Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Johnson clowns as Britain fractures


BORIS Johnson’s laugh-a-minute conference speech presages a very hard rain, falling especially on Northern Ireland.

The pundits on the so-called Right who fell for the PM’s pantomime performance were very generous in their praise, valuing his rhetorical optimism and ignoring the lack of substance. As the saying has it, don’t watch the conjurer’s face, watch his hands.

What the PM is doing to the nation was hidden and this absence was clouded with bouncy jollity and a refusal to engage with the reality of the lives of ordinary voters as they find their energy bills soaring, petrol hard to get and taxes rising to pay for government recklessness. We are told that our country, responsible for one per cent of global carbon emissions, is to go into a purgatorial state of suffering to get to zero. This mad decision, a kind of donning of the medieval monastic hair-shirt to undergo pain for no positive purpose, has no electoral mandate and was kept out of the Johnson panto patter. A hard rain is coming on us, but not on the Civil Service as Dominic Cummings had promised.

Apart from cubic volumes of hot air from Johnson over the past months, what has he actually achieved that is positive for the country? My answer is ‘zero’. Not a new industry, not a new ‘free port’, not a controlling of migration nor of the chloroforming of our universities with woke, not a reining in of police fear and favour, nor an ending of the savage BBC licence and bias. Zero. And the public service unions continue to control too many key services.

We might say that he ‘got Brexit done’, but that is now questionable as the Remainer powers of big business, together with Whitehall’s de facto quiet continuation of alignment with EU regulation, even in bankers’ pay let alone agricultural protectionism, the maintenance of VAT and taxation in line with EU levels, ensure no real divergence and a return to the centripetal drift towards Brussels. Again the figure of zero is the answer to the question as to what preparations were made by government to reset the UK for Brexit. Despite many warnings in the press, the government did nothing at all. I had expected a reset of education, more language teaching, a recognition of the manual workplace and courses for drivers, nurses, agricultural workers, but nothing at all. No ‘build back better’ in any of these sectors.

Johnson’s speech may have gladdened his party apparatchiks, but imagine you are a loyal NI Unionist or a fisherman. The speech blanked these people who had trusted the many pledges given by Johnson personally, only to suffer brutal rejection on December 31 and the very bad ‘deal’ he accepted. The UK, under this ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’ government, is watching the province of NI gradually being levered out of our nation state. The Northern Ireland Protocol was of course designed to do this, to place a sea border against NI and to have no border with Eire, and to place intolerable trading controls between the mainland and NI, thus turning the screw on the Unionists and breaching the Good Friday Agreement.

Unionists must feel indescribably betrayed by Johnson as he lets the situation drift on and on, potentially causing the next Kosovo on the continent of Europe. Just as Johnson cannot face up to the trade unions or to Whitehall, so he is incapable of facing down the EU when it comes to the crunch. He will not do the right thing and trigger Article 16. And that of course would also help the UK take back its fisheries, ending the Withdrawal Agreement’s depredations. This is why the Remainer press and BBC are constantly presenting Article 16 as some illegal and wrong, ignoring the fact that the EU itself triggered it in total bad faith.

Nothing of these crucial issues, involving the very territorial integrity of the UK, was mentioned in Johnson’s knockabout speech. Nero is said to have fiddled while Rome burned, and Johnson is fairly close to this mode of governing. Princess Carrie of course is there to keep him firm on the green revolution, having ejected Cummings with his genuine appreciation of what needs to change in Whitehall to allow Brexit to happen in reality.

A Kosovo-style fate gets closer by the day, and the fine words of Lord Frost, with his hopes for ‘an independent Britain with friendly relations with the EU based on free trade’ are clearly empty.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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