Like Banksy’s artwork, the United Kingdom is shredding itself in public | Ian Jack

Those who most loudly trumpet their patriotism would quite happily break up Britain – just as long as they get their Brexit

Nearly two decades after the American broadcaster Ed Murrow immortalised London in the blitz as a city of everyday heroism – where people “stand very steady in their shoes” – he returned in 1959 to make a film for the BBC on how Britain had fared after the war. The film, After the Battle, can be seen currently on BBC iPlayer, and in it Murrow smokes tremendously (a 70-a-day habit that killed him six years later) as he asks a selection of Britons about class difference, industrial unrest and where they feel the country is heading. At last he reaches the climax: an interview of impressive verbosity with the Tory foreign secretary, Selwyn Lloyd.

He has one question, he says. Britain’s power has shrunk as a consequence of “the great outpouring of men, money and metal” incurred by two world wars. The Soviet Union and the US are the top dogs now. “Is this not likely to cause you [the UK] to contract out, to say you want no part of the great power struggle?”

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