Saturday 6th November 2010, University of Warwick
Organised by Dr Michael Gardiner (Warwick) & Dr Claire Westall (York)
Sponsored by Warwick’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and Humanities Research Council, Edinburgh University Press and Manchester University Press
This agenda-setting one-day interdisciplinary conference attracted a diverse mixture of participants, in terms of geography, disciplinarity, and seniority. Speakers came from the US, continental Europe and Ireland as well as within the United Kingdom, and their expertise ranged across political science, literature, history and religion. Many situated their work specifically at the emerging crossover of political and literary thinking about England. We were also joined by political campaigners, academic researchers, postgraduate students and, encouragingly, a good number of English undergraduates who were keen to build on their understanding of England’s position in relation to their study of Devolutionary literature.
The day began with a full and detailed Keynote Address by Professor Arthur Aughey (University of Ulster) who, building on his work in The Politics of Englishness (MUP, 2007), moved to critically unpack the ‘anxiety’ of Englishness and the dominant modes, including modes of conversation, being used to represent and interrogate English identities. His work in this area is being developed in a collection that he is currently co-editing with Dr Christine Berberich, who also spoke at the conference, to be published with MUP.
The first panel, entitled ‘The Politics of England and English Literature’, was indicative of the range of perspectives drawn together by the event, and set the terms for the reconsideration of English politics from a literary-cultural perspective. Anthony Barnett – one of the country’s most insightful and experienced democracy campaigners and founder of openDemocracy – contextualised the slippage between Britain and England and the lingering uncertainties this causes for the political reformers of England. His contribution became key as the day continued and the nuanced breadth and contemporary awareness of his thinking was a particular strength in the closing discussion. Dr Andrew Mycock (Huddersfield University) provided a precise and clearly explained survey of the rise of English national sentiment, specifically post-1998, and of the terminological grounding required for considerations of English independence, issuing a warning against the rise of ‘victimhood nationalism’ seen within certain post-colonial versions of Englishness. Finally, under the title ‘English Literature as Ideology’, Dr Michael Gardiner (Warwick University) brought these issues to bear upon the discipline of English Literature by offering a substantial critique of English Literature’s historical reliance upon a Burkean principle of cultural value. He argued that gradually, and specifically after empire, England has risen against the nationless state of the UK, which was once an effective deliverer of ideology, largely through English Literature. Demonstrating that as England-the-place becomes more vital, paradoxically the British methodology of English Literature gets harder to maintain, he advocated a new, post-British literary discipline, which is both more national and more diverse, and focuses its attention on the national experience of England.
Following a busy and lively informal lunch the second panel, ‘Englishness, National Identity and Authors of the Canon’, was an intense four-paper offering. Professor Margaret Tudeau-Clayton (University of Neuchâtel) presented a summative explanation of the thinking behind a collection entitled This England, That Shakespeare (Ashgate 2010) which she co-edited with Professor Willy Maley. Dr Jo Carrthurs (University of Bristol) drew on her theological expertise to read the socio-cultural assumptions embedded within Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and demonstrated how the Protestant aesthetic of simplicity, replicated in these two canonical works directly effected discourses of Englishness which have, more recently, been deployed against Islam. Dr Simon Featherstone (De Montfort University), author of Englishness: Twentieth-Century Popular Culture and the Forming of English Identity (EUP, 2009), assessed the impact of A. J. Cook, miner and trade union leader during the General Strike, positing that by placing A. J. Cook alongside D. H. Lawrence, and comparing their activities on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border in the Summer of 1926, a comparative case study could be used to enable an informative questioning of the resources for national re-imagination, and to illuminate the cultural continuities and discontinuities between English literature, politics and social history. Wrapping up this panel, Dr Anthony Bateman (De Montfort University) spoke about the canon of English cricket literature via the writing of Neville Cardus, examining cricket’s role in the creation and imperial exportation of ‘mythic’ ideas of English pastoralism and ruralism. The panel questioned not only the position and value of canonical construction of Englishness but also worked to extend the exposure of the imagined pastoral idyll of English national identity.
The late afternoon was comprised of two smaller panels and a concluding discussion. Panel three, ‘Speaking for England and of Dystopias’, included a dynamic and entertaining reading of the novel Speak for England (2005) by its author Dr James Hawes (Oxford Brookes University). Hawes also raised wider issues about the global deployment of English as a language, contrasting it with a broad range of other tongues, including French, German and Spanish, and sparked a debate which built on the terms of the morning’s panels. Dr Christine Berberich (University of Portsmouth) gave a detailed and polished reading of Speak for England and Rupert Thompson’s Divided Kingdom (2005), analysing their deployment of ‘invented traditions’ and depictions of dystopian police states that suggest specific historical problematics and reverberate with contemporary anxieties about a national identity in flux. In panel four, ‘Questioning the Contemporary and Everyday’, Dr Graham MacPhee (University of West Chester) co-editor of Empire and After (EUP, 2007), spoke of the complexities embedded within (Enoch) Powellism and of the continuing imperial ties which influence understanding of England and Englishness, as well as making a sophisticated and controversial case about the binding of England and Britain. Finally, the postgraduate researcher Anna Rettberg (University of Giessen) addressed the working of Englishness and the relationship to Britain within novels branded as ‘Black British’ – Zadie Smith's White Teeth (2000), Monica Ali's Brick Lane (2003) and Robin Yassin-Kassab's The Road from Damascus (2008).
The conference closed with an open debate, drawing together speakers and delegates, with Graham MacPhee’s paper prompting numerous responses and efforts being made to bridge the political and literary-cultural in theoretically nuanced and interesting ways. What was noted by many delegates was the way internationally-noted scholars in the field were thinking alongside and in conjunction with younger scholars and students. The conference underlined the pressing need for England’s post-devolutionary and post-imperial position to be further theorised, and for models arising to be applied to the discipline of English Literature.
The conference organisers would like to thank all the speakers for their papers and individual contributions to the day’s programme. We hope we meet again soon. They would also like to thank Sue Dibben, of the HRC, the English Department, particularly its Chair Professor Catherine Bates for her support, EUP and MUP.
Arthur Aughey's speech to the Literature of an Independent England Conference, 6th November 2010
Recently, I was reviewing a book for Parliamentary Affairs – a very intelligent book on the British political tradition – and there was a Lord Copper moment. The authors claimed that: ‘The Scots, the Welsh, and the Northern Irish can and do debate national identity at length and with arms. The English can mount the occasional sortie but, like sex and religion, it is not deemed a suitable dinner table topic’ – well, up to a point.
I would suggest that the English always have discussed their national identity but have done so in a distinctive manner and it is this manner I would like to explore.
I start with a few familiar references for those attending a literature conference:
‘Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the Twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, 19th Century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar.’
‘solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes, the pub, the football match, the back garden and the "nice cup of tea".
‘England, Shakespeare, Elizabeth, London; Westminster, the docks, India, the Cutty Sark, England; England, Gloucester, John of Gaunt; Magna Carta, Cromwell, England’
Here are two more recent examples:
cucumber sandwiches (no crusts), the National Trust, Thomas Rowlandson, inglenooks, knotted handkerchiefs, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, the Shipping Forecast, Gardner’s Question Time, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Betty’s Café, Guy Fawkes Night
Ian Dury & The Blockheads - England's Glory (from which I take only a sample)
Frankie Howerd, Noël Coward and garden gnomes
Frankie Vaughan, Kenneth Horne, Sherlock Holmes
Nice bit of kipper and Jack the Ripper and Upton Park
Gracie, Cilla, Maxy Miller, Petula Clark
Winkles, Woodbines, Walnut Whips
Vera Lynn and Stafford Cripps
For Ian Dury, these are the jewels in the crown of England's glory. And, as the song ends, the chorus claims:
And every one could tell a different story
And show old England's glory something new
Are these lists nothing more than quaint eccentricities, eccentricity being itself a traditional self-definition eliciting not only national approval but also evoking the national ‘genius’? Are they evidence of the old adage that ‘twice makes custom’ encouraging imitators to stand self-consciously in the line of Eliot and Orwell? Both these things may be true but I think there is something else at work which is worth reflecting on.
Firstly, they are all concrete references.
In his England: An Elegy, Roger Scruton also notes this tradition of eccentric lists of ephemera. For Scruton, recourse to listing suggests that England is ‘not a nation or a creed or a language or a state but a home’. He goes on:
‘Things at home don’t need an explanation. They are there because they are there. It was one of the most remarkable features of the English that they required so little explanation of their customs and institutions. They bumbled on, without anyone asking the reason why or anyone being able, if asked, to provide it’.
Secondly, the relationship between references is implicit rather than explicit
They only make sense in an association distinctively English, even though what may be representative of that association changes. Patrick Parrinder remarks in his Nation and the Novel how, in English literature, ‘associations of Englishness are built up’ - such that, for example, ‘Falstaff’s green fields are English by habitual association’ not because anyone else’s fields (like those of Ireland, for instance) are any less green.
Thirdly, if the changing character of the lists does suggest something ephemeral - the fragments of experience – continuity of association is also evoked.
Take, for instance, Ernest Barker’s conclusion to The Character of England. He thought that it was possible to be too seduced by change and to miss the larger picture. ‘But this long slow movement of the character of England’ he asked, ‘has it not something enduring?’ The answer, of course, is in the question. Orwell makes a similar point when he described England as ‘an everlasting animal stretching into the future and past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same’. And there are affinities also with Anthony Powell’s reflection on English sensibilities in A Dance to the Music of Time: ‘Everything alters, yet does remain the same’.
Fourthly, what remains the same is a feeling of personal connection – for good or ill – with England. This may be grasped by Pierre Bayard’s thesis in How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. For Bayard, culture is a matter of orientation: ‘being able to find your bearings within books as a system’. This requires ‘a command of relations’, not knowledge of every book in isolation. Thus it is possible to feel part of a culture even if one is ignorant of ‘a large part of the whole’. We may not know much of our history, of our culture or of our politics without in any way feeling unable to say something meaningful about it.
Listing is a case in point. It is a way of talking about England without having to analyze it, for enumeration intimates a personal command of relations.
If there is a moral it is possibly the one which Robert Colls makes in the conclusion to The Identity of England: ‘the nation’s propensity for seeing itself as diverse should not be allowed to outstrip its propensity for seeing itself as unified’.
Listing seems a very English way to acknowledge diversity but also to imply its own unity.
However, how do we express continuity in change or sameness in difference? Here is the first analogy taken from that very English of political philosophers, Michael Oakeshott. It is the metaphor of the ‘dry wall’.
Oakeshott uses the ‘dry wall’ to capture how events are related to one another without premeditated design. A nation remains stable (or not) by virtue of the touching shapes of things rather than by the mortar of national purpose, deeply-held values or collective destiny (which is not to deny that some people do see nationality in that way). The parts of a nation ‘stand-in-relation’ to one another and for Oakeshott the term designates an intelligible connection between related circumstances not mere accident. And it was Ernest Barker, Oakeshott’s friend, who described a nation as ‘united by the primary fact of contiguity’, its members being led by such contiguity to develop forms of ‘mental sympathy’. It is this mental sympathy, Barker thought, which constitutes a common will to live together. Perhaps a better term than common will is Oakeshott’s own – a collected will, suggesting more list than manifesto.
This may seem too thin for a national identity. But consider Julian Baggini’s distillation of what he calls the English philosophy, a product of his having lived in England’s Everytown, which turns out to be Rotherham – strangely, since Stuart Maconie once described it as more like a forgotten chemical town in the former Soviet Union. Baggini’s believed that worries about insufficient national glue holding society together were misplaced: ‘the shared values we all need to sign up to’, he writes, ‘are actually pretty minimal and civic’.
This civic relationship is conveyed by the second Oakeshott’s analogy: ‘conversation’.
Conversation has become a cant political term. Indeed, there is popular suspicion that politicians really mean something very different from colloquial usage. As former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott once put it: ‘Conversation means you have a two-way exchange. You ask the question and I answer it. It’s called conversation’. Public cynicism rests on the assumption that the answer is a pre-determined one in the mode of Oscar Wilde: 'I delight in talking politics. I talk them all day. But I can't bear listening to them'.
For Oakeshott, one activity which has benefited from ‘the civilising touch of conversation’ is politics. He thought this to have been the mark of English achievement for ‘remarkably enough it was Englishmen (who are otherwise not greatly disposed towards conversation) who first explored the recognition that politics is supremely eligible to be a conversational art’. And it is interesting to note here that Peter Ackroyd in Albion tracks the emergence of modern English identity to trends for conversation. The term conversation was described by one scholar of nationalism as a very English way of thinking. Indeed it is. Englishness as conversation does not exclude fierce debate and contest. It assumes, to use EP Thompson’s term, that politics is conducted a distinctive idiom and that there can be mutual understanding.
I will cite one illustration without comment.
At an IPPR seminar on Englishness last week, John Denham recalled a train journey from Durham to London with an NUM delegation during the miners’ strike. Its members were going to London to lobby in support of Arthur Scargill. When he asked what they were doing afterwards, they said they were going to Buckingham Palace. They always did just in case they’d catch a glimpse of the Queen.
The popular travel writer H.V. Morton prefaced his The Call of England with lines from GK Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse: ‘An island like a little book / Full of a hundred tales’. England (if not quite an island) is full of many tales and to speak of the ‘identity’ of England at any one time is to speak of the conversation implied in those tales. And that repeats, of course, the glory of England according to Ian Dury. However, mention of Morton suggests a sub-text to the English conversation: feelings of impending loss, of threat, fear of an England that is going to the dogs.
Morton wrote that the English suffer from a ‘vague mental toothache’, a disquiet often based on the feeling that they should feel anxious rather than actually being anxious.
Such anxiety provokes the search the essential England, for the mortar of purpose holding the wall together, for permanent foundations which keep it all up. And it may be – as Oakeshott suggests – that these journeys to find the heart of England indicate a failure of national nerve.
This anxiety today – the English Question – is equally a list of different questions, social, cultural and political and its current expression has a particular context: the new complexity of United Kingdom governance and the uncertainty of how England fits.
Citizens of Nowhere
Hence, by way of a rather Chestertonian English road, I arrive at the title of the paper: the intellectual anxiety that the English have become citizens of nowhere. The phrase is from Paul Kingsnorth’s book Real England. However, it could have been taken from Scruton’s elegy where the English where ‘England has been forbidden’. Or it could well be taken from Simon Heffer, or more recently, Mark Perryman.
This really is News from Nowhere. And those familiar with Morris’s work will recognize the ironic passage:
‘I must now shock you by telling you that we have no longer anything which you, a native of another planet, would call a government.’
The English ‘are very well off as to politics, - because we have none’.
But this is no longer an English utopia. It is a English dystopia. The call to action is to politicize England and to give it a government.
The mood is the message. That mood can be described as 'irritable growl syndrome', a complaint of varying intensity about present conditions. And there is no doubt that it has encouraged nationalist sentiment: support for an English Parliament – Kingsnorth’s preference – or even English separatism – Perryman’s preference. As yet it is a mood and not a movement. But it is capable of transforming from mood to movement - perhaps in a Chestertonian moment - when the people of England finally speak, this time of freedom and not of ale.
The first aspect is institutional.
Simon Lee has argued that constitutional changes have created ‘deficits in citizenship rights, democratic accountability and the denial of the expression of England’s national identity as a distinct political community’. The political case for England, then, must involve ‘the self-determination to vote on policies and issues that affect it alone that devolution has extended to the other constituent nations of the United Kingdom’.
These themes find popular expression in English nationalist blogs, sometimes in the tabloid press (but not only there), and in the Campaign for an English Parliament. There is a tendency to argue that there is an official conspiracy keeping the ‘English question’ out of political debate. And there are two consequences.
Not only are the English as a people rendered invisible.
But England as a place is also erased – spoken of as ‘regions’ without the integrity or dignity of nationhood.
As that distinguished former member of Warwick University, Jim Bulpitt, observed a generation ago, England was never the centre of the United Kingdom. British governments, he argued, ‘attempted to relate to (or distance itself from) all parts of the country in a similar fashion’. For central government ‘if not for the English, England was part of the periphery’.
For nationalists, England should be put at the centre.
The second aspect is economic.
The English need to assert themselves – not only for reasons of patriotic dignity but also for material reasons. For when it comes to public spending, devolution shows how England’s lack of identity is a handicap.
Devolution means subsidized self-determination. The Scots, the Welsh and the Irish get the self-determination and the English do the subsidizing. This is a very different take on conversational nationhood. As Gordon Gekko put it in Wall Street - ‘It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation’. Or as the Cumbria News and Star - put it a few years ago: ‘Scotland the free, England the fee’.
The imperative seems clear. England needs a separate political voice to protect its interests.
One can certainly point to evidence that this anxious mood is having political effect. More people today are willing to call themselves ‘English’ rather than ‘British’. Some newspaper polls put support for an English Parliament as high as 68%; English support for Scottish independence as high as 59%; and majorities opposed to higher levels of public expenditure outside England.
Nationalism, as Tom Nairn might say, has finally caught up with the English. And there are those – like Perryman – who argue, following Nairn, that the mood of the English is already ‘after Britain’ and on the road to independence.
Nevertheless, caution is required for the evidence is at least questionable. For those who wish to do it, translation of mood into movement for change remains a large task.
In their essays for our book These Englands, John Curtice’s polling analysis and Susan Condor’s social psychology show what the difficulties are.
Curtice’s figures suggest:
- There is little sign that English support for the UK has eroded following devolution
- Most people prefer England to be governed from Westminster
- The majority accept that other parts of the UK should have some form of self-governance
- English self-identification has increased but this Englishness does not necessarily correspond with nationalism.
Susan Condor’s interviews discovered something interesting about English responses. Rather than presupposing an ‘other’ against which to define itself, Englishness tends to function as its own ‘other’, constructed not in relation to the other UK nations, but self-referentially. This operates through contrasts with:
- the English past
- different places (North vs. South, urban vs. rural locations),
- different social classes
- different political persuasions.
For most respondents, England remains somewhere and home. If it seems invisible or nowhere that is because most people take England and their Englishness for granted
English patriot and professional Yorkshireman, Roy Hattersley, captures this disposition in own collection, In Search of England. Hattersley proudly proclaims himself English but sees no point in making a fuss about it. ‘Indeed’, as he puts it, ‘not making a fuss about being English seems to me an essential ingredient of Englishness’.
Insofar as this is fairly representative – and it still seems to be – it is a condition not overly favourable to political nationalism.
Baggini’s experience of England’s Everytown led him to conclude that those who ‘wring their hands over the question of national identity’ were missing the point. They mistook the need for people to feel they belonged to England with the need for everyone to feel the same kind of belonging to England, like some collective mortar of national cohesion. Baggini remained a dry wall patriot, where Englishness was a tolerant but tolerable ‘live and let live’.
To persuade the English of the virtue of nationalism, then, is to convince the English to think differently about themselves and their country. This may be difficult, but it is not, of course, impossible.
To return to Ian Dury’s list:
Nationalists must believe that one can tell a different story and show old England's glory something new.
Arthur Aughey is Professor of Politics at the University of Ulster and author of The Politics of Englishness (MUP 2007).
To raise this question now, before England has even got its own parliament, might seem premature. Not so. Those of us supporting devolution for England are constantly asked where, if England got it, its parliament would be located. There are other reasons too. One is the need to modernize our democracy and not just settle for the past without the radical rethink which is long overdue. Another is the issue of fairness. And we need to make sure that once we get our own parliament, we do not allow it to get lost or mangled inside the machinery of the UK Parliament or become an appendage to it.
Devolution in the English Context
The location of its parliament goes to the very heart of what devolution for England will actually be. England isn’t Scotland, it isn’t Wales. For centuries Scotland and Wales had been denied any form of self-government, so going for the location of their parliament/assembly in their capital cities was part of their re-assertion of restored national-identity. It seemed perfectly sound to them at the time. Maybe both of them should have given it more thought. There were, and maybe there still are, some pretty bitter grumblings both in Glasgow and in North Wales at the way Edinburgh and Cardiff took it all and shared out nothing.
England is very different. Starkly different questions have to be posed and debated no matter how much they disturb set ways of thinking. English devolution when it happens will find itself confronting very different realities. One is the fact that the Union government is located in London. If the English Parliament is located there too, the governance and control over England that London already exercises, and profits from immensely, will be increased. And might it be no more than an extension of the Union Parliament, a gesture on the part of the Union power elite, something it can keep tight control of? In such a circumstance as that will the distinct identity and the specific interests of the English people, which their parliament should represent, continue to be disadvantageously confused with the British state.
Our system of government is one of excessively London-based centralised power. For England to have its own parliament outside of London could mean democratic progress There isn’t just a disproportionate concentration of political power in London and the South East but also, going with it, an immense concentration of wealth, economic and financial power, cultural activity and employment opportunities. Will an English Parliament well away from London, with the same powers for England as the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland, bring about the greatest geographical transfer of power, employment and cultural activity in all of England’s long history. In fact for these very reasons don’t we have to give serious thought as to whether its powers should be just in one place, let alone well outside of London?
However, first we must give consideration to that crucial phrase: ‘with the same powers for England as the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland’; and we must also be absolutely clear whom or what it was the Union Government gave those powers to. As to the second matter, the 1998 devolution legislation itself, line after line, makes the answer perfectly clear. Devolution 1998 was given to Scotland and Wales as distinct nations; in the phrase of Prime Minister Blair in his preface to the Scottish White Paper, to a ‘proud historic nation’.
The essence of the 1998 legislation was the provision, in varying degrees, of self-rule to two peoples of this island on the basis of their distinct national identity. The Welsh Act states it thus: ‘The Welsh Assembly will be the focus for all the concerns for the Welsh nation’. The Scottish Act talks of Scotland, the Scottish people and the Scottish nation in line after line. The 1707 Act of Union had terminated both England and Scotland politically and constitutionally as distinct and separate states and substituted the idea of a British nation. Wales had been absorbed into the English Crown long before then. The 1998 legislation re-established Scotland and Wales politically and constitutionally as distinct nations within the Union. An English Parliament will do the same for England.
There were two things that 1998 legislation did not do. It gave no devolution to England of course and it gave far fewer powers to the Welsh Assembly than to the Scottish Parliament. The drive for devolution was from the Scottish MPs who dominated the 1997 Labour government. They looked after their own country’s interests first and foremost as they had declared they would do in the1989 Scottish Claim of Right, signed by 132 Scottish MPs/MEPs and others, Gordon Brown among them, pledging that in ‘everything they said and did they would make the interests of the Scottish people paramount’.
However, a fundamental democratic principle of the Union of the three nations that the UK is must be that each of the three should stand in the same relationship to the Union and to each other. Scotland has genuine and effective home rule in the most important areas of internal government: education, health, local government, agriculture, fishing, culture, media, forestry, sport etc, independent of Westminster. Which Wales hasn’t got to the degree Scotland has; and England has none at all.
So what are we talking about here is an English Parliament which by its existence is the declaration that the people of England are politically and constitutionally a distinct nation within the Union and which, like in Scotland, in internal matters would exercise self-rule. We’re not talking about the Whitehall-controlled regional assemblies such as were on offer to England’s North East in 2004 and decisively rejected by 78% to 22%. We are talking about a real deal, precisely what Scotland has.
So where should England’s Parliament be located?
The presumption till recently has always been London. That’s the reflex response, the default position. But in the context of today is it the right one? How does it stand up against what is the one consideration, the only one, that should be borne in mind, namely what is best for the English people as a whole? What best serves the welfare of the people of England of today? The patriotic English man and woman can be expected to want the best for England as a nation. There is no binding necessity simply to go along with tradition and past usage. The ‘first-past-the-post’ election system for example has been in place for a very long time, yet it is now to be subjected to a referendum. The House of Lords, as ancient as the Commons, is in the process of change. London as the location for the English Parliament can rightly be subjected to critical and objective scrutiny.
London already has so much. It is the location of the Union Parliament, and the Union is hardly likely to break up. The Scots and the Welsh will never want it because a break-up is not in their economic and fiscal interests. And if they don't want it, it will not happen. A Union most likely in the form of a federation is what will happen. So London will continue to be the UK capital with all the immense kudos and advantages that that brings to it and to its inhabitants.
It helps to compare what London has with the rest of England. It has the Union Parliament, it has the Monarchy, the City, the Law Courts, Wembley, Twickenham, Lords, the Oval. It will soon have the most up-to-date, the best and the most expansive Olympic facilities going. The new London velodrome will replace the Manchester velodrome as the HQ of cycling. The new London swimming centre will likewise be the swimming HQ. The City is a world’s financial centre. London is the theatre, dance, music, art, advertising and media centre of the UK. It is a world cultural centre, equal to any other. London sucks in talent and skills from the rest of England with the irresistible force of a black hole. But to be English is not just to be London. It is true English patriotism to want to share England’s political, economic, employment and cultural wealth as evenly throughout the country as is both possible and sensible and to strive to make the sharing a reality.
One autumn evening about two years ago we walked along the south bank of the Thames from Vauxhall Bridge to City Hall. Both sides of the river swanked with the aroma and the glitter and the aura of wealth and power. Tate Britain, Lambeth Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, the great rolling heaving sweep of the Thames, the renovate South Bank wharfs with their opulent shops and restaurants, Tower Bridge, the Law Courts on the Embankment, Somerset House so lavishly renovated; and behind all of that Belgravia, the Royal Parks, Mayfair, Covent Garden and the City. Nowhere in England is there such a concentration of wealth, with its City tentacles reaching even today to the ends of the earth.
Power is the honeypot. In England the UK Parliament in London has complete power. All other power as exercised by local authorities is at the disposal and under the command of Westminster. It is the possession of political power that gives London this pre-eminence, this immense concentration of wealth and culture. First the monarchy, then parliament. Power is where the money travels to, and that engine of money-making, the City, sits tight next to the seat of government. The Law Courts are there, theatre is there, the film world and the music world are there, fashion is there, and the media –BBC, ITV and Sky- are there; and all this irresistibly draws in talent from all over England.
There is something inherently and deeply wrong when in any community one section of it predominates inordinately in wealth, employment and creativity, not by reason of innate ability but by reason of the location of power. This imbalance is as unfair to England as The West Lothian Question and other outcomes of the 1998 devolution legislation are. There are 47000 people in England with an average pre-tax income of £780,000; there is another 420,000 people who have pre-tax incomes of £100,000 to £350,000; and nearly all of them live in and around London. Simons Jenkins (Guardian 22/10/10) provides a further example: the London art institutions and museums such as the BM, the Tate, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the National Gallery etc will take a 15% cut in government funding over 5 years while the rest of the country will be hit with a 29% cut. ‘The London Tate is free, the St Ives Tate has to charge £5.75 entry….Cameron may win plaudits for his generosity to London’s gilded elite but he is penalising the provinces three times over by cutting direct grants, by cutting grants to councils and by banning councils from levying extra taxes to compensate. This is triple centralism and most unfair.’
The spoils of three hundred years of Empire, of world-wide exploration and acquisition, are on show in London because it has been the capital of that Empire: in the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the great art galleries, the Victoria and Albert and any amount of smaller yet very significant other venues. What is on show is mind-boggling. And it isn’t just a matter of what is on display or in their capacious vaults; there are also the exhibitions of collections from abroad which never fail to dazzle the eyes and stun the mind. The Science Museum now has a magnificent new Darwin Centre and the Natural History Museum displays arrays of objects almost beyond counting and now offers a new Earth Hall of fascinating interest. The school children and students of London have on their doorstep an educational treasure trove of incalculable abundance and efficacy, such as exists nowhere else in England; and easily accessible to London’s children, students and adults. On October 29th the last day of half term, the queue of youngsters going into the NHM took an hour and a half, but what an Aladdin’s Cave!. There is nothing like it elsewhere. The Royal Parks are launching public drinking fountains all paid for by Tiffany the jewelers planned to be as beautiful as pieces of sculpture: in St James’s, Regents’s, Hyde, Green, Kensington Gardens, Greenwich, Richmond and Buffy parks all paid for by Tiffany the jewellers. Not in Ancoats in Manchester or Smethwick in B’ham or St Pauls’s in Bristol or Fazakerley in L’Pool or Paradise in Newcastle.
I am not suggesting that what London has should be dispersed to museums from Berwick to Penzance, from Carlisle to Dover –though that might not be a bad idea for the vast amounts kept unseen and unvisited in the vaults and storerooms of London’s museums and galleries. I am just pointing out the obvious, that the location of power brings with it immense cultural and educational advantages. We should not create upheaval by the forced distribution of what is already in place; but we can consider not only not making it worse but also by locating the new English Parliament well outside of London able by its power and importance to attract new cultural developments and new acquisitions and discoveries. It is difficult to see how the patriotic person wanting the best for England can find cause to disagree.
So I ask you to envisage another reality for England. Envisage some of that heaving swelling cauldron of advantages and opportunities shared with other parts of England. An English Parliament well away from London with the same powers for England as the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland will bring about the greatest geographical transfer of employment in all of England’s long history, a transfer and a sharing long overdue. One has only to think of the employment that both follows power and promotes it: media, accommodation, advertising, printing, design, fashion, publishing, the civil service, the think-tanks of politics, international delegations, the list goes on and on. Artistic endeavour and output will gather there too, theatre and music, dance and opera, not as outposts of London institutions but in their own right. Wherever the English Parliament is, all its functions in one place or spread between two or three cities, its location will be a centre and a magnet for employment, media and culture; above all for employment which is what matters most.
The time has now come for England to be that new reality. England is not an appendage to London. England is a nation, from the Scilly Isles to Berwick, from Dover to Carlisle, from the Wash to the Wirral. England is a commonwealth within which London is a part, a mighty part indeed, but still no more than a part. No part of England, not even London, is an island entire of itself, it is but part of the main.
There is something else to consider about London. Is it now suitable as the location of England’s Parliament? It is the site of the UK Parliament. Westminster is Unionist through and through. After 300 years of being the Union government and, till 1947 and the independence of India, the government of the Empire, is it fit for such a purpose any longer? Till 1707 the parliament located in London was England’s. Its concern was England. Since then its concern has been the Union and the Empire. Of the Union Parliament’s 650 MPs as many as 550 represent English constituencies. Anyone would expect that being such an overwhelming majority in the Commons that 550 would at the very least demand, and obtain, for their English constituents the same treatment, the same benefits, which the citizens of Scotland and Wales receive. Nothing could be further from the truth. UK Government expenditure on each single Scottish, NI and Welsh person is £1600 greater per annum than in England, enabled by the extra levy, not realized but real, of some £281 per annum on the English taxpayer. Prescriptions and hospital parking in Scotland and Wales are free, not in England. Scottish students pay no university fees while English students face the prospect of their fees going up to £9,000pa, incurring debts possibly as much as £30,000 plus. In Scotland the elderly enjoy free personal health care. In England admission into a nursing home requires the sale of the house.
England’s MPs could easily do something about all this grotesque injustice, but they do nothing. Why? Is it because they see themselves as British MPs, concerned first and foremost toserve the Union, and not first and foremost as England’s MPs? How they differ sharply from the MPs of Scotland. Consider the plight of English refinery workers at Lindsey in Killingholme in Lincolnshire in 2009. The Union Parliament did nothing when the jobs were given to Italian workers. Yet in a similar situation in Scotland a 40 day period would apply, in which time local workers have first right to apply for jobs. Scotland has its political champion in the shape of its own parliament. England has no voice of its own.
Environment matters. An English Parliament located within that Unionist culture will struggle to be independent -minded in respect of English matters. Its whole surrounding environment will be hostile to what it will be set up to do. There will be such a degree of sharing of resources like the civil service that the two will be indistinguishable. To be itself an English Parliament will need its own space, its own separate physical existence. Just the fact that they are 450 and 200 miles away from Westminster enables the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly to be different and stand on their own two feet. No one sees them as a tool or organ of the Union. Think of the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office. Whoever took them seriously? Their use became little more than finding a cabinet post for some compliant Welsh or Scottish MP.
I return to one of the reasons I have set out why the future English Parliament should be located outside of London. I’ve written: ‘An English Parliament well away from London, with the same powers for England as the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland, will bring about the greatest geographical transfer of power, employment and cultural activity in all of England’s long history. In fact for these very reasons don’t we have to give serious thought as to whether its powers might not be just in one place, let alone well outside of London?’
Will the transfer and distribution of employment and power just to one location in England be enough? Or is there something better, something more imaginative, something that is even more democratic that can be done? Can power be so distributed that its exercise binds all of England more closely, unites the English people more intimately without the outcomes being cumbersome and inefficient? Can the powers and functions of an English Parliament be distributed round England so that more places and more people might benefit? The EU Parliament packs up every six months, to flit between Brussels and Strassbourg but that is, its MEPs say, a drudge and a burden and a huge additional expense, makes no input of any democratic value and is done only to please the French. Is there any other model?
There are certain considerations to bear in mind. Whatever is done must genuinely extend democracy, involve more people and more places in the government of England. Secondly, whatever is set up must not mean more government. No one wants more politicians. No one wants to spend more money on either. We must not follow the Scottish and Welsh model where the parliamentary payroll was added to by 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament and 60 Members of the Welsh Assembly, all of them with their salaries, expenses and paid assistants and a deluge of more civil servants; yet without any reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh MPs in Westminster. The members of the Scottish Parliament took over the great majority of the responsibilities of Scottish Westminster MPs, yet the salaries of the latter were retained in full. The situation of course was that the bloc of Scottish MPs in Westminster would never have let devolution for Scotland go through if it has meant taking a penny from their salaries and expense accounts. Devolution does not increase the size of a population; and therefore the iron law of all devolution must be that it must not bring about an increase in the number of politicians and the cost of government. The cost of government must not be set by the pockets of the people who govern us. The public which foots the bill will not put up with it.
Now, with all that firmly in mind, we might ask what is available to us through modern technology, which will rapidly get even better, incredibly so. Technologically 1998, the year of the devolution legislation, is almost a bygone age. Communications now have acquired a speed and an availability unimaginable only a decade ago. Which brings us to the consideration of the constituent parts of an English Parliament. They will be the legislature, a second or revising chamber, and an Executive. I am assuming, correctly I hope, that there will be a second chamber. The Scottish Parliament does not have one, nor does the Welsh Assembly. A second chamber, a revising chamber, is a democratic governmental development of the English tradition. The Commons consists of whipped party members, which is necessary to get business done. But the present Lords is made up of members who can be independent of the Whips and who also represent different interests. They act as a long stop, they put the brakes on ideology and short term electoral gain. A revising chamber, able to question and put forward amendments, able even to defy the legislature and the Executive, is a democratic necessity and part of the English tradition of government.
Is it possible that the English Parliament can be spread across England, with more locations than one enjoying the immense transfer of power, employment and cultural activity that will ensue? For example –and this is by way of example only- in Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol? Each 200 miles from each other. The legislature (the Commons) in one, the second chamber (the Lords) in another, the Executive in the third? The sharing will not be like the expensive and wasteful Brussels/Strassbourg silliness where the whole parliament has to uproot and move from one to the other every six months just to placate the French. Instead, each constituent part will be permanently in one place, communicating with the other two by means of every device of our amazing modern technology.
What I am proposing is a very different sort of England from what we have all come to think of as an inevitability. It is an English Parliament that by both its location and its organisation will be a commonwealth and sharing. It will achieve more involvement of people and places. It will help unite and integrate the English nation even more than ever, all of them, inclusive of each and every political persuasion, ethnicity, religion and culture. It will be a dynamic challenge between places, a catalyst for change and experiment. It can happen. It will be vigorously resisted. But it can happen.
Michael Knowles is a member of the Campaign for an English Parliament, though this paper is written in a personal capacity. He was secretary to the Hackney Trades Council throughout the 1970s and assistant secretary to the London Federation of Trades Councils. He was the founder and chairman of the 'Save the Marshes Campaign' which in 1979-82 successfully saved the Walthamstow Marshes (88 acres of fen) along the River Lea from destruction through gravel extraction. They are now an SSS1. He stood for Labour in the 1987 General Election in the Congleton, Cheshire, constituency where he has lived since 1983. He is an active campaigner for an English Parliament.
ON A WALL by a road running south from Aberystwyth, arguably the best known Welsh nationalist landmark can be found. In white on vivid red, the words ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ have remained on the side of an abandoned building for several decades.
Usually translated as ‘Remember Tryweryn’ (the ‘D’ is down to a mutation), but more accurately ‘You remember Tryweryn’, the graffiti – whose author remained a mystery until well-known Welsh writer Meic Stephens confessed his part in it a few years back – has been faithfully restored on a number of occasions. There is a current campaign to buy the land it is on, and there was outrage earlier this year when it was daubed over. A number of Plaid Cymru members who travelled to the party’s annual conference in Aberystwyth recently also made the pilgrimage to this spot, and proud pictures subsequently appeared on Facebook.
Tryweryn is the name of the valley near Bala flooded in the early 1960s to provide water for Liverpool. In the face of almost total opposition from Wales and its MPs, the Welsh-only-speaking community of Capel Celyn was nevertheless lost under the waves, its inhabitants – some of whom had never left the village – scattered by Compulsory Purchase Orders.
The Welsh have a special word for what happens to such people. Hiraeth doesn’t translate directly, but it is generally taken to mean an aching longing for the land. However, away from such personal heartbreak, the creation of Llyn Celyn reservoir – which led to an apology from Liverpool City Council in 2005 – provided a lightning rod for Plaid Cymru, a big surge in popularity as people left powerless by what was ultimately a senseless act of unhearing English authoritarianism flocked to its ranks. It led ultimately to the return to Parliament of the party’s first MP, Gwynfor Evans, in 1966 in Carmarthen – like Capel Celyn a part of the Bro, the Welsh-speaking heartland that stretches from Gwynedd in the north to Llanelli on the south coast.
The language, and the ongoing struggle to retain and propagate its use, remains central to Welsh nationalism. This became much more obvious even to this English born-and-raised Plaid member a couple of months ago when, as with the administrator of this site, my own found itself at daggers drawn with the English Democrats.
Believing it to be a nationalist movement with an approach similar to those found in Scotland, or perhaps Cornwall, myself and the other editors invited its leader, Robin Tilbrook, to contribute a piece. What followed was a poorly constructed rant against Plaid Cymru that tried and failed to call the party’s nationalist credentials into question. I kicked off what would be our most commented-upon piece by taking Tilbrook’s argument to task. I immediately found myself under attack by ED trolls. Much of it was personal, but some of it was quite funny, like the clown who argued that Wales was supported by England and paid not a single penny to the Exchequer, not in income tax, VAT or petrol duty.
But one of those funny comments, from Alan England, along with Tilbrook’s argument, also cut to the heart of what truly incensed me about the EDs. England pompously tried to lecture our readers, many of whom spoke their first words in Welsh, that Abergavenny meant “gateway to Wales” in Cymraeg. In fact, it actually means ‘mouth of the Fenni river’, and the gateway slogan found on signs entering that part of Wales, Monmouthshire, is just that – a marketing slogan.
It wasn’t even that the EDs are only a decade or so old while Plaid was formed in 1925 (and organised Welsh nationalism goes back to the 19th Century) that irked. Rather, it was the assumption that the English Democrats have developed a model of nationalism which it now expects all other self-determination movements across the British Isles to fall in step with.
It certainly took no account of the moments that have shaped Plaid. Since completing my journey to Plaid, coming initially as an economic nationalist, I have really begun to cherish the party’s rich history. The EDs, conversely, took no time to read up on Plaid, to discern what makes it tick, what it is looking for, what it believes is important to achieve, or preserve. Instead, it clicked its fingers and then accused Plaid Cymru of fighting shy of nationalism.
This isn’t the case. We just don’t want their nationalism. And, in failing to realise that we might have different ambitions - that Wales is a different country that has managed to maintain its language and culture while leaving cheek-by-jowl with a nation that has been one of the most powerful on earth for the best part of past 300 years – and that we should unquestioningly follow, the English Democrats demonstrate that theirs is not a nationalist movement. It is imperialist.
If Tryweryn is Welsh nationalism’s lament, there is the romance of Gwynfor’s hunger strike in 1980 (he is always Gwynfor, never Gwynfor Evans), after the Thatcher government attempted to renege on its electoral promise of a Welsh language television station. He won, and Wales got S4C. There are the high intellectual arguments of Saunders Lewis, whose Tynged yr Iaith (fate of the language) radio speech of 1962 led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh language society which, with its Greenpeace-like use of non-violent direct action, has helped to slow the language’s decline. There is also the economist DJ Davies – my personal political hero – and, in recent times, Adam Price, the former Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP.
But even if these events are the moments we remember, that form the basis of the songs of Dafydd Iwan, Plaid’s immediate past president, I believe that the events of the past four years, of Plaid participating in Welsh government, as the executive arm of the National Assembly, that will provide perhaps its greatest achievement – and I hope it will allow the party to ultimately become one of sole power here in Wales.
That so much has changed in that time was brought home to me recently when I was asked to provide my views on the coming political year to an audience of public affairs consultants. I found myself between two heavyweights – one of our foremost political academics and greatest authorities on Welsh nationalism, and one of Wales’ best-known journalists. Both of them confidently predicted that the Labour-Plaid coalition government in Cardiff Bay was about to fall because Labour was unable to deliver on a key promise of One Wales (the document that enables them to govern together) and deliver a referendum on further powers.
Chancing my arm, and hedging my bets by insisting I had never got a political prediction right, I argued against. Later that evening, I joined a group of Pleidwyr (party faithful) for dinner, including a couple of Welsh Assembly Government ministers. I related the event, and they promptly pooh-poohed it. We were right.
There was a simple reason for this. Plaid had grown up while in government. It knew how much it had to lose by walking out and slamming the door, and how it well might be able to persuade if it stayed. It understands power by increment.
Similarly, in the time that the party has sat in government, we have witnessed the ‘Plaidification’ of the other three main parties – and particularly in Labour since it lost power in Westminster in May, and rushes to recast itself as a bulwark against ConDem hegemony, taking on board policies which months ago its ministers, both in London and in the Bay had refused to countenance. Now those same ex-ministers have gone to fetch them from the long grass into which they themselves kicked them.
This was perceived as presenting a problem for Plaid, because, while it and Labour are the two biggest parties in Wales (Labour by some way, admittedly), they also fish in similar leftist policy waters and Plaid has demonstrated an abiding preponderance towards left wing politics in recent times – indeed, its model of governance is based upon ‘decentralised socialism’. The worry, said pundits, was that Plaid could be obscured by Labour. It didn’t help that Labour had taken to George Bush-like tactics, arguing that if Plaid wasn’t with it, it was with the Tories.
However, come this weekend – conference weekend – and John Dixon, the outgoing party chairman, had put a different view forward, arguing that Plaid was more than a party of only North Walian language supremacists and disillusioned former Labour-supporting, English monoglot speakers from what was once the great industrial Valleys of the south. He outlined three main strands of thought and, rather than an internal and impending dogfight to establish which school of thought came out on top, he could foresee an immediate future where these different approaches lived happily side-by-side and informed one another.
It set the tone for an incredibly upbeat weekend. There was some grumbling (predominantly from the media) that much of what was coming through was broad brushstrokes, approaches rather than policy. But, given the impending Comprehensive Spending Review and oft-stated budget intents of the Chancellor, it would be a brave fool indeed to announce anything costed at this stage. However, much of it served to confirm that, in the words of one of our newest members, former Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, “devolution is a process, not an event”, while many of the private, off-camera discussions between members, many of them rank-and-filers like myself, were shot through with a more evidence-based rather than emotive approach to achieving independence.
And that is where Plaid finds itself today. In government, at perhaps the worst time possible since the Second World War, with an economy that is doing nothing at present other than going backwards, its lowest paid at the mercy of public sector cuts forced upon the country by the folly of a financial industry it hardly benefits from, its GVA and GDP below the UK average, its education standards slipping slightly, and its health service creaking more than its English counterpart.
Yet, in a strange way, this is a good time to be in politics, because there really are lots of good ideas in the air – not least the Holtham Commission’s report on reforming the Barnett formula and proposals for tax variation, and consequently grater fiscal responsibility. I think four years of government brings a different approach, something rarely appreciated by those in permanent opposition. It appears to have done Welsh nationalism a power of good.
So that’s Plaid today, perhaps 40 years ahead of English nationalism which, like those days of the Prince of Wales’ investiture in 1969, tends to focus on the affront caused by a cherished culture ignored, with campaigns for St George’s Day and so on. But it is important to remember that the circumstances that have given rise to English nationalism are going to be totally different to those that brought about the movement for Welsh self-determination, which is different from what happened in Scotland again. This Plaid and the SNP knows. We’ll work together, but there won’t be any lecturing one another on approach.
Welsh nationalists welcome a rise in English nationalism. I believe that more mature organisations than the English Democrats will emerge. Perhaps it will take a long time to achieve prominence; perhaps it may be one moment. Let us just hope it is not another Tryweryn. Remember that.
Raise the Flag is an England fans' initiative dreamt up and organised by Mark Perryman and Hugh Tisdale, co-founders of Philosophy Football supported and funded by the Football Association.
In October '97 Mark was at the fateful 0-0 draw in Rome which secured England's automatic qualification for France '98. As kick off approached, missiles thrown at the England end, with the Italian riot police running amok, the home fans created a huge Italian flag with thousands holding up red, white and green cards. This gave Mark an idea...
With Hugh providing the design template the pair approached the FA who despite initial misgivings backed the proposal wholeheartedly. The first 'Raise the Flag' (as it became known) was at England vs Saudi Arabia, June 1998 on t he eve of France '98. We've done 'Raise the Flag' at every England game since and it has become a new England tradition.
The pictures here are of the latest, and biggest, Raise the Flag. A t-shirt on every one of Wembley's 90,000 seats to create two huge St George Cross's, lasting not just the 90 seconds of 'God Save the Queen' but the entire 90 minutes of the game.
England Icon (away) T-shirt , as worn by the team of helpers available from Philosophy Football.
(Samuel Pepys’s Diary 1st June 1660)
English Oak is the national tree of our people. It represents strength and endurance. Oak is traditionally seen as the protector of our way of life. Royal Oak Day (also known as Oak Apple Day or Restoration Day) marks the restoration of England’s Monarchy. It recalls how Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape following his defeat in the battle of Worcester.
Many who fought the king and his troops under the military command of Cromwell were fuelled with outrage at high taxes and the unaccountable lavish lifestyle of their Monarchy. They were united in a desire for freedom and political liberties. As a political leader, Cromwell placed the interests of his elite minority above the civil liberties of our nation. There were many problems, arguments and new laws based on his strict puritanism. Cromwell considered many things English people enjoyed as sins to be outlawed - eating plum pudding, theatres, singing and dancing were made against the law. Cromwell ruled by force – not by the will of the people.
Cromwell’s dictatorship and tyranny was not acceptable to those who opposed Charles II. Not long after Cromwell’s death, many of those who had previously fought the king under Cromwell united with English royalists to secure the king’s peaceful return. Charles II arrived in London on his 30th Birthday - 29th May 1660. Charles II’s arrival marked the beginning of Restoration - the return of Monarchy for England. And this time not only Royalists welcomed him. His arrival meant everyone could enjoy singing, dancing, and plum pudding once more. On the day of his arrival there were fireworks, bonfires, dancing in the streets; church bells rang and cannons roared!
Royal Oak Day is a celebration of our freedom, liberty and nationhood - all of which are depicted in the strength and stability of the Oak. Royal Oak Day traditions such as enjoying plum pudding and ale are specific reminders of our redemption from tyranny. This day was celebrated nationally throughout England for over 200 years. It has been customary to wear a sprig of oak on this day for centuries. There have been numerous naval ships, a train and a London underground station named ‘The Royal Oak’ and it remains a popular name for our pubs and hotels. The image of the Royal Oak continues to be found on our stamps and coins.
On Saturday 29th May, Worcester is hosting a 350th celebration including an exhibition made up of sites, attractions and societies connected with the escape of Charles II from the Battle of Worcester and Restoration. Many will be enjoying a stroll along parts of the Monarch’s way – a long distant walk through the countryside where Charles II made his escape route. This year throughout England celebrations will be held in pubs, such as the award winning Royal Oak in South Brent, Devon. On this 350th Anniversary of Royal Oak Day, keep the 29th May as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny – wear your sprig of oak and enjoy a traditional English plum pudding!
To a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate in England
I have read your manifesto which addresses itself to Britain in its catchphrase ‘4 steps to a fairer Britain’. However your party is not a ‘British’ party since it is split into Welsh and Scottish divisions and also issues manifestos for Scotland and Wales, which address both reserved and devolved matters! What is not ‘British’ about Scotland and Wales? Perhaps they are not governed wholly by an imperial British Government as we are in England? All three manifestos refer to ‘our country’. Since Britain is composed of three countries, each with its own nation, clearly then your manifesto for ‘Britain’ addresses England. However, no-one in England would know that from the manifesto. Far from cleaning up politics, as you claim, your party persists in the terminological inexactitude of the phrase ‘the nations and regions of Britain’, marginalising England by the inference that England no longer exists but is to be referred to simply an a group of amorphous, artificial regions.
On the first page of your party’s Welsh division manifesto it claims that ‘many decisions made in Westminster affect England only and policies in Wales are increasingly different from those in England-reflecting different choices, priorities and circumstances’. If that is true and your party wants a fairer Britain why then does your so-called British division, which in truth stands for England support a Westminster Parliament which takes no heed of the different choices, priorities and circumstances that apply to England? Nor does it call for a fairer Britain by removing MPs who are unaccountable to anyone in England from making and voting on policies that apply to England only? Indeed as your Welsh division states for Wales, England needs something better and a fairer country.
The first page of your party’s Scottish division manifesto is signed by a Member of the Scottish Parliament. That person is not standing for election to the British Parliament. Indeed your manifestos for Scotland and Wales address devolved matters which are not the remit of the British government and will not be affected by this general election as the MPs elected in Scotland to the British Parliament will have no power to affect these matters in Scotland. However these unaccountable MPs will have the power to affect those matters in England and will be assiduous in using that unreciprocated power. Is that fair for England?
On page 7 your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party wants fair votes. How does your party intend to make the votes of those in England as valuable as those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where their MPs can influence domestic matters in England but MPs from England have no reciprocal rights? Indeed page 9 of your party’s Scottish division manifesto refers to political power being hoarded by politicians that is so much more the experience in England but no mention made in reference to England! Unlike Scotland and Wales, England does not exist constitutionally or politically.
On pages 8 and 9 your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party wants a fairer, more equal and more united society. Indeed it specifically refers to a fairer distribution of political power but nowhere does it tell us how your party intends to remedy the unequal status of England in the current UK, unrecognised constitutionally and politically with its own parliament or assembly. Contrast that with page 8 of your party’s Scottish division manifesto which refers to the unfairness on the circumstances of one’s birth affecting one’s chances in life. How much truer that is for England where we are disenfranchised as a nation, but your so-called ‘British’ manifesto makes no mention of that!
Page 13 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party wants to make the tax and benefits system fair, this ideal is echoed in your party’s Welsh division manifesto but you do not call for equal benefits for England in abolishing prescription charges.
Page 14 of your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that ‘lifeline flights will be exempt from a per plane duty’. This benefit not replicated in your British party’s manifesto. Why not?
On page 15 your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party has identified over £15 billion of savings in government spending. Your party’s manifesto (p25) refers only to assets in England; how are those savings distributed throughout Britain? What savings can a British government make when it is only responsible for spending in England except where spending is in a reserved department. What proportion of theses savings are assigned to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? I can find no equal references in your party’s Scottish and Welsh divisions’ manifestos. How fair is that? Page 11 of your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that extra resources will be provided to the Scottish parliament.? Similarly on page 8 of your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that the Welsh block grant will be increased. A whose expense will these handouts be made? Already every man, woman and child in England receives less per head than those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!
Page 16 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto on dealing with the deficit states that HomeBuy schemes will be scaled back. This measure is not replicated in your party’s other national divisions’ manifestos. Are the people of England only expected to bear this cut back?
In your party’s manifestos under ‘creating jobs that last’ your Welsh division offers to expand Home Energy Efficiency schemes. Are we in England to benefit a well? It does not say so in your British party’s manifesto. Your British party’s manifesto and its Welsh division manifesto refers to a work placement scheme with up to 800,000 places for young people to gain skills. No upper figure is given in your party’s Scottish division manifesto. How are these places to be allocated between England, Scotland and Wales?
On page 33 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it refers to inequality in Britain but itemises education and the NHS which are devolved matters and for which the British Government has no remit in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Why is this not made clear, why such lack of transparency?
In pages 33-37 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto reference is made to your party’s policies with regard to education, indeed reference is made to a national pay award for teachers. What is the meaning of national? Presumably here it means Britain as no mention is made of this applying only to England. How do you intend to introduce these policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
In your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that subsidy will be given to Scotland to funds schools up to private school level. In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that bursaries will be given to students so that each university gets a bursary budget suited to the needs of its students. Where is this generosity for England?
Under ‘freeing schools for excellence’ your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that you will cut the size of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This is a cut back that impinges on England only. Is that fair? Similarly in your party’s British manifesto it states that your party will cut the size of the Department of Health by half. Again this cutback impinges on England only! Why? The people of England are not milch cows to be used and abused at the whim of British political parties.
Pages 40-43 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto refer to your party’s policies for the NHS. Again what is the meaning of national? Presumably here it means Britain as no mention is made of this applying only to England. How do you intend to introduce these policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Page 41 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will use the money from the personal care at home bill for another purpose and that your party will ‘develop proposals for the long term care of the elderly’. On page 53 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will develop future proposals for long term care. How will these be implemented in Scotland bearing in mind that their long term care at home is already fully funded. Your party’s manifesto states that the solution must be based on affordability and fairness. Presumably then you will be bringing the standard of the whole of Britain up to that currently pertaining in Scotland. However, in your party’s Scottish division manifesto your party commits itself to free personal care for the elderly in Scotland and in your party’s Welsh division manifesto your party commits to ‘ gradually increasing the threshold above which care home residents are excluded from local authority support’. Why are these benefits not extended to the people of England?
Page 43 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will ‘give every patient the right to choose to register with the GP of their choice’. Will that allow every one in England to register with a GP in Wales in order to benefit from free prescriptions?
Pages 44-46 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto specifically refer to Britain’s culture, sport and tourism and that Britain, not London, the capital city of England, is hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, but in your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth games in 2014. Why has your party selectively highlighted a city in Scotland but not on England? In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party will help small businesses and companies in the creative industries. Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto makes no mention of any similar help for English businesses.
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party will ensure that St David’s Day is made a national holiday in Wales. Will this respect be extended to England’s patron saint? There is no indication of that in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto.
On page 46 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party’s policy is to cut red tape as applied to live music. Does this refer to the effects of the 2003 Licensing Act? That Act only extends to England and Wales so how will this policy be implemented in Scotland?
Pages 49-51 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto deals with the family. In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party will ensure that community childcare providers are funded to take more children. There is no mention of this benefit in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto. Why not? Why does your party selectively extend this benefit to Wales?
On page 55 of your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that fisheries management will be made the responsibility of regional management. Why does your party not extend this responsibility to England?
On page 57 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party believes in justice and human rights for all. Does that include the right of the people of England, as a nation, to have their own Parliament and government as stated in the UN charter of human rights?
With regard to transport on page 80 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will undertake preparations for a system of road pricing. How will this be introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland as the Scottish Parliament and NI Assembly do not have a Liberal Democrat Executives?
Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto further states that such revenue, presumably only from England and possibly Wales, will be used to abolish vehicle excise duty and reduce fuel duty. Under the current devolved system those benefits generated by taxing only a partial section of the UK population will be spread among the whole UK population. How does that square with your party’s policy on fairness for all.
On page 83 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will ensure fair trade for British farmers. As this is a devolved matter how will that be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the Liberal democrats do not form the executive in any of those administrations? Surely it would be better to assure English farmers that they will be paid the single farm supplement on time and in full as the Executives of the other countries and province of the UK do for their farmers?
With regard to the single farm payment on page 84 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto how will your party’s policy on single farm payments be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the Liberal democrats do not form the executive in any of those administrations?
Further on page 84 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party would make sure that country of origin labels identify the source of products. As the UK is composed of 3 countries and a province can we assume that your party’s intention is to ensure English produce is labelled as English?
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party will communities a say over the number of second homes in their area and that there will be a scheme to help pay the deposits of people who need help getting rented accommodation. Further it states that where there is only one shop or pub that your party will allow business rates to be cut to keep them open. Will these schemes be extended to England?
With regard to political reform on page 87 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party believes in power devolved to all nations and peoples of Britain. Does that include the English nation and is your party now supporting the call for an English Parliament or Assembly? It further states that your party wants people to be empowered knowing the chance to change things in their country is in their hands. How does your party intend to implement this in England, as a country, the most ancient country in Europe?
On page 88 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is to increase accountability in the House of Commons. Does that mean that unaccountable MPs, ie those that can vote and formulate policy on domestic matters in England that do not affect their own constituents, will be barred from voting and policy making in those matters?
On page 91 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is to scrap the Council Tax and institute local income tax. How will that be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the Liberal democrats do not form the executive in any of those administrations?
On page 91 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is also to give people a say in policing and the NHS. How will that be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the Liberal democrats do not form the executive in any of those administrations?
On page 92 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is a federal Britain. It further refers to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly but does not refer to any national representation for England.
Your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that your party is calling for a new, permanent Home Rule settlement. However your party’s ‘British’ manifesto makes no mention of Home rule for England. How fair is that?
On page 92 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is also to replace the Barnett formula with a needs based formula agreed by the Finance Commission of the nations. Who will specifically represent the English nation on this Commission and who will decide for England what England’s needs are? Clearly the people of England need free prescriptions, free parking at hospitals and free personal care for the elderly just as much as the other nations of Britain do?
On page 93 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is for individuals to have equal rights before the law. Does that include the right of individuals living in England to select and vote for members of an English national Parliament as they do in the other countries of Britain?
On page 98 of your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party’s policy is to shift Departmental spending to deliver core manifesto commitments. Will your party undertake not to shift spending from Departments for devolved matters in England to Departments for reserved matters that involve the whole of Britain?
To a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in England
I have downloaded and read your manifesto which invites me to ‘join the government of Britain’. The ‘invitation’ refers to Britain as ‘a country’ containing ‘a nation’. However Britain is composed of three countries, each with its own nation. Moreover, despite claiming to be a party of the Union your party is split into Welsh and Scottish (but not English) divisions and issues additional manifestos for Scotland and Wales, which I have also downloaded. All three manifestos refer to ‘our country’ or ‘our nation’. How are we to understand the difference between these words in your manifesto for ‘Britain’ and those for Scotland and Wales? What is not ‘British’ about Scotland and Wales? Perhaps it is that they are not governed wholly by an imperial British Government as we are in England?
Clearly then your manifesto for ‘Britain’ addresses England but no-one in England would know that from the manifesto. However, under ‘Mend our Broken society’, all three of you manifestos state that your party wants to make Britain a fairer place where opportunity is more equal. So what are we to understand by the use of the word Britain here in your party’s manifesto for England? Clearly then the use of the word ‘Britain’ is interchangeably used for Britain and England. This is not transparency! Nor is your party offering equal opportunity to people in England.
Unlike your party’s manifesto for England, your party’s manifestos for Scotland and Wales continually refer to these countries and address both reserved and devolved matters! Your party cannot introduce its policies on reserved matters into Scotland and Wales by way of a general election, so what relevance do these policies have? However the differential policies outlined for devolved matters show that the conservative Party does not have a consistent policy for the ‘Union’.
Under ‘Macroeconomic Stability’ your party’s manifestos refer to increasing spending on health in ‘Britain’ so that a proportion of those funds are available for Scotland and Wales. Your party’s manifestos go on to say that your party will cute wasteful departmental spending. What savings can a British government make when it is only responsible for spending in England except where spending is in a reserved department. What proportion of theses departmental savings are assigned to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? In addition an undertaking is made to reduce the number of MPs by 10%. However the manifestos do not say whether these savings will apply equally to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Further your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that there will be an end to free prescriptions (they are in fact £3.00 in Scotland) and free school meals. However it does not state that the Scots will be required to pay the same levy as we in England. Nor does your party’s Welsh division manifesto state that your policy for Wales is to remove the existing free prescription benefit not enjoyed by us here.
Under ‘Get Britain Working Again’ your party claims in its manifesto for Scotland that your MSPs have successfully demanded cuts in rates for 150,000 small and medium sized businesses over the last few years. Have your Westminster MPs endeavoured to do the same for the equivalent number of similarly sized English businesses?
Your party’s Scottish division manifesto expresses concern about to the lack of funding for Scottish universities but does not, however, address the discrimination within the so-called union regarding tuition fees.
Under ‘Create a Modern Transport Network’ only your ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will give councils more powers to get traffic flowing more smoothly. Is this road pricing by another name and why is this policy not reflected in your manifestos for Scotland and Wales? In your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that you have plans to expand the number of rural petrol (sic) stations eligible for rate relief. Is this a policy that your party has for England in a United Kingdom? Similarly in your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that the Scottish Government could create a new Business Dividend Fund giving local authorities funds for every new business. Is this a policy that your party has for England, it does not appear to be in the ‘British’ manifesto. It also states that Scottish Civic leaders will have as much opportunity to influence reserved policy as their counterparts in the rest of the UK. Who would be the counterparts specifically dedicated to representing England?
Under ‘Public services Reform’ it states that you will publish the salaries of senior civil servants in central government but your party does not propose that this should be done for the additional bureaucrats required by the Scottish Government. Your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that your party will publish a standard set of cost measures that capture the key drivers of Whitehall spending. Since most of that spending is on English Departments why do you not have the same policy for those departments at Holyrood especially as the manifesto concerns itself with transparency in these matters?
Under ‘Build a Greener Economy’ your party’s Scottish division manifesto states that your party will encourage local councils to introduce green discounts for council tax and business rate. As a ‘party of the union’ we would expect the same provisions to be made for England.
Under ‘Build the Big society’ Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party intends to introduce National Citizen Service for 16 year olds. Clearly this can only be introduced in England and possibly Wales but not Scotland despite the pious hopes in your party’s Scottish division manifesto. Is this service to be compulsory or be a service a child cannot refuse without an effect on his or her future? In your party’s Welsh Division manifesto it states that your party will empower communities to take over Post Offices under threat. Does this policy extend to England? It does not say so in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto.
Under ‘Reform tax and benefits’, in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto, it states that your party intends to freeze council tax to help ‘Britain’s’ families. However your party does not advocate this for Wales, which is part of Britain. Moreover, to do this your party intends to make cut backs in government (which government?) advertising and consultants. However, while advocating a continuance of this policy, which has already benefited people in Scotland for three years, your party does not make any recommendation regarding cut backs in Scotland to pay for it.
Under ‘ Give Families more Control over their Lives’ your party’s Scottish division manifesto refers to 12.5 hours of free child care in the week. There is no reference to this benefit in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto. Surely there should be equal benefits in a fair union as set out in the 1707 Act of Union?
Under ‘Back the NHS’ in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it makes no reference to increased spending on the English Health Service but rather refers to cutting the cost of administration and to transfer resources to support doctors and nurses on the frontline. However in your party’s Scottish and Welsh divisions manifestos it states that Westminster’s increased spending on the ‘N’(English)HS will produce consequential increases for Scotland and Wales. How are these statements to be reconciled?
In addition in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that one million more people will have access to an NHS dentist. Is this England only or all of Britain? Moreover this manifesto does not state that all the people of England will have access to free dental checks and eye tests as they do in Scotland. Clearly your party does not intend for there to be equality of benefit throughout the union it claims to support. In addition, while your party’s Scottish division manifesto opposes phasing out of prescription charges in Scotland, already only £3.00, it appears to relate only to higher rate taxpayers. A similar undertaking is made in your party’s welsh division manifesto. No mention is made in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto of the inequality of all people in England continuing to pay £7.20 for all their prescriptions even those who have chronic ill health such as asthma sufferers. Yet the conservatives are passionate about the union!
Under ‘Take control of your care’ in your party’s Scottish division manifesto your party claims the accolade for extending free personal care for the elderly in their own homes in Scotland to the preparation of food. Not only does your party not advocate the same provision for the elderly in their own homes in England but also intend to make them insure themselves against the cost of residential care and to cover the costs of receiving care in their own homes. And while the insurance policy for the cost of residential care is also stated in your party’s Scottish division manifesto, where it cannot be implemented, no mention is made of it in your party’s Welsh division manifesto!
Under ‘Better teachers and tougher discipline’ in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto your party states that it will raise the entry requirement for state-funded teacher training. However no mention is made of raising this barrier in your party’s Scottish and Welsh divisions’ manifestos. While EU and Scottish students at Scottish Universities will continue to benefit from free tuition your party’s ‘British’ manifesto only offers relief from student debt for top maths and science graduates who go on to become teachers
Under ‘A rigorous curriculum and exam system’ your party’s ‘British’ manifesto undertakes to create 20,000 additional young apprenticeships. Are these places to be shared out throughout Britain, as the title of your party’s manifesto implies and if so how are they to be apportioned? In addition in this manifesto your party undertakes to publish performance data held by the DCMS. Is that the English Department or the British one? Will this undertaking be matched in Scotland and Wales? In your party’s Scottish division manifesto it states that sports trust funds will be set up to allow all pupils to take part in sports in their school or community and also to experience a full week of residential outdoor education at least once between the ages of 11 and 15. Is this benefit to be extended to England’s children in the spirit of equality within the union?
Under ‘reforming the criminal justice system’ in your party’s Scottish division manifesto your party advocates the introduction of lie detector tests for sex offenders and greater use of GPS for tracking those on bail who might flee the country. Why are these approaches not being put forward in England in the interests of public safety?
Under ‘a new agenda for a new politics’ in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will cut the size of Parliament, the scope of Whitehall and the cost of politics. Clearly the British Parliament can be significantly reduced in size by reducing it’s workload rather than have fewer politicians with the same workload. What is abundantly clear is that for a balanced union the British parliament should concern itself only with reserved matters and leave devolved matters to devolved administrations.
In your party’s ‘British’ and Welsh manifestos your party undertakes to make politics more local. Politics is already ‘more local’ in Wales with their own national Assembly. That affirmation of nationhood is to be omitted in your plans for England and despite your party’s claim the ‘top down’ model most proximately affects England, which is and will continue to be ruled by an imperial British Government. Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that power will be handed from Whitehall to ‘communities’. What natural communities is your party referring to? Clearly in your party’s Scottish division manifesto it means Holyrood, the seat of the national Scottish Parliament, and from there to the people of Scotland.
Under ‘Make politics more accountable’ your party’s ‘British’ manifesto refers to the revelations about MPs that have detached voters from the political process. The majority of these MPs were returned from English constituencies and the majority of their influence was on English domestic affairs. Voters in Scotland and, to a lesser extent Wales, are not as concerned since the domestic matters most close to them are governed by their own national politicians. Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto claims that your party wants power to be returned to the people of Britain. It already has been in Scotland and Wales and we in England are still waiting for similar consideration.
In addition your party’s three manifestos call for every vote to have equal value. However the value of a vote in England is permanently halved since we have no opportunity to vote for representatives in a devolved national parliament. Moreover your party is promoting the concept of an elected second chamber. This will perpetuate the ‘upper West Lothian question whereby laws for England are revised and debated by a second chamber composed of Lords from other countries where there is no reciprocal arrangement.
Under ‘Make politics more transparent’ your party’s ‘British’ manifesto is a testament to the lack of transparency with regard to the effects of devolution on England that your party and the other ‘unionist’ parties perpetuate. This was starkly illustrated in the TV debates where the three leaders made a point of never referring to England or what matters were relevant to England only. In addition your party’s three manifestos call for accountability but nowhere does your party address the evil of unaccountable MPs voting on and making policy for England.
Under ‘Make politics more local’ your party’s ‘British’ manifesto calls for elected mayors in England’s largest cities. ‘Localism’ is no substitute for national devolution and is not set out as an alternative for national devolution in your party’s Scottish and Welsh divisions manifestos.
Under ‘Strengthen the union’ in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will rebalance the unfairness in the voting system. In fact your party’s adoption of the Clarke proposals still allows all members of the House of Commons to vote on English only matters and they retain the power to defeat English bills even though they have been approved at committee stage by MPs from English constituencies. While your party’s manifestos state that your party is ‘passionate about the union’ they do nothing to rebalance the union. Moreover your party’s Welsh division manifesto tells us that your party intends to further unbalance the union by allowing the people of Wales to determine, by way of a referendum, whether they want further legislative powers for their national assembly. Further your party’s Scottish division manifesto tells us that your party would make British Treasury Ministers available to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee pre and post British budgets. Who, in this cosy affair, will represent English interests? Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto tells us that your party will end ‘double jobbing’. Will that not mean more politicians, a false objection always tossed out when people in England call for equal treatment. A false objection since it is based on the fallacy that 646 MPs are needed to deal only with reserved matters. Nowhere in any of your party’s three manifestos does your party mention the inequity of the Barnett formula which discriminates against the people of England. How will that running sore strengthen the union?
Under ‘Conserve and enhance the natural environment’ your party’s Scottish division manifesto tells us that your party wants the label ‘Scottish’ to be protected as well as ‘British’. Does your party want the label’ English’ to be supported and protected?
Under ‘Support our brave armed forces’ your party’s Welsh division manifesto promises to review the rules governing the award of medals. Does this not apply also to England?
Your party’s Scottish division manifesto shows subtle discrimination by praising Scottish achievements on page 17, whereas your party’s ‘British’ and Welsh manifestos make no such approbation based on national origin. Moreover unlike your party’s Welsh and ‘British’ division manifestos, your party’s Scottish division manifesto exhibits further discrimination by using illustrations that are entirely of Scotland, not the rest of Britain, and Scots, not other Britons, and does not include the ethnic minority Briton in ‘A New Agenda for a New Politics’
The policies that your party advocates in devolved matters not only cannot be delivered by any of the MPs we select at a general election but also cannot be delivered in the devolved administrations unless the Executive is dominated by the additional Conservative politicians that sit there.
To a Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in England
I have downloaded and read your manifesto which offers me ‘A future Fair for All’. The offer refers to Britain as ‘a country’ containing ‘a nation’. However Britain is composed of three countries, each with its own nation. Moreover, despite claiming to be a party of the Union your party is split into Welsh and Scottish (but not English) divisions and issues additional manifestos for Scotland and Wales, which I have also downloaded. All three manifestos refer to ‘our country’ or ‘our nation’. How are we to understand the difference between these words in your manifesto for ‘Britain’ and those for Scotland and Wales? What is not ‘British’ about Scotland and Wales? Perhaps it is that they are not governed wholly by an imperial British Government as we are in England?
Clearly then your manifesto for ‘Britain’ addresses England but no-one in England would know that from the manifesto. However, under ‘Mend our Broken society’, all three of you manifestos state that your party wants a ‘future fair for all’. So what are we to understand by the use of the word Britain here in your party’s manifesto for England? Clearly then the use of the word ‘Britain’ is interchangeably used for Britain and England. This is not transparency! Nor is your party offering equal opportunity to people in England.
Under ‘tough choices’ your party’s ‘British’ and Scottish manifestos tell us that your party will take a tough stance over public sector pay and that appointments involving a salary over £150,000 will require Ministerial sign-off. Does this policy extend to the bureaucrats that service devolved matters in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament or is it only in England that such tough choices are to be suffered?
Your Scottish division manifesto states that at least one million skilled jobs will be created by investment in, among others, high value tourism and premium food and drink. Does this promise extend to investment in England’s tourism and premium food and drink?
Your ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will establish a regional growth fund with regional ministers given an enhanced role. As this is presented as a manifesto for Britain how will these policies be enacted in the Scottish and Welsh regions of Britain?
All your party’s manifestos refer to high speed rail links between London and Wales and Scotland and are presented as of particular benefit to those regions of Britain. Will the Barnett formula ensure that, in addition to this benefit, The Scottish and Welsh regions of Britain will also benefit from a Barnett formula cut?
Both your party’s Welsh and ‘British’ manifestos state that your party’s policies will create 200,000 jobs. How are these to be apportioned between the Welsh region of Britain and ‘Britain’?
Your ‘British’ manifesto states that council tax increases have fallen but council tax has been frozen in Scotland for 3 years, so as Scotland is part of Britain your ‘British’ manifesto is somewhat economical with the truth!
In education your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will save £1450 million. Are these cuts only to be suffered in England as education is a devolved matter? There is no mention of such cuts in your Scottish and Welsh divisions’ manifestos. Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto decries teachers leaving to work in England. Surely that should not matter in a United Kingdom.
In your party’s Welsh and Scottish divisions’ manifestos your party records that it has provided free breakfasts for children in over 1,000 schools in Wales and that in Scotland you would like to reintroduce class sizes of 20 for maths and English. Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto has no such aspirations for England.
Your ‘British’ manifesto states that your party is trialing free school meals for all primary school children across ‘the country’ and will ensure 300,000 children receive one-to-one tuition in English and maths when they are older. Does this aspiration apply to the whole of Britain as implied by the title of your manifesto? In addition it states that up to 70,000 places a yes for advanced apprenticeships will be created. How will this figure be apportioned throughout Britain?
In further education your party’s ‘British’ manifesto states that your party has eliminated upfront fees. As your party abolished tuition fees in Scotland that ‘achievement’ is not only less than impressive but positively insulting to hard working parents in ‘Britain’/England especially as your party claims to be the party of equality!
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto, together with waiting times being at a record low, it states that Labour in Wales has free prescriptions for all and free parking at Welsh hospitals. Again as your party claims to be the party of equality where are these benefits for ‘Britain’/England? Moreover nothing in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto addresses the further inequality of prescriptions at only £3.00 in Scotland whereas they are £7.20 in ‘Britain’/England. Your ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will give patients the right to register with a GP anywhere they choose. Does that mean that we, in England, can choose a GP in Wales and benefit from free prescriptions or does your version of ‘equality’ not extend to the people of England?
Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto goes into tremendous detail about how hospital acquired infections will be dealt with including en-suite single room isolation facilities. Little detail is given about tackling such infections in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto.
Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto aspires to allow young Scots free access to football matches. Your party’s ‘British’ manifesto is silent on this matter, no such perks for England’s children then.
Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto promises to support victims of crime with a Victims Commissioner. Where is that promise for ‘Britain’/England? In contrast your party’s ‘British’ manifesto penalises the people of England by telling us that your party will make cuts in legal aid, which is already much reduced.
In your party’s Scottish division manifesto your party undertakes to pilot removing benefits from drug users who refuse treatment and to extend this nationally if shown to work. What is the meaning of nationally here as there is no mention of this in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto?
Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto tells us that free personal care for the elderly in Scotland will be maintained. However in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto it states that your party will establish a National Care Service to ensure free care in the home for those with the greatest care needs. That is hardly equal to what your party has supported in Scotland. How is that ‘a future fair for all’? Moreover in your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that from April 2011 nobody in Wales will pay more than £50 for non-residential care. More Labour fairness and equality, which leaves out the people of England in Britain? Even the meagre figure of 400,000 to be helped quoted in your party’s ‘British’ manifesto will only benefit through cost cutting at the expense of other services. That manifesto refers to removing ‘unfair postcode lotteries’. What needs to be removed is the unfair nationality lottery. The British Labour party clearly discriminates on these grounds and I thought that was illegal under the Race Relations Act! Ironically your party’s ‘British’ manifesto on families and older people begins with the warning that the Tories would prioritise only the few.
Your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto curiously tells us that these kinds of discriminatory experiences binds the nations of the UK together in a social union. Presumably that does not include England, which although a country with its own nation is deliberately marginalised by the so-called unionist parties. Your party’s Welsh division manifesto tells us that your party will be building a new care system for Wales that will ensure ‘high quality care and support for all, whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever condition leads you to need care and support’. That is unless you live in England and are not at death’s door!
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party will honour those to whom we owe the most, namely veterans, by instituting veterans champions, more mental health support and council tax discounts on family homes of servicemen in Wales. No such honour for servicemen or women in England from your party.
Your ‘British’ manifesto states that your party is taking forward plans for a National Youth Community Service. This goal is reflected in your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto but prioritises the Project Scotland programme. What is this project and is there a similar Project England programme?
Your ‘British’ manifesto states that your party will establish a new biennial Festival of Britain in 2013 but in your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto it states that this will begin in 2011. Which is the correct date?
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto we understand that your party speaks up for Wales in the United Kingdom. Who speaks up for England?
In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that your party believes in the reform and renewal of our democracy. There is nothing democratic in England being the only country in Britain and Europe ruled in domestic matters by an imperialist British Government. The proposed House of Lords reform will perpetuate the anti democratic situation whereby Lords from other parts of the UK and abroad can revise and vote on English affairs where that is not the case for Scotland. Will further devolution for Wales whereby the Assembly will have primary legislative powers mean that the House of Lords will not revise and vote on Welsh law? Will an elected second chamber have unaccountable members from Scotland having unreciprocated powers over England? That manifesto goes on to say that decisions should be made as close as possible to those they most directly affect and that is why Labour created the post of Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh Office. Why has that post and office not been created for England on the same principle and the people of England been given the opportunity to decide whether they want a Parliament or Assembly rather than have artificial regions imposed upon them as devolution, which your party’s ‘British’ manifesto perpetuates? Clearly as Donald Dewar is quoted in your party’s Scottish division’s manifesto ‘Scots have the best of both worlds’ - and England has the worst.
In both your party’s Scottish and Welsh divisions’ manifestos there is reference to fair funding or a new deal on funding. Where is the fairness of the arbitrary Barnett formula which after, the cuts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland leaves far less to spend per head on each of us in England? As Joel Barnett confirmed to the House of Lords it is not, and never was based on need, nor has it ever been reviewed on that basis. In your party’s Welsh division manifesto it states that funding will be provided so that at least a similar standard of public service can be provide as with comparable parts of the UK. Where else do we get free prescriptions and all the other benefits that Wale snow has compared with England?
Each of the main British political parties exhibits a curious logic. That is that Britain is composed of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales but when Scotland and Wales are removed from the subject it leaves ‘Britain’ or the UK. An illustrative example is the UK Youth Parliament which has no English representation. After all these illustrations of the discriminatory nature of the current UK constitution your party’s ‘British’ manifesto makes the extraordinary statement that devolution has strengthened the UK, preserving the union on the basis of a fairer partnership. Was it not Goebbells that stated if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes perceived as truth.
In an article by Toque entitled The Liberal Democrats' Resolution of the England Question, which was the publication of a letter from the Liberal Democrat HQ in response to their question on an English Parliament, published on 27th April, I posted the following response:
"Ultimately, we want to move towards a federal United Kingdom – devolving power within England further and thus resolving this question"
Note the LibDem words carefully - "devolving power within England further". Not devolving power TO England, but within England.
Why can people not see, or choose not to see, that this 'Federal United Kingdom' is the 12 Regions of the UK as mapped out by the EU.
9 English regions, each eventually to have the same powers as Scotland, NI & Wales, (those 3 already having regional status), each with a Regional Minister in Westminster to give the appearance of UK sovereignty, but in reality controlled by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.
That is what is meant by devolving power closer to the people as espoused by the LibDems, and regularly by Dan Hannan MEP because the Conservatives in the UK don't want it raised as an issue at election time. The regional NHS (9 English RHA's already in place) and Regional police forces (nearly in place with talk of mergers again on the table), 9 Regional Fire Service Commands (already in place), Regional TV & Radio (already in place), and to use the LibDems own words 'removing power from Westminster and Whitehall'.
At that point, currently estimated to be 2012, the UK will no longer have the power to negotiate to leave the EU, its powers having been devolved completely to the 12 regions. And a region alone could not negotiate to leave, as the original treaty was with the UK.
There never will be an English Parliament, there never will be a single voice for England alone, so long as we remain inside the EU.
The evidence is all around you, its there again in the LibDem response, you only have to see what is in front of you.
As a result of my assertions, I have received an email asking me to expand on this subject and to provide some more detail. This I am happy to do, and will begin to outline this detail below.
Lets take first of all my assertion that there are 9 English regions, each eventually to have the same powers as Scotland, NI & Wales, (those 3 already having regional status), each with a Regional Minister in Westminster to give the appearance of UK sovereignty, but in reality controlled by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.
In June 2007 the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced the appointment of nine regional ministers. In the July 2007 Green Paper, The Governance of Britain, the Government proposed that regional committees should be established.
In this document, Regional Accountability at Westminster it was also laid out that 8 Regional Grand Committee's be established, which are now in place. 8 rather than 9 as it was considered that London Region did not require one.
Here is what Wikipedia tells us about these Regional Ministers, and includes the Regional Map of England (Scotland, NI & Wales already having been established with Regional Government).
The Governance of Britain Green Paper, published in July 2007, provided the following objectives for regional ministers:
- to advise the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on the approval of regional strategies and appointment of Regional Development Agency (RDA) chairs and boards;
- to represent regional interests in the formulation of central government policy relevant to economic growth and sustainable development in areas that have not been devolved to the RDAs
- to facilitate a joined up approach across government departments and agencies to enable the effective delivery of the single regional strategy
- to champion the region at high level events and with regard to high profile projects (including through a programme of regional visits); and
- to represent the Government with regard to central government policy at regional committee hearings and at parliamentary debates focused specifically on the region.
It also stated:
"There are a range of functions that Regional Ministers will undertake. These are mostly clustered around the responsibilities of the Government Offices and the Regional Development Agencies, particularly in relation to economic development. Regional Ministers will be able to take questions in Parliament on the work of regional bodies, and on regional strategies.
That so far is the visible element of the EU Regional policy, but what is more important is the invisible elements, that which must not be made visible to the public until it is too late to change it.
The Governance of Britain Green Paper mentioned above is the UK Government complying and publishing its area of the more wide-ranging European Commission document European Governance.
So lets now get back to Regionalisation, across the entire European Union, and in particular to the UK, and we will see that not only the Liberal Democrats are committed to the regionalisation of the UK as part of the EU plan, but so are the Conservative party with the Big Society policy plan and of course the Labour party who have been implementing this since 1997.
When we speak of the European Union we think of the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament as the only players. It is true that these bodies form the Executive, Civil Service and Legislature, but there are many more bodies which work alongside the EU in formulating, presenting and implementing policy and EU directives, regulations and decisions.
One such body is the Committee of the Regions (CoR) of which I have spoken before, originally set up as an advisory group, it is now taking on institutional and legal powers afforded to it by the Lisbon Treaty and holds plenary sessions representing the 277 Regions of the EU. We shall return to the CoR later.
Another body is the Assembly of European Regions (ARE or AER). This body is represented by delegates of all 277 Regions of the EU, and although holds no constitutional or legal position, is fully funded by EU taxpayers, and its remit extends to 33 countries, including those now linked by the Mediterranean Union (EU and North African states bordering the Mediterranean).
In 1996 the Assembly of European Regions issued a Declaration on Regionalism in Europe. That document states:
- Item 3 of Preamble: The regions are an essential and irreplaceable element of European development and integration.
- Item 5 of Preamble: Recognising the importance in Europe of the process of integration and regionalisation.
- Item 7 of Preamble: Convinced that states with strong regional political structures, ie. with legislative powers and their own finances can optimally resolve their economic and social problems.
- Item 9 of Preamble: Being aware that the regions, within the national legal order, are an indispensable element of democracy, decentralisation and self-determination, by allowing people to identify with their community and by increasing the opportunities for their participation in public life.
- Item 13 of Preamble: Considering the relevance of the Council of Europe's draft European Charter of Regional Self-government (1996) and the European Parliament's "Community Charter for Regionalisation" (1988).
- Item 14 of Preamble: Convinced of the significance of this declaration, which reflects a political will and the aspirations that the regions wish to promote in Europe, while respecting the diversity of their situations which call for a variety of solutions;
Seeing any of the 3 main party policies yet? The document continues and lays out rules under which Regions shall exist, the definition and concept of Regions, and how States shall devolve power to them.
- Article 1.1 The region is the territorial body of public law established at the level immediately below that of the state and endowed with political self-government.
- Article 1.2 The region shall be recognised in the national constitution or in legislation which guarantees its autonomy, identity, powers and organisational structures.
- Article 1.3 The region shall have its own constitution, statute of autonomy or other law which shall form part of the legal order of the state at the highest level establishing at least its organisation and powers.
- The status of a region can be altered only in cooperation with the region concerned. Regions within the same state may have a different status, in keeping with their historical, political, social or cultural characteristics.
- Article 1.4 The region is the expression of a distinct political identity, which may take very different political forms, reflecting the democratic will of each region to adopt the form of political organisation it deems preferable. The region shall resource and staff its own administration and adopt insignia for its representation.
The document is 13 pages in length and I suggest that you read the full document to understand fully just how the UK is to be broken, as it will explain why England in particular will never obtain its English Parliament.
- Article 3.1 The apportionment of powers between the state and the regions shall be determined in the national constitution or in legislation in accordance with the principles of political decentralisation and subsidiarity. Under these principles, functions should be exercised at the level as close to the citizen as possible. (see appendix)
- Appendix to article 3, paragraph 1
Examples of the existing regions' powers:
- regional economic policy,
- regional planning, building and housing policy,
- telecommunications and transport infrastructures,
- energy and environment,
- agriculture and fischeries,
- education at all levels, universities and research,
- culture and media,
- public health,
- tourism, leisure and sport,
- police and public order.
- Article 5.3 Under national legislation, the region shall be entitled to levy its own taxes and determine sources of tax revenue. For this purpose, it shall set the criteria for determining its taxes, duties and dues. Where the law permits, it may decide to charge supplements on state taxes.
- Article 6.1 The principle of solidarity entails the existence of national systems of financial equalisation.
The aims and procedure of financial equalisation shall be prescribed in the national constitution or legislation.
Account shall be taken of the uneven distribution of the financial burdens borne by the regions, on the basis of objective criteria. However, financial equalisation shall not dissuade those regions required to make equalisation payments from making appropriate use of the sources of tax revenue available to them.
The needs of municipal authorities shall also be taken into account in the calculation of equalisation payments.
Equalisation shall take the form of transfers from the state to the regions, and between regions.
The implementation of Article 6.1 has of course already taken place and explains why taxpayers funds to Scotland & Wales are higher, whose Regional governments then disburse them differently to the English regions, and why we see the disparity in the NHS budgets between these regions where Scotland & Wales spend far more per capita than England, as they also do with Education.
Now you may say that this is only a declaration from a non legislative body, and if that is as far as it went, you would be right.
However, here is the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the ‘Recommendation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe on a European Charter of Regional Self-Government’, which in turn had adopted the Declaration of Regionalism in Europe and by which time had also adopted the Council of Europe's draft European Charter of Regional Self-government (1996) and the European Parliament's "Community Charter for Regionalisation" (1988)..
What followed next was that the European Commission passed this all into European Law with its Regulation, European Parliament resolution on the role of regional and local authorities in European integration (2002/2141(INI))
As this was passed as a Regulation, it was not required for an Act of Parliament to be raised and was therefore introduced into UK law on Tuesday 14th January 2003. (I would remind readers at this stage that EU laws are passed in 3 ways and introduced into UK law using different methods, which I have written about previously).
So, now it is UK law that Regionalisation must take place, Labour have been implementing this since 1997, firstly with the attempt at Regional Parliaments (voted down but since replaced with Regional Grand Committees), and with the introduction of Regional Assemblies, Regional Development Agencies and the Regionalisation of the Military and all the emergency services, media, NHS, and just about every other government body.
We see now at election time the 3 main parties including it in their party manifestos, but in such a way that regionalisation is never mentioned, England is never mentioned, the EU is never mentioned and the demise and marginalisation of Westminster are never mentioned.
Gordon Brown speaks of the Countries and Regions of the UK in which he means Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the 9 English regions.
Nick Clegg speaks of devolving power closer to the people, on immigration he has a regional placement plan, and
David Cameron talks of the Big Society, again devolving power closer to the people, elected Regional Police chiefs, cutting down the number of MP's.
If you want to see the 3 main parties other policy items laid out in the EU agenda, you can see it here, in the The European Commission Work Programme 2010. The only argument between them is how to implement them. The real work as I said earlier is being handled by the Committee of the Regions, for it is they who now direct regional and local government policy implementation.
And remember, that all the while these EU structures have been put into place in the background, you have been paying for it. The UK has been paying its up front EU dues, it has been paying its EU tax called VAT, and it has been paying for the Committee of the Regions, The Assembly of European Regions and for all of the local government restructuring that has been going on for over 10 years, over and over you have been paying.
Let me reiterate. Whilst we remain inside the EU, there are 2 chances of an English Parliament, Bob Hope and No Hope.
If anyone wishes to campaign for an English Parliament, the only way in which you will achieve that ambition is for the UK to leave the EU. It is not too late, the election is still a week away.
Many of the smaller parties and Independents are committed to leaving the EU, and of course The Albion Alliance are asking candidates to sign a personal pledge on working for a referendum simply because we just don't trust our politicians or parties to do what they say they will do, because we know that they are following an EU agenda, not a British one.