Saturday, November 27, 2010

"'British' still seems to offer a looser and more civic identity, not based on blood and soil" but...

A couple of weeks ago I blogged a pre-notice for the CEP debate which took place last Thursday at the English Speaking Union.

The topic under discussion was "This house believes that an English parliament is the last hope for a United Kingdom" and Ian Jack has some interesting thoughts from the night in today’s Guardian:
The problem (and I'm with the mood of the meeting, that sooner or later it will be a problem) is that the UK is neither a unitary nor a federal state. Devolution of power to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly has placed it somewhere in between.
A massive “yes” to that although obviously my solution to that problem would not be the same as the CEP’s:
Britain now has the most English – southern English – government in living memory. A Lab-LibDem coalition – Cowdenbeath governing Henley – would have given them much more to shout about. But in terms of democratic inequality the English complaint is substantial.
I see the potential pressure for an English Parliament coming from two sources:

1. Amongst the English population at large a feeling of grievance caused by the perception that the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh are benefiting in real, objective, measureable financial terms (eg in areas such as health care, education) at their expense.
2. The more abstract “constitutional-deficit” emotion that Jack touches on here.

In the short-term 1) is a much greater potential danger but it is one which I believe has lessened for the reason Jack mentions in the above quote and more importantly because of the curbing of N.Irish, Scottish and Welsh devolved budgets which the economic crisis has caused.

Factor 2) isn’t going to go away but it’s not one which has caught the man in the street’s (or thankfully, the tabloids') imagination… yet:
Life under the present arrangements will muddle along for a while, but not for ever. What, after all, would a public meeting of Scottish nationalists have looked like in 1955? Like a few dozen white men sitting in a room, obscure to the newspapers, working up what many people would have thought of as an imaginary grievance.
OK, the ultimate aim of those few dozen men, Scottish separation, has disappeared off the radar screen for at least the medium term but the fact that from those few dozen men an avowedly anti-UK nationalist party now wields power in one part of the UK is still food enough for Unionist thought surely?

No comments: