Friday, February 17, 2006

Pink ties excepted

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News.

Is it a coup?

The premier’s jet taxied along the remote African airstrip. Cleared for take off, it gathered speed. Only at the last moment did the pilot notice the flames shooting from one of the engines…

Back home the plotters wasted no time. The new premier forced a bill to bring in identity cards through a cowed parliament. He announced new border controls and plans to put the nation’s youth into uniform.

Living in Britain this week has given us an idea of what is must feel like to live through a coup. It has certainly given us a better idea of what a Gordon Brown government would look like.

And all those on the left who have been hanging on through the Blair years to see Brown become prime minister have had a shock. For, pink ties excepted, it has not been a pretty sight.

For Brown seems even keener on the “War on Terrorism” – 90-day detention and all – than Blair is. And there is plenty more to worry about.

There is his snowplough approach to questioning. Whether he is facing a select committee or John Humphrys, the other guy is never allowed to get a word in.

And there is his extraordinary take on Britishness – a Union Flag to salute in every garden is just the start of it. Brown loves American ways, but this flag-wagging has its origins in nervousness about the West Lothian question.

In the Commons, Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on measures affecting only England, but their equivalent legislation is debated at Holyrood or Cardiff. This is unsustainable in the long run and leaves a Scottish prime minister presumptive in a delicate position.

The traditional Liberal answer to this is regional government for England, but it is hard to detect much enthusiasm for it amongst the voters – except in Cornwall, where it is not on offer.

Another approach would be to encourage a revival of the more benign side of English nationalism. The Empire, after all, was largely a Scottish enterprise. We English would have been happy to stay at home brewing good ale and perfecting our morris dancing.

Brown’s solution is to wrap himself in the flag. But this will work south of the border. If nothing else, his overenthusiastic patriotism is terribly unEnglish.


Jock Coats said...

I have lived through a few coups in my time when my parents were in Nigeria in the early eighties.

The one I remember particularly was on New Years Day 1981, I think. We lived on the top floor of a 21 storey complex of flats about half a mile from the presidential palace on Victoria Island in Lagos.

As New Years Day was a Sunday we all piled into the lift to go to "Bar Beach" in front of the palace for the usual sunbathing and amusement from the local poentecostal church service and hawking off dodgy looking copied cassette tapes. Five storeys down a German couple got it.

They smiled at us and said "Happy New Year, what do you think of the new government, then?".

Apparently, just after the flares and fireworks from the ships in Lagos harbour had died down shortly after midnight there had been a coup. Three shots were fired (probably fewer than in Brixton on the average Saturday night), nobody hurt, the former president was in jail and the army was in charge again.

So much easier than this damned democracy thing...:)

MatGB said...

It's that Gordon is likely to be worse, and they're likely to go for a simple coronation (not that they've got any other choices worth considering) that prompted me to start pushing to get them out of office at all costs. That Huhne looks to be the best choice for next PM is an added bonus to this one. This week has sickened me, and energised me at the same time. Getting them out has to be a top priority now.

I think Regionalism is, unfortunately, dead. I supported it as a good idea. Perhaps rebuild it as Provincialism? England has provinces, they're not defined anywhere, but I'm definately in the Westcountry. An English Parliament would inevitably end the UK in the medium term, but I don't see any options but one of them.