Posted by: secretperson | March 25, 2008

Gordon Brown: We Must Defend the Union – My Response

Read this article in which Gordon Brown defends the Union. I felt I needed to reply and will do so by selecting a few quotes to respond to.

We must be resolute in defending the Union and argue against those who put it at risk

Fair enough, I have often said that Unionists accuse English parliament supporters of threatening the Union, without making the case for it.

In these islands we have, over centuries, created the world’s most successful multinational state because we celebrate and respect the multiple identities that enrich us all. I am Scottish and proud of it, but I am no less proud to be British – just as there are millions who are proud to be Welsh and British and English and British too.

What, recognition that the UK is a multi-national state? Surely it is a country of nations and regions? But also a multi-national state Gordon is trying to carve a national identity for. Multiple identities that enrich us all (sounds like multi-culturalism, particularly the dog whistle word enrich). Otherwise no arguments, is is possible to feel both a national and British identity, nice to hear English mentioned by Brown too. No mention of Irish though, I suppose British values don’t include NI?

In recognition of this, 10 years ago we embarked on devolution – ensuring that the smaller nations that are part of the UK have more control over their own affairs. Devolution simply acknowledges the dual identities: Welsh and British, Scottish and British too.

Ah, here we go, almost a repeat of the end of the last paragraph. But wait someone is missing. Oh yes, politically there is no recognition of England. We’ll just skip over that though. Still no mention of Northern Ireland and its devolved body. (I tend to avoid commenting on NI too, it is a tricky one, and none of my business really).

There is no Scotland-only, Wales-only, England-only solution to transnational challenges that range from terrorism to foot and mouth disease, and from avian flu to security and climate change. So for these islands an environmental Union, a security Union and a Union for defence is to the benefit of all.

No Scotland-only, Wales-only England-only solutions. Are there Britain-only solutions to climate change and terrorism? Of so thank god, we can leave the EU! We are not arguing that these problems affect each nation differently, but that a more democratic recognition of each nations status as a national community could produce a better governmental solution to these issues.

But what matters even more are the common values we share across the United Kingdom: values we have developed together over the years that are rooted in liberty, in fairness and tolerance, in enterprise, in civic initiative and internationalism.

OK common values again. I think you could argue these are largely western values. Liberty? Big in France and America, but not many people think we need a shared government with them. Fairness? How is treating England differently to every other nation in our multi-national state fair?

These values live in the popularity of our common institutions from the NHS, the BBC, to the Queen – and even more recently in UK-wide support for the Olympics, Children in Need, Comic Relief, Make Poverty History and action on climate change.

UK wide support for the Olympics? The amount of money being spent in London is actually unpopular in the other nations, and in England outside London to a certain extent. Particularly as things like lottery grants are being diverted. The NHS is not national anymore. The treatment you are entitled to depends on which nation you live in. NHS Wales and NHS Scotland have different prescription charges and drugs available for one. There is no NHS England.

We know also that we are stronger together because again and again each part of our country has benefited from innovations with origins in only one: the NHS founded by a Welshman; universal education with many of its earliest roots in Scotland; and universal suffrage championed by radicals in England.

Well thank God we had a Union or universal sufferage may never have reached Scotland and Wales. Or the rest of the free world. The idea that without shared central government there can be no spread of ideas, in this modern age, is laughable.

Out of these bonds of belonging we have created not just the rights and responsibilities of a political citizenship but also of a social and economic citizenship too.

“Rights and Responsibilities” – nod to current pet project. “Economic citzenship” – paying taxes to be given back to you so you think the state is doing you a favour.

Today Jack Straw, Secretary for Justice, is consulting throughout the country on a statement of values that define British citizenship and on the case for a full British bill of rights and duties setting out rights and obligations for all citizens.

The theme of the next stage of constitutional reform will be the empowerment of people – at local, regional and national levels. So it makes sense also to look at the relationship between the nations and regions and whether it strikes the right balance as we strive to meet and master new global challenges.

Ah, so that’s why the article is out. To back up Jack Straw’s latest proposals. “Nations and regions” – I hope he means devolved power within nations and not ‘Nations (Wales, Scotland) and Regions (The area formeerly known as England)’. “Empowerment of people” – under New Labour, a new law every day? Empowered to pay taxes, empowered not to eat too much or smoke or drink too much. Empowered to agree with their rights and responsibilities. Empowered to vote Labour. Don’t make me laugh, your government’s inteference in every aspect of life has left us the least empowered we have ever been. (Read this via An Englishman’s Castle).

There is a modern case for the Union, and it must be heard: it is not about partnership at the expense of pride, or about pride that can be satisfied only by sacrificing partnership. Instead, it is to ensure that each region and nation of the United Kingdom flourishes within a covenant and in a partnership of equals for the benefit of all.

Nearly done, this is the last paragraph. Regions and Nations again. Covenant? Could this be a new buzz word appearing? “Partnership of equals” – surely Gordon you don’t mean the nations of the UK treated equally – with an English Parliament, the Welsh assembly raised to the same powers as the Scottish parliament and some kind of solution for the conveniently ignored NI.

Sorry Gordo, you’ve not convinced me of the need for the Union. Only that you will use its continued existence as a pretence for not treating England equally, while uttering lies such as “the Barnett formula is based on need” and “partnership of equals”. And if the existence of the Union saves us from climate change I’ll eat my hat.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Independence is the Only Way.



  1. […] on this from The CEP, The Secret Person, For England, Man in a Shed & Letters from a Tory. Share […]

  2. On Irish identity – in the north its dependent upon the sectarian divide: on one side, Irishness, the other a pseudo-Britishness…

    Now that a devolved power-sharing government is up and running, links with the rest of Ireland are growing, the weird pretend national identity of Ulster Unionism is losing its structure somewhat.

    As for Brown’s muddled language – equals but without equal forms of government… Isn’t it always argued that such relations cannot take place?

    Worth noting: no Union, no “special relationship” (ie, covering up for lack of allies) with the US. About a third of the armed forces hail from Scotland and in a post-independence situation would probably rather work to defend their nation instead of fighting rich men’s wars like they’re doing now…

  3. Charlie – I agree to some extent on the Irish thing, though it is the most complicated of all the identity issues. It does seem, if only for reasons of birthrates, that a united Ireland will happen in the future, unless of course the EU gets there first.

    At least they are not fighting anymore.

    I suspect you may be right about the ‘special relationship’ too. Though would Scotland really need an army that big without foreign wars? Or England for that matter. I myself come from a different end of the political spectrum to you, but I think we agree here. The Ministry of Defence should be just that, for defence.

  4. Ah, “political spectrum”! Rather than left to right, I see only class. Pro-working class to pro-capitalist… so I’m sure we’re on the same side at the end of the day. The problem with terms like left and right is that they are not terribly helpful these days as the main political parties have the much same economic policies.

  5. By political spectrum I meant that I don’t only see class, but you are right about ‘being on the same side’ I often find it is means rather than ends that divide people.

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