As I watch Boris Johnson try to goosestep Britain off the Brexit cliff in the name of nationalism, powered by faith in British (by which he means English) exceptionalism, I have to remind myself that Johnson’s behaviour is not that of a true Englishman from the ruling classes. His tactics are borrowed from Hitler rather than from any British political tradition.
I found reinforcement of this in an unexpected source today.
I was reading “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy Sayers. This is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, published in 1935.
Wimsey is the epitome of what a well-informed aristo with his country’s interest at heart should be.
At one point, in conversation with Harriet Vine, Wimsey commented on compromise as being in an Englishman’s blood.
Here’s what they said to each other.
It made me wonder what Wimsey would make of Johnson.
I doubt he would be a supporter.
Three years ago, most of Europe saw the British as the masters of the pragmatic compromise, able to find solutions that allowed multiple parties to gain from cooperation without sacrificing the things that were most important to them.
Now, most of Europe sees us a being in the grip of an identity crisis where we can’t even compromise with each other.
How very un-English we have become.