It occurs to me that Eldred Pottinger would be at home in the chaos of 2019’s Brexit fiasco. He’s been there before.
The incompetence, indolence and indecision of his superiors in Kabul in 1841 ensured the destruction of an entire army in 1842.
There was Sir William Macnaghten, who insisted everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds – because he was anxious to leave Kabul as soon as possible so he ignored any signs of trouble as it might delay his exit.
Then there was his deputy, Sir Alexander Burnes, who believed himself to be loved by the locals and thought he would do a damn sight better job of running things than Sir William.
There was poor General William Elphinstone, a well-meaning veteran who was basically recalled from retirement to take over the army in Kabul despite his dotage, constant illnesses and inability to make a decision.
And there was Brigadier-General John Shelton, of the Bombay army, Elphinstone’s second-in-command who bitterly resented his boss, hated being in Kabul and took it out on his men.
When the crisis came, they couldn’t agree on anything and led their army to disaster. Sound familiar? I have a horrible feeling it’s a national characteristic.