Sunday 27 January 2019

That England, that was wont to conquer others, hath made a shameful conquest of itself

I am so old that I remember when Glenda Jackson was a very famous actress. She chucked in acting to become an uninspired and uninspiring left wing Labour backbench MP. That second career ended years ago. Now her son Dan Hodges is famous as a political writer. 

He's a good writer, a Blairite who was David Cameron's favourite political pundit, which tells you how close Mr Cameron and Mr Blair were, and a huge advocate of Third World immigration into the UK. 

Dan Hodges keeps changing parties and recently became a Tory from loathing of the antisemitism of the Labour Party. This too tells you how close the centrists in the two big parties are. He was always a convinced Remainer, until today it seems.

He writes today in the Mail On Sunday:
It's time to end this one way or another. I've written about the dangers of a No Deal Brexit. I believe they are real, not some Project Fear construct. But we cannot continue with this paralysis.
There is nothing MPs will learn about Brexit in nine months, or nine weeks, or nine days that they do not know today. The time for more excuses, extensions and procedural sophistry is at an end.
Many MPs think that, by blocking all other avenues, voters will opt to stay, rather than risk No Deal. But they are dangerously deluded. If forced to choose between No Brexit or No Deal, most people will opt for No Deal. And I know this because I'm one of them.
 MPs have had their chance. They've had their opportunity to set aside their petty differences and allegiances and vanities. And they have failed.
I was a committed Remainer. But this morning I'm now a hard-Brexiteer. I finally understand where the anger comes from. 

Thank you for that, Dominic Grieve. Thank you for nothing.

Robert Tombs, who once supervised me, as I keep reminding you, and is described untruly by John Rentoul (Political Editor of the Independent) as 'one of the few credible advocates of leaving the EU', was always a Brexiter but he is now in favour of a managed No Deal. 

If Dominic Grieves pushed Dan Hodges into wanting No Deal, Matthew Parris, talking in the Spectator just before Christmas about how he had no trust in the people, did the same for Professor Tombs, who says:

All those Old Regime states were run by experienced and sophisticated professionals, and all are on the scrapheap of history. What of their present-day successor, the European Union itself, that magnet for Europe’s new post-national aristocracy? Its boldest creation, the euro, condemns millions of Europe’s young to unemployment or forced migration. Its trading policies impoverish poor countries and add to the tide of migrants. Its supra-national power is undermining Europe’s fragile and painfully achieved democracies – the real danger to peace and order.

And our own political elite: do they consider themselves so infallible and trusted that they can override a referendum and a general election? By what power could they legitimately do so? The phrase “the sovereignty of parliament” is freely bandied about, but that sovereignty is limited. Moreover, it is the institution of parliament that holds sovereignty, not its confused and disunited members. If they cannot in conscience carry out a programme on which they were elected, their honourable course is to resign, not to break their promises and certainly not to intrigue to undermine them.
The Remain-Leave debate is no longer primarily about the EU, if it ever was. It has become, as Parris disarmingly admits, about who governs, and by what right. Not for the first time in our history, we have a relatively small but influential faction, utterly confident of its own intellectual and moral entitlement, which often appears to despise its own country and prefers to pledge its loyalty elsewhere. We saw it with the Puritans and their successors. We saw it with those who acclaimed Stalin’s Russia as a higher civilization. In each case, intellectual stubbornness blocked out reality.
By contrast the journalist whose views I have most intensely disliked over many years, Matthew D'Ancona, the mouthpiece for George Osborne when the latter was in office and, like Dan Hodges now, a Tory Blairite, today finally announced that he is no longer a conservative, because the Conservative Party is no longer conservative. 

I remember coming to the same point from dislike of Margaret Thatcher in 1987 but, although I thought her economic policies were hurting the working class badly, I was always philosophically a true Tory, which Matthew D'Ancona never was. Had he ever been a true Tory or even had a sense of humour (something that is absolutely central to Toryism) he could not have written, as he did today, that Brexit
has brought out the very, very worst in the party. The attack on “Teutonic arrogance” by Mark Francois MP – in response to the warning by Airbus boss Tom Enders of the consequences of a no-deal withdrawal – would be easy to dismiss were it not the tip of a nativist iceberg.

Teutonic arrogance. Oh my fur and whiskers!

This is not a one-off. Mr. D'Ancona says something as absurd and annoying as that in almost every article he publishes. 

How can a fellow of All Souls say such not merely mistaken but unintelligent things? He is sometimes ungrammatical too, but now I am simply being bitchy.

He was, I imagine, a Tory because he is a pragmatist who believes in a regulated free market, rather than from love of freedom or tradition or hierarchy or national identity. 

Anti-racism is the leitmotif of his political beliefs, as it is of Dan Hodges', but they have ended up moving in opposite directions at the same time.  More fool Mr. D'Ancona.

Jeremy Warner is a brilliant commentator who is hidden away as the Telegraph's Business Editor and was a moderate Remainer. He said the cleverest, saddest and truest thing I read today.

What’s so depressing is that almost no outcome that can be imagined will bridge the gap. If we leave with no deal, years of debilitating argument await in attempting to negotiate our partial way back in again. If we leave on May’s deal, the same tortuous free trade negotiations await, and if we stay, Brexiteers will never forgive the perceived “betrayal”, or the national sense of humiliation. It is the mother of all messes, and I regret to say - without apportioning blame to either side - one that is widely seen from abroad as a monumental exercise in national brand destruction, that recalls John of Gaunt’s deathbed speech in Shakespeare’s Richard II. 
“That England, that was wont to conquer others, 
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself”.


  1. He was, I suppose, a Tory because he is a pragmatist who believes in a regulated free market, rather than from love of freedom or tradition or hierarchy or national identity.

    That old-fashioned Toryism (which I admire and respect) is alas long gone. It was another victim of Britain's defeat in World War 2. Thatcher put the final nail in its coffin, but it was already pretty dead.

  2. Glenda Jackson has returned to acting and in her 80s is packing houses and winning acclaim on Broadway. She's had quite a life.