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Pankaj Mishra

British Bungling Makes It Hard to Be an Anglophile

It is now clear that the nation’s exuberantly successful branding postponed a necessary reckoning with an unproductive economy.

There’s always the crown jewels.

There’s always the crown jewels.

Photographer: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Europe
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The UK government was hoping to salvage some economic credibility thanks to its abrupt and inglorious U-turn on giant unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy. Nevertheless, the destruction of Britain’s age-old reputation for reserve and pragmatism, its image as a nation worthy of admiration and emulation, seems irreversible.

To be sure, nationalist histories in India, China, Egypt and many other countries long depicted the British ruling class as predatory and callously incompetent, plundering foreign lands for its wealth at home while inflicting immiseration on those it ruled abroad. Yet there always existed, beneath such resentment, a grudging regard for the inhabitants of a tiny island that had managed to conquer much of the world.