Interesting thoughts on the nature of Britishness, and why, when it’s been a muddy concept, at least in terms of entry, it needs clipping and re-defining. But, asks Tony Wright, what about the English Question:
Since the eighteenth century a light top dressing of Britishness has served to keep the muddle going, much to our advantage, and with luck and cultivation may continue to do so. It is now becoming clear though that this will need at least some constitutional tidying up. Lop-sided devolution has made this inevitable. Those who warned that devolution to Scotland and Wales would trigger the break-up of Britain have turned out to be emphatically wrong. Those who argued for devolution as a means of keeping the British project up and running have been no less emphatically vindicated. Yet it has, ineluctably, also created the English Question, and it is to this that attention now has to turn. The future of Britain, and of Britishness, may well depend on whether we can find a convincing answer to it.
And he may have found the very question that could make future Gordon Brown premiership a success with England:
There is a huge political and intellectual challenge here, which it will be difficult to evade for much longer. If we still had royal commissions, we should put one to work on the English Question. It would explore the implications for England of the devolution settlement, in both its aspects. It would take up where Gladstone left off and offer a modern version of Home Rule All Round. It would devolve power to England, and within England.
This is where Gordon Brown comes in. He wants to be a constitutional reformer. His ambition to strengthen Britishness will require him at some point to attend to the matter of England. Not only would it be fitting if it was a Scottish prime minister who brought devolution to England, it would also be politically astute. Flying the flag for Britain is the easy bit. Now speak for England, Gordon.