Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

In search of deep England

Roundway Hill, Wiltshire (Getty Images)

I am wary of mentioning General de Gaulle in these pages, if for no other reason than remembering Auberon Waugh many years ago arguing against a statue of the leader of the Free French being erected in London. Waugh’s objections were based firstly on the fact that statues only worked with togas because statuary did not favour the trouser leg. His second objection was that this country had fought a long and costly war to get General de Gaulle and his friends out of London.

That notwithstanding, I dare to mention de Gaulle here because he has been on my mind. Or at least one aspect of him has been on my mind. That is that glorious appeal he made to ‘La France profonde’. Anyone who has spent time in France – especially rural France – will know exactly what he was talking about.

The pheasants flew high, lost in the mist. Lost in this magical kingdom that had been like this for centuries

It has seemed to me, especially on recent visits back to the UK from a range of foreign climes, that we could do with a similar phrase in the English language: ‘deep England’ or ‘deep Britain’ might do.

It was on my mind just before Christmas when I made a fleeting visit to the UK from the Middle East, and before that from the US. On arrival in the centre of London I had a feeling of horrible disassociation. It came flooding over me while walking through Berkeley Square in the evening. There certainly wasn’t a nightingale in sight or sound. Instead – thanks largely to the mercantile hooliganism of Richard Caring – it had become one of the ugliest global playgrounds I have ever seen. And I’ve seen some things.

Between the appalling new Annabel’s on one side and the grotesque Sexy Fish on the other, the square was rammed full of people who looked either like pimps or prostitutes.

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