I am adding this cute picture of Ava-Jane not because it is particularly relevant to this blog post – it isn’t – but she does kind of look like she is saying “Why the hell are you fretting over Brexit? Look at those clouds, it is about to chuck it down and this clown is taking a photo of me!”
The title of this post might betray the fact that it isn’t going to be one about “Hey check how cute my daughter is!” nor “Living with Down Syndrome/Hear Defects/Brain Damage… Yeah… And?” Nope, this is is going to be one from a sporadic series from me of the “What the Fuc* were you thinking?” genre and in which the “sodding” of the title is but a vague sop to the more genteel amongst my readership and everyone really knows I would rather be using a far ruder word.
So has anyone actually read Boris Johnson’s 4,200 word piece in the Telegraph this Saturday? Well, I have! The newspaper delivery gods, (and I do not doubt that such immortals exist) contrived to deliver only the main part of the Telegraph to me this Saturday. I only get the Telegraph on a Saturday because I really like the crossword. So I do the crossword and burn the rest – it burns better than the Guardian/Observer because those weird twins who own the paper and live on a remote Channel Island scrimp on ink… presumably to save money to reinvest in building a throwback medieval micro-state. But I digress…
So anyway, I received a copy of the Saturday Telegraph shorn of the one section that I actually wanted but laden with the wisdom of my childhood chum, dear Boris. Dear, dear Boris. So, yeah, I can’t claim to be some sort of warrior whose hatred of Boris emanates from the envy of class warfare. We are old friends of the Johnsons – we knew them from when we all lived in Brussels… Yes Brussels. We went to the same prep school, I am a bit posh too. But… But… I can recognise an enormous self-serving knob end when I see one. And that is what dear Boris is.
So if anyone has been paying attention to the news recently, picking your way through truly important stories and tragedies of hurricanes and earthquakes, you will have seen that out Foreign Secretary, the holder of one of the three great offices of state has opined on Brexit.
However, I imagine that only the saddest amongst us will actually have read the full 4,200 words of the article. I’d like to think that I have taken one for the team by being one of those who has not only read the article but also annotated it. Tragic, I know!
So the media have widely reported and debated the fact Boris has revived the most popular Brexit lie about there being a weekly bonanza of £350 million coming our way post Brexit, which would be spent on the NHS. The details of this have picked apart by luminaries but it boils down to: it’s not £350 million and whatever it is will probably be spent on keeping our heads above water in a post-Brexit wasteland not on dialysis machines. (Ooooh I can spell “dialysis” without the aid of spellcheck!)
So if that was the main headline crap from his article what other nuggets of crap, dags if you will, have I been able to glean from my close reading of the Boris oeuvre (OK, I fess up, I needed spellcheck for “oeuvre”).
Johnson’s (and here I stand with the New Statesman podcast in trying to stop calling him Boris – he is not everyone’s chum!) main thrust is a quite frighteningly nationalistic argument where Britain is somehow greater than every other country in the world. I have heard this “greatest country” thing from people from many countries. This simple fact shows what a ludicrous and dangerous thing it is to say. No two countries can be the “greatest country” and in any case, what metric are you using to measure the “greatest country”. If it is “greatest at being British”, then yes Britain is the “greatest country”. There are plenty of reasons for being proud of being British but none of them derive from thinking oneself superior to anyone else.
But anyway… Let’s get some quotes in to see how Johnson’s arguments make no sense whatsoever even on their own terms. For example, and I will type out exactly what he wrote as he wrote it (He has been accusing journalists of just reading the headlines):
…this country still has chronic problems and at leat some of them have been exacerbated by the rigidities of EU membership – and certainly by the way we have chosen legally to apply those obligations.
Our infrastructure is too expensive – and takes far longer than France or other countries.
OK, so this guy is meant to be the great wordsmith of this government, the risen Churchill. Johnson Major: what do you mean our “infrastructure takes longer” What… to build? …to travel along the Tory privatised train lines? But apart from the fact that your English makes no sense, how come these rigidities hamper us so much but not the French… long-term EU members? WHAT!!!??? Explain yourself, properly.
And then, not three where-has-it-all-gone-wrong paragraphs later, we have:
The result of all these failings (none actually EU related, ed.) – over decades – is that we have low productivity: lower than France or Germany.
FML Johnson! FML, honestly? How much has been spent on your education over the decades? You fucking quote Cicero… Could you really not think of two countries other than France and Germany to make the point about how the EU stifles productivity? I mean those two, literally are the EU. Couldn’t you even think of countries that nobody really knows about, like Estonia, or maybe one that has been genuinely screwed by the EU but is quite classically European, like Greece. Or how about Singapore and Chile – both productive, both a long way from the EU?
And on it goes. He blames EU citizens for the high prices of housing in London as if this might have nothing to do with assorted Russians, Saudis and whatevs. He thinks that we could seize the opportunity of Brexit by “reforming our tax system” (= cutting taxes for the super rich and corporations) without mentioning that our neighbours on the Emerald Isle have been doing this for a while now and their economy tanked even further than ours in 2008. And while I am sure that each individual Luxembourgeois is doing very well thank you. This is not because they are outside the EU – they aren’t! – it’s because there are about seven of them and that’s if everyone is home for the weekend. So if we could reduce our population by approximately 64,999,993 people, we too could do very well by turning ourselves into a tax haven in hock to the great god Amazon.
But the worst of it is the Poundland nationalistic tripe that Johnson comes out with, the “to put Britain in the lead”, “Look at our universities – the best in the world”, “We have more international visitors than any other capital, including Paris and New York” (Boris, you numpty, everyone knows that NYC isn’t like actually the capital of the US. OK, so what’s the capital of Australia? Sydney or Melbourne?)
I think that we all know that Johnson does all of the above and espouses all of these opinions purely for the advancement of Boris Johnson. Recently we have been in thrall to his own personal blonde ambition but for decades now the tories angst over Europe has buffeted us from one side to another. One could argue that every leader since Alec Douglas-Home has been jettisoned for a European-related issue, that’s if one gave a damn.
But it is all so non-sensical, who actually cares? Bhutan registers off the scale on various happiness registers and Scandinavian countries are the go-to exemplars for all sorts of how-to-run-a-country ideas and they haven’t been world beaters at anything since they buried Harald Hadradr at Stamford Bridge.
And so if Johnson’s schtick is that Britain should be somehow great, important and relevant, can anyone tell me how we are showing our “greatness” nit-picking over irrelevant trivialities? Couldn’t we be exerting influence on our special relation to draw them back from nuclear armageddon or how about “putting the ‘Great’ into ‘Great Britain'” by leading the planet out of its spiral into climate catastrophe?
I know that I am peculiarly European and this all matters more to me than it does to many of my fellow Brits. I know that the EU is far from perfect but the key questions I asked to anyone who would listen pre-referendum were:
- Is it really that crap? Is the EU really so crap that we need to spend every ounce of our political energy for the next five years or more disentangling ourselves?
- Is the grain of liberty we will gain of political freedom worth the beam of every kind of freedom we abrogate every time we enter our details in an online form.
- Have we really “regained control” by leaving the EU when there are various multinationals that know more about us than our own spouses and pay only what they choose to pay into our national coffers?
What really worries you on a big scale? Climate change – these storms we are seeing are not caused by climate change but they are exacerbated by the way we have treated the environment. International terrorism? Trump? I mean Trump… I know he is not our President but he could very easily kick off a nuclear war.
Is any of the above solved by Brexit?