I nearly fell off my chair laughing. The comment wasn’t intended to be funny, but I found it hilarious. It was made by that little pipsqueak, Gavin Williamson, who – please don’t laugh – was actually appointed Defence Secretary by Theresa May. Williamson, the Private Pike of the Cabinet, was in friendly company and he let his imagination run away with him a bit.
In a speech to the “Boys Who Like their Toys to Go Bang” (aka the Royal United Services Institute), he spoke of his dreams. He dreams of drones which swarm like flies to put off the enemy’s defences. He dreams of sailing our one aircraft carrier to the South China Sea (to frighten the Chinese). He dreams too of spending lots more money on the Toys the Boys like so much. (Reality check: the aircraft carrier might be ready by 2021. Oh, and it might have some planes – American, of course. If the Yanks have managed to fix the 300 “unresolved high-priority deficiencies”, reported by the Pentagon, by then. The planes? US F35s, a snip at 92 million quid – each!)
How about this as a rousing cry to the true blue-hearted amongst us? “We must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality (our what?) and increase our mass”. By eating more junk food, perhaps – preferably radioactive, to enhance our lethality. (Plutonium is heavier than lead, usefully.)
But it wasn’t that which made me laugh. No, it was this little gem: “We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership”. Leadership?? In one bound, little Gav goes to the top of the pile – and it’s a big pile – of deluded Tories.
It wasn’t really little Gav’s fault that I had laughed so much. You see, I’d only just finished reading a 2-page article from reporters in seven EU countries of their views of Britain. I’ve used the phrase “laughing stock” in posts before, but that really only captures a part of it.
To give you a flavour: the full article can be found here. Phrases like “a pantomime”, “un big mess”, “national psychodrama” sprinkle the article. A view from a Netherlands newspaper: “It’s like the crew of the Titanic deciding, by majority vote, that the iceberg should get out of the way”. “Perhaps Great Britain is so fundamentally insular and protective of its own future and freedom, this is its destiny”: CEO of the port of Calais. He adds: “But it’s a pity”. A Spanish academic muses that the “systemic failure” of our attempt to leave the EU calls into question the very idea of the great British democracy. There is some regret: a German diplomat compares it to being dumped by your girlfriend: “I still have her jumper … hoping her scent will linger.” A Czech political analyst describes it as seeing “an established democracy descending into this chaos and irrationality”.
Perhaps the last word should, fittingly, come from Ireland, a country we treated very badly for 800 years. It rekindles the idea of “perfidious Albion”. An Irish history professor: “there is a sense that with the British, unless it’s written down you can’t trust anything they say”.
Which brings us to our “Prime Minister”. Some of us have memories long enough to stretch back to last autumn. That was when May signed a legally binding agreement with the EU which included a “backstop” to protect free flow of goods and services between the Irish Republic and the Six Counties in the north. That’s the same Theresa May who, a few weeks later, encourages Parliament to vote against that agreement. Parliament (i.e. Tories and DUP) duly obliges, defeating the agreement by a margin of 230 votes. May offers to renegotiate what she agreed only weeks earlier. Perfidious seems a fair enough description.
May has stated she will stand down as PM before the next general election. Some rumours say she we leave her post this summer. It’s too awful even to contemplate who might win an election involving just 100,000 geriatric out-of-touch-with-reality Tory Party members. There is literally no one who could conceivably lead the Tories who could actually be described as a leader, except in the deluded, pied-piper, over-the-cliff sense of the word.
So, let’s have just a few words about the Labour alternative. Opinion polls give conflicting results, but there is no sign of a clear win for a future Labour government under Corbyn. He has anti-EU history and shows no leadership qualities when it comes to his avowed respect for Party democracy (i.e. the policy decisions of the 2018 Labour Party Conference) where they differ from his own long-held views.
Whether he deserves this or not, he carries the air of a man who hasn’t changed his opinion on anything in forty years. Don’t get me wrong, I would not like a Labour leader who has such a lack of principles, putting Party before national interest, as any conceivable Tory leader (including May herself). But a measure of pragmatism would enhance his reputation for humanity.
The EU referendum has wrecked UK politics and political parties. It’s a matter of when, not if, the Tory loony irreconcilables split off from the saner Party members. Labour may yet fracture, too, although for different dynamics: at least with Labour, both the rival wings are broadly rational in their thinking.
So, where does that lead us? Basically fucked, I guess. But whatever Britain is in 2019, it’s crystal clear what we are NOT. And that’s “the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership”. No matter how many drones we buy (which don’t actually work yet as Williamson desires).