A few decades ago, Union was underpinned by deep and wide-reaching common bonds that could be felt in almost every aspect of life in the United Kingdom. The greatest manifestation of these was our common parliament at Westminster, which granted representation, passed legislation and provided governance in common across the country.
This provided for a shared common experience in the lives of all British people. Whether a man lived in Inverness, Luton, Aberystwyth or Bangor he would live under the same laws, have the same democratic rights and representation and participate in the same national institutions.
This common experience was not merely political or abstract, but very much social and an aspect of everyday life. From the electricity that beamed into people’s houses, to the furnaces that generated it, to the channels on the televisions it powered, to the water that filled kitchen sinks, to the trains people travelled to on work, to the national industries that they worked in, to the health service that cared for the sick; these things were all provided by national public institutions that were central to life in Glasgow or Manchester; Swansea or (with some exceptions due to the Stormont Assembly) Belfast.
This common experience had more than a geographical reach across the UK; it also crossed boundaries of background and class. It was shared in common across centre and region, rural and urban, even in many ways working-class and middle-class. The immediate post-war decades were defined by economic growth rooted in social mobility. A child from a working-class background who excelled at school could flourish at a grammar school, attend university fully funded by state grants (not loans) and improve his lot in life. Class boundaries became highly porous, blending experiences of working and middle-class life for many. And whether working or middle-class, men could expect to work long-term, full-time jobs with healthy pensions at the end of them, while for women a common experience of motherhood also crossed class divides. Our common experience was therefore national, but also economic and social as well.
All this was generated through a common purpose that was manifested in a common parliament at Westminster. Representatives were sent from all parts of the UK to legislate in common for the country as a whole and pursue a single national direction. An MP for Central Ayrshire would vote on welfare reform that would affect Bolton West as directly as his own constituency. An MP from Cardiff West would vote on education policy that would be implemented in East Antrim just as it would in his own area.
The sort of common purpose that we pursued was itself shaped by our common values. We were a relatively homogenous nation still shaped in many ways by broadly Christian values which we held to in our own quiet and moderate way. The family functioned as the fundamental unit of society and blended into a wider community life shaped by local as well as national loyalties. Marriage and parenthood were cherished and proactively supported through government policy. Social conservatism was prevalent and almost unchallenged, especially amongst the working-class.
These common bonds which lay at the heart of the United Kingdom’s constitutional, economic, social and moral integrity have been systematically destroyed by the political class in recent decades. The fruit of this destruction is the constant constitutional chaos and rampant, aggressive nationalism that we are now subjected to.
Much of our common UK-wide experience has been lost. Our everyday needs such as electricity, water, public transport and all sorts of utilities are now catered for by a medley of foreign companies who run them for their own private and quite substantial profit. Separate assemblies in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast mean UK citizens in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England now live under many different laws, regulations and institutions. From primary school they are brought up learning quite different versions of history; education has perhaps been abused more plainly by nationalists than any other devolved competency.
As in the past, this breakdown of our common bonds has social as well as national aspects. Across class divides, people no longer share common experiences of honest lifetime work followed by retirement and a pension. Gifted pupils from poorer backgrounds rarely now have the option of grammar schools or higher education grants, and are stuck instead in poorly performing comprehensives and are massively indebted should they be able to attend university. Low skill workers must now compete with wage competition from immigrants and shuffle from one job to the next in the flimsy low-pay service sector. Working-class men in particular have suffered by financial pressures which have forced women into work, since households can no longer be maintained by a single income like they were a couple of generations ago. Since the 50’s the rise of female employment rates coincides almost exactly with the fall in male employment.
The sense of common purpose is now also largely gone. An MP from West Lothian can no longer have a say in parliament on many issues affecting England, Wales or Northern Ireland. MSPs at Holyrood are free to chart an entirely different course for Scotland without anybody anywhere else in the UK having any say in the matter. Our common British purpose has not been entirely lost, but it has been greatly diminished.
This is true also of the common values which once underpinned much of our shared British way of life. The move towards a secularised, amoral, multicultural society has shattered many core beliefs we once took for granted. We no longer share the same cultural references like we used to. The resulting breakdown and confusion is reaching levels that past generations could never even have begun to conceive of: if the Holyrood establishment get their way it may soon be a ‘hate crime’ to call somebody by a male pronoun if they identify as a woman.
The common bonds that once provided the basis for the shared values, shared purpose and shared experience of the British people have now been largely destroyed. Without them have been left a sort of lumpen morass of people, an aggregate of individuals and a balkanised patchwork of petty statelets each pursuing their own path. With the British people weak and divided, the political class have been free to take their excesses to new levels, asset-stripping what is left of our national infrastructure, opening up our borders almost entirely and incorporating us further and further into the EU (this author is not optimistic about the likelihood of the current government composed largely of Remain supporters delivering Brexit).
So long as we remain in this condition, and so long as it is proactively pursued by all major parties then the Union will remain in danger and nationalism will remain an existential threat to the very existence of the United Kingdom.
We reject the broad national direction which the political class have taken us down in recent decades, and stand unashamedly on a traditional unionist manifesto to restore our common bonds and the constitutional, economic, social and moral integrity of the United Kingdom.
To do this we must restore parliamentary union (abolish Holyrood and the devolved assemblies), restore our parliamentary sovereignty (leave the EU and Single Market), restore our parliamentary democracy (end rule through referendum) and restore so much of what has been lost in our country. It is this broad manifesto to restore our common bonds that Unionists must now stand on if we are to restore the integrity of our country.