“We’ll See You on the Barricades”: Bojo Johnson’s Poundshop Churchill Imitation

Photograph Source: Matt Brown – CC BY 2.0

Poundshop: British chain similar to the US’s Dollar General

I’m in London for a week to inhale the UK election vapours. Some scents reeked of the cheap knock-off perfumes– labelled “Chanel”, “Dior”, etc.– you can buy in shonky street markets in many cities.

Others though had more in common with a leaking sewer pipe.

BoJo launched his election campaign on a day of gaffes galore.

His trusted crony Jacob Rees-Mogg (“the Hon Member for the 18th Century”) put his foot in it when he said the 72 dead in the Grenfell Tower blaze had “lacked common sense” in failing to survive.

The patrician Moggy, whose family’s assets include a palatial mansion (Wentworth House), overlooked the fact that the high-rise Tower had been girded in flammable cladding by the local Tory council to save money, and that the fire brigade had instructed residents to “stay put” in their flats until they could be rescued. Many more would probably have survived if they ignored these instructions and made a run for it before the fire got too big to control.

Moggy was forced to issue an insincere apology, and made to lie low for a couple of days by Tory HQ.

It was also disclosed on the same day that BoJo’s minister for Wales, Alun Cairns, had resigned his position over a leaked email which suggested he knew of a now-suspended candidate’s part in “sabotaging” a rape trial (Cairns has denied the allegation). Cairns is resolved for the moment to remain a candidate in the election, but what his electoral prospects will be after this revelation is hard to tell.

Also that day it emerged that the Tories had doctored a campaign video of Labour’s highly effective Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, in order to depict him as a Brexit dissembler.

The Tory party chair, the inaptly named James Cleverly, was sent out by HQ to face the media. Cleverly said the video was edited because (a) it was too long, and (b) it was intended to be harmless political satire.

It was pointed out to him that his two explanations did not cohere– if “too long”, there were several places where it could have been shortened without altering the tenor of Starmer’s argument; and if it was “political satire”, why alter it to the point of factual inaccuracy?

Cleverly failed to live up to his name as he uummed and aaahhed in front of interviewers.

BoJo also shelved until after the election a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Russian interference in UK politics.

It is natural to treat with suspicion “intelligence” gathered by the “deep state”, but it is in fact highly unusual for the Ukanian “deep state” to latch on to the rightwing and supposedly “patriotic” Tories.

British intelligence services have traditionally made Labour politicians and leftwing union leaders their focus. A rogue section in the secret service even plotted a coup (which it subsequently covered-up), described by some as “the British Watergate”, against the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson in the 1970s.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, chaired by the Tory lawyer and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve until he was one of 21 Remainer Tories expelled from the party by BoJo (10 were subsequently readmitted), had focused on 3 issues:

+ alleged Russian interference in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 general election using fake social media accounts;

+ the 2006 assassination in the UK of the former KGB agent Anatoly Litvinenko using plutonium, as well as the 2018 attempted assassination of the double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, who came into contact with the toxic nerve agent Novichok used in the attempt subsequently died);

+ the large donations made to the Tory party by Russian funders, some with close ties to Putin—according to The Independent, since the Tories came to power in 2010 these have amounted to more than £3.5mn/$4.51mn.

Speculation is futile until the Grieve report is released, but questions are being asked about BoJo’s motives for shelving a report that could alter the course of the election.

Also shelved is the police investigation into BoJo’s channelling public money into the purse of one of his squeezes, and why he took her on 3 trade missions when he was mayor of London (even though she was not qualified to serve on these).

The Establishment is circling the wagons around a rightwinger completely unfit to be PM.

BoJo opened his campaign with a speech that was mock-Churchillian. After the usual litany of lies, misleading statements, and airy promises, he roared out “I will see you at the barricades”.

This was enough hot air to keep a Zeppelin aloft for days, all intended for consumption by the rubes who will vote for him come what may.

They probably won’t remember BoJo’s ridiculous promise that he would “die in a ditch” if Brexit did not happen by Halloween, but this Churchillian vaudeville should be laughed out of court in the same way— the only barricades BoJo is likely to mount are those in a video game or in his fervid dreams.

Labour though was not without its troubles.

Its Blairite deputy leader, Tom Watson, chose the start of the election campaign to announce his resignation from that position and from parliament. The timing was doubtless intended to cause as much embarrassment to Corbyn as possible.

Watson doesn’t have a socialist bone in his body (which was probably fine when the Blairites ruled the Labour roost), and he’s long been on the payroll of the Zionist lobby, as I’ve documented before in CounterPunch.

Corbyn and his allies are slowly edging-out Labour’s Likudists and supporters of the Blair-Bush invasion of Iraq (which Watson voted for), but this has come at a price to their own side.

To stave-off the “antisemitism crisis” confected by the media and the Zionist lobby, some had to be fed to the wolves, in the name of “extra due diligence” (a phrase used by a Labour HQ official).

I’ve already discussed in CounterPunch the case of the redoubtable MP Chris Williamson, a staunch ally of Corbyn’s, who was suspended from the Labour party for saying that Labour had been “too apologetic” when dealing with the so-called “antisemitism crisis”.

This week Williamson was dropped as a Labour candidate for the election. This is what Williamson actually said:

“We’ve done more to actually address the scourge of antisemitism than any other political party, and yet we are being traduced.

The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.

I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that. Because in my opinion we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic”.

Williamson was therefore maintaining that Labour had been too apologetic in its response to accusations of “antisemitism” (many of them confected), as opposed to being too apologetic about Labour’s antisemitism per se.

His ruthless opponents quickly imposed the latter interpretation on Williamson’s words, and gained the upper-hand in framing this particular debate.

Williamson issued a prompt apology for what he said, but it was too late.

His supporters have said he would not have been in trouble had he said in plain words what he meant, that is, that Labour needs to be more “proactive”, “direct”, “vigorous”, and so on, in addressing those who have been found to manufacture allegations of Labour “antisemitism”.

Williamson has now resigned from Labour after being a member for 43 years, and will contest his seat as an Independent. A good man, undone by a modicum of linguistic imprecision, will now have to contest and overturn the majority he gained in the last election.

Another Labour politician fed to the wolves in a similar way is Kate Ramsden, who had been its electoral candidate for Gordon, in Scotland.

Ramsden had compared Israel to “an abused child who becomes an abusive adult”, and withdrew her candidacy after Labour HQ asked her to re-interview and said she could be summoned to face a disciplinary inquiry for making this statement.

Ramsden’s analogy was clumsy and too redolent of the worst kind of pop psychology, but it is hardly “antisemitic”.

Would someone who called America an abusive bully because it is gripped by an irrational exceptionalism be accused of antiwhite racism (except of course by this or that Trumplandian)?

America, to pursue Ramsden’s analogy, would not even be in the potentially exculpatory position of having first been an abused child!

America is quite simply a flat-out bully— many CounterPunchers have said this over the decades, and there’s nothing racist about this statement.

In fact– since there is an inextricable racist component to American exceptionalism with its underlying white supremacist ideology, just as there is a similar component in Zionist anti-Arabism (such as the references made by Israeli politicians to Arab “cockroaches”, or Israeli rabbis justifying the rape of Arab women in combat situations, etc.)– calling out America and Israel for their abusive bullying is arguably to take up an anti-racist position, albeit by default?

I would love to have seen Kate Ramsden or the lawyer representing her make this argument to a Labour disciplinary tribunal.

On a much more frivolous note, the Ukanian tabloids are having a field day with the actor Emma Watson’s announcement that, though single, she is “self-partnered”.

On such intriguing propositions with their possible solipsistic undertones I am inclined to be a relativist—whatever floats her boat, and all that.

The interesting thing is that however Alice-in-Wonderlandish Ms Watson’s “self-partnering” may be, it cannot hold a candle to the almost extraterrestrial collective hallucinations unleashed by the Tory and Faragist Brexiters.

Ms Watson’s favourite author may be Lewis Carroll in this hypothetical scenario, but BoJo’s fave author has to be H.P. Lovecraft.

As the Urban Dictionary defines the term “Lovecraftian”: “Said of a creature, it means something that merely knowing it exists can wear away at ones sanity, and seeing it can be even worse. Such creatures are usually older than humanity, from another planet or dimension, or both”.

To repeat: “Said of a creature, it means something that merely knowing it exists can wear away at ones sanity, and seeing it can be even worse”?

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom: take a bow sir!

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.