J. Alan Smith identifies areas where the UK is at risk of breaking into two or more hostile groups
`Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different time zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws’
You speak of ‘ said Egremont, hesitatingly.
‘THE RICH AND THE POOR’. (Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil or The Two Nations, 1845)
Disraeli, elected to the House of Commons in 1837, gathered round him a group of young Tory MPs, including the Hon. George Smythe, Lord John Manners (later the 7th Duke of Rutland), and Alexander Baillie Cochrane, who had been contemporaries at Cambridge. Collectively known as Young England, they formed a ginger group, supporting the views later expressed in Sybil. In 1838, Manners and Smythe had Spent part of the long vacation from Cambridge in the Lake District where they met Fr Frederick William Faber, then still a deacon, at Ambleside where he was helping to run the parish and supervising reading parties of undergraduates. Fr Faber had a great influence on the two and can, perhaps, be regarded as a godfather of Young England. Over the years, later Conservative sympathizers would refer to themselves as `One-Nation Tories’.
Recently, Ed Miliband has picked up the ‘One Nation’ slogan as part of the narrative he is constructing for the Labour Party. There can be no objection to this. Real political progress is made when a good idea or policy, conceived by one party, is adopted by the other mainstream parties and becomes part of the political consensus, without which party politics would be impossible.
The original message of the One Nation’ philosophy is that Britons, whether rich or poor, are members one of another. Yet it is clear that, in its essence, it is multi-dimensional and is capable of expansion to highlight other areas where the UK is at risk of breaking into two or more hostile groups. In the paragraphs below I sketch out some of these areas, indicating ideas that could be explored more fully at a later stage.
Areas of risk
The constituent nations of the UK; there is a natural tension between England on the one hand and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the other. To the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish, the English can appear over-dominant whereas the English can feel that they are paying more than their fair share of taxes and suffer from being the only nation in the UKwithout a devolved parliament.
Race: a balance must be struck between those whose physical appearance or patronymics suggest that they or their recent ancestors are immigrants and those whose families appear to have been in this country since time immemorial. Natural concerns to look after minority racial groups should be effected carefully to avoid giving the impression to poor whites that they come at the end of any queue.
Religion: I have discussed the treatment of non-Christian religions and non Anglican Christian denominations in `Religious Freedom in a Christian State’ (Church Observer, Advent 2007) and Antidisestablishmentarianism (ND, June 2014).
Gender: fair treatment of men and women must allow for such differences as women’s potential capacity to bear children. Further, an unthinking drive for equality in this area should not take precedence over theological truths about male and female roles.
Age: there is a popular view that the problems experienced by young people today are caused by the demands of today’s pensioners. Born in December 1939, I attended a state grammar school in the 1950s, attended university with no fees to pay and receiving a maintenance grant, enjoyed continuous employment until I accepted a redundancy package, and retired with a final-salary pension from the private sector.
On the other hand, everyone over 70 today suffered the deprivations of the Second World War with the risk of losing close family and friends; those over 60, whether or not they missed the War, suffered the effects of rationing that lasted until the middle 1950s.
Town and country: there is a need to balance the interests of those who live in urban and rural areas. Town dwellers whose ancestors migrated from the countryside some generations ago should consider that, at some future stage, we may need to grow all our own food.
Young England contrasted the fragmentation of social classes in the middle of the nineteenth century with the Middle Ages. Until Disraeli wrote Coningsby and Sybil, the best representation of Young England’s basic philosophy was England’s Trust, a poem by Lord John Manners, which contained the lines:
Each knew his place king, peasant, peer or priest,
`The greatest owned connexion with the least;
‘From rank to rank the generous feeling ran,
And linked society as man to man,’