So what was that all about?
Hundreds of thousands of people in the rain celebrating the reign of a constitutional anachronism. Geriatric pop stars creaking and groaning through their back catalogue as the crowds waved flags celebrating a Great Britain that many think is a busted flush. What did it all mean? Haven't a clue. But I say jolly good luck to them.
And no, I'm not Backing Britain, and nor have I ceased being a republican. But the Jubilee seemed to me to be a harmless celebration of theme-park monarchism and I just couldn't take offence at it. At least British nationalism is peaceful and largely ironic, unlike the nationalisms that are emerging in Europe right now. Indeed, all those flags set me wondering why we don't have a significant British far right – one of the must-have accessories of the Great Recession. Yes, the English Defence League and the Scottish Defence League have been marching about town centres stirring up derision and indifference. But we have nothing remotely like what is happening in Europe. And that's worth a day out in London in any language.
For, in the next two weeks, we are going to see the real far right swaggering across the EU political stage from Athens to Paris. In the French parliamentary elections this weekend the far right Front National of Marine le Pen is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time. In the recent Presidential elections, the daughter of the notorious racist Jean Marie le Pen won one-fifth of the French popular vote – and she's threatened to sue Madonna for claiming she is a Nazi. In Greece, in 10 days time, the most right-wing party since the Nazis, Golden Dawn, is expecting to increase its tally of 21 seats in the re-run General Election. Golden Dawn want to send "home" all immigrants and place land mines along the border with Turkey to stop them coming back.
And in Ukraine tomorrow, when the Euro championships kick off in Lviv, the authorities are hoping the footie fest will not be marred by the racism and anti-semitism that seems to have gripped Ukrainian football. Last week the BBC's Panorama showed footage of anti-Jewish banners at matches – which is truly shocking in a country where Jews were systematically exterminated during the Second World War. Sol Campbell, the former England captain, has warned supporters to stay away from the championships altogether if they don't want to risk coming home "in a coffin". The city council in Lviv is dominated by the ultra nationalist Svoboda party whose slogan – and I'm not making this up – is "one race, one nation, one fatherland".
Even over in pot-smoking, freedom-loving Holland the government has recently been brought down by the charismatic Geert Wilders, whose virulent anti-Islamic Freedom Party has attracted widespread support as people look for someone to blame for the financial crisis. In Norway, the trial of mass murderer Anders Breivik has revealed a latent racism in Scandinavian society that sits uneasily with our image of enlightened Nordic social democracy. Then there is Finland, Hungary, Poland ...
No-one should be particularly surprised at this rise of the far right. We are in the midst of the worst financial and economic dislocation since the 1930s, when fascism was last on the march. It's part of the script. When people lose their jobs and their savings they lose confidence in the political process and conventional political parties. They want quick answers, simple solutions, and the right can provide them. It is the fault of Jewish bankers stealing our money. It is because of immigrants coming and taking our jobs. It is because corrupt politicians, lacking any sense of discipline and order, have allowed the country to go to wrack and ruin and handed over our city centres to Muslim fundamentalists under the guise of multiculturalism? In fact, the real surprise is that there hasn't been more racial politics here because Britain looks like fertile ground for the populist far right.
And this time round there is little countervailing political force on the left. In the 1930s, there were many influential socialists and communists who intellectually challenged the racist doctrines of the extreme right. Powerful trade unions countered the influence of right-wing demagogues in the factories and offices, and argued for working class unity across national boundaries. Socialist internationalism was a force in Europe until comparatively recently. But the trade unions are in decline and communism has been discredited. No-one believes the Chinese system offers any hope for humanity.
So the field seems to be clear for the far right to exploit the stupidity of the European political classes who are providing the worst democratic leadership since the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s. The failure of Weimar to deal with the Great Depression, of course, opened the door for the National Socialists to take over in Germany after the 1932 elections. History doesn't repeat itself, and things are very different in Germany today. But European national leaders are playing with fire right now, seemingly allowing the eurozone to disintegrate under the strains of a largely avoidable economic depression.
Fortunately none of this seems to disturb England's dreaming. Or Scotland's. Despite mass immigration, two decades of multiculturalism and an invasion of Polish plumbers, Britain has kept calm and carried on. There were riots, of course, last summer in English cities, but they weren't political and haven't been repeated. The BNP occasionally wins the odd council seat here and there, but has never established any foothold on national politics. The Scottish National Party is about civic engagement and is arguably the least racially minded party in Europe. After all, it was Gordon Brown who famously called for "British jobs for British workers".
So, that's why I'm really, really pleased that the Jubilee celebrations went off so well and that for all the singing of Rule Britannia there were no political, imperial or racial overtones. Quite the reverse, in fact. It was all good humoured nonsense – with Stevie Wonder singing Happy Birthday to her Majesty, even though it wasn't her birthday. This was Monty Python's Royal Family. Silly hats. Bad jokes. Pouring rain. And God bless Lenny Henry.
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