Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Englishness under siege

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IN AN article verging on parody, George Parker of the Financial Times has outlined the ‘appalling choice’ facing the country’s smart set of Belgravia Remainers. Brexit spells economic disaster, of course, yet Corbyn, who might be best positioned to stop it, poses ‘an existential risk’ and would usher in ‘an Orwellian nightmare’ – or so argued the owner of a company making ‘life-enhancing superfood for dogs’ living in ‘one of Britain’s smartest streets’.

I see the dilemma somewhat differently. Economic crises come and go. Normality is usually restored as wayward politicians face hard realities. But when cultures and civilisations die, or commit suicide, there is no coming back. When we cease to defend our common culture, indeed actively work to destroy it, T S Eliot’s ‘barbarian nomads’ stand ready to move in and ‘encamp in their mechanised caravans’. England, and all it stands for, and has ever stood for, will be extinguished. 

The existential threat posed by both Corbyn and Johnson is not economic; it is cultural. It is our Western civilisation, our common culture, that is at stake. Emblematic of this is the prohibition of the dreaded family of ‘E’ words – ‘England’, ‘English’ and ‘Englishness’ – for fear of giving gross offence, a prohibition enforced with just as much fervour by modern conservatives as it is by their liberal and socialist counterparts.

For Corbyn and the Left-liberal intelligentsia, whose stranglehold on academia and the mainstream broadcast media is all but complete, the ‘E’ words symbolise everything they most loathe and resent. In New Model Island, a vision of a regionalised Britain where a diversity of localised communities, or communes, co-exist in a utopia of inclusivity, empowerment, equality and openness to the other, a ‘twenty-first-century geopolitical ontology’,  Alex Niven deconstructs ‘Englishness’ with all the zest of radical of Scottish-Irish descent. ‘Englishness’, the notion that a ‘common culture’ exists, or ever did exist, is an ‘anachronistic delusion’, an example of ‘bogus national essentialism’, a ‘foundation myth’ that perpetuates the privileges of a Tory establishment based in the South-East. The very notions of ‘England’ and ‘Englishness’ must be comprehensively rejected.

There is no point arguing that English culture or civilisation has developed over a thousand years; that distinctive themes and patterns characterise the literature, art, music, architecture, science and philosophy of the English; that the English imagination is marked by a remarkable continuity of spirit, sensibility and humour; or that the concept of ‘Englishness’ dates back to Saxon times. For the likes of Niven and Corbyn, culture – at least, European culture or civilisation, and worst of all, English culture or civilisation – is a bourgeois invention.  

Unexpectedly, Brexit seemed to offer a lifeline, a last chance to halt this work of deconstruction, to save what we hold most dear. But if Brexit delivers Boris’s vision of ‘Global Britain’, as he and his cosmopolitan liberal Tories promise it will, then so far as England is concerned, it is just the path to extinction by other means of our culture, our traditions, our way of life, our freedoms and our homeland. We can expect the continued flogging off of our national assets so that equity fund managers and corporate lawyers can make a killing, continued mass immigration so that all may ‘contribute’, cosy trade deals with the Chinese, enforced diversity and inclusivity awareness training, and the prosecution of ‘hate crime’ (now extended to ‘micro-aggressions’) against ‘protected minorities’ with renewed fervour.

Socialists and conservatives might preach multiculture and diversity for different reasons, the former out of a misguided desire to institute equality and thereby (they suppose) abolish all forms of injustice, the latter out of a desire to reap the profits of employing mobile cheap labour. But whether the motive is resentment or greed, the result is the same: the death of our common culture, and the destruction of the England we love.  

This is the awful dilemma faced by voters in the coming election.  

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Alistair Miller
Alistair Miller
Alistair Miller writes for The Salisbury Review

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