From Benjamin to Boris: Has the United Kingdom outgunned itself?

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, is the only British Prime Minister of Jewish descent, but Boris Johnson beats him in terms of elite exoticism because of his Turkish ancestry. Yet, both these men are as British as they come (or as can be) and embody the British ideals of one-nation conservatism. Benjamin Disraeli is regarded as the father of British Conservatism and the ideals of paternalism keeping the social order intact, but providing help and support for the working classes. Social class in Britain is more porous compared to other countries on the continent. Of course, countries with a history of colonisation have the remarkable capacity to absorb different ethnicities into their elite structure. For instance, the British Raj created an elite structure porous enough to invite English-speaking, rich Indians into the circuit. The British education system, and mainly public schools, ensured the churning out of this homogenous elite group that stuck up for each other.That ideology has lingered on and for the British social structure, it is vital that the working classes look up to the elite and take on their habits and customs. However, when the elites lose their sense of homogeneity, it leads to disarray in the ranks. What is worse, the working classes have lost their common strand too. Mass immigration has induced cultural cacophony in every rank of British society. The irony is that in a globalised world cheap labour trumps the rights of local working classes, so every political party has betrayed the rights of their working class at some point or the other.

Historic change, they say, is written by the fringe minority but time and carefully constructed narratives shape the silent majority into the mould of the militant minority. On 23 June 2016, a slim British minority won the right to leave the European Union; 51.9% voted to leave while 48.1% desperately clung on to the hope of a European dream. Despite opposition, two Prime Ministers later, Britain struck a deal to get their economic freedom from the European Union. The Brexit vote was promised by the Tories and the exit strategy was delivered by them too. Where does this leave the others? The vote exposed a fractured Britain and further highlighted the United Kingdom’s north-south divide. That divide is geological, political, cultural and economic.

The south has always been closer to the globalised world and protectionism has never come in the way of its business interests. On 1 January 2021, we said ‘au revoir’ to les Anglais, but could their exit lead to a Scottish rebellion and will they eventually break free?

At the crux of the matter lies the reality that the British were sceptical partners who made a reluctant entry into the European Union. When the British joined the common market, they were certainly not unanimous in their decision and even their television shows in the ’70s reflected their reservations. In 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman,  drew up the Schuman plan, which proposed the joint control of coal and steel production, the most important materials for the armament industry. Schuman felt that the joint control would broker a peace deal, which in turn would allow for economic growth. However, what started out as a project to even out power has once again placed power in the hands of the big players and the big producers. The EU is in denial of the fact that when it comes to the economy what is good for some nations is by definition bad for others.The powerful players have a bigger say in every matter. It is now a well-established fact that the Eurozone privileges producers over consumers.

WWII is often reduced to the ethnic cleansing of the Jews, so most people forget that it was essentially about Germany’s insatiable thirst for complete and total power over Europe. Seven decades on, Germany remains in the driving seat of the European Union. Today, the German culture of excessive savings and willingness to work for low wages makes the country’s southern neighbours look lazy and lethargic, unleashing age-old prejudices of the European north-south divide. Every fourth employee in Germany is in the low-wage sector. Germany is perhaps the only western European country to peddle Euro jobs, offering 1€ an hour for certain jobs. The fact that Germany was, and is likely to remain, in the leading position in the Eurozone means that the English will eventually get bored of playing second fiddle. The old British series, ‘Are you being served’ has a delightful episode titled, ‘German week’, where their Grace Bros. departmental store is forced to push German goods in the British market. Apart from the predictable humour, what stands out clearly is the view that the British are better off by themselves without the influences of the common market. The episode ends with young Mr Grace declaring,  “Grace Bros. is coming out of the common market.” Three decades later, not just Grace Bros., but chunks of the United Kingdom have stormed out of the common market, now known as the European Union.

Starting January 2021, Britain will look to build its old ties in a world order where they may have outgunned themselves; their kingdom is looking less united than ever while their elite and working classes have never been more divided. God might save the Queen, but it certainly will not salvage the divided Kingdom.