Union between England and Scotland was resoundingly unpopular when it was announced in 1707. In 1800, when a rebellious Ireland was added to the equation – forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – it took one of the most infamous instances of mass bribery in history to pull off Union
In 2013 the Union claimed its latest victims: almost 1,000 dock workers in Portsmouth, the premier naval city of Britain. The BAE workers who lost their jobs in Portsmouth yesterday were the victim of the sort of brute political decision that has always characterised the desperate attempts to preserve the United Kingdom. Quite simply, with the referendum on Scottish independence looming, Portsmouth workers were collectively kicked in the nuts in a desperate and naked effort to appease Scottish voters, particularly those on Clydeside.
Portsmouth knew a hit was coming after the completion of two aircraft carriers recently. But the scale of redundancies was never anticipated to be so large.
Politicians and employers made the calculation that Portsmouth was a softer target than Govan in terms of job losses. But Portsmouth is the UK’s only island city and this breeds a fierce sense of pride that is often mistaken for mere Queen and Countryism. On the contrary, Pompey Pride has always been exceptionalist and the latest act of mercenary manouvering from the Government will only serve to reinforce this spirit. Clydeside may have the historical memory of being ‘Red’ but Portsmouth is a working class port community as well.
That is why Portsmouth’s motley collection of female Tory MPs and the disgraced former Lib Dem Mike Hancock looked so sheepish when interviewed on news shows yesterday. The Portsmouth dockyard may still employ 11,000 people – as they were keen to point out – but the manner of the latest redundancies, so clearly a piece of mercenary politicking befitting the politics of Unionism, will surely not be forgotten by portsmouth voters when it comes to the next General Election.