Monday 8 November 2021

For the first time, I don't feel proud to be British

 I thought very long and hard about writing this. I spent the weekend trying to make my mind up. I love living in London, there is nowhere else I'd rather live. My father was an RAF pilot, one of his bomber crew was killed on a mission. My grandfather had his health ruined in the killing fields of the first world war. For me, the sacrifices of these brave men was a source of pride. I've also been proud of our music scene over the years. I believe that the UK has lead the world in music for decades. It's not only British artists, we put artists such as Hendrix and Bob Marley on the world stage. Band Aid and Live Aid were conceived in the UK, huge charity movements that raised tens of millions and showed that maybe we weren't completely selfish and did care a tad for our less well off brothers and sisters in far flung corners of the earth, where famine and drought were biting. 

Then there is our technological prowess. Alexander Fleming discovered the healing powers of penecillin. Frank Whittle developed the jet engine. London had an underground with automatic doors, when the Yanks only had them in Star Trek.

Politically, we'd stood alone against the Nazi's and Fascism, when all looked hopeless. We didn't run and we didn't hide. When I was just emerging from my teens, we went to war with a Fascist junta in Argentina that had invaded the Falkland Islands. I was no fan of Margaret Thatcher, but I respected the fact that she wasn't going to let a tinpot dictator use force to get his way. The British response ended the reign of the discredited generals. The loss of life was regrettable and terrible, but the generals had murdered more of their own citizens than the UK killed in battle. Had they entrenched their position, they would have doubtless killed many more. 

I wear my poppy with pride. I always will. Whilst I am at heart a pacifist, I recognise that the likes of Hitler and Galtieri weren't and sometimes you can only fight fire with fire.

I've always believed that the core values of the UK were aligned to my values. I've always felt that we lived in a nation where the law mattered. We are far from perfect, there have been terrible miscarriages of justice over the years, but sooner or later we get it right. We have legal aid to ensure that those without the funds are not totally at the mercy of those with deep pockets. I've always believed that no one is above the law and that if you break the rules, you will ultimately face the music. I've also always believed that if the UK signs an international agreement we stick to it. 

Over the last couple of years, I've seen a steady erosion of this belief. We have a Prime Minister who tells porkies for fun. His former chief adviser Dominic Cummings flouted the law in the middle of a global pandemic, singlehandedly undermining any trust many had in our government. It became clear that the rules that apply to us don't apply to them. 

It was clear that Boris Johnson's government rushed through a deeply flawed Brexit treaty. Neither Remainers or Brexiteers saw it as a triumph of diplomacy and before the ink was dry it started to unravel. The man who negotitated it 'Lord' Frost almost immediately started trying to dismantle it. We are now faced with the very real prospect that the treaty will fall apart in acrimony. As someone who runs a business already massively affected by supply chain issues, this is not good news. I am at a loss to understand what Frost is up to and how it will do anything positive for the UK. Can anyone claim that this chaos is what the UK voted for? Tearing up treaties that were negotiated in good faith, for narrow political advantage is what tinpot dictators do, not what the UK does.

Then there is the government breaking its own manifesto pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid. It strikes me as the height of irony that the same people who champion the government scrapping a manifesto pledge, were the ones who claimed that any deviation from the path of Brexit was a betrayal of democracy. If governments are going to tear their manifesto's up, then where is the legitimacy of the election? I know full well that Boris is not the first PM to pull a stunt like this, but the crassness of how he went about it was unique. 

Last week we had the shenanigans around standards in public life. Using a three line whip to try and make his MP's tow the line on how the rules in Parliament are enforced was a new low. Even worse was his ministers trying to undermine the person who has the responsibility for enforcing standards. This is what we expect from failing dictators in third world countries, not functioning democracies. 

My mind was draw back to an evening, back at the start of the 1980's. My Dad was a member of the Rotary club (I think) and they'd organised an exchange with a German town. As part of this, my parents put up a German couple. The chap, who spoke excellent English, had been a nigh fighter pilot during World War II. My parents asked me along. I was fascinated by their conversation. My father was an RAF Bomber pilot. It was not inconceivable that their paths could have crossed in the night skies, with tragic consequences for one or the other. I recall, after many scotch whisky's and an amazing conversation about flying, tactics and airplanes, that the German chap said "It really was a a tragedy, so  many fine men. My biggest regret is that we didn't appreciate just how badly we were on the wrong side of history". My father was, for once, stuck for words. The subject was changed to cars, another shared passion (one I found far less interesting).

I've always wondered how it must feel to have believed in something passionately, only to realise that what you believed was based on a lie. Our nation is in the grip of a man, for whom the truth, honesty and decency are totally irrelevant. Our democracy, with it's unwritten constition and archaic traditions and ceremonies has only worked because at the heart of our nation was a basic decency. I just don't see that this is the case right now. If pushed, I simply cannot feel proud of the UK under Boris Johnson in November 2021. I'm not going anywhere, this is my country and I am not going to let him totally destroy it without saying my piece, but I genuinely believe that if we don't wake up to the threat that this government poses, we are heading for the dustbin of history. 

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