Thursday, June 25, 2009

A difficult fiction

Oh how I love going away, not only do you get the sunshine (40 degrees and upwards by midday) but you also get to read some books. One of those books has been A Useful Fiction, which labels itself with the sub-title of "Adventures in British Democracy".

Written by a BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio 4 broadcaster, Patrick Hannan, it's general thrust is meant to be that no one has really appreciated how much devolution has buggered up any possible concept of Britishness, especially the main two parties.

The problem is that it doesn't really do that at all, at least not for me. I found myself wondering, as I ploughed on through the book, "what is the argument being made here?" and the feeling carried on right until the end.

Hannan does his best throughout the book to deal with the different aspect of devolution in Scotland and Wales that have meant that England has become a shadow of its former-self. However, you're never actually sure what Hannan thinks is the necessary end of the game.

Much of the analysis is plain commonsense things that almost every political commentator has written about before. The West Lothian Question; the impact of RBS and HBOS on Scottish independence now that they're owned by the British Government; and why didn't Thatcher/Major go for English devolution when it would have been its electoral interest to do so?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is a bad book. More that the question it poses - and often they are not explicitly so - are not new. Perhaps the book represents the first time that they have been collated in one place?

Maybe I'm missing the point though? Perhaps the fact the book seems to make no clear argument either way on the impact of devolution and the endgame of that impact, is actually the point?

The book is available to order from Amazon.

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