Thursday 26 June 2014

Is Farage the next Thomas Cromwell?

As avid readers of Master Shardlake’s chronicles will know, the 1530s saw a political and economic revolution in this country. There were political peculiarities about it which lay behind the way it happened – Henry VIII’s divorce for example – but there are reasons for thinking that it might have been inevitable sometime.

There were two linked events I wanted to talk about here. One was the severing of links between England and the sovereign European supra-national authority, the power of Rome (Rome and Brussels have played parallel roles in our history, as bogieman).

The other was linked to it. It was the privatisation of the social, educational and welfare support system, and the parceling out of the assets to allies of the crown – a set of events also known as the Dissolution of the Monasateries.  Both emerged from a new Protestant critique.

As I read the kind of language used by Conservative MPs recently, about the European Commission’s ideas for tackling something we seem unable to tackle ourselves - our disastrous 30-year house price bubble – I wondered if we were seeing elements of history repeating itself.

UKIP are, in that respect, a resurgent Protestant political force, in revolt against the Catholic power of the European Commission, and forcing the government to resit the imposition of a true Ultra-montanist, Jean-Claude Juncker.

I would not have enjoyed living through the period of the Reformation in this country. I will not enjoy it if that period comes again, but I have wondered over the last few weeks whether – for reasons of history – it is inevitable that the resurgent Protestant force will call the shots long enough to take the UK out of the European Union, and possibly also to sell off our welfare system.

Like the reformers designated the monasteries in the 1530s, there is a Protestant narrative which designates the welfare state as corrupt.

The irony is that the very elements the Protestant reformers hate the most – the mindless bureaucracy of the single market – was a creation of their forebears in the Thatcher government, and will be repeated if we leave in identical form in a new US-UK trade deal.

But is that a case that is likely to be understood in the current climate? Especially if a European Scotland, and its revitalised Auld Alliance with the continent, leaves the English Protestant rump behind?

If this is an accurate parallel, is history likely to repeat itself as farce? And if so, is there some way aof side-stepping it?  Ir is it really inevitable that we have to endure it all over again?

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