In centuries past, a summons to attend the monarch in Parliament was a mixed blessing. In an age of poor transportation it could mean a long and arduous journey; it could also mean leaving a homestead, a farm, a manor to questionable management, not to mention wife and family to weeks or months of uncertainty. No wonder many tried to evade their duty or pass it off onto substitutes.
Gradually, the notion of public service came to prevail. The knights of the shires on the one hand, and the chosen spokesmen of the miners, weavers, farmers and labourers on the other, accepted their responsibilities and came to Westminster to represent their constituents.
Most recently the notion of public service, while still benefitting from ritual homage, has given way to personal ambition and self-aggrandisement. Cameron’s resignation announcement was its apotheosis.
His duty was to ensure stability and continuity of government. He gave a commitment to stay whatever the result. He could have said, “I understand and accept the result of this referendum. Britain will leave the European Union. This will take some time, and involve some complex negotiations. I will ask [X] to form a team to achieve this. In the meantime, I will continue as your elected Prime Minister to ensure the continuity of Her Majesty’s Government.”
Instead, he took his ball away. His last betrayal and broken promise.
Geoffrey Hill (b. 18 June 1932) died last Thursday, 30 June 2016. His widow Alice Goodman asked, ‘Please pray for the repose of the soul of my husband, Geoffrey Hill, who died yesterday evening, suddenly, and without pain or dread.’
One of the greatest English poets of the 20th century, his warning from The Triumph of Love (1998) still sounds clear:
still gets to me, the unfairness
and waste of survival: a nation
with so many memorials but no memory.
Perhaps we have redeemed a moment.
Second wind. The case was made, and the case prevailed. 17.4 million Britons voted to Leave, more than have voted for anything, ever, in our history.
Charles Moore wrote in The Telegraph, “It is the most momentous thing I have seen in nearly 40 years covering British politics, and the most moving.” And yes, some tears were shed.
There’s a long way to go, so what to do? We don’t pretend to widespread significance or major impact. So that’s a liberation. Just to continue now and again to make a comment, counter an argument. Who knows? prompt an occasional rethinking?
State of life, may I live, may I love
Coming out the sky, I name me a name
Coming out silver word but what it is?
It is the very nature of the sound, the game…
The ‘State Of Independence’
This state of independence shall be
It is hard not to feel a measure of disgust at the way some of our presumed leaders have approached this debate. Our Prime Minister, in particular, has demeaned himself and his office by his behaviour. Whatever the result tonight, his reputation should never recover.
This is not some kind of sporting final. If we lose narrowly, this is not the end. Nothing will be settled. Eventually, Britain will leave the European Union, whether through our own decisive action or because the EU collapses in front of us.
A chaotic and ignominious collapse could be disastrous. We can only hope that reason prevails, and that we vote to instruct our government to negotiate an orderly exit. This should stimulate a rational and progressive dismantling of the whole dreadful EU construction. We can only hope.
It’s going to be a long night.
The European Union is not an organization for inter-governmental cooperation between friends and neighbours.
The fundamental purpose of the European Union is, and always was, to supplant and eventually destroy European nation states; and to impose an undemocratic, unaccountable system of technocratic government, which can never be removed, so as to lock in that purpose.
Whatever one’s political philosophy, be under no illusions: a vote to Remain is a vote in favour of that objective. All the rest is trivial.
It took particularly British — more correctly English — genius to develop the concept of representative democracy.
We consent to being governed, on condition that the executive is accountable to a democratically-elected parliament. We send to Westminster not delegates but our representatives: broadly, and as a whole, they represent the range of our interests and concerns, hopes and fears. Burke argued that the wishes of an MP’s constituents “ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.”
In recent decades, the representative nature of our parliament has become increasingly faint. The rise of the professional politician, the emergence of an elite governing class with ever-widening circles of influence and patronage, the capture of independent media and comment: all have eroded representative government and alienated people from politicians. Some four-fifths of MPs favour Britain remaining in the European Union.
When MPs stray so far from their representative responsibility, it is time for the electorate to say: “No further. We withdraw our consent to your government. We will now make clear, once again, what we believe, what we demand of you.” This referendum is our opportunity.