In association with 5×15, join us for an Unmissable evening with Fintan O’Toole, Misha Glenny and chair Jon Snow where they’ll be discussing O’Toole’s electrifying new book Heroic Failure, on the delusions of Brexit, the threat it poses to economic prosperity, peace in Ireland and the tradition of British democracy.

England’s favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If‘, says that triumph and disaster are the same thing. It enjoins the English to “lose, and start again at your beginnings/ And never breathe a word about your loss.” Most modern English heroics are screw-ups, retreats or disasters: the charge of the Light Brigade, the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage, “Scott of the Antarctic”, Gordon of Khartoum, the flight from Dunkirk.

The parallels with Brexit are obvious, but the problem is that the cult of heroic failure was developed precisely in an empire that could afford to play up its failures because it was so successful. Its pathos becomes bathos in a post-imperial world. Failure is no longer heroic – it is just failure. Fintan O’Toole’s ruthless dissection of the psychology and politics of Brexit is a stirring call to preserve democratic values and rational thought.

There will not be much political writing in this or any other year that is carried off with such style‘ The Times


In association with 5×15.




Emmanuel Centre

9-23 Marsham Street
London SW1P 3DW

View map