A video has emerged of soldiers of the Parachute Regiment firing pistols at a picture of Jeremy Corbyn, causing the chattering classes to wring their hands:
I cannot even begin to think how much damage this does to our global reputation. What has happened to us? https://t.co/vAKH6NyVUz
— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 3, 2019
What reputation would that be, then? I’ve written before about the habit of certain Brits to assume foreigners share their elevated opinion of themselves, and I suspect the same applies here. No foreigner other than Irish republicans will give a damn about this video, and if Peston thinks it undermines a reputation of Britain being a peace-loving country where things are settled by debate rather than violence, he might be surprised to learn the Iraq War put paid to that. As one of my followers on Twitter said:
Sometimes people high up in our society talk as if they are the adminstrators of the wayward province of an empire.
Certainly, their idea of what foreigners think of Britain appears to be uninformed by talking to any. Our media continually tell us we’re a laughing stock because of Brexit, but fail to appreciate it is not those who voted leave who are mocked but the incompetence of the political classes. And where do you think this video sits alongside politicians flatly refusing to honour the results of a referendum in a ranking of things which damage Britain’s reputation overseas? Old Robert Mugabe must be chuckling to himself as I type.
As another of my Twitter correspondents noted, the Mother of Parliaments is now a laughing stock; the Parachute Regiment isn’t. I find foreigners’ impressions of the UK vary greatly, but quite a few wonder why we appear to be committing suicide by opening the borders to all and sundry. Their tone suggests they used to believe Britain to be a serious country run by serious people, but no more. Our chattering classes would also be surprised to find what many foreigners – particularly those from the Middle East – think of London having a mayor named Sadiq Khan. While we insist it’s a sign of our tolerance, they see it as abject surrender. My point is if our reputation abroad mattered as much as people say it does, we’d be doing things very differently.
As for the video itself, well, what can I say? Jeremy Corbyn supported the IRA when they were murdering members of the Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland, so what do you expect? Yes, we can talk about professionalism and worrying precedents but if these are the topics of the day, the Parachute Regiment can take their place a long way down a list which includes politicians, parliament, the police, the courts, the CPS, the immigration service, and pretty much every branch of government I can think of. Let’s talk about their professionalism and the precedents they’re setting before launching inquiries into what paras get up to when on the range. If they murder someone or commit atrocities then let me know, until then I’m content that single men in barracks don’t turn into plaster saints.
Of course, elements of the right have responded to the video by doing what they do best: talking earnestly about propriety and principles, as if these mean anything on a battlefield which the left hold every square inch of in large part because to them they don’t. So the MOD at the behest of a Tory government will identify and sack these soldiers, the right will refuse to defend them, the left will celebrate, and their Culture War trophy cabinet will groan a little more under the weight. I get that people on the right don’t want to defend the soldiers, but they could at least remain silent and not do the left’s job for them. I’ve written before about how the right needs to stop defending their enemies; they also need to stop punching right at every opportunity (as they do whenever Tommy Robinson’s name is mentioned). The country is dividing, old alliances are crumbling and new ones forming. If the centre right wants to wrest back control of the country, they’d better start demonstrating to potential allies they are serious about it. Right now, that means being on the side of these soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, or at the very least saying nothing.