First Among Equals


There are so many people in the Remain camp who seem intent on crushing any belief in Britain whatsoever.

Maybe they genuinely hate their own country (this would explain their desire for it to disappear off the political map) in which case I don’t understand why they aren’t Grenouille-side of the Channel enjoying the magnificent opportunities they believe exist there.

Or maybe they mean to be a masterful voice of reason to rein in we frothing bigots who believe that 1000 years of glorious national sovereignty trumps four decades of membership of history’s dullest form of despotism.

Whatever. Actually, they come across as pursed-mouthed puritan elders, thrashing a pretty child for looking in a mirror.

There are far too many joyless souls around, who are drawn magnetically to any area of pleasure, in order to tell us how bad it is for us, and how it may lead us to paths of unrighteousness.

They expect us to find ‘pride’ in the most extraordinary things – I expect, were someone to mention a predilection for nose-picking, these latter-day puritans would track down a Pride group, an emblem, and a fixed day for wearing a badge – but mention taking pride in thousands of years of heritage and culture (such as the Anglo-Saxon society which offered women equality they weren’t to achieve again until the latter quarter of the 20th century) and they cry ‘shame!’ and start clanging bells.

One particularly virulent offender in this respect is Ian Birrell, writing his ‘View’ for i news-paper.  So sternly that I could picture him pointing a quivering finger and bellowing “Thou shalt be smitten!” Ian went reprovingly through a list of all the people who have recently said something nice about Britain, until he came to the subject of music – in which, whether he likes it or not (and he evidently doesn’t) Britain is Europe’s star performer.

To counter this Sin Of Pride, without a trace of irony, he mentioned Daft Punk (the clues to influences are in the name) Bjork (who found musical fulfilment in London) and Kraftwerk, who were new and innovative long, long ago, when I was tottering around in my first glittery platform shoes.

Ian may, when dinner-guests are present, click his fingers awkwardly to the strains of “Belgian Stromae” and his “songs of alienation” but it’s Britain which has provided a veritable tsunami of musical excellence over the past five decades. And if he thinks that being proud of our music is a peculiarly British offence, he has never lived in France, where to this day they idolise Johnny Hallyday, above all for being French.

In any case, the point these misery-guts make – that we aren’t special because other people are – is arrant nonsense.  In what possible way does self-love denigrate others? Speaking as someone who studied European history and culture, lived outside the UK for several years, and married a continental European, let me assure poor worried Remainers that we are all special, all exceptional. We all deserve to celebrate that, and share it – with pride and joy.

To deny people the awe of feeling they are part of something grand, is so dreary. I do hope that, if they are parents, they don’t extend this attitude to admonishing their children that they are nothing special, because those who are taught to genuinely love themselves, far from being monsters, are enabled to accept, without fear, that others have the right to love themselves, too.

Self-love only morphs into self-aggrandisement when it feels threatened or defensive. That’s when it manifests the desire to eradicate difference and exert control over others, by – well – for instance, by trying to homogenise diverse ancient cultures into continental Empires which obsess over the bend in a banana or force other nations to accept huge numbers of high-risk people against their will.

Self-esteem feels good, and those who feel good are glad to love and let love.  The French, for example, take inordinate pride in their food, but cook them a truly splendid British speciality, and there are no people more genuinely, effusively appreciative. That’s because they are confident in that area.  That’s how people react, and nations are made up of people.

So chill out, all you Brit-haters – maybe break into ‘Hope And Glory’ in the shower, now and then.  Above all, drop your sackcloth-and-ashes approach to life. Enjoy our excellence, revel in it – and you will more genuinely enjoy the excellence of others, too.

Because that’s how friends treat each other and we are – all of us – worth it.