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Word of the Day: Infelicitous

I don't think I've ever been accused of being infelicitous before.

In this frenzied atmosphere in which the opening skirmishes are being conducted, in what the Wiener Zeitung and other mainland European newspapers are referring to as the battle for Scotland, what remains of the 'emotional glue' that is generally considered vital for keeping the anglo-union together is evidently being further weakened: "That glue has long since lost much of its strength in Scotland. If it has now been eroded in England too, the long-term prospects for the Union would seem rather bleak indeed." That is a quotation from no less an authority than Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, commenting on A YouGov survey* published in the November issue of Prospect magazine, which indicated that the concept of 'Britishness' appears to be losing such appeal as it had in England, the population of which has long exhibited an infelicitous tendency to blur the distinction between the concepts of state and nation, a confusion which the onset of asymmetric legislative devolution has served to dispel in some measure...

It's a good point, delivered with sesquipedalian panache. English identity is becoming politicised, and whilst the Union may be able sustain indifference towards Britishness from its smaller nations it will surely break if English grievance against the British state is allowed to fester.

IPPR: Future of England in a devolved union can’t be decided by expert commission

IPPR Press Release

Future of England in a devolved union can’t be decided by expert commission

79% of English voters want Scottish MPs barred from votes on English only laws

Ahead of the launch of the UK Government’s West Lothian Question Commission this week, new polling from the think tank IPPR and Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities, shows overwhelming public support within England for addressing this constitutional anomaly.

In a major new report on English Identity and the politics of the English Question, to be published by IPPR later this month, a survey asks more than 1,500 voters in England whether they agree or disagree that:

“Now that Scotland has its own parliament, Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote in the House of Commons on laws that affect only England.”

More than half (53 per cent) of voters in England said they ‘strongly agree’, while a further 26 per cent said they ‘agree’. Just 12 per cent ‘disagree’. The report shows that the proportion who ‘strongly disagree’ has more than doubled since 2007.

The creation of a commission to investigate the West Lothian question recognizes the strength of public feeling in England on this issue however the report argues that relying on a commission of experts alone will prove insufficient for considering the future of English governance in a devolved union. The prospect of either Scottish independence or ‘devolution-max’ – either of which would have profound effects on the governance of England and the other nations of the United Kingdom, suggest the time has come for a much wider public debate about the future of the Union and the position of England within it.

Richard Wyn Jones, Professor of Politics at Cardiff University and co-author of the report said:

“While the Coalition is to be applauded for at least broaching this hugely important issue, neither the likely composition nor terms of reference of the new Commission suggest that this represents a serious attempt to finally answer the West Lothian Question.

"But if the intention is to kick the issue into the long grass, this is to reckon without an English electorate that appears increasingly restive and increasingly convinced that the anomalies created by the current devolution arrangements need to be addressed. As this evidence suggests, the English are now overwhelmingly persuaded that a system in which MPs from the devolved territories can vote on legislation that applies only to England is unfair.

"We underestimate the current mood of the English electorate at our peril. In the 1980s the perceived unfairness of a system which allowed left-leaning Scotland and Wales to be governed by a party without a mandate in those countries led to the generation of an unstoppable head of steam leading directly to the devolution reforms of the late 1990s. It is not hard to imagine how a different set of territorial anomalies could create a similar response in England. Indeed, it might already be happening.”

Guy Lodge, IPPR Associate Director, and co-author of the report, said:

“The English electorate strongly believes that the anomaly of the West Lothian question should be addressed. Reform in this area is notoriously difficult and so we welcome the establishment of the Commission to explore possible ways forward. However, as our forthcoming report will show, a narrow focus on the West Lothian question will not be sufficient to satisfy English public opinion. A strengthening of English identity, combined with growing interest in how England is governed, pose an important challenge for the centre-left in particular, which has so far failed to engage with these important developments in England. The time has come for a much wider public debate about what form a new constitutional settlement for England should take. Progressive politics needs to lead and not follow this debate.”

ENDS

It's the kids I feel sorry for

Is there anything worse than watching a married couple fall out in public?

Last week those purporting to act on behalf of England warned that they were to go ahead with plans to assemble a legal team to look at the possibility of kicking Scotland out of the marital home, the Palace of Westminster, that has been the couple's home since 1707.

And today the acrimony continues, with new polling which suggests that England is more keen on divorce than Scotland herself. A whopping 43% of England approves of Scottish independence, with only 32% against. In Scotland the figures are 40% in favour and 43% against. And even if the marriage can be saved it looks as though terms will need to be renegotiated. 61% in England think Scotland gets too much housekeeping money, and 49% think that England should have its own parliament compared with just 16% who are against.

If there is hope for this troubled marriage it looks as though that hope comes from Scotland, not England. The Telegraph comments:

In a similar ICM survey for The Sunday Telegraph in December 2006, voters in both England and Scotland were in favour of Scottish independence,

As well as clear support for Scottish independence, just under half of English voters (49 per cent) back the creation of an English parliament, with only 16 per cent against – a lead which is down slightly on 2006.

Although the figure in favour of an English parliament has declined since the similar poll in 2006 (down from 68% to 49%) the number opposed to an English parliament has fallen from 25% in 2006 to just 16% today. The number of 'Don't Knows' has increased from 6% in 2006 to 34% in 2012.

I really feel for the kids. Little Wales and Northern Ireland had thought that in the event of a divorce they would go and live with England but now they have to entertain the possibility that England will end the marriage and Scotland will become the successor state, leaving them in much reduced circumstances.

What are Unionists so scared of?

All of a sudden, David Cameron is opposed to fiscally-responsible government. George Osborne no longer wants to crack down on those living on hand-outs. Nick Clegg is disowning a policy Liberals have pursued for a century. And Ed Miliband disdains one of progressive Labour's oldest dreams.

So begins the best article on Unionist attitudes to Devolution-Max so far. Read the rest here.

How the Barnett Formula works

public-spending-per-head.png
public-spending-per-head2.png

Presumably this makes sense to some boffin at the Treasury.

A Question for Dominic Raab

Writing in the Telegraph, Dominic Raab MP suggests that the Barnett Formula should be ended and Ken Clarke's non-solution to the West Lothian Question should be adopted:

The deal should include ending the outdated Barnett formula, which currently enshrines public spending per head in Scotland at £1,367 above the UK average. The regional impact is even more skewed. Why is UK spending on housing and community amenities in Scotland 37 per cent higher than in the North East, and double that in the Midlands?

For the sake of democratic equality, we should also adopt the proposal made by Ken Clarke (in opposition) to bar Scottish MPs from voting in Westminster on issues that only affect England, Wales or Northern Ireland at the Committee and Report stages.

Surely the only justification for allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English legislation is the fact that English legislation can have financial implications for Scotland due to the Barnett Formula. Get rid of the Barnett Formula and you also remove any rationale for allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English legislation.

Would Mr Raab care explain to the English why Scottish MPs should have any say in English legislation for which the concomitant Scottish legislation is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament; where is the benefit to the English in allowing Scottish interference at Second and Third reading?

Mr Raab finishes with a populist flourish:

Rather than fighting on the back foot to save the Union, it’s time to make a big, open and comprehensive offer which combines stronger democratic rights for the Scottish people with terms that are fair to Britain. That way we can put the Union on a sustainable basis for the long term.

How generous of him, I'm sure that the Scots will be eternally grateful. But what about Raab's own constituents? Do they deserve a big, open and comprehensive offer which combines stronger democratic rights for the English people, or are the opinions of English people to be ignored as the other nations of the UK are consulted again and again?

Unionists may joke that nationalists don't know the meaning of the word 'consultation', but they would do well to look at their own record on consultation in regard to the governance of England.

I have a favour to ask

If you had to rely on the British media and British politicians for information, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the future of the Union was only about Scotland and Scottish public opinion. Fortunately we live in the age of the internet, in which politicians and the BBC/Telegraph/Mail etc, are merely players just like the rest of us. The blogosphere and social media have real power that they cannot control.

So, I have a favour to ask.

We need to publicise the fact that the English public have opinions too, and that our wish is to see the Establishment recognise our desire for an English dimension to government. I have updated my page on English public opinion to include the latest British Future poll and links to all available data, so as to be as authoritative as possible.

So please publish this link ( http://toque.co.uk/english-parliament-opinion-polls ) on your Facebook page. Twitter it. Put it on your blog, or, if you have no blog, leave the link in the comments of other blogs and discussion forums. There will be English people out there who will be interested in the facts, and who will be pleased to discover that other English people also want an English parliament. The British debate about Scotland needs to become an English debate about the Union and England's place in it.

So help me out, don't let England be sidelined.

Thanks

English Parliament Opinion Polls

ICM for the Sunday Telegraph | January 2012

Question: Would you be in favour or against the establishment of an English Parliament within the UK, with similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament?

Result:

ICM2012.png

In Favour of an English Parliament 49%
Against an English Parliament 16%
Refused 1%
Don't Know 34%

Links: Telegraph | Data


Ipsos-Mori for British Future | January 2012

Question: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had their own parliament or assembly for some years. Members vote on some issues that affect only their respective countries, for example, on issues about health and education. Issues affecting England can be voted on by all MPs sitting in Westminster. This means that English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote on issues that are only of relevance to England. Which one of the following do you think should happen?

Result:

We should keep things as they are (Status Quo): 21%
We should set up a new English Parliament to decide on England-only issues: 52%
We should do away with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Parliaments and make all decisions in the UK Parliament at Westminster (End Devolution): 14%
Don’t know: 13%

ipsos-mori-2012.png

Further information: British Future report | Data


ICM for Power2010 | April 2010

Question: England should have its own parliament with similar powers to those of the Scottish Parliament.

Result:

ICM2010_0.png

Strongly agree: 43%
Slightly agree: 25%
Neither agree nor disagree: 10%
Slightly disagree: 8%
Strongly disagree: 12%

Further information: 7 out of 10 back English Parliament | Data


YouGov for the Jury Team | September 2009

Question: Below is a list of policy ideas. Imagine each one was put to the country in a referendum. For each one please say whether you would vote in favour or against each proposal, or if you wouldn't vote at all.

PROPOSAL 11. Setting up an English Parliament to decide matters that affect only England.

Result:

Yougov2009.png

I would vote YES 58%
I would vote NO 20%
Wouldn't vote 8%
Don't know 14%

Further information: Jury Team website | Data


Populus for the Times | April 2009

Question: Do you now support or oppose the idea of there also being an English Parliament, or if you don't have a view either way please say.

Result:

populus2009.png

Support an English Parliament 41%
Oppose an English Parliament 15%
Don't Know 44%

Further information: Populus for the Times | Data


ICM for the Telegraph | December 2007

Question: There is now a Scottish Parliament, and devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. Which of the following options would you prefer for England?

A: Laws for England should be made by the House of Commons, and all MPs from all of the UK should be able to vote on them, as now

B: Laws for England should be made by the House of Commons, but only English MPs should be able to vote on them

C: England should have its own parliament, while remaining part of the United Kingdom

D: England should become independent, separate from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

E: None of these

F: Don't know

Result:

ICM2007_3.png

Status Quo (SQ) 32%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 25%
English Parliament [within the Union] (EP) 20%
England should become Independent (Ind) 15%
Don't know (DK) 6%
None of these (None) 2%

Further information: Telegraph graphic | Data


ICM for the Campaign for an English Parliament | April 2007

Question: You may have seen or heard that a separate Scottish parliament, a Welsh assembly and a Northern Ireland assembly have been established. Do you think that England should or should not have its own parliament or assembly?

Result:

ICM2007_2.png

Should be an English parliament 67.32%
Should Not be an English parliament (SN) 24.25%
Don't Know (DN) 8.43%

Further information: CEP Press Release | Data


YouGov for the Sunday Times | April 2007

Question: Thinking about the way England is governed in the light of devolution to Scotland and Wales, which of the following would be your preferred option.

A: A separate English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish Parliament

B: Stopping MPs from Scottish and Welsh seats from voting on matters that affect only England

C: Keeping the current arrangements as they are

D: None of the above

E: Don't know

Result:

YouGov2007.png

English parliament (EP) 21%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 51%
Status Quo (SQ) 12%
None of the above (None) 4%
Don't know (DK) 12%

Further information: Data


Opinion Research Business for BBC Newsnight | January 2007

Question: In 1998 the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly gave these countries certain powers that were previously held by the UK parliament in Westminster. Do you think that an English Parliament should now be established?

Result:

OBR2007.png

Yes – should have an English Parliament 61%
No – should not have an English Parliament 32%
Don't mind either way (Other) 1%
Don't know enough about it (Other) 2%
No opinion (Other) 2%
Don’t Know (Other) 2%

Further information: BBC website | Data


ICM for the Daily Mail | January 2007

Question: There is now a Scottish Parliament, and devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. Do you think there should or should not be a parliament for England only?

Result:

ICM2007.png

Should be an English parliament 51.42%
Should Not be an English parliament (SN) 41.22%
Don't Know (DN) 7.36%

Further information: Daily Mail graphic | Data


ICM for the Sunday Telegraph | November 2006

Question: Would you be in favour or against the establishment of an English Parliament within the UK, with similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament?

Result:

ICM2006.png

In Favour of an English Parliament 68.43%
Against an English Parliament 25.35%
Don't Know 6.22%

Links: Telegraph | Data


IPSOS MORI for the English Constitutional Convention | June 2006

Question: With all the constitutional changes going on in the way different parts of the UK are run, which are creating national Parliaments for Scotland and Wales, which of the following do you think would be best for England...

A: For England to be governed as it is now, with laws made by the UK Parliament even though this means that Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on English-only issues

B: For England to be divided into Regions with each having its own Assembly

C: For England as a whole to have its own national Parliament with similar law-making powers to the Scottish Parliament

D: None

E: Don't Know

Result:

IpsosMori2006.png

Status Quo (SQ) 32%
Regional Assemblies (RA) 14%
English Parliament (EP) 41%
None 4%
Don't know (DK) 9%

Further information: Ipsos MORI website | English Constitutional Convention press release


YouGov for the English Democrats | Feb 2004

Question: Which of the following options do you prefer?

A: The division of England into nine Regions, each having their own elected assemblies, which will have power to take some decisions but not to create new laws

B: A Parliament for England with the power to allow it to develop and implement policies which reflect the particular needs of the people of England

C: Scottish and Welsh members of the UK Parliament having their voting rights restricted to prevent them from voting on England-only issues

D: Continue with the status quo

E: Don't know

Result: (figures on graph slightly out due to rounding error in data)

YouGov2004.png

Regional Assemblies (RA) 11%
English Parliament (EP) 24%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 47%
Status Quo (SQ) 12%
Don't know (DK) 7%

Further information: Data


NOP for the Campaign for an English Parliament | April 2002

Question: At the moment as well as the Parliament in Westminster, Scotland has its own Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own Assemblies. England however does not have either. It has been suggested that England should have either its own English Parliament, along with the Westminster Parliament or have nine English Regional Assemblies.

Which of these statements, if any, best sums up your opinion about this?

A. England should have its own English Parliament

B. England should be made up of nine Regional Assemblies (RA)

C. Don’t Know

Result:

NOPTelebus2002_0.png

English Parliament (EP) 47%
Regional Assemblies (RA) 28%
Don't Knows 25%.

Further information: Data

Constitutional Future Referendums of the United Kingdom

Scotland Wales Northern Ireland England
Scottish devolution referendum, 1979 Welsh devolution referendum, 1979 Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973 Keep
Scottish devolution referendum, 1997 Welsh devolution referendum, 1997 Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement referendum, 1998 Quiet
Scottish independence referendum, 2014 Welsh devolution referendum, 2011 England

When does England get a vote?

From England: A message of support for Alex Salmond and the SNP

Dear Alex Salmond,

You have played an absolute blinder today. Well done. Anyone who knew anything about Scottish politics warned David Cameron not to interfere in the referendum but he just couldn't help himself. And now he looks to everyone in Scotland like an arrogant fool who thought he could dictate the terms and timing of the referendum on Scottish independence to the Scottish Government. Does he not realise that the Scottish people are sovereign; and that they elected a government to deliver them a referendum; and that the government they chose was yours not his? The Scottish Government may not have the legal authority to hold a binding referendum but it has the moral authority.

Ignore the critics who say that you are frit, those same people deny England a referendum on an English parliament because they know they will lose. You are quite right to wait until 2014 so that Scotland can have a full debate on the pros and cons of independence; so that the Scottish people can see that the Calman proposals in the Scotland Bill are inadequate; so that the Scottish people can see what effect the West Lothian Commission will have on the ability of their MPs to represent them at Westminster; and so that the Scottish people can experience life under austerity Britain, caused by the economic incompetence of Westminster politicians (albeit Scottish ones).

Autumn 2014 is a good date for the independence referendum because in 2014 Scotland plays host to the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games, and celebrates the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and in all likelihood the Scots will be complaining about the British media's biased coverage of England's World Cup campaign. .

You are also right to prevent Westminster from insisting that the referendum should be a straight YES/NO question on Scottish independence. We all know that the Scottish people would prefer Independence Lite (or Independence in Britain as I prefer to call it) and so, as a party of the people, you should do what you can to ensure that Independence Lite is an option.

Gerry Hassan suggests that Scottish Government should use the following wording for the independence referendum:

Do you authorise the Scottish Government to begin negotiations with the UK Government on Scottish independence?

These are words, according to Hassan, that are easily understood by everyone, with no doubts about what it means that is open to claim or counter-claim. I think he is right, no reasonable person could object. But having secured a mandate from the people to enter into negotiations with Westminster over Scottish independence, it is then possible for the two governments to come up with a bipartisan middle-way that can be put to the Scottish people in a legally binding referendum.

Independence (as was pointed out by DougtheDug on this blog) can be declared by Scotland on a unilateral basis, and there's not a great deal that Westminster can do about it. Whereas the problem with Independence Lite is that it has to come about bilaterally: it has to be offered by Westminster and accepted by Scotland. By using Hassan's suggested question you are more likely to engineer a situation in which both Independence and Independence Lite are on the ballot paper.

I would like you to know that there are a great number of people in England that are cheering you on. It's not only the Scots who feel trapped under the weight of the Imperial Parliament, an increasing number of English people do too. England is not a democracy and it lacks the basic trappings of nationhood: Parliament, Government, anthem, national holiday, etc. The government that we're lumbered with - the UK Government - is incapable of speaking for England; it can speak of England but not for England, the English question is ignored and we're left without a vision of an English future - England unimagined. Regrettably there is no English version of Alex Salmond, there is no politician for whom the interests of England are paramount. It doesn't matter how often we express a desire for an English dimension to governance, we are ignored, and it is the multi-national nature of the UK and the Unionists' desire to retain absolute sovereignty at Westminster that is the main reason preventing them from recognising English popular sovereignty. As an Englishman it makes me ashamed to say that you are the greatest hope for England, but at present you are. And not just England, you have the opportunity to shape the democratic future of the entire UK for the better.

Not that I want to put any greater pressure on you.

Good luck and God speed.

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