2007 - 2021

Splendid Isolation

hessFrom the time he acquired the Daily Express in 1916 and subsequently throughout the 1930’s, the tycoon turned politician, William Maxwell Aitken of Ontario, or Lord Beaverbrook as he became in 1917, proclaimed the best policy for Britain was one of “splendid isolation” from Europe and that the real “free” trading zone was within the Empire. This was also, at the time, the popular position or view of a great number of people in the British establishment: politicians, bankers, financiers, industrialists and aristocrats – especially huge landowners such as the Dukes of Buccleuch and Westminster. The same basic idea, or mind-set, is held by the present dismal crop of Tories who currently rule over us. See the Daily Telegraph of October 28th – “Brexit has reversed the post-imperial decline of Britain.” The only problem they face in holding such a cherished belief is that there is no Empire and yet they act as if there is. They behave in a similar fashion to King George III, driven mad by longing for the lost colonies of America in the 18th century. To be fair to his Georgeness he did suffer from porphyria, which is a rare hereditary disease in which there is abnormal metabolism of the blood pigment haemoglobin which can lead to fevers, confusion and seizures – amongst other things. The present London Government does not have such a clinical medical diagnosis, but they do long for a world that never existed – except in the romantic imagination of the British establishment, where England and her Empire has always existed. This mania, too, is proving to be hereditary.

Beaverbrook was also fiercely anti-American. He believed that “England should keep out of European affairs” – the rise of Hitler and the coming war – and that the best economic interests for the “realm Imperial” lay in exploiting the resources of the colonies and limiting monetary ties with Europe. A European war, he feared, would quickly spread to a world war and necessitate the entry of the USA who would, as a condition of support, insist that England dismantle her Empire and allow her colonies to become independent nations. This, for great swatches of the upper class, was unthinkable. But there are many instances from history that are unthinkable and some have uncanny echoes for us in the present day.

When Rudolph Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer of the Third Reich, crash-landed in Scotland on May 10th 1941 he had with him what now seems a fantastic proposal: an armistice between Germany and Britain. The physical facts of his mission to see the then Duke of Hamilton are well known. The full extent of what Rudolph Hess had in mind and what happened after his capture has been suppressed for years. The gist of his offer (as reported by the Duke of Hamilton in 1941 and in subsequent interviews with the British military) was that Britain and Germany should never go to war again and this could only be achieved if “England would give up her traditional policy of always opposing the strongest power in Europe.” The idea was to give Germany a free hand to launch “Operation Barbarossa”, which was the invasion of Russia in late June 1941. What would emerge thereafter would be a United States of Europe with Germany at its centre. Britain would be free to keep her colonies and Germany would pull out of Denmark and France. Hess informed the British that if they allied with the Americans they would certainly lose their Empire. There is a lot more to relate about this extraordinary episode of wartime history but space does not allow, for this is the conspiracy theory to beat all conspiracy theories. One thing that does emerge however is that there was great support for such a proposal in Britain, ever since war was declared in September 1939, and not only from the Black Shirts and other fascists, but right through the establishment all the way up to the royal family. Hess did not fly in blind and there is ample evidence that he was far from insane, as Hitler later claimed and Churchill subsequently told Stalin.

“That there was a significant number of the British ruling elite who were willing to betray the British people in their most desperate hour simply to retain power, wealth and influence should come as no great surprise to any Scot.”

That there was a significant number of the British ruling elite who were willing to betray the British people in their most desperate hour simply to retain power, wealth and influence should come as no great surprise to any Scot. Have our own aristocracy and en-nobled families not sold us down the river in the past to secure a dubious political union and for financial gain? “Splendid isolation” comes in many forms. I write this on Samhain, the first day of Winter in the old Gaelic calendar: a day when the spirits of the dead walk with the living; like the world between the pre-Brexit referendum and the post-Brexit reality: a liminal time when democracy can be tasted but cannot be seen, if you are Scottish. It is the time when “the clocks go back” and we prepare for the darkness. Is that what happened on June 23rd 2014: was it the day the political and constitutional clocks were turned back?

The behaviour of the of the Conservative and Unionist Party since the mid-Summer does have a feel of “back to the future” about it. Nostalgia for a lost world is never a good place from which to fashion a plan for the development of a nation state, even one as dysfunctional as the United Kingdom. Using a popular vote against the British establishment, fuelled by the fire of anti-immigration, to embrace the Imperial fantasies of the Daily Telegraph to eschew Europe, is a dangerous programme for any modern government. Especially when Europe is again full of stateless people wandering the narrow roads to nowhere, only to find that when they get somewhere that no-one is in charge, there is no welcome or sanctuary and every border is closed as they approach. When they do find refuge, temporarily and imperfectly, as in Calais, what they see is that refuge burned about their heads and hordes of armed police violently dispersing them to who knows where.

To cement, permanently, their relationship to power our leaders have become fantasists, gamblers and play-actors and when they have finished their performance they depend upon the class-facility that they can depart the casino and the stage to return to the grateful bosom of their peers. In the end, for the British establishment, betrayal in the natural endgame, for this is a caste who have historically abandoned principle for profit, cynically and without a shred of guilt. Their tragedy is that in the beginning, through arrogance and entitlement, is the protection of the project; in the end, through a lack of belief, is the projects destruction. Betrayal, whether it be in 1707, 1941 or 2016, is inevitable. It floods across the floor of history like blood. The end can never justify the means because the end (and here’s the comedy) has evaporated. To expect more or better from the British ruling class is to misunderstand them. The only question they ask of themselves is: what do we want and how can we get it?

Ultimately what the Tories want is power and they have manoeuvred themselves into a position in England where they will be in power for the foreseeable future. Those who say, as if it is solace, that they do not know what they are doing are guilty of misunderstanding history. The Tories know exactly what they are doing. The best way out of this morass for the Scots is obvious: independence. The best way to achieve that may be through the careful and reasonable calculations of Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues; or it could be to summon our MP’s from Westminster where they can do little and make them the second chamber of the Scottish Parliament where at least they can do something. There is much babble in the media about “uncertainty”, whether that be in the financial markets or industry, and it is usually reported as being the result of those who aspire to action, change and progress, much in the way that Seneca wrote of Socrates, “that he carried himself clear of slavery”. “Uncertainty” is never the result of political positivity, but it is a political strategy used by those who seek to prevent change. Achieving a majority in an independence referendum is hard for the Scots at present not because we lose confidence, it is hard because we lack the confidence.

“Those who say, as if it is solace, that they do not know what they are doing are guilty of misunderstanding history. The Tories know exactly what they are doing. The best way out of this morass for the Scots is obvious: independence. The best way to achieve that may be through the careful and reasonable calculations of Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues; or it could be to summon our MP’s from Westminster where they can do little and make them the second chamber of the Scottish Parliament where at least they can do something.”

What would it take to believe in ourselves? Do we not aspire, as all people and all creatures in nature aspire? Nature provides some with ferocity, some with timidity; some with cunning and some with simplicity. Do the people of Scotland want to continually play safe in a union that increasingly isn’t? It may be the beginning of November and the time of the coming of the long Winter nights, but we were not as a species given eyes for the sake of the darkness. So, we must seek a way out and look further than our own borders. “Splendid isolation” is not an option for Scotland, not when the state we are locked into is embracing it, when that state also begins to resemble the authoritarian, anti-democratic thing we are told we must guard against and are being protected from. It is ironic that in 1941 the unrepentant Nazi, Rudolph Hess, told his British interrogators that “England” had become the very mirror of the totalitarian enemy they were supposed to be fighting and that, in his opinion, the way the British were conducting the war “was a bad advert for democracy”.

On the afternoon of August 23rd 1942 a Sunderland flying boat crashed into a Caithness hillside killing everyone on board, including the Duke of Kent, the Kings brother. Everyone that is except the tail gunner, Andy Jack, who was thrown clear on impact. When he was found, alive and concussed a day later, that made one body too many. Who was the extra body? There is a substantial body of opinion that it was none other than Rudolph Hess, on his way along with the Duke to Sweden to broker a peace deal with the Nazi’s. The “Hess” in Spandau, it is claimed, was a double. Now, you can believe that if you like. What is fact is that when the local policeman from Dunbeath came up to the scene of the wreck the first thing he reported seeing was hundreds and hundreds of kroner bank notes blowing across the heather. Whether they were Icelandic (where the Sunderland was supposed to be headed) or Swedish he never said. It is a suitably sad image for treachery, actual or imagined. Will Brexit – if or when it happens – reduce the British state to a wrecked aircraft on a lonely hillside with useless money blowing in the wind?

The poor lack much, the greedy everything.

©George Gunn 2016

Comments (13)

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  1. J Galt says:

    The Hess mission was indeed a desperate gambit, however the German High Command was up against it – intelligence had revealed (as early as the summer of 1940) the fact that the Soviet Union was assembling the largest Invasion force in history along Europe’s eastern frontiers, to be unleashed probably in July or August 1941. When his mission failed he had of course to be denounced as a madman by the Germans, indeed he had probably agreed to this eventuality.

    This invasion would not merely be of Germany but all of Western Europe in order to impose the Bolshevik system. Following the invasion forces would come the NKVD to liquidate the Intelligentsia and Governing class in the conquered (liberated?) countries (see Katyn). Whether they were slaughtering “Fascists” or “Democrats” was of no interest – they were all enemies of the Proletariat!

    Victor Suvorov, the Russian historian (who has many detractors and whose books are not easy to get – which probably means he is more or less accurate!) is the expert in this research.

    None of the above is any comment on the rights and wrongs of what a faction of the British Establishment was up to, however it is interesting context to be challenged or debated.

    1. Stu Mac says:

      A theory not backed up by most historians as the evidence for it isn’t that strong. It’s well known anyway that Hitler didn’t originally want war with Britain so sending Hess to broker a peace (while making it deniable if he failed) would have been a reasonable thing to do as he wanted to invade Russia and closing the western front would make sense. Both Russia and Germany knew their pact was only temporary and one side or other might have broken it but it was Germany that first did so.

      1. J Galt says:

        Out of step with “Most historians” is a good place to be as far as I’m concerned!

        Have you read the work?

        Have you checked his sources?

        He details the Soviet Order of Battle in detail, from Army Group (Front in Soviet parlance) through Army, Corps, Division, Brigade to Regiment level. Where each unit was located and, it’s tactics and objectives.

        The vast amount of men and Materiel captured within the frontier zone is because they were packed in jump off positions, huge numbers of Soviet offensive ground attack aircraft destroyed on the ground, crowded in forward airfields. There was no defence in depth – there is no doubt the Soviet Armed Forces were poised to invade Europe in July or August 1941.

        That does not make the invasion of the USSR “Right”, but it explains why a Germany that we are lead to believe was at the height of it’s power and in a position of strength vis a vis Britain in the spring of 1941 should display a position of weakness ie. the desperate Hess gambit – it was a last attempt to secure her position in the West before commencing the life or death struggle in the East.

  2. Justin Kenrick says:

    This is a very clear eyed account of the grabbing and holding of power by the ruling class here.

    The interweaving stories are fascinating but the meat of the matter – the ruthlessness of the deluded impoverished pathetically wealthy, who can’t even appreciate what they have because none of it can make up for their inhumanity – is so rarely told in such clear and unarguable terms.

  3. Wullie says:

    I think Andy Jack had visitors who warned him to keep schtum. Other prominent pre-war Nazi’s, apart from Westminster, Londonderry, Buccleuch & his brother, were the Duke of Wellington, the Earl of Glasgow & the father of “Taxi for McLetchie.

  4. Bruce MacLeish says:

    One of the emotional binds of the union is very pertinent to this time of year, i.e. 11 Nov. And is it not being played for everything by the poppy police, the bbc and paper press?

    George suggests the tories know what they are doing, that may be the case, it would be helpful if he elaborated, but honestly all I see is the creation of chaos, lack of leadership and a lot of unpleasantness.

    I am also seeing a divide in England, yes north and south, but more prominetly a class and age divide.

    Russia / USSR has never been given the credit for its part in world war two by the uk, indeed the whole west. People in the uk have been fed a diet of biggles and vera lynn supported by uncle sam. The sacrifice of Russia / USSR has be aired brushed out – for obvious reasons and benefits for the british establishment to have a bogey man. But what is most alarming is that the establishment can pull this immortal rabbit out of the hat whenever the need arises for them

    The excitement round the way Scotland voted differently to the uk in June is receding, something must be done to rekindle hope. I’d agree with George on recalling our MPs from westminster is the best way forward. Our mps presence at westminster legitimises that place. The mother of all parliaments, it ain’t unless you stick a seven letter word beginning with F between ‘mother’ and ‘of’.

    Today on tv I saw Mrs May lay flowers at Ghandi’s tomb, why does the British state take decades to do something it should do now? If it were to ditch it’s imperial view of the world in which Scotland is a colony (ironically the only jewel in the crown), Mrs May should have been taking flowers to give to Ms Sturgeon, a fellow prime minister of an independent state.

  5. MBC says:

    Whatever they believed, the economic facts of trade figures from the mid-19th century to WW1 at the height of our empire, show that the bulk of our trade in terms of value was with the developed world, and principally, Europe. And this was little changed by the 1950s when Churchill was arguing for a system of ‘imperial preference’ or trading with our former colonies – now called the British Commonwealth – on a preferential basis as an alternative to joining the fledgling European economic union. What is also interesting is that as the ‘jewel in the crown’ our principal colony of India, was industrialising in the period just before WW1, the bulk of her trade was also with Europe, not the UK.

    The facts for ‘imperial preference’ do not stack up. Europe is a market of 450 million right on our doorstep. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand barely amount to 50 million. And India has her own trade deal with the EU.

    Those who put their faith in the former empire as a preferential trading block are romantic fantasists. The empire, past and present, has never provided greater trading opportunities than Europe.

    1. c rober says:

      I still have the feeling that the wealthy will still profit from brexit , even though they didnt want to leave , and will now force through TTIP as a result. While they didnt expect it coming , they now have contingency plans.

      It always staggers me that one union good , another union bad , which only proves when your the bigger partner , if you have the barrel…. then you hold the minor partner over it.

      Scotland should imo be wary of that , It wont be allowed into the EU by Spain because of Catalan , it wont be allowed in for the EURO dollar passport to go to Edinburgh if England can make the Irish pay for it , that is unless Germany and France want to prevent each other from having it then sending it to Lux instead…. a nation that ignores EU rules already.

      So what do we export to Spain , our biggest flaw in any EU memebrship? Other than fish our chippies wont deep fry? What do we import other than unseasonal fruit and veg in a nation that dodges them?

      First on the chopping block then is Spain in any non eu membership and going it alone , starting once again the old tit for tat trade wars.

      Therfore France and Germany , having seen RUK leave would need a back door policy for Scotland to gain entry themselves for exports , and that may then mean both the EURO passport for banking going to Edinburgh as Punishment for England as well as Spain being overuled (now that we know it has no veto power)- with a bribe for it that it will continue the status qou with Catalan remaining the host for Madrids parasitic drain…. over the short term at least.

      The other option then for Scotland is the much mentioned , by me mostly lol , that a Nordic union would be best and where each member keeps its currency and levers sovereign…. one doesn’t want some rich land owners to create another Wealth creation failure like the Darian Scheme , and another 300 odd years of indentured servitude as a result to England.

      England hasnt learned to play nice with others still thinks its an empire , Scotland doesnt need to be anyones bitch in any union – We will still be an importing nation , at least for the meantime , therefore export and import trade is in everyone’s interests…. no barrel needs to be accepted by either party , and for the last 300 years it has been so. The alternative is for Holyrood to accept TTIP in any indepdence – and that is a super barrel.

      1. c rober says:


        Hmm , I wonder if the Scots will do the same for indy II , if Holryood is keen to show its teeth then just maybe it would get support in a same manner…. if its not raining , snowing , windy and nothings on the telly.

  6. John O'Dowd says:

    Remarkable piece. Tells us in short form all we need to know about the British Ruling Class.

    Companies must publish figures on ‘foreign workers’; an unelected prime minister invokes the medieval Royal Prerogative to by-pass the elected parliament (however imperfect the electoral system) in order to drive through the mad schemes of the looniest cabinet in living memory; John Bull newspapers incite the mob against judges who – uncharacteristically – make a modest reassertion of the sovereignty the Brexiters allegedly wished ‘repatriated’.

    The creeping Fascism of the BritNats is gathering pace. We should pay heed to an authentic xenophobic English voice:

    Our patch of glory ended; we never heard guns again.
    But the squire seemed struck in the saddle; he was foolish, as if in pain,
    He leaned on a staggering lawyer, he clutched a cringing Jew,
    He was stricken; it may be, after all, he was stricken at Waterloo.
    Or perhaps the shades of the shaven men, whose spoil is in his house,
    Come back in shining shapes at last to spoil his last carouse:
    We only know the last sad squires rode slowly towards the sea,
    And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.

    We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
    Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
    It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
    Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
    It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
    God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
    But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
    Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

    I fear they are speaking now!

    We need to get a move on.

  7. Alf Baird says:

    “or it could be to summon our MP’s from Westminster”

    Many of us have been saying this ever since the electoral landslide effectively gave us our independence in May 2015, but which has never been used to Scotland’s advantage. Yes, we should end it the way it began, now, straight away. What could they do anyway? Send in Gov-Gen Mundell & Ruthie wi her tank? Scots MP’s departing Westminster for good would be highly popular with England’s masses. Scotland would be seen to be leaving them to their Brexit, not getting involved, let them get on with it. Time to pre-empt Article 50.

    1. John O'Dowd says:

      Sounds like a plan.

      1. c rober says:

        or we could wait 16 years , there wont be any tanks left in Scotland – or perhaps thats the plan , to retreat the arsenal and army , to scuttle the ship in the indepedence scappa flow?

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