Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

23 December 2007

Saint Tony becomes a Catholic: a conversion of heart and mind?

Commenting on Tony Blair’s reception into the Catholic Church on Friday, the Vatican is reported to have stated that the decision by someone as authoritative as Tony Blair to join the Church can “only arouse joy and respect”.

Speaking as a Roman Catholic myself, I have to say that while I respect the former PM’s decision, it doesn’t fill me with joy. I’m with Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and Catholic convert, who wonders whether Mr Blair has now changed his mind over the many decisions he took and supported that ran contrary to Church teaching and advice.

Mr Blair is a profoundly ambiguous figure from a moral perspective: hero or villain; morally courageous or moral coward? The decision over which he faced the biggest moral dilemma – and over which he has been most condemned – is of course that of taking the UK into the US-led war in Iraq. What I’m concerned about is that Tony Blair’s acceptance into the Catholic Church could lend the impression, especially in the Middle East, that the Church endorses that decision. In fact, almost every senior figure in the Church, including the late Pope John Paul II, spoke out against the war and affirmed that it did not meet the criteria for a Just War.

Tony Blair is known to have prayed over his decision back in 2003. While this fact, or at least the public admission of it, provoked a combination of shock, derision and outrage on the part of many non-religious people in the UK, this behaviour is the minimum that would be expected of Christians contemplating doing something that would inevitably result in the loss of many thousands of innocent lives. Even so, Mr Blair went ahead with the war, ignoring the personal advice against doing so he’s known to have received from the late Pope along with the consensus in the worldwide Catholic Church and the opinion of most senior Anglicans.

Moral courage or moral cowardice? Probably a bit of both. Who knows, really, what motivated Mr Blair’s decision? Judgement is mine, says the Lord. All I can say is that, in my opinion, informed by my own Catholic faith, it was a profoundly wrong choice, both morally and strategically. It was not a Just War; it did result in the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of lives; it has destabilised Iraq and the whole Middle East; it undermined the political consensus and moral authority behind the USA and Britain in the ‘war on terror’; and it has increased support for so-called Islamist terrorism.

Elsewhere, I’ve expressed the hope that there may have been nobler, hidden reasons for Tony Blair’s backing for the USA in Iraq, such as the need to be ‘in’ with George Bush in order to exercise influence over his choices and steer him away from even more disastrous courses of action. Also, I wondered whether Mr Blair’s new role of Middle East peace envoy had been taken on partly out of a wish to make reparation for the damage to the whole region and the escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for which the Iraq War has been responsible. Mr Blair is a highly intelligent man, and his decision to become a Catholic demonstrates he’s also a man who is finally having the courage of his convictions. He must know that it’s the divisions in Israel-Palestine that are the ultimate source of Islamically inspired terrorism; and that bringing peace in the Holy Land, rather than bringing war to the Middle East, is the only way to defeat the terrorists.

Blessed are the peacemakers. The proof of Tony Blair’s religious conversion will be if he can show that he is one.

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20 December 2007

Nick Clegg: No ambition for England, just like the other parties

At the start of his acceptance speech on his election two days ago as the leader of the Liberal Democrats – or, as I like to call them, the English-UK Liberal Democrats (see From a UK Of England and Semi-Autonomous Regions To a UK Of Autonomous Nations) – Nick Clegg stated: “Today is about two things: ambition, and change. . . . Renewed ambition to reach out to the millions of people who share our values, but have not yet voted for us. It’s about renewed ambition for Britain. Because we want to change politics, and change Britain”.

The rest of Mr Clegg’s speech went on to define this agenda of change for Britain (or, as I would put it, England-Britain) based on reaffirming liberalism as the core of those ‘British values’ that have supposedly not been represented by the two other big parties, Labour and the Conservatives. Indeed, to such an extent is liberalism the heart of British values that, in the new leader’s words, “I believe that liberalism is the thread that holds together everything this country stands for. Pull out that thread and the fabric of the nation unravels”.

Needless to say, ‘this country’ and ‘the nation’ are intended to refer to ‘Britain’ (i.e. the UK) even though on many of the policy areas in which Nick Clegg aims to effect his liberal transformation of the country, his direct influence will be limited to England; e.g. in education and health where he seeks a Britain “where parents, pupils and patients are in charge of our schools and hospitals”. (And, by the way, how does this vision for what are effectively England’s schools and NHS differ fundamentally from those recently outlined by GB [Gordon Brown] and David Cameron?)

But most of the speech passes over such England-specific realities. This is the broad vision thing, addressing fundamental values and general policy areas where there is still the scope for a Britain-wide politics; indeed, where politics, and the people and nation of Britain, can be reunited and reconnected: “our politics is broken. Out of step with people. Out of step with the modern world. That is why I have one sole ambition: to change Britain to make it the liberal country the British people want it to be. I want a new politics: a people’s politics. I want to live in a country where rights, freedoms and privacy are not the playthings of politicians, but safeguarded for everyone. Where political life is not a Westminster village freak show, but open, accessible, and helpful in people’s everyday lives”.

So Nick Clegg’s liberal vision is a vision for Britain and of Britain. But it is not a vision for England, nor indeed for Scotland or Wales, let alone for a Northern Ireland that could be regarded as having been left out of the picture amid all the references to ‘Britain’ as ‘the country’: ten references to ‘Britain’ or ‘British’, in fact, and none for any of the four individual nations that make up the UK. Indeed, Nick Clegg’s vision starts to look very similar to that of GB, who can refer to ‘the nation’ and his vision for it only as ‘Britain’; and to that of David Cameron, who thinks the Union’s interests outweigh fairness to the people of England and wants to be a prime minister for the UK not England. Similarly, Nick Clegg’s vision of liberalism as the core set of values that cements and defines the unity and nation of Britain leaves no scope for the divided realities of governance and politics in each of the UK countries.

But what if the way the English people want politics to become ‘in step’ with them, open and accessible is through an English parliament that focuses properly on the England-specific matters currently dealt with by an unrepresentative UK parliament and government headed up by someone not even elected in England?

But no, there is no place in Nick Clegg’s vision of national and political transformation for English devolution and equal governance for the four nations of the UK. Mr Clegg’s vision for representative government within England-Britain involves devolution and accountability at local and regional level only: a politics of Town Halls and regions, not of national parliaments. “That’s why I will hold regular and public Town Hall Meetings. . . . That’s why I will spend at least one day every week listening and campaigning outside Westminster. That’s why I will set up a network of real families, who have nothing to do with party politics, in every region of this country to advise me on what they think should be my priorities”.

What are the ‘regions of this country’, Nick Clegg; indeed, what is ‘this country’ that you claim that only liberalism can truly represent? Is Scotland a region of this country? Is Wales a region of it? Is England just a collection of regions, on a par with Scotland and Wales, but with no distinct status as a nation? Because ‘this country’ is Britain? Or is ‘this country’ in fact England; but you regard it as irrelevant to say so because you believe England should be divided up into regions of similar population size and political status to the nations of Scotland and Wales? Now where have I heard that idea before?

What if the ordinary people in the Town Halls of England and the real families in the regions of England say they want English government on matters that affect English people, and fair treatment for English families and young people in the distribution of public funding for health, social welfare and education between the nations of the UK? What if they say they want an English parliament that is on an equal footing to the parliament and assembly of Scotland and Wales? Will the new Liberal Democrat leader be able to come up with answers to such questions when he’s faced by them?

It’s early days yet; but the prognosis from his Day One inspirational speech is not good. Mr Clegg’s vision of liberalism, politics and the country is one for Britain only and, indeed, for a ‘one-Britain’ that no longer exists on the ground. As the new leader stated at the end of his speech: “we must start where people are, not where we think they should be. In short, I want the Liberal Democrats to be the future of politics. . . . To bring in a new politics. Of politicians who listen to people, not themselves. No more business as usual. No more government-knows-best. I want today to mark the beginning of real change in Britain. The beginning of Britain’s liberal future”.

But if ‘where people are’ is England and what they want is a political future for England, while the politicians and the government are still focused on Britain, is there a Liberal Democrat vision for such a thing?

10 December 2007

Flying the Flag: Union or Nation?

Is it my imagination or are more national flags being flown on public buildings and at private homes across the four countries of the United Kingdom? I was struck by this, again, when I went down to London a couple of times last week. There were certainly more flags – mostly Union Jacks – than I’d noticed before atop flagpoles next to large hotels, or billowing out above shop entrances in the place where you’d expect to see the shop sign. I can’t speak for government buildings, as I didn’t pass any.

But the appearance of Union Jacks in commercial settings was perhaps of even greater symbolic significance. It was as if they were proclaiming, “This is London you’re in now – the capital of a great, vibrant, commercial nation: the United Kingdom”. For all the controversy that now surrounds it, the Union Jack can still carry the weight of such national pride. It’s a great symbol, really: a global icon that ranks in ‘brand recognition’ right alongside the Stars and Stripes or the Communist Red Flag. No wonder that our London-centric, power-obsessed politicians are so loathe to give it up!

Nor should they, or we, really. There is no reason why the Union Jack should not continue to serve as the visual symbol for the United Kingdom in whatever form in which that state survives. This is despite the recent suggestion of Welsh Labour MP Ian Lucas that the Red Dragon from the Welsh national flag should be incorporated in the Union Flag’s design. For non-initiates, the reasoning behind this is that the three-cross design of the flag makes reference only to England (upright red Cross of St. George on white background), Scotland (diagonal white Cross of St. Andrew on dark blue background) and Ireland (diagonal red Cross of St. Patrick on white background) – but not to Wales. If I had to choose between the two options, rather than messing up the neatness and cleverness of the Union Jack’s design by sticking a red dragon on it, I’d try to incorporate into it the Cross of St. David, Wales’s patron saint, which would be consistent with the conception behind the existing flag. This is a yellow cross on a black background. One rendition of how this might look is pictured below:

New_Union_Flag_proposal_by_Liam_Roberts

For all its politically correct and historically sensitive efforts to be inclusive, however, this ‘Inclusion Jack’ is a bit of a dog’s dinner visually, and it does rather ruin a powerful national and international emblem. I am in fact quite sympathetic to the objective of adding some explicit Welsh element to the Union Flag. As the son of a Welsh mother and English father growing up in England, I myself went through a phase of feeling indignant that the Union Jack made no overt reference to Wales. That said, the need to be inclusive in this way should be less acutely felt nowadays than then. As Wales has now acquired a substantial measure of self-government and official recognition as a distinct nation, the Red Dragon can be hoisted above official buildings across that land; whereas before, if any flag had been used, it would usually have been the Union Jack. And indeed, when I travelled to rural West Wales for the funeral of a family friend a couple of months ago, I did notice that the Welsh flag was being displayed more proudly and prominently than I’m sure was the case before.

I haven’t been to Scotland for many years, but I’m certain that in these days of devolved government, the Cross of St. Andrew must also be cropping up in all sorts of places where hitherto either the Union Flag or none would have been preferred. In England, too, as is well known, the Cross of St. George has largely superseded the Union Jack in popular affection and usage. I say that, but when I spent a couple of weeks in rural Lancashire towards the start of this year, it was the Union Flag that swung from poles in pubs or country gardens, not the Cross of St. George. Whether there’s some particularly strong unionist connection in that county, or whether this preference for the Union Jack is linked to local support for the BNP (related to ethnic tensions in Lancastrian cities such as Blackburn or Burnley), I don’t know. But generally, it is the red cross on a white background that is now viewed and used as the national flag by most English people.

By the people, that is, not the state. The irony of Ian Lucas’s intervention is that he should be pushing for more inclusion of the Welsh flag within that of the Union at the very time when the official use of the Union Flag in England is perceived by many as excluding, or precluding, the use of the Cross of St. George and, with it, the affirmation of English national identity. From this perspective, it is as if calls to add the Red Dragon on to the Union Jack – however fair in one respect – are adding insult to injury: not only can English people not expect to see ‘their’ national flag flying from public buildings, but also the Red Dragon is stuck onto the British flag as a permanent reminder of a historical injustice perpetrated by the English towards the Welsh: denial of recognition as a distinct nation, rather than as just a principality subsumed into England.

For, in fact, this historical situation is now reversed: it is England that is denied any official, constitutional status as a distinct nation within the UK; while the other three countries of the Union do now enjoy semi-separate nation status. And flying the Union Jack rather than the Cross of St. George on English public and government buildings is increasingly becoming a symbol of the denial of nationhood to the English.

How can these two not unreasonable but conflicting demands be reconciled: the Welsh wish to add some overt symbol of their country to the Union Flag; and the English desire to fly the Cross of St. George rather than the Union Flag? There is a simple solution that would obviate the need to ruin the design principles or ‘brand impact’ of the Union Jack. Separate versions of the Union Flag could be authorised for each nation in the UK that would incorporate their own national flags in miniature into the top-left corner of the flag in a similar way that the Australian and New Zealand flags or the Royal Navy Ensign insert the Union Flag. Specifically, each national flag could fill the quarter of the Union Jack demarcated by the lateral left-hand and vertical top bars of the red cross, i.e. they would go over the white surround to the red cross on that part of the flag. (This is simply because it would make the English and Northern Irish flags appear neater when inserted in this way, rather than having extra bits of white around their border deriving from the Union Flag.)

This solution would mean that the Welsh could have their Union Jack plus Red Dragon. It could be made explicit in the legislation or regulations establishing these flags that each country-specific version of the Union Flag was not exclusively for use in that country alone: that each version was a fully authorised variation on the Union Jack that could be flown in any part of the Union whenever and wherever it was felt appropriate. For example, the Welsh version could be flown by Welsh Guards regiments, even those based in England, or on ceremonies or visits involving the Prince of Wales – or wherever, really.

Similarly, the English version of the Union Jack – same flag as now but with the Cross of St. George flag inserted into the top-left corner – would enable national- and local-government and other public-sector organisations to fly both the Union Flag and the English flag at the same time. Some purists and English nationalists (among whom I count myself, by the way) might object to this compromise solution, feeling that only the Cross of St. George will do. But at least my suggestion would enable both sides of the argument to be assuaged to a limited extent: the new English version of the Union Flag would be both a fully authorised UK flag, of equivalent status to the unadulterated Union Jack, and it would prominently display the English national symbol. Better to have some recognition of England’s existence as a nation within the UK – which such a country-specific version of the Union Flag neatly symbolises – than none. If nothing else, this enables cost-conscious local authorities or hospitals, for instance, to be able to display both the UK and the English flag, if they were minded to, without having to invest in a second flag pole and incurring the extra costs of maintaining two sets of flags!

I’m assuming that the Northern Irish version of the flag would use the red upright cross, red hand and crown of the Ulster flag, rather than the Cross of St. Patrick. But that could well be somewhat controversial, to say the least, and the politicians there might have to compromise on the Flag of St. Patrick, which after all is used in the Union Jack now. I could see the thing getting rather party-political in Scotland, too, with SNP-led authorities tending to prefer to fly the Scottish flag alone, while unionist party-controlled authorities might choose the Scotland-specific version of the Union Flag.

However, that would be their affair, just as it should really be England’s choice whether to fly the Union Flag or the Cross of St. George on government buildings. But until we’re free to make that choice, having a version of the Union Jack that also includes the red cross of England seems like a satisfying and, dare I say it, sensible English compromise.

8 December 2007

From a UK Of England and Semi-Autonomous Regions To a UK Of Autonomous Nations

We English, for all our faults, are very polite and respectful of other nations’ sensitivities. So much so that we don’t even call our own country by its name so as to make sure that all who live here feel included and equal. However, now it’s got to the point that the very existence of our country as an officially recognised nation is under threat. While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to govern significant parts of their own domestic affairs and have been awarded official constitutional status as distinct nations within the UK, England remains without such privileges. The territory known as England is, officially, just the part of the UK whose affairs, domestic and international, continue to be regulated exclusively by the central UK government. In addition, as is well known, there are some who would like to dismember the territory of England altogether by splitting it up into a number of regions with devolved powers similar to those of Scotland and Wales. This would be the political fulfilment of a concept of the UK, in Gordon Brown’s words, as a “Britain of nations and regions” – England having been finally wiped off the map as a nation and replaced by regions.

One of the forms in which the official non-existence of England is manifested is by the way in which the government, and also the opposition parties to a large extent, carry on as if legislation, decisions and public services that effectively now relate to England only are still matters for the UK as a whole. I don’t mean this just in the sense that MPs from the other nations of the UK are entitled to vote on them even if the corresponding matters for their own countries are now dealt with by devolved administrations (the so-called West Lothian Question). I mean this also in the symbolic sense: that in discussion, debate and presentation of legislation and the work of government, the fact that so much of it concerns England exclusively is barely remarked upon; and everything is referred to as if it affected the whole ‘nation’, i.e. the UK. As I’ve commented in several previous posts, Gordon Brown himself has a pathological aversion to uttering the words ‘England’ or ‘English’, even when he’s speaking about policies and legislation on matters such as education and health where his government’s remit is for England only. There is an obvious reason for this avoidance, of course: that if he was more honest and did make explicit which bits of his legislative programme and ‘vision’ for ‘the country’ related to England only, English people would question even more his legitimacy as a de facto English prime minister in so many respects, but one who does not even represent an English constituency.

Countless examples could be given of the way that official documentation and websites relating to Westminster government departments whose powers in all but England have been devolved continue to describe themselves as the UK / national bodies, while referring readers or website visitors on to the separate bodies and regulations for the other countries of the UK. Of course, this asymmetry affects the very name of those ministries or public bodies: there is no ‘English Department for Education’ or ‘Department of Health for England’ to match the Scottish Education Department or the Welsh Department for Health and Social Services; only The Department for Children, Schools and Families, or The Department of Health. I was again struck by these disparities yesterday when replying to a comment on the Campaign for an English Parliament News Blog accusing Gordon Brown of lying when he stated that there is only one – British – NHS. This is clearly not true, at least not in the way Gordon Brown intended it. There are quite distinct NHS organisations in England, Scotland and Wales – different names, different structures, different websites and, as we know, differential funding. Visit the websites for NHS Scotland or NHS Wales (otherwise known as GIG Cymru), and you’re in no doubt which country’s health service is involved. Do a Google search for ‘NHS in England’, however, and you’ll be sent to the ‘national’ NHS website where, from the home page at least, you’d be hard put to realise that this was the NHS site for England only and not the UK as a whole. You have to dig a bit further to realise that you won’t find any information specific to health districts or services in Scotland or Wales, but only in England.

Usually, ‘England’ is mentioned explicitly in such official documentation or political debate only when it is critically important to spell out the fact that the points being made affect England alone, e.g. in the actual text of Acts of Parliament; or where people in Scotland and Wales need to be referred on to the information that concerns them – as they, too, could easily be misled into thinking that information that passes itself off as UK-wide does relate to the whole of the UK rather than to England alone (see, for example, the page on the ‘UK’ NHS website describing the NHS’s organisational structure, where they have to spell out that the information is for England only, and links are provided to the NHS sites for the three other UK countries).

The erasure of the word ‘England’ from the nomenclature and language of what is effectively English government and politics can engender an understandable sense of paranoia, especially in a context where England is bereft of any separate constitutional status, and where so many influential figures (including Gordon Brown) seemingly want to wish it out of existence.

But there is a different way of configuring all of this. You could say that one reason why the government and ‘impartial’ media (such as the BBC and ITN) refuse to refer to the government and public bodies in their England-only aspects as those of England is that this could create the impression that the nation is England. The people of Scotland and Wales have always felt, with much justification, that the UK government was – in all but name – the English government; and that, given the overwhelming numerical, economic and political dominance of England within the UK, they were effectively ruled by England as if they were a part of England. Now that, post-devolution, the Westminster government serves a dual purpose as both the government of the UK (in retained matters) and the government of England (in matters devolved to the other countries), if you started to explicitly refer to the government in the latter respects as the English government, then people could start thinking of it as the English government in the retained areas as well. Far better, from this perspective, to keep hammering on about it being the British government – even in England-only matters – than to let the impression develop that what devolution is really about is England devolving some but not all of its powers to ‘nations’ that have for centuries effectively – in terms of the realities of power – been English regions.

As I have remarked in a previous post on devolution, the British / UK government, parliament and state are effectively the English government, parliament and state. This is not just a default position (‘they’re what serves as the English state and parliament in the absence of a properly autonomous constitutional status for England’); nor simply a reflection of the above-mentioned political realities (‘the UK state is the English state because it is, and has always been, controlled by the English in their own national interest’). The UK state (more loosely referred to as ‘Britain’) is the English state because it is the form in which England has defined itself in official national and constitutional terms ever since the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707.

I aim to go into this aspect of the question in more detail in a subsequent post. But the paradox I’m trying to point out here is that English official organisations and media find it impossible to refer to themselves verbally as English because the very discourse through which Englishness has articulated itself officially for centuries is that of Britishness. English may have become the international language; but there is no place within it, officially, for the nation of England. In its international persona as Britain, England belongs to everyone, just as does the English language – but not in any special way to the ‘English’. But the point is that this self-effacement of the English behind Britishness and internationalism is, and has been, precisely an English self-effacement and the form that the English have chosen to give their statehood and statesmanship. Britain is the political identity or persona of England; British political and national institutions, where no separate English-only equivalent exists, are English institutions in all but name; and Britishness is a projection of part of Englishness – and not always the best part.

So Britain is England. This is something the Scottish and Welsh have always understood, defining their own nationhood in opposition to the English-British overlords. But that doesn’t mean that England is Britain. England is real and distinct: the national identity – the heart and soul – of most of the people born and brought up in the part of the UK whose affairs are entirely regulated by the Westminster government. Britain is the English state: created by the English and shared with (and increasingly spurned by) the rest of the UK. As I stated in that previous post on devolution, this symbiosis of England and Britain is one of the reasons why the British political establishment is so blind to the very concept of devolution for England: the logic being that England cannot be devolved from itself (i.e. Britain). And on this logic, devolution makes sense only for the non-English parts of England-Britain, which, precisely, are devolved from England.

But the British establishment is trying very hard to perpetuate the identification of England with Britain. This is, indeed, the only way it can ensure the survival of ‘Britain’ as the English state: a unitary structure through which the English have fooled themselves they were not the unwelcome, autocratic masters of the Scots and Welsh by transforming themselves and everyone else into equal, democratic Britons. How much of the oft-voiced fear about the dire consequences of breaking up the ‘Union’ is to do not so much with the supposed break up of the United Kingdom per se but the shattering of an English illusion of greatness: the illusory identity of ‘Britain’ itself as the projection of England’s historic ideals concerning the greatness of its international power and civilisation – of Great Britain? The more the reality of that greatness fades into a historic past, the more certain parts of the establishment cling on to the dream. But as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland distance themselves from the centre of British power, the only nation over which the establishment can continue to impose Britishness is England. But this denial of Englishness on the part of the ‘British’ establishment only shows that establishment up all the more as, at core, English.

The establishment may wish to deny England in the name of an international Britain: to call England Britain. But the people of England increasingly seek to be called by their own name and to determine their own destiny – just as do the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: freed from the British shackles. So one way in which we can begin to effect this change is to start calling Britain England. This would be a way to resist the systematic suppression of all references to England within official discourse and national institutions: by systematically reinserting ‘English’ and ‘England’ into all mentions of the ‘British’ state or nation. This would point up the fact that Britain / the UK is the English state in all but name; and by naming it England, this would highlight the fact that Britain is not yet the kind of properly English state or nation that English people want and deserve: English government for and by the English people.

The best way I can think of doing this is through combinations of ‘England-Britain’ or ‘English-British’, etc. For instance, where a government body or representative is referring to their work or policies for the nation (meaning England), in describing those policies, one could strive to always add a reference to England. So in the case of the national NHS website referred to above, it would be appropriate to call this the ‘national UK website for NHS England’ (on the analogy of ‘NHS Scotland’ and ‘NHS Wales’). Similarly, while talking of the (UK) Department of Health, one could refer to it as ‘the UK Department of Health for England’. Prime minister Gordon Brown could be termed ‘the UK prime minister for England’ or even the ‘Scottish English prime minister’ in relation to devolved matters; and the ‘England-UK prime minister’ in all other matters.

The point of these constructions is that they involve deliberately incongruous combinations of England + Britain or UK; and the combinations should be both as explanatory and incongruous as possible – in other words, showing an awareness of the ‘official’ status of the body or person concerned as ‘British’, while signalling the fact they are doing double duty for England, too. In matters where one wishes to suggest disapproval, from an English perspective, of the conduct of the British state carried out in England’s name, one could put ‘Britain’ before ‘England’; e.g. ‘the involvement of British-English troops in Iraq’. Conversely, where you want to suggest that a ‘British’ policy or action, domestic or international, is the expression of English values or attitudes, ‘England’ could be put first: ‘English-British fair play’; ‘England-Britain’s Special Relationship with the USA’; etc.

The point being that ‘Britain’, up to now, has been an English creation and entity; but one which, as the Scots and Welsh are freeing themselves from its grip, is turning its attention to subordinating the English themselves. So what I’m advocating is English-linguistic insubordination to point out the realities suppressed by the illusions of Britishness. Britain / the UK is the English state; and the partially devolved constitution we have now is a UK of England and semi-autonomous regions (Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland). Some of the Britologists, as was pointed out above, want to re-imagine this as a Britain of nations (Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland) and regions. But how much is that not ultimately a kind of endgame of English-Britishness: the self-denial of England along with the levelling of any real difference between England and the other countries of the UK in an all-embracing Britain. Because, effectively, such a scenario would just create multiple British regions of equivalent status, thereby stripping Scotland and Wales (if they were locked into such a federal scenario) of any distinctive political and constitutional status: as nations defining themselves as distinct from England, rather than as homogeneous British regions. Such a federal Britain would be in none of the existing nation’s interests because they would cease to exist as nations: because there would be only one nation – England-Britain.

We don’t want either a UK of England and regions, or a Britain of nations and regions – but a United Kingdom of autonomous nations. Until that day arrives, the establishment will continue to try to absorb England into Britain, and Britain will continue as the de facto English state. But English people must continue to point out the ambiguous duality of this ‘UK government for England’.

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