Open letter to PM May: Think to the future

Are you certain that you have a coherent vision for the direction of our country, and a steady hand on the tiller as we plough forward? Anyone watching the news over the past year has experienced growing dismay as key problems spin rapidly beyond the control not only of the beleaguered citizenry but also of the stewards of society whose remit for addressing society’s problems has evolved over centuries.

As a result of two triumphs of populist will over reasoned circumspection, two of the world’s most significant politicians – each one possessing a uniquely problematic mandate from their electorates – met recently in Washington DC to discuss a platform for cooperation in the future in general and, in particular, to establish the foundation for a trade deal.

One distinct difference between these politicians is that one is favoured by her upbringing within a culture that has learned, and is still learning, the enduring merits of exercising soft power over hard. The other politician is an unashamed practitioner of the coarse brutalities and darker arts of hard power.

In the course of this meeting a State Visit invitation was extended that was neither demanded of the circumstances nor consistent with long-established precedent. What has been broadly identified as a collusive and appeasing act had not even the fig leaf of pathetic and transient glistering gain. Within a week of the invitation being extended, almost two million signatures were secured here on a petition decrying that invitation, and prompted this reply from your government’s website:

“HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a State Visit . . . HM Government recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition . . . This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom.”

The “strong views” being expressed are more than emetic eruptions of dismay. They arise from millennia of reflections on the constitution of effective relationships, and what defines the “importance” of sustaining them. They reflect the lessons absorbed by people still living of more recent collisions of collusion and principle. Within a mere lifetime past we have witnessed the price to be paid for nurturing the nursery steps of autocratic egomaniacs simply because we think we can do business with them.

In a world in which “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”, have you reflected on the well of inspiration to be derived from a thousand years of British history? Has enough not transpired that we can sense posterity’s judgments on rulers who sacrifice hard-won ideals and long-term prosperity for unseemly grasping after the petty inducements of what glitters today?

At a time when you are on a determined course to re-define the concept of national self-possession, you might reevaluate the prospects for Britain in selling the national soul not through adherence to a grander plan or higher ideal, but to headlong slavering after association with a regime as dystopian, cognitively chaotic and mendacious as Donald Trump’s.

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