Britain in 2020 — a tale of two crises: Brexit and Covid

Brexit and Covid, Covid and Brexit, both will forever be entwined in a toxic embrace in any social history of the UK covering this period going forward, revealing in equal part the very worst and best of British society at the start of the third decade of the 21st century.

As we move into 2021, that we still have something that can be described as a society at all is in no small part down to the country’s National Health Service. As someone who was forced to rely on its care in late September, spending three nights at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, I am well placed to assert that the NHS continues to exist as a powerful testament to the strength of the socialist and collectivist ethos from which it derives its special status in the hearts and minds of every right thinking person across this island.

The ritual applause of its workers and staff the general public were encouraged to engage in each week during the first Covid lockdown earlier in the year was a classic case of the gesture being substituted for the deed.

Because the fact is that between March and July NHS and care workers were sent into harm’s away against a deadly virus under-equipped and resourced. Scant stocks of PPE, due entirely to the free market fanaticism that has defined the UK economy and by extension the nation’s dominant cultural values over the past four decades of Thatcherism, resulted in 200 of these heroic men and women dying during the pandemic’s first wave.

‘There is no such thing as society,’ the Iron Lady once infamously opined. Forty years on the aforementioned death toll of our healthcare workers in the struggle against Covid — a disproportionate number of whom were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds — confirms that this was less a statement of fact and more one of intent.

At time of this writing there have been over 70,000 UK Covid deaths in total, one of the highest per population in the entire world. Compare and contrast with the 4,634 Covid deaths in China, where the virus originated, and you begin to understand the difference between social organisation and social atomisation, between a culture rooted in collectivism and social cohesion and one rooted in rampant individualism and free market chaos.

And yet, still, in a year in which the need for interdependence and cooperation across borders has never more pronounced, here in Britain insularity and national particularism has taken on the character of religion. An emotional reach back in time to a supposed golden age, when Britannia ruled the waves and the Union Jack flew wherever it damn well pleased, Brexit has debased our politics and political culture as no other political project has in modern times.

How else are we to explain the extent to which the current Tory government and Labour leadership outdid themselves throughout 2020 in abasing themselves at the feet of the so-called ‘red wall’ Brexit working class in northern England and the Midlands? And how else to comprehend the egregious and despicable temerity of Jacob Rees-Mogg in describing Unicef’s unprecedented presence in the UK to help feed hungry children — reduced to such by his party’s barbarous nailing of the poorest and most vulnerable to the iron cross of austerity— as ‘shameful’.

Playing the patriot game has been the guiding ethos of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party since taking over from Jeremy Corbyn in April. It’s a leadership that has since engaged in a foul attempt to extirpate every last vestige of Corbynism from its ranks and membership. Stalin himself could not have unleashed a purge with the gusto of this committed disciple of the British establishment. Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from a party he’s been committed to serving his entire political life — this under pressure from the apartheid lobby — leaves no doubt of it.

When we consider the way Starmer had maintained that ‘Jeremy Corbyn is a friend of mine’ during his campaign for the leadership, we are reminded of the words of that sage of the human condition William Shakespeare. To wit: ‘There are daggers in men’s smiles’.

If there’s been one saving grace in Britain in 2020 it’s been Black Lives Matter. This radical movement for racial justice, in conjunction with the brutal plight of Julian Assange, has done more to show us who we are than any number of establishment encomiums to the verities of British justice and regard for human rights could ever come close to.

The shameful episode of Millwall FC fans booing their own players and those of Derby County FC for taking a knee at The Den prior to their match in solidarity with the former would have come as no surprise to those of us who have, from the outset, understood Brexit as a reactionary reflex against immigration, multiculturalism and racial equality.

The white working class in Britain is in truth the British colonial working class, with its various champions on the ‘left’ prophets not of class struggle but ethno-nationalism. Thus, in 2021, political consciousness and moral conscience dictates that we oppose this rebarbative distortion of class and reassert the undying force of internationalism as the fulcrum of human progress.

The alternative is perdition.


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