Campaign for an English Parliament
Due to lack of time and, to an extent, a lack of motivation, I have decided to stop blogging here.
I thought I'd find the debate about the Scottish Independence Referendum enjoyable but I'm bored of it already, which is unfortunate because the Scottish Question is, once again, dominating everything, as if the Scots are the only people whose opinion on the Union and how they wish to be governed matters.
As far as the political classes are concerned the English Question can be answered by mitigating the West Lothian Question (see IPPR paper England and the Union: How and why to answer the West Lothian question), devolving power to city regions or electing mayors. What they definitely won't do is what they should do: ask the people of England how we want to be governed, which is actually the only way to answer the English question. It even sounds as though Nick Clegg's constitutional commission will treat England as a collection of disparate entities rather than as a nation.
Q: The committee's next inquiry will be on the need for a constitutional convention in the UK. The committee will meet people from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But who does it meet to discuss England?
Clegg says he agrees with the need to decentralise power within England. Sometimes reform can happen in a piecemeal way. The government's city deals will give eight cities unprecedented powers. Yesterday he had a meeting with colleagues who said, if cities can get these powers, why not Cornwall. That shows how these initiatives develop.
The government has move "relatively fast" to give powers to cities, he says. But these powers have not been properly deployed yet. For example, business rates have been devolved.
In the event that the Scottish nationalists lose the independence referendum, which I fully expect them to, and start to push for greater devolved powers, the political class will then have to discuss England. In other words I think we have to wait until we know for definite where the Scots stand. There are other groups too who need to work out where they stand. UKIP for example. Are UKIP for an English parliament or against it? And the English nationalists of the Tory party, are they prepared to fight for England to be self-governing, or will their 'English nationalism' - such as it is - be mollified by a more EU sceptical stance from the UK Government (see John Redwood's England Expects and my Euroscepticism: A very English disease?)? And then there's the English Democrats. Are they the modern, acceptable face of English nationalism, or are they the final bolt hole for BNP rejects? The available evidence seems to point to the latter. Steve Uncles' policy of recruiting BNP into the English Democrats appears to have been a success.
I'd like to think that I've done all I can to promote an inclusive civic nationalism and reign in the idiots who control the English Democrats. At this present time it looks as though I have lost that battle. But in the great scheme of things I think it is of little consequence. Common sense and decency will eventually prevail, it's just a shame that the English Democrats have been allowed to do so much damage to the Campaign for an English Parliament. I haven't been a member of the Campaign for an English Parliament for a couple years now because of their association with the English Democrats, but as of now I am cutting all links with the CEP. I feel that the non-partisan nature of the CEP is compromised by it being top heavy with English Democrat supporters, and because many of the national council seem to be inexplicably in thrall to Robin Tilbrook. I'm tired of being slapped down by CEP members for criticising the English Democrats and have no wish to be associated any longer with an organisation that has intimate links with the English Democrats and which consequently therefore is increasingly linked by association to the BNP and their racist ilk.
Thank you for reading.
THE ENGLISH QUESTION
Wednesday July 2nd 2008
Southampton Street offices, Covent Garden
Michael Knowles Member of the Campaign for an English Parliament.
I attended this seminar as a member of the CEP, though, as will become clear, this reflection is my own. My interest in the seminar was twofold. First it was the topic. It is the issue that with my colleagues I have campaigned about in all sorts of ways throughout England for the last ten years. Just two examples this year, the weekend of September 6th in the market place Berwick on Tweed, and then the weekend of October 18th the same in Shrewsbury; and that sort of campaigning we have maintained in various way since our foundation June 14th 1998. Secondly, because it was an IPPR seminar. That interested me so much I travelled down from Kendal in Westmorland for it. The IPPR is a very UK Establishment body, so I thought I might get some useful insights into how the Establishment is moving to deal with England now that the English Question created by the 1998 Devolution legislation can no longer be ignored.
The IPPR was founded in 1988 by Lord Hollick, Lord Eatwell and Baroness Blackstone for the purpose of detaching the Party from its working class and socialist origins and principles and providing it instead with policies which would make it acceptable to middle and upper middle class electors, the CBI and suchlike bodies and the City. The unexpected death of John Smith provided the key opportunity for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to implement the changes to Party policy and its principles which groups like the IPPR were proposing, and in the following fifteen years, at least until the last few months of this year, the Party has been successful in establishing confidence among the professional classes and those of business and finance that it will represent their economic interests. Political parties represent economic interests. The manner in which Gordon Brown has recently employed all the resources of the state, not least its ability to borrow, to rescue the City and the banks from the consequences of their own actions, which he himself over eleven years had actively promoted, and with it he hopes his own reputation and electoral prospects, is evidence of this radical change in Labour political philosophy.
Labour’s privatisation policies, which under Brown are being extended into the NHS, its subordination to American interests, its participation in the illegal and indeed murderous invasion of Iraq, its hostility to workers’ rights, its tolerance of the wholesale exploitation of cheap labour from abroad in the interests of capital, its lip service to green concerns while it promotes environmental degradation on virtually every front (footnote 1), its management and active encouragement under Brown of a debt economy on a massive scale and an unregulated financial system, its curtailing of historic civil liberties and its conversion of the UK into a surveillance state, its dependence upon spin at the expense of truthfulness and integrity, and so on –all this has detached the Party from its socialist and working class origins and principles. There is a very deep dishonesty about the present Labour Party. Blair himself had no roots at all in the Labour Movement. He openly despised it. He came from a Tory family. His father was on the verge of being selected for a Tory seat before he was struck down by a very severe stroke from which, almost miraculously, he recovered. Brown’s roots are not in the socialism but in the Calvinism of his parents specifically his clergyman father. He is very definitely a son of the manse. Calvinism sits easily with the control instinct, the distrust of the human spirit, negativity and delight in surveillance.
The IPPR is a very Establishment body. Its leadership and membership cross-fertilise with other Establishment organisations -political, cultural and academic- with an ease a hive of bees in Spring might envy. The CEP is a much simpler organisation. It has no class base and no political party affiliations. It was founded in 1998 to campaign for the application of the principles of the 1998 devolution legislation to England.
The Labour Party is in power and still might be in power after the next general election. It created the English Question with its 1998 devolution legislation. If it retains power after the general election but with a reduced majority and dependent on the votes of Scottish MPs, or it enters into a governing coalition, it will have to confront the English Question far more often and far more head-on than over the past ten years. How it then does that might well be influenced by such organisations as the IPPR.
This seminar however might well be have been an indication that the IPPR is now preparing for that possibility; or indeed with the other possibility that it will be the Tories who will form the next government. After all, whatever the original political loyalties of a very successful think-tank, its members cannot afford to keep all their eggs in just one party’s basket. There are mortgages to pay, families to keep and careers to carry forward. The new IPPR dual leadership of Lisa Harker and Carey Oppenheim have only recently stated (interview with Alex Stevenson. Politics.co.uk, August 29th) that they wish to ‘help all parties’. They are acutely aware that ‘who the players are and where the power lies’ might soon be changing, and the ‘initial raison d’etre of their organisation, namely ‘preparing New Labour for government’ requires ‘a newly independent outlook’ (ibidem). Put more bluntly, Labour may be on its way out but the IPPR won’t be if they can help it. As Aquinas says in the Summa, the first instinct of all living things is self-survival. I was wondering if the seminar might be part of their preparation for whatever changes the coming general election might bring about. There is a buzz about being inside the circles of power, having the ear of the drafters and makers of legislation, of access to the corridors of ministries, of being listened to and consulted. There are few things that arouse the courtier class quite like being attended to by the rich and the powerful.
My own interest in devolution arises from my upbringing. For one thing being from a very ordinary working family being English was simply how we were. It wasn’t anything anyone talked about, it just was. There was nothing to talk about. Nothing to prove, nothing to make a thing about, it just was. No hang-ups, no misgivings, nothing at all. We were English, my Dad took me to see Matthews, Mortensen, Charlton, and Finney against Wales at Maine Rd. where we won 4-1, and everything was just taken for granted. It was only much later when in the London trade union movement I encountered the weird ideological mindset –the angst of the guilt-ridden- that, as I discovered later, George Orwell had written about.
And the second thing was, I was born –almost literally- into the Labour and Trade Union Movement when it still had the principles of its founders. I was born into a living tradition of struggle for justice; and today it is my country, England, that is being treated with gross unfairness and injustice. And that by its own rulers, though that is hardly new. The discrimination the people of England are experiencing because of the 1998 devolution legislation in all sorts of areas is wrong. Very wrong. This government has brought it about; while at the same time our 550 English MPs and a swirling courtier retinue of middle class academics, think-tankers and journalists maintain it by ignoring it. As we will see, the IPPR describes the injustices the people of England are having to put up with as ‘perceived’ which of course implies they aren’t real; and that’s how the Establishment want it. There is no point pulling punches. It is time for blunt speech. If any racial or religious minority in the UK were being denied the benefits the Scots and the Welsh are getting out of devolution, groups like the IPPR and newspapers like the Guardian would be making a roaring trade out of it. But when it comes to the English, there is indifference and silence. That is how it is. All sorts of things matter to these people but not England.
The situation is really incredible. Gordon Brown, the architect and engine of the 1998 devolution, mounts the rostrum at Labour Party conference in Manchester and pledges ‘fairness’ some 40 times in the space of his hour long speech, knowing all too well that barely a single English Labour MP will admit to the utter hypocrisy of that pledge when it comes to the people of England, much less raise their voice and do something about it. Barely a single one. Yet it is university students from their constituencies who are paying tuition fees and ending up with debts up to £15000 or more while Brown’s don’t pay a penny; their constituents who pay prescription charges and hospital parking charges while people in Wales and Scotland don’t.
My family has a long involvement in the Labour and Trade Union Movement in England going back well over a hundred years. The Movement was the backbone, the citadel, the voice of the struggle for justice in this country for the last 200 years until 1997 when it was defenestrated and disembowelled of its principles by New Labour –by the Blairs, the Mandlesons and the Browns, and the rest, both in the PLP and in the swarms of free university grant educated members of pressure groups and think-tanks. Members of my family belonged to the Clarion Club in Lancashire, cycling everywhere with the Clarion message. They were shop stewards in Metro Vicks, Manchester’s huge engineering works, one uncle was its chief shop steward, he was hounded out of his position by the Communist Party but he stood his ground, took his case to the TUC under Vic Feather, and it became the ‘cause celebre’ which put an end once and for all to the CP push to take control of the Trade Union Movement. My family provided Labour councillors in both Salford and Manchester. My grandfather on my father’s side was a friend of Kier Hardie who used to visit him in the house I was born in Pendleton in Salford. My mother used to tell us that, when we moved from Pendleton into Manchester in the slum clearances, by accident she left an ottoman –the word she used- of copies of the Clarion in the cellar. The street is there but the row of terraced houses has been bulldozed. Maybe the ottoman is there still under the concrete -like the vision and the principles of the Movement which I was born into.
I myself have been a Labour parliamentary candidate and local councillor, though my greater involvement has been in the trade union movement, particularly as a trades council secretary in the East End of London. My concern is JUSTICE. And I feel consumed with anger at the way devolution has brought none of the huge benefits to England which it has brought to Scotland and Wales while at the same time England’s taxpayers are paying for it. It is very unjust. I feel intense bitterness that there are 550 MPs representing English constituencies and they do nothing about it. Simply nothing. And, as I have just said, not just MPs.
Because it has influence in the places where Labour government policy is made, I was very curious why only now, as long as ten years after the English Question became a very serious issue, the IPPR was taking what appears to be a serious interest in it. And what line it might take? It supported the 1998 Devolution legislation, possibly unthinkingly. There just is no evidence that in the months when the legislation was passed, the IPPR so much as stopped to think for a single moment that that legislation was quite weird by actually barring not just English, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs but even Scottish MPs from participating in the internal legislation and government of their own Scotland, yet at the same time enabling them -the same Scottish MPs- to participate fully just as before in every aspect –every internal matter in fact- of legislation and government for England (footnote 2). I know the IPPR membership is at a very far remove from the country’s working class population. I know that it has been servicing New Labour since the 1997 elections despite the fact that New Labour has repudiated wholesale the values and principles of the Labour and Trade Union Movement. Nevertheless, the seminar might, I speculated, provide some insight into how Labour is approaching the English Question with a general election on the horizon.
The advertisement the IPPR put out for the seminar was as follows:
‘ENGLISH QUESTIONS: TOWARDS A NEW POLICY AGENDA FOR ENGLAND
The English Question has recently moved from the margins of British political life to centre-stage. Fuelled by concerns about the perceived inequities of devolution and a growing sense that England and the English are losing out in this unbalanced Union, concerns about the future of England are provoking widespread public debate. But to see the English Question in narrow constitutional terms alone is to overlook a range of important political, economic and cultural factors that have pushed this debate up the agenda. In short there is more than one English Question.
In this the first seminar from IPPR’s new programme of work on the English Question we want to explore some of the following key questions:
- Which English Question should we be most concerned with?
-What is driving this renewed interest in England and Englishness?
-What are the key political, constitutional and cultural challenges facing England?
-What do the public think? Which English questions do they care about?
It would have been more accurate if the IPPR had said that, whereas the English Question had been centre stage in British political life since it was created by Labour’s devolution legislation ten years ago, only now it itself was getting round to addressing it with any seriousness. I have just been informed that it produced a statement or a booklet on the EQ round about 1992 but over the last ten years of being involved in pretty every way possible with the matter I have never seen it referred to or quoted, not even at this IPPR seminar. The 1998 legislation will prove to be the main legacy of the Blair government, even though Blair himself had no appreciation at all of its historic importance. As I see it, and from what I know, the IPPR has taken ten years to recognise the historic importance of that legislation. That I consider very remiss.
The legislation has radically revised the 1707 Act of Union which founded the British state. As from the moment of the Act of Union the distraction and irritant of Scotland in England’s drive towards a worldwide commercial empire, which was already into overdrive, terminated. Scotland, small though it was, became instead a helpful associate in the enterprise. The British Empire’s impact upon world history politically, culturally and commercially in the two hundred and fifty years that followed has been immense, not least upon our own lives. By 1997 however, almost 300 years later, the requirement of a totally integrated Union had become politically and commercially unnecessary as far as England was concerned. The 1998 devolution legislation was recognition of that point being reached.
The 300 years of union hadn’t reduced the sense of difference in identity between the three nations. That in effect was the statement that the 1998 devolution legislation was also making, although of course, now that that has been realised and the consequences are becoming plainer by the day, the UK Establishment is trying to retain whatever they can by trying in every way it can to frustrate and hold back any development of national identity in the one nation of the three it denied devolution to. England is what matters. England is where the Establishment struggle to retain the Union in the form they have grown up with is taking place. That the Union can continue in a different form has not yet dawned on them.
It is in its way quite fascinating. The people who run England –political, commercial, academic and media- do not mind if some Scots, Welsh and Irish share in their government. They do not mind either what the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish get up to in their own national territories. That really is of little importance to them so long as it does not impact adversely on their interests. Devolution was given to the non-English because they are of fringe importance. Between them the Scots, Welsh and N. Irish amount to no more than 15% of the UK population and contribute at most 10% of UK wealth. Parliaments exist to protect and promote interests. With the English making up five sixths of the Commons, there was no way English MPs would have allowed Scotland to get the devolution Brown and Dewar were wanting if they had thought for one moment that it threatened English interests. MPs represent constituencies. If there had been any concern at all that devolution for Scotland, Wales and NI would threaten the interests of their electorate in English constituencies, it would not have been passed.
The ordinary Scottish people of 1707 had known that the Act of Union was being supported by the English Establishment because it was in its interests but they couldn’t stop their ruling class tugging on their forelocks to get access to English wealth and power. ‘A parcel of rogues in the nation’ Burns called them. Is it still the case today? The WLQ is a statement that for the English ruling elite the Celtic Fringe does not really matter. Scotland and Wales can do their own thing so long as England keeps its hold on trade, defence, foreign affairs and taxation for the whole island. The English governing elite agreed to the Union in 1707 because they judged it to be in their interests. Precisely as did the Scottish ruling establishment. They considered it to be in their interests and imposed it upon Scotland. It was straightforward ‘real politik’; and Gordon Brown typifies it pretty perfectly (cf. footnote 3). If anyone thinks that the Union represents some great moral ideal, they really are living in a political and economic cloud-cuckoo land.
That was 1707. However, 1997-98 was different. The Westminster ruling elite and their service units like the IPPR took all three countries, England, Scotland and Wales for granted; they thought they were in control. They thought they knew the plebs. How wrong they were. How pathetically badly they read us. First of all, the Scots haven’t taken devolution as piously and gratefully as they were supposed to. Instead their parliament has screwed the Exchequer ever since for every penny available, putting two fingers up to English resentment, goading us almost, over student fees, personal care and central heating installation for the elderly, a council tax freeze and top quality cancer and eye medication. It’s gone its own way over the NHS, alternative energy and nuclear power. And –and this is the unkindest cut of all- they’ve gone and put in a nationalist government for the first time in over 300 years, and that in a parliament which was set up by Westminster as sure defence against any move towards independence. What ironies reality produces! The very party that boycotted the Scottish Constitutional Convention and sneered at the whole devolution process is now using the Convention’s achievement, the Scottish Parliament, as its springboard towards independence. And in Scotland, Labour, the very party which put its heart, soul and mind into the devolution process, might possibly be rubbed out by the way devolution is developing.
England, as I have said, no longer requires Union with Scotland for whatever its future might be. That day is now past. Consequently the Scottish Constitutional Convention was pushing at an open door when it formulated its Claim of Right; and Scotland was itself becoming aware that it had the cultural and economic critical mass to move towards self-rule, indeed independence. Politically and commercially England has no requirement at all for union with Scotland. It will not oppose Scottish independence. Independence is now completely a matter for the Scots alone.
What the 1998 legislation has done is facilitate the beginnings of a most radical change in the Union which economic and political realities are now inviting. How big that change will be remains to be seen. The legislation gave what it explicitly intended, formal political and constitutional recognition to Scotland and Wales as distinct nations, and, unintentionally and by default, recognition to England too, though Establishment forces such as the BBC, the Constitution Unit, powerful elements within the Labour party and the IPPR are intent on preventing any formal recognition of England as a nation by substituting a process of balkanisation in the shape of regionalisation.
The 1998 legislation gravely unbalanced the Union by putting the three nations of this island in different relationships to the Union and to each other. It was in fact an ill-thought out and rushed legislation, drafted almost entirely by the Scots themselves and enacted in the interests primarily of Scotland. Though technically it could be revoked, it will not be. Instead, as an unstoppable outcome, it will move on to bring about one of three possibilities. Either both England and Wales will acquire the status Scotland now has within the Union, which Professor Trench (2005) aptly calls ‘permissive autonomy’; or all three nations will form a federation; or the three will become independent of each other and agree an association with each other as fellow members of the EU. That the IPPR has only now, after ten years of devolution, woken up, at least actively, to the historic constitutional and political situation that devolution has brought about is remarkable. However, that tardiness is typical of the English Establishment which the IPPR typifies. For the English Establishment Scotland and Wales are fringe elements and England is Britain. They were barely aware of what devolution had done to the Union. In matters of government they weren’t aware anything had really changed.
As I have said, it is ten years since the Labour Party’s Devolution Legislation of 1998, the main movers and drivers of which were Gordon Brown and Donald Dewar, created the English Question. That legislation gave self-rule –in varying degrees- to Scotland and Wales while denying it to England. It gave self-rule or home rule to Scotland and Wales in the form of a Parliament and an Assembly with a First Minister and an Executive. By that process Scotland and Wales formally acquired constitutional and political recognition as distinct nations within the Union. That is what Devolution 1998 was about, that is what it did, that is what it brought about. The chicken however was the egg and the egg was the chicken. Constitutional recognition of Scotland and Wales and self-rule go hand in hand. The one is pointless without the other. Self-rule implies constitutional and political recognition. The only issue is how far is self-rule to go or which of the three possibilities I have mentioned will come about.
It was, as the legislation explicitly and repeatedly affirms, as constitutionally recognised nations that Scotland and Wales got self-rule. As I listened to both speakers and attendees of the IPPR seminar, what came across was their failure to grasp that fundamental aspect of the 1998 legislation. There is no possibility whatsoever of the English Question being resolved unless the 1998 legislation which created it is properly understood. The English Question is whether or not the United Kingdom will extend the 1998 legislation to England as it was applied to Scotland. It was fascinating to see how the IPPR leadership of the seminar in the advert it sent out spoke of there being ‘English Questions’ rather than just an English Question. That is deliberately diversionary. It is an attempt to shift the focus created by the legislation away from the issue of devolution for England, above all from the issue of England being devolved on the principles of the legislation, to other matters such as were listed. That tactic speaks volumes about the attitude of the IPPR in this matter. As represented by the framers of the seminar it does not want devolution for England qua England.
There is also a Welsh Question which is not altogether different. Brown and Dewar brought Wales into the devolution process because they knew all too well that a devolved Scotland on its own would be unacceptable to the people of the UK as a whole. The naked purpose of the legislation would be exposed for what it was, to promote the benefit and advantage of Scotland. A devolved Scotland on its own however would have exposed their purpose, which was concern only for Scotland as they explicitly acknowledged and declared when they signed the Claim of Right in March 1989, which I will come to below. They needed a devolved Wales even if its powers were shabby in comparison to what they gave to their own country. The Welsh Question is now being worked on within the Assembly as Wales pushes for the powers Scotland has. It is being resisted of course by people like Peter Hain in alliance with Welsh Tories. (It is fascinating in its way to see a South African battling to save the departing form of the Union but possibly that is because he hasn’t, and cannot, shuffle off the notion of empire he was brought up with; and possibly he has no feel for what this island really is, and always has been, the home of three distinct nations. What Devolution 1998 has resurrected from the vaults of history is the English, the Scots and the Welsh as distinct nations. They are what this island is. That is what the legislation stated.
The IPPR has recently given an indication of how it understands devolution. On July 10th, it published ‘Fair Shares: Barnett & the Politics of Public Expenditure’ 10th July 2008 by Ian McLean, Guy Lodge and Katie Schmuecker in which it consistently speaks of Scotland and Wales as ‘Devolved Administrations’. That phrase represents a very critical misunderstanding of the legislation. Ask any Scot if their country is a Devolved Administration (a ‘DA’ as the authors abbreviate it) and he/she will look puzzled, to put it mildly. The Scots did not blazon the Declaration of Arbroath on the entrance to the Scottish Museum to say Scotland is a ‘DA’. Being a ‘DA’ is not what Scottish history and the Scottish Parliament are about. And emphatically being a DA just isn’t what Devolution 1998 was or is about either. Neither do the English people regard Scotland as a ‘DA’. Scotland is Scotland, a distinct historic nation. When the two countries meet at Wembley or Hampden Park, if anyone thinks –devolution or no devolution, union or no union- that just two ‘administrations’ of the UK are playing each other, they are on another planet. The match is blood and guts and nothing less.
‘Devolved Administration’ is colonial-speak. It is the language of the unionist, the language of Whitehall control. It is the language of the pre-1998 Unionist whom time and tide are leaving behind, gradually being left stranded on an alien shore. And something more. Indeed, as far as England is concerned, something much more. What the authors of the publication –and the whole network to which they belong and whose stance they articulate- are trying to do is disembowel the 1998 Legislation of its essential feature in respect of England. That crucial essential feature of that legislation was that it was about two nations, Scotland and Wales qua nations –and that is what I mean when I say that the English Question is about whether or not the United Kingdom will extend the 1998 legislation to England as it was applied to Scotland. These authors want to maintain the old colonial illusion that Whitehall can dictate the way the United Kingdom is going to develop. No longer.
If they can obfuscate the intent of the Devolution Legislation which concerned just Scotland and Wales as nations, and not as something they are now calling devolved administrations, they then can, they believe, apply devolution, as they want it to be understood, to England. That is, they can, they hope, provide the Labour Government with the ideological tools to ‘devolve’ England, not as a nation, but as an ‘administrative area’. That is their instinct. It is in their political guts. Their concern is not really Scotland and Wales. Their concern is England. Scotland and Wales do not worry them.
Strangely, though, the England which they, and a whole strata of English academic, politicos and think-tankers, are concerned with is an England they are not at ease with. They are not at ease in themselves with England, with the idea of England as a nation, with Englishness and English identity. They are English of course, but it is the sort of English whom Orwell had a lot to say about, people itchy and unhappy in their English skin. The mere mention of England brings them out in all sorts of strange political and cultural goose pimples. That was very much on display at the seminar. They duck and dive to avoid anything that might seem like a normal human attachment that love for one’s country is. They just cannot be English in the same relaxed and easy way a Scot is Scottish or the Welsh are Welsh or a person like me can be English. They torture themselves with all sorts of misgivings and hang-ups. They come up with every qualification available to the ingenious mind. They have an in-built default reflex which makes them identify England, just to take one example, with racism. Not Scotland, not Wales, just England.
The 1998 devolution legislation described the Welsh Assembly as ‘the focus for the concerns of the nation’ but for these people just the mere thought of England being considered a nation –their nation- with its own concerns would cause them ideological convulsions and bring them out in an emotional and intellectual rash second to none. Heaven alone knows what the extension of the principles of the 1998 legislation to England would do to their individual and collective psyche. The explicitly stated foundation principle of the legislation was devolution of self-rule to Scotland and Wales over internal matters as distinct nations within the UK, be it in the form of a national –not a ‘regional’- parliament or an assembly. They hadn’t any problem with that for Scotland and Wales; they got into bed with it like lovers on their first night. But England –their England? Now, that for them is a very different kettle of fish. Not a lover. Not even a bedfellow. More a very bad dream. A constitutionally recognised England self-governing itself through it own parliament? - a veritable nightmare. As I have said, George Orwell had them neatly summed up long ago now.
They want England divided into regions, they talk about England as ‘regions’, they hope that somehow that will resolve the English Question (which is as much a question about their attitude to England as about England itself). The IPPR Inquiry into the English Question will turn out to be a promotion of regionalisation. To represent the devolved nations of the UK as ‘devolved administrations’ is a terminological strategy for a political end. It makes no difference to Scotland and Wales. Their distinct nationhood has now been constitutionally re-established, even within the Union. But, they hope and intend, it is not too late to influence the debate about England, which is their real concern anyway. If England can be represented as an area of administration rather than a nation, Whitehall can carve it up as it wishes. The significance of these authors is not themselves of course; it is what they represent and what they articulate. In the UK Establishment what they represent has a powerful following.
However, the clauses of the 1998 legislation not only do not support them. In fact they flatly contradict them. In line after line after line, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph it is ‘Scotland’ and it is ‘Wales’ that are mentioned, never anything like ‘devolved administrations’ nor ‘regions’. Both Scotland and Wales, whether before the Act of Union or after it, have always been regarded by the Scots, the Welsh and the English only as nations. The text of the legislation has to be read. It is perfectly clear. There can be no dispute about its purposive nature, what it intended. The 1998 Devolution legislation was about nations. ‘The Assembly will be the forum for the nation, able to debate all matters of concern in Wales….A directly elected Assembly will provide opportunities for a fully informed debate in Wales, and will take decisions which can reflect the needs and circumstances of Wales’.
The documentation surrounding the legislation bears this out. 'The Assembly will let Welsh people express their own priorities…an elected Assembly will give Wales a voice’ declared the then Secretary of State for Wales. Ron Davies, in his Foreword to the Welsh Act (just pause for one moment, pause to imagine the unimaginable, force yourself to do the impossible and imagine the sort of people who inhabit think-tanks like the IPPR or the Fabian Society or the Constitution Unit or the Justice Committee of MPs speaking that way about England). ‘Scotland is a proud historic nation within the United Kingdom’ stated Tony Blair in his preface to the Scotland White Paper. Substitute ‘England is a proud historic nation within the United Kingdom’ and ask the inhabitants of those bodies to say it out loud. They’d all take to the hills, or rather their burrows, like frightened rabbits. The Establishment just doesn’t talk about England like that.
But now look at a very different declaration about England in the Scotland White Paper. ‘The Union will be strengthened by recognising the claims of Scotland, Wales and the regions with strong identities of their own’. By the phrase ‘the regions’ the Labour Government meant the divisions Whitehall had made of England. Scotland and Wales each has a national identity; they are the ‘nations’. England hasn’t. In place of England there are ‘regions’ and in place of an English identity there are ‘regions with, says the legislation, ‘strong identities of their own’. That is the language of the think-tankers for whom England is not a nation but a unit of administration. It is the language of the Campaign for English Regions (CfER) which became defunct after the November 2004 North East of England referendum, members of which campaign have since found employment within the IPPR.
Leading up to the North East of England referendum the CfER produced a booklet with an extraordinary statement in it. ‘The North East Region is entirely different from the South West region’. It is remarkable what people will lend themselves to to get what they want. Both those two parts of England speak the one language, live under the same law and government, have the same system of local government and education, enjoy the same national health service, watch the same television, listen to the same radio, read the same papers, play the same games, drive the same motorways, use the same railways, and all the rest, all support England in football, cricket, rugby and so on. But somehow, maintained the CfER, they are ‘entirely different’. As I have said, it is remarkable what people are prepared to do for their own purposes.
It is important to nail this IPPR stratagem of speaking about Scotland and Wales as ‘Devolved Administrations’ because it is a specific ideology concealed by a misleading terminology. It would enable the sort of unionist these people are to talk and write as though the United Kingdom is still in essence what it was before 1998 when it is not. Scotland -and progressively Wales- has government of its internal affairs, and that’s just for starters, and there is no going back. Indeed, the movement is the other way, from ‘permissive autonomy’ (Professor Trench) to federation, if not indeed to three independent nations (and logically Irish unification). The DA term is intended to disguise the fundamental element of the 1998 legislation. That fundamental element is that the devolution it brought in was about nations. If, however, devolution can be represented as being about ‘administrations’ and not about nations, Whitehall can carve up England, as it thinks fit; and that in a nutshell is the New Labour/IPPR/Constitution Unit ideology and perspective about England. And that is what this IPPR Inquiry is about. But if devolution as in the 1998 legislation is about nations, which it is, which fact has created the English Question, then England has to be recognised as a distinct nation, which it is, and the issue of self-rule has to be addressed.
The English majority of the Parliamentary New Labour Party sleep-walked into devolution in 1997 and 1998; and though its 1998 devolution legislation brought about the biggest political and constitutional change in our history in 300 years, they actually paid it little or no attention. They left it all instead to Members of the Executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention and to the Scottish MPs like Gordon Brown and Donald Dewar who were members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, to actually drawn up the legislation and take it through its stages. ‘Devolution? Oh, that’s Gordon’s thing’ said Blair, as recorded by James Naughtie in his book ‘the Rivals’. Members of the SCC like Canon Kenyon Wright, who weren’t MPs or civil servants –he was the Chairman of its Executive- took part even in the actual drafting of the legislation. The IPPR, New Labour’s leading think-tank, just like the sleep-walking members of the PLP, did not see the significance of it at all and paid it no heed.
In total contrast one English woman and five Englishmen, alive to the political, cultural and constitutional significance of Scottish and Welsh devolution for England, had been following it all closely and on June 14th 1998, precisely when the legislation made it to the statute book, they met in the home of two of them in Thetford Forest in Norfolk, made their response in the form of a policy statement and founded the Campaign for an English Parliament. Time is proving their meeting to be historic.
Gordon Brown and Donald Dewar knew exactly what they were about, in contrast to the indifference and ignorance of the English majority of the PLP. They knew what they wanted, and it was nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Devolved Administrations’. Their concern was Scotland. They had shown their hand quite openly on March 30th 1989 when they and 130 other Scots MPs and MEPs and others put their signatures to ‘The Scottish Claim of Right’: ‘We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests will be paramount’. Brown signed that pledge, fundamentally unconstitutional though it was for a Union MP to sign it. So did the present Speaker of the House, Michael Martin. But there, blood is thicker than water. Nothing tells us better than that what Devolution 1998 was all about. It was about, and it is about, the assertion of the distinct nationhood of the Scots whose sovereignty and interests in the pledge and conviction of Gordon Brown and the rest of the SCC are paramount. In a word, to speak of Scotland and Wales as Devolved Administrations is delusion. Nine years after signing their Claim of Right Gordon Brown and Donald Dewar showed they meant it. With the 1998 devolution legislation they made the interests of Scotland paramount precisely as they had pledged.
If people want to understand what Brown means by the ‘Britishness’ he is now promoting, they should look back at that pledge. Brown’s ‘unionism’ is pragmatic. For him Scotland is what matters. What else can that pledge possibly mean? Where he differs from the SNP is only his belief that Scotland is best served by being in the Union. As Brown sees it, the Union gives to Scotland now just what it gave to Scotland in 1707: access to England’s wealth and power and with it much greater employment and career opportunities for the Scottish population.
However, the weakness of the 1998 legislation, though Brown and co with their monocular focus only on their own country and in their haste to get it through did not see it, was just that. It was only about Scotland and it was rushed. Wales was included, as I have said, purely to lend support to its primary intent. Just consider what the devolution legislation did. It made Scotland some 75% independent of the rest of the Union by taking away from all Union MPs, even Scottish ones, any power to make laws and regulations for the internal affairs of Scotland. Yet it maintained the right of Scottish (and Welsh MPs) to participate fully and totally as before in making laws and regulations for England and to be ministers for every aspect of English life. In a word, the 1998 devolution legislation fundamentally unbalanced the Union. The balance of the Union was fatally compromised by the legislation Brown and Dewar, on behalf of the SCC, took through parliament. In other words, for Brown Scotland mattered more than the Union; and if he is promoting ‘Britishness’ now, it is because he has realised that by unbalancing the Union in the interests of Scotland he has in fact put its future at risk, which, as he sees it, and fears, will be Scotland’s undoing. The three historic nations of this island no longer stand in the same constitutional relationship to the Union and to each other. The 1998 Devolution Legislation was, in the legal meaning of the word, perverse.
The 1998 devolution legislation has brought about the biggest and most significant change in British political life in the last 300 years. I would not want to make an estimation of its significance as greater than that of our membership of the EU, which is transforming our legal system and body of law and the composition of the people itself to a degree quite unforeseen, and possibly unforeseeable. The devolution legislation however has made a radical change to the nature of the Union. And it is permanent. It has given political and constitutional recognition and an executive self-governing function to Scotland and Wales as distinct nations. From the vaults of history, from being politically and constitutionally one British nation, the legislation gave rebirth to three –the three historic nations of this island. Political and constitutional rebirth to two of them by intent with varying powers of self-government which will only increase, and very likely become the platform for independence. The consequences will surpass anything else New Labour has done or will do in the time left to it. So why has it taken the IPPR all of ten years to address in an active way the immense constitutional and political significance of the 1998 legislation and its consequences? And I ask that question about the IPPR as representative of the English Establishment in general.
The reasons could be various. It could be that the IPPR has now decided to address the English Question because it has had an infusion of new blood from the Constitution Unit and the CfER. It could also be that it has till now had the Former Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine’s notorious attitude towards devolution issues impacting on England. His response when asked what to do about the West Lothian Question was ‘Ignore it’. That was a response that encapsulated so much of the way the Establishment regarded England. They thought we could –England could- just be taken for granted. How many times in England’s history that has happened? And what a misreading of the English it represents. The English are a people of village Hampdens in all sorts of different guises. Village Hampdens, Levellers, Diggers, Chartists, Suffragettes, peasants in revolt, poll tax protestors, Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Peterloo massacred, Chartists, miners, Pentonville fives and Shrewsbury threes, the list is endless. It is the humble Hobbit mind that just keeps slogging on and on no matter what the Lords of the World throw at it, the quiet determined obstinate bloody-minded bravery the night before Agincourt and on the Dunkirk beaches.
The reason could also be the IPPR’s own instinct for survival. The IPPR is as aware as anyone that Labour is very possibly going to lose office. It has now woken up to what is happening in England, to what is brewing, fermenting and bubbling up among the English. Labour won fewer votes in England than the Tories in the last general election and as things stand it is only a matter of time before English resentment over devolution translates into seats. Labour is also losing out to the SNP who now govern Scotland with the narrowest of majorities in the very institution which devolution set up. Without its usual clutch of Scottish seats in the Union Parliament Labour will be very hard put to muster a majority in Westminster. It could be that the IPPR is now getting together an agenda for New Labour which might –just might- address the whole issue of widespread English resentment at the outcomes of the 1998 devolution settlement and make the Party less unelectable. It might indeed have been persuaded by its new members from the Constitution Unit and the CfER that it cannot ignore the issue for devolution any longer if Labour is to stand any chance at all.
But note how the IPPR approaches the matter. It is not an Establishment body for nothing. Re-read those first words of the blurb it put out about the Seminar: ‘The English Question has recently moved from the margins of British political life to centre-stage. Fuelled by concerns about the perceived inequities of devolution and a growing sense that England and the English are losing out in this unbalanced Union, concerns about the future of England are provoking widespread public debate’. Note that the IPPR speaks of ‘inequities’ as ‘perceived’. The statement is a very significant give-away if ever there was one. It’s a clever New Labour sleight of hand. To say the ‘inequities’ (a posh word, a harmless word) complained about by English people are ‘perceived’ is to imply they don’t really exist, are nothing more than ignorant plebian bellyaching, figments of the imagination. It trumps even the Derry Irvine solution to devolution.
The trouble is of course that the ‘inequities’ are facts, not fiction. English students don’t get university education without paying tuition fees as in Scotland; the elderly in England don’t get free personal care as in Scotland; the council tax of the people of England isn’t being frozen for three years as in Scotland; they don’t get free prescriptions and free hospital parking as in Wales; they don’t get the latest and most effective cancer and eye medications made available in the NHS in Scotland; they don’t have an iota of self-rule and their country has no political and constitutional existence as Scotland and Wales have; the Establishment wants to suppress its identity and balkanise it into regions; and they don’t get universal free eye tests as in Scotland. And in addition to all that the Scots and the Welsh through the Barnett Formula get some £1500 per head more than people in England.
These aren’t ‘perceived inequities’. They’re real inequities. They aren’t dreamed up as if in some fit of nationalistic envy or bias. Either you pay when you park in a hospital car park or you don’t. Either you come out of university with debts to the state to be collected by a private debt-collector or you don’t. Either a widow or widower or their children sell their house to pay for personal care in a care home or they don’t. The things have a real existence, not a perceived one.
So what does it tell us about the IPPR? It tells us that it is a typical Union Establishment body, one that says the ‘inequities’ are ‘perceived’ rather than real because it does not want to admit anything that might mean an acknowledgement of the unfair situation which England qua England is in post devolution. And without a shadow of doubt it tells us everything about what the outcome will be of this IPPR Inquiry. The purpose of this IPPR Inquiry is not really into the English Question created by the 1998 legislation. Its purpose is to find reasons why the English people must not, whatever the cost, be given the political and constitutional recognition Scotland and Wales got with the 1998 legislation. We are living in interesting times. Because of devolution England is reasserting itself after 300 years of self-negation. And it is England that matters in United Kingdom politics. The Empire has gone and the hard economic fact is that England no longer needs Scotland and Wales. And all that is scaring the socks off the UK Establishment. Their angst is because they do not know how they will fit in, all their status and privileges intact, in the new UK that is being brought about without it knowing it by the 1998 legislation.
Soon the big Scottish characters of the 90s will all have gone too. John Smith, Robin Cook, John Reid, Tam Dayell, Donald Dewar, in one way or other they have departed the scene.. South of the border we may not see their likes again. Scotland’s day in England might well be over. When in due course, Brown departs, will any effective Scottish influence in United Kingdom politics end too? To my mind it will unless the Union changes in response to the principles of the 1998 legislation. It just cannot continue if England is denied devolution, the devolution of 1998. The people of England will repudiate, and rightly repudiate, a union that makes use of it for the benefit of a mere 15% of its population and expects it to pay for those benefits. If ever a house is now built on sand, this is it. The Labour Party is crumbling throughout Scotland. The Conservative Part will not remain in Scotland except as a minor player. What we are now witnessing, something unforeseeable in 1998 but brought out of the vaults of history and kicked into life by the devolution legislation of that year –Brown’s own legislation- is England becoming England again, Scotland becoming Scotland again and Wales becoming Wales again. The three historic nations of this island are now re-asserting themselves. It is a process that will not be stopped. What we witnessed at the IPPR seminar was a small time skirmish, very indicative in itself, which is part of a much wider conflict. They are wasting valuable energy. The Union is going to change and if it is going to carry on, it will either be as a union of devolved nations or as a federation. The people now beavering away in such organisations as the Justice Committee, the IPPR and the Constitution Unit to stop England getting political and constitutional recognition as a distinct nation would do far better to assist that process and make it work.
The problem New Labour and its courtier affiliates and think-tanks like the IPPR have had with devolution ever since 1998 has been this unlooked for piece of grit in what they thought would be their tame and lovely cosy devolution oyster. That piece of grit has created the one pearl they never expected, and certainly did not want: a growing awareness among the English of a distinct English identity, with which as night follows day comes the demand for constitutional and political recognition. That demand is taking various forms: English votes on English matters, an English Grand Committee, an English Parliament -all collectively opposed by Labour and its supporters and agents like the IPPR. However, it is now only a matter of time before Labour itself, confronted by electoral realities, will join in. The voice of England is beginning to be heard; and as it is the strongest voice in the UK family, it will have to be listened to –if, that is, the Union is to survive.
After all, England does not need Scotland and Wales. So any political party that continues to gives Scotland and Wales political, constitutional and financial preference over England is asking for its own termination. That’s now dawning on the whole Establishment. They are beginning to wake up the fact that the preservation of the Union is conditional, not upon England not getting political and constitutional recognition as a distinct nation within the Union, which is the idea they’ve been sustaining themselves with till now, but upon actually getting it -and with it for good measure the financial, social and medical benefits which Scotland and Wales have been getting, with more to come, since 1998.
That’s just plain common sense. What’s the point of the Union for England otherwise? England doesn’t exist for Scotland’s and Wales’ benefit. England didn’t establish the Union in 1707 for Scotland’s benefit but for her own. People should get real. The fundamental issue is as always an economic one. The Union is of no economic benefit any longer to the English. People need to cotton on to that basic fact. If both Wales and Scotland became independent tomorrow, it would make very little difference to the people of England. They’d still be in the EU for a start. Their departure would barely raise an eyebrow among English people. We’d still have the same access to the whisky; we’d still be able to take holidays in the Isles; family ties would be just as strong and families just as accessible. Whatever Scotland and Wales produces, be it oil or electricity or water or anything else, can be obtained by trading arrangements just like French wine is. The Union doesn’t put a slice of bread on anyone’s plate in England that we cannot make or negotiate for ourselves. If it is to continue, it will have to be in the interests, not just of Scotland and Wales but equally of England; and that’s the long and short of it.
There were some thirty people at the seminar. In addition to three or so from the IPPR itself. And going on memory and from inquiries, they came from universities like the LSE, Ulster, Strathclyde, Nottingham and others, the Guardian newspaper, think-tanks like Open Democracy (which is doing trojan work on the Communities Bill/legislation), government bodies like the Ministry of Justice (the new department which sounds like something from a Graham Greene novel or Kafka), the House of Commons Library, the Hansard Society, the Constitution Unit, the Quebec Government Office, the Centre for Cities, the London branch of the SNP, three of us from the CEP, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (footnote 4), at least one MP, a former MP and other groups and institutions which I did not catch the names of. Guy Lodge, the Head of the IPPR ‘Democracy & Power’ Team and Dr. Wright MP for Cannock gave short introductory talks. The main speaker was Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde who took immense, almost school-boyish, bubbling delight in exhibiting and explaining the many graphs he had constructed on his research into public attitudes in England on devolution and Englishness. The conclusions he put to the meeting were less important in themselves, not least because they contradict the results of alternative polling, than what they revealed about the political concern behind them.
A most curious thing happened at the start of the seminar. When asked to introduce themselves, everyone round the seminar table with just a couple of exceptions did it by saying what country they were from. Not just what organisation, but also whether they were English or Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish or what precise mixture of that lot or whatever. Thinking about it maybe it’s the inevitable outcome of ten years of the devolution of 1998, namely an awareness of a distinct nationality. It just showed very graphically how wrong Gordon Brown and co had been on assuming power in 1997. They hadn’t a clue what the repercussions of devolution were going to be. They never applied their minds to it nor thought they had to. They never got beyond counting out the benefits for Scotland. They just wanted as much independence for Scotland as could be squeezed out of the Union while managing to stay in it and have its benefits on tap. Quite incredibly they thought that they could have it all and no one in England would mind. Well, they got all they wanted for Scotland all right but they also got a few things they never bargained for. Like the SNP in power in Edinburgh; and above all, for this is the most important and significant thing, the resurgence on the part of the English of the sense of their own national identity. As I keep saying, what matters in the Union is England; and Gordon Brown will go down in history for being the man who gave the occasion to England to revive its identity as a distinct nation. The very last thing in the world he wanted. As he sees it, it threatens Scotland; and he is now thrashing around trying to push the genie back into the bottle in the name of Britishness. Too late, Gordon, too late.
Guy Lodge did not show any movement from the position on England he has set out in his various publications when he was a member of the Constitution Unit. In the chapter he together with Meg Russell wrote in the CU 2006 ‘the English Question’, he accepted that in the event of changed voting procedures in the Union Parliament for the purpose of somehow resolving the West Lothian Question such as English votes on English matters (which any democrat even with only half a head must agree will not work), he’d stated: ‘it would be far more transparent and democratic to create an English Parliament' (p.88); but then went on to declare a decided preference for regionalism in some form or other. The issue he and his region-supporting colleagues do not face up to is that the ‘devolution’ they associate with regional assemblies is essentially different from the devolution brought into being by the 1998 legislation. The latter was addressed to nations, theirs is not. Theirs amounts to nothing more than yet another round of English local government reorganisation, as instanced with the GLA. Brown’s government has been explicit for example, open and brash about it, that the ‘regional ministers’ he has appointed are there to promote central government policies. They are agents of central government, not donors of devolved power. The decisions taken by Gordon Brown about HBoS and RBS, for example, are a very good illustration, namely in the things that really matter the Edinburgh government will just be ignored. And –picking up the things Lodge said at the seminar- when it comes to England, well, yes, the natives might be stirring a bit but it is all containable. The English, he said, are content to let the UK government look after England’s interests; Englishness is not on the increase; England accepts asymmetric devolution (footnote 5); and the perception the English have of various injustices are nothing more than ‘grumbles’. It is just old-time Westminster colonialism.
Much more interesting in my opinion was Dr. Tony Wright MP. His contribution was very brief, just a few sentences. He together with Selina Chen had edited a collection of essays in the year 2000 for the Fabian Society, the title ‘The English Question’, so I was pleased he was there. In the essay he contributed to that book, the opening chapter, he had acknowledged there was an English Question and said that England should have devolution of some sort, but he didn’t say what sort, though he was adamant that whatever it was it must not be an English Parliament. His one concrete proposal was to call for ‘a Commission on the Constitution with the future governance of England at its centre’. That was ten years ago and nothing has been done since despite his recognition of the urgency of the matter. ‘The English Question is now on the table and will not go away’ he wrote. He also stated: ‘The English propensity for muddling through is an exhausted option’.
At the seminar he called for an inquiry that is consistent with his previous call for a Commission. However, his final statement was curious in the extreme: ‘It is better not to press things to their logical conclusion but to muddle through’. That he was contradicting himself is obvious. But why was he doing it? What has gone on these last ten years to make him change his mind? And what does he mean by ‘muddling through’? Usually it means that we treat a problem in a Heath Robinson sort of way, ad hoc and patching up as best we can, without vision and foresight, getting there somehow, wherever ‘there’ is, and not upsetting the natives en route and avoiding offending vested interests wherever possible. Why, I speculate, as speculate I must, was an MP pre-eminent in constitutional matters, in a matter he had considered urgent, one he simultaneously believed merited a Commission of Inquiry, now asking not for a solution at all but for a ‘muddle through’? Doing in fact a Lord Derry Irvine on the issue?
As I have said, I speculate, as speculate I must. Could it be because Dr Wright is all too acutely aware that the English Question cannot be properly and adequately resolved without one almighty upheaval in the British state which for all its merits he and his fellow MPs just haven’t the stomach to contemplate, let alone carry out? I offer just one example because to set out the full range of the upheaval would require a book, and this piece has now gone on long enough. I would ask you to go back to that crucial feature of the 1998 legislation which cannot be mentioned enough if ever we are going to get this whole matter successfully resolved. This island historically and culturally is made up of three nations. Devolution 1998 was offered to Scotland and Wales as nations. That, as I have shown, is in almost every line of the legislation, sometimes very explicitly indeed, sometimes by the clearest implication. Devolution 1998 wasn’t about local government organisation, not in any shape or form. It wasn’t about mayors or regions or anything like that. It was in every sense the political and constitutional acknowledgement of the distinct nationhood of Scotland and Wales.
Dr Wright is an MP. He’s fully soused out what would happen to English MPs (and indeed to Scottish and Welsh MPs too because they wouldn’t get off lightly either as they did in 1998) if the principles of Devolution 1998 were extended to England. It was the principles of Devolution 1998 that created the English Question, nothing else. If those principles were applied to England, it would be as they were to Scotland and Wales, namely: as to a nation –the English nation. The resolution of the English Question would be to deal with England as the nation it is. In other words by means of a national institution, an institution which would represent the English nation precisely as the Scottish institution created by Devolution 1998 represents the Scottish nation and precisely as the Welsh institution created by Devolution 1998 represents the Welsh nation. Little wonder, in a moment of undisciplined generosity, Guy Lodge put forward an English Parliament as the ‘far more transparent and democratic’ way to resolve the English Question.
But what would that mean for the MPs of the British State? English MPs make up 550 of the 650 in the Commons. When Scotland got its own Parliament, in addition to the 70 or so it already had, it also got 129 MSPs, all to be paid for with good salaries, who took over some 70% of the duties of the Scottish MPs in the British Parliament. Yet, despite losing 70% of their former responsibilities, the latter kept the salaries in full. Just think about it. Think what happens to a teacher who transfers from full time duties to say 2 days a week. His/her salary is cut accordingly, and drastically. And rightly. But teachers are not in charge of their own salaries, MPs are. There wasn’t a bat in hell’s chance of the 1998 legislation going through if the Scottish MPs’ salaries had been cut as they should have been cut. The Scottish Constitutional Convention knew perfectly well that there’d be mutiny inside their own ranks if it as much as breathed the possibility. Besides, the mood of the Commons at the time was such that Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, could pretty well have whatever it liked. The Scottish ‘devolutionaries’ ran the show.
However, any MP who applies his or her mind even skimpily to the English Question knows beyond any shadow of doubt that there’s no way that would happen if there was an English Parliament. The people of England just will not have it. If we have an English Parliament with the same powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and a similar Executive, then between the UK Parliament and the English Parliament the number of MPs jointly will not be allowed to exceed the present number sitting in the Commons. The English people will not stand for having more politicians. They will not stand for more money being spent on politicians. They will not stand for more government. Nor should they. Devolution does not create more people to govern. Where the population remains the same, there is absolutely no need for more MPs. And that should be the Iron Law of Devolution. And should have been in 1998. There simply is no reason at all why jointly the members of the English Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, when it gets one too, the Scottish Parliament and the Union Parliament should exceed the number of MPs in the present Union Parliament. There’s no more governing that needs to be done, no more people that need to be governed.
It is not just in that one way that an English Parliament will bring about the most radical changes in the way England will be governed and impact on the existing MPs. It will also bring in proportional representation and the control of lengths of parliament being taken from the governing party to exploit them to its advantage. It will mean existing MPs having to re-stand for election. If it is outside of London, which in my judgement it must be if London remains the seat of the UK government, say in Manchester or Leeds or Birmingham or Derby or Stoke, it will bring about the biggest transfer of power, employment, culture and media activities in the whole of England’s very long history, the most decisive decentralisation of power ever. It will be a new beginning, a new wave, and a radically new opportunity to break from the paralysing bureaucratic practices which have stifled English government for centuries. We are looking at a fantastic possibility. A new beginning. A new England. An England in control of its own internal affairs, where 300 years of the dead hand of stifling imperial bureaucracy can be removed and nation life restored. Where the Gordon Brown attitude towards England, which regards it just as a trading estate, a giant shopping mall, a monumental car park, one almighty enormous employment exchange, without myth or poetry or vision or beauty, can be dispatched once and for all.
However, books will be written and papers put forward on those great themes when the time comes, as it must. All I want to do here is make the observation that any knowledgeable and thoughtful English MP such as Dr Tony Wright will be all too aware how an English Parliament will impact directly on the salaries, constituency duties, parliamentary responsibilities and positions and career prospects of existing MPs. It is perfectly understandable therefore, that they would prefer the whole issue be put out to an Inquiry, as Dr Wright proposed in his short talk, and indeed proposed ten years ago in the Fabian book where he called for ‘a Commission on the Constitution with the future governance of England at its centre’. That was ten years ago and nothing has been done since despite his recognition of the urgency of the matter. ‘The English Question is now on the table and will not go away’ he wrote. It is not unfair or unkind to observe that an Inquiry would of course send the whole matter into the longest grass on the most ill-kept cricket pitch there is, and have the added virtue of it being dealt with by MPs themselves.
Maybe –I speculate of course- maybe the expression ‘to muddle through’ is another way of saying that ‘we are content’. Things as they are suit us. So nothing drastic. Yes, we can fiddle about a bit with this and that, muddle through on this problem or on that, but nothing that rocks our boat. A Commission of Inquiry? Yes, that’ll give a very good impression and we can sit it out for as long as it takes, and it’ll be our commission anyway and whatever it recommends will be our recommendations and they won’t threaten our jobs, our status, our salaries, our prospects. We are content. No one and nothing will be allowed to disturb that. And as for England –well, whatever it might become, it’s not going to trouble us.
Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University was the final speaker. The main one in the time he took anyway. With enormous zest and bubbling enthusiasm he produced graph after graph based on the polling he and his department had conducted. It was all about how the English are reacting to devolution for Scotland and Wales, to what extent they have a sense of having a distinct English identity and to what extent they want to govern themselves. The long and short of it all were words of comfort to those who are worried the UK might have a peasants’ revolt on their hands. The professor had found evidence they can all sleep secure in their beds. His findings were: The English accept the asymmetric devolution settlement (cf footnote 5); and, yes, though there are grumbles over funding differences and the West Lothian Question, they are all manageable and they have not found any detectable political expression, or shown themselves to be having an electoral effect.
And –and there were sighs of relief all round with this one- the Tories are keeping well clear of exploiting what dissatisfaction there is. In his Democracy Workshop report Ken Clarke made a few arcane proposals but what they really revealed was that the Tory Party under Cameron hasn’t the slightest intention of addressing the West Lothian Question in any serious way. Not the slightest. And the reason for that is patently obvious. If it gets into power at the next election with a workable majority, it will be on the back of English votes. And that will do. Its majority will be English seats. So no need at all for English Votes on English Matters in any guise. KC’s recommendations will gather dust on some obscure shelf somewhere or other. Not needed.
My conclusion is quite straightforward. I would advise the UK Establishment in all its forms to keep their eyes skinned for the likes of us. We are a broad coalition. We just want justice for the people of England, by which we mean anyone and everyone for whom England is their home and their future and that of their children. We want for England in all its great vitality and dynamic variety only what Scotland and Wales have been given. That will be fair and just. That will do. New Labour poured millions into their push for the regional assembly balkanisation of England and on a shoestring it was defeated, and we contributed to that defeat. It was an unjust measure. It would have turned England, our nation, into what the economist Will Hutton has called ‘a veritable witches’ brew of internecine rivalries’. We have kept the injustice of the 1998 legislation on the agenda when for a decade the Establishment wanted it ignored.
What we ask of the people in power and of the agencies that service them is that they do not fear England. England is noble. A new Union is possible where there is trust, where in what is desired there is fairness and justice. What we ask is an open mind, a mind open to a new vision, about which here and there I have presented a few suggestions. It just is no good trying to hang on to the past. The past is gone, it has done its bit, it has served its time; and it has gone to a degree they did not foresee or understand. It is ’mean and base and without noble lustre’ obstinately to stay there and not be open to ideas which challenge what one is content and comfortable with. The foundations for a new vision, a new Britain, have been laid. Now is the time for courage and generosity.
‘Ancient woodland in Britain is being felled at a rate even faster than in the Amazonian rainforest according to research by the Woodland Trust. Almost half the all woods in the UK that are more than 400 years old have been lost in the past 89 years and more than 600 ancient woods are being threatened (NB please note the tense of the verb, they are now being threatened, namely under this NL government, now, at this very moment) by new roads, electricity pylons, housing and airport expansion. This report comes as the government (NB this Brown government) prepares to sign a compulsory purchase order to buy several acres of Two Mile wood outside Weymonth to build a bypass. This remnant of ancient forest is one of Britain’s finest bluebell woods and is full of old beech, oak and hornbeam trees’ (Guardian Oct. 22nd. 2008). The newspaper report provides more information about the barbarity of the NL, indeed Whitehall mindset when it comes to environmental and ecological issues.
The same applies to the financial interests of the Scottish MPs at Westminster. Even though devolution transferred some 75% of their constituency responsibilities to MSPs, they kept their full salaries and allowances. If the devolution legislation had threatened to reduce their salaries in line with the reduction in their responsibilities, it would never have had their support and would not have been passed. Protection of MPs’ living standards is among the first rule of parliamentary politics.
For Brown the degree of Scottish devolution he got through the 1997-98 Union Parliament while remaining in the Union is what he believes is best for Scotland. It could hardly have been any better. He took full advantage of the state of the Union Parliament at that moment. The Tories were in a state of total disarray and devastation; the Liberals were up for anything; and the Labour ranks were heaving not just with all too many MPs who were malleable and supine but who were also very green and inexperienced in politics, even their own. Hard thinking was not what they were expecting, nor were they were used to. The Devolution legislation which Brown took through parliament made Scotland 75% independent of the Union in all internal matters, some of them the very highest matters of state; while at the same time it maintained Scotland’s position in the Union to the full. Its Union MPs kept their full salaries (of course) despite transferring over half of their constituency responsibilities to MSPs. They also kept all the right to be engaged fully in all legislation which concerned England, Wales and Scotland, and to hold any ministerial office of the British state. Scotland kept the Barnett Formula and received in addition immense subsidies to install and maintain the Scottish Parliament and its Executive. Scotland does not pay its way. Its tax revenue falls short of its expenditure by between £7 billion and £11 billion per annum, depending on whether or not oil revenues from fields in the Scottish section of the North Sea are counted as Scottish or as British. The English taxpayer makes up the shortfall either way. With the 1998 legislation Brown pulled off the most brilliant coup in the 300 years history of the Union. He himself would now leave it at that and not push demands matters any further. In the light of the pledge he made in 1989 to the Scottish people we can safely assume that the vociferous declarations of support for the Union and for ‘Britishness’ he has been making since becoming Prime Minister are because he believes the Scottish people are better off in it. After all, they now have almost total internal independence, every office in the Union is available to them and they have a much say in what happens to England and in England as any English MP, while all of England’s tax revenue is very generously at their service.
The JRCT was there, understandably, because it was making a grant to the IPPR for the Inquiry the IPPR is doing. I found that interesting. Round about 2002 the CEP put an application in to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for a grant. As we knew that the JRRT had given a very sizable grant to the Campaign for English Regions which was promoting one form of devolution for England, we expected, reasonably enough we thought, it would at least consider ours. However, our application never got past a conversation between JRRT officers the very weekend it was received. As far as we can ascertain, it was not even placed before the Trust. It would seem from how our application was treated that the form of devolution for England we are promoting, which is exactly the form granted to Scotland, namely political and constitutional recognition as a distinct nation with its own national parliament to govern over all internal affairs, was not acceptable to the JRRT while devolution which would abolish England as a national unity and balkanise it into self-governing regional assemblies was. The division of England into regions each with its own assembly, and opposition to England having its own parliament, is Liberal Democrat party policy; and at the time of our application being received there was at least one prominent LibDem member on the JRRT. When I found out at the seminar that its sister trust, the JRCT, was supporting the IPPR Inquiry, it caused me to wonder if this was yet another instance that when it comes to English matters the UK Establishment knows its own by instinct, knows without having to think about it what belongs to it and what doesn’t, what’s in and what’s out. If the outcome of this IPPR Inquiry is yet another call for the regionalisation of England or indeed anything which does not recognise England as a distinct nation, I will not be surprised.
One has to smile a bit at this oft-repeated theme that the 1998 devolution package was ‘asymmetrical’ as if that somehow justifies the mess it left the UK in. Certainly it was very definitely asymmetrical as applied to Scotland and Wales. What Wales got was pitiful in comparison with what Brown and his colleagues obtained for Scotland. But it was hardly asymmetrical as far as England is concerned because England got no devolution at all. Not one scrap. Separately, in quite separate legislation, a mayor here and there as in London but that was nothing more than a bit of local government re-organisation, not devolution.
Scilla Cullen of the Campaign for an English Parliament addresses the English Democrats Conference.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR AN ENGLISH PARLIAMENT
The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) which was founded in 1998 in a private house by 6 ordinary members of the public. This was in response to the Devolution Acts of that year when they realised the gross political and constitutional disadvantage to which the people of England would subsequently be subjected.
Aim & Policy
The aim of the CEP is a Parliament and government for England on the same basis as that granted to Scotland. A fundamental principle of the CEP is that the English Parliament would represent all the people of England who were legitimately living here and paying taxes to the British government whatever their ethnicity or however they chose to identify themselves.
The first meeting of the CEP took place in London in June 1998 and members subsequently leafleted the three main British Political parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative) at their conferences in the autumn of that year. The campaign was incorporated as a not-for-profit company in September 1998 and has no party political affiliations.
The newsletter was started in summer 1999 and in June 2000 about 50 members lobbied their MPs at the Houses of Parliament. In the autumn of 2003 the CEP mounted a conference in London called "Parliament or Partition", which was addressed by the Liberal Democrat MP, Simon Hughes. This was in response to the government's intention to hold referenda on devolution to Regional Assemblies, which are 20th century artefacts. We opposed this on a number of grounds but principally because it would have destroyed the ancient unity of England as a country. England with its shire system of local government at over 1,000 years old is the oldest unified country in Europe.
In August 2004 the CEP joined the English Democrats as the two founder organisations of the English Constitutional Convention. The press launch took place in a meeting room of the House of Commons and further meetings have taken place there and in the House of Lords including a patrons evening in October 2006. In autumn 2005 the CEP organised a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Blackpool, which was well attended. In that year also we made a submission to the Power enquiry which sought to investigate the "disconnection between the governors and the governed. Now sunk without trace, no website,
In 2006 we were one of the founder sponsors of the English Music Festival and in 2008 we organised the second national open conference on the future of England. Speakers included Simon Hughes MP, Canon Kenyon Wright, formerly chair of the Scottish constitutional convention, who now supports an EP and other academics such as Dr Simon Lee, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Hull University and Professor Hugo de Burgh, Professor of Journalism, Westminster University.
This year we have also made a submission to the Justice Department’s Committee on Devolution ten years on and were invited to give oral evidence. We have also made a written submission to the Calman Commission on the future of Scottish devolution pointing out that it impinges on England also.
The CEP continues to lobby and campaign for an English Parliament and has demonstrated outside the Houses of parliament regularly since 1998, takes stands at shows, attends meetings, appears, from time to time, on local and Scottish television and radio, contributes to ‘phone-ins, writes letters, makes submissions to enquiries and speeches at conferences. In other words we try to make sure that every time the establishment attends to the devolution issue we are always in their faces.
The CEP is a single issue organisation that campaigns for an English Parliament on the model of that of Scotland and this aim is also part of your manifesto. The CEP and the EDs are complementary. The strength of the CEP is that it is non party political and thus attracts members from the three main political parties and can thus have representation within them. As illustrations we have had speakers at our conferences from the Liberal Democrats and potentially Labour and contributors to our publication from all three main UK parties and have had a presence at their conferences.
This year one of our members organised stands at the spring and autumn Liberal Democrat conferences and a fringe meeting there last Sunday, where the question ‘Will an unresolved English Question lead to the break up of the United Kingdom?
Was debated. Speakers were our vice chairman, KCW, John Hemming MP for Birmingham Yardley, Andrew George MP for Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, Prof. John Curtice - Strathclyde University, Guy Lodge – IPPR. All agreed that the current situation was untenable but had no solution, although their only real opposition to investigating the formation of an EP was that there was no groundswell of support from the population. JC said there was no call for one and quoted the British Social Attitudes Survey. We have also organised a stand at the Conservative Party Conference and will be leafleting the Labour Conference.
Nevertheless, in order to maintain this strength we have no formal links with any political party. As Caesar’s wife we must be above suspicion.
The CEP’s strategy is to assemble the most powerful coalition of expert and public opinion possible with a view to securing an English referendum on the question of establishing a Parliament for England.
Ultimately, an English Parliament cannot come about without the co-operation and agreement of the House of Commons. The CEP’s role is working with academics, business groups, trades unions, think tanks and the media to create the conditions where MPs see that there is no alternative to holding a referendum.
So how are we doing? In that question I include your organisation. Your strength lies in the fact that you can be on the street persuading people to move their vote away from those who clearly do not represent them and by doing so putting the frighteners on complacent MPs.
While as a minority party the EDs cannot immediately change the knee jerk voting reaction of most of the people of England who unfortunately would vote for a monkey if it was dressed in the right colours nevertheless your very presence brings a new dimension to English politics.
It is sometimes said that there is no need to campaign for an English Parliament because with the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, the UK Parliament is in effect an English Parliament. That is a mistaken view, voters of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have dedicated elections following which domestic policies are decided, whereas English voters have no such facility and remain in a democratic deficit. The Westminster Parliament continues to be the Parliament of the United Kingdom and to contain MPs from throughout the UK and is a hybrid body charged with pursuing the internal and external interests of the whole UK. Both it and its MPs are under no obligation to pursue or protect specific interests relating to the whole of England and there is no body through which those interests can be voiced.
For that reason and that UKMPs follow their own interests by supporting their parties’ policies is why the 85% of UK MPs who represent English constituencies cannot represent England. In addition, we have notable current and former MPs of all three major British Political Parties representing English constituencies who have expressed positive antipathy towards England.
We cannot tell how much our campaigning has influenced Establishment thinking but it is clear that it now exhibits the writhings of death throes in order to avoid answering the English Question let alone the UWLQ. Nevertheless with the probable advent of a Conservative government of the UK we must never let up on our struggle. It is a mistake to complacently believe that the conservatives will institute any parliamentary or constitutional reforms that have permanence, address the English Question or truly recognise the unique identity of England.
Some objections to an English Parliament suggest that it would be almost as big as the UK Parliament. That demonstrates a fundamental and unnecessary assumption that the UK Parliament would need to be of the same size as it is now. That assumption ignores or denies that the work of the UK Parliament would be very substantially reduced and thus a much smaller Parliament would be capable of representing the constituent parts of the Union. We already have the anomaly of the number of UK MPs from areas outside England, who cannot initiate, debate or vote on domestic matters that affect them and their constituents, yet they are being paid the same salary as UK MPs from English constituencies.
The Conservative Party claim that we do not want another layer of politicians and bureaucrats and we cannot afford them but, of course, with a much reduced UK Parliament that would no longer be the case. The Conservative line would, nevertheless, engender more respect if they intended to abolish the 297 extra politicians (129 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 60 Welsh Assembly Members and 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland) that do not represent 85% of the electorate, who have been, without their consent or even consultation, expected to support since 1998.
Others say that there is no demand. Clearly, until an honest referendum, with the same question as those of Scotland and Wales, takes place that assertion cannot be demonstrated. However, 12 of 14 polls since 2001 indicate that the majority of the people of England might vote for an English Parliament if asked the same referendum question as that for Scotland and Wales.
Some accuse us of trying to break up the Union. That process was initiated by the Devolution Acts. The Union can now only be saved by urgent attention to the democratic deficit experienced by the people of England. Our campaign is a response to the democratic deficit we face today. We have no voice, no forum in which to speak for England, we have no Minister of State to lobby for us in the UK parliament.
We have all come a long way since 1998 when the issue of England’s governance was never raised let alone discussed by the British Establishment or the Media. Our letters to MPs and the media were never acknowledged let alone printed. If we lobbied our MPs we were either given the brush off or regarded as racists for having the temerity to mention the word England. Some of that still persists but the tide of events is turning our way.
Why do we have this uphill struggle? Perhaps it is because England is the largest country in the United Kingdom and has suffered from having its identity submerged into a “British” identity since the 1707 Act of Union. The emergence of Scottish and Welsh nationalism in the 20th Century and especially since the Second World War did not result in a similar emergence of English nationalism. Conversely the people of England have continued to be conditioned to think of themselves as British. This denial of political identity has been starkly revealed in the discriminatory devolution settlements.
Where this denial of identity is intentional it could be called cultural destruction or cleansing. This was a policy of the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Soviets who destroyed memorials and airbrushed out of history those, the memory of whom, they wished to eliminate. In Latin this destruction was called damnatio memoriae.
Indeed conflation of England and Britain is common not only abroad but here and this bias is all pervasive. Reporting the Beijing Olympics, the media, and in particular the BBC, continued to announce medal winners as Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British, but not English. In its CEEFAX August 19th 2008 bulletin the BBC described Chris Hoy the triple gold medallist as 'the Scot'. However, it described Victoria Pendleton the triumphant women's sprint cyclist Olympic champion from Bedfordshire as 'British', not once as English. In the first week of the Games both BBC reporters and BBC CEEFAX described Nicole Cook who took the first gold medal for the British team as Welsh, but Rebecca Adlington who achieved two gold medals in swimming only as 'British', never English.' What is the agenda for denying the identity of England and English achievers?
The presenter of a recent BBC programme called Thomas Tallis and other mediaeval English composers British when they were unequivocally English. Dr. David Starkey’s series based on his book the Monarchs of England was billed as a series on British monarchs! When were the monarchs, Macbeth, Malcolm and the James of Scotland ever called British?
For that, I believe, the BBC is particularly guilty and so much so that it has issued guidance to presenters that they should be sensitive to the difference. (PRODUCERS GUIDLINES. STYLE & LANGUAGE. Be careful when using the word British and English. They are not interchangeable. Say British when you mean British and English when you mean English). Rumour has it that that guideline was in response to complaints from Scotland as that “sensitivity” is not apparent when it comes to respecting English identity.
Other current examples are supermarkets that routinely use the national flags of Scotland and Wales but not England to mark their wares. English produce is marked with the British flag and the English Folk Group “Show of Hands” were described as a UK act on posters for the Womad festival whilst Scottish, Welsh and Irish bands were billed as Scottish, Welsh or Irish folk..
The deliberate or ignorant conflation of England and Britain and English and British is as insulting to England as it is to Scotland, Wales or any other part of the UK.
There are numerous other examples of the suppression of England and the conditioning of people either to confuse or conflate England and Britain, or to use the terms interchangeably so as to submerge English identity or merge them both.
In addition there is the false and insulting accusation that the English flag is racist. This has led to gross infringements by those in authority, such as the policeman who required a motorist in Wiltshire to remove the flag from his parcel shelf on pain of a £30 fine, the binman in Lancashire who was told to remove it from his bandana and yourselves, a registered political party, who were told to remove the flag from their display, later, I understand denied when under challenge, when canvassing in the Henley by-election. These are just a few of the examples of intimidation and harassment experienced when the English flag is displayed. There are no reports of such harassment when flags of other nations are raised.
This leaves an undeniable impression in England that there is a covert and unspoken agenda to merge or submerge England into Britain thereby to suppress or deny the unique and ancient culture and achievement of generations and the current population.
While this might have been acceptable when all the people of the UK were assimilated into a British culture and identity now that distinct national cultures and identities are encouraged, not least by dedicated fora in which they can be expressed, to deny the people of England the same right implies cultural prejudice.
England is a proud, historic and ancient country and arguably the oldest unified country in Europe. It must not be regarded as a convenient job provider, hotel, parking lot, building plot, cash cow, commercial centre or theme park to be used or abused at will.
We must struggle against the vested interests of British Political Parties who cynically choose to appease and appeal to those whom they fear to alienate or whose goodwill they crave. Although they claim to be in favour of the Union they issue different manifestos in Scotland and Wales, and offer different benefits to each country and camouflage the discrimination against England by issuing the manifesto for England under the guise of the UK or GB. Fewer and fewer people are willing to vote for those who do not represent their interests.
In addition and just as importantly we must challenge the evils of indifference, apathy and complacency. How often do we hear and take part in conversations in pubs and on the street with strangers bemoaning the status and treatment of England? Do they do anything about it, do they join our organisations that are endeavouring to represent their views? Even within our own ranks we find that there are the usual few activists who are willing to undertake the thankless task of organising and staffing events.
How many of the people of England are complacent with an “I’m all right, Jack” attitude. Unwilling to act until it is too late! How many refuse to engage their brains but adopt the stereotypical attitudes to England that they have been conditioned to hold? How many refuse to identify with England at all and this includes many so-called English MPs.
Perhaps, we have allowed our MPs to accept being overruled by MPs from Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh constituencies on matters that are important to the people of England but will not affect the constituents of those Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish MPs. We must no longer allow them to connive at or acquiesce in the destruction of our country.
Whilst we have seen many encouraging changes in the attitudes of some thinkers, those with power are still entrenched in their prejudice. As Churchill said at the Lord Mayor's Luncheon, following the victory at El Alamein in November 1942 “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Ladies and gentlemen in every generation there comes a time when individuals must stand up for their rights. Now is the time in our generation. It is the duty of every one of us, for the sake of our fellow countrymen and women and future generations that will call England their homeland to stand up for our right to an English Parliament.
I say to all those who would oppose us we will not go away. What started as a whisper became a murmur, then a muttering must now become a clamour and finally a mighty roar.
STAND UP FOR ENGLAND!
Chairman, the Campaign for an English parliament
Transcript of Speech by David Wildgoose to the Liberal Democrat Fringe, 2008
The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have all been granted referenda allowing them to decide how they are to relate to the British State.
We believe the English also deserve that same right.
Our aim is an English Parliament.
We don't have a policy on where the Parliament should sit - because that is not for us to decide, it is for the people of England. The people who, whatever their original origin, identify with England and have made England their home and their future. The People of England. The English.
I used the phrase "identify with England" very deliberately, because that sense of identity is crucial. Nationalism is the expression of that identity, and it is important because the nation state is the largest grouping of human beings for which there is a definable "We". People are willing to pull together in the national interest in a way they are not prepared to do in the interests of any larger, more amorphous gatherings. Wartime is probably the most obvious and extreme example, but in these more enlightened times a better example would be the lesser sacrifices that are willingly made to ensure our poor, old and infirm are taken care of. The taxes we pay to educate our children, or to maintain our transport links are paid in the national interest because they are seen to benefit us all. And it goes without saying that when our taxes are handed over to improve roads, infrastructure and so on elsewhere, for example in ...Europe..., then there is widepread resentment. They are "other", they are not "us".
This is a powerful sentiment, this idea of "We", "Us" as opposed to "Them" and "Other". It is not for nothing that "Sinn Fein" means "We Ourselves". For there to be a nation, there has to be a national identity. The people of a nation have to see themselves as "We", sharing a common purpose and a common future, together. Living in the same State, even with the same democratic rights and freedoms as the other members of that state, is simply not enough.
Here in England though, we don't even have that.
In Scotland it is the Scottish Government that decides what is taught in Scottish schools. That decides that Scottish students should not pay tuition fees. That decides that road and bridge tolls should be scrapped.
Here in England there is no English government to decide what England wants. Instead we have a British Government, headed by MPs from outside England, whose constituents are largely unaffected by their decisions. A "British" government telling us what we must do, and even over-ruling us when we, in the form of a majority of MPs from English constituencies, disagree - such as happened with Tuition Fees and also with the imposition of Foundation Hospitals.
The other Home Nations have rejected the Union Parliament in Westminster in favour of self-rule in those matters that most concern ordinary voters. They are different, and they will do things differently.
The English aren't allowed to be different though. We are being told that we are "British", and any attempt to assert an English identity is frowned upon, and actively discouraged if not even suppressed. Schools in England - only - have been instructed to teach "Britishness". And during the last world cup the Deputy Chief Constable of Wales refused to allow the English flag to be displayed, instructing his officers to order their removal. And yet a Welsh flag on the back of a car in England is considered perfectly acceptable.
There is no reason why people should be forced to choose between Britishness and Englishness/Scottishness/Welshness/Whatever. But that is what is happening now. Polls all show a steady rise in separatist attitudes across the UK, most notably in England. A sizeable percentage of the people of England are in now favour of complete Independence for England - as you've just heard Professor Curtice on my right say, around a fifth. Or at the very least, for the ejection of Scotland from the UK. This has not gone unnoticed by Alec Salmond and the SNP who have been gleefully encouraging this viewpoint, aided and abetted by the (Labour) Welsh First Minister who has openly declared that his aim is to "make the English jealous". But what matters with these attitudes amongst the English is the trend. Because ten years ago, nobody would even have thought to ask if the English would want to leave the Union. Now it is a matter of debate.
Henry McLeish, the former First Minister of Scotland, and the man who saw the Scotland Act through Westminster, has just spoken to the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution. He has said that the English need a voice, and that he doesn't think that our current assymmetrical devolution can be sustained. Furthermore, and I quote: "We must move towards some balanced framework, a quasi-federal framework, where it can make some sense rather than the English feeling aggrieved. At the end of the day, their grief and their anger spills over on to us."
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in November 2006 Tony Blair acknowledged that if people in England were asked if they wanted a Parliament like Scotland's they would overwhelmingly agree.
So why haven't we been asked?
Why is this not Liberal Democrat policy?
The other devolved assemblies are all elected by Proportional Representation so as to guarantee that all opinions are properly represented. There is no reason to assume that an English Parliament would be any different. The devolved assemblies deal with the issues that most concern ordinary voters, perhaps as much as 70% of the business of Parliament. There is no reason to assume that an English Parliament would be any different.
I was a founder-member of the Liberal Democrats. If you'd asked me back in 1987 whether I would have been in favour of the matters that most affect the lives of people on a day-to-day basis being dealt with by MPs elected by Proportional Representation, thereby ensuring a strong Liberal Voice in those decisions, then of course I would have said Yes.
So the question I have to ask you is, Why are you not in favour of this?
A political party is a vehicle for like-minded people to influence the direction that society takes. There is an enormous amount to be gained for the first party prepared to stand up for the second-class citizens of the Union, the English. So I have to ask you all, Why is the party that has the most to gain from the creation of an English Parliament not actively campaigning for one?
Speech by Mike Knowles to The CEP's "Future of England" Conference, 26 April 2008
We are here to consider the future of England.
Why should we have a concern for England’s future?
After all, England has been around for a long long time. The Venerable Bede wrote a History of the English Nation (gens anglicana) in 731, 1300 years ago. Even then there was recognition of a distinct English identity. And England became a unified nation state in the 10th century, if not before, the first nation state in Europe. ‘There’ll always be an England’, the song says. What is there to be concerned about?
There are a number of things. Very serious things. For example, there is the future of England’s environment which is being battered and kicked about like a tin can in an alley. There is the issue of local and national cohesion, weakened and dangerously misdirected by governments over decades. For us, unlike our governments, England is one people, that is our campaign belief, no matter the differences of ethnicity, religion and cultures. An English parliament will be for everyone for whom England is home and future. And then there is the issue of the European Union, a huge growing issue in respect of national identity and self-government, not just for England but for every nation state in Europe. Just to mention three major issues about England out of many.
But our concern today is another one. It is, in the pithy phrase of Philip Johnston of the Telegraph, about England’s identity and governance. It is about our right to have our English identity given the same political and constitutional recognition as has been given to that of Scotland and Wales and about England getting the same degree of self-governance as Scotland has and potentially Wales has. It is about England’s future in the United Kingdom and its relationship to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is not a narrow concern. I would maintain that it is the platform from which all our other concerns can be effectively addressed and resolved.
As up to 1998 England’s future like that of Scotland and Wales was just as part of the UK. But the 1998 devolution legislation changed all that.; and the constitution of the United Kingdom fundamentally. It had two basic principles::
(1) devolution is granted as to nations. The language of the legislation spoke of Scotland and Wales as nations, not as anything other than nations.
(2) devolution is self-rule by means of a national parliament or assembly separately elected.
Devolution 1998 established Scotland and Wales, constitutionally and politically, as distinct and separate nations within the United Kingdom, with their own parliaments; and formally terminated the political fact established in 1707 of one British nation with one parliament.
A parliament, where freely chosen as in Scotland’s case, is the most potent and effective statement of a common national identity; and the Scottish Parliament has governance of all Scotland’s internal affairs. It has made Scotland 75% independent of the UK. And it has this feature, one that cannot be given too much significance- it is a parliament with 129 members who are there as Scots. Not as British but there as Scots. To represent not British interests but those, and only those, of Scotland. And the same principle obtains in Wales too with its 40 Assembly members. I cannot emphasise it enough, they are elected to govern in the specific interests of Scotland and Wales, not Britain. And England? Nothing. No recognition. no self governance, no parliament or assembly, no voice, no MPs elected to concern themselves solely with English interests. Instead, to make matters even worse, the insultingly undemocratic direct opposite -the WL situation. Scotland’s future, like that of Wales, is now in the hands of their own people. England’s future is not in the hands of the English people at all. And 550 MPs from England voted for all of this.
But that was them. Besides them there is us. A second thing happened in 1998. Unheralded, and unnoticed -but it will prove no less important than either the 1707 Act of Union or the 1998 devolution legislation. On June 14th 1998, ten years ago, six people met in a house in Thetford Forest in Norfolk. They founded the Campaign for an English Parliament. Guy Green, Tony and Pearl Linsell, Roy Meadowcroft, Harry Bottom and Terry Brown. In the Policy Document which remains the foundation statement of the campaign ever since, they made this statement: ‘The people of England have an identity separate from a British identity, and they need a parliament and a constitutional arrangement which recognises that identity and serves their special interests'. The statement is about governance and identity. It is a demand that the two foundation principles of devolution implemented in Scotland and Wales, be applied equally to England.
That is our vision for England’s future which for the Scots and the Welsh is already a reality. A nation once again. Like what they have. Just like what the Union government, the political set, gave them. On it depends so much that also has to be done for England: environmentally, governmentally, and culturally and socially in respect of community and national cohesion. It does not challenge the existence of the Union. All it does is call for the changes in the Union already brought about by the 1998 legislation to be extended to England.
But there are other visions too of England’s future. It is with just one that I will deal. It is that of Gordon Brown. It is the one that matters because he is the Prime Minister. His is a vision of Britain and of England consisting, as he says repeatedly, of ‘nations and regions’. By nations he means Scotland and Wales, by regions he means the divisions of England into regions. No political or constitutional recognition of England as a nation, or of its identity; as was explicitly given to his own Scotland in the 1998 legislation. No English Parliament; its territory to be the only part of the United Kingdom ruled in every aspect by the British parliament. It is a policy that would terminate England qua England altogether. And in the two years of office that might be all that is left to him, he will use every lever and every instrument of power in the British state to bring it about.
He will proceed by dictat. He will not place his plan for the future of England before the people of England by means of a referendum. The government burnt their fingers with the 2004 referendum in England’s North East counties and cities. For him the regionalisation of England is the device by which, with deliberate deception, he can fudge and, he hopes, dissolve the West Lothian Question. But more than that. Much more, For Brown the termination of England as a nation, and its dissolution into regions, will resolve the English Question. There can be no English Question if there is no England. He is already proceeding by dictat. He has already appointed 9 MPs as ‘regional ministers’, which was not in Labour’s manifesto. And there is open speculation that in his next reshuffle he will appoint a Minister for the English Regions. The battle lines for the future of England, for England to be or not to be, are being drawn between the Member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath and us. Because we here in this hall are England.
What is it that is driving Gordon Brown to use all the power of the British State to deny to England what he has so successfully achieved for Scotland? In Edinburgh on March 30th 1989 together with 133 fellow members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention he signed, the Scottish Claim of Right, ‘We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests will be paramount’ He signed that pledge. So did the present Speaker of the House, Michael Martin.
Look at those words –Brown’s pledge to make the interests of Scotland ‘paramount in every action and deliberation’. We have seen what his deliberations are for England, what action he has taken already. Is it for Scotland then that he wants England to become a collection of regions? Does Brown see it as in the interests specifically of Scotland that England should in effect be denied devolution and a parliament and through regionalisation be terminated as a nation? He will of course deny it. He will argue that it is in the interests of preserving the Union, that for England with 80% of the population and producer of some 85% of its wealth to have its own parliament will fatally unbalance the Union. From the ardent Scots he declared himself in 1989 he’s now become the most ardent of Britishers. Why?
Brown signed the pledge to support the sovereign right of his own Scottish people to ‘determine the form of Government best suited to their needs’ and he got it in the form of a referendum. Doesn’t the people of England have that right too? On his terms only an outright hypocrite would say no. That therefore is what he is. But he is something even worse. The Member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath thinks he can tell the English people what form of government is best suited to their needs’ The arrogance of the man is incredible.
The present arrangement of the Union suits Brown. In that he differs crucially from his fellow countryman Alex Salmond. Salmond believes Scotland has the economic critical mass to go it alone. And believes Scotland has the sovereign right to go it alone if it wants to. Brown believes that Scotland being in the Union best serves Scotland’s interests and does not have the sovereign right to choose otherwise. I believe that on the evidence we can say this: that for Brown England is the milch cow. England environmentally, England’s identity, does not matter to Brown. England could be windswept with plastic bags and its countryside hidden under concrete –no matter. What matters to Brown about England is just the wealth and the power it produces from which Scotland benefits.
It is he who is in power. That is why I am focussing on his plan for England. First and foremost we must address what threatens England now. Look at the forces lined up against us: the might of the United Kingdom government, all three political parties; a media either opposed or indifferent; the BBC which organises itself precisely the way Brown thinks of Britain, as nations and regions, a BBC which has a BBC Scotland, a BBC Wales, a BBC Northern Ireland and an Asian Network but adamantly refuses to have a BBC England; and heaven knows how many Establishment think-tanks like the Fabian Society, Democracy Unlocked, the IPPR and the Constitution Unit. To list but four. How can we possibly win against such a Goliath of forces like that?
We can and we will. Because our cause is both very just and very fair’ We ask only for the principles of the 1998 legislation to be extended to England. We present the only just and fair answer to the West Lothian Question and the English Question’ and just as crucial, the only solution that will hold the Union together . And that is no silly idle boast. Strangely, unexpectedly, confirmation for that assertion comes from the very same Goliath of forces that oppose us. In the year 2000 in the Fabian Society publication ‘the English Question’ Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit., a think-tank set up to promote the division of England into regions, asked what the 1998 devolution legislation might lead to in five to ten years’ time. ‘One option’, he says, ‘can be quickly dismissed: an English Parliament’. Seven years later, November 14th 2007, the Professor appeared as a witness before the Justice Select Committee and informed it that: ‘the closest to a complete answer to the West Lothian Question is a separate English Parliament’. It took him and his fellow university academics 7 full years to reach the conclusion the founders of this Campaign arrived at in a matter of hours in Thetford Forest.
And we are now surrounded by support. The latest four professional opinion polls, conducted in 2006 and 2007, averaged 60% in favour of an English Parliament. And how was it achieved? First, by the sheer instinct of the people of England for basic justice and for recognition of their own distinct identity. National identity is a birth right. It is what we are and we will govern ourselves by what we are, with all the complexities, variety and vitality of modern England, which together are producing a new, a changing and vibrant culture.
And secondly, it has been achieved by our unremitting campaigning and our arguments. Our weapons, our instruments in our struggle are not the arrows of the Cheshire bowmen as at Agincourt or the little boats of the men of Kent crossing to Dunkirk. No, our weapons and our instruments now are our arguments One brief summary of them, the Booklet ‘Devolution for England’, has been placed on every chair for you to take away, read, understand and tell people about, write to news papers about, organise branch meetings wherever you live and discuss. And you can take more if you want to for distribution. Knowledge is power. The influence and power of this Campaign has been incredible. Now, you must organise for England and for an English parliament wherever you live. You here in this hall, you are England.
We want England’s destiny to be in the hands of the people of England. Surely no more than a very basic human right.
Will England see it? It will. Of course not all of us possibly. But our attitude must be that embodied in the message which the London Correspondence Society gave to its delegates setting out across England in 1795. 1795 was a dark year. A year of harsh political repression in England. Hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, were in dire poverty and subject to terrible conditions as the Industrial Revolution changed and ravaged their lives. The delegates went out to get people to unite to struggle for the very basics of a decent living. And the message they carried with them should be ours. ‘Remember. You are wrestling with Injustice, not for yourselves only, for you may not see the full Day of Liberty, but for the Child hanging at the Breast’
Speech by David Wildgoose to the CEP's "Future of England" Conference, 26 April 2008
It's too easy to look at the world not as it is, but rather as we would wish it to be.
We are all guilty of this, but as rational beings we have to recognise this fact and address the realities as they actually are.
The Union is broken.
More accurately, the Unions are broken, because the United Kingdom was created via a series of Acts of Union between 1536 and 1801.
In 1707 England and Wales were joined by Scotland with an Act, part III of which stipulated "That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament".
Part IV of that Act stated "That all the subjects of the United Kingdom shall from and after the Union...have the same Rights, Privileges and Advantages".
But since Devolution in 1998 the people of the United Kingdom are NOT represented by one and the same Parliament. And we do NOT have the same Rights, Privileges and Advantages. There are now distinct differences in for example Health, Education and Old Age provisions between the different nations of the UK, divisions deliberately separated upon national grounds, and deliberately emphasised by nationalist politicians with the successful aim of inflaming national passions.
These divisions are getting worse.
The ongoing saga of the Welsh government's refusal to pay the bills of Welsh patients attending English hospitals has now resulted this week in Bristol's NHS Trust issuing instructions that Welsh patients should not be booked in for surgery or for further outpatient appointments until their bills start to be paid.
The British government also has bills to be paid. So it in turn, has decided to start and pawn English NHS properties, starting in London. Our hospitals - English Hospitals - are being sold off by our Scottish Chancellor and leased back in order to raise money. Not Scottish Hospitals though. No, just like when the Tories privatised England's Water Companies and not Scotland's, England is always the loser.
The powers that be have seen fit to encourage and pander to nationalist sentiment in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by transferring more and more powers to their respective national governments. We are told "Devolution is a process, and not an event". Which no doubt explains why the so-called "Wendy Commission" was set up by the Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties to debate what additional powers could be transferred to the Scottish Government.
Similarly, in Wales, Labour and Plaid Cymru have agreed that the Welsh should shortly be given another referendum. This time the question will be about increasing the powers of the Welsh Assembly to match those of Scotland with full primary law-making rights and further separation from England. It is worth noting that Labour MP Kim Howells commented that this would help "nationalists to the gates of independence."
Talking of independence, the SNP-led Scottish government have announced their plans for a Referendum in 2010 on Scotland leaving the Union.
And in Northern Ireland of course, the prolonged violence of The Troubles abated with The Belfast Agreement - an Agreement which provides for repeated referenda, 7 years apart, on whether Northern Ireland should leave the Union and join with the Republic.
It appears the answer to nationalist separatism in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is to pander to it with the declared aim of preserving the Union. If we are honest, looking at the situation as it is, does this seem to be working?
But what of England?
Simple requests for an end to our second-class status and a return to equality for all British citizens by the creation of a matching devolved Parliament for England are demonised as a "threat to the Union". Schools have been instructed - in England only - to teach "Britishness". Jack Straw, when he was Home Secretary, even went on Radio 4 to describe the English as "potentially very aggressive, very violent" and who had used this "propensity to violence to subjugate Ireland, Wales and Scotland".
I suppose it at least admits to a consistent approach, with the same historical distortions being peddled in all 4 of the nations of the United Kingdom. But as for their aim of suppressing the idea of England, you only have to look at this week's St George's Day celebrations to see the rise in English national consciousness in an equal and opposite reaction.
The other approach has been to try and abolish what they perceive as the problem of England by abolishing England. This is best exemplified by Charles Kennedy's speech at the 1997 Scottish Lib-Dem Conference, and his comment "with the advent of English regional assemblies we can start to call into question the existence of England itself".
The proposal to take away local powers and centralise local government into Regional Assemblies was only put to the vote in the North East of England. It was rightly rejected in the referendum with 78% voting against. The Regional Assembly was created anyway. So much for Democracy in England.
But should we be surprised?
The academic and former Labour and SDP MP David Marquand has written about the "wonderful growth of national feeling in Scotland and Wales." However at the same time he also said "Unless and until the English decide who they are, and rediscover the buried republican tradition of Milton and Blake, they will not be fit for self government." Apparently we aren't to be allowed to vote on our future until we can be trusted to vote as our masters want us to.
This is a colonialist attitude.
Representative Democracy is that you elect people from amongst yourselves to represent you and your interests.
Colonialism is when people outside your country send Representatives to govern and make decisions overriding your wishes - such as happened with the imposition of tuition fees on English students by Scottish MPs whose own people were not affected.
England is being abused as a colony, and it is this, and not a return to equality via an English Parliament, that will finally destroy the Union.
It is our duty to see the world as it is, and not how it was, or how we would wish it to be. The Devolution genie cannot now be put back in its bottle. We have to accept this fact and deal with it honestly.
This means one thing.
We have to separate what divides us from what unites us.
If this is done in good faith then I see no reason why a renewed Union cannot be forged. At least, if it is done early enough, and before attitudes have hardened too far on all sides.
But this will require the voice of England to be heard.
Who speaks for England?
Not our *British* MPs that is for sure - with, it appears, the honourable exception of Frank Field.
No, YOU speak for England. Talk to your families, your friends, your work colleagues. Write to local papers, radio and TV stations. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged, to be silenced. The future of England is in all our hands. Rise up, and Speak for England!
Ed Abrams' speech to the CEP's 'Future of England' conference, 26 April 2008
I’d like to thanks the members of the CEP for inviting me here and allowing me to speak. I have a huge amount of respect for the CEP and their work, the tireless commitment to England is there for all to see and I believe in my blood and my bones that we will one day , united we will reach our promised land – A PARLIAMENT FOR OUR NATION.
I stand before you not just as an member of the English Democrats, not just as someone who campaigns for English Democracy but I stand here before you all simply as an Englishman who wants what my birth right is – that birth right is that I was born into a country my forefathers gave their lives for so that I and others could live in a land that was free, a land where truth prevails, where democracy is there for all and justice smoothers discrimination.
Friends - My speech today is called the Politics of Nationhood, I’ll go on to outline why I believe that this new breed, this fresh ideal, this vision, this belief will blow away the cobwebs of political complacency and kick start the nations consciousness to building a newer, fresher and more accommodating England but an England that stands alone, proud, resolute and free.
Now I am no scholar as I unfortunately wasted my education but from the pages of history I’ve read, we have had for over 150 years, the politics of class rammed down our throats, we've had our democracy and our vote used and abused, we've had separation not liberation, with had dictatorship not comradeship and the butchers apron has hidden the cracks of resentment and disdain, it's hidden the politics of discrimination, it's hidden the West Lothian Question and the Barnett formula. The politics of class has divided our nation and turned are people to a state of utter despair.
The politics of class is the political ideology of old, of yesteryear, one that’s had its day.
See what our glorious leaders conveniently forget is that politics is a living beast, it changes, it moves, it lives – what was right yesterday does not mean it’s right for today or in the future. A political ideology that doesn’t move of change with the times dies from the neck upwards, it breeds resentment and disdain and it proves that it no longer has the ear of the people.
My vision is the politics of NATIONHOOD not of class. This is the new way, it’s not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd, in fact it’s the only way, this way is one whereby the whole country binds together and acts as one for the dual benefit of the nation and it's people.
It doesn’t ask how much money you earn or how many cars you've got, it doesn’t ask if your left or right or middle of the road, it doesn’t ask if you’re black or white, Christian or Jew, young or old- all it asks of you is that you unite, join arms, stand shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour and work to build a newer, fresher more accommodating England. An England that respects and learns from the past, works with the present and truly embraces the future with hope, vigour, commitment, openness, honesty and with a smile.
The politics of NATIONHOOD allows England to regain her rightful at the top table of the worlds nations. It allows us to promote with pride our cultural identity, it allows us to take our nation forward, give our people a voice and more importantly – it gives England a future. It allows us to celebrate of history, cradle our young and care for our elders.
This new ideal also solves the problems we have with cultural identity; it allows our young to have a future and a collective future. One of the challenges that we have today is that our kids, our nation’s future are not allowed an identity; they are forced to grow up with no knowledge of our history. Presently it is left down to us, the parents of England’s future to explain our nation and all its glory. See my vision allows us to rebuild our children’s futures, it allows us to put back the moral fibre of our society, it allows all to come together and work as one. It puts back respect and values, it restores honour and creed. It moves away from the nation of one to one nation for all.
As we all know misguided patriotism is the order of the day, we’ve been force-fed the BRITISH IDEAL for decades, I, like many of you have never brought this ideal, I’ve never considered myself British, I come from an immigrant family of Polish Jews who where allowed safe haven and harbour from the evils of the Russian programs.
We came to England not Britain because of English ideals such as liberty, democracy, honesty and justice, these went hand in hand with the name of England not Britain, however as we know at England’s expense, the ideals of liberty, democracy, honesty and justice in today's politics are just empty words, they are so often used and certainly abused by so called Political Professionals, those who put careers before consciousness, those who have never seen a hard days work in their lives, those who have thrown away their convictions the moment they entered the hallow halls of Westminster.
Many of our modern day politicians have enter politics with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths, have these so called elite ever been unemployed, worried about where the next pay check is coming from, panicking about having to buy the latest and greatest pair of footwear for their kids. Because career politicians are now the order of the day can someone explain to me how people like Darling, Cameroon, Brown, Milliband be the voice of the people when they don't KNOW the people.
These so-called democratic savours, our champions of liberty openly demand that we follow their path, that we throw garlands of flowers at their feet, pay homage to there very presence and afford them our respect, well my respect is earned and not just given and what the big three have done to my nation is beyond the pale.
These people live by the motto of “ DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO” , I always thought that our leaders lead by example, they lead from the front and not from the back, that when duty calls, our leaders are there at the front, heads held high, leading charge. I’m afraid this isn’t the case with nearly all of the MP’s in parliament.
As I’ve said, I’m not an educated man but can some one please explain to me how these leaders represent England. The big 3 with their outdated and old styled politics of class have orchestrated England's final solution, they are the ones who are destroying the very idea of England, and they’ve eroded the fabric of our identity, the common purpose of our people.
They are the ones who are sending people to their deaths because of the ill-fated and not thought out policy of partial devolution, they are the ones who are herding our nations elders into care homes like horses to the knackers yard because they no longer add value to the treasuries coffers,
they are the ones who are pushing our people to despair as tax upon tax upon tax is being raised in our nation whilst other parts of this so called UNION of equals don't have these rises and they are the ones who have created policies that enforce discrimination upon the people of England – such as
Top up Fees ( only in England )
Prescription Charge Increases ( only in England )
Elderly folk having to pay for care ( only in England )
Class sizes over 30 kids ( only in England )
A paltry 50p per school meal ( only in England
Life saving drugs being refused our people ( only in England )
Brutishness’ Lessons taught ( only in England )
New Nuclear Power plants ( only in England )
Eco Towns ( only in England )
And many many more
This is what the politics of Class and of the old guard / the big 3 have given us. If like some, you decide to stay with one of the big 3, stay with the politics of class, the politics of spite, envy and hate and try and change from within then you'll just be a loan voice, you'll be a small little rowing boat trying to change the course of a super tanker, you know in your ENGLISH hearts that you'll never win, you'll only get lip service, you'll get a pat on the back and be told the same old line of " we all agree and WE must do something about it, in fact we have set up a working committee to investigate and review" sounds more like brushing it under the carpet to me.
I have had it said to me that there's no logic in trying to change the political landscape, it’s almost like pushing water uphill with your bare hands, a common comment has been that regardless of our efforts, nothing will change, I believe that the biggest single reason why people are so turned off from politics is because of the politics of class, people feel isolated, disassociated and forgotten. The gap between rich and poor has got wider and there’s no glue between them, well my vision – the politics of nationhood, cements all people together, it allows people from all sides to work together and engage one another, it allows us all to invest in England’s future therefore making all our people feel valued, respected and wanted.
I set about creating this new vision, this new political creed because the big 3 don't own politics, it's not there's to play with or pick up or put down as and when they desire, they’re wheels only ever turn when it's close to an election and they throw themselves at the voters mercy and beg for your vote. Politics isn’t a closed shop; whereby only the chosen view get it, it shouldn’t be a job for life either. I’d put politicians on performance related pay and see them run for cover.
My vision also erodes the secret society, the cosy little love affair that the big 3 have with the media, it is wrong that companies like the BBC become Browns mouthpiece or paper like the TORY mail over ever report Cameron's spin. The politics of nationhood removes these relationships and allows for free, fair and uncensored reporting that gives and unbiased and impartial view
I believe that these parties have changed in all recognition to the virtues and values of when they were created. Remember when the hard-pressed working class created the origins of the Labour movement they stood against discrimination, they stood against oppression, they stood up for and defend their own – are these still really the cornerstone values of Brown’s government or Blair’s legacy
Patriotism is not owned by anyone of anything, it's not enough to wave a flag when it suits and pretend your defenders of a nation. I believe that the wind is changing and the people of England don't want plastic patriotism anymore; they no longer have any faith in the old, outdated and stale current political parties. They cry out for a beg for a new style of political creed, one that involves and engages, one that interacts and learns and one that represent them and only them – THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND.
As I’ve said, my vision allows people from all walks of life, regardless of all age, regardless of our different experiences, it brings old and young together, it allows left and right to bind, it even allows those strange types ( you know the ones, the guardian readers with open toed sandals, i think people call them liberal democrats to stop sitting on the fence and get involved as again it moves our folk away from the politics of class, it defends ALL of our people and truely delivers the virtues of truth, justice, liberty and freedom.
A senior Conservative once asked me to a meeting, during that meeting he told me that he agreed with everything I said, he thought and felt the same but in the same breath as those words, he offered me the parliamentary seat of Chester if I joined their party. He wanted me to sell out my principles, my beliefs, my ENGLISH CORE. He thought that my pride and passion for England was something that you could pick up and put down on a wimm. I sat there and shook my head in disbelief as he thought I could be brought, that I would turn my back on my nation at the offer of a seat – how wrong he was.
See this is the difference between my vision of nationhood against there’s of class is that the establishment, New Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems made it personal because they are calling into question the very idea of England itself.
Ladies and Gentleman, Time is coming to take sides, to show your colours, to make a stand for i believe that perhaps not at the next election but certainly the one after that, the politics will be either Nationalist or Unionist, they’ll be no other option – you have to ask yourself which one protects England and her people, which one involves all and alienates none, which one delivers the politics of hope and which offers resentment and hate, it will be the new guard against the old, it will be about a new fresh approach to really engaging with and valuing the populas and not dictating to or ignoring their core values.
Folks, that time is coming, make sure you are on the right side – the ENGLISH SIDE
Thanks for your time and god bless England,
Canon Kenyon Wright: There'll Always be a....Britain? (England and Scotland - Partners in a reformed Union)
Address to Conference on “The Future of England (Campaign for an English Parliament)
by Canon Kenyon Wright CBE, 26 April 2008
What is this? A Scot daring to speak about the future of England?. Are there not already too many Scots deciding England’s future? So why am I here?
I am not here to tell you what to do. We Scots are good at that, but it is not my purpose today. Our two nations have been linked for centuries – as enemies, as friends and as partners in the Union. I admit that we Scots have too often defined our identity in resentment of our larger neighbour. As far back as the 16th century, the Spanish ambassador to the court of King James IV reported back to his homeland that “nothing pleases the Scots so much as abuse of the English!” I hope in the 21st century we have grown up at last, and can meet each other openly and honestly as friends who tell each other the truth, but as CS Lewis once wrote “we cannot meet face to face till we have faces!” The Scottish sense of identity is strong but hard to analyse or define.. One leading Academic in Edinburgh said that anyone who comes for any time to Scotland becomes aware of “a world of dense Scottishness” I am convinced that England has also a strong sense of identity, but that you are in the process of rediscovering it. For both of us, it means redefining the nature of our relationship with Britishness, and the Union. It seems to me that at heart, that is what your campaign and this conference are all about.
I cannot tell you how to influence the future of England – but I can share with you a glimpse of the Principles by which we worked for long years in the Campaign for a Scottish Parliament, and later in the Constitutional Convention; of the Process by which we achieved our goal, and of our continuing task of defining the Future of Scotland as a participative democracy. It is your task to judge whether, and if so how, these facts are relevant to your very different situation.
The Founding Principles
In the 1950’s Scotland’s greatest legal mind of the 20th century. Lord President Cooper was called upon to decide on a legal challenge to our monarch being designated Elizabeth the Second – on the very reasonable grounds that she was indeed the first, not only to reign as Queen of Scots, but in fact first in the United Kingdom. Cooper dismissed the case on the legal grounds that the Royal Prerogative reserved this decision to the monarch – but he did go on say, in a landmark judgement
“The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”
This reflects the two foundation principles on which we worked. – Sovereignty and Subsidiarity. Our first act in the Convention was the solemn signing by all present (including of course Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling et al) of the “Claim of Right for Scotland” which proclaimed “the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine how they will be governed”. To this day I wonder how many of those MPs who lined up to sign it, fully realised they were by implication denying the right of Parliament to be the final arbiters in constitutional matters.
The second founding principle of subsidiarity, maintains that power should be limited, dispersed, and exercised at the lowest effective level. This means for us, clearer protected and positive powers, constantly under review, for local government, for Scotland, for the UK (though here there is a dispute as we know) and for the European Union too. Scotland is much more positive towards the EU than I sense you are, and generally does not see it as a threat to our sovereignty or nationhood..
I suggest hesitatingly, that there might be two ways in which our story has relevance to yours.
Political Grievances are not enough
First, we did not base our case on political grievances, but on constitutional principles. Like you, we certainly had plenty of complaints, and they provided fertile ground for our task
You have legitimate anger over the West Lothian Question – the undemocratic right of Scottish MPs to influence education and health say, in Doncaster and Edmonton, but not in Dundee or Edinburgh– or indeed in any of their own constituencies. Also many resent Scotland’s apparent advantages through the Barnet Formula, which will obviously be revised if and when the Scottish Parliament gains Fiscal powers, as seems likely in any revision of the Scotland Act
We in our turn, pointed out that, while the votes of Scottish MPs would have made a difference only for two or three years since the war, the votes of English MPs imposed policies on Scotland for some 50 years. This came to a head when the Thatcher Government not only made us guinea pigs for the Poll Tax, but imposed on us measure after measure which the Scottish people and their Representatives had manifestly and massively rejected. A Church of Scotland Report in 1989, the year the Convention was formed and the Claim of Right signed, said “that which was always unacceptable in principle, has now become intolerable in practice”.
My point is simply this. Contemporary political grievances can strengthen your case, as they did ours, but they should not be the basis on which you work. The principles, based on national identity and aspirations, should be clear.
Second, the Process was important
We strove for the widest possible consensus on exactly what we were asking for. Through enormous difficulties, we defined in detail what a Scottish Parliament would look like, and how it would relate to the UK and the EU. That task may indeed be even more difficult for you, but I hope it can be done.
The Future of England is inseparable from the Future of the Union
There is a profound reason why Scotland must be interested in, and aware of, what you are doing here. – simply that the success or failure of your campaign has enormous implications for us.
The devolved Scottish Parliament and Government have many weaknesses, but in one major aspect their very existence breaks the log jam of British politics. For the first time in the history of the Union, we have succeeded in establishing a secure base of alternative constitutional power which is in practice irreversible.
However, we are a small nation of 5 million people, one tenth of England. Our success challenges, but has not radically changed, the United Kingdom or the central institutions of the British State. But make no mistake about it – if your campaign succeeds, it means the end of the Union in the form we now know it. At the least it means the radical transformation of the Union into a very different political reality, one of genuine and secure power sharing. That is as important to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as it is to England. It is time for us to be discussing seriously together what kind of Union, if any, we think best for the 21st century
The new Scottish Constitutional Commission which a group of prominent Scots have recently formed (see www.constitutionalcommission.org) - to be clearly distinguished from the Commission set up by the unionist parties in Scotland, which has a much narrower mandate - should be in regular touch with you and the other nations, to ensure that our thinking on the future of our common relationships and governance, are in harmony, and must be taken seriously.
Scotland is in danger of polarising the debate into two extremes. On the one hand, devolution as at present with a few extra powers – on the other hand, independence; in other words, either the Union with a bit of tinkering at the edges, or the end of the Union. Of course, Scottish Independence would deliver your English Parliament on a plate – but my hope is that you will help us all by bringing fresh ideas to the future of a Union, which your success would inevitably change. Are we talking of some form of Federal or Confederal solution, with powerful Parliaments and Governments in the 4 nations, and with a central Government for those matters we agree to hold in common?
I do not know, but I think it urgent that we begin to ask these questions now
I am aware that the CEP accepts the final authority of the UK Parliament, but I find this hard to endorse.. The very existence of an English Parliament would question the size, the shape and the powers, of the continuing UK body. Certainly for Scotland, it would raise with a new urgency the hope expressed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1989. that the coming Scottish Parliament would “represent a fundamental shift away from the notion of the unlimited or absolute sovereignty of the British Parliament, towards the Scottish and Reformed Principle of limited or relative sovereignty!"
I believe some major changes are unavoidable if a reformed Union acceptable to all its component nations, is to be preserved in the 21st Century.
At the least we need
- The development of a genuinely constitutional monarchy through the abolition of the Royal Prerogatives and the enormous power and patronage they give to the UK Prime Minister.
- A clear and accepted definition of the relationships of the Union government and the “devolved” governments, which defines and effectively limits the powers of each (though the word “devolved” would no longer be strictly accurate in a situation where power is securely shared. Enoch Powell once said “Power devolved is power retained”)
- A written constitution defining these powers and relationships.
The Future of England is inseparable from the Future of Britain.
Towards a Participative Democracy
In one important respect, our Parliament has only partly succeeded. The vision was of something “radically different from the rituals of Westminster, more participative, more open, more creative, less needlessly confrontational”. At a time when there is widespread contempt for politics, and the erosion of trust in politicians, it is vital that the Parliaments for which we strive are closer to the people, elected by a fairer system, open and honest in all they do, and encouraging the people to be part of the decision making process.
If there is one central thing I have learned from the experience of the last twenty years, it is this. Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.
Recently the POWER Inquiry, after extensive hearings all over Britain, laid bare the growing contempt, not for politics as such, but for the system. On that basis, its Convenor, Lady Helena Kennedy said
“Changes of this magnitude cannot be left simply to elected representatives. An alliance for change needs to be built amongst the most clear-sighted MPs, local councillors, MEPs and members of the devolved institutions, but only a sustained campaign for change from outside the democratic assemblies and parliaments of the UK will ensure that meaningful reform occurs. We, the people, have to stake our claim on power”
That seems to me to define your continuing task – and ours
“Our resentment is not against Scottish people, it’s against the inequalities of the system”
By Iain Harrison, Sunday Post, 20 April 2008
VERONICA NEWMAN is a mother of two and a former nurse who has lived in the same town in the heart of England her entire life.
She enjoys bell ringing at her local church and says if she were ever stranded on a desert island she’d want a St George’s Cross flag to keep her company.
The 57-year-old is, some might suggest, as English as cucumber sandwiches.
But her passion when it comes to the issue of financing Scotland’s public services can probably be matched only by that of First Minister Alex Salmond.
Veronica, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, is secretary of the Campaign for an English Parliament.
And she’s spent more than a decade protesting against what she claims is a disparity between the level of Government expenditure in Scotland compared with England.
She contends that she and her fellow English taxpayers subsidise their northern neighbours to the tune of £281 per person per year.
The consequence of this “unfairness and discrimination” is, she insists, an ever-increasing resentment towards Scotland.
Ten years ago Veronica’s views may have been described as marginal. But recent polls suggest 60 per cent of her compatriots share similar concerns.
The issue has become so sensitive that a number of senior Cabinet ministers are understood to have warned Gordon Brown to address it.
On Saturday leading scholars and politicians will gather in London for a one-day conference to discuss the matter in greater detail.
Among them will be veteran Labour MP Frank Field, retired Scots clergyman Canon Kenyon Wright and professor of journalism Hugo de Burgh.
Their aim, they say, is to thrash out the constitutional future of England.
But the outcome of the talks, if Veronica and her fellow organisers have their way, may also have far-reaching implications for Scotland.
According to UK Government statistics Scotland receives between £10 billion and £13 billion in subsidies from Westminster coffers every year.
The figure is a consequence of the 1978 Barnett formula which, on the basis of population distribution, calculated that public expenditure north of the Border needed to be significantly higher per person than in England.
Scottish Nationalists argue the amount is routinely exaggerated to dampen calls for independence and that any deficit would be wiped out if the Scottish Government was given tax-raising powers and access to oil revenues.
Veronica and her campaigners, however, want the subsidy removed and a dedicated English parliament, based on the Scottish model, set up.
Yet paradoxically, they also insist they’re against the break-up of the UK.
Under their system the UK parliament would retain its sovereignty, but powers over English legislation would be devolved to an English assembly.
It would take on responsibility for issues in England including its NHS, education, local government taxation, criminal and civil law and prisons.
With devolved parliaments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales already dealing with those issues, only matters relating to the UK constitution, foreign policy, defence, employment legislation and social security would be reserved to Westminster.
West Lothian Question
The CEP believe this would finally resolve Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian Question and satisfy any growing sense of unfairness in England.
Because no longer would Scottish MPs be able to vote on English legislation while English MPs were banned from voting on laws affecting Scotland.
But if the idea was to be given the green light it could have a major impact on public service funding levels in Scotland.
“It may seem as if we’re anti-Scottish but our resentment is not against the Scottish people, it’s against the inequalities of the system,” said Veronica.
“The Scottish Government can afford to introduce free care for the elderly and scrap university endowment fees while Westminster can’t.
“But at the same time, English taxpayers pay £281 more per year to subsidise Scotland which does not collect in enough taxes to pay its way.
“It’s a union in which the people of England are discriminated against at every turn.”
Michael Knowles, head of the CEP’s media unit, said as a result of this “iniquity” support for an English parliament is rapidly gaining momentum.
“An ICM poll in 2006 showed support among English voters for an English parliament had reached 68 per cent,” he explained.
“The following year the BBC carried out a survey and it found 61 per cent in England and 51 per cent in Scotland agreed with the idea.
“Gordon Brown’s policy for England is to abolish it as a nation and convert it to a collection of regions, but it’s a disgrace.
“We want the Barnett formula abolished and devolution to be given to England in the same measure as it has been given to Scotland.”
Despite their preoccupation with the level of funding given to the Scottish Government, neither Veronica nor Michael wants to see Scotland gain independence.
“At the end of the day it’s up to the people of Scotland to decide the country’s future but I think the Union is a good thing,” insisted Michael.
“It would be very difficult to suddenly scrap over 300 years of history.
“But unless something is done to address the current constitutional imbalance the level of bitterness felt towards Scotland could explode.
“What form it would take, however, I do not know.”
The SNP’s Christine Grahame rubbished the CEP’s claims and described their campaign as “nothing other than the politics of envy”.
She fumed, “The attack on the supposed unfair treatment of Scotland is a little hollow and uninformed.
“They were noticeable by their silence when, for decades, Scotland had no say whatsoever over public spending here, despite sending billions of pounds of revenue to the Treasury each year funding wars we don’t want and tax cuts for the London rich. It continues to this day.
“I think what is fundamentally irking them is that the days of England being subsidised by Scotland’s oil and gas are coming to an end. They have the power via the ballot box to secure English independence and I think that would be a very positive move indeed.
“The answer to their problems is not to throw insults at the Scots but to elect people who they believe will secure English independence.”
The SNP’s Westminster Treasury spokesman, Stewart Hosie, echoed those views.
He insisted Scotland sends more resources to Westminster than it receives in return and pointed towards a report, commissioned by the Corporation of London, which showed public spending per head is higher in London than in Scotland.
“Scotland more than pays its way,” he said. “Indeed, the UK’s financial black hole is being filled by Scotland’s oil and Scotch whisky.
“The Chancellor’s dependence on soaring North Sea revenues — and his damaging Budget tax hike on whisky — shows how Scotland is propping up the London Treasury.
“And when North Sea revenues are included in Scotland’s accounts, Scottish Government figures show we would be the third richest nation in Europe in terms of wealth per head, compared to the UK’s current seventh place.
“The flow of resources is clearly north to south, not the other way round.
“The answer to these issues is very simple. Let Scotland, and England, be in charge of their own resources, with both nations standing on their own financial feet.”
The Lib Dems believe the solution is to grant the Scottish Parliament tax-raising powers.
Chief Whip Robert Brown MSP said, “A lot of expenditure in Scotland is either demand-led or based on clear need. For example, Scotland has proportionately twice as many farmers as England, mostly in less favoured areas.
“There are also higher staying-on rates at school after 16 and greater participation in further and higher education.
“There are more pensioners and more people on benefits. As a more sparsely populated country Scotland has higher unit costs for road and rail miles and ferries. These will attract more funding under any system.
“The Barnett formula has worked well for a long time. But its big problem is that it’s not clear how the figures are worked out so everyone feels they are being cheated.
“So it is high time we followed home rule and the setting up of the Scottish Parliament with financial devolution right across the UK.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice, which deals with UK constitutional affairs, said a separate English Parliament was unnecessary.
“This Government believes in the Union, that we are stronger together and weaker apart, and will do nothing to harm it. English interests are properly and fully protected in the House of Commons. English MPs hold more than 80 per cent of the seats at Westminster.
“This government, like the overwhelming majority of governments since 1945, has commanded an overall majority in the English constituencies as well as more broadly across the UK.
“Out of 646 MPs, 528 Members represent English constituencies, 59 represent Scottish, 41 represent Welsh and 18 represent Northern Irish.
“Nothing can be imposed on England due to this majority.”