Blair confronts us with a version of ourselves of which we are terrified: not just weak, but unprincipled; not just demoralised, but undignified; no longer the world’s aristocrats, but butlers for the new super-rich.
This is the original, English-language version of an article published in Polish this weekend in Gazeta Wyborcza. The Polish translation can be found here.
As outsiders and Britons alike try to understand the result of Britain’s EU referendum, it is tempting simply to refer to Acheson’s dictum that ‘Britain has lost an empire but has not yet found a role’ and assume that all can be explained by a surge of imperial nostalgia, reflecting Britain’s mental semi-detachment from the continent and the natural insularity of those who dwell on an island.
But although those things are still relevant, they do not go nearly enough in explaining the state of British politics and society today. Acheson was right, but a lot has changed since 1962. After decades of agonising, Britain did find a role with which it appeared to be comfortable, as a medium-sized power with special privileges, one of the United States’ major allies and its European lieutenant within NATO, and one of the three major powers within the European Union.
It is a much more recent loss of faith in this post-imperial role that helps to explain why Britons opted for what Prime Minister David Cameron – who has announced his intention to resign – described during the campaign as “the self-destruct option” of departure from the European Union.