England is an ‘imagined community’ left unimagined by Labour. Labour must articlulate a vision of England’s future or stop complaining when others put forward a vision with which they disagree. It’s time to play to Little England.
Scottish historian David McCrone made an important observation about Scottish politics, it is an observation that should inform Labour's approach to winning back England:
In an important sense, Scotland’s politicians are all nationalists - David McCrone, Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Nation; 2001.
This is not to say that all Scotland's politicians are separatists, they clearly are not. But all Scottish politicians, from Michael Forsyth to Alex Salmond, make appeals to the nation of Scotland, the Scottish people, and, whenever possible, they parade their Scottish credentials with natural pride. They are nationalists. The Scottish Labour Party itself is proudly Scottish and never shies away from displaying the Saltaire and liberally peppering its literature with the words 'Scottish' and 'Scotland'. All Scottish politicians and parties compete to out Scottish the rest.
Ten years after McCrone made his observation on Scottish politics he would be hard pushed to observe that "England’s politicians are all nationalists". Quite the reverse in fact, English politicians would rather be caught fiddling their expense accounts than put England's Cross of St George on their election literature, yet ironically that doesn't stop them engaging in the annual round of hand-wrining about the far-right's ownership of English national symbols that occurs every St George's Day. It's not just England’s national symbols that our politicians leave to the far-right, it's appeals to English nationhood and the very language of politics itself, rarely are the words 'England' or 'English' used when another word will do.
David Cameron recently delivered a speech on public service reform and the Big Society. It was a speech that contained 18 instances of the phrase “our public services”, four instances of “our country” and two mentions of “our schools” (not to mention “our schools and hospitals”, “our universities”, “our teaching hospitals and universities”, “our children”, “our health outcomes”, “our society”, “public services in our country” and “our Foundation hospitals”). Britain was mentioned four times and Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Poland, Germany, France, New York and Shanghai were all mentioned once. Yet there was no mention of England, the country directly affected by Cameron’s Big Society and his reforms to public services.
Labour's faltering response to Cameron's Big Society is Maurice Glasman's 'Blue Labour'. Glasman is on the right track but 'Blue Labour' is an unfortunate phrase. A far better phrase would be 'Little England', the Little England of lollypop-men, community bobbies, playing fields, libraries, local hospitals, primary schools, publicly-owned forests and arts and cultural bodies - the very things threatened by the Coalition's cuts.
I thought about patriotism. I wished I had been born early enough to have been called a Little Englander. It was a term of sneering abuse, but I should be delighted to accept it as a description of myself. That little sounds the right note of affection. It is little England I love. - J.B. Priestley
People will fight to preserve what is local to them, but to successfully oppose the Coalition Government it is to the national community that Labour needs to appeal - and mobilise. And post-devolution that nation is England, not Britain. For a brief moment Labour suddenly seemed to understand the new territorial dimension when they joined the fight to save England's forests; for a brief moment Labour appealled to English nationalism and harnessed English patriotic feeling. England will warm to Labour when Labour politicians speak of England's schools and teachers, England's hospitals and nurses, with the same English passion and English emphasis with which Ed Miliband wrote about England's forests in the Sunday Times:
This is not the big society, it is just a big sale. It is the sale of the physical heart of England, of irreplaceable national assets, enjoyed by communities for generations….The sign of a good society – big or small – is what it is prepared to protect, be that universal benefits, health or ancient woodland; public goods for the benefit of the whole nation and future generations. Unrestrained free market ideology has no place running rampant through ancient English woodlands. Jerusalem is a song we all sing. The next time that David Cameron stands up to sing it, I hope he spares a thought for what his government is doing to England’s green and pleasant land. - Ed Miliband, Sunday Times, 30th January 2011
It is time for Labour to start speaking of, to and for England with the same sense of patriotism that would be natural for Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour to use in Scotland and Wales. Some people on the left will be uncomfortable with that, but there is no need to be, because, as the late Bernard Crick advised Gordon Brown, invoking a strong national consciousness is not the same as being a separatist or Nationalistic (with a capital N):
Over many years I have fought a losing battle to impress on subeditors the use of an upper case for separatist `Nationalism' and lower case for cultural `nationalism', for strong national consciousness that is not necessarily separatist. Gordon Brown in the 2001 general election attacked fiercely, as he said, `nationalists' in the name of the advantages of the Union. I was pompously moved to write to him to suggest that he either gave the SNP its real name or firmly polemicised against `separatist nationalists'. For I humbly pointed out that, to my old English and new Scottish immigrant eyes, nearly all Scots were nationalists, in the sense of having a strong feeling of national identity: the majority were not separatists. - Bernard Crick, The Four Nations: Interrelations, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 1, January-March 2008
Yes, of course England should have its own parliament and government; yes, there should be an English Labour Party with a manifesto for England; yes, English sports fans should sing Jerusalem instead of God Save the Queen, and; yes, St George's Day should be a national day of celebration for all England's people. But baby steps first. We need to start speaking of England first, imagining a vision of England’s future, appealing to that Little England whose patriotism begins at home.
First published on Progress.
Extraordinary stuff from a couple of Welsh Labour MPs (David Hanson and Mark Tami) reported in the Flinshire Chronicle:
BOTH Flintshire MPs have spoken of their concerns at Government plans to only allow English MPs to vote on matters affecting England.
Mr Hanson said: “There is an argument MPs over the border cannot vote on issues affecting Welsh issues, matters voted on by Assembly Members, so they wonder why we can have a say on English laws.
“Many of the people in my constituency go to the Countess of Chester Hospital or to Clatterbridge for their care, which means I could not vote despite being the elected representative.
“You would also have to consider train services from Crewe to Wales, the Vauxhall factory and other transport links. If it isn’t broke they shouldn’t fix it.”
Mr Tami added: “It is crucial Welsh MPs continue to vote on issues that are of significance to our constituents.
“Cross-border services are vital to Flintshire, so we should continue to be able to vote on health issues that impact on the English NHS.
“Likewise, many people living here work in English councils, companies and schools, so it is important we continue to have the ability to represent their concerns in Parliament.”
I might have some sympathy if these two were from a party that opposed devolution to Wales. But they're not, they are members of a Labour Party that argued strongly that decisions affecting the Welsh NHS should be taken in Wales by politicians elected in Wales. So it seems rather hypocritical to now argue that politicians elected in Wales should have a vote on the English NHS.
The Labour Party's response to Cameron's Big Society is 'Blue Labour', so said a programme on Radio 4 on Monday night:
There is a new force in the Labour Party with a radical plan to win back working-class voters and provide the left's response to David Cameron's Big Society.
It is called Blue Labour and it wants a rethink of what, for many, was the party's greatest achievement - the creation of the welfare state in 1945.
The first time that I came across the phrase 'Blue Labour' was when Stephen Bush used the phase to describe the cultural English nationalism of John Cruddas:
While the 'Blue Labour' idea put forward by Jon Cruddas, Jonathan Rutherford, Maurice Glasman and others is superficially attractive, it isn't the way forward for New Labour or for our party.
Beyond motherhood, apple pie and the frequent use of a dog whistle it offers little to the party moving forward.
‘Blue Labour', a new way of doing Labour politics based around ‘family, faith and the flag' is in many ways the inverse of what made New Labour strong. Based on fantasy, not grounded in reality. Frightened of change, not accepting of it. Embracing our own conservatism, not challenging it. And, most importantly, offering not a better tomorrow but a defence of yesterday.
Stephen Bush didn't mention the word 'England' himself - he retreated into the language of Britishness - but maybe he should have mentioned England, because if Blue Labour is a response then it's a response to a Big Society idea that doesn't really extend outside England's borders.
At least Roy Hattersley seems to understand that fact, even if he's not on side:
"Blue Labour seems very nostalgic to me. This is the idea of Arcadian England, the idea that there was some mythical time when we all loved each other."
Former Labour MP David Chaytor has pleaded guilty to three charges of theft.
This was his Unlock Democracy EDM from four years ago.
That this House notes the growing concern about the impact of low turnouts at national and municipal elections, the decreasing membership of political parties and the alienation of many younger citizens from the political process; believes that there is an urgent need for all political parties to renew their policies on democratic renewal; considers that further devolution and decentralisation of power, combined with greater use of different forms of grass roots democracy, will be essential to this process; and congratulates Charter 88 and the Politics Network on their decision further to integrate their work, under the banner of Unlock Democracy, to enable them to campaign jointly on these issues.
Inadvertently the charlatan has boosted the case for democratic renewal better than he ever could have done as an MP. David Chaytor was one of the tosspots who tried to use parliamentary privilege to protect themselves from the law, had they succeeded in their attempt to pervert justice it would have been a bigger outrage than the theft itself. I hope that he spends Christmas in prison.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the prospects of Labour becoming a party of England as Denis MacShane MP.
Labour under Ed Miliband is now poised to become again a party of England, indeed a party of Yorkshire. If David Miliband stays in the shadow Cabinet and Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are given top jobs, the future of Labour will be decided by two families of MPs on the train north from King's Cross every Friday. Other stellar Yorkshire Labour MPs like Rosie Winterton, John Healey, Hilary Benn, Caroline Flint, and Alan Johnson are all running for the shadow Cabinet. It is goodbye to the dominance of Labour by its Scottish tribe. After 1979, Labour became a Scottish party. Two of its leaders, John Smith and Gordon Brown, were Scots. Tony Blair was educated in Edinburgh. The stars of New Labour were Robin Cook, John Reid, Alistair Darling or Douglas Alexander. The Tartanisation of Labour is over.
For 20 years, Labour has dodged the question of a policy for England and the English question will now have to be addressed as the Government pushes ahead with its plan to cut the number of seats in the Commons and create new constituency boundaries that will disadvantage Labour.
According to the Campaign for an English Parliament members that attended the Labour conference, the cry of "Connect with the voters of England" prompted Labour delegates to snatch up CEP leaflets at such an astonishing rate that an entire suitcase full of leaflets was distributed - a phenomenon without precedence in the history of the CEP's attendence at Labour events. So perhaps they are no longer scared by the English flag and we can soon look forward to a Labour Party that wraps itself in the Cross of St George and speaks to England with the same sense of patriotism that it attempts in Scotland.
Ultimately any party which asserts popular sovereignty on behalf of the Scottish people, but does not do so for the English, must resign itself to accusations that it is anti-English. The election of Ed Miliband raises little prospect of Labour reversing that discriminatory treatment.
And as if to prove my suspicions correct, David brings us What’s missing?
The hand-wringing continued at the Fabian's Labour fringe event on Sunday:
Can Labour Speak for England?
With Jon Cruddas MP, Kwami Kwei-Armah (British playwright, actor and broadcaster), Gisela Stuart MP, John Denham MP, Yvette Cooper MP and chaired by Tim Horton (Fabian Society Research Director)
Covered by Sunder Katwala:
"At times, the Labour leadership contest this summer - equality and fairness sounded like one long John Rawls lecture. All of the hopey change stuff is very good but it isn't enough", said Cruddas. If the left could not find a popular and radical response to issues of identity and belonging it would fail to counter a visceral politics "which is creating in England an embryonic tea party from a populist nationalist right. If we don't do this, we will find that growing populist response to a profound sense of economic and social rupture, with deep cuts coming", he said.
Unfortunately we now have a Labour leader who does not know the date of St George's Day, and who is opposed to democratic English government.
I'm not in favour of a separate English Parliament and I’m against creating two-tiers of MPs in the House of Commons. I think one thing we must do is change our approach to politics. Devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has strengthened the Union. - Ed Miliband, Our Kingdom
For the benefit of John Cruddas and Nick Lowles I offer this Tom Nairn quote, upon which they should muse:
Blair’s Project makes it likely that England will return on the street corner, rather than via a maternity room with appropriate care and facilities. Croaking tabloids, saloon-bar resentment and back-bench populism are likely to attend the birth and to have their say. Democracy is constitutional or nothing. Without a systematic form, its ugly cousins will be tempted to move in and demand their rights – their nation, the one always sat upon and then at last betrayed by an elite of faint hearts, half-breeds and alien interests. - Tom Nairn, After Britain (2000)
It's worth bearing in mind, before you embark on reading what is to follow, that the idea of 'shared values' that Labour tried to encourage were 'shared British values' (you may remember that funny looking Scottish bloke called Gordon banging on about Britishness) rather than 'shared English values'.
Are there common threads of nationality which bind us? Labour, when in government, tried to encourage the idea of ‘shared values’. There’s something in this. We are attached to our creaking old system of democracy, like the owner of a beat-up old car. We love our British institutions, from the army and the BBC, to the NHS and the local pub. We tut when people cut to the front of a queue. We enjoy a curry on a Friday and a roast on a Sunday. We get behind whichever lamentable team is representing us in international sport. We share a literature, a language and a popular culture. We can cheer when the Prime Minister in Love Actually stands up for the England of William Shakespeare, Harry Potter, The Beatles and David Beckham’s right foot (and Beckham’s left foot, come to that.) It’s not the England of the Last Night of the Proms and Royal Ascot, although there’s room for that. It’s the England of Brick Lane and the Glastonbury festival, of Marks & Spencer and the FA Cup. It’s a national identity that shifts through time, but is built on elemental decencies and kindnesses. It’s about being kind to animals, and talking to strangers on the bus, anywhere but London, naturally.
I'm not sure if Paul Richards is talking of England when he means Britain (as Orwell and Churchill sometimes did) or whether he's shifting the terms of reference from Britain to England in order to try and make Labour's 'shared values' idea coherent. It's a very confused piece.
It reminded me of something Tony Blair said a few years ago (Daily Express, 3rd January 1996).
Britain is a great nation. A country where we can watch the most exciting sport - Wimbledon, the FA Cup, Test Cricket. Where you can listen to the best pop music - the Beatles, Blur, Oasis and Simply Red.
You can listen to the Beatles, Blur, Oasis and Simply Red anywhere in the world if you have a iPod, and you can watch Wimbledon, the FA Cup, Test Cricket pretty much anywhere too. But they're English bands and English sporting events rather than British.
If you want to understand the Left's antagonistic attitude towards England and English identity then I recommend that you listen to this talk by Charlie Kimber and the discussion which followed. They would rather steal from the poor box than embrace their English identity. For them Englishness is a repository of all that is bad, racist, imperialist, conservative, white, reactionary and capitalist about Britain. The sluice gate marked Englishness is what they can open to purge Britishness of anything negative. As one woman put it: "It doesn't matter how many times you wash the English flag you will never wash away the blood of Empire".
During their thirteen years of power the Labour party promoted Britain and Britishness, and Scottishness and Welshness, but did absolutely nothing for England (except attempt to balkanise it into regions against England's will and milk the English taxpayer like a cash cow). But having deservedly lost English votes at the general election there are signs that they are waking up to the debate on the English Question. John Denham has recently given us his views on reclaiming St George's Day, the English flag and promoting a progressive idea of English identity. David Miliband has arbitrarily dismissed the idea of an English parliament and - quite selfishly - suggested that Labour should be leading the national conversation on England that they have studiously ignored for so long in order to win back votes.
On Radio 4's Broadcasting House on 4th July, listeners were treated to Michael Rosen, a popular author and voice of the far-left, informing the audience that England did not even exist.
"We're not giving them the grass roots support but I don't think that's why England failed. England fails because if you think you are a high paid footballer playing anywhere in the world, why would you want to play for this thing called England? It isn't even a nation. Great Britain is the nation. Why would you want to? Let's say you're Rooney, let's say you're Terry - you beat it out for nine months against each other where everything matters day by day, then suddenly you're sent away to a weird camp for three weeks to play for an entity that doesn't really exist. I mean, I'm not blaming them, but why would you want to do it?"
And today Rick Muir of IPPR treats us to the ludicrously titled "The English left needs to reclaim English identity". As if to suggest that English identity was once the property of the left. Rick informs us that "Scottish and Welsh national identity have managed to become inclusive civic identities precisely because those countries have political institutions with which all citizens can identify" and then goes on to argue against an English parliament. His pearls of his wisdom include:
- There is no comparable crisis [of democratic legitimacy] in England.
- the West Lothian question is an anomoly, but does anyone really care?
- There is very little support for this [a solution to the West Lothian Question].
- An English parliament would likely exacerbate [the weakness of local government].
- Federalism in a state dominated by one component (England) would likely lead to separation.
- by trying to solve a tiny anomoly (West Lothian) you end up creating a series of even worse problems.
The usual unsubstantiated rhetoric about the deleterious effects that an English parliament would have on democracy and Britain, it's the sort of thing that we're more used to hearing from politicians like Lord Falconer rather than someone purporting to be a serious academic. I've asked Rick whether he supports the right of the English to decide how we are governed.
Why doesn't the left ask the people that they are supposed to represent what they want rather than arbitrarily ruling out an English parliament. Where's the democratic left?
How do you hope to reclaim Englishness from a position of dictating to the English on what's best for them?
Rick has declined to answer. But in Rick's stead some joker named Peter Jukes has popped up to state: "I don't want popular sovereignty for England". That says it all. I welcome Labour's attempt to discuss the English Question, even if it is for purely selfish and partisan reasons, but in doing so they are going to run up against the problem of exposing their general antipathy towards England, and highlighting a significant constituency of left-wingers that are vehemently anti-English and opposed to the very idea of England itself. They have ignored the English Question for years for fear of exposing the dark racist underbelly of the Labour Party, but now they have to discuss England because their failure to connect with England has caused Labour to lose touch with their traditional supporters, the majority of whom are very happy to be English.
All is not lost. There are people on the left that do love England and are not hamstrung by irrational anglophobia. People like Frank Field, David Dyke and Andy Newman will keep chipping away at left-wing anti-English prejudice. Whether or not their common sense attitude prevails will determine whether or not the left manage to reconnect with England.
Links to Labour List's 'National Identity Day':
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.
Billy Bragg is helping Margaret Hodge to defeat the BNP in his home town of Barking:
Bragg said the election was “critical” because of the economic situation, “but for the country that I love, for the patriotism that I feel, this fight in Barking and Dagenham is the most important fight since the war.” He said Labour had done much for the area: “They built houses, they built schools. There are improvements in education.”
But, he added, people felt powerless and ignored in the face of rapid change with significant immigration. “It's not racist to recognise that so many people coming to the borough puts incredible pressure on housing and health.
Everyone else in London benefits from multiculturalism and cheap labour but places like Barking and Dagenham suffer as a result.
“The answer isn't to round these people up and send them back. But there on our doorstep inequality has thrown up this situation that can be exploited by the fascists. It's going to be a fight for the soul of the English people.”
Now obviously I don't want to see the BNP do well, but I cannot help but think that supporting the Labour Party is hardly fighting the good fight when it comes to a "fight for the soul of the English people". It was Margaret Hodge who revealed that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had spent the grand sum of £230 on St George's Day, over five years!
That is precisely the type of headline that the BNP feed from.
It was Margaret Hodge who criticised the Proms and declared her support for redesigning the Union Flag to reflect diversity. Now frankly I couldn't care less about the Union Flag or the Proms. But - and this is an important 'but' - Margaret Hodge is precisely the type of politically correct idiot politician who has driven working class Labour supporters into the arms of the BNP.
I'm becoming increasingly bored by Billy Bragg's incursions into the debate on Englishness and the English Question. It's one thing to stand against the BNP, but to stand with a Labour Party that is clearly prejudiced against England, and has ignored its traditional supporters within England, is another matter entirely. Billy, you are fighting against the BNP; you are not fighting for England, you ceased to do that when you stopped calling for an English parliament and jumped aboard Brown's Britishness bandwagon - you too are now part of the denial of England from whence the BNP draws succour.