The latest post from the unintentionally hilarious These Islands project, is, well, unintentionally hilarious. Packed with the great and the good, the project is an attempt to look less nutty than Scotland in Union and other slightly bonkers Nationalist offshoots. Their latest blog from Michael Jary (Senior Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants) called ‘Britain’s Standing on the World Stage’ continues where the last left off. Jary strides the world stage, and as he does he notices how people REALLY view Britain:
“Of course, any picture is complex and multivariate, but by and large Britain is viewed with warm respect for its vibrancy, culture, entrepreneurialism, and openness, and as an exemplar of liberty and democracy.”
Yes, an “exemplar of liberty and democracy.”
Jary goes on to state how the “United Kingdom’s global influence might be thought of along three dimensions: cultural, economic, and political”.
Grab a seat, pour a large one, this is good.
Shakespeare is good.
“A study by the British Council5 showed that Shakespeare is globally known, liked, understood, and contributes to a positive view of Britain: 78% of those surveyed in 15 countries had some experience of his work, of whom 76% said they liked it. Shakespeare’s characters – the best known being Romeo and Juliet – display an empathy and humanity which is universal but at the same time reflects positively on Britain.”
It’s not really clear how to respond to this, but rest assured, if Brexit destroys your community, or you lose your job, or the economy tanks, just be thankful that people in Canada quite like Romeo and Juliet, er, or something.
Also: “Other cultural icons spread aspects of British character: James Bond (English, although in what many consider the best manifestation, definitely Scottish) with his sardonic humour, Harry Potter as the nerdy underdog, Doctor Who as the hero who spends most of his time running away, Mr Bean as the bumbling loser whose ingenuity triumphs in the end. These characters are very different from one another but it is difficult to imagine any of them being anything other than British.”
You may be asking yourself, what the fuck is he on about? And you might well have a point.
Again, if you find yourself destitute or living by poverty wages, rest assured, because “London’s West End is the largest theatre hub in the world, measured by ticket sales.”
If you are – for some inexplicable reasons unconvinced at this stage – Jary is coming in for the kill:
“Sports that originated in the UK but remain internationally popular today include football, rugby, cricket, hockey, tennis, squash, boxing, and table tennis. The UK may no longer be world-beaters in all of these …”.
I had until now not realised the cultural impact of ping-pong but it is finally dawning on me. It was at this stage that I began to really have doubts about the drive for self-determination and became more and more moved by the very idea of ‘pooling and sharing’.
Prior to 1979 Britain have been in decline explains Jary, afer that, not so much. Why? “Reasons for this include the Conservatives’ privatisation and labour market reforms, followed by Labour’s strengthening of competition policy…”
But it’s really when Jary gets on to the Political that the giggles start.
He says: “It is natural to think of liberty being first an English, and then a British, invention: rooted in the Saxon past”.
Wonderfully natural I’d say.
“Britain now enjoys a continuity and stability of political and personal freedoms which is unparalleled elsewhere.”
Having firmly established the UK’s utopian status he explains:
“The UK’s economy is twice the size of Russia’s,18 and unlike Germany or Japan, it possesses nuclear weapons.”
Yeah!! Nuke em!
There’s more: “The UK’s security services, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are reckoned to be world class.”
Yeah – and James Bond and Mr Bean tell them about James Bond again! Put that bit about Sean Connery again, they’ll love that bit!
Then just when you thought we were wrapping up he exclaims: “One of the areas where British diplomatic skill has had remarkable influence is shaping the direction of the European Union.”
What? Oh shit you shouldn’t have done that.
Having spent the last few hundred words pontificating wildly about British global brilliance he then has the cheek to come over all bashful saying:
“Britain’s inherent distaste of nationalism and tendency to self-deprecation has sometimes left it feeling uncertain or queasy about proclaiming its virtues”.
Then suddenly out of the blue he explains: “I have managed to get this far into the essay without mentioning Brexit.”
Yea, we noticed. But it’s all okay because:
“The arguments surrounding Brexit are keenly fought and hugely important but do not form the central focus of this paper.”
But that doesn’t make any sense at all to just ignore the most massive political and economic upheaval in living memory, but hey. Jary confides:
“…if the UK can quickly find a new, close partnership with the EU and possibly open itself up for longer-term gains through less protectionist trade with the rest of the world, then the lasting impact to our global standing will be slight.”
Phew, for a minute I was worried there.
Having firmly established our Shakespearian global reach, our envied civil liberties and our really great spies – and having just avoided every single flaw problem or crisis – he concludes with a flourish:
“The world faces immensely challenging issues including climate change, security of food, water, natural resources and the environment, the need for inclusive growth and poverty eradication, the threat of militant Islamist fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation to rogue or fragile states, gender inequality, and weak investment and demand growth. These are problems which can only be solved through effective multilateral co-operation, but where a united Britain, as one of a small number of countries with real capacity to influence, has an immensely important role to play.”
This list of issues he just ignores is long and tragic, here’s just a handful:
Crippling national debt.
Endemic poverty and social breakdown.
The entire horrific history of empire, colonisation and exploitation.
Our disastrous shameful foreign policy omnishambles.
Our illegal nuclear weapons that we don’t even own or control.
GCHQ is a surveillance centre which spies on its own people.
While Jary boasts about Saxon liberty this year the US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:
“The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
These Islands is a great idea. Why not get the Great and the Good to articulate the positives of the Union? The problem is each time they have done so so far it has ended in an embarrassing shambles, and no Mr Bean doesn’t affect Britain’s Standing on a World Stage.
The extent to which organised Unionist political groupings feel that they are able to just brush aside or ignore Brexit and the forces that have brought it about is extraordinary. But more extraordinary is the extent to which they seem oblivious to its potential to undo all of the fantasy past they make up.
That’s fine when it’s contained in a small group of worthy academics, but if these ideas are ever exposed to public scrutiny, the result may be less amusing.