“The further you go from London, the stronger the feeling is,” said former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, speaking of England’s deep strains of Euroscepticism. “I do get the slight sense it’s a bit like the Civil War when Charles I sadly completely lost touch with what was happening in the counties,” he added, casting David Cameron as the out-of-touch Prime Minister whose inescapable fate is to lose his head, if he hasn’t already done so. There is a battle going on for the soul of Europe, and the British government has turned its back on all true patriots and democrats, just like the English government of the 17th century didn’t lift a finger to help the Protestant cause. You can gag the pulpits from preaching predestination, but you can’t stop the people searching the scriptures.
Owen Paterson’s speech was intelligent and thoughtful. As Dr Eamonn Butler summarised for the Adam Smith Institute: “His basic point is that the EU is not the ‘status quo’ but something that is rapidly moving to destinations that are uncertain and dangerous, particularly for the UK; and that being outside is the safer, more stable option.” And in response to a question, we heard a summary exposition of the transcendent Euro-reality:
But this is not a Tory Party issue. This really is not a Tory Party issue. This is our one chance the first time since 1975 – and it divides people of all political parties. What we should be grateful to David Cameron for is that he’s given us the opportunity, and we must not blow it. That’s the point I’m making here. If we blow it, we will have this very unsatisfactory, very unclear, new ‘associate status’. We’ll be outvoted in the Parliament, we’ll be outvoted in the Council, and we’ll be under the cosh of the European Court. That is a highly unsatisfactory destination.
Highly unsatisfactory, indeed.
Whatever the murky theo-politics of the English Civil War, Charles I was a devout Arminian Catholic with a zeal for divine right; David Cameron is a Magic-FM-in-the-Chilterns Anglican. When you dissolve Parliament and declare yourself unaccountable to any representative institutions; when you embark upon revenue raising to swell your coffers without consideration of English custom or demotic despair; when you ignore Scottish public rage and presume you can simply bring indignant Scots into line with the essential English disposition, you are shortening your own political life, if not the life of your parliament.
Where the disdain of King Charles I convinced Protestant mobs of their puritan righteousness in averting another popish plot, causing them to wreck the houses and seize the property of Roman Catholic gentry, so the disdain of Prime Minister Cameron is causing Whig-inclined conservatives and democratic socialists to rebel against the Tory jure divino. The country is split down the middle, and the feeling in the counties is that Cameron, like the King, can no longer be trusted to lead. A majority in Parliament believed Charles was secretly plotting with Irish Roman Catholics, and so a great body of his subjects fought against him in the name of liberty and true religion. Civil war was inevitable. A majority of the British people believe that David Cameron is lying about his ‘reformed’ EU and ‘special status’ for the UK; that he is plotting with Jean-Claude Juncker and President Obama to keep the UK in the EU come what may. Civil war is not inevitable, but social division and political unrest certainly are.
If you want the people to rally to your divine-right royalist cause, the best strategy is to subvert the opposition by sowing discord and division. Cameron is unifying defender of the Remain faith: the Leavers are split between GO Presbyterians, Vote Leave Episcopalians and Ukip Independents. They may cohere around the authority of Brexit scripture, but there are quarrels about the role of tradition, and schisms within and between about the extent of reasoned Calvinistic Flexcit.
And who will replace the King? If David Cameron is about to lose is head over an assertion of divine right, could the high-principled Protestant instincts of Owen Paterson possibly make him the nation’s Oliver Cromwell?