2007 - 2022

The Golden Tortoise and the Platinum Jubilee

The government’s own ‘cost of living work group’ has not met in six months. In that time: energy bills are up by 54%, national insurance is up by 10% and rents are rising at the fastest rate on record, and wages and benefits are dwindling into insignificance. But it’s not a problem according to Jacob Rees-Mogg who suggests you just join the army if you are struggling:
Mogg is pantomime and distraction, I know, but the cocktail of entitlement and contempt oozing from Westminster is palpable and made clear by the Angela Rayner smear. As Laura Smith points out in the Tribune (‘Basic Instinct’ Is What the Establishment Thinks of Working-Class Women‘):
“That our politics is rotten is understood by more and more people in this country. Yet every so often something happens to crystallise that sense of rottenness, causing the mask to slip on our political and media elites, and leaving the true nature of the system revealed for all to see. The appalling Mail on Sunday gutter ‘journalism’ on Angela Rayner this past weekend was just such a moment. It was a deliberate belittling of one of the very few working-class women in a position of leadership in our politics, showcasing the vulgar sexism and class snobbery at the heart of Westminster and the institutions of power in Britain today.”
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But as this war intensifies – and these attitudes become normalised – so too does the need for spectacle and ‘jubilee’. This, as I’ve laid out before, is the Golden Tortoise phenomenon – part of Britain’s Belle Époque – in which Anglo-British nationalism, flag-worshiping and veneration of the Monarchy is amplified as social conditions deteriorate.
Hot on the heels of ‘Kate and Wills’ unmitigated disaster of a tour of the Caribbean, now Prince Edward and ‘Countess’ Sophie’s have been wheeled out, but there visits too have ‘drawn a  backlash’ to use the euphemism used by ‘Royal Watchers’. The couple visited Antigua and Barbuda on Monday as part of a week-long tour to mark the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee.
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But the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission shared an open letter renewing calls for an apology for the role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade ahead of Prince Edward and Sophie’s arrival in the country. During a meeting with Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his cabinet, Browne told the royal couple that his country intends to become a republic in the future. He also urged them to use their “diplomatic influence” to achieve “reparatory justice” for the island country.
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There’s a sort of delirium to these exchanges. I’m not sure why they keep sending out these people to the Caribbean, and I’m not sure who has told the politicians that it’s worth appealing to the Windsor’s various offspring?
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The Wessex’s are the sort of D-list royals that you’d completely forgotten about. But since Prince Andrew and his entourage are lurking in the hallways of some palace somewhere these minor-league hangers-on are being pressed into action. The couple, from the mythical kingdom of ‘Wessex’ have blundered their way into another shambles.

The Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission shared an open letter renewing calls for an apology for the role Britain played in the slave trade stated:

“It has become common for members of the royal family and representatives of the government of Britain to come to this region and lament that slavery was an ‘appalling atrocity,’ that it was ‘abhorrent,’ that ‘it should not have happened,’ ” the letter went on: “We have heard such from your former Prime Minister David Cameron and most recently from your brother, the Prince of Wales, and your nephew, Prince William, but such sentiments did not convey new knowledge to us.”

The letter noted that the British royal family continues to “live in splendour, pomp and wealth attained through the proceeds of the crimes.”

“We know that the British Crown, both as royal family and as institution, is historically documented as an active participant in the largest crimes against humanity of all time,” it said.

In a tone-deaf act the couple gave  Philip Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia a framed photograph of themselves. A photograph of themselves. If there could be a better metaphor for the sort of unconscious, inert and out of touch at play I’d like to hear it.

The couples visit to Grenada has been quietly shelved, just as ‘William and Kates’ were forced to cancel their visit to Belize — which was scrapped after villagers staged a protest about colonialism and indigenous land rights tied to a charity supported by William.

New Uniforms for the Cadaver

Now you maybe don’t care about the couple who have mastered a level of banality that make William and Kate seem positively charismatic But this sort of immersive and continuous Colonial Nostalgia is gaining momentum – as the props and baubles of the Royal Spectacle stand-in for the glories promised from ‘Global Britain’.

But it’s running into trouble: the idea that William and Kate would ‘update the monarchy’ and ‘re-capture the publics hearts’ in the same way that Harry and Meghan were supposed to has fallen flat; laid-low by internal feuds stoked and amplified by the ravenous tabloids; their own terrible PR; a complete inability to even pretend to reform themselves and the darkness of the Prince Andrew scandal. The various tours of the remnant Commonwealth have been a disaster and the Queen’s ill-health raises questions of how they can successfully re-construct the dying embers of the institution in the time they have left.

This has profound implications for England and Britain in the moment it finds itself: amid the ruins of Johnson’s regime as the truly disastrous outline of Brexit emerges from the multiple smokescreens and covers of covid and the war on Ukraine. In this sense the collapse of legitimacy of government and monarchy are mirrors.

As Tom Nairn noted (way back in 2011 in the the forward to the new edition of The Enchanted Glass, Britain and its Monarchy, published by Verso): “One way the English have avoided ‘little England’ (the country on its own) has been the curiously amplified elevation of regal family dynasty.”

He continues:

“England can’t help clinging to priority, and invents new versions of it for each international epoch that has succeeded Pincus’s 1688 modernity. London’s last or latest thing is invariably other than the norm. It may appear old-fashioned and pseudo-feudal to outsiders, but justifies itself internally as renewal of an ageless, inherited secret. Thus a fossil remakes itself as ultra-modern thanks to Britishness, the original ‘exception’ to history’s course. It stays just…well, different ― ‘above that sort of thing’. In recent times, both Tony Blair’s New Labourism and David Cameron’s New Conservatism have been redemptive convulsions of that sort: new uniforms for the cadaver, as it were, preserving the tradition and spirit of congenital non-revolution. Pincus’s book shows how there actually was an authentic revolution in 1688; but it was one that was then able ― uniquely ― to disown the rupture, partly via the adroit manipulation of a re-invented ‘Crown’, a monarchy salient enough to provide continuity without obstructing a new bourgeois régime.”

Nairn points to the importance of the monarchy:

“And today, the same institution remains an important ingredient for continuing the performance, primarily among the English. 1688 points out how the monarchy was renewed, and quite effectively ‘modernised’, nineteen years before the Treaty of Union. This made the resultant United Kingdom genuinely post-feudal ― ‘early modern’, of course, yet reasonably adaptable to later episodes of evolution, as long as outright defeat and catastrophe could be avoided. These did threaten sometimes, but were kept at bay by significant external fortune, a combination of military success and one alliance after another with favourable foreign forces. From Empire/Commonwealth down to the Special Relationship and an obliging European Union, the English hegemony has been able to keep going, and even to maintain Great-Power pretensions notoriously far beyond its real capacity.”

That era is over.

But as that crisis looms the need to fortify the myths of Britain as a single nation will intensify as will the myths of ‘a monarchy salient enough to provide continuity ‘.

 

Comments (19)

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  1. Dougie Harrison says:

    Thank you for your bravery Michael. Some things MUST be said.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    Unfortunately I only read the first two instalments of Black Hearted Press’ comic classic Royal Descent, and lost my copies; here is a taste of what readers could expect before the work seems to have disappeared from public view (surely Piers Morgan should be investigating this cancelling of culture, censoring of free speech on behalf of snowflake royalists?):
    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/daily-mail-slams-battle-royale-651545/
    It would seem worthwhile to look at how the British Empire is being dismantled by the more progressive outer region folk. #RoyalReparations

    The view attributed to Nairn is wrong, of course; feudalism remained, and the monarchy was never modernised, in the sense that its core remained theocratic and bound to the totalitarian model of Henry VIII, with Privy Council, royal prerogatives, institutional anti-democracy, racial hierarchies of blood and Old Empire.

    Time for a reprint, BHP?

  3. 220427 says:

    Yep, international relations are still oriented by imperialism, the competition among private and public corporations to extend each its own political and economic access, power, and control through employing both hard power, like military force and the threat thereof, and soft power like colonisation and cultural hegemony.

    We see this imperialism being played out by Russia and the US in proxy wars in places like Ukraine. But we also see it being played out in the UK’s historic mission to colonise the rest of the world with its civilisation – its knowledge and values, to globalise ‘Britain’.

    The UK no longer has the hard power it enjoyed in the past, except as a running dog of US imperialism. Which is why we make so much of the soft power that comes from ‘things we have given the world’, like our scientific and moral traditions. It’s this colonisation that we expect the colonised in places like the Caribbean to celebrate during royal visits, cricket tours, and other ‘cultural exchanges’. And it’s by such shows of soft power that we feel good about ourselves as ‘winners’ in the competition among rival corporations for commercial access to the exploitable resources of land and labour.

  4. David says:

    Dear Mr Rees Mogg, I have in fact already served in HM Forces unlike yourself, and yes I am finding money tight. Like many people, I pause before turning the heating on and worry (a lot) about escalating bills. How dare you suggest people in my predicament join the forces, I am now 64 are you really suggesting I sign up, if this is really the case I dread to think how the UK’s armed forces will turn out, instead of strategic stockpiles of ammunition the Logistics Corps will be piling up piles of incontinence pads and walking aids.

    Seriously, don’t these people ever pause for a minute and listen to themselves? They’re absurd, they are stupid and crass.

  5. Squigglypen says:

    Another brilliant assessment from you Mr Small ..but where does it get us…..
    We should take a leaf out of our ex Commonwealth members…become independent or declare republic status..build a border so the folk down south know
    where our country starts and theirs finishes.
    (Mogg is excrement..my only comment.)
    Now we hear MPs in Westminister watching pornography videos..sexual harrassment investigations….the whole place is going down the tubes..not quick enough..so before the SNP follow suit we have to get out. You don’t join a club then ask them if you can leave..you walk away. UDI.

    1. Yes I should have added that – I agree – we should take inspiration from our Caribbean friends – we need 100% to be a republican movement not a nationalists one.

  6. Ottomanboi says:

    Scratch the surface and many English are conceited snobs, especially in their relationships with those beyond their insular home. They invented what the French refer to, not without a certain admiration, as «le snobisme». The perception of Englishness as signifying fair play, playing «the white man», being a good sport is an enduring one, even in the face of all historic evidence. It is a measure of the psychological brain washing factor associated with the fabricated «image» that we have the gentleman, the country house,the Jockey Club, royal display, London, afternoon tea etc. The rabid imperialist can be presented as avuncular or motherly to suit the official occasion. The nasty abusive governess only when meeting real opposition.
    The Scots, and so many others in the colonial nursery know about governess’ mood swings and the nature of the on/off psychological «abuse».
    The mystique of the royal is fading fast and will disappear with this reign. Are the Scots psychologically prepared for the end of Britishness as they have known it?

    1. Niemand says:

      You know bigoted prejudice is what it is even when it is directed at the English?

      1. BSA says:

        You think England represents the natural order of things, above discussion, above criticism ? You prefer to defer to that nonsense rather than have the critical and pointed discussion that’s needed of a country which is so steeped in the attitudes described in the comment that it is a liability to its neighbours on both sides of the North Sea ?

        1. Niemand says:

          Well you obviously agree with Ottomanboi’s comments about ‘most of the English’ so there isn’t much more I can say that would be worthwhile since it is obvious I don’t agree with it. For all his invective, Mike Small is very clear his targets are the British state, Unionism and the monarchy but not the body of people called the English and that is how should be in my book.

          1. 100% Niemand and I’d call to attention the repeated pleas / need for solidarity across the ‘Uk’ for the same people being exploited by the same forces and the need for the democracy movement to be alive to this and re-orient our movement to this cause

          2. 220429 says:

            There’s also a need for ‘the democracy movement’ to get involved in the governance of local communities and start building democracy, resilience, and independence from the bottom up. The focus is too much on the nation and not enough on the neighbourhood; democracy, resilience, and independence require that the former is a subsidiary of the latter and not vice versa.

          3. Derek Thomson says:

            He didn’t say “most of the English” though, did he?

      2. 220428 says:

        I was just thinking that myself, Niemand. In fact, Ottomanboi’s post exhibits casual racism towards people who live in Scotland as well as towards those who live in England. Not only does he stereotype ‘the English’ as conceited snobs and rabid imperialists, but he also stereotypes ‘the Scots’ as brain-washed victims of an abusive relationship who might stand in need of being psychologically prepared (through some sort of conversion therapy, I presume) before they can escape that relationship.

        Ottomanboi’s off-hand remark or throw-away line relies on negative stereotypes or prejudice to say something about a person’s identity. It might or might not be deliberate, but it doesn’t have to be. Racism is as much about impact as it is about intention. Like other forms of racism, casual racism marginalises, denigrates, or humiliates those who experience it even if it isn’t motivated by hate or malice. It ‘others’ and excludes its target from our wider community. It sends a message that ‘the English’ aren’t welcome. It reinforces prejudice and attacks the dignity of its target as an equal member of our community and especially of our national community.

        Ottomanboi needs to ask himself how he would feel if he was subjected to such racism?

        1. Niemand says:

          I think a lot of it is frustration and deflection. Frustration that despite everything there is still no overwhelming support for independence in Scotland and deflection / scapegoating of the ‘other’ so as to blame them. The worst of it is when the English are accused of somehow brainwashing Scots through some kind of ‘colonial’ power so they don’t know their own minds. It’s desperate stuff and won’t help the cause of independence one bit.

          1. 220429 says:

            That’s right: ressentiment, as we’ve said elsewhere; a hostility that’s directed toward an Other, which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, in an assignment of blame for that frustration that deflects responsibility from oneself.

            As the root of morality as an institution, ressentiment informs much of old-time atavistic ‘Scots vs. English’-style nationalism. A sense of weakness or inferiority in the face of the Other generates a rejecting/justifying value system or ‘morality’, which attacks or denies that Other as the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the Other as objectively inferior, ‘unnatural’, or ‘monstrous’, serving as a defence mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their own insecurities and flaws. In other words, one creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

            As you say, this kind of atavistic nationalism is desperate stuff and won’t help the cause of independence one bit. It’s fit only to generate enemies rather than win friends and influence people to the cause of republican self-government or ‘civic nationalism’.

            We need to stop blaming Others and in particular ‘the English’ for our weakness in failing to realise our social hopes. We need to look rather to ourselves and accept and participate in the responsibility and power that’s already ours to collectively shape the character of our own communities. We need to ‘juist stap girnin an get on wi it’, as my grannie used to say.

        2. Derek Thomson says:

          You did see “many”, not “the” though, eh?

          1. 220429 says:

            The quantity is irrelevant; it’s the qualitative stereotyping of people who live in England as conceited snobs and rabid imperialists that matters.

  7. Robbie says:

    You’ve got to laugh tho haven’t you , their latest ploy for continuity of “The Royal Family “is to come up with another holiday called Jubilee Day, thus ensuring that after Betty’s gone ,the bunch of third raters she leaves behind will continue with the farce, and Jubilee Day will remind us of how proud and grateful we should be to have them, and of course a day off for everyone will help the economy they say, buying flags ,bunting and booze ( bring your own of course ) for the street party’s . Gives your a**e a nippy taste my granda used tae say

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