Grenfell Tower Fire is being compared politically to Hurricane Katrina, with Theresa May as George Bush and her refusal to meet survivors compared to Bush’s flyover of New Orleans. The Conservatives were already in severe trouble, this could make it infinitely worse. They have to dump May as soon as possible and replace her with someone her complete opposite temperamentally. Alas, Churchills do not grow on trees. And even if one could be plucked from a tree, we sometimes forget how Churchill’s government was itself defeated in a landslide by Clement Atlee’s Labour Party in 1945, before the war was even over. Fortunately for the Conservatives, Corbyn is no Atlee. Atlee had viable ideas. Corbyn’s are mostly pie in the sky. It’s hard to imagine Corbyn repeating Atlee’s success, but it is possible to imagine today’s Conservative Party being viewed by most English voters as being as out of touch as Churchill was once the war with Nazi Germany was won. Which makes Grenfell Tower such a minefield for Theresa May and her party. A minefield no one knew was even there and that suddenly she finds herself in the middle of. Any misstep could have calamitous consequences and she already made one when she refused to meet with survivors–many of them mideastern, many from Syria–due to “security concerns”. Very Trumpian, that. The nonegenarian queen had no such fears and was down there today commiserating with victims. When the queen shows greater love for her subjects than the prime minister and her party have, things can only get worse. Meanwhile, May says her main focus is on Brexit…. which someone in her own party said will be the Conservative’s Paschendaele. We have no metaphor in the US like Paschendaele, the nightmarish quagmire in Flanders fields where poppies blow between the crosses row on row. We never had that sort of war. But it means that the Conservatives expect the Brexit negotiations and the battle over them in Parliament to be politically costly and brutal and leave the Conservative Party a husk of what was there only a few months ago. And that statement was made before the Grenville Tower fire. The Conservatives might find Grenfell an albatross, if not a burning tire, around their necks. The Conservative Party hangs onto power by a thread (with the help of the archconservative and racist anti-Irish Catholic allies from Ulster). Should they somehow lose the loyalty of a few members of parliament–how I do not know, but let’s pretend–and Corbyn assemble a majority coalition and become prime minister, I believe he would then have the right to call a snap election. And given the current political climate, and it only gets more so now after Grenfell, Labour would almost be assured a decisive win and everything would change. Everything. It’d be like July 1945 all over again, when Clement Atlee created the modern welfare state, as dramatically as FDR created the New Deal. Bernie Sanders would be a prophet, he was just in the wrong country.
Britain has become positively Shakespearian this week. Gove plunges in the knife, Boris falls, and Theresa May pops in not to praise him. Meanwhile, it’s hard to tell if Jeremy Corbyn is acting out Macbeth or Richard III. Then there was Nigel Farage shouting in Brussels like a bad cop in one of those Angry Young Man movies, unfortunately giving a handsome, bearded, manly Scotsman right out of Jane Austen a brilliant, passionate speech–Scotland has not let you doon, he said, and please don’t let Scotland doon–that instantly made Scotland the darling of Europe while England, well, there will always be an England. That same day the president of Iceland said that now that Great Britain has left the EU it can join Iceland, Norway, Greenland and the Faroe Islands in the European Economic Area (EEA). Though actually Britain can’t because it would mean that Faroese would be able to move to England and skinheads can’t spell Faroese, let alone Kalaallit Nunaat.
Meanwhile, Iceland 2, Britain 1.
I don’t think the anchors at BBC have had this much monotonal fun since the Suez Crisis.
Wow…the UK Labour Party–the flagship of all labor parties and the first to experiment in large scale democratic socialism–is at its nadir and might just be self-destructing entirely as a political party capable of being in power. Jeremy Corbyn, the light of the Left on social media at his ascent in what seems like only yesterday–has proven to be one of the worst leaders in the long and storied history of the Labour Party. Amazing that you can have simultaneous power vacuums in both the Tories and the loyal opposition. Both right wing populism and democratic socialism have disgraced themselves these past few months in the United Kingdom. Let’s see what emerges out of this. An independent Scotland, for one thing. But also probably a moderate Conservative Party and the annoying UK Independence Party on its right reduced to nothingness after all its Brexit lies, and a truncated Labour Party that kisses its far left goodbye. Everyone heading back to the safety of the moderate center. Dull, true, but maybe they can straighten things out. This chaos before the storm of revolution from either end of the British political spectrum is just too scary anymore. Brexit is probably more the result of stunning British political incompetence than anything else. Then again, the Brits do this periodically, muddling through and mucking up until things get so bad–think 1940–that a Churchill has to be dug up. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivered up a thoroughly Churchillian we shall fight them on the beaches speech today:
“It will not be plain sailing in the days ahead.But let me be clear. You should not underestimate our resolve.We were prepared for the unexpected.We are equipped for whatever happens.”
Maybe it’s because the political press is mostly East Coast (and mostly Washington DC, and New York City) while I am way out here in LA, but I just can’t seem to understand why they see what happens in England is a harbinger of what happens in America. The US and Britain are two different countries, for one thing, and there is no issue like Brexit facing us, unless you really do think that Trumpmania and Brexit are the same thing, which I simply cannot see at all. I suppose you could go back in our political histories and find parallels, but I would bet that you can find far more times when we did not parallel at all. Indeed this country was founded on a couple of those non-parallels, and why then we assume we are a reflection of Britain bewilders me. It’s as if somehow these terrified people have watched so many British shows on PBS they actually think Downton Abbey and English politics makes sense here. They do not. They do not because we are way different countries.
Is anyone in Canada or Australia seeing Brexit as an immediate threat to political futures in their own nation? After all, the queen is the official Head of state for Australia and Canada, they officially still have to kiss her royal arse. Yes, even Australians. Even French Canadians, in theory anyway. Yet I seem to recall that in Canada the Conservatives lost the recent election there in a landslide. They were wiped out. A far cry from Trumpmania is Canada right now. What are we to make of this? That something is dangerously out of sorts in Canada because Canadian politics is not wound tightly around political trends in the Motherland?
You could say the same for Australia, New Zealand and, well, Scotland. Hell, you could say the same for Ireland. But no one does, because there is no visible causation between this Brexist referendum and anything happening in those own countries. Except, of course, Scotland, who voted completely opposite from the way the media–and the social media–is getting themselves into hysterics about, seeing Trump everywhere in everything all the time. And they wonder how Trump got to where he is. It was all attention he gets in media, which is due in large part to all the attention he gets in social media. People–reporters, wackos, whisperers and those who stare into their iPhones on the elevator–are obsessed with him. Yet consider this–the least significant thing that occurred on Brexit Day was Trump talking about his golf course. Compared to all the hell breaking loose in London markets and beyond, it was nothing. Yet how often have you seen him talking about his new sprinkler system in the news? On Facebook? In a tweet? But how Trump talking about his sprinklers in Scotland means that Trump will be president and Hillary doomed escapes me. Yet the American Right is thrilled, as are the Bernie or Busters….They rant and rave in ecstasies of I-told-you-so’s, how Brexit equals Trump, Hillary is doomed, Obama a failure. Oh God, what hath Britain wrought?
(I heard someone from New York City say they were so terrified of Brexit that they were moving to Canada. That’s right, moving into the British Commonwealth to escape Great Britain.)
So is Brexit important? Of course it’s important, but it’s mostly important to the United Kingdom (while there still is a United Kingdom) and the European Union. But what does it mean for American politics? Very little. It hasn’t been until the advent of social media that people began obsessing over English politics like it was our own. But each of our constitutions is so different–their’s isn’t even written, for one thing. Our party systems are different, and our voters have little in common besides a language we can mostly understand except on Are You Being Served. The differences are fundamental. Hell, their judges wear wigs. Big silly wigs.
Oh well, I suspect that in an ever shifting 24/7 news cycle, with so much profound copy needed on an hour’s notice, one grasps at coincidences and finds why they are not coincidences at all. Any two coincidences can be connected somehow, even if that connection is ludicrous, at best.