TBG Conference 2013: Robin Tilbrook on The Future Prospects of the World's Oldest Nation-State - England

by The Editor

Robin Tilbrook's address on The Future Prospects of the World's Oldest Nation-State - England at the Traditional Britain Group's 2013 conference. Video and Transcript

Mr Chairman thank you for inviting me to take part in this debate and to be at your conference.

I know you have recently had trouble with the supposedly Honorable Member for North East Somerset who seemed to have made much play of being a traditional Conservative.  Do I dare mention his name in this assembly?  This is the man who not only publicly bit your hand that fed him but has recently said:-

“Education and health policy in England will be made by people who cannot vote on those self same subjects for their own districts.  This is absurd and very unfair on the English.”

“Those of us who are English should feel that this is a price worth paying for the United Kingdom”.

That is not a sentiment that appeals to me, ladies and gentlemen.  I think that English National interests should be pursued by our own English National Government democratically elected by the English people.  Perhaps Rees-Mogg is a new word for Quisling?

Ladies and gentlemen the title of my speech today is :-  The Future of the World’s Oldest Nation State – England.

One of the objectively obvious facts which it seems many either left wing and internationalist, or globalist, or pro-EU-ish commentators overlook is that nations and nationhood are not disappearing, but, on the contrary, they are increasingly popular.

Just consider for a moment that during the course of the 20th Century a great many new Nation States emerged.  There are now 193 member nation states in the UN.

I think that sometimes if you try to stand back from things and just look objectively at an issue you can see something that others may have overlooked in their haste.  But the title of this conference the Future of the Nation State makes me think of all the clamour which seems to suggest that the future of the Nation State is a troubled one!

However one issue which we should try to avoid getting confused about is the fact that there may often be a great difference between the fact of a State (albeit often confusingly called a Nation State) and the idea of a Nation.

The State is of course at root simply a state structure with a constitution and systems of control and enforcement and, if it is an effective state, a monopoly of the legitimate use of force.

Whereas a Nation on the other hand is a community in one real sense and is based upon national feeling.  So we could say that a Nation is a product of national identity, or as Left-wing academics would refer to it, a Nation is an “Imagined Community”.

The people of a Nation have a subjective sense of national identity as being a member of their own wider national community.  They may have in their minds many objective criteria which they will apply in deciding whether an individual is a member or not.  This will depend on the peculiar ideas of that particular Nation, e.g.  the idea of Americanism or self-identifying as being an American which has different characteristics to Frenchism or self-identifying as being French.

At this point I would like to draw an explicit distinction between this sense of National Identity and the bogus and false notions of, on the one hand, “white race nationalism” and on the other, “international proletarianism”.   In neither case do those ideologues who wish to pigeonhole people into such groups care that real people don’t actually have any such sense of self-identification.

On the contrary they then arrogantly and undemocratically claim that it is everyone else who is wrong and who have, they say, a “false state of consciousness”! I reject such ideas and wish to assert my democratic right to determine my own national identity as an Englishman and as a member of the English Nation.

It is of course a fact that a State can be highly successful but yet not be a Nation.  Consider for example some historical examples!  Consider Prussia, which was mainly the conglomeration of territories ruled by the regions Hohenzollern Prince or consider the Hapsburg Austro-Hungary or indeed consider the Soviet Union.  Such States are in a sense Empires rather than Nations and cannot survive defeat or collapse as they have little hold on the hearts and affections of their subjects.

On the other hand a Nation can have a strong hold on the hearts of its people but not be a State, for example consider the Kurds or modern Hungarians and in the late 18th and 19th Centuries the Polish, or, along the troublesome frontier between the States of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pathans.

Problems often arise within States where there is no key coherent or integrated foundation of national identity.  For example in most African countries today of the former British Empire, where British imperial policies of what we would today call multi-culturalism where instituted under the guise of “divide and rule”.

It is instructive to make a contrast between Ghana and Malaysia, both countries that became independent more or less at the same time, geographically both are of a similar size, both had similar sized population and both are even similarly near the Equator.  However it is only Malaysia, with its strong emphasis on Malay nationalism, that has managed to make the leap into becoming a largely developed country.  I hope you see my point that nationalism can be a key determinate of the success or failure of a State?

How does all this matter in modern Britain or for the future of England?

Well first let us get some terms clear and then things may come more into focus:-

Britain was originally the name of the Roman province which included Wales and mostly went up only to Hadrian’s Wall and never included all of Scotland or any of Ireland.

“England” is arguably the oldest Nation State on earth.  The idea of the English Nation is first mentioned in literature by the Venerable Bede in about 731 who may well have invented the concept to try and bring together the disparate tribes of Jutes, Angles and Saxons which had coalesced into the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy in what is now England and which would probably have never come together as a single State.

Ladies and gentlemen it is often claimed that all nationalisms arise in response to a threat.  In the case of England and the English Nation that threat was the Vikings and our great founder is Alfred the Great, who after his memorable burning of cakes when he was a fugitive and the last serving Anglo Saxon King, came back to win the decisive Battle of Edington against the Viking host in 878.

Alfred then launched his Wessex Kingdom on a mission to create a new Kingdom of the Angelcynn with his burhs, or boroughs, and civic freedoms, reforms of the army, putting village life on the war production footing of the early medieval open field system (a system which continued right up until the Black Death); his encouragement of reading and writing in English; his translation of the Bible into English; his strongly Roman Catholic Christian mission.   Alfred’s policies were crowned with ultimate success by his grandson Athelstan on the 12th July 927 at the Council of Eamont when the then new State, England, was unified into a single kingdom on more or less its current borders.

Ladies and gentlemen just compare that length of history with the creation of a united Germany in 1871, or a united Italy in 1863, by contrast we English have a united national history of 1086 years.

In all those years since then England was never divided nor separated into warring States and so therefore the English Nation has the deepest roots of all European nations.

The only Nation State in the world that has an equivalent claim is that of China, but I would question whether China isn’t an Empire rather than a Nation, given its over 200 spoken languages.  Also it has had several periods of division and warring states since it was united under the first Emperor.

Another term which we need to define is that of Great Britain.  In 1603 there was the Union of the Crowns with the accession of James I of England, who was also the VI James of Scotland, but despite James’ best efforts there was no union of England and Scotland.

In 1707 the increasingly successful English State and Nation entered into a partial union with the Kingdom of Scotland, which was then in deep financial trouble after its unsuccessful colonial adventure in middle America.  The Darian adventure was a sort of Scottish South Sea Bubble where there was a speculative boom which bankrupted much of Scotland’s elite and the Scottish state.  The Scots at the time had a different Act of Succession so it was feared that on the death of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch there would be an end to the Union of the Crowns.  The English threatened to end Scottish trading access to English markets under the Aliens Act and eventually a sordid deal was done, in what is now a public toilet in Edinburgh, which meant that members of the Scottish elite would be bribed with English taxpayers’ money and a partial union would be created by the union of the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England into the newly coined “United Kingdom of Great Britain”.  That is the origin of the term Great Britain.

The purpose of this Union of Great Britain was nakedly about big power, real-politique and imperialist aspirations, coupled with the struggle for imperial dominance and world power against in particular the absolutist Catholic monarchy of France there was also a strong element of Protestantism at its foundation.

We then move onto considering the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which was created in the last great struggle with France, this time in the Napoleonic wars, and led to another partial union with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1801.  In this case it didn’t even create a customs union or economic free trade zone between Great Britain and Ireland.  When the Union with Ireland largely collapsed in 1922, not only was the modern Conservative party formed and its 1922 Committee, but also there was yet another permutation of the Union state, with its new and current title, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The next term we need to consider is Devolution.  In 1998 New Labour enacted, following strong success in their Scottish referendum and very marginal success in the Welsh referendum, Devolution in Scotland and in Wales.  These devolutions were different from each other and both began a process whose destination it seems to me can only naturally be the end of the UK.

In Northern Ireland of course there is a special case arising from the peace agreement.

For me as an English Nationalist a key factor to take account of in considering devolution is of course that there was to be no national devolution for England.  On the contrary the only attempt to devolve in England was an attempt to break England up into EU inspired Regions.

This gives us another term – Regionalisation.  This was a policy first pursued by the John Major government following Maastricht, but most enthusiastically pursued in office by new Labour.  The attempt to break England up led to a spectacular failure to get any democratic mandate for regionalisation in an area which Labour had created by gerrymandering the so called “Region” of the “North East”.  Here devolution was defeated by a full 79% of the electorate of the “North East” in 2004.  There is no coincidence that the so called “North East” is one the areas which has the strongest English National Identity (80.5% in the 2011 Census).

Ladies and gentlemen next year on the 19th September 2014 we have the possibility of another great change to the Union, perhaps its very dissolution if Scotland votes, and I think it may well, for Independence.

You may ask how does this cause the dissolution of the UK?  Well I have partly answered this question already, but going back again to history to help to show how that applies to our constitutional law, the Union of the Crowns of England and Ireland took place in the Middle Ages but in 1536 the principality of Wales, which historically had never coalesced into a long-lasting single sovereign state, was incorporated by an Act of Union but this union was a full incorporation of the principality into the Kingdom of England.  This got MPs for Welsh constituencies sitting in the English House of Commons.  Wales was integrated into English law and included in the English Judicial Assize Circuits and also had established the Church of England in Wales.

In 1603 as I mentioned there was the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England.

In 1707 the Union of the Scottish and English parliaments let some Scottish Lords sit in with the English Lords and some Scottish MPs sit in what had been the English Commons but there was and never has been any union of the Scottish and English churches or of the two legal systems.

In 1801 there was the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain’s Parliament with the Irish Parliament but no customs union, nor a union of legal systems but the Church of Ireland was Anglican and Episcopalian. Bear in mind  however that this further Act of Union in 1801 is grafted onto the foundation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain brought about expressly in the 1707 Act of Union by the merger of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England into that new United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Therefore it follows logically and legally that if Scotland secedes then the United Kingdom of Great Britain is ipso facto dissolved and so is the subsequent Irish Union as that was with that United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Northern Irish rump of the 1801 Union would then no longer have any constitutional entity to be attached to.

So in late 2014 the British Establishment politicians may have to scrabble about to cobble together a new Union, but if Scotland goes then the Union of Great Britain is dissolved from any sensible constitutional and legal perspective.

Who can say what the other constituent parts of the current Union will then want to do and here I would just remind you what the current First Minister of Wales, the Labour Party’s Mr Carwyn Jones has said at a meeting in the London School of Economics earlier this month.  Here is what he said and I quote:-

“Imagine a referendum of the European Union which resulted in a vote to leave, carried by the weight of English votes against the preferences of other parts of the UK to remain in membership.  That would put us under enormous strain and could only serve the interests of those who wanted the United Kingdom to cease to exist.

It is ironic that those who are pressing for an ‘In/Out’ referendum on the grounds of their commitment to the United Kingdom may actually be imperilling the very future of the UK as presently constituted.  And that would be a matter of grave concern to the majority of people in Wales.

Wales remaining part of the United Kingdom benefits our economy.  The UK works for all of its constituent nations, and all have contributed to its success.  I want the Union to flourish, and Wales to play a dynamic role in it.  But for this to happen, the structures of the UK must adapt to the changing identities and aspirations of its citizens”.

Oh the irony of Ed Miliband’s recent sloganising at the Labour Conference, about Labour’s “One Nation” vision!  Which Nation is that Mr Miliband?

But coming back that maelstrom of negotiations that will inevitably arise if Scotland votes to go I would ask everyone here to search carefully for an answer to this question.  Who then will speak for England?

One contender might be Mr Cameron is the British Prime Minister.  He is a man who is on record as having promised to fight “little Englanders” wherever he finds them and he asserted to the BBC’s Andrew Marr that he would keep the colossal over subsidy for Scotland going, despite being the MP of an English constituency, because he said, and I quote “I am a Cameron and there is quite a lot of Scottish blood following in these veins”. Is that, ladies and gentlemen a race point or what?  So will it be Dave Donald Cameron that speaks for England?

Or would it be the Dutch/Russian Nick Clegg, or the Ed Miliband whose Marxist father fled here from the Nazis and who ungratefully seems to have wished us to lose both the Second World War and later the Cold War?

No, Ladies and gentlemen, none of them care a damn for England.  Indeed all three have already been trying to break up England with their parties’ respective Regionalisation policies.

Is it a coincidence I wonder that this is the very England that Karl Marx mourned was the “rock upon which all the revolutions of Europe” were “wrecked” upon?

I have mentioned the term “Regionalisation”.  The policy of Regionalisation is the British Establishment vision for England’s future.  It was introduced by the Conservatives, to break us up into EU Regions.  Regionalisation was enthusiastically pursued by Labour, and whose purpose was said by Charles Kennedy when he was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats saying that he enthusiastically supported Regionalisation for England it because he said – and I quote - “it was calling into question the very idea of England itself”.

It is in this sense that the new post-colonial Britishness, having lost its Empire and collapsed its power and nearly exhausted its credit over the last 100 years, is now a threat to our English Nation – an English Nation which some commentators have pointed out recently is now the last British colonial possession - the last part of the world directly ruled as it is by the British State.  As Jeremy Paxman said England is now something of a “Scottish Raj” – where is an English Mahatma Gandhi when you want one?
Our former Colonial Master or should I say “Dear Leader”, Gordon Brown, went so far as to talk of the “Nations and Regions of Britain” with England called the “Regions”.  He restructured the English national curriculum to ensure Britishness classes were given to English children, whereas the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales of course teach their own children the value of their own nations.  This is all part of a wider effort to propagandise English people into accepting the dissolution of the English Nation and the use of our resources to unfairly subsidise Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under what is known as the Barnett Formula.

In early 2009 a cross party committee of the House of Lords reported that the Barnett formula subsidy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was running to the tune of £49bn a year.  That is right ladies and gentlemen, £49bn a year - almost half the entire UK budget deficit!

The good news though, ladies and gentlemen, if you are English, is that the English are awakening.  Consider the results of the Labour supporting Think Tank:

<cite>The IPPR is a Labour supporting “think tank” and was one of cheerleaders for the Labour Government’s attempt to break England up into regions. They are still trying and their latest scheme is for a Northern Parliament.  So this is by no means a report from our friends and the report’s authors include not one single English patriot. The results are therefore all the more striking! Here are all the important extracts:-</cite>

The level of British identity recorded was the lowest in any survey reported here (going back to 1996).

Only 10 per cent of respondents claim to be ‘more British than English’. In this sense there was no discernible post-Olympics ‘Britishness bounce’.

58 per cent agree that the English have ‘become more aware of English national identity in recent years’.

There is one significant exception – in the strength of English national identification. That exception was London. In the dual capital of England and the United Kingdom, while English national identity remains the most popular choice, Englishness was notably weaker than elsewhere and Britishness rather stronger.
That fully 40 per cent of people in England would, if given the opportunity, choose an English passport is striking, especially given the complete absence of any public debate around English citizenship.

Across all age-groups, social classes and both genders Englishness is stronger than Britishness. The one important exception concerns members of England’s ethnic minorities.

Scotland was felt to receive more than its fair share of public spending (and England less than its fair share).

The English also overwhelmingly believe that public services delivered in Scotland should be funded by taxes levied in Scotland, and that Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on English laws.

Also striking is the lack of trust in the UK government to act in England’s interests.  Around 60 per cent of respondents did not think that the UK government could be relied upon to do so.

Such sentiments are widespread across England. Although Londoners appear a little less dissatisfied than the English average, there is a striking regional uniformity in views. The overall message is clear: English dissatisfaction with the territorial status quo is both broad and deep.

The UK’s relationship with Europe was accorded highest priority. But, strikingly, the question of ‘how England is governed now that Scotland has a parliament and Wales has an assembly’ was in a clear second place, well ahead of a range of other constitutional issues – including voting reform, reform of local government and the House of Lords, and even the position of Scotland within the UK – to which the political system itself has accorded much higher priority in recent years.

Equally, English Independence might be seen as a potential response to the electorate’s call for action. We broached this possibility for the first time in our 2012 survey and garnered an intriguing response. Despite no significant political party or actor advocating this option, those supporting the proposition that ‘England should become an independent country’ (34 per cent) were only narrowly outnumbered by those in opposition (38 per cent). And when asked how they would respond if Scotland were to vote to become independent, a plurality (39 per cent, compared with 33 per cent who disagreed) then said that England too should become independent.

 So the responses confirm:
• low and decreasing support for the status quo
• very low support for English regionalism
• strong support for a form of governance that treats England as a distinct political unit
• continuing lack of consensus about which English option is appropriate.
It confirms low support for the territorial status quo, at 22 per cent.

When respondents were asked to choose directly between English votes on English laws or an English parliament, they split their votes almost evenly – and both options were more popular than the status quo.

The status quo is consistently less favoured than alternatives which would give some form of institutional recognition to England as a whole.

Our data shows a strong, consistent and unambiguous link between Euroscepticism and English, rather than British, national identity. For example, when asked whether or not UK membership of the EU is a good or bad thing, negative views are much more prevalent towards the more English end of the identity spectrum. Conversely – and again counter to received wisdom – attitudes to European integration are notably more positive among those with a more British identity. It is British identifiers who are the Europhile group in England.

Those who adopt the Eurosceptic position (regarding EU membership as a bad thing; indicating they would vote for UK withdrawal from the EU; and regarding the EU as having most influence over the way England is run) are also notably more dissatisfied with the constitutional status quo in the UK.
Euroscepticism and devo-anxiety are two sides of the same coin of English discontent.

Euroscepticism is also clearly associated with a demand for greater recognition for England in the UK’s own constitutional arrangements.

Also and in many ways even more definitively the 2011 Census returns also show Englishness rising:-

England has over 32 million (32,007,983) people (or 60.4%) who have stated they have only English National Identity.  A further 4.8 million (4,820,181) people (or 9.1%) stated that their National Identity is ‘English and British.

In sharp contrast with this nearly 70% being English there were only a mere 10 million (10,171,834) people or (19.2%) who claimed to be ‘British only’.  A substantial proportion of these ‘British Only’ appear, from cross referencing with the results of the Census ethnicity question, to be of non-English ethnicity (ie Scottish, Welsh or Irish).

On the question of demand for English Independence there is also increasing rapidly in England and although reactive to the movement for Scottish Independence it is not dependent on it.  The June 2011 ComRes survey done for the BBC showed that then there was 36% support for England to be a fully independent Country irrespective of the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

And now ladies and gentlemen there is also for the first time in all our long history a fully-fledged albeit as yet small (with about 3,000 members) political party calling for Independence for England.  That Party, ladies and gentlemen, is the English Democrats.  

So ladies and gentlemen to answer the proposition in the title to this speech, I think that there are good grounds for some optimism as to England’s future.

I cannot finish without suggesting, ladies and gentlemen and Mr Chairman, to a body with the name of Traditional Britain that some of the features of the emergent English nationalism identified by the IPPR may appeal to your members.

One feature is that whole England political solutions to devolution are overwhelmingly what English people want - and all such solutions are more popular than the current constitutional status quo!

English nationalism seeks no cross border subsidies and, in particular, Scotland to pay its own way.

English Nationalism seeks an end to mass immigration; it seeks a celebration of St George’s Day  and other English festivals.  It even seeks an English passport!  Forty per cent!

However I think that one of the key aspirations of English nationalism that will have instant appeal here, it is the demand to get England out of the EU.  This is an aspiration which seems to be contrary to the majority feeling in Scotland and Wales.

One of the interesting things is that the IPPR’s research shows that the National Identity which is most Europhile is in fact people who identified themselves as being British!

So, Mr Chairman, to be cheeky I wonder whether these points appeal enough to you and your members for you to consider becoming “Traditional England”?

So, ladies and gentlemen, finally I suggest we take the EU Justice Commissioner and indeed Señor Barroso himself at their words. They have repeatedly said that if Scotland leaves the UK that as a new State which not a signatory to the EU accession treaties, Scotland would be automatically out of the EU.  They went on to say that Scotland would then have to re-apply to re-join!

Ladies and gentlemen, that means that if England leaves the UK we would be automatically out of the EU too!  Is there anyone here who is so Britishly Europhile that they would want to take Mr Barroso’s advice and apply to re-join the EU?

Thank you Mr Chairman and ladies and gentlemen for your patience.

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