The disease that’s killing the British state

Back in 2014, when we were able to do all sorts of unthinkable things like hugging our mothers or going out for the evening, the big selling point of the Better Together campaign was the security, stability of the UK. The United Kingdom, we were told, had an unrivalled international reputation for the high quality of its governance, its democratic institutions, the quiet competence of its parliament. Why risk all that for a leap into the darkness of a Scotland left to its own devices. Scotland, we were told in no uncertain terms, depended upon the UK to ensure it was safe from political extremism, from instability, and to keep a lid on our internal divisions.

The implication was that we wild Caledonians can’t be trusted, and shouldn’t trust ourselves, to conduct ourselves like civilised people in a modern democracy. It was a trope which played into the deeply ingrained cringe which Scotland’s subordinate place in the UK has inculcated into our culture and psyches. At the heart of every North Briton there’s a shrill voice whispering “You’re not good enough”. Better Together’s conductors orchestrated that wee voice into a choir.

However what we’ve discovered in the years since that referendum is that the mythos of the British state rests upon a delusion. It turns out that it’s not Scotland that’s inadequate, second rate, and at risk of a descent into extremism and instability. It’s the British Government. It’s not Scotland that has appalled the international community with its rank incompetence and arrogant disregard for the scientific consensus. That would be the British state. You wait an eternity for the worst prime minister ever, and then like buses the British state gives us three in a row.

Consumed as they were by Brexit, by the desire to destroy public services in order to transform the UK into the image of their right wing transatlanticist wet dream, to demonise the poor, the migrants, the disabled, and the marginalised, the Conservatives were and are supremely unprepared for the current crisis. This is not a problem that can be solved by appealing to a vision of a golden age of Britishness when Britannia ruled the waves and waived the rules, when the UK ruled supreme over its colonies and its navy dominated the globe and restless natives could be crushed into submission. This is a problem which requires the quiet technocratic managerialism which the UK’s mythology of itself so roundly rejects. It demands a command of detail, an understanding of data and of science. It needs all those things that Michael Gove so casually dismissed when he said that Britain had had enough of experts.

When clarity, maturity, and leadership vacate the public stage in favour of right wing populism, British exceptionalism, and the fetishisation of the UK’s role in WW2, it leaves open a moral and political vacuum which is filled by bunting, Queen’s speeches, and accusations that anyone who disagrees with Boris Johnson is a traitor. It replaces public life with the screeching condemnations of the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It replaces science and fact with appeals to good old fashioned British common sense.

The unspeakable tragedy is that it has taken the deaths of so many tens of thousands of people for this lesson to be learned. When supporters of independence warned after the referendum in 2014 that the people of Scotland would learn the hard way that the British state would fail them, none of us imagined that the lesson would be so lethal, so distressing, so painful. It provides no comfort at all the gaze in helpless horror upon the mounting death toll in a UK which has the most lethal epidemic in Europe and to imagine that it could have been different for Scotland.

Yes of course Scotland would still have suffered in this crisis, but at least we’d have had agency. At least we could have done things differently. At least we would not have been blinded by the arrogance of British exceptionalism. In Scotland we don’t just mourn the dead, we also mourn what could have been.

The British Government no longer displays the chart showing the international comparison of deaths when one of Boris Johnson’s muppets presents the daily press conference. It would be nice to think that this was proof perhaps that this government does after all grasp, however faintly, a sense of shame. But no, it’s just another exercise in arse-covering, as the British government insists that the death toll cannot be compared internationally. But you can be certain that if the death toll in the UK was lower than it was in other countries that this bunch of mendacious self-servers would be the first to crow about their success and would proudly display that chart which they’ve now consigned to the same locked room deep in a dark and unvisited basement where Boris Johnson keeps his conscience.

For all the pulling together we’re all in the same boat this affects all of us rhetoric, this is a tragedy which disproportionately affects the poor, ethnic minorities, the elderly, people in care homes, people with chronic illness. All of us are paying the price for the Conservatives’ ideological destruction of public services. We’re suffering because of their selfishness, their greed, and their wilful ignorant arrogance. Every tear that we shed is a drop in the angry ocean that will drown them. Once we are through the trying times, the tsunami of our fury will wash the arrogance of British exceptionalism away.

In Scotland we may mourn what could have been, but we also know that it doesn’t have to be this way, that it can change. We know that a different Scotland is possible, and once we are through the darkness and despair of deaths that pile upon us daily, wounding and weeping, we will redouble our efforts to move into the light of a better nation. We will be fuelled by our anger, by our grief, by our determination that things need to change and that we shall be the agents of that change. We are living in the last days and months of a dying British state, killed by the disease of its own arrogance, delusional self-belief, and the strangling nostalgia for a lost empire.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…

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29 thoughts on “The disease that’s killing the British state

  1. Pingback: The disease that’s killing the British state | speymouth

  2. As posted by the TuSC, see the international comparators of ‘excess deaths’ provided by an authoritative source, EuroMOMO.


    The data show up England’s position as an extreme outlier – and not of a good kind!

    And try the suggested ‘thought experiment’ after looking at the EuroMOMO Z-score GRAPHS – by the way, the graphs give a much more stark illustration of relative characteristics by country than the maps that are also presented on the EuroMOMO site.

    (Blatant promotion!)

  3. When we say deluded that only defines bewildered persons who cant help themselves. The Tories are not bewildered hapless victims of circumstance. They are cold calculating demagogues pandering to the lumpenproletariat with rhetoric calculated to appeal to the desires of the deluded and bewildered and often hate filled who vote for them. They are without compassion and empathy. There is no more ugly thing in the world than that. They are not deluded or delusional. This is exactly who they are. Hate filled little monsters, jingoistic and lusting for power for the sake of lording it over people. Condemning and vicious to any who disagree with them. They have always hated and suspected the public sector, especially teachers, mocked and derided them at every turn, much as the nursing profession have been treated in the past. As demanded we clap for the NHS, remember that they had clapped when they voted down a pay rise for nurses. Remember that there idea of a reward for those who care for us when we are sick, was a wee badge.

    These tories are doing their level best to hide their vicious nature and what its cost us. It was the medias job to hold them to account. They instead have decided to help the tories. This is also not deluded. It is calculated. A conscious decision to protect a morally corrupt parliament, because it is in their interests to do so.

    The deluded and the delusional are the morons who voted for this. The morons who voted for brexit without bothering to check what it meant, but want it because they voted for it.

    Scotland had a chance to put the union into the dustbin of history and give the UK a reality check. It should have been a velvet divorce. Boris Johnson wants the union to be a suicide cult instead. The UK is going to die ugly.

    • “… jingoistic and lusting for power for the sake of lording it over people.”

      Yes but never forget, never not ever as ‘nationalists’!

      And re this: “The deluded and the delusional are the morons who voted for this.”

      I believe many folk in England who identified in 2019 as ‘traditional Labour voters’ decided to vote Tory. So much for THEIR traditional Labour values of ‘solidarity’ with ‘ordinary’ people – in Scotland and Wales, and yes in England too!

      Or does Labour’s (and Ian Murray’s ) demand of left of centre voters in Scotland to show ‘solidarity’ with people in England – and reject independence – only work one way, from us to them?

      We’ve voted by a large majority in Scotland for Labour for decades but regardless, as we know, so often got a Tory government. And still the leadership of today’s Labour Party are telling all that will listen that the solution to their party’s problem of losing Westminster elections lies – not in England – but somehow in Scotland!

      Well we in Scotland do in general have the capacity for a ‘solidarity’ that seems to have deserted many of Labour’s ‘traditional’ voters in England at the last General Election. So Labour needs to address their actual problem: they need to challenge the English voters they have lost to the Tories – and yes, check their electoral arithmetic!

      • Old school unionists in Scotland believed supporting an English party to allow Scotland a fair hearing in Westminster. The sad truth is that this has given way to a generation of unscrupulous and opportunistic careerists. Ian Murray is a classic example of it. He is no more a socialist Thomas Paine was a monarchist. But Paine was a man of principle who practiced what he preached. Ian Murray on the other hand, is only concerned with his pay cheque and the little bonuses he can get on the side. He doesn’t care that he saw his vote share slashed or that he relies on tories to keep him in power. He is, like all the rest, political weather vanes. Its why I made the joke that there is only one unionist party in Scotland, it just pretends to be three separate UK parties. It does have an air of versimilitude about it, as the likes of Murray, Davidson, Mundell, Dugdale and Rennie, do give the impression that British politics in Scotland is fake.

  4. They appear to be aiming to sneak in their no deal Brexit under cover of the health crisis.
    Their claims that the EU has to drop their ideology (rules and regulations which govern the single market) within the next 2 weeks or they will walk away with no deal.
    Of course,the EU isn’t going to do that to accommodate a state which is leaving the single market.
    The UK government making it clear that it will always put England First in a crisis (Brexit and Covid19) and no longer represents the other nations in this multi national state has even rattled the unionists here in Scotland.
    I think Arlene and her pals in NI realise that following the Republic advice is being adhered to by the folk there rather than Johnson’s rhetoric.
    It now also appears that Westminster has finally agreed with the EU that NI is still part of the EU single market and that customs posts will have to be put in place to accommodate that.
    NI on the way out of the UK of E and Scotland seriously thinking about doing the same.

  5. Well said Paul. Your blog posts are outstanding and always lift the spirits even in these terrible days of this horrendous pandemic.

  6. The (official) international mortality rate of each State/Country represents one half of an equation known as ‘Closed Cases.’. The other side of the coin being recovered/discharged from care (as a result of recovering). A side of the coin which seems to get no coverage.

    With the caveat that not all recovered or non recovered cases of Covid-19 will have been captured effectively and to varying degrees in officially released daily figures it’s worth highlighting the UK’s comparative ‘performance’ on both metrics. Simply because it represents a measure not only of the effectiveness of the recovery/survival chances for those who make it to hospital but also provides an insight into how seriuosly, or otherwise, such data is taken.

    I started a spreadsheet, updated daily, on March 29, from the World Covid-19 monitor site (which provides daily data of each country) on this simple metric for a sample of 20 Countries – in the percentage rate for recovered/mortality of all reported daily closed cases.

    The results so far paint an even worse picture for the UK. Early on, during the first two weeks in April the UK percentages for recovered/died started off at 10%/90% (rounded) and rapidly decreased to 1%/99% before rallying to around 3%/97%. At which point, on April 13 the UK Government stopped supplying the data for the number of closed cases which have recovered.

    The only countries anywhere near those appalling survival chance official statistics were Ireland and the Netherlands. Since around late April/Early May the RoI have got their act together in terms of the daily released data and currently stand at around 90%/10%. The Netherland’s, several days after the UK, also stopped releasing the figures relating to the number of recovered cases. Although the number of deaths in Holland are a fraction (around 5k at present) of the UK’s mortality numbers.

    In comparison, Australia has consistently been around 98% recovered/2% died; Germany 95%/5%; and China at 94%/6%. All other countries in the sample have improved – some like Brazil (currently around 86%/14%) and Turkey (currently 96%/4%) from initial much lower survival rate figures; whilst others have made more modest improvements, France from around the mid 50% recovery rate to just under 70% and the US from the low 50% to the high 70%.

    Even Indonesia has shot up from below 40% to the mid 70%.

    The point being that any Government serious and confident in its handling of a health crisis would be actively looking at the number of recoveries to boost its case on how well it is doing. The fact that the UK Government (the only Government apart from the Netherlands) is not releasing the recovery figures suggests three possibilities: The survival rates are so low they would be publicly damaging so best not to release them; they cannot be bothered to collate that side of the Closed Cases metric; or both?

    Whichever of those possibilities it is further suggests that the UK Government is so confident of not being challenged on it by a complicit media and it’s forelock tugging, cap doffing support base in England and amongst the Unionist Ultras that it does not care about any potential fallout from such an appalling survival rate.

    And on present evidence in which no one is even talking about this metric they are, sadly, probably accurate in that assessment.

  7. Bravo, Covid has revealed the worst of the Union and the best of what Scots CAN do even with both hands tied behind it’s back.
    HMG tried being the icing on the cake and could barely manage the vacant space beneath the cardboard platter despite numerous onslaughts from the Herod and Pacifier Quay… Hell mend them.
    If English people can’t or won’t string this shower up by their necks, no vows or platitudes will dissuade Scots this time, all legal and correct, we’re off…

  8. Spot on as always WGD.

    Today at the English briefing, Harries said that in most ‘communities’ (whatever defines a community was unclear) the R number is likely to be significantly lower than the national R number.

    This is meant to be a top ranked medic who, presumably, has a string of degrees and other qualifications.

    Anyone with basic arithmetic knows that if MOST are ‘likely’ to be lower then SOME are likely to be significantly, indeed very significantly, higher – given the national R number is the national average.

    Yet on this basis, and without any clear plans for safely opening schools, operating public transport etc., the English government opens England up.

    This is terrifying incompetence and stupidity.

    We need out.

    • This is meant to be a top ranked medic who, presumably, has a string of degrees and other qualifications.



      Significantly, perhaps its the last set of letters after her name are the important ones.

      She studied in medicine at the University of Birmingham gaining an intercalated BSc in pharmacology in 1981 and medical degrees, MB ChB, in 1984.

      She was appointed OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours.

      Source: Wiki.

      • She said Today,
        “Although it is recognised that small children will run around and interact,you can still distance them,that is the plan”
        “They can take their own lunch boxes but not pencil cases”
        “The infection rate in children is the same as adults but they’re less likely to pass it on”.

        No further comment required.

        • I’ll tell you what my pet name for kids are these days; Plaguespreaders – through no fault of their own by the way, it’s just the way it is. The UK Govt really is beyond the pale! Full of incompetent charlatans, brown nosers and plain ordinary arseholes.

    • Movy, I would suggest that we are already out.
      The Union is dead. Mad men like Carjack Lawson are now denying that there is no border between Scotland and England now.
      He is in effect saying that his precious England doesn’t exist as a country?
      He has lost it.

      There’s no way WM can survive this.
      We must close the border as England runs amok sneezing on each other.
      Close the border.

  9. Yet another moving, powerful, convincing piece. There are very few writers who are doing more to still that shrill voice at the heart of every North Briton that whispers “You’re not good enough”. Well done.

  10. I take it she supported herd immunity which was dropped like a hot potato once the deaths of so many people began. The medics in England are complicit in suggesting the the infection was not as serious as other countries were warning. The sickening sight of Johnson interviewing the said person – before contracting Covid-19 At 10 Downing Street agreeing that large crowds wasn’t important ie Cheltenham, is worthy of a professional review. Now England’s medics need to agree with Johnson , Hancock and crew as they have helped to create the chaos. Things must be pretty bad. Gove is hiding.

    • I think it’s pretty obvious, to me anyhow, that herd immunity has never been dropped and has always been firmly on the agenda, no matter what these con men/women say.

  11. WGD on fire. Thank you Paul.

    UK gov watched Bergamo implode as if it was nothing to do with ” us “.
    Little did we know that a combination of reckless unpreparedness and hubris would see UK soar above the level of carnage in Italy.
    All that now holds Scotland back is the travesty of political parties controlled from elsewhere squatting in our parliament. Their loyalties are not to the people who call Scotland home. Lets turf them out in 2021.

  12. Every country in the world is able and feels able to do something the *British* state have never been capable of, communication, the *British* have a failure to communicate, they talk at people, never with people, they refuse on principle to learn from others because of their own exceptionalism and belief, not that they are better, but in fact the worry of people finding out they’re not

    How many countries have removed themselves from this ridiculous Empirical monstrosity, we all know the answer to that and we all know that the *British* state said the same things to every single one of them as they say to Scotland to make them to stay, but they wisely didn’t

    When I was a young lad at the pictures (that’s what we called the cinema or movies then) at the end of the big picture the cinema began to play the English national anthem as the credits to the film were going up, seconds before that happened hundreds of patrons ran hell for leather for the door to get out rather than have to tolerate it, leaving the numbers you could count on one hand still standing to attention hands on hearts and facing upwards as though enraptured by a holy event

    What happened to that Scotland where the very idea of a *British* street party with Union flags and bunting for a Monarch or any other *British* event would’ve been looked upon with jaw dropping shock, now we have Unionists on our streets burning Saltires in protest against us, who encouraged that, because it wasn’t us

    Even in that bastion of Unionism Ibrox Park you never saw so many Union flags as you do now (well in normal times) who encouraged that

    We’re running out of time, we must press and continue to press, and become louder and even more visible, we think of Scotland as our country, the Unionists believe they live in a colony of England that England named *British* to make us feel inclusive

    It’s only been 300 years, Do you feel included yet

  13. “Once we are through the trying times, the tsunami of our fury will wash the arrogance of British exceptionalism away.” If only. Seems like people can’t wait to get back to “normal”.

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