Mike Knowles: Future of England

Speech by Mike Knowles to The Campaign for an English Parliament’s “Future of England” Conference, 26 April 2008

We are here to consider the future of England.

Why should we have a concern for England’s future?

After all, England has been around for a long long time. The Venerable Bede wrote a History of the English Nation (gens anglicana) in 731, 1300 years ago. Even then there was recognition of a distinct English identity. And England became a unified nation state in the 10th century, if not before, the first nation state in Europe. ‘There’ll always be an England’, the song says. What is there to be concerned about?

There are a number of things. Very serious things. For example, there is the future of England’s environment which is being battered and kicked about like a tin can in an alley. There is the issue of local and national cohesion, weakened and dangerously misdirected by governments over decades. For us, unlike our governments, England is one people, that is our campaign belief, no matter the differences of ethnicity, religion and cultures. An English parliament will be for everyone for whom England is home and future. And then there is the issue of the European Union, a huge growing issue in respect of national identity and self-government, not just for England but for every nation state in Europe. Just to mention three major issues about England out of many.

But our concern today is another one. It is, in the pithy phrase of Philip Johnston of the Telegraph, about England’s identity and governance. It is about our right to have our English identity given the same political and constitutional recognition as has been given to that of Scotland and Wales and about England getting the same degree of self-governance as Scotland has and potentially Wales has. It is about England’s future in the United Kingdom and its relationship to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is not a narrow concern. I would maintain that it is the platform from which all our other concerns can be effectively addressed and resolved.

As up to 1998 England’s future like that of Scotland and Wales was just as part of the UK. But the 1998 devolution legislation changed all that.; and the constitution of the United Kingdom fundamentally. It had two basic principles::
(1) devolution is granted as to nations. The language of the legislation spoke of Scotland and Wales as nations, not as anything other than nations.
(2) devolution is self-rule by means of a national parliament or assembly separately elected.

Devolution 1998 established Scotland and Wales, constitutionally and politically, as distinct and separate nations within the United Kingdom, with their own parliaments; and formally terminated the political fact established in 1707 of one British nation with one parliament.

A parliament, where freely chosen as in Scotland’s case, is the most potent and effective statement of a common national identity; and the Scottish Parliament has governance of all Scotland’s internal affairs. It has made Scotland 75% independent of the UK. And it has this feature, one that cannot be given too much significance- it is a parliament with 129 members who are there as Scots. Not as British but there as Scots. To represent not British interests but those, and only those, of Scotland. And the same principle obtains in Wales too with its 40 Assembly members. I cannot emphasise it enough, they are elected to govern in the specific interests of Scotland and Wales, not Britain. And England? Nothing. No recognition. no self governance, no parliament or assembly, no voice, no MPs elected to concern themselves solely with English interests. Instead, to make matters even worse, the insultingly undemocratic direct opposite -the WL situation. Scotland’s future, like that of Wales, is now in the hands of their own people. England’s future is not in the hands of the English people at all. And 550 MPs from England voted for all of this.

But that was them. Besides them there is us. A second thing happened in 1998. Unheralded, and unnoticed -but it will prove no less important than either the 1707 Act of Union or the 1998 devolution legislation. On June 14th 1998, ten years ago, six people met in a house in Thetford Forest in Norfolk. They founded the Campaign for an English Parliament. Guy Green, Tony and Pearl Linsell, Roy Meadowcroft, Harry Bottom and Terry Brown. In the Policy Document which remains the foundation statement of the campaign ever since, they made this statement: ‘The people of England have an identity separate from a British identity, and they need a parliament and a constitutional arrangement which recognises that identity and serves their special interests‘. The statement is about governance and identity. It is a demand that the two foundation principles of devolution implemented in Scotland and Wales, be applied equally to England.

That is our vision for England’s future which for the Scots and the Welsh is already a reality. A nation once again. Like what they have. Just like what the Union government, the political set, gave them. On it depends so much that also has to be done for England: environmentally, governmentally, and culturally and socially in respect of community and national cohesion. It does not challenge the existence of the Union. All it does is call for the changes in the Union already brought about by the 1998 legislation to be extended to England.

But there are other visions too of England’s future. It is with just one that I will deal. It is that of Gordon Brown. It is the one that matters because he is the Prime Minister. His is a vision of Britain and of England consisting, as he says repeatedly, of ‘nations and regions’. By nations he means Scotland and Wales, by regions he means the divisions of England into regions. No political or constitutional recognition of England as a nation, or of its identity; as was explicitly given to his own Scotland in the 1998 legislation. No English Parliament; its territory to be the only part of the United Kingdom ruled in every aspect by the British parliament. It is a policy that would terminate England qua England altogether. And in the two years of office that might be all that is left to him, he will use every lever and every instrument of power in the British state to bring it about.

He will proceed by dictat. He will not place his plan for the future of England before the people of England by means of a referendum. The government burnt their fingers with the 2004 referendum in England’s North East counties and cities. For him the regionalisation of England is the device by which, with deliberate deception, he can fudge and, he hopes, dissolve the West Lothian Question. But more than that. Much more, For Brown the termination of England as a nation, and its dissolution into regions, will resolve the English Question. There can be no English Question if there is no England. He is already proceeding by dictat. He has already appointed 9 MPs as ‘regional ministers’, which was not in Labour’s manifesto. And there is open speculation that in his next reshuffle he will appoint a Minister for the English Regions. The battle lines for the future of England, for England to be or not to be, are being drawn between the Member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath and us. Because we here in this hall are England.

What is it that is driving Gordon Brown to use all the power of the British State to deny to England what he has so successfully achieved for Scotland? In Edinburgh on March 30th 1989 together with 133 fellow members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention he signed, the Scottish Claim of Right, ‘We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests will be paramount’ He signed that pledge. So did the present Speaker of the House, Michael Martin.

Look at those words –Brown’s pledge to make the interests of Scotland ‘paramount in every action and deliberation’. We have seen what his deliberations are for England, what action he has taken already. Is it for Scotland then that he wants England to become a collection of regions? Does Brown see it as in the interests specifically of Scotland that England should in effect be denied devolution and a parliament and through regionalisation be terminated as a nation? He will of course deny it. He will argue that it is in the interests of preserving the Union, that for England with 80% of the population and producer of some 85% of its wealth to have its own parliament will fatally unbalance the Union. From the ardent Scots he declared himself in 1989 he’s now become the most ardent of Britishers. Why?

Brown signed the pledge to support the sovereign right of his own Scottish people to ‘determine the form of Government best suited to their needs’ and he got it in the form of a referendum. Doesn’t the people of England have that right too? On his terms only an outright hypocrite would say no. That therefore is what he is. But he is something even worse. The Member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath thinks he can tell the English people what form of government is best suited to their needs’ The arrogance of the man is incredible.

The present arrangement of the Union suits Brown. In that he differs crucially from his fellow countryman Alex Salmond. Salmond believes Scotland has the economic critical mass to go it alone. And believes Scotland has the sovereign right to go it alone if it wants to. Brown believes that Scotland being in the Union best serves Scotland’s interests and does not have the sovereign right to choose otherwise. I believe that on the evidence we can say this: that for Brown England is the milch cow. England environmentally, England’s identity, does not matter to Brown. England could be windswept with plastic bags and its countryside hidden under concrete –no matter. What matters to Brown about England is just the wealth and the power it produces from which Scotland benefits.

It is he who is in power. That is why I am focussing on his plan for England. First and foremost we must address what threatens England now. Look at the forces lined up against us: the might of the United Kingdom government, all three political parties; a media either opposed or indifferent; the BBC which organises itself precisely the way Brown thinks of Britain, as nations and regions, a BBC which has a BBC Scotland, a BBC Wales, a BBC Northern Ireland and an Asian Network but adamantly refuses to have a BBC England; and heaven knows how many Establishment think-tanks like the Fabian Society, Democracy Unlocked, the IPPR and the Constitution Unit. To list but four. How can we possibly win against such a Goliath of forces like that?

We can and we will. Because our cause is both very just and very fair’ We ask only for the principles of the 1998 legislation to be extended to England. We present the only just and fair answer to the West Lothian Question and the English Question’ and just as crucial, the only solution that will hold the Union together . And that is no silly idle boast. Strangely, unexpectedly, confirmation for that assertion comes from the very same Goliath of forces that oppose us. In the year 2000 in the Fabian Society publication ‘the English Question’ Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit., a think-tank set up to promote the division of England into regions, asked what the 1998 devolution legislation might lead to in five to ten years’ time. ‘One option’, he says, ‘can be quickly dismissed: an English Parliament’. Seven years later, November 14th 2007, the Professor appeared as a witness before the Justice Select Committee and informed it that: ‘the closest to a complete answer to the West Lothian Question is a separate English Parliament’. It took him and his fellow university academics 7 full years to reach the conclusion the founders of this Campaign arrived at in a matter of hours in Thetford Forest.

And we are now surrounded by support. The latest four professional opinion polls, conducted in 2006 and 2007, averaged 60% in favour of an English Parliament. And how was it achieved? First, by the sheer instinct of the people of England for basic justice and for recognition of their own distinct identity. National identity is a birth right. It is what we are and we will govern ourselves by what we are, with all the complexities, variety and vitality of modern England, which together are producing a new, a changing and vibrant culture.

And secondly, it has been achieved by our unremitting campaigning and our arguments. Our weapons, our instruments in our struggle are not the arrows of the Cheshire bowmen as at Agincourt or the little boats of the men of Kent crossing to Dunkirk. No, our weapons and our instruments now are our arguments One brief summary of them, the Booklet ‘Devolution for England’, has been placed on every chair for you to take away, read, understand and tell people about, write to news papers about, organise branch meetings wherever you live and discuss. And you can take more if you want to for distribution. Knowledge is power. The influence and power of this Campaign has been incredible. Now, you must organise for England and for an English parliament wherever you live. You here in this hall, you are England.

We want England’s destiny to be in the hands of the people of England. Surely no more than a very basic human right.

Will England see it? It will. Of course not all of us possibly. But our attitude must be that embodied in the message which the London Correspondence Society gave to its delegates setting out across England in 1795. 1795 was a dark year. A year of harsh political repression in England. Hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, were in dire poverty and subject to terrible conditions as the Industrial Revolution changed and ravaged their lives. The delegates went out to get people to unite to struggle for the very basics of a decent living. And the message they carried with them should be ours. ‘Remember. You are wrestling with Injustice, not for yourselves only, for you may not see the full Day of Liberty, but for the Child hanging at the Breast

Thank you.

Ed Abrams: Future of England

Ed Abrams’ speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament’s ‘Future of England’ conference, 26 April 2008

I’d like to thanks the members of the CEP for inviting me here and allowing me to speak. I have a huge amount of respect for the CEP and their work, the tireless commitment to England is there for all to see and I believe in my blood and my bones that we will one day , united we will reach our promised land – A PARLIAMENT FOR OUR NATION.

I stand before you not just as a member of the English Democrats, not just as someone who campaigns for English Democracy but I stand here before you all simply as an Englishman who wants what my birth right is – that birth right is that I was born into a country my forefathers gave their lives for so that I and others could live in a land that was free, a land where truth prevails, where democracy is there for all and justice smoothers discrimination.

Friends – My speech today is called the Politics of Nationhood, I’ll go on to outline why I believe that this new breed, this fresh ideal, this vision, this belief will blow away the cobwebs of political complacency and kick start the nation’s consciousness to building a newer, fresher and more accommodating England but an England that stands alone, proud, resolute and free.

Now I am no scholar as I unfortunately wasted my education but from the pages of history I’ve read, we have had for over 150 years, the politics of class rammed down our throats, we’ve had our democracy and our vote used and abused, we’ve had separation not liberation, with had dictatorship not comradeship and the butchers apron has hidden the cracks of resentment and disdain, it’s hidden the politics of discrimination, it’s hidden the West Lothian Question and the Barnett formula. The politics of class has divided our nation and turned are people to a state of utter despair.

The politics of class is the political ideology of old, of yesteryear, one that’s had its day.

See what our glorious leaders conveniently forget is that politics is a living beast, it changes, it moves, it lives – what was right yesterday does not mean it’s right for today or in the future. A political ideology that doesn’t move of change with the times dies from the neck upwards, it breeds resentment and disdain and it proves that it no longer has the ear of the people.

My vision is the politics of NATIONHOOD not of class. This is the new way, it’s not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd, in fact it’s the only way, this way is one whereby the whole country binds together and acts as one for the dual benefit of the nation and it’s people.

It doesn’t ask how much money you earn or how many cars you’ve got, it doesn’t ask if your left or right or middle of the road, it doesn’t ask if you’re black or white, Christian or Jew, young or old- all it asks of you is that you unite, join arms, stand shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour and work to build a newer, fresher more accommodating England. An England that respects and learns from the past, works with the present and truly embraces the future with hope, vigour, commitment, openness, honesty and with a smile.

The politics of NATIONHOOD allows England to regain her rightful at the top table of the world’s nations. It allows us to promote with pride our cultural identity, it allows us to take our nation forward, give our people a voice and more importantly – it gives England a future. It allows us to celebrate of history, cradle our young and care for our elders.

This new ideal also solves the problems we have with cultural identity; it allows our young to have a future and a collective future. One of the challenges that we have today is that our kids, our nation’s future are not allowed an identity; they are forced to grow up with no knowledge of our history. Presently it is left down to us, the parents of England’s future to explain our nation and all its glory. See my vision allows us to rebuild our children’s futures, it allows us to put back the moral fibre of our society, it allows all to come together and work as one. It puts back respect and values, it restores honour and creed. It moves away from the nation of one to one nation for all.

As we all know misguided patriotism is the order of the day, we’ve been force-fed the BRITISH IDEAL for decades, I, like many of you have never brought this ideal, I’ve never considered myself British, I come from an immigrant family of Polish Jews who where allowed safe haven and harbour from the evils of the Russian programs.

We came to England not Britain because of English ideals such as liberty, democracy, honesty and justice, these went hand in hand with the name of England not Britain, however as we know at England’s expense, the ideals of liberty, democracy, honesty and justice in today’s politics are just empty words, they are so often used and certainly abused by so called Political Professionals, those who put careers before consciousness, those who have never seen a hard days work in their lives, those who have thrown away their convictions the moment they entered the hallow halls of Westminster.

Many of our modern day politicians have enter politics with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths. Have these so-called elite ever been unemployed, worried about where the next pay check is coming from, panicking about having to buy the latest and greatest pair of footwear for their kids? Because career politicians are now the order of the day can someone explain to me how people like Darling, Cameroon, Brown, Milliband be the voice of the people when they don’t KNOW the people.

These so-called democratic savours, our champions of liberty openly demand that we follow their path, that we throw garlands of flowers at their feet, pay homage to there very presence and afford them our respect, well my respect is earned and not just given and what the big three have done to my nation is beyond the pale.

These people live by the motto of “DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO”. I always thought that our leaders lead by example, they lead from the front and not from the back, that when duty calls, our leaders are there at the front, heads held high, leading the charge. I’m afraid this isn’t the case with nearly all of the MP’s in parliament.

As I’ve said, I’m not an educated man but can some one please explain to me how these leaders represent England. The big 3 with their outdated and old styled politics of class have orchestrated England’s final solution, they are the ones who are destroying the very idea of England, and they’ve eroded the fabric of our identity, the common purpose of our people.

They are the ones who are sending people to their deaths because of the ill-fated and not thought out policy of partial devolution, they are the ones who are herding our nation’s elders into care homes like horses to the knackers yard because they no longer add value to the treasury’s coffers. They are the ones who are pushing our people to despair as tax upon tax upon tax is being raised in our nation whilst other parts of this so-called UNION of equals don’t have these rises and they are the ones who have created policies that enforce discrimination upon the people of England – such as:

Top up Fees ( only in England )
Prescription Charge Increases ( only in England )
Elderly folk having to pay for care ( only in England )
Class sizes over 30 kids ( only in England )
A paltry 50p per school meal ( only in England
Life saving drugs being refused our people ( only in England )
Brutishness’ Lessons taught ( only in England )
New Nuclear Power plants ( only in England )
Eco Towns ( only in England )

And many, many more

This is what the politics of Class and of the old guard / the big 3 have given us. If like some, you decide to stay with one of the big 3, stay with the politics of class, the politics of spite, envy and hate and try and change from within then you’ll just be a loan voice, you’ll be a small little rowing boat trying to change the course of a super tanker, you know in your ENGLISH hearts that you’ll never win, you’ll only get lip service, you’ll get a pat on the back and be told the same old line of ” we all agree and WE must do something about it, in fact we have set up a working committee to investigate and review” sounds more like brushing it under the carpet to me.

I have had it said to me that there’s no logic in trying to change the political landscape, it’s almost like pushing water uphill with your bare hands, a common comment has been that regardless of our efforts, nothing will change, I believe that the biggest single reason why people are so turned off from politics is because of the politics of class, people feel isolated, disassociated and forgotten. The gap between rich and poor has got wider and there’s no glue between them, well my vision – the politics of nationhood, cements all people together, it allows people from all sides to work together and engage one another, it allows us all to invest in England’s future, therefore making all our people feel valued, respected and wanted.

I set about creating this new vision, this new political creed because the big 3 don’t own politics, it’s not there’s to play with or pick up or put down as and when they desire, they’re wheels only ever turn when it’s close to an election and they throw themselves at the voters mercy and beg for your vote. Politics isn’t a closed shop; whereby only the chosen view get it, it shouldn’t be a job for life either. I’d put politicians on performance related pay and see them run for cover.

My vision also erodes the secret society, the cosy little love affair that the big 3 have with the media, it is wrong that companies like the BBC become Brown’s mouthpiece or paper like the TORY mail over ever report Cameron’s spin. The politics of nationhood removes these relationships and allows for free, fair and uncensored reporting that gives and unbiased and impartial view

I believe that these parties have changed in all recognition to the virtues and values of when they were created. Remember when the hard-pressed working class created the origins of the Labour movement they stood against discrimination, they stood against oppression, they stood up for and defend their own – are these still really the cornerstone values of Brown’s government or Blair’s legacy

Patriotism is not owned by anyone of anything, it’s not enough to wave a flag when it suits and pretend your defenders of a nation. I believe that the wind is changing and the people of England don’t want plastic patriotism anymore; they no longer have any faith in the old, outdated and stale current political parties. They cry out for a beg for a new style of political creed, one that involves and engages, one that interacts and learns and one that represent them and only them – THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND.

As I’ve said, my vision allows people from all walks of life, regardless of all age, regardless of our different experiences, it brings old and young together, it allows left and right to bind, it even allows those strange types ( you know the ones, the guardian readers with open toed sandals, i think people call them liberal democrats to stop sitting on the fence and get involved as again it moves our folk away from the politics of class, it defends ALL of our people and truely delivers the virtues of truth, justice, liberty and freedom.

A senior Conservative once asked me to a meeting, during that meeting he told me that he agreed with everything I said, he thought and felt the same but in the same breath as those words, he offered me the parliamentary seat of Chester if I joined their party. He wanted me to sell out my principles, my beliefs, my ENGLISH CORE. He thought that my pride and passion for England was something that you could pick up and put down on a wimm. I sat there and shook my head in disbelief as he thought I could be brought, that I would turn my back on my nation at the offer of a seat – how wrong he was.

See this is the difference between my vision of nationhood against there’s of class is that the establishment, New Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems made it personal because they are calling into question the very idea of England itself.

Ladies and Gentleman, Time is coming to take sides, to show your colours, to make a stand for i believe that perhaps not at the next election but certainly the one after that, the politics will be either Nationalist or Unionist, they’ll be no other option – you have to ask yourself which one protects England and her people, which one involves all and alienates none, which one delivers the politics of hope and which offers resentment and hate, it will be the new guard against the old, it will be about a new fresh approach to really engaging with and valuing the populas and not dictating to or ignoring their core values.

Folks, that time is coming, make sure you are on the right side – the ENGLISH SIDE

Thanks for your time and god bless England.

Canon Kenyon Wright: Future of England


Canon Kenyon Wright’s speech to the Campaign for an English Parliament’s ‘Future of England’ debate, 26 April 2008

What is this? A Scot daring to speak about the future of England?. Are there not already too many Scots deciding England’s future? So why am I here?

I am not here to tell you what to do. We Scots are good at that, but it is not my purpose today. Our two nations have been linked for centuries – as enemies, as friends and as partners in the Union. I admit that we Scots have too often defined our identity in resentment of our larger neighbour. As far back as the 16th century, the Spanish ambassador to the court of King James IV reported back to his homeland that “nothing pleases the Scots so much as abuse of the English!” I hope in the 21st century we have grown up at last, and can meet each other openly and honestly as friends who tell each other the truth, but as CS Lewis once wrote “we cannot meet face to face till we have faces!” The Scottish sense of identity is strong but hard to analyse or define.. One leading Academic in Edinburgh said that anyone who comes for any time to Scotland becomes aware of “a world of dense Scottishness” I am convinced that England has also a strong sense of identity, but that you are in the process of rediscovering it. For both of us, it means redefining the nature of our relationship with Britishness, and the Union. It seems to me that at heart, that is what your campaign and this conference are all about.

I cannot tell you how to influence the future of England – but I can share with you a glimpse of the Principles by which we worked for long years in the Campaign for a Scottish Parliament, and later in the Constitutional Convention; of the Process by which we achieved our goal, and of our continuing task of defining the Future of Scotland as a participative democracy. It is your task to judge whether, and if so how, these facts are relevant to your very different situation.

The Founding Principles

In the 1950’s Scotland’s greatest legal mind of the 20th century. Lord President Cooper was called upon to decide on a legal challenge to our monarch being designated Elizabeth the Second – on the very reasonable grounds that she was indeed the first, not only to reign as Queen of Scots, but in fact first in the United Kingdom. Cooper dismissed the case on the legal grounds that the Royal Prerogative reserved this decision to the monarch – but he did go on say, in a landmark judgement

“The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”

This reflects the two foundation principles on which we worked. – Sovereignty and Subsidiarity. Our first act in the Convention was the solemn signing by all present (including of course Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling et al) of the “Claim of Right for Scotland” which proclaimed “the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine how they will be governed”. To this day I wonder how many of those MPs who lined up to sign it, fully realised they were by implication denying the right of Parliament to be the final arbiters in constitutional matters.

The second founding principle of subsidiarity, maintains that power should be limited, dispersed, and exercised at the lowest effective level. This means for us, clearer protected and positive powers, constantly under review, for local government, for Scotland, for the UK (though here there is a dispute as we know) and for the European Union too. Scotland is much more positive towards the EU than I sense you are, and generally does not see it as a threat to our sovereignty or nationhood..

I suggest hesitatingly, that there might be two ways in which our story has relevance to yours.

Political Grievances are not enough

First, we did not base our case on political grievances, but on constitutional principles. Like you, we certainly had plenty of complaints, and they provided fertile ground for our task

You have legitimate anger over the West Lothian Question – the undemocratic right of Scottish MPs to influence education and health say, in Doncaster and Edmonton, but not in Dundee or Edinburgh– or indeed in any of their own constituencies. Also many resent Scotland’s apparent advantages through the Barnet Formula, which will obviously be revised if and when the Scottish Parliament gains Fiscal powers, as seems likely in any revision of the Scotland Act

We in our turn, pointed out that, while the votes of Scottish MPs would have made a difference only for two or three years since the war, the votes of English MPs imposed policies on Scotland for some 50 years. This came to a head when the Thatcher Government not only made us guinea pigs for the Poll Tax, but imposed on us measure after measure which the Scottish people and their Representatives had manifestly and massively rejected. A Church of Scotland Report in 1989, the year the Convention was formed and the Claim of Right signed, said “that which was always unacceptable in principle, has now become intolerable in practice”.

My point is simply this. Contemporary political grievances can strengthen your case, as they did ours, but they should not be the basis on which you work. The principles, based on national identity and aspirations, should be clear.

Second, the Process was important

We strove for the widest possible consensus on exactly what we were asking for. Through enormous difficulties, we defined in detail what a Scottish Parliament would look like, and how it would relate to the UK and the EU. That task may indeed be even more difficult for you, but I hope it can be done.

The Future of England is inseparable from the Future of the Union

There is a profound reason why Scotland must be interested in, and aware of, what you are doing here. – simply that the success or failure of your campaign has enormous implications for us.

The devolved Scottish Parliament and Government have many weaknesses, but in one major aspect their very existence breaks the log jam of British politics. For the first time in the history of the Union, we have succeeded in establishing a secure base of alternative constitutional power which is in practice irreversible.

However, we are a small nation of 5 million people, one tenth of England. Our success challenges, but has not radically changed, the United Kingdom or the central institutions of the British State. But make no mistake about it – if your campaign succeeds, it means the end of the Union in the form we now know it. At the least it means the radical transformation of the Union into a very different political reality, one of genuine and secure power sharing. That is as important to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as it is to England. It is time for us to be discussing seriously together what kind of Union, if any, we think best for the 21st century

The new Scottish Constitutional Commission which a group of prominent Scots have recently formed (see www.constitutionalcommission.org) – to be clearly distinguished from the Commission set up by the unionist parties in Scotland, which has a much narrower mandate – should be in regular touch with you and the other nations, to ensure that our thinking on the future of our common relationships and governance, are in harmony, and must be taken seriously.

Scotland is in danger of polarising the debate into two extremes. On the one hand, devolution as at present with a few extra powers – on the other hand, independence; in other words, either the Union with a bit of tinkering at the edges, or the end of the Union. Of course, Scottish Independence would deliver your English Parliament on a plate – but my hope is that you will help us all by bringing fresh ideas to the future of a Union, which your success would inevitably change. Are we talking of some form of Federal or Confederal solution, with powerful Parliaments and Governments in the 4 nations, and with a central Government for those matters we agree to hold in common?

I do not know, but I think it urgent that we begin to ask these questions now

I am aware that the CEP accepts the final authority of the UK Parliament, but I find this hard to endorse.. The very existence of an English Parliament would question the size, the shape and the powers, of the continuing UK body. Certainly for Scotland, it would raise with a new urgency the hope expressed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1989. that the coming Scottish Parliament would “represent a fundamental shift away from the notion of the unlimited or absolute sovereignty of the British Parliament, towards the Scottish and Reformed Principle of limited or relative sovereignty!”

I believe some major changes are unavoidable if a reformed Union acceptable to all its component nations, is to be preserved in the 21st Century.

At the least we need

  • The development of a genuinely constitutional monarchy through the abolition of the Royal Prerogatives and the enormous power and patronage they give to the UK Prime Minister.
  • A clear and accepted definition of the relationships of the Union government and the “devolved” governments, which defines and effectively limits the powers of each (though the word “devolved” would no longer be strictly accurate in a situation where power is securely shared. Enoch Powell once said “Power devolved is power retained”)
  • A written constitution defining these powers and relationships.

The Future of England is inseparable from the Future of Britain.

Towards a Participative Democracy

In one important respect, our Parliament has only partly succeeded. The vision was of something “radically different from the rituals of Westminster, more participative, more open, more creative, less needlessly confrontational”. At a time when there is widespread contempt for politics, and the erosion of trust in politicians, it is vital that the Parliaments for which we strive are closer to the people, elected by a fairer system, open and honest in all they do, and encouraging the people to be part of the decision making process.

If there is one central thing I have learned from the experience of the last twenty years, it is this. Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.

Recently the POWER Inquiry, after extensive hearings all over Britain, laid bare the growing contempt, not for politics as such, but for the system. On that basis, its Convenor, Lady Helena Kennedy said

“Changes of this magnitude cannot be left simply to elected representatives. An alliance for change needs to be built amongst the most clear-sighted MPs, local councillors, MEPs and members of the devolved institutions, but only a sustained campaign for change from outside the democratic assemblies and parliaments of the UK will ensure that meaningful reform occurs. We, the people, have to stake our claim on power”

That seems to me to define your continuing task – and ours