Labour And The Left Simply Do Not ‘Get’ Patriotism, And Their Patron Saints Holiday Proposal Proves It

UK Britain Patron Saints

The Labour Party’s genius plan to “unite the nation” by further Balkanising the United Kingdom

The Labour Party and the British Left in general just don’t get it. With the honourable exception of a few Cassandra-like voices warning that the Left must learn to re-embrace patriotism in order to reconnect with millions of lost voters, most on the Left seem intent on screeching “multiculturalism” at the top of their lungs until the United Kingdom (and even its constituent parts) are nothing more than historic entries in an encyclopaedia.

Labour’s latest great initiative is to create four new public holidays celebrating the individual patron saints of the four home nations. From the HuffPost:

A Labour government will seek to create four new UK-wide bank holidays on the patron saint’s day of each of the home nations, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.

The Labour leader said the move would bring together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while giving workers a well-deserved break.

Under the plan, it would mean there would be public holidays on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).

“The four nations that make up our great country have rarely been more divided due to the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative Government,” Corbyn said.

“But where Theresa May divides, Labour will unite our four nations. A Labour government will make St George’s Day – England’s national day and Shakespeare’s birthday – a public holiday, along with St David’s Day, St Andrew’s Day and St Patrick’s Day.”

This is the kind of idiotic idea that could only come from a leader, a party and a political movement which have so lost touch with the idea of what patriotism and national identity mean that they can communicate only in meaningless grunts and gestures, like a parrot mimicking speech without understanding the language. Or perhaps an elephant painting with its trunk.

Right now there is a problem with British national identity, inasmuch as it is increasingly missing from the people who are supposed to possess it. Why is this the case? Well, try the fact that our schools fail to teach students a balanced, cohesive and chronological history of their own country, while any attempts to teach citizenship or civics tend to degrade into leftist agitprop pushed by an almost universally left-wing corps of teachers.

Try the fact that national pride and British exceptionalism had become so embarrassing, gauche and ultimately rare among the left-wing establishment that whole explanatory articles were written explaining to people the peculiar warm, fuzzy and hitherto-unknown feeling they felt in their chests when London hosted the 2012 Olympics.

Try the fact that we just went through a bruising EU referendum in which the Remain campaign spent nearly all their time talking – against all available evidence – about what a small, puny and ineffective country we are compared to the swaggering might of, say, Malaysia or Norway.

Try the fact that Scotland has taken the decision to transform itself into a one-party SNP state despite that party’s jackboot authoritarianism and mind-boggling incompetence at governing, while agitating for independence every three years in the hope that certain childlike adults dwelling there might be better protected from the Evil Tor-ees in England, thus further fraying the bonds of our union.

Or the fact that for decades now, leftists have been insisting that we must observe, celebrate and even exaggerate the smallest of our cultural differences rather than celebrate and strengthen the bonds which unite us. Because multiculturalism.

And now that Brexit has given them a scare, Scottish secessionism refuses to die back down to the angry grumblings of the 1990s and 2000s, English nationalism is increasingly demanding acknowledgement and policemen are being killed at the gates of Parliament by homegrown terrorists, these wise mavens of the Left have decided that just maybe it might be worth throwing patriotism a bone after all. Not because of a sincere rethink of their worldview but because someone at Labour HQ thought it would make a good campaign gimmick and a way to garner positive headlines on St George’s Day.

Unfortunately, Labour’s inexplicable response to the challenges we face is to propose the creation of four new public holidays, saints days, which would further emphasise the separateness and uniqueness of the home nations rather than drawing us together in a common celebration of what we have achieved and will achieve together as a single United Kingdom.

One might think that the Left would instinctively realise that in our increasingly secular age, putting the focus of our national identity and patriotism on historical religious figures otherwise unacknowledged by non-Christians is not the smartest pull factor among subpopulations which have until now been encouraged to do their own thing in terms of integrating or not integrating with wider British society. As a Catholic, the saints and their lives have meaning to me. For millions of others, they do not.

Martin Luther King Jr. DayPresident’s Day and Independence Day have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history, not in waning faith. I know that the Left often like to talk down Britain and our substantial contributions in world commerce, arts, sciences, culture and diplomacy, but I’m sure that if they scratched their heads they might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as a day in which all Britons can be proud (but please, not the Fifth of July).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the unique histories, culture and achievements of our four home nations, and indeed we should do so more often. But too often this comes at the expense of celebrating British or UK-wide identity. As this blog has long argued, what we need more than anything is a single day to celebrate our entire United Kingdom, along the lines of France’s Bastille Day or America’s Independence Day.

And this should be backed by a myriad of other policies and gestures, large and small, which together might serve to nurture a positive sense of British identity around which we can all gather – regardless of ethnicity, colour, national origin, gender or any other grouping.

Some ideas that come to mind: a daily or weekly pledge recited by pupils at public schools; a return to playing the national anthem before top flight (and even lower level) sporting events, rather than reserving such gestures for the FA Cup final; continuing the investment in Team GB at the Olympic games and then celebrating their achievements back home after the fact; doing more to honour the armed forces and others who serve in uniform, both in public life and by encouraging businesses to acknowledge, reward and employ veterans; expanding on the National Citizen Service scheme, one of the few positive legacies from the Cameron government. I’m sure there are a thousand other, better ideas to be added to this list.

Instituting four new public holidays where the British people take the day off from work at significant cost to the economy, just to dwell on the fact that we are four rather than one people, is not the answer. One can’t even call it stupid – it is more the product of politicians who have so lost touch with the idea and importance of patriotism and national identity that they are no longer able to engage in sensible policy discussion on the matter. Rather than criticise Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for this cack-handed policy suggestion, one pities the limitations to their thinking.

You don’t unite and strengthen a fraying union by chopping it even more firmly into four parts and then frantically celebrating the differences. And though the word “diversity” is almost branded into the minds of many leftists as an unquestionably good thing, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the British Left in general would do much better to reflect instead on the far more inspiring words “E Pluribus Unum”.

 

Patron Saints UK Britain - St George England - St Andrew Scotland - St David Wales - St Patrick Ireland

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 11 – Neither Imperial Delusions Nor Fearful Retreat From The World

British Empire cartoon

Replacing one slanderous Brexit narrative with another

Janan Ganesh almost gets it right (for once) in his FT column, accurately warning people away from the myth – especially popular with many foreigners – that the vote for Brexit was some kind of reflexive grasp to regain a long-gone empire and adopt a more swashbuckling, colonial-style role in world affairs.

Ganesh writes:

There is a certain kind of Briton, often educated to the hilt, who believes that sick Americans are left to writhe around on hospital floors until they show the doctors a credit card. Even sophisticated people think in simple terms about foreign countries. They just need a plausible line-to-take that sees them through a dinner party as it turns to political chat.

Americans give as good as they get. To the extent that their smartest people talk about Britain, they focus on our imperial delusions: here is a country that never adjusted to its loss of empire and does odd things to compensate. In Europe and Asia, too, exit from the EU is read as a desperate lunge for a global role, an act nearer to therapy than to statecraft. Colonial nostalgia has become the one thing the world “knows” about modern Britain.

It just happens to lack the ring of truth if you live here. Vestiges of empire survive in public life and some Conservative ministers picture a new Commonwealth trade zone that diplomats call, in what must pass for office banter, Empire 2.0. But Britain is not Liam Fox. It voted to leave the EU for reasons that differ from those that animate the trade secretary.

Quite. In Britain, the only ones who really see Brexit as a ham-fisted attempt to reclaim the losses of decolonialisation are the pants-wetting, pseudo-liberal preeners at the Guardian and satirical news site the Daily Mash, who love to portray Brexiteers as angry, curtain-twitching retired colonels outraged by the sudden appearance of brown-skinned neighbours.

Talk to the average Brexiteer on the street, however, and this is not the justification that you will hear. Neither is the glib “hankering for empire” explanation borne out through the opinion polls, which – contrary to the race and immigration angle played up by the media – proved that freedom and national self-determination ranked most highly among the priorities of Brexit voters.

Unfortunately, in the course of refuting this particular misguided Brexit narrative, Ganesh goes off the rails and embraces a fatalistic “retreat from the world” narrative every bit as presumptuous and fatalistic as the original:

The regions that shaped and were shaped by empire voted to remain, including London, the old metropole; Scotland, the source of many settlers and administrators; Manchester, not just the empire’s industrial centre but its liberal intellectual heart; and the port cities of Liverpool and Bristol. Inland Birmingham voted to leave, as did the countryside and market towns of Deep England. What those communities seem to want is Nation 1.0 — the sovereign statehood that predated the globalised era —

So far, so good. Brexiteers do indeed want the United Kingdom to return to a norm which might be called Nation 1.0. In fact, this is not a dim and distant past but a present reality still enjoyed by every advanced country outside of Europe – enjoying the benefits of globalisation, but not plugged in to a supranational political entity with federalist ambitions to become the government of a united Europe.

Nobody ever argues that Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea need to be part of an homogeneous overarching political union with a shared parliament, judiciary and executive in order to thrive. Neither does anybody criticise these countries for “retreating from the world” or otherwise failing to play their full part in global commerce and cultural exchange. Only in Europe has the pernicious myth taken hold – helped along by media cheerleaders, both ignorant and cynically knowing – that to reject an explicitly political project is also to wish to sever all links with the modern world.

Sadly, this is the trap that Ganesh immediately falls into. To pick up the end of his previous sentence:

— when the population was more homogenous and the economy less exposed to foreign competition. Whatever these impulses are, they are not colonial.

[..] Since 1945, intelligent outsiders have overestimated Britain’s frustrated ambition and underrated its sense of resignation, its desire for a quiet life after a draining few centuries as a player. When the American diplomat Dean Acheson said the British had not yet found a role after empire, he rather assumed that we were looking for one. Insiders make the same mistake. The least effective argument for the EU in the referendum campaign centred on its usefulness as a power-multiplier for medium-sized nations. It is not that voters disbelieved this. They just did not care enough.

History keeps forcing countries into this choice between significance abroad and retrenchment at home. Imagine that it were possible to go back in time and make sure the empire had never happened, in return for much-reduced postwar immigration from the former colonies. I suspect that some of the voters now fingered as neo-imperialists would trade their nation’s record of world grandeur for what might delicately be called a more familiar population. A less extreme thought experiment is already in the news. If a UK-India trade deal were to hinge on freer migration between the two countries, would Mr Fox sign it? He must know his keenness would not be matched by his own voters.

[..] It is easy for foreigners to read imperial nostalgia into something much more parochial. The terminal point of empire is introspection, not a restless desire to do it all over again. Introspection is bad enough but the British cannot be guilty of that and the opposite at the same time. Outsiders are free to fault us, if they pick the right fault.

We now appear to be caught in an imperial / introspective false dichotomy where Brexit can be explained (especially to anxious faux-liberals like New York Times readers) only as a racist country’s dying grasp to regain imperial greatness or a shrunken, scared and insular country seeking to retreat from the dangers of the world.

(We’ll ignore the fact that it was America, not Britain, who just elected as president an authoritarian strongman who promised not to enhance citizens’ liberties but rather to keep them safe from any danger – particularly from China, Mexicans and Islamist terror – and free from all anxiety. But by all means, tell us again how Britain is supposedly the country in decline and fearful of the world).

In reality, neither of these two absurd characterisations get to the truth of Brexit. At its heart – and this is borne out by opinion polls which clearly showed “self determination” to be the key issue for Brexit voters – Brexit is about wanting to normalise Britain and cease participating in a federalist experiment which almost nobody wanted and for which even its loudest champions failed to properly advocate.

British voters simply did not understand – with good reason – why Britain’s participation in a modern economy and a globalised world requires us to dissolve our sovereignty into an explicitly political union, when other advanced countries around the world are not under any similar obligation. And the Remain campaign could give them no good answer, for they have none. The EU is a political project whose economic activities are but a means to the ultimate end. Knowledgeable Remainers could say nothing to the contrary without perjuring themselves.

But rather than admit the truth about the European Union, how much easier it is to sit at a keyboard and invent ever more daft reasons explaining away the vote for Brexit. How much easier for Remainers to use weak satire or hysterical doom-mongering to distract themselves from the vacuity of their own case and the failure of their campaign.

Janan Ganesh is right – Britain did not vote to secede from the European Union through some misguided attempt to timewarp back to the days of empire. But it is not good enough to refute this silly idea only to promulgate another equally lazy explanation, as Ganesh unfortunately also does.

Remainers have long tried to paint Brexit as some kind of aberration, an inexplicable and harmful departure from international norms. But in fact it is the European Union which is an aberration and which flies in the face of human instinct and history. It is the European Union which attempts to force on member states a model of supranational government for which no meaningful democratic consent was ever sought, which reliably becomes less popular the more it is understood and which no other countries or regions of the world have ever sought to emulate.

Brexit was a vote to return to Nation State 1.0, not because we never want to reach Nation State 2.0 but because the EU’s status quo (Nation State 1.5) is buggy, full of defects and leading us in the wrong direction. The European Union is the Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition of political governance systems, and deciding to uninstall it and wait for something better neither means that we are hankering for the past nor giving up as a country. It’s just the smart thing to do.

It may be difficult for self-regarding members of the political media establishment to accept,  but Brexiteers were right to vote as they did. Remainers were wrong. And columnists would do better to analyse the failings, inconsistencies and non sequiturs in the Remainer case – the timidity, the tedious declinism, the remarkable ability to ignore the example of any country in the world outside the European Union – than continue to invent imaginary flaws in the case for Brexit.

 

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