The Second ‘Cool Britannia’ We Were Denied | RSBM
Whatever you may think of 1990’s Britain, or rather your take on the transition from post-war Britain to Blairite Britain, I would have to say that what has been branded as ‘Cool Britannia’ has to be viewed as a wholly positive thing when it occurred. Even to someone conservative minded, or someone of the right, for our country to have a time of renewed optimism and national spirit is something to celebrate, even if it was within a liberal framework.
Just as Enoch Powell remarked that he would “fight for this country even if it had a communist government”, we must also appreciate the successes of our people even if the finer details nip at our personal political convictions. Britain prior to the ’97 reset was a rusting lofty country devoid of belief in what it could be after the dissolution of its empire and international influence. When you look back at the way our music and culture dominated the globe during the 1990’s it gives you a sense of pride and hope that it can be done again; that we are capable of being more than what we seem to be stuck with. Sometimes national movements, cultural phases, renewals and resets, come naturally but in some cases they are imposed by institutions and men from above. Regardless of whether ‘Cool Britannia’ was closer to Japan with its Meiji era (a national renewal that was imposed from above) or Norway with its romantic period (a national renewal that came about naturally), it unfortunately yielded little fruit and left everyone feeling as bitter and disillusioned as they were before.
For all the quick-tongued words of Tony Blair before his ascendance, it only took an election or two before it became apparent that it was all hollow and cynical. I would argue that Britain in the 1990’s almost perfectly mirrors that of our pre-referendum status once the afterglow of ‘Cool Britannia’ had faded. We were again, even after a relatively short period, desperate for another national reset. That’s not to suggest that everyone wanted to return to Thatcherite Britain, but simply that they were looking for a ‘Cool Britannia’ that wasn’t so frivolous. Unfortunately, despite the abundantly obvious necessity for a new Britain to be built in a post-Blairism era, our ruling elite refused to give it to us after we’d voted to leave the EU (despite how uplifting and positive it could have been for the country).
The Brexit referendum looked as if it was the end of Blairism and the beginning of a new age for Britain. We were freed from the partisan nonsense of the Miliband-Cameron-Clegg era of British politics, that awful tyranny of superfluous drivel droning on about tax and welfare with all the empty slogans and pantomime shows pretending to care about ‘the ordinary man and woman’, and we were accidentally gifted a spiritual struggle. Our place in Europe, who we are as a people, what it means to be British, sovereignty, immigration and real economic debate broke out during the referendum and it’s the only time I’ve seen politics done right in my lifetime. There was a clear dividing line (Leave | Remain), you knew which side you were on, you knew who the enemy were, you had conviction and belief, the stakes were high and people argued as if every minor victory at the dinner table or at the workplace chipped in for ‘their side’ in the battle for the collective zeitgeist of the nation.
It’s trendy now to roll your eyes at this stuff and celebrate, with supposed relief, the return to the cold one-dimensional politics of the pre-Brexit days, but I think people secretly did enjoy the Brexit struggle of 2015-2019 and they were subconsciously happier knowing in their hearts that they had transcendent values that they held above money, sports, sex, telly, and consumption. All of that positive energy that the referendum created multiplied tenfold by the result, people voted with fury and passion for the country to go down a different path than the one that had been laid out for us, for a national rebrand and shift. David Cameron’s resignation could have been the perfect clear cut end to Blairism and the beginning of a new era for Britain (‘Brexit Britain’ as it was branded, before ‘Global Britain’ was created to snuff out all of the positive energy that the Leave vote created). The way we collectively saw the country should have changed, our songs, our media, the way we dressed and talked. The mindset of our political class should’ve shifted into a more nationalistic one, policy from parliament suiting the country’s new direction. In any other time of history, a great upheaval would have occurred. A new era, the second era of modern Britain’s history, should’ve been born.
All the great power blocs in the country refused to accept a national shift that would disrupt the railroad they desired for us. Without institutional backing, without power and money, the next big moment for our country culturally never came, as it would and should have after the referendum. Imagine if all the energy and optimism of the referendum result was allowed to grow freely, imagine if the establishment hadn’t spent years in parliament trying to demoralise us. What if they hadn’t conspired to bring Boris Johnson in as Tory leader to make sure the two-party system remained intact with the safety of the Labour and Conservative parties secured. Imagine if the ‘Invest in the Rest’ policy platform of The Brexit Party was given the publicity it deserved. A Britain where the Brexit vote was accepted by our institutions and establishment, embraced even (for the good of the country), perhaps a Britain where Nigel Farage was allowed to become Prime Minister which many of us believe he’d earned, especially after he’d spent all that time fighting for us in the political wastelands outside of parliament like a modern day Hereward the Wake.
I think even people that hated him understood subconsciously that he was essentially our de facto Prime Minister from the moment David Cameron resigned until the 2019 General Election. It pains me to think that if we still lived in a free and fair country that we’d be living through a golden era for our country right now. People in the future would reminisce over what we could call ‘Brexitcore’. A ‘Cool Britannia’ where renewed pride and hope for our country’s future wasn’t rooted in Labour Party slogans or a girl band member’s outfit but something tangible and genuine; the restoration of Britain’s sovereignty, our breakaway from a supranational union and our rejection of what the global world order expected of us.
Yet here we are, stuck with politicians, celebrities and journalists desperately propping up Blairism’s corpse, refusing to accept that Britain has changed. We were given Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, a man who there ought to be a picture of on the ‘Controlled Opposition’ Wikipedia page should one be created. We go about our day-to-day in a cultural limbo (much like America’s post-Trump limbo) frozen in a sad emulation of pre-2016 Britain with particularly sad politicians at the forefront like Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey to match. It’s more apparent by the day that our elites would rather dismantle the union and get rid of the monarchy than have our country succeed in a way that doesn’t meet their left-wing appetite. The Blairite revolution to them is more important, and they’d rather expend all their resources and time defending that instead of doing anything positive for the country. Ironically, the way that our establishment responds to threats to the status quo they’ve created is very conservative, and the way that we wish to radically transform Britain is very progressive (at least in rhetoric and tactics).
I still have hopes for Brexit Britain. It means a great deal to me, I am a child of the 2016 revolution after all. The electoral soil has never been so fertile for a competent third party to tear apart the dull partisanship of the Johnson-Starmer paradigm. In reality, people are just as disaffected and resentful of our establishment as they were before. The energy from the Brexit vote may be lost but the opportunity is still there waiting for us. We can still have our cultural rebirth, our aesthetic revival, our grand restoration to show off to the world. This nation that in days gone by produced wondrous literature, media and art is still capable of great things. The possibility for a second ‘Cool Britannia’, whilst denied to us currently, may be too great a force to hold back and may soon burst free. Maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future, we can enjoy real pride for our country in contemporary ways other than listening to ‘Trigger Article 50’ by Xurious or watching old Master Brew videos.