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David Cameron

The Joint Ministerial Committee Meets Today

Today sees the first plenary session of the Joint Ministerial Committee, with representatives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland travelling down to Westminster to meet with their British counterparts to discuss where the axe should fall on public services:

The economy is expected to dominate talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and the leaders of the devolved administrations.

The Tory leader will chair the first plenary session of the joint ministerial committee (JMC) which brings together the heads of all the UK nations.

Not quite all the UK nations. England won't be represented.

There will be smart arses who say that England is represented by UK ministers, or by the UK Government as a whole, but that is a downright lie. The Government represents the United Kingdom in its entirety, not parts of it. Nick Clegg, who attends the JMC talks, is only a minister because the Tory party could not command a majority across the UK despite the fact that it won the majority of seats in England. Yet Clegg will have a ministerial say on English domestic matters. Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg's axe-weilding Scottish Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will not be attending the meeting, but he - constitutionally no less a representative of England than Cameron or Clegg - will slash England's public spending despite being elected outside England and possessing no direct democratic mandate from the people whose lives his cuts may ruin.

If the UK Government truly represented England's interests then they would lose no time in scrapping the Barnett Formula in favour of something transparent and fair, which is the only way of making the spending cuts open, responsible and fair.

I want to make sure we go about the urgent task of cutting our deficit in a way that is open, responsible and fair.

I want this government to carry out Britain's unavoidable deficit reduction plan in a way that strengthens and unites the country.

I have said before that as we deal with the debt crisis we must take the whole country with us - and I mean it. - David Cameron, 7th June 2010

David William Donald Cameron: Dancing to a Scottish Tune?

The BBC's online biography of David Cameron informs us that "his biggest mention in the Eton school magazine came when he sprained his ankle dancing to bagpipes on a school trip to Rome".

He's still dancing to a Scottish jig.

Scotland in general – and the SNP in particular – is being love-bombed by a Prime Minister who seems to think he's the romantic lead in a Richard Curtis movie (Coalition, Actually perhaps?). This is not going to let up. It looks like Cameron will agree to free up the £180 million due to Scotland from the fossil fuel levy. I wouldn't be surprised if he also agreed to the Barnett consequentials from East London redevelopment work linked to the 2012 Olympics. A small price to pay to keep Scotland sweet and the SNP off-balance.

And it looks as though he's also going to commit to defering Scotland's share of the UK's £6bn public spending cuts until next year, by which time he will have rushed through the Calman Commission proposals, which are a priority.

Cameron has also been visiting Wales and plans to visit Northern Ireland, but in his clamour to treat the nations of the UK with respect he has unsurprisingly forgotten all about England. England has not been mentioned at all, apart from the commitment to hold a commission on the West Lothian Question, a policy that the Spectator's James Forsyth regards as a watering down of the Tories' previous policy.

The Tory manifesto commits a Conservative government to introducing ‘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.’ The coalition agreement has watered this commitment down significantly. The new government will merely ‘establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

Presumably it was amongst those policies jettisoned to 'bury the right'. We will never know.

UPDATE: From today's press briefing

Asked about the Calman Commission and the West Lothian question, the PMS said that people would have to wait on the precise timings of how these issues would be handled and how and when a commission would be established.

I'm glad that it's not just me

Charlie Brooker:

Every time I look at Cameron, I'm reminded of video-game characters: not the loveable, spiky ones like Sonic or Mario, but the bland, generic dead-eyed avatars you can "create" for use in a tennis game or a tedious Tolkienesque adventure. You start with a bald clone, then add features drawn from a limited palette - eye colour, one of three noses, an optional goatee beard and so on - and invariably end up with an eerily characterless zombie straight out of the boardgame Guess Who?. Simulated choice, as opposed to genuine variety. It is easy to build a Cameron lookalike. Just simulate the smuggest estate agent you can think of. Or some interchangeable braying twit in a rugby shirt, ruining a local pub just by being there. Easy.

Only Proportional Representation or an English Parliament will save the Union

The best result that the Campaign for an English Parliament could have hoped for from this general election was a minority Labour Government, perhaps bolstered by coalition with the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, able to impose itself on an England only by virtue of MPs elected outside England's borders.

That result would have woken England up.

In the end England sensibly rejected Labour, confounded predictions by rejecting the Lib Dems too, and handed the Conservatives a majority of 62 seats. However, even though, as Mrs Rigby says, England does not look like a country that needs to be negotiating a power-sharing agreement, David Cameron is locked in a room with Nick Clegg cutting deals about government policy on England because he cannot command a majority across the UK.

Blue_England


Cameron only has himself to blame, he is on record as saying "I do not want to be the prime minister of England". And because he does not support the creation of an English parliament and government, Cameron can have few complaints about being prevented from governing the country that sustains his party, and nor should he protest too much about being prevented from creating his 'Big Society' in England when he cannot form a government for the nation that voted for it.

But although Cameron can have no complaint, the people of England can have just complaint.

According to David Cameron his "Unionism goes very deep" and he will "never do anything to put it [the Union] at risk". Defence of the Union is the first instinct of David Cameron and should be the first priority of his Conservative and Unionist government, as it was for Abraham Lincoln who regarded the preservation of the American Union as more important than measures against slavery, and defended it by bloody civil war.

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. - Abraham Lincoln

This is not unthinking patriotism, but it is my country - The Union - right or wrong. Whatever, if anything, Cameron does about England, he will only do because he believes it helps him save the Union. It is therefore the job of the Campaign for an English Parliament to undermine the Union, to force Cameron into addressing the English Question for fear that to do otherwise would be to create a crescendo of English grievances about our anomalous constitutional position in the Union.

Ironically, given his Unionist passion, it is David Cameron himself who is the biggest threat to the Union; a Conservative government was always going to be the acid test of Labour's lop-sided devolution settlement, and given this election result and the economic conditions it most certainly will be. Devolution was supposed to buffer Scotland against the policies of Tory England. It was supposed reduce the democratic deficit and silence the cries of "No Mandate" that were heard under Thatcher and Major. But with only one Scottish MP and with a general perception in Scotland that the Tories are anti-Scottish (a perception helped in no small part by Scottish Labour's negative general election campaign) Cameron will find Scotland to be a surly, demonstrative and uncooperative member of his precious Union. A Tory government is a godsend for Scottish nationalists, and polls indicate that Scots will be more likely to support independence when confronted with a Tory Government.

The main thrust of the Campaign for an English Parliament's argument should be popular sovereignty for England and a 'national conversation' on England so that we can discuss and decide how we wish to be governed.

The United Kingdom is almost unique among the world's states (Canada is the other exception that springs to mind) in that it is based on the principle of consent and self-determination. The most obvious UK example and precedent for this principle is the legal status of Northern Ireland.

It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purpose of this section and in accordance to Schedule 1 of this Act.

What applies to Northern Ireland must of course, logic dictates, apply equally in principle to the other nations of the UK.

The people of Scotland also have their own less formal popular sovereignty. It does not have legal status but it has been publicly upheld by numerous politicians from Donald Dewar to Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown to David
Cameron, most notably (for two of those) in the Scottish Claim of Right 1988.

If Wales wants to take a similar constitutional path to Scotland by creating its own parliament with primary legislative powers, then it too may be well served by asserting 'we the people'. Which would leave England in an anomalous position of being the only part of the UK which makes no claim to the principle of self-determination.

Such an affirmation of popular sovereignty need not be the death knell for the Union. What Unionists like David Cameron and Gordon Brown need to recognise is that 'we the people' can be an affirmation of the Union as much as it can be a call to separatism. Unfortunately due to the asymmetric nature of constitutional reform - holding referendums in different parts of the United Kingdom on separate occasions, on different questions, and in denial of England - the various reforms do not affirm the Union, they simply reinforce the impression that it is a union in flux and that piecemeal power grabs from the centre is the way forward (with each grab increasing England's democratic deficit).

That the Union is in flux is testified to by the fact that the Conservative Manifesto states that they will draw up their own white paper on Scottish devolution (as an alternative to Calman) and "will not stand in the way" of a referendum on a Welsh parliament, allowing the Scots and Welsh to consent to the Union whilst improving their powers of self-governance.

Logically the principle of consent also applies to England, it's just that Westminster prefers to ignore that inconvenient truth for the moment. But the Union is based on the principle of consent, and therefore any stable Union settlement must be based on actual consent (referendums) or implied consent (a lack of interest in changing the Status Quo).

At the moment their argument for England's place in the Union stands on the platform of implied consent - they say that there is no demand for an English parliament, even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

The CEP's argument must first be for English popular sovereignty, which we hope would include a referendum on an English parliament; and second, it should be an argument for a stable Union settlement - possibly federal - which we would argue is impossible without English consent. Unfortunately, given the intransigent Status Quo-ism of Westminster, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of needing to whip up English grievance to undermine the Union in order that they acede to the logic of England's right to decide how we wish to be governed within the Union. Or, alternatively, we encourage Scottish and Welsh nationalists efforts to further destabilise the Union.

The potential of English nationalism to upset the Union balance is one that Alex Salmond is all too aware of, hence his kind offer to Labour and the Lib Dems of a rainbow, anti-Tory (anti-England?), alliance.

Such a 'progressive alliance' of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Green would provide Gordon Brown with an overall majority of two MPs. It would be an incredibly weak government that could serve no useful purpose other than to drive the Conservatives into the embrace of English nationalists. That's fine by me and Alex but probably not something that Brown and Clegg would want a part in. Hilariously, idiots like the Guardian's Jackie Ashley have seized upon this coalition as a once in a lifetime chance to deliver electoral reform (and screw England into the bargain).

A Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition would have an overall majority of 37 MPs, 24 of which will have been elected outside England, thereby reducing the working majority to just 7 if a self-denying ordinance is observed on English matters as it has been (when it suits him) by David Mundell, still the loneliest man in Westminster. It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that an informal Tory-Lib Dem coalition would require the use of MPs elected outside England to be assured of getting England-only Government legislation through the House, especially now that the SNP have shrewdly indicated that they will ditch their observance of a self-denying ordinance in the event of a Tory government.

If the Cameron and Clegg talks fail, then instead of some sort of coalition we might yet end up with a Tory minority government, in which case I imagine that the Labour and Lib Dem parties will have to think long and hard about using the votes of non-English MPs on issues that should by rights be devolved to an English parliament.

It would probably be sensible for Labour and the Lib Dems non-English MPs to observe a self-denying ordinance on English issues rather than goad the Tories into pushing 'English Votes on English Laws' through Westminster, a move that might force Labour and the Lib Dems into using Scottish and Welsh MPs to prevent the Tories from implementing 'English Votes on English Laws'.

A Tory minority Government may find itself in the invidious position of deploying its one Scottish MP, its 8 Welsh MPs and 8 DUP MPs to vote on England-only legislation, thereby doing exactly what they accused Labour of doing over tuition fees and foundation hospitals.

Cameron's minority Government would inevitably invite attack from the SNP, who would ditch their policy of self-denying ordinance on English legislation in order to raise the West Lothian Question and whip up English resentment. The SNP will defend this action, quite justifiably, on the basis that they are protecting the Scottish budget from Tory cuts, and they may well be joined by Plaid Cymru and Ulster MPs unless Cameron can provide additional funding for the devolved nations at England's expense.

The non-English parts of the Union will extract their price for not bringing down a minority Tory Government.

It is for this reason that I think David Cameron will pull out all the stops in order to co-opt Nick Clegg's Lib Dems into coalition. Without the Lib Dems' numbers and Scottish MPs, Cameron's Government will be at the mercy of the West Lothian Question and vulnerable to extortion by groups from the devolved nations.

There is now a political consensus from all three party leaders for strengthening Parliament against the Executive. In delivering a hung parliament the British public have obliged by strengthening Parliament's hand and ensuring government by compromise, ignoring by doing so Cameron's plea that we needed the 'strong government' that only a Tory majority could deliver.

There is also a developing consensus for electoral reform, and many on the Left see this issue, rather than 'The English Question', as the real democratic unfairness.

If he goes for a minority Tory Government, David Cameron will be accused of putting Conservative (and perhaps English) interests before the interests of the country [the Union]. And he will be putting the Union at risk by doing so, setting Tory England against the others. He needs the Lib Dems on board to provide a Scottish mandate and to prevent the West Lothian Question provoking a constitutional crisis that could endanger the Union. For this reason he must offer the Lib Dems something on electoral reform, and the Lib Dems would be mad not to hold out for a cast iron guarantee on a referendum.

The proportional representation that the Lib Dems favour would end the rotating bipartisan elective dictatorship that has been enjoyed by the Conservative and Labour parties since the Thirties. It would greatly diminish the likelihood of the 'strong government' of the kind that Cameron favours, and it would also diminish the likelihood of future Conservative governments. It would however be fairer. And it would mitigate the West Lothian Question by providing a more representative parliament - providing the Tories with several Scottish MPs.

Proportional representation is the price that Cameron must pay in order to govern without putting the Union at risk. Failure to do the deal with Clegg makes a mockery of his claim that he will do nothing that endangers the Union. Proportional representation will not answer the West Lothian Question, much less the English Question, but it will lessen its potential to bring down minority governments and destablise the Union, and in the short-term the promise of a referendum will provide the strong-ish government that is so desperately required.

So it's either PR (which, as Guy Lodge says, will replace the Conservative's English power-base with fewer Conservative MPs more widely distributed) or it's an English parliament.

What's it to be Dave?

Cross-posted from English Parliament online.

Constitutional Futures

Only Proportional Representation or an English Parliament will save the Union.

The best result that the Campaign for an English Parliament could have hoped for from this general election was a minority Labour Government, perhaps bolstered by coalition with the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, able to impose itself on an England only by virtue of MPs elected outside England's borders.

That result would have woken England up.

In the end England sensibly rejected Labour, confounded predictions by rejecting the Lib Dems too, and handed the Conservatives a majority of 62 seats. However, even though, as Mrs Rigby says, England does not look like a country that needs to be negotiating a power-sharing agreement, David Cameron is locked in a room with Nick Clegg cutting deals about government policy on England because he cannot command a majority across the UK.

large_Blue_England.jpg


Cameron only has himself to blame, he is on record as saying "I do not want to be the prime minister of England". And because he does not support the creation of an English parliament and government, Cameron can have few complaints about being prevented from governing the country that sustains his party, and nor should he protest too much about being prevented from creating his 'Big Society' in England when he cannot form a government for the nation that voted for it.

But although Cameron can have no complaint, the people of England can have just complaint.

According to David Cameron his "Unionism goes very deep" and he will "never do anything to put it [the Union] at risk". Defence of the Union is the first instinct of David Cameron and should be the first priority of his Conservative and Unionist government, as it was for Abraham Lincoln who regarded the preservation of the American Union as more important than measures against slavery, and defended it by bloody civil war.

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. - Abraham Lincoln

This is not unthinking patriotism, but it is my country - The Union - right or wrong. Whatever, if anything, Cameron does about England, he will only do because he believes it helps him save the Union. It is therefore the job of the Campaign for an English Parliament to undermine the Union, to force Cameron into addressing the English Question for fear that to do otherwise would be to create a crescendo of English grievances about our anomalous constitutional position in the Union.

Ironically, given his Unionist passion, it is David Cameron himself who is the biggest threat to the Union; a Conservative government was always going to be the acid test of Labour's lop-sided devolution settlement, and given this election result and the economic conditions it most certainly will be. Devolution was supposed to buffer Scotland against the policies of Tory England. It was supposed reduce the democratic deficit and silence the cries of "No Mandate" that were heard under Thatcher and Major. But with only one Scottish MP and with a general perception in Scotland that the Tories are anti-Scottish (a perception helped in no small part by Scottish Labour's negative general election campaign) Cameron will find Scotland to be a surly, demonstrative and uncooperative member of his precious Union. A Tory government is a godsend for Scottish nationalists, and polls indicate that Scots will be more likely to support independence when confronted with a Tory Government.

The main thrust of the Campaign for an English Parliament's argument should be popular sovereignty for England and a 'national conversation' on England so that we can discuss and decide how we wish to be governed.

The United Kingdom is almost unique among the world's states (Canada is the other exception that springs to mind) in that it is based on the principle of consent and self-determination. The most obvious UK example and precedent for this principle is the legal status of Northern Ireland.

It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purpose of this section and in accordance to Schedule 1 of this Act.

What applies to Northern Ireland must of course, logic dictates, apply equally in principle to the other nations of the UK.

The people of Scotland also have their own less formal popular sovereignty. It does not have legal status but it has been publicly upheld by numerous politicians from Donald Dewar to Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown to David
Cameron, most notably (for two of those) in the Scottish Claim of Right 1988.

If Wales wants to take a similar constitutional path to Scotland by creating its own parliament with primary legislative powers, then it too may be well served by asserting 'we the people'. Which would leave England in an anomalous position of being the only part of the UK which makes no claim to the principle of self-determination.

Such an affirmation of popular sovereignty need not be the death knell for the Union. What Unionists like David Cameron and Gordon Brown need to recognise is that 'we the people' can be an affirmation of the Union as much as it can be a call to separatism. Unfortunately due to the asymmetric nature of constitutional reform - holding referendums in different parts of the United Kingdom on separate occasions, on different questions, and in denial of England - the various reforms do not affirm the Union, they simply reinforce the impression that it is a union in flux and that piecemeal power grabs from the centre is the way forward (with each grab increasing England's democratic deficit).

That the Union is in flux is testified to by the fact that the Conservative Manifesto states that they will draw up their own white paper on Scottish devolution (as an alternative to Calman) and "will not stand in the way" of a referendum on a Welsh parliament, allowing the Scots and Welsh to consent to the Union whilst improving their powers of self-governance.

Logically the principle of consent also applies to England, it's just that Westminster prefers to ignore that inconvenient truth for the moment. But the Union is based on the principle of consent, and therefore any stable Union settlement must be based on actual consent (referendums) or implied consent (a lack of interest in changing the Status Quo).

At the moment their argument for England's place in the Union stands on the platform of implied consent - they say that there is no demand for an English parliament, even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

The CEP's argument must first be for English popular sovereignty, which we hope would include a referendum on an English parliament; and second, it should be an argument for a stable Union settlement - possibly federal - which we would argue is impossible without English consent. Unfortunately, given the intransigent Status Quo-ism of Westminster, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of needing to whip up English grievance to undermine the Union in order that they acede to the logic of England's right to decide how we wish to be governed within the Union. Or, alternatively, we encourage Scottish and Welsh nationalists efforts to further destabilise the Union.

The potential of English nationalism to upset the Union balance is one that Alex Salmond is all too aware of, hence his kind offer to Labour and the Lib Dems of a rainbow, anti-Tory (anti-England?), alliance.

Such a 'progressive alliance' of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Green would provide Gordon Brown with an overall majority of two MPs. It would be an incredibly weak government that could serve no useful purpose other than to drive the Conservatives into the embrace of English nationalists. That's fine by me and Alex but probably not something that Brown and Clegg would want a part in. Hilariously, idiots like the Guardian's Jackie Ashley have seized upon this coalition as a once in a lifetime chance to deliver electoral reform (and screw England into the bargain).

A Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition would have an overall majority of 37 MPs, 24 of which will have been elected outside England, thereby reducing the working majority to just 7 if a self-denying ordinance is observed on English matters as it has been (when it suits him) by David Mundell, still the loneliest man in Westminster. It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that an informal Tory-Lib Dem coalition would require the use of MPs elected outside England to be assured of getting England-only Government legislation through the House, especially now that the SNP have shrewdly indicated that they will ditch their observance of a self-denying ordinance in the event of a Tory government.

If the Cameron and Clegg talks fail, then instead of some sort of coalition we might yet end up with a Tory minority government, in which case I imagine that the Labour and Lib Dem parties will have to think long and hard about using the votes of non-English MPs on issues that should by rights be devolved to an English parliament.

It would probably be sensible for Labour and the Lib Dems non-English MPs to observe a self-denying ordinance on English issues rather than goad the Tories into pushing 'English Votes on English Laws' through Westminster, a move that might force Labour and the Lib Dems into using Scottish and Welsh MPs to prevent the Tories from implementing 'English Votes on English Laws'.

A Tory minority Government may find itself in the invidious position of deploying its one Scottish MP, its 8 Welsh MPs and 8 DUP MPs to vote on England-only legislation, thereby doing exactly what they accused Labour of doing over tuition fees and foundation hospitals.

Cameron's minority Government would inevitably invite attack from the SNP, who would ditch their policy of self-denying ordinance on English legislation in order to raise the West Lothian Question and whip up English resentment. The SNP will defend this action, quite justifiably, on the basis that they are protecting the Scottish budget from Tory cuts, and they may well be joined by Plaid Cymru and Ulster MPs unless Cameron can provide additional funding for the devolved nations at England's expense.

The non-English parts of the Union will extract their price for not bringing down a minority Tory Government.

It is for this reason that I think David Cameron will pull out all the stops in order to co-opt Nick Clegg's Lib Dems into coalition. Without the Lib Dems' numbers and Scottish MPs, Cameron's Government will be at the mercy of the West Lothian Question and vulnerable to extortion by groups from the devolved nations.

There is now a political consensus from all three party leaders for strengthening Parliament against the Executive. In delivering a hung parliament the British public have obliged by strengthening Parliament's hand and ensuring government by compromise, ignoring by doing so Cameron's plea that we needed the 'strong government' that only a Tory majority could deliver.

There is also a developing consensus for electoral reform, and many on the Left see this issue, rather than 'The English Question', as the real democratic unfairness.

If he goes for a minority Tory Government, David Cameron will be accused of putting Conservative (and perhaps English) interests before the interests of the country [the Union]. And he will be putting the Union at risk by doing so, setting Tory England against the others. He needs the Lib Dems on board to provide a Scottish mandate and to prevent the West Lothian Question provoking a constitutional crisis that could endanger the Union. For this reason he must offer the Lib Dems something on electoral reform, and the Lib Dems would be mad not to hold out for a cast iron guarantee on a referendum.

The proportional representation that the Lib Dems favour would end the rotating bipartisan elective dictatorship that has been enjoyed by the Conservative and Labour parties since the Thirties. It would greatly diminish the likelihood of the 'strong government' of the kind that Cameron favours, and it would also diminish the likelihood of future Conservative governments. It would however be fairer. And it would mitigate the West Lothian Question by providing a more representative parliament - providing the Tories with several Scottish MPs.

Proportional representation is the price that Cameron must pay in order to govern without putting the Union at risk. Failure to do the deal with Clegg makes a mockery of his claim that he will do nothing that endangers the Union. Proportional representation will not answer the West Lothian Question, much less the English Question, but it will lessen its potential to bring down minority governments and destablise the Union, and in the short-term the promise of a referendum will provide the strong-ish government that is so desperately required.

So it's either PR (which, as Guy Lodge says, will replace the Conservative's English power-base with fewer Conservative MPs more widely distributed) or it's an English parliament.

What's it to be Dave?

English: The Alamo Identity

IPPR have a short paper on Identity, Politics and Public Policy that touches upon the English Question.

This brings us to the question of Englishness and how it has evolved in the context of a multicultural Britain. ippr’s previous research has found a growing popularity of English as opposed to British national identity (Stone and Muir 2006, Lodge and Kenny forthcoming). In part this is a consequence of devolution and the rise of Scottish and Welsh national sentiment. In many realms, such as football or cricket, Englishness is given a largely civic rather than ethnic cast. However, it is also true that Englishness is a much more ethnicised national category than Britishness and that many people are articulating a sense of ethnic disadvantage through the prism of Englishness. There is a danger that for some, English national identity could morph into a kind of ‘Alamo identity’, a badge of resistance to a perceived elite-driven ‘multiculturalism’.

Or, a badge of resistance against Britain itself; or the elite themselves, in particular the governing Labour Party (see Billy Bragg: Fighting for England's soul?).

IPPR continue:

given the rise in various problematic forms of identity politics, whether this be radical forms of political Islamism or highly ethnicised understandings of English identity, it has become increasingly difficult to argue that the state should leave this question for others. For example, as ippr will argue in a forthcoming report on the place of England in a devolved UK, by remaining silent on questions of English national identity, politicians may have created a vacuum in which ‘Englishness’ can increasingly be defined as ‘whiteness' and as a social identity that is perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be disadvantaged in relation to others (see Lodge and Kenny, forthcoming).

That's music to my ears because I've been warning about the ethnicisation of English identity for ages. Some take this to mean that I am opposed to the ethnic English or to the idea of English ethnicity, as the recent comments from ethnic English nationalists demonstrate. But that is not so, I just recognise that English national identity needs to be - should be and increasingly is - wider than ethnic English identity, even if it is to the ethnic English that England owes its existence.

Before his speech to the CEP's Future of England debate at Westminster, Paul Kingsnorth told the audience an anecdote about a conversation with a friend on the growing phenomena of English flags flying over roadside burger vans. Those flags were, Paul believed, a statement of intent, a V-sign against a state that does not recognise English identity. Paul's friend offered the opinion that the closest analogy that he could think of was when he had been in the southern United States and seen the Confederate flag flying. Peter Facey, who spoke next, agreed with Paul, and told us that there was something of "a red neck quality about saying 'I am English'", and he said that he found it interesting that the burger van that he passed everyday on the way to the train station alternated between the English flag and the Confederate flag, as if to reinforce the Alamo identity of England alluded to by Paul's friend.

Last night's leaders' debate will not have done much to assauge the idea that English identity is an identity under seige. The ITV debate was the first of three televised debates, each with a different theme: Domestic Affairs, International Affairs and Economic Affairs. So this first debate on 'domestic affairs' was ostensibly about England, primarily about policy areas that apply only to England - Health, Education, Crime and Policing. Yet the word 'England' was not mentioned once by any of the prime ministerial candidates, nor by Alistair Stewart who chaired the debate. Towards the end of the debate David Cameron had the opportunity to contrast Labour's record on care of the elderly in England with that enjoyed by Gordon Brown's own constituents in Scotland. But Cameron passed up the opportunity to highlight the asymmetry and lack of equality of Labour's New Britain. None of the three contenders can speak of England, none of the three will speak for England, and all three seem content for the English to be a 'secret people' - the unmentionables in the UK's family of nations. I would have enjoyed it very much if Cameron had questioned why Gordon Brown was answering questions on English domestic policy when he is elected by Scots who have control of their own domestic policy, but I was disappointed. I was also disappointed that despite the fact that the CEP had tried to get the English Question raised, and despite the fact that Power2010 had tried to get the West Lothian Question raised, the issue of English governance was left unasked and unanswered.

bbb_bragg.jpg

Clegg was by far the most convincing of these three British contenders, but given that none of them contend for England, it is for me a case of "A plague on both your houses - the Commons and the Lords".

Hang Em

This won't go down too well in Scotland

Public Finance | Tories would delay Scottish powers:

A Conservative government would delay implementation of plans to increase the finance powers of the Scottish Parliament until a full analysis had been carried out by the UK Treasury, Public Finance has been told.

It has emerged that it could be up to five years before the Tories would have legislation in place. This timescale is likely to renew controversy over how long it would take the party to act on recommendations by Sir Kenneth Calman’s commission on devolution.

In an interview with PF, shadow Scottish secretary David Mundell said his party intended to have legislation in place in time for the 2015 Holyrood elections.

I wonder if the delay has anything to do with scrapping the Barnett Formula. The Scots won't like the delay, but personally I think a delay - as long as it results in the abolishment of Barnett - is more sensible than immediately implementing Calman's ridiculous 10p tax rate proposal, a proposal designed to mitigate the grievances caused by the Barnett Formula rather than removing them by implementing a fair and transparent funding mechanism.

To be fair, David Cameron did suggest that this might happen at the Scottish Conservative Conference earlier this year:

So yes, we do take seriously the Calman Commission’s recommendations to give more powers to Holyrood. The Commission is right to say devolution is working well but could be better. That’s why I have committed to producing our own White Paper and legislation to deal with the issues raised by Calman. And I don’t want anyone to doubt this.

We have made our choice. Whatever the outcome in Scotland at the next election, a Conservative Government will govern the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, with respect. Whoever is Scotland’s First Minister, I would be a Prime Minister who acts on the voice of the Scottish people and works for consent and consensus. And whenever the precious Union between our two countries is under threat, this Party – the Party of the Union – will rise to the challenge and defend it with all our heart and all our strength.

scottish-conference-2010-300x178.jpg

Although it is sensible to address things in the round and to find a Union-wide solution to the Barnett Formula problem, rather than applying a Calman sticking plaster to the problem of Scotland, I have a feeling that those smiles will be wiped from those faces by this delay.

Vanity Fair on Cameron

Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff on vacuity:

The Cameron position isn’t about just consensus but about something more mystical, allowing everybody to hear what they want. Having systematically removed most of the overt points of contention—immigration, Iraq, Europe—the Cameron Conservatives then replaced them with a series of almost totemic notions of agreement.

Cameron is basing his campaign and, too, his idea of the Third Way—this further chapter in Clintonian and Blair-ite politics—on his being the bulwark against disagreeable and ugly people and other nameless terrible things. And he is counting on the fact that fewer and fewer voters will ask those old-fashioned questions about identity and provenance, which, after all, in the modern world are, for so many people, ever changing and fluid.

It can be surprising how fast perceived strengths can turn into visible weaknesses. The good ship Cameron is entering choppy waters so Cameron had better keep a good hold on the tiller.

Peter Bingle: England is Cameron's One Hope

In a leaked email Tory activist Peter Bingle has damned Cameron's campaign:

The Tory Party's one hope remains the PM. I cannot believe that English voters will give him their support when they have to vote in the privacy of the voting booth. At the moment he is the only compelling reason to vote for David Cameron. I feel let down by a party I have supported since I was sixteen years of age.

In other words, he hopes that the English won't vote for a Scot.

There's No One As Irish As David Cameron

I've been contacted by the Corrigan Brothers, who inform me that David Cameron is Irish:

On December 5th 2005 Debrett’s Peerage released the research that confirmed that current Conservative leader David Cameron is William IV’s great, great, great, great, great grandson. He is related to the 19th-century monarch through Elizabeth FitzClarence, the King’s illegitimate daughter, one of at least ten children he had out of wedlock with Dorothy Jordan, an Irish actress from County Waterford, his long-term mistress, who is in fact Mr Cameron's IV’s great, great, great, great, great grandmonther. The family tree by Debrett’s Peerage, the genealogists, shows that the link between Mr Cameron, 39, and William IV makes him the fifth cousin twice-removed of the Queen.

So Dave Cameron is Irish.

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