Why England is screwed (part 2)

May 16, 2021

Warning: more politics ahead

England is a small country (the UK isn’t exactly huge); let’s briefly rewind the clock a few centuries: at the end of the fifteenth century, Spain and Portugal were the European superpowers, and the Pope divided up the unknown world between them. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Holland was a major economic and maritime power. Those three countries are now just ‘ordinary’ countries – no empires, no pretensions to global power status, just getting on with being Spain, Portugal or the Netherlands for their citizens, whether well or badly. And this is England’s trajectory now too, a couple of centuries later: no empire, no great power status (except that we delude ourselves that we are). We are another of those smallish countries of Europe. Our nuclear deterrent is rented from the USA, the weapons built and serviced by the USA, and apparently we may only use them with the consent of the USA. And yet we have a seat on the UN Security Council. The only nation that approaches us in presumptuousness is France, which still hasn’t managed to unpick its colonial past and is enmeshed in various quagmires on the African continent. But at least they own and manage their own nuclear armoury.

Global capitalism has rewritten the rules once again, and neither England, nor our political parties, seem to have fully understood. Power now seems to reside in nations with a very large landmass – the USA, Russia or China, or in the EU, with is a conglomerate equivalent; you don’t need to be reminded that we have just sawn off the branch on which we had been sitting quite comfortably for over forty years.

So where is the necessary realism to come from, where the acceptance that things are different and therefore we need to change, to adopt a constitution and move into the new century? The things which other countries admire us for – the BBC, our NHS, our enormous contribution to the arts – are all under threat from Tory philistines. And yet even as a relatively small country we have the potential to punch above our weight, in co-operation and collaboration with our fellow Europeans.

I am very pessimistic about the future, because I see that it takes much time for the broader sweep of history to become clear and to be taken into account, and therefore I fear that we have a good deal more pain to undergo and a good deal further to sink in status as a nation. I do not want to end my days in a one-party state, and I think our opposition parties have a sense of responsibility to the people, the voters of the nation, whether it’s just England or some version of the UK, to do something about it.

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