Future of England
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
A transcript of George Monbiot's speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament's Future of England debate.
Speaking as an honourary Welshman - and that's the only introduction you're going to get - I feel entitled to observe that the English are crazy. They will put up with anything except an improvement in their lives. They regard an enhancement to democracy and social justice as a mortal threat. They will defend the unjust Status Quo to their dying breath. And hence, we have the situation which everyone is talking about tonight.
Let's examine some of the implications of the absence of an English Parliament. The English are currently governed by a Scotsman who uses foreign mercenaries to impose decisions over purely English issues upon the English. Take for instance the issue of university top-up fees, these were resoundingly rejected by both the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments, and yet it was Welsh and Scottish MPs who imposed them on England. There is no justification, no right, no democratic basis for doing that.
Similarly with foundation hospitals, again rejected in Wales and Scotland, imposed on England by the Welsh and Scottish mercenaries drilled through the lobbies by the Scottish prime minister. That is simple unfairness and injustice of a kind that people like ourselves, certainly the progressive people in this audience, have campaigned about in other countries when we campaign against the dictatorial powers of undemocratic governments. And yet somehow we find it so much harder to see it in our own country.
Heathrow! The third runway at Heathrow, whatever you might think about it, this was entirely imposed upon the English by MPs from the other three nations. The Government won with a majority of 19 votes in the House of Commons, after 67 MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where induced by that Government to vote for it. It was an English affair but it was not allowed to be resolved in an English chamber or even by English MPs within the British chamber. That again is grossly unfair.
But the unfairness, as David has suggested, extends much further than that because the only government of England, such as it is, is the network of regional development agencies. And with the exception of the London development agency they're subject to no direct democratic scrutiny whatsoever. At the moment the only oversight of the RDAs is through unelected regional chambers. Now next year the Government has announced this wonderful democratic policy of replacing the unelected regional chambers with local authority leaders boards. Well, it sounds sort of OK if you can accept the principle of photocopy democracy. In this case you have an elected body - the local authority - which appoints a leader, who then joins a committee which has oversight over another committee. And with every copy, democracy becomes fainter and greyer.
But Ladies and Gentlemen, it's not even that good, because under the Government's proposals the RDAs will have joint responsibility with the local authorities leaders boards for setting the regional strategies and then monitoring their delivery. It's the only official body I can think of in Britain which has been charged with monitoring and overseeing itself. This is a colonial model of administration. This is a model of administration that bears no reference whatsoever to the people of this country.
We hear all these wonderful statements about sustainability and delivery, and regional growth and employment, and all the rest of it...Whatever those stated terms might be, in reality they are pork distribution offices. And they're there to hand out lavish grants to undeserving causes. Now I did a bit of research on this myself and I found out that over the past ten years these regional development agencies in England have handed out £63M to regional airports to expand those airports.
Now, we've always been told by government that airports are commercial operations, and that if we don't like the expansion of airports we should "vote with our feet and not fly abroad", and "I'm sorry, we can't buck the markets, that's just how it is". But suddenly, as a result of this research, I have discovered that these RDAs have been bucking the market. Now again, whatever you think of the expansion of airports in Britain - and we're back to the old third runway business - it is surely either a matter for government intervention or it is a matter for the free markets. I would argue as an environmentalist, that if it's a matter for government intervention then the government should be intervening to reduce our use airports and trying to channel us to alternative means of travel. The consequences of global warming, and many other issues like the quality of life for those living under the flight paths, get worse and worse as those airports expand. But secretly, without any proper oversight, without any democratic control, these RDAs have been handing out slatherings of money to these regional airports.
It's no surprise to find that all nine of the RDAs are run by former corporate executives, three of whom were formally senior officials of the Confederation of British Industry. These are people who are well known to business but completely unknown to the electorate. These are not representative of the people of this country. If you want to elect former corporate representatives you have plenty of opportunity to do so, but I don't see why we should accept that they be foisted upon us. What this system of RDAs reminds me of is the system of district commissioners and district officers imposed by Britain on its possessions in colonial times. These are people who, in this case, actually aren't even answerable to the centre. But they are appointed to the centre to govern the unruly natives and to keep them in their place and make sure that those interests of the colonial centre are represented, even if the interests of the subjects of the colonial centre are not.
This time you crazy people have been doing it to yourselves. The great colonising nation has acquiesced in this project to turn it into yet another colony. As David says it has become an internal colony, which is a profound irony here because the idea was that Britain was the great colonising nation. It has internalised that oppressive power.
Now. here's where a lot of people in this audience are going to disagree profoundly with me. But that's why we are here. I believe that one of the reasons why so little has been done to address this is that two completely different issues have been mixed up. One is democracy and the other is nationalism. My own feeling is that you don't have to be English and you don't have to be a nationalist to support the case for an English parliament. You just have to be a democrat. You don't even have to love England, you just have to love democracy. That's what we're talking about Ladies and Gentlemen, we're talking about the fundamentals of democracy - that you can make your own decisions over your own country, it's as simple as that. And so as much as I admire Blake's great poem and Parry's setting, I won't be singing Jerusalem with you this evening. I actually love the hymn, I think it's a fantastic one, but I think these are two separate issues which should be kept apart. By all means love England. By all means express your love through English nationalism, as long as doesn't tread on anyone else's toes, as long as it harms no one else - that's absolutely fine by me. But you don't need to confuse and conflate these two issues, as sometimes, it has to be said, the Campaign for an English Parliament does. They can be kept apart and I think it is much better to do so because I think there is a latent progressive interest in the idea of an English parliament out there, that tends to be put off by what they perceive - rightly ot wrongly - as jingoistic attachment to certain English values, which are a different argument as far as I'm concerned.
Let's support the idea of democracy everywhere and in all its forms.
Now I completely agree with Paul when he says this should be done by referendum. But I would like to put forward my own favoured idea and how I would like to see that referendum pan out. Because it seems to me that we can solve two problems very simply in one go, and we can solve them right here in this House. Everybody has been wondering what on earth we should do about the House of Lords, and every proposal that comes up is met by a counter proposal and there's all sorts of problems thrown up. It seems very obvious to me, we've got two chambers here. Isn't that what we want? Don't we want a chamber whose purpose is to oversee issues that have to be dealt with by a UK parliament because they are issues which are issues that are relevant to the whole of the UK, and can't be divided up by the national borders; and don't we also need a chamber whose sole purpose is to deal with the affairs of England, and the people dealing with it should be England's elected representatives?
Should we not turn the House of Lords into the UK parliament and the House of Commons into an English parliament?
It is profoundly ironic Ladies and Gentlemen, that the English, who believe they invented parliamentary democracy, should be one of the last nations on earth to benefit from it. I hope that situation doesn't last much longer.
George Monbiot is a writer and political and environmental activist.
A transcript of Peter Facey's speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament's Future of England debate.
Thank you for inviting me.
I hope there will be a big clap at the end. Hopefully. Well, we will see.
Unlock Democracy, like the Campaign for an English Parliament, is a pressure group. Our basic mission is to change and improve the quality of democracy in Britain. We believe that this country is too centralised; that power is held by too few people; that our constitution actually enables government, not citizens; and that fundamentally that to unlock the potential of the people of these islands we actually have to empower individual citizens and communities. We are a democratic organisation that you're all welcome to join, and I am accountable to my membership and to our elected board. However, the views I’m going to speak here are fundamentally my own, so shoot me not the organisation.
When I was asked to come and speak I was thinking about where to start. I think probably the first thing to do is to start with me and how I feel. My father is from Devon and my family name, Facey, is a Devon-Cornish name, so it’s half English and half Cornish. My mother is Manx and is very, very proud of being Manx. I'm one of the few who as a child would have heard the Manx national anthem being. I think of myself as English. I'm proud to be British. I'm proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom. I'm married to an Australian, and I have two children who are both English/British but also Australian. And we're arguing at the moment about what cricket team they play for when they grow up.
I for a long time have considered myself to be English. The question is, what that actually means in terms of governmental structures and what that should mean in terms of how we as a people are governed. Today, as well as being the Queen's Speech, in Wales the All Wales Convention reported and actually recommended that there should be a referendum on giving Wales more powers, effectively, but not quite, bringing it up to the level of the Scottish Parliament.
So we are facing the possibility of a devolution settlement in terms of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that gives a large amount of decentralisation of power to 15% of this country. Now I'm in favour of that, Charter88 - one of our predecessors - campaigned for it, I apologise to nobody for it, and I think in terms of those parts of the United Kingdom it is an asset positive good.
But the question remains, what about the 85% ?
For me, and I live in the great county of Cambridgeshire, my life is probably more centralised today than it was 12 years ago. Decisions that affect me where I live, whether it's about the new towns being built around me, or education or health care, are more centralised than they were 12 years ago. I have very little say, and my neighbours have very little say, about the priorities in our area. This place [The Houses of Parliament] dominates every decision, whether it’s about licensing laws, healthcare, education or the A505, which runs past my village. All of that is dominated not by my county council, not by my district council, or parish council, but by this government.
For me that is wrong. In some ways those people who campaign for an English parliament and us, at that point, agree. I believe that power should be decentralised more to people so that they can shape the issues in their lives that affect them. I do not see why people in Scotland should have a say over education in England, I don't see why people in Northern Ireland should have a decision on that - but also, to be honest, I don't see why the people of Yorkshire should have a say over lots of things that happen in Cambridgeshire, because actually it's none of their business, it's our business locally.
For me that's an important democratic issue.
So to the constitutional question about where England is. One of the few places where you can see England mentioned in our constitutional settlement is when you walk through central lobby. Look up, it's beautiful. You look up and you see the four patron saints of the United Kingdom: St George, St Patrick, St Andrew, St David. And that's one of the few places you will see England mentioned. Part of the problem is that This Place used to be the English Parliament, but it became the British Parliament, and England and Britain became one. They didn't become one in Scotland, but in England they did. In fact we are governed in a way that doesn't actually recognise that there are four distinct parts to the United Kingdom.
Earlier this week I had a meeting at the Department of Communities and Local Government. Now, for all intents and purposes that is an English department; it has nothing to do with Scotland, nothing to do with Wales and nothing to do with Northern Ireland. There is a nice Union Jack flying outside it - that's a new thing! Up until recently we weren't allowed to fly the Union Flag - apart from the Queen's birthday and other strange days - so that flag flies outside but nothing else flies outside. There is no recognition that it's not a UK department but, actually, it's an English department.
It isn't just about the constitutional situation, it's also about a cultural situation. There is a redneck quality about saying "I'm English", it causes a particular stir. Every day on my way to the train station I pass one of those roadside snack bars that flies the English flag, it alternates between the Confederate flag and the English flag.
That cultural sense I think can be addressed in a very simple way. Here's a novel idea. Everywhere that we have a town hall or flagpole, why don't we fly flags? At the moment we have the idea that we can fly one flag. Flying one flag is boring. Alongside that Union Flag why not have the flag of St George, and in your locality why not fly your local flag, and if you want to why not fly the EU flag? If you want to! I know, I know, that last suggestion was a terrible one.
I used to live in Croydon, and in Croydon, for a while, unbeknownst to anybody, the council suddenly started to fly flags. If anyone knows Croydon, it's one of those wonderful 1950s towns that had its centre taken out. There's a big motorway runs through its centre and there's a bridge that goes over the top with four flagpoles on it. All of a sudden, the council decided that they're going to fly something from this, and so they began to fly the Croydon Flag, the Flag of St George, the Union Flag and the European Flag. Then they were most probably told that it was illegal to do that at the time, and they stopped. But actually, that says a lot. Flying those flags said where Croydon was in the world: It said it was proud of being Croydon, of being one of the largest parts of London, of being the largest town that is not a city in the United kingdom; it was proud of being in England; it was proud of being in the United Kingdom; and we can have a debate about whether it was proud of being in the EU or not.
If that was replicated across the breadth of England, whether it is in Stoke-on-Trent, or in South Cambridgeshire where I live, then that itself would start sending the message that actually identity isn't just a single one. My problem with the Government's agenda of Britishness is that they've effectively told the people of England that they can only have one identity. That's not true.
I originally grew up in the South West, in Devon, and for a long time you saw people crossing the Tamar with the Cornish flag, and we went through a popular time were they flew the Cornish flag and the Canadian flag from their fishing boats - a little issue to do with Spanish fishing boats.
The people of Devon know that they are equal if not better than the people of Cornwall and decided to create a Devon flag. This phenomena of people creating or recreating and flying local flags is spreading. For me it is a trend that should be encouraged.
What do we do about the question of centralisation? I agree that we should have people deciding their constitutional settlement for themselves in England, I support a constitutional convention, and I support people being involved in that process. But I also support an idea that goes beyond just simply saying "we need an English Parliament", and that idea is a Great Enabling Act - a Devolution Enabling Act - which basically says that we're going to do it fundamentally differently in England to how you did it in Scotland and Wales. We're not going to let the centre say "this is what you can have, these are the options", we're going to say, people of England you can have this power, this is the power you can have, but we're going to allow people to call it down.
Now it may be that those of you in the Campaign for an English Parliament will succeed and we will decentralise power to England, but it could be that we decentralise it to Cornwall or Kent. One little fact: Kent actually has more people than ten US states. All the power which we have exercised at the moment in Wales, in most European countries is exercised at a level a lot below the nation. A German lander has significant power, a Swiss canton has significant power, and the US capital - Washington DC - has more power than Cornwall. But Cornwall has more people than Washington DC.
The idea that we have simply to decentralise power to a large unit, that being England, is wrong. Now I'm not going to sit here and say that it has to be one or the other. What I'm going to say is that the people of England have the right and that we should have a process whereby that power can be pulled down.
We should have two principles.
Firstly, it should be driven from the bottom not the top, so that either local authorities or people via petition can trigger it. That would encourage competition between rival campaigners. Those of you who campaign for an English Parliament would have an opportunity to trigger a referendum, pull down power, and have an English parliament, if you persuade the people of England that that is what they wanted. But also other people, like the campaigners in Cornwall - who have raised 50,000 signatures for a Cornish Assembly - could actually have a Cornish Assembly, if they could get it.
And the second principle would be that power, once devolved, could not be taken away and back to the centre without the consent of the people in that area.
That would say to the people of England that it's in our hands to decide how we are governed and where power should lie. People like me who are localists, and who want to draw it down further than England, would argue one thing; and those people who believe that actually devolving from 60 million to 50 million is sufficient can have another argument. But that would be a wonderful argument to have.
David Wildgoose's speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament's Future of England debate.
The major parties seem determined to pretend that we in the Campaign for an English Parliament are in some way "not representative" of what ordinary English people are thinking.
On the contrary. We in the CEP and the wider English Movement are the "canaries in the coalmine". Merely the vocal element of a growing body of opinion.
Perhaps more to the point, is in what way can MPs and their parties themselves claim to be representative? After all, the combined Labour and Conservative vote has fallen from 98% in the 1950s to barely 68% at the last election. It used to be that 1 person in 11 was a member of a political party. It is now 1 person in 88. Voter turnout itself is in catastrophic decline. In last Thursday's by-election less than a third of the voters actually bothered to do so.
UK Democracy is in crisis.
Alec Salmond has openly stated that SNP MPs will vote exclusively in Scotland's interests even though their mandate is to act as British MPs in Britain's interests. The same is also true with Plaid Cymru and with the Northern Irish Parties. England is disadvantaged because there are no explicitly English MPs voting exclusively in England's interests. This matters. Issues that affect Scotland are devolved to Scotland and under Scottish control. With the major exception of the Anglo-Welsh legal system the same is also true for Wales. Issues affecting England though are voted on by all MPs at Westminster, including those MPs for whom English issues are not their overriding concern. And not just Nationalist MPs. Many Scottish Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs, including both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, signed the "Scottish Claim of Right", a public oath to treat Scotland's interests as paramount. But as the Bible says, "No Man can serve two masters". Quite clearly, "Dual-Mandate" MPs are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The great claim of Democracy is that if you don't like what your representative is doing, you can hold them accountable for their actions at the ballot box. Unless of course, you are John Reid MP, yet another signatory of the Scottish Claim of Right, representing a Scottish constituency, but placed in charge of the English NHS. Or the Welsh MP Kim Howells, voting to restrict the number of musicians permitted to play together on licensed premises in England and making the comment "the idea of listening to three Somerset folk singers sounds like hell". English culture, English traditions, English issues, but overruled by MPs from outside England and not answerable to voters in England.
No surprise then that Dr Travers of the LSE Research Centre has described England as "little more than a centrally governed colony".
But why should we English tolerate MPs we don't elect forcing health, education and other policies on us that we don't want?
Why should we put up with a government that is so desperate for cash that it is currently indulging in a fire-sale of largely English assets, such as the Dartford Tunnel and the playing fields and cemeteries of English Local Authorities? After all, assets belonging to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are under the control of their respective governments. England though has no such protection.
National Devolution has emphasised the fault lines within the Union. Rather than trying to deny that these exist I believe it is necessary to cement the Union along these lines by creating a federal state - the only practical way of separating what divides us from what unites us.
You may have heard the ridiculous argument that England is too big for a federation to work. This is palpable nonsense. A federation would *address* the problem of an out-sized England because English voting weight would only affect England itself. England is the same size it has always been. If a federation with England wouldn't work then a Union without a federation's protections certainly couldn't - except of course it did, for nearly 300 years before being wrecked.
National Parliaments dealing with the national issues concerning the nations of the United Kingdom would mean that all the citizens of the UK would stand together in the same relationship to the centre, with the same rights, and as *equal* citizens. Just as there is no better way to drive a wedge between us than treating the people of England as lesser-class citizens, there is no better way of reinforcing the UK family by recognising our individual needs but treating us all equally.
However at this point it is also worth asking another question. To what extent is the vote for nationalist politicians also a plea for more control over people's lives and away from a distant impersonal Westminster, or an even more remote European Union?
Because we need to re-invigorate local democracy as well.
Right now, the lowest tier of government in the UK has about 120,000 voters. By constrast, in the United States and Italy it is around 7,000 voters. In Spain and Germany, 5,000 voters. And in France, just 1,500 voters. The proposals to strip yet more powers from local Councils, centralising them in artificial and unwanted "Regions" is precisely the wrong approach. The true purpose of these "Regions" is simply to strengthen centralised control. They are too small to deal with national issues such as the legal system and the laws we all live under, but too large to have local understanding, accountability and crucially, sympathy.
We only have to look at the appalling state of the public finances to know that harsh cuts are on the way. Last week there were warnings that the UK could lose its AAA credit rating if the next government fails to bring spending under control and to reduce debt. That would result in a sterling crisis, gilt yield falls and sharp rises in interest rates at the worst possible time. The situation we are facing is far worse than that even Margaret Thatcher had to deal with. I was 16 when Geoffrey Howe gave his savage 1981 budget. The son of a Sheffield steelworker. My home areas of Rotherham and Sheffield lost 25% of all their jobs in just a 5 year period - twice as fast as Liverpool suffered. There was no Barnett Formula financial cushion for South Yorkshire.
To implement a severe fiscal tightening without also addressing the current political injustices is a recipe not just for discrediting the Westminster Parliament still further, but also potentially for serious civil unrest, damaging confidence in Sterling along with its attendant economic dangers.
Quite simply, to govern requires the consent of the governed. We need serious reform and this really cannot wait. We need an English Parliament and restored Local Government. And we need this NOW.
David Wildgoose is the vice-chairman The Campaign for an English Parliament.
Paul Kingsnorth's speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament's Future of England debate.
I don’t want to talk about the constitutional problems thrown up by the unequal devolution settlement. I hope we all know by now that the situation is unfair; that the people of England are being loaded with things that their representatives in the main voted against – foundation hospitals, for example, tuition fees or a third runway at Heathrow.
I hope we can all accept that devolution has created a bias against England that needs to be righted. What was seen by some as devolution from England to the other UK nations was in fact devolution from the British government to only three out of four UK nations. You don’t need to be English to see this as unfair, and you don’t need to be of any particular political persuasion. It is a simple matter of democracy and fairness that this situation should be righted.
But instead of talking about the political and constitutional case for a fair English settlement – and there are people here far better qualified to do this than me – I would like to talk about the cultural case, because I think it is a strong one.
England is the only nation in the UK without its own government, it is the only nation in the UK without its own representative assembly. Arguably it is the only nation in Europe without these things too. It is the only nation in the UK whose people have not been given a say in how they are governed. I think this is having a big cultural impact on its people.
It seems to be a truism within the political classes that people don’t care about ‘constitutional issues’. They care about crime, healthcare, education, immigration, but not about the AVplus voting system and the reform of the house of lords. In one sense this may be true, but in another sense, how people are governed and how much of a say they have in that government clearly has a cultural impact. It has an effect on how a people sees itself, how positive its outlook is, and how in control of their destinies its people feel.
I am struck, for example, with how much more confident Scotland feels since devolution. I feel the same in Wales. Rather than railing at a Westminster government which, however hard it may try, is too distant from their concerns to be able to respond to them, people in the smaller British nations seem now to have not only a political but a cultural outlet for their needs and desires. Their Welshness and Scottishness is represented as well as their votes. However much they may complain about their assemblies or parliaments, which of course they do, they would not give them up because they are closer to the people and have been forced, sometimes against their will, to use the peoples’ language.
England, by contrast, is in a cultural mess. A while back I spent nine months travelling the country meeting people from all backgrounds, and this was very clear. The English feel that they are not listened to. They feel that their Englishness is not respected by a political establishment obsessing over Britishness. They feel they do not get the same treatment as the other UK nations. Their town centres are being carpet-bombed by chainstores, their sense of place and identity and continuity as a nation is being eroded by decisions made by corporations and by the British government. They are also – and this is now at the forefront of debate – bearing the brunt of a very high wave of immigration which is causing real upheavals in some areas, they are governed in some cases by representatives from other nations and government of their own has been cut up and hived off to regional assemblies they have never heard of and cannot hold to account.
As a result, they are unhappy. Unhappy is a word i would apply to much of England today, and it seems to me to be the unhappiness of an unrepresented people. I was not surprised to see almost a million BNP votes at the last election. To me Nick Griffin – who I have to put up with as my own MEP in the northwest – is a symptom not a cause of a national malaise. The BNP are not an English party, but much of their support is in England and I suspect that if we had a more positive, forward-looking and fair political settlement in which peoples’ concerns could be heard properly and not subsumed beneath the weight of a government concerned primarily with the British economy and Britain’s place on the international stage, then the BNP bubble would be at least partly deflated.
I think that the people of England are unheard in the UK settlement at the moment. It sounds at first like a curious thing to say; after all they are 50 out of the 60 million UK citizens. But they have no direct outlet for their concerns as a nation, and they have had no say in what being a nation means to them.
This is going to have to change, because a pressure to change it is clearly building. I would suggest that an English settlement could release some of the pressure that is building up, and give the people of England a positive outlet for the concerns and feelings they clearly have about where their country is going. My choice would be a parliament for England. But what I would suggest is that the English should, like all the other UK nations, be given the chance to vote on how they are governed. I would like to see an English referendum in which three choices are laid out as to the future government of England: the status quo. Strong regional assemblies; or an English parliament. This, and the debate which would precede it, would be a wonderful first step to giving the English people their voice back again. I don’t think we should underestimate how unheard they feel that voice is at the moment.
Paul Kingsnorth is the author of "Real England: The Battle Against The Bland".
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- Peter Hain vs John Redwood
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