THE great skill of the British ruling class lies in presenting itself as indistinguishable from the likes of us, and in presenting wealth and ownership as the almost accidental aspects of their presence among us. And it is true that they are recognisably from the same species.
The distinction lies in the mostly obscured reality that possession of great wealth based upon their ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange gives them power over the rest of us.
Just how important it is for that power to lie undisturbed is demonstrated by the broad spectrum of measures deployed to reconstitute the Tory Party as a credible instrument of government and how much effort went into pulling apart the Labour Party when it was led by someone who might undermine the foundations of that power.
The veil of illusions thrown over the reality of power and privilege is, however, proving rather flimsy, when faced with the coronavirus crisis.
The richest man in Britain, James Dyson, hoovered up a cool extra £3.6 billion last year. Today he finds himself facing a blank refusal by the workers — whose labour created that fortune — to go back to work on his terms.
The devolved governments in Britain's formal systems of government have set their minds against Boris Johnson’s policy on ending the lockdown in another episode in which the constitutional glue which sustains illusions about power is shown to be liable to dissolve when the interests of people and power clash.
Rupert Beale, the clinician scientist group leader at the Francis Crick Institute is in the front line of research into Covid-19. His description of how the virus works provide a compelling metaphor for the effect the crisis has on the body politic.
He writes of the virus: “Its main entry weapon is known as the Spike. This is a large, sugar-coated protein complex that can rip a hole in the membrane of a cell to allow the virus to enter.”
The rest of his piece in the London Review of Books is so suffused with expertise and plain common sense that it should be force-fed to the Cabinet (and served up to the shadow cabinet).
Most especially since Britain is completely lagging behind best practice in testing and tracking. Now that the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire is suggesting that “technical issues” are behind the delay in rolling-out the track and trace app it is useful to point out that if the government has set about this line of activity two months ago we might be somewhere near where South Korea — which did initiate a comprehensive test and track regime — is today, down to 10 new cases a day and opening up its economy.
For all the maladroit manoeuvrings of our rulers as a class, it has proved remarkably agile. So comprehensively has it suppressed, in language and text, the prominence it gave to the dangerous “herd immunity” theory which guided its first foray in pandemic management that you would barely be aware of the reality that by delay and confusion, incompetence and pretence it has carried over much of that discredited idea.
This is a class so wedded to the priority it gives profit that it is prepared to discount rational argument and reason and subordinate science and technology to the drive to accumulate capital.
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