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Mark Steyn

Steyn on Britain and Europe

Disunion Jack

Further to my note on last week's UK election, Mark Wilson writes from beautiful County Down:

Hey there, Mark is of course right when he says that no one outside Northern Ireland cares about the difference between the 'official ' unionists (or their name, since the 'official' went out years ago!) and the DUP. Lots of people in Northern Ireland don't care either and want a united unionist party which can ally with English, Scottish and Welsh parties as our interests coincide. That's quite a traditional British position, do you not think?

Anyway, for people like me stuck in the sticks with unrepentent sectarian murderers failing to represent us by refusing to go to Westminister, the greater truth is that it's better to be represented by any respectable unionist than any nationalist. Sorry for bothering you with trifles - may providence smile on you lot in your battle with the climatologists!

Mark Wilson

Well, I wouldn't call the disintegration of the Mother of Parliaments a "trifle". (I wouldn't call Michael E Mann a climatologist, either, but that's another matter.) You allude to Sinn Féin members who won't go to Westminster because they refuse to take their oath of allegiance to the Queen. But you don't need to steer clear of Westminster to decline allegiance in a broader sense. When the Kingdom of Scotland votes as overwhelmingly for the SNP as the (southern and western parts of the) Kingdom of Ireland did for Sinn Féin in 1918, they too are refusing allegiance to the existing political arrangements.

Britain's national parties have the worst case of shrinkage since that Sudanese vanishing-penis epidemic. In 1868 every single constituency in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales elected either a Conservative or a Liberal. Six years later, 30 seats went to the Home Rule League, which evolved into Parnell and Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party. Don't be fooled by the name: there's still a few Liverpudlians with distant memories of a chap called T P O'Connor, who held a seat in the city for the IPP from 1885 to 1929, by which time the Irish Parliamentary Party had ceased to exist in Ireland, if not on Merseyside.

For the next half-century, Britons had a two-and-a-half party system, with the exception of a handful of eccentrics. Not until 1974 did Westminster see the emergence, as a permanent feature of electoral life, of Scots, Ulster and Welsh parties consciously holding themselves aloof from the possibility of participation in government (the above-mentioned IPP, although a nationalist party, sat on the government benches at Westminster from time to time.) A lot of people thought the Unionists would return to the Tory bosom during the Thatcher era, but they never did and the short-lived re-emergence of a Unionist/Tory alliance a few years ago prompted the UUP's only sitting member, Lady Hermon, to quit the party.

So the question is this: Until last week, the Scots have never elected more than half-a-dozen Scots Nats members. Is last week's SNP one-party state a spasm, after which Labour and the Liberals, if not the Tories, will re-emerge as viable northern parties? Or will the spasm prove permanent?

So in 1868 the Conservative and Liberal parties accounted for every MP in the British Isles. A century and a half later, even as more and more Celtic nationalists of one variety or another shrug off British identity, the central establishment has devoted most of its energies to suppressing any expression of English nationalism. Why should England be the only ones obliged to carry on being British? As I note in After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc, etc):

In Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England, the state accounts for between 73 and 78 per cent of the economy, which is about the best Big Government can hope to achieve without full-scale Sovietization.

Maybe Southern England should secede from the United Kingdom. Or maybe Nigel should rename UKIP the Home Rule League.

Meanwhile, apropos the tense new tightrope strung across British politics between Scottish secession and English Europhobia, Richard Wilson writes:

I cheered hard for Scottish independence, but not as hard as I will cheer for UK separation from the EU in the event Cameron carries through on his promise of a referendum (which I doubt). I feel the EU is a great evil and has got to break up in order to preserve the borders and cultures of all the various member nations.

For this reason it was jarring to see English blokes waving the Union Jack and cheering when the Scottish voted for union. Were these idiots really so stupid not to see a single chess move or two ahead? If Scotland leaves, the anti-EU bloc in the UK is strengthened, and consequently there remains a faint flicker of hope for an English England -- and isn't this the point? Isn't it likewise stupid for the Scottish to hope to slough off the UK just so they can latch on to Brussels, and enjoy all that entails until Scotland becomes just a place name on a map? Ditto with the supposedly nationalist Irish groups.

I had the same reaction on seeing the reaction to the Scottish referendum of writers like Jonah Goldberg and Neill Ferguson as I did to that of the pub blokes. Isn't the EU the big problem? What's wrong with the UK cracking up exactly? I would frankly cheer for breakup of the USA, into blocs of states, new states within the existing states, pretty much anything where power becomes less centralized and the interests of diverse groups can be represented. I have secession fever. Anything but the status quo, which feels permanent and fatal.

So as to your passage above: yes it's an unhealthy result, where the patient at issue is the UK. But that's fine, because the patient needs an amputation or two to become truly healthy, and then the patient needs to permanently check out of the EU hospital, or some other metaphor. Isn't nationalism vs. internationalism what it all comes down to, and shouldn't we loudly cheer the forces of nationalism everywhere, for the sake of western civilization?

from Steyn on Britain, May 14, 2015

 

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