Tuesday, 4 November 2008

'Neo-unionism' flourishing throughout the UK

Via Tom Griffin, blogging at Our Kingdom, a long article examining comparative strength of the Union in all four of its constituent parts. John Loyd writes in the Financial Times, marshalling a range of mainly unionist opinion, expressing both optimism and pessimism as to the Union’s future and differing in its analysis as to how execrable and irreversible the influence of Labour’s devolution experiment has proved.

Although there are voices which view devolution as a necessary means of recognising difference and siphoning off nationalist virulence against the Union, there is little doubt, amongst these interviewees, that Labour’s piecemeal, asymmetrical approach has provided succour to nationalism. It is worth looking at a few of the views propounded by the figures whose opinion Loyd sought.

Neil Kinnock,

“There is no devolution ‘settlement’, in the sense of a stable deal. There is a slippery slope, which presently benefits the nationalists. They have a permanent excuse: all bad things come from London, all good things will flow when we are free.”

Lord Trimble,

“The presence of devolved government in the UK greatly reduces the main nationalists’ argument – that a Westminster government of a different stripe gives the central government no mandate. There will be friction – but that is in the nature of such arrangements. The Union remains.”

Arthur Aughey,

“Devolution has transformed Britishness into a permanent conversation about political and cultural questions. Not only politicians, but also the people, must want to continue that conversation.”

Malcolm Rifkind (on Labour’s flirtation with nationalism, on the grounds that Conservatives had ‘no mandate’ north of the border)

“It was to be expected that the Nationalists would so argue. But the Labour party wished to form a British government. To use the ‘no mandate’ argument was wholly unprincipled. It has left a legacy from which it, and we all, suffer – that a British government can lack legitimacy here.”

“When a people are repressed, you get Nelson Mandela. When they are irritated, you get Alex Salmond.”

“Why do countries break up? Because people cease to have the same assumptions, judgments, values. In the case of the UK, that is not so.”

A sense of an unashamed 'neo-unionism' is what permeates this article, despite the different takes on how that unionism might manifest itself. Despite those differences, there is much here from which to forge a coherent unionist case. Although unionists differ as to the results of devolution, there is general consensus that it is here to stay, and although the UK might be subject to constitutional re-ordering, the unionist case must be advanced within the confines of devolved reality. Devolution does not mean that the game has been lost.

There is also a common thread whereby Britishness and the United Kingdom is seen to make the best sense of our entwined, multi-layered and diverse identities within these islands. The Union actually enhances the conversations about culture, identity and history which take place within our Kingdom’s constituent parts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to know your opinion on unionism for Europe.The small minded Irish republic have rejected any greater reforms to the EU since they have had their money.They liked to think they were a little lovely repressed country but now they seem to see things differently.How strange.But thats good and thats ok too for the Portugese,the Spanish and now the Poles and the other countries of the Eastern europe.
The EU is a force for good even if nobody wants to admit it!