A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
One of the great principles of the English speaking peoples is the freedom of the press. It has been of enormous advantage to us, in a way they it very often hasn’t in other European, African and Asian countries, primarily because the way in which it works to defeat corruption and we can all think of examples where British politicians have been corrupt, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald Maudling, who was forced to resign. Of the 107 ministerial resignations between 1903 and 1994, only five of them came about as a result of financial impropriety. Now of course, we are lucky in this country, and not all the English-speaking peoples are – one thinks also of course of the resignation of Spiro Agnew again in the 1970s, the Vice President of America – but overall, we are fortunate in having a relatively uncorrupt public administration, which has helped us enormously in terms of our daily lives, and that I think is largely down to the freedom of the press that we have enjoyed since the 17th century. When one looks at America, funnily enough, and looks at the most corrupt parts of the American continent, one automatically, of course, looks at Quebec and Louisiana, neither of which were colonised by the English.
The last great area of the 1688 revolutionary ideals is, of course, the free market, free market capitalism, which has been another great bedrock of our victory over the last two centuries. It’s really been an astonishing fact, but certainly, English-speaking people’s makeup only 7.5 % of the world’s population and yet they are responsible for, creating no less than 40% of the world’s GDP. Now, how can this be, that 7.5% creates 40%? The answer is because of our ability through free market capitalism to stay at the absolute forefront of all the major industrial developments. The recent ones, of course one thinks of automobiles, aeronautics, computers, finance, biotechnology and IT, and it looks like, we will stay in the forefront for the short-term at least. And that is largely, almost entirely down to the drive that individuals have and are allowed to have, and the fact that they are allowed to keep the fruits of their work. And what is also necessary, and it’s politically incorrect to say it – but I don’t think this evening that’s going to matter terribly much, a) in this audience and b) because I am going to get lot more politically incorrect later on – it is also necessary in the English-speaking peoples to have social inequality, unless there is, as well as the carrot of wealth, there must also be, as there is in our countries, the stick of poverty to ensure that people work as hard as they can, and do as well as they can. This obviously requires, and certainly we get this in Australia and New Zealand, very powerful states that can pick up the absolute destitute. However, unless they is a sense that you are going to slip behind, if you do not work hard, then you will not work hard and the great thing about the English-speaking peoples is that they have historically stuck to that important aspect of free market capitalism.
It’s a fact that we did not invent these great ideas that have made us great. When one thinks of law, it came from the Romans, one thinks of democracy it came from the Greeks, Protestantism from the Germans and modern capitalism from the Dutch. These are not things that we have invented, but there are things that we have perfected over the years, and that is the reason that we are the world’s great superpower. And in each of these areas, (I mentioned aeronautics earlier), it is so vital that we stay to the forefront because the moment that another nation creates a better fighter jet, a more impressive bomber (just looking in terms of air power), then we must look to the end, the future end of our primacy. When one imagines, remembers that, of course, two American brothers invented the whole concept of ‘human flight’, in the same five year period however there was a New Zealander, a Briton and a Canadian who were all, if it hadn’t been the Wright brothers, it would have been one of those three. The English-speaking peoples were the absolute forefront of that and by 1944, by the time of D-day, the RAF and the US AAF were able to fly 70 sorties a day for the three months, just reconnaissance sorties, before the attack on D-day, thereby being able to map the entire Normandy coast line. But on the day of D-day itself those two forces flew no fewer than 13,688 sorties against only 319 that the Germans Luftwaffe, managed to put up at that time. And in the 16 weeks prior to D-day, there were no fewer than 66,000 tonnes of bombs dropped. Now of course, that was done at an incredible expense in terms of lives and no fewer than 28,000 air crew lost their lives in the course of the pre D-day and immediate post D-day operations. None of this would have been possible; D-day could not have taken place. I am using it as an example of the English-speaking peoples working at their absolute best together; in the planning of D-day, of all people who took part 98.5% came from the English-speaking peoples, and none of this could have happened had it not been for our domination of air power. The losses though are incredible, and it reminds us of LBJ, President Johnson, who, when NATO was rocked to the core by France unilaterally withdrawing from the military command structure, and the French Ambassador told Secretary of State Dean Rusk that de Gaulle wanted all American servicemen taken out of France forthwith, LBJ asked Dean Rusk to say to de Gaulle, “Does your order include the bodies of American soldiers in French cemeteries?” of whom, ladies and gentlemen, there are no fewer than 30,922 in the First World War and 93,245 Americans who are buried in France.
And that is one of the reasons, one of the many, many reasons why I am; - I think there is no other word than infuriated - by the present level of anti-Americanism in this country. If one listens to the BBC, if one reads the Independent, or the Guardian, or the New Statesman, or the Observer, you would believe that that country is somehow an enemy of Britain’s, and an enemy of civilisations and mankind. And it is one of the reason I have written this book, an absolutely fury at the deliberate misrepresentation of what America has given and is giving to the world. One thinks of the Dawes plan, where they virtually wrote off all the World War I debts and reparations. One thinks of the Marshall plan – 13 billion dollars they gave over 4 years. One thinks of the fact that even today the Americans contribute 70% of the financial flowing from the richest seven countries to the developing world. One thinks of the amazing private philanthropy that America gives to the rest of the world. One thinks of the fact that, for all that the UN talked about helping the victims of the Tsunami last year, it was actually the US Navy that did the most in getting things there. And this tide of anti-Americanism – of course to do with Iraq and Afghanistan, which I’ll come onto in a moment – is tremendously dangerous, I believe, to the unity and the projected hopes of the English-speaking peoples, because there are so many achievements that we are asked either to forget about or even feel ashamed of, and partly this book is a repetition of them and a totally unapologetic defence of them.
If one thinks in terms of medicine, I look at the Scott, Alexander Fleming and penicillin, I look at the American Jonas Salk, I look at Rutherford splitting the atom, a New Zealander there. In exploration, one thinks of the Union Jack that was put on top of Everest, the Stars and Stripes that were put on the moon. When you think of the number of Nobel prizes, America has won more Nobel prizes than any other country per capita, not just in a general sense, but per capita, which is of course the key way of looking at that. One thinks of the astonishing explosion of our common language. In 1977, when Voyager I went up in space, the language that the Secretary General of the United Nations used in order to speak to any aliens who were up there and might be listening, was of course English. We here in England make up 1.3% of the world population and we take up 0.2% of the world’s total land area. Yet we are poised now to have a situation where the world language, world conversation, must take place in English. It’s the language of computers, it’s the language of business, it’s the language of air traffic control, everywhere that you can think of. A quarter of mankind can understand English, which, considering we actually only make up 1.3% of mankind, is a staggering achievement and one that we should be proud of.
It’s not just the language of those things that I mentioned, but also the language of wealth and wealth aspiration, aspiration to wealth, and rightly so. These are amazing statistics that I recently came across. The net worth [in US Dollars] of everybody in the world who speaks Mandarin – of course there are many, many more Mandarin speakers as a first language than there are English speakers; so speaking as a first language – is 448 billion. Russian speakers 801 billion, German speakers 1.1 billion, Japanese speakers 1.27 billion, but English speakers, the net worth of the English speaking peoples, is 4.27 billion, more than all of the rest of them put together. We are now poised, we are on the cusp of becoming the world language. (I was about to say the lingua franca, but there’s a certain irony in all of that).
I went to visit some of the cemeteries in Gallipoli, or at least on the Island of Lemnos next to Gallipoli, where those who had fallen in the Dardanelles Campaign were taken for burial. I came across the grave of a 25 year old Maori, called Private Tamarapa, from the New Zealand Maori Battalion at Lemnos, and I asked myself, why should it be that a Maori, born in New Zealand, should be killed in Turkey and buried in Greece because an Austrian in Bosnia was shot by a Serb? And the answer is, in the end, because the English-speaking peoples, far from doing what seemed to be in their best interest in 1914, instead did what was in civilisation’s best interest, which was to stand up against the hegemonic Wilhelmein military. And even before the war was declared, three days before the Great War broke out; Australia promised 20,000 troops for an Australian expeditionary force. On the 1st of August 1914, the Canadians also raised 40,000 troops, and they did it in eight days. Australia and Canada were under no threat of invasion from Kaiser Wilhelm, but yet they did this, and they did not do it, ladies and gentlemen, for the reasons that left wing historians have ever afterwards claimed, that they were somehow strong-armed into it, that there were mad fits of jingoism, that the right wing press whipped up a hate campaign against the Germans, that they were in some way conned into the First World War. Any time that you look at the newspapers that were being published, that the people who were flocking into those stations to volunteer, when you look at the lists of the reasons that they themselves were giving, again and again they were altruistic, astonishingly altruistic for our time. And the Princess Patricia Regiment of Canada, which is fighting now in Afghanistan. That in itself is an astonishing thing. 3,500 Canadians are fighting in Afghanistan, 5,500 Britons, 15,000 Americans, and it is a campaign of the English-speaking peoples. When one is asked where the French are, they are guarding the Khyber Pass, the Germans are in the north of the country. This, ladies and gentlemen, is yet another example of the English-speaking peoples standing up to defend themselves and humanity. Also, in no sense is this, I want to emphasize this, in no sense is this is a racial argument. English is spoken in the British West Indies; the British West Indies regiments out in the Caribbean showed sterling service throughout the First World War and indeed the Second World War. The British West Indies regiments in the First World War, 15,200 people served, and they served in Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, East Africa, India, France, Italy and Belgium. They won 19 MCs, 11 MCs in bar, 37 MMs and 49 mentions in dispatches. So this is not in any sense something that is just the preserve of white people, it’s entirely the preserve of those who speak the language and believe in the values.
It is a myth of course also that we stood alone, that Britain stood alone in 1940, No we didn’t. London after Dunkirk was protected by two Canadian divisions and by virtually no one else in terms of properly armed troops. The British Empire and Commonwealth was standing alone in 1940, not just Britain. The New Zealanders were probably the best division in the whole of the desert war, that’s not me speaking, that’s Lord Allenbrook. The Australian of course sent troops halfway across the world. When one goes to the Australian war cemetery in Canberra, it is one of the most moving places imaginable. I don’t know how many of you have been there, but they have the names of all 100,000 people who have lost their lives fighting for Australia, for the English-speaking peoples, since the foundation of that country in 1900. 100,000 people out of a nation that was only four million in the 1900s; there are only 14 million today. It’s an astonishing sense of sacrifice, and one that seems all too often, in my view, to be ignored or misunderstood.
One country, it has to be said, of the English-speaking peoples, was not present in the line up to defend civilisation in 1939 to 1945, and that was the Irish Free State, later Eire. And it was de Valera’s conscious decision not only to sit out to war, but also in April 1945 to cross Dublin personally to sign the book of condolence that was opened at the German embassy for the death of Adolf Hitler. It is difficult off hand to think of a more disgraceful action to be taken. Ireland very often in this book does not do the same things as the rest of the English-speaking peoples; they also of course did not join NATO either.
To return to the United States and its contribution in the Second World War, in December 1941 they decided upon a Germany First Policy; this was Franklin Roosevelt and General George Marshall, the Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, against, in fact entirely contrary to what they might have considered to be in their best interests and certainly anything that seemed logical at the time; when you are attacked in Hawaii, you nevertheless decide to go to war against somebody who was not even at war with you at the time of the attack. The Germany First Policy was absolutely crucial for us, first in the desert and later of course in Sicily, Italy and Normandy. And it was an act of an astonishing counter-intuitive genius, on behalf of the Roosevelt administration, again something that is so often ignored in this endless anti-American ranting that you get in the public presses and on the radio and television at the moment. America mobilized 14.9 million men during the Second World War, more than the 12.5 million of Germany and twice the 7.5 million of Japan; it was an astonishing achievement. They spent $300 billion in all during that war, which is more than Russia’s $200 billion, more than our $150 billion, more than Germany’s $270 billion or Japan’s $100 billion. Imagine that amount of money in 1942 to 1945 terms.
Why so often have we been attacked? Why is it that the English-speaking peoples have been assaulted no fewer than four times in the course of the century? Well it seems to me that, rather than breast beating ourselves and constantly wondering, as the left would have us do, what we have somehow done wrong. We ought to remember that it is absolutely natural human reaction to hate the top dog. In Rome, the Roman Empire dominated the world, they were hated. When we, the British Empire dominated the world, the French, the Russians, the Germans were constantly attempting to get into alliances with one another, which would in some way be able to stymie our greatness. It comes with the territory, ladies and gentlemen, and it does not require us to look into our souls and see, to come up with ideas of things that are wrong with ourselves. It is completely natural part of human nature for us to be unpopular if we are dominant.
It seems to me that again and again we are suddenly, and very often successfully and violently, attacked. Paul Wolfowitz said, “Surprise happens so often that it’s surprising that we’re still surprised by it”. And when one thinks of the attack on the USS Maine, the black week in the Boer War when Cape Colony was invaded by Natal and the Transvaal, when one thinks of the Schlieffen Plan, of the invasion of Poland, of the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Berlin Blockade (no one expected that, it came out the clear blue sky), the invasion of South Korea, the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, the attack on the USS Maddox in Tonkin Bay which started the Vietnam war, the attack on the Falklands (again, nobody had any indication that that was going to happen), or the Gulf War when Saddam invaded Kuwait; these things again and again are attacks upon the English speaking peoples, they come out of a clear blue sky, the intelligence service is nine times out of ten and in every single case there are left gawping at it. And sometimes even three years into a war it can seem as though the English speaking peoples are losing. The Spring Offensive of 1918 was one of the toughest that the Germans ever laid on. By 1942, in the Second World War, we were on the retreat on all flanks up until August of that year. In the Cold War also, when one thinks of what the situation was like in 1948 with the Berlin blockade and the assassinations taking placed in Prague, it was a bad time then. Just because we do not seem to be obviously winning three years into a war, does not mean, ladies and gentlemen, that the English speaking peoples will not triumph in the end.
The nature of the enemy, fascinatingly, has been surprisingly similar through the course of the century. One thinks of the Boers, who ran a tight all-Afrikaans state which refused to allow the vote to Catholics, Jews or Britons. When one thinks of Ludendorff’s Germany, Ludendorff of course a proto-fascist. And one thinks of Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese. One thinks of Soviet Red fascism. And then of course now, when one thinks of the new totalitarian terrorists of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Again and again you see the same kind of people with the same kind of ideologies, especially with regard to democracy and freedom, emerging. It’s just the case every time that the wars are different. They are fought differently, we have to be ready and willing and looking at ways of fighting the next one successfully, because you can be certain that, in the wars of the future, germs are going to be much more dangerous to Germans. And it’s often the small powers that have tested the resolve of the English speaking peoples. It’s not necessarily huge clashes against great nations, but, again and again the greatness of the country, whether or not it is actually a great power, is decided by the way in which it deals with attacks from much smaller, much less powerful antagonists. One thinks of the Boers of course, a tiny country, a quarter of a million people, that took on the British Empire; very brave in a way, but nonetheless, had the British empire lost that war, it would have been appalling for British prestige around the world at the time. And one thinks also of course of the North Koreans, the Egyptians at the time of Suez, the North Vietnamese, the Argentineans and now Iraq. They are not particularly powerful countries in themselves, but they present challenges, no less than Wilhemien Germany or Hirohito’s Japan; they cannot be ignored and the end of great power status is often signalled by a successful challenge from a much lesser adversary. One thinks of the way in which we knew that the power of Austria-Hungary was on the wane as a great power, it was because of the threat it got from Serbia. Dien Bien Phu ended French pretensions to great power status in 1954, Suez sadly did that for us in 1956, and the USSR finally had to admit in Afghanistan that it too was no longer the superpower that it was seeing itself to be.
I think that the way in which the obituary of the special relationship has been written, so often in so many of the public presses recently, is a profound misreading of what is going on in the world today. As you can imagine, ladies and gentlemen, I held absolutely no grief for Tony Blair, but, on the other hand, it was he who, in April 1999 in his speech in Chicago, called for the overthrow, by name, of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. That was 18 months, ladies and gentlemen, before George Bush even came to power. The special relationship is not dead, and one of the things that, when researching this book, I came across again and again, where people who said that it was. Any number of people have been accused of being the Americans’ poodle, and it just simply is not – historically, when one looks at the arguments that have taken place behind closed doors, not the ones in public – it is not the case. It has been an inestimable benefit in my view, ladies and gentlemen, that the nation that ceded, that Britain ceded her primacy to in 1943, was her own younger cousin, who shared so many of her own political, moral, legal, linguistic characteristics. As Winston Churchill put it in May 1938, it is the English speaking peoples who almost alone keep the light the torch of freedom. These things are powerful incentive to collaboration. With nations as with individuals, if you care deeply for the same things and these things are threatened, it is natural to work together and to preserve them. And sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, it is necessary to attack to conserve them, to attack pre-emptively. It was not a Neocon George Canning who attacked the Dutch and Danish fleet in Copenhagen in 1807. It was not a Neocon Winston Churchill who attacked, bombed the outer forts of Dardanelles in 1914 before declaring war. It wasn’t a Neocon Winston Churchill who sunk the French fleet at Oran in 1940 either. These are pre-emptive attacks, they do take place when there is danger and when there is perceived danger and it doesn’t mean that anybody who does this kind of thing in the name of English-speaking peoples is creating some new kind of precedence.
I am going to end by reading one last part of this book, because it rather sums up I feel about the way in which we are constantly asked to apologise – not asked to apologise, our leaders do actually apologise – for things that our generation was in no way responsible for; apologies of that nature, like apologising for the crusades, is just a logical absurdity. I would just like to read you the opening paragraph of my conclusion:
The Italians are rightly proud of the Caesars and preserved memory and relics of the Roman Empire with diligence and love. The Greeks venerate Athens as much as the Macedonians do the achievements of Alexander the Great. France’s moment la gloire came under Napoleon and is today furnished even by French republicans, just as the greatness of King Philip II is admired by Spaniards. The palaces of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great are kept pristine by Russians. Egyptians still feel proud of the New Kingdom’s pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. Recollection of the reign of Gustavus Adolphus is uplifting the Swedes, and the highest decoration in Uzbekistan is the order of Temur, named after the conquer known to westerners as Tamurlane. The Portuguese esteem Prince Henry the Navigator and the Austrians their great Hapsburg Empire under Charles V. A toast to the Great Khan, Genghis, will still, despite decades of the official disapproval, have Mongolians leaping to their feet. Indeed, there is no country, race or linguistic grouping that is expected, indeed required, to feel shame about the golden moments when they occupied the limelight of world history, except of course the English speaking peoples. Thank you very much indeed.
Questions & Answers
How much more mileage do you think there is left in this anti-American rhetoric?
I think an awful lot unfortunately; I think that there is a very good chance that it has only just begun. When David Cameron, in response to his internal focus group results, I know that’s really the case, the thing that drove that speech on, of all days, the fifth anniversary of 9/11, telling the Americans that they were to feel humility, this was a sign that this anti-Americanism is creeping into the Conservative Party too. I’m thrilled to say of course that Margaret Thatcher, on exactly the same day, put the world to rights again by saying the truth about what 9/11 stands for. But in the Labour Party you also are going to have a new leader. I mean it is astonishing how little Gordon Brown, considering that he clearly feels that he has right to be Prime Minister, has actually said about foreign policy, about the war against terror, about America, about anything. We are told that he is very pro-American because he enjoys going there on holiday, but I would prefer something a little bit more substantial that that. And so I do think that the really dangerous moments, for the special relationship, are yet to come.
I think you underestimate the role played by the Irish in the Second World War. Also, I think that America was actually reluctant to enter the Second World War and only did so after Pearl Harbour and after Hitler declared war.
Well, I totally agree with you, of course, about the Irish people; the Irish people from Southern Ireland won no fewer than eight Victoria Crosses in the Second World War, and that is fully acknowledged in my book. However, you did not have, as you did throughout the English speaking peoples, conscription to fight. It was very much a voluntary decision, south of the border of course. Secondly, I take issue with your idea that the Americans went to great lengths to stay out of the Second World War. That’s not my reading of the repealing of the Neutrality Act, of the orders from Roosevelt to depth charge U-boats well outside the American territorial waters, and also the various ways in which America became more and more, especially at sea, provocative to the Germans. And, if you are going to point out the difference between a politician and the people, I will respond by saying that, although Roosevelt was pushing for this engagement, the American people very largely were isolationists, and it’s one of the great factors of the Second World War that it finally cured America of the isolationism that had wrecked the chances of America being properly involved, when it failed to ratify the League of Nations in 1919 – that was in terrible 20 year missed period. In the First World War, again I disagree with you; it seems to me that the sinking of the Lusitania, which was a British ship where it led to the loss of American life, can’t be held to be a reason for an entire nation to go to war. They actually finally went to war over the Zimmerman telegram two years later. And again, America was not attacked, it was not in any way physically assaulted by the Germans and yet it did decide to get involved. America is often accused of going around, flinging its weight around, going to war unnecessarily, and clearly it didn’t do that in 1941, it was attacked first, and so I don’t think that it can be accused of both things at the same time. Thank you.
Does the EU contribute to the current tide of anti-Americanism?
It most certainly does. Yes, I think we are particularly finding this at the moment with regard to the war against terror. It’s the European Court that has first of all told us that we cannot deport foreign-born nationals who are found to be dangerous to our national security. We can’t even deport those people, because of Europe. We also found that the European Court stops us from using phone intercept evidence in such national secrecy trials; that seems an absurdity to me. And we also have found that European Court has insisted that sleep deprivation as a way of putting pressure on terror subjects is a cruel, unusual and inhuman treatment, even though it was immensely helpful in the war against the IRA. And we find that terror suspects are now given, as well as normal rest and sleeping breaks, are now in the course of interrogation given a special time for prayer breaks. We are told by policemen again and again that, just at the moment of interrogation that they are starting to produce useful information, their lawyers (who of course they are allowed to have) demand prayer breaks and as a result, according to European legislation, they have to have them. It seems to me, ladies and gentleman, that if our national security – we are only now a month away from an attempted, (alleged as we have to call it all the time), attempted murder of 3,000 of our people across the Atlantic in five aeroplanes, and we are told now that we can’t indulge in sleep deprivation, because of the European Court, and that seems an absolute outrage.
Cicero said that a nation can survive its fools and the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within. Can we survive the treason of the last 30 years?
Quite a lot of this book is about the way in which you will always be able to find members of the English speaking peoples to support any regime, however hideous, any threat, however dangerous to us. It is incredible. It seems to be in way, to look at the Ciceronian quote you mentioned, the only thing that holds us back really seems to be this constant introspection and self-criticism. And when one looks at the Webb’s in the thirties, and Bernard Shaw, and the way they formed over Stalin, and when one looks at the various journalists who would go out to Korea and Vietnam and say that the POW camps were wonderful places, and that the POWs were being kept in perfectly reasonable conditions, and when one looks at what is being said at the moment by journalists like Robert Fisk and all that business about how Baghdad is going to become Stalingrad and the rest of it. I think it’s very, very important to get into perspective, just to remember that whatever the English speaking peoples are doing at the time will be hated and opposed by a small minority of the English speaking peoples who always seems to be the most eloquent and articulate, and always, however reasonable the war. I think this war in Afghanistan has to be the most justified war in history; the Taliban protected Al Qaeda which attacked Manhattan, so of course they can’t be allowed to go back into power in Afghanistan – it follows like night follows day. Yet you open any paper like the Independent today and you will find that they would so much prefer to be defeated than to fight this war. And it’s not true, ladies and gentlemen, that Abu Ghuraib or Guantánamo Bay or any of these things, somehow make us the moral equivalents of Al Qaeda. In the case of Guantánamo Bay, where the only people who have died have been suicides of course, and where the International Red Cross has a permanent place there, if you equate that with the six years some Germans spent in our prisoner of war camps here in Britain without access to lawyers and all of that kind of thing, that doesn’t make us the moral equivalent of the Nazis. Equally, the way in which this moral equivalence argument was used again and again throughout the Cold War to imply that Russia and America were morally equivalent because of various things that were going on in the world. When it came to using ruthless methods, the English speaking peoples throughout their history have had to resort – one thinks of Dresden, one thinks of Hiroshima – to entirely justified but very ruthless methods. They are always resorted to, a) as a last resort, and b) in a temporary measure that is intended to win the war, after which we go back to the status quo ante. They are not intended as the totalitarians intend to use their ruthless measures and methods, as a way of destroying populations forever. And I go into this in some detail in the book, but there is an entire different moral code and we are not anything like the equivalents of them.
I’m not sure if I misunderstood you, but I think you were saying that the English speaking peoples are a very tight unit, and that only a tiny vocal minority disagree with the rest of them.
No, that’s not what I said. If that’s what it sounded like I apologise. A large proportion of English speaking peoples opposed the Iraq war of course, but only a tiny minority historically have ever actually sympathised with the enemy.
Essentially, isn’t it the West minus Europe that you are talking about and, if it is the West minus Europe, then I’m not quite sure where it takes us?
No, it’s much more than the West minus Europe. It’s just really five countries. It’s not the Far East or Japan, for example. It’s people who speak English as their first language, the countries where the majority of people speak English as their first language. And there’s a lot of the world where you just have, I believe, a commonality in the sense that (it’s more than just Britain and America, Canada and the rest), it’s a sense of belief in those four things that I mentioned that stemmed from the 1688 revolution and 1776 declaration, but tied into other concepts such as the church-state divide, such as (on our side of the pond) constitutional monarchy, and things that come very visibly and straight forwardly from the English tradition. I mean, a Trinidadian or a Grenadian, the reason that, although these countries historically have been very poor vis-à-vis us, they have actually had a much better economic, social and political development than most of the rest of their geographical neighbours, Latin America and so on. One has to look at the reasons for that; it’s not just the fact they have not been invaded, because a lot of Latin America countries haven’t been invaded. It is because they have those other things, such as the rule of law and represented institutions, which come from us.
Within the EU, which countries are most likely to be our allies in the future?
I am no economist, so first of all I want to point that out. I had a couple of problems with this book. Firstly, the Wall Street Crash, which it took me a long time to get my mind around and the second, was also to do with the economics. But it seems to me that the English speaking peoples, when one looks at Second World War, of course, as you mentioned, it still infuriates me, even though it has been going on for years now, but nonetheless still infuriates me that, when you come into Heathrow or Gatwick, the Australians and the New Zealanders have to queue up for ages to be able to get into this country and yet, as you mentioned earlier, some of the other people who in 1939 to 1945 who were very, very much on the other side, just walk straight through. Why was it the other day that a New Zealander who had been in the Royal Navy all his life and had been commended, and had long service with a good conduct medal, was threatened that he would be thrown out of the Navy if he did not sign some clause becoming a British citizen, because of the Official Secrets Act? Why on earth can’t the Official Secrets Act be extended to New Zealanders and Canadians? It seems to me an absurdity, and there are many, many of them. And in my book, I do talk about the way in which the Macmillan government in late 1950s went out of its way to trick the governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand about the true effects of joining the European Union. It was a disgrace the way the Foreign Office lied again and again to the representations made by the New Zealanders, the Australians and the Canadians as well, about what on earth the long term effects of European union actually was going to be. And we now have in the public records on this, the files and the straightforward admissions by public officials, that they were misleading the Commonwealth about the effects of this thing. So yes I think that there is a lot to be ashamed of in the policy of British governments, of both parties, for very many years.
Is there a non-left wing interpretation of the Suez crisis 1956? And could the old Iraqi monarchy be helpful in the present environment in Iraq?
It seems to me, that the assassinations of 1958 were obviously an appalling tragedy for Iraq, not least because both the King and the Prime Minister were very anglophile. But we always, with regard also to Eastern Europe, run up against the problem of the Americans not liking the restitution of Monarchy. I think it would work quite well in Afghanistan as well in fact, but certainly in Eastern Europe and certain places. But that can be entirely understood from their birthright – if you exist as a nation because of a turning against monarchy, you could hardly blame the Americans terribly if they are not going for Iraqi kings.
As far as the Suez is concerned, however, there is most definitely a non left wing interpretation of that and I think the more it goes on at least, the better it is, the stronger it is, to consider that a nationalist Arab dictator nationalises a key Western asset, 80% of the oil went through the canal, you know in 1956. The idea that it was in some way illegitimate for Britain, especially considering that Nasser had promised not to do it at the time that we left the canal zone only two years later and signed a treaty to that effect. The idea that we were somehow acting as international pirates, even after we had gone to the UN, set up the Suez Canal Users Association and had gone through all the proper channels, none of which had any chance. It was a little bit like going through the second resolution in the United Nations in 2003. It, threw away time and was obviously not going to come off but we did it in order to keep the French happy.
The fascinating thing is that, as far as the Americans were concerned, John Foster Dulles later on his deathbed said that we should have gone on, of course, we should have gone on. We didn’t have the tiniest inkling from them that they wanted us to do that because they had an election coming up. This whole thing happened in October; they had election on the 2nd of November 1956. You can’t really actually genuinely expect great statesmanship from anybody if there is an election in the next two weeks. However, what we should have done, was just to stuck to our guns, to have taken the rest of the canal zone, the canal which we were 48 hours away from securing the northern parts of the canal and once we had it, then the rest of the world would have had to, particularly in Egypt Nasser might well have been overthrown as well. As of course so many other Egyptian adventurers have been overthrown since 1882. We could then have dictated terms rather then have terms dictated to us. It’s madness to go on an invasion, unless you are going to see it through and that was the big mistake, I believe that Eden made. Not in doing it but in just stopping half way through.
I wonder if Andrew Roberts as an historian might look forward a few days into the future, next Friday and tell us what he thinks. On Friday there is going to be this meeting of Justice Ministers and our institutions; trial by jury and habeas corpus which are peculiar to the English speaking peoples and are unknown anywhere on the continent- I’ve lived there the last 37 years and witnessed their criminal procedures. The demand from the EU is to relinquish the veto on justice and home affairs and our institutions such as trail by jury are under threat. The media have spent very little time on this.
You are so right that the media doesn’t seem to have covered this because I had no idea that this was happening at all because I have not seen that in the newspapers, I didn’t know how important Friday was going to be. Very often actually in history, it’s only after you look back that you realise that the day was tremendously important and we might all one day see next Friday as having been a key moment and none of us did anything apart from look forward to the weekend. It’s fascinating when you say about Habeas Corpus and Trial by Jury. Was it Lord Denning who said that trail by Jury was actually the final guarantor of our liberties because you know that you can be acquitted by your peers of things that you are logically guilty of if your peers don’t feel that you should be punished for them and so I think it would be a tremendously black day were Trial by Jury or habeas Corpus lost to us. It seems to me to be part of the ongoing process of the victory of the Napoleonic code and the French system of law over the British system of law which has been going on of course since we acceded to the earlier European Union in the early 1970s. Thank you very much for equating my book with Sir Winston Churchill’s had already won the Nobel Prize for literature so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.
What are your thoughts on Britain remaining within European Union in the long term?
I think that the European Union of 25 countries is an absurdity and that’s the reason that I want to extend it to 30 countries and if any country that wants to come into the European Union would like our membership I’m sure we could send it to Russia or India. I think it’s a complete myth that we would in someway be economically punished by the rest of Europe were we to leave the European Union because I don’t think that it could be actually physically done because it would be like the continental system with Napoleon, someone would break ranks. Secondly, I think that it would probably now break all sorts of World Trade Organisation laws anyhow. And thirdly, I think it would take a very gutsy EU Trade Minister, which there aren’t many of to want to throw away the fact that they do more business with us than we do with them. And so as a result, I think that we should be -if we were led properly-, that tremendously strong position vis-à-vis Europe but again and again we throw that way and since Margaret Thatcher was in my view despicably over thrown, just at the absolute crisis of this great battle. Since then we haven’t had anyone who has been able to articulate these points in Europe and to fight our corner effectively.