There is this mistaken belief that the English have highly-developed sang-froid. They are cool, calm and collected. They learned it from Baden Powell:
A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances. When he gets an order he should obey it cheerily and readily, not in a slow, hang-dog sort of way. Scouts never grouse at hardships, nor whine at each other, nor swear when put out.
Don’t believe it.
Periodically the English go ding-bat. As they are doing round about now.
This time it’s the Tory end of the political spectrum; and the goad is the Europe thing.
We are led to believe that all we need is a futile Parliamentary gesture for a mythical referendum on a non-negotiation which isn’t going to happen and which won’t satisfy anyone:
DAVID Cameron’s EU referendum Bill is a bold act of political cunning.
At a stroke he has given a boost both to wavering Tories flirting with UKIP and to his panicking, mutinous back-benchers — while challenging Clegg and Miliband to back him or deny the public a say.
The PM knows his Bill for a 2017 referendum is probably dead without Lib-Dem and Labour support. And neither Europhile Clegg nor Miliband trust voters not to want out. They’d rather we had no choice.
As President Obama said yesterday, Cameron is right to renegotiate our position within the EU before he puts an in-out vote to the country.
But his Bill shows that this time his cast-iron referendum guarantee is what it says on the tin.
It may be doomed. But at the next election Cameron can now credibly present the Tories as the only major party ready to let Britain decide its own future.
A formula of words solves all problems.
So to the past …
It happens that Malcolm was re-reading Robert Hutchinson’s account of Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the secret war that saved England. By pure coincidence, just as the news of Cameron’s and Hague’s self-serving and politically-cleaving shibboleth was hitting the tapes, he had reached Hutchinson’s Chapter Four, which starts with Burghley’s and Walsingham’s cunning plan. They:
… needed once and for all to defuse the powder keg of conspiracy they believed was threatening the survival of the Protestant realm of England.
The so-called ‘Bond of Association’ was their adroit solution.
In anyone’s language, it was little more than lynch law.
The idea, probably the product of Burghley’s devious ingenuity, had initially been very simple. It proclaimed that any wicked person who caused the death of Elizabeth would be ineligible to succeed her as ruler of England. Its objective was thus very clear: at a stroke it removed Mary as the focal point of any Catholic conspiracy. Then came a series of more hard-line revisions …
It certainly rallied the troops:
Despite some strong misgivings within the legal classes — lawyers and magistrates — men and women in their thousands did sign copies of the Bond, the illiterate simply with a cross as their personal mark. They pledged themselves before God to take the law into their own hands and to ruthlessly hunt down and destroy anyone associated with a plot to kill Elizabeth. There were even special church services to further sanctify the process of oath-taking.
As for the Queen of Scots, she did what any politico would do when faced with mass hysteria:
… she happily signed the paper herself on 5 January 1585.
At the moment the only questions are whether David Cameron comes out of his present difficulties looking silly, or very silly, and his party looking just split, or totally ruptured. We have had a quarter-century of this internal feuding; and on present form it looks as if the disintegrating English right will be dismembered for as long again. [The Scottish right is happily sailing along under the banner of the SNP.]
At some point the non-Tory parties and the vast majority of sane non-UKIPers will have to sit on their hands, look bemused, say nothing, and let the forces of unreason tear the political Right and Centre-Right asunder.
A Bond of dis-Association, either way.