Who owns patriotism? The left has been too quick to surrender its spoils to the right, largely because so many progressive ideas came from across the Channel, along with the plague. (Did you know the plague ship docked at Weymouth? That is surely worth a plaque). Socialism’s relationship to internationalism did it harm, although it should not have done, because the right’s definition of patriotism is elitist, confused and often completely bogus. Nigel Farage of Ukip, who is considered dangerously patriotic, at least by the Tories, based more on his ownership of a Barbour, I think, than on any coherent political philosophy, is exposed as a (failed) tax avoider – how patriotic! – and the track where Jessica Ennis trained will be shuttered, due to the cuts.
Obviously monarchy confounds everything, because it drugs us into confusing love of country with hierarchy, obedience and submission; too often patriotism simply means surrender to the status quo. To applaud the monarchy for spending £5,000 a night on the Duchess of Cambridge’s lying-in, for instance, might be considered patriotic, while to complain that she should make do with a world famous NHS hospital is not. Patriotism stripped of proper definition is a cheap political trick and it lies all the time; who remembers, for instance, that in Churchill’s five-man war cabinet of 1940, two Tories (Chamberlain and Halifax) were for negotiating with Hitler and two Labour men (Attlee and Greenwood) were not?