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We must let Boris Johnson declare his genius
Last Sunday, if you bought Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times north of the Border or in Britain, you would have had the pleasure of reading Rod Liddle's column on an opinion poll suggesting there might be a majority in Northern Ireland for a united Ireland.

"I'm all for that if it means a united Ireland under British control. I think the Irish would be delighted to reacquaint themselves with the immeasurable benefits of rule from Westminster. I suppose it is possible, if improbable, that the poll meant a united Ireland under Dublin's control, but I find that hard to believe. Even if some commentators have suggested, darkly, that this was the intention of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, all along, his unneighbourly intransigence and spite designed to reignite the issue."

But if you bought the Sunday Times south of the Border, you would have missed this treat. You'd have had to settle instead for the considered and coherent thoughts of the paper's superb Irish columnist, Justine McCarthy.

There is nothing especially unusual in this cynical tailoring of messages to different audiences. (Though it does, incidentally, remind us that the right-wing provocation that parades under the banner of "free speech" is in fact carefully shaped to the commercial interests of media owners.)

Yet it usefully illustrates a truth that may become increasingly important in the coming weeks - there are different audiences for any discourse about Brexit. And just as Murdoch, in his infinite tenderness, shields his readers in the Republic from certain aspects of English opinion, we may have to govern our own tongues if Boris Johnson is to get a deal through parliament.

I've suggested before that the British government will eventually end up with the Caligula option. That famously mad Roman emperor now seems a model of good governance compared with the antics in Whitehall and Westminster,

Johnson, as a classicist, surely remembers what he did when he needed to declare a great triumph. He marched his legions to northern France, apparently in readiness to invade Britain. But he got fed up with the whole business and instead ordered them to line up along the shore. He told them to fill their helmets and tunic laps with seashells which were, he declared, "plunder from the ocean".

He then granted himself a glorious triumph which was lavishly celebrated in Rome.

Fintan O'Toole then goes on to suggest the irish Government must grant Boris his victory...

But a repeat of this manoeuvre will be very tricky for the Irish government, not least because, if we do end up with the Northern Ireland-only backstop with knobs on, it will be a genuine triumph for Irish diplomacy.

How do you look mildly gloomy when you've got what you wanted? Especially when, with a general election in the air, the temptation to claim a historic win for a government that has performed so poorly in so many other areas, will be well nigh irresistible.

But resist it they must. For once, the existence of two different audiences may be a benefit - the Irish government will have to speak very quietly and calmly to its domestic audience while hoping it is not overheard across the Irish Sea.

And it will have to perfect a saintly patience and a rueful look as Johnson waves his seashells around Westminster: oh, Boris, that conch is really impressive and you're so clever to be able to blow so hard on it.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 26th, 2019 at 11:14:53 AM EST

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