When Margaret Thatcher was running to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister in the 1979 General Election she passionately exclaimed during a television interview: «I can’t bear Britain in decline. I just can’t».
Mrs Thatcher’s entire reason for being in politics was to make Britain, «Great» again, if it had ever really been «Great» to begin with. By May 1979 – when Mrs Thatcher was elected Prime Minister and made history becoming the United Kingdom’s first female Head of Government – politicians, economists, businessmen, journalists, governments (both allies of Britain and enemies) had taken to calling Britain the «Sick Man of Europe». The once mighty British Empire, which had ruled one quarter of the world at the start of the 20th century (by stealing other countries land, resources and wealth through imperialism) had become a laughing stock to most of the developed and developing world by the 1970s incapable of governing authoritatively and efficiently her own affairs at home or projecting power abroad. In his last dispatch as British Ambassador to Paris, Sir Nicholas Henderson wrote withering critique of Britain. In 1962, the former American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson quipped that «Britain had lost an Empire and yet to find a role». This neatly summed up the confusion and paralysis that gripped Britain after the end of World War II. It is still true of the Britain of 2015 and so too is the well-earned label the «Sick Man of Europe».
Acheson’s wise insight into Britain’s predicament in the early 1960s lies at the heart of the never-ending, boring and parochial debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The English have never been able to accept and adjust to the reality that while they may have won the First and Second World War (thanks to the United States and Russia), it has been Germany who won the peace with her economy far more dynamic, productive and efficient than the sclerotic UK economy and German wealth, political power and industry has been the dominant force in Europe from the late 1950s onwards. The English went out and colonized the world, and now the world has colonized England, and the English can’t stand it.
Hence the xenophobia of the anti-EU brigade exemplified by the overwhelmingly anti-European and anti-immigrant Conservative Party and it’s even more extreme twin the vile United Kingdom Independence Party.
There are quite a lot of English – people both in the general public and the political and media elite who seriously believe the UK could survive and thrive outside the European Union. The English have always suffered from delusions of grandeur throughout their history and have been afflicted by a superiority complex when it comes to other peoples, nations and cultures. There has always been a strand of ignorant, offensive and irrational arrogance within the English which has led them to believe they are better than the Americans, better than continental Europeans, better than Russians, Indians, Chinese et al. Only the English could be so insensitive and arrogant to call a stop on the Docklands Light Railway in the heart of the investment banking centre Canary Wharf the "East India Quay" after the East India Company which colonized India and Pakistan.
However, the reality of Britain’s performance economically, educationally, politically and on the battlefield has been patchy at best. In every major strategic theatre of military confrontation during the early years of WWII the British Army was humiliated by the superior fighting forces of the Wehrmacht symbolized most starkly in the infamous scuttle of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and the Fall of France to the Nazis in the summer of 1940. Britain would never have been able to defeat Nazi Germany if it had not been for the United States and Soviet Union doing the heavy lifting.
Economically, the UK economy became such a basket case by 1976 it had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund to be bailed out. Today UK national debt stands at a staggering and unsustainable £1.56 trillion, or 81.58% of total UK Gross Domestic Economic Output. At the start of 2015 the annual cost of servicing (paying the interest) on this public debt amounted to around £43bn (which is roughly 3% of GDP or 8% of UK government tax income). Due to the UK Government's significant budget deficit, the national debt is increasing by approximately £107 billion per annum, or around £2 billion each week. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development there is a considerable gap between the richest households in the UK and the poorest – the top 20% of UK population earn nearly six times as much as the bottom 20%. The levels of economic inequality in the UK of 2015 are now equivalent to the times of Charles Dickens while social mobility is lower than it was in the 1950s.
Educationally, England has one of the most polarized class-based education systems in the world which underpins one of the most rigid and static social class systems in Europe. Socially England is afflicted with one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the European Union, outdone only by Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. According to the UK Office for National Statistics 23.3 per 1000 girls aged between 15-17 years old in England are giving birth. There were 5,740 pregnancies in girls aged under 18 in the three months to June 2014 according to data from the Office for National Statistics. One of these births alone will costs the UK taxpayer on average £100,000 spread over a five-year period. What does that indicate about the moral and social health of England? The culture of binge drinking amongst the emotionally repressed stiff upper lip English is one of the highest in the world as is the obscene culture of English football hooliganism dubbed the English Disease.
Now, with all the international and national problems that the UK faces in an increasingly unstable and dangerous world – from the exodus of refugees fleeing Syria, Libya and Iraq; the threat of ISIS; the impending global apocalypse of climate change and an out of control planetary population growth rate; to the domestic state of UK finances, youth employment, job opportunities, the quality and efficiency of British public services; the extortionate cost of living in the UK; the ticking time bomb that is the UK welfare state and the breakdown of social cohesion in the UK – the Government of David Cameron has decided to plunge the UK into a pointless, time wasting and deeply insular referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and with it the UK’s place in the world for purely domestic party political reasons to keep Cameron’s overwhelmingly hostile anti-European backbenchers appeased.
There is a Cold War raging in Whitehall. Just as the visionary and brilliant Golden Age in enhanced Sino-British relations has revealed deep tensions and fissures within the Cameron Government and Britain’s security, foreign policy, intelligence and military Establishment so too are the issues of Britain’s membership of the European Union and policies on immigration battle lines within the stuffy and repressed, grey and drab, ugly, male dominated corridors of Whitehall. The overarching context to this Whitehall Cold War is not strategic, internationalist or policy orientated. It is pure domestic Party Power Politics, specifically the behind the scenes battle raging for the impending vacancy of the Leadership of the Tory Party and with it the keys to 10 Downing Street.
The lead protagonists in this Whitehall Cold War are the Home Secretary Theresa May whose department the Home Office (described by a former Home Secretary as «Not Fit for Purpose») is in charge of Britain’s domestic surveillance, security and intelligence (stupid) services such as MI5. May will stand for the leadership of the Tory Party when the Prime Minister steps down before the 2020 General Election. She has high hopes to become Britain’s second female Prime Minister following in the footsteps of Mrs Thatcher, though she is a pale imitation of Margaret Thatcher. It is her Department and by extension the UK domestic security (stupid) service MI5 who have been most hostile to Britain’s membership of the European Union, continued openness as a global country welcoming of immigrants and enhancing vital strategic relationships of profound global importance such as Sino-British partnership.
May draws support from the xenophobic, deeply bigoted, hang ‘em and flog ‘em, anti-European, little Englander, quasi fascist faction of extreme right wing Tories within the Conservative Party. Just as her Department has churned out poisonous anti-immigrant and anti-European propaganda so too is the Home Secretary and her acolytes and apparatchiks vehemently opposed to Britain being China’s «Best Friend in the West». Ironically, for all Mrs May’s tough talk on reducing the net level of immigration into Britain, after five years at the helm of the Home Office, she and her «Not Fit for Purpose» Department have failed miserably in the task they promised to carry out for the British electorate and have attempted to pass the buck in a cowardly and cack handed manner typical of the Home Office.
As Mrs Thatcher said of propaganda and spin: «Such is presentation. How different from reality." Interestingly, Mrs May has recruited a new apparatchik, a so-called «Special Advisor» who seems to be the inspiration for the cocky up-start Max Denbeigh in the new Bond film Spectre. Funnily enough, Mrs May’s «Special Advisor" who has carved out a career as an "expert" in national security and cyber issues was educated at Loughborough University which is a «Sports» University and does not even rank in the top ten of UK universities, though in Whitehall it is not «what you know but who you know».
The boys (for Whitehall is an overwhelmingly male though physically unimpressive) network based on the hereditary principles of birth, schooling and patronage rather than individual merit reigns supreme. This «Special Advisor» had previously, at a young age, worked in the Home Office within a unit called the Office for Counter-terrorism and Security as it’s Deputy Director. The Director at the time was a man called Mr Charles Farr, privately educated, who has just recently been appointed Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
On the other side of this Whitehall Cold War is the main rival to Mrs May’s leadership ambitions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and his more enlightened and globalist Treasury Department and the British Foreign Office (the main intelligence hub of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency with its Diplomatic Corps and network of Foreign Embassies). The well educated, erudite, intellectual, cultured and sophisticated true specialists of the Treasury’s Economist Civil Service and Foreign Office diplomats understand the profound dangers of the UK pulling out of the European Union, the catastrophic consequences this would have for the fragile and lackluster British economy which is heavily dependent on markets and trade with EU member states, inward foreign investment and the position of London as a leading World Financial Centre.
The Treasury and Foreign Office also understand, unlike the Home Office, that both Washington DC and Beijing as well as NATO are firmly against the UK pulling out of Europe and becoming an isolationist, tiny little island off the coast of France. The only value the UK has to the United States and China is if it is a leading member and partner in the European Union both for economic, political, military and intelligence reasons. This is the simple truth of the matter when it comes to Britain’s membership of the EU and position on the World Stage. Britain has been an American satellite in the EU while the rest of the EU especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall and disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq have become more hostile to, independent of and assertive against an American led Global Order.
This is why the referendum on UK membership of the EU is so dangerous and a complete waste of time driven by the fantasy of insular little Englander’s who still think it is 1945 and Britain is still a Great Imperial Power, when in reality, Britain would be an irrelevance internationally and a basket case economically without being part of the European Union. The British public (who know very little of their own history let alone the history of Europe and the World) forget the British already had a Referendum on membership of what was then called the EEC in 1975 while every Treaty change that has been undertaken by the EU has been subjected to intense Parliamentary scrutiny and debate in the National British Parliament in Westminster.
Each time an EU Treaty change has occurred the democratically elected representatives of the British public have passed these Treaty changes in the «Mother of all Parliaments». This EU referendum is a pointless waste of time, energy, money and resources going over stale, old ground. The simple fact of the matter is when it comes to British membership of the EU there is, in the words of Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe: «No Alternative». The British and specially the English, both in terms of the masses and the elite, will either have to learn to like Europe or lump it. If the British/English do vote to leave the EU it will not only be an indication of national insanity but it will be the economic, financial, political equivalent of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Though when you look at how Britain has developed since the end of World War II and the Britain of 2015, it would not surprise me in the least if the UK/England voted to leave the European Union.