30 IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE
We all know or should. We have been told often enough. A lot of people are fond of Pfeffel, think of him as a good chap. He attracts women, not all stunners to be honest, and wins elections, well, a couple and with plenty of support from the British media. Women or electorates, the promises of Pfeffel are consistent and simple. Commitment is too strong a word to use in the case of this chap. Some speculation may be required but it is not difficult to imagine Pfeffel telling the woman whose head happens to be on the pillow next to his that he has never met or adored anyone quite like her. It makes sense. Seduction requires a simple premise and 100% flattery. Once it becomes complicated it becomes a relationship, even the meetings that are doomed from the beginning. Pfeffel also kept the lies simple when he made his promises to the British electorate. Britain will be world beating, and just as important, puffed Pfeffel, we do not have to think about how that could possibly be achieved or worry over any statistics that reveal an underperforming economy and fractious society.
Sexual seductions often follow expensive meals and occur in luxurious hotel rooms. In the election of 2019 a lot of money was spent by the Pfeffel campaign team to create crude, vexatious and dishonest propaganda. Some of that money involved shell companies, and that way the electoral rules on funding were sidestepped. Asked why rules could be so easily broken, the people at the Electoral Commission said, ‘Oh, dear, what rules?’ The day after the 2019 election Pfeffel celebrated his victory. He attended a champagne and caviar party held by Russian oligarch and ex-KGB officer Alexander Lebedev. Allowing tax exiles to give cash to the Tory election campaign facilitated an intense and industrious operation that concentrated on Facebook. Seven million Facebook subscribers were identified as potential Tory voters and bombarded with campaign advertisements that were designed to be mistaken for news headlines. Level playing fields are so old-fashioned these days. Forget about anything but equal election campaigns. Just look at the income distribution within the UK, the declining health outcomes and life expectancy for the poor, and the never ending reduction in social mobility. Thinking about what happens to others just slows a man down. Pfeffel and the cronies pulling the strings behind him had a simple plan or premise and it involved a cynical promise, unspoken perhaps but rule changing.
Pfeffel persuaded a large section of the British electorate that with him in charge politics would go to where the simple souls amongst us had always wanted it to be, in a place remote from them. Pfeffel promised that he could make politics ‘go away’. He did this in two ways. First, Pfeffel offered a celebrity comic personality, an alternative to politicians that insisted upon argument and debate. Instead of dry argument from people that acted as if they were clever and superior, we were offered a shambling and untidy comic. For many of the electorate this was more than a good idea. Not only had the endless debates given them a headache it had meant that people that they did not want to listen to would now be obliged to do what a large part of the electorate had always wanted. Boring politicians and people they disagreed with would at last ‘go away’. There was nothing original in this pitch by Pfeffel although political commentators have been slow to spot the totalitarian implications and comparisons. The reliance on crude comedy by authoritarian right wing leaders is not a coincidence. Second, Pfeffel promised that he would make the EU and all the argument about whether the UK should be a member or not also ‘go away’. In this instance the slogan used was GET BREXIT DONE. Britain would begin again, and everything we disliked would ‘go away’. All we had to do was catch a bus that had £350m written on the side. And the right wing has the cheek to call those on the left utopian.
Something that will not go away is Northern Ireland. Despite what has been claimed by the thickest ever Attorney General, Suella Braverman, the country of Northern Ireland is not part of Britain. Although an increasing number of the population of Northern Ireland would prefer no connections whatsoever with Westminster, the country was created to be part of the United Kingdom. But if Northern Ireland is to stay in the UK, which is what the British government wants, and Ireland is to remain in the EU, then someone needs to sort out the borders between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain. EU officials know as well as most how to kick a can down the road but puffing and making problems go away is not quite their style. Northern Ireland staying in the EU single market to avoid a hard border with Ireland makes sense but that means the country or what some prefer to call a province will have to remain in the single market. And that requires a border between Northern Ireland and Britain. Plonk a border down in the Irish Sea and the part of the Northern Ireland population that are not that keen on being part of the UK wonder what the hell Northern Ireland was doing in the United Kingdom in the first place. Actually that sentence requires the word again, wonder again what the hell etc.
Now some basic stuff in language lawyers like. EU officials can be picky but if you create a single market that is defined by economic rules and a geographical entity outside of which there are trading restrictions and tariffs then you need a border around that entity. Without that border, guess what, there is no geographical entity and that means an awful lot of places where goods can be exchanged without regard to the trading restrictions and tariffs that are important to the definition of the geographical and economic entity. Oh dear, who would have thought. Not Pfeffel and his mates. Those cowboys were too busy promising that the EU and boring analysis could be made to go away.
Over the years tricky borders have roped more than one dope. In a government that leads the way in vacant stares the dopes have been forming a queue. Suella Braverman has claimed that the majority of the Northern Irish support the wishes of the DUP to remove the border in the Irish Sea. This is what happens when we have an Attorney General that cannot think and blink at the same time. Sorry, but the majority of the population of Northern Ireland did not vote for the DUP in the 2022 election. 29% of the 1st preference votes were for Sinn Fein, and 21.3% were for the DUP. Whatever Braverman thinks the majority of people of Northern Ireland want no border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and are more than happy with a border in the Irish Sea, especially as it keeps the economy of Northern Ireland in the EU single market. Not sure if all this sounds like a Shakespearean tragedy but here is the rub. Like its southern neighbour has for several years, Northern Ireland is prospering in the single market. While the British economy has had additional suffering since Brexit the economy of Northern Ireland has adapted to the Irish Sea border and expanded trade with Ireland and the EU. For some time the economy of Ireland has outperformed that of Britain but thanks to Brexit and staying in the single market Northern Ireland is now able to regard Britain as an impoverished neighbour.
Pfeffel, Liz Truss and the increasingly onanistic patriots on the Daily Mail may think they are laying the law down but without realising they have become spokespeople for a country with an inferior economy. Truculence and Tory arrogance cannot disguise what are desperate pleas by hard up Britain to remove an Irish Sea border. This border is not only exposing an inferior British economic performance. It also threatens the existence of not just the United Kingdom but Britain, a misconceived and lopsided political, here is that word again, entity if there ever was one.
And if all that sounds gloomy, rest assured there is worse. We know that the politicians of Northern Ireland, Ireland, the EU, Joe Biden and an awful lot of Irish Americans want that Irish Sea border. The politicians in the rest of the world either agree with the Irish, the Europeans and the North Americans or are indifferent to the plight of the British. The arithmetic in all this is a hell of a lot simpler than elections with first preference votes. Subtract the rest of the world and what is left is Britain. Lacking not just economic strength but international diplomatic support, the government of Pfeffel thinks this is the moment to talk tough and threaten to break international law. No problem, says Suella Braverman, laws and such are so yesterday. As more than one commentator has noticed, inviting a trade war with more powerful economic neighbours in the middle of a cost of living crisis is not the best of ideas. There have been trade disputes before. The plight of the fishing industry inspired Nigel Farage to take a megaphone on more than one boat. We all know how that dispute ended.
Times must be drastic because Pfeffel has visited Belfast to negotiate a solution. He visits Belfast even less than he goes to Liverpool. Pfeffel may be responsible for creating this mess but a tragic CV hardly qualifies him as the man to solve the problem. Tony Blair was given a lot of credit for negotiating the Good Friday Agreement. The man does have the gift of the gab but his greatest contribution to the negotiations was not his superior persuasive skills. No doubt people had to put in long hours and be patient but what helped Labour secure the Good Friday Agreement was that Blair and his delegates were not Tories. History reveals that whatever the problems the Irish have had to endure the Tories have always managed to make the situation worse. Unreasonable demands from British Tory governments are, as far as many of the Irish are concerned, anything but water under the bridge or in this case a border in the Irish Sea.
Howard Jackson has had thirteen books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Long After This is now available here.