Labour And The Left Simply Do Not ‘Get’ Patriotism, And Their Patron Saints Holiday Proposal Proves It

UK Britain Patron Saints

The Labour Party’s genius plan to “unite the nation” by further Balkanising the United Kingdom

The Labour Party and the British Left in general just don’t get it. With the honourable exception of a few Cassandra-like voices warning that the Left must learn to re-embrace patriotism in order to reconnect with millions of lost voters, most on the Left seem intent on screeching “multiculturalism” at the top of their lungs until the United Kingdom (and even its constituent parts) are nothing more than historic entries in an encyclopaedia.

Labour’s latest great initiative is to create four new public holidays celebrating the individual patron saints of the four home nations. From the HuffPost:

A Labour government will seek to create four new UK-wide bank holidays on the patron saint’s day of each of the home nations, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.

The Labour leader said the move would bring together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while giving workers a well-deserved break.

Under the plan, it would mean there would be public holidays on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).

“The four nations that make up our great country have rarely been more divided due to the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative Government,” Corbyn said.

“But where Theresa May divides, Labour will unite our four nations. A Labour government will make St George’s Day – England’s national day and Shakespeare’s birthday – a public holiday, along with St David’s Day, St Andrew’s Day and St Patrick’s Day.”

This is the kind of idiotic idea that could only come from a leader, a party and a political movement which have so lost touch with the idea of what patriotism and national identity mean that they can communicate only in meaningless grunts and gestures, like a parrot mimicking speech without understanding the language. Or perhaps an elephant painting with its trunk.

Right now there is a problem with British national identity, inasmuch as it is increasingly missing from the people who are supposed to possess it. Why is this the case? Well, try the fact that our schools fail to teach students a balanced, cohesive and chronological history of their own country, while any attempts to teach citizenship or civics tend to degrade into leftist agitprop pushed by an almost universally left-wing corps of teachers.

Try the fact that national pride and British exceptionalism had become so embarrassing, gauche and ultimately rare among the left-wing establishment that whole explanatory articles were written explaining to people the peculiar warm, fuzzy and hitherto-unknown feeling they felt in their chests when London hosted the 2012 Olympics.

Try the fact that we just went through a bruising EU referendum in which the Remain campaign spent nearly all their time talking – against all available evidence – about what a small, puny and ineffective country we are compared to the swaggering might of, say, Malaysia or Norway.

Try the fact that Scotland has taken the decision to transform itself into a one-party SNP state despite that party’s jackboot authoritarianism and mind-boggling incompetence at governing, while agitating for independence every three years in the hope that certain childlike adults dwelling there might be better protected from the Evil Tor-ees in England, thus further fraying the bonds of our union.

Or the fact that for decades now, leftists have been insisting that we must observe, celebrate and even exaggerate the smallest of our cultural differences rather than celebrate and strengthen the bonds which unite us. Because multiculturalism.

And now that Brexit has given them a scare, Scottish secessionism refuses to die back down to the angry grumblings of the 1990s and 2000s, English nationalism is increasingly demanding acknowledgement and policemen are being killed at the gates of Parliament by homegrown terrorists, these wise mavens of the Left have decided that just maybe it might be worth throwing patriotism a bone after all. Not because of a sincere rethink of their worldview but because someone at Labour HQ thought it would make a good campaign gimmick and a way to garner positive headlines on St George’s Day.

Unfortunately, Labour’s inexplicable response to the challenges we face is to propose the creation of four new public holidays, saints days, which would further emphasise the separateness and uniqueness of the home nations rather than drawing us together in a common celebration of what we have achieved and will achieve together as a single United Kingdom.

One might think that the Left would instinctively realise that in our increasingly secular age, putting the focus of our national identity and patriotism on historical religious figures otherwise unacknowledged by non-Christians is not the smartest pull factor among subpopulations which have until now been encouraged to do their own thing in terms of integrating or not integrating with wider British society. As a Catholic, the saints and their lives have meaning to me. For millions of others, they do not.

Martin Luther King Jr. DayPresident’s Day and Independence Day have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history, not in waning faith. I know that the Left often like to talk down Britain and our substantial contributions in world commerce, arts, sciences, culture and diplomacy, but I’m sure that if they scratched their heads they might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as a day in which all Britons can be proud (but please, not the Fifth of July).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the unique histories, culture and achievements of our four home nations, and indeed we should do so more often. But too often this comes at the expense of celebrating British or UK-wide identity. As this blog has long argued, what we need more than anything is a single day to celebrate our entire United Kingdom, along the lines of France’s Bastille Day or America’s Independence Day.

And this should be backed by a myriad of other policies and gestures, large and small, which together might serve to nurture a positive sense of British identity around which we can all gather – regardless of ethnicity, colour, national origin, gender or any other grouping.

Some ideas that come to mind: a daily or weekly pledge recited by pupils at public schools; a return to playing the national anthem before top flight (and even lower level) sporting events, rather than reserving such gestures for the FA Cup final; continuing the investment in Team GB at the Olympic games and then celebrating their achievements back home after the fact; doing more to honour the armed forces and others who serve in uniform, both in public life and by encouraging businesses to acknowledge, reward and employ veterans; expanding on the National Citizen Service scheme, one of the few positive legacies from the Cameron government. I’m sure there are a thousand other, better ideas to be added to this list.

Instituting four new public holidays where the British people take the day off from work at significant cost to the economy, just to dwell on the fact that we are four rather than one people, is not the answer. One can’t even call it stupid – it is more the product of politicians who have so lost touch with the idea and importance of patriotism and national identity that they are no longer able to engage in sensible policy discussion on the matter. Rather than criticise Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for this cack-handed policy suggestion, one pities the limitations to their thinking.

You don’t unite and strengthen a fraying union by chopping it even more firmly into four parts and then frantically celebrating the differences. And though the word “diversity” is almost branded into the minds of many leftists as an unquestionably good thing, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the British Left in general would do much better to reflect instead on the far more inspiring words “E Pluribus Unum”.

 

Patron Saints UK Britain - St George England - St Andrew Scotland - St David Wales - St Patrick Ireland

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Welsh Policing And Constitutional Chaos

welshpolice

 

The Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, has generated headlines by requesting something eminently sensible – the devolution of greater policing powers to Wales, and greater control over the criminal justice system.

The BBC reports:

Mr Michael, a former Home Office minister, said creating the four Welsh commissioners meant that in practice Whitehall has already devolved decision-making about most police activity.

He said the four Welsh commissioners “despite their political range (two Independents, one Conservative, one Labour and Co-operative) have immediately started to work together on Wales-wide issues, with some excellent and fruitful meetings with Welsh government.”

Writing in the Institute of Welsh Affairs journal, he added: “So common sense, pragmatism and purpose have brought about de facto devolution and it’s only a question of when the machinery of government will catch up”.

If it is the machinery of government Alun Michael is waiting for, it could be a very long time indeed before anything happens. The British government, after all, has permitted the organic development of the completely illogical current system where Northern Ireland and Scotland have overarching police structures while Wales and England do not.

Experimenting with different policies and approaches is exactly what should happen in the UK, but it can only happen if powers are devolved equally between the home nations. Establishing the role of police and crime commissioners was a good first step at promoting local police accountability, but this now needs to be backed up by devolution of policing powers to Wales and elsewhere.

As with so many important constitutional matters, change has thus far only come about when aggrieved people in one home nation or another have shouted the loudest. The result has been a constitutional system that resembles a messy patchwork quilt, making no sense either to outsiders or to the people who live under the various jurisdictions.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has also pointed out the lack of common sense behind the status quo:

Mr Jones said then: “Decisions that affect Wales should be taken in Wales.”

Policing and criminal justice were now “the only mainstream public services which are not devolved to Wales”, and this status quo “is becoming increasingly hard to justify”, he added.

The illogical and unequal devolution of powers to the different corners of the United Kingdom has always been hard to justify; this is nothing new, but always worth pointing out.

Sadly, victory for those who advocate localism and devolution will only further complicate the constitutional situation. But nonetheless, the government would be well advised to heed this call, especially if it is repeated in the findings of the Silk Commission next year. Constitutional incoherency may be harmful and frustrating, but anything would be better than facing another independence referendum.

Lost In Translation

The Daily Mail reports the confounding story that a baby boy was rushed to hospital in north Wales because his parents were unable to fill his prescription – because the prescription was written in Welsh only.

A sick baby was rushed to hospital after a supermarket pharmacy refused to hand his medication to his father because part of the prescription had been written in Welsh.

Aled Mann, 34, took the prescription from the family doctors to his local Morrisons pharmacy counter after his one-year-old son Harley developed a chest infection.

But staff at the supermarket in Bangor, north Wales, refused to give him the steroid tablets because they could not read the note as not all of it was in English.

The father was ultimately able to return to the GP surgery and get a new prescription printed in English and have the prescription filled, but the baby’s condition worsened overnight requiring hospitalisation, leading to speculation and conjecture that the delay (and hence the pharmacy’s unwillingness to fill a prescription that it could not adequately verify) was to blame.

The incident seems to have caused something of an uproar, but not in quite the way that I imagined. For some reason I had expected the consternation to centre on the fact that GPs in Wales are able to issue prescriptions in a language not spoken by the majority of the people in that country (and therefore inevitably more difficult for patients to redeem), but instead the ire is trained more squarely at the retailer, Morrisons, for not making sufficient effort to cater to the needs of the customer.

I love Wales and admire its people, history and natural beauty very much, so I am going to tread carefully here. I’m also a fervent unionist, as any frequent reader of this blog will know, and believe that Wales should remain an integral part of the United Kingdom – but again this is not relevant to the point I am about to make.

To me, this is an issue of public safety. Surely, in a country where everyone speaks English and only a relatively small minority speak or otherwise use the Welsh language, it is in the interests of the patient, and of common sense, for the prescription to be printed in the language which is common to everyone.

The undercurrent of sentiment surrounding the story seems to be that the Welsh parents were in some way discriminated against, and that their baby’s life was endangered, due to the fact that they receive their family healthcare services in the Welsh language. We can thus extrapolate and infer that the correct thing to have done, in the eyes of those who are upset, would have been for Morrisons to employ either only bilingual speakers in their stores, or to ensure that there is at least one bilingual speaker on hand in the pharmacy department at all times. Indeed, the Mail records Arfon Wyn, a local councillor, saying as much on the record:

‘This is totally diabolical. It is the trend of these large supermarkets not to employ bilingual local people and so such terrible events as this can take place.’

But would the real discrimination not arise if employers felt compelled, or were legally compelled, to hire only bilingual speakers at the expense of English-only speakers? Indeed, given that only 15% of Welsh citizens are able to read, write and speak the language with fluency, could it not also precipitate an enormous skills gap and labour shortage?

Here is an image of the prescription in question:

welshprescription

As readers can clearly see, the instructions on the prescription are printed bilingually, in both English and in Welsh. I understand that this is in accordance with the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, which also created the role of Welsh Language Commissioner who is entrusted with ensuring that Welsh is not treated less favourably than the English language in Wales, and that people can live their day-to-day lives through the medium of Welsh if they choose to do so. The patient-specific parts of the prescription, however, contain crucial information which is in Welsh only.

I would suggest that Dr. Ieuan Parry’s office is not serving its patients very well by providing prescriptions that run the risk of not being understood. Legally, they are completely in the right – indeed, Welsh is technically the only language accorded anything like official status in the whole of the UK – but practically and morally, I am not so sure.

I understand that the maintenance and preservation of the Welsh language is a very dearly held and important issue for some people. But we are talking about a medical prescription for a baby boy being printed with the key parts only in Welsh, a language with which 73% of the people have no familiarity (according to the 2011 census). Some may choose to be outraged at Morrisons for falling short, but I choose to feel more disappointment in the fact that patient safety was effectively jeopardised in pursuit of what seems to be a transparently cultural or political end.

If the goal is the preservation and extension of the Welsh language, Welsh-only prescriptions seems a lousy way of advancing that dream.

Or am I missing something?