Tim Hartford on why the UK is braced for a grim Christmas:
Late in 2019, the British people decided that Chaos Kong would make a good prime minister and elected Boris Johnson by a large margin. Johnson has now decided to make a virtue of his own recklessness. After initially claiming that the shortage of truck drivers in the UK was entirely unconnected to Brexit, the government now boasts that the shortage is indeed Brexit-related and was the plan all along. True to the spirit of Chaos Kong, this tough love for the British economy is the only way to get it to shape up.
In preventing the easy recruitment of truck drivers, abattoir workers and care-home staff from the EU, the UK government is actively blocking the most straightforward way to get the economy running smoothly again. (To ensure everyone got the message, Johnson compared immigrants to heroin, complaining that businesses had been able to “mainline low-wage, low-cost immigration”.) The assertion is that if the government deliberately constricts the supply of essential workers, the economy will come out stronger in the long run. Chaos Kong worked for Netflix. Will it work for the UK? 1
One day, we’ll look back on all this and laugh. Or cry. One of the two, anyway.
[Via Memex 1.1]
Part of me thinks it’s a shame that the RNLI didn’t increase the default preset donation figure on their web site’s donation page from £20 to £50, because they could have really cashed in after Nigel Farage’s comments this week as people reacted by rushing to the RNLI web site and looked for the quickest, easiest way possible to throw some money in the organisation’s direction.
The RNLI are one of those charities that conservatives and centrists and left-wingers alike used to approve of, groups of private citizens voluntarily taking responsibility for part of an activity that one night imagine an island nation would definitely need, yet which governments don’t provide on the scale required. A shame the need to stoke a culture war has pushed right-wingers in this bizarre direction, where rescuing human beings from the risk of drowning at sea is deemed to be a political act rather than a humanitarian gesture.
Here’s hoping the RNLI see a huge surge in fundraising this year.
[Via RT by Neil Gaiman]
From Dirty Feed, a magnificent, thoroughly documented deep dive into the history of one of the greatest punchlines in the history of British television:
Sad to contemplate that none of the three actors involved is still with us, but what a memorial to their work together on a programme that shaped a generation’s view of how government worked.
Fascinating to see the history of that joke pieced together, and the very different version of the punchline used in earlier incarnations.
Horrifying to contemplate how big a round of applause this would get at the next Conservative Party conference if it was delivered by the right member of the Cabinet:
— Omid Djalili (@omid9) August 16, 2020
Further to my reference to that famous Lenin quote…
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
… turns out that @Pinboard has evidence that this is indeed a misattribution. Wrong author, right sentiments.
Some thoughts from Matt Webb about the shape of the post-lockdown future once it comes to pass:
Even if we don’t get another lockdown for 10 years, the fact it’s a maybe means that our behaviour will change to account for the possibility.
So I wonder about the long-term effects not of lockdown itself, but the continuous risk of lockdown. Like, will you book a holiday for 6 months time, or will you book simply the option to go somewhere? Would you ever start a business that had a reliance on in-person meetings, or a supply chain that wasn’t tolerant to an unexpected 3 month stop? Of course not. How do you invest in friendships? Do you ever move far away from ageing parents if there’s a risk that planes won’t fly – or does distance no longer matter when you wouldn’t be able to meet in person anyway?
But then, others have a different take on what’s coming our way:
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life , to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones , to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
Nowadays I keep on running into articles in which the author deploys some variant of Lenin’s remark1 that "There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen."
I can but deploy another oft-cited (and very possibly equally misattributed) curse: "We live in interesting times."
I hope Matt Webb is right, but the hunger from all sides to declare that post-lockdown2 "Business As Usual" is the order of the day is going to be hard to resist.
- Sadly I haven’t found a source for it confirming authorship. Given that it’s very likely an English translation of something expressed slightly differently in Russian I suspect that at best it’s a slightly mangled version of the notion as originally expressed. Sit on it for a few decades and who knows, perhaps everyone will be citing it as one of the sayings of Keir Starmer. Or was it Rishi Sunak? Margaret Thatcher? Barbara Castle?3 ↩
- The first time, at any rate. Perhaps it’s going to take a bunch of lockdowns over a period of a few years to hammer home the message that Business Is Not As Usual. ↩
- I dunno. Definitely sounds like someone from the pre-Former United Kingdom era, anyway. ↩
Positively the only good thing about recent political developments in the UK is that they’re going to give Marina Hyde tons of new material:
[…] Arguably this morning’s most amusing development was Helen Grant resigning as Tory vice-chair to openly support Dominic Raab. Is this the same Dominic Raab who resigned in protest at a Brexit deal he himself negotiated as Brexit secretary, and who is bizarrely being talked up as a strong candidate? Righto. It was Swift (Jonathan) who warned: “It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.” And it was Swift (Taylor) who said: “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” I don’t want to come over all Mystic Meg, but I am seeing a nightmarish news story in Dominic Raab’s future that will curtail any bid in fairly short order. […]
Any non-UK readers wondering who Dominic Raab is should comfort themselves with the thought that three years ago none of us on this side of the Atlantic knew either, and three years from now he’ll be lucky to be the punchline in a “Name the Brexit Secretary who succeeded David Davis in the role?” quiz question. 1