The odd spectacle of Britons—even liberal, Republican Britons—believing that the Queen can stop Brexit is more complicated than the wishful thinking it might at first appear to beby Padraid Reidy / August 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
Of all the bizarre political phenomena conjured by Brexit, the recent spectacle of liberal and even left-wing people beseeching the stars for rescue by Regina ex Machina must be the most intriguing and baffling.
“Everyone write to the queen. Do it today. She’s in Balmoral,” urged writer and anti-Brexit campaigner Emma Kennedy in a now-deleted tweet as the news broke that Boris Johnson was to seek the monarch’s permission to prorogue parliament, followed swiftly by “DON’T DO IT YOUR GLORIOUS MAJ! DON’T DO IT.”
DON’T DO IT YOUR GLORIOUS MAJ!
DON’T DO IT.
— Emma Kennedy (@EmmaKennedy) August 28, 2019
Times journalist Matt Chorley tweeted a gif of a stern-faced Queen Elizabeth with the legend “ONE IS NOT AMUSED” emblazoned across it.
Labour MP Kate Osamor was horrified: “THE. QUEEN. DID. NOT. SAVE. US.” she posted, after the Queen was reported to have signed off on the suspension.
The. Queen. Did. Not. Save. Us.
— Kate Osamor || Labour & Co-op MP for Edmonton (@KateOsamor) August 28, 2019
The Guardian’s John Crace sympathetically imagined the queen longing for drug-induced oblivion, and hating “the current madhouse in parliament.” Jenny Eclair, meanwhile, was “really disappointed in the Queen.”
One expects a certain devotion to the monarchy and other institutions from Conservatives—the nomenclature unavoidably suggests an attachment to longevity, obdurance, and obedience.
But such are the times we live in. Brexiteers have been accused, most notably by Irish writer Fintan O’Toole, of basking in Empire nostalgia—but those on the remain side of the debate are not immune to seeking refuge in the nation’s institutions and old certainties.
To call oneself a true conservative, one must display a tinge of nihilism; to be liberal, meanwhile, is to cling to what’s left of the world you knew out of fear of the barbarism that lies beyond.
The Austrian novelist Joseph Roth was the master chronicler of this feeling. (Though born in what is now Ukraine, Roth held his Austrian citizen as close to his heart as so many British Remainers cling to their newly-acquired Irish passports.) The current travails of the European Union have been compared before to the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Roth, more than anyone, has informed how we make that comparison, with his narration of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national dreamscape brought low by an arrogant metropolitan elite and the rise of nationalism on the empire’s fringes.
Roth’s Mittel European…