Monday 10 February 2020

Boris Johnson’s Odyssey

Two months have passed since the general election and there has been sufficient time for the initial emotions to subside and a clear understanding of events to emerge.

At 10pm on December 12th when the BBC exit poll was aired, two powerful emotions were triggered. For Conservatives there was the joy of a great victory (while we had known that our party would secure a parliamentary majority, even the most optimistic and loyal of us could not have predicted this outcome) and for others the horror of a catastrophic defeat.

Indeed, for the Tories Troy had fallen!

However, for classical scholar Boris Johnson the route between Scylla and Charybdis, mythical sea monsters signifying the lesser of two evils – is yet to be navigated. Argo – that ship carrying the brave Argonauts – is still at the beginning of his journey and Odysseus has been dreaming of bringing us to prosperous and cultured Ithaca as soon as he can, defeating all of his enemies along the way. The journey that lies ahead is long. It will last for at least five years and be marked not only with heroic deeds and great adventures but also grave danger. 

The Argonauts are facing difficult negotiations with the humongous European Union Cyclops, whose Brussels cave we must leave while holding on not only to our sheep but also to our good friends and business partners in Europe.

We are also eagerly awaited by Great Calypso with her gentle but strong American embrace who will encourage us to forget all about our own sheep and use only hers. A second marriage is always more dangerous than the first one, particularly if your new partner is stronger, wealthier and someone you depended on even in your first marriage. Still, a special relationship with Calypso must be built while preserving freedom and avoiding polygamy in the future.

Dozens of Sirens in the shape of attractive young states are sweetly beckoning our Argonauts, offering major and minor opportunities: Canada, Australia, Ukraine and Latin America with their wonderful propositions, China with its belts and Africa with its own special ways. All of which we need to test, leverage and, having maximised benefits both for ourselves and others, move on. We must sail on with the wind of opportunity.

Good luck to our Great British Argo, to our fearless blonde Odysseus, a favourite with the Olympian gods, and his victorious Conservative Argonauts.

On 12 December, ordinary voters vehemently rejected the Hydra of communism, even one with a socialist muzzle. Being British, voters fiercely opposed singing the Internationale with lyrics by Corbyn and music by McDonnell, conducted by Len McCluskey.

Their departure from the British ship will make it easier for us to pass through Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla represents those Scottish, Irish and, truth be told, English nationalists and isolationists falling over themselves to tear this great country apart. Charybdis are the red flags warning us about another potential major financial crisis in the US.

What can we do to circumvent these two dangers, which have for centuries been fateful for so many courageous seafarers favoured by gods?

The answer is simple but hard for Boris and Britain to act on. Survival will require professionalism, an ability to compromise, stay focused on the goal and relinquish the illusion of being able to make it ashore safely on our own, without friends and allies who are bound together with a stiff tightrope of economic treaties and political commitments.

We must understand and explain it to the oarsmen and passengers aboard our ship that having freedom restricted by treaties and agreements serves the purpose of delivering on commitments. Some of those new treaties, agreements and commitments will be more stringent than the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, more binding than the Court of Justice’s decisions and more annoying than the Schengen Agreement.

Alas, that is the way the world is today and it is different from the glorious Victorian times when the sun never set on our country, which we failed to maintain in its former state due to the Scyllas and Charybdes of the past, namely, two world wars and several great economic recessions.

Separatism, the modern destroyer of great nations, can be conquered only by producing sustainable economic growth and increasing public prosperity. To achieve this, our economy must be attractive overall but also competitive. Low energy prices, good infrastructure, substantial tax reduction and a strong currency are the five keys.

Yet there is only one way to escape the omnivorous whirlpool of Charybdis, the disturbance caused by financial crises. It is having a balanced economy that does not place academia and industry at the very bottom of our economic priorities list. We must find a way for banks to start better financing the industrial sector and infrastructure projects. Within five years, the British Argo must transition from a post-industrial galley to a powerful state-of-the-art liner. A liner does not need oarsmen but engines, which are in turn powered by the fuel of bank finance and the lube oil of more loans and economic deregulation.

Business is wrapped in too much red-tape. I thank the gods that Homer has not lived to see the day when undergoing KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures to open a UK bank account takes some British entrepreneurs months and when a lifetime may not be enough to secure financing. This heavy anchor was forged by the homebody Gordon Brown and his staff when he was Prime Minister. Heave up or cut off this anchor, O fearless Odysseus, lest we sink before reaching Scylla and Charybdis.


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