I'll have to settle for 'brass neck'. Gordon Brown's paean to British "common values and shared interests" takes hypocrisy into hyperspace. It's like a murderer standing over his victim, crying "why can't we just get on ?"
I'll post the whole thing in all its horror. Full fisking to be applied later. Any commenters wishing to make a start ?
We need a United Kingdom
By Gordon Brown
Last Updated: 2:05am GMT 13/01/2007
A national debate about Britishness and the future of Britain is overdue and there is no more appropriate moment than the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union. It is now time for supporters of the Union to speak up, to resist any drift towards a Balkanisation of Britain, and to acknowledge Great Britain for the success it has been and is: a model for the world of how nations can not only live side by side, but be stronger together but weaker apart.
"to resist any drift towards a Balkanisation of Britain" - that'll be the Government that wants to split England up into Euro-Regions ? No Balkanisation there, oh no.
Perhaps in the past we could get by with a Britishness that was assumed without being explicitly stated. But when our country is being challenged in Scotland, Wales and now England by secessionists, it is right to be explicit about what we, the British people, share in common and the patriotic vision for our country's future.
I am not alone in believing that a stronger sense of patriotic purpose would help resolve some of our most important national challenges, make us more confident about Britain's role in Europe and the world, and would help us better integrate our ethnic communities, respond to migration and show people the responsibilities as well as rights that must be at the heart of modern citizenship.
Very good. You've put your finger on one of my recurring themes. A strong, self-confident national culture is capable of integrating large numbers of immigrants . Unfortunately, that's just what we haven't got. Instead, we import people into a cultural vacuum then wonder why their descendants riot. And who have been beavering away at cultural destruction - which continues today - over the last fifty years ?
"show people the responsibilities as well as rights"
You slay me. This is a world where convicted criminals receive compensation for not getting narcotics when imprisoned, where armed hijackers are given asylum. You're taking the mick.
It is also true that countries which fail to forge shared national objectives will be least able to make the long-term decisions vital for prosperity. And just as our competitors – not least in Asia – are seized by a clear view of their destiny in a fast-changing global economy, we – the British – must show ourselves able to summon up in peacetime the same sense of national mission we have always shown the world when challenged in war.
Our competitors in Asia are not shackled by a thousand regulations, taxations, employment legislations. Their children go to disciplined schools, where there is such a thing as a right and wrong answer, and academic rigour is valued above pupil self-esteem. The children know, as working class British children once did, that education is the way out of poverty. Now we have a large and growing benefit-dependent underclass, who know that they are 'the most deprived, excluded and vulnerable' - therefore worthy recipients of state benefits. We import foreign workers while over a million Britons are unemployed - and apparently unemployable. What have we done to them ?
George Orwell rightly ridiculed the old Left for interpreting patriotism as little more than the defence of unchanging institutions and for posing a false choice between patriotism and internationalism.
You chose the wrong example there. While a defender of the Union, Orwell was above all an English patriot.
But the failure to defend and promote the United Kingdom is now becoming more a feature of the thinking of the Right.
I see. Labour and the Lib Dems, who love nationalists, even murderous ones, if they're not English, have brought us here. And it's the Tories fault for not stopping them. It's like a teenager who's smashed up his first car saying "Dad ! Why didn't you stop me buying it ?"
In contrast to Lady Thatcher, who rightly defended the Union and did so even when not expedient to do so, some Conservative writers now embrace anti-Unionist positions, from independence to "English votes for English laws" – a Trojan horse for separation.
So you're happy with English MPs having second class status, are you - unable to vote on devolved issues affecting Scotland - while Scots MPs can vote on legislation which will never apply in their own constituences. Can you imagine a greater example of power without responsibility ? If you don't like "English votes for English laws" close down Holyrood !
Regrettably, an opportunist coalition of minority Nationalists and from what used to be the Conservative and Unionist Party is forming around a newly fashionable but perilous orthodoxy emphasising what divides us rather than what unites.
It is an irony that this is happening just as we are waking from a once-fashionable view of multiculturalism, which, by emphasising the separate and the exclusive, simply pushed communities apart.
Once fashionable with who, paleface ?
What was wrong about multiculturalism was not the recognition of diversity but that it over-emphasised separateness at the cost of unity.
Continually failing to emphasise what bound us together as a country, multiculturalism became an excuse for justifying separateness, and then separateness became a tolerance of – and all too often a defence of – even greater exclusivity.
Will you be apologising to Ray Honeyford then ?
And this is the dangerous drift in anti-Union sentiment today. For while it is healthy to recognise the distinctiveness of each nation, we will all lose if politicians play fast and loose with the Union and abandon national purpose to a focus on what divides. All political parties should learn from past mistakes: it is by showing what binds us together that we will energise the modern British patriotic purpose we should all want to see.
"play fast and loose with the Union", eh ? From the people who brought you the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Good Friday agreement. We've already signed away Northern Ireland. There can be any number of referenda on unity with the South, but once that's happened - no more referenda. The ratchet only works one way.
We should remember that from 1707, the Union was founded not just on the respect for diversity that devolution recognises, but also on institutions that brought us together, from – at root – a shared monarchy, Parliament and Armed Forces to, more recently, institutions as wide ranging as the NHS, the BBC and the UK-wide pooling of pensions and unemployment risk through National Insurance.
I don't remember 'respect for diversity' featuring highly in the 1707 act. Doubtless it'll be there once the Downing Street Press Office have tweaked it.
And over time Europe's first common market – the United Kingdom – has evolved into something much more deeply ingrained than any of the world's other single markets: the shared connections, common networks and strong cross-border business relationships in financial services and elsewhere now integral to our prosperity.
Today in 2007, we can also be far more confident about a Britain that is defined not by ethnicity but, at its core, by common values and shared interests that, in turn, shape our institutions. Britain pioneered the modern idea of liberty and, not least from Adam Smith onwards, there is a golden thread that intertwines this unshakeable British commitment to liberty with another very British idea – that of duty and social responsibility, which comes alive in civic pride, charitable and voluntary endeavour, and encouragement for what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons".
Responsibility ? Give me those blood pressure pills. Under Brown, families on £58,000 a year are drawn into the benefits sytem via tax credits. A low-income family are better off finacially if they separate - thanks to Brown's benefit systems. Which will pay a stranger to care for your child, or elderly relative, but will not pay a family member. Which makes saving for retirement a waste of money unless your pension pot is big enough to teke you well over the Minimum Income Guarantee threshold. Which levies marginal tax rates of 80-90% (via withdrawal of benefits) on the low-paid. Which demands an expensive licence for that village hall dance, and criminal record checks on all the helpers on the school trip.
Civic pride ? When councils have no true independence, getting over half their money from central funds ? Charity ? When some of our major charities (Barnados, NCH, Children's Society) get half their money from the State, effectively acting as subcontractors ? When the Lottery fund hands out cash to any number of PC causes ? What's there to encourage 'the little platoons' ?
Most nations subscribe to universal values like freedom, but it is how these values come together – in Britain's case, in liberty married to social responsibility and to a belief in what Churchill called "fair play" – and then are mediated through our institutions and our history that defines the character of the country.
Of course those who say that our Britishness is not Britishness unless it is understated have a point. But recent years have seen outpourings of patriotic sentiment, from commemorating VE day to the Queen's Jubilee and more recently winning the Olympics. And just as St George's Day should be given greater pride of place as a celebration – as will St Andrew's Day and St David's Day – I also believe that on Remembrance Sunday and at other nationwide events, the country wants to do more to commemorate what the whole of Britain has in common and in particular to value the contribution of our forces and veterans.
In discussions with the British Museum, the British Library and the National Archive, we have agreed that there should be a permanent exhibition of historic documents that constitute the essence of our Britishness. And just as we should explore – perhaps with a national competition – what the country itself thinks should be included in this exhibition, we can and must also find better ways to show our national flag as a symbol of inclusion and national unity, taking it back from the BNP, which makes it a symbol of division.
I am certain that the teaching of British history should be at the heart of the modern school curriculum, and the current review of the curriculum should root the teaching of citizenship more closely in British history. And just as America is strengthened by the institutes that encourage discussion on the very idea of America, an Institute for Britishness could encourage debate on our identity, and what documents from Magna Carta onwards mean for today.
More so than in any other century, the 21st-century world will be characterised by peoples of different nationalities living closer to each other and having to find ways to live together. Other countries can learn from us getting the balance right between diversity and the strong common bonds that, at root, unify and bring us together. So, far from our Union being an anachronism or in its death throes, we can be a beacon for the world.
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