Shakespeare, a great Englishman, some say the greatest, although my affections lie with Geoffrey Chaucer, put the following words in the mouth of Hamlet, who was deeply unhappy about his nation and what it had come to -
Fie on't! ah, fie! 'tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
and Marcellus later observes that
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
If Shakespeare and Chaucer were alive today, I feel that they both would feel the same about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that it has become an unweeded garden, possessed by things rank and gross in nature, and that something was rotten in it. But they would take heart from the signs all around them that the English people were beginning to assert themselves against this endemic corruption of their institutions, and they would recognise that in part, this was prompted by the Scots attempting to free themselves from the UK’s clammy embrace, while retaining their respect and ancient ties of blood, friendship and common interest with their English brothers and sisters.
The conspiracy of hereditary privilege, the unelected power of the British aristocracy and Establishment and the military/industrial complex seemed to have an iron grip of the peoples of these islands of Britain, a grip secured by control of media and patronage and, through them, the exploitation of myths of imperial glory and a romanticised ideal of Great Britain that has always been far removed from the lives of the people.
But this rickety remnant of a global empire has badly over-extended itself, and the rapaciousness and greed of its ruling class has peaked at the same time, in an unfortunate confluence of events that resulted in the Parliamentary expenses scandal, the collapse of the banks, the incompetence of the Ministry of Defence allied to the greed of those who profit from it, the failed and failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now the spectacular collapse of the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, an empire that has corrupted the highest levels of government and the Metropolitan Police.
Private Eye has been chronicling for decades the financial and municipal corruption of the powerful in the centre of UK power, the South East of England, and the associated incompetence of the regulatory and legal bodies that have been so spectacularly - and in some cases, suspiciously - unable to check it.
From the Inland Revenue through the Serious Fraud Office, the Department of Public Prosecutions, the Metropolitan Police, various supine financial regulatory authorities to the pathetic and supine Press Complaints Commission, the sordid record has been detailed by Private Eye, a publication that has been unafraid of the powerful, both their blandishments and their legal bludgeons, while the mainstream media has been muzzled and trivialised, with honourable exceptions such as the Telegraph in the MPs expenses scandal, the Guardian in the phone hacking conspiracy, and Channel Four News.
But the pressure of the new media, social networking and Wikileaks has fractured the the wall of complicit silence, a pressure powerful enough to trigger the Arab Spring and global events of incalculable significance.
Here in Scotland, we have had our own little Celtic Spring, in the May election of the Scottish National Party for a historic second term. And the summer of independence beckons …
Sir Paul Stephenson, Head of the Met, resigns, and says he "will not lose sleep over his personal integrity". Clearly, he never has in the past - but the rest of us have, especially the victims of phone hacking. David Cameron appears not to be losing sleep over his personal integrity either, but then Old Etonians never do ...
But Nick Clegg may well lose sleep over the loss of his party's integrity. But not enough to resign and bring down this benighted Coalition ...