The Death of the British Imperial State 285


All Empires end in ignominy. The United Kingdom is drawing to a close, not with a bang but with a fart.

A century from now, the dominant historical narrative will be Chinese, and Chinese historians will puzzle over how Boris Johnson fell over a lie about what he knew of sexual harassment by a very junior member of his government. Learned papers will be written over whether this was truly the cause, or whether the underlying socio-economic crisis caused by inflation and Brexit was the real determinant. Chinese books (or their technological equivalent) will be written on the crisis of neo-liberalism and how western society reached unsustainable levels of concentration of capital and wealth inequality.

Acres have been written in the mainstream media about Johnson’s lying and personal immorality, but there is very little serious effort to understand why so many in society have been prepared to tolerate this. The answer is that neo-liberalism has succeeded in destroying societal values, to the extent that anti-social and even sociopathic behaviour no longer appears peculiar.

In a society where authority condones, and constructs a system to enable, personal fortunes of US $200 billion or more while millions of children in the same country are genuinely hungry and poorly housed, what values is the socio-political structure telling people to hold? What value is placed on empathy? Ruthless ambition and resource grabbing is applauded, encouraged and held up as the model to be followed.

More and more, you are either part of the elite or you are struggling.

In the UK, the Thatcherite dream of mass property ownership is abruptly canceled. Social mobility and meritocracy are changed from an opportunity for large scale social advancement by multitudes, into Hunger Games. Where significant numbers of young people see their best shot at financial comfort as selection for Love Island, how do we expect them to be repulsed that Johnson was having multiple affairs while his then wife was struggling with cancer?

Johnson is explicitly a devotee of the great man theory of history. But in fact his startling political career is in itself merely a symptom of the decline of the United Kingdom, from great Imperial power to the breakup of the metropolitan state (the latter of course started to take formal effect in 1921).

Brexit was just a convulsion, as the United Kingdom went through the psychological trauma of accepting its change in status from great power to reasonably senior European state. There is a great treatise to be written on this and the consequent wave of populist English nationalism.

You may like to note the constant Tory use of the phrase “world-leading” in risible circumstances, the fact that even yesterday Starmer felt the need to comment on government collapse while planted between three Union Jacks, the constant militarism and fetishisation of the armed forces on TV, and the desire for reflected glory by fighting a great war to the blood of the very last Ukrainian.

Peter Oborne’s meticulous compilation of Johnson lies shows how peculiar it is that the crisis should come over a comparatively minor lie about knowledge of bad sexual behaviour, in which Johnson for once was not personally involved. But it is quite wrong to think of Johnson as unique. Oborne’s wonderful book The Rise of Political Lying chronicles the massive attack on governmental standards perpetrated by the charlatan Tony Blair.

Johnson is just a part of a process. As the power of an Empire disintegrates, so do its mores. Since the second world war, over sixty states have become independent of British rule. The pink bits on the map (“this colony is where your tapioca comes from”) they showed me so proudly at primary school have shrunk and shrunk and shrunk. Thank God children are no longer taught to sing “Over the seas there are little brown children” in need of conversion (I really was taught that, I am not making stuff up).

As the UK’s military, economic and political power have collapsed, so have its political mores – both for good and for bad. Johnson is but a turd spewed to the top of the gushing sewer of British decline.

Every one of those sixty states that have left British rule, was warned that it would struggle without the UK. No state has ever wanted to return to British rule. Fellow Scots, take note.

I also want to make plain to my English readers – and remember I am half English myself – that I genuinely believe the breakup of the highly artificial British union will be very beneficial to England. Scottish Independence and Irish reunification are coming soon. Welsh Independence is fast gathering support.

It will take the break-up of the UK to jolt the great power nostalgia and silly patriotism that underlies so much of Tory support – and that of other right wing union jack fetishists like Starmer. Only the shock of the formal closure of the British state will precipitate the psychological change needed for England to become a modern, forward looking, middle ranking European state with concern for domestic and international fairness.

The UK has been in socio-political turmoil since 2016 and is now entering profound economic crisis. These very days are the end-time of the United Kingdom. Rejoice!

I shall leave the last word to that great radical Percy Bysshe Shelley

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285 thoughts on “The Death of the British Imperial State

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  • AAMVN

    Cogent as ever. I cannot wait for Scotland to break away and show us what we in England too could be, if we would but see.

    Alas we are still shrouded in nostalgia for a glory that was at best vastly over-exaggerated and probably entirely illusory. The British Empire was a licence to steal and the best that can ever be said is it wasn’t [quite] as bad as XYZ empire…

    I wish I could contribute to the vital work you do – maybe soon.

    • Nick

      we are still shrouded in nostalgia for a glory

      I think that’s rubbish.
      A lot of people who opposed Brexit, without having actually listened to the arguments for it, repeated ad nauseam that Brexiters were nostalgic for the Empire etc. But I never met a single Brexiter that that was true of. Real Brexiters – unlike the strawman Brexiters invented by Remainers – were more likely to quote Tony Benn’s arguments against giving up political control to a European superstate, or similar arguments to the ones made here for an independent Scotland (briefly: a people should govern themselves, not be governed by others). Brexiters admired Mahatma Gandhi, not Robert Clive.

      • Blissex

        «a people should govern themselves, not be governed by others).»

        Why should the people of Bristol or Birmingham be governed by faceless, unelected, overpaid mandarins in Whitehall? Wouldn’t it be better for Bristol or Birmingham to be sovereign city-states governed by themselves, not by others? Free to negotiate and sign more advantageous free trade treaties with China or the USA, and to end unlimited free movement of workers from low-wage places like Belfast or Merseyside or Newcastle.

      • Ronny

        This stuff about ‘a people should govern themselves, not be governed by others’ is irrelevant nonsense in the context of the debate about EU membership. The UK did govern itself, and agreed some over-arching rules with other countries to facilitate trade, common standards etc. Just as we do as members of the UN, WTO etc. To compare the level of UK self-government in the EU with the extremely limited Scottish autonomy under Westminster is just daft. Why not give us some examples of EU laws which were imposed on the UK, but which the UK government actively opposed at the time? You can’t because there aren’t any, at least none of any significance.

      • Jams O'Donnell

        So, Nick, the guys in the Foreign Office who labelled their new project ‘Empire II’ weren’t true Brexiters then? Might be a surprise to them.

  • Scurra

    I disagree with a lot of what you say, Craig, but on the point about the future of the UK you are so right, and it’s ironic that it has taken leaving the EU – which is itself attempting to grapple with the same problem of ‘subsidiarity’ – for England to realise it. (I said in 2014 that, as a London resident, if Scotland did vote for independence, I’d join the London Independence Party the next day. Not because I think it’s a good idea, but because I think “London” is more responsible for the imbalanced state of the nation than anything else, even politics.)

    But the pain is going to be immense. I think we are in a better position than some places (look at smaller countries in South America and Africa which are trying to remodel their nations to be a part of the 21st century but are still having to fight the empires of the 20th) but so far our ruling class shows no signs of learning any of the lessons. What a surprise.

    • Fat Jon

      You might consider this defeatist, but the ruling class have the wealth and power (and many friends in the MSM) to resist any or all of the independence movements as and when they see fit. Unless one can rally a large majority of public opinion very quickly, any voices for substantial change will be branded ‘the enemy within’ and rounded up, then sent to jail using whatever charges they can find on the statute book.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        There aren’t enough cells for every Scots Independence supporter, Jon. Remember the fuel protests of the year 2000, where instead of merely driving slowly on the motorway for a few hours, the protesters actively blockaded refineries, nearly bringing the country to a standstill and forcing hospital managers to beg for supplies for their emergency generators? What happened there? That’s right – rather than sending in the army to break-up the protests and jailing the hauliers’ leaders, the government eventually acquiesced to their demands and froze fuel duty – even though the oil price was only around $20 a barrel at the time.

        Scottish Independence would actually benefit the Tories in the residual UK, as it would mean they would require fewer seats to get an overall majority in the House of Commons, rather than having to be the Opposition to Labour minority governments propped up by the Lib Dems and the SNP.

        • AliB

          That was under a Labour Government. Look at the new restrictions that this Government have brought in for any sort of protest. They will not care that the prison conditions are diabolical, they will incarcerate us in army barracks with concrete floors to sleep on if necessary.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Ali. Are any of the fuel protesters involved in the motorway drive-slows currently on remand awaiting their show trials then? There’s often a difference between what’s on the statute books and what happens in real life, e.g. if you’re found in possession of a bit of weed in the UK, you can in theory be sentenced to 5 years or face an unlimited fine.

            There’s also a reason why UK prisons have cells which have to be continually locked and unlocked, rather than one large dormitory: it’s so that there’s far less chance of the prisoners overpowering the guards and escaping. Stalin’s gulags generally didn’t have cells because they were hundreds of miles from any civilisation – so if the inmates did overpower the guards, there would have been little chance of escape. In contrast, German prison camps in WW2 required large numbers of guards, but POWs still regularly escaped en masse.

            For a guide to how easily the UK government can control things, have a look at what happened in Helmand province recently, where at one point nearly half the British infantry, as well as the Royal Marines who are trained to nearly special forces standard, were fighting around 5000 ‘Taliban’ – most of whom, rather than being religious fanatics like ISIS, were largely just the remnants of former Helmand governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzada’s Alizai militia. He’d stopped paying them after he was ousted as governor by our clueless former ambassador for being found in possession of nine tons of opium (which will have been similar to the opium that a few years later was allowed to be grown literally next-door to Camp Bastion, presumably so we could curry favour with some nondescript local warlord / child rapist).

            Even though the Brits were certainly giving no quarter, regularly killing women and kids in air-strikes etc, they found it heavy going, and after a couple years had to call in 15,000 US troops to make any real headway in the south – most of which was soon lost when the Yanks left. When we finally left in 2014, after losing 450 soldiers and spending £40 billion on the pointless debacle, we barely controlled three districts. For purposes of comparison, there’ll almost certainly now be considerably more fully functional AK’s in Britain than in Helmand province – many of them in the hands of people with a not-too-dissimilar world-view to the Taliban.

  • Reza

    The Chinese see Europe as a whole as increasingly marginal — Atlanticist and out of touch with the rest of the world, Inhabiting a Western-dominated world that no longer exists.

    As Martin Jacques says, “Europe has its front to the past and its back to the future. It is out of time. And every miscalculation (like supporting the US war on Russia) only accelerates its decline”.

    He predicts the Western defeat in Ukraine will join Iraq, Afghanistan and the 2008 financial crisis as famous landmarks in Western decline. ‘World-leading’ great men like Boris, Sir Tony and Sir Keir will barely warrant a footnote.

  • Mart

    What worries me is the death of the American empire – can’t be so sure that will end in a fart. And if it doesn’t there’s a good chance no historian, Chinese or otherwise, will be around to publish learned papers on anything.

  • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

    Craig,

    To me Boris is a smarter version of Donald Trump – and likewise a liar and deceitful.

    The reality of the situation which Britain faces is that there are only so many policy options and if the base of society is not taken care of then one is inviting socio-economic chaos.

    No easy options mate.

  • AndrewR

    It isn’t just here: Berlusconi, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, Modi, (others?). And they talk to each other! A press/media that’s stopped doing journalism, or has been stopped. Also, the collapse of traditional political parties.

    • Nick

      A press/media that’s stopped doing journalism

      You’re right, and it’s important.
      But you can’t blame the mass media. Good journalism used to be paid for by huge sales of daily newspapers (and the advertising revenue that came from the huge sales). I can remember a time when practically every household in Britain took at least one newspaper every day.
      But the Web, giving free access to the news, destroyed the income of national newspapers. So they can’t afford to pay investigative journalists any more. They’re reduced to publishing government or corporate handouts – or worse, they employ journalists who are secretly on the payroll of the security services.

    • Bramble

      It was always obvious this would happen – the privatisation of social housing – and it was always obvious why. Home owners, especially those who buy to rent, are much more likely to vote Tory. And the Tories claim that social democracy was about social engineering! Right to Buy was the biggest exercise in social engineering in our history, and it has worked.

      • Blissex

        «Home owners, especially those who buy to rent, are much more likely to vote Tory. And the Tories claim that social democracy was about social engineering! Right to Buy was the biggest exercise in social engineering in our history, and it has worked.»

        http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2014/03/how-thatcher-sold-council-houses-and-created-a-new-generation-of-property-owners.html

        «“It was indeed at the diffusion of property that inter-war Tories aimed, as the pragmatic answer to the arrival of democracy and the challenge from Labour. There were even prophetic council house sales by local Tories in the drive to create voters with a Conservative political mentality. As a Tory councillor in Leeds defiantly told Labour opponents in 1926, ‘it is a good thing for people to buy their own houses. They turn Tory directly. We shall go on making Tories and you will be wiped out.’ There is much of the Party history of the twentieth century in that remark.”»

      • Jimmeh

        My father (a Conservative, who served as an officer in the Malaya Emergency) explained to me in the early seventies that fighting the communist insurgents failed; what succeeded in ending the insurgency was giving people capital in the form of homes.

        Right-to-buy was Thatcher’s most successful policy. With one stroke she shattered opposition from stroppy local governments, and recruited an army of petit-bourgeois Tory supporters. Brilliant strategy, although I don’t think Thatcher was in any sense a strategic genius.

    • Natasha

      Thatcher’s “dream” was always intended as the con it’s turned out to be, inspired by the Austrian libertarian ‘school’ (von Mises etc) who set themselves up by funding business schools curricula designed to challenge the teachings of a simple board game, invented in 1902 to demonstrate the evils of capitalism by recognising that land is the mother Natural ‘Monopoly’ and private control of land ensures private control of everything else. The earliest known version The Landlord’s Game, was designed by an American, Elizabeth Magie, who originally intended to illustrate the economic consequences of Ricardo’s Law of economic rent and the Georgist concepts of economic privilege and land value taxation.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        The Austrian School of Bohm-Bawerk, von Wieser etc was set-up a fair few years before The Landlord’s Game was invented, Natasha. Anyway, if capitalists were so against it and the ideas behind it, then why have some of them actually been selling millions of copies of a knock-off version of it (which is essentially the same and is actually called Monopoly) for decades, rather than lobbying governments to ban it? In fact, in the US, von Mises and the Austrian School there were mainly interested in challenging the ideas of communism and socialism in America, as embodied by the New Deal.

        It’s also worth noting that private (i.e. feudal) ownership of land existed well before capitalism got going. For what it’s worth, I’m a Georgist, but I’m not a Malthusian. I’ve replied to your reply to my comment about producing food without fossil fuels on the ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ post, if you haven’t already seen it.

        • Natasha

          Thanks for your reply here, @Lapsed Agnostic (and on the ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ post, which I will reply to there). I agree ‘Monopoly’ is enigmatic.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply Natasha. I’ve replied to your reply about the land areas on the other thread, and included a Utube video from George Monbiot which hopefully you will find interesting. Enjoy the weekend.

      • squirrel

        I don’t think that’s a fair portrayal of Von Mises, who, if I understand correctly, was critical of our monetary system by which banks create money out of thin air and charge interest on it. It is this same banking system which has driven the housing bubble, as mortgages are the chief loan vehicle by which money enters the economy.

        The Landlord’s Game had an unintended consequence in spawning Monopoly, which simply became a celebration of the very dynamic the Landlord’s Game was trying to warn against.

  • Republicofscotland

    Hopefully this time Craig you are correct and the UK breaks into its respective nations. I can’t speak for Wales or NI, but for Scotland the union is clearly not working. I can’t help wondering how much Westminster plundered from Scotland in the last three-hundred odd years.

    Here it been calculated that the empire plundered over £45 trillion from India in less than two-hundred years.

    “Patnaik concluded that Britain plundered almost $45 trillion from India between 1765 to1938, based on nearly two centuries of precise tax and trade data. This amount is almost 17 times the current combined GDP of Britain and India.”

    https://historyofyesterday.com/how-britain-looted-45-trillion-from-india-2e923dfb2efb

  • SleepingDog

    I think the Conservative neoliberal government of Thatcher coincided with the suppression of mainstream-popular socio-political science fiction in the UK. The 1970s produced some fairly anti-imperial massively-popular science fiction, some of which looked at alternative societies which showed the status quo in a bad light, but this trend seemed to diminish, at least in broadcast television. The reboot of BBC’s Doctor Who has been hollowed out in that respect, and fallen into a kind of fan fiction.

    https://blog.sleepingdog.org.uk/2017/07/the-failed-regeneration-of-doctor-who.html

    Science fiction, above all, gives us lenses to look forward to new social and political reconfigurations. For all its neoliberal political elite and powerful corporate media, the USA still seems to produce mass-market science fiction with more of an edge than the UK.

    • Squeeth

      You’re right about NuWho, a sad case of the poverty of ambition. Mind you, a lot of 70s sci-fi was thinly disguised fascist polemic.

      • SleepingDog

        @Squeeth, indeed, and I think that the whole superhero genre is a way of sapping the idea of collective action (although Marvel’s Hulk is possibly a reference to the socialist/folk device of using a giant to represent the People, raging against militarism and injustice). The message seems to be that you have to be an unrealistically special/rich/powerful individual to affect change. But why not organise (which we don’t see so much in cultural products, although game theorist Jane McGonigal argues and provides examples for her medium)? There is only so much you can do deconstructing the superhero mythology within the form of superhero genre (although lone superheroes seem to have foundered in absurdity, hence team expansions). We really need worldbuilding to show alternate social futures, like Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward or Jack London’s 1908 novel The Iron Heel (utopian and dystopian). Still, it will be interesting to see how modern adaptations and remakes of more critical post-WW2 British-and-beyond science fiction turns out.

    • MrShigemitsu

      Want some 21st century epic sci-fi?
      Forget US superhero rubbish, and read the Three Body Problem trilogy by Chinese author Liu Cixin.
      No doubt Netflix will ruin it in their upcoming series, but some of the concepts and future world-building (and destruction!) are astonishing.

      There’s also a speeded up animation of the eventual heat-death of the universe up on YouTube somewhere, projecting billions if not trillions of years into the future, which puts all our paltry concerns somewhat into perspective. (Hint: it’s not going to be pretty…)

      • SleepingDog

        @MrShigemitsu, I read the first novel some years ago. Yes, a real extrapolation of alien social structures from first principles, if I remember right. I should get back to the library. I think we need to approach government in a similarly radical way, which is why I currently favour a constitutionally-encoded biocracy for a newly-Independent Scotland. The UK quasi-constitution is still imperial in character, and a political dead end as a template. #biocracynow

        • MrShigemitsu

          The concepts explored in the second and third book are even more “out there”… literally!
          Might be worth re-reading TBP first, for continuity.
          Thx for the other recommendations.

  • JeremyT

    Hard to match your eloquence Craig.
    But you’re right – the suffocating arrogance of Sasha Johnson, who assumes himself a pedestal but will find himself in the watery dock, is but the distracting camouflage of a chameleon charged with the unedifying task of giving a faux plummy voice to inequality’s desperate establishment.
    Grasping for ‘growth’, he leads a company of losers benighted by their complacent pathology, now facing the hard edge of reality. Much as his spaffed and militarised couple of billion over the Dniper.
    Born in NYC he could, of course, still go for PotUS when he runs out of road here (with some minor changes to the rules of course).
    I really can’t see why the Chinese would want to record anything from this blustering buffoon’s fin d’histoire.

  • Pears Morgaine

    “Only the shock of the formal closure of the British state will precipitate the psychological change needed for England to become a modern, forward looking, middle ranking European state with concern for domestic and international fairness.”

    As if by magic, overnight. Excuse my scepticism but isn’t there an equal chance of the reverse happening? There’s a danger that the break up of the UK is becoming a panacea. It won’t end the current economic crisis, it won’t put an end to corruption and incompetence either.

    Oh and Chinese historians will put in their history books what the CCP tells them to.

  • Andrew H

    All talk of the end of the British Empire is nonsense. The British empire ended decades ago – and surely even the number of living people that can remember a time of empire must be very small.

    Scotland leaving the UK is mostly not an issue except for Scottish people and it is clear that there are both remainers and leavers. Of coarse there are some English that think the UK should include Scotland, but this is not so different to Europeans thinking the UK should have stayed in the EU – most English understand that the choice is for Scottish people. Regardless England and Scotland will remain democracies. Fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest will remain. Even the choice of Tory vs Labor will remain because Scotland is not so different to England and those that believe that once Scotland is liberated from the UK it will become a den of socialism are in for disappointment. Ultimately there are layers of government ranging from local to international that create the framework for trade and civil society and that won’t change either. The UK leaving the EU mostly turned out to be a big meh – ‘taking back control’ meant nothing, because the UK still has to operate in an international environment; and the promise of ‘sovereignty’ is only relevant to a handful of politicians, since the ordinary person/business is still faced with laws and regulation.

    Those that wish for the end of the American Empire are uninformed. There is no American Empire. There is a USA and it is not and has never been an empire. It once tried to conquer Canada in 1812 and that turned out badly (white house was burned down to delight of Canadians). Yes, US politics is more divided than in the UK but that doesn’t mean the US is about to break up.

    Those that predict the end of the ‘west’ are mistaken. By ‘west’, I take it you mean ‘democracy’. To my knowledge no country with stable democracy has ever reverted to being authoritarian. In that sense the ‘west’ will continue to expand. [Define west as those countries with >= 7.0 in this map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index ]. I understand countries with totalitarian regimes have a vested interested in predicting that democracy will collapse and be replaced with some other kind of system, but it’s not very likely. (The rise of AI, or total collapse of civilization due to environment catastrophe are perhaps the mostly likely scenarios in which democratic order ceases to exist – and lets not hope for either of those)

    China although a highly repressive regime doesn’t have a recent history of conquest beyond its borders (perhaps Vietnam – but I am not sure the intent was to annex territory). Of coarse, in any totalitarian regime things can quickly change because it all depends on the whims of a small clique. China pretends that the ruling party merely carries out the wishes of its people – but this is far from true. I am far from convinced that the dominant historical narrative will be Chinese even in 100 years. Yes, the Chinese are quite numerous but still only 1/6th of world population with far less than 1/6th of world territory/resources. The Chinese communist party is unlikely to survive a 100 years (the people are severely and effectively repressed, but are fundamentally no different to others in that they want freedom of speech and other democratic rights). I don’t think anyone can predict if the change will be peaceful or cataclysmic – sure those in the democratic world should be concerned but there is not much we can do about it and other challenges facing the human population are probably far greater.

    • Reza

      The ascendancy of the American empire was the tail end of the West’s domination of the world, a fleeting historical anomaly.

    • Squeeth

      The most durable parts of the empire were the intangible ones such as the power to import from Argentina during the war on credit. Even as a branch office of Murder inc. the City wields considerable power in the world. It’s OK to rubbish China’s democratic credentials but do you rubbish Britain’s equally?

    • TS

      There’s no American Empire? No, if you think of soldiers in big hats marching past governors with gold chains. The American Empire is a bit more subtle. Note how many governments the U.S. overthrew in the last century. The governments installed in their place are part of our empire; they do what we want, which, mostly, is to allow the wholesale extraction of their resources for a pittance in return, and billions for the ruler. (This is why, despite our going on and on about democracy, we prefer strongmen every time: we can bribe them.) Note that we have over 800 military bases all over the world. In 2017 (last time I looked), we dropped Special Forces teams into 138 countries to carry out operations on our behalf. And don’t forget Puerto Rico and Guam. We have a significant empire, and it serves our interests and siphons money to our corporations like a river.

      • AliB


        Well said. America has to be one of the most corrupt and venal empires ever. At least the various European empires were a) of their time and long since ceased (with the exception of UK which still has quite a few bits clinging on, servile to the Queen) and b) did not hide what they were doing.
        America has installed the most appalling fascists into South American countries, created civil strife and civil wars and controls hundreds of countries with their warmongering military.

      • Blissex

        It is mostly suzerain instead of colonial, while the English Empire was mixed (some colonies, some vassal states), and other empires (e.g. portuguese or dutch) were mostly colonial.

    • SleepingDog

      @Andrew H, the United Kingdom tops the United Nations league table for non-self-governing nations and is yearly criticised for hanging on to its British imperial colonies by the relevant committee:

      https://www.un.org/dppa/decolonization/en/nsgt

      Perhaps many people can remember the UK being censured over the Chagos Islands? One example from last year:

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55848126

      and I remember references in this very blog. I am sure many people living today remember the British imperial colony of Hong Kong being handed back (after some kind of extortionate annexation during the Opium Wars, I gather) to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, was it? Perhaps you can explain why the UK maintains bases round the world (perhaps not on the vast scale of the USA) in places like Cyprus if it allegedly is no longer an imperial power?

    • Nick

      @Andrew H, who links approvingly to a Wikipedia article summarizing data published by The Economist purporting to have something to do with ‘democracy’.
      A ‘democratic’ country, in The Economist‘s eyes, is a country whose government does what Washington tells it to do.
      If a General Election were held in Britain next week, the choice offered to the voters would be: a right-wing Tory (Keir Starmer) or a pathological liar who fantasizes that he’s a reincarnation of Winston Churchill (Boris Johnson). Actually it doesn’t matter. They both take orders from the USA. (“Extradite Assange!” / “But the extradition treaty says that a political offence is not extraditable” / “Do as you’re told, asshole!”)

    • Bramble

      The continental USA is itself an Empire. Those lands didn’t fall under its sway as a result of moving into unoccupied virgin territory (however much the propaganda tries to persuade us it did). The USA is the result of wars against other Empires already trying to entrench themselves as well as the relentless persecution and genocide of those already living there.

    • Drew Anderson

      “…Scotland leaving the UK is mostly not an issue except for Scottish people and it is clear that there are both remainers and leavers…”

      Scotland ENDING the UK is mostly not an issue except for Scottish people and it is clear that there are both INDEPENDENCE SUPPORTERS and UNIONISTS.

      Fixed.

      Please stop framing the independence debate in the language of Brexit, it hints at a lack of understanding anent the constitutional position.

      There will be no UK in the event of Scottish independence; whatever is left may (almost certainly will*) seek continuing nation status, but it will not be the “the UK”;. Having returned to the status quo ante; which where we’ll be on the repeal of the Acts of Union (1706 & 1707), there will be the two, there were only two, co-signatories to the acts, namely: the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England (which includes Wales and Ireland minus the 26 counties of the Republic).

      The Kingdom of England might follow Egypt’s example; it insisted on calling itself the United Arab Republic for a number of years after its bipartite union with Syria collapsed. It might continue to call itself “the United Kingdom”, because of Brenda’s claim to the crown of Ireland, but whatever torturing of the language it uses to describe itself, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will cease.

      *Continuing nation status means that the KoE would assume all rights and privileges (along with all debts and obligations) of the UK. I very much doubt the KoE wouldn’t claim this; the alternative is to be a successor state. In that scenario, all debts and assets would be shared, but both polities would be new states; I don’t see the KoE opting for this, it would mean applying to join the UN (amongst many international organisations) as a new member, ergo no permanent seat on the Security Council.

      For those of you who’ve seen Project Fear (Scotland) 2.0’s references to “Scotland’s share of the National Debt” (assets are never, ever mentioned), this will only apply in the second scenario. If the KoE wants the UK’s rights and privileges; which it will, the UNSC seat all but guarantees that, then Scotland will have no debt nor a share of the UK’s assets. Scotland could challenge the KoE’s claim, or it could claim continuing status for itself; hypothetically they are options, in reality they’re unlikely in the extreme.

      It comes down to money or prestige. The KoE could saddle Scotland with a share of the assets and present a divorce bill (a service charge for squandering its resources); or it could have the UNSC seat and all the other geegaws. It can’t have both.

      There should be plenty of room for compromise, but there’s no guarantee of that; Brexitania is more than capable of extreme vindictiveness. With Johnson gone, the prospects can only have improved however.

      If anyone doubts this, please refer to the Vienna Convention.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        The UK isn’t a party or a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, Drew.

      • Andrew H

        “Please stop framing the independence debate in the language of Brexit”

        No! I’m not Scottish – and to me the parallels are clear, and if it irks all the better. Your analysis regarding debt share is simply wrong – there is no possibility that Scotland won’t take its debt share since this will be decided by level-headed people (lawyers, accountants, negotiators) and the ‘hard uk-exiters’ will be sidelined. There were many Br-exiters that wanted to just walk out without a deal [I was a remainer and even I thought we should just tell the EU to f**k off – but ordinary people don’t really get a say!].

        You may be correct, that the UK won’t be called UK afterwards (“united” seems a little problematic), but it won’t be KoE either since Wales/NI won’t accept that name – if there is further break-up, that will happen at a later date with more renaming. Renaming doesn’t mean re-applying to UN (Czech Republic has become Czechia) – the UN handles renames with little fuss.

        • Drew Anderson

          So, my polite request to use clear, unambiguous language is met with glee, because it might irk me? Charming.

          You weren’t involved in the original launch of the Hubble space telescope were you? That was a monumental fail because various groups of engineers weren’t on the same page; they used a mix of metric and American conventional units.

          Using the relevant terminology, in the correct way, to suit the circumstances is important. By all means, your parallels or not, display your ignorance for the world to see.

          As for “there is no possibility that Scotland won’t take its debt share”, I didn’t say there wasn’t. I clearly stated that would be the case in one of four scenarios, two which are unlikely in the extreme. Scotland will take its share of the UK debt, but only in the event that the Kingdom of England does not wish to be the continuing state of the United Kingdom.

          I didn’t even claim that the Kingdom of England wouldn’t use the “United Kingdom” in future; I, in fact, offered a possible reason why they might.

          But seriously, if you interpreted anything I said as “the UN handles renames with little fuss.”, as relevant to the constitutional position you really need to read my post again. Whatever it calls itself in the long-term, to not upset the Welsh or Northern Irish, is entirely irrelevant. The Kingdom of England will exist and be called that, however fleetingly, until it settles on a new name.

          But, if the KoE wants to talk about sharing the national debt, fine. It can do that, but it can’t simultaneously be the ongoing, or continuing state to the United Kingdom. If it wants Scotland to take on a share of the debts and assets, it has to accept starting out as a brand new nation with the same status as Scotland. It would have to apply, as a new state, for membership of all the international organisations the UK is currently a member of, including the UN. It’s a binary choice, one or the other; but definitely not both.

          • Andrew H

            Sorry for being so charming!! It is a character flaw by birth.

            Let’s not bring Hubble into this (The error wasn’t with metric vs American units – even in America the scientific community uses metric exclusively. See “Hubble Error Due to Upside-down Measuring Rod” (AP News, 14 Sep 1990) – apparently a rod inserted upside down)

            With regards to “Scotland will take its share of the UK debt, but only in the event that the Kingdom of England does not wish to be the continuing state of the United Kingdom”, I still have to disagree. No doubt some value can be attached to ‘continuing state of UK’ but not nearly of the magnitude of the debts. From the UN perspective, I suspect the veto goes with the nukes – and the nukes are assets of the UK with a definitive value. Will the nukes & subs be divided up or go all to Scotland or all to England? (whoever gets them pays for them in the accounting – but these amounts are comparatively small in relation to the enormous 2 trillion debt that has been racked up – they’ll make a difference of a bunch of billions but that is all).

            Personally, I’d like to see neither UK-remnant or Scotland get a UN veto. The UN has repeatedly demonstrated it has no power or authority – so a veto is pointless. Perhaps the Veto should just go to a nominal veto authority that just automatically veto’s everything.

          • Drew Anderson

            You are still insisting, with absolute certainty, that Scotland will have to take a share of the debt whatever happens. I have stated clearly, twice already, that this will only happen in one of the two most likely scenarios.

            If you refer to my original response to you, you’ll note I said that people who assume there will be a debt transfer never, ever mention sharing of assets; I see you didn’t. There’s no guarantee one way, or the other that there will or won’t be a debt transfer; your insistence there will be, in any and all circumstances, is flawed.

            I don’t doubt you’ve seen and heard it often enough, nor do I doubt its plausibility it does seem intuitively correct; but it is not the default position. It’s just another Unionist trope from Project Fear (Scotland), versions 1.0 and 2.0.

          • Andrew H

            Scenario 1: Scotland just declares independence creating a Transnistria like state not recognized by the UK/UN. Scotland refuses to pay debt; UK freezes and confiscates all Scottish bank accounts denominated in Stirling and assets held in the UK or on the London stock exchange, and defaults on debt owed to Scots. (Much UK debt is owed to UK people including Scots.) Obviously a blatant act of theft, but no less so than abandoning debt. Scotland obviously nationalizes any assets in Scotland held by non-Scots.

            Scenario 2: There is a comprehensive agreement between UK and Scotland which will cover amongst other things debt and asset share. The final arbiter of this agreement will be the UK courts – which will uphold common law principles of fairness (since there is no formal contract). From the English+Welsh+NI perspective a departing gift of 43k to every Scottish man, woman and child is not going to happen – there is no way every English+Welsh+NI man, woman, child (including pensioners) is going to agree to taking on an extra 3,800 GBP in debt just to give the Scots a debt free start.

            Out of the above two scenarios, only scenario 2 is a plausible possibility (because sane people will prevail over the dead beats that have nothing to lose). I am not a unionist – scenario 2 is hardly a unionist trope – it doesn’t mean Scotland will be worse off than it is now – going forward it will be able to make its own decisions about debt and austerity – but there is no way to just wipe the slate clean (except by scenario 1 – also wiping the assets of everyone with savings).

          • Drew Anderson

            You seem determined to either make a fool of yourself, or you are only interested in petty point scoring, despite being woefully ill-informed. For the final time:

            You completely miss the point again; it entirely depends on whether the KoE starts life post dissolution as a new state, then your scenario 2 plays out (Scotland also gets a pro rata SHARE OF THE ASSETS, which alters your arithmetic); or, it claims to be a continuation of the UK, where your scenario 2 doesn’t apply, KoE keeps all the assets, rights and privileges, along with the debts and obligations.

            I directed readers to the Vienna Convention, which deals with this. Had you looked it up, it’s blindingly obvious you haven’t, you wouldn’t be defending your flawed assertion.

            Whether you are a Unionist, or not, isn’t relevant; you are parroting a Unionist trope.

          • Andrew H

            I am English. I do not care if Scotland chooses to leave or stay, but if you are going to leave I’ll be damned if I am going to let you fleece me and my family on the way out. I fully understand what you are saying – but you don’t yet seem to grasp that the English aren’t simply going to let the Scots off. Furthermore, I don’t see it is in the English interest to not respond thoughtfully to such gross misinformation – people should go into referendums with their eyes open.

            From the English perspective, I will now insist (to my conservative MP) that the UK retains the veto at the UN (so will be the successor). Previously I was neutral on that, but now since you are trying to make a point on that so will I. Furthermore, any referendum on Scottish independence is only advisory – it is clear that the withdrawal agreement will be drawn up in London and then the Scottish government will also need to ratify. If this agreement does not hand off circa 200 billion debt to Scotland – then I and most of the rest of the UK will oppose it and there will be no deal. Scotland has no legal right to just exit the union. If the Scottish government unilaterally declares independence, then I will pressure the UK government (through my MP) to refuse to recognize Scotland as independent, to veto any UN resolution on that and to recover the debt through asset seizure (as outlined in my previous post). The UK has the upper hand on any negotiation because it is the UK government and courts that have jurisdiction and a large part of Scottish financial assets are currently held in sterling. (Sure you can start printing Scottish roubles as a local currency, but these won’t be easily convertible to sterling.)

            You make some vague reference to Vienna convention which I strongly suggest will have little relevance. Please

            • clarify what specific clauses you are referring to
            • explain why a debt was calculated for Ireland when Ireland separated from UK
            • clarify your legal qualifications and legal expertise in this matter – I’m calling total bs.
          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Like most countries, the UK isn’t a party or a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, Andrew:

            https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXIII-2&chapter=23&clang=_en

            I informed Mr Anderson of this earlier in the thread, to which he replied: ‘I think you’ll find it is a party’. (People have smartphones these days, Drew – you can’t get away with shit like that in the pub any more. A couple years ago I got Liz Kendall and Rachel Reeves mixed up (“Liz Kendall’s an MP for ****ing Leeds, mate.”) – all these ‘Blairite Babes’ look the same to me – that cost me fifty quid.)

          • Andrew H

            Thanks Lapsed Agnostic

            I don’t know why some republicans think it is a good idea to suggest that Scotland may be able to use independence to pull off a 200 billion heist at the expense of the English. Until hearing this I was indifferent to Scottish independence. Now, just as if someone had announced they were going to rob my house, I suddenly find myself paying attention and wanting to know if there is any way such a plot could succeed. Should me and my mates be buying cheap bits of land in Scotland and making that our ‘official’ (wink, wink) residences so that we get a vote? I am not indifferent to my pocket.

          • Andrew H

            PS. A quick scan of this Vienna Treaty suggests that it only governs treaty obligations. Debt is something else – bonds issued by the Bank of England. I am certainly no legal expert, but the conclusions being drawn by Drew instinctively seem to be apples and oranges (there is no logical reason to mix debt and assets with continuing nation status). And really despite all the legalese; I don’t see anything in the Vienna Treaty that specifically mentions either sovereign debt or assets. Even sovereign debt can take multiple forms – money borrowed from IMF or other bank vs bonds.

          • Dawg

            I’m pretty sure you’re looking at the wrong Viennese text. The recommended practice for the transfer of debt is codified in the 1983 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts. It outlines the principles to which Craig Murray was alluding in his earlier post “No Debt”:

            “Ukraine inherited none of the Soviet Union’s debt, just as Scotland will inherit none of the United Kingdom’s debt.
            Russia was the successor state to the Soviet Union, and thus got to keep the seat on the UN Security Council, the nuclear weapons and all Soviet overseas assets. On the other side of the ledger, as the successor state, it means that Russia got to keep all of the debt also. The agreement was finalised in 1993.
            It appears certain that Westminster will insist upon being the successor state to the United Kingdom, and thus keep the seat on the UN Security Council, the nuclear weapons and the colonies. On the other side of the ledger, as the successor state, Westminster will get to keep the entire national debt too.
            The independence of a state is a factor of its relationship to other states. It is governed by international law, not by domestic law. The position on debt is entirely clear.”

            Here’s the relevant article from the 1983 Vienna Convention:

            Article 38
            Newly Independent State

            1. When the successor State is a newly independent State, no State debt of the predecessor State shall pass to the newly independent State, unless an agreement between them provides otherwise in view of the link between the State debt of the predecessor State connected with its activity in the territory to which the succession of States relates and the property, rights and interests which pass to the newly independent State.
            2. The agreement referred to in paragraph 1 shall not infringe the principle of the permanent sovereignty of every people over its wealth and natural resources, nor shall its implementation endanger the fundamental economic equilibria of the newly independent State.”

            The 1983 Vienna Convention is advisory, outlining expectations for good practice rather than international law. The articles should be assumed as a starting point in trilateral negotiations between the predecessor state, the newly independent state, and the creditors. They can also be consulted if disputes require arbitration by an international body.

            There’s a lot of scope for argument, though. A well-informed discussion of the points of contention can be found in P.K. Menon’s “The Succession of State and The Problem of Debt” (1986, pp.132-36): https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/71463051.pdf

            The key issue is sovereignty. If the national debts were incurred against the wishes of the sovereign people of the newly independent state, they should be wholly retained by the rump state. Scotland could make a plausible case that much of the UK national debt was incurred against the sovereign will of the Scottish people – e.g. for the Iraq War, Brexit, and other jingoistic imperial misadventures. Scotland’s natural resources would also be considered sovereign assets according to accepted regional boundaries at the time of their exploitation, which could leave the rump successor state with a hefty bill. Mr Murray would no doubt be happy to lead the Scottish delegation into those negotiations (with some reasonable anticipation of success) but it’s misleading to imply that the matter would be settled from the beginning. If one party in the trilateral negotiations refuses to agree or compromise, then there may be recourse to an international tribunal based on the Vienna Convention, but the issue certainly isn’t clear cut and the outcome need not be all-or-none. As usual, the only people guaranteed to make a healthy profit would be accountants and lawyers (and no doubt politicians, via back-handers).

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply, Andrew. Indeed. I’m also not sure that everyone here is aware that around 25% of Scottish GDP is currently made up of goods and services that are exported to the rest of the UK, and if the Great (Rump) British Daily Hate-reading & GBeebies-viewing public became aware that Scots leaders were, as they saw it, trying to get out of their fair share of the national debt, they might wish to exchange their weekly purchases of Baxters soup for Tesco soup, to give but one minor example. As Brexit has demonstrated, even though the UK has agreed to pay billions in divorce fees, its exports to the EU have decreased somewhat, partly because some Europeans are now refusing to buy British.

            I think any land you and/or your mates bought would need to have a dwelling-house on it, for which you’d have to pay council tax, insurance etc – so it would probably be easier and cheaper just to rent a room in a grotty Calton tenement and in the unlikely event you’re questioned by the authorities, claim that you spend at least 180 days or whatever a year there shovelling street valium down your cakehole and smoking heroin. Thanks for scanning the convention – I didn’t bother – but as I mentioned to Drew, even if it did concern debt obligations, it doesn’t apply to the UK anyway.

            Thanks for your extensive reply Dawg. The UK is also not a party to The Vienna Convention on the Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts – as indeed is no country, since not enough have ratified it for it to come into force. If a newly-independent Scotland and the residual UK both want to abide by its injunctions, they can – but neither is under any obligation to do so.

            https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=III-12&chapter=3&clang=_en

    • Jams O'Donnell

      Andrew H,

      “There is no American Empire.”

      You are completely wrong – there is an American (i.e. US) Empire. It’s not the traditional kind where boots on the ground secure the land and wealth. Instead there are 700 or so US Army bases scattered over the world, US Embassies stuffed with CIA operatives and interventionist US Ambassadors. This is backed up by an Army, AirForce and Navy which operate world wide, and is financed to the same value* as the next ten countries in the world (including Russia and China). A long established propaganda network and compliant or bought elites in mostly the western world ensure that Washingtons diktats are obeyed. In cases where they aren’t, such as Iraq, Libya or Syria, armed force is used, or where caution is advised as with Iran or North Korea, sanctions are enforced. All this is done to aid the US Empire. The present supine falling in with US wishes re pushing NATO to the borders of Russia, and subsequent demonisation of Russia and China is proof that the Empire is still enforcing it’s regime of lies.

      * ‘value’ is not the right word, as US armaments are designed for profit – not for effectiveness.

    • Bayard

      “There is a USA and it is not and has never been an empire. “

      You need to brush up on your C19th history, or look at an old world atlas and see how many Pacific islands are marked “USA”. Alternatively just consider why the US had a fleet at Pearl Harbour and why the Japanese attacked it. The US was a C19th imperial power just like France, Germany or Britain.

  • Nick

    Politicians have always been liars. Churchill was one of the biggest (“We shall fight on the beaches … we shall never surrender” when the peace terms on offer were a complete withdrawal of German forces from western Europe – even German-speaking Alsace would remain French – in return for a free hand in the east.)
    Admittedly, Boris Johnson surpasses them all. I doubt whether he even knows the difference between truth and falsehood any longer.
    The underlying problem with British “democracy” is that most people are too busy getting on with their lives to pay much attention to politics. After all, voting doesn’t seem to change anything much, so why bother?

    • Bayard

      The underlying problem with British “democracy” is that it is not democracy, i.e. rule by the people. All the people get to do is choose those who choose those who form a small part of the government. They don’t even get to choose the candidates from whom their choice is made. After Brexit, it is very unlikely that any more direct “democracy” than that will be allowed.

        • Arfur Mo

          One other factor – at the uppermost level of politics, ‘candidates’ for both sides are selected by the same class of oligarchs / deep staters / etc, to ensure that these owners win whichever side survives the ‘ beauty contest’.

  • DiggerUK

    Resident at No.11 wants neighbours from hell next door thrown out?!?!?

    BBC News.

    “A group of cabinet ministers, including the chief whip, are about to tell the PM to resign, BBC News understands
    Nadhim Zahawi, only yesterday appointed as chancellor, is believed to be among them – as are Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and NI Secretary Brandon Lewis”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-62048657

    This is a new one on me, unprecedented I’d say…_

  • Harald K

    A century from now, the dominant historical narrative will be Chinese, and Chinese historians will puzzle over how Boris Johnson fell over a lie about what he knew of sexual harassment by a very junior member of his government.

    You really think this is the one that will do him in? Even when all the previous attempts from his own party to toss him have failed?

    Well, maybe you’re right, you certainly know more about that messed up system than me. But either way, what I want to know is “why now”? Why is this supposedly the drop that made almost his whole cabinet jump ship, and not any of the earlier scandals? So many times, people have said (including very smart people who I respect), “he HAS to resign after this” and yet he didn’t.

    I think that doesn’t make sense at all, so there must be some other explanation. The reason for yet another attempt to toss him, almost certain to fail (though as I said I might be wrong about that, I don’t think the quitters feel so certain of themselves either), right now, is not about something Boris Johnson has done. It’s about something they fear Boris Johnson will do. And they’re trying everything to scare him from doing it. If it’s about steering him more than tossing him, it might matter less that they’re likely to fail.

    What it is, I have no idea. I certainly don’t assume it’s anything positive, even if the Tory establishment is desperate to stop it.

    • Goose

      Harald K

      Yep. I’m definitely also in the camp of believing there is much more to this. This is a clearly organised attempted coup d’état.

      Domestically they’re not actually doing all that badly polling wise either, not for a govt midterm, especially after 12 years in power. Starmer is no Blair circa 1997; back then, Labour were touching nearly 60% while Major’s Tories were lucky to touch 30%.

      And they sit on a 78 seat majority, so why this unforced calamity of self-implosion? I fear who or what Johnson is preventing, if any of these other characters, like Zahawi get into No.10. Anyone up for a false flag followed by WW3?

      • Blissex

        «This is a clearly organised attempted coup d’état. […] And they sit on a 78 seat majority, so why this unforced calamity of self-implosion?»

        The europhile/whig faction is attacking the eurosceptic/tory faction through Johnson, the frontman of the latter. Note how all the attack pieces on the right-wing media are against Johnson personally, not against the Conservative party or Conservative policies.

      • Bramble

        Brexit and its resultant Torykip Government were the coup. Now they are fighting amongst themselves for dominance – the populist kippers or the traditional “starve the poor” Selfservatives.

      • Blissex

        «Johnson has been woeful as PM on nearly every measure and attracts scandal.»

        I doubt that his voters would agree: he has delivered a hard brexit, fully endorsed by Starmer, and he is delivering big property price increases (14% per year, way ahead of inflation) and well-below inflation wage increases, and will deliver big spending cuts. Why worry about the small details?

        • JohnA

          Johnson has not delivered Brexit at all. Hence the shambles over Northern Ireland. Johnson agreed to a sea border, now refuses to implement this. Brexit will run and run with the charlatans in power.

    • Steve Hayes

      It seems to be the lying. Various ministers and others were sent out to assure us that Johnson had been unaware of Pincher’s reputation. Then it was conclusively proved within days that Johnson did know, was briefed, and said “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”. What matters most to them is those ministers’ self esteem. They were made to look like fools and patsies yet again and this time there’s no doubt about the lie.

    • Nick

      historians will puzzle over how Boris Johnson fell over a lie about what he knew

      Boris is not being thrown out because of any specific lie. He’s being thrown out because it’s now obvious that he’s a habitual liar.
      He’s the kind of creep who will spout any old nonsense with enough confidence to persuade a lot of people that it’s true. Eventually, people like this come to believe their own lies. It’s possible that Boris Johnson no longer understands the difference between truth and lie.

  • M biyd

    The recent G7 meeting is quite strange. If you look at the photograph of the various heads around the table they all are wearing white shirts/tops apart from President Biden who wears a light blue top. Is this by chance or to demonstrate that the US is Primus Inter Pares?

  • Bob (not OG)

    When I used to vote, I never voted Tory. I have no time for greed economics etc. etc.
    However, I hope Johnson stays as long as possible. He has no integrity (nor do most politicians) but he’s just sacked Michael Gove, which is always a good thing to do.
    It’s hilarious to see the MSM going mental over this shite, as if any policies would change if a new leader (from any party) was appointed.
    Bojo should impose martial law, arrest his entire cabinet and distribute rations of drugs and alcohol to the population.

  • Goose

    MI5 and the FBI have today issued a joint threat warning about China.

    Ken McCallum said MI5 is running seven times as many probes into China as it was four years ago, and plans to “grow as much again” to tackle the widespread attempts at inference which pervade “so many aspects of our national life”.

    I’ve no idea whether there is such interference, but the British and the US have some gall talking about interfering in other countries. I wouldn’t blame Russia and/or China for seeking to do that which they’re constantly being accused of, without much supporting evidence provided by US/UK accusers. The US and UK have tapped undersea fiber cables and backbone infrastructure & root servers around the globe (both with govt agreement and without), as if the true world masters. How would the US/UK feel if China had operational data access equivalent to that of FVEYs? In other words, imagine how they see us?

    • Bob (not OG)

      MI5, the FBI, CIA and all the many, many other ‘intelligence’ agencies are the embodiment of paranoia. It’s a shame (to put it mildly) they have so much influence and power. But recently, despite all the secret moves, the troll farms and dirty tricks etc., I’m sensing their power is waning.
      Lies and distraction continue to be pumped out by the MSM, but maybe people are finally beginning to realise these have no bearing whatsoever on their actual lives.
      (Btw, the more one looks into the disgusting history and actions of the CIA (and the rest) the more sickened one becomes. In many ways, ignorance is bliss.)

      • Goose

        Waning?

        They’ve never been more powerful thanks to ubiquitous digital communications and the ability to gather and process vast amounts of signals intelligence (SIGINT). Everything these days is obviously digitalised, from medical records to passports, and they are free to build datasets on every citizen. They are like the unelected gods of information. No more the need to jemmy open a filing cabinet with a crowbar to get someone’s medical records, as spooks had to in the 1950s,60s,..,90s.

        Politicians love them because they provide a window on what other govts and leaders are thinking and their weaknesses in trade and other negotiations. Ministers in the UK, and it’s doubtless true in the US, revere them and would be lost without them. They’re probably also a little intimidated by them too. And ministers know sweet FA about tech, as Patel’s unworkable E2E backdoor encryption demands show.

        • Goose

          A bigger question perhaps, is what impact on democracy are they having here?

          We’ve read about all these MI6 cut-outs, and the Integrity Initiative on this blog, and in Max Blumenthal’s reports; the way the BBC is being used willingly as a conduit to push certain narratives and to discredit individuals questioning narratives. They have privileges and impunity and can basically defend themselves against critics, reform or reduction to the scope of their powers. Would any UK politician or party be able to rein them in? It’s doubtful, as they see themselves as their unelected equals. Intel agencies are like the multi-headed Hydra that nobody voted for.

    • Goose

      The Grayzone covered this topic yesterday, with Max Blumenthal interviewing two of Paul Mason’s so-called rogue left-wing academics. Well worth a watch:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KubRAwn7-CM

      Both believed as the West’s power wanes comparatively to China and more widely Asia, western intelligence agencies will become increasingly paranoid; collectively succumbing to bouts of Masonmania – driving them to see subversives everywhere, and interpreting every comment made on social media through their warped prism of whether someone in either the Russian or Chinese leadership would agree with the particular point being made. Dark McCarthyite times ahead indeed, if so.

      .

      • Goose

        For a relatively small population, 4% of the world’s, the US has enjoyed remarkable preeminence in so many areas, for so long. Could it adjust to being second best to China and the Yuan (rival reserve currency), then possibly third to the EU or some other nation, and so on?

        Or would it prefer to destroy the world rather than accept that fate as a declining superpower? I think there are people within the intelligence establishments mad enough to try to change the world’s demographic realities, just to remain top dogs. They may even be capable of rationalising WW3, despite the obvious risks to all humanity. I don’t think there will be acceptance and a smooth transition unless the US political scene is transformed, maybe by a different generation of leaders and/or a new voting system.

        • Natasha

          Goose asks:

          “Or would it prefer to destroy the world rather than accept that fate as a declining superpower?”

          Yes, because thermodynamics on this pale blue dot means “world” i.e. human population will have to decline to under a billion one way or another in lock step with fossil fuel decline in the next few decades in any case: peak oil i.e. we’re half way through the low hanging easy to extract oil (in the 1930s it took 1 barrel to extract 99 for the rest of the economy today to under 1 to 10). These facts I doubt has escaped the attention of those who pull levers in the US and they are psychopathic empathy free individuals who won’t hesitate to be the last to survive.

          https://energyskeptic.com/2022/rees-growth-through-contraction-conceiving-an-eco-economy/

  • Baalbek

    The worry I have is that as the UK, and indeed the United States, rot and decay under the weight of a lopsided and unsustainable socioeconomic system, the war fever that has already taken hold re. Ukraine will spread and these two states will decide it’s better to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. Of course they won’t frame it like that and it will be sold as a fight for freedom and democracy against the autocratic behemoths in the east. The sellers may even believe their own rhetoric. Just how much of the public goes along with a new world war as living standards and quality of life in the west decline remains to be seen. When it comes to the Ukraine war a majority of the western public seems to be on board with “punishing Putin” but it is early days yet and that may wear off if the price becomes too high.

    When even the mildest of voices cautioning against a lengthy war in Ukraine and potential catastrophic consequences for the west is denied access to the mass media and denounced as a fool who was duped by Putin, how will this end? The US certainly will go down fighting as it declines and since the UK and the EU more or less accept the US as their master…

  • Mighty Drunken

    I was pondering what the single biggest reason for the West’s decline over the last 40 years. The reason why nothing gets addressed for long, how we as people or nations feel powerless, I blame neo-liberal economics. It builds a narrative where if you try to fix something through action, especially by the government, it will be inefficient. That the best thing to do is nothing, and the market with profit motive will magically fix everything. A strange thing to believe for an intelligent species.

    Pure market forces fail to fix many problems, as even Adam Smith knew, capitalism has its strengths but also many weaknesses. Geopolitics is seen as a competition, any threat to the status quo cannot be tolerated. Cooperation with countries that do not fully believe everything we do isn’t allowed.

    There is no way, with our current politics and economic thinking, that climate change or inequality will be meaningfully addressed.

  • Kimpatsu

    What measures are you going to put in place, Craig, against the inevitable upswing in violence against minorities post-independence?

  • Blissex

    «Chinese historians will puzzle over how Boris Johnson fell over a lie about what he knew of sexual harassment by a very junior member of his government.»

    Not really: what is happening is pretty obvious, the “whig”/globalist/europhile faction of “The Establishment” is attacking the “tory”/nationalist/eurosceptic faction through Johnson.

    It is also pretty obvious that the “whig”/globalist/europhile media (several editors of “tory” media have been replaced with “whigs”, notably at the Mail and Telegraph, with notable change in tone) are not attacking Conservative party politics or policies, they are just bigging up relentlessly on the front page some fairly trivial (wallpaper costs, beers at meetings, gropings in clubs) personal issues of Johnson, when there are far more important issues (e.g. a trade deficit of 9%) that at best get mentioned in small columns in the backpages.

    «Johnson’s lying and personal immorality»

    All the characteristics of Johnson were well known when he was made Foreign Secretary, and then party leader, and then PM, but they were not an issue then, they have only become so now as the “europhile” faction has regrouped and and is out to vanquish the “eurosceptic” and take back the Conservative party and the government by using them to attack the character fronting the “eurosceptic” faction.

    «but there is very little serious effort to understand why so many in society have been prepared to tolerate this.»

    It is not difficult: property prices are booming. Same for Tony Blair, who was relatively unknown when the became party leader, but only after a few years as PM he became loathed by many in his own party because of his spivery, on a much grander scale than Johnson’s, but because property prices were booming, affluent Middle England voters did not dare risk a change of government, and many abstained or voted LibDem instead.

    Property profits are so huge and so indispensable to support the rapidly rising living standards of thatcherite voters that little else matters to them.

    • Nick

      Boris Johnson fell over a lie about

      He didn’t fall over a particular lie about anything. He fell because it became clear that he’s a habitual liar.

      • Blissex

        «He fell because it became clear that he’s a habitual liar»

        That was absolutely clear to other Conservative MPs and to pretty much every Conservative voter already when he was appointed Foreign Secretary, and when he was selected leader of the Conservatives, and then appointed Prime Minister, and indeed I guess that was based on him being a skilled, shameless dissembler, useful for campaign purposes.

        His great mistake, which was in a sense inevitable, was to expel from the Conservatives the big cheeses of the “whig”/europhile faction, and now they are taking their revenge. Note how Savid and Sunak are both “whig” globalists.

        What his resignation means is that the “tory”/nationalist faction of the Conservatives is no longer in control of the media and the “deep state”, and therefore it cannot maintain control of the Conservative party.

  • Aishe Umurhan

    Distilled eloquence rarely heard these days: “Johnson is but a turd spewed to the top of the gushing sewer of British decline”. Thank you.

  • Mist001

    I’m actually enjoying this Westminster charade mainly because Johnson isn’t doing the things that are expected of him. Virtually the entire political establishment is telling him to resign, to go and of course, that’s what they’d do in the same circumstances supposedly, but Johnson seems to be digging his heels in and I suspect he might actually make it through all this. It’s all pretty exciting, really.

      • Bramble

        PS. I think he is playing for time. He hopes by the autumn he can present himself as the Brexit hero still standing up for the little home-owners etc and win a contest for the leadership. Maybe. And he can wrap himself in the Ukrainian flag and get Zelensky to endorse him. Fascism a-go-go.

      • Xavi

        There is no shortage of turds in British politics to replace Boris. In policy terms Cameron, Osborne and Clegg were worse and whoever comes next will have supported that pitiless 2010-15 austerity regime 100% and will probably seek to restore it. What surely cannot be doubted by this stage is that the more respected a politician is by the Westminster elite and British media the bigger a cnt they are likely to be? At least Boris was an interesting character and had a bit of charm and personality to dilute the neoliberal warmongering.

  • john

    My (Scottish) grandfather, born in 1895, fought in both world wars. Before, between and after, he was a miner. One of the few commentaries he would make as an old man was “politics is a dirty word”.
    It’s interesting that in the current brouhaha the ministers for finance and health were the first to resign, and that defense remains silent.
    I hope Johnson hangs in there and gives as good as he gets, because otherwise he will just become a scapegoat for the coming health and financial apocalypse in the UK, which is surely due to government mishandling of the covid and Ukraine situations on behalf of mr global.

  • Goose

    They’ve hardly a brilliant recent record when it come to picking winners: Major, Hague; IDS, Howard; Cameron, May, Johnson… the odds are, that chosen replacement is a complete electoral dud. As you say, for all his obvious faults, Johnson was at least a colourful character – a rarity these days in politics. Most of the names in the frame are dour, dim grey men and women.

    They’ve huge unresolved internal divisions over Brexit, divisions that removing Johnson (who at least had a mandate) won’t mend.

    The series of tweets Sturgeon has put out in response are weird, starting with:

    1. There will be a widespread sense of relief that the chaos of the last few days (indeed months) will come to an end, though notion of Boris Johnson staying on as PM until autumn seems far from ideal, and surely not sustainable?
    …..

    —-
    The ‘chaos’ was largely London media contrived. She mentions democracy, but where are the public on this, how were they consulted? Does she really believe the electorate are okay with this changing leader business? It’s self-indulgent nonsense from the Conservatives and an insult to the British electorate.

    Johnson was at least an unlikely Neocon, the next leader will jump on a plane and head straight to Washington. Because for many, the British national interest = doing whatever the Americans say.

    • Goose

      One other thing…

      It’s customary for an ousted leader to remain leader in the interim, while a new leader is chosen, and it’s normally uncontroversial.

      And yet ….nearly all are saying that would be catastrophic. Err why? What is it, that Johnson temporarily staying put is preventing?

      The US has Midterms coming up in November, is it related to that potentially limiting the US ability to act? As far as I know Johnson and Biden Administration don’t particularly get along. Has Johnson even been to Washington for the customary White House photos, and the standing shoulder-to-shoulder, special relationship nonsense, so beloved by the UK’s Thatcherite right-wing and tabloids?

      Something to do with Ukraine perhaps? This undue haste to evict a man who gave them a whopping great majority, not only seems disrespectful, but slightly sinister.

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