Apr 032017
 

NATIONS

‘The nations and regions of the UK’ is a term used by the BBC and other organisations and it fascinates me for a number of reasons. Primarily I suppose because I can readily identify the former but I’m confused when I read about the latter, especially in a political context. Do you know where these mysterious ‘regions’ are? Let’s start with the relatively easy job of identifying the nations.

There are four nations in these islands. Apart from us Welsh there are the Scots and the English with the three of us making up Britain; and then there are the Irish, with the greater part of Ireland being independent. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK, but as the Troubles made clear, there are two communities there; one that shares its cultural background with the citizens of the Republic of Ireland, and can be called Irish, with the other identifying with Britain, or more particularly Scotland, and insisting it is British.

Which is confusing, because there is no British nation. There is certainly a British state, but that’s a constitutional arrangement. To confuse matters further ‘British’ is a term that was used for centuries by English writers to describe us Welsh and our language, in recognition of the fact that we were the original inhabitants of this island, before the post-Roman Germanic and Irish settlements. (Though this connection is less likely to be made nowadays, for the same English nationalist reasons that ‘Iron Age Britain’ has replaced ‘Celtic Britain’.) So are these people in the northern part of Ireland who claim to British some lost Welsh tribe?

Despite this division into two mutually hostile camps it serves British interests to regard Northern Ireland as one of the nations, on a par with Wales, England and Scotland. Is it not, it is simply a devolved administration, and at some point in the near future it will re-unite with the rest of the island.

I think that settles – for the time being, at least – the nations element of this little piece. Let’s move on.

REGIONS

It seems obvious that if we are looking for the BBC’s regions, then we’ll have to look for them in England. But these regions are arbitrary geographical units, most of which seem to be named after compass points, I see nothing closer to a nation, a geographical area of England where people say – preferably in a distinctive accent – ‘This is my region, I am a native of ————-‘.

At this point you might be tempted to put down your porcelain cup of Darjeeling and wonder aloud, ‘What the fuck is he is on about, why is he writing about the regions of England?’ but please bear with me, for I shall now explain how I believe this is relevant to Wales.

Last Wednesday saw a ‘taskforce’ meet in Cardiff, a gathering of great Labour minds hoping to give the impression that their party has a cunning plan for a new constitutional arrangement post-Brexit.

In attendance were our own Carwyn Jones, former PM Gordon Brown, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour Kezia Dugdale, ex-deputy PM John Prescott, some bloke named Jon Trickett (described as a strategist’), and among the spear carriers were Christina Rees MP and Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle council. While in the chorus we find the Labour candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, his counterpart for the Liverpool City Region, etc.

Clearly, ‘handing more powers down’ is an attempt to cut off the SNP at the pass, by giving Scotland more powers so that people there will say, ‘See you, Jimmy, we dinnae need independence the noo’. (I bet you read that and thought, ‘Bloody hell! Some Scotsman has taken over Jac’s blog’.)

And in the hope of disguising that this is all about preventing Scottish independence Labour must come up with what looks like a more general plan for all “the nations and regions that make up the UK”.

Which is a bit tricky when we can’t locate these regions, which brings us back to the original problem.

THE LESSONS OF HISTORY

Clearly, England does not have established and distinct regions like France, let alone Germany, where many of today’s länder were independent states well into the nineteenth century. It was a similar situation in Italy, though few today mourn the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

By comparison, England was unified by the middle of the tenth century, with London the capital and major city. When William of Normandy invaded in 1066 he only needed to win one battle, kill Harold, and march on London to be ruler of all England. I can think of no other European country of the time that would have fallen so completely, so quickly.

Consequently, what passes for regions in England today are nothing more than broadcasters’ shorthand – the West Country, East Anglia, etc. And yet, there was a time, a brief window, when England was organised into separate kingdoms, or at least, those parts of England that weren’t still under Welsh control.

It was known as the Heptarchy, or Seven Kingdoms, and those of you of a Time Team disposition will go all a-quiver at the mention of the term. It was that period from (roughly) the early seventh century to the early tenth century, and is illustrated in the map. The western areas, coloured in darker green, were the areas still ruled by our ancestors.

Southern Britain C AD 650

That was then, and since then the problem of delineating England’s regions has taxed many great minds, but there was always resistance to formal regions on the grounds that there was something foreign about them, foreign and divisive. Perhaps because her imperial history had taught England how to exploit divisions. So if – God forbid! – some foreign Johnny ever invaded let him find himself faced with a united country. (Though as we’ve learnt, that was England’s weakness in 1066.)

And this resistance to regions persists, so you’d think Labour would have known better after the abject failure of the party’s Regional Assemblies (Preparation) Act 2003. (What do you mean, you ‘don’t remember it’!) This was intended to pave the way, through referendums, for assemblies in northern England. Just one referendum was held, in the north east, in 2004; but the Geordies, Mackems, Smoggies and the rest rejected the offer by 78% to 22%. The whole project was then abandoned.

As I mentioned, one of those attending the taskforce meeting was former deputy prime minister John Prescott, and the northern assemblies project was his brainchild. So this is either a case of some people never learn, or, a good idea is worth persisting with. Take your pick.

WHY IT WILL NEVER WORK

The idea of regions and regional governments is unattractive to most English people; they will probably have an affection for their town or city, the wider locality, maybe their county, but after that it’s England, or Britain. A region is an odd and unnecessary layer to insert.

And yet, if English politicians, and their Unionist allies in Scotland and Wales are to save Britain then they must pretend to believe in devolution, or even federalism, but the problem remains England, it’s just too big. Federalism works in the USA or Germany because no matter how big and rich California and Bavaria might they’re still out-gunned by the rest.

BBC Regions, used by many politicians as a template

So the only way to sell federalism to Scotland is to suggest breaking England up into regions . . . that the English don’t want. But even if you could get enough English to buy into regions that would still leave the problem of London, infinitely richer than any of the other ‘regions’, and it would almost certainly be the seat of the federal government.

And look at the North West region. Liverpool, Manchester and wealthy Cheshire in the south, and in the north . . . lakes and holiday homes? Come to think of it – where’s Cornwall? Will our Cornish cousins accept being subsumed into a South West region run from Bristol?

The Scots would be foolish to listen to Labour’s overtures, or any promise of more devolution. Ask yourself what would happen in the unlikely event of the Scottish Parliament accepting federalism but the English refusing to accept regions – will the UK government force regions on the English? No.

The second reason for rejecting Labour’s proposals is that we’ve been here before, very recently, in fact, just before the independence referendum in September 2014. Remember ‘The Vow’? In the closing stages of the referendum campaign Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, the leaders of the three main Unionist parties ganged together to promise Scotland something within a whisker of independence. This promise may have guaranteed the No vote, and it was then reneged on.

Thirdly, this taskforce is drawn from the Labour Party, which is unlikely to be in any position to offer anybody anything until around 2025. And just look at who’s in the taskforce; Brown, Prescott, Jones, Dugdale – would you trust any of that lot?

I have faith in the SNP. They know that England and England’s Unionist allies in Scotland are not to be trusted. It must be independence; no more crumbs, no more half measures, no more lies.

It would be nice to report that Wales is on the same path. But she’s not. I fear we’re headed in the opposite direction.

end

Leave a Reply

54 Comments on "Jerusalem Unsundered"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest
John
Guest

Don’t forget Cornwall

Anon
Guest
I think your version of history rather forgets that anything other than the pretence of ‘Welshness’ was outbred centuries ago. Perhaps this explains our intrinsic resistance to the matter of independence on so many grounds. If we really want to divest ourselves of the rest of the UK we need to paint a picture for all our citizens of increasing relative prosperity. Without such, it becomes all too much like… Read more »
dafis
Guest
And what is to stop Wales becoming a bit more prosperous if left to make its own way in the world, dumping all those vanity projects that give us no gain whatsoever. “Intrinsic resistance” to change is most often found in those comfy mid-range tossers who don’t give a shit about the less advantaged but love talking down to them about the virtues of aspiration, “hard working families” and all… Read more »
dafis
Guest
I like the map – the one with all them green bits down the west side and bulging somewhat into Mercia. Using Maggie May’s tactics viz EU, our opening shot from now on ought to be “reclaim the turf of 650 !” After all it’s only a fuckin’ date like UK’s claim for Gib dates from 1713 or thereabouts. Don’t know whether the Scots would be too happy about Edinburgh,… Read more »
ebreah
Guest

I wouldn’t worry too much. Some English(wo)men (at least the wacky ones with a bad sense of geography) are talking about rebuilding the Wall. If they are planning to give away a huge chuck of Northumberland and a bit of Cumberland, I am sure the Scots are happy to receive it. Solves the Berwick question at the very least.

Big Gee
Admin

If you like maps associated with our historical roots, then I would highly recommend the web-site ‘HISTORY FILES‘ to you dafis.

The information contained in it should be included in a future ‘Cwriciwlwm Cymraeg’ so that our children understand where they came from and where they belong.

Marconatrix
Guest

Nicola has invited all and sundry to come and help build Indy Scotland, so feel free to reclaim the Old North. Bits of upper Clydesdale and the Borders still have a very Welsh feel to them IMO 😉

Red Flag
Guest

Aren’t the regions in England the EU recognised ones that are MEP constituencies and EU administrative zones.

UKC. North East
UKD. North West
UKE. Yorkshire and the Humber
UKF. East Midlands
UKG. West Midlands
UKH. East of England
UKI. Greater London
UKJ. South East
UKK. South West

Nigel Stapley
Guest
Imposed from above, not having grown organically from below over generations. I wonder what feelings of commonality someone in Carlisle would have with someone in Alderley Edge, or someone in Hunstanton with somebody in Sarfend, for example. Going back to Jac’s original remarks: the reason for ‘Nations and Regions’ is that the BBC would really have liked to refer to the non-English bits of their majestic realm as ‘regions’ (and,… Read more »
JE Lloyd
Guest

Remember the BBC’s claim that their West region (covering Wales and the SW counties of England) “reunites the Kingdom of Arthur after centuries of separation by the Bristol Channel”. The days of that idiocy are returning …

ebreah
Guest
Sir, I was and still am fascinated by the diversity of English dialects/accents. I didn’t why I was drawn to it back then but deep down I knew it very important to note them. Recently it all began to make sense. I was digging around Welsh history particularly the Marches era. I was intrigued due to the conflicting claims that Oswestry was/is Welsh. On viewing some youtube videos (I know,… Read more »
Mabon
Guest

I have always wondered why regional dialects in the continental sense are not as common in England as in other countries, but maybe I’m wrong? If England was like France, you’d have a language called ‘Northumbrian’ for a start. Here is a video that might interest you on the long-gone dialects that once existed in south east england: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPJxS43ByYE&t=180s

CambroUiDunlainge
Member
Northumbrian English became “Scots English” (So Scotland has English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots as languages). The thing with English is… if you look at all the dialects still around Britain compared to how many written English dialects there are you’ll see its contrasting… but we’re all taught to read and write in one English: Queen’s English. That limits the diversity of those dialects as well acting like a kind of… Read more »
ebreah
Guest

p/s: And thank you for doing this. I am sure sometimes it feels soul-destroying. I hope you will keep on writing, especially with the knowledge that somebody at the other end of the world looks forward to read your post every time it comes out.

Big Gee
Admin

In the ‘Jerusalem’ (east) context, the message that needs to be put out is:

WE ARE ‘CYMRU RYDD’ – NOT ENGLAND’S WEST BANK!

Brychan
Guest
To cap it all we have the latest myth peddled by the National Trust and the Snowdonia Society. Turns out that a 1500 year old sword has been uncovered, last month, near the banks of Llyn Ogwen. The metal smelt has been dated to 1600 BP. The press release from the National Trust bangs on about ‘Excaliber and King Arthur’. What bollocks. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/news/rangers-unearth-legendary-welsh-sword We know that at that time the… Read more »
dafis
Guest
I chuckled when I read that news story as I really thought it was a misfired April Fool stunt. It takes a massive leap of faith ( or gullibility) to attribute any specific ownership to a relic that’s possibly been in the ground since the 5th or 6th century. Surprised also that it didn’t have a little label attached to it with some Latin scribbled ( all posh literate people… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin

Sickening is not a strong enough word for this crap is it? The small minded ignorant TWATS!

Fancy writing a strong worded open letter to them Brychan? Via a medium that would glean the most circulation. Count me in as a signatory if you fancy it.

Nigel Stapley
Guest
Every few weeks, some establishment up-sucker will be allowed onto the website of the ‘Institute of Welsh sic Affairs’ to yap on about ‘federalism’. Every time someone does this (if, of course, I can be arsed going up and down those bloody steps again), I respond to make much the same points as you’ve made. ‘Federalism’ is a dead letter with regards to the so-called ‘United Kingdom’ for the most… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

What made this blog different to every run of the mill nationalist one was how it drilled down into a current issue to the point where it had politicians sitting up and taking note.

Labour will be chuckling to themselves that Jac has changed tack and has decided to preach to the converted with favourable history lessons and predictable opinion.

Chopper Harley
Guest
Enjoyed that Jac a throughly good read. Not least of all because it reinforces many of my own opinions. Promises of more devolved powers are just another helping of the Unionists favourite dish, carrott followed by a big stick. SNP are now wise to this tactic and tthankfully that ship of pacification sailed long ago. Carwyn’s constitutional think tank is nothing more than a bunch of has beens and have… Read more »
JE Lloyd
Guest
Whenever I hear some unreconstructed English nat asserting that Gwent, or rather “Monmouthshire”, is historically part of England rather than Wales, I refer them to the maps illustrating Marchia Wallie showing vast swathes of the modern English border counties that were pinched from Wales at the time of the Acts of Penal Assimilation (1535-36), the prevalence of Welsh place-names through most of those areas, the Wales of the Tripartite Indenture… Read more »
Marconatrix
Guest

IIRC the confusion over Gwent arose because of court circuits. When Wales was incorporated into the English legal system, two new circuits were established for North and South Wales, but for purely practical reasons Gwent was incorporated into one of the existing English circuits. Since for many centuries there was little else to distinguish Wales from England it’s not difficult to see how the confusion arose.

JE Lloyd
Guest
Agreed, but the real question is whether the following areas be returned to Wales, all of which were filched between the 16th to 19th centuries and which retained Welsh-speaking populations well into the 19th century (and, in the case of Coesoswallt, to the present day)? Croesoswallt (Oswestry), Bryn-y-Castell (Gobowen), Caus, Llanffynhonwen (Chirbury), Colunwy (Clun), Wigmore, Kington, Tref-y-clawdd (Knighton), Llanfeuno, Ewias (including Clydog / Clodock, Pontrilas ), Ergyng (including Llanddewi Cil… Read more »
Toque
Guest
I don’t imagine that the Scots want to be the equivalent of an English region anyway. The Scots will still be out-voted by the English whether they balkanise England or not. So Dugdale and Brown are flogging a solution that is unacceptable to both the English and the Scots, I’m totally comfortable with devolution within England, but it has to be under the auspices of an English parliament and government.… Read more »
Mabon
Guest
I agree totally; I am of the opinion that England needs a devolved English Parliament just so that the press in foreign countries will be forced to distinguish between the ‘English Parliament’ and ‘British Parliament’ and the ‘English First Minister’ from the ‘British Prime Minister’, when I was in Brittany in 2014 it drove me mad the number of times I had to try to explain that England wasn’t Britain.… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
I’m with you all the way on that one Mabon! That’s in Brittany of all places – which is just a stone’s throw away! Little wonder we’re often confronted with Americans who habitually ask: “Wales? What part of England is that?” The British/ English mess-up has been total – in all corners of the earth. Little wonder we don’t exist in most people’s eyes. That is thanks to the media,… Read more »
Marconatrix
Guest
Oh it gets worse when you look at the different languages. There is the Great/Little Britain problem. In Irish Wales is called ‘Little Britain’ whereas in Scots Gaelic and Cornish ‘Little B.’ is Brittany. In Breton ‘Britain’ means Brittany and Great Britain is, well, ‘Great Britain’, but Cornwall is ‘Great Cornwall’ since they have a little Cornwall all of their own down there. Welsh has a funny old name for… Read more »
Marconatrix
Guest
It may be worth recalling how decentralised everything was in England half a century or more ago. Every county and county-borough ran its own education system in its own way, had it’s own police force and head cop, its own fire service, ambulances etc. Even vehicle registration was done on a county basis. The rather ad hoc lumping together of most of these functions and others over the following decades… Read more »
CambroUiDunlainge
Member
An interesting tidbit was under Henry VIII when the North was governed by the Council of the North, Cornwall and Devon were governed by the Council of the West and Wales which was governed by the Council of Wales and the March (The North and Wales were both established by Edward IV). Gradually the devolution of powers ended… I remember reading about this because Thomas Cromwell was its advocate –… Read more »
Keith Parry
Guest
Addressing his candidates before the great battle of Cymruberg, Ab Lincoln said”That we are more highly resolved, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the Welsh people by the Welsh people for Welsh people shall not perish from the Earth.” Plaid Cymru managed to pass a motion in the Senedd last night demanding that powers returning from the European Union return… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
NEWSFLASH. Election Latest. Resolute Anti-Welsh campaigner Jacques Protic, is not standing in the Aethwy Ward – Ynys Mon County Council, in May 2017 election. In 2013 he was trounced ; he finished at the rear of the group ; he was last ; hindmost ; bottom of the poll ; he was at the back of the pack ; bottom of the pile ; he was the candidate with the… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

There was a very interesting discussion on welsh independence yesterday on the radio station Voice of Islam of all places http://voiceofislam.co.uk/podcasts/drive-time-podcast-05-04-2017/

John Young
Guest

It did make good listening. It was almost all positive. Lee Richards (or Leigh ?), Sid Morgan and Rhun Ap Iorwerth all put forward good solid arguments in favour while a woman whose name I didn’t get spoke for about five minutes giving the impression that she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

dafis
Guest
more propaganda today on WalesonLine ref electrification of the South Wales ( Cardiff end ) to Paddington line. This huge CapEx will lead to a 14 minute saving on journey times !, assuming of course that there aren’t any wet leaves or dead bodies ( humans, cattle, etc ) on the line. This, like HS2, sucks up huge dollops of capital which might have been used to seriously good effect… Read more »
daffy2012
Guest
I was reading something that they built the great rail-roads of the US with an eye on creating a nation. They knew they had to have good transport links to create this new nation. Our rulers know that the last thing they want is a well linked Wales with north and south joined to form one nation. The much prefer east to west links. The object is to keep us… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin

That was exactly what Dr. Beeching had in mind when he sliced up our rail links in Cymru. No one can convince me that it was just an economic decision. He was working to a preconceived plan to keep the north separate from the south, whilst encouraging west – east connections. It’s obvious to a blind man, all you need as a tool to discover that is a road map!

The Earthshaker
Guest
Of course, English devolution is a nonstarter, federalism would never work, but it’s a distraction and that’s its value particularly in Wales to an apathetic electorate, Labour can pretend to have a discussion on ‘more powers’ that never goes anywhere and won’t ever be delivered. Even Scottish unionists don’t see it as the way forward anymore, they know the debate is either independence or total roll back of devolution. Off… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Jack, good read. You have you eye on the ball, as they say. The last paragraph in this article – “It would be nice to report that Wales is on the same path. But she’s not. I fear we’re headed in the opposite direction.” – seems like a teaser to me. Can we assume this will be the subject of your next article?

wpDiscuz