Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Boris Johnson's Blue Jerusalem

Who will become the most influential British politician of the early 21st century? Might it be dishy Rishi with his nice line in suits and political vapourware? Is Dave's Brexit legacy doomed to cast a shadow over the next few decades? Or does the title belong to Boris Johnson himself, the mastermind of the greatest Tory electoral triumph since the 1980s? The answer is ... none of these men. It's not even a Conservative politician. No, it is the unconscionable one. He whose name must be mentioned in conjunction with rites of Tory exorcism. Jeremy Corbyn is of which I speak, and if you don't believe me have a look at the contents filling up Johnson's conference speech.

He tried hard to distract from his inspiration. There were attacks on imaginary leftists who see in the Coronavirus crisis an opportunity to grow the state. There was a vigorous defence of the private enterprise that delivered all the PPE shipments and praise for their innovative and can-do attitude. Tory activists were ostentatiously thanked for seeing off the socialist beast in December, and sideswipes aplenty at lefties, with Priti Patel receiving praise for riling up human rights lawyers. It's almost like politics is a game to these people.

There were the trademark Johnson moments with the self deprecation about his weight, (aged) pop culture references, overlong words and haha funny metaphors. These soared off the back of other Tory favourites, like the opportunities Brexit has opened up, the blue passports, moar fisheries, and control of the borders. Crowd pleasers were refusals to apologise for British heritage, such as statues of problematic slave-holding worthies, and singing one's lungs out along to Rule Brittannia. No opportunity to thumb the old nose at the imaginary enemies hell bent at doing down Blighty can ever be passed up.

Having doused his rhetoric in deepest blue, Johnson's big reveal was a programme unashamedly half-inched from Corbynism's 2019 vintage. Front and centre is the green industrial revolution. Excuse me, what? This was the phrase he used, having been carelessly abandoned by Labour's new regime, and he talked up harnessing renewable energy, particularly wind, to produce millions of green jobs over the coming decade. Complementing this was the widely derided Corbynist tree planting programme, the investment in new technology to drive productivity, and high falutin talk of raising pay across the board. Also interesting was a scheme to expand home ownership to younger people with government advancing low deposit fixed rate mortgages to first time buyers - a belated effort at winning enough over to keep their future electoral prospects on the road. Looking around the appreciative churps of establishment comment, no one has picked up on the very obvious influence behind Johnson's rhetoric.

On the one hand, going all magpie over Labour's 2019 manifesto reflects the deep hole British capitalism is in. Even Johnson had to refer to its long-term structural problems, and they cannot simply be allowed to fester for ever. Not least because egregious inequality, blocked property acquisition, and a diminution of opportunity are pregnant with future electoral threats and, yikes, the possibiluty of disorder. It also shows how despite the denunciations of Corbyn, his Labour programme came not to bury British capitalism but save it, and its passage into Johnsonism underlines this fundamental truth. And yet this is Johnson we're talking about, the most shameless of Tory liars and peddler of piss and wind. Past behaviour suggests his New Jerusalem, another trope ripped off from Labour, is another rhetorical trick, an horizon stretching no further than the end of his second conference speech. A case of believing when we see it, and even then watching out for the catches should they ever materialise.


Anonymous said...

"Labour's new regime"

AKA: the abstainers. It's such a clever stategy: If the ostensible main party of opposition abstains on all votes that they think might be a bit controversial then they can cunningly manage both to get the blame for not supporting the Tory government (from the right) and for not opposing the Tory government (from the left). Sheer genius!

Anonymous said...

When is this "Great Man" theory of history stuff going to end?

Alan Story (acs3344@gmail.com)

Dipper said...

Again, the left fail to understand what is in front of them.

Boris Johnson is not the most influential politician of the early 21st century. There is a clear winner for that title.

Johnson is exactly what many of his critics have described him as. Opportunistic, egotistical, bound to disappoint. He is in power because he sensed the route to power was in jumping on the Brexit bandwagon, so as a Brexiteer I'm happy to have him as PM as long as he delivers that.

As for Corbyn's manifesto, of course some of it was popular. There were many issues with Corbyn and his supporters that could not be glossed over by the simple easy act of tossing a few easy crowd-pleasers into the manifesto. So what if Johnson has nicked some of them.

The most influential politician of the early 21st century is clearly, very clearly, Nigel Farage.

Boffy said...

Johnson's agenda is reminiscent of the Mosely Memorandum. In the early 1930's, Oswald Mosely, just having left the Tories and joined the Labour Party, and become a Fabian, put forward his Mosely Memorandum, which was a Keynesian, economic nationalist plan for economic growth and investment, based upon large scale state intervention. It was backed by Nye Bevan and others on the nationalist Left.

It had many similarities with the economic nationalist agenda of the AES of the 1980's, but also with the economic nationalist agenda that the Nazis pursued. Its no wonder that Mosely's sojourn within Labour was shortlived, and that he made the rational journey from that economic nationalism to the creation of his New Party, and then the British Union of Fascists, and his alliance with Mussolini and Hitler.

George Carty said...

Dipper: "The most influential politician of the early 21st century is clearly, very clearly, Nigel Farage."

If Johnson's spark was in sensing he could ride the Brexit bandwagon into Number 10, wasn't Farage's spark in sensing that the way to build that Brexit bandwagon was by leveraging hostility to immigration?

UKIP was approaching two decades old when Farage became leader, and Farage changed its focus from traditional Euroscepticism (which is rooted mainly in the old feud between Richard Cobden and Friedrich List: the EU is by far the most Listian of the world's international trade blocs) to a nativist and even racist sensibility. But wasn't this opening made possible largely by Tony Blair's mistakes?

Firstly there was the participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which antagonized ethnic minorities and what we'd now call "woke" voters, causing them to defect to the Lib Dems (until Jeremy Corbyn won them back) and making New Labour more dependent on the white working class.

And secondly was the decision to not only push hard for the EU's expansion into impoverished Eastern Europe, but also to not impose transitional controls on workers from the new members states. Ireland and Sweden were the only other "old" EU countries with a similar policy.

Was Blair perhaps hoping that immigration from Muslim countries (increasingly unpopular after 9/11) would be replaced by immigration by white Eastern Europeans?

Blissex said...

«Even Johnson had to refer to its long-term structural problems»

Many Conservatives are not stupid. For example this is how an article by David Davis begins (the rest of it is an insanely delusional brexiter dream):


“Economic growth in the UK has been founded on a number of unhealthy characteristics in the last decade or so. It has depended above all on large population increases based on uncontrolled mass migration. This has made the economy bigger, but not necessarily better for individual citizens, as shown by GDP per capita growth rates of two per cent or less – significantly weaker than in most decades since the Second World War. It has depended on moving a large number of people moving out of unemployment, which is good, but because the new jobs tend to be low paid it created a low productivity economy. And it all depends far too much on domestic demand, which even after 2008 is excessively funded by consumer credit. This is unsustainable in the long run.“

As far as it goes it is a pretty good, terse, clear and damning assessment of thatcherism as practised by Conservatives, LibDems and New Labour for decades.

«and they cannot simply be allowed to fester for ever»

But the situation has already laste 40 years, which is 20 more than myself and some people I know were expecting, and it has survived the bursting of the first debt bubble in 2008. Sure, various governments have resorted to ever more desperate measures like Help-To-Buy, but there is still some mileage in upward redistribution, and despite it being a spiral, maybe the thatcherites can land themselves on a permanent high, instead of an unravelling into an ever bigger crash than 2008.

Note: I have been amazed by the lack of pushback from the UK working classes, despite attempts like the "Leave" vote and the support for Corbyn. I think this is due in part to the thatcherites wisely adopting a "boil the frog" incremental approach, always careful to tighten the screws only a little each year, and usually only on a segment of the populace at the time, to minimize pushback; also it turns out that property more than religion is the opiate of the masses.

Regardless of further duration or the final outcome the interests "sponsoring" the Conservatives, LibDems, New Labour know that before it ends they can make a lot of hay while the sun shines, and they are in control, and the proceeds can be easily moved to safe havens abroad, so they are keen on further asset stripping. When the end comes, it will be like in 2008 the "loyal opposition" that will have to sort the mess out, and be blamed.

I said "asset stripping" above because that's the key: if the whigs/tories of all three parties were representing *productive* interests, then they would care more about sustainability and the long term; but as the sponsoring interests are *extractive*, what really matters is do extract as quickly and painlessly as possible, and secure the loot abroad. Many of the english elites no longer feel invested in this island, except perhaps some still have a sentimental attachment to the ancestral mansions.

Anonymous said...

"Who will become the most influential British politician of the early 21st century?" - N. F. not even in the running?

Good post anyway. Been reading this blog for ages, and will recommend it to anyone who'll listen.

Blissex said...

«Was Blair perhaps hoping that immigration from Muslim countries (increasingly unpopular after 9/11) would be replaced by immigration by white Eastern Europeans?»

I doubt that. most immigrants of that sort are even cheaper than eastern europeans, and indeed third world immigration has been overall bigger than that from eastern Europe.

According to Ivan Rogers he was hoping, with Mervyn King, that eastern european migration would push down english wages, allowing businesses based in the UK to trounce french/german ones, and would also allow him to cut taxes or increase spending on the New Labour core constituency of "Middle England" and business owners, especially small employers (often coinciding with "Middle England"):


«King on free movement and exploiting first mover advantage — as no other major EU Member State opened its labor market without the transitional periods — to tap a near inexhaustible supply of labor to address U.K. needs. The economic benefits of the unprecedentedly large scale free movement which took place between 2004 and 2007 to both employers, to the economy as a whole and to the public finances, were seen as axiomatic.
I am not saying there was no preoccupation at all pre financial crisis with the distributional impacts and the potential impact on native workers' wages, and on access to public services. A different decision was taken by 2007 about the transition periods for Bulgarian and Romanian accession.
But this was an immigration and free movement policy driven by the desire to fuel U.K. growth, and by the belief that we were stealing a march on EU competitors and further consolidating the advantages of the U.K. model over that of a sclerotic Germany, which we were all characterising still in 2004 as the decade-long sick man of Europe.
[...] In the Pre Budget Report of 2005, the Treasury revised up trend output by a quarter point, but only till 2007. In PBR 2006, they decided that this quarter point upward revision to 2.75% would persist in all years of the forecast. 0.6 was on the back of population growth: this is where the effects of the surge in free movement come in. [...] At the macro level, migration looked like an unadulterated blessing for the U.K. economy, and for the U.K. employer class in 2004-07. It no doubt was.»

Dipper said...

@ George Carty 'was by leveraging hostility to immigration'

so for clarity George, you believe in removing all immigration controls and allowing free access to everyone from anywhere, and full access to state benefits when they are here?

George Carty said...

Dipper: "so for clarity George, you believe in removing all immigration controls and allowing free access to everyone from anywhere, and full access to state benefits when they are here?"

Never said that: what I said is that had Blair not encouraged the EU to expand into impoverished Eastern Europe (an expansion that many continental Europeans were wary of) then Brexit would most likely have been avoided, as the advocates of Brexit would not have been able to link the EU to the immigration issue (because there would have been no mass immigration from EU countries).

As such, Blair has a large part of the blame for Brexit, as do the al-Qaeda terrorists who were responsible for the initial rise in anti-immigration sentiment.

Blissex said...

«you believe in removing all immigration controls and allowing free access to everyone from anywhere, and full access to state benefits when they are here?»

I guess our "Dipper" believes in this, at least within Boris Island and nearby islets. But why should citizens of Dorset accept to be invaded by unlimited numbers of glaswegians or brummies, with their foreign culture and accents and dialects, eager to enjoy the benefits and local council housing paid for by the local taxes of Dorset natives, without ever having contributed a penny to the finances of Dorset? All that unlimited imigration can overload local services like schools, roads, hospitals, and housing.
In a supranational, multiethnic, multilingual federation like the Britannean Union unlimited migration and access to benefits by migrants can only cause trouble. Free trade was fine, but free movement is going too far. Also, why laws and courts from distant London, created and managed by unaccountable, faceless Whitehall britocrats, should override the local courts and byelaws of Dorset? And why should Dorset's taxpayers send money to those unaccountable, faceless bureaucrats in Whitehall to be wasted on Tyneside etc. scroungers? Let's fund Dorset's NHS trust instead!

Blissex said...

«(because there would have been no mass immigration from EU countries).»

And indeed for the 30 years in which free movement applied to/from countries with similar wage levels and economies, like France, Germany, Italy, Benelux, it was not an issue, "colored" immigration was much more of an issue, As to the latter the question is whether "color" prejudice resulted in "colored" workers being paid less, or that they were willing because of poverty to be paid less resulted in "color" prejudice. As to that:

Before this, black workers had been barred from taking jobs as guards and porters at Euston Station and St. Pancras while Irish workers at Paddington were restricted to labouring roles in the goods yard. Similar restrictions applied at other stations.

Did that happen because the irish are black too? Or because they were more desperate for a job and thus more biddable on wage and working conditions than "locals"?

George Carty said...


You claim that Johnson's economic policies echo those of Oswald Mosley: wouldn't that it and of itself put him at odds with most of the original Brexiteers within the Tory Party?

After all, most of those Brexiteers are attracted to the notion of unilateral free trade, while Mosley was a strong advocate of autarky. Before World War II, Mosley was thinking in terms of a self-sufficient British Empire, while after the war he (still a strong imperialist) came to the conclusion that the only way Europeans could retain their colonies was to unite, and on this basis began to call for a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe_A_Nation</a>single unitary European state</a>!

Dipper said...

@ Blissex

so for clarity, you are arguing that we are one planet, without borders, and everyone should be allowed to live anywhere and claim full citizens rights and benefits wherever they go.

Blissex said...

«you are arguing that we are one planet, without borders, and everyone should be allowed to live anywhere and claim full citizens rights and benefits wherever they go»

I am afraid that seems just the product of your insatiable imagination. Instead I was arguing strongly that following a certain type of logic there should be strictly enforced borders between english counties, and that english counties should take back control from the UKSSR britocrats of Whitehall, as to immigration, foreign trade and jurisdiction from supranational courts. The same argument of course applies to local councils within counties and parish councils within local councils, and maybe even to wards within parish councils :-). Perhaps I am trying to make a point about the desirability of absolute principles...

But while I disagree with the above product of your insatiable imagination, I should note that when the English Empire ruled much of the world it was the "liberal" norm worldwide, two famous quotes:

G Orwell "As I Please", 12 May 1944

In the nineteenth century some parts of the world were unexplored, but there was almost no restriction on travel. Up to 1914 you did not need a passport for any country except Russia. The European emigrant, if he could scrape together a few pounds for the passage, simply set sail for America or Australia, and when he got there no questions were asked. In the eighteenth century it had been quite normal and safe to travel in a country with which your own country was at war.

JM Keynes, "The economic consequences of the peace", November 1919

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! [...]
The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; [...]
He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighboring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference.

During the thousands of years in which that was the norm almost everywhere, the world still worked pretty well. Obviously things have changed, but discussing that change may require not applying simplistic absolute principles...