Will There Always Be an England?

Will There Always Be an England? By Andrew Sullivan.

London is close to unrecognizable from the city I knew as a teen. Its skyline has a touch of Dubai to it, the wealth is tangible, even obscene, the prices absurd, the energy young and incredibly diverse.

“It’s not our capital any more, is it?” my brother asks, as if seeking confirmation from me. I can see what he means, by virtue of not being there continuously as change accumulated and transformed. In a little less than a week in London, I have yet to buy anything from someone English. Everywhere I hear foreign accents or one of the more than 300 languages London now incorporates. Thirty-seven percent of the capital’s population is foreign-born — the same as New York City — and that share is predicted to be 50 percent by 2031. But New York has always been a thriving immigrant city; newcomers have always defined the place, and it’s just one of several vast metropoles in America. But London is the overwhelmingly dominant city in the U.K., and has never previously been a city of immigrants in the English psyche. London, in fact, is synonymous with the essence of England, and has been a national center since the Roman era. The counties surrounding it are called the Home Counties, because London has always been home. …

Last week’s PRRI/Atlantic study of the key voters who brought us Trump brings this out with stunning and, for me, decisive clarity:

Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. And nearly half agreed with the statement, ‘things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.’ …

What few on the left seem to see is that cultural anxiety, given the ethnic and cultural transformation of the last few decades, is an entirely predictable and entirely understandable response. If people felt that someone in charge actually saw their point of view, sympathized with it, and attempted even minor changes to accommodate it, we would have a different politics. But all they had was Trump. And all they still have is Trump. …

[Britain] has long accepted immigrants, but until the 1950s, net immigration was a rounding error. Since then, it has exploded. In the last 20 years, it has reached American levels. …

It wasn’t their economic insecurity that gave us Brexit. It was that no one in charge even sensed their unease. Elites — and I count myself among the guilty — gave them nothing by way of reassurance or even a sense that they were understood instead of reviled. …

Home is indeed where one starts from. Change it too rapidly and it will disintegrate. We have been fools on mass immigration, we have been fools for preventing an honest debate about the benefits and drawbacks of diversity, and we have been contemptible in our contempt for so many of our fellow citizens. Both countries are now paying a terrible, terrible price.