Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Battle In Vain?

Increasingly, I think not. The heated discussion in certain forums concerning the appropriate final resting place of Richard III have given me fresh heart.

The idea of burying him in Westminster Abbey is particularly ridiculous. Why would they even want him there? They hated him in the South. His father was Duke of York when that title meant what it said, while his wife and his mother were both Nevilles of Durham, the latter even born in Raby Castle. The church in which it is proposed that he be buried in Leicester, a place staunchly allied to his enemies during his lifetime, was not made a cathedral until 1927.

But the question of Northern identity, already very much alive as we endure a persecution for daring to exist even greater than that to which we were subjected in the 1980s, is thrown into particularly sharp relief by this case. As much as anything else, it recalls an almost forgotten time when England had a frankly and proudly Northern Reigning House, its Lancastrian cousins having very much gone native in the South, and having in any case died out.

Although, again, the Tudors were frankly and proudly Welsh, Henry Tudor was nothing more than a scion of the Beauforts, who had been specifically excluded by English Law from the succession to Throne when the Pope had legitimised them after John of Gaunt had finally found his way round to marrying their mother, a marriage from which Richard III was also descended through his own mother. Elizabeth of York was in fact descended at the same number of generations from John of Gaunt as her husband was, but through better lines, and, like her uncle, that was not her purported claim to the Throne.

In what I think of as my supreme triumph to date, this evening I found even Harry’s Place advertising Confessions of an Old Labour High Tory. One chapter of that worthiest of tomes sets out the roots of the thinking giving rise to the American Republic, of the campaign against the slave trade, of Tory and Radical extensions of the franchise, of Tory and Radical uses of government action against social evils, of the emergence of the Labour Movement, and of the opposition to the Boer and First World Wars, in profound doubts about the Hanoverian State, about that State’s Empire, and that Empire’s capitalist ideology. Those doubts were passed down among Catholics, High Churchmen (and thus first Methodists and then also Anglo-Catholics, as well as Scottish Episcopalians), Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers and others.

Into the reign of Henry VIII, there was pro-Plantagenet disaffection with the events and consequences of 1485, binding to itself any and every other disaffection at the given time and in the given place. The Tudors’ efforts to subdue the North are the stuff of legend, and also of very sober history. Those efforts were intensified at and by the Reformation, but they did not begin with it.

The lack of Royal lineage in the persons of the King, his entourage and his representatives was among the specific complaints of those who rose in the North to defend Catholic England. The fundamentally Yorkist roots of Recusancy seem clear enough. But what of the other subcultures that went on to adhere to the exiled Stuarts, and thus to generate and to germinate the British Left in all its multifarious non-Marxism, which in turn produced organically, as he himself would have put it, everything for which Gramsci yearned in his latter-day Romantic infirmity and imprisonment? Am I writing myself into an awful lot more reading and writing?

And what of this hallowed land today? It would be pointless for the North of England (with a population considerably larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined) to remain in the United Kingdom if its economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, Methodism and a High Churchmanship quite different from that in the South, were no longer able to support and to be supported, either by Scotland’s economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism, or by Wales’s economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, several varieties of Nonconformity, and the sane High Churchmanship that provides the mood music to the Church in Wales.

The North would be at least as capable of independence as either Scotland or Wales, and would have every reason to pursue that path if they did. But who would then pay for the City to be bailed out next time, and the time after that, and the time after that? And what would the smug South East drink, or wash in?

But the grievance of England, especially Northern and Western England, concerns, not some “West Lothian Question”, but cold, hard cash. We probably have to talk about the English regions, even if we would prefer to talk about the historic counties from before an unprotesting Thatcher was in the Cabinet.

Each of the present or, where they have been abolished in the rush to unitary local government, the previous city, borough and district council areas in each of the nine regions must be twinned with a demographically comparable one (though not defined in terms of comparable affluence) in Scotland, in Wales, in Northern Ireland, and in each of the other English regions.

Across each of the key indicators – health, education, housing, transport, and so on – both expenditure and outcomes in each English area, responsibility for such matters being devolved elsewhere, would have to equal or exceed those in each of its twins. Or else the relevant Ministers’ salaries would be docked by the percentage in question. By definition that would always include the Prime Minister.

In any policy area devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, no legislation must apply in any of the English regions unless supported at Third Reading by the majority of MPs from that region. Since such legislative chaos would rightly be unconscionable, any Bill would in practice require such a consensus before being permitted to proceed at a much earlier stage of its parliamentary progress.

No one would lose under any of this: there would be no more politicians than at present, and both expenditure and outcomes would have to be maintained in, most obviously, Scotland and the South East for the twinning system to work.

Is it conceivable that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters would not also insist on full incorporation into it, with their own areas thus also guaranteed expenditure and outcomes equal to or exceeding those in each of those areas’ respective twins? Or else the relevant Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or Stormont Ministers’ salaries would be docked by the percentage in question. By definition that would always include the First Minister, and in Northern Ireland also the Deputy First Minister.

Ed Miliband, a Yorkshire MP on the East Coast mainline, over to you. You could do with a Northern foil to Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas, both of whom, invaluable though they are, are very much men of the South East, and especially of London. It says a very great deal for London that Blue Labour has begun there. But even so. And someone from each of the West Country, the North of Scotland, and Wales north of the Heads of the Valleys Road, would also be no bad thing at all.


  1. You do realize that google personalizes the ads that you see elsewhere on the net, so, assuming as you are the author of such a book, google will likely apply an algorithm that throws up the ads for your books based on your previous internet usage?

    Others don't see the same ads because they have different internet histories. I'm surprised you didn't know that.

  2. Your books can be found on the website, David. I have never read either book, but I have read the reviews on

  3. The ones on lulu (most people now buy it through Amazon, anyway) are all by the same person, a former student of mine who has mental health problems and who has been the subject of police investigations for harassment.

    I refer you instead to the commendations in the book itself, which are by Lord Glasman, Lord Stoddart, Professor Bryan Gould, Professor John Milbank, Dr Eveline Cruickshanks, Mark Stricherz, and Professor Joe Elliott.

    Other people have told me that they keep coming across it on these sorts of sites, so it is clearly doing the rounds. It is certainly selling healthily enough. And why would anyone advertise my own book to me?

    Now, on topic, please.

  4. What are the sales?

    Amazon reviewers use terms like "green ink" and "vanity press".

  5. I have told you, I know who that is. So do the Police, among other people.

    It sells well enough to deposit nice little sums in my account, and nice little messages from almost unbelievably important or influential people in my inbox, in both cases on a more than sufficiently regular basis. It has certainly reached its target audience.

    I am not putting up anything else off topic.

  6. The Jacobite chapter is an amazing part of an amazing book, David. If anyone can determine whether there is a link further back to Yorkism and then set that out, it is you. You have so much planted that thought in my mind already.

    Everything you have written here about the North is spot on. A highly distinctive culture of more people than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. We don't want regional assemblies blah, blah, blah. We want our fair share of cash and a fair hearing for our views in Parliament, in that order. I wish you were Labour Leader, I really do.

  7. Don't forget your equally superb proposal last Tuesday:

    "Therefore, let the Members of the House of Commons elect, from outside their number, 12 guardians of religious and spiritual values, and 12 guardians of secular and humanist values. In each category, each MP would vote for one candidate, with the 12 highest scorers elected at the end.

    Furthermore, from each of the 12 regions (which, for all their other imperfections, have nothing to do with the EU; several, including here in the North East, literally seem to have been invented by ITV), let some means be found of appointing a leader of the largest community of the religiously observant, and a leader in secular thought. In all of these cases, a 10-year term would be appropriate.

    Nothing requiring Royal Assent could be submitted for it, nor could any Supreme Court ruling have effect, unless approved by a simple majority in each of the four categories: religious and spiritual, secular and humanist, elected by the House of Commons, and appointed from the regions.

    No legislation to apply only in England could be submitted to the monarch unless already approved, both by the majority of the religious and spiritual leaders from the nine parts of England, and by the majority of their secular and humanist counterparts.

    In this age of electronic communication, costs would be minimal."

    It beats me why you are not in either House of Parliament. Do people who have known you since childhood think of you as still 14? That is probably it. You were screamed off Telegraph Blogs for being too young as well. But according to your books you are 36, you were over 30 even then, far older than some other people there.

    I am as great an admirer as you are of the Blue Labour lot and associated acts like Neil Clark, Martin Meenagh, Tim Collard, etc. But the parliamentary process does not seem somehow incomplete without you in it. It does without you. In the words of John Milbank in the front of your second book:

    "Before Red Tory and Blue Labour there was David Lindsay. He was arguably the first to announce a postliberal politics of paradox, and to delve into the deep, unwritten British past in order to craft, theoretically, an alternative British and international future. It is high time that the singular and yet wholly pertinent writings of this County Durham Catholic Labour prophet receive a wider circulation."

    Very high time.

  8. 35. I was born in 1977, but in September.

    You are very kind.

  9. You are a genius, our generation's great lost hope, kept down and then struck down in your prime.

  10. Gosh David you are buying golden opinions of all sorts of people (like Macbeth). I like this idea, and am running through my mind all the permutations arising from being a Northern Englishman resident - and likely to remain so - in Scotland.

    I see you got a commendation from Lord Stoddart. How the hell old is he? I took him on a jaunt around China in 1991.

  11. 87 this year. But he answers his emails.