Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Things Fall Apart

Too much work, too many children. A pity when there's so much to blog about, but the energy is lacking.

Two particular tectonic plates are continuing to move. One is Scottish independence - or, as I like to think of it, English independence.

The recent shift in favour of independence is challenging Labour's claim from 1999 that devolution would "kill Scottish nationalism stone dead".

For the first years of devolution, support for independence registered anywhere between 35 and 50, giving credence to Labour claims.

But its growth to more than 50 per cent, echoed by last weekend's ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph which found 52 per cent of Scots in favour of independence - and an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters as well, suggests devolution is actually fuelling Scottish nationalism.

The Sunday Telegraph poll also found that 68 per cent of English voters want their own parliament, which suggests that discontent over the imbalance and problems with the devolution settlement is spread right across the United Kingdom.

Shuggy is impressed with the increasingly desperate tone of Labour on devolution issues.

Sam Tarran wonders about a federal system. To some extent Scotland has that already. It's only poor old England that's not a full member of the federation and has no measure of self-government.

He blames our rulers for the "constitutional nightmare that Labour has created".

Jingoistic isn't happy with his choice of video :

Having endured Mel Gibson and his poor Scottish accent long enough I began wondering, if the Scots hate England so much, why be part of the UK ? ... Not meaning to sound jingoistic, but if they're going to pin all their problems on England then they can bloody well piss off.

He also blames Nu Lab for the situation :

The only reason Blair/Brown want Scotland to stay is the large share of Labour voters that keep the duo in power. They gave Scottish politicians the right to vote on matters that will not affect their constituencies, how is that fair ? Blair gave Scotland its own Parliament and now he's feeling the consequences.

It's all true - but to analyse why it's all going pear-shaped it's useful to view the scene through a cultural, nationalistic prism.

Historically the UK was at centre an English enterprise. Though ambitious Scots, Irishmen and Welshmen powered large chunks of the Empire, the Armed Forces, industry and commerce, and Britain's whole was greater than the sum of her national parts, England was the heart of Britain - and rightly so in the opinions of its inhabitants. The largest, wealthiest, most important part - and the best part, too. "The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England !" Foreign governments referred to Britain as 'England'. The Union was nearly 100 years old when Nelson flew his 'England expects ' message. Victorian imperialists used 'England' when they meant Britain, and everyone understood what they meant, and why they said it. The Union Flag was the English flag as recently as the 1980s - look at any old soccer footage.

While there was some metaphorical sniping from the political sidelines, the settlement endured - as long as England had self-belief. Sadly that English self-belief was just one of the things what went down the tubes during the cultural revolution.

At which point we entered a different ball game. When England believed in herself, there was no need for concessions to Scots and Welsh Nationalists (Ireland being a different and bloodier story). When it becomes the done thing for educated Englishmen and women to criticise, deride or hate their country, no amount of subsidy and concession can be enough - indeed it will only stimulate further demands. The squirrels in our garden can tell if a hazelnut is rotten inside just by looking at it - and Scottish nationalists are very like squirrels, casting a jaundiced eye on the rotten husk of English identity.

So in one sense it's wrong to blame it all on Blair. He's a symptom, not a cause. But had he left well alone, the moment might have passed. We're off down the slope now - and not all the Seaforths and Camerons will drag us back up it.

The other plate is the multicultural one. Immigration reaches new record levels, a third of London's population now born abroad. Almost lost Detroit ? What about our capital ?

Nearly a third of the population of London were born outside Britain, an official survey showed.

The number of people in Greater London who have come from overseas has risen by more than 650,000 since Labour came to power in an unprecedented wave of migration, it found.

The breakdown said that foreign-born population of the capital has gone up from 1,630,000 to 2,288,000 since 1997.

Highest numbers of immigrants have come from Bangladesh, India, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, it suggested.

But at the same time as large numbers of new residents have arrived from abroad, the British-born population of London has been declining.

The figures from the Government's Office for National Statistics show that numbers of the native-born in London have dropped by 155,000 in the past nine years, from 5,215,000 to 5,060,000.

The analysis provides fresh evidence that London is showing signs of the phenomenon known as 'white flight', in which middle class families are leaving the capital to escape high housing costs, poor schools, poor transport and high crime.

White flight is named after the white middle class exodus from American cities in the 1950s and 60s - but in the case of London the numbers leaving include successful black and ethnic minority families looking to move to suburbs and other regions of the country.

The new assessment of London's population follows a breakdown from the ONS earlier this year which showed that more than a third of its people are now non-white, and that total number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in London has reached 2.5 million.

The pressure of migration into the booming jobs market of London is now thought likely to push the growth of the capital to record levels in coming decades. ONS predictions say that London, said to contain 7,348,000 people, is likely to increase in size to more than 8.8 million by 2029.

However independent critics say that since there is no accurate record of the real level of immigration and because a high proportion of migrants head for London, the actual population is higher than official figures show and is certain to pass 10 million in future.

The latest figures on Londoners born abroad are based on the Labour Force Survey, a regular ONS exercise which gathers information from 53,000 homes. Some 5,000 of these are in London.

As with almost all Government attempts to count population at the moment, its findings are open to doubt.

For example, it puts the number of Polish-born people in London at 70,000, a figure far lower than could be expected from other Government estimates that 600,000 people have come in from Eastern Europe over the past three years.

The survey said that 31.1 per cent of the population of London is made up of people born abroad.

The analysis shows that numbers coming into the capital is now lower than in the past from some traditional emigration countries.

In particular, numbers of people born in Ireland have collapsed as the growing Irish economy has turned the country into a magnet for immigrants rather than a source of migrants for other countries.

Numbers of those born in Jamaica, Guyana, Singapore and Hongkong have also fallen.

Figures published by the ONS in the summer showed that non-whites now make up 33.5 per cent of the population of London compared with 29 per cent in 2001.

And these figures show 70,000 Poles when the Government reckons 600,000+ ? 'The half was not told me'.

I noted a while back that we're moving from the 'still a tiny minority' phase into something a little more realistic. In this context, the current spat between Ken 'Violent Nationalists are OK if they're not English' Livingstone amd Trevor Phillips is illuminating.

In Ken's world (remember he's a Type 1) the Linton Kwesi Johnson LP is always on the stereo and someone's just popped round with some decent Colombian. All is for the best in multicultural London and anyone who says otherwise should join the BNP. He actually quoted Steven 'Ludi' Simpson's studies (see here) in support of his claims.

Trev is a little more far-sighted and is worried that people actually WILL join. His proposal that the State use the 43% of GDP which it controls to discriminate against BNP members (who presumably pay taxes like everyone else), while disgraceful, is a measure of his unease.

Interesting times.

And finally ... two beautiful, elegaic posts on Constantinople and the surviving Christians at Brussels Journal.


Harry J said...

Things do seem to be gathering pace. Whilst Blair and Neo-Labour may not be totally responsible they do seem to have greatly accelerated the process. I have a feeling that the 'bouyant' economy we are meant to be enjoying will, in the future, be long forgotten. We'll then be left with an awful legacy. In particular London will never again be what it once was. As older white, English, indigenous Londoners pass away so our capital will slowly change. Ken Livingstone may find this prospect desirable but I very definitely don't. The falling apart won't just include England and Scotland. England itself will continue to fracture. My local area has become more and more 'diverse' (or should that be vibrant) in recent years. The local pub is now frequented by crack dealers (inevitably involving a series of shootings) and everything that made it a pleasant area to live has almost gone. The Indian males and their numerous friends in the flat above have, this morning, woken me up with bhangra music, yet again. Add to this the loud discussions in Urdhu (at least it's never English; they only speak English when they ask to borrow my hoover, roughly every other month) and I'm far from happy. I suppose my only option is to become another white flighter and so hasten the time when the indiginous white poplulation of my own town will become a minority (sometime soon after 2016 seems to be the best guess). I discuss this with some people and they just don't seem to grasp it.

Anonymous said...

Guardian apostate,

The APR of immigrant population growth is getting harder to miss. But of course, there's a payoff for all this - well, sometime anyway. Meanwhile, "vibrant" London has to put up with the highest regional unemployment rate in the UK. Price of progress, eh!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting the changing perception of the use of England to mean Britain or vice versa.

There's nothing that can raise the hackles of a Scotsman more rapidly than to describe him as English instead of British. He presumes that the English are staking a claim to Scotland, when the fact is most English people (until recently) never gave it the slightest thought. When English people used to call Scots, English it meant nothing more than we see you as the same as us.

Given that for at least two generations, we have been told quite clearly by virtually every Scotsman that we are not the same, it's little surprise that English people have indeed come to agree.

My neighbour is Glaswegian, and to my ears, his children sound Scottish. My neighbour tells me that when he goes home to his parents, his children cannot go out because their accents reveal too much of a sassanach twang; consequently they risk the Glasgow kiss or worse.

He describes the problem as "big brother syndrome". The Scots retain a loathing of an elder sybling, out of whose shadow they never grew.

Time to let them leave the nest I say.

Anonymous said...

Who gets to keep the oil?

The Scots get Scotland and the English keep the North Sea? Seems a fair exchange.

If not, well maybe we'll get to see how much of the 'dynamic' British economy was floated by its resource base - albeit diminishing - undergirding the pound, and the strong pound affording Britain's easy credit.

When/if the oil goes it'll hasten the decline of the welfare state, and the service economy which employs so many of those immigrants. The bubble will be pricked.

What the survivors of the teeming metropolis will make of the wreckage is anyone's guess, but it probably won't be pretty.

So Scottish independence will serve the cause of widening the gyre. Very nice.

Hope the civil war starts before I turn 45.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot to argue that the UK is an artificial union, in that it is actually a rebranded English Empire.

The Scots, of course, did not enter into the Union willingly: the English Parliament used the old 'carrot and stick' method (trade concessions and debt clearance, or no trade with England at all) to get the Parliament of Scotland to enter into union negotiations.

Personally, I remain optimistic that the Union will not fall apart. Hopefully, the fact that Scotland is economically better-off with England - which has managed to win over much of Scotland in the past - will prevail over nationalist dogma. Yet, my optimism is fading further day by day.

Anonymous said...

Sam, the Union has never been symmetrical, but “a rebranded English Empire…”
oversimplifies and concedes too much to SNP/PC victim-portrayal.

I am English by birth and conviction but Anglo-Welsh by ancestry, and yet have never thought my Welsh forbears (miners and farmers) a subject people of my English (miners and farmers). And it would have been a pretty odd sort of empire that permitted the prominent families – the Tudors and Stuarts - of defeated peoples to sit so tight on the conqueror’s throne.

However, I think Laban’s key point is right, and one that I had not seen before: it was England’s self-belief that gave moral binding to the Union and without that it will perish.
There remains an almost - but not quite - forlorn hope that, paradoxically, we may see that the end of union will lead England to become, in the words of the song, ‘a nation once again’, in spirit as in actuality. Just maybe…

Anonymous said...

English parliament? Problems. When we have UK elections everyone with a UK passport can vote and it's all 'hunky dory'. English elections - so who votes? Oh yes, "This is the BBC. English residents have shown their preference in the elections today." They can't say English people, it's is a wake up phrase.