The following speech was presented by Alistair McConnachie to the London Swinton Circle (Chairman, Allan Robertson) on Tuesday 5 June 2018 at 7.00pm at the Counting House, 50 Cornhill, London. All photographs are copyright AFFG.
In Memoriam Christopher Luke
Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for coming along tonight.
Before I begin, I'd just like to say a word about an absent friend who's not with us tonight.
As many of you know, Christopher Luke passed away at the end of last year.
I first encountered Christopher when I was publishing my monthly anti-EU newsletter Sovereignty. I began that in June 1999. Christopher must have been given a copy because towards the end of that year I was delighted to find in my post, a copy of his 4-page newsletter
Unionist, number 16.
So from then on, we did a swop – he'd send me Unionist from "The Royal Borough of Tunbridge Wells" as he liked to call it, and I'd send him Sovereignty each month and we did that for the next 10 years.
I was very interested to read his ideas about the Union and he definitely contributed towards my understanding of it, especially in relation to Northern Ireland.
During those 10 years, we corresponded via email and occasionally by phone, but it wasn't until I spoke here in 2009 that I actually met him for the first time.
Since then, he would come to my annual talk here, and I was always very grateful for that, and it was good to catch up.
I didn't know Christopher beyond our shared political interests, but in that sense, we knew each other very well!
Unionism lost a good thinker, advocate and a staunch British Patriot, when he passed away at the end of last year.
So, what I'd like to do is dedicate this talk to Christopher and his memory. I know he would approve of what I have to say.
I'm going to speak for 45 mins and I'm going to divide my talk into 2 parts. The first part gives some background Philosophy on the idea of pride in one's Country and Identity, and the second part gives 15 things related specifically to Britain and Britishness, that I take pride in, and perhaps you might too.
As always, I use the word Britain as shorthand for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
So let's begin with some background philosophy…
SHAME and GUILT as POLITICAL WEAPONS
The opposite of pride is shame, and it is shame which certain people will use as a political weapon if they don't like what you're about.
"Why feel pride in your country when you should feel shame about the bad things which have been done in its name", they say.
That puts us on the back foot. It makes us defensive. It makes us unsure about our beliefs. It enables the opponent to dominate the debate.
Such people want to pour vitriol over our history, or where they don't do that, they want to pour 100s of gallons of Tippex over it so we never knew it existed.
Why do they do this?
If you can pour vitriol over, for example, the significant people of the past then you can also destroy a nation's sense of itself because if you say that the historical people we are meant to respect and who helped bring us to where we are today, are in fact bad, then you destroy the moral legitimacy of the present.
They are using the weapon of Shame and the weapon of Guilt about things in the past in an effort to dominate you politically today; to make you keep your head down and shut you up, basically.
So, Shame and Guilt are weapons intended to dominate you politically and are used for that person's political ends.
HIRSCH – 'The BATTLE for BRITAIN'S HEROES'
There was a programme on last week on Channel 4 called "The Battle for Britain's Heroes" (29-5-18) where the left-wing commentator Afua Hirsch was looking at our national heroes and their monuments and applying her politically-correct tests to them – and of course finding that they fall considerably short, in her opinion!
"The Battle" for Britain's Heroes? "The Battle", strange phrase?
In this regard, Peter Whittle, a UKIP Member of the London Assembly, tweeted on 29 May that: "There is no 'battle'. No 'debate' outside the tiny world of left wing self-described pseudo academics. This is a concocted controversy imposed on the public, who are left feeling demoralized, confused and self-doubting. Which is the point of the exercise."
Very well put. He nailed it there.
The point of the exercise is to leave us "feeling demoralized, confused and self-doubting."
The aim is to make us feel uncomfortable and consequently reluctant to defend these national characters, or the national stories, of which they are part.
And ultimately, because we don't rise to defend them, they get pushed out of popular consciousness, and the Nation that they and their stories represent, no longer lives in the popular imagination and thereby dies, physically, in real life.
For a nation to live, we need to be constantly recalling to memory and expressing through many mediums, these elements of our past.
I spoke about this in my speech to you 5 years ago on the 18 June 2013.
HOW a NATION COMES ALIVE
I asked, how does a Nation, in this case, Britain, come alive for us?
Because, often the idea of a nation, and a national identity, is intangible.
But one can connect to it – that is, sense it in one's heart and soul, and experience it physically in word and deed – through mechanisms which enable us to reach out and grasp the intangible.
What are these mechanisms?
Symbols – through things like flags, passports, monuments, statues, the Queen – who is a symbol, a National Icon.
Rituals – through things like singing songs and anthems, marching, or watching marches, partaking in Remembrance Services, attending or even just witnessing on the television, events such as Royal Weddings, Trooping the Colour, National Commemorations, Award Ceremonies, or even Competitions on television – the National Lottery.
Institutions – through things like the Monarchy, Parliament, the Armed Forces; and in the past certainly the institution of Empire – which had a huge bearing upon one's sense of British identity. Today we have the Commonwealth, more about that later.
Institutions in which an identity can be vested also include things like sporting teams – Team GB, the British Lions – and also industries and services which have a national flavour, whether public like the Royal Mail, the NHS, the former "British Rail", the various Heritage bodies, or private such as charities like the RNLI, RNIB, RSPCA and so on.
Through Art and Culture – photographs, paintings, designs; cultural expressions such as video, TV and film productions, music, plays, comedy, dance.
Through Products – such as British cars, trains, ships, and all sorts of products which you can buy from fridge magnets to clothes to games and toys.
That is, the intangible can be reached, grasped and experienced through loyalty towards symbols; participation in rituals; membership, or at least support, of institutions; involvement in artistic and culture activity related to such things; and possession of, or at least appreciation of, products.
It is those things which enable us to connect to the idea of the nation and our national identity in a tangible way.
And I would add another…
Through Venerating Significant People of the Past – Britain has so many Explorers, Inventors, Engineers, Scientists, Medical Innovators, Kings and Queens, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Academics, Theologians, Sportspeople, Artists, Designers, Architects, you name them.
All of these people helped bring us through the centuries to where we are today.
Recalling to memory, seeking to understand, and to respect these people enable us to relate to, and thereby grasp, something which is intangible – the idea of the Nation and National Identity – to sense it and to experience it as part of our lived existence.
...which brings us back to this lady, Afua Hirsch.
But before I talk about her and whether Britain's History is good or bad, let me just put this into context.
BRITAIN has SO MUCH HISTORY
Britain is one of the few countries in the world which has a substantial body of opinion which criticises its own history.
Perhaps one of the reasons – at least a reason which makes it quite easy for the self-flagellant academic trying to find bad things to talk about – is that Britain just has so much history to speak about in the first place.
Think about it!
Britain's history is so vast, so immense, so wide ranging, so world-wide, so relevant to the modern age, so abundant.
We created huge elements of what we know as the modern world!
There is just so much of it to form an opinion around, that perhaps it is no surprise that those who want to look for bad things can find them; among of course, so much good.
It's a consequence of Britain's greatness on the world stage that there is so much history to our country, and therefore, so much for some people to make a thing about, for good or bad.
It is a consequence of Britain's dynamism in the past, that there is so much history out there – both the good and the bad.
Contrast this with countries which were not dynamic, which didn't explore, which didn't leave the safety of the home. They don't have this history – both good and bad – because they were not doing things in the first place.
If you don't do anything, you will never make mistakes.
If you don't get out of bed in the morning you'll never run the risk of doing anything, or succeeding, or failing, or being good or bad, or accidentally hurting yourself or others.
It is a consequence of us doing so much that sometimes we made mistakes along the way, and some bad ones. That's life.
So, I'm not going to apologise for things which we did as a consequence of taking action on the world stage.
Anyway, back to Hirsch, who finds herself in the enviable and highly privileged position of being able to explore this vast historical Well.
UNDERSTANDING HIRSCH'S PREMISE
Hirsch's premise, to the extent that I can divine it, from what she has written, is that Britishness is inherently 'toxic'.
She wants to – and she uses the phrase – 'detoxify Britishness', according to her article in The Guardian. (1)
She says that Britishness is a 'fragile' identity because of this 'toxicity' and reluctance to explore it!
So, she's approaching the debate as if she's handling a highly toxic substance.
Whereas people such as myself – who have a solid British identity – approach it