They’re all British!

My memory isn’t reliable, but I’m fairly sure speculation about the imminent unraveling of Boris Johnson is something that has been a recurring theme in the media ever since he became British Prime Minister. My memory being so unreliable, I had to check, but that dark day was a mere 27 months ago. Is it just me? Or does it seem more like 27 years? OK! Maybe not 27 years! Permit me a bit of hyperbole. But it certainly seems like a very long time. In some ways, it seems as if Boris Johnson has been around forever. Which makes the constant conjecture about his supposedly imminent and inevitable downfall look a bit silly.

There’s a reason we perceive Boris Johnson as a fixture in the firmament of the British political elite. It’s because he is the natural successor to all that went before. He not the freakish aberration he is often made out to be. He is the inevitable product of the British political system. The common thread running through the entire history of British Prime Ministers is their Britishness. Johnson seems to have been there forever because he is not in essence at all different from his predecessor. Just as she was basically the same as whoever she took over from. Off hand, I don’t recall who that was. As I say, my memory isn’t that great. And it’s not important anyway. Whoever it was, they were British. They’re all British. And they’re never Scotland’s choice.

None of this should be read as me saying they’re all the same. As in ‘they’re all the same’. I am not given to such simplisms. Of course they are not identical. Resorting to the trope about all politicians being the same is the mark of intellectual indolence. It’s easier than analysing things to find the differences. But whatever those differences are they are little more than cosmetic. They are differences of style and presentation. Beneath that veneer there is the constant of Britishness. The constant of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.

The corollary to this is that it makes little or no odds who the individual is that holds the office of British Prime Minister. Factors such as relative competence and/or charisma may play a part in getting the individual to the top of the British political ladder. But they wouldn’t even get on the first rung were they not British first and foremost and forever. If you gat all this then it is probable that, like me, you are wondering what is the point of getting all excited about the possibility of Boris Johnson being brought low. You too may well be wondering what all the fuss is about. Whoever his replacement might be, there are two things we know about them before we even discover their identity – they will be British; and they will get to call themselves the Prime Minister of Scotland despite Scotland’s people having denied them the right to do so. Such is the nature of the Union under which our nation toils.

There’s a bit of a stooshie about ‘Tory sleaze’ padding out the spaces between ads in the media at the moment. It’s the biggest stooshie about ‘Tory sleaze’ since the last stoshie about ‘Tory sleaze’. In fact, I cannot with hand on heart swear to it not being merely a continuation of the same stooshie. Which was itself a continuation of the previous stooshie. Because it’s not ‘Tory sleaze’. It’s British sleaze. And whoever the British Prime Minister is they’re all British. What is labelled and denounced as sleaze when the light of public and/or media attention falls upon it is otherwise just business as usual in the British state. It is only ‘Tory sleaze’ in the sense that the British state is a Tory state. The British political system allows the Tory party to be voted out of office – in principle, at least – but it doesn’t permit that the Tories may be voted out of power. The non-Tory British parties – particularly British Labour – are only there to soak up the votes that might otherwise go to parties intent on meaningful reform of the british political system. That would never do! It’s just not British!

So forgive me if I don’t get myself in a lather of excitement over the possibility that the stooshie du jour might result in swapping out one British Prime Minister we didn’t elect for another British Prime Minister we didn’t elect. In all regards that actually matter they will be no different one from the other. There will be grand speeches and plausible promises of change – some of which might be change for the better if all of it wasn’t empty rhetoric. Such change as may occur will be cosmetic only. What results will be just as British as what went before. And just as alien and antipathetic to Scotland’s distinctiveness as all British regimes are bound to be.

I suspect Boris Johnson will survive the stooshie associated with Owen Paterson. It would be a foolish blogger indeed who ventured a prediction given the similarity of the present political dynamic to the activity of pond-life observed through a microscope. But Johnson has a strong record of weathering such storms. He possesses a sort of raw cunning which the unforgivably casual observer might mistake for political nous. Being unfettered by principles, morals, ethics and conscience also helps. And the Tories do tend to combine regardless of ‘splits’ when it becomes a question of holding onto power. I could be wrong, of course. It could be that Boris Johnson tenders his resignation the very moment I publish this article. In which case it will be punishment enough that I’ll be forced to endure the triumphant celebrating of those who imagine Scotland might benefit from a change of British Prime Minister.

They’re all British! If folk haven’t figured out yet what that implies then I can only conclude that their memories are worse than mine.

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10 thoughts on “They’re all British!

  1. It is the case that De Pfeffel “possesses a sort of raw cunning which the unforgivably casual observer might mistake for political nous”.

    It is also true that cunning is a form of intelligence. The lowest strand of human intelligence, the one possessed of wild animals who require that for their survival.

    It is not to be treated lightly or with complacency.

    Cunning is a very British trait after all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. BJ will be in power until the party has sorted out his successor. You are right it will make little difference for Scotland. We are but spectators in the horror show of our own supposed democracy. Whoever does eventually take over will then have the good grace of the media and will form a ‘new government’ and sort out the problems created by the old administration. And so the shit show continues.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. An interesting an overlooked point is made in your last paragraph, Peter.
    That the tories combine, if they see their power threatened.

    That is especially so, when they are in Government, and unlike the looming Blair defeat in the 1990s, they have a chance of staying in power.
    And that matters, because that way of tory thinking, is what led directly to Brexit.

    The fact is, David Cameron could have gone against the Brexit vote, citing the closeness of the result, and that both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in Europe, and also, despite what some would have us believe, it was actually a non binding vote.
    Cameron could easily have made his excuses for not following it thru, the same way Labour did with Scotland in 1979.

    But, and it is a big, big one, that move would have totally destroyed the Conservative Party, and bring down the tory Government. The potential was there, and the prospect of Corbyn taking over, was not an unrealistic one.
    Thus, there was no chance Prime Minister Cameron was ever going to do other than let Brexit happen. Now had it been Scottish votes that tipped the balance in favor of Brexit (supposing we voted for it) and England just managed to vote no to it, Cameron could certainly have said “No”, But it was the Kingdom of England that voted for Brexit, and with the Faragists still riding high in the Media, if not the polls, the real threat of the tories imploding was very, very real. Brexit has happened because it was essential to keep the tories both together, and in power.
    Any alternative, was just unthinkable.
    So Brexit is what we got.
    The only actual alternative was for Labour, SNP and others to seize the moment, when the tories were at their lowest point when Cameron resigned, but alas, Labour went to war with itself, thus saving the tories, keeping them in power and leading to the present incumbent, and SNP, instead of walking out of Westminster and staying out, with its 56 out of 59 Scottish MPs, stayed on and tried to stop Brexit, and we see how futile that was, and so, Constitutional Crisis, and a good chance for Independence blown away. Then the next time a threat to tory power came up, it was Jo Swinson, of the Lib Dems who stepped into save the tories.
    And now both Labour and Libs are for Brexit!

    Throughout all this political upheaval, the tories, but for a very few of them, stayed together. They had power, and they were not for giving it up. Didn’t matter how costly Brexit would be, they had to go with it. And so we are here, today, because of this tory determination to keep together, and to keep in power.

    That SNP leadership couldn’t see it that way, and tried to keep England in EU, and not use it to get Scotland out of UK, and stay in EU, is well, to re-use that favored comment of the First Minister, recently, “Regrettable” !!!

    As for B. Johnson, he is still reasonably popular with English voters. There is little to threaten his power at this moment, but if the tories decide he has to go, then it will be they who make him go. If that is what it takes to remain in power, that is. If they think he might just win them another General Election, they would want him to stay, if he hasn’t decided to go himself before then. But if he did win another General Election, I think he wouldn’t want to hang around too much longer thereafter.

    There is one thing that will certainly make him go sooner than he might want, and that is the end of the Union.
    It is up to SNP to force that to happen, but by the looks of it, they seem content enough with things as they are.
    We would like them to prove us wrong!

    Liked by 7 people

  4. `I was thinking,’ Nicola said very politely, `which is the best way out of the UK: it’s getting so dark. Would you tell me, please?’

    But the little men only looked at each other and grinned….

    Nicola said doubtfully. `Would you tell me which road leads out of the UK?’

    `What shall I repeat to her?’ said Tweedledee, looking round at Tweedledum with great solemn eyes, and not noticing Nicola’s question.

    `”THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER” is the longest,’ Tweedledum replied, giving his brother an affectionate hug.

    Tweedledee began instantly:
    `The sun was shining — ‘

    Here Nicola ventured to interrupt him. `If it’s VERY long,’ she said, as politely as she could, `would you please tell me first which road — ‘

    Tweedledee smiled gently, and began again:

    `The sun was shining on the sea,
    Shining with all his might:
    He did his very best to make
    The billows smooth and bright–
    And this was odd, because it was
    The middle of the night….

    Liked by 3 people

  5. There is only one joke I can remember when I was a kid and I hope it doesn’t offend anyone:

    ‘What happens when the Pope dies?

    Up popes another one’

    The structure and apparatus of the British State is our enemy and it is it that placed Johnson there,


    1. Perpetual?

      They’re all British. And they’re never Scotland’s choice –
      Quoting: ‘They are differences of style and presentation’,
      Perpetually voting foin Scotland = people without a voice!
      The population’s here without honest/legal representation?

      © Ewen A. Morrison


  6. Perpetual?

    They’re all British. And they’re never Scotland’s choice –
    Quoting: ‘They are differences of style and presentation’,
    Perpetually voting fin Scotland = people without a voice!
    The population’s here without honest/legal representation?

    © Ewen A. Morrison


  7. Is British the right choice of word? It is the size of England’s parliamentary representation that dictated who the prime mininister is, the devolved nations have no say. “Englands” prime minister would be the correct choice in the current political climate. British PM does suggest that all nations of the UK had a say which evidently they didn’t.


    1. The term ‘British’ is not synonymous with English. The British state refers to something separate from the nations of the UK – including England. There is as sense in which the British state has been hardly less contemptuous of England. England’s national identity is denied by the British state just as Scotland’s is. If it is to a lesser extent then this is only because the British state piggy-backs on the dominant national identity. British looks very like English. But it isn’t.


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