Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Todays Papers ...

Deadly dull, mostly. Robin Cook thinks the government has lost trust (since he left it) .. yawn ... Gary Younge thinks the Democrats need to win a few seats in the South ... zzzzz .... only Katie Grant and Lord Rees-Mogg awake me from my overfed somnolence.

Katie sees the Brideshead inhabitant Hooper as a portent of the horrors to come, in words that Dalrymple himself could have written.

"Hooper, you may remember, was a perfectly nice chap, but one who had "not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side". He did not weep for "Henry’s speech on St Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae". The names Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevalles and Marathon meant nothing to him. He never learnt to salute properly. After all, why salute, when you can just say okey-dokey?

Hooper was Tony Blair’s forefather. His education was filled not with the exploits of heroes to lift him up and set him aglow, but consisted of "a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change", the prime objective being to equip him for a career dedicated to making things "safe for the travelling salesman".

Now we see the result. Hooper’s Britain is Blair’s "young country", a place without a soul, brilliantly characterised in all its mundane, hideous, plodding inanity by EastEnders and Ricky Gervais in The Office.

Hooper/Blair’s contribution to civilisation is the Turner Prize, speed bumps, equality officers, Holyrood, Big Brother and Pop Idol. Britain’s Bridesheads are only acceptable if blanded down by the National Trust, just as history is only acceptable if delivered in politically correct sound-bites. If this is progress, give me less of it.

In 1959, Waugh famously thought Brideshead Revisited "a panegyric preached over an empty coffin" because the cult of the country house had not yet been utterly destroyed, as he thought it would be, by the war. But the coffin was not empty. It was already filling up with all the things that Hooper felt superfluous to his world: religion, chivalry, standards, patriotism, manners, self-discipline and deference. Now the coffin is so full (only fox hunting to go) we can barely get the lid down. It’s taken him half a century, but finally Hooper is triumphant. "

Rees-Mogg tells us "One forecast for the coming year can be made with some certainty. 2004 will be a bumper year for immigration into the United Kingdom, legal and illegal. Another forecast can be made with equal confidence. The Government will be taken by surprise."

I think he's probably right - and I think it likely that it will also be the year the BNP go mainstream, although the main influx of migrants (from 'New Europe' aka the former Warsaw Pact nations) will take place after the June elections.

"A large-scale immigration, such as we are experiencing, is almost always an economic advantage. The new people are younger than the host population, more highly motivated, and will have developed particular skills. "

He may well be correct. There's no doubt that migration to America and Australia raised the GNP of those nations. I'm just not sure the natives appreciated the favour we were doing them.

"There is a common fear that a national culture will be destroyed, or weakened, by the intrusion of a new culture. This might be true if all the newcomers came from the same culture as each other, or had the same religion. But that has been relatively rare in human history, except in cases of invasion or conquest.

It is certainly not the case in the modern immigration to Britain. The British culture does itself change over time, but it has nothing to fear from coexistence with small minority cultures, none of which have the scale to challenge the host, and few of which have much appeal for each other."

Again he makes a good point. A self-confident national culture should have no difficulty in absorbing quite large numbers of migrants, especially if they are from varying cultures.

The problem is, we don't have a self-confident national culture. A nation whose charity shops hide the Christmas cribs, and whose hospitals refuse to hand out charity CDs because Jesus gets a mention, is in trouble. As David Farrer and Private Frazer rightly point out, 'a culture or a religion that does not stand up for its own values is doomed.'