Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Brexit was only the first step in the struggle for liberty


AS WE approach the Coronation we can expect much malign and ill-informed comment from people who do not understand our political system.

One reason for their ignorance will be the deplatforming of speakers who could put them right, such as the redoubtable David Starkey, shunned by the woke for their misrepresentation of an impatient and infelicitously phrased remark made in 2020. We have not yet become so totalitarian as to condemn to the gulag or the gallows anyone who says the wrong thing, but perhaps it is only a matter of time.

As Starkey points out in a recent video (c. 4:50 in), we are not an absolute monarchy but a royal republic. It took us centuries to get to this arrangement; yet a generation after World War Two our country was in effect given away to a foreign power, by a Conservative government of all things. In 2016 another nominally Conservative administration (headed by someone who led the unParliamentary applause for Blair in the Commons Debating Chamber) thought it could cement us into the European Union once and for all with a plebiscite intended to silence permanently a supposed tiny minority of dissidents slandered as ‘fruitcakes’, ‘loonies’ and ‘closet racists’.

It is interesting (to put it mildly) to see those who voted for Brexit characterised as ‘right wing’ when some of the sturdiest defenders of our national sovereignty and Parliament come from the Left: think of Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner and George Galloway. Nor are those named easily lumped together as socialists in party political terms, or as having in common religious faith or the lack of it, nor indeed is the Labour Party itself always recognisably socialist or representative of the interests of the British labouring classes; perhaps we have the fey Blair and the ‘intensely relaxed’ Mandelson to thank for that. As to what Starmer believes or will do if he enters Number Ten, who knows?

Our problem is that whoever pulls the levers of government tends to regard it as their personal train set, to play about with it for fun and even wreck it out of devilment – or Godment: after years of bloody civil strife at the head of a Parliamentary army, what did Cromwell do but abolish Parliament itself and instituting a reign more autocratic and oppressive than that of Charles I. Still, what would one expect of someone who imagined he had received a divine revelation of the kind that sometimes comes to depressives and failures?

An old friend, a deeply read history teacher, told me that his subject could be defined as ‘one damn thing after another’. We have enough to do with curbing our self- and mutually-destructive impulses without government adding to our challenges and restricting our responses; and not just government but powerful commercial interests.

Brexit, still incomplete, is only the first step in the unending battle between individuals and the Protean forces that try to ensnare them.

This article appeared in The Bruges Group on April 24, 2023, and is republished by kind permission. 

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Rolf Norfolk
Rolf Norfolk
Rolf Norfolk is a former teacher and retired independent financial adviser.

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