Today, David Cameron emphasised his own personal ideology more strongly than anything resembling reality.
Not surprising, you might say. Perhaps you might also say that it’s no surprise that in spite of the fact that, as this BBC wordle illustrates, the word ‘country’ was one of the most prominent words in his big speech, he has set England entirely adrift. Defiantly, decisively, and definitively. And wrongly.
There are arguably a number of reasons why Cameron wishes to emphasise the value of ‘Britain’ or a ‘United Kingdom’ over the constituent parts of this dated political union, the first of which is a slightly vain concern over his legacy. He wants to be absolutely certain that he is not the Prime Minister under whom Britain is broken up. This is perhaps understandable, but surely recognising the continued and repeated calls for representation and fairness (something he made pains to refer to in his speech) of the largest constituent nation in the Union and acting decisively for the better is a legacy that has its own merit. It is certainly one that is preferable to Blair’s self-regarding, rushed, inherently unequal hack-job of devolution, and Brown’s incoherent and politically opportunistic ‘Britishness’.
It is absolutely incredible that Cameron fails to recognise devolution as one of the fundamental errors of New Labour’s time in power amongst the others which he was right to highlight. In which other ‘country’ in the world could the nation’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury visit a democratically elected body in a region over which he had fiscal jurisdiction, and be derided as a lackey for a foreign government? It is a state of affairs quite beyond belief.
So when David Cameron states
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland – we’re weaker apart, stronger together, so together is the way we must always stay.
why then does his Scottish Chief Secretary to the Treasury state that giving greater powers to the Scottish Parliament would be a
“major step forward”?
A ‘major step forward’ in whose interest? Why can a Scottish politician claim that devolution to Scotland’s gain is fantastic while his English leader decries it as being unthinkable? What is the real gain for England?
Let us not forget that England put Cameron where he is. This is what makes his naive joshing over the football so offensive:
“… being made to watch the England football team lose, 4-1 to Germany, in the company of the German Chancellor. It’s a form of punishment I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
As transparently populist as it is, it is also revealing. He is happy to see England, the country that brought him to power (over his party, which is not totally in power), diminished to an inept selection of millionaires led by an Italian. His assertions on the matter are not even etymologically accurate. Surely, for instance, there is an inherent conflict of interest in asserting oneself as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and then talking about ‘Anglo-German relations’.
This is a fascinating aside that actually provides an insight into the final reason why Cameron clings to the faded concept of ‘Britain’: the peculiar ideological grounding of his concept of Conservatism.
It is perhaps telling that Cameron mentions Margaret Thatcher more in his speech than England. His own ideas of the sort of morality that he aspires to are taken from her own commandeering of ‘Victorian values’ and pre-Cool Britannia (a decidedly reworked ‘Blitz spirit’), and however loosely he actually adheres to these principles, or successfully comprehends them, they are entirely mediated through a narrative of Britain. Without this construct, this post-Empire-yet-commanding, highly Commonwealth (an emphasis on ‘wealth’ is perhaps necessary…) view of our place in the world is obsolete. Cameron has no idea what the consequence of a post-British position would be in terms of England’s place in the world. Even though, all things considered, England is responsible for the vast majority of British wealth creation. Hmm.
Cameron’s flagrant ignorance of the political value of England is one thing: his casual disregard of a nation of 50 million people that constitutes the vast majority of his precious ‘Britain’ is quite another. One wonders if he recognises the fact that his fragile power is thanks to voters from Devon to Derbyshire to Northumbria voting for him and his party. One also wonders if he has duly noted the fact that a year ago, before an election in which England voted decisively on an election for which it did not receive a decisive result, a YouGov poll revealed that 58% of English people were in favour of an English parliament.
Byrnsweord wishes to stress in the strongest possible terms that Mr Cameron would do well to remember those who put him where he is. Englishmen have long memories.