The Disunited Kingdom | Tomorrow’s World — July/August 2024

The Disunited Kingdom

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Loss of collective purpose has devastated the United Kingdom, which must heed ancient warnings lest it shatter completely.

In the late 1990s, the Labour government led by Mr. Tony Blair conducted referendums on devolution to several parts of the United Kingdom. Devolution, in the British context, refers to the transfer of certain powers and responsibilities from the central government in Westminster to regional governments, such as those in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Though the UK is united under London as its capital, it is nevertheless a nation historically composed of parts. England and Wales have been in a state of union since Tudor times, together first creating what we now call Britain.

Union with Scotland in 1707 created a new entity, Great Britain—the “Great” was not a statement about the enlarged nation’s strength or reach in the world, but simply a recognition of its enhanced size. Then came union with Ireland in 1801, leading to the creation of what was called the United Kingdom—which, after partition took effect in the 1920s, was scaled back to the six counties of Northern Ireland–Ulster.

What Tony Blair offered via those referendums was not new. Home Rule had been granted to Ireland in 1914, and continued in Northern Ireland, which had a government of its own from the 1920s onward, though it was no less a part of the UK. The Stormont in Belfast was a local Parliament for Northern Ireland, retaining powers relating to internal matters, while national issues such as defence or foreign affairs resided firmly in London under the control of the central government at Westminster. Yet, though devolution in Northern Ireland had found its rhythm for decades, it created a new dynamic when extended to new bodies in Scotland and Wales.

Seeds of Discontent

A well-established management principle tells us that inherent in any solution to one problem are the seeds of the next problem. This echoes Job’s words that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Such has indeed been a result of devolution.

The Scottish National Party has used devolution to seek not just regional, local governance, but total independence from the UK. Though a 2014 referendum in Scotland rejected the idea of independence, the majority political party in Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP), sees the establishment of independence for Scotland as its main goal. Operating from Holyrood in Edinburgh, the SNP has continued its push for independence even while leadership issues focused on self-interest have created instability in the party; this April, SNP leader Humza Yousaf was forced to resign after just 14 months in office.

Minister Yousaf had cited as his reasons first the needs of his party, second the needs of his government, and third the needs of Scotland—and received criticism regarding the order in which he placed those priorities. Indeed, many sense that sectional and partisan interests seem to have taken priority over national concerns. Much the same holds true in the Stormont in Northern Ireland, where its function as a parliament is hampered because of partisanship and distrust between the Unionists who wish to remain part of the UK, and the members of Sinn Fein who want Northern Ireland reunited with the Republic of Ireland, with its capital Dublin to the south. Demographic changes within Northern Ireland are trending toward a Sinn Fein majority in the state.

Disunion in England and Shifting Values

And there is another, perhaps surprising, source of disunion emerging. Recent local body elections in England have revealed yet another sectional interest. The Labour Party has traditionally been the political choice of most of the UK’s Jewish population, and more recently has been favoured by its Muslim population (for more on Islamic influence on the UK, see our May–June 2024 article “The UK Immigration Crisis”).

Labour, which had weathered a storm over perceptions that its former leader Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic, has worked hard to shed that image, and has been supportive of Israel in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack. When two local candidates in by-elections were caught on tape making statements labelled as anti-Semitic, current Labour head Keir Starmer distanced his party from those statements. Starmer’s actions, however, put his party offside with its Muslim constituents over the situation in Gaza. The local elections did not yield the victories Labour expected, as Muslim voters deserted the party and elected candidates who were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Further deepening the divide, Muslim activists issued a list of 18 points that the Labour Party would need to accept to receive their support in a forthcoming general election (“Muslim group issues 18 demands for Keir Starmer to win back voters lost over Gaza,” The Independent, 7 May, 2024). These include provisions supportive of Sharia law. Echoing a common concern stemming from such developments, the left-of-centre journal New Statesman trumpeted the headline “Sectarianism has returned to England” (March 11, 2024). Its subhead reads, “The country’s silent majority is being outflanked by religious and political extremists.”

In his landmark book My Promised Land, Israeli journalist Avi Shavit concludes that his nation, though rich in valuable individualism, has lost the collective will that Israel once knew. While written of a country that is half a world away from the United Kingdom, that observation characterises so much of the Western world. The UK today is overwhelmingly driven by individual wants rather than collective needs.

The lyrics added to Elgar’s well-known Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, played at so many graduation ceremonies, provide an insight. Written by A. C. Benson, these lyrics include the phrase, “God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.” This highlights a key element of the loss of collective purpose. Those lyrics were penned during an age that harboured a respect for God, and that no longer has a place in our modern nations. We have become consumed by ourselves and our self-interest.

Feeling the Consequences of Forgotten Ideals

The Apostle Paul, writing to the evangelist Timothy, noted that in the last days, self-interest would predominate (2 Timothy 3:1–9). Paul recorded that people would be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (v. 4). Interestingly, that is the history of the people of the UK over the past century or so. Even in Northern Ireland, which was once known for the fiery rhetoric of Protestant preachers of the likes of Ian Paisley, religion is now lost as the motivation of the Unionists. Following the example of Britain and Scotland, the search for the good life here and now is the driving force.

Speaking to the children of Israel before they crossed the River Jordan to inherit the Promised Land, Moses was inspired to warn them of a condition that can easily be applied to the UK today. If Israel forgot God, just as the UK has forgotten, specific punishments would come upon its people (Deuteronomy 28:15–68). These punishments would intensify until the nation was lost. Pointedly, Israel was warned, “The Lord will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me” (v. 20).

Such is the state in which the UK finds itself today—confused and cursed in everything she seeks to do. No wonder, as the UK was comprised of people whose ancestry is linked to the ancient kingdom of Israel. The UK needs to heed the warnings given to our ancestors if it wishes to remain a truly united kingdom.


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