory divergence, because it will always be politically convenient to encourage the population to believe that we still being ‘punished’ for the victory that Johnson proclaimed on Christmas Eve.

It will wage more culture wars against imaginary ‘elites’, whip up hostility towards immigrants and refugees and the ‘activist lawyers’ who oppose its dictats.  It will engage in increasingly brazen corruption and cronyism, commit blunder after blunder, and all the time it will lie, dissemble, and seek to remove itself from accountability.

It will do this because, this is exactly what it has always done, and this is what Brexit has enabled it do do.

And the great challenge that now confronts the millions of us who are genuinely horrified and disgusted by these developments, but who still believe that we have the ability to act in accordance with our best traditions, is how to build the broad political coalitions, with depth and breadth in our communities, that can prevent any further descent, repair some of the damage, lay the groundwork for the future that our young people deserve, and find our way to a place where the events of the last four and a half years will be one day be regarded with shame.

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  1. Mark

    29th Dec 2020 - 5:37 pm

    Happy New Year Matt. Mr Johnson brings us glad tidings if great joy. Hallelujah an end to Brexit on the news and some form of new normal life on the horizon.

    • Matt

      31st Dec 2020 - 1:38 pm

      Happy New Year to you Mark! I seem to remember when you first commented on this blog, you were some kind of leftist. Now I see you have become a fully-paid up member of ‘Mr Johnson’s fan club. That’s an evolution you’re entitled to make of course, though why you keep feeling the need to share these observations here is beyond me. In any case, if you think this terrible deal represents an ‘end to Brexit’ you clearly aren’t interested in anything I have to say, and you clearly haven’t been paying any attention to the deal or to anything else that’s happened during these last four and half years.

      Here are three very good, informative articles, which might open your eyes to the fraud that has been perpetrated on the country, assuming you actually want to know: And Also:

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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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