“In delay there lies no plenty” sang Feste, the controlling figure in Twelfth Night. Theresa May would disagree. She has used delay as the vital investment of her government since its formation, and her personal plenty is the dividend. Her plan, as I set out in my July (2018) piece in Chronicles, is to rely on the strategy of the arch and the keystone. It is naive of the commentators to say that the poor lady is beset with divisions in her Cabinet: she made the Cabinet, with all its finely-balanced divisions, and the divisions made her. She is the keystone, and the cause of the monumentally unconvincing outcome. Marx, much quoted, said the history appears first as tragedy, second as farce. Theresa May appears set on reversing this dictum; under her administration, history appears first as farce, with tragedy to come. Her strategy does not merit the name “Fabian,” though the more credulous of columnists may seek to attach it to her endless avoidance of decision. Theresa May will not be commemorated in a Trajan’s Column, lauding her as “Fabia, cunctatrix maxima.”
I got a change of perspective on all this with a visit to Pafos, Cyprus. My excellent hotel restricted my TV viewing to BBC World, which is quite as limp, pressed-liberal, and conventional as its critics say, and indeed worse because the other bad things they say do not get printed. I much preferred Russia Today, which is not at all the Soviet propaganda vehicle of the past. They simply show different news stories, which have a different angle to BBC liberalism. I also quite like France (English) which has good and sharp coverage of Europe, as often does Euronews. Above all it was a relief to have nothing showing on Sky or BBC, two nominally separate organizations which are both arms of the British ruling class.
Cyprus itself is what it has long been, the winter resort of the British pensioner class to the virtual exclusion of other nations save a small sprinkling of Russians. No French, Germans or Nordics were in sight. My hotel was staffed by East Europeans, and my wine waiter was actually called Ivan. Now a novelist would hesitate to use that piece of local color, fearing that it smacked of stereotype casting. In fact, Cyprus is shared between Britain—the two sovereign bases of R.A.F. Akrotiri, and the signals intelligence operation of Dhekelia—and Russia, which has large business interests in Limassol and landing rights in Cyprus ports. There is no friction. Britain and Russia agree absolutely on this, We don’t want any trouble round here. The Island of Aphrodite is a welcome relief from the troubles at home.
Of which, the latest is the news that nine Labour MPs, joined by three Conservative MPs, have left their parties to form a grouping called The Independent Group. This shelter reminds me of the cardboard boxes one sees in the Underground, whose structures keep out the rain but do little else to advance the cause of the inhabitants. I fear that independence has lost its hold on the public imagination.
Ralph Berry writes from England.