UKIP’s policy on Britishness

The UK Independence Party have published a ‘policy statement’ on Britishness, entitled ‘Restoring Britishness: A cultural policy for an independent Britain’.  A summary is available here, with a link to the whole 33-page document.

There are some good points to the policy, including its forceful embrace of civic nationalism and rejection of ethnic or religious definitions of Britishness. However, the description as a ‘cultural policy’ is a misnomer.  In fact the policy covers a wide range of issues, including identifying Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalisms as a ‘threat’ to Britishness.  Regarding devolution, it calls for the following (para. 3.5):

UKIP would replace members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies with national Westminster MPs. However, the buildings which house them would be used by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Westminster MPs to meet monthly to discuss issues purely related to their home nation. In England, English Westminster MPs would meet monthly to discuss English only issues in an English Parliament. UKIP would replace the terms “Scottish Government” with its correct term “Scottish Executive”. An English Executive would be created from British departments that are de facto only engaged in English affairs, headed by an English First Minister. UK national government would be restored at the highest level within this overall framework.

UKIP would abolish the Barnett formula, which has disproportionately provided some parts of the UK with preferential services to others. UKIP would insist that this discrimination based on which part of the UK a person is from is abolished. Support would be based on a commonality of funding across the UK embracing urban, suburban and rural areas of Britain.

It also says (para. 6.6):

The UK Independence Party is saddened by these frictions and quarrels within the Home Nations. Whilst acknowledging that many of these grievances have at least some basis in fact, the dissolution of the United Kingdom is not the solution to resolving them. UKIP advocates independence from the EU because it is irredeemably corrupt, undemocratic and artificial. By contrast, the United Kingdom has a proud history of tolerance and respect for national identities, legal systems and cultures stretching back through the centuries, and we feel that Welsh, Scottish, English and Northern Irish people can resolve their grievances in a calm, intelligent fashion as part of restoring confidence in the Union.

While this policy seeks to find ways of recognising all four ‘home nations’ within its conception of what it is to be British, it doesn’t succeed.  Some provisions are idiotic (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have Westminster MPs, for example; members of the devolved legislatures can’t be ‘replaced’ by them).  Others are impractical – the Royal Naval College at Greenwich is to be taken over to house the Commonwealth Institute, regardless of the wishes of the lessee, the University of Greenwich (which would be made homeless) or the Institute.

Of all the flaws, though, the greatest is the way this document understands ‘Britishness’.  This is an archetypal form of primordial unionism, explicitly ‘unicultural’ and based on the English language, accompanied by celebrations of the Commonwealth, British achievements in science, culture or engineering.  (The policy does talk about recognition of minority British languages, but only mentions Gaelic, not Welsh, and treats these as subordinate to English.)  In fact, the ways it proposes of recognising the UK’s internal diversity are symbolic at best, and often not even that.  One example: ‘Britain’s constitutional heritage is to be embodied in recognising Magna Carta as conferring “protections” at a time when rulers elsewhere in Europe had “absolute power”‘ (para. 4.3).   Quite apart from the debatable European history, what about the similarly-medieval Scottish Declaration of Arbroath or the Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda?  Magna Carta was at most an English document, and traditions of limiting the power of overmighty rulers are in fact grounded more strongly in other parts of these islands.  But UKIP don’t seem to take this into account in their deeply Anglo-centric view of ‘Britishness’.

UPDATE, 24 January 2014: UKIP have now revamped their website and taken down their older policy documents.  I’ve therefore uploaded the ‘Restoring Britishness’ paper so readers can continue to read it for themselves.  It can be found here.



Filed under English questions, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

5 responses to “UKIP’s policy on Britishness

  1. Hendre

    David Dimbleby and his Seven Ages of Britain isn’t exactly helping matters either!

  2. Emyr

    I think that the Welsh language is probably in there, hidden in this peculiar sentence:

    “UKIP will enthusiastically support teaching of the various Gaelic languages and histories within the UK, in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall, and support local and area heritage across the UK.”

    I presume they mean Celtic, rather than Gaelic, which again shows how little they know about the history of Britain (or, to put it in the original Welsh, Prydein.)

    Their sophistication as to matters linguistic is however probably best summed up by this astonishing asserion:

    “It could be said that the British invented both of the world’s universal
    languages (English and football).”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

    There is a serious point, however. If they say that “British culture and civic society rests on the English language”, then what do they say to those communities where another language is the foundation of culture and civic society?

  3. Don’t tar us all with the same brush, this has David Campbell-Bannerman written all over it.

    I, for one, am not convinced in the slightest, nor am I happy that my membership subs are being wasted on this sort of rubbish. Britishness is dead because the people of these isles want it to be, nobody is asking for it to be revived apart from British politicians.

  4. Pingback: UKIP dig themselves into another hole « Devolution Matters

  5. Rob

    It is also a London centric view. It does not satisfy English cultural aspirations, either, as represented in the language planning for New English (see David Cowley – “How We’d Talk: if the English had won in 1066” and other books) or Zeaxysch (the South West form of English).By, “English”, UKP means global English, or Eng-glob (English as global language) which cannot be the national language of the English in the way that Irish is the language of the Irish and Welsh is the language of the Welsh.
    The best place for the English Parliament, because of its centrality, and its history is Nottingham. Westminster could continue to house a federal parliament (assuming that the English Democrats don’t get their way and England gets independence from the UK).

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