I now think I was over-impressed by Trump’s ‘farewell’ speech. It has been outshone by Biden’s inauguration address, and by the rest of the celebration yesterday. I was surprised by how ‘right’ that all was, in present circumstances. ‘Sleepy Joe’ rose to the occasion; as did the feisty wee girl poet (I’m sorry, but for me, nearing eighty, a 22 year-old still counts as a ‘girl’), and the rest of the cast. 

Trump’s sales pitch – which is what it was, as you would expect from basically a corrupt salesman – now appears crude, boastful and unfeeling by contrast. But it makes one wonder: if it could impress me so much initially, couldn’t it have fired up his supporters even more? And then there were those final words of his, as he boarded Air Force One (I think) for the last time on his way to his gold-plated exile in Florida: ‘We’ll be back. In some form.’ It was like the ousted alien invader stepping back into his flying saucer at the end of a 1950s Sci-Fi B-movie, preparing us for the sequel. It sent a shudder down my spine; and reminded me that we still have a lot to do – in Britain too – before the monster is tamed.

And we still have to see how a Biden-Harris administration shapes up in practice. I remember the hope that was inspired by Obama the first time he won (I was in America then): ‘Yes we can!’ It turned out that No we (they) couldn’t in the long term; hence Trump. Proto-Fascism – or whatever you like to call it: but I really do think the ‘F’-word is appropriate here – appears too deeply entrenched in America to be erased that easily. And Biden seems not to be exactly the radical force that might be needed to set the country on a new path – if anyone could.

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And on the Third Day…

Inauguration day. And still Trump dominates the conversation (in the media at least), in spite of his ousting from the Presidency, and his Twitter account being cut off. Two things sent me to bed last night deeply troubled about the future of America, and of course – because of America’s wider influence, especially on the British political scene – the future of us.

The first was a Swedish TV discussion on the subject of whether, after his political defeat, Trump could become a saint or a martyr to his followers; crucified by the Establishment, the MSM and the Judases in his own party (Pence, McConnell), but ripe for resurrection, in spirit at least, as the deified focus of a great movement that would ultimately prevail. Haven’t his religious supporters already been claiming that he was ‘sent by God’?

The second was the ‘farewell’ speech he gave in the White House yesterday, which I can see fuelling that metamorphosis: disciplined, statesmanlike, avoiding his usual crass insults, deeply dishonest, but also immensely clever in the way it painted the glorious achievements of his brief presidency, and hinted – only – at betrayals ahead.

It was quite brilliant. Who wrote it, I wonder? Surely not him. For a deeply disgraced President, it could be his magical salvation, his ‘trump card’ (sorry!), his release from the ignominy to which the events of the last few days seemed to have condemned him. What sort of effect will it have in the US, I wonder? Perhaps American friends can help me here. The ‘martyr’ scenario, I know, has occurred to them before.

Anyway, these two thoughts depressed me mightily as I tried to sleep last night; and will weigh upon me as I view the inauguration of Biden and Harris this afternoon on TV.

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The Centre Cannot Hold

That’s WB Yeats, of course: ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.’ He was writing in 1919. But doesn’t this also seem to describe our situation today? The ‘anarchy’ of course is represented by the violent invasion of the American Federal Capitol the other day, by Trumpists who seem to be to very close to the dictionary definition of ‘Anarchists’ in so many ways – lawless, anti-vaccination, anti-face masks, anti-accepted ‘truth’, anti-government generally. The same could be said of some British ‘free market’ and anti-EU Conservatives, though they haven’t stormed Parliament yet. By the way: why has ‘anarchism’ generally been associated – in the British discourse at least – with the political Left? It’s surely much more a Right-wing libertarian thing. And its growth recently, on both sides of the pond, is one of the factors behind ‘things falling apart’ currently.

But the phrase in the Yeats quote that to me appears most relevant is the bit about ‘the centre’ not holding. In both our countries – the USA and England (not necessarily the whole UK) – recent elections (and one referendum) indicate a roughly 50:50 split between radically opposed social and political factions, leaving no room in between them for a ‘centre’ to form. Of course that’s partly due to the adversarial nature of both our politics, symbolised by the arrangement of the seats in the British House of Commons, and encouraged by our common ‘first past the post’ voting arrangements. 

But two-party systems don’t have to be adversarial to this extent – Manichaean, fought between ‘enemies’, violently in word and occasionally in deed – and in Britain’s case were not so adversarial in the political age I grew up in, in the 1950s and ’60s. Those were broadly consensus times, with the post-war ‘welfare state’ settlement being accepted by majorities of both major political parties, Harold Macmillan as well as Harold Wilson; and ‘the extremes’ of authoritarian socialism and libertarianism (as well as, at that time, Empire loyalism and Powellite racism) being confined to fringes on the Left and Right. Between these, and embracing the left wing of the Conservative Party and the Right wing of the Labour Party, there was a mainstream of shared views about how British society should be run, centring on social democracy, public welfare, and – looking abroad – decolonisation and the sort of internationalism supposedly represented by the ‘Commonwealth’.

But then, of course, came Thatcher, or the powers behind her throne, and her delight, born of her ideological certainty, in turning political disagreements into ‘battles’. As a result the centre ground gradually dissolved, as Conservative ‘wets’ in Parliament – the consensual ones, often semi-aristocratic, which Thatcher hated  – were replaced by ‘dry’ free marketeers and their aiders and abetters: capitalists, tax lawyers, right-wing journalists; while at the same time  Labour working-class socialists gave way to middle-class ex-student politicians, typified by Tony Blair, who were persuaded that Labour had to ‘adapt’ to the new times. Thus it was that the political centre of gravity shifted to the Right, and what had previously been regarded as reasonable and ‘moderate’ became characterised as ‘extreme’.

As a child of the sixties’ consensus I have to say that I miss that reasonable and moderate ‘middle ground’ terribly. It was why I was so enthusiastic about the policies of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the last two British general elections, which the Right-wing press characterised as ‘extreme’ – and even ‘communist’, or worse – but in which I recognised the reasonable middle ground of my early political days. I still hold that the only way for Britain to survive and remain comparatively prosperous and at both external and internal peace, especially in the present age of aggressive global late capitalism, is to return to that compromise between capitalism and socialism that the Attlee government established and Wilson continued – and not only Wilson, but his Conservative opponents – in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; with the State welcoming capitalist enterprise in its proper place, but intervening to restrain its anti-social excesses: before the evil witch got her hands on it, and fired (so far as Britain was concerned) the great counter-revolution of the 1980s-on – the ultimate source of our present woes. 

Corbyn’s defenestration by Labour’s new Leader has provoked me to leave the Party; not so much because of any perceived ‘right-wing’ bias on Starmer’s part – I’ve lived with unsympathetic leaders before – but on ‘free speech’ grounds. I was shocked by the Party General Secretary’s ban on the mere discussion of certain topics at constituency meetings; specifically, of Corbyn’s claim that ‘anti-semitism’ in the party had been exaggerated and ‘weaponised’, which was self-evidently true. As a result of that I feel I no longer have a home in British politics. For sixty years that home has been the Labour Party, apart from eighteen months when I left it for the Lib Dems because of their solemn promise to end student fees. What a fool I was to trust them! So I feel I can’t go back there. (The Libs are wobbling on the issue of Europe in any case.) The Greens are the only progressive alternative, but too small and ‘single issue’ ever to achieve even a share of power. If we could adopt a better system of voting – that is, some form of proportional representation which allows smaller parties to seed and grow (see – it would be different. But the present two-party system (in England) blocks that. The result just now is that Labour has become an anti-socialist party, and the Conservatives an anti-democratic party, leaving very little for a democratic socialist to like about either of them.

I’ve joined Corbyn’s new ‘Peace and Justice’ movement, which seems to be an effort to keep Corbyn’s brand of progressivism alive; but that’s not a ‘Party’ yet. Some in my situation would like it to be, but Britain’s experience with splinter groups and ‘third parties’ since the last war has not been encouraging. In the case of the (British) ‘Social Democrats’ it merely worked to keep the Right in power. Again: ‘First Past the Post’ is the great stumbling block here. Far-Left parties are generally too doctrinal, as well as too feeble, for me. And revolution is too scary. I might even consider joining a Conservative party, if it were genuinely – that is, literally – ‘conservative’, or even reactionary: back to Macmillan; but not now it has morphed into an English Fascist prototype. That’s a reaction too far. So where can I look for political companionship?

In Sweden – and as a Swedish citizen now – I’ve joined Vänster Partiet, which is a little to the left of their Social Democrats, and potentially capable of joining governing coalitions. In Britain I’ll carry on voting Labour, partly because I have a splendid local MP. Beyond that, however, what can a traditional only-a-bit-left-of-centre socialist do? And is there any hope for Britain’s getting a more democratic and reasonable way of choosing her leaders and governments, without wholesale reforms of her voting system, and of her media? 

So, come back the Sixties. Sorry about the bad publicity. We had it pretty right then. Not everything was perfect, by any means; but at least we could hope. That’s what the subsequent years of Toryism, Blairism, and behind them the great behemoth of late-stage capitalism, have destroyed. Hope.

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The only practical repercussion that any of the present crises have had on me is the interruption of my mail from Britain. I’m still waiting for items that should have arrived here in Sweden before the end of last month. I’m not sure whom or what to blame: the Royal Mail? Postnord? The boat that delivers to our island? Covid? Brexit? And when – if – they do arrive, will I have to pay a post-Brexit duty on them? That’s what I’m gathering from our ‘Brits in Sweden’ Facebook sites. But I have no idea as yet…

I also seem to have lost a couple of emails, one from a student asking for advice on a PhD project. I usually like to help in these cases. S/he wrote that s/he follows this blog; so if s/he’s reading this post, perhaps s/he’ll get in touch again. (When are we going to introduce gender-neutral pronouns? Swedish has one. It’s ‘hen’.)

I’ve not replied to ‘hen’ sooner, or to other correspondents, because I’ve been busy at the tedious task of checking the copy-edit of my next book. Bloomsbury Press have now brought its publication forward to June 3; still not early enough, in my view, for its advice re Brexit to register. (But of course it won’t register anyway. No-one in power reads academic books. And this one – a collection of musty old essays – is unlikely to grab their attention.)

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Trump the Tragedian

For those of us lucky enough not to live in the USA, the past week has been rather enjoyable. I know I’m atypical in being a bit of an American politics nerd: actually knowing about their Constitution and ‘impeachment’ and the 25thAmendment and the rest, all learned as a History undergraduate, and having sat up all night and even longer to watch the past dozen or so Presidential elections; but this election, with its astonishing aftermath – however that might turn out eventually – is the most fascinating yet. If I was an American, and so directly affected by it all, I would probably be too worried to get much enjoyment from it. Maybe I should still be concerned, living as I do on a continent that is bound ultimately to be affected by the wash from these events . But for the moment, watching this great tragedy unfold before us instantaneously on our TVs and laptops, it’s nothing but huge fun. 

This is not a matter of schadenfreude, I insist; I have great affection for the USA and take no pleasure in seeing it in this state. It’s more an aesthetic pleasure, watching a drama with the same kind of excitement that one gets from watching a tragedy by Aeschylus or Shakespeare. Trump is perfectly cast as a modern-day King Lear. Hubris to nemesis: isn’t that it? Though I’d have to agree that his tweets don’t quite have the literary quality of Lear’s soliloquies: ‘Blow winds, and crack your cheeks…’ Trump’s ‘despite the constant negative press covfefe’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. But we can forgive him that, as he rides into a state of seeming madness that even Shakespeare might not have been able to put into words.

Then there are all the indecisive Hamlet figures among his closest followers, and the treacherous Iagos, and his own insecure narcissism reminding us of Othello, and the very Shakespearean (Julius Caesar and the Henry plays) ‘mob’, peppered with eccentrics like the chap who came onstage wearing the Viking (or buffalo) horns. Here they are, all together in one glorious drama, the memory of which will thrill readers and (probably) film-goers for decades to come. This could well be the Donald’s greatest achievement: to present the world, albeit unintentionally, with one of its finest works of dramatic art, which we can all enjoy; so long as we have a line of footlights and a safety curtain between it and us.

For historians and political scientists it must raise questions about the essential nature of American democracy. Dozens of liberal commentators have emphasized that Wednesday’s raid on the Capitol building did not truly represent America or its history; but of course it did. Democracy – however that is defined – is only one element of the essence of America; usually taken to be the dominant one, but only because so many Americans want to present their country like this. Other elements are late-stage and often corrupt capitalism, exemplified perfectly by Trump himself, and historically by the Mafia; macho violence, with its roots in the ‘taming’ of the West; and racism, deriving of course from the ages of slavery and segregation. (A Swedish TV documentary last night about the Ku Klux Klan threw up scores of parallels with last week’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rioters.) These are as essential and intrinsic to the nature of present-day America as is the ‘democracy’ that the Capitol building is supposed to represent; which makes the rioters as essentially ‘American’ – ‘patriotic’? – as the legislators they so despise. None of us should be fooled into believing that our country as we would like it to be is the country that actually exists. That applies, in spades (trumps?), to us Brits too.

Now to watch the House debate on impeachment…

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A Simple Explanation

I’ve always resisted simple answers to historical questions, and indeed specifically warned readers against them in my books. History is complicated, muddled. Imperialism – for example – was not only a matter of capitalist exploitation, or racist arrogance, or misplaced humanitarianism; or even explicable in terms of motives like these. We need to broaden, sophisticate and contextualise our analysis of it, and of other great historical movements too. The effect of this may be to confuse our picture of all of them, making them more difficult to grasp, therefore; but – I’m sorry – that’s just how history is. Generalisation is the enemy of a true understanding of what has gone on around us in the past, and, by that same token, of what is going on around us today. 

Which is why I’ve been particularly disturbed by the dramatic events that have taken place in the world, and especially in Britain and the USA, over the past five years; not only by the events themselves, shocking as they have been – especially the storming of the American Capitol on Wednesday – but also by the inference I’m beginning to draw from them: that there is a simple and common explanation for them all. I’m by no means the first person, of course, to spot the similarities between Trumpism and Brexit, the connexion being made all the more plain by certain tangible connexions: Rupert Murdoch in particular, spreading his venom on both sides of the Atlantic; Brexiters like Farage, Johnson, Rees-Mogg and Gove cosying up to Trump; and the influence of Right-wing propagandists and their new election-distorting technologies on elections in both countries. Just as the Republican Party in the USA has fallen to the Trumpists, so has Britain’s Tory Party now become effectively UKIP rediviva; both parties having abandoned any pretence of being ‘conservative’ in the old, literal meaning of the word, but instead falling to the radical reactionary (and of course you can be both) revolutionism of their new leaders. Commonalty, in view of the differences between our two nations, implies that there’s something big and simple behind both of them; which is the conclusion I’m coming to now.

Just look at the two ‘movements’ (if we can call them that). Each can be divided into ‘Chiefs’ and ‘Indians’. (Yes, I know ‘Indians’ is wrong, but you know what I mean, and I don’t imagine that, in this context, Native Americans are likely to take umbrage.) In both cases the ‘Indians’, who included nearly all those who stormed the Capitol and most of those who voted for Brexit, were lower ‘class’, ill-educated, ‘stupid’ if you like (it has to be said), and with genuine material and emotional grievances, albeit in both cases blamed on the wrong people and institutions, and attracting them to the wrong allies. They were also – especially in America’s case – distrustful of ‘government’, or the ‘elite’ – the ones who called them ‘stupid’ – for the same reasons, and of the ‘liberal media’; de-anchoring them from the usual sources of public information, and making them particularly vulnerable to ‘conspiracy theories’ that seemed to them to make more sense. That’s the ‘mob’.

Mobs can be harnessed to virtually any cause. (I could give you a dozen historical examples, beginning with the ‘jingo’ crowds that cheered on a British imperial war at the turn of the 20th century.) Which one stirs them into action depends partly on the circumstances of the time, but also on the skills and motivations of the ‘Chiefs’: that is, the relatively more educated, less stupid but also less honest and ethical part of society. Who these are depends on local conditions; in America’s case it was a great – or at least greatly-inflated – capitalist, which was apt for the leading commercial nation in the world; in Britain’s case the Chiefs wore Eton collars, which seems apposite there too. Both were notorious for their disregard for what for most people passed as ‘truth’ – this was hardly contested – and for their impatience with constitutional norms: Boris by illegally proroguing his Legislative branch, Donald’s people by trashing theirs. And – most important of all – both were supported (at least up to Wednesday) by the money power: other capitalists, who helped finance both. Their motives are not too hard to guess at. America’s capitalists appreciated Trump’s hand-outs; Britain’s (who included the powerful press ‘barons’) were anxious to prevent the EU getting its hands on their tax havens. Both of them put a principled gloss on it, usually anti-socialism (Biden a ‘socialist’?!); but greed was the bottom line.

So there we have it. A powerful and self-seeking elite of free-market anti-interventionist capitalists marshalling a simple-minded mob to demonstrate against their (the mob’s) own best interests, by playing to resentments that were understandable, but in no way the fault of the people and institutions their leaders blamed. That’s the ‘simple’ explanation, at one level. (It must have struck others, too.) The next level will require an analysis of what was really fuelling the mob’s resentments. If we can put the blame on the inevitable self-destructive end of late-stage capitalism it would make the explanation even tidier. But that will be too ‘Marxist’ for some; and maybe too simplistic for the historian who up to now has always warned his readers against this sort of thing.


Incidentally: proofs of my next book – Britain Before Brexit – will start arriving during this coming week, which means that I may be too busy for a while checking and indexing to be able to blog at length. The publication date is now set for 12 August, which seems to me to be unnecessarily late. I’d intended it to bear on the Brexit debate, which could be over by then; though I can see that going on and on. Ah well; I’m grateful to Bloomsbury for being willing to publish a book of old essays at all.

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The Storming of the Capitol

In Victorian times the propertied classes in Britain and across Europe had an inordinate fear of ‘the mob’. That’s why they denied the vote to anyone who didn’t have a material ‘stake’ in their countries, and so could be marshalled violently against those who did. ‘The mob’ were at the core of all the riots that took place in Britain and on the Continent, from the 18thcentury through to the 20th. They – the ‘great unwashed’ – could also be seen be seen to make up the majority of working-class Brexiteers recently, and of the Trumpists who are presently storming the Capitol in Washington.

It was usually assumed in 19th-century Britain that the ‘mob’ would be of the Left, politically: socialists, communists or anarchists. It wasn’t always so; the ‘King and Country’ riots of the 18thcentury, and the anti-Catholic and race riots of the 19thand 20th centuries, certainly couldn’t be categorised in this way. The same is true of our present-day Ukippers and Trumpists, who are much more amenable to propaganda from the (usually very well-washed) Right. Trump even objects to Biden as a ‘socialist’. Both movements are hostile to any kind of ‘progressive’ or radical thought, especially if it can be dismissed as ‘political correctness’.

This may make them more dangerous – or, by another way of looking at it – effective; more so, indeed, than their numbers should suggest. There can be little doubt that Brexiteers and Trumpists represent only minorities in their respective countries – albeit substantial ones. What they both have, however, are large reservoirs of public resentment, and tremendous anger. That’s how you pull down the doors of Congress, when you don’t have a majority. One angry man or woman is worth ten calm and rational ones.

Is this the start of a new Civil War, my American friends? Or a revival of the old one? As a student of American history – although rather rusty now – I can see parallels between Trump’s followers and the Confederates. (Actually you didn’t need to be a historian to see that. They were carrying Confederate flags, for pity’s sake.) – Or perhaps it’s a (failed) French revolutionary moment? Didn’t I see somewhere a photo of a Trumpist sitting in the Speaker’s chair yesterday? Like this: from 200+ years ago.

(Later.) This may be the one I was thinking of:

Thank goodness it wasn’t another ‘Stockholms Blodbad’ (below). So far.

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The Stockholm Bloodbath

There’s a super documentary series on Swedish TV just now about ‘Stockholms Blodbad’, when 80-odd prominent Swedish nobles and bishops were beheaded and hanged in Stortorget, in the old town, in November 1520, on the orders of the Danish king Christian II: known in Sweden as ‘Kristian Tyrann’, and in Denmark – allegedly – as ‘Christian den Gode’. It has been suggested that this 500-year old massacre lies at the root of the antipathy between Swedes and Danes which you can still detect today, perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind that they’re all Scandinavians; but you mustn’t believe that the Nordics necessarily get along with one another. (You should just hear some of my Swedish friends on the Norwegians!)

My reason for bringing it up here is that it seemed to me that parallels might be drawn with present-day events; not the ‘bloodbath’, exactly – unless Brexit turns particularly nasty – but the dispute that gave rise to it. Sweden at the time was a member of the ‘Kalmar Union’ of the three Scandinavian countries (plus part of Finland) formed in 1397, which could be regarded as a kind of embryonic forerunner of the EU; but with the Swedish part of it wanting to break away. That was why Christian came down on it. Eventually – just two years after the Bloodbath, in fact – Sweden’s independence (Swexit) was achieved, with Gustav Vasa becoming its first real  Kung.

But… looking at the history of this event in detail, the cap doesn’t really fit. It was far more confusing than that. Religion – the Reformation – had much to do with it, for example, which I don’t think is the case with Brexit.  (See Brexit is complex enough in itself, of course, but not in any of the same ways. Boris Johnson is hardly a Gustav Vasa (below), for a start. And I can’t see M. Barnier ordering the beheading of him and the other the Brexiteer leaders, whatever the provocation. Historical parallels very rarely work like this. If they did, then history might be of more use to us.

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Approaching Eighty

How can old people remain so cheerful, when they know that death will be upon them soon? I used to wonder that when I was young. Now I think I know. For most of us – even if, like me, we’ve lived pretty charmed existences – life has been full of tensions, problems, failures and embarrassments which the approach of death means we can no longer do much about, even if we had the energy; which gives us – me, at any rate – a feeling of relaxation as I anticipate my 80th birthday in just a few weeks’ time. I’ve got little serious to regret in my past life. I may have been rotten to some people, mainly my mother and my ex-wife (perhaps), but it’s too late to do anything about that now. My children, all of whom have turned out better in every way than I have, are up and running, and with wonderful children of their own. So I’ve helped keep the human race going: our primary duty as a species. I can’t do any more for them. I’ve written a fair number of books, a few of which have been influential in a small way, and among a small and insignificant group of people (other academic historians); and although there are a couple more I’d have liked to write – one on Britain and Europe, the other on ‘populism’, both of course arising from recent events – I’ve at last reconciled myself to the fact that I’m too chronically tired  to even start the research that would be necessary to write them. I’m also reconciled to the fact that I’ll never be an artist, the career that was predicted for me when I was a boy, because I’d never be able to lift a candle to Vermeer. Or to Graham Gooch, if I had pursued the other (even less plausible) dream of my youth. All that gives me the luxury of lazily lying on a bed of moderate achievement, which is the condition I aspire to after death, and to me would seem like Heaven. (My other vision of the after-life is that I’d have to go through this life again, from the beginning, without knowing that I’d done it before. That’s my Hell.) Hence my own ‘cheerfulness in the face of death’. Is it the same for all oldies?

I’m also cheered by the simple knowledge that I will indeed reach 80 – if nothing unexpected happens in the next month – which I wouldn’t have predicted just a few years ago. In fact my life has been punctuated with illnesses and disabilities which, if I’d been born fifty or even twenty years earlier, would probably have killed me. One of them killed my father at the early age of 53; which was one of the reasons why I was surprised to live longer. I was born backwards; had serious asthma as a young child; was thin and ill-nourished; and in adulthood had several crucial operations – too embarrassing to detail – which couldn’t have been done just a few years earlier, when I would have died. Thank God for the NHS – though it wasn’t yet there for my breech birth. Today I only have asthma, again (a doctor told me it comes back when the testosterone decreases); arthritis; deafness; bouts of depression; virtual blindness in one eye; and my ‘chronic fatigue’ – probably the result of a tick-bite in the Swedish countryside – to worry me. That and suspected hypochondria. Nothing, really. And the fatigue might even be a boon, if it prepares me for the hereafter. 

Against this I have the wonderful Kajsa to share my later years (or decades?) with, friends and family to share them with remotely, and a beautiful little wooden home on a covid-free (we hope) Swedish island. So all’s pretty well. If only it weren’t for the appalling politics back in Britain, I might even be happy.

Sorry for the personal. But the beginning of a new year – and one to be feared by those less fortunate than I – seemed to call for it. 

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Please Not Sweden Too!

Gott nytt år! – Or maybe not if you’re a Remainer.  And perhaps if your eye caught this report in some of the British papers this morning:

‘Swexit’ would be a tragedy, I believe, for Sweden, Europe and the world. And it would be more than slightly annoying for me personally, having gone to all the trouble of acquiring Swedish citizenship in order (in part) to retain my wider European identity and privileges. I was keen to become Swedish; but not narrowly  Swedish, in the same way that Farage, Johnson and Co. have forced me to be narrowly British since midnight (CET) last night. If that’s the way Sweden goes, where is there left for a friendly European to take refuge?

Most of the evidence presented in these reports for Sweden’s – and in particular the right-wing populist  Sverigedemokraterna’s  – anti-Europeanism is old hat; and indeed was picked up more than four years ago in a piece I wrote for the LRB blog, and republished here: I thought then that Britain’s subsequent struggle to achieve her ‘independence’ from the EU would act as a warning rather than an encouragement for my Swedish compatriots; and the treatment that Johnson, Farage, Gove and the rest have received in the Swedish press over the past twelve months has rather confirmed that hope. (Remember that Swedes were brought up on Monty Python, so they’ve seen it before.) Brexit appears to have made us a laughing stock on the Continent. I still hope that this might hold Sweden back from the cliff edge.

But until we’ve seen much more recent opinion polls we can’t know for sure. I’ll be looking out for them, and will report back. In the meantime, again, gott nytt år!

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