The Young and the Constitution: Unionism's Challenge

May 20, 2017


There is now a whole generation of young Britons who have grown up and had their formative experiences and influences since the introduction of legislative devolution in the late 1990's. They've lived their whole life under the current constitutional arrangement and have never known anything different. This is having a deleterious effect on their outlook as regards constitutional matters. They haven't lived through the experiences that shaped previous generations' outlook on constitutional matters such as Unionism. They haven't been made aware of the real issues that lie behind Unionism and indeed have had nationalists bombard them with skewed propaganda that manipulates them into a distorted, highly historically inaccurate view that to be patriotic they have to hate the UK. They are being forced down a path that will eventually lead to independence and are being deprived of any kind of balance. It must be the urgent task of all authentic Unionists to counter this sinister manipulation by the SNP(and the nationalists in other parts of the UK) and educate the young in the real issues surrounding constitutional matters.


Anybody over twenty years of age will have been brought up in an era when the concept of a unitary UK with the House of Commons as its national legislature was a fairly solid concept (with perhaps the exception of Ulster, where a portion of the population wanted reunification with the Republic of Ireland). On the mainland UK, there was the occasional constitutional uncertainty and danger: the debates on devolution in the mid to late 70's, during the Callaghan Labour administration, provided an occasional moment of uncertainty over the status of the UK constitution (there had also been some committees set up in Parliament in the 1960's to look into constitutional change, but they had not been acted on), but by and large the constitutional question was settled.


With the exception of a few minority extremists, excentrics and cranks, this situation persisted up until the late 1990's. There were some people who weren’t satisfied with the UK's constitutional make-up like the SNP in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales and the mainstream SDLP in Ulster (plus the terrorist IRA/Sinn Fein) but they were comprised of fringe eccentrics and student ideologues with no experience of how the real world works. Consequently these people enjoyed virtually no support from the UK public and were considered about as credible as the Monster Raving Loony Party. They were consigned to the margins of UK politics. The vast majority of people in the UK either believed, or acquiesced, in a unitary United Kingdom with sovereignty invested in the House of Commons and the Lords.


So, as described above, up until the late 1990's, the UK's constitutional arrangements were very stable and, whilst some minority dissent existed, the vast majority of the public were either happy with, or acquiesced in, these arrangements. They worked well, with perhaps a few caveats here and there, but nothing was seriously wrong with the UK constitution. That isn’t to say that there wasn't a very healthy debate going on in the UK over the constitution, as there often was. Most people felt that there was no need for any radical overhaul of the Union and the very small percentage of people who did think something was wrong were political extremists whose ideas were unworkable nonsense and so were dismissed with contempt by the sensible UK public.


During the period before the introduction of legislative devolution, the whole of UK culture and politics was, in the main, reflective of a Pan-UK ethos. In schools, colleges, and universities, young UK citizens were taught about the UK's millennia old history and traditions. Even though there are some local differences within the Anglo-Celtic story of the British Isles, on the whole there was an homologous British culture and historical narrative that the vast majority of Britons subscribed to. There were other versions of British history, and, of course, since the 1960's, the left had been increasingly active in their attempts to demolish what they sneeringly dismissed as the Whig myth version of British history, but the majority of Britons saw the UK as a single, unitary entity with a common UK-wide culture, with some regional variations.Importantly, this belief in a Pan-UK culture was transmitted from the older generations down to the young, and so in this way, the UK  remained a unified political entity as the young learnt what it meant to be British and were imbued with a sense of, and a pride in, a concept of the United Kingdom, rather than just their own particular part of it.


Nationalism has always existed in the UK, but before the advent of legislative devolution it was, as described above, a tiny, extremely unimportant group of extremists and oddballs and it was perceived as such. They made attempts to get their ideas across, but got more or less nowhere as people in the UK were generally far too sensible to believe what were (and still are), little more than unrealistic pipe dreams with little or no chance of working in the real world. They had limited electoral success and were prevented from forcing their unwanted ideas on an unwilling UK public by the bicameral nature of the UK's legislature: the Commons and Lords were the only law making and revising chambers and the few nationalists that got elected there were contained by the overwhelming majority of Unionist MP's in the Chamber. All in all, during this era, the UK could be described as a stable, more or less homologous society and polity.


It was the introduction of legislative devolution in the late 1990's that signaled the end of the above era of stability and ushered in a period of unparalleled change and instability that was to have an extremely negative effect on the UK's politics and society. The New Labour government that came into power after the General Election of 1997 was under the severely mistaken impression that the constitution of the UK was broke and needed fixing, a view that was not shared by the vast majority of the UK public. They quickly set about putting their plans into action. After a softening up campaign in which the real issues behind legislative devolution were either fudged or omitted completely (the most obvious of which was one Labour politician promising that legislative devolution would 'destroy nationalism forever') three referenda were held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which, not surprisingly considering the preceding propaganda and misinformation campaign, returned 'yes' results. All three constituent parts of the UK were then given their own executives: Scotland received a parliament and Wales and Ulster got assemblies.


It's at the juncture that the whole process described above of the UK's traditions of unitary government began to get eroded by nationalist forces that deliberately set out to destroy the British identity amongst the young because they desired to loosen, and eventually destroy, the UK. These nationalists adopted an extremely aggressive approach towards their goal of independence and one method they employed to achieve their goal of independence was to indoctrinate the young with heavily biased propaganda that severely distorted the truth behind British history and inculcated in the young of Scotland a synthetic sense of grievance that Scotland was the victim of English imperialism: the Braveheart myth. The same is true of the other parts of the UK in which legislative devolution has been set up: the nationalists of those regions began to propagate a sense of false grievance towards the English in order to advance their agenda. After twenty years of this process, the cumulative effect on the UK's youth is that their sense of British identity has been severely eroded and has been largely replaced by a manufactured composite of nationalist lies and distortions; at least in a large proportion of the young population.


This bodes poorly for the future of a unitary UK and is extremely worrying for all authentic Unionists. Inaction and complacency on this issue is just not an option.


'All that is needed for the victory of evil is for good men to do nothing' is Burke's famous aphorism and I think it is very apposite here. It is the urgent job of all Unionists who want to save the Union to stand up and challenge this pernicious, cultish attempt by modern aggressive nationalism to subvert our country by sabotage from within. We need to teach the young the real narrative of our nation’s shared values and help create a truly united Pan-UK Britain that will exist into the future.


© 2017 Stephen Bailey.

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