Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Britain is still Great. We invented Oxfam! Lord Stern of Brentford is one of ours!

Slightly ironic that I posed the rhetorical question the other day of how opponents of independence were going to eulogise the 'greatness of Britain' now that they'd well and truly been stripped of their 'fourth-largest economy in the world' fail-safe line. David Miliband's article in the Times on Monday almost seems to be an attempt to answer that very question, albeit without having Scotland specifically in mind. It makes for unintentionally hilarious reading. You must know you're struggling in an article like that when by just the fourth paragraph you're already falling back on the British origins of Oxfam and Save the Children, and when by the fifth paragraph you're enthusing about "Lord Stern of Brentford’s study on the economics of climate change", the importance of which is apparently "impossible to overstate".

Absolutely, David, let's all stop worrying about the dangers of overstating the importance of the Stern report. I must say the people I know all (with a quintessentially British misplaced modesty) worry about little else. It's silly and it's got to stop.

Rather more troubling than amusing is Miliband's suggestion that we should also take pride in that lest vestige of Britain's colonial privileges - our permanent, veto-wielding status at the UN Security Council, which he claims to defend "out of pride in what we do today, not our role of yesteryear". Isn't that the condescending line of the self-styled 'benevolent imperialist' down the ages - "we exercise power over lesser peoples, but only for their own good?" In reality, Britain is far from being the most pernicious voice on the UN Security Council, but the real damage of the UK and France's apparent determination to defend the current veto system to the last breath (albeit in modified form) is that it provides useful cover for the real Neanderthals of the 'international community'. Naming no names.

I might actually be able to take a little more pride in being British if our government had the imagination to stop clinging to a vestigial power and influence at the UN that has not been earned, and in so doing help to bring about something that would be far more valuable to people in both Britain and beyond - a democratised international system in which all nations are equal.

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