Under Boris Johnson’s leadership, the Conservative Party has reversed half a century of post-imperial reform attempts and, whether the Prime Minister stays or leaves, has now embarked on an ethno-nationalist, protectionist and state project, with changes in progress, observe Peter Juke and Hardeep matharu

The 1899 short story Heart of darkness by Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad laid bare the brutality of the colonial project of the European powers in Africa – focusing on the fictional character of Kurtz, ivory trader and post commander on the Congo River, driven to savagery : the colonizer devoured by the racist brutality attributed to the colonized.

The artwork inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s epic war film in 1979, Apocalypse now, exploring America’s own corruption through his neocolonial exploits in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s. Marlon Brando brought Kurtz’s paranoia to life in his memorable portrayal, with the declaration of “exterminate the bullies!” and his last words “the horror … the horror”, both of which appear in Conrad’s book.

In the original – based on Conrad’s own experience in colonial Africa – the disturbing story is told by a steamboat captain who had sailed the Congo River, Charles Marlow, now moored on a ship in the Port of London . It ends with a grim understanding that the Thames itself “seemed to lead into the heart of immense darkness”. The film and the book suggest that colonizers are changed by colonization just as much as the colonized – incorporating both the guilt and the supremacy of an “imperial state of mind” into their psyche.

It’s a dark stream that still runs through British politics to this day.

In 1968, when future Tory leader Enoch Powell made his famous claim that racial resentment would destroy Britain and that he could see that the Tiber would “be foaming a lot of blood,” the Conservative Party faced another classic scene from Latin Literature: a Rubicon.

Would post-imperial Britain, having conquered a quarter of the world and aided in two world wars by soldiers and colonial workers to support it, instead return its new multi-ethnic citizenship to its home country? Would the global colonial project turn into a national project – creating a racialized system of conflict, repression and violence: from enemies overseas to enemies within?

Like Kurtz, Powell’s speech was full of psychological projection and fear of retaliation, as he predicted that the black man will have the “lash” in 50 years on those who “find themselves become strangers in their own country.” “. This is of course an inverted colonial mentality: having effectively made people strangers in their own country and exerting a real boost, the colonizer feels that this will inevitably happen to him.

Powell’s catastrophic race war projection never materialized in 2018. But the underlying apocalypse doesn’t need an end date, and Powell’s “evil” genius (the The temperature describes the decisive speech) was to make it a constant and future threat – an ever-looming threat; or on boats crossing the Channel.

By George Orwell to Priti PatelHow Britain brought itsColonial Police House

Brexit and otherness

Britain’s version of Powell was effectively suppressed in the Conservative Party half a century ago. But as Signing time columnist Peter Oborne explained in an interview with Line TV, “It’s very fascinating that this great historic battle which seemed to have been won by Edward Heath was actually won by Enoch Powell – through Boris Johnson.”

The seeds of Powell’s policy of otherness were sown in Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings’ Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage ‘Breaking Point’ they used the same dog whistles claiming that a significant number of Turks would come to Britain and that this, along with immigration from other Middle Eastern countries, was a terrorist danger. threatens. Many other variations of this manual have been deployed by the Johnson government since then.

Five years later, these seeds bloomed and spread. The vision of Brexit – for all its pretensions about an outward looking “global” Britain – has crystallized into an ethno-nationalist project, based on “threats” from abroad and the Fifths. columnists inside.

Now that the country has finally left the EU, attempts to blame the ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ are more difficult to sustain – although various conservative MPs and ministers are trying to blame treacherous France for fishing rights in the Channel. Although quick to conjure up mythical images of Britain alone during WWII, Europeans do not make good enemies these days. Through countless physical, economic and cultural ties, we are too close to them – and Johnson’s Britain has no economic power, nor any imperial hinterland, to truly go it alone. But the ethno-nationalist vision always demands barbarians at the gates – so new ones are needed.

During the first half of 2021, a major national front also opened with a “war in the wake”; a crusade to find enemies in culture and civil society. The campaign had limited success.

As it faltered, the Home Secretary opened up a new front, both in high-profile PR campaigns and in legislation, against barbarians more easily demonized at the gates: “illegal migrants.” »Crossing the Channel by boat – even if the majority of them turn out to be genuine asylum seekers; among them the many abandoned by the peremptory evacuation of Afghanistan by the United Kingdom.

As Johnson constantly plays with the fires of division, it is the Home Secretary he has chosen – a daughter of immigrants and the granddaughter of refugees, Priti Patel – who is the powerhouse figurehead. flames. It presides over an uncompromising approach towards certain “bad” and “undeserving” immigrants – the same attitude that Enoch Powell and others have expressed towards the Ugandan Asians welcomed to Britain by Ted Heath. For Powell, despite their British passports, Patel’s parents were not truly British and should have “returned” to India. Despite this, his perpetual and future threat of “others” is an essential pillar of his ministry’s policies.

The dehumanization of asylum seekers and the fear of being ‘overwhelmed’ by immigrants are not unique to British politics, nor to Patel. This accelerated under Theresa May’s brief post-Brexit tenure as Prime Minister, when she made a distinction between those who ‘belonged’ and ‘citizens of nowhere’ – whether they were reckless cosmopolitan elites or foreign marauders.

Almost inevitably, just as versions of leaving the EU have become more and more extreme, so has this alteration of foreigners – until Britain has moved away from itself. . The imaginary porosity of our external borders has created hard new internal borders – literally in the case of the Irish Sea and the transit of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Resistance to the threat of alien invasion has metastasized – as in the case of Shamima Begum – into a policy of removing the inalienable rights of British citizens. We are all potentially citizens of nowhere now.

Folklorein WokeloreHow the myths of britannicitybecome totalitarian


The removal of historic citizenship rights is only part of an escalating spiral that engages the often unconscious ethno-nationalist thinking behind the Vote Leave regime that took power in 2019. Nothing is enough. for the world of Leave.

We were told that we would stay close to Europe and stay in the single market or in a customs union. But, at every step, the rhetoric got more extreme until we got an ultra-hard Brexit, just short of a “no deal”.

The break with the EU has become a break within the UK. Leaving the EU quickly became an excuse to abandon our own traditions, with voter suppression measures to deter voting, the sterilization of the Election Commission, and two new border and police bills removing old ones. identity and protest rights. Soon Boris Johnson was not only promising to break international law regarding the Good Friday deal, but also illegally attempting to usurp the sovereignty of Parliament by proroguing it.

A year after full withdrawal, the acceptance – sometimes celebration – of the material economic harm of leaving the EU only underscores how much more influence Enoch Powell has over the Conservative government than Adam Smith, Freidrich Hayek or the liberals or neoliberals. thinkers who have dominated the party for the past 40 years.

The narrow ethno-nationalist project is so important that the Johnson government is ready to abandon all previous Thatcherite nostrums of small government, tax frugality, free trade and open markets. These days, Brexiters speak openly – in “sadomasochistic” terms – that leaving the EU must be expensive, and only worth it. because it hurts. We invoke our sovereign pride through material suffering, and these sacrifices of commerce, standard of living, and international connection are like puffs of sacred incense around the altar of national purity.

And with that, the Vote Leave project will have achieved its hidden purpose – and, like Conrad’s Kurtz – departed from the norms and standards of the modern world.


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