British nationalism has taken a distinctly toe-curlingly creepy and cringey turn, although it could easily be argued that that happened years ago, when Murdo Fraser first got himself a Twitter account and some unknown person – for whom there is surely a special padded cell reserved in the deepest and darkest bowels of Hell – told Annie Wells that she ought to consider a career in politics.
However even these mortifications on the body politic are put into the shade by a cheesy campaign supported by the Department of Education, whose remit thankfully doesn’t extend north of the border, to promote British nationalism among school children. Although you’re probably not allowed to call it cheesy because cheese is a bit too French. The One Britain One Nation campaign encourages children and schools to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June by dressing in red white and blue and singing a song extolling the supposed virtues of Britishry. It shouldn’t need to be said that the UK is not one nation, but rather a union of the various nations who share the island of Britain and the northern portions of the island of Ireland, but it seems that this Conservative Government has decided that the best way to prevent Scottish independence is to erase the existence of Scotland as a nation, hence the recent instruction to UK civil servants and diplomatic staff to cease referring to the nations of the UK and instead to refer to the UK as a single British nation.
This One Nation One Britain campaign is the bastard offspring of C Beebies and one of those choreographed displays of loyalty that grace stadiums in Pyongyang. Perhaps we could have a union jack armband as well, and work on some kind of special salute to give whilst singing the new song and greeting others so that everyone can immediately tell if those they come into contact with are suitably patriotic. Children are definitely not to be encouraged to sing any alternative songs, such as, “I want my freedom of movement back.” or, “Help, I’m trapped on an island with right wing English nationalist ideologues with distinctly authoritarian inclinations.”
You might have thought that a campaign that claimed to have as its core aim bringing all of Britain back together in a display of cringe-worthy British nationalist exceptionalism might have realised that most schools in Scotland would have already closed for the summer holidays by 25 June, but then most exercises in British nationalism are defined and dominated by the concerns of England anyway, so the complete disregard and stunning lack of basic awareness or knowledge about Scotland is probably some sort of metaphor for Brexit. Equally you might have thought that Gavin Williamson’s Department of Education, whose official Twitter account proclaimed its support for the campaign and expressed the wish that schools across the UK sign up to it might have understood that education is not only a devolved matter under the control of Edinburgh and Cardiff, but that the independence of the education system in Scotland is guaranteed by the Treaty of Union of 1707, so this is not exactly new information we’re dealing with here.
However any campaign which starts from the premise that the ostensible union between Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland is one single nation has already got ignoring the existence of Scotland baked into its DNA, so it definitely is some sort of metaphor for Brexit. The willingness of the British Government’s Department of Education, whose remit is confined to England, to attempt to tell Scotland and Wales what to do is yet another sign that this government has no interest in respecting the devolution settlement and is hell-bent on imposing its so-called “muscular unionism”, which is simply English nationalism writ large, on all the other nations of the UK.
This is being sold to a dubious and divided public as a campaign to celebrate the, unity, strength and resilience of the UK, but what is most striking about it is its desperation. “No, really we’re fine, honest.We’re not falling to bits, not at all, that burning you can smell is a celebratory barbecue, although not in Northern Ireland because there they can’t get the post-Brexit sausages. It’s not the smell of the house burning down.”
This campaign is the political equivalent of bumping into your ex at the supermarket and telling them how marvellous your life has been since you took back control and regained your freedom, and then taking the contents of your shopping trolley full of pot Noodles, microwave meals for one and cans of industrial strength super-lager back to an uncleaned flat smelling of unemptied cat litter trays, overflowing ashtrays and unwashed socks and spending your evenings on the sofa in your underwear binge-watching Netflix and playing shootem up games on your Playstation as you try to hold back the tears. By this time you’ve sunk so low that you are no longer fooling even yourself.
The guy heading this initiative, a former senior police officer from northern England by the name of Kash Singh, whose organisation has links to Conservative MPs, appeared on GB news on Wednesday morning to promote the campaign. Even some of the presenters on a channel which is essentially One Nation One Britain for adults thought that the initiative was a bit creepy and sinister. When your British nationalism is a bit too much even for G Beebies to swallow that’s probably a reliable indication that you’ve gone a bit too far. It’s like Murdo Fraser telling you to stop making a fool of yourself on Twitter. Aquick search of the House of Commons library shows that One Britain One Nation are an ERG-backed group with ties to the hard Brexit extremist wing of the Conservative Party. This is a political movement which is as “grassroots” as the suspiciously well funded Vote No Borders campaign which burst into the Scottish independence referendum campaign amidst a blaze of BBC publicity and just as quickly evaporated away.
You don’t need a campaign to promote unity if you really are united. Under recent Conservative governments the UK has witnessed growing divisions between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. Brexit remains as divisive and bitter an issue as ever. The Conservatives seek to paper over the yawning chasms that they have created with publicity campaigns and grotesque English nationalist stunts which seek to disguise the UK’s descent into authoritarianism. None of this will prevent Scottish independence, it only gives us another reason why the need for it is more urgent.
NEW MODERATION POLICY
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