The United Kingdom bucked the global trend by being the first nation to reverse the march of liberalism but the “profound danger” of woke politics backed by a displaced religious zeal threatens these developments, constitutionalist Dr David Starkey has said.
Speaking to Breitbart London’s James Delingpole, British historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey noted the sudden and remarkable appearance of woke culture in British and American universities. It was a unique combination of cultural factors in the Anglo-American that allowed this to flourish, he said, remarking:
“The worst excesses of ‘woke’ only happen in the Anglo-Saxon world… one of the driving forces of this, and why it is so prominent in America, one of the elements of it is it professes to be reason, but it is driven by religion. It is a mistaken religious impulse — all of these things are powered by puritanism. It is a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon and American phenomenon.”
Dr Starkey noted the treatment of prominent left-wing political figures as modern-day saints in the new woke-green religion, such as “child saint” Greta Thunberg and UK hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn. “This is the profound danger we have now, the grotesque excesses of the left are imbued with religious certainty. Corbynism was manifestly a religious movement — look at them all at Glastonbury [chanting Jeremy Corbyn’s name — ‘JC’, like Jesus Christ]. It is this weird displacement of religion”, he said.
But while the Anglo-American sphere produces a breeding ground for radical wokeism, it also provides a unique political system where change is possible without revolution. Pointing to the remarkable survival of British political institutions for 800 years while all others across Europe were pulled down to manifest change, Dr Starkey said this ability of the English constitutional system to adapt to change was not a mere accident of history, but instead a key quality, and one that was recognised and capitalised upon by the nation’s most astute conservative leaders.
The most recent examples of this is Britons rejecting the European liberalising project, Starkey said, noting how the British had resolutely turned it down on three important occasions — during the referendum on whether to radically alter Britain’s electoral system along continental lines in 2011, the EU membership referendum, and finally in the 2019 general election.
Dr Starkey asked: “Is it going to last? We are the first country to turn back the liberal tide… it has to be good. But is it going to last? Do you have a government that understands what it has done? Do you have people who can take advantage of it?
“This is why I’m rather more optimistic than I would have been a year ago. We are extraordinarily fortunate to live in a society… where real political, social renewal within an existing framework of institutions is possible.”
While calling British Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself a liberal — and emphatically not a conservative — Dr Starkey withheld broader judgement on the administration so far, saying that only time would tell whether it had been a good government or not. Nevertheless, he pointed to the extraordinary manner in which Johnson had been able to reverse the political direction of the country in 2019.
Comparing the sudden and massive political transformation in Britain in the final months of 2019 to a 17th-century Baroque opera, Starkey said: “if you think where we were in October, we had the ghastly Bercow presiding over a Commons that looked as though it was going to take over the government. The entire political establishment seemed to have the absolutely rooted determination to reverse the result of the referendum.
“And then with extraordinary chutzpah, classic seizing of the political initiative, classic deceit — the stupid vanity of Swinson and the Liberal Democrats, the insane opportunism of the Scot Nats… they signed their death warrants. The turkeys did indeed vote for Christmas, they voted for a general election and see what happened. We have seen an astonishing, bravura display of political skill… it’s a transformation scene.”
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