Britain Abolishes Itself

Brendan O’Neill

Outsiders tend to look upon the United Kingdom as a stiff, traditional little country whose grey-haired old Queen has just celebrated 60 years on the throne and where men in bowler hats will say, “Evening, sir,” as they pass you in the street. But this view of the UK as a more faithful creature of history and habit than most other nations is misplaced. In truth, traditional institutions in Britain are in disarray. They’re dizzy with confusion, bereft of purpose. They are falling like flies. And the striking thing is that they are being done in not by revolution or by sentient reform but by their own moral and physical exhaustion. Traditionalism in Britain is committing voluntary euthanasia.

The speed with which longstanding institutions are disappearing is alarming. This time last year, a Brit could have opened up the News of the World on a Sunday morning and perused that 168-year-old newspaper’s salacious stories about celebs and its mocking of Members of Parliament. That had been a tradition amongst less well-off communities in particular for the better part of two centuries. Tucking into that paper after you had tucked into your Sunday breakfast was a staple of working-class life.

In 1946, when the paper was already 103 years old, Geroge Orwell described an idyllic homely scene: “It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose and open the News of the World.”

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