‘“The high tide!” King Alfred cried.“The high tide and the turn!”’
These lines, from G.K. Chesterton’s 1911 poem ‘The Ballad of the White Horse’, describe the decisive moment in the Wessex triumph over the Danes at Ethandune. Today marks a turning point in much the same way as the balance of forces tipping in a war. It may not seem it at the time, in the hurly-burly of battle, but history reveals when it was that one side was forced onto the defensive and found it impossible to recover. After maximum victory comes maximum defeat.
Leavers are at that point today, forced onto the defensive. After their Pyrrhic victory, it’s all downhill from here. Even if the economy slides gracefully rather than collapsing abruptly, the political cards are already all played. The 2016 ballot paper asked only about leaving the EU, not the single market or the customs union, wider changes for which a popular mandate does not and never has existed. Yet discussions on those issues must drag on for months, more likely years, to the utter dismay of those who were promised that the Cummings government would now ‘get Brexit done’. Many utterances by Classic Dom’s glove puppet are wishful thinking. They’re the waffle of a man whose power is less absolute than he imagines when he talks to his base over the heads of everyone else. The word “Brexit” won’t now disappear. Nor will there be any “healing”. You can’t heal unless you remove the infection. Churchillian rhetoric about the country somehow coming together again assumes an enduring consensus about what the country is. It doesn’t exist any more. Scotland and Northern Ireland are racing for the escape pod; while Sir Elton John isn’t unique in claiming European, not English, as his present and future identity. Englishness, sadly, is largely abandoned to the fascists now. Top-down politics isn’t usually what changes society; like an underground river coming to the surface it reflects changes that have already happened, in the way people think and behave. The future of Wessex at this stage is therefore extra-parliamentary. We can ignore the howls in the Commons as the Cummings programme is first unrolled and then seen to unravel. The future can be viewed in that footage last year as another Dominic, Grieve, was interviewed in London’s Parliament Square, with the European and Wessex flags fluttering in the background. You don’t see the Wyvern at Leave rallies. Those attending aren’t interested in the future, only an idealized past. As the Leave project crashes and burns, so too will everything its mainly elderly and embittered supporters value. After today, the European flag will no longer fly beside the Butcher’s Apron, that tainted symbol of a fossilized constitution and a long-dead empire. It will continue to fly beside the Wyvern, the flag of the young and the young-at-heart, the optimistic and the forward-looking, from the Tamar to the Thames. In a Europe of a Hundred Flags, ours will take pride of place for us because we will ensure that ours is a place of which we have every reason to be proud.