Dividing the Kingdom: Britain’s Game of Thrones

After Brexit, government policy-making was supposed to focus on securing the national interest. Those who supported leaving the European Union assumed the United Kingdom would resume control of its territorial borders, reassert parliamentary sovereignty and return to its historic role as an independent sovereign state with a commitment to a rule-governed international trading order.

Indeed, the Johnson government embarked upon a desultory effort to re-establish the UK’s economic and political links with the world beyond Western Europe. It forged “bespoke” free-trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Japan and has applied for membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

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As a naval power it has also shown a willingness to promote maritime freedom across the Indo-Pacific. The AUKUS security agreement evinced a welcome desire to form new and strategically relevant global alliances. The UK has also adopted, with some tergiversation, a more critical stance towards China’s geopolitical ambitions.

From the perspective of “taking back control” these are positive achievements. Yet since Boris Johnson’s resounding election victory in 2019, the much-anticipated Global Britain project of a state at ease with itself and with the world is at best a work in progress and at worst showing alarming signs of disintegration.

The pandemic upset the new government’s plans to release the nation’s animal spirits after their long hibernation, shackled by decades of European regulation. The pandemic, of course, had a traumatic impact upon all the Western democracies. In this context, the UK government at least performed no worse than its European counterparts.

The UK, like the European Union, Australasia and most US state legislatures, nevertheless developed a dangerous penchant for lockdowns and quarantines at the slightest rise in cases or at the latest mutation of the virus. Health bureaucracies addicted to catastrophic projections and devoted to preserving the old and infirm irrespective of economic and political cost undermined the normal functioning of democratic governments and an open trading order. In the UK this dangerously valetudinarian policy bequeathed the deepest recession since the union’s formation three centuries ago, at the same time building national indebtedness to levels only previously achieved in times of war and existential threat to the state’s survival. The lockdown induced recession, and the uncertain economic recovery since September 2021 has been hampered by supply-chain disruption, labour and energy shortages, rising inflation, rising interest rates and the looming prospect of stagflation.

Whilst the UK shared its big-state pandemic management strategy with most developed nations, it also revealed distinctive fault lines that do not portend well for the once optimistic vision of Global Britain held by most Brexiteers in 2016, promoted by think-tanks like Policy Exchange and elaborated in the government’s defence review in 2021. What has gone wrong?


Evolving disunion

It was immediately evident after the referendum on European membership in 2016 that a metropolitan elite that dominates the mainstream media, politics, business and the civil service remained committed to the European project despite the democratic vote to leave it. Unwilling to abandon a cosmopolitan faith in ever-closer European union, these elites shared a worldview with their European and North American confreres that sought to reverse, question and undermine Britain’s process of withdrawal from European institutions. Between 2017 and 2019 the Conservative government of Teresa May failed to negotiate a withdrawal agreement that would satisfy a largely Remainer parliament or her own Leaver backbenchers. Immured in a constitutional deadlock of her own devising, May’s administration lost authority, momentum and purpose.

Brussels, with the complicity of leading civil servants, tried to bounce the UK into a new referendum or a new treaty that afforded the worst of all possible outcomes for national self-direction. Only after Boris Johnson became leader of the Conservative Party in October 2019 was a dissolution of parliament achieved. Johnson’s overwhelming electoral victory in December 2019, based on a campaign to get Brexit done, gave the new Conservative government the legitimacy to negotiate a treaty that separated it from Europe whilst still maintaining a co-operative trading relationship[1]. Even so, the new treaty, rather than initiating a clean break with European institutions, left unresolved questions vital to parliamentary sovereignty. The UK still accepts the jurisdiction of the European Court and the treaty left an unsustainable customs border in the Irish Sea between the province of Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. This together with disputes with the EU over the UK’s maritime boundaries created an increasingly fraught relationship with Europe, that without resolution, undermines the prospect of an economically integrated state.

In November 2021, Britain’s most effective Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, resigned citing his difficulties with the “direction of travel” the government had taken during the pandemic.[2] Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, took responsibility for the border issue and in 2022, like Frost, threatened to invoke article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol governing the UK and Brussels’s post-Brexit relationship with Ireland. However, the issue remains unresolved and the EU’s intransigence has revealed what those who value the independence of the United Kingdom from European regulation have long known, namely that Brussels remains profoundly hostile to British independence. Moreover, in this hostility, Brussels receives overt and covert support from leading civil servants, business, academe and the mainstream media.

The inability of the Johnson government to address these widening divisions between the United Kingdom’s elite and masses has hamstrung coherent foreign and domestic policy planning. This became increasingly manifest over the course of the pandemic that greeted the new government in its first months. Its Covid response, composed of lockdowns, furloughs and quarantines, not only damaged the economy and created the conditions for inflation and the impoverishment of the least well off, it also unintentionally gave credence to the demands for independence in the devolved administrations of Wales and Scotland. The SNP in Scotland and the Labour Party in alliance with Plaid Cymru in Wales used the pandemic to implement notably tougher measures governing their respective peoples than those applied in England. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, and Mark Drakeford, her Welsh equivalent (Prif Weinidog Cymru), deliberately distanced themselves from the English government’s attempts to limit lockdown and quarantine measures. Entering Wales from across the Severn Bridge motorists were constantly reminded that different and stricter measures applied to those under the jurisdiction of the Welsh Assembly. Similarly in Scotland, the SNP enforced more draconic policing measures than those in operation across the border.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sturgeon and Drakeford drew plaudits from the media for their tough stance. Indeed Drakeford, despite unnecessarily reverting to much stricter measures that included fining people for going to work in December 2021, continued to receive far higher approval ratings than Boris Johnson, who followed a more economically sensible approach to lockdown. Similarly in Scotland, the SNP still enjoys majority support for its strict virus policy. Both Wales and Scotland benefit from higher government funding than England and have little in the way of a private sector. The public sector dominates the political economy in both of these devolved regions. This is particularly the case in Wales which is a costa geriatrica in the North and a costa bureaucratica in the South. Consequently, outside tourism and hospitality, public sector workers have not been penalised by the lockdown. Indeed, the dependent populations of Wales and Scotland have become more servile and more responsive to the devolved authorities in Cardiff and Edinburgh promoting a politics of fear. The different pandemic responses in Wales and Scotland have given these devolved governments an increasing appetite for independence by stealth.

This was not meant to happen. The Welsh population voted in favour of Brexit whilst a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland rejected it. Ironically, Westminster’s indifference to this growing appetite for self-governance without economic responsibility has reduced the United Kingdom to a de facto federation, the precursor to inevitable demands for full autonomy. Instead of taking advantage of getting Brexit done to reassert sovereignty and a common rule of law overseen by its highest court of parliament sitting in Westminster, the pandemic response strengthened the forces on the Celtic fringes working for the dissolution of the union.

Whilst there is disunion in Downing Street as the Prime Minister struggles to explain his cavalier attitude to lockdown rules that his government made and enforced, UK Incorporated appears increasingly rudderless. The directional problem Lord Frost identified is not only a product of a critical mainstream media and a civil service some of whose senior figures have much greater sympathy for a European union rather than a British one, it is also a product of the government’s propensity for self-induced harm.

Whilst the pandemic response destabilised the union, the Johnson government’s idealist environmental agenda, which seeks to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero within a decade, courted intellectual enthusiasm but imposed destructive economic costs. Driven by an apocalyptic vision of manmade climate catastrophe, this policy has increased energy costs to British manufacturing and domestic consumers at a time of rising inflation, whilst at the same time undermining Britain’s energy security and rendering the UK dependent on supplies from potentially hostile powers, notably Russia. Eco-idealism has undermined the potential for national resilience and renders rebuilding the UK as a manufacturing base potentially unaffordable. With oil prices anticipated to reach $100 a barrel, the UK government and the Scottish assembly overregulate and restrict the extraction of North Sea oil and natural gas, as well as gas fracking, which would give the UK the energy security it urgently needs. A government sympathetic to an elite lobby of climate ideologues could ironically extinguish the United Kingdom as a sustainable body politic within a decade. As Clint Eastwood memorably put it, in a different context, “that’s one helluva price to pay for being stylish”.[3]

If such a self-destructive energy policy were not bad enough, Brexit also accelerated a wider ideological assault in academe and the mainstream media on the origins of the United Kingdom in imperialism and slavery and the structural racism and sexism that according to this ideology underlie all its institutions. It was no accident, in the aftermath of Brexit, that the universities, the mainstream media and even business elites supported an increasingly negative view of the nation-state and its successful development into a modern, multicultural democratic polity. The history of the development of the United Kingdom became the subject of an iconoclastic ideological assault both in the United States and in the UK in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 in Minneapolis. This event, despite occurring 3000 miles from the UK, served as the catalyst for those on the woke campus Left to attack the systemic racism supposedly concealed by the democratic, constitutional and legal rights enjoyed by all citizens irrespective of creed, colour or sex. The Black Lives Matter movement in particular exploited the pandemic to advance an anti-racist, woke ideology that scorned the values and self-understanding of the majority of the population. In this view, the fact that most people imagined they inhabited a law-governed and politically accountable democratic polity merely indicated the extent of their repressive desublimation.[4] This transvaluation of political values required not only recognising and cherishing the victimhood endured by the UK’s minority populations, but correcting the UK’s modern history by revealing its deep roots in colonialism and slavery. This further demanded the demolition and erasure of iconic imagery as well as heritage sites associated with the eighteenth-century slave trade which, according to this ultimately Maoist cultural revolutionary perspective, was not only the material, but the formal, efficient and final cause of the UK’s imperial success in the nineteenth century.

This critical rhetoric of collective moral guilt required atonement. This requires not only the rewriting of the recent past but the demolition of monuments celebrating any false memory of imperial glory. This sensibility and its distinctive grammar of self-vilification deemed statues like those erected at the high-water mark of Victorian imperialism to Edward Colston, the seventeenth-century British philanthropist and director of the Royal African Company which developed the Atlantic slave trade, particularly egregious. 

Black Lives Matter supercharged the campaign against the Colston legacy and justified the demolition of his statue in Bristol which its perpetrators termed “a hate crime”.[5] The Bristol experience is one instalment in the US movement with UK and Australian connections to remove the stigma of slavery, colonialism and racism by taking down statues, renaming buildings on campuses and in public spaces, and decolonising the secondary and tertiary curriculums.

This anachronistic, inaccurate, guilt-inducing interpretation of the history of the union since 1707 gained political traction in 2020 because it gave credence to elite alienation from the UK and its traditional institutions. The metropolitan elites believed in a rationalist project of European integration that would dissolve national pasts into a collective, post-national constellation leading ultimately to a borderless world and the end of history. This worldview, aligned to a progressive and increasingly woke ideology, generated a rhetoric that now dominates public life and the terms in which moral, historical and contemporary social issues are discussed. It generates a vision of modern Britain as a tangle of inherited injustices that demand rectification and compensation. As Thomas Sowell, an early observer of the style, explains, “political decisions about the future are made as if they were moral decisions about the past”.[6]

The particularly virulent response to Brexit and the assault on the UK’s past that anti-racists contend has continued into the present reflect the fact that the cosmopolitan elites saw in ever closer European Union the prospect of some relief from the moral treadmill of atonement, reparation and confession. The post-national constellation and norms of social justice that European rules offered intimated the utopian prospect of release from the apparent burden of the UK’s and Europe’s past and its parochial penchant for somewhere rather than anywhere.

The dashing of the hoped-for release from the UK’s guilty nationalist and colonialist past thus added to the division of the increasingly divided kingdom and fuelled its further retribalisation into minorities according to their ethnic, gender, religious, lesbian, gay and trans identities. Notwithstanding the pandemic the government has done little to redress the harm inflicted upon the union by its dissolution into tribal affinities, whether Scots, Welsh, gay, feminist, transgender or Muslim. Why has Johnson’s government responded so ineptly and what does it mean for Global Britain?


Global Britain or vanishing kingdom?

In domestic politics the Conservative government has failed to make the case for the union since its beginnings in 1707 or for its future as a coherent and stable framework for a sovereign parliamentary democracy. Boris Johnson’s “chaotic optimism” and his inability to conduct his office in a responsible manner have undermined his authority and divided his party. The divisions in government and its civil service reflect a wider anxiety concerning the economic prospects and future stability of the realm. The incoherence at the heart of the government’s domestic agenda has exposed the constitutive dissonances in its post-Brexit foreign policy.

Since 2016, proponents of Brexit had envisaged Britain once more playing a global role promoting free trade and a liberal, rules-based, multilateral international order. In an early attempt at appraising Britain’s options in a paper titled “Making Sense of British Foreign Policy after Brexit”, the historian John Bew, now a key figure in the Downing Street Policy Unit, observed that “the greatest challenge to the new government was to identify some guiding principles for a new global strategy” and take measures “to transform current uncertainty into opportunity”.[7]

In November 2020, Boris Johnson advertised his intention to “undertake the deepest review of Britain’s security, defence and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War”. It would evaluate “Global Britain’s foreign policy, British alliances and diplomacy, shifts of power and wealth to Asia, how to use the UK’s huge expenditure on international development, and the role of technology”.[8] The fruits of this strategic review were eventually published in March 2021.

Whilst Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy clarified important aspects of Britain’s future military posture, it left unresolved its relation to Europe; the liberal international order it seeks to promote; the rising totalitarian power of China; and the decaying authoritarianism of Russia. Events since the inauguration of the new American President, who showed little inclination to pursue a free-trade agreement or facilitate closer ties with the UK, merely added to the list of unresolved policy issues.

The “guiding principles for a new global strategy” not only remain unfinished business, they now seem both exceedingly ambitious and unrealistic. The review envisaged that “future prosperity will be enhanced by deepening our economic connections with dynamic parts of the world such as the Indo-Pacific, Africa and the Gulf, as well as trade with Europe”. [9] The UK may be out of the EU, but it is not out of Europe. This required collaborative alliances in terms of security and economic ties with the Baltic and the Central European states and evolving bilateral ties with those countries that sympathised with the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Thus, whilst Europe remained of enduring relevance, the UK’s relationship with the European Union, particularly with its leading players, Germany and France, has become increasingly contentious. Given the uncertainties of current treaty arrangements with the EU, the review foresaw that “in the decade ahead”, the UK would deepen its “engagement in the Indo-Pacific, establishing a greater and more persistent presence than any other European country”. [10] Consequently, the UK rapidly ratified trade agreements with a number of Indo-Pacific states and also applied to join the multilateral CPTPP.

At the same time, the Review was notably ambivalent about the rising power of China. China is both the “biggest state-based threat” to the UK’s economic security, but also an “increasingly important partner” in tackling global challenges. [11] Yet, China’s growing global reach means that “Easternisation” not only has implications for investment and development in the UK, it also raises issues of national and international security. As a maritime power committed to maintaining the freedom of navigation and the status quo in the Indo-Pacific, the UK was drawn not only into closer trading ties with Japan and Australia but security ties as well. In October the AUKUS agreement evinced the closer UK’s co-operation with Australia and the US in maintaining the maritime freedom of the Asia-Pacific. It is also in the process of concluding a reciprocal access agreement with Japan.

Yet while the UK is drawn into closer trade and security ties in the Indo-Pacific, it still maintains its commitment to NATO and to NATO’s post-1996 expansion into Eastern Europe. Russia has always interpreted this eastward expansion, at a time of political and economic weakness, as a strategic threat. This notwithstanding, the integrated review assumed a far less nuanced tone towards the revisionist, but economically declining, power of Russia than it adopted towards a rising and more internationally powerful China. The UK would, the review announced, “actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia”. Moreover, through NATO, the UK would “ensure a united Western response, combining our military, diplomatic and intelligence assets in support of collective security”.[12]

Consequently, when Russia built up its military force and conducted manoeuvres on its contested border with Ukraine in January 2022, demanding that NATO never allow Ukraine to become a member, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, together with the US Secretary of State, dismissed Russian demands. In this they differed markedly from the more ambivalent French and German diplomatic posture. The new German coalition government prevented Estonia shipping weaponry across German territory to aid Ukraine. As the former Inspector General of the German navy, Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, observed, Russian President Vladimir Putin “really wants respect. Giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost.” The admiral also said that Russia was an old, important and Christian state.[13]

As the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat noted, the EU has maintained “a deafening silence” towards Russia’s provocative behaviour. Europe and its most powerful state, Germany, have proved incapable of deciding on a response to Putin and have tried to keep the Ukraine problem on the diplomatic back burner since Russian forces moved into the largely Russian-populated area of Eastern Ukraine and seized the Crimea in 2014. Whilst the US and the UK have offered military support and threatened economic sanctions against any further Russian aggression, French President Macron and the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have looked to de-escalate tensions and refused to sanction Russian energy exports or the Nordstream 2 pipeline upon which Germany’s energy future depends.

Whatever else Putin’s manoeuvring achieves, it has already exposed the fragmentation of the West and altered the US perception of the European Union as an arrangement to be supported as a necessary democratic bulwark. At the same time, it is not clear what exactly the UK gains from its special relationship with the United States except being treated as a reliable but somewhat servile dependent, that unlike Australia doesn’t even deserve the benefit of a free-trade agreement.

Despite the Anglo-American clamour for the defence of a liberal rules-based order demanding “a strong response” to defend Ukraine’s freedom, there is evidently little appetite for conflict in Berlin, Paris or Brussels.[14] More sceptical Europeans, unlike their British and American counterparts, recognise that Russia is reasserting its geopolitical presence in Central Europe. It is reviving a role that it has played since the eighteenth century, when Catherine the Great along with Prussia and Austria-Hungary embarked on the partition of the kingdom of Poland (the southern borderland of which was known as “Ukraine” or the borderland).

The Ukraine problem ultimately reflects the hubris of US liberal end-of-history foreign policy thinking. The impotent posturing of Blinken and Truss represent its last hurrah. Realist conservative observers of the implosion of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, like Robert Conquest and Owen Harries, warned against the expansion of NATO eastward at a time of Russian weakness.[15] The 1994 expansion now looks like post-Cold War liberal overstretch or as Michael Clarke and Michael McGwire observed in 2008, “a historical error of the first importance”.[16]

A Prime Minister and his key foreign policy adviser familiar with the nineteenth-century struggle for political mastery in Europe should perhaps be more sympathetic to the recent outbreak of appeasement in the major European capitals. They should recognise, as realists from Thucydides to Bismarck would, that Putin is merely doing what great powers, with a historic grievance of NATO’s own devising, do when confronting weak states propped up by indecisive and divided opponents. In this context, the idea that the UK would send troops to the Ukraine when it can’t police its own borders or reverse a protocol dividing Northern Ireland from the mainland would strike any nineteenth-century practitioner of realpolitik from Palmerston to Disraeli as either idealist delusion or insanity. Moreover, given that the UK, like the US, is riven by guilt about the racism and slavery that disfigure its past and trouble its present view of itself and the world, it is somewhat odd that these troubled democracies want to export such an ethnically and religiously divisive model to Eastern Europe and across the Indo-Pacific.

Loss of faith in its own democratic identity also leads to further unnecessary foreign policy blunders. The progressive propensity to excoriate the UK for its past misdeeds has justified foreign policy indifference to reviving a potentially fruitful relationship with its former colonies. Driven by the woke assumption that the Commonwealth countries must loathe their colonial legacy, the Foreign Office has given little credence to the scale and potential power of Great Britain’s Anglosphere and the Commonwealth assets that might be mobilised. Instead the Foreign Secretary makes grandiose statements about issues peripheral to the national interest, like defending the integrity of the Ukraine or sending aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Straits, whilst ignoring a historic resource of enduring strategic value. Significantly, it is the Indian and Australian Prime Ministers who show more enthusiasm for reinvigorating the Commonwealth than any recent British Prime Minister.

The recent decision by Barbados to remove the Queen as its head of state and declare itself a republic without a referendum in November 2021 vividly demonstrates how a woke foreign policy establishment and its academic apologists undermine rather than promote the UK’s national interest. Attending the Bajan independence celebrations, the Prince of Wales felt constrained to apologise for the “darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history”.[17] He, like his foreign office advisers, failed to observe that China had actively encouraged the Black Lives Matter movement to campaign for the removal of the royal connection in Barbados and fostered the island’s membership of its Belt and Road Initiative. Facilitated by Chinese soft power, aid and investment, Bajan independence could set off a domino effect across the West Indies of far more geopolitical relevance to UK and even US interests than events in Eastern Ukraine or the Taiwan Straits.



The United Kingdom post-Brexit and post-pandemic looks less like a coherent union and more like a failed state. The confusion wrought by Brexit and the pandemic did not cause this state of affairs. Rather, these events exposed the fault lines in the British state that have been exacerbated by elite mismanagement since the end of the Cold War. If there is a positive insight to be gained, it is that facing uncomfortable truths is the beginning of wisdom.

All conservative political thinking begins with an appreciation of the national interest and the importance of parliamentary sovereignty to constitutional self-understanding. Before a UK polity can think globally it must reassert the integrity of the union and roll back devolution. Scotland and Wales at the moment look and act like quasi states that undermine the prospects of a little, let alone a global Britain.

National integrity requires national resilience. A prudent conservative administration must develop policies to reverse the self-harm inflicted by identity politics, and the Maoist assault on the nation’s history, heritage and institutions. The economic impoverishment a green utopianism imposes through unsustainably expensive energy further undermines any potential to revitalise the UK’s manufacturing base or exploit its offshore resources. Zero Carbon, like Zero Covid, is a recipe for economic disaster.

As the European Union disintegrates, a realistic UK foreign policy should recognise and prudently adapt to the evolving balance of power that is reshaping Central and Southern Europe. This would suggest that the UK should recognise that Brussels is more of a threat than a partner and instead promote and develop bilateral relations with those states in Europe with which it is most aligned and shares common values. In an economic climate of post-pandemic uncertainty the idea of the UK punching above its weight in either Europe or the Indo-Pacific looks ludicrous. When Global Britain can’t even secure its own borders or exercise sovereignty throughout the union the view that it must defend the integrity of Ukraine or Taiwan seems, and indeed is preposterous.

The UK’s relationships with the EU and the US have to be recalibrated along more pragmatic lines. Its navy should not be dragged into an East Asian conflict at the behest of a United States that exploits, rather than values, its special relationship. The UK is in the Indo-Pacific for mutually beneficial free trade. Trade deals with Japan and Australia and the CPTPP make good economic policy. Collaborating with like-minded states to ensure maritime freedom also makes economic as well as strategic sense. The defence of Taiwan or South Korea does not. Equally the UK has no interest in conflict with Russia which is a declining economic power that deserves respect.

The UK should instead devote more attention to the Anglosphere in particular, cultivating the Commonwealth rather than ridding itself of what a cosmopolitan elite views as a relic of an inconvenient past. Absent close ties with Australia and potentially India, the Commonwealth faces the prospect of imminent dissolution. Problematically the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office is either asleep at the wheel or actively hostile to the success of a rebooted United Kingdom project. It requires root-and-branch reform. Ultimately a properly conservative foreign policy has no permanent friends, only permanent interests. The UK should avoid, as it did under Disraeli, all sanctimonious and costly liberal interventions in pursuit of norms that are demonstrably no longer universal.

David Martin Jones’s most recent book is History’s Fools: The Pursuit of Idealism and the Revenge of Politics (Hurst, 2020).


[1] The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement January 2021

[2] Lord Frost Letter of Resignation , December, 2021

[3] The Enforcer (1976).

[4] The term derives from the Frankfurt School’s critical theory of post war capitalism. See Herbert Marcuse One Dimensional Man (London, Routledge, 1964) p.37.

[5] According to Counsel for the Defence, Liam Walker QC see

[6] Thomas Sowell “Suicidal Morality” in Pink and Brown People and other controversial essays (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1981) p.50

[7] John Bew and Gabriel Elefeterieu Making Sense of British Foreign Policy After Brexit


[9] Global Britain in a Competitive Age the integrated review of Security, Defence Development and Foreign Policy (London HM Government 2021) p.14 see

[10] Ibid p.61

[11] Ibid p.62

[12] Ibid p.61



[15] Owen Harries “The Dangers of Expansive Realism” The National Interest Winter 1997

[16] Michael Clarke & Michael McGwire NATO expansion: “a policy error of historic importance” International Affairs 84 6 2008 p.1281


[17] HRH, Prince of Wales , Barbados, 20 November 2021,determination%20have%20been%20your%20guides.

6 thoughts on “Dividing the Kingdom: Britain’s Game of Thrones

  • ianl says:

    As learned as this essay is, and it is learned if a little polite, the most dangerous underlying dynamic is the supply or otherwise of reliable, affordable energy. This is the realpolitik underpinning our civilised society.

    This intrusive, in-your-face issue will cartwheel us all. And most unpleasantly …

    In less than 6 months now, northern hemisphere countries will have to start stockpiling fuel for their winter. Will the Ukraine situation be resolved peacefully by then, to allow California Dreaming to bumble-bliss along ?

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    From all of this it is clear that climate change as a central issue should quickly be consigned to the dustbin of history, to be revisited in one hundred years time but not before, doomsaying regardless and if even deemed necessary then. Boris should gag his wife. There is no ‘tipping point’ and it can wait. Remove all traces of it, as with Covid restrictions. Whist! as my old Welsh grandmother used to say in the ancient language – away with it! Britain needs to quickly readjust itself to a fracking oil and coal powered and nuclear powered energy future as a United Kingdom proud of its common history of struggles to achieve union, its democracy and diversity, and its place in the world today as a reference point for a great historic anglosphere. Christianity and its ancient British churches should be revived as places of contemplation and spiritual renewal not left to decline or be sold off to the highest bidder ( disclosure: I am currently trying to save a small British church threatened with this sort of extinction); the Nation needs to heal itself not split into its previous tribal alliances as Welsh, Scots, Plantation Irish etc. In the same manner that countries were once de-Nazified so should the Marxist narrative of self-flagellation and National destruction be removed from prominence in schools, universities, the police, the army and bureaucracies. Such removal should be done by governments and a newly-concerned media with the solid approval of the people, by referendum of some sort, or by the ballot box; and by popular individual rejection of and organisation against ‘wokeness’ wherever it is found.
    Well, that’s a couple of glasses of good red speaking, of course, and much wishful thinking.
    But a spiritual renewal movement would be a start to tackle the malaise of the once united kingdom.
    Watching The Last Kingdom, Series V tonight, where King Alfred’s son Edward is claiming Mercia for Wessex and his son Athelstan, against all odds, will go on the create Engalande, uniting Saxon and Dane. And so it goes….

  • brandee says:

    A most informative piece by DMJ and excellent comments by the two above.
    National leadership is so lacking in the Anglosphere whether so called conservatives or liberals. In the first group both Boris and Scott are . windsocks and windbags.
    In the current Weekend Australian Magazine there is a detailed Johnson family piece by Rachel Sylvester called “Joker in the Pack’. Stanley Johnson, the father of Boris and his numerous siblings, preached the motto “nothing matters very much and most things don’t matter at all”.
    Sylvester writes that MPs are now quoting the Turkish proverb “When a clown moves into the palace, he doesn’t become a king. The palace becomes a circus”

  • Michael Waugh says:

    Of course I heartily agree that caving in to climate hysteria has placed the UK and western Europe in a weakened position vis-a-vis Putin, but I am horrified that it is being suggested that the civilised democracies of the world throw Ukraine and Taiwan to the wolves. No country is or has ever been free of sin, but the Anglosphere has been a beacon of light in comparative terms. As the poet Sean Wayman writes in the current hard copy of Quadrant “Rebel poets scold the state/ While suckin’ on its teat”. The woke excoriate the wonderful democracy gifted them by the blood of their ancestors because of the liberties which they are fortunate (but undeserving) to inherit.. I would be dismayed if that proud heritage of continuing to further the demands of justice for all, in so far as it is within our power, were to regress to nineteenth century realpolitik.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good on you Elizabeth, trying to save a small British Church. I’ve been visiting the small rural county of my ancestors for 16 years now, particularly to visit and pray in their lovely little medieval churches and know all 49 of them very well. The tactic used there to save the one in my Grandfather’s village was to convert it to a Chapel of Ease, still consecrated, but it needs one or two determined people at least in the village to be successful.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Peter, thanks for that piece of information re a Chapel of Ease. I will investigate that further in my forthcoming discussions with the Anglican hierarchy in Britain in May about this church.

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