Citizen Claire and Buying Patriotic

The ‘UKippers’ claim, with apparent justification, to have won the arguments about viability of the European Union and the UK’s ability to survive outside European integration. But they are losing the other argument that Dr. Owen and the SDP lost in the 1980s, namely, about it being possible to be a successful (British) patriotic movement without being Conservatives.

Claire Foges is a Conservative, but backs her ‘Buy British’ appeal with the distinction between patriotism and nationalism or xenophobia familiar in academic arguments about citizenship and ‘republican virtues’. That distinction is a genuine one in the abstract, but all too often politically ineffectual. The last thing Citizen Claire herself wants is for her patriotic appeal to be politically exclusive. Yet the political logic of UKIP’s fading after Brexit is that ‘Buy British’ will turn into a Conservative identity.

Strangely, Citizen Claire’s dilemma arises from the repeated failure of the political Left ever since the French Revolution to avoid matching a demand for inclusive political community with the psychological reality that communal identities on which patriotism depends require separation from those outside. Patriots worldwide regularly try to avoid thus fostering enemies on the lines argued by the fascist Carl Schmitt (successfully more often with sport and entertainment than with politics or economics), but the Schmitt menace always lurks behind the scenes. And the British Conservative Party has a facility for making enemies beyond that of the British themselves.


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