Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who will speak for Britain?

Sorry for going on about this topic but it's been preoccupying me. What future for the Union if even supposedly conservative commentators aren't willing to make conservative arguments in its defence? Take, for example, the historical comparisons made by Simon Jenkins:
"Partition is the new politics, despite being the hobgoblin of centralism. It is through partition that Ireland is booming, Slovakia reviving and the Baltic states prospering. The British government is in favour of it for everyone else, even forcing it on the former Yugoslavia and Iraq/Kurdistan. This year it welcomed Montenegro to Europe's community. By what hypocrisy do Westminster grandees ridicule Scotland's ambition?"
Where to begin? Does Simon Jenkins really believe Britain, a union older than the French and American republics, to be historically comparable to post-WWI constructs like Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia - to say nothing of Iraq?

And then there's Ireland - which he takes as a shining example of the benefits of partion in a manner worthy of Alex Salmond, leaving the reader with the question as to whether Simon Jenkins is acquainted even the most rudimentary facts of economic history. What else but ignorance can allow a writer to decry subsidy and then fail to grasp basic things like dates and the small matter of EU subsidy in an article that complains about the corrosive effects of the Barnett Formula? I'd expect better from my sixth-year pupils, frankly.

As for his cant about the 'will of the people', I can't bring myself to discuss it except to insist that this writer who is so fond of quoting De Tocqueville and Burke should cease to do so forthwith because clearly he has understood neither. That he has found a home in the Guardian is entirely fitting.

Then there's Laban Tall:
"Historically the UK was at centre an English enterprise. Though ambitious Scots, Irishmen and Welshmen powered large chunks of the Empire, the Armed Forces, industry and commerce, and Britain's whole was greater than the sum of her national parts, England was the heart of Britain - and rightly so in the opinions of its inhabitants. The largest, wealthiest, most important part - and the best part, too."
No. This is not patriotism but nationalism - the very thing that will dissolve the Union, if we let it. It is exactly the same spirit we hear from Jack McConnell when he says Scotland is the "best small country in the world". Nationalism does this - compares itself to everyone else, as well as defining those who don't belong. It's born of insecurity. Patriotism is different. It is an understanding that the attachments you don't choose that are the most significant - like the ones you have for your family. I don't try and convince myself my family is the best in the world, that they meet my needs more efficiently than any other family could do, or that they are more beautiful and intelligent than any other. Rather my love for them, my allegiance to them, is borne of just that - because they are my family. So it is with my country. Opinion polls say it has 'outlived its usefulness', its utility? Not for me, it hasn't, not for me. And never shall it be so.

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