Peak Guardian: Mocking The British Public For Holding Street Parties To Mark The Queen’s 90th Birthday

VE Day Street Party
Sickening, apparently

The Guardian’s lonely struggle against all of the things which unite us as a community and country finds a new source of virtue-signalling outrage

Today’s dose of Peak Guardian comes courtesy of Dawn Foster, who finds herself consumed with bitterness and resentment that many people will voluntarily choose to celebrate the Queen’s birthday this weekend – and in some cases commit the unforgivable crime of holding a street party to mark the occasion.

In a bitter tirade against the great British street party, nearly rivalling the sneering tone of the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones (who castigated the Tower of London poppy exhibition as a tacky “UKIP-style” memorial to the fallen of the First World War), Foster seethes:

Friends of mine who live in areas where street parties are in the works have, without exception, reported that the people responsible are the perennially furious residents who spend most of their lives in a rage about parking. Shifting their attention from the contentious temporary ownership of asphalt, they have decided the neighbourhood needs to commemorate the birthday of a 90-year-old woman none of the residents have met.

The party will follow the usual template: tea, cupcakes, flags upon flags upon flags, wartime slogans and songs, and the performance of a very specific type of Englishness – the Englishness of Fry and Laurie rather than This Is England. One harks back to the empire while the other attempts social realism.

This kind of middle-class nationalism, rooted in a confected history of postwar austerity, has been resurgent in the years since the last royal wedding. The ubiquity of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster is the most obvious symbol. As the writer Owen Hatherley puts it, the cultish signifier points to the “enduring pretension of an extremely rich (if shoddy and dilapidated) country, the sadomasochistic Toryism imposed by the coalition government of 2010–15, and its presentation of austerity in a manner so brutal and moralistic that it almost seemed to luxuriate in its own parsimony”.

Nationalism now has two faces: that of the far right, signified by a certain sort of caricature of a football supporter and England flags, and now the middle-class right, posh enough to wear chinos while raising a glass to “her maj” in front of a Union Jack. The two aren’t entirely separate: the former is openly racist, the latter a frequent apologist for the British empire.

Can these perennially sour people never just take something at face value? Must the good-natured efforts of ordinary people to try to reconnect with that lost sense of community spirit embodied in the VE Day and Jubilee street party celebrations be so carelessly dismissed by sneering Guardian journalists as a corrosive form of middle class oppression?

Foster continues:

But this isn’t harmless. All the warm Pimms and cupcakes with corgi icing feed into a narrative that says the empire was a force for good, and its destruction is to be mourned. When people refer to the “blitz spirit” and say we should heed lessons from how Britain used to be, they usually mean two things: when it comes to austerity, suck it up; and Britain was better when it more resembled a monoculture.

It’s possible to be a good neighbour without indulging in these performative pastiches of community. Speaking to people on your street should be an everyday occurrence, not prompted only by an unreciprocated love for the unelected Queen. Enforced pageantry with nationalistic undertones and a forelock-tugging subservience towards someone who has succeeded in surviving nine decades mainly because she is fantastically wealthy is enough to make many people lock their doors, close the curtains and pretend they’ve fled for the weekend.

Foster uses the word “nationalism” in her piece, but we all know that it is garden variety patriotism in her cross-hairs. And apparently, in Foster’s alternate universe, only two kinds of patriots exist – the middle class ones that she deplores, and working class “far right” football supporters whom she fears and openly slanders as racist.

People wonder why the Labour Party lost the 2015 election, and still fails to gain significant traction despite facing a rootless Conservative government. Well, this is why. Because whole swathes of the Left have been captured by what Brendan O’Neill described as the middle class clerisy, who openly loathe the working classes and treat their interests, hopes, fears and dreams with derision. And the voters are perceptive – they can tell when they are being mocked or looked down on.

The British Left is presently dominated by people who think that Britain is a weak, insignificant and unremarkable place, a country whose past flaws overshadow any positive legacy or current contribution which we might give the world. Ask them to participate in an event praising their country and the middle class clerisy will chuckle nervously and exchange knowing glances with one another. The words stick in their throats.

In Dawn Foster’s mind, it is simply inconceivable that a working class person might be moved to celebrate the birthday of the person who (besides our families) has been the one constant in all of our lives. She simply cannot fathom why anyone other than upper middle class chino wearers or heavily tattooed EDL types might want to mark the Queen’s birthday. But that says far more about Foster than it does about those who will be celebrating this weekend.

This isn’t just the Guardian being insufferable, there is a real issue here. What will be left to bind us to our history, to our ancestors, if the Left continue to insist on heaping scorn on so harmless a thing as the humble street party? And what will bind us contemporary Britons to each other when the Left sees no value in inculcating a healthy sense of patriotism and a common national identity?

Religion and the Church of England no longer play the central role in our national life that they once did. Many in the Guardian are happy about that. But what new societal glue will replace it? We don’t yet know. This matters immensely when it comes to assimilating new immigrants in the kind of numbers that Britain has experienced in recent years, or when we need disaffected Muslim youths to grasp on to a positive shared vision of Britain rather than steal away to join ISIS (in mental allegiance, if not always in body). If we insist on tearing down the customs and rituals which define our culture because hectoring moralisers like Dawn Foster have decided that they are passé, what is left to bind us together?

The “blitz spirit” which Foster decries is something of which Britons should remain proud. And the fact that Foster chooses to compare the “austerity” of today (basically slightly less spending growth than the previous Labour government envisaged before 2010) to the mortal danger of the Blitz only goes to show just how hysterical the British Left have become in their anti-Tory fervour.

But more than that, the blitz spirit shames the Left because it reveals how the pursuit of left-wing policies has, in some ways, changed our country for the worse. An overly expansive welfare state, ratcheted upward in the decades since the Second World War and only partially restrained by Thatcher, has left us dependent on government rather than one another. This is good, to a degree – welfare should certainly not depend on arbitrary charity. But such is the scope of today’s hyperactive state (David Cameron won the 2015 general election on a creepy manifesto “plan for every stage of your life”) that the need for neighbours, communities and even families is being steadily undermined.

Similarly, the previous Labour government’s encouraging of record inward migration and obsession with the virtues of multiculturalism has led to an increasingly atomised and segregated society, preventing the melting pot from working and in some cases now actively feeding extremist and terrorist behaviour.

Amid all of this change, the quintessential British street party stands as testament to a time when no matter what other identities and affiliations a person may have held, one was expected (and agreed without a second thought) to be British first and foremost – a time when our national identity was a source of pride to people of all political viewpoints, not an embarrassment to the Left or an exclusive toy of the far Right.

Fast forward to 2016 and any event, celebration or ritual which calls to mind Britain’s history, heritage and achievements is immediately suspicious to swathes of the modern Left because it encourages pride where the middle class clerisy feel there should only be shame and embarrassment. Any event which suggests that we should look to our families or communities rather than government for friendship, advice, recreation, health and solidarity will be ruthlessly attacked, just as Dawn Foster quietly seethes when neighbours get together of their own volition in a civic act of positive patriotism.

This blog has long argued that the British Left will not taste power again until they learn to love (or at least accept) the country for what it is, until they cease being so openly contemptuous or downright hostile toward the smallest act of public patriotism. Remarkably, they seem to have gone backwards in six years, and are now even further away from this objective than they were in 2010.

One year since their second general election defeat and the critical lesson has clearly still not been learned. The vast majority of the Labour Party are actively advocating for a Remain vote in the EU referendum, in a campaign noted for its pessimistic, miserabilist view of Britain and unconcealed contempt for those (including many working class people) who yearn for Brexit. Meanwhile, the house journals of the middle class Left continue to pump out their unambitious, defeatist view of Britain, and are not above scoring blatant own goals – like tearing into the British public for daring to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.

How can the Left ever hope to lead this country again when they so clearly disdain it in every way?

 

Queens 90th birthday celebration

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Time For An English National Anthem?

God Save The Queen - Sex Pistols - 2

We don’t need to change our national anthem, or create a separate one for England. We just need to make much better use of the one we already have

Is it time that England asserted herself by choosing a new national anthem of her own, separate and distinct from “God Save The Queen”, which supposedly represents our whole United Kingdom?

MPs seem to think so – the House of Commons has just voted in favour of an English national anthem, with a strong movement emerging to make Jerusalem England’s new anthem. But was Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins right to table the motion in the first place, and would we be right to ultimately adopt his idea?

In short, no. Much as this blog is generally in favour of full parity between the four home nations – best expressed through a federal structure brought about as the result of a full constitutional convention – calls for a separate English national anthem are particularly unhelpful at this time.

Our United Kingdom is already fraying at the seams. Having narrowly avoided dissolution as a result of the Scottish independence referendum last year, now is hardly the time for further measures which emphasise the relatively slight differences between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And no matter the temptation to poke swivel-eyed Scottish nationalists by meeting their quasi-religious fervour with a matching level of English nationalism, any step in this direction is likely to do more harm than good.

Is “God Save The Queen” a great anthem? Sadly not. Though as one commenter said on the BBC Daily Politics last night, it would have sounded less turgid sung lustily and at twice the speed, as apparently it once was. But there is no escaping the fact that Britain’s national anthem is a dusty and somewhat dull affair, especially set against the rousing, martial Marseillaise, the strutting, operatic Italian anthem or the ever-inspirational Star-Spangled Banner.

But much that is “wrong” or unsatisfactory with “God Save The Queen” can be remedied by performing it better. That means much less Lesley Garrett warbling away in a high soprano, and more beautiful arrangements like the heart-stopping Benjamin Britten version which has been given a new lease of life in recent years at the Last Night of the Proms:

 

The hushed opening, stately and noble tempo and beautiful harmonies, slowly building to an impassioned climax in the (too rarely heard) second verse, “Thy choicest gifts in store…”, actually make those who have only ever heard bad recordings of our national anthem stop and reconsider its merit.

And this sense of a fresh look is possible with contemporary performances too. We all know how the Americans pinched the tune to our national anthem and rebranded it as a patriotic song entitled “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee“. Well, in the right hands it can sound incredibly moving – again showing that we British fail to make the best use of the source material at our disposal.

Consider Kelly Clarkson’s beautiful performance of “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee” at President Obama’s second inauguration in 2013:

 

It is quite possible to listen to this beautiful arrangement – with Clarkson accompanied by the US Marine Corps band – and get quite emotional, before thinking “wait – I recognise that tune!”

Yes, that amazing performance which had you on your feet was none other than “God Save The Queen”, re-branded and given a glitzy makeover by a people who are a bit less hesitant to wear their emotions on their sleeves. Once again, we could learn a thing or two from our American cousins.

But of course, there is no escaping the fact that the words of Britain’s national anthem are written to glorify one person – the monarch – rather than our country itself, or her people. For some with republican leanings, it is impossible to get past this obstacle, whatever their other feelings on the subject. I can sympathise with this position. But as someone who greatly admires the Queen, has enormous respect for our country’s history and heritage but who increasingly thinks that the monarchy should be gently separated from our constitution once the second Elizabethan age is over, I still sing our national anthem with pride, thinking of my country rather than just my Queen.

The temptation to meddle – to change things, supplant or supplement them – is always going to be present, because nothing we do or create will ever be perfect. But “God Save the Queen” has been with us since 1745. It is very much a part of our history. In the past year alone it has seen us through two world wars, a cold war, as well as technological and social revolutions which have utterly transformed Britain – nearly always for the better.

Could we adopt Parry’s “Jerusalem” instead? Yes, of course. Nobody doubts that it is a fine composition, with a century of its own history and lyrics – it is a setting of a poem by William Blake – in its favour. It also has the advantage of glorifying a country, or at least an idea of a country, which is what national anthems are if anything supposed to do.

But is the satisfaction we might feel by doing so worth adding to the factors which are undermining our United Kingdom from within and without? Is taking what would be a very bold step toward the reassertion of separate English identity worth potentially destroying our union. I do not think so.

Should we change our national anthem, or create a new anthem specifically for England? Absolutely not. Not now. We should just make much better – and more musical – use of the anthem we already have.

God Save The Queen - Musical Score

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Happy And Glorious

“You are part of the fabric of my life. The mother of our country. At age five I remember watching your wedding procession driving past with my family all eagerly leaning out of the window of a family friend’s flat. Of course our big celebration was our street party in West Drayton. I am the same age as Prince Charles and I remember from early on pictures and newsreels of Charles and Anne being shown to me as they grew. Through these I followed your travels around the world. As a 1960’s fashion model I modeled hats outside Buckingham Palace the newspapers imagined Princess Anne would wear. Your travels, events and duties have been threads that have run throughout my life” – Sandra Vigon

This tribute, offered by a Telegraph reader on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, is poignant and undeniably true.

Every British person born over the past six decades has known no other monarch, seen no other figure represented on their currency, celebrated no Christmas without the Queen’s annual message to her people. In hundreds of small ways, the Queen is part of the fabric of both our individual lives and also our shared national life.

Presented with a blank sheet of paper, nobody would design a hereditary monarchy as the preferred mechanism for producing a ceremonial head of state. And yet it has worked tolerably well for Britain, particularly these past couple of centuries.

The head says that a federal system with an elected head of state would make far more sense – fairer, logical, more egalitarian and less of an anachronism than the curiosity which is the British monarchy. The head says that pledging allegiance to a person rather than a flag or a constitution is quaint at best, and downright dangerous at worst. The head clamours for a constitutional convention and the bold re-imagining of the twenty-first century state. But not so the heart.

The heart is glad for what we have, odd though it is by modern standards: the capsuled history of our country represented by a single person of flesh and blood. The heart looks with pride and gratitude on the lifetime of service dutifully performed by Queen Elizabeth II – a role never democratically bestowed, but fulfilled far more faithfully and proficiently than can be said of many an elected official. And the heart shudders to think what would become of Britain if our head of state was drawn from the same pool of glib, superficial careerists as many of our politicians.

The day will come – not, we pray, for some years yet – when we will have to face these issues and reshape our country for a new age, looking the future square in the eye. But not today. Today, we can be thankful for a duty faithfully discharged for 63 years and counting. An anachronism, yes, but still an example to us all.

Congratulations, your Majesty.

God save the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II coronation

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Prince Charles, Nearly Exposed

Who really gives David Cameron his marching orders?
Who really gives David Cameron his marching orders?

 

Today has seen a rare victory in the fight for government transparency and public access to information, as a judicial review ruled that the Attorney General was wrong to veto the publication of Prince Charles’ voluminous correspondence with ministers – known as the ‘black spider letters’ – and ordered that they be disclosed.

The British government fought this development every step of the way. Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, had used his veto to keep the letters secret after a previous ruling from an independent tribunal also ruled in favour of the public interest. However, at long last the time may have come for British citizens to read what the heir to the throne really thinks about all number of government policies and positions.

The Guardian – who waged a nine year campaign for access to the letters – report on their triumph:

Grieve had said that a cornerstone of the British constitution was that the monarch could not be seen to be favouring one political party over another. But he had said that any perception that Charles had disagreed with Tony Blair’s government “would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because, if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king”.

The 27 pieces of correspondence between Charles and ministers in seven government departments between September 2004 and April 2005 “are in many cases particularly frank”, according to Grieve.

Dominic Grieve and the rest of the cabinet clearly take the British people for fools. Only an idiot might think that Prince Charles is politically neutral. He has pungent and forceful views across a whole spectrum of topics from climate change to modern architecture, and his PR people take every opportunity to see that these are widely reported by anyone who will listen.

Rather than treating the British people with kid gloves as though we were sensitive little children liable to burst into tears at the sight of our parents arguing, Grieve should drop his ludicrous opposition and let us finally see what the future King thinks of his government of the people.

As the Guardian notes, the prince has taken an active interest in political matters for almost as long as Prime Minister David Cameron has been alive:

The freedom of information tribunal heard that he had been writing to ministers as long ago as 1969, when he expressed concern to the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, about the fate of Atlantic salmon.

The obvious danger is that Prince Charles’s concerns – the things that make him toss and turn at night – may well have changed and grown in the intervening forty-five years, as the number of government departments that he has corresponded with would seem to attest:

The letters concerned involve ministers in the Cabinet Office and the departments responsible for business, health, schools, environment, culture and Northern Ireland.

Worrying about salmon stocks in the north Atlantic is one thing; idly musing or ranting to ministers about Britain’s energy policy or nuclear deterrent, for example, would be another matter entirely. And one gets the strong suspicion that salmon have not remained the prince’s abiding focus.

Unfortunately, the Attorney General seems in no mood to compromise or listen to the overwhelming consensus of logic and legal opinion, and plans to appeal to the Supreme Court:

A spokesman for the attorney general said: “We are very disappointed by the decision of the court. We will be pursuing an appeal to the supreme court in order to protect the important principles which are at stake in this case.”

What important principles are these, exactly, other than the right of an unelected man to bully and intimidate junior government ministers into bending their policies and actions to his will? Should this really be the top priority for Dominic Grieve and his government office?

And why is the Attorney General going to battle to protect and enshrine the ability of society’s elites – be they financial, political, media or monarchical – to not only get their way, but then to have all record of them ever having tilted the playing field in their favour sealed from public view?

Dominic Grieve may serve as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government, but he was elected to represent we the people. Like the Guardian, I want to know how much money the government has spent on legal fees fighting to thwart the will and the interests of the people who elected them.

Down With Prince Charles

Some wonderful news from Britain today. If you write a letter to government ministers urging a change of course in public policy, or lobbying for a pet cause of yours, the public has no right to know about it, or what you have written. That is, if you are Prince Charles or a member of the Royal Family.

You're there for decoration, not to make policy.
You’re there for decoration, not to make policy.

The “man” who is incapable of squeezing toothpaste onto his own toothbrush without the help of a butler, who travels the globe by taxpayer-funded flights and royal trains while encouraging the rest of us to take short, cold showers to stop global warming has carte blanche to meddle in public affairs. And we, the people, have no right to know what he is saying or lobbying for, because to inform us would be to jeopardise our perception of him as a politically impartial future monarch. Impartial my ass.

The Guardian reports:

Three senior judges have ruled that the public has no right to read documents that would reveal how Prince Charles has sought to alter government policies.

The high court judges have rejected a legal attempt by the Guardian to force the publication of private letters written by the prince to government ministers.

Cabinet ministers have conceded that the prince’s private letters – dubbed “black spider memos” because of their scratchy handwriting – contained the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” that could undermine the perception of his political neutrality.

First of all, the mere fact that Prince Charles takes time out of his busy schedule (mostly involving wearing kilts and hiking in Scotland, as far as I can tell) to write to government ministers about anything at all is what undermines the perception of his political neutrality. If he was politically neutral then his royal highness would not have the burning desire to write to British government cabinet members about all and sundry.

The article continues:

[Attorney General Dominic] Grieve had argued that disclosure of the 27 “particularly frank” letters between the prince and ministers over a seven-month period would have seriously damaged his future role as king. The attorney general said there was a risk that the prince would not be seen to be politically neutral by the public if the letters were published.

“This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy. Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king,” Grieve had said.

Well, I’m glad that the Attorney General of the United Kingdom is worrying about such important matters when we have so many pressing issues about the devolvement of power in our country, the limits on government intrusion into our private lives and the fact that so many people are actually suffering in this country thanks to the many structural problems created by the political elites of years past, the last disastrous Labour government and our current coalition government’s slapstick attempts to correct them.

[The Guardian] won a landmark victory last September when three judges in a FoI tribunal ordered the government to publish the letters as it was “in the public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government”.

However, a month later, Grieve, with the support of the cabinet, issued the veto which overrode the tribunal’s decision.

Seriously. How messed up is our country when some over-entitled government minister can override the ruling of a court of law? Written constitution and proper separation of powers, anyone? Good idea? No?

On Tuesday, the lord chief justice, accompanied by Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Globe, dismissed the challenge, finding that Grieve had acted in the public interest in a “proper and rational way”.

However, Judge said that the power of ministers under the FoI Act to issue a veto and override a decision reached by judges raised “troublesome concerns”, particularly as even a ruling by the supreme court could be overridden.

“The possibility that a minister of the crown may lawfully override the decision of a superior court of record involves what appears to be a constitutional aberration,” he said.

“It is an understatement to describe the situation as unusual,” he wrote, adding that barristers could find no equivalent in any other British law.

You think?! Since our newly created UK Supreme Court is in actual fact not supreme at all, perhaps we should rename it. How about the Court Of Second Last Resort Prior To Ministerial Intervention?

Of course, it is not just Prince Charles who seeks to lobby the government in support of his pet projects or issues of the day. The fact that David Cameron, George Osborne and Ed Balls all attended the recent Bilderberg 2013 meeting in Watford where they hobnobbed with the financial and business elites of the world with no reporting as to what they discussed or agreed to is ample evidence of this.

But why do we let an aging, entitled, sheltered and pampered little man meddle in our politics like this? This is the year 2013. This is no longer acceptable.

The article concludes:

Ministers argue that the letters must be concealed as it enables the prince to air his views privately with ministers so that he can “be instructed in the business of government”.

No. Prince Charles, in his ludicrous and anachronistic role as heir to the throne and future monarch, is entitled to be instructed in the business of government. Instructed. That means that the government elected by the people formulates policy, makes decisions and takes actions, and once it has done all of that, tells Prince Charles about it after the fact. What it most certainly does not mean is that Prince Charles gets to write his black spider letters, weighing in on all matters of public policy. Because that is influencing the business of government, not being informed about it.

Hundreds of years ago, people sincerely believed that these ridiculous people were granted the divine right to rule over us and represent our nation as Heads of State by God himself. That is no longer true, and the price for them keeping their palaces, treasures, land, unearned military uniforms and the servile adoration of the masses is that they shut up and keep their noses out of public policy. That’s it. End of discussion.

Prince Charles’s meddling has to stop. It is embarrassing and inappropriate in the extreme.