347 days . . .

Today is the 25th of February. The Tesco van has just been, and as an indication of how good they have become, our booked slot was from 12.00 to 1.00 pm. They put a message on their website to say they were due to arrive between 12.35 pm and 1.00 pm, and that is what happened. We have now been isolating since 16th March of last year a total of 347 days, so it will not be long now before we will have spent a whole year of doing nothing very much. We have got through it pretty well so far, but we have both said that we feel the effects of age more now, so for us it has been a precious time – we haven’t got a lot left – so this year will have been largely wasted.

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Professor Chris Grey illuminates again . . .

A screenshot of Professor Chris Grey’s blog header

I haven’t harped on about Brexit for some time as no doubt we are all a bit fatigued by it. But I suspected that as the effects of non EU membership began to crystallise items would become apparent that might do with a mention. Professor Chris Grey has put together his blog – as he does every Friday – and gives us a good summary. As Morecambe and Wise used to say, “What do you think of the show so far ?”, to which the inevitable answer was “Rubbish !” Well, here is Chris Grey’s answer . . .

Friday, 5 February 2021

Brexit is coming apart at the seams
The electronic ink had hardly dried on my previous post which finished with a reminder that unexpected events are always liable to arise than just such an event occurred. During a very confused few hours last Friday evening the EU first proposed and then withdrew the proposal to impose export controls on coronavirus vaccines moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland, though this did not mean ‘closing the border’ and would not have meant stopping vaccine shipments at the border. This proposal would have involved the invocation of the emergency provisions in Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. In the event, it did not happen but it has brought to a head issues which have been lurking in the background for months and given the UK government an alibi for destabilizing the Protocol.

The EU’s blunder

It immediately became apparent that this was a major blunder by the EU – or more specifically the European Commission – which had been done without regard for the political consequences. Neither the British nor the Irish government nor the Northern Ireland Assembly had been consulted or warned, and nor had Michel Barnier’s UK engagement team. As the news emerged, the Irish government in particular, along with Barnier and the EU Ambassador to the UK, played a key role in getting the situation quickly resolved. It also seems to be the case that the British government was measured and calm in its response, for which it deserves credit, although since then there has been a marked shift in its tone.

In and of itself it was an indefensible error by the EU. But all political systems commit such errors and it was speedily corrected, so whilst there may well be some lessons for the European Commission in what happened the idea that it says anything one way or another about the merits of Brexit is nonsense. Inevitably some Brexiters leapt upon it to claim justification, and some erstwhile remainers professed that it had changed their minds about Brexit. But there was no reason for that except for anyone who imagined that the EU is a perfect institution that never makes any mistakes, which remainers shouldn’t have and Brexiters surely didn’t. And let’s be clear, this episode has not led to the breakdown of trust between the UK and the EU – that was caused by the UK’s behaviour over the last four years or so, years in which the EU has been remarkably consistent and rational. That doesn’t excuse this piece of stupidity but it should put it in perspective.

The underlying problem: Brexit itself

The key point is that this episode was only possible because of Brexit and in particular because of the rickety and highly precarious arrangements for Northern Ireland which have had to be created to accommodate it. For the EU this means, amongst other things, having to get used to the fact that closing its borders with adjacent third countries is no simple matter. The UK is a third country, but the unique situation of Northern Ireland gives the meaning of that a particular complexity.

The issue isn’t that the EU needs to have any concern for annoying Brexiters. Despite what some in the UK seem to think, the EU does not view the world through the lens of Brexit as they do, and is not particularly bothered about nasty headlines in the UK press. Rather, it is that the EU needs to be attentive to the specific situation in Northern Ireland, not least as this is a matter of significant concern to Ireland which is a member state. In that context, any invocation of Article 16 would have to be a very last resort for a massive emergency.

The EU’s carelessness about this has been jumped on to feed the pre-existing, and wholly unjustified, demands from some unionist politicians in Northern Ireland, as well as some Brexiters outside Northern Ireland, to make use of Article 16 to suspend the operation of the GB-NI border, as mentioned in my post a few weeks ago. This is unjustified primarily because that operation is not an unforeseen or temporary emergency but is the necessary consequence of what the UK and the EU have agreed. Even more unjustified is to opportunistically use what happened on Friday to bolster the again pre-existing demand to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol in its entirety.

Unsurprisingly, some of those doing so are still pretending that it, and the whole Withdrawal Agreement, are open to wholesale revision in the light of the TCA. Indeed it shouldn’t be forgotten that there is a hard core of Brexit Ultras who have never accepted the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol and have long argued for the government to jettison them, and will use any pretext to support that argument. The current row about last Friday’s events is therefore a symptom of a much deeper problem.

How have we got here?

Demands to ditch the Protocol beg the question of what should replace it, and here it’s necessary to go right back to the fundamental issues of how it arose. To be extremely brief, it has come about because the hard Brexit of leaving both the single market and customs union necessitates that there be a border somewhere. Since it cannot be a land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland because of the Good Friday Agreement, and there are no technological solutions that would create a virtual border, it has to be a sea border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

These facts were ignored or denied by Brexiters before the Referendum, including Boris Johnson, and many of them continue to deny it even now. Yet it was the reason for the ‘backstop’ agreed by Theresa May. Brexiters, including Johnson, said that was unacceptable and he instead agreed, and his MPs voted for, the ‘frontstop’ whereby there would, regardless of whatever got agreed in the TCA, be a sea border of some sort. How intrusive a border that has turned out to be is an artefact of the UK’s decision to prioritise divergence from EU regulations in the name of sovereignty in the TCA.

That is a very short account, but what it means is that the complex and messy situation we are now in – including the ongoing and expected to increase disruptions to goods flows between GB and NI – is the result of Brexit in general, and of the particular way that Johnson’s government chose to implement Brexit. What that is now leading to is not just economic disruption but an emergent and highly worrying political and, potentially, security problem whereby sea border control staff are being threatened with violence and as a result some checks on animal products and food were suspended this week. Note that these threats also pre-date the Friday night Article 16 fiasco so cannot be blamed on it. Just as a land border is unacceptable to, especially, the republican community so too is a sea border unacceptable to, especially, parts of the unionist community. (It is important for anyone with a public platform, even one as limited as this blog, to clarify that there is no evidence of paramilitary involvement in these threats.)

What is now becoming ever-clearer is that Brexit threw a huge rock into the high delicate and fragile machinery of the Northern Ireland peace process, a machinery of complex checks and balances which had as an implicit condition the fact that both Ireland and the UK were within the EU. The Protocol averts the worst of the damage, by preventing an Irish land border, but that doesn’t prevent there being any damage at all. It is an enduring badge of shame that Brexiters were so casual in ignoring what Brexit would mean for Northern Ireland, that hard Brexit was pursued despite what it meant, that Johnson agreed to something without, apparently, understanding what it meant, and that his MPs endorsed it. The shame is all the greater given that the majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

Johnson’s dishonesty and opportunism

The danger now is that the government looks set to use the EU’s stupid mistake as cover to try to completely unpick the Protocol. At the heart of that lies the refusal of the government, including Johnson and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, to accept that the Irish Sea border even exists as a result of the Protocol they agreed to. That it manifestly does, with all the adverse effects that is having on Northern Ireland, is therefore being blamed on the way the Protocol is being operated, allowing Johnson to indulge in the sickening pretence that he can “ensure there is no border down the Irish Sea”. Worse, he threatened to invoke Article 16 even before the Friday row and is doing so again now as if in response to, or somehow justified by, the EU’s error.

The problems that Brexit is currently causing businesses in Northern Ireland, even though they are of the government’s own making, make it reasonable to ask the EU to extend the various existing grace periods – for example on uncooked processed meats – as Michael Gove has done in his letter to Maros Sevcovic, his co-chair of the Joint Committee. And there may be other adjustments that can reasonably be made. But Gove is quite wrong to suggest, in his rather aggressive letter, that the EU’s error provides a reason why the operation of the Irish Sea border should be revised wholesale and entirely in line with UK demands, and still less justified in using the implicit threat of the UK itself now invoking Article 16 if these demands aren’t met (which would in any case be a misuse of Article 16).

The border operation reflects the fundamental, long-term, structural problems of Brexit in general and the Northern Ireland agreement in particular, problems for which Gove is one of those most responsible. The problems it is creating were not ‘unforeseen’, they were set out in the government’s own impact assessment in October 2019 of the Withdrawal Agreement it had reached with the EU. This, remember, was the deal that Johnson hailed as a great triumph of his negotiating skills, the deal he sold at the General Election, the deal all Conservative MPs voted for, and the deal he signed barely more than a year ago.

So it is totally reasonable to expect the EU simply to ignore all the practical consequences of what Britain has chosen to do to itself. Rather, it is for the British government to row back on its hardline decisions (in the TCA) about, for example, freedom to diverge from EU food hygiene rules. This in turn would reduce the extent of the sea border checks. Pretending they are something to do with the Friday mess-up is dishonest and opportunistic, and suggests that despite the government having met the initial crisis calmly it is now deliberately exploiting it to further antagonize relations with the EU.

It is hard to resist the thought that the government, and most certainly some of the Brexit Ultras, have always been intent on picking away at both the Withdrawal Agreement and the TCA at the earliest opportunity. And the illegal clauses in the Internal Market Bill showed its lack of acceptance of the Northern Ireland Protocol. If it chooses to really ramp up a row over the Protocol, especially to the point of actually suspending it without legitimate grounds, then it may create a very serious situation for Northern Ireland, of course, but also for itself. Nothing could be better calculated to sour the UK’s relations with Biden’s new administration, for one thing. And it bears saying that the European Parliament has not yet ratified the TCA, so it is hardly a propitious moment to effectively renege on the agreements that were its prior condition.

For now, the Joint Committee has issued an anodyne ‘place holder’ announcement, and there will be a further meeting next week, but the omens are not good. We are only a month into Brexit, in the full sense of the end of the transition, and already key parts of it are coming apart at the seams.

The wider picture

The wider lesson of the current situation in Northern Ireland is of the need for this Brexit government to take responsibility for all of the unfolding problems of Brexit. For this week has again seen a slew of reports about the difficulties facing businesses across the UK, underscoring that, as Gove has admitted with respect to Northern Ireland, these are not ‘teething problems’ and are liable to get worse, not better. In a summary of the first month since the end of the transition, Lizzy Burden of Bloomberg News reports how “UK firms are being slowly ground down” by the new barriers to trade with the EU. The BBC Reality Check team provides a similar summary as does the Financial Times (£).

In all three reports there are links to some of the stories referred to in the last few posts on this blog – the evidence base for substantial and permanent damage to UK businesses is now growing, and increasing delivery times mean that UK manufacturing is “close to stalling” (£). Whilst the latter is due to both Covid and Brexit, the report shows that other countries, which are also suffering from Covid, are seeing a growth in manufacturing exports. So it seems fair to attribute the difference to Brexit. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say UK SME exporters to the EU are experiencing a bloodbath from which many of them are unlikely to recover.

It has now emerged that, apparently without having realized it, the government has permanently destroyed British shellfish exporters. There are also new reports of serious problems facing the fashion industry and, as with the situation facing musicians and other performance artists, they arise ultimately from the end of freedom of movement of people but proximately from the UK government’s unwillingness to agree a mobility chapter with the EU as part of the TCA. That could, potentially, still be agreed if, as with the issue of food standards, the government were to change its hardline stance. Doing so would be far more important that the much-trumpeted opening of talks to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but its economic benefits will be nugatory and it is more designed to make a purely political point about ‘Global Britain’ and the supposed long-term opportunities of Brexit.

That is hardly a priority when businesses are on their knees right now and could at least partly be helped by improvements to the TCA. One thing which any ‘Global Britain’ worthy of the name should certainly be doing is extending the clearly inadequate June deadline for EU nationals to apply for ‘settled status’ (£), as well as simplifying the system and stopping the bone-headed refusal to provide paper documentation when settled status has been established. Doing so would not only be right but would head off what otherwise is going to be yet another monumental mess caused by Brexit.

Will the Brexit government take responsibility?

The full effects of Brexit, now that the transition period has ended and the TCA has kicked in, are still only beginning to be felt. Every single one of them discredits the claims made by Brexiters, including the idea that there was no need to extend the transition so as to allow a genuine implementation period. There’s no point in them continuing to deny these effects, or continuing to try to justify the false claims they made. Now, it is their responsibility to work to mitigate, so far as it is possible, the worst of the damage they have created.

It is difficult to be hopeful that this will happen, not least because of the apparently pathological inability of Johnson and the Brexit Ultras to tell the truth or to take responsibility for their actions. So it seems more likely that the same failings that created this mess will be repeated and repeated. The appointment last Friday of David Frost as the UK’s Brexit and international policy representative is an especially bad sign given that he was the architect of the TCA which is responsible for some of the damage. And with Johnson and Gove now apparently refusing to accept that the Northern Ireland problems flow from their own policies there is little reason to doubt that we are the beginning of years of acrimony and instability as the Brexit process continues to play out. As many of us feared and warned.

Posted by Chris Grey at 08:42 on Friday, 5th February 2021.

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The Reverend William Raymond Shinn

On 18 December 2020, the Revd William Raymond Shinn: Team Vicar in the Dunstable Team Ministry (1978 – 80), Vicar of Round Green, Luton (1980 – 88); aged 98.

The top notice above appeared in a recent Church Times, which led me to search the web and produced the boxed notice from the “Comet” a newspaper from the Stevenage, Hitchin area. I was initially shocked, then wondered why I should be shocked as I am no spring chicken, and I knew he was older than me – but I did not realise he was 12 years older.

I liked Bill Shinn. I arrived at Salisbury and Wells Theological College in the October of 1971 and joined an already existing group. We were all technically “older men” studying for the General Ordination Examination by the Essay Scheme. And, boy, did we write some essays. Most of us had not written an essay since doing “compositions” at school, and because we were such greenhorns, they employed a lady to take us through some basic grammar and answer the many questions we came up with as we realised more and more how little we knew.

Bill Shinn was of this group. I found out that he had been a Production Engineer in the motor tyre industry and that he had been with a party from the UK that went to Russia to assist in the establishment of such a factory there. He told us of the surveillance to which they were they were subject. He was a very nice man and something of a father figure who occasionally played on his age in amusing ways. He said to me once how much they had had to pay to buy a house to live in whilst at Salisbury, and contrasted this with what he and his wife had paid to buy their first home all those years before. The later was in hundreds of pounds, while the Salisbury house was in tens of thousands. “Wh -wh- wh – what is happening to us”, he said. He had a slight stammer, which impeded him not at all and actually made him a more attractive personality. He could use this age difference to the advantage of us all because he could play at being slow on the uptake. Often he would voice a question that was on many minds, but we were too shy to ask as we feared being embarrassed.

I recollect on one occasion the New Testament lecturer was waxing lyrical about “Eschatology”, and after some time Bill Shinn said, “W -w – w- -wait a bit. I haven’t got the faintest idea of what you are talking about. Just what is this E – es- esch – eschatology thing ?” The lecturer was bought up short and had to waffle for some minutes as he got his brain into gear. I am sure that he knew what it was, but it had been a long time since he had had to put the meaning into simple words. But it was good that this happened as it enabled more of us to chip in and clarify the issue for our selves too.

The only thing I don’t understand about the brief Church Times obituary notice is that we all left Salisbury at about Petertide of 1974, so there seems to be a four year gap in his biography.

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Photos they wish were never taken . . .

Photos that seemed like a good idea at the time, but eventually come back to bite . . .

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We’re done . . .

A strange wet, foggy day in which to be going out. We turned up at the Pipe Band Hall, were met at the door and instructed to sanitise our hands and then ushered in to the hall proper which was set out in screened cubicles – I didn’t count, but there were probably about half a dozen. The Nurse to whom we were assigned was the same one that did our flu vaccinations a month or two back. She nattered away, bless her, but I couldn’t hear a word she said, and then remembered my “Live Transcribe” app on my mobile phone. I fired it up and put it in front of her and it worked a treat. The only slightly comic bit was that it occasionally put up a pink box with “Music” in it, and at times her conversation had the word “violin” inserted.

The vaccination it self was absolutely unnoticeable, and the Nurse opined that it might be most of the 12 weeks allowed before we got our second ones. That takes us up to the 13th April next. This dose is reckoned to be protective in two to three weeks time from now. So we continue to isolate as before, and will continue to do so util we have had dose No.2 and that has had time to take effect – which could mean early in the month of May. That would be a year and two months since we self isolated.

Before we were allowed to drive away home we were instructed to sit in the car for 10 minutes which we found a bit boring so we (I) was naughty and drove off after a little while, and so far have suffered no ill effects.  I think this is to allow time for anaphylactic shock to appear.

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To eat, or not to eat . . . ?

The following is also to be found at “Up the Strand”

A year ago were discussing fitfully whether we should try having groceries from Tesco via their home delivery service. We could both see that it would avoid the business of having a trolley load of stuff to unload and reload at the check-out, then to unload and put away once we got home. But somehow, in typical procrastinators’ fashion we just never quite got around to it.

Then came the coronavirus, and self isolation, and suddenly home delivery was no longer a labour saving luxury, but the lifeline by which we might live. There were initial difficulties because Tesco themselves were overwhelmed by demand, but also because we were novices to the web site, which like many web sites, does the job splendidly once you have learnt your way around it, but has pitfalls for the untutored. Fortunately for us, our son and his partner, miles away in Lincolnshire, were able to put us right where we were going wrong, and also to point us towards facilities that we did not know existed.

This morning, a few minutes ago, I booked our next delivery for the 11th of February on a chart of that week’s dates which was empty. This is a measure of the way in which Tesco reacted to the situation (nearly a year ago now) because back then we were sitting up till midnight waiting for Tesco to put up the next new day, and then jumping in to book a time and date wherever we could.

It is fashionable these days to criticise supermarkets for their alleged crimes against humanity, but few people seem to acknowledge that they are really the nation’s food suppliers. They feed us. There are of course those famous High Street shops, so beloved of journalists, but quite incapable of feeding a whole Nation, and Farm Shops, which also do a good job but whose total contribution to overall food supply is small. The other piece of this jigsaw, never mentioned, are seafarers. It is as though, living on an island we avoid anything which reminds us of that fact. At the moment lorry drivers and fishermen are getting lots of coverage, but shipping is never mentioned unless it is a supertanker going aground and leaking oil. The men and women who crew these things, and are often very badly treated by their employers might as well not exist.

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Covid Vaccinations . . .

Back at the start of January NHS Dumfries and Galloway posted as follows . . .

Vaccine approval provides campaign springboard
07/01/2021. By NHSDG

VACCINATION against COVID-19 is ramping up in Dumfries and Galloway, with those aged over 80 in line to receive their first jab before the end of January. The first doses of the newly-approved Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine were delivered to NHS Dumfries and Galloway on December 29 – setting the scene to rapidly scale up the vaccine delivery programme.

Interim Director of Public Health Valerie White said: “It’s fantastic that the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine has also now been approved for use. It does not have the same storage and transportation requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which was approved earlier in December, and this will really assist us in scaling up the vaccination programme in our communities.”

Vaccinations for those aged over 80 are set to begin next Monday January 11, and should mean that most people in that age group will have received their jab before the end of the month. From February 1, the vaccination programme will move on to those aged 75 to 80, with the 70-75 year cohort and those shielding scheduled for the second two weeks of February.

Ms White said: “GPs across the region are taking on the work of identifying all those eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination – as set out in the established Scottish Government criteria. Those people will be contacted directly, and invited to attend to receive their initial COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccinations will be provided in facilities such as town halls and community centres, which provide the adequate space to ensure safety.”

A total of 22 locations have been locked in to serve as locations for provision of COVID vaccinations, and these are spread across the region. Attendance is by direct invitation only, and people are instructed not to contact their GP or the NHS. Anyone with a question about the vaccination is invited to telephone the national helpline, which runs between 8 am and 8 pm seven days a week on 0800 030 8013.

Meanwhile, the vaccination campaign for those identified by the Scottish Government as first recipients has been proceeding well. Across health and social care in Dumfries and Galloway, 2200 people who work or volunteer will have been vaccinated by the end of this week. This number does not include all those residents and staff in older adult care homes in the region who received their initial vaccinations by December 24, with that combined total standing at 3710 as of today.

As set out nationally, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) who advise the UK government on all matters regarding immunisation and the Chief Medical Officers of all four UK nations have now recommended that the second dose of the vaccine is provided 12 weeks after the first.

Further information will be provided as the vaccination campaign expands.

Since then we have been contacted by letter and told to present ourselves at The Pipe Band Hall, on the 19th January to be “done”. A legitimate excuse to go out !

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Mint flavoured . . .

Linux Mint has recently updated to version 20.1. Not having used this laptop for a week or two I fired up the Update Manager and sorted out the existing set up. This installed the new version of Update Manager, and then announced that a new version of Linux Mint was available – something which I already knew from updates on the Linux Mint Blog. The Update Manager contained the necessary link to install the update which happened with no trouble at all. And once installed a set of up to date updates appeared and got done. The whole process was speedy and simple.

An hour or so before this I had been through a similar process on a Windows 10 laptop. It was not difficult, but tedious and slow in the usual Windows way. This laptop is now a better machine than the Windows one from the users point of view, and if the makers of “Family Historian” were to produce a Linux version of their programme my life would be all bliss. (A Linux version of Irfan View would be good too please.)

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A ridiculous swagger . . .

Just when I am thinking that I haven’t posted much lately, and what is there to say, along comes a foreign newspaper that sums up the current situation in a few words, and does it far better than many of our own.

How do you make a country smaller ? By trying to make it great again. As the curtain finally comes down on the long-running psychodrama of Brexit, reality sinks in. It is the creation of Lesser Britain, a country already reduced and in danger of shrinking even further.

In 1971, the British government published its White Paper, setting out the reasons why it wanted to join the European project. It imagined the country’s fate if it declined to do so: “In a single generation we should have renounced an imperial past and rejected a European future. Our friends everywhere would be dismayed. They would rightly be as uncertain as ourselves about our future role and place in the world… Our power to influence the [European] Communities would steadily diminish, while the Communities’ power to affect our future would as steadily increase.”

Fifty years later, Britain has done what it did not do then. It has “rejected a European future”. And even though fantasies of a new golden age of global mercantile power feature heavily in the rhetoric of Boris Johnson and his allies, no one really believes that its “imperial past” is about to return. Its friends everywhere are dismayed and it is uncertain not just about its place in the world, but about itself: what it is, what it wants. The counter-factual of 1971 is the reality of 2021.

During the COVID-19 crisis, there has been, from Johnson and his government, a constant drum-beat of superlatives. Every initiative it launched would not be merely – or indeed even – competent. It would be “world-beating”. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, explaining how Britain had raced ahead to authorise the (German-developed) COVID-19 vaccine before the EU or the U.S., boasted that: “Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators. Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them, aren’t we?”

As a slightly more intelligent Englishman than Williamson, William Shakespeare would have said: “Methinks he doth protest too much.” This need for hyperbole has barely disguised the profound insecurity of a country that fears if it does not constantly proclaim its greatness, it may finally have to confront the thing it has so long avoided: its own ordinariness.

There is nothing wrong with being an ordinary country. In fact, there is an awful lot right with it. Countries are much more likely to be at peace with themselves and their neighbours if they do not, to paraphrase W.B Yeats, “feed their hearts on fantasies” of greatness. We might go so far as to suggest that the best measure of whether a country has come to terms with its history is whether or not it insists on being a “much better country” than every other.

There is in England (and the current crisis is English, not British), a discomfort with the idea of being one among many. Some of this is indeed a throwback to an imperial mindset. Empires are dualistic– you are either the top dog or you are being suppressed. England, in particular, has struggled to transcend this binary mentality. If it is not dominant, it fears that it must be submissive. This was always a problem in a European Union that is constructed precisely to avoid the appearance of being in either state.

One way for the British to deal with this dilemma was to imagine itself as the dominant power within the EU. “If we couldn’t dominate that lot,” said the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1966, referring to the original six signatories of the Treaty of Rome, “there wasn’t much to be said for us”. The other way was to magnify Britain’s role in the world by exaggerating its position as the one indispensable ally of the United States. There has been, in the words of the English historian Linda Colley, “a persistent inclination to pursue empire vicariously by clambering like a mouse on the American eagle’s head”.  

A ridiculous swagger

The quest for size has led to making Britain smaller. Is this the beginning of a development that will end with an English nation-state?

Ein Essay von Fintan O’Toole

See here

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Lloyd George and Ireland . . .

At the moment we have in this country – the UK – a Prime minister of whom it is said, with justification that he tells lies incessantly, and whose greatest material success is the fathering of children, both legitimately and illegitimately, some of whom have allegedly not survived to see the light of day. Nicer comments say that he is a narcissist and does not master his briefs, indeed it is frequently said that he does not bother to even read them. It is well to remember that he has his predecessors who have similarly caused similar disgust int their own day. You will find below an opinion piece from the Church Times about another Prime Minister who evoked strong feelings in his own day. Sir Edward Carson is mentioned, and if you do not know of him you can make up for your loss here.

The Church Times, October 15th 1920.

If the Prime Minister’s speech at Carnarvon on Saturday does not justify the belief that Britain is governed by the man Mr Lloyd spoke to last, it does afford yet another example of the readiness with which Mr George responds to his environment. Indeed as we read in the speech, with its air of irresponsibility, and its justification of police murders, it has all the appearance of the wild talk of an excited nobody. Certainly it has none of the qualities to be looked for in a considered utterance by the foremost statesman in the world on a topic that is exciting interest and perplexity wherever affairs are discussed. In Ireland the speech must be productive of even worse conditions than have lately prevailed, for short of formally sanctioning a policy of reprisals, the Prime Minister has made it perfectly plain that such a policy may be safely pursued so far as the Government’s connivance is concerned. The responsibility for the terrible state of Ireland rests more than ever before upon the consciences of two men – the one, Sir Edward Carson, possessed of a most dogged obstinacy, and the other, Mr Lloyd George, who cares for nothing so much as the avoidance of the inconveniences of the moment.

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