Wales

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Wales’ Potential First Minister Backs Rejoining EU Single Market and Calls for ‘Honest Conversation’ on Impact of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/01/2024 - 12:50am in

The frontrunner to become Wales’ next Labour First Minister has backed rejoining the EU’s single market and said he will be advocating “strongly” for that position with Sir Keir Starmer if Labour win the next General Election. 

Jeremy Miles, who was Wales’ Brexit minister from 2018-2021 and is now one of two candidates standing to become the nation’s next leader, made the comments in his first interview with a UK-wide outlet since kicking off his campaign last month. 

Miles, Wales’ education minister since 2021, is one of the most senior Labour figures to call for a far closer relationship with the European Union - and joins figures like Sadiq Khan in highlighting the damaging effects of Brexit. Sir Keir Starmer has often seemed reluctant to discuss Britain’s departure from the EU since being elected Labour leader. 

Asked whether he thought Brexit played a role in the recent announcement by Tata Steel to slash thousands of jobs in Port Talbot, Miles urged the company to wait for a Labour government before making any major decisions - adding: “I absolutely think it is important that we're talking about the facts on the consequences of leaving the European Union.

“We spent a lot of time ensuring that we prepared Wales for departing…Every day, it became ever clearer just how damaging leaving the European Union would be, in the way that we had predicted during the campaign.”

Speaking to Byline Times via video link from Cardiff, he called for an “honest conversation” with the public about the consequences of leaving the EU. “We see it in our economy. We see it in our society. We see it through the loss of structural funds to Wales. I think Welsh people's understanding of the impact has changed.

People are recognising just how serious the adverse effects are to Wales and the UK, and just how weak the alternatives are which this Conservative Government are advocating.”

Miles, who faces Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething in the Labour contest, pointed to the spate of trade deals from the UK Government, “none of which go anywhere near the ability to make the loss to the UK economy of not having that closer trading relationship with the European Union.” 

Asked what arrangement with the EU he’ll be pushing for, Jeremy Miles said he supported “the closest possible relationship” with the European Union, telling Byline Times rejoining the EU’s single market “would be a positive thing for Wales and the UK.”

The EU Single Market consists of the bloc's 27 member countries, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, which participate through the European Economic Area agreement. Its aim is to ensure the unrestricted flow of goods, capital, services, and labour, - the so-called "four freedoms." Being a member again would require the UK to sign up to common rules and regulations, designed so that member states do not undercut one another.

Sir Keir Stamer has said he wants a closer relationship with the EU - but has explicitly rejected rejoining the EU single market and customs union.

Miles added that rejoining the single market “would enable us to make up for a lot of the damage that we've seen in our economy” - and could come as part of a “bespoke set of discussions” between an incumbent Labour Government and the European Union. 

Devolution Overhaul 

The landmark Gordon Brown review into devolution, published in 2022, was commissioned by the Labour Party and sets out a plan for overhauling the UK’s constitution. It was welcomed by Keir Starmer - but its proposals, including scrapping and replacing the House of Lords and a radical transfer of powers out of Westminster - have not yet been formally adopted by the leadership. 

Miles is clear that Keir Starmer needs to back the plans, telling this paper the Brown report is “the plan which we need to take forward.”

“It is very pragmatic and recognises that these things need to be done in a step-by-step way. And that is what will happen when we have a Labour Government that the Keir Starmer.” 

Pressed on whether Sir Keir would actually implement the changes, the Welsh Labour contender said: “I’ve not discussed it directly with him. But he commissioned from a very authoritative figure, a former prime minister, and it sets out a very particular set of next steps on the devolution journey for Wales and also across the UK…I'm confident that an incoming Labour Government will recognise that.” 

Miles has been bruised by dealing with the Conservatives at Westminster, telling Byline Times: “I had an awful lot of experience with Boris Johnson and subsequently, governments trying to step into devolved areas.” 

Like most Welsh Labour politicians, he wants devolution to go further, and to be protected in law. For him, that would involve a “fairer funding mechanism” for Wales. Currently the so-called Barnett formula is the basis for Wales’ funding from Westminster, but it is based on a proportion of spending in England.

The education minister also hinted that the Sewell Convention - which notes that areas where policy is devolved shouldn't be over-ridden by Westminster - should be put into law.

Miles is backing a new package of powers including devolving policing and justice to Wales, alongside the administration of the benefit system. That could allow Wales to scrap or adapt the strict sanctions regime pushed by Conservative governments over the past 14 years. 

It is another issue that puts Welsh Labour potentially at loggerheads with Labour in Westminster. The UK party has appeared to rule out devolving policing and adult criminal justice. Speaking to the BBC last week, Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens said the party would be focusing at the next election on "the things that matter". 

Other options Miles is exploring include handing over Wales’ share of profits from the Crown Estate, managed by the monarchy but whose proceeds mostly go to the UK Treasury. Since the Crown Estate controls the UK’s seabed, it benefits from billions of pounds in offshore wind licences every year.

“As we expand our offshore renewable sector, that will become increasingly important and valuable, and it's right that Wales should benefit directly from that,” Miles said. 

25 Years of Labour

Labour has been in Government in Wales for 25 years, since the very start of the Welsh Senedd (then called the Assembly).

Asked if that was too long for a party to be in power, Miles said: “The Labour party isn't stagnant…[but] we absolutely do not take for granted the support which we've been able to win from people in Wales over the last quarter century.” 

He admitted however that the next Welsh elections in 2026 will be “challenging” for Labour. “Every election becomes more challenging than the last, the longer you are in.” The next section will be fought with a larger Senedd and a different electoral system, as Wales replaces the mixed member system with a fully-proportional closed list. 

He was confident the next elections would happen in “the context of a Labour Government in Westminster” - and therefore a “very different” scenario to now. 

The final two candidates - Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething will be announced at 4pm today (29 January). The ballot of Welsh Labour members and affiliates opens on 16 February and closes on 14 March, with the result announced on 16 March.

Do you have a story that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing josiah@bylinetimes.com

‘A Disunited Kingdom? For Younger Minorities, Britishness is an Identity We Can Work With – A Quest for Englishness Must Confront This’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 8:48pm in

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Sign up

I am a Londoner. I am the Sikh Punjabi daughter of immigrants. I am British.

My parents were born and raised in countries of the British Empire: my mother two years after partition in Delhi; and my dad in Nairobi, where he lived under British rule in one of British East Africa’s stratified societies (the whites above; the Kenyans below). 'Great Britain’ was a country they, like many Asian immigrants, then came to; aspired to thrive in, were proud to be part of. The mother country. 

Having long explored Britain’s imperial project with my parents growing up, I have never bought into the uncritical exceptionalism of Britain’s ‘greatness’ but the acknowledgement of my Britishness is a sort of recognition of my parents’ history. And how this history was and is British history. Those times may have passed, but for some of us they haven’t. They are living legacies. More British than the British.

And it was the British National Party that had its headquarters, disguised as a bookshop and meeting room, opposite the house I grew up in south-east London, where I was born. And it was the Union flag its supporters carried when they rioted with police outside my living room window following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in nearby Eltham in the 1990s. 

For the generations who came before me, that flag is a terrifying symbol of the violence of far-right extremism in modern Britain: p*ki-bashing; the National Front chasing black skin. It wasn’t their flag. But their struggles, historic and continuing, made my journey easier and helped change our country. So I was frightened too: why were these rioting hooligans carrying my flag

And it was ‘Cool Britannia’ the tabloids talked about when New Labour came to power and the Gallagher brothers went to Downing Street. And when Geri Halliwell wore the Union Jack dress at the Brit Awards.

The Spice Girls reunited years later for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was a moment many of us felt proud, perhaps, never more British: outward; diverse; plural; confident.

And it’s good old British goodwill I think of when strangers daren’t jump the queue or pull together on a packed, packed-up train. Or when I think of the NHS and our welfare state. Decency. 

Art work/graffiti in Waterloo, London. Photo: Hardeep Matharu

But what is it, to me, to be English? 

Unlike the other nations of the UK, it is true that England does not have as strong a sense of a distinct identity. England is the only nation in the Union not to have dedicated political representation outside of Westminster. One compelling analysis of Brexit was that it was an outlet for a kind of unheard English nationalism. 

For me, the United Kingdom is a last expression of England’s imperial project. And so I personally believe that if the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland see their futures as independent countries or united with other independent countries, that is their right. But I am also conflicted.

If the Union and Britishness is a limitation of their beings, this I understand. But the same identity that limits them, brings for me expression and expansion.

Why?

Because in Britishness is the notion – however this has emerged in me – of diversity; plurality; difference; inclusivity; outwardness. For me, these thoughts and feelings don’t show themselves when it comes to Englishness – with its inwardness; isolation; exclusion. Englishness is something I have never felt part of. Little England. How many of us from similar backgrounds, people of colour, minorities, living the legacies of Empire, have?

I have my own reasons – for identity is not either political or personal; it is both. But, in a wider sense, because the negative associations of England with the far-right have not been replaced by anything more positive or inclusive, Englishness is not an identity that has ever really been presented to me as me.

That's not to say that 'Englishness' isn't on my radar. The quaintness of formal hall at Cambridge University felt very English. Whenever I speak to Americans, Britishness isn’t a thing (she was the Queen of England, Elizabeth II). A recent Christmas carol service at Southwark Cathedral, Shakespeare’s local church back in the day, felt more English than it did British – and I was part of it, alongside (some) other diverse faces. And the occasional Sunday roast never feels very British (while I do love the odd English breakfast)…  

On a substantive level, an example which has been instructive – and which, I believe, points a way forward – has emerged in football and our current England team. Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane … During the 2020 Euros, the Migration Museum tweeted that “without players with at least one parent or grandparent born overseas, England would be down to just three players”.

Many of us relate to and are so proud of that diverse England team that is achieving such success, which is embracing its togetherness and differences, where there is solidarity, tradition and evolution. Taking on those young men taking the knee was one culture war this Government could not win. And that is saying something.

As the England manager, Gareth Southgate, said in his open letter ‘Dear England’ when those players were being condemned by the likes of Priti Patel and Boris Johnson for raising awareness of racism and structural injustice through sport: “I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades. Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.”

For me, these players are both English, when they play for the England team, and British – because they represent the values I associate with this. And that's the point: our identities are multiple. We don’t, and shouldn’t, have to choose one or the other.

On the deeper constitutional analysis as to why Englishness needs to be given political expression, I am not an expert. But I believe we need to consider our identity associations with the heart, not just the head. 

What does embracing Englishness and feeling ‘more English’ mean? And how would it happen? Why hasn’t it happened so far? 

Of course, for some, it will have always meant something; always have been an identity that speaks to them. But from where will this affiliation have developed?

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE? HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39.50 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.75 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

While the political dimensions of Britishness and Englishness may be alive for some, I suspect for many more that the question of our identities is an exploration of the many forces that shape us on a personal level. 

The matters of Westminster and regional representation are not, I believe, outweighed by our experiences cultural, social and individual. Most of my reflections of my Britishness are personal reflections. And so merely giving England more political representation will not, in itself, change the state of my attachment to this identity.

I ask the same questions of my Punjabiness. If I am to be ‘more Indian’, what exactly am I supposed to be connecting with? And according to who and what? For some in my community, I’m not Indian enough even though I am Indian. Identities are complicated and not always knowable – to ourselves or to others.

One of the reasons I identify with Britishness is its plurality – for me, it doesn’t tell me what to be or what I need to be. Identities should not be imposed, but be created. They are reflections of the stories within us. The ideas we view the world with.

Could we not, then, create an Englishness that sits alongside our Britishness?

Could we decouple Britishness from its more imperial overtones and, alongside this more modern version, also develop a sense of Englishness – which appeals not just to the head but to the heart? Which is not merely about politics but personal? Not imposed but made available? 

Because I don’t think we need to choose. And neither Britishness nor Englishness needs to be fixed in what we have thought it was in the past.

In this age of the hyper-weaponisation of identities, the blood of tribalism, and the stoking of people’s baser instincts with division, we need to encourage an understanding of ourselves based on the idea of the multiple identities within us – the different, sometimes conflicting, sometimes shifting, aspects of who we are that sit side by side. That this is true but this is true too.

Britishness and Englishness are political and personal. Both can be part of our stories. But we have to be free to choose them. 

Hardeep Matharu is the Editor of Byline Times. This is an edited version of her speech at the 'Break-Up of Britain? Confronting the UK’s Democratic Crisis’ Conference in Edinburgh on 18 November 2023

‘A Disunited Kingdom? Britain is Built on Forgetting Our Imperial History’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 8:47pm in

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Sign up

Of the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell each other, and the stories the powerful and the political class tell the rest of us, the last one is of particular interest to me. Why?

We know those who control the past control the present. Therefore, the stories we tell ourselves about our past will determine the parameters of what today is considered politically possible and what’s ruled out. And it partly explains, for example, why England can have Brexit but Scotland can’t have independence.

It’s clearly powerful.

Why else do you think the Faragist-right of this country – the intellectual inheritors of Enoch Powell – are so intent on waging and winning their ‘history wars’. It’s because they understand that maintaining the illusory story of what Britain was, is integral to the illusion of what Britain is and the maintenance of their political and economic hegemony.

I switched on BBC News earlier this year to see the Trevelyan family (British aristocrats) apologising and paying reparations to the Caribbean island of Grenada. They were doing so for their ancestors’ part in the enslavement of thousands of Africans – including some of my own ancestors, it transpires, on my father’s side.

It’s led to a podcast, Heirs of Enslavement, which charts the story of Britain’s transatlantic chattel slave trade and plantations, all the way through to today and the continued exploitation of the same people by the same banks and financial institutions that made their money from that brutal exploitation in the first place.

Englishness Evolves

Otto English charts the different strands of English identity over the years and how a dark turn may now be giving way to something altogether more inclusive, decent and inspiring

Otto English

The former BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan, my co-presenter, told me something which stuck in my head because its redolent of a wider truth. She explained how her family had told itself for generations that they were part of the good and the great of British history (the Irish potato famine aside). They were renowned historians, civil service reformers and even Labour Party secretaries of state. But the realisation they had enriched themselves through the longest, most brutal, and exploitative crimes against humanity ever perpetrated, from what I could discern, was like being woken up by a bucket of cold slops; a shock to the system.

But it opened eyes – including my own. It’s allowed me to see that there has been a deliberate forgetting of our history. Whether the usual sanitised story of slavery that focuses on abolition to the assertion that Empire really wasn’t that big a deal (and if it was, well, it brought the rule of law to the world).

A deliberate forgetting. But why?

To cover up a crime scene that spanned the globe and hundreds of years.

To completely disconnect those crimes – and the wealth and power they generated – and how it ended up in the hands of the wealthy, corporations and financial institutions.

Don't miss a story

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

To enable the construction of a new, national post-Empire narrative of Britain.

Together, I think they help explain a big part of our democratic crisis. 'Britain’ is a construct born of that empire. As post-war decolonisation took place, those sat in the driving seat of Empire PLC needed a new story of what Britain was.

Enoch Powell, the first parliamentarian to embrace neoliberalism – and best known for his Rivers of Blood speech – is less well known for his role in this transformation. In 1950, he exclaimed that "Britain without an empire is like a head without a body".

By the time he wrote his 1965 book, A Nation Not Afraid, he claimed that the Empire was simply an invention that never really happened; that Britain had never set out to conquer the world and that instead it had been landed with the colonies.

Rather, Britain was a pioneering Island where the laws, constitution and systems of government had been unbroken for a millennia. Powell and others gave birth to the lie the British state was born by immaculate conception, then growing organically into the modern day construct we now see. Plucky Britain, so different from its European neighbours.

If that’s the story we tell ourselves then of course the crisis of democracy makes no sense. Its like trying to square observational data of planetary orbits, holding onto the belief the Earth is at the centre of the solar system.

Therefore, this’ forgetting’ is crucial to both the maintenance of the British state as is – the monarchy, the Union, an unwritten constitution, and even our voting system.

It covers up the origins for the gross wealth inequality within our country. Why the city of London, the banks, the financial institutions wield such wealth and power over us. Why a racialised immigration narrative is so deeply embedded into our political culture. Why human rights commitments are now under attack. Why the Union is so fragile.

Everything begins to make sense when we tell ourselves the truth of how we got here. And by doing that, we can better work out what it is we need to do to tackle the crisis of our democracy.

Clive Lewis is the Labour MP for Norwich South. This is an edited version of his speech at the 'Break-Up of Britain? Confronting the UK’s Democratic CrisisConference in Edinburgh on 18 November 2023

‘A Disunited Kingdom? Reclaiming an Englishness Hijacked by the Right’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 8:46pm in

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Sign up

While the death of the extraordinary Tom Nairn this year was widely acknowledged in Scotland – with Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown all sharing fulsome eulogies about his significant influence on their own thinking – strangely it barely registered among England’s political leaders.

That’s a particular shame since much of his analysis was actually about my homeland and its seemingly permanent state of political crisis. 

Perhaps it reflects the fact that few of England’s political elite are willing to accept they are just English, let alone to contemplate the logic of Nairn’s argument: that the break-up of Britain – the mutual liberation from the crumbling political construct which he famously called "Ukania" – might just be good for all of us.

What’s the nature of the democratic crisis we face?

Seen in one way, the problem is our political institutions.

The archaic and undemocratic 'first past the post’ voting system; an over-centralised governance system; the unelected House of Lords; the populist abuse of sovereignty; the vast networks of patronage; the stuffy and outdated conventions and public school atmosphere – the whole damn lot of it.  

But, seen in another way, it is about nationalisms and identity. And specifically about how England, in particular, has struggled to find its way in the modern world. How we cling to our delusions of imperial grandeur, pretend that we’re so much more than just English – and how the devastating consequences of that are all around us.  

It was English exceptionalism that drove Brexit, for example. In one way, the EU Referendum campaign seems a lifetime ago. We’ve gone through so much since then and, if anything, the alienation and polarisation are much greater today than they were back in 2016.

But the truth was clear even then: that Brexit was the result of division, and would make those divisions worse. And it has deepened the democratic crisis within the United Kingdom.

The fact that England and Wales voted to leave, and Scotland and Northern Ireland to stay, has put incredible strain on the myth that the United Kingdom is an equal partnership of four nations. 

EXCLUSIVE

The Story of Brexit is the Story of Empire: Why Did Asian Immigrants Vote to Leave the EU?

The complicated love-hate relationship of immigrants from former colonies with the British Empire cannot be ignored if lessons are to be learned in post-Brexit Britain, says Hardeep Matharu

Hardeep Matharu

The Government in London decided what form Brexit would take without any reference at all to the elected governments in Edinburgh or Belfast, or indeed, in Cardiff. Unsurprisingly, as a result, support for the reunification of Ireland has grown. The pressure for a second independence referendum in Scotland remains strong. And in Wales, a new sense of national identity is on the rise. The future of the United Kingdom itself is now in doubt. 

Yet we left the EU, primarily, because of what had happened in England. Outside of the capital, every single English region voted for Brexit. It is no disrespect to Wales, I hope, which voted by a majority of only 80,000 for leave, to say that it was an English vote that drove Brexit.  

In the months following the referendum, I travelled to as many leave-voting areas in England as I could to hear from people first-hand and face-to-face why they had supported Brexit. Sometimes this was difficult. One reason was that those who benefitted economically from EU membership, and from the UK becoming a more open and diverse society, did not do anything like enough to share these gains fairly and often sneered at those with a more traditional view of England.

But these conversations were also refreshing and reassuring because there was so much more that we agreed on than held us apart. Many people were angry. Of course they were. But if you took the time to go, and paid them the courtesy of listening, then common ground could emerge.

One theme that continually arose throughout this listening exercise (which my small team filmed and shared as best we could, and which came to be known as ‘Dear Leavers’), was about people’s sense of pride in the places where they lived, but – simultaneously – their feelings of powerlessness.   

I was told countless times that London, and the power that was held there, was so far away that it might as well have been on another planet. They felt unheard and ignored.

This was about more than an economic complaint, however corrosive this country’s grotesque inequalities of wealth and opportunity undoubtedly are. It was also about culture and identity.  

Many resented how some expressions of Englishness were allowed, while others were not. It was acceptable to love the English countryside, English humour, English music and English literature, and to see these aspects of Englishness as welcoming, humane, full of energy and creativity. But the moment Englishness took a political form, it apparently turned into the opposite. 

Even mild forms of patriotism were frowned on. The English flag was acceptable fluttering from a church tower in a picturesque village, but was instantly interpreted as a form of racism if hanging from someone’s window on an estate.

Yet Englishness should not be something to be scared of. Or suppressed within the notion of ‘Britain’ as if this will contain it safely. On the contrary, as Brexit shows, it doesn’t.

We need to recognise that many people who see themselves primarily as English feel they are without a voice, including a political voice. There are no institutions that represent England equivalent to those in the three other countries of the UK. Nothing to give political expression to our complex, rich and sometimes raucous reality, or where differences can be expressed and, perhaps, resolved. 

Don't miss a story

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

A New Story

The so-called ‘English problem’ is not only one of culture and identity, but also – profoundly – one of democracy.  

And we need to ask ourselves what kind of England do we want now and in the future, either within the United Kingdom or as an independent state, a reborn Kingdom of England? 

Will it be a smaller, diminished version of what we have now? Will imperial delusions and exceptionalism continue to shape its sense of itself? Will it be inward-looking, resentful of lost glories, held back by social and economic injustice, and run for the benefit of a narrow elite? 

Or could it become a genuine democracy, confident, outward-looking, inclusive and recognise our future necessarily involves being part of Europe? 

These questions have taken on an even greater urgency as xenophobic nationalism continues its rise across Europe, from the success of the Sweden Democrats and True Finns to the growth of the far-right in France, Italy and Hungary.  

At the same time, propelled by the outcome of the Brexit Referendum and the 2019 General Election, in the UK the populist-right strengthens its grip on an increasingly extreme and out-of-touch Conservative Party. 

If a progressive alternative to this national populist agenda is to be successful, it needs to do more than offer bolder, more ambitious policies, vital though those are: it needs to unify, rather than divide; to offer hope, rather than despair.  And one of the most effective ways of doing that is by telling more compelling stories of who we are and who we can be.

And so my answer to the question of how do we get out of the current democratic crisis is not only about constitutional answers. It’s not just about a proportional voting system, an elected House of Lords, an end to political patronage, the drafting of a written constitution. It’s also about telling more compelling stories about who we English are so that we might – finally – be more comfortable in our own skin, less intent on subduing our neighbours, whether they be within the UK or across the Empire.

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE? HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39.50 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.75 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Because I would wager that, when we English do finally settle with our own identity, we’ll discover we’re much more progressive than we’re ever led to believe.

Right now, Englishness has been hijacked by the right. The dominant version of our national story solely serves their interests. The only people who dare speak of ‘Englishness’ are cheerleaders for isolationism and imperial nostalgia.

But there are other stories, equally compelling, about who we are: about the English people’s radical inclusivity, their ancient commitment to the natural world, their long struggle to win rights for all. Stories that put the Chartists and the Diggers in their rightful place alongside Nelson and Churchill. That draw inspiration from the Agreement of the People, from Tom Paine, and from Shelley, Milton and Blake. That draw on medieval writers and Romantic poets who emphasised the sanctity of the environment. That recognise and celebrate England’s ancient multicultural heritage.

My forthcoming book, Another England, sets out to tell those stories. Because I believe that rediscovering those stories of an England at ease with itself and with our past – forward-looking, open, more equal, diverse and multi-ethnic – and identifying the policies that can help to realise them, has become a political project every bit as important as investing in infrastructure or levelling-up. 

A country without a coherent story about who and what it is can never thrive and prosper, it can’t extract itself from its own democratic crisis, and certainly can’t rise to the existential threats of our time – the climate and nature emergencies.  

As the writer Ben Okri puts it, “nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings".  

Finding and telling stories that speak to the truth of England’s past and present, and inspire us to imagine and pursue new and better futures, might turn out to be one of the most transformative acts we can undertake. And one of the greatest contributions to a healthier democracy across all of these islands.

Caroline Lucas is the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. Her book 'Another England: A New Story of Who We Are and Who We Can Bewill be published in 2024. This is an edited version of her speech at the 'Break-Up of Britain? Confronting the UK’s Democratic CrisisConference in Edinburgh on 18 November 2023

‘A Disunited Kingdom? It Is Time to Tell an Inclusive English Story’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 8:45pm in

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

Sign up

A new era in British politics began on 18 November in Edinburgh. It will take a decade, perhaps two, to reach fulfilment.

The historic legacy of entrenched attachment to 350 years of greatness is so deeply embedded in English institutions, there is no easy discarding of it. But, finally, the effort needed to genuinely renew Britain has started to take shape, as a multi-national political undertaking independent of any party or faction. 

In these pages, Byline Times is publishing a series of three of many significant interventions made at the recent 'The Break-Up of Britain?’ Conference in Edinburgh which was also a salute to the late Scottish political theorist Tom Nairn.

Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green MP, stunned the conference with her opening address.

‘A Disunited Kingdom? Reclaiming an Englishness Hijacked by the Right’

At the heart of our political crisis is how England, in particular, has struggled to find its way in the modern world, writes MP Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas MP

She was followed by Labour MP Clive Lewis, who spoke with a freshness desperately lacking in his party's official discourse.

‘A Disunited Kingdom? Britain is Built on Forgetting Our Imperial History’

Maintaining the illusory story of what Britain was is integral to the illusion of what Britain is – and the maintenance of political and economic hegemony, writes MP Clive Lewis

Clive Lewis MP

Later, Byline Times’ Editor, Hardeep Matharu shared her ambivalent attachment to ‘Britishness’ and reluctance to see herself as English, in a plenary, which I chaired, on whether England ‘can recover from Great Britain’.

‘A Disunited Kingdom? For Younger Minorities, Britishness is an Identity We Can Work With – A Quest for Englishness Must Confront This’

Developing a stronger sense of Englishness cannot merely be looked at through a political lens – our identities are personal and multiple, conflicting and shifting, writes Hardeep Matharu

Hardeep Matharu

What is the transformation the conference pointed towards? 

All of the people of these isles – of what Fintan O’Toole in a special video contribution to the event described as our “archipelago” – can re-join the EU. But how? To do so, we have to be citizens of a member state. On paper we have only three options. 

The first is to reverse Brexit and return as we were. But the EU won’t want to offer opt-outs that preserve Westminster’s historic attachment to its special sovereignty. Nor should we want to wind the clock back to how things were, as it led to Brexit in the first place. It’s a dead end.

This leaves two other options, both transformative.

One is for Britain to become internally a European country with fair elections and a democratic constitution. A modest change that appears to be so vast no major party makes it a priority. Nor does it offer political bliss or economic redemption. It is simply the starting point to being a modern country. 

The second is that we all re-join the EU as independent nations and replace our membership of the British Union with the European one. It is an option much more conceivable in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where majorities already think of themselves as Europeans – that is to say as Scottish Europeans, Welsh Europeans and Irish Europeans, because you can’t just think of yourself as ‘just European’. 

It is a way forward that demands considering how we work together. One that sees ‘independence’ as a collaboration in a joint enterprise to re-enter the EU.

As the conference discussed it, the Brexit discourse of enmity, contempt, polarisation and sullen fatalism was replaced with a different kind of engagement. In terms of the UK’s current political culture, this alone was a real achievement. As Neal Ascherson observed there were “no tired clichés, no self-pity” and no evasion. 

But what of the all-British option of becoming European, which I suspect most English Byline Times readers still instinctively prefer?

This too demands our jointly recognising each other’s national rights. For we cannot hope to re-enter the EU while the UK is, in effect, a prison of nations. No domestic, democratic constitution is conceivable that does not give member nations the right to succeed to become EU members for themselves. Either way, progressives, liberals, socialists, greens, democrats and republicans alike will need to tell an inclusive English story. This is something that Caroline Lucas begins to do.

For the EU is not a hobgoblin devouring self-determination or the terminator of national identity as conjured up by Brexiters. Rather, it has rescued the nations of Europe and is a berth for national democracies in a market world, which is why Ukraine is fighting to join it. 

Now it is England’s turn. Whether the nations of the UK re-join the EU jointly as Britain or independently we English must become a normal country. How we achieve this is a debate that we failed to have in the last century. The Edinburgh conference initiated it in this one.

These three outstanding contributions, two from English politicians and one from an English Editor (however else she might describe herself), show it's a debate to be enjoyed and relished. 

Anthony Barnett was the chair of the steering group of the 'Break-Up of Britain? Confronting the UK’s Democratic CrisisConference in Edinburgh on 18 November 2023. He is a writer and journalist and the co-founder of openDemocracy

Question of the day: which country will leave the UK first?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/10/2023 - 6:01pm in

I have long felt that the UK has little future. Whatever once held the four very disparate countries* within it together will not, I think, endure for much longer.

So, which country will be the first to leave the UK, whatever the Tories and Labour might say about granting them the right to do so?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

* If you are not aware of how disparate they are, you need to travel about a bit more, I suggest. It's a sad fact that most English people have never been to any of Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Excepting Orkney and the Shetlands, I've been to most of all of them.

A few tickets available for this week …

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/10/2023 - 12:43am in

Thanks very much to everyone who braved the elements to come and see me in Banbury, Stamford, Pocklington, Liverpool and Otley last week. Your dedication is to be much admired.

This week I’m mainly in Wales – in Caerphilly on Thursday and Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons on Friday. There are a few tickets left for both shows. If you fancy coming along, then ticket info can be found through this link: https://brianbilston.com/upcoming-events-and-shows/

I’m then heading to Clevedon on Saturday before popping home to do my laundry.

Also, apart from one more return trip to Liverpool next month, that’s the end of my shows in the north of England this year. If you didn’t get a chance to get a ticket – or fancy coming along to a brand new show next year, then I’ll be heading to Leeds, Salford, Sunderland, Ilkley, Leek and Nottingham with Henry Normal – and doing a few solo shows in Scarborough, Chester and Lincoln*.

*Please note, other shows are available.

War-crime supporter Starmer’s cynical mosque stunt condemned by mosque imam

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/10/2023 - 9:16am in

I didn’t invite him or even know who he was, says disgusted imam of South Wales Islamic Centre after outrage over Starmer photo stunt

Keir Starmer’s attempt to mosque-wash his support for Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians has backfired enormously, after Muslims reacted with outrage to his appearance in the South Wales Islamic Centre – and the centre’s imam disowned him and said he didn’t even know who he was when Starmer turned up.

In a conversation related on a socialist WhatsApp group, the imam said that he had not invited Starmer – Starmer’s team had called the centre and said he wanted to visit – and had no idea beforehand that it would be cynically exploited for a photo opportunity. Moreover, he was asking the mosque committee to put out another statement about the visit and would never ‘betray the Palestinians’ by knowingly associating with a supporter of Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians.

The message relayed from the Muslim scholar who spoke to the imam was as follows:

Starmer has been trying to repair his relationship with the Muslim community through a surprise visit to a mosque in Wales. The following was shared by a scholar friend of mine this morning:

I spoke to the imam of the South Wales Islamic Centre, Shaykh Muhammad (Egyptian), over the phone about these images which are being used by Keir Starmer as propaganda and PR to dilute and sanctify his statement in support of war crimes and genocide. I don’t know this imam personally; I didn’t know anything about him and had not spoken to him before this telephone conversation.

I shared my thoughts on Keir Starmer and the South Wales Islamic Centre propaganda before my conversation with the Centre’s imam. My thoughts on this issue have not changed. We all know that mosque imams in the UK are employees of mosque committees and have zero decision-making powers.

Since my phone conversation with the Imam of South Wales Islamic Centre was private, I asked for his permission to share on Facebook and with others the details I am going to share now, and he granted me his permission to do so. He was crying and upset as he explained to me the following:

1) South Wales Islamic Centre did not invite Keir Starmer. He was in Wales and his people made a phone call to South Wales Islamic Centre expressing their desire to come and visit the Centre.

2) The imam did not know who Keir Starmer was before he met him at the South Wales Islamic Centre. He’s Egyptian, can barely speak or read English and doesn’t follow local politics. He was also not aware of what Keir Starmer had said in support of genocide and war crimes. He wishes he had researched online before agreeing to meet him. Even if he had, he doubt that he would have found anything in Arabic. [It seems that the old issue of imams who are not familiar with the local context has still not been resolved. With notable exceptions, Al-Azhar graduates have not always been known to be politically and socially literate and aware. So, I was not surprised]

3) The imam was unaware that this visit would be exploited for propaganda and public relations. He was shocked when the angry phone calls starting coming in from various communities, and disappointed to see how the pictures from the visit were being used by Keir Starmer on social media for propaganda purposes.

4) He will ask the mosque committee to meet and draft ANOTHER statement to clarify what happened and state South Wales Islamic Centre’s position.

5) He cried as he explained that he would never betray Palestinians by associating or collaborating in the propaganda of anyone who supports war crimes and genocide against them. I believe everything he told me. The South Wales Islamic Centre and its committee should clean this mess.

Keir Starmer is complicit in Israel’s murders and starvation of Palestinian civilians and in the whole oppression, occupation and apartheid inflicted on the people of Palestine. No amount of white-, mosque- or any other kind of wash can cover or erase that.

Update: the Islamic Centre itself has also issued a ‘clarification’ condemning Starmer’s duplicity:

SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support of its readers to be viable. If you’d like to help it keep revealing the news as it is and not what the Establishment wants you to hear – and can afford to without hardship – please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep doing its job.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Regulatory reform must prepare Welsh universities for Industry 4.0

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/06/2017 - 9:01am in

Tags 

Regulation, Wales

The new Welsh Government on White Paper on reforming regulation and encouraging more dynamic partnerships in the post-compulsory education sector is to be welcomed, says Universities Wales chair Colin Riordan.

The post Regulatory reform must prepare Welsh universities for Industry 4.0 appeared first on Wonkhe.

A ‘made in Wales’ approach to education regulation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 3:01pm in

Tags 

Regulation, Wales

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams outlines the Welsh Government's plans for a new regulatory framework and mission for higher and further education in Wales.

The post A ‘made in Wales’ approach to education regulation appeared first on Wonkhe.

Pages