Monday, 27 April 2020 11:33

Splendid Isolation

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'Splendid isolation' was the late 19th-century British diplomatic practice of avoiding permanent alliances, where Britain stood back from involvement in international affairs.

The practice emerged as early as 1822 with Britain's exit from the post-1815 Concert of Europe and continued until the final reversal of the policy, with the 1904 Entente Cordiale with France.

A Canadian politician, George Eulas Foster, came up with the term, when approving of Britain's minimal involvement in Europe's business by saying, "In these somewhat troublesome days when the great Mother Empire stands splendidly isolated in Europe."

The policy was summarised by historian Harold Temperley thus:
'Non-intervention; no European police system; every nation for itself, and God for us all; balance of power; respect for facts, not for abstract theories; respect for treaty rights, but caution in extending them ... England not Europe... Europe's domain extends to the shores of the Atlantic, England's begins there.'

Remind you of anything? What's that you say..?....Brexit??!

Oh for those heady, carefree days of 2019! If only leaving the EU was all we had to worry about. Now simply leaving the house seems an action fraught with danger.

The recent decision to distance Britain from Europe (the 2016 Brexit referendum) was based, for some people, on concerns that our infrastructure, the National Health Service in particular, couldn’t cope under the pressure of uncontrolled immigration.

But existing research tells us that international migration is good for the NHS. This is for several reasons. First, migrants are an essential part of the health care workforce. They are the doctors, nurses, porters, and cleaners. The proportion of migrants working in the NHS varies across staff groups and different regions. In June 2019, 13.3% of NHS staff in hospitals and community services in England reported a non-British nationality. Among doctors, the proportion is 28.4%. And many doctors have trained abroad.

Second, migrants are not just health care workers, they are also taxpayers. This means that migrants contribute to the costs of public services, including the NHS, like everyone else.

Keep Calm & Stay Home

And third, although research on how and when migrants use NHS services is limited, data suggests migrants tend to use fewer services than UK-born residents.

Our own Prime Minister was brought back to health by two immigrant nurses: Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal. During his Easter address after being discharged from ICU at St Thomas' Hospital in London, he thanked and name-checked both of them.

Our current isolation hasn't come about as a result of a popular vote, but because of something tiny, powerful, and completely unbound by international borders.

Of course, we're never completely alone if we have modern technology.

I have had many Zoom meetings with people I'm not usually in regular touch with. Family on the other side of the world, long lost friends in the same country. Isolation makes us look inwards, and then forces us to look outwards. We wonder how everyone else is coping and we question our own ability to cope. Is my alcohol consumption becoming a beast that will devour me? Is my teenage daughter becoming a beast that will devour me?

We feel an intense need to show we care. We sew scrubs to protect nurses and doctors, we applaud the same people from our doorsteps every week to show solidarity. We watch as a centenarian soldier, with slow determination, raises almost as much money for the NHS as was promised on the side of a bus. These are the things we need in order to still feel part of the human race.

I am of an age where several close friends are celebrating milestone birthdays this year. We need the physical presence of people in order to celebrate properly, but people come up with ingenious ways to make the birthday girl/boy feel special. A friend in California arranged for a number of friends to sing a 'drive-by' Happy Birthday to her husband, while a group of students in a Manchester house-share transformed each of its 8 rooms into individually-themed pubs so that one of their number could celebrate her 21st with a good old-fashioned pub crawl.

Funerals are at the other end of the scale of human emotion, and in these challenging times must be exponentially more difficult, both to organise and to endure. While they too are a celebration in a way (of a life cherished and the memories it created), saying goodbye without the physical comfort of a hug from a friend or family member must be agonising. I have friends who are going through this too. We don't have sufficient words to comfort them. All we can do is watch helplessly and wait for it to be over.

What all this social distancing and isolation definitely teaches us, is that we need each other....the various communities we live, work, trade, enjoy life and endure hardship with, are part of us.

We at Potted History Tours look forward to welcoming our visitors out of isolation and back to these shores, however long that may take. In the words of Vera Lynn, "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when....but I know we'll meet again some sunny day".

Until then, stay splendid.....and stay connected.

Read 1966 times Last modified on Monday, 27 April 2020 17:33

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