Monday, 27 April 2020

Just As Blair Never Escaped Iraq, Johnson Will Never Escape Brexit Or COVID19

There's a lot of speculation about whether Boris Johnson can steady his government's COVID19 plague ship in time to weather the Brexit storm. It seems unlikely, but who knows? What is certain is that the stigma of both disasters will stick to Johnson forever, in the same way the second Gulf War dogs Tony Bliar Blair to this day...

In 1997, Blair found a way to unite Britain by promising a lot: Change, an end to Thatcherism, a new personal empowerment, an "end to boom-and-bust"... you name it. The hype inspired hope on a grand scale, and for his first term it seemed to hold. He was re-elected easily in 2001. Successful peace-keeping efforts in the late 90's led to early wins in Afghanistan after 9/11.

Then Blair succumbed to a Messiah Complex and hope turned to disillusionment. In 2003, he sealed his ultimate fate by ignoring Britain's largest ever mass demonstration and 139 of his own MPs in favour of 10 Downing Street's own "intelligence" to commit Britain to the invasion of Iraq. Oh, sure, Blair also systematically ignored the House of Commons and dedicated himself to dealing with the public directly through media manipulation and spin. He tolerated the Mandelson scandals and the dysfunctional relationship with Gordon Brown, allowing gross over-spending in boom times that ultimately left Britain grimly exposed to the financial crisis. But Blair still won the 2005 election, and enjoyed 2 more years as PM before resigning in favour of the hapless Brown. Yet the invasion of Iraq still hung round his neck:
"In his [May 2007 resignation speech]... Mr Blair dealt directly with Iraq, many people's perception as his ultimate legacy, saying: "The blowback since ... has been fierce, unrelenting and costly."
And even after the intervening financial crisis and the fact that RBS remains publicly owned to this day, Blair's destiny is to be remembered for his role in the invasion of Iraq - as borne out by the reactions that greeted the Chilcot Report in 2016, his interventions during the Brexit debate and the scorn within the Labour Party for his advice in more recent times.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” 
William Shakespeare

In similar fashion to Blair's Iraq adventure, Boris Johnson sealed his own fate when he threw his political weight behind the infamously dishonest Leave campaign in 2016 (cunningly preferring his own article in favour of leaving to his own article in favour of remaining).

This exemplified the stunning degree of misjudgement for which Johnson has long been renowned

The referendum itself had been mired in controversy even before Cameron promised it as a bribe to right wing Tories to garner their support for his own re-election campaign in 2015. That intensified when he unexpectedly won a Tory majority and was forced by his own party to hold the EU vote. A statesman would have left the matter to the populace and balanced their 'advice' with rational expertise, leaving Britain's unique and beneficial international trade terms in tact. Yet, bizarrely, Cameron committed to implementing the result of the advisory referendum, then lashed himself to the mast, albeit by leading the campaign for the only sustainable outcome. He lost no time in resigning as soon as it was over, and Theresa May's dreadful, already forgotten premiership demonstrated why. The lunatics had taken over the asylum. 

Chief among the lunatics was Johnson, who lurked in the wings throughout the May debacle because his shamelessly opportunistic, narcissistic decision to lead the Leave vote had shackled him to Brexit for the rest of his life. He'd made sure that securing Brexit was his only chance of being Prime Minister, and it remained Brexit or bust for him - no matter that it's Brexit and bust for Britain. Johnson simply didn't - and doesn't - care. It's all about him and his Brexit. He's taken Blair's lack of respect for Parliament to literally unconstitutional lengths. He's ignored bigger demonstrations than those against the Iraq war. He prefers outright lies to mere spin or media manipulation. He ignores detail and prefers waxing lyrical with obtuse references to ancient myths, always myths....

Being remembered for the myth of Brexit is Johnson's destiny.

Then along came COVID19...

Brexit reality has been slow to dawn, mainly because it involves simply not doing stuff.  We've seen the steady departure of EU citizens, headquarters of EU organisations, manufacturing capacity and jobs - all signs of air leaking out of the economy. Meanwhile, essential investment has withered, compared to investment in the other "G7" nations, and successive Tory governments have under-invested in the capability of the British state to actually do the tedious things that Brexit demands, like setting up customs checks and checkpoints, creating the new import/export forms, issuing guidance to businesses and so on. Yet none of that chaos will really hit until the Brexit transition period expires - currently still on schedule for 31 December 2020...

Instead, it's fallen to the COVID19 pandemic to reveal how badly the Brexidiot Tories have under-invested in the British state more generally, and how poorly equipped Johnson and his cronies are to manage Britain's return to phyiscal and economic health. No sooner had the ink dried on the Withdrawal Agreement and Johnson's weird victory speech had echoed through the Old Naval College at Greenwhich than the virus began relentlessly punching him and his Brexidiot crew in the face, remorselessly exposing their lies, misinformation and gaslighting on their state of preparation and ability to respond.  BoJo's Brexit Britain was revealed to be unprepared, ill-equipped, slow to respond, unable to organise delivery of the right protective equipment to staff who need it, unable to arrange testing on the necessary scale and is now second to the United States in the number of COVID19 deaths.

Throughout this lastest crisis, Johnson himself has largely disappeared. Yet amidst his 2 week personal holiday in February and 4 weeks off with COVID19 in April, Johnson's Brexit crew insisted they were working toward the end of transition on 31 December 2020, leaving the EU's chief negotiator to reveal on April 24th that, in fact, the UK "has failed to engage substantially" in the Brexit trade talks at all.

There's no escaping that Brexit destiny, even while he's chiselling "COVID19" onto his tombstone.

Not that Johnson even really cares.

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