Blaming the English

Over the past few years numerous constitutional experts and political observers have been warning that the English feel disenfranchised and alienated from Westminster. English identity has risen and become politicised, perhaps as a badge of resistance against the British state, the European Union, globalisation and immigration; and British identity has decreased, to the point where only the denizens of London feel more British than English. Campaigners such as myself have argued strongly that England requires the same sort of democratic recognition of nationhood and national identity as is enjoyed by Scotland, namely its own parliament and government. Our argument is that an English parliament gives legitimate expression to English national identity, making English identity more inclusive and constructive instead of a badge of resentment. The British political elite were frightened of normalising English national identity in case they ‘fanned the flames of English nationalism’ and instead offered fig leaves in the shape of regional assemblies, regional ministers, elected mayors, English votes on English laws, city regions and police commissioners – anything other than recognition of England as a discrete nation and source of political identity and citizenship.

The result is an England that feels it has no voice and no one who will speak for it.  And so here we are.  The English have given the British a damn good hiding in a referendum on the EU, and in doing so have delivered an existential crisis to both unions of which they are a part.  No one can claim that the British Establishment weren’t warned.  IPPR, Arthur Aughey, John Denham, Michael Kenny, Simon Lee, Frank Field, Anthony Barnett , myself and many others have all repeatedly warned that there needs to be recognition of the growing English demos.

Scandalously the English, and in particular the English working class, are now getting the blame for voting against the wishes of the British and European political establishments that not only failed to recognise their nationhood but actively tried to suppress it.

There are many factors that that played into how people voted in the EU referendum: economic vibrancy, immigration, democracy and sovereignty. One issue that hasn’t been explored (or at least I haven’t seen it) is the issue of civic identity. The two parts of the UK that voted overwhelmingly to remain are Scotland and London, both of which have a very strong and inclusive sense of citizenship/civic identity. In England there is no civic nationalism, evidenced by the fact that we have no parliament; and Wales, although it has an assembly, has always had more of a cultural – linguistic – nationalism.

So I would like to float the idea – admittedly only a hypothesis – that the British Government may have lost the EU referendum because successive British Governments denied England a parliament and denied the English the chance to feel secure in, and positive about, their national identity.

Rising from the Ashes

Toque started off life in 2005 as a blog to document my life as an immigrant in Canada. Predictably it rapidly evolved into a political blog and within months incorporated ‘The Witanagemot Club‘ for bloggers in support of an English parliament.

The original blog was in Movable Type and looked like this. I migrated to WordPress when MT became overrun with spam, and later moved to Drupal just for the challenge. Over the past five years, since I became a father, the time available for blogging has been severely limited. Not only do kids take up your free time, they also exhaust you and wake you up early, so blogging into the wee small hours as I used to became a liability.

It is now over two years since I posted anything on Toque but the present political climate has tempted me out of retirement. I feel the need to add my small voice to the cacophony of political and constitutional noise without boring my Facebook friends to death. So a WordPress version of Toque is reborn, phoenix-like, out of the ashes of my falling-apart Drupal installation. I couldn’t be bothered to port the old content across but I have kept an off-line back-up of the content for reference. So I’m starting afresh. A brand new blog. I won’t hit the heights of my old web traffic (see below) because I still have kids, but I will once again have a place to vent my occasional frustration.