Grieving Britain, a Therapeutic Guide
Britain is dead. It was killed by neoliberalism not nationalism. They gutted it of its connective tissue, spleen and gizzard too. Now they remoan about ‘separatists’. Trying to comprehend this is a psychological process not just a political one. The institutions that were familiar and durable to allow ‘Britain’ to survive were sold-off, debased, privatised or undermined through their own venality.
Royal Mail, the Royal Bank of Scotland, British Rail were privatised and before that: British Petroleum (1979), British Aerospace February (1981), Cable & Wireless (1981), Amersham International (1982), National Freight Corporation (1982), Britoil (1982), Associated British Ports (1983), Enterprise Oil (1984), Jaguar (1984), British Telecommunications (1984), British Shipbuilders (1985) onwards, British Gas (1986), British Airways (1987), Rolls-Royce (1987) , BAA (1987), British Steel (1988) – Tata!), Water (1989), Electricity (1990) and on and on.
In the second phase of privatisation Labour stepped-up with its disastrous asset-stripping cost-cutting PFI ventures, undermining the future of much of the public infrastructure of this country.
So water, steel, communications, transport and then schools, and we have to all pretend that the NHS hasn’t been quietly privatised over years.
Institutions like the House of Lords or the House of Windsor have may just have been undermined by their own ridiculousness, feudal relics still hanging about somehow in the 21st C.
So Britain’s dead not because of nasty movements from ‘England’s fringe nations’ (™Adam Boulton) but by hollowing-out the very things that held the notional nation together. The British Army, a key totem for British National identity, has been undermined by a combination of its own behaviour at war (for which its now treasonous to even discuss), it being driven down in numbers and cutbacks and its association with wars and foreign adventures for which its very difficult to have anything but a sense of shame.
There’s a curious element to this that the more the norms and values get debased and the social contract eroded through ever more brutal privatisation (G4), the more people will cleave to an empty form of nationalism.
As Richard Seymour wrote back in 2012: “The London fire brigade is outsourcing 999 calls to a firm called Capita, at the behest of the oleaginous chair of the capital’s fire authority, Brian Coleman. Multinationals are circling hungrily around NHS hospitals. Schools are already beginning to turn a profit. In the technocratic nomenclature of the IMF, this would be called a “structural adjustment programme”, but that doesn’t really capture the sweeping scale of the transformation.”
The more this is stated the less it can be said. As the political field ‘narrows’ the sense of the ridiculousness grows.
There have been attempts at revival: Cool Britannia; the Jubilee; Mary Berry; digging up the King; Mo Farah; James Bond ad nauseam. Endless Royalism till it’s coming out of your red white and blue socks. But the gap between fantasy and reality can’t be contained with a telephoto lens and the red-tops. Remember the frightened look on Camilla’s face as students protested in 2010? Charles clutched at her hand with the same grip May would use with the Horny POTUS seven years later. Queen Elizabeth today turns 91 years old. In her lifetime, 128 countries have gained independence. These PR efforts can’t work. The brand’s broken, Britain’s Dead and we need to help British Nationalists mourn.
Here’s a quick guide to the seven stages of grief and where key players might be in the process. Your suggest to complete the picture …
1. Shock and Denial. Stephen Daisley. Iain Martin. The Economist. Brian Wilson.
2. Pain and Guilt. Murdo Fraser. The Telegraph. John McTernan.
3. Anger and Bargaining. Chris Deerin. Leicester FC fans. Effie Deans.
4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness. Gordon Brown. David Torrance.
5. The Upward Turn. Alasdair McKillop.
6. Acceptance and Hope. Mike Dailly. Ireland.
7. Reconstruction Working Through. The Herald group.