December 14th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY A myriad transformations effected by one birth

VICTORIAN POLITICS Andrews hacks away at another way of life and source of jobs

CANBERRA OBSERVED Labor must own up to why it took the thrashing it got

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

LIFE AND FAMILY On the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, how are we doing?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Brexit: Quintessentially British party politics

OBITUARY Fr Paul Stenhouse: The thoughtful editor for the 'ordinary' reader

OBITUARY Vale David Milne, paragon of loyalty and perseverance

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan and Hong Kong: Pawns in a bigger game

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS How and why the U.S. should stop financing China's bad actors

HUMOUR You can't stop the music, Paddy

MUSIC 2020 foresight: A musical odyssey

CLASSIC CINEMA North by Northwest: The immaculately produced nightmare

BOOK REVIEW Truncated truths for post-truth times

BOOK REVIEW Food for a summer immersion program



THE QUEEN V PELL: A blight on the whole of the criminal justice system

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Johnson to take UK out of the EU on January 31

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Brexit: Quintessentially British party politics

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, December 14, 2019

The UK votes on December 12. The issue is Brexit: “to leave or not to leave … that is the question”; with sincere apologies to Shakespeare. The slumbering elephant in the room is immigration, but that is unmentionable, especially on the politically correct BBC.

Can Boris Johnson snatch a convincing electoral victory and deliver a real Brexit, or will Corbyn’s Labour and the remainders stonewall and defy the will of the people? What is so apparent in the Brexit issue is that since the decisive victory of the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, Parliament, the chattering elites at the BBC and the establishment have not only ignored the will of the people, but believe the people got the vote wrong. Since then they have thwarted all attempts to exit the European Union.

The UK has been ungovernable for the past three years and, to an Australian observer from afar, has sunken into a self-flagellating malaise.

The parallels of this 21st-century Brexit and the 16th-century Brexit actions of Henry VIII resonate like an historical echo. Henry broke with Rome to avoid the payments of Annates to the Vatican treasury and remove the perceived or imagined subjugation by Rome of England. To replace European domination of his kingdom, Henry’s reformation created the nation-state of England. England’s hallmark was being totally separate and distinct from all other European powers. Separate and distinct in language, law, power, self-government, politics, religion and culture.

This unique English identity lasted until the end of World War II, or arguably until the Suez Crisis of 1957, when the sun, with a final flicker, set on the Empire.

Similarly, today’s Brexiteers and Nigel Farage echo a resurrected Henry seeking to break England’s political subservience to Brussels and avoid the annual tributes to unelected apparatchiks who dictate the laws and rules of the EU membership, without recourse to the British people. (In 2018, the UK’s gross contribution (annate) or “tribute of submission” to the EU was £20 billion ($A38 billion)).

In Henry’s day, the task of breaking with Rome fell to Cardinal Wolsey to negotiate the separation. In this mission he failed, was arrested and sidelined. In the modern era, the role of negotiating the break with Brussels fell to Theresa May; and she likewise failed thrice and is now sidelined.

The British have a non-compulsory voting system of “first past the post”. This helps make sense of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party making the difficult strategic decision not to contest 317 conservative seats. To contest those seats would split the conservative vote and potentially allow Labour to win. While the strategy may be correct, the implications and resentment from disenfranchised Brexiteers against Farage for this decision may carry different ramifications.

What of England under Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, if he snaps victory from the jaws of defeat on December 12? (Inconceivable political earthquakes do happen: such as Trump v Clinton in 2016; Keating v Hewson in 1993 and Morrison v Shorten in 2019.) Put simply, Britannia would sink beneath the waves, not in the spectular manner of the mighty HMS Hood, but more like RMS Titanic … slowly at first from Labour’s self-mutilation and socialist wounds, then rapidly by the head.

What about the Brexit Party? If it gains a balance of power of say 10+ seats, it would wield significant influence in delivering a real Brexit. Like the “deplorables” in the United States in 2016, the English electorate wants change and the Brexit Party speaks to political reform.

The great unknown in this election is Boris Johnson; who, while pacing the stage like Churchill reincarnated, does not project a commitment to a real Brexit and much needed electoral reform. Some British commentators have said Johnson’s Brexit deal is May’s third unsuccessful deal tricked up to look like Mk. IV. One wag suggested Johnson’s Brexit is the same as May’s pig, but with lipstick. To Australian observers the touted Johnson Brexit offering is a Clayton’s Brexit: the Brexit you have when you don’t have a Brexit.

The poll on December 12 will decide the fate of England. Will England regain its independence and stature as a self-governing nation, or remain a tribute-paying vassal in an anti-democratic European empire?

Irrespective of the electoral outcome, there are many lessons for Australia from all this. These include: maintaining and defen­ding national sovereignty; control of borders; strengthening national identity rather than adopting divisive tribal identity politics; ignoring the diktats of the anti-democratic United Nations; stopping kowtowing to the emerging Chinese empire; and ensuring that politicians and bureaucrats, state and federal, listen to and are answerable to the people.

Tony O’Brien holds a Masters in History.

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