Letter From London – Chris Trotter blogging from UK election

By   /   June 8, 2017  /   20 Comments

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Seeing London, it is easier to understand why the United Kingdom finds it so hard to let go of the expectations of greatness. The idea that Britain still counts – still has a role to play – must be hard to give up when its leaders drive to and from their offices in what feels like the world’s most elaborate movie set.

Being in London is like meeting the mother you never knew. Suddenly, all the family stories, all the little quirks that you never really understood, all the mysterious family watchwords are explained. You have grown up in her shadow. You have been raised according to her instructions. Your mother’s friends have been your friends and her enemies likewise. Now, at last, you encounter her face to face: aged but still glorious; still capable of leaving you open-mouthed.

It is only when you arrive in London and walk the streets of the City of Westminster that the full force of its imperial character stands revealed. That this was the capital of a vast empire is writ in every stately building, in every equestrian statue of some long-dead conquerer. The sculptural celebration of Britain’s strength writhes in extraordinary assemblages of bronze figures. Angels of Victory bearing laurel crowns float over chariots yoked to rearing horses. Horatio Nelson stands atop his coloum staring wistfully in the direction of Trafalgar where the naval supremacy that gave birth to this imperial city was won.
Oh, and didn’t they know that the world was theirs to plunder, and oh the prodigous efforts they made to dress up their larceny as a fine and honourable thing. Because London is Rome – or, at least, its architecture pretends that it is. Generations of British aristocrats were taught to read Latin and Greek for the very straightforward reason that these were the languages of Emperors and Generals; adminstrators and engineers; historians and philosophers. Through them they acquired the diction of authority and command; the vocabulary of power.
And that is what London is: a disertation in stone and brick on what it feels like to rule an empire.
Seeing London, it is easier to understand why the United Kingdom finds it so hard to let go of the expectations of greatness. The idea that Britain still counts – still has a role to play – must be hard to give up when its leaders drive to and from their offices in what feels like the world’s most elaborate movie set. All around them stand the artefacts of Britain’s century of global hegemony. And what a blockbuster of a movie it was!
All gone now. To acknowledge their nation’s economic, military and diplomatic eclipse: that was the task which History set for her nation’s politicians, and, with the honourable exception of the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, they have failed. Superficially, they accepted that the empire was gone and that Europe alone offered them a new way of being British, but emotionally that acceptance was never bedded-in. Brexit makes perfect sense in London. Though the current inhabitants voted to remain in the European Union, the imposing magic of the old imperial capital continues to bewitch the people of the Home Counties and the abandoned masses that once toiled in the powerhouses of her industrial economy.
London is more evidently the Queen of Britain’s hopes and dreams that the old lady interred in the grey mausoleum of Buckingham Palace. Though she has lost the empire, at whose heart she once stood,  London still rules.
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20 Comments

  1. Priss says:

    Well, they did give us Coronation Street. And my boys love Dr Who.

    So not all grim.

  2. countryboy says:

    You could be writing about Earth itself.

    We need to get rid of the tories and get rid of the nats and work very hard at trying to figure out what it is exactly that we’re here to achieve. On our spaceship Earth. I doubt it’s waste, destruction, hate, war and furthering a vile culture of sneering, smug contempt for ones victims as one boils ones balls in a hot tub on board ones super yacht as others die of starvation.

    You looked at London, and London looked back. And it clearly gave you something not necessarily negative to ponder.

  3. There are huge implications for Britain and the free world in this election.

    I hope Britain knows what it is doing. Because May’s idea that she might dismantle human rights law should scare everyone to death.

    https://willnewzealandberight.com/2017/06/08/british-election-has-huge-implications/

  4. andrew says:

    Britain still has the 5th highest GDP in the world.

    That’s not bad for a nation which was described by General De Gaulle as “a mud bank off the coast of France”.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      Yes, and while living in the PAST much, Mr Andrew. GB, or UK, are not prepared enough for the future, hard talk and near police state rule, that will not address the challenges the country and people face.

    • frank says:

      “Britain still has the 5th highest GDP in the world.”

      ….relevant how?

    • Sally's Husband says:

      Not sure what relevance that has to anything, Andrew, except you think it makes you look clever. (You’re not clever. The best I can work out, TDB keeps you on as some kind of squawking mascot.) Anyway, Andrew, the Tories want to spend that GDP on nuclear submarines instead of the NHS? That’s not exactly useful to anyone is it?

  5. esoteric pineapples says:

    All to go under water in a few centuries and become uninhabitable due to constant flooding a lot sooner, because the ruling classes do nothing.

  6. Once.....etc says:

    “Superficially, they accepted that the empire was gone and that Europe alone offered them a new way of being British, but emotionally that acceptance was never bedded-in”
    So true. And so many still feel that Divine Right to swan around former colonies as though they were still ‘their own’.

    I’m not advocating it, but can you imagine the shit fight if we were to do away with the concept of dual nationality.
    The thought only entered my mind because
    – when first arriving in London there was a natural affinity with the place, such that I NEVER once got lost – yet I was regarded as a colonial and unable to stay for any useful period. Unless of course ‘sponsored’, or with a shitload of money, or with a mum or dad (grandmums and dads were now invalid)
    – and then of course there’s that situation in Australia.

    Actually if Harry does come to watch the Lions – we should probably turn him round at the check in desk

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      And they give their descendants in former colonies fuck all rights to return, or to do an OE, I consider. What arrogance and intolerance.

  7. David Stone says:

    Great that you’r there to cover the election Chris.
    Bet you couldn’t keep away.
    Good luck D J S

  8. AB says:

    Very nice Chris.
    I am hearing stylistic echoes of Engels’ opening chapter (The Great Towns)

  9. Mike in Auckland says:

    I read all your passionate description of GREAT Britain, Britannia Rules the Waves, of past glory and your experiences over there, with the visual witness of the PAST Empire.

    But come on, Chris, you better come back to Planet Earth, I read this for instance:
    “Superficially, they accepted that the empire was gone and that Europe alone offered them a new way of being British, but emotionally that acceptance was never bedded-in. Brexit makes perfect sense in London. Though the current inhabitants voted to remain in the European Union, the imposing magic of the old imperial capital continues to bewitch the people of the Home Counties and the abandoned masses that once toiled in the powerhouses of her industrial economy.”

    I ask, when are Britons finally coming to terms with reality and the future of now? That is those who have NOT got it as yet, into their brains, the Empire is HISTORY, no longer all that relevant, albeit you have cultural heritage and remnants of it in many places on this earth. But there is NO return to that glory, or are you going to step up and challenge mighty China, still strong Russia and especially the dominant USA for power dominance on this planet?

    So I suppose Chris is preparing us for the election in the UK to start in only two or three hours, to ready us for the excitement and perhaps, hopefully and upset, a surprise.

    We now live in post industrialised societies, we no longer work and toil like those that did in the coal mines and steel works of the past, we are competing globally either on smart skills and technology, or we will end up slaves as all others, to manufacture stuff massively and cheaply, at 12 to 16 hours a day shifts, with little reward and respect.

    UK is there, NZ is there, US is there, Europe is there, and so it goes on, the OLD world is about to become irrelevant, as we are not prepared to deal with the challenges. The UK election may set a direction, but I doubt it will be the right one, as we have voters there being conditioned by media and developments, to concentrate on security, on money, on affordability of policy arguments, on terror, on this that and the other, but the system itself will NOT be challenged, that is the very problem, Mr Trottoir, I hope you realise it.

    So with some anticipation I will await tomorrow, when the results will flow in. A confirmation of Ms May and her troupes will spell a disaster for the UK, and its people, but even Mr Corbyn has to do more to convince. We are at a critical time in history, where humanity is close to sign its final chapter of self destruction, with climate change out of control, a society geared to waste, to live on greed and destruction, and that is NO future, I fear.

  10. mary_a says:

    Thanks Chris. Being a first generation Kiwi and a sixth generation Londoner, I found your post enlightening and interesting.

    Look forward to your coverage and opinion of the Brit election.

    Go Corbyn 🙂

  11. jay1 says:

    The former Imperial Capital is defiled by War Crimes:
    1. The cruel siege of Iraq in the 90s
    2. The Invasion of Iraq supported by filthy lies.
    3.War criminals Blair, Cameron and Teresa May.
    4.The attempted justification of bombing Syria.
    5. The Destruction of Gadaffi’s Libya with 9700 sorties to bomb the shit out of the most progressive nation in Africa.
    6. The support and encouragement of terrorists in the UK to attack Syria.
    7.The pathetic ugly slavish following of American War Criminality.

    The former very long gone Imperial Capital to me stinks! Stinks of neoliberal scum destroying the very fabric of British Society.

    I don’t know what Planet Chris lives on but 99.9% of Brits don’t. Chris should get a time machine and go back to Dicken’s time the 19C. Where the workers slaved and died young with no medical mercy.

    Stay there Chris! Bye Mate!

  12. peterlepaysan says:

    I wonder what is happening in Washington, now that Caligula rules there?

    The eastern barbarians will no doubt be delighted as they ally themselves for a final solution for the west.

  13. Zack Brando says:

    The first couple of paragraphs gave me goose bumps, it was great writing.

  14. Mike in Auckland says:

    On the tail of Empire are these, I suppose the very enemy, where is your argument and defence by the way, the colonialists:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMG_2-V8Y8M

  15. Afewknowthetruth says:

    New Zealand continues to be controlled from and by England. The clowns, puppets and criminals that comprise the NZ government and so-called opposition parties continue to play by the dysfunctional rules established in London centuries ago; wealth continues to be extracted from NZ and transferred to ‘old money’ organisations and individuals resident in London and other European cities, together with Washington and New York. Indeed, the level of control international bankers and corporate raiders have over NZ has never been higher. Commensurately, NZ has never been is a worse state that at present, with no prospect of anything that matters ever being improved because the stranglehold banks and corporations have is so tight. NZ was, and still is, a corporation, a business venture established centuries ago, geared to the extraction and transfer of wealth.

    As for Harold Wilson, he was just another Judas, pawn of the international bankers and betrayer of those who put him into power. One of his most disgraceful deeds was orchestrating the removal of the inhabitants of Garcia Diego in order that the Americans could build a military base there.

    “It’s all bullshit, and it’s bad for you.” -George Carlin