Letter: Losses and gains on Britain's historical journey

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a prophet of doom himself, Paul Johnson offers an entertaining review of his predecessors in our history - and a curiously superficial reading of the signs of their times and ours. He bemoans the loss of what he admits was his own childish view of our 'sovereignty' and the replacement of what he regards as 'strong' leadership by 'weak'.

How much better we would have been without such foreign interferences as Roman law, Anglo- Saxon scholarship, Scandinavian shipbuilding and seafaring, Norman architecture and administration, the Magna Carta drawn up by our lords with French names, Greek philosophy, Italian art, German music, and the Christian faith. And how much better we would now be if we continued to mistake xenophobic shrillness for real strength, scorning the winning of consensus for genuine leadership, denial of the existence of society for social justice, rubbishing relationships with foreigners - especially in the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the European Community - for world statesmanship.

After a decade and more of this, Mr Johnson seems to think we are in a mess, but fails to see the connection. Or to see the capitulation to monetarism as the most corrupting political and economic factor in our predicament. Surely the signs which emerge from his historical journey are that real strength and leadership come from winning agreement to value- led aims rather than individual greed, and that true sovereignty - together with every other civilising gift - is for sharing.

Yours faithfully,


Donnington, West Sussex

9 March