James Bond is back. But rather unexpectedly he seems to have adopted the attitudes of a vexed Left-leaning European Union lawmaker.
In the recently released On His Majesty’s Secret Service novel, we find the world’s most famous spy thrust into another adventure on May 4 2023, two days before the Coronation of King Charles III.
Suddenly Bond is sent on a last-minute mission to “thwart an attempt to disrupt the Coronation by the wealthy, eccentric and self-styled Athelstan of Wessex, who is on a deadly mission of his own to teach the United Kingdom a lesson.
“Can Bond dismantle his shady plans and defeat his privately hired team of mercenaries?”, describes Ian Fleming Publications, which looks after the literary James Bond brand, “keeping it alive through the publication of new stories” by different authors like Charlie Higson.
Reactions to Higson’s new book and Bond’s dismantling of the “shady plans” have been mixed.
Some have lambasted how Bond seems to have, like his country’s institutions, become woke — for one, he now eats kimchi, a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, most commonly cabbage, for the good of his gut; he also gets concerned whether the filling of the pastry he is eating is really mushroom.
Others have noted how politicised the storyline and the “shady plans” are: our hero has to “go undercover at a remote Hungarian castle, where a cabal of failed Right-wing politicians, disaffected aristocrats and populist rabble-rousers from [English Defence League]-style organisations are meeting to receive their orders from Æthelstan,” notes the Daily Telegraph. (The EDL is generally viewed as an Islamophobic and xenophobic organisation in the United Kingdom.)
The Telegraph explains how the story’s villain “claims direct descent from Alfred the Great and thinks he has more of a right to the English throne than ‘King Charles the Woke’ – that shill for all the foreign elites who have kept the true English downtrodden since the Norman Conquest”.
It sounds like Higson might not be a great fan of Brexit, or of the governments of other countries that are still part of the EU but making a fuss.
“Stirring Hungarians up with his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and crude, ‘Make Hungary Great again’, anti-immigration rhetoric,” Higson describes how “Bond felt a deep sense of gloom that this beautiful, civilised, orderly country had been dragged back towards the far right by Viktor Orban, using the crude but effective nationalist playbook”.
Bond’s assessment of Orbán is that he has “aligned himself with the likes of Trump and Le Pen and Putin, and, just like them, he was using a paper-thin front of Patriotism to mask rampant self-interest.”
Bond sounds like he could be making a speech on behalf of the European Commission.
While I appreciate 007 is busy — not to mention dealing with lots of people trying to kill him — he (and the author behind his current guise) would do well to think about whether Le Pen is only gaining ground because of “a paper-thin front of Patriotism”, or if the French populace may have other, not unreasonable concerns that are leading them to consider Le Pen as an alternative.
The same with Viktor Orbán. In Brussels I have met Hungarians with serious concerns about their government’s handling of and alleged interference with the country’s media and judicial system. But at the same time, Orbán clearly enjoys the support of many Hungarians who approve of what he is doing, which includes standing up to the EU.
“This bond is brooding, though not over murderous supervillains with tell-tale tics and facial deformities…but over the problematic Euroscepticism of the democratically elected Viktor Orban, the alleged dog-whistle bigotry of imperial weights and measures, and a gathering of barely disguised pro-Brexit, [anti-EU] types whose leader had not thought to ensure an adequate diversity quotient,” Simon Evans writes for Spiked.
It is a somewhat strange focus for the author to take, and for his hero to adopt, especially given how the former traditional Bond baddies — the Kremlin and its Russian leaders — have demonstrated by their invasion of Ukraine that they should still be taken seriously when it comes to the threats faced by the West and by the EU.