Eighty years ago this week, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Within months, we stood alone with the Hitlerite hordes, at the Channel ports, preparing to invade us.
Our people then kept calm and carried on.
“Children queued in parks for their gas masks, men were digging air-raid shelters,” I heard several eyewitnesses tell the BBC this week.
One family, the Walkers, had six children in the war. On the homefront, in India, then Burma, North Africa, and then Italy. Two of them were working as doctors in St Thomas’ Hospital opposite Parliament… where my fourth child was born. The hospital was bombed three times in one week. After each raid (and a cup of tea) both doctors were back at work, attending to patients.
Eighty years later, in this September crisis, Britain is in the grip of mass hysteria.
Firstly, because the prime minister extended the parliamentary holiday by FIVE days. And secondly, at the prospect of him calling a general election that half the country has been demanding.
The British bourgeoisie, those with the formerly stiff upper-lip, have recoiled in horror at the prospect of queueing not for their gas-masks but for their imported foie gras or their ferry en-route to their gîte in Provence. And the “left” has been worse than the right!
“March, strike, occupy” was their answer to the draconian decision to give 5 more away-days to their MPs (few of whom they would, hitherto, be seen dead with).
March they did, in decent numbers. Though, when counted, it became clear they had confused thousands with millions, the first month of pregnancy with the ninth.
As for strike, of course not a single British worker downed tools, no doubt on account of the fact that foie gras isn’t on their menu and they have no current plans to travel to Provence.
The promise (threat) to occupy bridges and block roads has not yet been kept. Perhaps being confronted with angry workers whom they were hoping would be on strike put them off this slogan.
Hell hath no fury like the entitled middle-class not getting their way, but it all had the feel of a tantrum rather than a revolution in the end.
And anyway it was quickly overtaken with the even greater threat to democracy of a general election by universal suffrage. The news is alight with the speculation that, faced with a recalcitrant parliament determined to block the Brexit which the people voted for, the PM is about to ask the people to elect another one.
The first sign of panic, like the first swallow of summer, was the sight of Tony Blair in a tiny room, with an audience of around a dozen, orating, as if in the Roman Forum, about how we must NOT have a general election to get rid of a government widely-derided not least by him (unless they hire him, as so many unpopular governments have done).
Presumably, the strange melange of liberals, Trotskyists, and EU fanatics will next be on the streets next weekend demanding the government should STAY in office for the foreseeable future.
The chattering classes, meanwhile, conceal their selfish interests behind mindless fear-mongering about shortages of food and medicine, quite oblivious to the obvious that if the EU really would allow our sick to die for the want of medicines then they are probably not the kind of club we’d want to be a part of anyway.
This will be the mother of all week’s in the British parliament. At the week’s end we will either be full-speed ahead towards an unstoppable Halloween Brexit, or Parliament will be packing up many of its members, never to return, for a general election like no other. Not in 80 years has Britain experienced anything like it. Don’t panic!
By George Galloway