Friday, 15 July 2011

Paying the Dane-geld

"We'll fly the flag, and cash the cheque."
Grassroots favourite Eric Pickles received the blessing of the shade of Thomas Cranmer yesterday, for delivering a rousing speech against the latest round of EU tyranny to the Flag Institute.

Specifically, Mr. Pickles was decrying the EU's habit of levying fines on various groups and organisations in Great Britain which it likes to make a pretence of having funded — a comic notion considering our status as a net contributor to its swollen budget — for failure to fly the European flag, brand billboards and signage with the ring of stars banner, and otherwise advertise our national subjection. 

The re-branding of the English Channel as the "Channel Sea" also came in for some wry criticism, as did the Arc Manche "transnational region" and the multi-million pound propaganda projects which are supposed to promote it: from "transnational street theatre" and "cross-Channel contemporary art tours" to a quixotic scheme for "cross-Channel cycle lanes."

The compulsory flag-waving was evidently the crux of the matter, however.  For "any organisation which forces others to fly its flag betrays a lack of confidence and a deep sense of political insecurity".  Well, perhaps.  Yet for all Mr. Pickles' invocation of the Middlesex Regiment and Albuera and "fighting off that attempt at European dictatorship", the EU's flag did fly above his DCLG for Europe Week.  If the organisation which forces others to fly its flag "betrays a lack of confidence and a deep sense of political insecurity", what is betrayed by the nation which allows itself to be so compelled?

 "If we fail to do so," Mr. Pickles tells us, "we face being fined.  As do other organisations who receive or manage European funding.  Now we’ll fly the flag, and cash the cheque." 

I don't think this justification would have flown with Kipling:

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:
"We invaded you last night — we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"

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