hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Britain is Coming Off the Rails

London, 5 July. Can you believe it? The British Government is about to given £3 billion, some €3.5bn, of British taxpayers money to a German company to build one thousand rail carriages. As a result some fifteen hundred jobs will be lost in the north of England at a time of acute economic stress. The Government says that its hands are tied by European Onion procurement rules. Would the German or French governments have permitted such a deal? Answer? Never!

Apparently, the French and German governments take a more ‘liberal’ interpretation of Onion rules. But it is not the fault of Berlin or Paris. Indeed, this whole sorry saga typifies the mix of incompetence and arrogance that has marked the approach of successive British governments (both politicians and bureaucrats) who seem to forget that their first duty is to look after the interests of the people who put them in power – the British citizen.

It is incompetence in that British governments are eternally obsessed with playing by the rules that everyone else breaks. The result? Britain and its taxpayers are routinely shafted. It is arrogant in that British governments routinely convince themselves that leading by example will somehow convince others to do the same. This morning Berlin and Paris will be laughing at London’s stupidity – again.

Ironically, I have just watched a BBC TV programme on the future of the United Kingdom. A poll came out yesterday that suggested that some 50% of the English would not mind if Scotland gained independence. I am a passionate believer in the Union between England and Scotland that has been so effective since it was created back in 1707, when the English taxpayer had to bail out the Scottish state after Edinburgh’s disastrous expedition to colonise Panama brought Scotland close to bankruptcy. Just like the English taxpayer had to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland after another ill-advised venture in more recent times.

Indeed, in a world getting bigger and more dangerous by the day the ‘United Kingdom’ is still a brand that offers something to a stable world. That said, as a democrat I would reluctantly accept the will of the Scottish people if they did indeed decide the forge their own path, so long as we English did not have to pay for it - again.

Interestingly, a sub-current of dissent ran through the TV debate; given that British institutions of state no longer look after the interests of British people then each of Britain’s constituent parts – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – might be better served if they looked after their own parochial interests. It is a mark of how far London has become disconnected from its primary responsibility (and one is tempted to say ‘reality’) that such a debate should even be taking place.

Do not get me wrong. Rules matter – but if only all governments uphold both the spirit and the letter of said rules, and avoid routinely defecting as and when suits. Nor am I calling for nationalism or protectionism, simply pragmatism. At the very least London should stop trying to occupy a moral high ground that does not exist. If the French and German take a ‘liberal’ view of Onion procurement rules than so must the British.

The implications are clear. Unless the ‘British’ people can see that London is indeed fighting for their interests both in the Onion and beyond and stops its obsession with playing by rules everyone else breaks then I fear for the future of the United Kingdom. And, unless the great institutions of the British state can escape from the political correctness that has infected it to the heart and which do so much harm to ordinary Britons then in time the United Kingdom will fail. Why? Because ordinary Britons will rightly no longer support institutions that clearly do not support them.

Britain is fast coming off the rails. Time to back on the tracks and stand up for Britain, Mr Cameron.

Julian Lindley-French

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