Unionists should not be on the sidelines of the Britishness debate

I was struck by Fair Deal’s ‘annual’ rant on the nature of the discussion on Gordon Brown’s call for the filling out of a meaningful overarching ‘British’ identity – it’s an early response to the Hearts and Minds discussion. In particular, this paragraph stands out:

He went on about how Brown hadn’t done much thinking about what this all meant. This isn’t bad, this is bloody wonderful. A person who will almost certainly hold the highest office in our country wants something to happen and seen to happen but needs help with the detail. Let’s give him some help. He has put the ball on the pitch, Unionists should not be standing looking at it complaining its one of the cheap 99p ones you get at portrush instead of those nice shiny Nike ones. Unionists should be taking the ball and scoring a few goals with it or offering him one of the nice Nike ones to play with.

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  • Feeney and Kane were right to point out that this all about preserving the right of one particular Scottish MP to hold a Prime Ministerial office whose practical powers are restricted to England in many areas.

    By highlighting the problems in the devolution settlement, Brown’s ambitions can only undermine the union.

    Even his fellow Scottish Labour MPs seem to be reaching this conclusion, and the Tories reaction has been such that it has led Labour to accuse the party of dropping its traditional unionism. Here’s what Michael Portillo had to say in today’s Sunday Times.

    At the last election the Tories pledged to disbar MPs with Scottish seats from voting on English matters, and that is one Michael Howard policy that David Cameron will not disown.

    Labour warns that such a change would create two classes of MP. So it would, and perhaps the party should have thought of that before embarking on its devolution course. Brown will be thinking that the prime minister could scarcely be chosen from the B class of parliamentarian.

    I wonder if the DUP has factored that it into its hopes of holding the balance of power at Westminster?

    The piece is worth reading in full. Who ever thought we’d read one of Mrs Thatcher’s minister’s making the nationalist case against the union?

  • Pete Baker

    But will Brown even mention his call for a wider debate on Britishness while in Belfast?

  • Rory

    Irish MP’s of any persuasion holding the balance of power at Westminster has never accomplished anything for their own cause and this is as true of Unionist as it is of Nationalist parties and applies whether or not the Irish power-broking balance was large as in Parnell’s accomodation with Gladstone or pathetically small as in Molyneaux’s propping up of Callaghan. yet politicians never learn from experience, once that diamond glow of power shines out like crack junkies they must do anything to just be close to the source.
    [Blunt is fine, Rory, but keep it civil – edited moderator]

    As to Pete Baker’s question – “I hae me doots”, Pete, as do, I suspect, you.

  • IJP

    Unionists should not be standing looking at it complaining its one of the cheap 99p ones you get at portrush instead of those nice shiny Nike ones.

    This is so alarmingly accurate it’s almost worrying, Mick.

    You have to make things happen in this life, not wait for everyone else to do it.

    Let’s just say the DUP is nearer recognizing that than the Ulster Unionists (or even their new challengers, the local Tories).

    I wonder if the DUP has factored that it into its hopes of holding the balance of power at Westminster?

    Of course it has.

    And so have the Tories in GB – worryingly for the Tories in NI…

    All that said, it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Stranger things have happened – but not many…

  • smcgiff

    MPs with Scottish seats should not be allowed to have a say on England matters, in the same way as English MPs don’t have a say on Scottish matters.

    However, Scottish MPs should be able to hold the position of PM. If this were not the case and only MPs with English seats were allowed to be PM then there would be two-tier nationality within the UK (I suppose I should say an extended two-tier system considering the Catholic position re the monarchy). The answer has to lie with a regional English parliament and a separate Westminster parliament to deal with UK matters. Is federalism such a dirty word? It works for many countries, with the US and Germany being two obvious countries where similar systems operate.

    As for Britishness – This is a good opportunity for Unionists to constructively holler about what Britishness means to them (as opposed to simply not being Irish) and to their fellow Britains. Gordon Brown is pushing Britishness for his own agenda, which may only serve to highlight the UK Mainland’s realisation that “Britishness” is as relevant as Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ‘SS Great Britain’.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The answer has to lie with a regional English parliament and a separate Westminster parliament to deal with UK matters. Is federalism such a dirty word? It works for many countries, with the US and Germany being two obvious countries where similar systems operate. ‘

    You might think that sounds reasonable but then what matters would come under the Westminster Parliament ? Defence probably ? Education probably not , Local Government certainly not ,
    Economic policy is the area where ‘devolutionists ‘ would have most cause for complaint if this area were left entirely to Westminster .

    It seems that you can’t be half independent .

    Of course those Scots who favour the Union link can try to break away from the rest of Scotland and establish their own State ? Scots Catholics tend to favour Labour and the Westminster link so all thats needed is to cut out a large swathe of Scotland where RC’s are in a local majority and Bob’s your uncle . Apparently this technique worked back in the 1920’s for another part of the UK ?

    Federalism tends to work better in countries with large land areas -The USA, Canada, Australia . Germany became a Federal State as result of World War 2. Another reason why ‘federalism ‘ works in the USA and Germany is because the Germans are Germans and the Americans are Americans . They are not divided into 3.5 Nations who call themselves English, Scots , Welsh and Northern Ireland .

  • Greenflag

    ‘Scottish MPs should be able to hold the position of PM. If this were not the case and only MPs with English seats were allowed to be PM then there would be two-tier nationality within the UK ‘

    So when was the last time a Northern Ireland MP was Prime Minister and when will there be another one ?

  • fair_deal

    Mick

    By the way do I get a card for my rant?

  • smcgiff

    ‘Of course those Scots who favour the Union link can try to break away from the rest of Scotland and establish their own State ? ‘

    There’s nowhere near enough support among Scots to become independent, and, I doubt if there’s much split down religious divides either in Scotland.

    ‘Another reason why ‘federalism’ works in the USA and Germany is because the Germans are Germans and the Americans are Americans . ‘

    It seems I’ve a higher opinion of our British cousins than yourself. 🙂

    ‘So when was the last time a Northern Ireland MP was Prime Minister and when will there be another one ?’

    You’ll never have an Irish UK PM – The Irish that are eligible (i.e. NI MPs) are far too busy with local politics to get involved in UK politics.

  • There’s nowhere near enough support among Scots to become independent, and, I doubt if there’s much split down religious divides either in Scotland.

    Insofar as there is a divide, its a mirror image of the one in Northern Ireland. Protestant suspicion of Irish Catholic incomers contributed to the early roots of the SNP, while Catholics feared an independent Scotland would be Protestant dominated. Alex Salmond has recently stepped up his strategy to try and break out of this mould.

  • Prince Eoghan

    At last!

    My own father refuses to vote SNP for precisely the reason you state Tom. I have never voted anything but Nationalist, not because I particularly agree with the Nats, more that there was no credible alternative to gain independance.

    The older generation of Catholics in central Scotland vote labour almost to a man, my own generation is breaking this mould all too slowly. However a gesture to show that the SNP are Catholic friendly could in my view win them many seats in central Scotland, that they have been hitherto unable to win. This would practically ensure independance.

    We now have two other parties in Scotland advocating independance in various degree’s, the Socialists, who are in the midst of a civil war. And the greens who I don’t think will ever win widespread support.

  • Greenflag

    Portillo: England ‘no longer needs’ Scotland

    DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor June 19 2006

    IN YOUR AREA

    Weather
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    Local News Search
    — please select — All Scotland Aberdeen (City) Aberdeenshire Angus Argyll and Bute Borders Clackmannanshire Dumfries and Galloway Dundee (City) East Ayrshire East Dunbartonshire East Lothian East Renfrewshire Edinburgh (City) Falkirk Fife Glasgow (City) Highland Inverclyde Midlothian Moray North Ayrshire North Lanarkshire Orkney Perth and Kinross Renfrewshire Shetland South Ayrshire South Lanarkshire Stirling West Dunbartonshire West Lothian Western Isles (Na H-Eileanan Siar)

    And Just look at what Mr Portillo former future leader of the Tories writes ? I wonder what he has to say about Northern Ireland ?

    THE English have no more need of Scotland or its oil wealth, and should stop letting Scotland “extort” money, says a leading Conservative.

    Michael Portillo, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2001, left parliament last year and is now a journalist, which gives him licence to say the unsayable within Tory ranks.
    In a newspaper column yesterday, Mr Portillo, a former defence secretary, said the English used to fear becoming economically inferior to Germany and France and worried about what would happen if they lost part of the UK’s population and North Sea oil revenue.

    Tory interests would be better served by splitting England from Scotland, now that Britain is growing more strongly than its large continental rivals, he argued.

    “The loss of one-twelfth of our population in a region that drags down our national performance could not harm us. Our hydrocarbons are less of an issue now that they are being exhausted.” He added it would be good for Scotland to be separate. “It is a pensioner economy existing on English handouts and consequently its politicians implement centralising policies of a kind abandoned in the former Soviet satellite states,” he wrote.

    The creation of a separate parliament has not reduced “wearisome whingeing” and the World Cup finals have not helped relations, he said, and First Minister Jack McConnell’s support for Trinidad and Tobago against England in last week’s match was a display of offensive and “undignified chippiness”. He said: “Perhaps McConnell needs reminding his population lives as well as it does thanks to subsidies extorted from English taxpayers.”

    Alex Salmond gave a caustic welcome to Mr Portillo’s comments, saying “even the most unlikely convert to the cause of independence has to be welcomed, even if it is a rather extreme reaction to Gordon Brown’s support for the England football team”.
    The SNP leader added: “His conclusion that Scotland would benefit from independence is undeniably correct.”
    Today, a Labour-dominated Commons select committee is expected to report its concern about rising disquiet in England at the role of Scots MPs who shape policy on issues which have little impact in their own constituencies.
    THE English have no more need of Scotland or its oil wealth, and should stop letting Scotland “extort” money, says a leading Conservative.
    Michael Portillo, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2001, left parliament last year and is now a journalist, which gives him licence to say the unsayable within Tory ranks.
    In a newspaper column yesterday, Mr Portillo, a former defence secretary, said the English used to fear becoming economically inferior to Germany and France and worried about what would happen if they lost part of the UK’s population and North Sea oil revenue.
    Tory interests would be better served by splitting England from Scotland, now that Britain is growing more strongly than its large continental rivals, he argued.
    “The loss of one-twelfth of our population in a region that drags down our national performance could not harm us. Our hydrocarbons are less of an issue now that they are being exhausted.” He added it would be good for Scotland to be separate. “It is a pensioner economy existing on English handouts and consequently its politicians implement centralising policies of a kind abandoned in the former Soviet satellite states,” he wrote.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The Irish that are eligible (i.e. NI MPs) are far too busy with local politics to get involved in UK politics. ‘

    So we’ve noticed . They’ve spent the last 40 years not talking to each other 🙂

  • Greenflag

    Apologies Mick for that ‘Portillo ‘ Post . Seem to have messed it up somewhat including even local Scottish weather forecast:((

    Feel free to delete etc etc etc .

  • Sin e an Fear

    People talk about things like defence and foreign policy as if they don’t matter – that’s because under the Westminster system, they are entirely under the control of the executive branch. In the US system, the federal legislature has FAR more control over these.

    There should not be an independent Scotland before there is a united Ireland. And Catalonia and the Basque Country are far more deserving of independence than Scotland and Wales.

  • Prince Eoghan

    “There should not be an independent Scotland before there is a united Ireland. And Catalonia and the Basque Country are far more deserving of independence than Scotland and Wales.”

    I would be more than interested to find out what kind of criteria has made you come to these strange conclusions. That some nations/peoples are more deserving than others to govern themselves. Surely if all have the desire, all are deserving?