Banging on

The “national interest”. What do people mean?

I’M GOING to bang on about language yet again. If you don’t like it then perhaps you were searching for ‘Sexyboard4’ (if it exists) or some such similar rather dubious web site but can’t type very well.

British Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, when speaking to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) recently (10/11/14) used the term “national interest”. Coalition-government Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his ‘front-bench’ private school chums, use the term, regularly, as if it were going out of fashion. It is clearly not.

There is an assumption which I believe is along these lines: ‘Our country is more important than yours’. What and why? Britain, or UK if you prefer, has a particular problem with this kind of attitude. The apparent rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party is a very visual and aural demonstration of this.


There are not only politicians — but also a lot of the British population, largely because of the version of history they were taught at school — who hanker after a ‘Britain’ that for a few hundred years (a minuscule amount of time if you care to think about) built an ‘empire’. But how was that achieved? Simple, really. Killing and oppressing millions of people. Of course, if that didn’t work they could always transport so-called convicts, many of whom were only ‘guilty’ of stealing a loaf of bread, to new colonies. It amounted to re-population even when an indigenous population already existed.

Why do leading politicians, and others in Britain think that this archipelagos in the North sea has a ‘national interest’ that is more important than other existing nation states? Arrogance perhaps? It’s a difficult one to call …

When Michael Gove, until recently Conservative party Education Secretary in Britain’s coalition government, wanted to make changes to the ‘history syllabus’ in schools he would seem to have been most concerned about ‘promoting’ the alleged wonderful parts of British history (see above) and brushing the somewhat less ‘patriotic’ parts under the proverbial carpet. Well done! We wouldn’t want today’s ‘kids’ learning what Britain has, historically, been actually responsible for would we?

A Labour party leader bleating on about the ‘national interest’. Has Ed Miliband forgotten why the Labour party, and prior to that the Independent Labour Party (ILP), was formed? Not just to advance ‘class politics’ but also support and promote various social movements — who often had to struggle hard to get their voice heard. Not always easy because even those on the left of the Labour party were not always that interested — sometimes dismissive of — in feminists or gay and lesbian rights etc … As for ‘green’ socialism … I recall a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) delegate at some very tedious and boring conference telling me that Green party members were all sandal-wearing … I think you probably get the picture. I hardly think that you could put Caroline Lucas (Green party MP in Brighton, south England) — possibly the most popular member of Britain’s current parliament — in that category.

There are other important “interests” and they are not defined by “national”; class, social and environmental. The latter, of course, are international or internationalist “interests”. Banking corporations sometimes seem to understand internationalism, or ‘globalism’ if you prefer, more comprehensively than the international left. Sad, but unfortunately true ✪

Copyright © Roland Wood for Storyboard4TM November 2014
or @Storyboard4