The last refuge of the scoundrel is our daily reality.

Spitfires over Westminster Abbey

It’s high time we grounded the Spitfires. High time we started looking forward rather than backwards. The past is a foreign country – we did things differently then. Yes there was heroism and at times no doubt people did believe that we were a land of hope and glory. But study that past closely and you’ll find that glory was often tarnished. But the more important question is not to try and record and define what we once were – though that is worth doing. No the issue of the day is to decide what we want to be.

British “Patriotism” is nearly always defined in symbols of the past. But if I am to have national pride I want to have it because of what we do in the here and now, and what our future plans are. That my father was brave in 1942 or my Grandfather in 1916 is a source of retrospective pride. But it means nothing today.

If I was German I’d have no problem – how ironic is that ? The achievements of successive post war German governments, culminating in reunification after 1989, would make me proud and patriotic. In my lifetime Germany has gone from a cesspit and a defeated pariah state to become an economic, political, cultural and uber-civilised state of which I would be proud to be a citizen. If only !

Would I rally to the Union Flag if asked – well yes, if I believed in the cause. But I emphatically do not believe in “My country right or wrong” and over the years I’ve said so. Though I was young at the time I thought Suez was nonsense. I actually supported the Falklands War at the time which I now regret but it did seem, at the time, something I should be “patriotic” about. I opposed Blair’s wars though strongly and said so . And the last ten years of preposterous faux-patriotism and jingoism around Brexit have made me sick.

So if you want me to be a patriot don’t talk to me about the Empire or about events that happened before I was born. Give me something to be proud of now. It happened at London2012 where I was a Gamesmaker. We did it well and I was proud of that. But then the Union Flag which I’d waved in the Olympic Stadium became tainted.Suddenly patriotism became negative – it became the preserve of those who opposed rather than a celebration of the positive. Most of all the jingoistic absurdity of “Sovereignty” entered the national vocabulary.The arrogance of the premise that only we British could take good decisions – not Brussels but only Britain. That in the EU we participated collectivly in the governance of Europe became, absurdly, a negative.

So in post-Brexit Britain have I anything to be proud about? I have not. Too many of my fellow citizens are bigots or bozos. I have a Government of breathtaking incompetence. My country is the laughing stock of the world. And almost every week there is some distant “triumph” to celebrate. These celebrations are doomed attempts to imply that we still matter. Trouble at the Mill? Send up a Spitfire. Need to take people’s minds off the ghastly daily realities. Give the old codger who walked 100 times around his garden a Knighthood.

Rally round the flag boys, rally round the flag.

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