Gone Both Ways

I presume, because the standard visual representation of the English language is that particular flag, its inclusion indicates to tourists that this map is in English. Of course, this isn’t much help when half the historic sites in Scotland have this flag flying, does it?

As far as possible, the public annals of the two countries should be revised. Errors and irritating expressions must be expunged (though in this matter our own histories are not so provocative as those of our neighbours), and a new history of Britain should be written with the utmost regard to accuracy.
– Sir Thomas Craig

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be beyond doubt now. The UK Government is hellbent on leaving the European Union without a deal, thanks to a mixture of complete cowardice on the part of pro-EU MPs of their party (save 14 honourable exceptions), the trademark negligence masquerading as incompetence of their former Coalition partners, the absence of 20 and the rebellion of 5 Opposition MPs. We cannot trust the mainstream media to take a stand, because they’ve been so blinded by the Golden Mean that they will grant a platform to actual fascism in the name of “balance.”

When the disgraced White House Chief Strategist taunts the “liberal elite” and calls Tommy Robinson the backbone of “this country” – the same Tommy Robinson who is openly funded by the same extremists who championed the current president – and even goes so far as to incite mass violence, you know what he’s talking about. This is the same man who met another would-be Prime Ministerial candidate with fascist connections. The same man who met with powerful & influential people in Scotland. The same man who approved hysterical smear stories against the Scottish Independence Movement and the SNP on his site – including one that called the current Scottish Justice Secretary an “Islamist-linked radical.” You know, those guys who some people compare to Scottish Independence supporters, despite most of them vehemently opposing Scottish Independence.

You may wonder where all this is heading. Well, I have a dark imagination.

To all the loyal hearts who long
To keep our English Empire whole!
To all our noble sons, the strong
New England of the Southern Pole!
To England under Indian skies,
To those dark millions of her realm!
To Canada whom we love and prize,
Whatever statesman hold the helm.
Hands all round!
God the traitor’s hope confound!
To this great name of England drink, my friends,
And all her glorious empire, round and round.
– from “Hands All Round,” Alfred Tennyson

A debate took place in the UK Parliament two days ago. It was called “Strengthening the Union” – ostensibly, about maintaining and reinforcing the treaty by which the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom are bound:

I beg to move,

That this House has considered strengthening the Union.

The Prime Minister and the Government have said, time after time, that it is our responsibility and duty to govern for the whole of the United Kingdom. The UK Government are responsible for governing for the benefit of everyone in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but this reality is perhaps easy to forget. Devolution has changed the constitutional landscape of the United Kingdom, and with multiple Governments working across our four nations, it is perhaps easy to forget the value that this concept—this thing we call “the Union”—brings to us all, but the Prime Minister’s words show that this Union cannot and should not be taken for granted. It has always been of profound importance to all of us. It is central to our wellbeing, our security and our prosperity, as well as to who we are, whether we are from Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland. It is a part of our identity as citizens of the United Kingdom, so I welcome this timely opportunity to discuss our Union of four nations.

I have the privilege of travelling regularly across the nations of the UK in my role as constitution Minister—I was also formerly a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office—and I see the strengths of our country. It is clear to me that delivering for all parts of the United Kingdom is—as it should be—at the heart of the Government’s approach. All parts of the UK need to work together to seize the opportunities of, for example, leaving the European Union. Being part of a bigger and stronger UK benefits all citizens in its four nations.

Yet from the way many MPs spoke, you’d think they were talking about keeping one nation together, not a union of four:

The Minister has just reeled off a list of service industries in this country, which, of course, are not covered by the Chequers agreement.
Ian Murray MP

Madam Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend makes two important points. First, he says that we need to be able to come together as a single United Kingdom to make sure that our UK internal market continues to function and continues to bring the benefits that are needed across the internal borders of our country.
Chloe Smith MP

I say that because the nationalist Government in Edinburgh and the nationalist Government here in London are both clear threats to the unity that has historically given this country the strength to work together and which will, under Labour, provide the strength to do so again.
Lesley Laird MP

My constituency is, of course, how Walt Disney would have portrayed England if he had had the chance: truly beautiful and wonderful in every way. It grows every single crop that UK farmers around the country can produce; Herefordshire is the only county that grows them all. Then, of course, there are my own choices.
Bill Wiggin MP

In the 1960s, things change and two things come together. [Interruption.] Conservative Members might want to listen and learn. The first thing is that this country Great Britain—begins a process of rapid decolonisation.
Tommy Sheppard MP (I can understand why Mr Sheppard uses the term – “this” rather than “our,” thank goodness – since he understands that this is a phoney union, but this distinction is completely lost on most UK party MPs who completely fail to see the problem)

The Scottish Conservatives will bow to no one in promoting and defending Scotland’s interests and making its voice heard across the United Kingdom. Where we differ from the SNP is that we will not do so with the express purpose of trying to split the country in two.
John Lamont MP

I am a staunch supporter of this sovereign country. It is a Union of nations—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—which makes me a very happy Scot and very happy to be a Unionist. I do not want someone, a group of people or even a cult taking away from me my Britishness and giving me nothing back, except selling my soul back to Europe, which is the direction of travel SNP Members wish to take.
Bill Grant MP

We are here to fight for and defend the jobs of working people in all four nations of the United Kingdom. We are here to ensure that the internal dynamics and fallouts of the Tory party do not decide the future of our country. We are here to defend the principles upon which the national health service was formed. And, as the debates over recent weeks have shown us, we are here to defend all that is good about our country and fight against all that is bad.
Hugh Gaffney MP

At Prime Minister’s questions last week, I mentioned the spaceport in Sutherland as an example of what we can do to provide for the future and our constituents together. We used to be a country that ruled the waves. I hope that in the 21st century, we can be a country that reaches for the stars.
Luke Graham MP

I would feel at home in any mining community across the country; whether in Wales, the north-east or Midlothian, I could go into a miners’ club and feel at home and they would literally have the same wallpaper.
Danielle Rowley MP

I personally am proud to be British. I am proud of what this country has done in the past, and sure of what this united, global Britain will do in the future.
Andrew Bowie MP

There are, of course, the economic benefits of being part of a country that is the fifth largest economic power in the world, which means that people in Northern Ireland have access to the internal market.
Sammy Wilson MP

It may seem somewhat controversial, but this debate about the intergovernmental relations in the UK will continue until we address the machinery we need to make the Governments of this country work more closely together.
Andrew Kerr MP (how many countries have more than one government?)

That common cause transcended into the spirit of 1945 and that 1945 election, which delivered the first majority Labour Government, who fundamentally transformed this country, delivering the welfare state and the pillars that underpin modern civilisation in this country. That is why I never had any doubt about joining the Labour party at the age of 16. I knew that, although it might not have delivered only good, it had delivered everything that had been good in this country in the preceding 70 years. I had no doubt that every great societal achievement and all progress this country had achieved had been delivered by the solidarity of working people acting in the labour and trade union movement.
Paul Sweeney MP

As a result, communities across the UK have been left feeling completely disconnected from Whitehall and the people who make decisions on their behalf. The many no longer feel that their country is working for them.
Jo Platt MP

Britain is England Plus Three. This is why England is treated as interchangeable with Great Britain, which is treated as interchangeable with United Kingdom in turn – but Scotland is not. After 300 years, this conflation has remained, with the other three constituent nations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland ignored in an international context.

Much ink has been spilled over the US president’s visit. In an interview, the President said this:

‘You don’t hear the world ‘England‘ as much as you should. I miss the name England. You understand that? I miss the name England. I think England is a beautiful name. And you don’t hear it any more. But they are playing as ‘England.’ That is very interesting; good.’
– the 45th president of the United States of America, in a week where England were in the semi-finals for the World Cup and literally nobody mentioned its name

Names are important. It’s why the Scottish Executive renamed itself the Scottish Government in 2007. It’s why there’s such an intense debate surrounding the application of pronouns. And it’s why calling Scotland a region when it is a country is such a problem.

Given how often Leave supporters evoke the Middle Ages, their ultimate plan for the United Kingdom should be obvious.

Mike Small over at Bella Caledonia made an interesting observation regarding the Anglomania during the World Cup:

The latest fit of colonial semiotics needs a bit of deconstruction. First up, politics aside, football isn’t Great Britain. Plenty of people aren’t interested and are bored senseless by the vast sums of money poured into it, the overwhelming media saturation, the obscenely overpaid pundits and players and the bloated Premiership. Then of course there’s the fact that Britain isn’t England, nor is England Britain. Then there’s the “for sporting experiences like no other, choose the UK”, which seems to confuse Great Britain with the UK.

This is tedious and desperate, but it’s not a mistake.

This is a government department operating at a time of a profound crisis of English identity. As English nationalism fuses with Conservative economic dogma the result is a contemporary colonialism recapturing Wales, Ireland and Scotland back into a New England. This is Britannia Unchained and the visual form of the Power Grab: Make Britain Great Again, Make England Britain Again.

Mike isn’t wrong. Which is why the use of England in place of Britain is becoming more prevalent, not less – especially among those who are linked one way or another with the dark forces responsible for the 45th Presidential Election Result & the UK’s European Union Membership Referendum.:

Make England great again MEGA
Arron Banks

You’re going to have to fight to take your country back, every day. Whether it’s Italy, France, England, or the US, if we quit, they’re going to be in control.
Steve Bannon

Liberal media soy boy tells me “don’t get worked up” about the fate of my nation and global geopolitics. And we wonder why England is in existential danger!!?
Raheem Kassam

They represent England, Great Britain and our Commonwealth friends
Andy Wigmore

We need to be reiterating the benefits of Brexit because this is so important in the history of our country. This is Magna Carta, it’s the Burgesses coming at Parliament, it’s the great reform bill, it;s the bill of rights, it’s Waterloo, it’s Agincourt, it’s Crécy. We win all of these things. And Trafalgar, absolutely.
Jacob Rees-Mogg lists 8 “British” things – 5 of which are English accomplishments which predate the Act of Union

Kingsley Amis’ novel The Alteration is set in these isles, but the singular state which governs those isles is not a United Kingdom, nor is it even Great Britain – it is England. The isles are called the English Isles: there are references to “West-England” and “North-England,” but no Ireland or Scotland. Andrew Roberts’ The Aachen Memorandum posits that a European super-state subsumed the UK and destroyed the very name of the nation of “Britain” in favour for the “regions” of North & South England, Scotland, Wales, and the Island of Ireland – a dreadful state of affairs which our heroic protagonist seeks to redress:

“You must tell everyone, Horatio.” A hardness had entered her voice for the first time since she had stuck the gun in his back. “It’s your duty to Jake and Sir Michael. And really, as well, when you think of it, it’s your duty to Britain too. You must let everyone know what these evil, evil people have done to all our lives.” Britain, as opposed to North England, or Wales, or Scotland, sounded unfamiliar to Horatio. Strange, romantic, and somehow right.

Couple this with the new campaigns to stick the Union Flag on everything, and we find the endgame of Britain is England Plus Three.

Those who voted No on 18th September 2014 thought they were preserving the Union, that “sacred,” “precious” Union of nations. In truth, the Union as we understand it no longer serves its purpose – it is going to disappear into history in one of two ways.

  1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland will cease to exist, as the UK Government will make the long habit of referring to the UK as a nation & country official. They’re only doing what countless politicians, journalists, and influential individuals have been doing for decades. The United Kingdom will call itself a country, while Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be called what Jim Shannon, David Milliband, Mariano Rajoy, Ruth Davidson’s favourite blogger, the BBC, Adzuna, ThoughtCo, Nations Encyclopedia, the International Police Association, Glenigan, UK National Accounts, and the UK Parliament already calls them – regions. Where once the UK was a union pretending to be a nation, it will abandon that 300-year-old facade, necessarily stripping its constituents of their status as nations for the sake of its territorial integrity.
  2. The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland will cease to exist, as Scotland & England forge their own destinies as equally independent nations – perhaps with Wales joining them, and Northern Ireland choosing whether to remain its own entity, or reunite with Ireland.

There is no option to save the Union anymore: only to either replace it with a new country & truly destroy a thousand years of history, or to save the constituent nations of that Union from absorption into a new nation – called the United Kingdom, or Great Britain, or England. Just as it is regularly called those things today.

France was created through the conquest of many smaller nations – Alsace, Aquitaine, Brittany, Corsica, Provence, Savoy, Toulouse – and by the time of the Republic, France’s indivisibility was written into its constitution. Spain, too, was built on annexation: as seen with Andalusia, Aragon, Asturia, the Balearics, the Basque country, and of course Catalonia, those independence movements must also contend with Spain’s constitutional unity. Indeed, Scotland and England themselves were created by joining, conquering, or annexing smaller peripheral kingdoms. The 1707 Union, though, was different – because why take by force what could have been taken more easily by guile? We cannot know if the “English Empire” John Mair and other such grandfathers of the Scottish Cringe warned about would have succeeded – it may have ultimately failed, just as the British Empire eventually faded throughout the world. The Scottish Wars of Independence were made much more difficult by the treachery of the Scots’ own capricious aristocracy, after all.

Don’t believe me? This has been in the works for a long time.

But I am not without hope that if there be a deadlock the common sense of this nation, which is, after all, the greatest demo­cratic community in the world and the one country in the world that thoroughly understands democratic institutions, that its common sense will prevail over all party considerations, and that we shall always realise the gravity of the emergency through which the country is passing.
David Lloyd George, Leader’s Speech, Great Yarmouth 1928

Yesterday I called on this conference to accept a new dimension in internal policies. If we are really to dare to accept the measures necessary to create one nation, one community, one family, this cannot be inward looking, nationalistic, xenophobic, whether we are inward looking within our own coasts or inward looking within a West European campus.
Harold Wilson, Leader’s Speech, Blackpool 1973

Conservative and non-Conservative, trade unionists and non-trade unionists, those who have always been with us and those who have never been with us but who are prepared to support us now because they put country before Party. Let no one be excluded from our crusade and let no one exclude himself. We are one nation. We may not know it with our brains but we know it with our roots.
Margaret Thatcher, Leader’s Speech, Brighton 1976

At the heart of all our work, however, is one central theme: national renewal. Britain re-built as one nation, in which each citizen is valued and has a stake; in which no-one is excluded from opportunity and the chance to develop their potential; in which we make it, once more, our national purpose to tackle social division and inequality.
Tony Blair, “Bringing Britain Together,” 1997

So our task is nothing less than building and sustaining a shared national purpose, the British progressive consensus, that no child in Britain is left behind and that our future lies not in two nations ever more divided by inequality but in one nation united in prosperity for all.
Gordon Brown, Chancellor’s Speech, Brighton 2004

It isn’t as if they’re not warning us.

I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I start by congratulating Mr Bain on securing the discussion today. Like Pete Wishart, I want to make principally an emotional argument. My birthday is on 18 September, and I want to celebrate it—hopefully for many years to come—with a glass or two of a good single malt and a celebration of my country. I do not want it to be a permanent reminder of the day that my country was lost. My nationality is British and my country is the United Kingdom. I want to speak up for my constituents and everyone on both sides of the border who feel the same.
Iain Stewart MP

Now that Scotland has decisively spoken, after a campaign whose terms were set by the SNP for itself, we should follow the example of stable federated countries (the US and India, for example) and say: “This Union is now indissoluble.”
Jack Straw

I remember when I was in the cabinet for the Scotland referendum, and David Cameron used to report back on his discussions with the other EU ministers, the Spanish were kind of bemused at the idea of giving a part of the country a referendum.
Theresa Villiers MP

I am not Scottish, otherwise I hate to think what I might be saying in that regard. I am a Briton, and I am for the Union because my country is the United Kingdom. I want freedom for the United Kingdom and freedom for Somerset. I say no to devolution and no to European tyranny.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

EU rules are very clear, membership is at member state level. It’s a national question, it’s not possible within EU rules to have a part of a country being part of the European Union. So this decision has been made, the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union – that decision is going to be respected, that’s what the government will take forward.
Theresa Villiers (again)

I would reach beyond [the Labour frontbench] and I would encompass Plaid Cymru, the SNP and other sensible pragmatic people who believe in putting this country’s interests first and foremost… I think we need a government of national unity.
Anna Soubry

Let us have a Government of national unity dedicated to protecting British interests. Let there be no room for those who would surrender to foreign powers.
Ruth Davidson’s favourite blogger

I must say to the hon. Gentleman, however, that our nation will not be taken out of Europe against its will. His nation and my nation are the same thing.
Chris Grayling, in response to Pete Wishart

I once said I’d never refer to the UK as a “union,” or supporters of the UK as “Unionists.”

In time, there will be no Union or Unionists at all, even after achieving victory in their “once in a lifetime” vote.

Those who value the Family of Nations, the Union of Equals, will have to choose between two futures.

Scotland is a nation in only one of them.

Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into Charybdis, your mother: well, you are gone both ways.
– The Merchant of Venice

5 thoughts on “Gone Both Ways

  1. Mary T. says:

    Great, informative article, as usual 🙂 Only once it was pointed out to me did I realize how prevalent this was becoming. Many English do refer to themselves as “Brits”, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that it’s used as a replacement for “English”. I naively assumed that the English would be terribly annoyed at being called “Brits” as if it was synonymous with English – and I’m sure many of them are – but it seems as though many of them aren’t at all; in fact, they’re partly to blame for the misunderstanding.

    However, the UK is still officially made up of four nations, not four regions; it was admitted right there in the “Strengthening the Union” debate. In my opinion, that fact should be broadcast as far and wide as it will go, as a way of fighting back against remarks like “I would not consider granting any powers to Scotland that I wouldn’t grant to Lincolnshire County Council”, because remarks like that normalize the idea of Scotland as nothing but a region of the one great glorious country, Engritain, and therefore also normalize the idea that Scotland doesn’t deserve any more “special treatment” than any of the other “regions”, so this whole independence thing is a lot of hooey – what, are we going to let Yorkshire secede as well?* I know none of that is news to anybody in the independence movement and you are stating the fact as often and as plainly as you can, though…but I thought I’d say it one more time!

    There’s not really much I can add to your excellent and sobering analysis, but I just had a few random thoughts while reading that I wanted to bring up.

    First, I wonder what the result would have been if anyone had asked Alfred Tennyson what he meant by “English Empire”. What constituted England, and what constituted their empire? Which one was the rest of the British Isles included in? (That whole poem left something of a bad taste in my mouth about Tennyson, but that’s beside the point.)

    Second, this is trivial and I don’t know if you can edit it, but if you can, you left “the country” unbolded in this quote: “I would feel at home in any mining community across the country; whether in Wales, the north-east or Midlothian, I could go into a miners’ club and feel at home and they would literally have the same wallpaper.”
    – Danielle Rowley MP

    Also, I love how the north-east of England is “the north-east” of “this country”. Maybe you should bold that, too.

    Third, is The Aachen Memorandum as annoying of a book as that quote makes it sound?

    Fourth, Margaret Thatcher’s “We are one nation. We may not know it with our brains but we know it with our roots” is an impressive mind trick, there. “Of COURSE we’re one country. I know you don’t think we are, but if you dug deep, deep down into your soul you’d find that you knew it all along.”

    Fifth, Jacob Rees-Mogg. “I am not Scottish, otherwise I hate to think what I might be saying in that regard.” I am really *very* curious as to the context of that quote.

    And sixth, to end on a lighter note, I finally listened to Alestorm! Something I’ve been meaning to do for months now. I like what I hear so far; “Flower of Scotland” (I’m ashamed to say) has one of those melodies that hasn’t made intuitive “sense” to my ear before**, but this time it finally did!

    *This obviously applies to Wales and Northern Ireland as well…though NI is a bit of a different situation, since it kind of *is* a region, isn’t it?
    **if that makes any sense at all

  2. […] Bannon doesn’t need an introduction to regular readers. Indeed, I first encountered Bannon (not in person, thankfully) a long time ago, back when […]

  3. […] when their country was truly not their own – Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands. Some, like the country-pretending-to-be-a-union that is the UK, have never known any masters except themselves. When Scotland becomes independent, […]

  4. […] and fear. An argument could even be made that they are subtly priming the people of England for the inevitable dissolution of the UK – after all, if the people of Scotland “hate” the people of England […]

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