This piece has been coming for a while now but recent talk of the new Fox hunting bill, and the Scottish National Party’s temporary successes recently, kicked it back into life.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain is the name of this country, which I love, and in which, I live. The name describes poetically, and politically, where the British people live and how we expect to be governed. It took over a fifteen hundred years to unite this island’s disparate warring tribes into this, perhaps imperfect, but more mature than most, united nation.
I am writing this because our career party politicians seem to have forgotten how much we have achieved in this United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Over many hundreds of years, much blood was spilled, many compromises were made and hard lessons were learned, some of which are now in danger of being forgotten.
Simply put, we are British first. We are English, Scottish. Welsh and Irish second. If we lost that identity and concept we deny the slow but sure evolution of the last 1500 years.
Our modern career politicians seem to have become confused over what it means to be British and seem not to be aware of the importance of what we have become and how it all happened.
Surely, we would want any Member of Parliament, of that United Kingdom of Great Britain, to vote for all matters British, whether or not they be Scottish, Northern Irish (for the time being at least), Welsh or English?
Of course there should be some issues devolved to local democratic institutions but that is where huge irrational decisions have been made, started by Blair but continued under the coalition and now the Tory administration. This process of questioning the validity of the Westminster parliament’s ability to administer Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland started with Blair’s often lauded but flawed Northern Ireland peace process. That process ended up with a botched devolution to the current dysfunctional Northern Ireland assembly. It continued with Blair trying to devolve power to the North of England but the people said no, quite loudly!
This principle (the United bit) is vital in order to retain that part of our hard won identity. The SNP, largest amongst other small minded nationalist parties, have forgotten how we are where we are in an egotistical rush to attack Westminster centric career politicians. Their attack on Westminster-centric polishituns is of course quite warranted, but if it threatens the united part, they are fighting the right cause, but in completely the wrong way.
Devolution, as implemented in the UK, is an unusual, illogical and messy way of dispersing power. Whilst devolution errors can be attributed to ministerial incompetence, there is another area where democratic accountability has been quite consciously removed. Since Thatcher’s disastrous era, successive governments have been madly creating quangos(*1) to remove responsibility from from the democratically appointed ministerial positions, which should rightly bear responsibility.
This self serving, slimy abrogation of responsibility is at the root of much of the we the people’s disaffection with today’s polishituns.
‘English votes for English laws is a logical absurdity’, I quote Vernon Bogdanor, who just happens to be the Oxford Don who taught Dave Cameron political philosophy at Oxford.
See here for the explanation of the absurdity. His explanation is tough going but please try to see what he is getting at!
Bright he may be, but Cameron is not as wise as his Oxford First degree might suggest. It came as a great surprise to me when I realised, years ago, that intelligence and wisdom are not necessarily connected. Sadly, so it is with most of the political class.
The Scottish people voted soundly and sensibly in their independence referendum. They rejected the apparent desire of the SNP to break up Britain. The Scottish National Party’s subsequent, and to many, surprising success, is founded upon the inability of Westminster centric party politicians to understand the importance of the real meaning of “The United Kingdom of Great Britain”.
The Scottish independence issue and the “West Lothian” problem are symptoms of this lack of educated understanding amongst our party political London centric leaders. Indeed, the whole devolution issue is blown out of all proportion precisely because our politicians have lost the plot.
Let us remember our history and continue the slow development of the oldest parliamentary democracy together as an Island nation.
Our misguided attempts at devolution have gone too far.
Further devolution risks destroying the very United Kingdom of Great Britain.
In time, we will hand back Northern Ireland to Eire; we will hand back the Falklands to the Argentinians and we will hand back Gibraltar to Spain and perhaps the Channel Islands to the Duke of Normandy ;-). That is simply the inevitable logic of economics, and geography. The party politics of the problem is the sticking point!
Furthermore, we need statesmen and women, the calibre of which we have not seen since Churchill and Atlee, yet but so desperately need now.
We will also, in time, become a republic (not, heaven forbid, a caliphate 😉 ), having disestablished the Church of England from government (by “right”) and removed our ever so slightly ridiculous monarchy.
That will probably take several decades, but I hope I live to see it!
*1 Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations, are completely undemocratic bodies (by design) which are supposed to control the regulation on banks, utility companies and many more. Offwat, Offgen, Offqual and the other two hundred or so.
You pay for them but they are not answerable to you!
The reason for their existence is to protect government ministers from having to take responsibility for their flawed decision making. The buck has been well and truly passed. Quangos are quietly not doing (because nobody really checks) what government should be doing, clever eh?
Bah POO & piffle!
Mike McCartney for answering the West Lothian question
Peter Brookes for his English language lesson