When Boris Johnson vowed to deliver Brexit by 31 Oct 19 “do or die”, he was referring to lines in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ that read: “Theirs not to make reply. Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die.”
Unfortunately, despite Johnson’s famed classical education at Eton and Oxford, he picked the very worst possible analogy.
The Charge of the Light Brigade in Crimea in 1854 is still widely seen as the worst-ever blunder in British military history – just as Brexit is fast heading to become the worst-ever blunder in British political history.
The philosopher, George Santanya (1862-1952), said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. To covet truth is a very distinguished passion.”
When thinking about Brexit, this quote should be uppermost in our minds. So, what can we learn from the predictable, yet avoidable, military catastrophe of the Charge of the Light Brigade?
First, I need to mention who was in charge of our troops and why they got things so catastrophically wrong in Crimea. There were three aristocrats leading our army in Crimea, namely Lord Raglan (think Johnson today), Lord Lucan (think Gove) and Lord Cardigan (think Farage).
Each hated each other for sundry reasons, just as Johnson, Gove and Farage hate each other today. Also Lord Raglan (think Johnson) had never fought in a war for over 40 years, just as Johnson has never been involved in a trade negotiation for over 40 years.
Also, there was another key character in this disaster, namely Captain Nolan (think Dominic Raab or Steve Baker) whose absolute faith in the power of his adored Light Cavalry (aka blind belief in Brexit) knew no bounds.
In the end, Captain Nolan contributed to the disastrous outcome of the Charge of the Light Brigade by being the person who told its commander to attack the wrong objective.
In the UK, we must now stop attacking the wrong objective (i.e. stop attacking the EU and immigrants), and, instead, start attacking and reforming our inept, party-politically-obsessed political system in Westminster.
Incidentally, George Santanya also said: “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim”, and “Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war.”
Forgive me for thinking that, were he alive today, George Santanya would be in the vanguard of crediting the EU for delivering the longest period of peace between the major powers in Europe for over 3,000 years.