British Social Attitudes puts support for an English parliament at 26%
Yesterday, the day before Robin Tilbrook appears on the Daily Politics to discuss an English parliament, Prof John Curtice released British Social Attitudes polling which shows support for an English parliament at just 26%. English Democrat supporters might smell a rat. Curtice is the BBC's psephologist of choice and a regular on the Daily Politics. These figures were due for publication in the 29th British Social Attitudes report which is published in full in September. Did Andrew Neil ask his fellow North Briton to bring forward publication to counter recent polling from ippr and British Future, both of which show far greater support for an English dimension to devolution?
Probably not. But the early publication of this data might still be politically motivated. John Curtice would say that it's all about 'impact' but I'm sure it has been released early in order to influence the West Lothian Commission and the debate on Scottish Devo-Max/Plus/Independence.
Anyway, the 2011 figure of 26% in favour of an English parliament is up on 2010's figure of 23% but, as is always the case with British Social Attitudes polling, it is on the low side when compared to other polls.
At the end of the report there is a chapter which attempts to explain why British Social Attitudes finds less English discontent, grievance and nationalism than every other pollster. It's worth a read.
Whilst I accept that British Social Attitudes has methodological consistency on its side I find it almost impossible to believe its findings:
As discussed in the introduction to this report, those who believe that there will be – or has already been – an ‘English backlash’ to devolution in Scotland and Wales argue that this will be reflected in:
- a heightened sense of English identity and a corresponding decline in feelings of Britishness
- increasing resentment in England towards the financial deal other countries get from the union, and
- growing calls for changes to the way England is governed – from removing the voting rights of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons to establishing a separate English parliament.
The latest data from BSA provides little evidence to support the first of these predictions. To the extent that any shift towards a greater sense of English identity did occur, it was both very modest and occurred at around the same time as the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in 1999.....
....Although there has been a small increase in demand for an English parliament since around 2008, this largely reflects a fall in demand for English regional assemblies, rather than any shift away from the status quo.
This doesn't, in my opinion, reflect the reality of life lived in England. It seems to me that there is a palpable sense of rising English identity and discontentment with the status quo. It's not necessarily channelled into outright calls for an English parliament, and it's not necessarily anti-British, but the grievance and sense of Englishness is certainly there. I'd be interested to know what John Curtice's gut feelings are. Does he believe his own findings? Has he ever visited an English pub and raised the subject of Scottish independence to see what responses he gets? Anecdotal evidence is no substitute for scientific evidence, but the former does help corroborate the latter.
Does British Social Attitudes face-to-face method of polling reveal a 'Shy English Nationalist Factor' similar to the 'Shy Tory Factor'?
It's the only explanation I can come up with to explain the discrepancy between what British Social Attitudes report and what I perceive with my own eyes and ears.