O wad some
Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
(Robert Burns 1786)
It’s high time we Brits took a look around us and see what sort of reputation we have in the world these days. So here’s an example I have seen today.
A Travers la Manche
Sylvie-Agnès Bermann has a new book out, called Goodbye Britannia. Ms Bermann has a distinguished CV: graduate of the Sorbonne, studied China and spent time as a student in Beijing. She worked in the French Diplomatic Service in Beijing, Paris and Moscow. Her last job before retirement was as France’s Ambassador to Russia. She is clearly a woman of some considerable experience and skill.
Of more relevance here is the fact that she was French Ambassador in London between 2014 and 2017, a period which included the fateful referendum on Britain’s EU membership. During her years as a French Diplomat, she would, no doubt, couch the advice and opinions she gave in the most diplomatic language. No longer a career civil servant, she is free to speak her mind. And most interesting it is.
So let’s see what a straight-talking French diplomat has to say about les rosbifs. So far, I’ve only seen extracts quoted in the UK press, but they make for some excellent reading. Here’s a few:
- Boris Johnson is an unrepentant and inveterate liar. Je suis d’accord*.
- Johnson feels he is not subject to the same rules as others. Je suis d’accord. And it seems, so did his school master at Eton, writing in 1982: “Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies . . . Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility… I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”
- Some Br*xiters are consumed with hatred for Germany. Je suis d’accord.
- They are gripped by a myth that Britain liberated Europe single-handedly. Je suis d’accord. Try telling that to the relatives of the 22 million Russians who died in WW2.
- The referendum result was a triumph of emotion over reason. Je suis d’accord.
- The Leave campaign was full of lies. Je suis d’accord.
- Leave campaigners exploited negative attitudes of many Brits to immigration. Je suis d’accord.
- Johnson’s government’s handling of the Covid pandemic is among the worst in the world, alongside Trump’s USA and Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Je suis d’accord.
- Johnson will try to hide the economic losses caused by the UK leaving the EU, blaming all negative economic impacts on Covid. Je suis d’accord. Johnson and his gang can be guaranteed to play this trick: many will be fooled. Don’t be.
It seems to me entirely appropriate that the Burns quotation at the start comes from a poem entitled To a Louse.
And it’s even more appropriate that the French for “a louse” is “un pou”.
Je n’ai rien à ajouter. (I have nothing to add.)