2007 - 2022

Global Britain, Britannia Unchained

Liberal media went crazy for the Tory back-benchers sticking it to Boris Johnson in Westminster yesterday. Ex-soldiers were a favourite but so too was the disastrous ex-PM Theresa May now resurrected as a principled back-bencher. Stumbling into an accidentally prophetic sentence she said: “We boast about Global Britain, but where is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul?”

But what we are watching in real time IS precisely Global Britain.

The gulf between unprocessed hubris and the reality of Anglo-Britain’s place in the world is now a chasm pockmarked by chicken-shortages pathetically incompetent ministers and a collapse of standard in public office.

Imagine being (nominally) in charge during the fall of Kabul and the most disastrous episode in modern British history and not just resigning. Imagine being caught in Dominic Raab’s position and not just immediately resigning in shame?

The Churchill Project reported: “MPs with stricken faces – some visibly shaking with rage, some seemingly on the verge of tears – were suddenly aware that they were living in an epoch-defining moment. Witnessing the decline of the West, its retreat from the world, & the consequences which follow from that.

The first was that the special relationship with the US is clearly a fiction & has been for longer than the UK foreign policy establishment cares to admit. The second was that Brexit had burned bridges with the other Western powers to whom Britain might now naturally turn.

This is the Global Britain we’ve been led to. The joke about Britain’s military weakness is that we have at Faslane our very own WMD (with its newly boosted “killpower”) – a useless immoral symbol of our aggressive impotence.

Parliament was recalled, as if that would somehow do something; Raab and Johnson were chastised, as if that would somehow do something; Theresa May was lauded, as if she is interesting powerful or principled.

As Lewis Goodall – the Newsnight Editor observed: “MP after MP (from both sides) implored the government to provide an example of what global Britain now means. There was no answer, because right now there isn’t one.”

He misses the point. This IS Global Britain: impotent, incompetent, armed to the teeth, ruled by charlatans. Global Britain is Britannia Unchained. It’s worth remembering that Dominic Raab, who lay on a beach in Crete, was too lazy to make the phone calls that could have saved lives in Afghanistan, once accused British workers of being “among the worst idlers in the world”.

He and Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Priti Patel MP, Dominic Raab MP, Chris Skidmore MP and Liz Truss MP are co-authors of the hard-right ‘Britannia Unchained’ manifesto of 2012.

There is continuity here between the casual incompetence of the over-privileged and the complete disregard of human life which is a direct consequence of their (in) action.

The defence of Raab includes the idea of him “working tirelessly” but guests at a five-star resort in Crete have rubbished Dominic Raab’s claim that he worked intensely through the day as Kabul fell.
One reported him swim and play ping-pong for hours. This morning Tory MPs are cutting and pasting tweets they have been fed to try and defend and exonerate the disgraced minister.

So this is it. This is what post-Brexit Britain looks and feels like. The ‘Special Relationship’ is broken because we are strategically unimportant and led by a man who has burnt his bridges with Democrat America; in trade terms we are marooned and adrift and militarily.

Raab’s contribution to the hard-right’s 2012 ‘Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity’ was unconsciously prophetic:

“Britain is at a crossroads which will define our place in the world for generations. We must learn the rules of the 21st century, or we face an inevitable slide into mediocrity.”

Here we are.

The parliamentary recall saw a chamber of people locked in mutual incomprehension. Theresa May seemed to be leading this bewilderment declaring: “We all understand the importance of American support, but despite the comments from [Boris Johnson] I do find it incomprehensible and worrying that the United Kingdom was not able to bring together not a military solution, but an alternative alliance of countries to continue to provide the support necessary to sustain a government in Afghanistan.”

This would seem to suggest a state of complete denial about Britain’s place in the world. To be clear what we are witnessing is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul.


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Comments (14)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    “UK” zero points – zero friends.

  2. John S Warren says:

    Isolationism, which has a long and powerful American history, but had not been a respectable political position in the US since Roosevelt decisively defeated it. Roosevelt died in 1945. Since Trump’s rise to the Presidency however, the Republicans in particular have rediscovered their isolationist roots, and in the US Isolationism has now become the prevailing political orthodoxy. At the same time we have China (PRC), which will potentially possess a larger economy than the US within a decade, and perhaps for the first time in over four thousand years, the ‘Central Kingdom’ (Zhong guo), faces outward and decides that its 1.4Bn people should assert their authority in the world. India, reborn in the the age of post-imperialism has rediscovered its enormous economic capacity, which had been lost in British captivity for two centuries, and has taken long to recover.

    The US is no longer exclusively and universally considered the authoritative beacon of liberty in the world, while Britain’s weak geopolitical position in the world has now been cruelly exposed by America’s retreat, and at last the UK has been obliged to face the real meaning of Empire it left behind; in the rise of India (and other former colonies) from the detritus, the ashes of Empire we left behind us. We are haunted now by the trail of suffering we left behind in the making of Empire, and had sought to bury in platitudes, or writing our history and their history for them.

    At the very point NATO’s hollowness has itself become exposed by American Isolationism, and Europe must rethink its own delicate position in the world, we in the UK are suddenly faced with the real geopolitical consequences of Brexit and the phantasy of ‘Global Britain’; just when Britain and the EU of necessity should act as one, in concert, we are further apart. We are Europeans; that is both a geographical and a deep cultural fact. The EU was the vehicle we had built, with difficulty in the 20th century for this purpose, and without the illusions of perfection, but essentially for a 21st century world; a work-in-progress definitely, but whether we acknowledged it or not, it was our real hope for the future; and a prospect at least with a capacity to change and develop in all our interests: yet in Britain we simply walked away when the going became tough, trusting totally in the perpetuity of a Special Relationship that was never defined (the closest relationship for the US is not with Britain – but Israel).

    In reality, Britain has chosen to retreat, completely alone into Splendid Isolation.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    On the specific point of Mr Raab’s conduct, when even today’s Daily Mail condemns him and the kinds of publicity photos put out to support him, it shows how misanthropic many in the Conservative Party are.

    You are right to point out that “global Britain” is not some post-Brexit slogan, but the imperialist project which has run for centuries and visited misery on millions across the globe. Given that the ‘special relationship with the US’ has been a bit of flummery and since the xenophobes have taken the UK out of Europe, dragging Scotland and NI with them, where does the UK really sit with the rest of the world?

    With the UK government threatening to destroy the agreement made with the EU about NI, more nations will see the reality of ‘perfidious Albion’ is still there in all its cynicism.

    It is noteworthy that most of the main news bulletin, and, particularly Channel 4 News, heaped obloquy on President Biden, with little mention of the UK role in Afghanistan. They even interviewed Trump loyalists who were given licence to make pro-Trump pitches. I am not condoning the actions of the President or the US, I am condemning the complicity of sections of the UK media in diverting attention away from the culpability of the current Government and its predecessors.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      Good point about the news bulletins Alasdair. The media’s went into overdrive today on the “it’s no oor fault, it’s Biden’s” front. By the time they’re finished the clown will be portrayed as the only statesman in NATO who cared about the Afghan people.

      Where were all these dissenting Tory voices when Trump made the deal?

  4. Wul says:

    Raab and his ilk never expected to do any actual work. Their whole lives have been training for privilege, handsomely rewarded sinecure and plunder.

    They can’t lead us. They don’t know how.

    Maybe Andy could fly a chopper in and air-lift refugees?

  5. Daniel Raphael says:

    Brilliant, Michael. One of your best–among many others. Forwarded with as many tags as I could fit in. Keep writing!

  6. Ian S says:

    If that picture is meant to make Raab look serious and statesmanlike it is a failure. It’s theatre, but even so, he looks like a man who is about to slam the phone down and run away i.e. more or less what he has done in reality. Despicable that a man with so much power is so lazy and callous.

    1. John McLeod says:

      Lazy and callous sums it up.. We are speaking here, of the 2nd in command of the UK, who for a short time has the honour to serve the country in this role. And then the rest of his life to enjoy holidays. Who know full well that its a 24/7 job.

    2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Even the Daily Mail clocked that photograph of Mr Raab on the phone as pure propaganda.

  7. Gavin says:

    “Britannia Unchained”? No, this Briannia Unhinged.
    We have a Prime Minister, who, as the French Ambassador states, lies about everything all the time.
    We have a government (in England) consisting of crooks, dupes and incompetents.
    A media owned by absentee right-wing billionaires, operating mostly without basic journalistic ethics.
    A parliament so involved with their own overblown importance, it is blind to reality.
    A public infantilised by fake news, reality shows and the lives of utterly vacuous “stars”!

    While the USA still think the USA/England are great, Europe knows the truth about us now.
    They wouldn’t take the UK back into the EU if they found us in a lucky bag.

    Scotland has to get away from this, because it won’t get better, and we have to do it fast.

  8. Mouse says:

    Reading that, I have no idea whether the author thinks that Britain should be more isolationist (Afghanistan bad, or whatever) or more global (EU good, or whatever). Or is it an incoherent rant in support of a throw-away Theresa May quote?

    ‘Don’t worry Mrs May: Bella has your back’? That’s a new turn of events! 🙂

    1. You seem to be a bit confused

  9. Colin Robinson says:

    It’s nice to see the Five-starred Red Flag replacing the EU Circle of Stars beside the Union Jack though.


    Yes I’m old enough to remember when at least some Tories had a semblance of integrity when Lord Carrington resigned after Argentina exposed Tory weakenesses by invading the Falklands and the global humiliation that followed. Clearly DRaab and Bojo have no such sense of decency.

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