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“The name’s Bond. James Bond. He/him.”

Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig in Spectre (2015)

After decades fighting “evil masterminds bent on Britannia’s destruction”, says Ross Douthat in The New York Times, “the 21st-century version of James Bond has found a very 21st-century antagonist”. In the newest 007 novel, On His Majesty’s Secret Service by Charlie Higson, our hero is charged with protecting King Charles III from a new breed of supervillain: a Brexity “Little Englander” who goes by the nom de guerre Athelstan of Wessex. Bond, while carrying on a healthy “situationship” with a busy immigration lawyer, infiltrates a right-wing conspiracy to foil a terrorist attack at Charles’s coronation, musing all the while on the “superiority of the metric system and the deplorable dog whistles of populism”. The book’s mere existence seems “designed to agitate conservatives”.

But this new “progressive Bond” illustrates an odd feature of the modern West. It isn’t just that the woke dogmas of American college campuses have become an “ideological lingua franca” across the Anglosphere. It now seems that certain forms of progressivism have become more potent among America’s closest allies than they are in the US itself. Witness Canada’s desperate search for a “racial reckoning” on a par with America’s in 2020, despite having a completely different history of race relations. And Britain’s retrofitting of its stolidly homogenous history into an American-style “nation-of-immigrants” narrative. It’s nothing new – there is a historical tendency of provincial leaders to go overboard in establishing their “solidarity and identification with the elites of the imperial core”. The “leaders and tastemakers” in London and Ottawa today are, in the words of British writer Aris Roussinos, like “Gaulish or Dacian chieftains donning togas and trading clumsy Latin epithets” to establish their identification with Rome.