ConservativeHome Centre Right 22 April 2009
To mark St George’s Day 1933 Winston Churchill made a broadcast speech entitled ‘England’, edited excerpts of which I have reproduced below, (courtesy of the Royal Society of St George to whom Churchill made the speech). Read today, his comments are a sobering verdict on the present government who have undermined and even discarded values that Churchill believed were indisputably integral (though not exclusive!) to ‘England’. Churchill began by speaking about the legend of St George and the dragon:
"I have been wondering what would have happened to him and his story if he had lived now-a-days. St George would have arrived in Cappadocia accompanied, not by a horse, but by a secretariat. He would have been armed, not with a lance, but with some flexible formulas. He would, of course have been welcomed by the local branch of the League of Nations, and, encouraged by them, he would have proposed a conference with the dragon. He would have made a trade agreement with the dragon and would certainly have lent him a lot of money raised from the Cappadocian taxpayers. The question of the maiden’s release, which is very important in the story, would no doubt have been referred to Geneva. It being understood that the dragon reserved all his rights in the meantime. Finally, St George would have been photographed with the dragon, inset the maiden."
"We ought not on these occasions to allow our thoughts to exalt England at the expense of our fellow countrymen in these islands. But there are a few things I will venture to say to you about England. They are spoken in no invidious sense. Here, it never occurs to anyone that the banks would close their doors on their depositors; here it never occurs to anyone to question the fairness of the courts of law and justice; here no one would dream of persecuting his fellow subject, man or woman, on account of their race or religion; here, everyone, except the criminals, looks upon the policeman as the friend and servant of the public; here we provide for poverty and misfortune with more compassion, and more substantial provision, in spite of all our burdens, than any other great country; here we assert the rights of the citizen against the state; or criticise the government of the day, without failing in our duty to the crown. This England, this mighty London in which we are gathered is still the financial centre of the world. From the Admiralty building, half a mile away, orders can be sent to a fleet, which though much smaller than it used to be, or that it ought to be is still unsurpassed on the seas..."
Churchill’s warnings, delivered in 1933 against appeasement of those who are hostile to the historic values our country is based upon, are a beacon that subsequent governments ignore at their peril. Yet today we have a government that has repeatedly appeased aggressors overseas. For example, When in July 2006 the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah invaded Northern Israel, kidnapping Israeli soldiers, our government’s response was to call for a ‘ceasefire’ when Israel responded with military action. It was therefore sad, but hardly surprising that only eight months later Iran repeated the operation, this time kidnapping 15 British sailors and marines patrolling Iraqi waters. Again our government’s response could hardly be termed ‘robust’. Perhaps that should not surprise us when we have a Foreign Secretary who publicly praised the Islamist terrorist group Hamas in one of his very first public statements on appointment.
However, it is not merely overseas that our government has appeased Islamist extremists. In our name, they have given government funding to Islamist groups in the UK, whose ultimate aim is the same as those of Islamist terrorists overseas – the alignment of British law with sharia and the eventual creation of an Islamic government in Britain. Meanwhile, many of the very values that Churchill spoke of as being unquestionably central to our national identity have been repeatedly undermined, if not disregarded by the present Labour government
In Churchill’s England no one thought of persecuting a man on account of his religion. Yet only this month the government has on a 3 line whip pushed through the Commons, the abolition of the ‘Free Speech’ clause that guaranteed Christian ministers a modicum of protection to call ‘sin’ what the Bible and the church historically have always called ‘sin’, something that is fundamental to freedom of religion.
Churchill also described England as a place where “no one questions the fairness of the courts of law and justice”. Yet, today we have a government that has allowed the extradition of bank managers accused of fraud to a foreign country under anti terrorism legislation without any legal evidence being presented to a British court.
In England today, no longer does everyone except the criminal look on the policeman as the friend and servant of the public. Innocent men and women may be arrested and held without trial for a whole month, a concession negotiated down by the Conservatives from the 3 months the government tried to impose. Meanwhile many of our public spirited citizens no longer feel able to deal with troublemakers on their own, fearing, with some justification it must be said, that the police are as likely to arrest them as the troublemakers.
Churchill confidently spoke of an England where in his day “we assert the rights of the citizen against the state” and where the government could be criticised without fear. Yet under this present Labour government we have seen a government department recently instigate the first arrest of an opposition politician for doing his job since Britain became a democracy.
Winston Churchill in this speech made in 1933, towards the end of the Great Depression, described England as a place where “it would hardly occur to anyone that the banks would close their doors against their depositors”. Yet today we have a Prime Minister who as Chancellor chose to ignore the strongest advice of the governor of the Bank of England and stripped the Bank of England of some of its historic powers of regulating the banks,. In its stead he set up a wholly inadequate system of bank regulation that allowed the first run on a British bank for nearly one and half centuries, something that did not even happen during the Great Depression.
Churchill also spoke of London as “the financial centre of the world”. Yet today major international companies are looking to relocate to other countries, rather than stay in a country whose government since coming to power in 1997 has already taken an extra one trillion pounds in real terms out of the economy with more than 100 new taxes. While at the same time the inheritance of five years of prudent economic growth under the last Conservative government has been frittered away in a ‘spend now pay later' splurge of borrowing that left the country with a huge budget deficit even before recession happened. While now in recession, the government has run up what the International Monetary Fund has officially noted is the largest budget deficit in British history. Little wonder then that major international organisations such as the OECD have declared that that Britain is worse placed than any other G7 country to weather the recession.
Astonishingly, the government embarked on this spending spree with taxpayers money at the same time that it demanded major cuts in the budget of our armed forces. We should remember that Churchill spoke out against defence cuts in the 1930s when Britain was not yet fighting a war. Yet the present Labour government has cut all of our armed forces, including even the infantry, at a time when they are already massively overstretched fighting not one, but two major conflicts. Not content with that the government is now proposing to cut the number of Territorial Army soldiers, many of them already fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, by almost a third, cuts that could leave the TA unable to fulfil even a civil defence role in a national emergency.
Churchill could speak of a country whose navy was unsurpassed upon the seas. Yet under the present government the Royal Navy’s fleet of frigates and destroyers that protects more than 90% of our imported trade has been cut by more than a third. While senior officers have warned that further planned cuts will turn Britain's once-proud Navy into nothing more than a coastal defence force, all at a time when the first sea lord has said that more ships are needed to protect the high seas against terrorism and piracy.
Significantly, Churchill concluded his St George’s Day speech by drawing attention to those who in peacetime have “squandered” the very values that we as a nation have fought so hard to defend:
"Historians have noticed all down the centuries, one peculiarity of the English people which has struck them most, and that is, that we have always thrown away after every victory, the greater part of the advantages gained in the scuffle. The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without, they come from within. They do not come from the cottages of the wages earners. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people, always to be found in our country, who, though they do nothing help, take much from its strength. Our difficulties come from a mood of unwarrantable self abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. The come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians. We are told to believe that patriotism is worn out, except where paying income tax is concerned. But what have they found to put in its place? Nothing but a vague internationalism; a squalid materialism and the promise of a Utopia….Nothing can save England if England will not save herself. If we have lost our place and our capacity to guide, if we have lost our faith in ourselves, then indeed our story is told. If, while foreign nations are everyday asserting a more aggressive, a more militant nationalism, either by trade or by arms, while we remain paralysed by our own theories. If that be so, then deprived of the sovereignty of the seas, loaded with debt and taxation, our commerce shut out by foreign tariffs and quotas, England would sink to the level of a fifth rate power. Never should we accept such a fate for our country."
When he became Prime Minister, Churchill restored hope to a nation demoralised by economic hardship and gave it a rightful sense of national pride in its historic values and freedoms at time when these were threatened by tyranny. Mrs Thatcher similarly restored hope and prosperity to our country at a time when many others openly spoke of simply ‘managing the decline of British industry', and she restored a rightful sense of national pride when she led us as a nation in facing down the tyranny of a foreign invasion of a territory whose people unequivocally wanted to remain British. That is exactly what David Cameron and the next Conservative government must set out to do in the face of the all the dangers, including economic and security challenges that confront our country, restoring hope and a rightful pride in our national identity, including its historic values and freedoms.
UK national identity and values
Martin has written extensively on the UK's historic national values and the threat posed to them by both radical Islam and an increasingly intolerant Liberalism, he has recently completed a major book in which this is a central theme.