September 11, 2000
Is England Still Free?
Goldstein is back to his occasional series on the state of freedom
and democracy in Britain today.
THE CELTIC DOMINION
taking a detour
to Sierra Leone, I am back on my turf of the degenerating political
culture of England. I was tempted off the virtuous path by Mr. Blair’s
ludicrous speech calling for a UN army (I don’t dare to say things
like "the UN army will be next, you know" – I’d be put
on a kook’s list). However my editorial director Justin
Raimondo has taken this particular venture apart far more elegantly
than I could, and naturally he is far more scathing as well. Therefore,
it is back to the decomposing
corpse of British democracy and civil society.
United Kingdom at the end of the millennium (it’s still got four
months to go) reminds me of the United States in the 1850s. The
US in the 1850s was run then by a clique of Southern politicians
and their northern allies. Despite being in the minority, their
solid control of the south, linked to a sizable group of various
northern sympathisers gave the Southern agenda virtually unfettered
control in the country. Whether it was the ideas were good, like
low tariffs, or bad, like wars of aggression against Mexico and
the use of Federal machinery to strengthen slavery – the result
was undeniable, the South were in charge. In Britain
today a Scottish Prime
Minister, together with a Scottish chancellor and foreign secretary
are imposing a distinctly un-English agenda on the apathetic English.
The North is in charge here.
British readers are probably gagging at this description. The Scottish
personnel are coincidental – the result of repeated thrashings of
the English Labour party at the hands of their Tory opponents, meaning
that the representatives of the loyal Scots were bound to figure
larger. Even the nationality of Mr. Blair is in doubt, he is a representative
of an English constituency, who’s lived in England since he left
school and who has an English accent (when it suits him). England
even has a Labour majority, a feat only managed by that party two
other times since the Second World War. I agree that the personnel
can be coincidental, but the agenda is not. The pro-European,
interventionist, economically statist, socially bossy posture is
typical of the Scots. There are people in England who share this
view – but they are rarely regarded as totally sane. In Britain,
the economic interferers rarely feel the same way socially, and
vice versa. Similarly, pro-Europeans south of the border talk about
deregulating Europe, which is not language heard from Scottish politicians.
one area where the traditional Scottish voice has not been heard
is Scottish anti-Americanism. The Scots are not anti-American on
principle, but rather as a reaction to the generally pro-French
views of the (anti-British) provincial political elite. Why the
anti-Americanism of young Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Robin Cook
has never been translated in their more mature years is one of the
mysteries of politics. Partly, no doubt there is a sympathetic relationship
with Clintonite America and a sense that the more p.c. environment
of America is worth emulating. However, it is a big break from the
Scottish agenda. Nonetheless, the pro Americanism is a fragile bloom,
which would be unlikely to survive either a Republican President
or a (virtually inevitable) rift between America and the European
ONE SIDED DEAL
are two areas where the Scottish
advantage has really shown itself. The first is government spending
which is about 25% higher per capita in Scotland than in England.
As the GNP per head is almost identical, the spending is justified
by neither increased taxes (even with Scotland's half of North Sea
Oil) or by desperate need. This happened under Tory rule as well
as Labour. Indeed one of the most talented (if least liked) Scottish
unionists, Michael Forsythe, made the disproportionate Scottish
share of spending the centrepiece of his argument. Which raised
the question, if unionism is only to be secured by bribes rather
than desire, shouldn't the English examine just what they are getting
for their money? Similarly, there is a Scottish Parliament with
wide ranging lawmaking powers. The British Parliament is forbidden
to make laws concerning these legal areas in Scotland, while England
has no such Parliament. Thus, a Scottish Parliamentarian (in the
British Parliament) may vote that England should have hospital closures
or curtail jury trials, but the English Parliamentarian has no say
on Scotland. It could be the fact that Scotland refuses to implement
a measure while their parliamentary representatives force it on
the English. Moreover, the English get to pay the bill.
WHY HAVE THE ENGLISH NOT SPOKEN YET?
of the most commonly predicted events in British politics has been
the growth of an English nationalism. Predicted but not fulfilled.
Despite a most abusive relationship the English spouse has carried
on paying the mortgage, taking abuse and been forced to sleep in
the car. The English seem impervious to the injustice of their situation.
Partly this is down to the apathy of prosperity, if things are going
well, why disturb them? There is also the arrogance that making
up 85% of a state can bring, after all what damage can the Scots
really do, and are they not virtually identical to the English
anyway? The apathetic
and non-political nature of the English can be amazing to behold,
and the question of Scotland is one area where the apathy is strong.
other reason why the Scots seem to get away with it is that there
is no Lincoln or Fremont figure to articulate majority concerns.
Party, at least under the last three leaders, has been doctrinally
unionist. The Conservative leader William Hague may be very English
in his attitudes, but there is little sense that he feels the Scottish
drag in the same way as he feels the European threat. Although there
have been proposals to restrict Scottish voting rights in the British
Parliament, this has been framed as a way of making the Union work
rather than as pushing for an English advantage. There are some
Conservatives, most notably the northern English MP David Davis,
who do see the potential in this course of action for a party without
a single MP in Scotland and Wales. In fact, it is being widely assumed
that although an outright victory for the Conservatives is highly
majority of English seats is in reach with a fair following
wind. This could create a constitutional crisis with a ruthless
Conservative leader. Would William Hague (or his less unionist successor)
sacrifice principle for party advantage?
GEORGE IS CROSS
are straws in the wind. The English are more generally aware of
Scotland's separate nationality than they were five or ten years
ago. The cross of St. George is slowly replacing the Union Jack.
Burns night has declined in popularity south of Hadrian's Wall.
However, a few symbols do not a political revolution make. Nevertheless,
a Conservative revival (short of a victory), a more ungrateful and
prominent Scottish Parliament or the awareness of taxes that an
economic recession bring could power the issue up the agenda. The
sleeping dragon could awake, and this time he would be on St. George's