The last few days has revealed Britain too be suffering some kind of Fugue State [Dissociative fugue, formerly fugue state or psychogenic fugue, is a dissociative disorder. It is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state can last days, months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity.]
The cause of this is unclear ranging from Suez to Devolution, to the tabloidisation of society, to the banking collapse or even (improbably) the Machievellian cunning of Nigel Farage.
Whatever the cause it’s clear that “Britain” (I use the term advisedly) is suffering the condition, staggering about in a state of some distress.
The disorder seems to include suffering the delusion that the House of Lords is a credible democratic structure, a pretence that is taking us hurtling backwards to before I was born and way before that when the idea of these institutions as anachronisms to be dissolved as soon as possible was a mainstay of liberal opinion.
You don’t have to be a terrible Nat to accept this. Even the venerable Lord Steel who many had thought had simply become as one with the leather upholstery of the Upper Chamber popped up to defend the Scottish Parliament.
As Iain Macwhirter reported:
“As the Former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Lord Steel, said in yesterday’s debate, it is simply unacceptable that Scotland’s governing party, the SNP, will not be represented in this legislative process. It will not be able to argue the very cogent case that the First Minister has made about keeping Scotland in the single market. Indeed, the DExEU impact assessment leaked to Buzzfeed could have come straight from Nicola Sturgeon’s office.”
This is an insight, if an obvious one. In times of enhanced tribalism it is gratifying to hear a politician recognise that this is not about party politics but constitutional issues. This is a rolling crisis, one part Scottish Tory incompetence, two parts unreconstructed feudal relic.
As in all aspects of Brexit Dark Mirror nothing is what we’re told. Take back control means explicitly: losing control. Cries of ‘sovereignty’ inevitably, effortlessly slide into Undemocracy. People expressing basic tenets of democracy are branded Nationalists, whilst flag-obsessed Nationalists are described as anti-establishment radicals.
As the mask fell from the very last possible notion that Brexit wasn’t going to lead us into economic chaos, and the various reports telling us this (as if we didn’t know) were suppressed, then revealed, then belittled, then released, one Labour voice Jerry Hogg said plainly:
“Let’s drop the pretence. Brexit is a planned coup by a cabal of egotists, narcissists, tax avoiders and self-enrichers which would be the biggest economic disaster for ordinary people in Britain since the 1930s.”
As Theresa May disappeared to take time off from her cage-fighting colleagues and get to the other side of the world, ITV’s Robert Peston pointed out the probles with the government’s own spinning against their own reports:
“On plane to China, PM downplayed civil service analysis of costs of Brexit as “a very preliminary analysis which ministers have not signed off, have not approved”. This is slightly chilling. Ministers’ job is to make policy decisions on basis of evidence, not invent the evidence.”
May in China, like Nixon in China with fewer scruples, was a sight to behold. Ashen and confused she was moving from photo op to culture-shocked photo op like a fugitive on CCTV.
Soon she’ll be back, doing what she does best.
But if there was one snapshot of Brexit Britain (aka ‘Global Britain’ aka ‘England’) that struck home this week and encapsulated where we are and where we are going, it was the sight and sound of Lady Michelle Mone in action.
East-ender, Labour supporter, Girl Done Good, she is, if you were to believe it the Poster Girl for Meritocratic Britain, or what the Strong and Stable One has taken to calling the British Dream (like the American Dream but with more ermine).
Mone you will recall responded to the Glasgow SNP MP Stewart McDonald’s criticism of her voting record.
He wrote online: ‘How thrilling. Since becoming a Baroness and legislator – for which she is entitled to £300 per day – Ms Mone has submitted no questions to the government and taken part in only two votes.
‘Still, she’s sold some jewellery.’ Her response was the magnificent: “What are u talking about u SNP MORON! I have voted over 78 times, not twice! I’m a Global entrepreneur with 9 biz interests not a full time MP like u! The difference is I’m a Baroness for life, whereas u will be out of ur MP job in no time.”
It’s not my favourite all-time Mone tweet though. That has to go to her message to Eamonnn Holmes (don’t ask me): “We are too soft. People who riot steel (her spelling) cover face deserve zero human rights”.
Records show that Mone has voted 68 times in the House of Lords and spoken only twice, which may be where McDonald’s figure came from.
He was, however, correct in stating that she had submitted no questions to the government.
But the truly insightful statement was the one in which she had re-understood the world of democracy whereby a lowly MP, who is after all only elected by real people in a constituency, would have a lower status than a Lord or Lady who is appointed in a Chumocracy.
Sooner or Later?
That’s pretty much pure Fugue State Britain right there, but at least you’d have Labour to stand against such feudal hangovers and anachronisms, right?
Not really. Even Scottish Labour’s New Model Old Labour Neil Findlay uttered the astonishing line:
“I want to see the House of Lords abolished sooner rather than later but this week shows the folly of the SNPs failure to nominate people to sit in that place.”
Trotskyist Pragmatism or completely unprincipled undemocratic nonsense? When David Steel has more edge than you, you may be in some difficulty. It’s a line that does conjure the image of the Scottish comrades chanting nervously: “What do we want? To abolish feudalism! When do we want it? Sooner or later!” with perhaps Baron Foulkes leading the responses.
Way back in 2001 Tom Nairn wrote in ‘Pariah Kingdom’ of the coming of New Labour and the Britain it represented:
“When Tony Blair was elected Britain’s Prime Minister in May 1997, the world’s media fêted the re-branding of Britain he claimed to represent: the birth of cool Britannia, the announcement of the Millennium Dome and the proclamation of the Third Way. Within weeks a young man who had never held office was taking the lead in international seminars about the future of the centre-left, and consulting with Clinton and Yeltsin as an equal.
As the 2001 election approached, the enthusiasm had given way internationally to disdain and domestically to widespread apathy and foreboding. When, finally, after its foot and mouth postponement, Blair launched the campaign on 8 May in an evangelical visit to a south London high school, the public’s worst suspicions were confirmed. He seemed certain to win, but the aura of sanctimony was dreadful to behold.”
Our leaders certainly can’t afford an aura of sanctimony these days, it’s been replaced by naked opportunism, and barely contained and savage self-promotion.
This is a regime beyond redemption and a state staggering under the weight of its own delusions. The constitution seems to have just been abandoned and the most Undemocratic aspects of the British State seem to have been promoted. Rather than democracy or sovereignty being in revival they are reviled and institutions like the monarchy and the unelected House of Lords are now celebrated by the many not the few. The reek of self-entitlement and the contempt from Michelle Mone is crystal clear, as are the options for a Scottish democracy. As the saying goes: Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours.
If the week exposed some harsh realities about where we are and where we’re going, its worth contrasting with where we were.
In a speech that now seems quaintly pre-Trumpian – Tony Blair’s farewell address at Sedgefield:
“The British are special. The world knows it. In our hearts we know it. This is the greatest nation on earth.”
You can’t imagine a British politician saying that any more can you?