A Very British Legacy: Attitude and Brexit


A Very British Legacy: Attitude and Brexit

Brexit may be key to the future of inequality in the UK, and inequality may have been key to making Brexit possible.

The rise of inequality had repercussions that ranged from creating tax-evader-funders to fuelling mass-discontent. But behind inequality rising was a legacy of Empire thinking. Sally Tomlinson and Danny Dorling document much of this in the book “Rule Britannia” (1st edition published in January 2019). One point not made in that book follows:

In 1856 Lord Palmerston complained of what he called:”an anti-English feeling, an abnegation of all those ties which bind men to their country and to their fellow-countrymen, which I should hardly have expected from the lips of any member of this House. Everything that was English was wrong, and everything that was hostile to England was right“. Palmerston described the Chinese people, upon whom he was forcing free trade to allow the sale of British opium, as a “set of barbarians – a set of kidnapping, murdering, poisoning barbarians“. He is credited with the invention of gun-boat diplomacy.

Below is the audio recording of a talk given to school children on February 2nd 2019 in a room in St John’s College Cambridge, named after this particular British Lord. In many of his portraits Lord Palmerston appeared to be dead behind the eyes. He had a soulless look about him.