Wednesday, 18 December 2019

One nation?

The term ‘One Nation’ has always been little more than an attempt to mislead, so it is no surprise that the current PM is so keen on it.  Apparently, Disraeli never actually used the term, but he did refer to his perception that the UK was divided between rich and poor, and his paternalistic belief that the better-off have a duty and a responsibility towards the less well-off.  That ‘duty’ is open to different interpretations of course, and which Johnson will favour is yet to be seen.  But it’s already fairly clear that he does not see it in redistributive terms.  He  may be making the right noises about regional disparities, but at the moment that looks more like an attempt to cement his electoral position than a serious attempt to address inequality.
The term ‘One Nation’ could have other implications as well, and his attitude towards devolution in particular, and Wales, Scotland and Ireland in general suggests that he has little time for the idea that nationality and identity are in any way complex, or that anything other than British (for which read English) identity can or should exist in the UK.  (And there is an even more extreme interpretation of being ‘One People’ which has unfortunate historical echoes, to say the least.)
The gulf between the traditional patrician Tory interpretation of the phrase, which is that the government should govern for all with the aim of helping the less fortunate, and the alternative interpretation, which is that all must accept that they are part of what the leader defines that one nation to be is enormous.  I’d like to think that he was talking about the former, but I rather fear that the latter is closer to his view.


dafis said...

One Nation ? In its current usage it is merely an AngloBrit supremacist term. It makes no concession whatsoever to the existence of the original British nations or their cultures. Behind this glib terminology lies the very real threat of absorption/ assimilation and homogenisation.

Mel Morgan said...

I rather fear that you're right. 'Sybil, or, The Two Nation was the title of one of Disraeli's novels. As you say, he probably never used the phrase 'One Nation' in the former sense, although it's plain from what he said and did that he certainly favoured the latter.