HMS Blighty Shipping Water, Badly

As I’ve said before on CounterPunch, Blighty is the slang term (at once affectionate and a tad irreverent) Brits use when talking about their country.

The Blighty ship of state has in the last couple of weeks looked even more like a listing vessel heading slowly towards the nearest port with a broken rudder after striking a rocky shoal.

The Brexit shambles continues to get worse (if that is possible).  The prime minister, Theresa “the Maybot” May is seriously delusional when it comes to Brexit.  Month after month she announces, in her cyborgese English, another “step” the UK will take in its negotiations with the UK, but her “steps” are always ones the eurocrats had deemed absolute non-starters at least a year before.

May has yet to receive the memo informing her that the EU’s position on Brexit has always been an unwavering “take what we offer, or get nothing”, so she persists in believing she is somehow in a position to negotiate with the unbending eurocrats who slammed the door in her face a long time ago.

The Little Englander troglodytes in her party are of course prepared to leave without getting anything, but this puts them mightily at odds with Tory-supporting corporate fat cats– big donors to the Conservatives—who can’t bring themselves to step-off the EU’s amply-stocked gravy train.

Belt-tightening and austerity are not for fat cats!

The Tories simply can’t tell the truth about Brexit.  The EU countries are the UK’s biggest trading partners.  Relinquishing EU membership will greatly increase trading costs with these countries, with no compensatory economic outcomes in sight.  Of course, these economic consequences may be offset by political advantages stemming from Brexit, but the Tories have not identified, concretely, any of the latter.

The Tories have moreover engaged in a massive con since coming to power in 2010: giving Brits vague undertakings that European standards vis-a-vis their welfare state and public education will be somehow be maintained, while moving inexorably towards US taxation levels.

Brits are being infantilized by not being told there is simply no way to square this circle.  European welfare states and standards of public education require European levels of taxation, US taxation levels will ensue in American standards of (non) welfare and sub-standard public education.  On this, the choice is stark–  if you have one, you can’t have the other.

The next Labour government must be absolutely explicit about the need to abandon this con, and treat the UK electorate as adults when it comes to taxation levels and spending on the welfare state and public education.

For now, the Maybot clings to power because all sides in her party despise and mistrust her equally, since no one these days can get to lead the Tories if that person is perceived to be esteemed and trusted just a little bit more by another of the party’s warring factions.

Beholding today’s Conservative party, Hobbes must be nodding his head in that celestial zone reserved for philosophical sages.

The Tories will probably have to wait till next year, when Brexit becomes a fait accompli, to get rid of the Maybot.  Even so, she could linger until the general election scheduled for 2022, though that is highly unlikely.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is biding its time for now, doing what first needs to be done, that is, solidifying its popular base outside the party structure, and purging the Labour leadership of its remaining Blairites (who are in effect closet Thatcherites).

This week an ex-KGB colonel who had spied for Britain and was given asylum there after a spy swap with Russia, was found unconscious, along with his daughter, on a park bench in the pleasant town of Salisbury.  They had been incapacitated by a nerve toxin, and are now critically ill in hospital.  Suspicion regarding the possible perpetrators has fallen on Putin and his associates.

Following this suspected poisoning, the bumbling foreign secretary, Boris “BoJo” Johnson, was summoned to parliament to answer questions on Blighty’s relations with Russia après the events in Salisbury.

BoJo managed stick to his foreign-ministerial brief (“be diplomatic and judicious until the police investigation is concluded”) for a couple of minutes, but being the inveterate show-off he is, BoJo had to cut loose and find a way to put his big foot in his equally big mouth, by declaring to the startled parliamentary committee that Blighty was now at war with Russia.

Warming to his theme, BoJo then said that “Britain” would be boycotting this summer’s soccer World Cup finals to be held in Russia.

BoJo is clearly clueless about soccer, or else he would have known that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate nations in the World Cup, and that in any event Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland won’t be going to Russia this summer because they were eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the competition.

Neither a declaration of war nor the World Cup boycott were BoJo’s decisions to make, but such scruples have never slowed-down the UK’s oafish chief diplomat.

People wonder why the Maybot keeps someone so obviously ill-qualified as BoJo in his job– the treacherous BoJo has after all made it known publicly that he wants to replace her.  But she is too weak to do anything about the several ministerial colleagues who have made it clear they want to supplant her as prime minister.

So, perhaps, here it’s a case of better having them piss out of her tent than pissing into it, as they say.

Suspected toxic substances also featured elsewhere in Ukania.

Police had to investigate a package containing white powder, purporting to be anthrax, that was sent to Prince Harry and his fiancée, the mixed-race American actor Meghan Markle.  The package, which turned out to be harmless, was intercepted before it got to the couple, and contained a letter with a racist message.

The incident is being treated as a hate crime, and clearly some white chauvinist Brits are not so enchanted with the upcoming royal nuptials, despite having the ghastly tabloids do their slavish best to convince readers that Meghan Markle could be the next Princess Diana.

Another continuing Blighty fiasco has to do with the government’s inability or unwillingness to deal with the upshot of the Grenfell Tower fire last June, which killed 79 people and left hundreds homeless.

The Tory government had known beforehand about the fire risk posed by the combustible cladding used on the tower, and the lack of a fire-alarm system, but did nothing.  The Tories have always been opposed to social housing, since it does not accord with the Thatcherite myth of a “property-owning democracy”, so this inaction is hardly surprising.

According to The Guardian, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing concluded recently that the Tower’s residents have not been responded to “in a meaningful way” by the authorities in the fire’s aftermath.

Again, this is hardly surprising.  Not only is social housing not a Tory priority, but Grenfell Tower is in a part of London that has voted Labour since time immemorial, so addressing housing needs there is hardly likely to recruit voters en masse to the Tory cause.

Tory priorities lie elsewhere.  A clear indication of this comes in the recent disclosure that £817m/$1130m allocated for urgently needed affordable housing in cash-strapped local authorities, reeling from decades of cuts to their housing and other budgets, has been returned to the Treasury unspent.

Responsibility for this lies primarily with the housing and local government minister, Sajid Javid, a former director of Deutsche Bank before he entered politics, and the owner of two residences in London worth several million pounds each.  When reporters ask him about his tenure at the much-penalized and heavily-fined Deutsche Bank, Javid does a Usain Bolt imitation in the alacrity with which he speeds away from the inquisitive journalists.

London, with its massively over-priced real estate, is a property developer’s wet dream, and these rapacious individuals regard any form of “socialism’ when it comes to housing, even its milquetoast manifestations, as a personal affront.

Developers support the Tories to a man and woman, and their personal utopia is to have social housing razed in order to make way for their lucrative gentrification projects.  “To hell with Jack and Jill Normal, in (heaven) with Algernon and Henrietta Forrester-Ponsonby” is their creed.

The developers of course donate handsomely to the Tories.  And maybe the Forrester-Ponsonbys do as well.

Meanwhile Jack and Jill Normal, and other middling Brits, continue to be mired in the Conservative’s vicious austerity agenda.

There you have HMS Blighty in a nutshell.


Originally published: Kenneth Surin (Counter Punch)

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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