Saturday, 6 September 2014

Don’t sell your birthright for a mess of nationalism.

Sometime in prehistory a group of people arrived on our island from Europe. They were Celts. We know next to nothing about the people who lived here before that. All that is left of them are the monuments they left behind, places like Stonehenge and Scara Brae.  The Celtic speaking people of Britain, as far as we know, spoke more or less the same language up and down the country and if we’d been left alone, no doubt we still would be speaking the language of the Picts and the Iceni. But that wasn’t how history played out.  Our island has always been attractive to immigrants and they have made us what we are. We are all immigrants and we are all mongrels.

The successive waves of Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were not always absorbed without a struggle. There was conflict. But the mix proved beneficial. We are all equally the children of all of these ancestors. We all have the same heritage no matter which part of the UK we come from. There is no fundamental difference between someone from Scotland, from Wales from England or from Northern Ireland, just a variant on a theme, a slight difference in the mixture.

Someone whose parents arrived on our island more recently is equally a part of our island story and an equally welcome addition to the mixture of our melting pot. We are all part of the same story of Britain, where people have arrived with hope because life here is good and always getting better. We’re good mixers the British and the mix that makes up the British people has been most fortunate for it has meant we have been at the forefront of much that is good in the world.

We gave up feudalism centuries before many parts of Europe. We developed nascent forms of democracy and human rights earlier than anyone else; we gave up absolute monarchy while most of Europe still believed in the divine right of kings.  We developed free markets and free forms of trade, while most of Europe still had serfs. We were the vanguard of nearly every development that made Europe prosper from the agricultural revolution of the 18th century to the industrial revolution of the 19th century. But all these revolutions occurred here more or less peacefully. While Europe was rocked with revolutions in the 18th and 19th century, while they were torn apart by nationalism, we concentrated on slow, rather dull progress. Change came to Britain. We became gradually a fairer and more democratic country. We became wealthier and everyone shared in this wealth more and more. But we never revolted, we never overthrew. That was never the British way. We took our time and acted with due care.

It is not accidental that French philosophers of the 18th century, like Voltaire admired Britain and the liberty that was to be found here.  There was something in the British character that avoided extremes. Something in the mixture means the British have always liked moderation and so we looked on when the French chopped off the heads of their nobility, we looked on in 1830 and 1848 when Europe revolted. Instead here we had dull reform bills that gradually extended the franchise. Here we developed trade that brought prosperity to us all.

Because we have always loved liberty and because we have always been a tolerant people, we don’t like bullies and tyrants. For this reason Britain has made some of the greatest of contributions to defeating tyranny. We did this three times in the 20th century. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought not only for Britain, but for others who were victims of aggression.

Without the British Army, France would have lost the First World War. In 1918 it was the British army that made the decisive contribution to preventing defeat in March and enabling victory in November. It had been a terrible conflict but our great grandfathers were proud of the contribution they had made and for the fact that they fought for Britain. Really they did all fight for Britain. They were not mercenaries.

Two miracles occurred in 1940 when this island was more in danger of invasion and defeat that at any other time since 1066. The British army should have been defeated in the fields around Dunkirk, but somehow by a miracle escaped intact. Our fighter planes later saved us again. We remained calm, though fighting alone, and the whole of Britain united to fight the common enemy. We should have been defeated in 1940, but our grandfathers stuck together. Every one of them who fought did so for Britain and of course they had no hatred for the country they were fighting for, but rather kept their hatred for the enemy. Britain’s contribution in the year 1940 made a decisive difference to the history of the world. If we had been defeated, if we had not remained united, the world would be a very different place today. It is as if this island was specifically constructed with its location and with the mix of its people for this role, as if all history was so that we could be there in that year, because the world would need us.

We stuck together too during the Cold War and made our contribution to defeating the tyranny of communism.  There were long fearful years that many of us remember with a fence dividing Europe.  We played our part by being one of the few significant military forces that underpinned NATO.  Without that unity, there is little doubt that conflict would have broken out some time between 1945 and 1991.

The fact is Britain is one of the great countries. People want to visit us.  Our history and literature are known the world over. People want to come and live here too. Thank goodness that they do. They add to our mixture and the mix just gets better and more beneficial. It’s not accidental that people want to come here. We speak everyone’s second language. The whole world learns the language we speak every day.  We are the English speaking people of this island. That is what makes us British.

Because we are British and such a mixture of peoples, we are also more welcoming and tolerant than most other countries. After all we’ve been doing it for so long. Owing to the fact that we’ve had a market economy for so long we tend not to be as restrictive in our practices as most other countries. It’s easier for someone from Poland or Pakistan to get a job here, because we don’t put up petty barriers to their finding a job. This is one reason why we prosper while other European countries flounder.  We absorb those who come here, it’s not always easy, there are challenges, but because we are welcoming and tolerant we have more harmony here than elsewhere. The British identity is inclusive available to anyone who comes here to live simply because we have been including for centuries.

We have always weathered storms together and defeated every challenge, every enemy. We stuck together in 2008 when it looked for a moment as if the world economy was in meltdown. We weathered the storm because we had unity and because we are united. We were willing to share and we used the power of our treasury to rescue those who had lost everything, such as when an Icelandic bank failed. We did this even when strictly speaking we didn’t have to.

Britain is a great country. The British are a great people.  Don’t expect any of this to continue if Scotland votes Yes. Even the name of our country would be something of a parody. It would be better then for us to be called the “Divided Kingdom.” Great Britain could no longer sensibly be so described if we had our head chopped off. Rather it would be better if we were to be called something like “Diminished Britain” a headless chicken that had done so much but was now left broken. What a final victory for all those who have hated Britain through the centuries.   

Remember the thousands of years of history that have brought us to this point and don’t throw it away for transient reasons such as you don’t like David Cameron or George Osborne, who will probably be gone by next May.  Don’t vote Yes because you have a rather irrational hatred of a dead prime minister who hasn’t ruled anywhere for nearly 25 years.

The story of our island is how a Celtic speaking people became an English speaking people. That is our story, the story of each and every one of us whose ancestors have arrived here from overseas. All of us are immigrants; we are that mix of peoples, that happy mix that has formed the British. We are the opposite of nationalists, because in us can be found all nations, the whole world. That is our birth right. It is what we would lose if we voted Yes. Don’t sell your birthright for a mess of nationalism. 

If you like my writing, please follow the link to my book Scarlet on the Horizon. The first five chapters can be read as a preview.


  1. There may be a word here I wold not use - or a change to a phrase there, but that'd be churlish. Yours is a sweep of historical appreciation. An embrace for the proper sentimetality one might properly feel for this great Britan. And as I share that sentiment so wholehatedly, how could I offer anything but - thanks!

    1. I sometimes feel the need to change what I write later too. But the point is to get the thought across in general. Thanks for your support. If we stick together we're going to win this.

  2. Your prehistory is a little bit wonky. Stonehenge and Skara Brae were built by Neolithic people between 2000 and 3000 BC. The Celts were an Iron Age people who emerged about 1200 BC in Europe, and migrated to the Brirish Isles a few hundred years after that. Apart from that, good piece of work!

    1. I'm sure I'm wonky on all sorts of things. I certainly didn't intend to portray the builders of Stone Henge and Scara Brae as Celts. Thanks for the correction and thanks for the kind words.

  3. Not for the first time, thank you for articulating some of my own feelings.

    1. Your very welcome. Let's try to get the message across in any way we can

  4. You have expressed many of my own feelings about the British people, and what would be lost if there were a YES vote.

    I believe many of those points are implicitly made in this video (after the first 1:45)

    Thanks for you wise words here and on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy reading you.

    1. I'm very grateful to people who have shown us support, who express that they value Britain and would regret the breakup of the UK. It makes an enormous difference.

  5. The Scottish referendum provides slam-dunk evidence, if any were needed, that something has gone seriously wrong with the cognitive abilities of our so-called leaders. There appears to be no-one any longer capable of thinking through the consequences of actions or decisions. This referendum was called on the clear assumption that there would be a sizeable ‘no’ majority – it doesn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s mind that the ‘yes’ campaign could win so there’s no properly thought through Plan B. What would Scottish independence mean for the rest of what I’ll still call the UK? Then there’s the fundamental issue that a ‘yes’ vote creates not one but two new entities – Scotland and the rest – and those of us in the second category (numerically much larger than those in the first) have no say whatsoever in its creation.

    Alex Salmond also seems to be as incapable of thinking through decisions as the English elites he’s anxious to escape from – I simply cannot understand how he believes Scotland can retain sterling – who’s the lender of last resort? I get the feeling he thinks that while Scotland becomes ‘technically’ independent, everything will just carry on as it is – which is nonsense, of course. Similarly, the assumption that Scotland can retain EU membership but will somehow be free to follow its own course when the EU mandates what it doesn’t like.

    Case in point. Wee Eck (Alex Salmond) has been trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Scots for some time now. His premise is that come independence, England will have to pay as always, and the EU on top of that.
    Any arguments against were brushed aside as anti-Scottish.

    One little snippet: University education is free to all Scots, and has to be free to all EU students. English students alone have to pay te full whack.
    Come independence, he’s got to follow EU rules if he wants to be a member – and that means that English students, now being foreigners from another EU country, won’t have to pay either … or everybody will have to pay, Scottish students included.
    Law of unintended consequences …

    1. Thanks for a great comment. Ludicrously Salmond thinks he'd be able to continue to charge tuition fees for English students even after independence.

      None of us saw the present surge in Yes support coming. But for the moment we should guard against recriminations. Rather we must focus on winning this battle and saving the country we share together Britain. I still believe we will and am doing everything I can to make that result happen

    2. In your rush to bash Salmond you conveniently ignore the elephant in the room that its England who are out of step with the whole of Europe.

      Then have the cheek to say how dare Scotland charge English students the same as they charge themselves and our kids who go there.

      Britain isn't a country.

  6. Britain isn't a country its a political union. We're leaving as we're fed up being third fiddle to London and the SE. The charge is why is it not better ? This is what you and your supporters need to answer. Worst life expectancy, worst pensions, worst inequality in all developed countries.

    It might be Great for some but its not good enough for most.

    If Germany had won WW1 and we stayed out then there is every chance WW2 would have been avoided. Ohh No you'll cry, they were imperialists(we should know of course). The same Germans who defeated France in the 1870 War and guess what nothing changed for us until we decided to get ourselves involved.

    Its all about WAR its never about the people. Get off your white horse and get out of the way of social progress. You and your banker chums are parasites on the people.

    1. "It might be Great for some but its not good enough for most."

      Spare us the indignation. The financials were and are shot to pieces. So all the bleating about how 'bad' things are now looks at best naively lame when stacked against the prospects of even lower life expectancy, smaller pensions, and greater inequality.

      At its worst it can be argued as being downright deceitful and cynical to deliberately seek to mislead and rob those who have least and therefore most to lose in order to feed the vanity of a new political elite whose egos are steadfastly focussed on inheriting the keys to a new kingdom (after which the general population can lump it).

      "If Germany had won WW1 and we stayed out then there is every chance WW2 would have been avoided"

      The US tried to bury its head in the sand post-1939 and found itself on the business end of a Japanese bayonet. They thought they were claiming a moral high ground but in fact it was taken for weakness and that is invariably rewarded for what it is in the big tent.

      It was a rude awakening for them (well, to some at least, not everyone was an 'America First' flag waver and therefore unwittingly towing the line for the you know who). Appeasement was likewise rewarded.

      The problem is not that people should not be put first (ahead of war) but that not everyone is willing to engage each other on the same terms, they want to put war first and to hell with whomever disagrees with them!

  7. Bravo, ma'am. You have mirrored some of the points I have attempted (though not nearly as eloquently!) to make here: - which is my own small contribution, which, admittedly, I have come up with rather late in the day (see final paragraph!).

    Keep up the good work - hopefully we can stave off this insanity.

    And if we can't? Well, I have already mentallly written off a pretty hefty public sector pension that's waiting for me, as it is inevitable that an independent Scotland will have to introduce its own currency, and that the government will be so broke that it will resort to printing money - thus devaluing its internal liabilities, including pensions - in order to keep the lights on. Fortunately, I've got other means, so it won't affect me too much - I'll just feel sorry for the poor wretches who are not so fortunate, and who will be left destitute.

    Kindest regards, CynnieC

  8. You argue your points well in your blogs. Convincing. However, I don't think there sufficient numbers of people interested in continuing as part of a United Kingdom.