"The people of England deserve no less than the same choice as the peoples of Wales and Scotland: a referendum on whether they want a parliament of their own." - David Davis MP
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Sorry England, We’re Too Busy say British MPs

English Commonwealth - Fri, 03/04/2016 - 20:42

This is how the Guardian reported today’s much anticipated second reading of Toby Perkins English National Anthem Bill:

MPs are to be asked to briefly put aside matters such as the refugee crisis and the EU referendum to consider whether England sports fans should still sing God Save the Queen.

There would be no need for the Guardian to make snide comments like this if England had its own parliament. If we had an English parliament then British MPs in the Union Parliament would be able to deal with lofty matters of state, the EU and humanitarian disasters without the inconvenience of running England.

In the absence of an English parliament don’t be surprised to find England sidelined in favour of other matters deemed more important by British MPs, as happened today.

Although the national anthem was tabled to be discussed in Parliament on Friday, in the end there was no time for the debate.

Hopefully this is not the end.

Sadly the government have 'talked out' bill previous to mine, so no time to debate #EnglishNationalAnthem today but fight will go on.

— Toby Perkins (@tobyperkinsmp) March 4, 2016

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Scotland’s Barnett Formula Veto

English Commonwealth - Wed, 03/02/2016 - 02:40

Lord Forsyth:

This fiscal framework makes a fundamental error. I served with my noble friend Lord Lang and others on the committee established by the late Lord Barnett to deal with what he regarded as a great embarrassment—that his name was associated with a formula that he believed was unfair to the rest of the United Kingdom, and to Wales in particular. We looked at the Barnett formula and concluded unanimously, in a report that stands the test of time, that we should have a system that treated all parts of the United Kingdom fairly, was based on needs and had transitional arrangements for the implementation of the changes for losers and winners. That has been ignored by Governments for political reasons—I understand that—by Governments on my own side and on the other side. I understand the political reasons why it has been ignored, but I cannot understand why, in this fiscal framework, it has been agreed that the Scottish Government will have a veto on any change to the Barnett formula in future.

The arrangements under the fiscal framework say that, after five years of this deal, there will be an independent review. We are not told how independent it will be, how the review will be established or what its terms of reference are—and perhaps my noble friend could explain that in responding to these amendments. Then the recommendations will be subject to the agreement of both Governments. That is Whitehall-speak for saying that the Scottish Government will have a veto. So there is no ability, if the agreement is carried forward, to get rid of the Barnett formula and have a formula that is fair to all parts of the United Kingdom, because the Scottish Government will have a veto. As the Barnett formula is so generous to Scotland, I would be very surprised indeed if the Scottish Government are keen on moving away from Barnett, for that reason.

A Scottish veto on the Barnett Formula was pretty much ensured when the three party leaders pledged to continue the Barnett Formula in ‘The Vow‘ to the Scottish people, which is why we complained about it at the time.

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Jerusalem

Anthem4England - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 14:54

Over the past few days this site has received a huge number of visitors and requests for comment. There have been numerous requests from radio stations in England and abroad to participate in phone-in shows, and requests for quotes and commentary from print and digital media.

One such request received today was from a Turkish agency who asked:

What is the significance of this poem for you?
What does Jerusalem as a city mean for you?
Does your preference for this poem have any relation with the importance given to Jerusalem as a city?

I dashed off a response and then thought that I would share it here because this belief that Jerusalem refers to an actual place seems widespread, even among the English.

Hello,

The Jerusalem referred to in Blake’s work is a metaphor for a better place (heaven on earth). It does not refer to the Jerusalem in Israel but to a mythical time long ago when people lived in harmony with each other. In the song Jerusalem Blake is suggesting that we build this new Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. For a full understanding you would need to read Blake’s other works in which he constructs his own mythology around Albion and Jerusalem.

The opening lines refer to the legend that Jesus visited England as a child with Joseph of Arimethea. During Blake’s lifetime this was a popular belief propagated by a group called the ‘British Israelites’ who also believed that the British were one of the lost tribes of Israel. Depending on your perspective you can answer Blake’s Questions with a Yes or a No.

I don’t believe in God, I doubt that Jesus visited England, and I don’t believe that Blake’s Jerusalem ever existed, so my answers would all be No.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green: No
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen! No

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills? No
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? No

But the take home message here, for me at least, is that whether or not Jesus visited England, we are blessed with a ‘green and pleasant’ land and should strive to rebuild Jerusalem here. This is a call to human agency – ‘Till we have built Jerusalem’ – rather than an appeal to God’s charity.

The ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ that Blake refers to are most often taken to be the factories and workhouses of the industrial revolution. Some academics believe that they refer to the orthodox churches of the Establishment or to Oxford and Cambridge universities. I like to believe that Blake was referring to all these and also, in a more abstract sense, to the ‘mills of the mind’ – the calculating rationalism that had moved people away from the spirituality that would make a new Jerusalem possible.

In summary the poem/song is a call to make England a better place. The great thing about it, for me, is that it is so open to interpretation. It is full of Christian imagery but many non-Christians love it because they can answer in the negative, and it’s a call to human agency rather than a call to God to save or protect us. And as for the dark satanic mills, today they could be call centres, the Houses of Parliament or social media.

Jerusalem as a city means nothing to me personally, I’m an atheist. Having said that I would very much like to visit because it looks like a fascinating and beautiful place.

Jerusalem is head and shoulders above the other contenders for the crown, in my opinion. Land of Hope and Glory is a fantastic tub-thumping anthem but it is an imperialistic song about making Britain’s empire ‘wider still and wider’, and it includes a direct appeal to God to make us mightier. For those reasons it should be discounted or rewritten. I Vow to Thee my Country is beautiful but it smacks of chauvinism.

But that is just my opinion. If you would like your opinion to appear on this site please follow the instructions on our Facebook post.

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Hello world!

What England Means to Me - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 00:45

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