Letter to Michael Wills
Dear Mr Wills,
"Identity is important also on a more profound level, defining the territory within which politics operates. Democracies depend on a covenant between the individual and the state, between government and the governed. Democratic politics can only take place within a framework of common purpose and a sense of shared destiny between voters, creating a moral community, not necessarily defined by geography or class but by shared sentiments of mutual and reciprocal respect and obligation, which can only take place where there is some sense of some shared identity."
Another way of putting this would be to say that: a contract of trust between citizens and politicians on a defined national community – we can elect you, we can remove you – is fundamental to a democracy.
The "we" in that statement is of vital importance. In England, since devolution, for a significant part of Government policy, the "we" has contracted to exclude Scots, and to a lesser extent the Welsh and Northern Irish. The same has happened in Scotland where "we the British", has, in regard to devolved matters, become "we the Scottish". But unlike Scotland we in England have politicians elected outside our national community, deciding Government policy as it relates to our nation, and then voting upon it. We - the English - cannot elect or remove these politicians, the contract of trust is gone.
In areas such as education, health and housing, and other areas where significant powers have been transferred away from Westminster, there has been a breakdown in the sense of common purpose and shared destiny, and the covenant between the governed and the government has been abrogated because the appellation that defines "we" is slowly changing from "British" to "English" - even if the terms are not mutually exclusive.
Further on in your speech you inform us that 82% in England felt a strong sense of belonging to England, and that 81% in England felt a strong sense of belonging to Britain. The English have therefore defined a plural national identity that is both English and British. If identity is important then why not recognise that English identity politically; and why not reflect the sense of common purpose, mutual respect and obligation - and common governance - that still holds for England, but which is disappearing from Britain in the wake of devolution?
On reserved matters we - the English - may have common purpose with our fellow Brits but, as Alex Salmond is only too keen to demonstrate, policy divergence is accelerating on devolved matters. And things are set to get worse. It may soon be the case that the Scottish Parliament assumes greater powers over taxation, which may further erode the sense of obligation that we Brits feel for each other. If the Scottish Government does begin to fund its devolved commitments directly through taxes raised in Scotland then the equivalent budgets in England should be minus any Scottish contribution. Why, therefore, should any MP elected in Scotland have any say whatsoever in how those taxes are spent?
Gordon Brown, elected in Scotland, has no moral right whatsoever to determine policy in England for which the concomitant legislation is the responsibility of the Scottish Government. The only reason that he can wield power undemocratically over the English is because the House divides along party (not national) lines, and the sentimental tradition of a unitary parliament continues in the face of cold hard logic. That will change with a Conservative Government, if only as a result of electoral arithmetic, when the party affiliation of the governing party will mirror their national affiliation.
The question I have for you is: Are you prepared to allow England its own parliament and government to properly reflect English identity and respond to English aspirations, and to prevent an English Conservative administration ripping the Union asunder?
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The Ministry of Justice have replied to my letter to Michael Wills:
Thank you for your email dated 9th September 2008 to Michael Wills MP. Your email has been passed to the Constitutional Settlement Division as the lead division on devolution matters.