An oxymoron of course since the 53 member states currently of the Commonwealth are independent and equal, but that was how it was presented to me when I was a boy. I also recall the allusions to the British Empire that preceded it and can remember Commonwealth day when the Union flags and bunting came out and maps of the world where Commonwealth countries were proudly coloured pink!
I’ll come back the British connection later, as I will a conversation with a UKIP politician I had earlier this week. This and the Commonwealth games presently taking place in Glasgow were the two main triggers for making this post. As for the Commonwealth games, while it is a concept I rather like: bringing together the nations of the Commonwealth in a spirit of friendship, I have to confess that unlike the Olympics two years ago and the Football World Cup that has just passed, it is not something that particularly enthralls, I think partly because it is NOT the stage where the best in the world necessarily compete. But it is a great occasion and an opportunity to promote Commonwealth ideals, despite some of the hiatus over many Commonwealth countries having homophobic laws in place, even though at one time we would have all shared many of the same values, which is no longer necessarily the case.
In my formative years, the Commonwealth featured highly. I recall being given a prize at school for writing about three people who particularly contributed to the Commonwealth. With the issue of joining the Common Market being raised and Britain’s attempts to join, initially thwarted by President DeGaulle’s “non”, it seemed Commonweath interest started to decrease and European interest started to increase. My earliest recollection upon the UK joining in 1973 was seeing New Zealand butter in the shops being replaced soon after by French butter, which cost more, followed later by butter mountains. Such matters only helped to reinforce my euroscepticism, a subject I intend to return to in a future blog.
One of the issues I discussed with my UKIP politician friend is where the Commonwealth features in the whole Europe debate and the role of Europe should the UK decide to leave the EU. One of the ironies of pinning a racist label onto members of UKIP is that they would be more inclined to do business with Commonwealth nations (mostly black) while less inclined with European nations (mostly white). One of the attractions for me for such a notion is that culturally speaking, we may well have more in common with the Commonwealth than with Europe, mainly as a result of most Commonwealth countries being at one time under British rule. Such a consideration should not be ignored in the debate on how to promote / restore British values to British culture. I for one would favour strengthening our Commonwealth links and hope that will be one of the outcomes of the games that are taking place.
One thing I have observed in recent years is seeing the Union flag being replaced by the cross of St. George. A conspiracy theorist might put this down to a pro-European divide and rule agenda! I love both flags and while there are things about Britain I dislike, especially when it comes to matters of social injustice, I also love my country and am proud to be British. While concurring with Bob Dylan that times are indeed a changing, I hope that one change that won’t happen is Scotland withdrawing from the Union when the Scottish referendum shortly takes place. A change I hope will happen is reversing the move toward European integration in favour of independent, sovereign national states that co-operate and do business with each other, and in the case of Britain co-operating and doing business with the Commonwealth also.