Monday, November 27, 2006

Perfidious Albion

The British have a strong streak of the masochistic in them, I believe. For as if they didn’t have enough on their mind with street crime, speed cameras, drunkenness, a pathetic cricket team and a dodgy government, they have now added a new one to the mix. Now it’s been suggested that the United Kingdom should be broken up and each country given its independence. My wife has long preached the same gospel for Texas, but then you know what Texans are like.

And it’s not as though it’s a new idea. Hadrian, Antonine and Offa all felt much the same way, you will recall, and got their construction crews busy on the job, without a great deal of success, as you can see. The Welsh Nationalists used to spend their time painting out the English road signs and burning down English holiday homes, giving a new meaning to the old Coal Board advertisement, “Come Home to a Roaring Fire.” Buying a cottage in Wales practically guaranteed it.

I suppose there is a trace of commonsense about the idea. It’s always been something of a strained relationship, especially since Bonnie Prince Charlie lost in extra time at Culloden. And the Irish actually managed it to a certain extent, although not without a lot of religious aggravation that remains to this day.

The remarkable thing is that a poll of the English came out in favour of the idea. I’m a bit sceptical of such polls since I think a fair percentage of those polled were probably on their way home from the pub at the time and incapable of rational thought, but it seems 59% said, “Yeah, good idea.” I doubt that they understood the question and thought it had something to do with the licensing laws.

But if a true reflection of public opinion, this may be due to the Englishman’s fear of being ruled by the caber tossing cabal of Blair, Brown and Reid, and perhaps those interviewed might have found something positive to say about Prescott under the circumstances. When asked why he was supporting Stalin during the war, Churchill once replied that, “If Hitler had invaded Hell, he would have felt it necessary to make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

It’s not even as though all the countries speak the same language, although I suppose on that basis, Newcastle has a pretty good case for independence. North of the border, unless you were weaned on a diet of haggis, porridge and Rabbie Burns, you may have some linguistic difficulties. Remarkably, Queen Victoria, who was a one-woman Highland Promotion Board, apparently could understand what on earth John Brown was talking about. Nobody else could. But then she had similar success with the Munshi, her Indian servant, who took Brown’s place after he had ascended to a highlander’s heaven. How their conversation went, no-one knows but, “goodness, gracious me!”

And then there’s Welsh, a language that would have died out years ago if it were not for the fact that the locals find it very handy when in the presence of the English. It saves them from having to whisper.

Devolution on this scale is such a bonkers scheme that almost certainly the government will go for it. After all, it would cost millions.

Putting the customs offices at the borders and the issuance of separate passports would be an ideal way to fritter away some taxpayer cash, and then there’s the re-branding of practically everything that has British in its title. Re-writing Rule Britannia, for instance, would be something of a chore, but no doubt Sir Elton John, master of the Royal musical rubbish, would feel up to it.

Why the Scots think that it’s such a great idea baffles me. After all, the power base in Westminster dances to the skirl of the bagpipes, or is it that they want an even greater representation that would demand the wearing of a kilt on all formal occasions? Especially if you happened to be a Muslim.

And once you give in to this sort of thing, there will be no end to it. The Cornish have always been a rebellious lot and independence for the Isle of Wight has been mooted before.

Some of us (the more elderly) may remember one of the wonderful Ealing Studios comedies, “Passport to Pimlico.”

In it, an ancient charter, found in the rubble of a bombed building, granted the town its independence. The problems that developed subsequently should be warning enough.

Then there’s the next question of what to do about all those British inventions that will now have to be re-classified. The telephone and television for instance. And literature‘s going to take a pounding also. Boswell’s Life of Johnson will have to have its boring self re-located as a Scottish masterpiece. Dylan Thomas can no longer be recognised as a slightly drunken British genius of verse.

No doubt it will all die down as another windmill appears on the scene for a nation of Don Quixotes.

Ah yes. I can see it now. The French elections will be the next obsession. Perfidious lot! They really need sorting out - and it will take the attention off of all the problems in the sceptred isle for the time being.


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