Politics, Sovereignty and the Fight to Save the UK
Selected as one of the ‘Best New Politics Books’ in the Financial Times
How have decision-makers in Westminster and beyond fanned the flames of national division? Can this disunited kingdom come together once again?
The question of the United Kingdom’s survival, once taken for granted, looms large in British politics. This book uncovers the roots of today’s crisis, revealing MPs’ and civil servants’ assumptions in their understanding of the Union, and profound pessimism within politics about its long-term viability.
Why has the political class struggled to engage productively with devolution? Has English voters’ disenchantment with a detached central government influenced how politicians and bureaucrats regard the UK’s future? How have seismic events fuelled tensions between Westminster and devolved administrations, from the SNP’s election and independence referendum to Brexit and Covid? And what now?
Fractured Union offers a vivid account of the gradual loss of British unity, illuminating the forces and pressures now shaping the future of both nations and peoples. As nationalism rises across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, this book issues a sharp challenge to those who believe in a united kingdom: deliver better, more responsive government—or risk the UK falling apart.
‘The late Queen Elizabeth once told a seminar of young undergraduates that the British constitution had always been puzzling and always will be. She was right about that. But in these pages you will find enlightenment, because this important book tackles head on the “English problem” within its treatment of British policy towards the four nations.’ — Lord Peter Hennessy, historian and member of the House of Lords
‘The United Kingdom remains a state in denial. Alone among the great nations of Europe it has been unable to fashion a constitutional consensus capable of keeping its component peoples together. This summary of its plight is clear-sighted and important.’ — Simon Jenkins, Guardian columnist, and author of A Short History of England and The Celts
‘An erudite yet accessible book with a fresh perspective on the politics of devolution. Kenny looks back to the motives for introducing devolution, while also bringing his analysis bang up to date examining the impact of Brexit and Covid. Essential reading for all who care about the future of the Union.’ — Hannah White OBE, Director of the Institute for Government
‘The most up-to-date account of why a union that was traditionally seen as a given has now become so contested. An impressive and illuminating read.’ — Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary, University of London, and author of The Conservative Party After Brexit
‘This book is the most acute and informed study to date of the crises and tensions within the British Union from the 2014 Scottish referendum to the present—and of what the future might hold for the people of these islands.’ — Sir Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh
Michael Kenny is Professor of Public Policy, and inaugural Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, at the University of Cambridge. He has written extensively on national identity, territorial politics and governance, and is the author of a prize-winning study of the impact of English nationalism on British politics.