Sunday 9 April 2023

Cavalier Attitudes

I am older than Rishi Sunak, and I am older than either Tony Blair or David Cameron was on becoming Prime Minister, yet in the last few hours, a Keir Starmer fan has called me "boy". The Labour Right is getting very tetchy as it realises that it will probably die without ever having seen another overall majority.

It turns out that Starmer supporters call anyone who dares to question them "boy" as a matter of routine, regardless of the age of either party, and as social superiors addressed social inferiors in Dickensian England, or whites addressed black men in the Jim Crow South.

Ah, Dickensian England. Of course Great Expectations is about class, even more than they all are. That is why it is the one that gets the no expense spared television adaptation treatment every decade. And every decade, the same people moan that it has been ruined by being made about class. Have they ever read it?

And ah, slavery. January saw the two hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the British Anti-Slavery Society. The ban on the slave trade in 1807 had done nothing to stamp out slavery itself, and indeed victory over Napoleon had given Britain additional slave colonies. It was time to open the Bible again.

Yes, the Bible. The claim that it did not condemn slavery as such was made by the defenders of the institution, who generally had a pecuniary interest in it. But the idea that everyone thought that for the first eighteen centuries of Christianity's existence is simply false, and it is very telling that the abolitionists were castigated and mocked specifically for taking the Word of God too seriously.

By taking it so, then they were unable to believe that the different "races" were different species with different origins, as was widely believed by the theological conservative-liberal elitists of the day, the forebears of the persecutors of Dr Stephen Sizer and of those of Bishop Robert Byrne. We now know that it was the people who had at least read the first two pages of Scripture who were scientifically correct. The suggestion that until some very late date no one had thought that slavery was unbiblical and un-Christian is bound up with the suggestion that there was no opposition to it in its heyday, but that simultaneously England and then Britain had taken it up purely for the pleasure and honour of stamping it out. 

In fact, though, we were not even the first country to abolish slavery, since that was Haiti, after the only successful slave revolt in history. We have still not yet been free of it for as long as we practised it. And while it is true that it could never officially exist in the Imperial Motherland because "the air of England was too pure" for it, from where did English Common Law arrive at that conclusion? Out of that thin air itself? Or from Christianity?

Reparations are a more complicated question. They may cause more problems than they would solve. But the loan to compensate the slaveholders was so enormous that every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom was still paying it off until 2015, 182 years after it had been taken out. Yes, not until 1833. Again, not 1807. The beneficiaries remain at the heart of the British elite. There is no doubt that the monarchy was heavily involved in the slave trade for, it bears repetition, longer than the period from its abolition to the present day.

And so to the King. As is going to be important across a wide range of issues, it is by definition impossible to be more Tory than the King. The rest of us can disagree with him on, say, how to deal with climate change. We could in principle disagree with him on this, too. But if you are not with the King, then you are not a Tory. You are just not.


  1. Charles doesn't agree with them about anything much.

    1. And they have no answer to that. You cannot be more Tory than the King.