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  • Writer's pictureConor O'Donoghue

The End of Times

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

THE END OF TIMES – Conor O’Donoghue

‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything’

Mark Twain

And so, we reach the end of times. The rise and now the fall of giving the people what they want. Telling people what they want to hear.

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda' been a contender, I could’ve been somebody”

Marlon Brando through his character, Terry Malloy felt it in 1954 in the ‘On the Waterfront’. I could have been someone, I could have been a contender, if it wasn’t for those pesky foreigners, those others, that damn EU, the poor, the rich, the elite, the spongers. I’m so angry right now, not sure why but that guy, Trump, Farage, Johnson, matches my mood. He, (and it usually is a he) is the guy we need to drag us out of this mess. Put us back where we belong. On top. Details, that’s not for now. I’m basking in my fury. I don’t want to think, just feel.

I moonlight as a sports coach. In sports, tactical fashions come and go, sweepers, high block, low block. Usually the opposition figures it out and we go from Mourinho to Guardiola to Klopp and then end up at the start again. Eventually we will go back to counter attacking football and the dark arts! The beautiful game exemplified by Pep will be overwhelmed again. Not so right now, we live in a golden era in soccer. The swashbuckling Messi a modern miracle. But the sun goes down on every era.

As it is with politics, except we live in a new dark age now. The latest populist album had all the usual back catalogue, rage against foreigners being the number one hit. In the UK, tactic 101 seeking a subject to play the role of rage against foreigners against is best served by the EU. Started by exclaiming from the rooftops in the Brexit referendum that the EU was about to pour 50 million Turks into the EU, most of whom would end up in Sunderland or Barnsley. Supported by some great posters, it did the Brexit job nicely. Notwithstanding the fact that we have allowed Brexiteers to proclaim their inane slogan, ‘Take back control’ was really the masterstroke. It was the ‘genius’ of Dominic Cummings, who really should have been in Mad Men, on the ketchup account that did it. Not twenty years of rabid race baiting, or the anti-immigrant headlines by the tabloid press.

In the US it was ‘build the wall’. No more Mexicans. They are rapists after all, according to Trump A presidential candidate said it. And now he talks about suburbs ‘overwhelmed’ by rioters. For those not hearing the dog whistle he means black people. The old law and order card. That makes people scared. It speaks to their worst instincts not their best.

Every old tactic comes with new innovations. For Klopp gegenpressing, was a new way to disrupt the tika taka possession football, expounded by Barcelona. For politics, see the culture wars. For those of you that might not be aware, apparently Marxists lost the Cold War and instead of accepting defeat, inveigled their way into universities and have been attempting to turn our youth into a left fifth column. Populists call it ‘cultural marxism’. The issues line up each side of this contrived culture war. Vaccines, guns, climate change, and wearing masks in a pandemic. Terms like ‘wokies’ and cancel culture are thrown around by very sensitive people who should probably read a little bit of Freud and his ideas on projection. The small but active band of active warriors on the other side of this imagined culture war are little better, they mirror and ultimately feed the beast. Focus groups where populist triggers were revealed quickly became online personality tests and then facebook groups where once triggered, aided by anonymity and distance, made lions of mice. Elections allowed the populists to cultivate their seeds of hate.

The populists have been in the ascendency since 2016. They tapped into, and rode the anger to Brexit, to the US presidency and other places of high office and power. Aging billionaires like Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund manager, along with traditional bogeyman and press baron Rupert Murdoch, funded social media and newspapers campaigns with racist and anti-elitist bile. Populists, once a fringe in each party, now control the Tory party in the UK and the Republican party in the US.

But cheques written are cashed eventually. The Brexit faction are in the death throes of their grand theoretical experiment they never expected to have to put into practice. As they sit at the gate to the sunlit uplands, their expectant followers wait to see the other side.

There is nothing there but mud and hard rain. There will be a price to pay for that.

The only hope for the UK populists is that the US swings back in rage to Trumpist populism. Covid laid bare the incompetence at the heart of populism in the US, rejection of science, abandonment of logic, all the tenants of the enlightenment, instead replaced by emotive victimhood identity politics and victimisation of the other. A Tsunami of lies. The Washington post reports over 20,000 public lies by Trump since he came into office, but who’s counting, about one for every 10 deaths from Covid in the US. The rule of law and national interest is long since secondary to the avarice and venality of the Trumpists in the White House. A reckoning for Trump and his acolytes is probably jail time.

Joe Biden is a decent man, probably past his best but surrounded by capable people. They will win the US election. In spite of the power of the culture trigger issues, too many good people are sick to their stomach of Trump and his antics. Without a Trump victory, the last lifeboat for Brexit of a US UK free trade agreement is gone. Trump may go full racist megalomaniac in the next few weeks, along with running every play from the culture wars playbook. It won’t be enough.

Nor is Keir Starmer, the labour leader, allowing the Tory populists to play the game the way they want it. He is not engaging on pro EU anti EU terms, and all the sound and fury that brings in Britain. As a former Director of Prosecutions, he is methodically building a case against, what will soon be the accused. Ignore the current furore around an Internal Markets Bill breaking international law. The ‘oven ready’ deal rhetoric will be back in the latest spoof in a series of spoofs from known spoofers. They are swinging for the bleachers until the US election settles matters. Trump out, they will scramble for a deal. Or they won’t. At which point all the chaotic contradictions of Brexit will devour them. The first to be gobbled by the beast of his own creation will be Boris, where kites are being flown by national newspapers about replacing him.

Every era comes to an end. The time is nigh for populists and their enablers. They have told more lies than they can ever remember. A mainstream Democratic party, and in time a left of centre Labour party will prevail as this hateful populist experiment withers out. Centrist republicans and ‘one nation Tories’ will purge the extremes in their own parties in the coming years. Power will revert to the centre in the English-speaking world. A new time is coming but it is no sunlit upland either. A new global era, that will redefine the way we think, will have three giant trading blocs, the EU, the US and China and at least two military alliances. A new world order with partial deglobalisation. As we wait to see the outlines of the new world, this wretched lot will be cast back to the political shadows.

Blue Oak Counsel offer wealth management and investment advice to professionals


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