I am against the waste of money on the census. The government tells me they do not like it either, but it was too late to cancel it. They are still going ahead spending more on sending it out and collecting it in. A picture of dumping the forms would have made better tv for many of us. The government already knows all the things it has asked me in the Census. I have to tell them all those answers time and again – to get a passport, to get a driving permit, to pay my Council tax, to pay my Income tax, to comply with NI rules and a host of others. Why can’t they use the information they have already got?
I was in a bad mood having to fill in two of these things, one for home and one for my London bedsit. By some quirk of Labour’s bureaucratic mind, fascinated as it was by ethnicity and nationality, they decided to ask us all who we are, and to supply us with some of the most likely answers in case we found this question difficult to grasp. They went on and on about these issues apparently in the name of community harmony, but often to such an extent they created tensions where none existed before. On the Census form they forced me to decide was I British or English? I always used to think of myself as both.
Ten or twenty years ago I would not have hesitated if forced to choose. I would have put British. I saw that as my nationality and the UK as my country. I hold a British passport, British is the portmanteau identity which can include all on our main island. I supported then the Conservative and Unionist party, who were proud of their support for the Union.
As I held my pen above the tick boxes on the irritating form ( remembering I was under penalty of criminal punishment if I refused to go along with this infringement of my liberty or failed to answer all the questions) other thoughts tumbled into my mind. I saw the lop sided devolution, which gives to Scotland a Parliament and to Wales an Assembly and a voice, but prevents England deciding her own affairs. I remembered the Barnett formula and the entrenched requirement for England to have less money per head than the rest of the Union for its public sector. I thought of all those times as an Englishman I had to listen to endless criticism of England for being too rich or too successful or too insouciant for the rest of the Union. I recalled times when English fans faithfully cheered for other Union member teams when England had lost, only to find some fans from the other parts of the Union wanted anyone but England to win if their team had been knocked out. I resent the way the EU seeks to drive England off the map, wanting to balkanise and break it up into regions that do not exist in our hearts.
I paused, because I understand it is Alex Salmond’s strategy to get the English angry with the Union. I understand Scottish nationalists wish to radicalise England to secure the end of the UK.
Then I ticked the box for English. I suspect many others will do so as well. It will be a fitting curtain call on Labour’s Britain. Their one sided devolution settlement and their relentless pursuit of more power for the EU will produce many more people in England who now see themselves as English and who think the settlement for England is poor. Labour’s devolution, as some of us warned at the time, is undermining confidence in the Union, not buttressing it.