Back To A Small ‘C’ Britain

Great Britain


Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re a little Northern country that financially punches above its weight, combining sophistication with brutish selfishness, and in uncertain times we timidly retreat to a level of safety. Last night we did it again; after six weeks of campaigning that might have stood for the very model of democracy we chose a dull centre-right Conservative leader over a well-meaning but wrong-headed centre-left Labour leader who sabotaged his chances with one of the most unappealing policy lineups I’ve ever seen in this country.

Everyone knows you’re meant to make promises that encourage votes, then rescind them in power in favour of unpopular legislation. Ed Miliband decided to headline the unpopular policies first. His tax on homes would have only affected a few, but a decade of zero interest and dead pensions means that everyone putting their life savings into property felt it would be the thin end of a wedge. Vague promises about saving the NHS were made, but there’s a sense that David Cameron knows there’s only so much of the NHS he can privatise before public anger kicks in. In this sense it felt as if the Conservatives had already co-opted any promises Labour might make.

It was only ever a two-party battle (battle seems rather a strong word – tepid water fight, perhaps), with the Lib-Dems reduced to the level of Ukip and the other doomed sidebars that flesh out elections to make them seem fair. All have now fallen on their swords to make way for Cameron’s way. The question is whether Labour will ever rebuild without the support of a Scotland heading for devolution.

Further ahead, we have the looming spectre of Boris Johnson (currently being taken to court over record levels of city pollution) seeking to spread his grotesque elitist policies to all corners of Britain. A country where he is Prime Minister would be unthinkable; beware the Holy Fool, for he will survive kings, and in this case we can expect hundreds of vanity projects designed to appeal to deposed dictators. A Swarovski crystal bridge for Newcastle, perhaps, or a thousand-metre golden tower for Devon, opened by Dame Katie Hopkins?

I’ve often wondered what Johnson’s real vision for Britain might be; he rarely mentions health, ecology or the work/life balance that decides what truly makes places liveable. He remains popular because people underestimate him and don’t seek to uncover a long-term agenda. There’s a terrific speech in ‘Tom & Viv’, an underrated film about TS Elliot, about the nature of England and its so-called ‘quiet values’, which perfectly captures the Place of Greater Safety attitude that governs our political mentality. I can only think that under Johnson a future small ‘c’ conservative term would quickly become big ‘C’, completing the nation’s transformation into a sort of Switzerland, money-laundering for the world and producing nothing of interest or use. We were once described by Napoleon as a nation of shopkeepers. Perhaps it would be fairer to say we’re a nation of money-changers. And from last night’s results it seems that many people are perfectly happy with that.

11 comments on “Back To A Small ‘C’ Britain”

  1. Vivienne says:

    Agree. And Boris as a fool – or in a clown’s costume: no wonder they’re scary.

  2. DC says:

    Thing is, if the Union breaks, which is pretty much inevitable with a No vote in the EU referendum, then it becomes very hard for Labour to ever win.

    The temptation is surely for Right of Centre to dump the Scots and then many of their problems go away. Short term pain means they can once and for all sort out the issues of the likes of the NHS* which is a drain on the countries resources.

    Once you do that then in 10 years time we can start having Swarovski crystal on our bridges but maybe not in Newcastle. You can have a whole dynasty of Boris types. It’ll be just like the good old days.

    *The cynic in me suggests a remedy of compulsory diets for fat people and a cull of old codgers and codgerettes by reducing the state pension and making them pay prescription charges.

    **Think you have got your Milibands wrong (unfortunately, so did the Labour Party).

  3. Ian Smith says:

    A perceptive piece, Christopher, although I should point out that Scotland already has devolution. Where I think it’s heading now will be a lot further than devolution.

    That’s fine by me. I only regret that Iain Banks won’t be around to see it!

  4. admin says:

    Oops about Miliband – Freudian slip!
    And a shame about Iain, who was a mate.

  5. John Griffin says:

    I suspect a lot of moaning will come from those who did not see beyond their Daily Wail; personally I am more charismatic than Miliband and I have much better policies, but then you’ve had to be a Westminster wonk to get a shot (or never really had a job at all, just pots of money bequeathed you). My biggest fear is for the poor, the disabled, the ill and the elderly – the casualties of enrichment of the rich and corporate.
    “Alas, the next time there were guns” – good start for a paranoid 2020s story.

  6. John Griffin says:

    PS according to one paper, 10% rise in house prices in London expected in the next couple of months, and foreign investors already ringing the big estate agents.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Under Maggie Thatcher the mother of a friend of mine was put in a 14 bed ward for dementia sufferers and it was a real battle to get that because she had a care person, her son. The problem was that she had to be watched all the time and if they were to have any food he had to work. It was a nightmare. Is that time returning?
    Why is there so much antipathy to the EU? If Germany and France can tolerate it and neither Belgium nor the Netherlands objects why should Britain make difficulties? (I know, island people tend to be isolationist and Iceland isn’t in the union either.

  8. Steve2 says:

    I thought that being the Mayor of London and being an MP were both full on, demanding roles. So has Boris cloned himself or has he decided that he can’t give one or both roles the undivided attention they need?

  9. Vivienne says:

    Boris has answered this. He thinks he is so good he can do both up to 2016. Superman!
    My understanding of the EU is that business really wants us in. Switzerland, who are not in, negotiated their trade agreement, but couldn’t opt out of the freedom of movement aspect – nor could Norway. So why did Farage say he could do this? And why did no one pick this up? Did Cameron pick up votes over the exit referendum? But he has only said he would offer a referendum on a renegotiated deal – is this deal likely to happen? Trouble ahead I think.

  10. Andrew Green says:

    The fact is that in London where Labour did the best in the country will always be more left than right simply because of the sheer numbers of people .Miliband was never going to win ,just going around saying vote for us …. we’re not the Tories isn’t going to work as we found out.The Labour Party has to seriously think about whom it actually stands for ,again just saying we stand up for the working man when you are stuffed full of professional politicians who wouldn’t know a working man or woman if they fell over them because you went to a good school then an Oxbridge Uni got you PPE degree became a SpAd fought an unwinnable seat then got parachuted into a safe seat and became an MP doesnt make you a champion of the working class,it makes you a hypocrite.

    Its easy to tell what Boris stands for,he wants to be THE 21st century Churchill ,read his book on WC its basically a fanboy bigging up his hero.He has a year to go before he stands down as mayor and yes Ken Livingstone did exactly the same being MP for Brent as well as Mayor at the same time strangely the lefties than whinge at Boris for doing this tend to forget Ken did it as well.

    England is always going to be conservative with a small ‘c’ Scotland will get a 2nd referendum in the next 10 years and may or maybe will vote for independence,personally if it happens again i still think it will be a no vote,the one thing the SNP doesn’t like to bang on about it full fiscal autonomy which would cost the Scots a lot more money than being propped up using the Barnett formula.The EU referendum again i think will probably be a no vote as well those who are desperate to stay in the EU will have apocalyptic like visions of Britains trade and industry crumbling into dust the day after a Yes vote …pure cobblers btw all you need is a NAFTA style agreement with the EU people really think that all the stuff we export would dry up if we left.

    Labour need to forget about lurching to the left and go back to a centre position whether they like it or not the left wing position does not win elections in England where the majority of parliamentary seats are a ffs stop apologizing for cocking stuff up in the past no wonder people wont vote for you they will think well if they keep on apologizing for this and that why the hell should we give them another go to do it all again….

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Do not ask for a NAFTA style agreement unless you have the strong hand in the negotiating. Our auto industry is disappearing because the US naturally wants all the jobs it can get at home so the Canadian branch plants are down the tube. The Auto Trade agreement went when NAFTA came in. If it isn’t in the agreement you strike, it doesn’t exist no matter how long you’ve had it.
    There are smaller situations in other areas, but that one is decimating Southern Ontario.

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