In the UK, statues matter more than people

Our part time Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has responded quickly, decisively, and with alacrity to a threat. Huzzah! Hurrah! It’s just a pity that the threat he’s responded to is not a threat to your actual human lives. It’s a threat to some statues. Johnson is far more concerned about a threat to some inanimate objects than he was worried about averting the huge and ever increasing death toll from Covid-19. Although since his cabinet is populated with statues lacking in anything approaching human feelings, or indeed in most cases sentience, that’s possibly not surprising.

Incidentally, and while we’re talking about statues. Scotland is fair littered with the statues of slavers, imperialists, and colonialists. But nowhere in Scotland will you find a statue to one of this country’s greatest sons, the socialist, trade unionist, and anti-imperialist James Connelly who was born and raised in Edinburgh. The Tories and the Orangemen wouldn’t like it. Statues that celebrate slave traders and those who dispossessed people from the Highlands are just fine, but you can forget about celebrating those who resisted British rule.

Johnson is hoping that he can take a leaf out of Donald Trump’s tattered playbook and start a culture war with Labour. By posing as the great defender of British tradition he hopes to paint Labour as being on the side of anarchists and rioters. It’s the kind of cynical move you’d expect from Johnson, a man for whom principles are things that he once read about in a book that he borrowed and never returned. That British tradition that he’s defending is a tradition of looking the other way while Great Britons enslaved, robbed, despoiled, and killed. It’s the British tradition of hypocrisy. Johnson is a master at that. He has empowered and embolded today’s racists and fascists.

The current focus on statues is a massive distraction technique. There are far more important things going on right now to be concerned about other than statues, but those are things that show up Johnson in a bad light. They would be things like the British Government’s increasingly discredited attempts to come out of lockdown too early. Things like the abject failure of the Government to plan properly for the return of children to school in England before their summer holidays. Things like the appalling mismanagement and chaos in which the track and trace system is mired. Things like the systemic racism which means that black and minority ethnic people are far more likely to die from the virus and to suffer poorer outcomes in all aspects of life than their white counterparts. And they’d be things like the worsening damage to the economy which is only going to be compounded by Johnson’s determination to pursue the hardest Brexit imaginable, a Brexit which will further enrich the disaster capitalists who fund his party while it impoverishes the rest of us.

It’s noticeable that Johnson, who has spent most of his time in hiding, has popped up to defend some statues when he’s usually so keen to delegate his job to his lackeys. Johnson has spent most of his short time in office hiding from scrutiny and hiding from the public because his record is so woeful. He’s not the only one.

The only cabinet minister more part time than Johnson is Alister Jack, and even he managed to pop up this week, in Jack’s case it was to repeat some lies on Good Morning Scotchland on BBC Radio Scotchland about death rates in Scotland’s care homes being twice what they are in the rest of the UK. In fact the death rate in English care homes has been systematically underreported. A recent report from the London School of Economics found that current UK Government data only accounted for 41.6% of excess deaths in care homes in England. This makes the death rate in English care homes 30% higher than that in Scotland. Naturally Alister wasn’t corrected by the presenters of Good Morning Scotchland. (See ) Jack wants to distract from the British Government’s woeful handling of the epidemic by lying through his teeth about the Scottish Government. It’s a familiar pattern from the Conservatives.

Where has Alister Jack been during the past few months? According to the Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman he and his office have been entirely absent in discussions between the Scottish Government and the British Government during the Covid-19 epidemic. On those rare occasions that he does put in an appearance, it’s never to defend Scotland at the UK level. It’s never to stand up for Scotland’s interests. It’s always to attack and undermine the Scottish Government. And yet this is the man who has the official role of representing Scotland in the British Government. We’d be far better off with a statue than with Alister Jack, at least a statue has a public presence.

The Tories are empowering and emboldening racists and fascists. Their negligence and failure to perform the most basic tasks of government adequately are costing thousands of lives. They are deliberately compounding the greatest economic catastrophe the UK has faced since WW2 by taking us into the hardest Brexit imaginable in order to further enrich the disaster capitalists who fund the Conservative party. They are systematically undermining and weakening the devolution settlement. They ignore Scotland as a matter of course and seek only to reduce and diminish public trust in the Scottish Government as it struggles to deal with the biggest global crisis in decades. And yet we get apologists for the British state like Tom Gordon in the Herald telling us that it’s not a Plan B that the independence movement needs, but a new prospectus for independence. Tom, we already have a new prospectus for independence. Boris Johnson and the Tories are delivering it to us on a commemorative plate bearing the name of an imperialist and slave trader.

The first independence referendum campaign was characterised by proving that Scotland is capable of becoming a successful independent state. The second will be characterised by a debate about whether Scotland can be safe as a part of the UK, because the actions of the British Government itself have seriously called that into question. The new prospectus for independence will be about the failures of the British state to defend Scotland, to protect Scotland, or to keep Scotland safe from extremism, harm, and death. We have a British Government which is more concerned to assert that statues’ lives matter than it is about keeping its citizens safe from harm.

And finally, here’s a very appropriate and timely song from Barcelona based Scots singer-songwriter Louis Rive

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62 thoughts on “In the UK, statues matter more than people

  1. The statue of Winston London that boris johnson and many others
    Try to justify.and just like the daily gutter press.front page this morning.Churchill.the man that saved Great dad who fought in the
    Last war in Burma.and who has now Departed this world.told me he was an ignorant arrogant human being that He was unfortunate to meet during the war years.told me this is the same man who Sent thousands of men to their deaths at the snap of his is about Time very many woke up and realised that.
    Lets get out of this discredited union.the quicker we are independent the better.

    • Churchill was a complicated man with good and bad sides to him. I have to admit that I now come down on the “anti” side dues to his involvement in his last spell as PM in the 50s, when in cahoots with the CIA he plotted the overthrow Mosaddegh , democratic leader of IRan and replace him with the Shah as dictator. A move that eventually led (with the help of the CIA betraying all the pro democracy fighters in Iran over the years and ignoring the threat of fundamentalist religion) to the Regime we have today. So much of “realpolitik” policy in the Middle East has led to so many unforseen consequences – perhaps actually being naively pro-democracy would have produced a better situation.

      Atlee, though not as bad as Churchill, wasn’t too pro democracy either, see this:'état

  2. On the button as always, bravo…
    “The Tories are empowering and emboldening racists and fascists” certainly covers it, but any notion they can control the mob they are provoking is cloud cuckoo no matter how their press buddies and manipulators paint it…

  3. There’s an anger rising in folk and it’s not the usual discontented anger about bad political decisions, it’s more than that, it’s a thing we’ve seen in other countries that we normally look on and wonder how it got so bad that people are doing…..that!,,,,,, because …that!….. is yet to be determined, but it’s beginning to look a lot like… …that!

  4. Pingback: In the UK, statues matter more than people | speymouth

  5. The Record Herald and Scotsman run with the same strap; ‘Hundreds’ of loyalist ‘flock to’ the cenotaph to protect it from lefties who will surely deface it if shaven headed No Surrenderiks of the Loyalist Defence Group/League/ Brigade ,or whatever, do not mill about the Mad King Square for half an hour in the drizzling rain.
    I can think of no one who would desecrate a WWI cenotaph, but these three rags get the Loyal Sons message of lies across….
    The Police had cordoned off a space to the West of German Geordie’s Sq, to kettle a counter protest and dampen down a potential flare up. There was no one there.
    So, several dozen knuckleheads, despite the Record advertising the rammy, shuffled about looking like, well, pointless idiots.
    But the Blahs got to fill space in their dying Dead Tree Scrolls

    • No one there except for the nutters, Jack, carrying their Butcher’s Aprons.

      ‘George Square: Hundreds in Glasgow to ‘protect’ war memorial.’

      …”In an event organised by a group called the Loyalist Defence League (LDL), people congregated to stop vandalism to the Glasgow Cenotaph, erected to commemorate the lives of those who died in the First World War.

      The group was penned in on the east side of the square, with a similar sized area reserved for counter-protesters which remained empty.”

  6. Totally minor thing, but is the end of the first sentence meant to say “with a clarity” or “with alacrity” ?

  7. This is what we’re dealing with:-

    ‘Boris Johnson said colonialism in Africa should never have ended and dismissed Britain’s role in slavery.’

    “The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience,” he wrote. “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”

    ..”Suggesting that one way to boost the economy of African countries would be for British tourists to holiday in them, Mr Johnson wrote: “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”


    And this:-

    ‘Anti-BLM protesters clash with police at London demonstration.’

    • His fellow MPs applauded the maiden speech proclaiming the virtues of Cromwell sending the Scots to slavery in the Caribbean. The Queens ancestors did the same with the Jacobites.

      Why do you think so many West Indians are called Lewis, McDonald, Wright, Boyd, Stewart etc. They are all Jacobite surnames not plantation owner names.

  8. The footage from London suggests English society is imploding. No wonder Scotland is being subject to unprecedented levels of internal migration.

    Sturgeon has to act soon to secede. Forestalling the Brexit process wont save us.

  9. Thank you for another fine essay, Paul.
    All available here, on the interweb, for free.
    I note your annual Dug funder at 9725, after 5 days. Just 275 short of the 10K goal.
    Maybe some of the wealthier inhabitants of the Yes movement could chip in a couple of hundred to help it over the line? Where are you Alex Salmond, Angus Robertson, Ian Blackford?
    Paul Kavanagh and the WGD has done a lot more than most to keep the flame alive.
    Though maybe it’s more fitting to go at it a fiver at a time from the hard-up underdogs.
    The determined underdogs.
    Aye, i don’t know.
    You don’t really have any billionaire sponorship. Lol.
    Down with the bloody billionaires.
    If you’re still short by midnight Nova Sotia time i’ll put ma money where ma mouth is.
    All the best.
    Slainte, asty

  10. It seems the leaders of the right wing in Freedom Square in Glasgow all chose to wear black face coverings- the ordinary plebs the usual surgical type masks.
    Weird that just in the past few years they were arguing against face coverings

  11. Murdo Fraser Tory MSP Orange Order member and famous Tweeter of sectarian innuendo condemns the far right as thugs

    Like most of the far right Murdo Fraser is ironically ironic except he knows he is and his followers think he’s talking about something hot you get your wife to flatten your shirt with before you leave the house to demonstrate you’re sectarian and racist and bigoted

    Channel four does a piece on Scotland’s racism, Aye because we’re definitely a hotbed of it
    (That was sarcasm), we’ve got it but we know who it is, and it tends to be the same ones who wave the Union flag which is the flag of the far right like the one on Murdo Frasers wall next to his picture of the *Queens 11* eh Murdo

  12. O/T

    I see that BBC 1 has excelled itself today in taking the piss! Twice today for lengthy periods, it broadcast to license payers in Scotland international football showing the exceptional exploits of England. One nation pride advanced!

  13. That isn’t O/T Stewartb. The contempt shown by the BBC and all other Brit institutions is calculated and deliberate. Humiliation is a key element of their modus operandi and it works to subjugate those who have no self respect.

    At this time it may not be so effective for them. I fancy that a few more Scots would look at this and think WTF I’ve had more than I can take of this.

    It makes my blood boil but sadly, generations of Brit conditioning and sixty years of the Labour Party protection racket are not going to be easy to overcome. I know I have to be patient. Each individual Scot has to find their way to get off their knees and stand up like a civilised human being. But it’s hard to be patient.

    • It has been a slow and tiresome task but I think the covid 19 episode has perhaps been a Wizard of Oz curtain pull back moment for many.

    • “Each individual Scot has to find their way to get off their knees”

      Each individual Scot should remember that “the great appear great to us because we are on our knees” – James Connolly

  14. Johnson was on BBC Breakfast this morning announcing that agitators had infiltrated the BLM protests and were threatening to attack the police and staues.
    His Brownshirts rallied to der fuhrer’s call to arms, and flooded the streets, attacking the police, screaming for BME to go back to Africa and behaving like Bullingdon Boys out to wreck everything in their path.
    The Herald, Record, and Scotsman reported on some ridiculous bunch of thugs and gave their bitter hateful little philosophy credence by publicising their gang by normalising their Gang as the Loyalist Defence league.
    No such gang exists outside the heads of the saddos loitering in Mad King Square today, and the dwindling press rooms of the Dead Tree Scrolls.
    God, I just scrolled through their online offerings. Journalism is dead in Scotland.
    The crap that this lot are churning out every day is quite simply staggering.

    • Spot on Jack.
      There is no doubt that far-right reaction to the BLM marches was deliberately stoked by Johnson and Co to provoke counter-demonstrations, your descriptor of “brownshirts” could not have been more apt, the parallels continue to glare back through history, BUT, in England.
      The Bristol/Colston incident instead of being seen for what it was, local fury at the “great and good” successfully blocking a plaque explaining historical context, was framed as an attack on the “British way of life”, an “Empire” still tender from it’s Brexit renaissance.
      As Colston went for his unceremonious dip, it hopefully caused the “great and good” similarly blocking remedy elsewhere to reconsider the implications, ignore redress at your peril.
      I note even the National splashed the laughable Herald “Hundreds of people head…LDL..” story, which apart from a few neds kicking their heels awkwardly went off like a damp squib.
      Field-Marshall Cummings must be fuming the lockdown largely held in Scotland, what can he dream up next to convince Scots to play his games…

  15. ‘The first independence referendum campaign was characterised by proving that Scotland is capable of becoming a successful independent state. The second will be characterised by a debate about whether Scotland can be safe as a part of the UK, because the actions of the British Government itself have seriously called that into question.’

    Safety is the key question.

    In the 1970’s the UK was an economic shambles. It had to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

    No doubt the UK largely got the loan thanks to North Sea oil revenues, but the decades of oil revenues were then spaffed away by successive UK governments.

    Since then the UK economy has largley been about privatisation – selling public assets (comanies & housing). Selling the family silver is how this has been described. Definitely not a sustainable way to run an economy.

    Fast forward to 2020 and economic shambles doesn’t begin to describe what looms only months away. The 2008 financial crisis hit the UK economy by around -2% and led to almost 10 years of cruel and ineffective austerity. Coronavirus’s economic impact isn’t known, but will clearly be huge globally. Yet at this stage the ‘UK’ decides to go ahead with brexit at the end of 2020 where the expected inpact of that alone on the economy is from -4 to -9% and with logistical preparations virtually not even started.

    True to their delusional nature, the UK government are at the moment talking a lot about making trade deals for their post-brexit world, even though they have had a clear lack of success at actually getting deals over the past couple of years, Care to guess what the UK’s 10th largest export is? Collector items, art & antiques which “represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 72% since 2018”.

    It seems that selling the family silver isn’t now just a flippant simile to describe the UK.

    The impact of all of this makes ‘safety’, in every possible use of that word, absolutely what independence is now all about to avoid being dragged down any further by UK delusions.

  16. Ten years for vandalising a statue.

    The Tories total mess. A pandemic with no proper planning. Social uprisings, high unemployment. Brexit total shambles.
    That did not take the Tories long.

    Churchill took all Iran’s oil and destroyed democracy. Put the PM in jail. Repeated throughout the Middle East. Britain, France and the US carved up the Middle East.

    Westminster have been illegally selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia since the 1960’s. Harold Wilson. Covered up under the Official Secrets Act. Arms companies bribing Gov officials. Funding UK political parties and Royalty. Thatcher was getting monies from the Saudis.

    Churchill lost the 1945 GE. A landslide victory for Labour.

    Illegal wars, financial fraud and tax evasion. Westminster unionist death and destruction.

    Support for SNP/Independence increasing.

  17. Thank you for this article. You are of course correct, saving statues (as opposed to people) and condemning people who are making rightful protests is so much easier to deal with than the real sht of government. I am at a loss as to understand why anyone would want to remain part of this Union when we have such a (T)loser at the helm. I have always been for independence but surely to goodness all folk can see what needs to be done here.

    Its a bit controversial but I read someone’s view that only Scottish People should be allowed to vote in a referendum…there are an awfy lot of Engish folk in Scotland right enough. Allowing all Scotlands People to vote seems the right thing to do but we are not on a level playing field and the English Govt don’t bother about doing the right thing by us.

    • I understand this frustration Lulu Bells but our goal – as I see it – is to achieve an independent Scotland that is open to all who wish to be citizens and is a truly civilised society.

      In my view it is best that we accept the challenge of regaining our independence driven by our principles. Of course it has the potential to make our task more difficult because some people may have moved to Scotland simply to exploit. Others will have chosen to live their life in a better society and some of them will want to join with us in securing our values and principles.

      It is noticeable that the differences between Scotland and Britland today are fundamental differences based on quite different principles. The Brits are led by unprincipled people – we all know who they are. Those who like these people are themselves like these people – unprincipled. Some people who claim to be in favour of an independent Scotland are transparent in their admiration of the Brits’ commitment to expediency, as an alternative to civilised principles. That would be a path to failure and it will not find traction in our movement – which is destined for success.

      I don’t want to go on and on about this because I think it is obvious. I would simply recommend that we think Ghandi and Mandela and be like them in pursuit of our goal.

  18. ” Malky McBlain”

    Good grief what a pleasant surprise to open up the WGD blog this morning to find that in the BTL section someone had (even if inadvertedly) included the Jarabe de Palo video of their current song Eso es que tu me das.

    For the uninitiated the singer in the clip is Pau Donés who is from Huesca in Catalonia and was the leader of the excellent and fantastically successful group Jarabe de Palo (sticky syrup).

    He retired mostly from the music business in 2015 on being diagnosed with prostate cancer and decided to devote the last years of his life to spending time with his daughter (the young woman who dances in the video) because he felt that he had missed her infancy through his involment and success in the music industry.

    In the song Eso es que to me das ( this is what you give to me) he thanks her for her companionship, company, strength and above all love and affection.

    Pau passed away last week at the young age of 53 causing tremendous sadnes amongst his fans and in the Spanish public in general.

    Another nasty barb in the hook that is 2020!

    So thank you again Malky for sharing the work of Jarabe de Palo among a wider audience and especialy amongst the “dugger community”.

    Although i don´t see what any of this has to do with Scottish Independence 🙂

    • It must have been fate Uno mas. I intended to share the link to the ship of fools video twice but it somehow came up with different video than intended….serendipity?

  19. Malky

    Looking at your links earlier on my phone, I found to my delight you featured a link to a Frank Zappa medley which included a song “Trouble Every Day” which was a commentary inspired by the Watts Riots of 1965. Unfortunately things have not moved on in the intervening 55 years.

  20. I’m mystified as to how I could have managed that…. perhaps the link I copied was part of someones playlist who has great and eclectic tastes in music.

  21. Great article. There may not be a statue to Mr. Connolly in Edinburgh but at 107 Cowgate you will see a small plaque. Apparently it took 12 years for the planning permission to make it through the local city council.

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