‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God save the King than of stealing from a poor box.’
The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Part I : ‘England Your England’ by George Orwell
Since the time of George Orwell, the hatred and fear of England by the left has been a decidedly unguarded prejudice. My documentation of the phenomenon is merely a brief synopsis of some of the permutations that it has taken recently. Now, the logical conclusions of devolution – a scheme entirely concocted by the left and advised and warned against by anyone with a modicum of common sense – are provoking new swathes of histrionic fear and implicit anti-Englishness.
See for example an article by George Eaton published late yesterday in the New Statesman, entitled ‘The Tory plan for a permanent majority gathers pace’. Herein, the writer attempts to assert that the Conservative Party are plotting the demise of the left through political gerrymandering, capitalising on the supposed naivety of their coalition partners and other such tosh:
First, the coalition’s proposed boundary changes are approved, depriving Labour of an estimated 25 seats (the Conservatives would have won 13 fewer seats at the last election and the Lib Dems would have won seven fewer).
This is insubstantial. Border changes have been happening since the demise of the rotten borough. I also fail to see how equalising border changes affects Labour adversely; the programmes of building swathes of affordable housing in affluent areas continue apace, bringing Labour votes to former Tory strongholds.
The writer continues:
Second, Alex Salmond holds a referendum on independence and Scotland votes Yes. Of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland that would be automatically lost, 41 are Labour-held but just one is Conservative-held.
Hmm. That is all very well, but is there even a vague likelihood that this will happen? The most recent YouGov poll on the matter indicates that a vote on Scottish Independence would return an overwhelming majority ‘No’ vote (and that it has higher support in England & Wales than Scotland). It would mean that Alex Salmond would have to work utter miracles in the months to come for that to change. So, the reality? The SNP won in Scotland because Scottish people had lost faith in Labour. So what it is is a transparent attempt to divert attention away from Labour’s failings and blame the Tories instead.
The writer surmises his argument on the ‘perfect storm of Tory evil’ by stating that:
“Finally, the Tories and the Lib Dems introduce a cap on party donations, depriving Labour of much of its trade union funding and bankrupting the party. Labour is consigned to permanent opposition and a new age of Tory hegemony is born.”
This is so impenetrably illogical as to beggar belief. Labour is already bankrupt. The New Statesman ran with the story, as openly professed by John Prescott, almost a year ago. Again, the blame is passed to the Tories for the ludicrous situation of Labour being incapable of running their own finances. If Labour are to win again, they must look at themselves. To me, it is very obvious that people not wish to support a party that is funded by antequated Unions that have no positive impact on people’s lives, led by a hugely uninspiring man and still underpinned by people who believe that their arrogant monetarism was the way to run an economy.
Furthermore, the problem with the writer’s perspective in the event of these three almost entirely unrelated – and in one case extremely unlikely – events coming to fruition is that he is entirely wrong to imply that England would be perpetually Conservative if devolution occurred. When Labour won in 1997, it had a clear majority in England: William Rees-Mogg here quotes the margin of victory as being 3.5 million votes. Again; passing the blame for failure.
Despite this fact, the writer devotes a good deal of attention to regarding England as an inherently conservative country, and therefore something of a lost cause.
To many Tories the prospect of an independent England – economically liberal, fiscally conservative, Eurosceptic, Atlanticist – is an attractive one. The Conservatives have not held more than one seat in Scotland for the last 19 years – there is little political incentive to preserve the Union. As Michael Portillo told Andrew Neil on This Week in 2006, “From the point of political advantage, the Conservatives have a better chance of being in government if Scotland is not part of the affair. You are continuing to assume the Union is sacrosanct. That is not an assumption I make any more.”
Quite why the writer is content to gauge the opinion of the MPs, councillors, employees, members and voters of a political party on the basis of one five-year-old quote from a man who has not been in a position of significance in that party for fourteen years is quite beyond me. Furthermore, he could equally have been commenting upon the political reality of an SNP that was gaining momentum and local assemblies, councils and cities calling for greater autonomy from central government.
So does the author provide solutions that Labour can get to work on in order to win in England, to snare the English people once more, to make them believe in the possibility that Labour might lead the English people the way they deserve to be led? No.
“… Labour must broaden its funding base as a matter of urgency… But the wider challenge is clear. If history is not to record Gordon Brown as the last Labour Prime Minister, the party must show as much ruthlessness, cunning and ingenuity as the Tories.”
Just when I thought that Blue Labour was a genuine movement for change, the writer seems instead to favour the Labour Party taking the approach of deliberate duplicity, manipulation and innovation in its misdeeds.
It is no wonder whatsoever, therefore, that the Party struggles. This writer has demonstrated no solutions whatsoever to the problems he has stated; there is no tangible way to solve the fact that Labour should be aggressive in either preserving the Union (and thus its Scottish & Welsh MPs) or advocating full devolution by discussing English matters. But above all, this writer treats England with contempt. Contempt for its conservative instincts, giving no credit to the ability of English people to discern between two political parties. Contempt for the true matters of such dire urgency as to be blatantly obvious. Contempt even for those who are trying to actually address these matters, preferring to play the same old political game without improving anyone’s lot.
We must expose this duplicity between thought and deed wherever possible.