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Empire dreams January 29, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

John Lloyd writing in the IT took Fintan O’Toole to task for suggesting that some of the strands inflecting Brexit included Imperial thinking.

And Lloyd argues:

England – Britain – voted Brexit not because its citizens regretted the loss of empire, thought it could be re-assembled, believed that the commonwealth could take its place or saw the EU as a sadomasochistic monster. They wished to be governed by a parliament and an administration that they understand, and on which they have a direct influence through their vote.

And yet, and yet. One doesn’t have to see it as the major strand – overtly expressed as such, without seeing a sense of British exceptionalism as being driven by it, at least in part. In fairness one might argue that this was an English exceptionalism. I’ve some experience of that attitude myself – being born there, having an English parent and living there and having a sense of how deep a sense of other there can be about the Irish in particular but not simply them (I’ve mentioned before how in conversation I heard that ‘you’re English’ by dint of my birth and parentage and how that was precursor to conversations that were distinctly exclusionary of those who weren’t in a similar position. Anecdotal – of course. But not unuseful as an indicator of sentiment when we see the broader dynamics.

And I think Lloyd underestimates sentiment in all this.

I’m reading Tomorrow Belongs to Us, a collection of essays on the British far right from 1967 to date. It’s a good read and while I wouldn’t agree with everything it’s well worth a look (though there’s a fascinating essay on the ‘New Visual Identities for British Neo-Fascist rock(1982-1987) which doesn’t have any actual images accompanying it – an odd omission).

In it there’s a piece on ‘the English Defence League and Patriotism’. This is based in long research and interview of EDL members. Now you might say that the EDL isn’t representative of England as such, and I’d agree. But it is a manifestation at its sharpest point of a broader attitude – indeed a striking aspect of the research is how few of those who entered the EDL came from overt far-right groups previously.

The author C.M. Quinn notes that:

Gilroy (2004,2005) argues that Britain has failed to come to terms with its loss of empire and global standing and whilst respondents recognise the loss of empire, there is a claim of pride in that past status, of imperialist empire builders and a desire for a return of that global status for the nation and themselves as patriots.

And Quinn offers multiple quotes where it is clear that imperial sentiment most certainly exists in the nationalist discourse – and with that an anti-EU sentiment as well.

We are trying to turn the clock back a bit to how things were, where people were proud of their country, proud of where they lived… I think 13 years of Labour where they did everything they could to make you not want to feel English, they want everybody to feel European or part of the world rather than to feel proud to actually feel they were part of this country. They made you feel embarrassed about our history, imperialism, colonialism [Patriotism] it’s just a feeling fo greatness, a feeling of love for your country and it’s everything, you know, your past history. It’s a sad thing, we used to run two thirds of the globe, we don’t any more but it’s nice to harp back to those great days.

Qunn further notes:

Loss of empire, loss of pride and prowess is expressed by respondents…

What’s also telling is how this also extends to a sympathy and identification with ‘loyalists’ in Northern Ireland. As Quinn notes:

Many respondents make direct comparison to Ulster loyalists… in regard to their need to defend. They consider the threats that the Protestant community in the north of Ireland face are the same threats that they face and one reasons for taking action now is so that the situation in England does not escalate to the state it has in the north of Ireland.

But then as Quinn says, coming from football in part the linkages with supporters there (some supporting Chelsea and Millwall are mentioned as strongly pro-Loyalist) and some songs used by the EDL are actually originally loyalist and UVF songs.

Again, the attitude of EDL supporters is only one aspect of this. I think it’s also key to keep in mind that no-one rational is arguing for a literal reinstatement of the Empire, although some of the rhetoric about Empire V.2, essentially a sort of rebooting and upgrade of the Commonwealth relationships on economic terms, has been unwise and implausible. But that’s not unimportant in itself. The very fact that renewing or forging links in that way internationally has been badged, however superficially in such terms, suggests a currency for elements, against however cosmetic, of the idea of empire.

What’s odd is that Lloyd’s counter argument is so thin. And his conclusion is deeply troubling, because if he believes the following then he is arguably in deep denial:

England – Britain – has not gone mad. The chaotic scenes in parliament and the thousands of arguments up and down the country bear witness to a deeply democratic and civic culture. Those who prefer politics to be the smooth management of the people by an elite mistake it for dementia.



1. CL - January 29, 2019

Britain is having difficulty finding a post-imperial role.
After WW2 the imperial mantle was taken up by the U.S. ‘:Anglo-America’ may not entirely be a useful category, but obviously there are close ties between the two countries.
Graduates of Harvard college fought in the English Civil War. Churchill’s mother was a Jerome from NY; Jerome Avenue in the Bronx is named for the same family.
More recently, there is the friendship between Farage and Trump. Georgetown professor, Carroll Quigley, authored a book called ‘ The :Anglo-American Establishment’. Despite Quigley’s work being much used by conspiracy theorists, there is something to the notion that the ruling classes of England and the U.S are intertwined.


2. GW - January 29, 2019

Straw man from Lloyd.

The chaotic scenes in parliament and the thousands of arguments up and down the country bear witness to a deeply democratic and civic culture. Those who prefer politics to be the smooth management of the people by an elite mistake it for dementia.

It isn’t dementia – it’s autism. It isn’t ‘deeply democratic’ to only be able to talk among yourselves, when trying to negotiate with others.

And the assumption that ‘what we decide’ can be imposed upon others is a symptom that England (Britain) still hasn’t come to terms with end of empire and being an ordinary nation among others.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2019

Absolutely spot on GW. It is the issue of imposition. Everyone else has to bend to their will come what may.


3. GW - January 29, 2019
Jim Monaghan - January 30, 2019

https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty “Regulation, reinforced by human rights, has become a new sphere of government. It is now as essential to modern society as executive power, legislative authority and courts of law. The way we experience this is also novel. It does not stem from the influence of politicians, the role of authority whether national or local, or fear of justice. These familiar locations of power continue, but a new force has joined them as our intimate lives have become strangely politicised, from our health and diet to our metadata. The famous frontispiece of Hobbes’s Leviathan shows the people inhabiting the ruler. Today, rules have entered the bodies of citizens – and we want to know who is in charge of them and whether they enhance or imprison us.”


4. 1729torus - January 29, 2019

This essay on Enoch Powell might be of interest:


1729torus - January 29, 2019
5. CL - January 29, 2019

“If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.”


6. An Sionnach Fionn - January 29, 2019

There’s worse…

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2019

Jesus wept. That I Martin comment…


7. Dieta para subir masa muscular en hombres - May 9, 2019


Empire dreams | The Cedar Lounge Revolution


8. Http://Gomu.House.Free.Fr/ - June 18, 2019


Empire dreams | The Cedar Lounge Revolution


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