Bristling Brock speaks out...
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As the Brexit negotiations enter yet another crisis mode, perhaps we should reflect upon the likely winners and losers of this protracted battle.
Britain will regain its sovereignty, its national right to decree its own laws and processes. Quite laudable if you’re a Euro-sceptic. Over the Channel we have the vested interests of 27 other nation states. It would be a mistake to imagine that those interests are common, for each has an agenda that focuses upon its own well being and prosperity. You could say that’s a laudable position for them as well. The EU, however, is a Continental Political Entity embracing those 27 disparate ambitions - some of which support a strong EU because they are net beneficiaries from its subsidies and largesse, and some that seek to be the captain of the European ship and its journey toward federalism. In that, Bristling Brock looks at the machinations of French political positioning in particular. It’s no coincidence that France has emerged as the agent of opposition to securing a Brexit deal. Let’s assume that there are no history denyers reading this, but for the last thousand years the interests of this island and that of France have been at odds. It’s almost built into the DNA of our respective societies and national outlooks. We both see ourselves as different and better than the other in an almost playground face-off between young belligerents. At some level it is an amusing back-drop to ancient historical conflicts but the reality is that it is still an emotive and strongly held belief on both sides of the Channel that there should be some one-upmanship in play. Brexit presents such an opportunity for the French. With German moral and financial guidance wavering, France has quickly adopted the captains cap on the good ship SS Europe. There are clear benefits to France in a no deal outcome - not least in the financial sector where Paris may well become the hub of investment activity for the entire bloc, London by then an outsider. It’s a lucrative goal for France to pitch for, so the blocking of deal conditions is very much to their advantage. And that’s the point - it is to France’s advantage, not necessarily the EU’s. We have a classic example of national interest taking precedence over the EU bloc’s interest. Read the history books, it’s happened before !
The Donald is still complaining of unfair electioneering. Whether that’s a true assertion or not, it brings disrepute to the broader church of American politics, that arena of intrigues that has always been plagued by cries of ‘Foul !’ and wrong-doing. In some respects it is the theatre that represents our views of much of America. It is television and film fodder which, as always, portrays good triumphing over evil - often wonderfully entertaining but subliminally setting the notion across the world that this big superpower is as dysfunctional as any tin-pot dictatorship. We cannot truly live our way of life without much of this American influence, and for certain aspects of that we should be grateful, but we should not bend our knee to this often bullying cousin. Whatever sizes and global influences may be, we are our own people and with a new American administration approaching we should not be the expected supplicant.
Eton is in the middle of a row over the expression of free truths and opinions versus the wokish dogma’s of current day public life. You can guess where Bristling Brock sits on this argument, an argument of puerility and political correctness that stifles the scope of young peoples thinking versus the argument of open-mindedness, freedom of thought and expression, of natural debate over all issues without constraint or fear of recrimination. Let us hope freedom of thought and opinion win the day. The alternative is dictatorial and wholly counter-productive.
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The endless carping about what we should have done differently about this or that over the COVID response tells us something about what we, the British, have become. In truth, it's not solely a shift brought about by COVID restrictions for it has been an evident trend for more than a few years.
We have evolved into a State of Whingeing Ninnies. There is little else more polite that sums up the decay in our moral fibre as a nation. It infects our declining cultural values, our weak and flabby attitudes to other nation states, our lapsed preparedness, nay, open-mindedness, to recognise and cherish the freedoms and values that once made this country the very foundation of democracy in modern history. Such attitudes have imbued a state of contempt, complacency, even ambivalence towards our heritage, our national story and the events - both good and bad - that forged the way we developed and advanced. Stoked by those whom we would describ as 'woke' or extreme leftists who idealise the notion of perfect socialism, we have even encouraged this appalling trend toward by our whingeing, our fear of being non-conformant to the woke agenda, and by our utter apathy. It is a string of habits much welcomed by the minority agents provocateur who desire above all to create chaos and the tragedy of all this is that those souls are steering the debate, the course, the strategy that underpin our governance.
We may not like this government or any other for some of the actions and policies implemented in our name. That, unfortunately, is the price of democracy - not everything will suit everyone. Whingeing and carping may have its place as a distinctly peripheral influence but woe betide we become the puppets of minority usurpers, manipulators and zealots who believe in the very antithesis of democratic governance, outlook and behaviour. That is neither what our history made us, nor should it be the basis for the future as we re-assert our sovereignty in the world.
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Another extraordinary week in Westminster on top of an equally extraordinary time in Washington. Has some divine string puller in the Cosmos suddenly awakened and decided to sort a few gremlins out here on this rogue planet, one might wonder ?
There is little doubt that the appearance of Covid upon our political, health and social scenes has caused an unprecedented amount of 'headless-chicken' syndrome. Responses at every level have been driven by perceptions over truths and false beliefs throughout, yet one supposes that if any challenge suddenly materialises that has never been seen within living memory before the chances that your risk analysis has all the answers neatly prescribed with perfect mitigation measures ready to launch is a bit of an imagination stretch. One doubts whether there is anywhere in the world where the responses have been even marginally better than here in the UK, except China. Yet there is little in China or about China that inspires belief in anything they say.
Yet this pandemic has defined our governance for most of 2020. It has distracted leadership from the other big issues of the day like Brexit and has opened up the very core of government to the influence of that breed known as 'advisers'. Whilst the political leadership has been almost overwhelmed by the task of tackling the Covid pandemic, behind them there has arisen a layer of political 'advisers' who have, partly be default and partly by design, adopted the position of being the policy makers and strategists for the ongoing processes of government - almost like a subtle usurping of authority whilst the real incumbents of government face the barrage of Covid. Maybe this was a natural or at least inevitable outcome given the extraordinary circumstances. Yet now, almost on the eve of the final Brexit push, this layer of very clever - but possibly too clever - advisers have been purged from Downing Street. We shouldn't overlook the fact that the breed existed long before Covid and operated with varying degrees of political success but it was Covid that swung the doors wide open to allow them to expand their influence and style upon the decision making machinery of Whitehall. The departure of a handful of their leadership - suddenly and incisively -is almost a visceral realisation by our political leadership that democratic governance is, for better or worse, a politically led dynamic rather than an autocratically led one. Hasn't history ever shown this to be thus when autocrats, dictators and despots try to dominate the roost ? As to who brought this visceral realisation about is largely academic - in the case of the Prime Ministers partner, such gossip is hardly new or that meaningful. One can doubt whether there has ever been a political leadership that wasn't in some way influenced by wives, husbands or partners - to a degree, a healthy counter-balance to the rigid doctrines of Whitehall. We need to move beyond the salacious gossipers and focus on that which really matters.
Downing Street will be a better place with a less ambitious core of advisers. It will not be an easy transition and there will no doubt be further fallout to occur - but it will be the better position to be in if the new breed of adviser is more carefully selected and appointed.
Biden's success in the US elections will also occupy many minds. As to what this represents across American society is not absolutely clear as both he and Trump polled very healthy numbers of votes. The Reds and the Blues of America are still much divided and not settled yet into any acceptance of the political shift in Washington. There also we are likely to see an upsurge of social pressure to shape the domestic agenda for politicians to grapple with as the partnership between citizen and government nudges ever closer. In both our countries, we have seen an expansion of public interest in the political status quo - or perhaps we should redefine ' status quo' into 'status transformare', the shift from permanence to transformative change - as social issues begin to dominate much of the political agenda setting as we move forward. It is happening elsewhere within the Western democracies also as the isolationism of governance is increasingly held to account by the public interest. And for all this we have the media to thank - that ever expanding balloon of information, disclosure and immediacy that most of us are obliged to be drawn into. One could imagine we have briefly emerged from one dark pit of covert governance and are now on the cusp of jumping into another dark pit characterised by a misinformed populace. One wonders what the Cosmic string-pullers think of that...
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