William Hague speaking to The Centre for Policy Studies, July 1999:
"English MPs should have exclusive say over English laws. People will become increasingly resentful that decisions are being made in England by people from other parts of the UK on matters that that English people did not have a say on elsewhere. English nationalism will build up. I think it is a dangerous thing to allow resentment to build up in a country. We have got to make the rules fair now."
Under William Hague and (later) Iain Duncan Smith the 2001 Conservative Manifesto said this:
When Parliament is discussing something that affects the whole of the United Kingdom, all MPs should vote. But only English and Welsh MPs will be entitled to vote on Government Bills relating to England and Wales. And English MPs alone will vote on the remaining laws which apply exclusively to England.
Iain Duncan Smith, House of Commons debates, 9 July 2003:
The Prime Minister is reduced to getting MPs who will not even be affected by this change to drive through his legislation for England. He is ploughing on, despite the fact that every single Labour MP stood on a manifesto that said that they would not introduce top-up fees.
Michael Howard, Telegraph, February 2004:
It is clearly wrong that MPs from Scotland should be able to vote on legislation concerning issues which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament
Under Michael Howard the 2005 Conservative Party Manifesto said this:
Now that exclusively Scottish matters are decided by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, exclusively English matters should be decided in Westminster without the votes of MPs sitting for Scottish constituencies who are not accountable to English voters. We will act to ensure that English laws are decided by English votes.
David Cameron interviewed on BBC News 24, January 2007:
I would like to see a system where when the UK Parliament was discussing purely matters that affect English constituencies then only members of Parliament for English constituencies have the final say. I think we could do that, I think it would correct the imbalance. Because at the moment the Scottish Parliament determines health and education up in Scotland and then Scottish MPs come and vote on those things in England. It's not balanced or fair and I think we can sort that out.
Under David Cameron the Conservative Party Manifesto said this:
Labour have refused to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation of Scottish MPs voting on matters which are devolved. A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries.
After a decade of informing everyone who demanded an English Parliament that English Votes on English Laws was the answer to the governance of England, suddenly - now that they're in government - they don't seem so sure about it. This is what David Mundell had to say on the matter in the House of Commons on 21 July 2010:
My hon. Friend will be aware that the coalition agreement specifically commits this Government to establishing a commission to look at the West Lothian question. We will bring forward proposals in the autumn.
Notice he didn't say which Autumn.
Lord Forsyth's speech at the 30th Anniversary Dinner for Margaret Thatcher (Glasgow, 3rd May 2009)
There is one Union which has your unwavering commitment and support. The Union between Scotland and England, the union which binds the United Kingdom. We are Conservatives and we are Unionists.
Writing about Scotland's Tories you said ‘Life is not easy for Scottish Tories; unlike English Conservatives they are used to being a minority party, with the Scottish media heavily slanted against them'. But these circumstances gave Scottish Conservatives a degree of enthusiasm and a fighting spirit which I admired, and which always guaranteed a warm hearted and receptive audience. Some leading Tories though a small minority hankered after a kind of devolved government but the rest of us were deeply suspicious of what that might mean for the future of the Union’.
Some on the left argue that the Thatcher revolution enabled Labour to create the Scottish Parliament. Of course the opposite is true . It was Labour’s defeat in the referendum on the Scotland Bill that lead to Margaret tabling a motion of no confidence in the Callaghan Government. We won it with the support of the SNP, which precipitated the 1979 election. Labour changed their minds on devolution cynically believing it would entrench their power in Scotland. George Robertson’s famous boast that ‘Devolution would kill nationalism stone dead' rivals Gordon Brown’s ‘no more boom and bust' in the stakes for catastrophic errors of political judgment. Labour having created the Parliament allowed their best and brightest to skulk off to Westminster and watched as their long held hegemony in Scotland evaporated.
We Conservatives are democrats and practical people. We respect the decision of the electorate who voted for a Scottish Parliament. We opposed the principle because we believed it would damage Scotland’s interests and threaten the Union. We could not see an answer to Tam Dayell’s West Lothian Question. We wondered how an executive could be held to account for expenditure it did not have to raise in taxes and if it did was that not independence. We agonised at the impact of Scotland losing its place and voice at the centre of the United Kingdom Government. We worried that a divisive, nationalist administration might abuse the powers of government to create conflict and try to destroy the Union. As Conservatives we believe it is irresponsible to bring forward reforms that have not been thought through.
That it is reckless to embark on a journey with no sense of the end direction. Today, we have a Scottish Parliament but all of the central problems remain unresolved. But my friends they cannot remain unresolved forever. Contrary to some people’s beliefs it was easy to get a hearing from the Prime Minister if there was a problem in Scotland. George Younger persuaded her to abolish domestic rates because of the savage impact of a revaluation in Scotland and soaring council spending. Our opponents claim the Scots were guinea pigs for the Poll Tax but the truth was it was imposed on England following a public outcry at the unfairness of the system for funding local government in Scotland. The rating system took little account of ability to pay and the burden had become unbearable for pensioners on fixed incomes living in the family home. It was grossly unfair just like the Council Tax today and you Margaret despite the obvious political hazards were determined to put it right.
The Poll Tax was undoubtedly badly implemented mainly because of Treasury opposition. It was set too high and had insufficient exemptions but the principle that everyone who receives council services should make some contribution to their cost according to ability to pay was the right one. Today the problem of local government finance remains unresolved.
Margaret, Your resolute defence of the Union never wavered.
Potentially we face a situation in which the Conservatives could command a majority in England but would not form the Government, and the will of Scotland could effectively override the will of England. I am not saying that that issue is topmost in people’s minds at the moment, but it does raise its head. People do write and say, “Why is this happening?” It will gradually gnaw away at the bonds that hold the Union together if we do not address the issue.
Potentially? The Conservatives have a majority in England now but could not form a government. They won 56% of the seats in England but need the hired muscle of the Liberal Democrats in order to govern England on issues such as Health and Education.
Over the past few days, following on from David Cameron's speech, you may have noticed the occasional news report or opinion piece on the Big Society and the 'Big Society Bank' that will fund it. You would be excused for thinking that this affected the entire UK, after all there was nothing in Cameron's speech to indicate otherwise, and nothing in the BBC report either. But as I have pointed out before, it is limited to England.
You have to hunt pretty hard to come by this information, but news of the territorial extent of this policy has leaked out to the public:
A Big Lottery Fund spokesperson said:
“We look forward to discussing with Government the precise nature of BIG’s role in using England’s share of dormant accounts funding to support the Big Society Bank. We understand the government will shortly issue the Big Lottery Fund with the formal directions we need to take this work forward.
So if it's just England's dormant bank accounts that are being plundered by Government, why doesn't Cameron say so in his speech?
In Cameron's speech there were no utterances of the words 'England' or 'English', there were six mentions of the phrase 'our country', three mentions of the phrase 'the country', and the usual references to 'our public services', 'our communities', etc.
When listening to Cameron, we must assume that "England is the country, and the country is England", and that anything he says relates to England unless he explicitly states otherwise (as is the case with the Conservative website, which is by default English).
David Cameron, leader of the UK Conservative Party:
“2011 is going to be a difficult year, as we take hard but necessary steps to sort things out.
“But the actions we are taking are essential, because they are putting our economy and our country on the right path.
“Together, we can make 2011 the year that Britain gets back on its feet.”
Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party:
"Our manifesto for May will be bursting with new ideas to deliver for Scotland by empowering people and communities, getting the government out of people's hair and setting our public services free from overburdening state control. We will unveil these plans over the coming weeks. But I give this pledge to Scotland. We will tell it like it is. We will get to grips with the challenges facing Scotland and we will take our country forward.
"May's election gives us the chance to say to the voters: Look at what we have done. Judge us on our record because we have delivered for Scotland."
Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservative Party:
“The Assembly elections represent an opportunity for a historic break with the past and a chance to shape a new Wales based on power in local communities, a fully funded NHS and a vibrant private sector led by strong indigenous Welsh businesses.
“Our policies of protecting the Health budget, providing budgets directly to schools and offering business rate relief will be central to our appeal to the Welsh people in May.”
Stirring stuff, unless you happen to be English. As usual England goes unmentioned, left unimagined.
Hark! Can you hear it? The sound of Welsh and Scottish Tories trumpeting the Union Dividend.
Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh secretary, said the Welsh government still received more per head than any part of England except London. "This is a fair funding settlement for Wales," she said. "But like elsewhere, tough funding decisions will have to be faced in Cardiff Bay." And Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary, said: "For Scotland, this is a fair deal in tough times. Spending on frontline services will be reduced by less than in England, Wales or Northern Ireland."
They're as bad as Labour.
Scottish Labour today reacted with fury to reports that the Tory – Lib Dem government is planning to scrap the Barnett Formula. Experts have warned that replacing the funding mechanism for Scotland with a so-called “needs based” system would see reductions of up to £4.5 bn in the Scottish budget.
Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray said:
"Many Scots feel betrayed by the Lib Dems for doing a deal with the Tories because they have so little in common, but they both want to scrap the Barnett Formula.
"That could torpedo Scotland's budget and lead to unimaginable cuts to public services here.
"The Barnett Formula has served Scotland well over many years.
David Blunkett has suddenly decided to mention (now that his party is no longer in government) that public spending is higher in Scotland:
The four men responsible for preparing, prioritising and pushing through these spending reductions have one overriding thing in common. David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander represent constituencies which will feel less of an impact from the reductions in public expenditure and welfare payments than virtually any other part of the UK; will be under less pressure in their advice surgeries and community meetings; and, therefore, will receive less feedback on the real impact of their decisions on the country as a whole than other MPs.
The three English constituencies are among the top 10 most affluent in England; and Mr Alexander is protected by higher spending in Scotland, as well as different prioritisation from the devolved administration.
David Cameron's first speech to conference as prime minister left me in no doubt that he intends to stand by his statement that he does not want to be prime minister of England. While Annabel Goldie urged action in "Scotland's national interest" and David Mundell wanted to "take Scotland forward", David Cameron could only mention England in the context of football and unionism.
He can speak of England but not for England. England is left unaddressed, without a vision of an English future - unimagined.
When I walked into Downing Street as Prime Minister, that evening I was deeply conscious that I was taking over the heaviest of responsibilities, not least for the future of our United Kingdom.
Tony Blair, Gordon Brown - and John Major before them - worked incredibly hard to bring lasting peace to Northern Ireland and I will continue their work.
And as the threat of dissident republican terrorism increases, I want to make it clear that we will protect our people with every means at our disposal.
And I want to make something else clear.
When I say I am Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I really mean it.
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland - we're weaker apart, we are stronger together, and together is how we must remain.
But there is another side to life as Prime Minister.
Like being made to watch the England football team lose, 4-1to Germany, in the company of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
It's a form of torture and I wouldn't wish on anyone.
I have to say, she is one of the politest people I have ever met, every time their players scored another goal, she would turn to me and say, 'I really am very, very sorry.'
It's brought a whole new meaning to the concept of Anglo-German relations: whatever you do, don't mention the score.
The aspirations of the English nation, English identity, England's future and England's democracy, disregarded in favour of a glib and insincere anecdote about watching football with a German, from a man who doesn't even like football (and possibly England).
In contrast Cameron mentioned 'Britain' 9 times, 'British' 6 times and the 'United Kingdom' 3 times. He has no problem imagining and speaking for and to the British nation; he even refers to it as "the country I love" and "our country", something that he would never say about England.
It is strange that 'English Conservatives' should be this way when Scottish Tories (for all their other failings) have no trouble at all speaking of, for and to Scotland, with an evident sense of Scottish pride.
As David McCrone remarked, "In an important sense, Scotland’s politicians are all Nationalists". The Scottish nationalists began to control the the political debate and the language of that debate in Scotland to such an extent that the Scottish Tories realised that they had to speak the language of Scotland and distance themselves from the Status-Quoism of the Westminster Tories; and many have also reached the conclusion that the Scottish Tories need 'independence' from the Conservative and Unionist Party in order to complete their rehabilitation.
English nationalists have a hell of a lot of work to do before the likes of David Cameron are forced to confront England in the same way that the Scottish Tories have come to terms with the fact that they must be Scottish first and British second. Unbelievably the Labour Party in England may be ahead of the Tories in that respect.
The Flaming Sword: Cameron, ‘the Country’ and England
BritologyWatch: David Cameron: Big society, not English government
Charlie Elphicke MP, writing on the Blue Blog, heralds the Academies Act.
The new academies promise to make a massive difference to education up and down the land. Could we be seeing the beginning of an education revolution? I look forward to further reforms to give our children the best start in life and help Britain compete on the world stage in the years to come.
The Academies Act is limited in application to England*, so why no mention of England? Instead of saying "up and down the land", why not say "the length and breadth of England"; and instead of "help Britain compete", why not "help England compete"?
What is it about England that these people hate so much?
Michael Gove, Scotsman in charge of English Education, has form.
* The Bill extends to England and Wales but only has application to England. While sections of the Bill do technically extend to Wales, the effect of the provisions will only permit an Academy to be established in England, so it will have no practical impact on, or application to, the organisation of schools in Wales.
I thought about patriotism. I wished I had been born early enough to have been called a Little Englander. It was a term of sneering abuse, but I should be delighted to accept it as a description of myself. That little sounds the right note of affection. It is little England I love. And I considered how much I disliked Big Englanders, whom I saw as red-faced, staring, loud-voiced fellows, wanting to go and boss everybody about all over the world, and being surprised and pained and saying 'Bad show!' if some blighters refused to fag for them. They are patriots to a man. I wish their patriotism began at home... - J.B. Priestley
Wales Online carries some interesting comment from Alan Trench in an article titled Why Eurosceptics are not (always) Little Englanders. Trench argues that the Conservative's fresh commitment to the Union, in spite of their continued failure in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, stems from two Tory anxieties:
- Dissolution of the Union would result in further integration of the Union's constituent parts into the EU
- Dissolution of the UK would diminish England/Britain's international prestige and influence (no seat of the UN Security Council for England alone).
Mr Trench said the strategy of fighting seats in all parts of the UK had "bombed".
But he is adamant that Euroscepticism within Tory ranks is a key reason why the party remains determined to keep the UK together, despite the failure to advance in Scotland or win any seats in alliance with the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
He said: "It's one of the things people don't give enough attention to when they are trying to understand the Conservative party... All the evidence is Euroscepticism is one of the defining threads of the modern Conservative party."
During his lecture in Cardiff hosted by the Institute of Welsh Affairs, he said: "I think part of what's going on in this is if you are a serious Eurosceptic you are talking about Britain - the UK - being able to stand for itself on the world stage."
The United Kingdom has a population of more than 62 million, of which England accounts for just over 51 million - significantly less than Germany (81.8 million), France (65.4 million) and Italy (60.2 million), and only just ahead of Spain (46 million).
In other words, without the UK, England would be a midde-sized European nation which happened to have a few nuclear submarines. Would Japan (127.4 million people) see the UK as a peer or a pretender to be a great power?
It is essentially the contrary argument to that laid out by Robin Harris in The Rise of English Nationalism and the Balkanisation of Britain.
I tend to agree with Trench that Eurosceptic thinking is important in the debate over the British Question. The Tories are not 'Little Englanders' in the true sense of the phrase, they are anything but. I would say that the Tories want to keep Britain together because they are 'Big Englanders' or 'Greater Englanders' for whom Britain - or more correctly Westminster - is a device for projecting power and retaining sovereignty. They are what Chris Bryant refers to as the Anglo-British in his 2003 paper "These Englands, or where does devolution leave the English?":
I prefer to associate the Anglo-British not with an Anglocentrism whose epicentre is London, but rather with those in all regions and all classes in England for whom the difference between being English and being British, is, for the most part, unclear, unimportant and/or irrelevant. Many of them would see nothing amiss in the title of Clive Aslet’s Anyone for England? A Search for British Identity (1997). They inhabit an Anglo-British England.
The Anglo-British do not notice when an institution or person associated with England performs a British function. For example, it goes unremarked that the Bank of England is the central bank for all Britain, or that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primate of the Church of England, crowns the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Nor do countless references to ‘England’ which should have been to ‘Britain’ grate on the English ear. Walter Bagehot’s famous The English Constitution (1964 ), for example, does not strike the Anglo-British as mistitled. Similarly, it is the 900-year continuity of the parliament at Westminster – originally English, later British – that enables Rebecca Langlands (1999) to speak of the English core of the British state.
The Anglo-Brits are also people who say 'British schools' or 'this country' - instead of 'English schools' or 'England' - when they are talking about Education policy in England; they are people who tolerate the fact that non-English MPs vote on English matters, even though they can see it is undemocratic. The Anglo-British are everywhere but I do think there is a class and age bias. The Anglo-Brits are particularly prevalent amongst the upper classes and the privately educated, and they're also more likely to be older (at least in my experience). However, they're not just confined to England or the upper echelons of society. Scots like Gordon Brown are Anglo-British in their understanding of Britain, which is why he uses an English narrative and English values to try and forment a sense of Britishness. But it's amongst Tories that you find the classic unreconstructed Anglo-Brit, Englishmen for whom the sun never sets, and for whom 1707 and 1801 marked the creation of a new Greater England, a colonial expansion. Yes it was a shame about the Empire, but chin up lads, stiff upper lip and all that...We still have Scotland and part of Ireland, ungrateful bastards though they are. Tally ho! What, what.
It's the Anglo-British 'Big Englanders' - rather than Little Englanders - who oppose an English parliament and a federal Britain. Robert Key is one such Tory:
One thing that is absolutely clear is that we should make every possible attempt to ensure that this House remains the Parliament of England. I do not wish to see any other Parliament established anywhere calling itself an English Parliament. That would be appalling and would go against 1,000 years of our history.
Mark Pritchard is another:
I am afraid I do not support your campaign as I feel it will play into the hands of European federalists by breaking up the United Kingdom, even more than Labour have done already. I think that there would be many in the European Commission and elsewhere on the Continent who would be delighted at seeing the United Kingdom become nothing more than a country of regions - a type of “divide and rule” concept.
I know that the CEP has the best interests of England at heart, but I don’t think that an English Parliament is the way to deliver these interests.
Liam Fox another:
I think our national identity is being stripped away in order to prepare us for being engulfed by those who wish to see Britain merely as a region in a European superstate. I believe our integration has already gone far enough and I will resist any moves to diminish British sovereignty in any way, shape or form.
The Tories prefer to avoid the issue of the EU, and so for this reason it is UKIP politicians who we turn to for an honest description of Eurosceptic Conservative thought on the subject of devolution. The following is taken from a letter from Jeffrey Titford, UKIP MEP and former Tory, again in opposition to an English parliament:
From our point of view, there is little point in establishing an English Parliament, while we remain members of the European Union. In fact, to do so would be to play into the hands of the EU, which is quite happy to see the United Kingdom broken up. We can only enter into sensible debate on this issue, after Britain has left the European Union.
This UKIP view of devolution is embellished by Derek Clark MEP, again in a letter opposing an English parliament:
We see the UK as a sovereign nation independent of the political construction known as the EU but otherwise co-operating with the countries of Europe. I believe that this view is shared by the majority of people in the UK. What is happening is a deliberate destabilizing process by the EU with the active support of both this government and previous ones. As a result all sorts of movements have sprung up in support of one view or another. Frankly the campaign for an English parliament can only help to assist the break up of the UK and further the cause of the EU agenda.
It's not only in the field of politics that the Anglo-British rear their ugly heads. Dave Richards of the English Football Association provides a classic example of Anglo-Brit thinking:
"It's time for a British boss, somebody who understands our passion, belief and commitment. There's no distinction between English and British."
Incredibly Richards made this statement in the context of advocating Martin O'Neill as the next England manager whilst opposing a foreign manager of the England team. For Anglo-Brits the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is simply - England writ large (at least to all English intents and purposes, they are rather more tactful when addressing a Scottish audience). It is the thinking of these people that is the greatest obstacle to English home rule - to them British sovereignty is English sovereignty.
David Cameron is another Anglo-Brit, as Trench notes:
Mr Trench was struck by Mr Cameron's commitment to the union in a December 2007 speech in Edinburgh in which he said in a "choice between constitutional perfection and the preservation of our nation, I choose our United Kingdom".
The academic said: "That was the first time I noticed a Conservative leader come up with a reason to support the union... What he said was the importance of the union was it was part of the UK's wider standing in the world."
The Anglo-Brits have a very whiggish interpretation of Britishness. Devolution is an asymmetry that can be tolerated and explained because sovereignty remains with the Imperial Parliament. In that way the unbroken continuity of English/Anglo-British sovereignty is preserved. Tradition, continuity and incremental progress are more important than democracy. For these Anglo-Brits it would almost be preferrable for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be allowed to whither on the English vine and drop off rather than contemplate a federalism by which Westminster's sovereignty is diminished but an entity named Britain remains. They would internalise the managed decline of Empire by treating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as colonies - as peripheries to the English centre - rather than undergo a radical re-imagining of the centre that disturbs their narrative.
I don't hold out much hope for a federal Britain. I see the future of Britain as one of 'managed decline' in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland claim ever greater powers from Westminster. The only way this will be averted is by the decline of the Big Englander and the rise of the Little Englander. In this respect I think demographics are on England and Britain's side, the youth of Britain being far more comfortable with the multi-national nature of Britain than is the post-war baby-boomer generation.
We Little Englanders do not necessarily view Westminster as a benign force for civillisation and progress; we talk of the Norman Yoke in the same breath as mention of Westminster; we sing Jerusalem instead of God Save the Queen or Land of Hope and Glory; and we view our politicians as corrupt and elitist, and invariably British.