Duty and public service

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.

A sad and angry consolation

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.

An airport in Europe

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?