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.
This is extracted from Simon Heffer’s article in the Telegraph, 19 June 2016. The whole is well worth reading. But this (slightly edited) is the peroration.
“It is because of the enviable opportunity we have on Thursday that we should seize it and use it to secure change. We cannot tackle immigration within the EU, as the Prime Minister says. We cannot reform the EU from within, as the failure of Mr Cameron’s negotiations showed. We are not the only constituent nation whose domestic political culture is at odds with that of those who steer and advance “the project” of federalism and the creation of a superstate. If we have the guts to go, others will follow, and we shall return to a Europe of bilateral deals, alliances, and participation in the wider world. The European empire will fail because the world for which it was created – the world of the cold war, and international Marxism, and pre-globalisation – no longer exists, and European states need a different means to cope with the future.
“We should think not just of reconnecting with Hugh Gaitskell’s sonorous and beautiful idea of “a thousand years of history”, important though it be to regain the sovereignty whose loss he warned against in 1962. We should think too of Enoch Powell – whose strictures against potential control by a superstate began in 1969, four years before we joined – and these words of his: “Too often today people are ready to tell us, ‘this is not possible, that is not possible’. I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for is always possible. We have nothing to fear but our own doubts.”
“On Thursday I shall vote for the true interest of my country. I shall vote to repudiate “Project Fear”. I shall vote for the liberation of the United Kingdom and for the reinstatement of its democracy. I shall vote not just for a thousand years of history, but for our future to be in our hands again.”
One development seems to have been overlooked in the current avalanche of claim and argument.
It is an article of faith in some sections of the Leave community that the economic argument is fundamental. We will not win unless we convince voters that their economic prospects will not be damaged by Brexit. Hence we must advance an exit plan which preserves Britain’s access to the EU Single Market: the obvious route is via membership of EEA/EFTA. Hence we must accept, at least temporarily, continued payment for such access. Hence also we must accept, again at least temporarily, free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
This logic may rest on a false premise. The Daily Telegraph is carrying a poll which asks, “Would you back Brexit even if it left you worse off?”
The current response rate is 78% in favour.
This should be a major pause for thought. Of course, such a poll is unrepresentative, unscientific, self-selecting, and many other disparaging terms which can be applied. But if it’s even half right, a number of conclusions may follow. First, Britons may be less personally mercenary and more generously-minded than previously thought. More significant, the official Leave campaign may have judged the electorate’s mood correctly, both in emphasizing non-economic arguments about sovereignty and immigration, and in rejecting continued membership of the Single Market in favour of a WTO/free trade settlement.
The EEA/EFTA purists may disagree. But would they prefer to lose? Or to win for the ‘wrong’ reasons? If we do win, it looks as if it may be because of the Leave campaign, not despite it.
It’s too soon to expect victory. But not too early to hope.
The permanent traits of English character that he identifies will come as no surprise: ‘A people tough, sceptical… more grumbling than rebellious… ironic, appreciative of human oddity, allergic to moralizing but noting people’s faults, tolerant but indignant at blatant hypocrisy, deceit, cruelty.’
Jacket notes to In Memory of England, Peter Vansittart, 1998
I see you believe what you say, or you would not have come all this way to say it. But you must not expect me to renounce immediately the customs which I and the English have followed from one generation to another.
King Aethelbert of Kent to Augustine of Canterbury, 6th century AD
Thought should be harder, heart the keener, courage the greater as our strength dwindles.
Battle of Maldon, 10th century AD