'With violent death stalking our cities and Jeremy Corbyn’s inglorious revolution threatening our future, a sickening sense of doom now hangs over the country.'
(Cover illustration by Michael Daley)
This sultry summer has brought Britain little to be cheerful about. With violent death stalking our cities and Jeremy Corbyn’s inglorious revolution threatening our future, a sickening sense of doom now hangs over the country. A year ago, the nation surprised itself by voting to regain independence from the European Union. The exhilaration that followed this shock to the system has dissipated in acrimony over Brexit and the election, while the Grenfell Tower fire, in which at least 79 died, and four major terrorist attacks, with a combined death toll of 35, caused even the Queen to ask for a minute’s silence at her birthday Trooping of the Colour, admitting that “it is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood” after “a succession of terrible tragedies”.
There were even echoes of the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana in the calls on Theresa May to show more emotion in public after Grenfell Tower. Just as in 1998 the Queen was forced to return to Buckingham Palace in the midst of private grief, so the Prime Minister felt obliged to return to the scene of the fire. Though one of the clergy present at these private meetings testified that Mrs May did indeed shed tears while listening to their harrowing accounts, by then nobody cared about the truth. Her stiff upper lip in public could not compete in popularity with the touchy-feely Mr Corbyn.
There were fears, too, of a repetition of riots that swept across London and other cities in 2011. Violence flared in Kensington, when Leftist and Islamist agitators briefly occupied the Town Hall. They demanded obedience to Mr Corbyn’s call for empty luxury flats to be requisitioned, exaggerated the casualties in the fire and peddled conspiracy theories about a cover-up. Then there was the “Day of Rage” outside Parliament to coincide with the Queen’s Speech, organised by the Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary — a name that speaks for itself. The height of irresponsibility was John McDonnell’s call for a million people to take to the streets to force a change in government — as though Britain were a dictatorship in the Middle East or the former Soviet Union, where elections were rigged and only “people power” could oust a despot.
Some who did take to the streets were the rabble who marched down Regent Street on “Al Quds Day”, the annual hate-fest instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini; in 2012, Mr Corbyn attended this rally, where he spoke of his “friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah. This year Mr Corbyn’s friends not only waved the flags of these terrorist organisations, but claimed that the Grenfell Fire was the work of “Zionists”. Police turned a blind eye to this blood libel, as they do to Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism. So did the Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Moral cowardice is indeed rampant throughout government, which has long talked up austerity but imposed it only on those too feeble to protest. Thanks to such pusillanimity, voters were disposed to believe the worst of the Conservatives. In Hammersmith, to take just one instance, an alarming report was spread by Labour that there were secret plans to close the world-famous Charing Cross Hospital. The Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, issued a flat denial — but too late. What had been a marginal became a safe Labour seat.
Cowardice and incompetence allowed the Left to get away with closing down the debate about caring for an ageing population with a two-word soundbite: “dementia tax”. By voting en masse for Mr Corbyn, the millennial generation he champions actually acquiesced in the status quo, with its fiscal transfers from a shrinking proportion of working people to a growing population of propertied pensioners. A government with no majority also has no room for manoeuvre on long-term policy: no wonder Philip Hammond, the invisible Chancellor, emerged from well-deserved obscurity to hint at tax rises to come. Without the kind of reforms the Tories promised but won’t now deliver, there will be no money to mend the roof while the sun shines, let alone make the building less of a fire risk.
Yet nations as great as Britain should never despair: despondency is the road to dependency. Here are some reasons for readers to enjoy the summer.
1. Britain still has far more than its fair share of the most creative people alive. Two of the greatest, who happen to be members of Standpoint’s editorial advisory board, celebrate their 80th birthdays this summer: David Hockney and Sir Tom Stoppard. Remarkably, both are still at the height of their powers. We wish them many happy returns.
2. Britons may feel dejected, but the Blitz spirit has by no means abandoned us. One survivor of that era, the Queen, got it right when, after comforting the victims of the Kensington fire, she declared: “Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity.” Jihadists and others who hate Western civilisation need to hear that, to paraphrase Churchill, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight them on the beaches and in the classrooms, on the websites and wherever they may hide. We shall never surrender.
3. However much we may protest our insignificance, Britain still matters hugely to our allies on both sides of the Atlantic. The trials of this summer have not gone unnoticed abroad, any more than Brexit did. Nor are our friends unsympathetic; they know the debt they owe us; they know, too, that the world still needs us. With strong and resolute leadership, this sultry summer may prove to be a turning point: the moment when the British rediscovered their vocation as a great civilising force.