Charles Moore in The Telegraph today returns to the theme of "Britishness", a subject that has been exercising many minds of late.
His piece is headed: "'Britain' was revived to heal a fractured nation. An idea whose time has come?" Amongst his nostrums for the restoration of this diffuse but all-important concept, he offers three ideas: teach the English language; restore Parliament; and look again at the word "Britain".
It is the notion that we should "restore Parliament" that, as you would expect, is of greatest interest to this blog, with Moore telling us that "the word itself derives from the French for speaking":
Parliament is supposed to be the place where the language concentrates in public form for public purposes. But now the action happens elsewhere and so the speeches are not worth hearing. Ours is the first generation since the 17th century to hold Parliament in contempt. If that continues, political stability and national unity cannot last.The sentiment is, of course, right, but the expression is woolly. As Moore puts it, one gains the impression almost that a disembodied outside agency should somehow reach down and miraculously restore Parliament to its pristine condition, and then all will be well.
Equally woolly is Moore's assertion that "the action happens elsewhere…". It is not the "action" that is the problem – it is the power. People are attracted to power. They listen to powerful men and women, and the power has gone elsewhere. It has drained away to the European Union, to the government, to the innumerable quangos and agencies, and all the other institutions, leaving Parliament an empty talking-shop.
But such is the nature of power that one cannot hope somehow that it will return to its rightful place. Power is never given – it is always taken. Parliament became powerful because it asserted its rights, initially against the King, in the name of the people. It demanded power and took it.
Now it has yielded that power to pretenders, and until it re-asserts its rights - our rights - it will remain empty and devoid of meaning. And there, Moore is right. If that continues, political stability and national unity cannot last.
But the remedy lies in Parliament itself, and with us the people. We must badger our representatives until they do their jobs, and to refuse to accept any authority but Parliament. In effect, we must make ourselves ungovernable other than through the lawful rule of our own Parliament.
To that extent, the remedy lies in our own hands. Moore may want to revive "Britain". We would say that we should revive Parliament. The rest will follow. And that is an idea whose time must come.