Admiral Jellicoe and the Present UK Government
November 30, 2015
In 1914, at the outbreak of war in Europe, Winston Churchill was holder of the government office know then as The First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill appointed a high ranking naval officer, Jellicoe by name, to the post of Admiral of the Fleet.
Admiral Jellicoe was thus placed in charge of the day to day actions and plans of defence and attack for the British Navy. The importance, in those days before air forces and rockets and before guided missiles and atomic weapons, of such an office as Jellicoe fulfilled is perhaps well-conveyed by one of Churchill’s more sardonic witticisms. He said of Jellicoe that he was
‘The only man in a position to lose the war in an afternoon’
This was no slur or criticism of Jellicoe; but was rather a statement of the case. Jellicoe was a man who did not wear his high office of responsibility lightly; he was known at the time to be bearing the burden of such a crucial role in the direction of the war with considerable gravitas and conscientiousness. He was acutely aware of how much was rested upon his shoulders.
This I find interesting. I could well go on to elaborate on how Churchill and Jellicoe together handled their great task. But my subject for this article lies elsewhere, and I must move on into the present time and say here a few pertinent things about government as it is being carried out here in UK presently.
Of course we have presently no great nation like Germany and Austro-Hungary breathing down our necks ready to violate our peace; and there is no-one in Jellicoe’s shoes today whose office carries so much at stake as his did back then.
And our society is very much changed too. Our leaders, unlike Churchill, are not men of extensive liberal education conversant in history and in literature and in contemporary thought and its antecedents. Again, of course there is much more understanding to master these days than back then; before post-modernism and the electronic revolution. But like the ships of the line, Jellicoe and Churchill had what might once have been called ‘sound bottom’ see article. They were, like the surgeon who acts and looks the part to be capable of rummaging amongst one’s insides (see article), men whom reasonable men or women were able to place hope and belief in; they were, if any men were, amongst those well qualified and capable enough to attempt victory over Britain’s enemies at sea.
During the next four years of war both Jellicoe and Churchill learned massively and quickly about conducting modern warfare and (reluctantly) took to heart rapidly the need for embracing an ‘ungentlemanly’ kind of combat necessitated by industrial society’s terms of warfare.
Not unlike today in the electronic age, when government and law are floundering like the Tommies and their Generals in the Flanders trenches floundered in getting to grips with a wholly new ballgame; our governments also are lagging badly behind ‘events, dear boy, events’.
But this ‘ungentlemanliness’ of warfare has now become standard issue in the field of political negotiation and navigation in governance, and in Cabinet and with Parliamentarians. It has become a game in which ‘everything is not what it seems’ and in which what is being decided and put in place as policy and legislation by our leaders bears no resemblance to their contextualisation of these measures as they are announced and justified to us by them. We are a somnambulist public: (Somnambulist because this public was largely the same electorate who last May voted for the present government to take office).
There is ever for this government an unconscionable gap between announced justifications and explanations of new policy by its ministers on the one hand, and on the other, the precise aims and objectives, the looked for results and intentions and purposes of the announced measures themselves.
Not only are the press and media happy to live with this situation; the public at large seems merely not to notice that this is happening. (There is no effectual opposition party at the moment, whilst the official opposition party is getting its internal affairs in order, and this lack has allowed the governing party to go on an ideological spree unhindered and with deep relish)
Even much of the manifesto upon which the governing party was elected has been torn up by them upon them entering office; and items not in that manifesto introduced by them instead willy-nilly. There is just no counter, no check, no accountability at present. And worse; nobody seems to care that about this.
The strong sense being emanated from government leaders at the moment is that they are enjoying playing a game; with the public; with the media; with the nation’s surety. This political game is to bare face lie. Need for integrity is gone. Need for gravitas and conscientiousness; for ‘sound bottom’ is perceived not to be wanted nor to be apposite. Their Alice-like summersaults of chopped logic and non sequiturs are the order of the day. (See Article: News to understand some of the sly particulars of the methodologies they are using in this devious sleight of hand).
This cannot go on, of course; nor will it. A jamboree is in progress and there’s a time when the partying will stop and the mess will have to be cleared up. These then are our UK home-grown corruptions in high places; not cash backhanders and graft so much as degeneration of character and propriety. Their houses will come crashing down about their ears, and they shall be powerless to handle such a catastrophe when it occurs.
Bob Dylan, when he was Bob Dylan, sang like a prophet, remarking:
‘Your corrupt ways have finally made you blind’ (from Idiot Wind – on ‘Blood on the Tracks’)
Matthew Arnold lamented of a great poet he honoured that the poet had ‘no high-seriousness’, and thus being so the poet missed the highest accolades. Our rulers nowadays, unlike Jellicoe and Churchill in their day, display no high-seriousness; they display high intelligence, but an intelligence corrupted, wherein every thought, every tack or angle, each jot and tittle, has to be presented in disguise, in fancy dress.
Each thought has to be tortured into a fardel for its victim, a rebuke to its recipient, into a trompe l’oeil, or a Damocles sword, into CGI, or film noire melodrama. And the end of subterfuges and of skeins of subtext is to lose one’s way amongst one’s own confusions. Very simply put, one lie leads to the next in an effort to cover up the first; and thereafter arises of necessity a cloud of lies and evasions which act at the last to entrap the spinners of them in their own webs.
The way of truth is straight and narrow (‘strait is the gate and narrow is the way to salvation’). The primrose path to perdition leads downwards in mazy turns of seductive fancy.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.