Watching a man slip on a banana skin is funny once. The umpteenth time, it is tedious. So too with Boris Johnson. His performance is treated as substance, when in truth it’s fluff that distracts from tragedy.
The prime minister riffed to Tory MPs this week that “devolution had been a disaster”.
For days previously the spin was that sacking some special advisers signalled a reset, a softer PM who would be respectful of Scotland and the north of England was promised. So much for that.
His remark triggered outrage – one paper even called it “Devogate” – though it told us nothing we didn’t already know. Read the Internal Market Bill and it’s set out in legalese; the Bill would remove powers from the devolved nations.
Johnson is a British nationalist, which has always meant an English nationalist with only a sentimental regard for the other nations of the UK.
The SNP will weaponise Johnson’s stupid words in the bid to hold and win an Indy referendum, which is good campaigning but a terrible basis for making a huge decision on our future.
That BoJo is an idiot is a given, but make that the grounds for independence and you make idiots of all of us.
Most reasonable people can see that Dominic Cummings’ Brexit campaign was a Trumpian low in British politics. It used a lie about funds for the NHS, dog whistle racism against immigrants, and bigotry against Muslim Turks joining the EU. It made fools of those it persuaded, and fools of those with more noble reasons for backing Brexit.
If Scots are persuaded on Indy on the basis of Johnson’s sexism, opportunism and bad judgment, it would be no more legitimate than Vote Leave’s victory.
Cummings isn’t around to account for Brexit, and Johnson won’t be there to justify Indy after the vote.
When Indy Scotland must make budget choices based on reduced spending, blaming Boris will appear bizarre. If Indy Scotland should sell assets like Scottish Water to boost the NHS, Johnson’s competence will be immaterial.
It is a golden truth of Indy, and should be written on the wall of every household in the land, that when we are independent we will only have ourselves to blame.
Nowhere is this more relevant than the newly locked-down west central Scotland. Ostensibly the closure of non-essential shops and restrictions on travel are due to Covid. Yet an emerging view of the virus is that it is not a pandemic, but syndemic.
A pandemic is a disease which spreads and can be contained and defeated by medicine; a syndemic is a disease which spreads because of existing policy failures.
According to an article in The Lancet, recommended by Edinburgh University’s Professor Linda Bauld, Covid kills in places already suffering from multiple deprivation.
The author, Richard Horton, says: “The vulnerability of older citizens; black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities; and key workers who are commonly poorly paid with fewer welfare protections points to a truth so far barely acknowledged – namely, that no matter how effective a treatment or protective a vaccine, the pursuit of a purely biomedical solution to Covid-19 will fail.
“Unless governments devise policies and programmes to reverse profound disparities, our societies will never be truly Covid-19 secure.”
Deprivation is always a killer, except it’s called obesity, cancer and alcoholism on the death certificate. Covid joins that list.
Deprivation matters because it is the biggest policy failure of Scotland. Any informed and honest assessment of Indy must start from the issue of poverty, which is why (ex) prime minister Gordon Brown’s remarks this week are far more important to our national debate than anything the clown in Downing Street says.
On the holding of an Indy referendum in 2021, Brown has called for a delay, a “ time to heal” from the virus. This connects into his thoughts about the reality of Indy, that the “truth” has yet to be told by the SNP.
It also links into his anxiety about how those on lower incomes are being punished by welfare reforms, job losses and the coming spending crisis as the UK seeks to settle its virus debts.
Brown is arguably the most serious politician in Scotland. He trumps Sturgeon on this scale as his position is coherent. She, for all her talents, refuses to reconcile campaign poetry to economic prose.
If Covid is killing Scots and wrecking our economy not just as viral bad luck, but as a consequence of systemic failures, it deserves to become a political emergency as much as a medical one.
The virus thrives in the poorer parts of Scotland because devolution has been a disaster at reversing decades of policy disaster under the Union – and without a truthful discussion about Indy it might just be the next disaster in line.
Whipping up a storm about Boris is just more fluff that distracts from the truth.
Framing Covid as a medical emergency requiring national sacrifice denies systemic failures under all forms of government.
The fact is, Boris isn’t the only fool in power.