Our Inglorious End

It’s hard to credit that two millennia of proud British history are about to end like this. (‘Proud’ in the sense that Brits have usually taken pride in  it; unjustifiably in many instances, I’ll grant.) Almost everyone in the wider world now looks upon us as a pathetic joke, a Humpty Dumpty in pieces at the foot of his wall, having betrayed the best bits of our history (openness, generosity, progress, parliamentary democracy), and headed for – what? Friendless isolation? An unregulated bargain basement for trade? An imaginary new ‘world role’? A client state of the chlorinated USA? Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for incomers? The break-up of the United Kingdom? A freakshow of stereotypical English eccentrics? The socially reactionary country the Brexiteers (or their leaders) seem bent on? Fascism with a Bertie-Wooster face?

I guess that Italy might have looked a bit like this after the Roman Empire fell. (I don’t know; I’m an expert on only one empire.) I really thought that, with Britain’s having accepted her own empire’s ‘decline and fall’ after 1945 with relative dignity – her re-entry into Europe was part of that – she had escaped this kind of fate. It now seems I was mistaken.

It has all gone horribly wrong; and for largely fortuitous reasons: a failing economic system (not the fault of the EU), a fundamentally undemocratic electoral system, a criminally deceitful press, the onward march of ‘late stage’ capitalism, American and Russian interference, the continued influence of the grotesquely misnamed ‘public’ schools in our politics, cheating and corruption on so many levels (including in the 2017 referendum), widespread stupidity and ignorance, a TV-fuelled culture of personality, anti-intellectualism and disregard of expertise, popular distrust generally, political apathy, complacency on the ‘pro-European’ side – and in Europe itself; all contributing to the current ominous situation in which we find ourselves as a nation. (On all this, see https://bernardjporter.com/2016/06/16/is-it-really-about-the-eu/; and some of my other blogs around that time.)

Is this how it ends? Of course we ‘Remainers’ may be wrong, and the picture will improve gloriously after March 29, when we are due to leave: our Brussels shackles thrown off, other markets flocking to compensate for those we are about to lose, all those foreign immigrants – or at least the poor ones – turned away, our passports going back to being blue, our three-pin plugs protected (that’s one reason given for Brexit); and we return to being a proud people, like the ones who ‘alone’ kept Hitler at bay.

Or, alternatively, the simple vulnerability of our projected isolation will become clear: people will change their minds, and be given a second democratic vote to express this; and we’ll come out of the nightmare, bruised by the experience of this dreadful contest, and with enough Brexit irreconcilables remaining to prolong the bad feeling – perhaps even to provoke a kind of civil war – afterwards, and even more mistrusted by our Continental neighbours; but still able, hopefully, to mend bridges and concentrate on the real difficulties of our situation – inequalities, an unrepresentative political system, a rogue press, Eton College, and an increasingly destructive, and self-destructive, economic system. Could a Labour government fix these?

We’ll find out at the end of March. I’m not too sanguine. What we’re going through now feels far too much like death throes. What an embarrassing end to centuries of uneven, and not always admirable, but never quite so risible, history! (You can even see it in the leading Brexiteers’ faces (below): Duncan Smith, Gove, Farage,  Johnson. These aren’t serious men.)


About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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4 Responses to Our Inglorious End

  1. Jeremy Corbyn has defiantly restated Labour’s policy of leading Britain out of the European Union with a refashioned Brexit deal, shrugging off intense pressure from Labour MPs and activists for the party to throw its weight behind a second referendum. [The Guardian]
    Although there is a lot to like about Corbyn, his inane Brexit stance – and Labour’s response to it – deserves a place in your otherwise exemplary list of what “has gone horribly wrong”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m waiting to see his deeper strategy. It will be easier for a second referendum, and even for a return to the semi-detached position Britain has in the EU currently, once more people are persuaded that there’s no real alternative. All those Northern working-class Brexiteers need to be convinced that every form of Brexit has been tried. – And by the way, you shouldn’t trust the Guardian on Corbyn. It’s always been agin him. And a recent academic study (I can’t lay my hand on it just now, but google will find it) has claimed that 75% of the reportage on JC has been misleading or false. His statements are usually too nuanced to be understood by the Manichaean popular press, and the Establishment Grauniad would prefer one of their own to lead Labour.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJ says:

        The smearing of the Labour left by the centrists has been going on since the 1950’s in their efforts to eliminate socialism from the party, from Gaitskell to Blair. Of course Brexit and Labour’s ambiguity is being used to undermine Corbyn, as is the anti-semitism issue and anything else they can find, with the Guardian as complicit in its own way as the right wing press.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve elaborated on this in my next blog entry.


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