A STRATEGY has begun to emerge that’s favoured by the UK’s political elites. You might describe it as government by distraction. In the absence of anything resembling a clear and unambiguous means of addressing the country’s most intractable problems, the UK Government reverts to card tricks and folderols.

You might reasonably maintain that this has always been the way of it. Certainly, for Conservative administrations to be elected so often there must always be some form of jiggery-pokery in the works.

A survey conducted five years ago by the Social Mobility Commission found that almost half the UK population considered themselves to be working-class with around one-third believing themselves to be middle class. Only 1% thought of themselves as upper class.

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Yet, since the end of the Second World War, the nation has elected a Conservative government much more often than a Labour one. It seems not to matter that almost every social improvement in the lives of Britain’s working-class voters has been instigated by Labour and opposed by the Tories: the NHS; employment protection; minimum wages; state-funded education; trade unions; and decent, affordable housing.

Or, that all Conservative governments since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 have sought to dismantle these milestones in social mobility. For a Conservative government to gain power and maintain it, a significant number of those whose primary interests they always oppose must somehow be duped into believing that, actually, the Tories work for them.

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In those periods when even this chimera won’t hold other ways must be found to maintain the Tory vote among working-class people. That’s when the UK Conservatives fall back on “British values”. This is a gaseous and amorphous creation. It’s fuelled primarily by militarism; the promotion of the royal family to a degree that borders on fetishism and a sentimental belief in British cultural superiority.

It helps, too, that since the dawn of universal suffrage almost the entirety of the UK press has remained in the hands of a handful of super-rich families whose interests are best served by ensuring that a Conservative government is in power.

Thus, when there is any possibility that a Labour government might seriously seek to re-arrange the nation’s priorities in favour of the many at the expense of the few they are quickly forced into a retreat. Those who don’t play the game are condemned as communists; extremists; economically illiterate; and traitors to the cause of old England.

For Labour to be electable, they need to be supine and docile. You imagine that when the future executive positions in UK Corp are being arranged by the Oxford University sorting hat that some chap is compelled to take one for the team and volunteer for the Labour Party … just to maintain the impression of democracy and choice.

Even so, the alarums and excursions of the post-Brexit era in British politics have been defined by distraction. Which is to say that very little of that which is truly meaningful to the lives of the majority in the UK is debated or taken seriously.

The National: Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at BBC Broadcasting House, London, to appear on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday Morning. Picture date: Sunday January 16, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Coronavirus. Photo credit should

Brexit itself was a three-year long exercise in summoning the spirit of 18th-century England. Even as the reality was beginning to bite, the pandemic arrived at just the right time for politicians of all stripes to subjugate everything to the spirit of national unity. The UK in this period floated on a sea of empathy and emotionalism. The warnings about the post-Covid cost-of-living crisis for the poorest in society were trailed almost from the beginning of the pandemic. Yet we seem to be more outraged about lockdown parties at Downing Street and, latterly, a scurrilous accusation against Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader was mildly jostled on Monday by a squadron of middle-class protesters who looked like they couldn’t fight sleep. In Glasgow we would call this foreplay. There were some unpleasant imprecations thrown in his direction. It was described as a disgrace and an outrage as the middle-class pearl-clutchers of Twitter vied to express their indignation.

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On the same day as this was all happening, the official year of celebrations for the Queen’s platinum jubilee kicked off. All our fears about what this might entail are already being realised. The BBC, especially, will regress to a state of royal household serfdom. This was typified by a BBC Breakfast presenter telling us yesterday that the Duchess of Cambridge is to read a bedtime story on CBeebies. As the presenter (presumably a journalist) told us this, she added “as if she hasn’t already got enough to do”. The BBC will effectively become royal lackeys throughout 2022 and pay millions for the privilege.

Meanwhile, the developing crisis on the Russia/Ukraine border is moving glacially. This means there’s more than enough time for all kinds of western politicians to ponce over there at our expense and be pictured in large rooms with yellow and blue flags.

Boris Johnson will extract every ounce out of this and Vladimir Putin seems to be doing all he can to accommodate him, just as he did with Donald Trump. And no wonder. The wily Russian president knows a roaster when he sees one and will use every artifice to keep them in power and make him look good.

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There’s a warning in this, too, for the SNP. The Tories will seek to get re-elected on a strategy of peak distraction. On past evidence, they have every chance of succeeding. It’s important that the wider Yes movement in Scotland doesn’t allow the SNP to succumb to the same subterfuges.

We can do without Alyn Smith and Stuart MacDonald posing as world statesmen in Ukraine. These MPs were elected to further the cause of independence, not enhance their future employment prospects with Nato and the British security services.

The ongoing debate about who will fund National Insurance contributions post-independence also masks something quite depressing. It’s almost eight years since the first referendum on Scottish independence. I’d kind of assumed that this was time enough time for the SNP to have dealt with this by commissioning independent research and scholarship. But then I also assumed we’d have a detailed prospectus on currency (and how you can become a member of the EU without having your own) and post-independence border arrangements with England.

As she’s done often in the last few years Nicola Sturgeon has told us that she’ll soon be announcing an independence prospectus/blueprint/route-map. Splendid! We can only hope that perhaps she has indeed been working away quietly on these issues. Because these are the ones on which independence will stand or fall.