So, it’s finally appeared and I’m not sure what to say…
The Russia report surprised me but not in the way I expected. I thought the evidence of Russian interference in Brexit was obvious because… well, Russia has been involving itself in everything we do for at least a decade. I first wrote my judo analogy years ago. Putin is good at pushing when we’re off-balance, tripping us when we’re not quite on our feet. He has been adept at using our free press to destroy our free press. Maybe people have forgotten the days when The Guardian’s comment section was entirely filled with Russian propaganda. Russia’s cyber operations and use of social media have become infinitely more subtle since then and are streets ahead of our ability to counter them.
No, what surprised me was the degree to which the British government has tried to look the other way. Yet whilst being surprised in one breath, I also realised I was not that surprised in the next. The government was always going to look the other way. Who, after all, votes for them? This isn’t really about Russia. It’s about the existential threat to the Conservative Party, which has spent the best part of the last decade fearful that they’d lose votes to their immediate right. UKIP, and then the Brexit Party, threatened to do to the Tories what the Lib Dems and Greens constantly do to Labour: splitting the vote. To look too closely at the referendum might raise legitimate concerns about a result that ran counter to every poll before and after the ballot.
Do they really want to unpick the result, reigniting the smouldering pile of tires that is British nationalism? All us Remainer types have our huge but peaceful protests in London so we can be ignored. The evidence of the other week proves that the other side wouldn’t be anywhere near as pleasant.
And, yes, I’m letting my bias creep in, but I think there’s some truth in what I’m writing. We Remainy types generally accept the result even though we hate it and would have happily pushed for a second referendum. We begrudgingly accept that Brexit will happen. I’m certainly not going to punch a policeman to vent my anger. I’m not sure the same would be true if the result was reversed.
I very much doubt that much now happens regarding the report. I notice the government have already rejected the idea of a proper investigation (of course they would) whilst Farage (turn three times, spit, and shout “bollocks”) is claiming he’s been vindicated, despite the report saying that Russian meddling was never properly investigated. It’s beginning to feel like the Mueller Report, which said it couldn’t clear the President but had no legal means to prosecute him, so the President read that as being vindicated.
Having mentioned the ‘F’ word, I’m going to end this here. I can feel myself getting angry. Let me finish, however, with a different perspective on the news.
I mainly watch/listen to American networks because I find US politics so much more interesting than politics in the UK. Yet when they do cover the UK, it’s often with more objectivity. It’s been interesting, for example, to see how American health experts have viewed stories about the Oxford vaccine. They don’t think it’s as significant as the press over here have been making it and one even went so far as to suggest that the British government might be spinning the news for domestic reasons. I’m not saying that’s either right or wrong but I am increasingly worried about Johnson’s instincts. Nick Cohen has written an excellent piece for The Spectator today, where he talks about the “Soviet level of overpromising, faked targets and power worship” around this government. That mirrors my own feelings about what’s going on. Johnson is acting like the Oxford vaccine will save him and save him by the end of the year. There’s a certain swagger about this government that doesn’t reflect the reality of our situation: a second wave that might yet be imminent and a No-Deal Brexit that looks increasingly certain. The vaccine might protect us a bit, a lot, or not at all. Nobody knows how long the antibodies will last. One US doctor I listened to said the vaccine produces lower levels of protection than if a person has recovered from the virus yet, in those instances, the protection might not last a month. Are we really all going to get vaccinated each month?
The answer is that we have to wait for the science. Yet it still doesn’t explain the confidence I’m sensing coming out of our government. It appears to be a confidence they have done absolutely nothing to earn.