Robert Louis Stevenson helps point out flaws in British democracy
The above quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, who died December 3, 1894, is a timely reminder that Britain’s problems are not new. The unease that plagues Westminster and its style of government goes back a long way.
As it comes under increased stress, UK governance failures become more glaring. It was a failure before; now his illness is in sight. And he seems to have no way, or appetite, to mend himself. All attempts at reform are brutally rejected. A constitutional doctor examining the UK could be forced to conclude his condition is terminal.
There are also signs that a growing number of observers outside Scotland have come to believe that reform is essential, before the UK is overwhelmed by events. An interesting aspect of this growing turmoil is the new phenomenon of examining what it means to be English.
The Archbishop of York recently declared that “the British are crying out to be heard”.
He accused “a metropolitan elite” of calling people proud to be English “retro-xenophobic”.
Reverend Stephen Cottrell also said that “the British want to know what happened to their country. These questions of identity and purpose have never really been addressed ”.
He says the English he seeks is “the courageous and entrepreneurial spirit of an island nation. And it’s time to be proud to be English ”.
Unsurprisingly, as someone who has come to the constitutional debate a bit late in the day, he stumbles every now and then to make Scottish ears meaningful.
For example, he thinks people should focus on the institutions that unite them, like the monarchy and the church. He also distinguished the BBC.
Yes I know. We can all hear the hoarse laughter across Scotland upon hearing these suggestions. Nevertheless, and despite a certain naivety, it makes sense of a pressing need for England to come to terms with herself.
This is a theme addressed more directly by Anthony Barnett in a Byline Times article, titled Scotland Must Become Independent To End British State Corruption.
He identifies four factors that produced Brexit. Namely, a contemptible prime minister; banks that care more about the Cayman Islands than Sheffield; neoliberalism and the ardor it was espoused by the Labor Party; and the SNP.
He states that “when these four factors come together we can begin to understand how a deep sense of worthlessness has gripped the souls of the English outside the metropolitan centers. They were invited to project their discomfort onto the European Union ”.
Barnett adds that “the first step towards a real ‘takeover’ is to speak for England. An England liberated from the Lords and Ladies of Westminster and MPs working for JP Morgan. There must be a counter-patriotic argument to initiate a different type of democracy than Johnson’s. The way to take back Britain is first to celebrate the independence of our countries and then to unite in free association. ‘ ”
Barnett wants Scotland to be independent. As he puts it, “This is why I think every English Democrat should now wholeheartedly support Scottish independence and hope that Scotland joins the Republic of Ireland in Europe.”
“This is the only definitive way to blow up the Brexit project and at the same time, as an Englishman, to gain confidence in us.”
Now some of that may sound strange to Scottish ears. Many Scots have been exposed to a seemingly endless harangue of too small, too poor and too stupid over the years. This has inevitably been accompanied by unfortunate comparisons to our neighbor to the south, where everything is apparently much better ordered and people are extremely happy with the way they are governed.
We now learn that the reality is very different. England will have a say. It might not be the England we’re used to. BBC and Westminster England may not survive the changes advocated above.
Whichever route New England wishes to take to get to its altered destination, it is unlikely that it wants that trip to be congested with recalcitrant and reluctant neighbors. It makes more sense that he finds his own destiny on his own. And why wouldn’t a Scotsman who wants independence want success for himself on this journey.
We must respect and encourage this growing search for a different England. We may be able to learn from each other as we go through this reassessment.
The British constitution is kaput. It will likely be replaced by independent nations with their own modern constitutions. And we will all be a winner when that happens.
Yes, activist Mike Fenwick is Wednesday’s guest on TNT at 7 p.m.