Labour, blasé about Britain
Stephen Michael MacLean
No one is immune to coronavirus, not even royalty. Clarence House recently announced that Prince Charles had tested positive and was “self-isolating” in Scotland. Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, was carrying out her official duties at Windsor Castle. As the royals follow the rest of British society in coping with the “new normal,” one is reminded of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s statement, after Buckingham Palace was damaged during the blitz in World War II. “Now we can look the East End in the face,” she said.
Such moments have endeared the monarchy to Britons. The Crown sits at the pinnacle of parliamentary democracy. Brexit support was energised by the same motivations: independence and self-government. These are conservative principles, and so it is not surprising that Tories were in the Brexit vanguard. Nor should it be forgotten that Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party kept the faith when many in the Conservative Party lost theirs.
Recent polling by YouGov confirms Brexit’s patriotic appeal. It also reveals just how out of sync with Brexit are the majority of Labour Party supporters: 48% are ashamed of the last 300 years of British history, compared to 29% who are proud. However, more than half of Britons in general, 53%, take pride in their British heritage.
Meanwhile, 53% of Labourites would end the monarchy; this compared to the 63% of pro-monarchy Britons. For Benjamin Disraeli, this lèse-majesté strikes at the very heart of British freedom. “The continuous order which is the only parent of personal liberty and political right,” he observed, “you owe all these to the Throne.”
Disraeli, who shaped the modern Conservative party, is in many respects Brexit’s spiritual “godfather.” His vision of Toryism was of the “broad church” variety, “formed of all classes, from the highest to the most homely.” The party’s purpose was to respect the work of past generations and to uphold political institutions, its non-partisan monarchy and sovereign Parliament that embody “national requirements” and the “security of the nation’s rights.” Disraeli was not averse to change. But, like Edmund Burke, he insisted it “…be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws, and the traditions of a people.”
Why are so many Labourites ashamed of being British? Some commentators blame Jeremy Corbyn. While “New Labour” leader Tony Blair began the systematic unravelling of national institutions and traditions that formed the bedrock of Labour’s working-class foundation, Corbyn continued this cultural rot with the addition of an anti-Semitic strain to the party apparatus. Former Labour MP Ian Austin contrasts the party’s current membership with the general populace (the backbone of Brexit Britain), “a nation proud of its rich heritage and history and supportive of the Monarchy.”
In retrospect, it is not surprising Britain’s heritage is despised by Labour. It would replace individual responsibility with bureaucratic directives from the center. It would replace the free market and entrepreneurial initiative with socialist planning.
Self-reliant Brexiteers agree with Disraeli, arch-patriot and royalist. “You have nothing to trust to but your own energy and the sublime instinct of an ancient people,” he proclaimed. “You must act as if everything depended on your individual efforts.” And he continued: “Act in this spirit, and you will succeed. But you will do more than that — you will deliver to your posterity a land of liberty, of prosperity, of power, and of glory.”
From out of the past, Disraeli has a warning for the future: “If you destroy that state of society, remember this — England cannot begin again.” “The concept of solidarity,” Nigel Farage likewise opines in a British broadsheet, “so championed by the EU and their globalist friends, now counts for nothing.” “We are all nationalists now,” avers the Brexit Party leader.
Who can doubt that Brexit is as British as Shakespeare, who evoked
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessèd plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
Stephen MacLean, a freelancer based in Nova Scotia, writes the ‘Brexit Diary’ for the New York Sun