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The PM Should Not be Making New Enemies When the Country’s in Shambles
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When Voltaire on his deathbed was asked by a priest if he renounced Satan, he responded: “Now, now my good man. This is no time to be making enemies.” Britain may not yet be on its deathbed, but it is politically and economically sick and this might be a good moment to follow Voltaire’s example and avoid taking on new opponents.

Instead Britain is joining a US-led confrontation with China over everything from the future of Hong Kong to the treatment of the Uighur and future British business dealings with Huawei. Both the concerns over the Uighur and the citizens of Hong Kong are important, but there is a good dollop of hypocrisy here since Britain managed to rule Hong Kong for many years without showing much interest in the democratic rights of its inhabitants, and concern over Chinese mistreatment of the Uighur is in marked contrast to British reticence over India’s ever-more oppressive rule in Kashmir.

Self-interest alone should argue that this is a poorly-timed moment for Britain to join a new cold war against China or anybody else for that matter. Relations are already bad with Russia, a nuclear super-power whatever the state of its economy, and Brexit ensures enhanced rivalry shading into hostile relations with the 27 nations in the European Union.

The inevitable consequence of this is a greater reliance on the US under a uniquely dysfunctional and divisive president Donald Trump, when Americans are more at each other’s throats than at any time since the Civil War. The very fact that Trump is president at all is evidence of an imploding political system that will take long to recover.

Skill in making alliances was at the centre of Britain’s rise to be a global power from the beginning of the 18th century onwards. The country was only isolated for brief and unwelcome periods, usually because continental allies had been defeated in war and could not be immediately replaced. Winston Churchill had his failings as a military strategist (witness Gallipoli in 1915 and Norway in 1940), but he made immense and successful efforts to forge alliances with the US and Soviet Union to win the war against Adolf Hitler.

It is this sort of Churchillian political realism that is so lacking in Boris Johnson and his government. They espouse a self-aggrandising populist nationalism that is provincial in its attitude towards the rest of the world and Britain’s position in it.

Many suspected that this might be the case during the Brexit crisis over the last four years. So much of what the Eurosceptics believed about Brussel’s iron, though incompetent, rule was demonstrably false that it was difficult to imagine them running the country. All the same, I wondered at the time if the Remain predictions of national ruin when Britain left the EU might be overstated.

This was what Johnson and right-wing Eurosceptic Conservatives and their media allies derisively dubbed “Project Fear”.

But, as it turns out, the proponents of “Project Fear” were more correct than they could have imagined about the negative things that were going to happen to Britain, though wrong about one important aspect of the threat.

It has since become clear that it was not so much Brexit as the Brexiters themselves that were the true danger. This might not have mattered quite so much if it had not been for a terrible piece of ill luck: on 31 January, the very day that Johnson and Dominic Cummings were congratulating themselves on taking Britain out of the EU, the coronavirus pandemic was hurtling towards them.

It soon emerged that jibes about the incompetence and poor judgement of Johnson and his lieutenants were all too true. Britain had more warning of the approaching pandemic than all east Asian countries and many European ones. Yet preparations were meagre, late and wrong-headed, producing one of the worst death rates in the world. Only the US and Brazil performed worse thanks to a similarly incapable leadership. As Ferdinand Mount wrote in the London Review of Books: “Bolsonaro, Trump and Johnson: these are men you wouldn’t put in charge of containing an outbreak of acne.”

The political style of all three is broadly similar, though adapted to differing political traditions. In common is the constant drumbeat of boosterism, mendacity and demonisation of opponents at home or abroad who are invariably blamed for anything that goes wrong. No mistakes are ever admitted and no apologies are therefore necessary. Their own achievement and that of their country are always “world beating”, even when their performance has been catastrophic.

The manic self-confidence of the three is frightening. It recalls the last scene in the film White Heat when James Cagney, playing a demented gangster trapped by police on top of a giant gas tank, cries out triumphantly “Made it, Ma. Top of the world,” just before the tank explodes into flames.

Despite weekly demonstrations at Prime Minister’s Questions of Johnson’s lack of grip and confusion of mind, many in Britain have still to take on board that their country is being run by a nincompoop during one of the worst crises in its history. Many others do understand this, which explains why the government, having once given the impression that the coronavirus epidemic was akin to the Black Death, is finding it difficult to persuade people that it is safe to go to a restaurant or a pub. Its lack of credibility is such that even when there is good news – such as the latest estimate by the Office of National Statistics that only 0.03 per cent of the population have coronavirus at present – people are still chary of taking a risk.

ORDER IT NOW

Such incompetence may be blurred at home by sympathetic newspapers. But it is glaringly obvious to the rest of the world that Britain has not only responded far less effectively to the epidemic than Germany and Denmark, but it has been outperformed by poorer places Vietnam and Kerala in India. A failure like this has political consequences within the British Isles as whole. A visibly blundering government in London strengthens Scottish separatism and, less obviously, has led Ireland, which until recently often pursued parallel policies to Britain, to move in different directions.

Britain is weaker because of its government’s miserable response to the pandemic and it will be weaker still when Brexit becomes a reality. A problem of having leaders like Johnson and Cummings is that they not only refuse to admit their mistakes to others, but they do not admit them to themselves, and consequently never learn from them. They won power as propagandists and, like many politicians with same skills-set, they believe their own words.

Even so it is astonishing and depressing to see these same leaders, whose ineptitude has been so patent during the epidemic, confidently step forward to reorganise everything in Britain from the BBC to the civil service. Given their dismal record over the last six months, even coping with an outbreak of acne would probably be beyond them.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, China, EU 
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  1. The inevitable consequence of this is a greater reliance on the US under a uniquely dysfunctional and divisive president Donald Trump

    What is unique about it? What specifically is dysfunctional about it? Why would you say that Trump is divisive?

    So there is nothing dysfunctional about the Trump presidency, which means there’s nothing unique about something that does not exist.

    And last time I looked, and I look all the live long day and night, the divisive people were led by people like Nancy Pelosi.

    So in other words, why would you say something so false ignorant and willfully evil? Who are you kowtowing to? You couldn’t possibly believe what you wrote.

    Which means nothing you wrote is worth reading. You don’t believe a word you say.

    • Replies: @Supply and Demand
  2. “They espouse a self-aggrandising populist nationalism that is provincial in its attitude towards the rest of the world and Britain’s position in it.”
    Yes, they’re “Nationalist”, re the world — but otherwise they are completely subservient to the US (just like Australia). In what passes for their minds, UK & US interests are so intertwined that they are no longer capable of distinguishing the UK’s “national” interest. (Were they so capable, their anti-China rhetoric would be dialled back by at least 75% or so). The US treats them for what they are: dogs. (Ironically, the same attitude Israel has for the US).

  3. Stogumber says:

    Mr. Cockburn’s argument is basically:
    – not that the Brits are served badly by Johnson,
    – but that Britain gets “weaker”.

    “National strength” – whatever this means – is his core value. Strength not for to do something good, but strength as a value in itself.

    Insofar he is behind his times. He parrots the Conservatives of around 1950, which had – at that time -yet a lot of followers in the working class. But nowadays the working class understands, what Cockburn doesn’t understand, that “the nation” doesn’t exist and its strength is quite useless for the working people.

  4. anonymous[306] • Disclaimer says:

    22 western countries criticized China for mistreating the Uyhurs. China repeatedly invited them to visit Xinjiang for fact-finding missions but they repeatedly rejected the offers. They kept on criticizing though.

    Representatives from 50 countries, many of them Islamic, visited Xinjiang and they returned with full praise of China, that their ambassadors lodged a letter of protest against the 22 western countries in the Human Rights Commision.
    https://jamestown.org/program/the-22-vs-50-diplomatic-split-between-the-west-and-china-over-xinjiang-and-human-rights/

    100 Islamic scholars from Xinjiang wrote a letter of rebuke against Mike Pompeo for his baseless accusations.
    https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1158473.shtml

    IMO, it’s pretty stupid for the UK to be on the wrong side of history AND to lose a good economic partner.

  5. eggplant says:

    Cockburn was always a communist and a blowhard, now he’s proven himself to be a coward and a traitor.

  6. I don’t know if Cockburn wrote the headline, but I have always been under the impression that there is never a good time to make enemies.
    I am astonished that he, an alleged investigative journalist, still buys into the Covid19 pandemic hoax. Anyone who is half interested can find real information with little difficulty.
    Is Trump divisive? Probably. Is there a politician as leader in (((the West))) in the 21st century that hasn’t been? The dysfunction isn’t so much Trump as those who refuse to accept that he won an election.

    • Agree: Tsar Nicholas
  7. Literally every article Cockburn writes would be right at home on, say, the BBC or CNN or something. He’s the author I have the least clue why he’s on this website.

    • Agree: eggplant
  8. @restless94110

    Trump is divisive because he sometimes acknowledges the grievances of white America. This is unacceptable to the Jewish diaspora who control the media. In that sense, Trump is quite divisive — primarily because he led millions of otherwise decaying, post-racial boomers in their Florida retirement villages to think racially again.

    • Replies: @restless94110
  9. Totally disagree with this article.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  10. Miro23 says:

    It has since become clear that it was not so much Brexit as the Brexiters themselves that were the true danger. This might not have mattered quite so much if it had not been for a terrible piece of ill luck: on 31 January, the very day that Johnson and Dominic Cummings were congratulating themselves on taking Britain out of the EU, the coronavirus pandemic was hurtling towards them.

    The point about Brexit was independence. The idea was to put the interests of the British people first – free of foreign (EU) rules and interference.

    From this POV, the coronavirus was actually an opportunity to put Brexit Britain into action – (along with a long list of other issues). For example:

    CORONAVIRUS – Johnson knew that more than 95% of fatalities were very old people with existing conditions. Working people (like himself) caught the virus – took time off work – and returned when they recovered – so working people and the young could handle it. Conclusion that the correct Brexit response should have been to DO NOTHING other than provide special care to older people at. No lockdown, no economic disaster – but it would have needed a lot of cojones on the part of Johnson to do this (something very lacking in this guy).

    BLM – Johnson knows that BLM is part of the Western trend in “wokeness” deriving from the same counter-cultural activism that has been so destructive of Western society since the 1960’s. The British people outside of the London luvvies, BBC, Guardian and academia hate it. So Brexit was the opportunity to finally act on their behalf with tear gas, water cannon, baton charges and serious mass arrests and imprisonment – dealing equally with black and white rioters. Ignore the screeching from the ZioWoke media, and make damaging and defacing national monuments a serious offence with long prison terms. This would have again required a lot of cojones on the part of Johnson (something he doesn’t have).

    IMMIGRATION – Johnson knows that a major driving force of Brexit was the desire of the British people to get back control of the frontiers and stop mass immigration. His answer was to pander to minorites (“diversity is our strength”), follow the rules of wokeness, fill his cabinet with non- British (non-English/Scottish/Welsh) people, keep the frontiers open and invite in 3 million Hong Kong Chinese. To state that Great Britain is the historic home of the (ethnically) British people and that they have prior rights would have required a level of cojones that Johnston couldn’t even imagine.

    FOREIGN POLICY – Brexit was the opportunity for the UK to make independent decisions about world alliances putting Britain First. In fact Johnson became the most slavish of all foreign leaders supporting US ZioGlob policies, for example : 1) Russia bad – Putin = Hitler 2) China bad – Encourage unrest in Hong Kong 3) Support CIA regime change e.g. Venezuela, Iran 4) Slavish support for Israel . Any opposition is anti-Semitism to be rooted out. Johnston is once again showing a serious lack of cojones and is harming genuine British interests. GB could have good independent relations with Russia, China (and most of Europe).

    The common thread is that Johnson has no cojones. He’s a natural arse licker to power – which in 2020 means the US ZioGlob and its Woke Red Guards.

    If he had taken a genuine Brexit/ Britain First attitude on the above issues, the British economy would be in a much better state, and he would already be viewed as a great British leader.

    • Replies: @Amerimutt Golems
  11. @Supply and Demand

    primarily because he led millions of otherwise decaying, post-racial boomers in their Florida retirement villages to think racially again.

    Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

    Trump led millions (millions, I tells ya!) of retirement villages? Where did he lead the villages to?

    And the villages were otherwise decaying? What would they have been doing otherwise if Trump had not led them? So in other words, the villages were decaying,but Trump led them out of their decay? So in other words, that’s a good thing that Trump did, right?

    So boomers were post-racial? What is post-racial. Can you be post-racial and not be a boomer? If you are a boomer, do you have to post-racial.

    Last time I looked everybody always thinks at least in part racially, which is not racist. For example, it’s obvious to anyone that if two or more people are talking loudly on the street in a movie theater or in a cafe bar or restaurant that it’s either going to be black people or white women of a certain age. That’s racial. But that’s not racist.

    So I would dispute that Trump led decaying boomers to think racially again. They never stopped. But either did anyone else.

    So in other words, what you talkin’ ’bout, Willis? You ain’t makin’ no kinda sense.

  12. New FTA: Brexit free trade deal ‘very close’ – UK finalising comprehensive agreement with Turkey

    ”There are more than 2,500 UK companies operating in Turkey including BP, Shell, Vodafone, Unilever, BAE Systems, HSBC, Aviva and Diageo.”

    ”The two sides met in London this week but the EU’s chief negotiation Michel Barnier said on Thursday “significant divergences” remain.”

    ”Britain is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner after Germany, and the agreement of a free trade deal would be crucial for Turkish manufacturers, particularly carmakers, textile factories and white goods producers.”

    https://www.bilaterals.org/?brexit-free-trade-deal-very-close

  13. @Miro23

    His answer was to pander to minorites (“diversity is our strength”), follow the rules of wokeness, fill his cabinet with non- British (non-English/Scottish/Welsh) people, keep the frontiers open and invite in 3 million Hong Kong Chinese.

    Resettlement of Hong Kong Chinese isn’t a new idea. There were similar plans related to Scotland even Northern Ireland where centuries prior the Scots or Scots ‘Irish’ in American dialects were planted.

    Given this is a Conservatives Plc government money might be a key motivation. According to Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global wealth report 2019, Hong Kong had about 516,000 millionaires (USD) or 1% of the global total plus 3,100 individuals whose assets were valued at more than $50 million. Some of these could park their money in London just like Russian oligarchs and third world kleptocrats.

    Scotland could be site of new Hong Kong, says study
    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/11920027.scotland-could-be-site-of-new-hong-kong-says-study/

    UK officials discussed resettling 5.5m Hong Kong Chinese in Northern Ireland
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/03/uk-officials-discussed-resettling-55m-hong-kong-chinese-in-northern-ireland

  14. Alfred says:

    Initially, Johnson followed the good advice of his professional and experienced epidemiologist. He proposed herd-immunity – which has worked for thousands of yours.

    However, Johnson soon got a call from his masters to tell him that this was an organised event and that he was not to spoil it. Johnson faked his illness and disappeared for 2 weeks. The correct policy was abandoned. With the help of the Zionist media, the destruction of the economy began.

    A vast proportion of the dead in the UK would have died anyway. They were dying anyway and their death certificate is a lie. There is no other possible explanation for the massive discrepancy in deaths between the UK/USA/Brazil and Germany/Russia/Egypt.

  15. @anonymous1963

    So you think England’s government is competent at this time..??

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