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Jane Kelly: Milton didn’t need the EU to write Paradise Lost


Following Obama’s dire warnings about will happen to the ‘special relationship’ if we leave Europe, Hollywood arrived here this week to reinforce his message. First it was Angelia Jolie, looking increasingly like the Virgin Mary on an Orthodox icon, all ethereal glassy eyes and stricken  expression.

‘Isolationism is not strength,’ she warned us. ‘Fragmentation is not the answer. Strength lies in being unafraid: in working with others, and living up to our highest ideals.’ Hear, Hear, who could disagree with that? Jolie, who has a famous penchant for men who look like babies, is oddly close to former Foreign Secretary William Hague, who backs continued EU membership despite a previous history of Euroscepticism. Her unexpected descent from the clouds was followed almost immediately by nearly three hundred British actors, musicians and writers urging the public to remain on June 23rd.

This ‘luvvie’ letter was published in the Telegraph and the Guardian, covering both bases, but the signatories were all known left-wingers in the usual upper-class Garrick club style: Benedict Cumberbatch, (brought up in Kensington, educated Harrow), Jude Law (Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, motto, ‘God’s Gift’), Helena Bonham Carter (daughter of a merchant banker, brought up in Islington, educated at Westminster School), followed by Keira Knightley and Patrick Stewart as the lone scions of the lower middle-classes.

In January 2015, young Cumberbatch got covered in mire for referring to coloured people as coloured. For that slip he was greeted by an international social media storm of hatred and accusations of racism. Until he duly apologised, his brilliant career seemed to be on the brink. Not even the well respected US National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People stepped in to save him. Unchastened by that experience or perhaps even keener now to show his true political piety, he has put his toe into the murky waters of politics again. Some actors just cannot resist, unable to see how ridiculous it makes them.

From the 1960s onwards, we became used to Vanessa Redgrave and her brother urging us all to leave the theatre, go home on the bus and form Soviets. No one took much notice. The general opinion was that her politics were the price we paid for her theatrical talent. But the deluded generation of actors signing this letter are different; there is no oppressive enemy state that they perversely wish us to embrace. Their issue is our national identity; the kind of country we wish to be.

Their letter argues that, ‘Britain is not just stronger in Europe, it is more imaginative and more creative, and our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.’

It’s possible that many people including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, who as far as we know never even ventured as far as Calais, were imaginative and creative long before we joined the Common Market. One signatory, John le Carre has based his whole career on writing imaginatively about a completely divided Europe on the edge of nuclear war. Also putting her name to the Remain campaign is Hilary Mantel, who writes almost entirely about people who drove forward the development of the nation state. Despite that, three years ago wrote a long essay attacking the royal family, comparing them to pandas in the zoo, even laying into the boring canapés she was served at Buckingham Palace when she went to receive her gong.

Also signing us up to be European rather than English is  Philip Pullman, who wants to get rid of our nuclear deterrent as we are only ‘a small country,’ scrap the monarchy and put up taxes. Dame Carol Ann Duffy, OBE, CBE, poet Laureate since 2009 is also there. She recently chose to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday by beginning an ‘ode to the meter,’ on the end of traditional gas and electricity meters.

In their oddness and imbecility this group resembles the Campden Hill Group, which met in the late 1980s in the sumptuous Kensington home of Lady Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter when Lady Thatcher’s power was at its height and intellectual resistance to her almost non-existent.

They are all exceptionally wealthy. Apart from his film career, young Cumberbatch is one of the highest paid stars on TV with an undisclosed salary. They could easily fit in with Lady A’s guests, Margaret Drabble, Salman Rushdie, Germaine Greer, Michael Holroyd and John Mortimer, who under the watchful eye of Lady A’s butler, sipped spritzers and discussed socialism. Sadly that group were shattered  when Rushdie disappeared from the table to go into hiding after Iran sentenced him to death for writing a book. The Campden Set were unable to cope with that, the first major impact of Muslim culture on Britain. Pinter raged and fumed about it, but the seeds were sewn for the ensuing middle-class ambivalence and confusion over Islam.

Nearly thirty years on, for ‘Islam’ we read ‘multiculturalism.’ The privileged group of actors and writers signing the letter this week were taking a line unknown to the Campden Hill Group; declaring their desire to see the end of Britain as a nation state, wanting Britain as we know it to disappear. It’s doubtful that Cumberbatch and friends are really attached to the idea of a free market, something left-wing people generally despise. Their letter stated that ‘Leaving Europe would be a leap into the unknown for millions of people across the U.K. who work in the creative industries and for the millions more at home and abroad who benefit from the growth and vibrancy of Britain’s cultural sector.’

That means they are afraid they might lose the lucrative subsidies they have enjoyed from the EU. They have relied on those rather than trying to re-energise the British film industry. Apart from that rather mercenary aspect, what Cumberbatch thinks he wants is a world without borders. Rich people can of course live anywhere, viewing the world from first class airport lounges, the high terrace of top class hotels and homes with walled gardens and security systems. They alone are unaffected by any pressure on the housing market. They just do not see what staying in and increased migration will mean for most people.

Migration is the issue of this referendum. That question, festering for so long, has opened up a chasm in British society not seen so clearly since the English Civil War. If the people are not strong enough to say No to Europe in June, if they refuse to take the leap into the unknown, (a term originally used for extending the franchise) we will be left with an embittered, seething populace who will resent immigration even more than they do now, if that is possible. The Left who hate what we were and what we remain, will have won. It will be the final victory for their project; a fragmented multicultural Britain with no indigenous history or culture.

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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