I can see where Douglas Alexander wants to go with this, but it’s just not accurate. As an Irish person living in England, I’m fairly certain that there is not the wonderful harmony between the four nations (Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) that he’s so sure about. He starts off with the usual Britain is Best sentiments, which you’d expect to see on a piece like this:
Three hundred years since the creation of United Kingdom, the fact that our future is still a matter of periodic debate is a mark of its strength, not its weakness. The UK is a unique union. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together have formed one of the most powerful and respected countries on earth, yet each has retained its own identity.
… forgetting only to mention how fluffy and pink and cuddly we all are, and how there’s never anything less than a smile on all our faces. Ahem.
I loved the little gems in his piece such as the following.
We share values and have learned to live in harmony without the imposition of one homogenised identity.
Absolutely! I think ‘harmony’ is a wonderful word to describe the situation in Northern Ireland for the last 40 years. Hell, we can’t get enough of each other over there! For 25 of those years, we couldn’t get enough of killing each other. But it was always harmonious, of course! It also explains rather well why Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland haven’t bothered to seek devolution in the last decade. Except, of course, that they have!
But let’s not forget that the real point of this piece was for Alexander to lavish praise on the Labour party (obviously, he’s a big fan). I’m sure that he manages to achieve this under any guise really, and the Strength of the Union just happened to take his fancy today. To say that he’s niave about the UK and indeed the world around him is understating how misguided he is in his convictions that everything in these four places is AOK. It’s not. I can only speak confidentently about Northern Ireland because that’s where I’m from, but I can assure you and him that life is far from ‘harmonious’ there. The irony is that he wrote this for the Guardian, clearly without ever bothering to read what’s printed in the Guardian about Our Great Nation. Bless him.
But, to give one commenter (talksense) his/her dues, I really couldn’t have put it better myself. I’m not sure where s/he gets the idea about the Welsh, but perhaps s/he has some knowledge that I don’t.
“the lived British experience is a blueprint for the future not just here, but around the globe”
What a load of lofty rubbish. Especially when we know the real reason why Labour is so in love with the Union all of a sudden (which is traditionally a Tory nueroses). It’s simply because it enables them to stay in power.
“300 years ago, we realised what countries around the world are doing now – that we are stronger together and weaker apart”
I don’t think that too many Irish had a say in this.
The creation of the Union in Great Britian was enabled by elite scots who wanted a bigger slice of the power-pie. The greatest defenders of the union today are also those same elite scots who love the world stage that London provides. However, the scot on the street would be far prouder, happier and better of if the burden of subsidy could be shaken off and they could have their own nation state.
The other union, which was born 100 years later, was a complete disaster, for which people in Northern Ireland are still paying the price. Today, almost half of the people in Northern Ireland have little or no connection with Britian. Of the rest, the working classes have, over the years, been whipped up in a frenzy of perverse nationalism (in the guise of Unionism) by community leaders (the Orange Order, which must be one of the most bigoted organisations in the world) and protestant clergymen (many who believe the world began 4000 years ago). Hardly a “blueprint” for success “around the globe”.
Most English people on the street couldn’t care less about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and are more concerned with England winning the Ashes or World Cup. And good luck to them!
As for the Welsh. Everyone knows they would like to make on their own, but they probably can’t be bothered, especially as they consider themselves superior to everyone else, anyway.
The sooner the union is dissolved the better for all concerned. All except for the Labour party, that is.