Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who’s This “We”, Paleface ?

So, now I know what to do to provoke a huge comments thread: mention devolution. It’s not a huge obsession of mine, but there is just one thing that I think is commonly missed in the debate over an English Parliament.

Of course, there’s the obvious argument of symmetry. After all, if Wales rates an assembly, and Scotland a Parliament, well, England must be due…well, something. But there’s more to it than that. The biggest driver of the English devolution movement isn’t anything in England, it’s the folks outside it. If Conservatives talked about Muslims the way the SNP talk about the English, Liberals would demand the death sentence. I recall an SNP election broadcast which revolved around a young woman wee lassie facing a line of men, each representing a Party, and checking under their skirts to see if they were ‘really Scottish’. Can you seriously imagine the Tories running a broadcast centred on checking for ‘real Britishness’ ? But at least Scotland has oil, where does Plaid’s confidence come from ? Wales’ sole achievement is an education system that makes England’s look good – although managing to produce kids illiterate in two languages is impressive in its own way.

England borders two nations where political discourse revolves around two things: claiming you hate the English more than the other parties, and spending English money. But that cuts both ways. Wales and Scotland are both locked into a nihilistic cultural death spiral – do we really want to join them ? Celtic nationalists rant about the English because they don’t have anything else – they keep banging away with the socialism, and it keeps failing, so clearly it must all be an English conspiracy. Meanwhile, there’s a furrow worn into the ground where anyone with any get up and go has got up and gone to England.

Of course, there are the constitutional absurdities, such as the West Lothian question, but an English Parliament is not the only possible answer. Do we really need more politicians ? Not forgetting the slime trail of lobbyists, lawyers and other vermin who cluster round such institutions. If nothing else, do we want to shell out to allow a load of pols to build their very own Palace of Versailles – pretty much the first acts following devolution in Wales and Scotland.

There’s the money. This really passes me by. We’re supposed to resent supporting Snowdonian hill farmers, but be perfectly happy to stump up for Kenny boy to have his Olympic Games ? How does that work ? After all, it’s not as if Livingstone exactly meets us halfway here. Here’s a guy who supports open borders – and the welfare bill that comes with it - yet constantly claims that Northerners are stealing London’s wealth. A-huh. Add in the crew at the Speccie yukking it up over Hillsborough, the Laura Spence case, where Oxbridge’s defence was to say basically ‘of course we don’t discriminate against Geordie apes’, and the approximately 8000 journalists who tut-tutted over the fact William Hague had – gasp! - a Yorkshire accent, and you start to wonder why exactly we’re meant to hate Charlotte Church.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t get misty-eyed over England. I’d prefer to keep things as is, though perhaps with some changes to deal with the West Lothian question and the imbalance in finances, but I don’t see any case for devolution based on some mythical idea of England. If devolution is to occur it should respect the political realities and split England along the line of the Trent. After all, you don’t really expect Merseysiders to welcome moves to give BoJo more power over their lives, do you ?

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