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New Left Review 7, January-February 2001


Has the NorthernIrelandAgreement injected a fatal shot of constitutionalism into the archaic Ukanianstate? Responding to Pocock and Mulhern, Tom Nairn looks forward to a rearrangement of islander relations, but warns that without its own reconstitution England could become a fatally regressive anomaly in the archipelago.

TOM NAIRN

FAREWELL BRITTANIA

Break-Up or New Union?

It’s twenty-one years since the original, failed referendum on devolution to Scotland and Wales in 1979, and so perhaps an appropriate moment to look back over this history. [1] Based on a talk given for the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust at the London School of Economics in May 2000. I take this chance of expressing my gratitude to the Trust for the opportunity to give their annual lecture. I have added some remarks in reply to the two critiques of my book After Britain, by J. G. A. Pocock and Francis Mulhern, which appeared in NLR 5, Sep–Oct 2000. Changes in the structure of the United Kingdom that were only prospected a generation ago are now fully under way. The uncertain eddies of the 1970s have turned into the rapids of 2000. A book was published earlier this year with the title The Day Britain Died. In 1979 such a title would have proclaimed the author, Andrew Marr, as an emissary out of dreamland. But in 2000 the lunatic turns out to be the new Chief Political Correspondent of the BBC—successor to the ultra-balanced Robin Oakley and (before that) the ultra-noncommittal John Cole.

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