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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