There is an ominous article by Trevor Kavanagh in today's Spectator. It calls for the last minute resuscitation of British greatness by David Cameron. Greatness is seen in bellicose, military terms of projecting power, as viewed through the American optic. The tone is bullying, the longing is sheer will power. It concludes saying that a "profound sense of despair will take Mr Cameron into government almost by default":
But the mood is itself a problem. No senior civil servant has yet said that the government’s job is to ‘oversee the orderly management of decline’, as Sir William Armstrong, the Cabinet Secretary, famously did in 1973. But this time, no one needs to. The politics of decline is stamped in everything this exhausted government does. Decisions on our defence are being taken on the basis that Britain no longer can claim to play a major role in the world, that we are a little country, which should stop pretending to be a big one.
This sense of defeatism may be pervasive, but it need not be terminal. It can be turned around — as Britain demonstrated, to the world’s amazement, 30 years ago. All that is requires is the right kind of courage and leadership. Thatcher had it. Heath did not. But does David Cameron? It is not much of an exaggeration to say that Britain’s future now depends on the answer.
It is well worth a read, and in the first number of the Specator to have Fraser Nelson as its helm. There is no way, it seems to me, that the Sun can now endorse Brown at the election, without losing its Political Editor. More important will be its effect on the Tory leadership. As we know from New Labour this kind of bullying works.
What we need is a strong political voice that absorbs the quite different tones of Paul Gilroy. Some hope, of course. But when it comes to rejecting a neuralgic obsession greatness, his meditation on Postcolonial Melancholia is a must read. Reflecting on the way that "greatness" is still at stake in the arguments over the nature of Britain he notes that Blair's efforts to mimic Thatcher's Falkland success in Iraq came up against a popular oposition that "desperately seemed to want to become something different, something less great but more noble, more consistent, and more autonomous".