From Cameron to Mayday
From Cameron to Mayday
There are many grounds for tears. For Mozambique bearing the brunt of climate change; for the poised and strong young Prime Minister handling the wounds and fear of Christchurch; for the families of the victims of two possibly related disastrous plane crashes; for the failure of a Faith fallen so far below its standards; and for all the smaller but no less traumatic ills that beset a world in the process of unprecedented, violent upheaval.
I am bound to say, however, that for me the bitterest tears today are for the sight of my native country lost in its role, lost on its way, lost as an example of how politics should be conducted. Shame is no longer a fashionable concept, but I feel shame. Honour is perhaps an idea that has had its time, but I feel dishonoured. The green and pleasant land of my youth has turned to desert. The ideals of those who defended in time of war and those who tried to build a fairer society in times of peace, those ideals seem to have fallen by the way.
Poor judgment can be forgiven if lessons are learnt. Brutal stubbornness is harder to accept. Ill-mannered behaviour with neighbours has never been a part of the culture of Britain; good, sensible diplomacy was a hallmark of the country post WWII. Muddling through has always been a tag-line for the British, but it was a kindly, slightly jovial dissonance, not a backstabbing. The ill conceived referendum, the wanton disregard for what it really said, the insistence of personal legacy over citizens’ welfare are not what any country should have to bear.
Few things are irretrievable. Certainly the vicissitudes of a weak government can be overcome. Even the poor general quality of British parliamentary representation is repairable. But it must start with the voters. They were misled into thinking that Britain was still Great Britain, able to stand alone and to command the respect and friendship of the rest of the world. Well, it is not Great Britain at present and it won’t be again until it takes control of itself, respects its past, sets higher standards for its future and teaches its citizens that in 2019 it is their country, not a political party’s, not an ethnic relic, not a pretentious leader but a humble and decent ally.
The smouldering fire of what was a doable relationship with Europe must be restored to a collegiality that will weather the storms to come. The handling of refugees – economic, political, social – must show compassion as well as control. All the world cannot live like Europe yet and it is inevitable that when you give away a dollar you have a dollar less to spend on yourself. Europe needs a leader to show it the way to bring former poorer colonies more into line with today’s standards. Britain has experience of that and most of it is pretty honourable.
There is much to be done. The destructive phase is coming to an end even though that end is not yet in sight. I offer no Pangloss philosophy only hope that the so uncommon common sense for which Britain is known will re-emerge. The stalwart characters who taught me to sow and reap, to nurture and cherish, have great and great great grandchildren now. The marrow from their ancestors’ bones is part of them. Their opportunity is arriving. Their time has come.
My own grandson recently set himself and me a task to build a clock to out-achieve even the great clocks our ancestor, Jonathan Bittleston, built in Holborn, London in the 19th Century.
If we can do it, Britain can do it.
I am sure it will.