A New Year

On the top lane to Bughead Cross

I have tried to avoid writing too much about politics this past year. Mainly because it seems so pointless – and because all that happens is that I end up ranting away. But I cannot note the final rupture with Europe with anything other than real sadness. The cold weather this morning matched my mood.

For virtually my entire adult life we have been in and of Europe. The history I studied and I (still) read is clear that our fortunes are and have been inextricably linked with those of our European neighbours. Despite our many episodes of English (for it was invariably English) exceptionalism, our relationship with the continent, one way or another, has, sometimes of necessity but more often by choice, been close.

But I woke up this morning to a new world where, apparently, we have regained our sovereignty (had we ever lost it?) and are finally free (really?).

So what comes next? I was reading Camilla Cavendish’s column in the FT Online, With Brexit ‘done’, Britain must rebuild trust in Europe (almost certainly paywalled). She is very good on the challenges that the UK now faces but I was struck by this,

As the world moves into a new era of great power competition, the UK can only project its soft power and liberal democratic values in partnership with other like-minded countries.

One of the principal consequences of Brexit has been the steady erosion of the UK’s soft power and in pursuing Brexit in the way that it has, our government has quite deliberately undermined our liberal democratic values. There will be a lot to do.

But enough of this.

I was immensely cheered this morning by John Naughton’s Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news – Ode to Joy Flashmobbed – although the rest of his post in Memex 1.1 was a little less encouraging.

So I thought I would also share this with you – link

17 December 2020

There are times living in a number of different worlds is far from comfortable.

There is the world out there – the real world. This morning’s photograph is a good illustration of quite how beautiful it is in this part of Devon, and last night, late, I lay in an entirely silent house listening to owls call across the valley; then there is the world of work – even now this remains pretty well all consuming. I have just spent the first part of the morning drafting a note for trustees on a salary increase for the Chief Executive; there is my interior life (not necessarily for this blog); and lastly there is the political world that shapes so very much of our lives.

I cannot control the first but that doesn’t matter. Certainly I whinge about the Devon weather but in this part of the world weather comes over like an express train, so it is mainly all down to clothing. I have some control over the world of work, as I choose when and what (unlike so much of my working life as a lawyer) – and if I want to watch a film on Curzon in the afternoon, no one stops me. But the political world is the one that not only can I not control but much of the time at the moment it fills me with despair. The pandemic, Brexit, social care, Windrush, Grenfell – the list seems endless.

There are some actions I have taken. I gave up on Twitter in the early summer, I try to limit my news intake (not always successfully), and I listen to a lot more music. My latest crush is Sara Correia’s 2020 album of Fado.

And then there is condensed reading – possibly not quite the right description but each morning starts with John Naughton, Jonty Bloom, and The Monocle Minute. Jonty Bloom’s Why “Sovereignty” matters this morning is a short and perfect piece. I found Jonty Bloom thanks to John Naughton and Memex 1.1 – from him each morning a Photo, Quote of the Day, a musical alternative to the morning’s radio news, a Long read, and more. Here is John Naughton today. And then there is The Monocle Minute – although I am not into Japanese present wrapping . . .

Finally there is always coffee – probably more than is good for me but not even I can drink Negronis before 6:00.

And my music choice – Sara Correia and António Zambujo

A Prime Minister in search of a hero

Although statues are quite rightly very much in the news at the moment, this post is not about them. Instead, read the compelling pieces by David Olusoga in The Guardian last Monday – The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue is not an attack on history. It is history – and Simon Schama in today’s FT – History is better served by putting the Men in Stone in museums.

Instead, I want to look at the thread that Boris Johnson posted on Twitter earlier today, and in particular the first two tweets.

In the thread he argues that we cannot now try to edit or censor our past, he deplores the risk of damage to the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, and, having at least in his own mind placed himself on the right side of history, goes on to claim that the recent protests have been hijacked by extremists intent on violence.

It is all very much aimed at his base (and perhaps not surprisingly it has attracted a considerable number of likes and retweets).

And it is all remarkably disingenuous.

There is certainly a lot going on in the thread as a whole but what about those first two tweets?

As I read them my immediate thought was just how much Johnson wants us to see him as our latter-day Churchill – the hero leader, saving this country from . . .

Well, from what?

It was going to be the tyranny of those ungrateful Europeans. Wasn’t that what Brexit was all about? But it is now, like it or not, the Covid-19 pandemic.

And heroes, Johnson implies, should be forgiven their failings – for no better reason it seems than they are heroes.

Johnson firmly places Churchill against racism (and in doing so he very definitely edits history) and he allows him those unacceptable opinions. And in so doing, Johnson seems to be suggesting that we too should allow Johnson his unacceptable opinions.

Hmmm. He may be disappointed.