It is quiet now. The Chancelleries of Europe and the great buildings of state in Whitehall are empty. The beaches of Europe are crowded, wives speak to their husbands away from the bustle of normality and claim them as human beings they recognise, and perhaps even like, while children discover their parents. Soon these havens of gentleness and calm will be gone for us and real life will return again. But not yet, Good Lord. Not yet. We are dimly aware that somewhere else life is very different: fires rage across central Russia; flood renders millions of Parkistanis homeless without food, water or shelter; oil still drifts ashore on the beaches of Louisiana; and a stray bullet kills a young soldier in no mans land in Afghanistan and leaves his family sobbing in Peckham, Surrey or Sunderland. It is, at this moment under the sun, no business of ours.
Lodged in our consciousness is a longing for quietism. Why should not life always be like this? No business of ours. Yes, please, say the children, to another ice cream. It is argued that Britain was at its most glorious best when it concentrated on trade, when it was the manufacturing centre of the world and British merchant ships were to be found in every corner of the globe, when Britannia ruled the world and nasty wars were fought in far corners of it without undue cost to the taxpayer. In this mythical account there are no colonies or continental wars, no struggle for Empire. But would we not be better off now if we withdrew from all this nastiness, disengaged, increased our trade, made more goods in Birmingham and Manchester, and exported more to the BRIC countries, Brazil, India, Russia and China? If we could double our trade with BRIC from 2.5% to 5%. preferably in the blinking of an eye, it would be very, very, helpful. Pity about Pakistan. Oh, well, you cannot please every one, can you?
What about the many and manifold dangers of this wicked world, Iran, South Korea, the Middle East and world terrorism? Leave it to the Americans, they seem to like that sort of thing. Policing the world, something we used to do ourselves before we saw the light. From where I am standing there is a great deal of light. As I said to Obama. Good luck to you mate. If you want to push a resolution through the Security Council, and so long as it doesn’t concern our trading partners Russia, China, India and Brazil, you can rely on us. You can’t say fairer than that. As for terrorism. as I told the Pakis, stop exporting it, its your problem, deal with it. Terrorism! Now there’s an ugly word. Answer me this. Do they have a problem with terrorism in Switzerland (do they have a problem at all!), Sweden or Luxembourg? No trouble there. Think about it.
Well William, here is a chance for us, lets get of the jolly old whirligig, and settle for peace and harmony, prosperity, and a new golden age. In your heart of hearts, you there on the beach, you know we are right.