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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Discussing England or Englishness is "un-British"!

Yesterday Sir Simon Jenkins published another excellent comment on the future of the UK. I quote it in full below.

The one issue which he (among many!) is still confused about is that it is not the English or England whom he is meaning to criticise but rather the British and in particular the British Political Establishment who are persisting in their old imperialist ways but now are only left with poor old England to 'lord it over'!

I would assure Sir Simon that the rump of the British state that continues to rule England with "the foolishness with which London governed its domestic empire" is now beginning to enrage even the most plegmatic Englishman! Part of that rage is in reaction to the attitude which he accurately describes thus:- "As for discussing England or Englishness, it is considered "un-British". England is close to being a banned word at Westminster, its adherents crypto-fascists, football hooligans or, at very least, co-religionists with Celtic nationalism."

Here is the full article:
Only England fails to foresee the demise of its first empire
Simon Jenkins
Guardian Tuesday 11 October 2011 20.30 BST

David Cameron and Alex Salmond: who is the real feartie? Photograph: Allan Milligan
Federations collapse from the stupidity of their leaders rather than the bolshevism of their members. The United Kingdom is no exception. It was pieced together in the 18th century from the half of the British Isles that the Normans had failed to conquer and assimilate. It began to disintegrate when the Irish had had enough of inept English government. Now the Scots are reaching the same conclusion, and up to a point the Welsh.

The SNP's Alex Salmond indicated in the Guardian this week that he wants a dramatic new autonomy for Scotland: far more than the coalition's modest fiscal reform now before parliament, which offers some discretion on income tax and the retention of stamp duty. Salmond wants a Scottish referendum on either independence or a more plausible option B for economic "devo max" or "independence lite". This would embrace full delegation to the Scottish parliament of taxation, welfare and domestic government. London would be left with the monarchy, foreign affairs and defence, much like the Basque country. For all practical purposes, the Westminster parliament would become the English parliament.

There is a clear head of steam behind Salmond's demands, which are spreading across the so-called Celtic fringe. The government of Northern Ireland, under the eerie power-sharing of Protestants and Catholics, is moving further from the mainland and closer to Ireland proper. That its deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, should plausibly run for president of what claims to be all Ireland is a symptom. There is talk of merging trade promotion and corporation tax on an all-Ireland basis. Wales, a country that has never ruled itself in modern times and was a reluctant devolutionist, is seeking similar fiscal autonomy to Scotland – a commission on which was conceded by the Welsh secretary, Cheryl Gillan.

The speed of this long retreat from England's "first empire" may be slow, but the line of route is unmistakable. London's response is manic. The union has become as drenched in political correctness as once was the empire. Like Margaret Thatcher and John Major before him, David Cameron declares his readiness to defend the union "with every single fibre that I have". As for discussing England or Englishness, it is considered "un-British". England is close to being a banned word at Westminster, its adherents crypto-fascists, football hooligans or, at very least, co-religionists with Celtic nationalism.

The union has long been asymmetric. It was a product of military conquest, unequal treaties and marriages of convenience. Had it not been for Edward I, Cromwell, the Victorian Church of England and Margaret Thatcher, a degree of harmonious assimilation might have been won. Yet the foolishness with which London governed its domestic empire lost and then partitioned Ireland, enraged Scotland, and roused even the somnolent Welsh from apathy. When administrative delegation became the fad at the end of the 20th century, devolution gained a traction from which it has not looked back.

The proportion of Scots supporting independence has grown to almost 40%, and the SNP's electoral support in May was just short of 50%, crushing the Tories and Lib Dems into virtual oblivion. Salmond's mandate north of the border is near absolute, while Cameron's is negligible. Scottish government has taken hold. Modern Edinburgh feels more like Dublin than it does a "British" city. Yet at every turn London schemes to balk autonomy. The new fiscal devolution is no devolution at all. Danny Alexander, a Scots control freak and Lib Dem minister, is fighting to deny Scotland the tax-raising power of an English parish council. Cameron last week chided Salmond for being a "feartie", for not putting an immediate referendum on full independence, suspecting it would fail. Yet Cameron opposes a devo- max option as that might succeed.

It is hard to see what disadvantage there is to London in devo max. It could save the London exchequer as much as £10bn a year in subsidies. With oil revenues declining there would be little compensation to the Scots there. Scottish representation in an English parliament would disappear, greatly assisting the Tories, to be replaced by some new "confederal" upper house. In return for real autonomy, London could negotiate a seriously tough deal with the Scots. So why not?

Most small new countries go through a difficult period of readjustment, but the iron law of separatism is that national pride and the exhilaration of independence trump money. Nor is that all. The evidence is that small-is-beautiful brings in confidence and investment, hence the revived economies of Slovakia, Slovenia, the Baltic states and, for a while, Ireland. Independence, in whatever degree, is a rejuvenating, galvanising force. Economists who declare that Scotland would be impoverished by autonomy see only a static, not a dynamic, model. It is the same size as Denmark and New Zealand. Why should it not be as prosperous?

The truth of this whole affair is that a mature democracy should be able to handle devolution without the present hysterics, bombast or power fixation. There are a hundred ways of forming and reforming unions, from Swiss cantons to Catalonia, from Britain's crown dependencies to the provinces of India. Each requires different constitutional arrangements, just as the UK now needs one urgently to respond to the changes in accountability brought on by devolution. It is absurd that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should still be represented at Westminster as if they were counties of England.

The only constant in the debate is the aversion of the governing elite in London to ceding control to the Celtic periphery. England's leaders remember nothing and learn nothing. Just as their opposition to Irish political emancipation in the 19th century made Irish separatism inevitable, so the Tory treatment of Scotland in the 1980s – "piloting" the poll tax there – gave an elixir to nationalism. The same Tory federalists who champion a UK parliament with every drop of their blood are anti-federalists in the setting of a wider Europe. Those who oppose the break-up of their union go to war for the separatist Kosovans, Bosnians and Kurds.

All unions, like all empires, have their day. Britain's global empire has gone, to be replaced by a commonwealth. The disintegration of England's island union began when Ireland departed a century ago and is now progressing in the same direction. Salmond's devo max is not a rerun of Bannockburn. It is a reasonable step down the road being taken by free peoples across Europe. In responding to it, England should grow up.


  1. The world is always at odds with itself as are all the creatures that are created within it, it is the imperfection within the perfection that any enables all things to exist and recreate abundantly, having the constant desire to becoming perfect yet never ever fully achieving it within themselves. The failure to know one’s own imperfection through egoism and greed creates the failure to know and ever achieve any kind of perfection outwardly; such is the case with Britain ever becoming England. It is not the English who are un-British it is the British who are corrupt and un-English.

  2. How can anyone possibly disagree with this trenchant and remorseless analysis?
    Yet they will because the British government and its Unionist allies are fixated, as Greater Englanders, on 'Britain's place in the world'which is deemed to be under threat from the emergence of a British federation.

  3. What a load of codswallop.

  4. I'm actually ambivalent towards whether Scotland becomes independent or not. But with independence comes responsibility - why should option B be more plausible? Would Scottish taxes pay for monarchy or (more importantly) the defence of Scotland by "British" armed forces? Would Scottish military personnel (and Scottish Govt) contribute towards the UK military commitments overseas?

    How far would a Scottish govt support and contribute towards foreign policy of UK?

    In this day and age I feel we would be much stronger economically as a single Union with equal degree of representation in Parliament. History should stay in the past with mistakes being learned from to influence the future in a beneficial way.

  5. One could also point out that strictly speaking much of the territory of what is now Wales and that which is part of the Republic of Ireland was considered to be part of England if one uses historical considerations. South Wales began associating with the ancient kingdom of Wessex long ago. Ireland within 'The Pale' was part of the Kingdom of England.
    Just thought it worth pointing this out.

  6. It is totally irrelevant to English problems
    whether Scotland becomes independent or not. Very little would change, they are unlikely to want strict border controls, but they might want to construct a 'debt-free' economic model, that might not go down well with Bilderberger Cameron.
    It is not fair to compare Scotland with Denmark or New Zealand, they can produce all their own food because of the better climate.

  7. Excellent article, with so many thought provoking ideas.
    It is highly likely that the ferret like intellects of the SNP have seen the the EU as a source of income for an independent Scotland, but also, mainly, that there is oil under the sea around the Orkney islands. It is especially poignant when one considers that Mr Blair unilaterally moved the sea floor boundaries in the North Sea in Scotland’s favour. He pushed the line south. This means of course that the Scottish state will have to fork up the not inconsiderable bill for removing all that redundant oil industry iron-ware from the sea floor, in order to restore the North Sea back to its original pristine condition. This was probably not Mr Blair’s intention, but that is what it will mean. Fortunately, it is not England’s problem.
    The point is that Orkney is not really part of Scotland, and the Orkney islanders deserve recognition of their long heroic battle against Scottish colonialism and imperialism. I am not suggesting anything, but it does make one think.

  8. I would like the satisfaction of seeing the British Government's last act as independence for the Shetlands. Now that would be poetic.

  9. I am ENGLISH and my ancesters before me, at least from 1710. I have been proud to be English.
    However I now feel, as an OAP and never received state benefits, that it makes me look stupid.
    Aren't the illegal immigrants to our country far cleverer than myself.
    Can you find a country that I can go to to get benefits?
    I have worked now for 55yrs paying tax and NI but as I have lived within my means and saved for my meagre pension I am not entitled to any help from the government and will need to work for the rest of my life in order to at least have a warm dry home and feed myself well.

  10. To OAP I would ask have you read any books by Arthur Bryant, he wrote the ' Age of ....' books
    many years ago? If he was writing today it would
    be ' The Age of Greed '. Your 55 years of paying
    tax and NI will go to build houses for unwanted and unneeded immigrants who will despise you and the rest of British society, and towards fighting foreign wars in regions where we have no enemies and no reason to go to war. Our politicians are only interested in lining their own pockets and a few such as the traitor Cameron have their own warped agendas, far removed from any manifesto promises. He has NO interest in the people who elected him. The three party system, really a one party system, has lost its way as far as doing constructive things for British citizens.