Max Hastings , in The Times today, with his wonderful gift for making modern history comprehensible to the non professional reader may one day try and explain in more detail all our current madness. For now he seems as bewildered as most of us. Michael Gove, a modern day Jim Jones in the same newspaper puffs and blows his pseudo-patriotic guff whilst pouring out the Kool Aid – but he doesn’t explain either.
The reality is that the causes of collective madness are hard to grasp. Read the story of how scores of adults drank the lethal Kool Aid in the Guyanese jungle. We know what happened, but why? No idea. Brexit makes no rational sense. But like in Jonestown does that mean it cannot be explained? Maybe it should be – 52% of the referendum voters drank the Kool Aid.
The lethal affect of this insanity is now around the corner. It would help to know how we got here. The point about the “tribal identity” Max Hastings refers to is that it isn’t our recent identity but one that harps back seventy years – and much more. That England was Imperial and genuinely “Great Power” in character. But it was already slipping away. As Dean Acheson told us in 1962 we had lost an Empire but not yet found a role.
In “Nemesis” Max Hastings describes poignantly how ineffective the Royal Navy was in the latter stages of WW2 in the Far East theatre. The baton had been passed to America and GB wasn’t even a bit part player. Without the Empire Britain became largely irrelevant on the world stage. “Global Britain” was an anachronism in 1960. Today it is embarrassingly preposterous.
The future stippled out for us as one of the leaders of a modernising and uniting Europe seemed for a time to have been understood, if not embraced. But now we’ve cast that aside in favour of…what? Search me.
We may rescue some “soft power” not just in the Grantchester tea rooms but in science and tourism and The Arts and Sport. But we won’t actually make anything to speak off and it seems that even our vibrant financial services sector will slip away to Frankfurt or Dubai.
The thought of Priti Patel, clip board in hand, checking whether a aspirant migrant from Poland or Paris or Prague meets her criteria should put them all off to good.