Thank Frieda it’s Friday.
It has been a very long week; a whole seven days since my mum’s neck began to cause problems.
Today, I thought I’d write but having read a couple of things to drive me slightly loopy with frustration, I think I’ll have a day with my nose buried in a book. Some arguments don’t deserve a sincere response.
What I suppose I find so frustrating is the right are screaming about “freedom” when it suits them. I just noticed on Twitter than Priti Patel might back a scheme to force all big employers to test their staff for drug use. The hypocrisy is startling. “Freedom” is such a fetish for the right (as identity is a fetish for the left) yet what exactly does it mean? The same people demand fealty to the Queen because, to quote a famous philosopher, “some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me”. Libertarian has come to mean “my right to do whatever I want and screw whatever you want” rather than a sensible approach to how government can remain small yet meaningful in people’s lives.
The other bit that struck me as worth commenting is how certain Tories are snorting through their brandies about Biden. His emergence, this last week, as the devil incarnate is, perhaps, unsurprising. Biden, after all, has dared to speak about the ongoing Brexit negotiations which has left Tory MPs at each other’s throats.
“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” he tweeted. “Any trade deal between the US and the UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
It is always worth repeating the plain truth that, often, politics is neither a sophisticated nor complicated game. The big stick is balanced by a bigger carrot and here it’s pretty obvious which is which. In other words, peace in Northern Ireland is more important to American politicians than, let’s say, importing Old Masters – yes, I found it surprising that “works of art” are the fourth biggest export to the US from the UK.
So, what exactly is the problem? That an American politician, in the middle of a particularly toxic election campaign, realises which side of his bread his butter is spread? British ears might hear pro-Irish sentiments, but it was ever thus. In Britain, we’d think it odd if Boris Johnson turned up in Wigan and started to pretend that he was from the North. Americans have no such reservations. The nation is so big that there’s always a sentimentality about origin stories. Biden is playing to the Irish lobby this week. Next week it might be the Jewish lobby, followed a week later by the Catholic lobby, and then he’ll be down in Florida cosying up to the Hispanic lobby. Both candidates do it and both candidates move on. It’s called electioneering.
The real problem, one suspects, is that Biden has unashamedly pointed at Brexit’s Gordian knot and noted that it is as knotty as it ever was. Without the notional single European market to make borders seem notional, the island of Ireland can no longer live under the pretence that there is a singularity. Two trading nations can’t allow goods to cross the border freely, so there has to be a hard border.
But, no! That invalidates the Good Friday Agreement! So, there can’t be a border…
But, no! That invalidates Brexit, which requires that the UK and the EU have their own arrangements so there can’t be a free flow of goods, so we need checks…
But, no! That’s a border and that invalidates…
The other reality that Biden has made evident is genuinely sobering, though I can’t say I need to be much more sober at the moment. Britain had more influence as part of a large powerful trading block than it has alone. There might well be other benefits to Brexit but nothing I’ve seen convinces me that we’re not made smaller by this. Reality is beginning to bite and instead of facing that hard reality face on, the government are beginning to snap at each other.