“I do not believe that the loyalty of those many who over those 270 years, and particularly in this century, worked together and died together as part of the union under the Crown, was to the Crown quite simply, even though they wore the Crown on their uniforms and many of them wore it on their hearts. They were not the mercenaries of a Habsburg empire bound together by personal union and dynastic marriages; they were not the servants of a Hohenzollern empire imposed by military force. It was the Crown of the United Kingdom in parliament which was the centre of loyalty, as it is the essential unifying element of this realm, in the name of which and under the inspiration of which men and women these 270 years have worked and lived and died together.”
Enoch Powell, speech in the House of Commons against devolution to Scotland, January 1976
Throughout the long process of the AV referendum, the Royal Wedding, and the local and devolved assembly elections, I have remained fairly quiet.
There are a number of reasons for this. I shall divulge only two.
The first is that it was obvious that endless coverage would be given to at least two of the aforementioned events; thus, my own would be superfluous. The second is that I have no position on the politics of the devolved administrations: their significance is so minimal to me as an Englishman as to be of no concern – aside from the fact that I wish to resolve the problems by which they exist, either by their independence and thus the removal of the fiscal burden on England that they impose by their presence or by a logical reunification.
That is until Alex Salmond’s SNP won a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament. And an intriguing – and tremendously revealing – range of reactions emerged.
Like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Salmond strikes fear into media commentators all and sundry who regard him as being the architect of the ‘end of Britain’. This in itself is a tremendously complex issue; some, as Peter Hitchens did with great verve in his essential polemic Abolition of Britain would argue that Britain ceased to exist ideologically and culturally some considerable time ago. All Salmond is doing is unimaginatively mouthing the same nonsense that Tony Blair initiated. For example, by asserting today – with characteristic self-importance – that
“Whatever changes take place in our constitution, we will remain close to our neighbours. My dearest wish is to see the countries of Scotland and England stand together as equals.
He quoted Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a commissioner of the old Scottish Parliament, who warned in 1706 that the Union would mean the “greater must always swallow the lesser.”
Quite aside from the contradiction in terms in these statements, the concept that England could be seen as ‘equal’ to Scotland is antithetical to reality. England is a nation with a vastly different economy (including one of the world’s leading financial centres), a vastly different series of industries, a hugely different ethnic make-up, a stark wealth gulf within the country (that I have previously highlighted), at least ten times the population of Scotland, different religions, different democracy… I could go on. But all it is is the same nonsense that Blair clearly quite strongly believed in when he inspired the Scotland Act. See for example his hand-written phraseology on the document itself! The nonsense is wilfully perpetuated.
But what has also manifested itself in the wake of the SNP election gains is the widespread manifestations of self-deprecation with a leaning towards self-loathing and a virulent anti-Englishness that the liberal media seem to thrive upon.
Take, for example, the utter drivel composed by Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian. She claims that the removal of Scotland would ‘leave’ 50 million people with England, and more ludicrously, that
“…definitions of English nationalism have been abandoned to football hooligans and the far right. There’s a curious and debilitating disconnect between the rich cultural traditions of Englishness and its political expression.”
Shortly after casually scribbling the often quoted historical falsehood that England’s ‘institutions’ are ‘British not English’, she continues that
“British is seen as the inclusive, accommodating civic identity for a multicultural society and, by default – dangerously so – English has become a racialised political identity of resistance, resentment and grievance. British Muslim, British Asian are widely used terms; English is still perceived as predominantly white. The 2011 national census in England, unforgivably, defined English as white.”
Ah, yes. All those Sikhs and Muslims who have played for England’s cricket team, all those black and mixed-race football players that wear the Three Lions with pride and the black bishops and clergymen who call for St. George’s Day to be celebrated as a festival of English Christianity are exempt from this lazy definition, are they? Or the millions of Anglophiles of all races, religions and nationalities who invest financially and emotionally in Englishness? Or are they not ‘English’? Hmm. Dare I cry ‘racist’?
A sad state of affairs indeed. But we have lost sight of the reality of the matter. As much as our politicians differ on these issues, can we say the same? Why is it suddenly the case that our politicians were entrusted with these matters? Why are we deferring to the agents of the state? That’s the antithesis of being British of any stripe!
Daniel Hannan wrote this week on how, in spite of the hubbub of the extremist Irish Nationalists who demonstrated against the visit of Her Majesty the Queen this week, Ireland and Britain are closer than they ever have been. The people of England and Scotland are arguably the same – perhaps not in their political perspectives, but in their attitudes towards politics.
The SNP victory is merely another symptom of a disillusionment of ordinary people with a Parliament whose trust has been permanently damaged and in fact has been slowly unravelling for many years. The problem with Britain to ordinary Scottish people is probably not ‘English dominance’ of their politics, it is more likely to be the fact that the metropolitan political classes of all political stripes cease to represent their concerns, make little practicable difference to their lives and have even ceased to share their ideals and beliefs. Ordinary Scottish people are thus no different to English people: the collapse of the Labour vote that led to the surge of the SNP is probably comparable to the collapse of the Labour vote in Europe that led the odious Nick Griffin to take his seat in France and Belgium.
What has been barely reported – if at all – is that while we as English people must endure this public, unseemly and ideologically nonsensical airing of dirty laundry in advance of a protracted divorce, we will likely have precisely no say in what our wishes for the future of the Kingdom – and intrinsically therefore, England – are. If we must endure this, we must ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear.