A British social critic weighs in on the decline of British culture.
Hitchens maintains that the UK’s loss of international stature during the last half of the 20th century can be traced directly to the failure of the Conservative Party to adequately represent the views of its constituents, and he sets out to prove this thesis through a series of historical anecdotes. His analysis is framed by the funerals of two “larger-than-life” Britons—Sir Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, whose comparative gravitas provides a vivid example of precisely that decline of national seriousness that the author has in mind. The rise of Tony Blair’s current Labor government (as the result of a “slow motion coup d’etat”) is seen as the final step in Britain’s retreat from the world stage—an insurrection that Hitchens derides as the destruction of all that is unique and good about the United Kingdom in preparation for its future as little more than a quaint island province of a German-dominated European superstate. This is another variation, of course, on a very old theme: times have changed. Long-held beliefs, values, moralities, and traditions have all been devalued in a startlingly short time and without the external shock that normally signals such a sea change. Such perennial nostalgic fear of the unfamiliar is compounded in Britain today by two undeniably seminal events: the inexorable dissolution (or “devolution”) of the UK, combined with its equally inevitable absorption into the European federation. The Empire unraveled a long time ago; now, it appears that there may not “always be an England” after all.
A tremendous sensation when it was published in Britain, this is an intriguing study that will naturally arouse a good deal less passion on these shores.