Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Where Has My Country Gone?

UK-Pictorial Where Has My Country Gone?

By  Dr Jonathan S. Swift

On Saturday 14 October, I took my daughter to the Open Day at Manchester University. It is some five years since I have spent any length of time in Manchester, and I was shocked by what had happened to a once-vibrant and beautiful city. The most disturbing part of the whole experience was the seeming acceptance - dare I say it 'acquiescence' - of the apparent status quo in this once-great city. It is no longer the city I knew, and I realised that Manchester symbolises the deep void into which my culture and history appear to have disappeared. In his classic 1984, George Orwell wrote: "…the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history."

This got me thinking about changes within society, and in particular the changes that appear to have taken place within the UK. There is a movement for the preservation of native flora and fauna (The Wildlife Trusts), so it would seem appropriate that there is a similar movement for the preservation of our culture – at the moment, the nearest we have is the National Trust, and, as a member I worry that the original goal of the organisation is in danger of becoming diverted into more 'popular' areas. The process of UK cultural dilution began more than two decades ago, but recently the rate of destruction appears to have accelerated at an alarming pace. Change is inevitable: and whilst I accept that, in the words of George Harrison 'all things must pass', I maintain that if it is change for the better then it should be embraced, but if for the worse or for no reason, then it should be opposed, especially when the change involves our history and culture. What triggered this reflection was an event that, in my view, should certainly never have been allowed: a rowdy pro-Palestine march in Manchester on what should have been a peaceful Saturday. Around mid-day, Oxford Road (the main road into Manchester from the South) was taken over by 'protestors' advocating 'Freedom for Palestine' (Wilkinson et al. 2023). As far as I could see, there were no banners condemning the initial Palestinian murderous attacks on Israeli citizens: of the Socialist Workers Party placards and other 'catch-all' flotsam and jetsam illiteracies, I could detect none that presented a balanced view of the current slaughter. Personally, I applaud Israeli efforts to rescue their innocent civilians abducted under terrifying circumstances by Palestinian terrorists. It is interesting to note that these Palestinian so-called 'freedom-fighters' did not have the guts to challenge the IDF in combat, but instead launched an unprovoked murderous assault on Israeli civilians – a more cowardly approach is difficult to imagine, and shows the moral swamp into which these anti-Semetic extremists have sunk. I wondered why they were allowed to show their open support for the proscribed terrorist organisation 'Hamas' (Gov. UK, 2019), yet whilst there was a police presence, the marchers were not stopped as far as I could see. The noise that accompanied the march was basically a cacophony of moronic slogans: scarcely the basis for a coherent discussion – and all within 500 yards of the Alan Turing Building, the Manchester Museum, and the Holy Name Church – institutions that personify British values, and should not unwittingly be drawn into becoming a backdrop to such demonstrations. All this angered me as I do not expect arguments between factions from the Middle East to be dragged into Britain and allowed to interfere with the British going about their lawful daily business. To my mind this symbolised the decline of British values: these people feel that they have a right to force the British to hear an argument about which most of us could not care less – who do they think they are? Why do they think they have the right to disrupt a peaceful Saturday in England's second city, and assault us with mindless noise? And all, apparently, in support of a terrorist organisation.

This seeming-acceptance of values that are alien (or of no relevance) to the UK population is something that I have been thinking about for some time, and it appears to form part of a wider cultural-historical re-write, something that until recently I had only associated with the Soviet Union – when certain people were re-written or 'air-brushed' out of history. Chillingly, this re-writing of history was predicted some years ago by George Orwell who, in his classic 1984 depicted life under a totalitarian regime (he had Stalin in mind):

"Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

Although Orwell wrote these lines in 1948 as part of what might be labelled a 'futuristic warning' in this fictional portrayal, his prescience as always, was disturbingly accurate. Over the last decade or so I have become aware of the growing tendency for the extreme and/or minority elements to become more vociferous in their demands, and in so doing, fulfil his predictions:

Every record has been destroyed or falsified

In January of this year, a BBC Political Editor, Tim Donovan, reported that London Mayor: "Sadiq Khan has been accused of providing "false and misleading" information over the ultra-low emission zone expansion (ULEZ) plans... The Conservatives allege City Hall officials tried to "manipulate" the consultation process." The article notes that "When the views of the public, charities and councils were sought last summer the early signs were discouraging…Over half way into the 10-week consultation, two thirds of respondents said they were opposed to the scheme. Officials then spent thousands of pounds on a digital marketing campaign targeting young people through Snapchat and Instagram - ostensibly because there had been fewer responses from the 18 to 30s." It is also alleged that: "Nearly 5,000 so-called "copy and paste" email responses opposed to the ULEZ extension - organised by the pro-motorist Fair Fuel campaign group - were also excluded from the tally. When factored into the consultation process, these measures together reduced the percentage of those who were against the scheme from 67% to 59%." Nick Rogers, the London Conservative's transport spokesman was quoted as having said: "We now have overwhelming evidence that Sadiq Khan has committed serious misconduct by violating the integrity of the consultation and improperly excluding thousands of legitimate responses." (Donovan, 2023)

Every book rewritten

I used to think that the very idea was ridiculous – who would want to change the text of a previously-published book, and why? More to the point, how could they legally do so, without the express permission of the author? Yet recently, many of the classic Roald Dhal books have been re-written to 'remove language deemed offensive'? (Vernon, 2023). Offensive to whom? And why? Who makes such decisions? What has been written is (and hopefully will continue to be) a matter of historical fact, and facts are irrefutable – certain people may not like them, but unless you live in a dictatorship, you cannot change history – or so I used to think. I did not like the 'Presidency' of Tony Blair, but it happened, and as much as I would have liked to re-write history, he is, unfortunately, still to be found in the history books.

This linguistic vandalism of Roald Dahl's work is by no means the first example of re-writing: possibly the most famous is the story of the 'Dambusters' (617 Squadron RAF Bomber Command) with reference to Wing Commander Guy Gibson's black Labrador named 'Nigger' – who apparently had to be called 'Digger'. The latest in this line of dangerous censorship is, apparently, the innocent 'Famous Five' children's books by Enid Blyton which have been altered to remove 'offensive' phrases such as 'shut up', 'queer', and 'gay.' (Chung, 2023). The Thought Police who made such decisions are apparently so detached from reality as to be on another planet: do they really think that schoolchildren will be corrupted if they read the phrase 'shut up' in a book? I am sure that most of them hear far far worse on a daily basis. May I suggest that the 'woke'-minded publishers take a ride on a bus, or a simple walk down the street and listen to the language used there? How do they propose to protect our children from this verbal assault on their eardrums? 'Queer' is a word that means 'strange', 'odd', or 'unusual', and to say something is 'queer' is to suggest that it is out of the ordinary or is not what was expected. Whilst writing this blog, I checked the Microsoft Thesaurus on my computer, only to find that when I typed in the word 'queer', the response I got was "We couldn't find any similar words"; I then tried the process the other way round and typed in 'strange' - to be presented with just over thirty options, none of which were 'queer'! I for one was not aware that the use of this word had been banned under UK law - it would appear that we are being subjected to censorship by stealth organised by an unelected body who have decided to rewrite parts of the English language! 'Gay' is another word that has been appropriated by the 'woke' brigade: it means 'happy' – I am aware that the term is also used now in certain circles to mean 'homosexual', but that is not the original meaning of the word. Once again, a search through the Thesaurus received a similar reply to my search for 'queer.' A message appeared on the bottom of the screen which read: "We're having trouble connecting to the Office Store to help you get a free or premium dictionary. Please try again later." Aside from the bad English ('we're should only be used when speaking), I suspect that this is designed to put people off – many will forget to 'try again later' and so the censorship remains unnoticed. I did try again later, but received the same response.

What I object to is the censorship by stealth – who gave these people the right to change the English language (and therefore a major aspect of culture) without consulting the population? Again, there is unfortunately a precedent for this: in 1973, the UK went into the 'European Economic Community' ('Common Market') - basically a Free Trade agreement. Without the consent of the populations of the Member States, this later became the European Community, and then later the European Union – each change of name brought with it a subtle change of emphasis of the relationship between member states and the increasingly powerful 'European Commission.' In effect, throughout the life of our membership, it had moved from a Free Trade arrangement, to one of socio-economic integration, and is likely to move further towards total political integration in the future – the main reason why I voted 'leave.'

Every picture has been repainted

I admit that I had to think about this one for some time, but then it hit me – if we consider 'moving pictures' (films) instead of portraits – my initial thought – then there is ample evidence for this in the numerous re-makes that Hollywood trots out on a regular basis. Without subjecting the reader to a tedious analysis of the difference between the original and the re-make of the same film, it is advisable to watch the original then the re-make: generally the remakes are not as good as the original, and indeed many are remade specifically to drive home a political point, rather than for entertainment purposes. Another stream is those films that have been specifically remade with a feminist twist, in which in the original the lead was a man, but has now been replaced by a woman: "What Women Want" (2000) with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, was re-done as "What Men Want" in 2019, with a largely black cast. There are many more examples of this deliberate attempt at social engineering. The there is the genre of remakes that use the original title and broadly stick to the same plot: The Italian Job is a very good example of this – why try to remake the original classic in which Michael Caine and Noël Coward give such wonderful performances? With regard to cinema remakes, my objections tend to be based on the 'woke' social-engineering aspect, or why the director/producer could not simply write his (or her!) own script and shoot a brand new film? After all, there is no need to 'blow the bloody doors off' when re-doing a successful film!

Every statue and street building has been renamed

For the last five years or so, there has been a growing tendency to deface statues of famous people because they allegedly give offence to minority groups: statues that epitomise British values have been attacked and defaced, such as on 8th June 2020, the statue of Sir Winston Churchill that stands in Parliament Square, Westminster, was defaced by protestors from the so-called 'Black Lives Matter' campaign. An organisation that apparently only choses to attach 'value' to 'Black' lives - thus implying that non-black lives do not matter - must be inherently racist by nature, and as such has no place in British society. What the morons who defaced the statue do not understand is that Churchill, as an individual, made the single greatest contribution to ensuring that Britain 'rode out the storm' of attacks on this island, and in so doing eventually ensured the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II: ironically, had it not been for the great man, the UK may well have succumbed to Nazi occupation and the morons who defaced his statue would not have had been allowed the same lassitude for mindless vandalism in a police state. In 2002 a BBC poll voted Churchill 'the greatest Briton of all time' – support came from a former Cabinet Minister who summarised her argument in support of Churchill: "If Britain - its eccentricity, its big heartedness, its strength of character - has to be summed up in one person, it has to be Winston Churchill" (BBC News, 2002). There was even controversy when it was decided to unveil a statue of Emeline Pankhurst in Manchester on 15th May 2022. In my ignorance, I assumed that nobody could have had any objections to this statue – except perhaps the equine society - but I reckoned without the 'trans activist' protestors who managed to disrupt the unveiling ceremony.

There has been another, more insidious movement that goes beyond the desecration of statues, and demands their physical removal: the target of such people are statues of individuals who are deemed to have had links (however tenuous) with the slave trade. This sets a dangerous precedent as slavery is thousands of years old, and at one time or another has existed in most societies. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica notes: "Slavery has existed throughout the world since ancient times, and trading in slaves has been equally universal. Enslaved persons were taken from the Slavs and Iranians from antiquity to the 19th century, from the sub-Saharan Africans from the 1st century CE to the mid-20th century, and from the Germanic, Celtic, and Romance peoples during the Viking era. Elaborate trade networks developed: for example, in the 9th and 10th centuries, Vikings might sell East Slavic slaves to Arab and Jewish traders, who would take them to Verdun and Leon, whence they might be sold throughout Moorish Spain and North Africa" (Wallenfeldt, 2023). Thus, pursuing the logic of the statue-removers, most of the thousands of statues currently on display in the centres of Rome, Athens, Cairo, and throughout Europe and North Africa, would have to be replaced. Where would the process stop?

Statues of prominent Africans involved in the slave trade would also have to be removed, as we have been conditioned to think of European involvement, but the truth is that many Africans were themselves heavily involved – taking prisoners and 'selling' them to slave traders. As John Campbell (former US Ambassador to Nigeria, 2004-2007) explains: "Africans raided for slaves often in connivance with local chiefs and then acted as middlemen with European and Arab purchasers… Donald Duke, former governor of Calabar state and a good-government presidential candidate in the 2019 Nigerian elections, acknowledges that his ancestors participated in the slave trade. However, Duke says "I'm not ashamed of it because I personally wasn't directly involved."" (Campbell, 2019). In a perceptive article, Nigerian journalist and policy analyst Cheta Nwanze pointed out that, contrary to current misperceptions, slavery was not invented by the Europeans. He wrote: "Slavery, was not an invention of the West. It predates all written records. On the African continent itself, slavery predated the arrival of Europeans by centuries, and it still continues until this day" (Nwanze, 2014). Another Nigerian journalist, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani whose great grandfather was involved in the slave trade, has assessed Africa's role, in which she acknowledges that Africans were 'deeply involved in the slave trade'. Tellingly, she adds, however that:

"It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles. Assessing the people of Africa's past by today's standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains, denying us the right to fully celebrate anyone who was not influenced by Western ideology. Igbo slave traders like my great-grandfather did not suffer any crisis of social acceptance or legality. They did not need any religious or scientific justifications for their actions. They were simply living the life into which they were raised. That was all they knew." (Nwaubani, 2023)

Why should we, therefore, let the vociferous minority dictate who is considered 'good' enough to warrant a statue? Doubtless I will be accused of sympathising with slave traders, as it appears that the activists are incapable of listening to a reasoned argument, preferring to shout down all those with whom they disagree.

It would be interesting to see the extent to which such activists have thought about the global consequences of 'de-statuising' cities and the renaming of streets – in many instances giving buildings or streets names that are foreign to the UK – and have nothing to do with either our history or culture. As an example of this, I would cite the 'Steve Biko' building that houses the University of Manchester's Students Union; as far as I am aware, Mr Biko did nothing for the UK, and never even set foot in the country. Whilst the Manchester SU have the right to call their building whatever they want, their choice is instructive of their attitudes to our history and culture. Why could it not have been called the 'Anthony Burgess Building' after the writer Anthony Burgess who was born in Harpourhey, Manchester, or after the actor Robert Donat, who was born in Withington, South Manchester, or the 'Emeline Pankhurst Building' after the suffragette who was born in Moss Side, Manchester? Or they could have followed the example of Liverpool, who named their airport after one of the city's most famous musicians – John Lennon: musicians from Manchester could have provided the 'Graham Nash' building, after the singer-songwriter Graham Nash of The Hollies fame - although Nash was born in Blackpool, he spent his childhood and teenage years in Salford in the 1940s and 50s, and professed to being 'proud to be from Salford' when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Salford in September 2011. Alternatively, it could have been named 'Oasis Building' after the band from Burnage in south Manchester.

So what has all this got to do with my loss of heritage and Manchester on Saturday?

The answer is very simple, but will undoubtedly annoy Left Wing remainers: I feel like a foreigner in my own country, and this feeling deepens every day – especially when I read reports of illegal immigrants into the country being made welcome - I refer to such people as 'illegal immigrants' because they have entered this country illegally. The last time I returned from abroad, I was forced to wait in line to have my passport examined. Once through immigration, I had to make my own way home, rather than having transport provided to accommodation where free meals, medical care and 'pocket money' were waiting for me. It would appear that it is now acceptable to break the law and having done so, you will be rewarded. Put succinctly, the UK appears to have become a madhouse for lawbreakers, minority fringe groups who impose their values on the majority, a sinister backdrop for clandestine censorship by large corporations, the erosion of our native culture and language, and an increase in crime - in particular violent knife crime and especially in London. The response of Sad IQ Khan is to spend vast amounts of public money on installing unwanted surveillance cameras on a spurious pretext, and using them to fine people under the ULEZ tax.

Is there any hope left for my beloved Britain?

BBC News (2002) "Churchill Voted Greatest Briton." BBC (24 November)

Campbell, John (2019) "Confronting Africa's Role in the Slave Trade." Council on Foreign Relations (26 September);

Chung, Frank (2023) "'Ongoing process': Enid Blyton's Famous Five books edited to remove 'offensive' words.";

Donovan, Tim (2023) "London ULEZ: mayor's officials accused of manipulating plans." BBC News (17 January); Gov. UK (2019) "Hizballah to be banned alongside other terrorist organisations"

Nwanze, Cheta (2014) "A Short History of the Slave Trade in Nigeria." Africa is a Country (April);

Nwaubani, Adaobi Tricia (2020) " 'My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves'" BBC News (19 July);

Vernon, Hayden (2023) "Roald Dahl books rewritten to remove language deemed offensive." The Guardian (18 February); .

Wallenfeldt, Jeff (2023) "Slave Trade" Encyclopaedia Britannica: History & Science;

Wilkinson, Damon, John Scheerhourt, Todd Fitzgerald, and Stephen Topping (2023) "Thousands of pro-Palestine protestors gather in Manchester city centre following march and Israel-Hamas War." Manchester Evening News (14 October); 

Font size: +

Contact us

Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames