We aren’t witnessing ‘British exceptionalism’ - it’s an issue homegrown in England
PUBLISHED: 15:46 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:46 06 July 2020
Whether it’s Brexit or the coronavirus response, this isn’t ‘British exceptionalism’, it was manufactured in England.
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Surely the people of Scotland, Wales and Ulster have every right to protest when they hear the expression “British exceptionalism”. As the former MP Phillip Lee insisted on a recent Channel 4 Dispatches, the source of the government’s disastrous mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis is English exceptionalism.
Current scientific opinion would appear to suggest that thousands of deaths could have been avoided if the lockdown had been introduced a week or two earlier. Was the failure to do so the result of a stubborn refusal to learn from other countries’ experiences?
How much was this due to the mistaken belief in English exceptionalism, initially and cynically promoted by Boris Johnson in the 2016 referendum campaign? Where will this ridiculous and dangerous illusion take us in the post-Covid world, apart from down a very slippery path to further national humiliation and economic disaster?
Alastair Campbell is right in his latest column, it is weird right now.
Hearing people who are running the government’s programmes because they are, allegedly, a genius, making apparently serious statements about going for a long drive to test their eyesight; watching the prime minister’s excruciatingly embarrassing and evasive defence of such statements; and yes, seeing the health secretary, and others use obfuscation and evasion in attempts to conceal the truth, which is that they made mistakes and did not manage coronavirus well.
The use of lying by the government became routine before, and subsequent to, the referendum to leave the EU. Preposterous lies about the positive gains from Brexit were flaunted on buses and elsewhere.
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This, I believe, has led to large sections of the public not caring. The message is, “it’s ok to use whatever means to get what you want”. This may explain the extraordinary public response to the lockdown relaxation, the invasion of the beaches in Dorset, apparently uncaring of the potential for infection and uncaring for the environment by littering, and barbecuing in forests.
One answer for Alastair may be that, because governments have a duty to lead by example, being honest about their motives, admitting mistakes (we all make mistakes) and setting standards that the public can respect, and, the present government does none of these, there should be a cross party opposition response whenever the government uses lies or evasion. Keir Starmer cannot do it alone.
I empathise with Alastair Campbell. Watching ministers consistently getting away with not answering the question, being economical with the truth and creating successes out of obvious
failings was laughable to begin with but rapidly became even more depressing than the crass antics of a few Burnley supporters.
The only answer to the utterly depressing state of our politics and our government is to join the rest of the world in laughing at us. That’s one thing we used to be quite good at that. Admittedly the fact that we need to do this is in itself depressing, but at least from July 4 we can all do what the ministers clearly want us to and go down the pub. Come to think of it, isn’t that even more depressing?
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