Linda Colley’s article (A bolder vision is needed for this disunited kingdom, The Guardian, 06 01 2014) is timely and welcome. Chewing over the situation with a friend in Wales via text the previous Friday, we identify with Scottish distaste for the current direction of travel in the UK/England, but also share our (selfish) horror at the prospect of an England irrevocably and forever overruled by rightwing Tories, in the event of Scotland leaving the UK. (Please don’t go.)
On Saturday, another friend and I are tearing our hair out (yet again) over tasty Lebanese food in Liverpool city centre, about the devastation being inflicted by the UK government (without mandate), and we go on to bemoan: ‘the lack of imagination and creativity thus far displayed by most of those seeking to make the unionist case’ (Colley, 06 01 2014). Exactly.
We decide we should convene an event in Liverpool, under the banner of ‘Renegotiating the Union: Peer (not power) relations, the possibility of federation.’ That is, putting England in its place, not as patriarchal head of the ‘family’, but as a peer. We would ask: What are we proud of about the UK? About England? What don’t we like? What kind of society are we? What kind of society do we aspire to be? What’s wrong with existing power relations, political relations (inequalities) etc., between Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the isles and England?
What do we need to do to improve relations, make these fairer, for example? What legal, constitutional and institutional changes do we need to make, to create a sustainable and fair federation with oomph? ‘Home rule all round’ could kick start an imaginative political campaign for redrawing the map of England in terms of its values and purpose within the Union that also manages to confine toxic Tory power and influence to history. (And do we want to ring fence London as a kind of Monaco, for example?)
Out of the dissatisfaction (and despair) that is thickly spread across large stretches of the UK at the moment in the face of the Tory-led rampage, can come hope, ideas and action. We need to stop slumbering on this. Any takers? Linda Colley’s R4 series this last week, in daily 15 minute chunks, or the Friday night one hour compilation, together with her book on the same subject, could provide a real springboard for this positive process.
val walsh / 07 01 2014