“We’re Not Having It.” The Final Throes of Curmudgeonly, Unlovable Anglo-Saxon Bloody-Mindedness.

Pick any period of history you like, more or less, and you'll find there a strain of Englishman* who simply is not having it.

What he’s not having is rule by a foreign power.

The current incarnation of ‘The Strain’ is the gnarled kernel of euroskepticism.

The European Union's endless economic and social woes - and a bit of British economic luck - have made its case easier. Just think, if the UK had never joined the EU who would be arguing seriously that it should do so now? Nick Clegg, possibly, but no one else. But let's cut to the chase. Even if Brussels were the promised land, the milk and honey guaranteed to flow, these people would still not have it.  

Their right to choose their rulers from among themselves trumps all else. It's Holy Writ as deeply ingrained and perhaps more so than the US Constitution is in the souls of those there who believe that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.

We may as well admit straight away that, even if we can admire this hard core, its membership is not easy to love.

Of the lot the urbane and intelligent Euro MP Daniel Hannan probably travels best, but behind him come the Norman Tebbits and Nigel Farages whose followers are already part of the group. They don't change minds.

But The Strain has never been lovable, at least to outsiders.

Oliver Cromwell and his puritans came from it. What they weren't having was the rule of Rome, or the rule of any King who sympathised with the Pope.  Then the doctrine of Divine Right smashed up against a tradition of free-born Anglo-Saxon curmudgeonliness, dressed up as Parliamentarianism, and destroyed itself in the process.

Reread Kipling's "Norman and Saxon" and you'll see that the only way a foreign power can ever really govern these people is to leave them largely alone.

They're not having it.

THIS truculent euroskeptic mob has been a thorn in the side of London's metropolitan europhiles ever since the European project was cooked up.

Of course, there are such strains all over Europe, and all over the world. But arguably none has flourished for so long and in such fertile soil as the English. Alone among the peoples of Europe, the English have actually resisted the domination of foreign powers for nearly a millennium.

And, when it comes, the referendum on Britain's place in the European Union is all too likely to be The Strain's last gasp.

Polls may have the Leave camp ahead (by a whisker) but in the end the UK will be staying in.

If a majority of its compatriots votes of its own free will for the constraints of a external force, then The Strain will face an existential crisis it hasn't known since William the Conqueror's masts rose above horizon at Pevensey. Its old mainstay, that all we voted for back in '75 was a trading arrangement ("the Common Market" as some of The Strain still call the EU), will have been blown away.

Euroskepticism will shrivel to an "I told you so” rump, exulting petulantly in Europe's failures.

Initially, perhaps, The Strain won't be missed. This truculent euroskeptic mob has been a thorn in the side of London's metropolitan europhiles ever since the European project was cooked up. Dammit it just won't get with the programme.

But consider this.

At least three times in the last two hundred years, The Strain and the damned, bloody-minded belligerence it inspires has been instrumental in keeping Europe free.

After a bitter campaign against arguably the most inspired general in history, Wellington's regiments held, for a day, at Waterloo, being shot up and charged at. They stood there, unbreakable and not having it, against everything Napoleon could throw at them until the Prussians arrived to finish matters.  At sea The Strain was even more important. When it came to rule by the French, Lord Nelson wasn't simply not having it, he raised not having it almost to a religious level, with his peerless sailors as his disciples.

The horror of foreign rule was enough to see millions join up in 1914, and keep them in the trenches through slaughter, appalling leadership and revolution in other armies until the job was done.

When Churchill (you knew he was coming didn't you?) swiped the leadership from the appeaser Halifax he knew, magically and in the nick of time, that he could rely on that old bellicose core. His "We Shall Never Surrender" speech managed, as all great speeches do, to distill the essence of the argument.

And his argument was, "Sod the odds. We. Are. Not. Having. It."

*I've said "Englishman" here, and it's possible that I am being offensive to non-English Britons (although I am one myself) and to women. But I am also speaking from observed and, I think, historical truth. Feel free not to have it, of course.

More about the author

About the author

Born and raised in Swansea West, one of the safest Labour seats in the country, David is perhaps unsurprisingly a High-Tory, Euroskeptic Royalist Libertarian with an unhealthy adoration for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. As a result he is seldom pleased by anything that ever happens, and always on the verge of quitting the whole jamboree. A former Special Writer at the Wall Street Journal, he knew the crash was coming when he saw a piece about Louis XVI reproduction furniture "for your Winnebago."

Follow David on Twitter.




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