Recently, as one does of a Friday morning, I was wandering through the blogosphere, looking for things to read.
Eventually, I wound up at www.englandparliament.blogspot.com.
Here the case is put for an English Parliament to offset the new Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, created in the early years of Blairdom. This case relates closely to the West Lothian complaint: that sense that the Celtic countries of the UK have an unreasonable influence over purely English affairs. I may write further about the West Lothian question at a later date, as well as the related proposals to establish an English Parliament for English issues. This morning, however, I was given to meditate on the deeper, broader question of the identity and constitution of my country as a whole. That is, England, the largest country of the as yet still, just about, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I was fired up to this end after reading about how, in Chris Abbott’s opinion, Alan Duncan, the Shadow Trade Secretary, had been insufficiently concerned in a recent article he’s written, to safeguard and consider England’s interests, inclining too much to emphasise Britain’s identity above that of England’s.
Chris Abbott took umbridge with Duncan’s emphasis on the so-called ‘Regions’ of England. Yorkshire, said Duncan, was a region, when in fact, of course, well at least as far as England is concerned, as opposed to the European Union, it is a county (or three counties, to be precise). Then after quoting Duncan as saying this:
But we still need to do more to target areas of the UK that are failing to keep pace with the rest of the country.
Abbott replied: The UK - a country? Surely it's a Union of countries?
At which point, not disagreeing but feeling the Realm shattered and broken, supine on the floor beneath me, I felt encouraged to take up me ‘pen’ (if you see what I mean). I then proceeded, it might be supposed, to have ‘gone off on one’, as the curious idiom would have it:
Yes the UK is a union of countries, not regions. Just as England is a union of counties; and counties, so one hopes, a union of cities, towns and villages, each of which are unions, or so one hopes, of neighbourhoods and families - which are, again, or so one hopes, unions of individuals who don't hate each other too much.
This, to me, is the natural, healthy order of things. No I'm not saying 'There is no such thing as Society', but we do need, I feel, to return to our roots, to the familiar, to what is most at home about ourselves.
The UK is essentially two things: The shared face that our four countries show to the world, and a statement of our common bonds of cultural affinity, bonds that understand themselves as rooted in the lands of the British Isles and united around a common allegiance to the Crown.
To me The Union Jack is a Monarchical expression of the Union of the British peoples around the Crown. It is not the flag of England, and obviously not the flag of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland (though these nations (except Wales, alas) express themselves through it). There really should be no tensions or confusions regarding this matter.
Personally, I have no problem being both English and British. But I am not Welsh, nor Scottish nor Northern Irish. Indeed I would expect a person from these countries to get upset with my presumptiousness if I ever claimed that I was.
But the problem is, if you take away my right to be English, this will mean either that I will have to become Welsh or Scottish or Northern Irish OR that all of our British peoples will also have been deprived of their rights to identify themselves with their respective countries.
Is this what Europe wants, I wonder?
Actually, my comment has not yet been approved. Maybe the webmaster thinks I’m some kind of nutter.
Or maybe he’s a Republican. Not sure that that should matter too much, though. I would question the relevance of this issue to the basic bond of English patriotism that we share. After all, the role of the Crown is to defend the laws and liberties of the British Peoples, so Monarchists and Republicans should always be able at the very least to agree that what is most important in our form of government is that it discharge this duty to our freedoms and our dignity.
As for why I would prefer Monarchy to a Republic, that is a whole separate question. But it is perhaps instructive to remember that the last time we experimented with a Republic, the experiment came to an end not because the Monarchist forces wrested the country back from the Roundheads by force, but because the Army, fearing anarchy, asked Charless II to come back. And even before this, let us not forget, Cromwell himself had been offered the Crown, though he declined it, assuming its functions in all but name. Our innate preference for Monarchy has already been shown – and this preference, despite the best efforts of a scurrilous and vapid media to sell newspapers through scandalous reportage, seems, despite all modernist suppositions that it should not have endured, to have nonetheless endured.
On the other hand, maybe Chris Abbott didn't post my comment because he wants to see a dissolution of the Union?