In the absence of any talent or conviction, what you need to leverage power is hysteria. Of course, people will die, and the country will fall apart at the seams, but, eyes on the prize, guys: power!
Oh, what a circus!
The Covid Inquiry has been nice and spicy, hasn’t it? As many of us suspected would be the case, both scientists and civil servants have delivered absolutely damning appraisals of the politicians in charge during the crisis. The testimony emerging is, if anything, far worse than we expected, dark and nasty, and also often straying into the realms of buffoonery.
We hear tales of new applications for the humble hair dryer ,of eugenical euthansia, and parties to encourage the spread of infection well through the population. Johnson, who resisted lockdown for more than a week longer than advisers wished thereby, in effect, was responsible for a few thousand deaths, but his example also promoted the idea of there being reason to doubt the science, of the virus being a silly thing, an idea which yet clings on amongst the ignorant of our nation.
Matt Hancock, the then Health Secretary, is even said to have prospectively sought the power deciding who might live and who might die. Before we understood the virus, the possibility of it outstripping our resources, and the requirement for hard decisions regarding their deployment, was a real prospect. A responsibility so sobering was not, as far as Hancock was concerned, to fall to a trained medical professional, one qualified to make diagnoses and prognosis, but rather it would be Hancock himself. “Eeny meeny miney mo…”
So far, so horrific. But, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Don’t make the mistake of believing that we are talking about the rot of a spent administration that is now out of power. Don’t assume you’re now safe. It really isn’t about a couple of stray individuals, it really is the systemic malaise of the party in power.
There was a surprising insight made on the 6 November edition of Newsnight. Victoria Derbyshire interviewed Colin Bloom, one-time adviser on religious engagement, on the matter of the recent escalation of antisemitism in universities, and as part of that she asked him what he thought of Suella Braverman branding demonstrations for a ceasefire as “hate marches”. His response possibly went into territory Derbyshire was not expecting. He said:
“I think that language is deliberately designed to goad number 10 into probably firing her. I think Suella Braverman is looking to be fired, it’s not just those comments, it’s the comments that she made about, about people sleeping in tents. I think she is goading number 10 into getting rid of her because she wants to launch her leadership campaign”
And, suddenly, the unhinged nature of her recent rantings began to make a species of sense. She wishes to be sacked so that she can launch a leadership bid.
The Tory party is renowned for punishing disloyalty – a key reason Sunak himself lost out to Truss after his resignation triggered Johnson’s fall – and so for Braverman to resign and thereby make herself the trigger for trouble would not work. If sacked, however, a loose MP can then head a wing of the party on the make, a wing that pushed some of the country to into self-harm through hysteria before. It worked once, it’ll work again – stoke up that lot who really don’t want to admit the last seven years have shown they’re idiots and power, power, sweet POWER shall be ours!!!
In plain sight
The next day, 7 November, the day of the King’s Speech, Keir Starmer made a hardly veiled reference to Braverman’s leadership ambitions and what she was prepared to risk in pusuit of them. And then, on Thursday 9 November, Braverman published the op-ed in the Times, a piece she hadn’t troubled to clear with number 10, pushing her line that the protesters for a ceasefire in Gaza were “hate marchers”, and that the police should ban such protests on the weekend of the Armistice memorials.
However, there is supposed to be a right to protest, and people wish to make their protest. The knowledge that thousands have been slaughtered, the photos of families of children with blasted and disjointed bodies dead in the back of a truck, is likely to stir many decent people to action. Undoubtedly there will be actual Hamas supporters in amongst those protesters, but those few are hardly the measure of the tens of thousands of people who simply want the killing to stop.
Tradition, made to order
The Mail, The Express, and now Braverman herself in The TImes, have been pushing this line that to protest over this coming weekend indicated profound disrespect for our war dead, who we honour this weekend. They had to come up with something, you see: just pretending that anyone who objects to eight-year-olds being bombed, shot, buried alive or blown to pieces must a Jew-hating Nazi wasn’t quite cutting it with the rational demographic, so this new line of the “Remembrance Weekend” was invented.
This has whipped up a hysteria, a righteous hysteria, the sort of hysteria that convinces a weak-minded bigot that he really needs to shoot a young mother in the face for the good of his country, shrieking his catechism of “Britain first” as he fires. Some are getting irate all over social media at this imagined desecration of all that makes Britain holy. Dark threats abound. Hours of TV and radio feature people who say they accept that there is a right to protest, but there can’t be protests that weekend. Not that weekend. That weekend should never, ever see protest, for to protest on that weekend is a desecration of the sacrifice of those who died to preserve our right to protest. Protesting on the day we recognize those who died to protect our right to protest? Unthinkable!
There could be trouble. People could get hurt. Idiots driven into an apoplexy of fear and rage might do something stupid to people who just want the killing to stop, and who are practising their right to say so. Things could get nasty. People could get hurt.
Which is, no doubt, great as far as Braverman is concerned, because then he’ll have to sack her!
Let’s remind ourselves of the facts:
Armistice day is 11 November. At 11.00 on 11 November we hold a silence. It is a long held tradition that speaks of respect and gratitude. It is something simple that permits us a moment with our private thoughts.
If 11 November isn’t a Sunday (and this year it’s a Saturday), the full ceremonial at the cenotaph is deferred to the nearest Sunday. That is not Armistice Day, that is Remembrance Sunday. Sometimes they coincide, usually they do not, and they are not the same thing.
The pro-ceasefire march this weekend is on 11 November, the Saturday, and at 12.00. That is a whole hour after the pause for silence.
It goes nowhere near the Cenotaph, and is on a different day to the ceremony at the Cenotaph.
There is no clash. Therefore, there is no disrespect, no desecration.
In my 53 years on this planet it has NEVER been the case that whole of the 11th day of the 11th month was given up to remembrance, not even if it fell on a Sunday. Not the whole day.
This can’t be about the sanctity of the “Remembrance Weekend” which is a fiction less than a month old. It didn’t work that way when you were a kid. It didn’t work that way last year.
“Armistice” means “ceasefire”. They are synonyms. There are people who wish to march for an armistice, practising their right to protest in a democracy, a democracy defended by those who were killed in war defending such rights as our right to protest, on armistice day.
Tradition and hysteria
On the 4 November edition of Radio 4’s Any Answers (the programme that serves as a vox pops phone-in response to Any Questions, a radio version of Question Time), the prospect of the march was a hot topic. A woman called, in evident distress, asking why they had to protest on Armistice Day. Why couldn’t they protest the before, the Saturday? The host missed that for a second, but then did correct her. The march IS on the Saturday. Remembrance Sunday is not Armistice Day. That Armistice Day was not necessarily the Sunday at the Cenotaph, and, indeed, wasn’t this year, was news to this Brit.
It is fair to stand for tradition. I often do. But, when I stand for tradition, I have, at least, checked what our traditions actually are.
We do not have, we have never had, a tradition of a Remembrance Weekend wherein are suspended our democratic rights. Not least because that would be, in itself, a betrayal of the sacrifice of our war fallen. Nicholas Soames, one time Conservative MP, and now Conservative peer said as much.
Oh, yes, and Nicholas Soames is Churchill’s grandson. The grandson of Winston Churchill defended the protesters right to protest.
There will be many opinions regarding the nature of our British traditions, but if there’s one person whose opinion on the matter of British tradition I am not interested in, it’s that of the woman who would rob a homeless person of their tent.