Values of the Vicarage
Everyone coming together like a 1970s Coca-Cola ad?
As our unelected PM put it in her Easter message to the masses:
“This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead.”
I remember that ‘intense debate’ well. It was full of the most reckless lying and vicious propaganda, which collapsed any residual faith in politicians and their institutions left in Britain.
Was she thinking of the violence and intimidation of the now emboldened far-right?
Was she thinking of the schoolchildren suffering from “holiday hunger”, with thousands returning to school with signs of malnourishment after Easter? What are the ‘opportunities ahead’ she was thinking of?
Was it the epidemic of sex for rent? as our housing crisis slides into deeper human misery and exploitation?
Or maybe the growing number of people sleeping in bins to try and keep themselves safe?
Or maybe its people the people stoatin about Manchester on Spice?
When you talked of “Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another… values that are visibly lived out every day…” – were you thinking about your plans to deprive EU nationals of full citizenship rights, or of your recent scrapping of housing benefit for under-21s?
Maybe you were thinking about the Leicester fans rampaging through Madrid singing ‘Gibraltar is ours!’ in a forlorn cry of a people in search of a future. This was Madrid, the capital of a country your former leader hinted we might go to war with only few days ago.
I loved your hint that God might have backed Brexit, as if you could call on your deity to join your snivelling lying gang of xenophobes, and somehow, throwing that into your Easter sermon would pacify the congregation like some Parish throwback to whatever vision of Britain your addled brain has imagined we’re living in this week.
In fact, while we’re on it, what exactly was your weird suggestion that somehow freedom of faith was under threat in the UK? What exactly was that meant to conjure up?
As President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, said:
“We are the only country in the world with bishops in our Parliament, we have an established church, a third of our schools are Christian and we pride ourselves as one of the countries with the greatest religious freedom. It is therefore difficult to take seriously any suggestion that Christians in the UK are not free to talk about or practise their faith.”
In fact the very presence of clergy in our unelected second chamber is just another example of the irredeemable nature of our broken democracy.
“This country is one great union of people and nations”.
Your sense of people “coming together” is so deluded, so magnificently detached from the world it confirms the feeling that your are living in an alternate reality. It’s the same Tory Bubble that your northern leader resides in, wherein women’a advocacy groups are described as the secret mouthpieces of the SNP and the third sector are in collusion with the Scottish Government. It’s a sort of fantasy that reveals that fact that the Tories are not just detached from the political mainstream, they are detached from civil society. They are a broken minority sect maintaining power through a garrison force, deep in denial that any of this is happening. They probably think that “people are coming together” too. In fact they are, but not in some great jamboree of togetherness, just in droves to make sure that they don’t darken political office.
Since before the murder of Jo Cox, an event that seems to be being gently elided out of our national timeline, Britain was breaking apart. This process is perceived as a constitutional one but it is driven by a social crisis, that has been engendered by you and your continuity governments for many years.
The fact that you are blind to division and a union cracking before our very eyes is astonishing. But, as Neal Ascherson has written (‘Scotland: Normal nation, neurotic neighbour’):
“Windsor is not Westminster. But lurking somewhere beneath the wrangle between the Scottish and British governments over Brexit and another independence referendum is a faint imperial stain. Why have the Scots forgotten their place? That was never a colonised, subjugated place. Scotland was not Kikuyuland or even Ireland. Its role was as a loyal, if exotic, partner and body-guard in the imperial enterprise—a grand privilege. And for centuries after the 1707 Union, most Scots did think it a privilege. Now they increasingly don’t. Why not?
Many English people can now see why not, even if they share the rising grumbles against Scots who “take our money and keep whinging.” After all, England just voted to break a Union and risk the economy, in order to get away from distant lawmakers nobody voted for. “Same thing with the Scots, if you think about it,” runs the thought for many ordinary English voters. But that’s emphatically not the way the rulers of the Anglo-British state, the political and social elites and their retinue, think about it. This is because they have a tin ear for nationalism. Even though it was English nationalism which put this Tory, Brexit government where it is.”
What you’re missing is “the distinction between a nation and a state—a difference obvious to other Europeans, whether Slovaks or Scots, who could see that Great Britain was a multi-national state rather than a nation”. Until you are able to make that distinction, and, to be honest, we’re not holding our breath, this grand delusion will continue.
The irony is of course that none of these values that you pretend to espouse: citizenship, compassion or community are achievable as we remain subjects under the Queen, consumers in the land of Shirebrook and scroungers in the world of Benefits Street.
To look across Britain in 2017 and utter the lines “This country is one great union of people and nations” is to exhibit a state of utopian fantasy that would be at home in a sci-fi novel.
Like a Toby Young review of I Daniel Blake, your vision of the world we live in is shrouded in unprecedented levels of self-delusion and ideological myopia. You wear a straightjacket you’ve mistaken for a coat. This is your England, this is your Britain, this is your delusion, but it’s not ours.
You’ll probably be able to hold on to Gibraltar, but good luck with the rest.