Friday, 10 July 2009

No gimmicks. Just a constructive approach to Britishness.

I mentioned in a previous piece Tim Montgomerie’s open letter to David Cameron, in which he urged the Conservative leader to place Britishness at the centre of the party’s election campaign. Conservative Home today carries Cameron’s reply. In it he argues that patriotic pride is a bottom up phenomenon, inspired chiefly by providing citizens with something to be proud of.

It is a sound response to Montgomerie’s missive because it rules out the option of entering a ‘flag waving’ contest with Gordon Brown, whilst showing an innate understanding of the civic nature of Britishness, whereby institutions, history and certain common cultural coordinates draw a diverse nation together, rather than race, perceived ethnicity or a narrow prescription of culture.

In the previous article I contrasted the conceptual nature of Brown’s unionism with Cameron’s genuine engagement as regards matters pertaining to the Union. By seeking to secure Northern Ireland’s full participation in national politics, the Conservatives have already converted unionist rhetoric into meaningful action. Whether a Conservative government is equipped to strengthen the Union or not, time will tell, but there is every sign that unionism will be embedded within its policies, in a fashion which Labour cannot match. The constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will be a prime policy consideration for the next government.

“We are the only party that has representation in every region of the UK - including Northern Ireland. We will fight the SNP every inch of the way over their attempts to break our Union apart. And when it comes to the EU, we will always be a strong voice for national sovereignty.”


So, where Labour suggested gimmicks and big government engineering, Cameron promises a more evolutionary approach whereby citizens are given the opportunity to strengthen their sense of identity.

“Britain is bigger than the government it has. Ultimately, Britishness is about Britons. It grows and evolves from the bottom up. It can never be defined by one motto or one politician, but by millions of individuals whose identity is the product of many ingredients. So if we’re serious about strengthening our national identity we should do whatever we can to give these individuals reasons to feel pride in their country.”


Rather than seeking to achieve this aim by inventing national days, introducing mottos or requiring school children to sign an oath of allegiance, changing policies which enervate a sense of Britishness will do more to strengthen commitment to Britain. Thus the Tories propose to curb the worst excesses of multiculturalism. Dominic Grieve has spoken persuasively on the topic, and in Cameron’s piece he too emphasises the undesirability of encouraging a ‘community of communities’. The government must stop interacting with minorities as atomised, imporous units, through unelected, self- appointed representatives. Britons, shaped by whichever particular culture or ethnicity, should be treated as individuals by the state.

Likewise, although abstract values can be identified which characterise Britain, they are not unique to the United Kingdom or its people. We do, however, have a set of unique institutions which often embody those values and which define our political identity. So it is not sufficient for Gordon Brown to stress the importance of ‘liberty, fair play, openness’ whilst he simultaneously emasculates the Houses of Parliament and erodes the very virtues which he claims make Britain what it is. Where is the point in being ostentatiously proud of our armed forces, yet sending them into battle funded for peace time?

Cameron also finds space to address the issue of British history in schools. He favours a less bitesize methodology whereby students would learn key dates and facts in the national story. I have already recorded my approval of this approach.

It is encouraging that the probable successor to Gordon Brown seems to possess a more inherent understanding of what Britishness entails than the current prime minister. What we need is a government which consistently assesses how its policy will affect the Union and develops its programme on that basis. Cameron should leave the gimmicks to Labour.

19 comments:

loki said...

Good. Glad to see a unionist as a persuader for the Union rather than the little ulsterism we're used to from the DUP. I look forward to seeing some decent ideas actually being implemented from this platform.

Wardog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chekov said...

You're persona non grata here I'm afraid.

Chekov said...

Not loki. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have high hopes as long as they don't allow themseves to be dragged down by any failure on the part of the UUP to move forwards.

I suspect the UUP have members at all levels who are still living the UUP's glorious past, e.g. Lady Hermon.

They must not be allowed to contrain the ambitions of the Conservatives either here or in GB to change our society.

CB

Cokatoo said...

An interesting article from David Cameron and one that I would tend to agree with.

PS Who's 'persona non grata'

Stroopy said...

“We are the only party that has representation in every region of the UK "

So so true, Labour can never claim this.

The sooner that we regain parliament from the jocks the better.

loki said...

Why am I 'persona non grata'?

English Oak said...

“Britain is bigger than the government it has. Ultimately, Britishness is about Britons. It grows and evolves from the bottom up. It can never be defined by one motto or one politician, but by millions of individuals whose identity is the product of many ingredients. So if we’re serious about strengthening our national identity we should do whatever we can to give these individuals reasons to feel pride in their country.”

Exactly right, we can't allow just anyone to be English

First they should speak our language and wear our clothes and adhere to our customs.

Ruth Mackenzie said...

Cameron is so wrong on this, he's playing a dangerous game between the BNP's rhetoric and New Labour's multi-cultural state and I'm concerned that he's going to get caught in-between.

The scots won't stand for an Eton toff lecturing them about British History, I noticed that he's also said in the times that there will be no further powers to Scotland, despite paying out £500,000 on Calman.

Liberal Toad said...

"undesirability of encouraging a ‘community of communities"

Cameron defines"state multiculturalism" as "the idea that we should respect different cultures within Britain to the point of allowing them – indeed encouraging them – to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream."

"Multiculturalism was manipulated to entrench the right to difference "


This is inflammatory stuff.

Flip it on it's head and apply it to the British staying in Greece, Spain, Hungary , France and Italy

The nasty party seems to be alive and well.

Clochan Knocker said...

Cameron has doen a great job over the last six months setting out the innate civic nature of Britishness.

Brown seems to have fallen by the wayside in this respect.

Cameron's firm stance against the nats here in Scotland is long overdue.. The sooner that we desolve the parliament here the better.

Lot's of people in Scotland are british first and Scottish a far second

Strathspey said...

Cameron is a one trick pony, his uncompromising rhetoric on 'britishness' will end the union for sure.

The Red Lion said...

It's about time we had an Englishman point towards what being british is really all about.

Godfrey O'Toole said...

"We will fight the SNP every inch of the way over their attempts to break our Union apart. And when it comes to the EU, we will always be a strong voice for national sovereignty.”

Is it just me or does anyone else notice the contradiction in this statement?

European Union = Bad?
Scottish Union = Good?

I wonder why that is?

Surely if both the Scots and the Europeans are bleeding England dry then they would merit the same treatment?

Anonymous said...

Cameron is playing a very dangerous game here, this type of rhetoric might play well for the far right of his party, UKIP voters and the odd BNP voter but it sounds alarm bells in middle England.

John Strone said...

"The constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will be a prime policy consideration for the next government. "

This appears to be to the deficit of democratic representation if Cameron's quotes in today's papers are to be believed. He is proposing no constitutional change for Scotland until 2015.

Does he really think that will stem the the separatist's increasing support?

Chekov said...

Why am I 'persona non grata'?

loki (if it is loki making the comment) you're not. The deleted comment is by Wardog, who is banned for his antics on the Sean Russell thread. He would, by the way, be as well to stop spamming.

loki said...

2nd comment wasn't made by me- the real loki. So cheers for that Chekov.
BTW in response to Cameron palying a danerous game- he's not. Most of middle England is subconsiously unionist. They don't think about it, but they'd miss it if it wasn't there. Certainly, having lived there for years, that's always the way I saw it. It's not instinctive as such, it's just buried in the deeper parts of their mindset. Does that make sense?