John Denham MP
John Denham MP speaking in the House of Commons (Participation) Bill:
Incidentally, it must be said that one of the things that the Scottish and Welsh have done much better than the English is to develop an ethnically inclusive national identity. It is much more likely that a member of the black and ethnic minority communities in Scotland will describe himself as Scottish than that someone in England with a similar background will describe himself as English. People in England tend to jump straight to the British identity.
There is an important point to be made about the future of English governance. I do not suggest that the hon. Member for North Dorset has fallen foul of this, for he has not, but we must be careful not to allow the future English identity to become a surrogate for a white English identity rather than an inclusive, multiracial, multi-ethnic identity. The other nations have done better in that respect so far; we should acknowledge that, and learn lessons from it.
I wonder, has it occured to Mr Denham that there may be a reason why this is the case? Is there a reason why the Scots and Welsh have proved better able to create an inclusive sense of civic national identity?
Does it have anything to do with governance? Does it have anything to do with civic institutions like...Ooo, I don't know...Parliament? Does it have anything to do with the contract by which people engage with these institutions; whether they do so labelled as, in the case of the English, 'The British', or in the case of the Scottish and Welsh as, 'the Scottish' and 'the Welsh'?
I think it does. As I wrote recently:
Either we create a progressive civic Englishness, or we leave Englishness open to ethnicisation by the far-right....The best way to create a civic and progressive Englishness is for everybody - regardless of ethnicity, race or religion - to be a stakeholder in England through the ballot box. This means creating an English parliament and government so that Englishness is constitutional. It's really very straight forward.
At the risk of boring my readers I will keep repeating this until it filters down to the idiots in Parliament. For more on this please read English first, British second
Yes, there is an emerging Englishness which is still thought to be slightly incorrect. Something is bursting to come out. But sadly, the English intelligentsia, or the liberal English middle class, which ought to be leading political developments, ought to be taking over this emerging feeling—saying yes, let's make a democratic, tolerant, forward-looking nation—is just sitting back and saying: "English nationalism, awful, horrible, leave it to the yobs."
UPDATE: A response from John Denham
But we need a little more imagination. So far as I can see the ‘English MPs on English issues’, and the ‘English Parliament’, both pose some insuperable constitutional difficulties (for those of us who value the Union at least). As I set out in my speech, a combination of effective devolution to English regions and English scrutiny in an elected House of Lords, might together provide an English solution to the English question. An elected Lords might well also reflect the diversity of today’s England more effectively than the Commons does at present and thus provide an element of the institutional expression of Englishness that you advocate.
I’m happy for you to add this to your website. Incidentally, not all the respondents to my speech last week share my or your view of a more diverse Englishness!
It's good of John to respond. Whilst I agree with him that not all people share my views on progressive nationalism I have to say that I feel very disappointed by the way the Government has abrogated its responsibility in creating a civic and inclusive nationalism in England.
Tom Nairn warned that:
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.
Because the Government refuses to recognise England constitutionally - collectively - the renewed and more assertive English identity that is emerging is tribal rather than democratic. That's a very grave error indeed. And it is an error that will result in a backlash against Labour and, possibly, against Britain - and what it stands for - itself. We are seeing the beginnings of this now.
Personally I will have nothing to do with regional assemblies or piecemeal Lords reform solutions to the English question. What form devolution takes in England should be a matter for the English people collectively - as it was for the Scots and Welsh - not imposed upon them from above. We are still a union of nations, and not, as Gordon Brown keeps stating, a 'union of nations and regions'. England deserves nothing less than was offered to Scotland, and in refusing to offer it the Labour Party comes across as anti-English. They have done for a long time now. If they are happy to do nothing for England while the BNP uses the promise of English parliament as a recruiting tool, then they must be held responsible for the consequences - and the consequences of inaction will be a diminution of Britishness and the ethnicisation of Englishness.
Meanwhile, as Bob Walter MP thumps the tub for English Votes on English Matters, the Labour Party scrabble around for new ways to subordinate England to the Union:
LIVERPOOL and its five next-door neighbours are set to be run by their own mini-government. It will be the biggest shake-up in local decision-making since the reorganisation of local government in 1974, and will be operational in just a year’s time.
A brazen, and rushed, attempt to introduce a mitigating factor to the West Lothian Question. When Labour leave power we will have administrative regionalism, indirectly elected (undemocratic and unwanted) regional assemblies, and nebular city regions. And the English Question will still be unanswered, and the English themselves never consulted.