Over the last twenty years the political terminology of the United Kingdom of Great Britain has undergone a subtle but significant change. The Labour administrations of the 1990s and early 2000s, influenced by prime minister Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia” philosophy, popularised the idea of the UK as a sovereign union of three historical nations: England, Wales and Scotland. Following the devolution of limited powers to Edinburgh and Cardiff this concept of equal partnership became one of the regular soundbites of the metropolitan elites in London. However, such rhetoric rarely matched the reality of political, economic and cultural life in Britain where the south-east remained the centrifugal heart of the island. This came to a head in the hard-fought Scottish independence referendum campaign of 2014 when sentimental notions of equality were rejected out of hand by lawyers and experts for the pro-union side. In the lead up to the plebiscite, the official pronouncements of the British state made it absolutely clear that the United Kingdom was the constitutional successor of the Kingdom of England and the “union” simply an annexation of extraneous territories. In effect, Britain was England and England was Britain. This argument dismissed the Scottish or Welsh (or Cornish!) claims to national rights, at least beyond those granted to them by the English-dominated Houses of Parliament, the legislative inheritors of the Medieval and Restoration Parliament of England.
In this regard, the “historic countries” of the United Kingdom were classed as regions of the Greater England polity (while the UK’s revanchist rule over the north-east of Ireland was a legacy of the British colony on this island nation). That is why the supposedly equal languages of Britain, Welsh, Scottish (Gaelic), Cornish and English, are in fact historically and deliberately unequal to the present day. The former tongues are the persecuted remnants of England’s imperial ambitions in north-western Europe, barely tolerated signs of indigenous, non-English identity. Proof of that comes from this ITN news report:
It’s taken more than 50 years but lobbying by Welsh speaking MPs to be allowed occasionally to use the language at Westminster has finally borne fruit. The UK Government has decided to back the idea of it being spoken at all meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee.
The committee consists of all Welsh MPs and meets to debate subjects such as the impact on Wales of the Budget and the proposals in the Queen’s Speech. In the 1990s it regularly met in Wales and MPs were allowed to use Welsh because they weren’t at Westminster but that’s only happened twice since devolution in 1999.
The news that the parliament of the United Kingdom has given permission for a language of the United Kingdom other than English to be “occasionally” spoke in its hallowed corridors, has been greeted as a celebratory thing. Apparently the crumbs from the master’s chair to the dogs on the floor to be greeted with praise and thanks. Though at least it indicates the true nature of the UK. The plaything of Brexit England.