My new edition of The Lion’s Share, now in the press and due out on the 23rdof this month, has a chapter on the legacy of the Empire to Britain. That barely mentions Rupert Murdoch, who must be one of the ex-Empire’s most malevolent influences on our (British) way of life and politics over the past fifty years; that is, since he was taken under her wing by Thatcher and then appeased by Blair. I wonder if I can add something about this to the final set of proofs? If you want an example of the ‘Empire Striking Back’, this must be it.
Australia’s malevolent influence on us may not end with Murdoch. We learn today – if the report can be trusted – that Tony Abbott, perhaps Australia’s most controversial ex-prime minister, has been appointed to the Board entrusted with organising Britain’s post-Brexit trade, in the face of widespread opposition to him on the grounds of his known views on other matters. Those views were famously challenged by another Aussie PM in 2012:
and then by a refreshingly forceful Sky News interviewer just a few days ago:
For any self-respecting liberal or progressive, Abbott ought to be the worst person in the world to represent the ‘mother country’ in any role at all. But then of course liberals and progressives aren’t the forces they used to be in Britain just a few years ago. Abbott’s reactionary views are now in the ascendant; not numerically, perhaps, but by virtue of the power now acquired – partly through subterfuge, I would say – by the Far Right. This period in our history, with a government majority in the Commons of 80+ and another general election as much as four years away, is clearly the best time for Cummings and his puppets to inflict all kinds of reactionary shocks on us, politically, constitutionally, culturally, and even in the realm of humour – with ‘left-wing’ comedians now being officially targeted by the boss of the BBC. What I used to call ‘The Great Reaction’ when it started under Thatcher is coming to a head. No wonder many are now fearing ‘Fascism’; which of course can come in many guises.
Boris Johnson is an admirer of the old British Empire, of which Australia used to be a part, and is ambitious to revive it – or the ‘white’ part of it, anyway – in some form or another. This may be one explanation for his recruitment of Abbott, in addition to the latter’s politically incorrect views. It so happens that Australia is one of my favourite countries, and the one I was happiest living in. But I do resent its shipping these people over to us, when we have plenty of villains of our own. Is it our fault, for what we did to them all those years ago? Murdoch’s father, for example, was turned against Britain by the appalling conduct of her generals at Gallipoli – the campaign that first enshrined Australia’s national day. Now the Aussies are retaliating; flinging our 19th-century attitudes back in our faces.