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[P]
The Imminent Demise of the United Kingdom

By bc in Op-Ed
Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:14:39 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The United Kingdom is a curious beast among modern states. One of the oldest established states in the world, dating from 1707, its constitution has remained, in substance, unchanged since its inception. Where other nations have had waves of revolution and modernisation, the United Kingdom has, uniquely, stood alone in a sort of static, splendid isolation from the winds of modern democratic change. The Old Constitution of the United Kingdom depended upon the acquiescence of those governed and the concordat of the governing élite, and was (in theory) more a system of gentlemanly agreement among the governing classes rather than any formal, written constitution such as those adopted by the USA and France.


However, if we look at the recent history of Britain over the last half century, and the ongoing, current processes within it, we can easily see that this constitution is in its death throes, and by extension, that the days of the United Kingdom as a singular and centrally governed entity are at an end.

The end of Britain is inevitably wrapped up with the death of its constitution and its legitimacy. How did Britain manage to retain such an archaic, semi-modern constitution through almost 300 years of history with no especially significant changes? A host of reasons of course, but mainly that Britain until the 1940's was a major power (with the wealth, status and pride in the institutions that inevitably result), and one in which invented tradition was very important, such that the invented traditions of the 19th century Monarchy and Parliament, combined with the greatness of the old Realm, could make the unwritten constitution a touchstone of all things best about Britain.

Now, however, the Old Constitution is in its last gasps. This process started under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government of 1979, when the old consensual governing class was swept away under the banner of progress and replaced by 'the choices of the market'. At least in theory - and in effect, much of this did happen. The government itself changed, the grandees of old replaced with an increasing reliance on French style think tanks. The raison d'etre of Thatcherism was the dismantling of the Old Britain, and the Old Ways of governance, and yet, at the same time it pumped up (most clearly seen during the Falklands War) Britain and encouraged nationalism and a kind of nostalgia about how great Britain is - in this respect, it was utterly philistine, for it destroyed those same things it was elevating to mythical status.

This process continued through the 90's, and gave rise (famously) to John Major's witterings about the Britain of warm beer, bicycling Vicars, cricket on the village green, and so forth. Meanwhile, in the real Britain, the 80's and 90's saw the rise of mass insubordination over the closure of mines and steelworks, and most impressively, the Poll Tax. The Poll Tax (a taxation system whereby everybody, nomatter their income, paid the same rate for local services) was impressive because it revealed just how insane and indeed suicidal the government had become. The series of riots and protests that it spawned were amazing, for it showed that the Poll Tax (and by extension the governing elite) was being absolutely, unequivocally rejected by the lowest common denominator. Supposedly the French are best at rejecting the ministrations of their government, but in this instance, the British showed that they could do it too.

The Poll Tax had other important effects as well - by being tried out in Scotland a year before it was introduced to England, it fostered further and more absolute resentment in Scotland as every protest (and the riots in Glasgow) was ignored absolutely by a blithe and seemingly English government. This was to have important repercussions later in the 90's, both for the unity of Britain and its future.

From the doldrums of the last years of the late Conservative government, a seemingly new, radical hope for Britain appeared - the modernised, reinvigorated New Labour party. Under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair the Labour party first democratised itself (smashing the Union block vote and introducing One Man, One Vote as a guiding principle for party elections), whilst at the same time centralising power as much as it could around the figure of the party leader, later Prime Minister. This is significant because it is exactly what the Labour Party did to the country as a whole when it attained office.

When New Labour was catapulted to power in 1997 with a massive majority, it was fond of revolutionary and radical rhetoric, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn't fond of revolutionary and radical action. In fact, examining New Labour's 'Project', it is quickly seen that the project has nothing to do with modernising Britain at all - it is merely 'Project Preserve Britain', an elaborate means to protect the continuing existence of the UK as a Constitutional Monarchy and centralised, 18th century style state by means of offering fops to modernising forces. So, Scotland got a parliament (thanks to the huge Scottish contingent within Labour itself), but no more, Wales got a National Assembly, and the House of Lords got something of a facelift. Of course, the House of Lords wasn't democratised or anything - instead the number of Inherited positions was curtailed and the remainder replaced with the direct appointees of the PM. In other words, they compromised with the the landed gentry. This might sound feudal, a government of the day bargaining with aristocrats over the running of the Country's highest House, but it is just a typical archaism of Britain's Old Constitution.

New Labour has been devolving power in the UK as a means of keeping the UK together. Devolution was designed to stifle further calls for power, independence and so on from the Celtic fringe, but has, of course, accelerated the breakdown. For example, the kerfuffle over the 'Scottish Six' (a news programme that was posited by BBC Scotland that would have aired at 6pm and shown, for the first time, international news filtered through a Scottish perspective, and replaced the main 6pm British news programme) had the backing of almost everyone in Scotland, regardless of Unionist affiliation, and was only slapped down by central government intervention. Numerous times the Scottish Parliament has shown that it would like more power, and more importantly, there is a sense of inevitability within Scotland that independence will occur, as part of the process of the UK's collapse from the 18th century style state.

Scotland is crucial to the future of the UK because it is the part of the UK most likely to become independent. It was not conquered like Wales, but rather occluded. Scotland never ceased to be a nation, it just ceased to be a nation state, and even then retained its own legal system, its own church and its own identity. The difference is that the governing elite of Scotland decided voluntarily to take Scotland into a sort of twilight zone of nationhood with no statehood, and the result has been a sort of shame felt by many Scots ever since. The powerful urges and forces that have been propelling Scotland on the road to independence of late are greatly motivated by this sense of reclaiming the birthright. Scots now see the future of their nation as lying in their own hands.

However, this is certainly not the attitude in Westminster. The attitude there is perhaps best summed up by the revealing Rhodri Morgan affair. When it appeared that Rhodri, a politician noted for his independent rhetoric, may well become leader of the Welsh National Assembly, the Labour Party used the Union Block vote to keep him out and instead install Alun Michael - which meant that, effectively, the votes of three people determined who the leader of the Welsh National Assembly would be. A few months later, the Welsh independence party Plaid Cymru showed a massive resurgance in the elections. This affair showed that for the labour party, devolution is just fancy words, radical PR speak, and that it really wants to preserve the traditions of Britain as much as it can.

And speaking of the traditions of Britain, there is always the example of the Monarchy. This centrepiece of the British state has been in crisis since 1990, and yet has been consistently backed up by the Labour Party, which has urged it to modernise. The Crown, traditionally, is supposed to be the idolised centre of the state and the well of sovereignty, but is now, in practise, looking very dishevelled indeed. However, it is revealing that in the aftermath of the death of Diana, the 'radical' Labour Party closed ranks around the Monarchy, supported it, and helped it to survive.

It is clear, to me at least, that the Labour Party's modus operandi for its term in government is not to change Britain at all, but to keep it going as long as possible, to maintain the Britishness of Britain and its fundamental institutions, its continuity for as long as it possibly can, whilst offering a salve of pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric.

The elites of London who vote Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative never realise they are always voting for the same thing, but with different presentation. All these parties stand for the propping up and conservation of a grotesquely outmoded state barely altered, in principle, since the settlement of 1688. However, the deep forces within Britain that are stirring, the Scottish finding themselves and the English at last divesting themselves of their Britishness and again considering themselves to be English, the desperate attempts of central government to 'half-reform' the ailing, diseased carcase of the unitary state and Constitutional Monarchy against the tide of the times, all these things show that the very existence of Britain is under grave threat from these historical pressures, and must, some day, come to a cataclysmic end.

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The UK will demise
o Waethin 5 years 12%
o 10 10%
o 20 14%
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o Never! 51%

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The Imminent Demise of the United Kingdom | 123 comments (111 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
This started decades ago... (3.40 / 5) (#1)
by HereticMessiah on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:40:17 AM EST

...with the loss of the UK's first colony, Ireland. No biggie, really.

--
Disagree with me? Post a reply.
Think my post's poor or trolling? Rate me down.
Interesting comment ... (none / 0) (#33)
by aphrael on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:44:50 PM EST

certainly from the perspective of the Welsh, or the Scottish, nationalists, *they* qualify as being England's first colonies.

[ Parent ]
Dunno (none / 0) (#34)
by walrus on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:00:11 PM EST

Wales more so. Scotland was colonised more by the Norse than the "English" AFAIK. It was never conquered, either. The heir of the Scots throne just happened to be named as the successor to the English throne. Funny thing, coincidence.

[ Parent ]
This is interesting - but... (3.75 / 4) (#3)
by Herring on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:51:35 AM EST

I think it misses a few key points. Via the Parliament Act of 1911, effectively the House of Lords can be overridden by the elected house. Although the monarchy could, in theory, refuse to give Royal Assent to any act of parliament, this has not happenend since (AFAIK) 1706.

Interesting still though because it does seem to me that all political parties are becomming less conservative (small 'c'). The "New Labour" party (which has done so little for fear of offending people) seems to have been put on the back foot by the accusation that electing 20% of the upper house is "too little". With hereditary peers gone (House of Lords act 1999) people from all sides of the political spectrum seem to see that a totally/majority elected 2nd chamber would make more sense.

I'd say +1FP because I'd like a good debate on the mess that is current British politics.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
The King did it (none / 0) (#101)
by AndyGuy on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 09:21:08 AM EST

And the interesting thing about that was that the King forced the Lords to accept it. If they hadn't he threatened to create enough new Lords that would vote the right way and they didn't like the thought of several hundred new upstarts.

[ Parent ]
Now what? (1.00 / 6) (#8)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:16:26 AM EST

I`ve read it - am i supposed to think, or comment?

it's op-ed (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by rebelcool on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:22:25 AM EST

and thus a long opinion.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Now what?, Well . . . (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by WebBug on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:04:29 PM EST

It would be nice if you could do both . . .

8^)
-- It may be that your sole purpose is to server as a warning to others . . . at least I have one!
[ Parent ]
Act of Union (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by miller on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:23:12 AM EST

Interestingly (and I don't think this is mentioned in the article), the imposition of the Poll Tax on Scotland a year before it came into force in the rest of the kingdom apparently broke the Act of Union of 1707 and could be seen as a significant event in straining the union of the United Kingdom.

--
It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
Britain is crumbling - literally (3.50 / 6) (#15)
by Builder on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:29:10 AM EST

I have to agree that Britain is falling apart, but my perspective is a literal one. My future wife and I moved to the UK (London) two short years ago. In that time we have seen this country go nowhere but downhill.

The modern British worker appears to be more concerned with his lunchbreak and raise than actually doing what he's paid for. Train drivers are on strike because they are only getting a 3% raise this year. Many people who earn far less than these drivers will be getting NO raise this year due to market conditions, but they are still at their jobs. These people suffer a 5 mile walk to work because there is no tube service, while greedy bastards strike.

The quality of the infrastructure is going downhill fast too. Tube systems built 100 years ago continue to function fairly well. Tube lines extend in the last 2 years suffer from track failure, signal failure and MASSIVE delays and cancellations. Bridges built 200 years ago are still in daily use. Bridges built 2 years ago open for a few days and then close because they weren't built right. (Wobbly millenium bridge)

The current government blames all of the problems with the national rail system on the fact that the previous administration privatised it. This is their sole excuse. And yet in the same breath they are all out to privatise the London Underground.

Another example is timelines. The local supermarket closed for two months for refurbishing. It opened again four months later. Tottenham Court Road tube station had escalators out of service until October. They opened early December. Work on rail as a result of the Hatfield crash finished several months late.

And one last thing that just makes me laugh. The UK has a very wet climate. It also gets windy. You'd think that they would think of this when building infrastructure. And still loads of trains and tubes are delayed because of flooded station or leaves on the line. Hehehe


--
Be nice to your daemons
Rerun of 1970s Whinge (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:07:42 PM EST

I'm just about old enough to remember the 1970s, concluding with the Winter of Discontent in 1979 and the resulting election of Mrs T.

This whinge reminds me powerfully of those times. Everybody was convinced that the workers were getting too powerful and selfishness ruled. Then during the 80s we had the Yuppies carting cellphones the size of bricks to champagne dinners, and everyone was convinced that the end was nigh because selfishness ruled. During the 90s we had the fat cat scandals, and everyone was convinced that British industry would fall apart because selfishness ruled. And so today...

The modern British worker appears to be more concerned with his lunchbreak and raise than actually doing what he's paid for.

Two Ronnies "news item" joke from 1970s: A new survey today revealed that two out of every ten people work for a nationalised industry, while the other eight sit and watch them.

Bridges built 200 years ago are still in daily use. Bridges built 2 years ago open for a few days and then close because they weren't built right. (Wobbly millenium bridge)

"Ahh, they knew how to build them in those days". Actually they often didn't. Its just that the ones that fell down shortly after opening 200 years ago are'nt there anymore! The reliable old bridges from 200 years ago are here today precisely because they happened to stand the test of time. Remember "London Bridge is Falling Down, My Fair Lady."

As a famous politician never actually said, "You've never had it so good!".

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

You`re right! (none / 0) (#27)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:18:18 PM EST

A train driver should get an 18% pay rise! Why the hell not!

Why shouldnt tube drivers get 28,000? Nurses do. Well, some of them. But both nurses and tube drivers have to do training first. Of course, the nurses training goes on for years, whereas tube drivers only have to do a day or 2. But then, theres a limit to how complicated you can make teaching a tube, given that its either 1)going forwards, or 2)not going forwards. They are both trained, and thats that.

I`m in favour of the unions protecting jobs, but not getting in the way of public services. If you have to complain about pay, why not still run the trains but not take money from passengers - give them free tickets that day. Works in France...





[ Parent ]
Tube drivers (none / 0) (#40)
by Nick Ives on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:32:20 PM EST

Tube drivers do loads of training. Given that the safe driving of the trains is their sole responsibility (there are no automatic cut outs, a bad driver could easily smash into the back of another train) you'd be crazy not to make sure they went through years of training. Also ever notice how whenever a tube pulls into a platform the driver manages to get it near enough bang on perfect everytime (well, not perfect, the doors on the Jubilee line extension hardly ever match up with the barriers I know =P)? Also, ever think about the density of trains on the line? How many tube trains are on a particular stretch of track at once with only a couple of signals to keep them apart? All it takes is a lapse of concentration, forgetting a few safety procedures, etc and all of a sudden you have lots of people dead. You sir, are full of shit, and you have no respect for the people who get you safely from Camden Town to Leicester Square either.

This next bit is just stuff I've heard from various people, but as far as I know you can't just apply to be a tube driver either, you have to work for London Underground for years (although I imagine national rail train drivers could probably make the switch). Most of the people who work at the stations selling tickets or as attendants at the ticket barriers are only doing that because one day they hope to be promoted up to a tube driver. Given that its one of the most respected and responsible positions on the Underground, I think that tube drivers should easily get 28,000. If it were up to me, I'd give them more.

--
Nick
Nicotine....

[ Parent ]

Damn right! (none / 0) (#41)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:39:40 PM EST

"You sir, are full of shit, and you have no respect for the people who get you safely from Camden Town to Leicester Square either"

Well, apart from the `full of shit` part, obviously. I have the same level of respect for them that they have for me. Replace them with computers. The DLR doesnt seem to have many strikes. Or accidents, come to that.

[ Parent ]
Who controls the computers? (none / 0) (#116)
by hotseat on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 07:11:46 AM EST

Well, apart from the `full of shit` part, obviously. I have the same level of respect for them that they have for me. Replace them with computers. The DLR doesnt seem to have many strikes. Or accidents, come to that.

Wouldn't it be amusing, after all that, if the people who operate the DLR computers decided to strike?

Tom

[ Parent ]

You Sir are full of "what"? (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by RandomAction on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:18:00 PM EST

You say "(there are no automatic cut outs, a bad driver could easily smash into the back of another train)"

While in fact there are. Tube train brakes apply whenever the train goes through a red light. I guess you didn't know that.

Could a trained monkey drive a tube train? No! However, face facts, it doesn't take an uber-man either.

28 000 a year seems a pretty good wage, for a job that seems, to me at least, rather boring.

But of course it doesn't require a degree, awarded after a tedious 3-4 years.

[ Parent ]
Less human of late (none / 0) (#95)
by Builder on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:19:41 AM EST

Large chunks of the tube are coming under computer control. Already certain sections of the circle line are run under computer control, with the driver only in place as a failsafe.

In years to come, the tube will become like the DLR - computer controlled from a central location. Then _ALL_ of the drivers will be out of work. And one of the reasons for this will be that they were more effort than they were worth to have around.


--
Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
Free Tickets? (none / 0) (#83)
by linca on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:29:49 AM EST

In which part of France have you seen that?

Public Transportation strikes is a old custom in France, we have at least two days of it each year. Every decade, we even get a full month of it. I never heard about free tickets given to the passengers during a strike :)

OTOH, I think the public transportation workers should be seen as exemples rather than enemies by the other people. That is the basic opinion in our socialo-comunnistic far left country (TM Wall Street Journal Europe). If you resent the high salaries of the tube workers, start an union in your field.

[ Parent ]
Why oh why... (none / 0) (#29)
by Sanityman on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:27:03 PM EST

This would make a great letter to the Evening Standard - although you did use one or two long words :o)

Sanityman



Disclaimer: Whatever organisation you had in mind, I'm not representing it.
If you don't see the fnords, they can't eat you.
[ Parent ]
I seem to remember (none / 0) (#30)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:28:49 PM EST

adverts in the `80s for British Rail, with catch slogons like "We`re getting there"! They`ve always been shit.

"The UK has a very wet climate. It also gets windy. You'd think that they would think of this when building infrastructure."

Well, apparantly Arriva will soon be running trains in Denmark. I pity them. I`ve taken a train from one end of Denmark to the other, on christmas day, in the snow, and the entire journey was exactly as scheduled. I`m not sure how often i can say the same about UK trains in any weather - never mind xmas day (no trains) or snow (no chance).

"The local supermarket closed for two months for refurbishing. It opened again four months later. Tottenham Court Road tube station had escalators out of service until October. They opened early December."

God, i`ve seen them build whole supermarkets from scratch (ie Sainsburys in Tottenham Court Road) quicker than London Underground can fix one escalator. What is the problem? Dont tell me they werent built to be maintained/replaced - they thought they`d last for ever, right?

The bridge - well, come on - its a bridge. You know how hard it is to build a bridge? Its not like there are many other bridges around the world to study and learn from. I saw a program about it on TV - apparantly a French company tried to build a similar bridge, had similar problems and offered to help the UK guys. They response, according to this program anyway, was `i dont think we need help from the French!` and plenty of laughter.

[ Parent ]
Escalator (none / 0) (#35)
by djotto on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:03:29 PM EST

God, i`ve seen them build whole supermarkets from scratch (ie Sainsburys in Tottenham Court Road) quicker than London Underground can fix one escalator.

For anyone who doesn't suffer Tottenham Court Road station each morning, London Transport got a whole series of excuse posters printed, explaining why it's completely reasonable for an escalator repair to take 8 months. ("We only work at night". "The cogs have to be carved from blocks of raw steel, by hand. With nailfiles".) Talk about patronising. You can hear the grinding teeth of the passengers from half way up Oxford Street.

And a Zone 1 single fare went up 6% this month. *sigh*...



[ Parent ]
Funny story about that bridge (none / 0) (#93)
by Builder on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:13:14 AM EST

My wife works for an information company. The sell access to databases with all kinds of industry specific info.

They approached the company that was to build the bridge about a year before work started and tried to sell them their engineering database. The bridge company declined on the basis of 'we don't need that info'.

After the wobbly fiasco, one of the sales team found an article in the database about building bridges of a certain shape (the one that they used) over a certain length. There are known issues (wobbles) and there are known ways to compensate for these. This article was in the database waaaay before work started.

Pennywise, millions of pounds foolish :)


--
Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
SWT strike (none / 0) (#32)
by djotto on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:43:38 PM EST

Train drivers are on strike because they are only getting a 3% raise this year.

I don't believe this series of strikes is about wages, otherwise the union would have jumped at SWT's previous offer (15% over 3 years). Primarily, I believe this is a political dispute over the fate of Greg Tucker, the union activist SWT busted from train driver to ticket collector for safety breaches. (BTW, Greg Tucker is a member of Socialist Alliance, and as a result of this strike is likely to get bumped way up the RMT's ruling body in the next elections. Make of that what you will.)

These people suffer a 5 mile walk to work because there is no tube service, while greedy bastards strike.

Train drivers are in high demand right now (salaries of up to £50K, including overtime), with train companies poaching them from each other rather than investing in training (cheaper, when you're not sure how long your franchise will be around or if the guy you trained is gonna jump to a better-paid job). I can't blame them for making hay while the sun shines - computer-type-people do the same thing.

A worker should have a right to withdraw labour... however, striking because you don't like the uniform seems pretty frivolous. There's a middle ground somewhere.



[ Parent ]
I must disagree (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:12:40 PM EST

I have to agree that Britain is falling apart, but my perspective is a literal one
Let's see...you say London is falling apart and you cite as evidence what look like a few gripes that you come up against in your daily commute. Now that's Britain for you. A bunch of grumpy people grumbling all day long about everything and generalising their grumpiness to the state of the entire universe :-)

BTW I think London is on its way nowhere but up. When I was last in London I thought it looked like most of the population had just won the lottery. Much more expensive shops all over the West End, people drinking decent coffee (hell, they even measure the upmarketness of an area these days by its cappuccino index), good food (no! really! in England!). London is actually upmarket these days!
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

I picked london because... (none / 0) (#94)
by Builder on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:15:33 AM EST

I only have so much time in the day to write this kind of thing. A trip to Penrith from London took 3.5 hours. A trip back took 8 because of rail failures around Edingburg

Many of the things I'm bitching about here I've seen in Southend, Brighton, Glasgow, etc.


--
Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
But really... (none / 0) (#111)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:44:42 PM EST

...delays on your train aren't terribly significant now are they? They're hardly a sign of the country falling apart.

Tell you what I hate in Britain - it's the fact that when I last took a train journey across England I was sharing it with a bunch of football fans. This meant that at every stop there was an army of police armed with dogs facing off against families of shaven headed morons many of whom are probably actually well off, middle class people doing what the Americans call 'slumming'. Since Roman times the population of Britain have been dominated by ignorant barbarians and as far as I can see it's only getting worse...
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Well Said (none / 0) (#55)
by bollochs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:27:00 PM EST

And I'm British.

Disclaimer - Although never funny, everything I write is satire, and thus free from dubious slander laws.
[ Parent ]
Exaggeration? (3.66 / 6) (#16)
by sto0 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:42:56 AM EST

I think the ideas in this article are fascinating, and something which I had not particulaly put much thought to, but perhaps you are over-exaggerating a bit when you say that Britain may come to a "cataclysmic end".

I think that this is a bit too much in the way of scaremongering; I certainly see the slow degradation (or reform) of such stalwart British institutions such as the monarchy and the House of Lords, but I don't think that eventually this will all come crashing down in one final apocalyptic event. I think that perhaps change will happen slowly, rather than Britain suddenly being caught up in a revolution.

As far as I know, the monarchy is an example of this. The Queen can still technically refuse to allow an Act passed by the House of Commons, but the grounds for such a happening are quite unlikely, and certainly parliament would have a lot of coercive power if this did happen. If you compare this with the way that the King or Queen played a much more active role in the governing of the country many years ago, I think that we will see a gradual decline (whether "graceful" or not) of such an institution as the monarchy as time progresses. Society is rather organic in a sense, so I think that final collapse would only occur under extreme circumstances.

But I'm no politician, so this is just my impression from actually having lived in Britain.

Too Right (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by WebBug on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:16:19 PM EST

I feel that I have to add my "me too" here.

It is rare for a well founded and dynamic nation to undergo traumatic collapse, even throughout history.

The UK is definetly undergoing a "rough" time. But so are many many other countries, including the United States. Germany is still reeling from its integration. Canada struggles with both its own identity and the idenity of its minority groups (natives and quebec mostly). Japan is struggling with its chosen economic model . . . etc.

The point is that, in human affairs, nothing is fixed, and that applies trebly when we are talking control of power.
-- It may be that your sole purpose is to server as a warning to others . . . at least I have one!
[ Parent ]
Aren't you forgetting a few other prespectives? (4.57 / 7) (#17)
by Netsnipe on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:57:04 AM EST

First of all, I'm an Australian so please excuse any stupidity of my outlook upon British affairs. Let me say that you've written an excellent primer for readers outside of the United Kingdom on the internal conflict that is plaguing its domestic politics.

Never had I realised beforehand that the ongoing devolution was such a threat to the integrity of the kingdom as a whole. Before any more discussion goes on, would you mind elaborating where the division of power lies in the current system? I'm afraid I know a lot more about federal/state systems that are in place for Australia and the United States at the moment.

I am however very curious as to why you haven't mentioned anything about external influences upon the apparent demise of the UK, especially with regard to the European Union. Do you believe that the reluctance of British society to accept the Euro is a reflection of that the British public believes its own cultural identity has weaken to the point that a common union with the mainland will further its demise in prestige on the international stage.

I remembered during the late 90s when everyone was mentioning "Cool Britiannia" and the further dismantling of class barriers. Whatever became of that cultural movement that was once so trendy? Has it left more people disillusioned than during the 80s when privatisation was at its peek?

I'm sorry if I'm asking too many questions in one go, but my parents were from Hong Kong which instilled a love of pomp and ceremony (especially British one) and so I've always been interested by British culture. I even shed a tear when the UK flag went down for the last time in `97! On a side not, just how has British society generally reacted over the demise of its empire in recent decades and being relegated to America's second fiddle? What is the current public reaction to Tony Blair's desire to have the UK act as an international moral guardian (peacekeeping-wise)?

I can seriously see you expanding on some of my questions above into a series on kuro5hin about what you see as to how and why the United Kingdom is in decline from a cultural, economic and diplomatic viewpoints from an actual Briton because to me they all seem to be very much intertwined.



--
Andrew 'Netsnipe' Lau
Debian GNU/Linux Maintainer & Computer Science, UNSW

Class barriers (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by sto0 on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:24:21 AM EST

"I remembered during the late 90s when everyone was mentioning "Cool Britiannia" and the further dismantling of class barriers. Whatever became of that cultural movement that was once so trendy?"

As far as I'm concerned, I feel that class barriers are still very much in existence, and the advent of "Cool Britiannia" was yet another piece of propaganda.

[ Parent ]
Cool Britiannia (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by FredBloggs on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:25:49 AM EST

was just a phrase the Tony Blair mentioned from time to time. Of course, if he`d wanted to be truly cool, he`d have actually done something towards that end. I dunno, chuck away some of our drug laws, for example. How can the country with the most draconian drug laws (and the biggest problems with both drugs and drug laws, and crime) be remotely cool?


[ Parent ]
Cool Britannia and other musings. (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:08:24 PM EST

Incoherent ramblings about the UK:

Cool Britannia was just a catch phrase of the Labour machine to try to enliven the image of the UK abroad, concentrating in positive aspects of recent British culture (pop music, fashion) and trying to forget the embarrasing image that the handling of the "mad cow disease" brought to the minds of many people.

The UK political system is an strange beast indeed: strongly and proudly democratic but horribly anachronistic as well, the division of powers is far more tenous than in republics. For example the executive is confered to the PM that is a memeber or the legislative body (House of Commons), the judiciary is independent but the higest court of appeal is formed by members of the House of Lords. The House of Lords, that counterbalances the Commons, has unelected members, appointed by PMs for life, 30 bishops of the Curch of England are there (leaving other religions wondering how fair is that) and there are some hereditary members that remain there because an obscure ancestor was induced there by a previous king.

The monarch is the head of state (and head of the church of England, so separation of Church and State takes a back seat) but has no real power whatsoever, justifying its existence to preserve "the institution of monarchy", the "traditions of the monarchy" and to "bring tourists to the UK". Hmm. Most people are monarchists: "liberte, fraternite, egalite" did not echoed very strongly in the UK I guess. One is a subject , not a citizen, the allegiance is to the Queen , not to the country.

Many matters have been (and still are) settled in London, only the most mundane things are settled or solved at a local level. The equivalent to State parliaments just don't exist.

Labour devolved goverment to Scotland, Wales, London, and as part of the Peace Process (which TOny Blair has supported fully) to Northern Ireland, but in Scotland, Wales and London Labour did all what they could to put people of the liking of the PM as heads of local goverments in these places. In all the three instances Labour failed miserably and were rightly vilified for meddling and lacking commitment for a true independent devolved goverment.

The people in the UK are horribly divided about what they want from the European Union. In one hand a lot of people perceive the EU as a menacing monster that is reducing UK independence to conduct their own matters, in the other hand people seek help from the EU in poor areas in the form of subsidies and regularly appeal to the European Court of Human Rights when clearly British law is not enough (human right legislation was introduced just a couple of years ago!).

Regarding the Euro public opinion is mainly against it. The uniformed sheeple just want to keep the pound (meaning using the same coins and bank notes).The more educated point out that budget planning will be done in Europe and not in the UK and they see that as loosing soverignity (what they normally don't mention is that the Euro would give the UK the right to influence monetary police as well in other countries).

The Empire, well it depends who you ask. Most people think good ridance and are truly ashamed of many attrocities commited in the past (Northern Ireland is another matter. Just don't talk about NI because you are bound to anger somebody, no matter what you say). Some people even question what the UK is doing in its last bits and pieces scattered around the world (Gibraltar, Malvinas Islands). But there are those that truly believe the empire was great, that the Empire was a civilizing force for good (these tend to be old).

People in the UK constantly talk about the "special relationship" with the US and you get even serious politicians toying with the posibility of joining NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement. Yep, it is true, some people feel closer to a country thousends of miles away than to countries a few minutes away by plane.I think anyone that has been ine both the US and continental Europe can clealry see that the UK has far more in common with Europe than with the US).

Ominously Margaret Thatcher a couple of years ago said that all the UKs problems during the XXth century came from the continent, and also that the anglosaxon English speaking countries have preserved freedom in the World (receiving for this standing ovations of Consrvative party members). Ouch. I think that most people perceive playing to the tune of the US as being the 2nd strongest country in the world or something like that, but they are always proud to point out the more civilized outlook of British foreign policy when compared to the US.

Is the UK in decline? Well, yes and no. They have a lot of influence, but nos as much as they use to have in the past, but influence today is a different beast where diplomacy can count far more than sheer strenght: the UK can reach many places that the US would not even dream of (Iran, Siria,Libya).

I guess (hope) some other will complete or correct this picture.

---
Those who sleep can't sin.
Those who sin, sleep well.

[ Parent ]
The Euro? (none / 0) (#39)
by gordonjcp on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:23:46 PM EST

Do you believe that the reluctance of British society to accept the Euro is a reflection of that the British public believes its own cultural identity has weaken to the point that a common union with the mainland will further its demise in prestige on the international stage.
Actually, *society* in Britain, as in the "general public", mostly *do* want the Euro. It's the government that are dragging their heels over it.
It's been likened to decimalisation in 1971, where British coinage went from an extremely complicated system to the present decimal system. At the time, many people wanted to stick with pounds, shillings and pence, but decimal money was introduced anyway. Here, with the Euro, the opposition are shouting "Labour want to do away with the good old British Pound".
Personally, I don't care what currency we use, so long as about 20-30 $currency_units is enough to buy a couple of rounds of drinks with...

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Britons do NOT want the Euro! (3.00 / 6) (#42)
by Wildgoose on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:54:24 PM EST

...as every opinion poll has shown repeatedly, often with a 2-to-1 majority AGAINST.

We all remember what it was like to fix our currencies against the European currencies when we were members of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. A million job losses, a million homes repossessed, another million people in negative equity, (i.e. owing more on their mortgage than their house was worth). It finished the Tories, and it will finish whichever Party is stupid enough to try and introduce it.

For pity's sake, the Euro make the Rouble look like a hard currency!

Oh, and in case any of you are under the mistaken impression that it is intended to help trade rather than being a purely political project, just consider this. There is no pan-European clearing house. If an Irish company wants to pay a German supplier in Euros, it will be treated as a foreign currency transaction just as before, with all the attendant charges.

[ Parent ]

Will get it anyway (none / 0) (#91)
by grand master thump on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:41:42 AM EST

Britons may not want the Euro but we will end up with it anyway, for the simple reason that big business wants it. They can reap short term benefits from staying out of the euro but the manufacturing sector in the UK is being decimated by the fact Europe has converged and the UK is not along for the ride (and a bunch of other things besides) and the finance and service sector wants if for long term projects. The unions are pro-euro, big business is pro-euro, the government is pro-euro, the only person who is holding it up is Rupert Murdoch who has a vested interest in keeping the status quo with regard to media monopolies. With that set of power blocs all lining up to embrace it what does it matter if the man on the street does not like the idea, he will be told, job or sterling you choose

The ERM was stupidity incarnate and a set of poor decisions made by anti-euro governement e.g. Sterling went in too high, politicians reacting far too slowly to the f/x markets, Bank of England officials afraid to make decisions with political consequences, made it worse. The recession of that time was caused by the usual boom and bust business cycle and short term political expediency more than the UK dropping out of the ERM.

The Euro has only been around for a couple of years and started at the beginning of a global economic downturn, of course its volatile, its new, everyone is nervous, give it a chance, look at it in 5 years time.

The fact that there is no pan-european clearing house has nothing to do with trade, the euro is there to facilitate trade between groups that can buy clearing houses, its primary trade catalyst is the foreign exchange risk. If I agree to buy 10 tons of something expensive every year for five years from a dealer in Germany on a fixed price per ton and we are both using different currencies then both of are exposed to a risk from currency fluctuations, I of paying too much, them of charging too little. As time goes on that risk increases as the likelhood of a considerable currency fluctuation increases. Of course I could end up with cheaper goods, or the dealer may just pull the plug on the contract. Either way it is a risk for anyone doing cross currency trade. The euro does away with this uncertainty in one fell blow and thus cross border trade will increase. The ERM was an attempt to do the same thing but was fundamentally flawed at the outset (ie the currencies could still fluctuate).

Capitalisation of the E in Euro is completely random in this post intentionally


This sig has been stolen
[ Parent ]

How? (none / 0) (#105)
by priestess on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:43:57 AM EST

Britons may not want the Euro but we will end up with it anyway
I hear this said quite a lot, but I still don't understand how it's supposed to happen. Even the Lib Dem party who's hugely in favour of a switch, doesn't claim it has the authority to do it without a referendum and I can't see how a referendum would pass, short of a massive change in public opinion.

So how will Big Business or whoever go about forcing the switch against the will of the people? Do you think just a bit of advertising will change their minds, and if it's that simple is it really against the will of the people? Perhaps a pretend referendum where we have a fake question, but surely the opponents of the Euro would be bright enough to tell people how to vote?

Personally I don't give much of a frig either way, I figure we let the greedheads decide since it effects them more than me. I don't much care if the currency is run by suits and big business in London or suits and big business in Brussels or Berlin, none of 'em give a shit about me anyway. I just wish they'd stuck to the name EMU instead of Euro. Much more slang potential in that name.
Pre..........

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
I aint got a blueprint but..... (none / 0) (#112)
by grand master thump on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:45:58 PM EST

I just reckon more groups have an interest in seeing it happen than those who have an actual solid interest in not seeing it happen. Joe Bloggs most likely does not care which faceless suit is controlling the interest rates as you say, the only reasons usually given are based around tradition and pride and all that. Its basically a PR thing, business failures will get blamed on not being in Euroland, job losses will get blamed on it etc, big PR machines will start to push for it. It will get wrangled and munched over and then a referendum will get through. Offering it up as a hope of better economic prospects and more money in the pocket and most people will sign up, not necessarily vocally but they will vote pro.

Sorry, I know its wooly but I think its just one of them inevitable things.


This sig has been stolen
[ Parent ]

The division of power in the UK (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by miller on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:22:27 PM EST

Since there's never been much of a constitution to speak of in the UK, division of power has more or less happened ad hoc.

The ruling monarch is head of state, is also head of the church and gets to pass any laws passed on from the house of Lords. The House of Lords gets to vote on bills which the House of Commons approved, and the House of Commons gets to write the bills in the first place before voting on them. The House of Lords is also the highest court in the land - the House of Commons can be taken to court but I don't believe the House of Lords can.

So fundamentally, power originates from the Queen and is passed to the House of Lords where it divides between the courts and the Commons. I don't believe the church has any special power. However, the Commons can override the Lords, and this is not an uncommon occurance. Parliament has also (once) in the past tried the King and installed a new leader as president.

The system fundamentally works because the church has very little power without the Queen and the Queen doesn't excercise the rights she has. This may be seen as a happy accident, and I'm sometimes thankful that we have such a docile bunch of stoners as royalty, rather than the power mad lot that run the Commons.

--
It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Similarites (none / 0) (#79)
by RandomPeon on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:13:49 PM EST

The US, with its written Constitution, has some similar problems with traditions impairing a decent government. The most glaring example is the Electoral College, the crazy system by which we pick the president. Originally, a very small and elite group of electors selected the president. At the begining of the 19th century Andrew Jackson succesfully campaigned to have electors elected by the voters. The purpose of this was to make the president a sort of "people's tribune" who was a truly national leader with real decision-making power. So the justification for the system ended two centuries ago but we continue to use it even when it produces the wrong results. The system massively overreprents rural areas; people in California receive twenty times less electoral vote per capita than those in Montana.

Then there are extraconstitutional traditions. A single senator can prevent a vote on a issue unless 60% of the membership agrees to force a vote by refusing to yield the floor. Why? Because 60 Senators are required to end debate and until debate ends each senator has unlimited time to speak. (Strom Thurmond spoke for 3 days continuously to prevent a vote on civil rights legistlation.) A good explanation of the history of "cloture", as this practice is called, would fill a short book. It was adopted when their were 26 senators and the federal government was a trivial organization but continues today.

A senator may also unilaterally prevent the president from appointing any official to a federal office in the state he represents. The senior senator of the president's party is responsible for submitting recommendations to the president about potential appointees for such positions. There are about a dozen federal offices for my state that have been unfilled since Bush took office. We have no senators from the president's party, so it took several months to decide who would submit these nominations (the most senior Republican representative or the mayor of the capital, or a committee, or a sharing system....). Then one Senator rejected each nomination, so another nomination was submitted which was rejected by the other Senator. The net effect is to leave these offices possibly vacant until 2004.....

[ Parent ]
Electoral College (none / 0) (#114)
by Robert Uhl on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:58:58 PM EST

So the justification for the system ended two centuries ago but we continue to use it even when it produces the wrong results. The system massively overreprents rural areas; people in California receive twenty times less electoral vote per capita than those in Montana.

On the contrary, the electoral college massively over-represents populous states. California has many more votes than Montana or Rhode Island!

It all depends on your viewpoint. I'm a federalist. You, apparently, are some sort of populist.

[ Parent ]

Argh I hate subjects (3.66 / 3) (#52)
by bc on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:52:14 PM EST

Before any more discussion goes on, would you mind elaborating where the division of power lies in the current system?

This covers the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament pretty well. Defence, foreign policy, Welfare, and central fiscal and economic matters are reserved to Westminster.

I am however very curious as to why you haven't mentioned anything about external influences upon the apparent demise of the UK, especially with regard to the European Union. Do you believe that the reluctance of British society to accept the Euro is a reflection of that the British public believes its own cultural identity has weaken to the point that a common union with the mainland will further its demise in prestige on the international stage.

The main reason I didn't mention the eu is that it would have made the article overly long. It seems to me that the EU is one of the forces behind the resurgence of england as a self aware country. For a long time, England has just thought of itself as Britain, and taken on this distinctly British identity. But the rise of seperatism and devolution in the other constituent countries of the UK, combined with the threat of the EU to Britain, does, I fancy, make England feel a tad assailed from all sides. I think Eurosceptiscism is a form of English Nationalism - the EU is thought of in much warmer terms in the rest of the UK, it just seems to frighten England. I think the British identity has definitely weakened, and is further eroding all the time. This forces people to look for stronger identities, and the people who may be most sorely affected in an identity sense by the demise of Britain are the English. The EU is viscerally seen as just another threat to Britain, and perhas is seen as part of the cause of the weakening of the British identity, for better or worse.

Certainly, part of the reason for the dislike of the EU is that much of the UK is historically and culturally used to splendid isolation and glorious victory - something that is not shaken off in just 50 years.

I remembered during the late 90s when everyone was mentioning "Cool Britiannia" and the further dismantling of class barriers. Whatever became of that cultural movement that was once so trendy? Has it left more people disillusioned than during the 80s when privatisation was at its peek?

IMO the 'Cool Britannia' phenomenon was just another example of the Labour government's grand Project Preserve Britain. Fundamentally glorifying Britain and all things British, whilst not really doing anything of substance at all to actually change anything. I certainly didn't notice any dismantling of class barriers, the whole thing was occasionally read about in newspapers and seen on the TV by most people, it wasn't a real thing, just circuses. It was just a silly epoch of fashion, certainly not as significant as Privatisation and now, already, mostly forgotten about.

On a side not, just how has British society generally reacted over the demise of its empire in recent decades and being relegated to America's second fiddle?

This would take a long time to answer :-) Essentially it has reacted by burying its head beneath the covers and just carrying on, as best it can, as always. Certainly there have been significant changes and events, but as far as the constitution and the ruling classes are concerned, that's about the size of it.

Most people don;t think of Empire and Great Power status much now. I certainly don't, it was all a good 30 years before I was even born. However, culturally and in the institutions of the nation much of the old has dragged on, as it always has, ever since 1688.

What is the current public reaction to Tony Blair's desire to have the UK act as an international moral guardian (peacekeeping-wise)?

Well, there has been no real 'public' reaction because most people don't think about that stuff at all, except when it involves troops being sent somewhere. And I think when Britain sends of troops somewhere, everybody secretly adores it across the nation - it seems hard wired into everyone. As for the Ethical Foreign policy, it is nothing but a stupid continuation of the sort of crap we have always done, but now blessed with a veneer of moral legitimacy in the more public entanglements. This is very Blairite too - doing exactly the same as before, whilst pretending it is revolutionary and radical. Project Preserve Britain, indeed.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Blame it on the yoof (none / 0) (#123)
by PigleT on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 05:18:33 PM EST

"would you mind elaborating where the division of power lies in the current system?"

The way I see it, Whitehall / Westminster think they control everything and put out PR to that effect.
In practice, folks in Northern Ireland know that "control" is limited to oh-so-useful things like gratuitously slowing drivers down and implementing the RIP bill, rather than doing anything useful to solve real problems.

"reluctance of British society to accept the Euro"...

I dunno. I'm not entirely sure how it'll work out with different tax rates to everyone else in europe. But I know when I look at a Welsh or Irish pound coin, or (even better ;) a Scottish tenner or 20quid note, that the individual nations each bring an individual feel to the currency - and where will F Nightingale, C Darwin, W Scott and C Dickens go if we sacrifice them to the Unified abstract-art Cause that is the euro? They stand for national pride and history that I, for one, don't want to see lost.
Let England be the bland nation that discards its history. It's always been the case that some shops refuse to honour Scottish notes out of plain ignorance for as long as I can remember, anyway. But in the process, don't through the whole nationality away.

"the late 90s when everyone was mentioning "Cool Britiannia"...

Were they? The term was sprung on me through no fault of my own; I was probably asleep at the time. I think the term is entirely a product of the media's perception of youth at the time. It sounds more like a description of Macleans Toothpaste to me.

"a love of pomp and ceremony (especially British one)"...

I get the impression that English pomp and ceremony is walking out of King's Cross station in London and *not* being propositioned by the ladies of negotiable affection outside.

Maybe this is the problem. It's a function of age; the youth of today is somewhat realist in outlook, hence the slap-down I gave in the paragraph above. Just look at the sorts of people you get at the last night of the Proms - I'm not entirely convinced it's all your average commoner off the streets any more.

Maybe this is why the UK Constitution has survived until now: the wisdom of age of those in politics has sufficed for the politics of the day. Maybe the difference today is not so much economic between rich and poor, as between free-thinker and disaffected youth?

Just my $AU0.02!
~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed
[ Parent ]
Britain dies, the british live on (2.60 / 5) (#18)
by sypher on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:20:36 AM EST

WTF?

England and the united kingdom in general are the same as any other country. We have had bad representation, and continue to suffer the blairite propaganda and easy acceptance of bad tidings.

We continue to suffer with inadequate, unrepresentational government that has until recently attempted to be everything, to everyman, be he welsh, irish, scottish or english.

Our country is in a fine mess, and will not face up to its problems, instead more are added to the pile each day, with more refugees and more industrial action splashing across front pages each and every week.

I was over 3 hours late into work today due to train drivers striking on my route

To say the UK is dying is like saying america died after appointing bush, or after september the 11th, in my opinion its not a case of dying, more facing up to the mistakes of the past and present. Labour has pulled this off, making more problems and mischief whilst ignoring the real issues.

Blair (uk prime minister) is more interested in gaining a nobel peace prize that bringing precise representation to his people, most of us are looking to get to spain before 2005, after all we might as well be there to start with.

This piece, whilst well written is not indicative of the situation facing the UK, and whilst discussion of the matter is warranted, the article offers nothing towards sorting the issues affecting our nation out.

<sarcasm>Bring back maggie</sarcasm>

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
Remember to consider populations (3.60 / 5) (#21)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:35:13 AM EST

Populations according to the 2001 Columbia Encylopedia

Wales: 2,798,200
Scotland: 4,957,000
England: 46,382,050

The vast majority of Britons are English. Scotland and Wales each have populations only equivalent to a small city. Scotland and Wales are also disproporionately poor, taking more in government spending than they contribute in taxes.

A break-up of the U.K. would make little difference to the outside world, or to England itself.

I am myself considering setting up a London Independence Party, dedicated to the liberation of the city of London from its oppressors. Since London's population is 6,378,600, and it contributes over 6 billion pounds more p.a. in taxes than it receives in spending, London is a far more viable independent state than either Scotland or Wales.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death

London (none / 0) (#22)
by itsbruce on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:41:55 AM EST

I am myself considering setting up a London Independence Party, dedicated to the liberation of the city of London from its oppressors. Since London's population is 6,378,600, and it contributes over 6 billion pounds more p.a. in taxes than it receives in spending, London is a far more viable independent state than either Scotland or Wales.

London is the capital has benefitted accordingly: a trivial example would be the number of artistic resources/instutions misleadingly labelled National when they are ohnly accessible here in London; a less trivial one would be the number of highly skilled people drawn here from all over because it is their capital. To separate London from the rest would be do remove a large part of the attraction. Edinburgh, for example, has seen its fortunes and energy revitalised by becoming a capital again. London could see a matching decline.

Not that it was a serious point, I realise, but it's silly even then.


--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]

Primate cities (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 11:55:27 AM EST

It's a long time since I did my Geography GCSE, but I do remember that countries with "primate cities" which dominate their countries are very much the exception rather than the rule.

It's not the case that a capital city will automatically draw in business and prosperity. Look at Washington DC, for instance.

It's just that we Londoners are better than everyone else.
:-P
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Rank size rule... AArgh! (none / 0) (#36)
by yonasa on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 01:05:36 PM EST

Well, primate cities are not that rare. Paris, for example, or the Australian cities Sidney and another one (I forget... Not exactly a primate city, but "Binary" - two / three cities dominating the rest), as well as Mexico city, and Tokyo, and Taipei, to name just a few.

As for dominant capital cities... surely you cannot have forgotten the three city functions you learned in GCSE already? Transport, Politics and Business / Commerce. In London, all three are concentrated - it is the political capital, the commercial centre and transportation hub (ports, railways, airports) of the UK, while Washington is not (and if I remember correctly, was set up deliberately to act only as the political capital of the US). Look also at Germany, where there is also no dominant city (not the the same extent as the UK and France), because 1) it was united only a short time ago (in the 18th century...?), and 2) Berlin was "chosen" as a capital, rather than becoming one through virtue of it being the biggest and wealthiest city...

What, you have forgotten these vital-to-your-everyday-well-being facts? Stay behind for extra classes, Boy! (or, uh, girl. Look, I can't tell, OK? :P )

--

I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

Uh, how does this relate to my post? (none / 0) (#45)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:05:58 PM EST

Primate cities are the exception not the rule... yep.

Capital cities don't automatically draw in business and prosperity... yep.

Londoners are better than everyone else... obvious :-)
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

London is the cause (none / 0) (#67)
by holdfast on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:35:28 PM EST

of irritation of the north of the UK with the south.

People in Scotland, the North and Midlands of England are totally browned off with London.

It has no function. It provides no useful services and saps all resources from the rest of us.
Some examples? The Millenium Dome was supposed to be a national resource. Instead, it was put on an old gasworks site in an awkward and innacessible part of a polluted city in a remote part of the country. Why wasn't it put in Peterhead? For those who don't know, that is a slightly less polluted town near Aberdeen. The rest of the description could be said to be the same however. I expect they have an old gasworks that could have been used though...

Another example? The future 'National Stadium' is in the process of being put in London. It will be put in an awkward area that is only really accessible to people within London. It will not be decently accessible to people from the rest of the country who do not have such heavily subsidised public transport...

The list could go on a long way. London is the cause of Scottish and Welsh Nationalism. Most Scots do not hate all the English. Most Scots do strongly dislike the London grab of everything.


"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
According to the last history of London I read... (none / 0) (#70)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:04:46 PM EST

...by the early nineties London was contributing more than 6 billion pounds a year more than its share of taxes to the UK. Whereas with Scotland it's pretty much the reverse.

In other words, the average Londoner contributes a thousand pounds a year in taxes so whining Scots can lounge around on the dole shooting up heroin, munching deep-fried Mars bars and complaining about how much they hate the English. Scotland is basically a giant, bloated leech sucking the lifeblood out of England.

If Scotland wants independence, then bloody well take it! It's not hard: every other damn country in the Empire did. But hang on, that would mean no more leeching, wouldn't it?
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

You forgot one thing (none / 0) (#77)
by deaddrunk on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 09:52:49 PM EST

Most of the manufacturing industries that would have employed Scots and allowed them to contribute more in taxes were destroyed by the London-based Tory government. If there are too many Scots on the dole, perhaps Maggie shouldn't have put them there in the first place.

[ Parent ]
Not quite (none / 0) (#107)
by alisdair on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:05:21 AM EST

According to the last history of London I read, by the early nineties London was contributing more than 6 billion pounds a year more than its share of taxes to the UK. Whereas with Scotland it's pretty much the reverse.
According to figures produced by the previous Tory government (the one before the 1997 election), Scotland contributed 27 billion pounds more to the treasury than we received since 1979. This is an SNP argument, but backed up by Westminster figures.

[ Parent ]
This is because... (none / 0) (#108)
by TheophileEscargot on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 11:12:54 AM EST

...the SNP, well aware that the Scottish voter depends entirely on state subsidies, claims that North Sea Oil revenue will allow the Scots to continue their lives of idle luxury without paying for it.

This has already been debunked in comment #47.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Melbourne... (none / 0) (#48)
by Rk on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:18:01 PM EST

...Melbourne is the city you were talking about. And, as a matter of fact, neither are the Australian capital, that would be Canberra. (which was constructed just for the purpose, like Brazilia and Washington D.C.)

As for Germany, Berlin *is* the most populous city, but Frankfurt am Main is the financial centre and transport hub. (it also has the highest buildings in Europe - high building aren't all that common over here) Hamburg is the main seaport.

Germany became a nation in the mid 19th century, and almost as soon as it was united, the new nation invaded France. That started off the hostilities that in part caused the First World War.
It's worth noting the difference between federalism and centralism here - the US, Canada, Australia but few mainland European countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland - there are probably more though) are federalist, while the UK and France are much more centralist - thus London's and Paris' domination over other cities in their respective countries.

[ Parent ]
Berlin (none / 0) (#100)
by the trinidad kid on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:44:42 AM EST

Berlin is hardly a typical capital city in that it spent half the 20th century divided in two. As a West German city it was seperated from the rest of the Bundesrepublik by a land corridor. As an East German city it was the capital of a failed entity.

[ Parent ]
Lowly ape (none / 0) (#64)
by itsbruce on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:28:37 PM EST

It's a long time since I did my Geography GCSE, but I do remember that countries with "primate cities" which dominate their countries are very much the exception rather than the rule.

In this case it's a sign of how inefficient and poorly-organised the UK is. London wouldn't need to be so outsize in every way compared to the rest of the island if Britain's social and industrial arteries weren't so sclerotic.


--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]

Washington DC? (none / 0) (#73)
by Rahaan on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:21:30 PM EST

I'm not really sure if you're joking or not because your point was so off..

Washington, D.C. used to be a swamp. The entire reason for its existence is because that that area (then the center of the 13 states) was chosen to be the central capitol, and, since then, has grown into one of the larger cities of the U.S. The population in 2000 was 572,059, which doesn't include the millions more in the Northern Virginia and Southern/Central Maryland area.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

Primary Cities? (none / 0) (#84)
by linca on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:52:19 AM EST

In Europe there are perhaps only 2 countries that do not have primary cities : Germany and Netherlands. The fact that Berlin is not a primary city is debatable ; My guess is that it'll be one again in a few decades. 2 out of 50 countries. At least here, primary cities seem to be the rule...

The only places where capitals are not primary cities are recent countries, such as USA, Canade, Brazil... One could even argue that the NorthEastern Megalopolis in the US is a Primary City :)

[ Parent ]
OKay. (none / 0) (#43)
by mindstrm on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:03:03 PM EST

Your kind of thinking is the kind that really gets the world in hot water.

Where, perchance, do you think your food comes from? I can guarantee you it's now grown in Picadilly Circus, or down the Strand.

This type of fund allocation/collection is no different anywhere else in the world. Rural areas tend to get more subsidization than urban centers.

What would happen if London did separate? Hmm. now there is no funding for those outlying regions.. and they need more money, right?
Guess who's gonna get charged more for food & resources? Guess who's gonna pay more for shipping goods through outlying regions?

If you *really* get down to it... the money might be in London, but the *real* wealth is in the country.








[ Parent ]
Suspect you don't know much about the EU (none / 0) (#51)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:48:14 PM EST

Agriculture in Europe receives vast, vast subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. This is weighted particularly towards small, inefficient farms, particularly in France. It's also caused over-production... heard of the butter mountain? Vast amounts of food are grown and either dumped or sold at a loss.

So where does the money come from? Urban taxpayers like me!

Everyone agrees the system should be reformed, but no one country is prepared to give up its share of the gravy train.

There would be two options after independence.

  • London in the EU. Nothing different.
  • London out of the EU, buying cheap food grown with other countries subsidies.
Farmers need their market as much as the market need their food. An independent London would either be better off, or the same.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
France and Poland... (none / 0) (#122)
by thanos on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 11:33:05 AM EST

Isn't the agricultural subsidy issue the most intractable one in current debate? I have heard that many in France have problems with Polish EU membership because all the poor Pole farmers will suck all the subsidy money away from France (who is currently the largest recipient.)

Will farming always have to be subsidized by government in one way or another? That's a tough question...
Savinelli testified that Pickard said on two occasions that he had accidentally spilled LSD on himself, dosing himself with the drug. Pickard acted "giddy" and was less focused and organized for about a month after the second dosing.
[ Parent ]

Monarchy almost no internal political power (4.00 / 4) (#28)
by maroberts on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:18:47 PM EST

People outside the UK seem to find it hard to understand that in reality the UK monarchy has almost no political power in reality. The monarchy probably has more influence on events abroad throught the Commonwealth nations than it does on internal politics. Whilst the monarchy does possess some major powers e.g. the right to veto Acts of Parliament, in practice there would be an uproar if it tried to do so, and the best the monarchy can really do is try to influence political opinion behind the scenes.

The UK does have problems, but none of these are likely to force a break up of the UK, with the possible exception of Northern Ireland. Like the Falklands and Gibraltar, most people on the UK mainland would care very little if Northern Ireland were joined with the rest of Ireland. However the sticking point with the UK populace is that it refuses to countenance such a measure for any of these offshoots unless a popular vote in the affected area indicated the desire to do so.

The other UK problem is the dissolution of the House of Lords. The problem was that everyone could see flaws of the House of Lords, but not enough consideration was given to what would replace it, and the House of Commons is unwilling to countenance what *should* really replace the house of Lords, which is a fully elected second chamber with power of veto over Commons legislation. I believe few people understood what the House of Lords really did, because they were too fixated on the ermine and titles. The real job of the House of Lords was
a) to act as a check on the far more politically oriented commons
b) to allow experts in their fields to chance to directly amend legislation which affected thier areas of expertise. With (IIRC) over a 1000 members of the House of Lords, there could always be found a some people who were experienced in areas of a trade or the law and could bring their expertise to bear on legislation. Without such expertise, the possibility of badly drafted and ill considered legislation has become much more likely.



~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
I voted never... (1.50 / 2) (#31)
by cyrus on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 12:32:24 PM EST

while whistling 'land of hope and glory' to myself - I've just realised how much of an instinctive patriot I am :o)
~c
The future of the State of England... (3.00 / 7) (#44)
by SIGFPE on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:03:56 PM EST

I think England should dump Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Monarchy and file for membership of the US. They have no interest in the Euro and surely the dollar would be a much better bet. There is a shared cultural heritage between the US and England that would greatly ease transition ranging from a belief in the improtance of freedom of speech and due process to the fact that the Americans and the English watch many of the same sit coms. I'm sure that many Americans would welcome their long lost cousins with open arms and they'd be happy to have the genuwine Magna Carta on American soil. Frankly I doubt that the English would even notice the change apart from their currency suddenly looking a bit more drab.

The economic and military benefits for both the US and England of having an American state at the doorstep of Europe would be immense and many aspects of government wouldn't actually change at all seeing as British PMs seldom have any disagreements with American presidents. Parliament would remain as state government in England with the role of PM replaced by that of Governor of England.

Seems like a good idea to me.
SIGFPE

hmm. (4.75 / 4) (#50)
by AnalogBoy on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:23:27 PM EST

Arthur C. Clarke proposed this in "The light of other days". Mentioning that England became the 52nd state, after shrugging off the remainder of the UK. The monarchy moved to Austrailia, where they were still welcomed. There's a million reasons why it wouldnt work, im sure.. Its just a thought experiment, anyway. And after today, my brain needs a rest. And I don't like our money. Too.. green.
--
Save the environment, plant a Bush back in Texas.
Religous Tolerance (And click a banner while you're there)
[ Parent ]
I don't know if the US would like that to much (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by delmoi on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:53:24 PM EST

I'm not sure of the population of england proper, but the UK has about 120 million people. By contrast, california has about 20 million people. If England were to become a state, they would have a huge vote and could really throw off US elections. I'm not sure the current US government would want to loose that power.

It would be pretty ironic though...
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Heh (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by bc on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:00:31 PM EST

England has roughly 50 million people, and the UK about 60 million.

Could you be thinking of Japan?

Still a big vote though, right enough. However, I can't see them voting democrat or republican, bth of whom are viewed as right wing crazies. So the huge vote would be safely absorbed by an irrelevant third party.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Affecting the vote (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by Torgos Pizza on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:29:27 PM EST

With the electoral college, it's true that England would have some influence on an election, but it wouldn't guarantee a victory for anyone. They would have a pretty large chunk of delegates (perhaps around 40 to 50 perhaps?) but they would only have the influence of a state like Texas, California or New York. Since they have no connection to West Coast, East Coast or Southern politics, England would be more of a wild card than anything.

I see very little power or influence being just given to England if they were to join. Our Constitution was built around this very concept. Heck, we've gone from 13 States to 50 States in a little more than 200 years. Certainly if the rest of the US can put up with all the zanyness that occurs in California on a regular basis, we can definitely handle having England in the Union.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]

nope. (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by garlic on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:36:05 PM EST

California has 35 million people. check out this part of the US Census bureau.

Also, bc was correct with his 60 million number. My source was the CIA fact book. I would use the UK census bureau, but they don't appear to have stats online.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

One problem... (3.25 / 4) (#86)
by garethwi on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:06:31 AM EST

...The British like to think of themselves as living in a free country, and it's pretty obvious that America is anything but.

[ Parent ]
... huh? By what standard? (none / 0) (#89)
by quistas on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:58:51 AM EST

Just off the top of my head, massive use of cameras in public places in the UK has resulted in enforced social conformity, there's no guaranteed freedom of speech and restrictions on publication mean that books and articles critical of the UK's military and intelligence ministries don't ever see the light of day, police can search your home without a warrant, and... jeez, I could go on and on. The Bill of Right's had some restrictions put on it ("Fire", threatening speech, DMCA, etc), and the current administration's been a little.. ah, zealous in their attempt to prevent further attacks, but it's one of the most important rights documents ever written. The UK's got gentlemen's agreements, freely violated.

If anyone UK thinks they're more of a free country than the US, they're deluded.

-- q

[ Parent ]

Social conformity? (none / 0) (#96)
by spiralx on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:35:47 AM EST

Just off the top of my head, massive use of cameras in public places in the UK has resulted in enforced social conformity...

Eh? What are you talking about? Seriously, have you ever been to the UK or are you just talking out of your arse? Because although there is very widespread use of CCTV in urban centres here in the UK, I don't see how that has in any way led to a rise in "social conformity".

... police can search your home without a warrant...

No, Customs and Excise can, but the police can't.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

No guaranteed freedom of speech? (none / 0) (#110)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:19:29 PM EST

Eh? You must mean 'guarantee' as in "guaranteed or you get your money back (see small print below)". A country doesn't guarantee freedom of speech because there's some dusty old document promising it. It has freedom of speech because it has a long history of a culture that backs it and legal precedents that ensure a judge can't overturn it. The law isn't just a finite list of rules, it's a constantly evolving tradition interpreted by the mores of the day (which is why American citizens could be held in concentration camps during WWII or much of the US population could be bought and sold prior to the Civil War and today they can't).

If anyone UK thinks they're more of a free country than the US, they're deluded.
Well freedom isn't a one dimensional variable so comparisons are tricky. A large percentage of US citizens live behind bars and not a few of these are deliberately killed by the state from time to time. And the US has a system of censorship that relies on gentlemen's agreements between the presidency and media companies whereas in the UK when Gerry Adams voice was banned from TV the media companies did everything they could to work around it.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
So... (none / 0) (#115)
by garethwi on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:43:10 AM EST

...when you made these comments was it from first hand experience of being in the UK?

The cameras used in public are used to combat crime, and do not result in 'social conformity' or whatever it is you actually meant by those two words.

As for guaranteed freedom of speech; you are free to speak, as long as you speak the truth.

The are plenty of books and articles critical of the UKs military and intelligence communities. The ones that are banned are the ones which reveal current secrets.

As for your freely violated gentlemans agreements; I would like to see some examples of this.

I'm happy to be in your opinion deluded, because I know that while your country spends all it's time shouting about being free, there is actually only freedom for very few of its citizens.

[ Parent ]
RE: the links you provide in your post (none / 0) (#121)
by thanos on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 11:09:50 AM EST

It is absurd to think that the links in your post justify your myopic view of the United States.

And before you sit back and call me a stupid 'my country right or wrong' American, understand that I think I am somewhere between an anarchist and a libertarian: I dislike the government--of any country.

Now, about those links...

A link to some x-files conspiracy rant about how the US government was involved in 9/11 doesn't exactly help convince me that the US isn't a free country. Neither does a link to the Selective Service (lots of free countries have compulsory military or civil service, the US Armed Forces are currently fully volunteer.) Or do you consider Norway, Switzerland, Israel, etc. all just as bad as the US? And a link to somebody whining about how his website was shutdown by the Feds because he was posting photos of undercover agents isn't exactly a persuasive argument either.

Yes, in the US there are examples where certain personal freedoms are currently being eroded (some of us are fighting against this!) And yes the US government has sometimes abused its citizens (that is what governments do.) But these anti-American posts are so so tiresome.
Savinelli testified that Pickard said on two occasions that he had accidentally spilled LSD on himself, dosing himself with the drug. Pickard acted "giddy" and was less focused and organized for about a month after the second dosing.
[ Parent ]

not possible (2.40 / 5) (#46)
by eastwest on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:14:42 PM EST

UK may appear to fall apart, but I don't think the external environment allows it. Europe as a whole is moving toward integration, and any break-up just creates more trouble for neighboring countries. I don't see an independence movement in Scottland either, and the population is not interested in separating. Even Northern Ireland, with armed independence movement, still find strong resistence.

Also the USA won't let it happen. The UK is very useful to the USA in its current form, and the USA won't allow the falling-apart of its most loyal ally.

How Exactly? (none / 0) (#99)
by the trinidad kid on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:37:41 AM EST

If the people of Scotland voted to leave the UK, how exactly would the US prevent it happening?

When the UK was the world's strongest power and the Irish had a majority for leaving the UK they did albeit after the near civil war of 1912-1914, the rising in 1916, and the civil wars of 1918 - 1922 and 1922 onwards.

The reason the violence in the North has never led to Northern Ireland leaving the UK is that the political wing of the IRA(s) never received more than 11% of the vote when they were militarily active.

[ Parent ]
Rise in English Nationalism (3.33 / 6) (#47)
by Wildgoose on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 02:17:33 PM EST

Three years after New Labour had been elected, the number of English people calling themselves "English" rather than "British" had risen from just 5% of the population to over 25%.

This scared enough people that we had loathesome right-wingers like Jack "Boot" Straw, the then New Labour Home Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) saying on the media that "English" nationalism was nasty and racist and should not be tolerated, unlike Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism all of which were perfectly acceptable. Needless to say, it didn't help.

I think Scotland will leave, and I for one won't be sorry to see them go. English people get beaten up in Scotland for the crime of being English. (It has happened to people I know). The Scot in charge of Scottish Tourism has been on National Radio today saying the the Scots should be nicer to the English, because we are an important part of their tourism economy. I think that the fact that it was necessary to say this speaks volumes.

And what exactly did we do to the Scots? We gave the rule of our country to a Scottish King. The Scots retained their legal system, and a disproportionate number of MPs. The Act of Union stipulated 45 MPs at the time. A proportionate number for the current number of MPs would be about 50. Scotland currently has 89 MPs. A massively disproportionate influence. But that is not all. The Barnett formula guarantees that Scots get an extra 20% per capita of tax revenues over what is granted the English. And of course Scotland now has its own Parliament, and English MPs have no rights over matters concerning Scotland. The disproportionate number of Scottish MPs on the other hand make full use of their rights over the English.

And before anyone starts chanting "North Sea Oil", I think it is only fair to point out that Sea Borders follow Land Borders, and that the English/Scottish border tips sharply North-East before it reaches the coast, (and extending into the North Sea). Which means that a sizeable percentage of North Sea Oil revenue is English, not Scottish.

Perhaps the real question shouldn't be when Scotland leaves the Union, but rather when England decides its had enough and leaves the Union itself.

Well yes. (none / 0) (#54)
by bc on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:21:38 PM EST

Three years after New Labour had been elected, the number of English people calling themselves "English" rather than "British" had risen from just 5% of the population to over 25%.

This is not surprising. The movement of of power from London to Cardif and Edinburgh (in itself designed to stop all further movements of such power and demands for it) and the resulting problems such a sudden awareness in England of funding inequalities and the problems of the West Lothian Question were bound to help boost English nationalism and a sense of English pride in who they are. And there is nothing wrong with that - of course, it terrifies the governing &eaccute;lite because they know it is yet another process leading to the break up of the UK, if it is not curtailed, and the resulting mass modernisation and written constitution, etc etc, that would surely result in each of the respective nations. Nationalism in each of the constituent countries tends to feed off each other, but that the sleeping elephant of English nationalism is awakening is hugely dangerous for the UK's future as a unitary state.

I think Scotland will leave, and I for one won't be sorry to see them go. English people get beaten up in Scotland for the crime of being English. (It has happened to people I know). The Scot in charge of Scottish Tourism has been on National Radio today saying the the Scots should be nicer to the English, because we are an important part of their tourism economy. I think that the fact that it was necessary to say this speaks volumes.

Don't you think you are possibly taking an anecdote and getting carried away? As far as I'm aware, there is no great problem with English people being beaten up in Scotland. Certainly, it happens, but I certainly wouldn;t say it is a huge problem. I think it is something Scots fear they might generate a bad reputation for, more than anything.

Perhaps the real question shouldn't be when Scotland leaves the Union, but rather when England decides its had enough and leaves the Union itself.

Yes. As your post personifies very well, people often overlook the impact of devolution on England itself. In this case, it is a greatly increased awareness of the differences in funding and representation between the nations, and resentment.

Anyway, FYI, the Barnet formula is due to be phased out over the next decade, or at least greatly reduced. This may ease problems over this in England, whilst creating more tensions in Scotland :) Ho hum.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Are we Yanks really that apathetic? (none / 0) (#78)
by RandomPeon on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 10:22:15 PM EST

A proportionate number for the current number of MPs would be about 50. Scotland currently has 89 MPs. A massively disproportionate influence. But that is not all. The Barnett formula guarantees that Scots get an extra 20% per capita of tax revenues over what is granted the English. And of course Scotland now has its own Parliament, and English MPs have no rights over matters concerning Scotland. The disproportionate number of Scottish MPs on the other hand make full use of their rights over the English.

It's interesting that people get worked up over this. A resident of Montana receives about 20 times more representation in the presidential election than a resident of California, and about 70 times more representation in the Senate. But no one really cares in the US, other than the most partisan of Democrats. (Possibly because the overrepresantion provision is the only thing in the Constitution that's unchangeable without unanimous consent of all the states.)



[ Parent ]
I'd say no. (none / 0) (#82)
by Apuleius on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:06:28 AM EST

The over-representation issue is almost purely mathematical (the small states don't have enough interests in common to pool this power and sway anything), and more important issues in which regions conflict get settled because Americans will do whatever it takes to avoid another Unpleasantness.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Two points (none / 0) (#97)
by the trinidad kid on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:33:02 AM EST

Firstly the over-representation of Scottish MPs is being dealt with as part of the round of constitutional changes - the boundary commission report on the reduced constituencies (down to about 50-odd) is due out this week.

Secondly the so-called Barnett overspend only relates to 'identifiable' public spending - ie spending which can be clearly broken down into geographical components like health and education. 'Identifiable' public spending is only a part (albeit a large part) of the total government spend. Little of the 'non-identifiable' public spending is thought to occur in Scotland (foreign affairs, defence, lottery money see the Dome, etc, etc)

[ Parent ]
Partition? (2.50 / 2) (#53)
by holdfast on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:16:19 PM EST

In 1947 well meaning English politicians allowed India to be broken up. Then, there was massive displacement, death, hardship and suffering. Right now there is the possibility that a nuclear war may start that could kill billions.
Recently, the moral successors of those fools started the process intended to do the same to the UK. They put forward a rigged referendum. In the end 36% of people in Scotland voted for the idea. The feelings of the remaining 64% were ignored. Also ignored were the even greater number of "expatriate Scots", like myself, living in England.
I am having my homeland taken away from me and I want it back! I am British! I was Born in the capital of Scotland and went to school in Scotland and England. I have lived in various parts of the world. I always defined myself as Scottish and British to anyone who I met there. I have married an English girl. When those idiots have split the UK, which way shall I go?

"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
I know who you are. (none / 0) (#56)
by ambrosen on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:41:30 PM EST

I was Born in the capital of Scotland and went to school in Scotland and England. I have lived in various parts of the world. I always defined myself as Scottish and British to anyone who I met there. I have married an English girl.
You are Tony Blair. Or any one of most of the other current members of the cabinet.

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]
Huh? Where did you get those figures? (none / 0) (#57)
by bc on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 03:51:30 PM EST

Firstly, out of those who bothered to turn up and vote, 74% voted for a Scottish Parliament - a pretty overhwelming majority.

On a 60% turn out, that is 44% of the total electorate voting yes. It is a bit unfair, it seems to me, to demand that the majority of the total electorate vote for something for it to be valid. (source)

Secondly, comparing India and Scotland in this way is not really fair either. The whole point of partition is that before Britain came along, India didn't exist as a nation. Certainly, Empires would come and go, but never for very long and they never conquered all of India. So partition was always going to be tricky and difficult, as the subcontinent did not exactly have a united identity.or a nationhood.

By contrast Scotland has retained its nationhood and identity, used to be a state, and all independance would do is confer the institutions of statehood.

Thirdly, why should Scots who do not live in Scotland have any say over the nation's future? They don't have to live with it, and furthermore, given the abscense of a Scottish passport as a handy way of identifying who is a Scot and who isn't, it is a bit hard to define who should be allowed to vote and who not, among expatriates.

In Scotland there is a certain type of Scot who confirms to the idea of what I have heard called 'departure lounge nationalism'. These are the talented Scots who feel a deep unidentifiable shame of being Scottish, of being a part of a nation that voluntarily gave away so much, that actually decided to walk into a strange sunset, a nether region of semi-existance.

Such Scots may often identify with 'Britain' rather than Scotland, and historically did so very often - it was a badge of confidence and outward lookingness. But now that the tide is turning the other way, this phenomenon seems to be dying, bit by bit.



♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Figures (none / 0) (#63)
by holdfast on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:57:16 PM EST

deep unidentifiable shame
I am proud of my origins. All my colleagues know of them - hard to deny with this accent. I got married in my kilt - not a hired one. I know which football team I support and I know which part of the UK has the best education system.
A lot of the 'English' around me have no cultural background to hang on to. I find I have a lot in common with people whose ancestors came from India & Pakistan. They answer to 'British' if allowed to but they also answer to something else.

And to the other poster, I am not Tony Blair. My wife is not a lawyer. We both work for the NHS.

"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
Not flippant this time. (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by ambrosen on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 07:15:27 PM EST

I didn't vote in the referendum either, having been a resident of England at the time, but now I'm proud to live in a country where the state feels able to fund its own future with free higher education, and also can find the money (with no extra help from Westminster) to fund long term care for the elderly. I also enjoy the way that these decisions are reached with an emphasis on consensus, and feel secure in the knowledge that Holyrood will be able to cope with any reduction in income that comes through reduction of the Barnett formula. I enjoy living in Scotland, and even though my accent doesn't fit in, I feel I belong here.

I just don't see any way that having a parliament in Scotland weakens Britain at all, because it addresses a separate Scottish identity which has among other things a stronger socialist ideal than much of England. Doing this reduces resentment and disunity, and does seem to have pushed the balance of resentment back over the border to England, which I think now should be beginning the process of setting up a parliament in Birmingham.

Anyway, the only disapproval I see in the Scottish press is the ridiculously excessive cost of building the new parliament. And it wasn't that 64% of the voters were ignored, it was just that 16% (26% of the 74% turnout) were outvoted. Those who didn't vote did have the chance.

As for you not knowing where to go if the UK splits, how's about it doesn't matter. What matters is what traditions you follow, and you can bring together all the identities you want. My brother's fine living in Ireland married to an Irish woman, and he still knows who he is.

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]

heh (none / 0) (#85)
by streetlawyer on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:53:05 AM EST

Also ignored were the even greater number of "expatriate Scots", like myself, living in England.

Strikes me you'd already voted ... with your feet.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Europe. (none / 0) (#109)
by nickwkg on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 12:41:28 PM EST



[ Parent ]
maybe this is dumb, but (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by xah on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 04:43:29 PM EST

Why doesn't the UK just adopt a federal constitution like the US? Scotland could be a state. Wales could be a state. Etcetera.

Apologies in advance if this suggestion is presumptious.

Because... (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by UncleMikey on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:31:28 PM EST

...that would mean admitting that the American Revolutionaries were right, and the Brits just can't stand losing an argument :-)
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#92)
by jwaskett on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:46:12 AM EST

I know that was meant as a joke, but it's actually fairly interesting. Though I think even we brits would be prepared to accept we were wrong after 225 years! It's also important to remember that there is no collective 'we' here who all think the same things and support our country's actions. I, for example, think that you were totally right to declare independence. I just wish my ancestors had lived over on that side.

I think it's interesting, because if you look at the writings of the US 'founding fathers', you find that a lot of the attitudes were obviously due to being revolutionaries and having been so sick of the previous (British) government. For example, a strong distrust of government, which let directly to the concept of limited government.

I think that the idea of a constitution being a limitation on government powers is one that could only arise just after a revolution. If a constitution is adopted in peacetime, then I think that normal government lust for power will prevent a sensible constitution from being adopted. For example, see the despicable get out clause in our new Human Rights Act (essentially, this overrides the government and all other laws, except if the government really wants to do something).

So while I can see us eventually getting rid of the monarchy and adopting a written constitution, I can't see it being a very good one, or terribly useful.

But then again, I guess yours isn't that great when Ashcroft clearly hasn't read the US Constitution. Either that, or he sees it as a challenge!



[ Parent ]
Only half-joking (none / 0) (#119)
by UncleMikey on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 12:38:33 AM EST

I was only half-joking :-) It really does amaze me that it's still true, 225 years later, that there is no law Parliament can't make. Britain has made great strides toward modern governance, but the complete imbalance of her government is astounding.

A limiting Constitution is still only as good as the people who enforce it -- a document may set out the rules, but it can't make people follow them all by itself. The balance of powers the US Constitution dictates depends in part on the theory that you'll never get all three independent branches of government to work together to subvert the limitations placed on them. And even then, given how long it takes for the Supreme Court to see a case once it's begun, two of the branches (the executive and the legislative) can bend the rules for quite some time before the third calls them to heel.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

Take Canada's example. (none / 0) (#120)
by dadragon on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 01:10:09 AM EST

I think that the idea of a constitution being a limitation on government powers is one that could only arise just after a revolution. If a constitution is adopted in peacetime, then I think that normal government lust for power will prevent a sensible constitution from being adopted.

Take a look at Canada. We adopted a written constitution in 1867, peacetime, in the wake of the American Civil War (Where they decided to invade the colonies for the THIRD time). We needed to unite the colonies in order to have enough military power to fend off another American attack, that and there were economic reasons.

So while I can see us eventually getting rid of the monarchy and adopting a written constitution, I can't see it being a very good one, or terribly useful.

If you think about it, you do have a constitution. It's a person, the Queen. You could also take Canada's approach and write the monarch into the constitution, limiting their power, but maintaining their office.

You must also remember that in the wake of some revolutions, the revolutionary government may have a lust for power, causing more revolts.



[ Parent ]
Because no-one cares enough... (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by jynx on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:59:50 PM EST

The monarchy have no power what so ever. No-one feels strongly enough about them to go to the effort of getting rid of them.

People outside the UK don't realise that although the Queen "technically" has some powers (e.g. to disolve parliament), any attempt to use them would almost certainly result in the end of the monarchy.

Personally I'd like to see reform, but I'd be more concerned with ironing out these anomilies with Scottish MPs being too powerful, and the undemocratic nature of the first past the post system.

On the other hand, I guess one argument for getting rid of the monarchy is that I find them quite embarrasing.

--

[ Parent ]

The monarchy is important ... (none / 0) (#102)
by drhyde on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 09:22:48 AM EST

... because although the monarch does not wield those powers, the Cabinet - and in particular the Prime Minister do. For example, the Prime Minister can ask (that is, command) the monarch to dissolve parliament as and when he chooses, thus arranging for election to happen when in convenient for him. Likewise, cabinet does not need to get the approval of parliament before going to war, because the armed forces are servants of the CROWN, not of the nation, or of parliament, or of the people, and the Prime Minister wields the royal power.

[ Parent ]
I always wondered about that.... (none / 0) (#103)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:00:10 AM EST

Is there any circumstance (how ever unlikely) that could see the monarchy resume direct control?



People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
Scotland, Wales, N. Ire. as "states"? (none / 0) (#71)
by bluebomber on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 06:07:09 PM EST

While it certainly would be interesting it simply won't happen. The use of the word "State" in describing the territories of the United States implies that they are sovereign powers. Indeed they are, subject to the restrictions in the US Constitution that they have agreed to. Good luck convincing Britain that Wales is a sovereign State. Put another way, a federal constitution simply wouldn't fit with the realities of government in the UK.
-bluebomber
[ Parent ]
Re: Maybe this is dumb, but (none / 0) (#76)
by JJunken on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 08:46:23 PM EST

The UK is the "United Kingdom", composed of state-like entities already. We in the US look at the map and see something that "looks about the size of a state."

The UK is compromised of different groups of people who, historically, have been at odds. The Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English, etc. The French / Norman influence on England was so great, at one time, that English monarchs spoke French as a first language.

The question becomes "why do we want to preserve the UK" more than "how best to preserve the UK." Economically, there are benefits, but those benefits have tended to apply to a narrow band of people.

As always, the centralization of power makes some "more equal' than others. Combine that with historical, religious and political differences, along with British politics in the 20th century, and you have the beginnings of what is in the works in the former Soviet Union.

People are "waking up from the 20th century", and that means different things to different people. To some, that's rediscovering a national identity underneath a political one (de-russificiation in the Ukraine, or a Scotsman becoming aware of being Scottish above and beyond being a "citizen of the UK.")

To others, this has been about redefining or broadening their identity. In Europe, this has been reflected by the EU, the "westernization" of the baltic region, etc.

What you see, though, where-ever you look is that people are constantly sorting themselves out, seeking identities and so on. What this means is that you can't apply a turnkey structure to a group of people. More importantly, why would you want to? Is it better for the people of the current UK to become the people of several nations, is it best to be "United" economically only, or, to centralize all government authority in London?

These are decisions for the people of the UK to make.

[ Parent ]
The monarchy is important! (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by Builder on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:39:21 AM EST

The monarchy is vitally important! Because the Queen has had the same job for 50 years this year, the entire country gets a free day off work (Golden Jubilee). We are NOT going to do anything silly to jeapordise that, you hear ?


--
Be nice to your daemons
[ Parent ]
Question for British k5ers. (3.00 / 1) (#80)
by Apuleius on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:44:29 AM EST

Out of sheer masochism, I've been reading Theodore Dalrymple's jeremiads about the state of affairs in Britain, and his writings on the social upheavals in the Isles I find downright scary. Is he on to something? I'm wondering if I should call off my plan to bike Land's End to John O'Groats.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Writers (none / 0) (#117)
by fishy on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 11:49:08 AM EST

TIP: People don't write about things that aren't interesting.

If you had just read a book on 101 great american serial killers would you every leave you bedroom?

Nip along to uk.rec.cycling at some point, or dejagoo the archives to find some tales of the end to end rides.

The worst thing you are likely to meet on that ride are the scottish midge's (spelling?)!

[ Parent ]
uk.rec.cycling? (none / 0) (#118)
by ambrosen on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:44:49 PM EST

You frequent uk.rec.cycling? Or do you just lurk?

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]
I'm surprised you didn't mention this. (2.00 / 2) (#81)
by Apuleius on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 01:56:57 AM EST

But a major reason the UK went through the last three centuries was a. the horror stories of America coming from the influx of loyalist refugees, and b. the horrors of the French Revolutions. Good reasons I'd say, but the slow accretion of institutional detritus of the past was bound to break up eventually.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
"Imminent Demise" (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by fishy on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:24:28 AM EST

This demise has been imminent for about 200 years!

The truth of the matter is that people really don't care for any of your anti establishment rants. The Scottish and welsh don't want to be independent, the public still love the monarchy, and Thatcherism despite its evils was hugely popular [1].

The clearest thing about your essay is that you don't understand the UK at all, this rant is all about the thoughts of a small minority rather than any kind of popular view.


[1]I will of course dance on her grave!


Yes, Imminent (2.50 / 4) (#90)
by bc on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:01:34 AM EST

This demise has been imminent for about 200 years!

No it hasn't. The UK, especially in the 19th century, was very secure. The British identity was very strong and occluded nations were in its shade.

The Scottish and welsh don't want to be independent

I'm talking about a process. For example, 30% of Scots want to be independent. What was this figure 30 years ago? About 10%. Much more importantly, 70% of Scots now believe Scotland will be independant, within 20 years.

Britain just now is being torn apart by the same forces that threw it together in the first place.

The process of independance in Scotland is about the recovery of Will, and then the resumption of independence in a nation already constituted. The question in Scotland is "Why stay in the UK?". What happens when there is a Tory government in Westminster and a Labour (or SNP, the second largest party) government in Holyrood? The general trend is for more & more power to be granted to Holyrood, on many issues supported by everyone in Scotland (such as the Scottish Six), even Unionists. The fact is that now Scots look to Edinburgh for many of their governing issues, and that as Westminster drifts away into Euroescepticism and American style low taxation/crap public services it will gradually seem further and further away. It already is, Scottish MP's are a rather forlorn bunch. What are they for?

the public still love the monarchy

Haha!

Who the hell 'loves' the Monarchy? Certainly they used to provide a sort of social glue that helped hold Britain together - the were the Regal centre and icons of all things British. But after the moral disintegration of the Monarchy in 1990, and subsequent events, the Monarchy itself suddenly seems a hell of a lot more shaky. Does anybody actually 'love' the Monarchy? Or do we just enjoy watching it eat itself on national TV, in so much as it matters at all?

and Thatcherism despite its evils was hugely popular

Perhaps in London and Southern England. I can't say it was especially popular (say) North of the Border, which is presumably why Scotland (&Wales) elected no Conservative MP's at all in 1997 - the legacy of Thatcherism. Thatcherism helped split the nation in its own way, by willfully ignoring local opinion (the Poll Tax fiasco in Scotland being a good example).

It seems to me that you don't understand the UK, and hold the opinions of a disappearing pro-Union &eaccute;lite entirely disconnected from reality. Project Preserve Britain needs you!

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Football the only thing that matters (2.00 / 1) (#88)
by claesh1 on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:54:21 AM EST

I have only one question on this topic, and that is: Why should the UK have _four_ national football teams but only one olympic team? It should be either one way or the other, and personally I prefer the latter as it will be easier to qualify for the World Cup if not Scotland can qualify anymore :-) Three less teams to compete with is always a good thing!

RE:Football the only thing that matters (none / 0) (#113)
by johnnyc on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:07:14 PM EST

Well, the first international football match was between Scotland and England, before there was such a thing as a World Cup. Scotland (and the rest of the "home" countries) had always played internationals against each other, since they had no else to play against back in the day. Anyway, some Scots think if it ever came to a Great Britain football team, it would practically guarantee the complete separation of Scotland from the UK ;-)

[ Parent ]
The Myth of Stasis (4.72 / 11) (#98)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:33:14 AM EST

This article presents the popular view of Britain, held by many foreigners, and an amazing number of Brits, as a state that has gone unchanged since the start of the 18th century. While three very importants events - the act of union, the treaty of Utrecht, and the Hannoverian succession - coincided around that time, setting Britain on its path to being a superpower, it did not preserve the state of that time in aspic until the present day.

There are certainly aspects of Britain that are archaic. Most importantly, it is not, in the authentic sense, a *nation* state. Rather, it is a dynastic congolomerate - a collection of nations under a common crown, rather than a single nation with a single, idealised image of itself. Of course, all nationalities are based on myths and oversimplifications. Even France, the prototype case, is not really nearly as uniform in culture or language as its Parisian rulers have always liked to suppose - they have just been unusually effective and ruthless in suppressing alternative identities. Nonetheless, Britain is unusual in lacking a single, unfiying, vision of itself as a nation. There is not even a concept of British citizenship - although recent governments have come to talk lazily as if there were - but rather of *subjecthood*, and there are *subjects*, in Man and the Channel Islands, not to mention the former dominions and remaining colonies, who are either not ruled from Westminster, or are but have no say in its constitution, and therefore are definitely not *citizens*. There was, perhaps, a vision of Britishness that prevailed during the 19th century, of cricket, public school, fair play, and the stiff upper lip, but it was confined to the upper middle class, and while it was (unusually, for a European elite) open to poorer people, and to the Scots and Irish, it was strongly connected to Englishness as well as to moderate wealth.

However, its unusual constitution has not actually made Britain static, and it is actually not unique. The situation in Spain, for instance, is very similar. Spain too has roughly 4 (Basque, Catalan, Galician, Castillian, maybe more) separate nations under a constitutional monarchy, with local governments with unevenly defined powers. The Netherlands, with its "pillared" society with separate Catholic and Protestant institutions, is similar again. As is Belgium, divided into 2 nations mostly hostile to one another. Most people see stasis when they look at Britain because the lack of political revolutions has left silly costumes, archaic language and authoritarain institutions in place were in other countries they have been swept away.

The lack of revolution has not meant a lack of change, however. Consider what has happened since 1700 (excluding the three epoch defining events mentioned above). The power of the monarch has transferred itself peacefully from his person to the prime minister and cabinet acting under parliament's supervision, from a point where, under Willian, power was still largely personal, to the modern situation were intervention by the monarch would cause a constitutiona crisis.

The governing elite shifted from the Whig aristocracy, who in spite of their commercial interests were landowners at heart, to urban, upper middle class, Liberals, and then on to the current era of a specialised, careerist political class. The Tory/Conservative party (until the Thatcher era) has always acted as a counterweight to the influence of the other (Whig, Liberal, Labour) party's desire to bring about change, but it has never managed to do much more than moderate and slow the inevitable reforms.

Those reforms have themselves marked important changes. The great reform act made it harder to buy the commons. The reduction and abolition of property qualifications brought universal male sufferage. Finally women's sufferage brought a modern democracy. In parallel there were also economic changes, from landed economy to industrial economy on increasing scales, and these had political consequences, changing the "progressive" party of British politics and the class it represented twice in the era under discussion. The status and rights of the (upper) working class brought Labour into government. Trade liberalisation - a consequence of industrialism - was the cause of the Liberal party, and of course that became connected to the solution to "The Irish Question".

The status of Ireland of course has also changed several times - from indepedent nation under the same crown, to integral part of the UK, to virtual colony under martial law, to partition between parts with varying status of their own. The era of the full united kingom - including all of Ireland - did not even last a full century.

What emerges - once you look past the flummery - is not stasis but veritable turmoil. Most importantly, the changes that happened paralleled, and in many cases preceded, the same changes in the rest of the western world. By 1789, British monarchs were already incapable of ruling without a supporting majority in the commons. Britain was the second western nation to introduce women's suffrage (after Germany). Britain was the home of free trade in every sense. And before you accuse me of jingoism: having done these things first was not necessarily good, I bring it up just because it gives the lie to this idea that British insitutions are somehow unchanging.

So, if you accept this argument, that British insitutions have largely paralleled those across the channel, but worn sillier outfits, the question arises: why ? Several speculations can be made. The instability of the 17th century is one explanation. The Wars of Religion hit Britain late, and ended up combined with an early kind of political revolution, a pale predecessor of the French Revolution. The "Glorious" Revolution (more like an inglorious coup d'etat) of 1689 and the habit of importing foreign monarchs when the previous lot became inconvenient gave Britain institutions at around 1700 that were already unusually good at accounting the interests of everyone who, economically speaking, mattered.

Hence revolutionary pressure rarely built up, and when it did, it found elements in the ruling elite who were prepared to make compromises to lessen the pressure. Gladstone is the classic example of this, but Lloyd George is maybe another. Bizarrely, the survival of the decorative side of the British state is not a consequence of the strength or inflexibility of the elite, but of its relative flexibility. Each wave of change found it more convenient to keep the old forms of the government, to calm more conservative elements. The occasions when that flexibility failed: the Irish and American revolutions, were both concerned with places that were not fully represented. Even there, though, had things gone slightly differently, there were elements in the elite that support the rebel's demands, who might have swung opinion in their favour.

One further question remains: what is going on at the moment ? Thatcher seemed to change the nature of the conservative party from the break pedal of British politics to the accelerator. "New" Labour has insituted devolved institutions, which, while imperfect, are having some of the desired effects. It is very hard to view one's own time with a historian's eye, but I suppose two views are possible.

The first, which I suppose the author of the article would support, is that the British system is failing. The end of empire has meant the Scots no longer benefit from the old arrangement were they ran the empire and English got most of the cash (OK, thats an exaggeration :). The constituent parts will therefore leave the UK, bringing about a united Ireland, independent Scotland, and a more federal England, including Cornwall and Wales. Probably all of those parts will be so weak alone they will be sucked into the path of "every closer union" with the rest of Europe. The monarchy will, of course, become such an anachronism they will either have to take the Danish path and work as accountants, or disappear. Britain will, after its 3 centuiries of fame, become a not very distinguished collection of ordinary countries.

The other possibility is that the British system is adapting to a new set of forces, towards regionalism and sensitivity to minority interests on the small scale, and globalisation and supranational economic concerns on the large. These forces seem to be operating across the whole world. In that sense, you can see the devolution that has already happened as the first step in a process that will decentralise the British elite. At the same time, Thatcher was a harbinger of the globalising - economically "liberal", minarchist - forces that are becoming global. As such, you would expect a more federal Britain to emerge, and, yes, the British state to lose power downwards to its regions and upwards to Europe (indeed this has happened), but there is still a role there for Westminster as a more powerful negotiating bloc in global and European affairs than the constituent nations would be alone.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
Re: Imminent Demise of The United Kingdom (2.66 / 3) (#106)
by DK on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:50:19 AM EST

It is very frightening to read such an ill informed and dangerous article. The writer's level of ignorance is too great to be real. Clearly someone wishes to destabilise society by peddling views that they know to be illogical, presumably for some subversive effect. The UK does not have, and has never had a constitution. We are subjects in a Kingdom, not citizens. Our way of life is indeed the consensus of gentlemen/women. Simply because some people wish to change that without influencing the consensus, but by force of will, cannot change true society. Those that think otherwise are welcome to remove themselves to a devolvwd part.

The Imminent Demise of the United Kingdom | 123 comments (111 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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