A wise and pacific French Dominican whom I once knew, an expert on Arabic and Islam who had lived many years in Egypt, used to remark that once that religion had entered a country, history showed only two alternatives. Either it gradually spread until it became the dominant force in the country, or else it was driven out by the sword.

Given the high and ever-rising number of Muslims in England, I wonder if the time has come to apply the solution which King Alfred used with regard to the Vikings after the battle of Ethandune, namely to cut off part of the country and allow them to govern it on condition that they didn’t cross over their borders. This would in turn naturally lead us back to what I believe is the even more ancient idea of England as divided into three kingdoms. Only, instead of Mercia, Wessex and Northumbria we could have the Muslims, the Catholics and the Secularists. The exact division of these territories could be settled by a summit meeting of the archbishop of Westminster, the President of the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Director-General of the BBC.

I propose that the Secularists should have a court, or rather an endless succession of coalition governments elected by PR, based somewhere in north London, perhaps Islington or Hampstead. They could have the south of England, extending as far north as the Midlands and to the eastern suburbs of Oxford in the West, say to the Iffley Road just before you get to Greyfriars. This territory would therefore include East Anglia, but Walsingham would be reserved for the Catholics, a bit like La Rochelle in the 17th Century only in reverse. Walsingham could be ruled by twelve Guardians, who would have the right to try all but capital crimes.

The Muslims could have a caliphate centred, perhaps, on Bradford, and coming down as far as south and west as Birmingham inclusively. It need go no higher than York, I think, to suffice for their needs, which would create an amplified Ealdormanry of Northumbria as a buffer zone against the Scotch. We would have the rest of England, with our capital in Glastonbury. It would be ruled, subsidiarity being duly respected, by a descendant of James II nominated by the Pope after consultation with the the Duke of Bavaria and the head of the House of Hapsburg. The Anglicans and non-conformists would be allowed to decide which of the three realms they felt was their spiritual home. That would still leave the Hindus and Sikhs, of course, but perhaps they could partition the Isle of Man.

Teething problems in relations between the three realms could be settled by meetings of ambassadors at Crewe, which would be reasonably central and convenient for rail access. For this purpose I should be inclined to grant Crewe independence of all other jurisdictions, apart, of course, from that of the Roman Pontiff. Its supreme legislature would therefore be the town council, presided over by a Stationmaster-General. Within his territory he would rank as ceremonially equal to the heads of state of the three principal realms, and would have the right to have crossed flags borne before him in processions.

Since we should have Walsingham as an extra-territorial dependency, I should also be inclined for the sake of peace to grant something similar to the other two realms. The Muslims could have Luton. What of the secularists? Somewhat reluctantly, I suggest conceding them Hay-on-Wye. It would make a nice holiday destination if foreign travel were to become too expensive or dangerous, and they could go there to praise each other’s books.

This division would not last for many generations. The Secularists would wither away owing to birth-control, and we could easily re-take London, perhaps having first recovered and reconciled Canterbury Cathedral. The Muslims would multiply, as would we. We would send them missionaries, and perhaps our Lady of Fatima would intervene to bring about a wonderful conversion. If on the other hand the Sultan of Bradford forbade them to preach in his domain, the Roman pontiff could grant us the right to invade his territory to vindicate the rights of the faith. After a long and glorious reconquista the realm would again enjoy true peace.

Ridiculous? Of course. Yet no more ridiculous than if one had told a Tory MP in 1913 that in 100 years time, his party would propose that men should marry each other.

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