Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

POWER2010 and the People’s Charter

28 Comments

POWER2010If you haven’t visited the POWER2010 website and voted for the political reforms you would like to see, please do so. Polls close on 22 February.

A number of political campaigning organisations of  which I am a part are supporting POWER2010. It is part of a desire to put political reform high on the agenda in post-New-Labour Britain. The idea is to choose five policies to put at the centre of the POWER2010 Pledge and campaign for their adoption by the government as a 21st-century Chartist movement.

The current top ten policies are:

  1. Introduce a proportional voting system
  2. Scrap ID cards and roll back the database state
  3. A written constitution
  4. Fixed-term parliaments
  5. English votes on English laws
  6. A fully elected second chamber
  7. Expand the Freedom of Information Act
  8. Stronger local government
  9. Right to recall
  10. “None of the Above” on ballot paper

I agree with all of them except having English votes on English laws — England dominates Britain politically and culturally, so barring non-English MPs from voting on bills reckoned to be ‘English’ would have the effect of disenfranchising Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish MPs from a significant proportion of votes. A policy of ‘protecting’ the dominant group in society against minorities will always have the effect of increasing that group’s dominance. In general, the promotion of English nationalism by a few fringe groups is very dodgy.

There are other policies beyond the top ten you can vote for too; some of them are good, but not all. I support POWER2010 because I think we need a new People’s Charter. I also support the new People’s Charter promoted by the TUC. We need new ideas and policies to campaign for a change of our political set-up that goes beyond our media’s obsession with MP’s expenses. There are glaring imperfections with both of these movements. POWER2010 has a tendency towards superficial reform by focusing on institutional policies rather than values. In short, POWER2010 has a political philosophy that is little more than anti-authoritarian/anti-statist and focused on a rather liberal middle-class concept of solving real problems in society with changes to political institutions. On the other hand, the People’s Charter is rooted in the socialist values that will lead to greater equality in our society, recognising that greater economic equality of the people is fundamental to achieving wider liberties and an politically engaged civil society. The problem is that the People’s Charter is only the agenda of the trades unions and has not been put to a wider audience.  A modern Chartist movement needs to be a mass movement owned by the people, and whereas the trades unions are a perfect place for this movement to begin, it has to grow beyond it.

So, for the meantime, I’m adopting a belt-and-braces approach: supporting the Internet-savvy POWER2010 with its decent support from a number of pressure groups and the well-grounded People’s Charter with its solid socialist policies. My hope is that fruit will come from these campaigns.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

28 thoughts on “POWER2010 and the People’s Charter

  1. “…so barring non-English MPs from voting on bills reckoned to be ‘English’ would have the effect of disenfranchising Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish MPs from a significant proportion of votes.”

    That’s the idea! Why should Scots, Welsh or NI MPs vote on exclusively English issues? English MPs can’t vote on their issues.

    If they’ve been disenfranchised as you say then that’s because they can’t influence devolved issues in their own constituencies. The only place they can influence in fact is England and that has to be wrong. They are not responsible to English constituents so why should they vote on English issues?

    You say that England dominates Britain politically. On the face of it that’s true – but it’s stil the UK parliament with MPs sworn to put the UK first. Although most of them put themselves first, then their parties, then Britain and their constituents rarely. They do not stand for England. EVOEL isn’t perfect by far but at least it forces recognition for England.

    “policy of ‘protecting’ the dominant group in society against minorities will always have the effect of increasing that group’s dominance. In general, the promotion of English nationalism by a few fringe groups is very dodgy.”

    This is nonsense. It’s not about protection it’s about representation. The Scots, Welsh and NIrish all have some kind of devolution – England is still getting shafted by the UK government simply because it has no voice.

    Personally I prefer the idea of a dedicated English Parliament (or better still independence) for England.

    And what’s dodgy about English nationalism?

    • Thanks for the comment, but this is the same old argument, and I still don’t buy it. The population of England is around 83% of that of the UK. Creating a legislative body specifically to deal with laws for 83% of the population is wasteful and destabilising in its reduplication of the purview of a Union Parliament. Calling for an independent England, the super-majority are effectively calling for the jettisoning of the non-English parts of the Union. I believe in Scottish independence on Scottish terms, and likewise for other parts of the UK. I believe that the super-majority kicking other nations out is not a ethical or democratic action.

      As we have it, English MPs dominate UK-wide legislation, this is the huge majority of all legislation affecting both English and non-English Britons. English nationalists tend to paint the picture of MSPs exercising far-reaching sovereignty north of the border while the country sends MPs to Westminster to exercise similar sovereignty over the English. This is simply not true. You only have to look at the agenda of the Scottish Parliament to see it’s pretty much a beefed-up county council. While Scotland is part of the UK, their MPs should have no limitation put on their legislative role. After all, English MPs dominate Britain-wide legislation. And that is why non-English MPs should vote in all votes, and not be disenfranchised by the super-majority.

      And English nationalism is dodgy because of its association with fascists (it’s not that long ago when the only people waving George’s flag were NFers) and the ingrained racial understanding of Englishness (there are many residents of England who prefer the more ethnically neutral term British because they’re not white). I’ve noticed how political groups who go down the English nationalist route tend to do so at the expense of their core political values.

  2. “Creating a legislative body specifically to deal with laws for 83% of the population is wasteful and destabilising in its reduplication of the purview of a Union Parliament.”

    And you’re accusing me of the same old argument? The England is too big for it’s own parliament is one of the oldest in the book.

    As to whether an English parliament would be “wasteful and destabilising” all depends on how it’s done. It needn’t be. With an English Parliament in place handing the 85 or so percent of Westminster law that currently concerns England that will leave not very much for the “UK” parliament to do apart from economy and defence. So that is the place to lose MPs – lots and lots of them. Plus of course the English Parliament could cope with 200 MPs or even less and the people of England would still get better representation because at the moment we have none.

    Or the house of commons could be the English Parliament obviously this would involve the joyous occasion of losing Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs (who currently have nothing to do but meddle in English affairs as 85% of law affecting their own constituents is already devolved. Then the house of Lords could be a small elected chamber to handle UK business.

    There are lots of ways of doing it that can be neither “”wasteful” or “destabilising” what is destabilising is to continue to ignore England (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6264823.stm)

    “Calling for an independent England, the super-majority are effectively calling for the jettisoning of the non-English parts of the Union. I believe in Scottish independence on Scottish terms, and likewise for other parts of the UK. I believe that the super-majority kicking other nations out is not a ethical or democratic action.”

    What you’re saying there is that the tail should wag the dog. Currently most people in England want to keep the Union – but more people every day are waking up to the raw deal they’re getting just because they happen to live in England. At some time in the future there may a majority of English that want out of the Union – you’re saying they should be denied because of what’s going on in the other home nations?

    Scottish independence on Scottish terms – fine by me. I believe the expression to use is; bring it on. But at the same time who will discuss these terms from England’s perspective? The UK parliament? Which is dedicated to preserving the UK? That has proved time and time again that it puts England last? The same parliament that is perfectly happy like you are to deny England a voice? No thanks. If Scotland wants out that’s the end of the Union and England needs an English Parliament to handle England’s end of the deal.

    “As we have it, English MPs dominate UK-wide legislation, this is the huge majority of all legislation affecting both English and non-English Britons. English nationalists tend to paint the picture of MSPs exercising far-reaching sovereignty north of the border while the country sends MPs to Westminster to exercise similar sovereignty over the English. This is simply not true. You only have to look at the agenda of the Scottish Parliament to see it’s pretty much a beefed-up county council..”

    Again – just because they sit as MPs in English constituencies doesn’t mean they put England first – they don’t. They are sworn to put the UK first and that’s what they do, well after themselves and their parties of course.

    MSP’s handle: health, education and training, local government, social work, housing, tourism and economic development, many aspects of transport, law and home affairs, the environment, agriculture, forestry and fishing, sport and the arts, statistics, public registers and records, planning, natural and built heritage – some county council that is! Plus there are potentially even more powers going their way – fine by me.

    Meanwhile at Westminster; Scottish MPs can influence all of the above in England where no-one has voted for them and no-one can vote them out.

    “While Scotland is part of the UK, their MPs should have no limitation put on their legislative role. After all, English MPs dominate Britain-wide legislation. And that is why non-English MPs should vote in all votes, and not be disenfranchised by the super-majority.”

    I know I’m repeating myself but “English” MPs do not stand for England they are “UK” and work in the interest of the “UK” NOT England.

    Politics is, or rather should be about principles – in principle it is not fair to have MPs from another home nation having ANY influence over England where the English people cannot get rid of them even if they wanted to.

    And in reality with Brown and Darling where they are, Scottish MPs have ultimate control over England with zero democratic mandate to rule over England.

    You mention the “super-majority” again. You know how democracy is supposed to work right?

    “And English nationalism is dodgy because of its association with fascists (it’s not that long ago when the only people waving George’s flag were NFers) and the ingrained racial understanding of Englishness (there are many residents of England who prefer the more ethnically neutral term British because they’re not white). I’ve noticed how political groups who go down the English nationalist route tend to do so at the expense of their core political values.”

    Another tired and largely inaccurate point. National Front – British nationalists. British National Party – British nationalists. EDL whilst they have English in the name they too are British nationalists. And while sometimes these groups do wave the Cross of st George (and the Saltire, and the Welsh Dragon) their flag is the butchers apron the Union Flag. Both groups support the continuation of the Union. I don’t know many English nationalists that want the Union to continue. English nationalism is the antithesis of British nationalism.

    I do not deny that there are racists who claim to be English nationalists in my experience they are few and far between. Racism is an ugly and stupid thing and it exists among all groups of people and all races. The English are no more racist than any other – in fact if you see how well England has accommodated a vast number of racially different incomers I think it’s fair to say that the English are an extremely tolerant and fairly welcoming bunch.

    And I mean English. This British tolerance really is English tolerance, since day one 9 out of 10 immigrants have preferred England, the reality is probably more like 98%.

    “the ingrained racial understanding of Englishness (there are many residents of England who prefer the more ethnically neutral term British because they’re not white).”

    This is interesting. Is it because they’re not white? Or is it again because England officially does not exist? It’s a British passport, it’s the British Broadcasting Corporation, it’s the British Library etc. There are virtually no English institutions. Because everything is so Brit orientated in the past at least you could live here years without knowing that this land is England.

    Where in Scotland where there’s a Scottish Parliament, and almost every institution is prefixed with Scottish you will find that most immigrants are happy to identify themselves as Scottish. Until recently there has been no England with which to identify.

    There is of course something else. The perpetration of the myth that the English are racist, I’ve even heard that the Cross of ST George is racist (huh a racist flag?). When the undeniable truth is that England is far from racist – as demonstrated by the vast numbers of immigrants England has successfully absorbed.

    And who perpetrates this myth? People like Jack Straw – British politician. The BBC a British institution. Big Britisher vested interests are doing everything they can to tarnish England in order to keep Britishness alive.

    Colour doesn’t matter to me. I have asian friends who I consider to be every bit as English as I am. As far as I am concerned the people who live in England are the English and they deserve recognition as the English and the representation of an English Parliament.

    “I’ve noticed how political groups who go down the English nationalist route tend to do so at the expense of their core political values.”

    Sorry, no idea what you mean by that.

    I expect we’re not going to agree on this, but I live in hope.

  3. surely we already have fixed term parliaments, are you suggesting that a government that is being defeated regularly in parliament must be forced to go on and on?
    English Nationalism seems dodgy because the left have deliberately associated any form of English identy and expression as racist.
    The truth is, after devolution the English were supposed to carry on with the union flag until such time as the union flag could be replaced with the eu flag.
    New Labour in its desire to carve England into regions could not afford any form of English national conscienceness. They used the racist cosh instead of telling the truth that England was to be wiped off the map. As a life long Labour voter I am appalled that that once great labour movement has been infiltrated by trash such as yourself.

  4. I find your comment about English Nationalism to be offensive and almost certainly racist.

    Do you consider Scottish Nationalism dodgy, Welsh Nationalism dodgy, Irish Nationalism dodgy, American Nationalism dodge et al.

    The English like every other constituent part of the UK have the right to determine how they should be governed.

    The fact is whether you think this or not there is a growing sense of Englishness amongst the English. Many of whom reject Britishness. Indeed even the United Nations Charter the right to a nationality is enshrined. I am English I am not now nor have I ever been British.

    Like all radical agendas it is always opposed by those with a vested interest in the status quo like you. There was an article in the Telegraph recently that said unequivocably that a majority of MPs realized that the disenfranchisement of England could not continue. The only issue is how to rectify matters. So you are on the wrong side of history. England will get some form of self governance despite your objections.

    As to the English Flag being racist you devalue the word racism by saying it. You can no longer suppress the English with your bullying and intimidation by denigrating us and our culture.

    Time you moved over there is a new force alive in politics and it will sweep away the insignificant like you.

    • Another nasty personal attack from someone who hasn’t really read what I said. I didn’t call the English or our flag racist. I realise you’re all hopping over from your little English Parliament site. There are 646 MPs, of whom 529 are elected from English constituencies. The Women’s Suffrage Movement fought against real disenfranchisement: women had no vote. The English are not disenfranchised: I get to vote for a parliament full of English people.

      • Personal attack? Do you think calling people who have a genuine pride in the country they were born in live in and love dodgy not a personal attack?

        Not all English Nationalists are members of the English Defence League or rabid fascists. Many of us are decent people who want the best for our country England.

        I suggest you confine your comments to things you might even understand because clearly you have no comprehension of the anger amongst many decent English people about their disenfranchisement by devolution to the other home nations.

      • Again a total misinterpretation of my words, which you keep doing. I called nationalism dodgy, and not any person. I call nationalism dodgy because I believe it to be a minefield. Do you not know I’m English; do you not know I’m proud to be English; do you not know that it is possible to question English nationalism while having a ‘genuine’ pride in my country?

        Your suggestion about ‘confining comments’ is made on my blog, the one where I click ‘approve’ so that you have a voice. Isn’t that generous of me? About ‘comprehension’, you probably have no idea what I know, but what exactly makes you ‘decent’?

  5. Technically, we don’t have fixed-term parliaments, we have limited-term parliaments. A PM must call a general election within five years of the last one unless they get a bill through both houses to extend the life of a parliament (which the House of Lords may veto). The policy of fixed-term parliaments is about taking the choice of when to have an election out of the hands of the PM and into those of the MPs. This would mean that there would be a set date on which everyone would know the next general election would be (something like the first Thursday of May every four years). It gets us out of the guessing game. Of course, there needs to be a method by which an early election can be called, like the collapse of a government.

    English identity is a political minefield, regardless of what you believe the Left think. I am proud and happy to be English, but I also realise that the identity is not at present felt to be inclusive of all the people of England. Ultimately, I’m against a move that would effectively jettison the non-English nations of this Union. I’m happy for them to go their own way on their own, but find it odd that English nationalists perceive it somehow possible for the dominant English to quit a Britain which is dependent on England for the vast bulk of its landmass and population.

    The New Labour policy of regional assemblies was fairly arbitrary and ultimately wrong, but it was not racist. That whole ‘racist cosh’ language seems to be that of someone with a persecution complex.

    I am a Labour Party member opposed to the policies of the New Labour leadership. An infiltrator I am not, but trash isn’t far from the truth.

  6. You are wrong again. We do not have limited term Parliaments. There is no requirement in law in this country for an election to be held every five years.

    Indeed during both World Wars there was no election. The Parliament during WW1 ran for 8 year between 1910 and 1918 whilst during WW2 the Parliament ran for 10 years between 1935 and 1945. It is up to Her Majesty to disolve Parliament and nobody else. It is only convention that we have a General Election every 5 years.

    • Er, no. Parliament has to prolong its life with an explicit vote of both houses and royal assent, otherwise it may not continue past five years. We are having a general election this May because we have a limit on the life of a Parliament. Yes, it could go on for longer, but the PM isn’t going to look good trying to get the extension vote through.

      During those two words, there were votes to extend Parliament as an extraordinary measure. If the vote was put, or it failed, there would have had to have been wartime elections.

      Of course, it’s worth pointing out that the monarch dissolves Parliament only when ‘advised’ to do so by the PM, and must follow that ‘advice’. It is generally accepted in constitutional theory that dissolving Parliament without the PM’s advice, or refusing to follow such advice would overstep the constitutional limitations on the monarch’s exercise of political power: it would trigger a constitutional crisis.

      You are clearly not aware of the Parliament Act 1911, which explicitly limits the life the Parliament to five years. So, when you call it ‘only convention’ you are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

      • I am sorry Gareth you are wrong. Indeed because there is expected to be a hung Parliament after the next election the Palace and the civil service are revisiting what Her Majesty’s roll is in such a circumstance. They agree that should it become necessary Her Majesty could refuse a dissolution if for instance there was a possibilty of a second election. Also they agree that it is not necessary for the Party Leader to be Prime Minister and Her Majesty could pick anyone in Parliment to do that job.

        Furthermore Her Majesty retains the right to disolve Parliament. Yes she usually does it at the PMs advise but that does not mean that she doesnt have the power to do it when she choses. You argue that this arbitrary act on her behalf would cause a constitutional crisis and this may be the case. However that would depend on the circumstances in which she did it.

        For instance each and every individual in this country retains the right to Petition the Monarch directly both under Magna Carta and The Bill of Rights 1689. This is the Constitution. During the expenses saga then if the public had taken this option and asked the Queen in sufficient numbers for a dissolution who do you think would have won in such circumstances if there had been a Constitutional Crisis, Parliament or the Public and Her Majesty?

      • FloTom, that is quite arrogant considering I just pointed out that you knew nothing about a central piece of constitutional law. When you call me ‘wrong’ it is because you don’t agree with me (that is why it’s arrogant), while I call you wrong because you claimed the five-year term was custom and were clearly ignorant of act of parliament that makes it law (you are wrong because you’re factually incorrect).

        It is not a foregone conclusion that there will be a hung parliament, but, yes, the monarch retains arbitrary power to decide how a government might be formed. That various aides are creating a customary framework that would make that procedure look a little less feudal, is superficial.

        The monarch does have arbitrary powers, but it would instigate a constitutional crisis if they wielded power in certain ways. In the appointment of the PM, the candidate must be able to ensure that legislation is possible (they have the support of enough MPs to be able to support a legislative agenda). A monarch who chose someone who was not leader of the largest party as PM could easily face the embarrassment of the Commons voting that they have no confidence in the appointment and forcing immediate resignation. That is why the PM is the majority party leader, or one who can call on the most votes at least.

        You seem to think that this thing Constitution is codified in a few famous bits of paper, whereas the Constitution of the UK is spread throughout many acts of parliament, including the one that limits the Commons to a five-year maximum term. They are Constitution because they order the fundamental apparatus of state, but they are passed as ordinary acts of parliament. So, the monarch, however pestered by us, would not dissolve Parliament except on the advice of the PM. That advice is considered to be binding, and so it might be considered that an unadvised abuse of monarchic power would not constitute a constitutional order for Parliament to dissolve. In such a crisis, the rules broken, who ‘wins’ would be difficult to determine, but a forced abdication of the monarch would not be impossible in such circumstances (it has been done before for much less of a reason).

  7. Gareth,
    Can I suggest that you have a look at the site ‘What England means to me’ if you care to read what non-fascist, not-racist’ and some non-campaigning English people have written about Englishness?
    As an Anglo-Scot, a supporter of devolution to Scotland, I cannot understand how some English people think Engish culture should be suppressed and that England must never have a means of national political expression, that it must be cantonised to suit the Labour governance of Britain.
    Post-devolution the English are rediscovering their national identity. More and more are saying that they are English first, British second or English, not British. Many settlers in England share their view. Unless some fair and democratic way of is found of representing this politically the English will eventually see no point in maintaining the Union and then it will no matter if the Scots want to go their own way or not.
    Many of us were not born English nationalists, least of all me. Finding that the British government was determined (a) to deny England any legitimate political expression in the new devolved system of government while (b) carving it up into devolved regions (divide and rule?) I felt that I had no choice but to come to the defence of my mother country. It is the patriotic choice.

    • Ian, thank you for your comment. Living within spitting distance of Twickenham Stadium, I enjoy a festival of Englishness at every home match of the England rugby team. The atmosphere is positive and exuberant. I am proud of these popular expressions of Englishness. However, I am aware that this is not always the case, and especially so when this pride is distilled as political nationalism. There is the other problem with English being a label that is often used to exclude the non-white people of England. I would love it if Englishness were to become more open and inclusive than it presently is, and I see signs of this happening (and I agree with you on this). However, we have seen that the label ‘British’ has been used in its place by those who feel excluded from English identity, and this creates problems for how we interpret both labels.

      I don’t think English culture should be suppressed, and don’t believe that it is being oppressed. Perhaps it’s just because I saw thousands of proud English rugby fans passing by the end of my street last weekend that I feel that Englishness is living it up loud and proud.

      Identities are not set in stone. The descendants of the English who waved Union Flags at our football team’s World Cup victory (I can see no St George flags in the crowd!) now clip the St George flag to our cars when the game is on. Much has changed, but this change is a complex one.

      My opposition is specifically against English nationalism, not Englishness (which some of these commentators don’t get), and against an English Parliament unless all other nations become independent. I have said that the reasons for this latter point of view is that the English, having more than 80% of the seats in the Commons, can effectively legislate for ourselves already. It is not as if our English MPs are being overruled or controlled by their non-English colleagues. For this reason, I can understand why New Labour wanted to go the route of regional assemblies for England, and I don’t think it was about disenfranchising the English, because we’re already in the political driving seat. So, I’m not sure what you intend to defend our mutual mother country from. I can understand if you disagree with those misguided New Labour policies, which have been long shelved. So, where now is the attack on our Englishness? I can see none.

  8. Gareth, I’m not a nationalist, but I do demand constitutional equity with Scotland and Wales.

    To illustrate the point, just imagine the British Government created 30 additional seats in the SP and these seats were to be returned from English constituencies.

    Furthermore, the First Minister and Finance Minister were to be from these English MSPs. The First Minister would not be validated by an election: he would be there because he thinks it’s “his turn” and the Finance Minister would hold that position because he is the First Minister’s mate.

    They could be sure that every measure they proposed for the Scottish people would have an automatic 20-odd% of votes in their favour, courtesy of the 30 non-Scottish MSPs.

    Oh, and both would have to swear an Oath to hold England’s interests “paramount”.

    Do you think there might be few voices of protest? Do you think the people of Scotland would feel a tad annoyed?

    Would you think it a fair argument to point out there are 85% Scottish MPs in that Parliament, so stop attempting to “disenfranchise England”? Or would you agree the English MSPs be excluded from affairs that don’t concern their constituents?

    • Hi, Terry! It’s a nice thought experiment there, but I’m not sure it works. The UK Parliament isn’t an English Parliament with a Scottish representation tacked on, but a union of those nations’ parliaments on the model of the English Parliament. I would think it a terrible thing if Scots were barred from holding ministerial positions in the UK Government. So, likewise if a UK Parliament were created on the model of the Scottish Parliament, there should be English ministers. The UK Parliament isn’t an English Parliament, but legislates for all nations of this Union in such a manner that all non-English member together don’t even make the halfway point to getting a majority.

      If England were truly disenfranchised, then the English people would not be able to vote for an political party that stated it would create an English Parliament. However, there are some parties that espouse this policy, we can vote for them (but election results show we don’t), and if they won sufficient seats they could carry out their policy. It’s not happening because the English people are not voting for it, not because we have no vote. All that the English nationalists desire is doable now. If a little over half the English MPs formed an English-nationalist bloc, they could pursue their agenda. The Suffragette movement campaigned against women’s disenfranchisement: it was not that women were choosing not to vote, but that they could not. The English could vote in a nationalist agenda, but choose not to. This is why I believe that it is a misrepresentation of the truth to say the English are disenfranchised.

      • Gareth, there is no major political party that will stand up and demand constitutional equality for England. The conservatives did, but they’ve changed their minds because they don’t want to be seen as the English-only party.

        We could form our own party and ask people to vote for that, but it’s unlikely to work in our current system. A single issue pressure group makes for a poor political party because their outlook is too narrow.. The Greens are a classic example. Plenty of support for what they demanded, but what did they think about a single European currency, foreign aid, public ownership, etc etc.

        The SNP and Plaid Cymru have historically returned very few MPs to Westminster. They’ve had more fun in recent elections because they’re often seen as THE alternative to Labour, but they still only get a handful of seats.

        People in England ARE demanding their own Parliament (me included), but as many (me included again) would not vote for any party on this single issue.

        Only 40-odd percent of the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, despite a massive campaign, including top drawer politicians, urging people to vote “yes”. In England, nearly 70% want a Parliament (Blair admits the same) and this is despite the fact that no newspaper, or political party has campaigned for it. Imagine if we had TV adverts, a promo video sent to every household, party leaders urging the people on… it’d be a massive majority.

        This why no independent political observer can say, hand on heart, that there is no demand for an English Parliament.

      • If no political party will stand up for what you call ‘constitutional equality for England’ (which is not a meaningful sentiment), then such a thing is clearly not a vote winner. Our current big political parties are opportunistic enough to capitalise on a policy if it has any significant support among the electorate. There are political parties that stand on an English nationalist ticket, but they do not keep their deposits.

        Yes, I am in total agreement that our current system forces all meaningful political expression to be squeezed into a few big parties. If we had proportional representation, we would have Green, UKIP and BNP MPs, we would have more from SNP and Plaid Cymru, we would still have no English nationalist MPs. Of course, voting profiles will change with proportional representation, but English nationalism isn’t even of the radar as far as political parties are concerned.

        There are SOME people wanting an English Parliament, but no one seems to care enough to march for it, or get the media to put it on the mainstream agenda. I’m not saying that there is no demand for an English Parliament, but just reckon that the vast majority of those who answer YES to a poll on it don’t think it is that high a priority in the national interest.

      • Gareth. let me just agree with your claim that there is no call for England’s citizens to have equal status with those in Scotland or Wales, for the sake of this argument.

        It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are equal before the rule of law and we are equal before the constitution. We were pre 1998 and we are not now.

        Constitutional equality is a meaningful statement. It should mean a great deal to anyone who cares for democracy. Just because you say it is not popular, does not make it right. Just because it will be a long ourney to correct this wrong does not mean we shouldn’t try.

  9. Gareth writes: “I’m against a move that would effectively jettison the non-English nations of this Union. I’m happy for them to go their own way on their own, but find it odd that English nationalists perceive it somehow possible for the dominant English to quit a Britain which is dependent on England for the vast bulk of its landmass and population”.

    Well, yes, but we’d hardly change Britain’s land mass as such if England ‘quit’, nor would we change its population, other than in respect of nationality. We’re talking about a realignment of British governance not the total abandonment of the non-English nations of Britain!

    Let me ask you this: if the non-English nations quit Britain, what would be left: Britain or England? And if England departed from Britain, what would be left: Britain or three distinct nations free to decide their own future as nations, and continuing to benefit from the free flow of goods and people with England, and from massive assistance from the EU? Besides, we’re not even talking about that now: we’re just talking about the pathetic and probably unworkable compromise solution of EVoEL.

    Come on, get a grip. English people deserve a fair deal if the Union is to survive. They’re not getting so at the moment, as most MPs realise; and even a House of Lords committee recognised recently that the Barnett Formula (which is the only justification for non-English MPs voting on English bills) needs to be scrapped. It’s ordinary English working-class people who are disadvantaged by the Barnett Formula. As a socialist, you ought to be standing up for them as well as their relatively well looked-after non-English cousins. What about international solidarity? Oh yes, I forgot: the English aren’t a nation, so there’s nothing to have solidarity with.

    • Hello, britologywatch! I agree with you that the problem is that, as with the population figures, Britain and England are mostly the same thing. That is not to say that their differences are insignificant, but that the level of similarity makes us difficult to prise them apart. If the non-English nations were to declare independence, then Britain and England would become functionally identical. However, the identities of being British and English are more complex, and Britain has no existence apart from its constituents.

      Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution were put in place to give the minority nations (who are still a minority when added together) a fair deal because English MPs have in-built outright control of the UK Parliament, but now you want me to believe that we English are not getting a fair deal?

      Of course the English are a nation, and I’m a proud member of it: it’s funny you automatically assume me not to be a proud Englishman because I don’t agree with the minority English-nationalist view of things. Is it inconvenient that the majority of English people do not want an English Parliament? Some opinion polls say we play with the idea, but we don’t elect English nationalists to anything.

      • “If the non-English nations were to declare independence, then Britain and England would become functionally identical. However, the identities of being British and English are more complex, and Britain has no existence apart from its constituents.”

        I’d say you need to clarify in your own thinking what the difference is between England and Britain. If they are in fact different, and if England is a nation whose people are / ought to be sovereign, then surely it’s up to the English people to decide how they are to be governed, whether or not this leads to the break-up of the UK.

        “English MPs have in-built outright control of the UK Parliament . . . . Is it inconvenient that the majority of English people do not want an English Parliament? Some opinion polls say we play with the idea, but we don’t elect English nationalists to anything.”

        Well, you can’t have it both ways. You seem to be saying that MPs from English constituencies do represent the English-national interest; but then you say English people’s votes aren’t motivated by English-national(ist) concerns. Which is it? And there may not yet be majority support among the English people for an English Parliament; but it’s growing, and in the most recent poll (in England and Wales – so a smaller percentage than in England only), 41% said they supported an EP, compared with 15% who didn’t. Let’s remember that the present Labour government came into power with less support than that in England: a mere 35%.

      • Identities are fluid things, and can mean different things to different people. The English are the majority interest in Britain. However, it seems the English nationalists want to paint the absurd picture of the English as a threatened minority. Exactly as you say, the English are currently able to determine our own future and put in place a nationalist agenda. At this coming general election we could do just that, but we won’t. So, the nationalists want to suggest that we are somehow prevented (‘disenfranchised’) from carrying out a nationalist agenda. English nationalists are welcome to stand for election, they loose their deposits, and, even if we had proportional representation, they would not gain a single seat.

        Your use of the combined word “national(ist)” reflects a problem with your understanding of these issues. I’ve noticed how the nationalists relish accusing me of being anti-English as I oppose nationalist policies. I am a proud Englishman who believes that English nationalism is wrong-headed and potentially problematic. English national concerns are very important to me, but they are not the same as English nationalist concerns: the former are all concerns we have, the latter are concerns about our identity. When you, and the others, conflate the two things it makes it look as if I and other English people who disagree with your agenda don’t care about England. I, and many others, care greatly about England while disagreeing with the need for an English Parliament or the necessity of English independence.

        So, when you think I’m having “it both ways”, it seems to be because you cannot accept that the English people elect MPs to reflect their national interest, and that that interest is comprehensively not an English nationalist one. Again, the English national interest is not nationalist, but you seem not just to disagree with this (which is reasonable), but to discount the possibility that a national interest may run contrary to nationalism.

        The last comment is a misleading numbers game because the current governing party won with only 35.3% of the UK-wide vote. It is the first-past-the-post system that converted that poll result into 55.2%. Those standing for explicit English nationalist policies secured around a thousandth of the vote. If an opinion poll puts 41% of the English and Welsh in favour of an English Parliament, then it is clearly not anywhere near the top priority in choosing a political party for which to vote.

  10. “…you cannot accept that the English people elect MPs to reflect their national interest”

    No they don’t. People vote on party lines and those representatives are governed by the party whip. The majority of people in England voted Conservative, yet the English are faced with a Labour majority of 66 in the only Parliament that is supposed to represent them.

    “If an opinion poll puts 41% of the English and Welsh in favour of an English Parliament, then it is clearly not anywhere near the top priority in choosing a political party for which to vote.”

    Why on earth were the Welsh included in an OP on an English Parliament? If you discounted the Welsh aspect of this poll, do you think it would have shown 60-odd% in favour of an English Parliament (like the majority of polls)?

    Can you explain why such demands are ignored whilst similar percentages resulted in a Scottish Parliament and lower percentages demanded a Welsh Assembly?

    • Most of what you say is mere dissatisfaction with our current electoral system, which is understandable. Our political parties are somewhat responsive to popular opinion. English electors, who are about four-times more numerous than non-English electors, are free to vote according to their personal interests. English national interest can only be interpreted as the aggregate of the personal interests of the English people, and as such is as different from the nationalist agenda as the English people wish it to be. Granted that there is systemic motivation to vote tactically for parties that stand the best chance of winning a seat, but still the election results must be said to be a greater reflection of national interest than not. Therefore, the English people, being fully enfranchised and dominating the other nations of the Union politically, elect MPs which reflect our common interest, our national interest. It is certainly inconvenient to English nationalists that the English people, being free, choose not to vote in favour of a nationalist agenda. What limited-sample opinion polls there are cannot be taken to suggest that there is a real and significant support for an English Parliament: there are no marching thousands to demand this. The inclusion of Welsh people in the sample of that poll may have a small effect on the final result, but nothing more. It doesn’t make any sense that English and Welsh are polled together, but that’s a procedural mistake.

      The Welsh and Scots have devolved legislatures because of the importance in a modern liberal democracy of protecting and giving voice to minorities. This presents a strong political ethic for such legislatures that is absent in the case for a similar legislature for the dominant majority. It is a constitutional principal in liberal democracies to prevent a possible tyranny of the majority.

  11. I’m sorry Gareth but you’re being naive.

    You’re completely ignoring the “vested interest” aspect to politics. There are numerous examples of political parties ignoring something that is popular for eg capital punishment (which I disagree with BTW), constitutional equity for England etc.

    The major parties ignored Scots and Welsh devolution until it became part of the Labour party’s vested interest to put those areas beyond the Tories and take the wind out of the sails of their greatest opponents, the SNP & PC (it failed). I love your belief that nationalist devolution (instead of the more sensible regional devolution) was for “protecting and giving voice to minorities”. It wasn’t, it really wasn’t.

    Take a look at this blog http://cepbuckinghamshire.blogspot.com/2008/05/now-i-dont-think-you-wanted-to-do-that.html

  12. Pingback: On Englishness and English nationalism « Ad Fontes

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