Laurence Fox is a superb actor, best known for his role as Detective Sergeant James Hathaway in the British television dramatic series Lewis. Last January he responded to criticism that the media’s treatment of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was “racist.” “It’s not racism,” Mr. Fox insisted on the BBC’s “Question time,” …we’re the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe.”
This unguarded emission, not less offensive to the woke spirit of millennial Britain than loud crepitation during the Queen’s Speech in Parliament would be to fervent British monarchists, has received surprisingly small condemnation on the left; perhaps because leftists have given up on Mr. Fox. (“The carbon footprint’s huge,” he has said of jet-setting celebrities. “…ut we make up for it by preaching to everyone how they should change their life.”) Also, perhaps, because a strong reaction has set in in recent weeks against the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Tim Davie, the new Director-General of the BBC, is cracking down on “Auntie’s” leftist excesses–which include refusing to allow Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory” to be sung during the Proms last month– and Oliver Dowden, Boris Johnson’s Minister of Culture and Sport, has warned publicly funded institutions like the British Museum and the National Trust that they risk being deprived of Treasury funds should they persist in acts of cultural sabotage. Fox, in his early 40s, is a distinguished alumnus of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, which in recent months has discovered for itself that fabulous thing called systemic racism, demanded that Restoration comedy be banned from the theatrical repertoire on the ground that it is colonialist (previous critics during the past three centuries had objected to its lewdness), and issued a public apology for having belatedly recognized the importance of Black Lives Matter.
Nine months after his remarks on “Question Time,” Laurence Fox has audaciously ambitious plans to found a political party named Reclaim to defend British history and Britain’s incalculable contribution to civilization and to reform public institutions that are presently devoted to denying their founding principles and subverting them. “The [British] people,” Fox says, “are tired of being told that we represent the very thing we have, in history, stood together against. We are all privileged to be the custodians of our shared heritage. We can reclaim a respectful nation where all are included and none ashamed to call home.” Owing partly to what the Daily Telegraph describes as “substantial sums from ex-Tory donors,” Reclaim already has deposited the sum of ₤ 5 million in its coffers. Certain Tory optimists believe that Reclaim could be Great Britain’s “cultural Ukip.” Writing in the Telegraph, Tim Stanley (the author of a biography of Pat Buchanan) has expressed the fear that the proposed name (subject to approval by the Election Commission) “is both incredibly ambitious and too narrow.” Time, as it always does, will tell.
Conservatives, of all people, have reason for pessimism. Still, it seems churlish to dismiss Reclaim as a bit of well-meaning whimsy, and ungrateful toward Mr. Fox, whose thespian talent is as large as his grasp on British history and civilization is sure. Though symbolism has always been greatly overworked by the left, it is real enough to exercise great power in human affaires—as the left’s successes in culture and politics over the past few decades in the United States, and the rest of the West, prove. So a new political party in this country devoted to the ostensibly narrow, but in point of fact immensely wide, task of recovering, preserving, and promoting four centuries of a national culture that, though a part of the broader culture of the West, is also uniquely itself, could have enormous potential. For one thing, it would be a rallying institution for the old American cultural remnant that is, almost certainly, not as small as it often appears to be. For another, it might serve as a perpetual reminder, not only that such a remnant exists but that, growing from the nation’s original root, it is capable of producing souches whose genetic material could produce new growths compatible with later ones. Finally, the creation of something good, healthy and real—no mere political abstraction—has positive value in itself for the national political culture. An obvious name for the new organization would be the American Party, though that would risk condemnation by the anti-nativist sniffers.
For the success of a project such as Laurence Fox has in mind, whether in the British Isles or the United States, two conditions are absolutely necessary. The first is that it should be wholly protected against the obtrusion of the academy and its poisonous influence. The second is that it should be similarly protected from intrusions by the forces of established conservatism, whose social, economic, and political embrace is always fatal.
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