Friday, 20 November 2020

What 'prizes' does he have in mind?

 

One thing of which we can all often be guilty is a failure to understand a different point of view. It’s easy enough to understand why – but things which are ‘obvious’ to one person are not so to everyone else. But however normal it might be, it’s something which politicians in particular need to be careful about. The current Prime Minister is not only not careful about it, he doesn’t even seem to understand that it can be a problem.

There is no doubt that the boost to ‘defence’ spending announced yesterday will be popular amongst Anglo-British nationalists, and there is also no doubt that there are significant numbers of people in Wales (although perhaps rather less so in Scotland) who fit into that category and will be delighted. But in presenting it as an example of the strength and power of ‘the union’, Johnson seems to have completely missed the point that not everyone thinks that way. Worse, his claim that “If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy” is based on an assumption about attitudes to the UK’s grandiose notions which rather overlooks the fact that his target audience isn’t those who are already convinced about the union, but those who are not. And in his usual inept and bumbling fashion, he fails to understand that for those opposed to UK military aggrandisement and adventurism, his announcement will weaken rather than strengthen his case - independence offers a way out of excessive and outdated militarism.

Still, shooting himself in the foot by not understanding that not everyone is going to swell with pride at the announcement of further investment in technology to kill and maim is at one with his cloth-eared approach to most other issues.

There was one phrase in his speech which was worrying to say the least. In talking about modernising the armed forces and giving them new weaponry, skills, and techniques, he said that in the future “…the prizes will go to the swiftest and most agile nations, not necessarily the biggest”. I struggle to assign any meaning to that, and particularly the use of the word ‘prizes’, which does not imply that he sees military power as being a route to extracting something from less powerful or less well-armed states in the world by use, or by threat of use, of force. I suppose we were warned from the outset that the Brexiteers wanted to see Britain as a ‘buccaneering’ (i.e. pirate) state, although many of us assumed that they just meant that they wanted the UK to be a state which declined to follow the rules by which others live.

It’s not mere coincidence that the amount of extra military expenditure bears a similarity to the amount which they have been briefing that they intend to cut from overseas aid. That’s another indication of an intention to switch directly from the use of ‘soft’ power to the use of ‘hard’ power; the commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on aid put the UK among the leading aid givers in the world, and it was in 2015 (under a Conservative-led government, curiously enough) that the UK became the first G7 country to enshrine that commitment in law. The Brexit project has always been about an attempt to turn back the clock, to return to an imagined golden age in which Britannia both ruled the waves and waived the rules. This latest announcement looks like another step along that path, but the assumption that the rest of the world will allow, or can be coerced into allowing, the UK to do what it wants – which was more or less the case in the days of empire - is yet another example of failure to understand that not everyone else shares their view of the world - and in this case spectacularly so.

Inconsistent and incoherent are inadequate words to describe announcing a hopelessly overhyped and underfunded ‘green revolution’ one day and a commitment to an increase in spending on armaments the next. If the government was run using logic and reason, that much would be obvious, but then a government guided by logic and reason wouldn’t have put the UK where it is today.

1 comment:

dafis said...

2 statements that sum it up neatly

"Inconsistent and incoherent are inadequate words to describe announcing a hopelessly overhyped and underfunded ‘green revolution’ one day and a commitment to an increase in spending on armaments the next."

"independence offers a way out of excessive and outdated militarism."

As of overhyped and underfunded I'm not sure about that as the prospective green revolution lacks any kind of definition. If recent performance is any kind of guide it will be a scammer's paradise as likes of the odious Monbiot turn up to rewild Wales whether we like it or not. Pollution is largely a metropolitan problem. Wasteful city dwellers wanting to retain their lifestyles and trappings bt displacing their pain and inconvenience onto others. My answer to them is summed up in a common 2 word expletive.