That pesky F-word

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Why is it that when people in UK politics refer to “federalism” in the context of Europe they mean it to imply the creation of a homogenous EU Super State, while in the context of the UK, they suggest it would lead to a break up of the Union? As it happens, I think Falconer is right that an English Parliament would break up the UK, but the f-word has little to do with it.

The problem with an English Parliament wouldn’t be that it would lead to a federal UK, but that it would lead to an extremely asymmetrical federal UK, which wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests, not least of all the English. In what way would it bring decision making closer to the people?

It is bizarre and appalling that the most fervent supporters of an English Parliament are also fervent opponents of decentralisation, and choose to dress their arguments up in flag-waving nationalist nonsense. My favourite example is the Campaign for an English Parliament’s website which has a pastiche of the WWII “what did you do in the war daddy?” cartoon, with a little girl on her father’s knee asking “Dad, what did you do to secure England’s future?“. Subtext: the Scots and Welsh are the equivalent of Nazis who want to destroy our way of lives and rape our women! Godwin’s Law in effect before the argument has even begun!

And the CEP is the “respectable” face of English Nationalism. It’s even madder and badder elsewhere.

Politicians need to tackle the English Question, and quickly. An English Parliament is the threat we may end up with if all goes wrong, not the solution. The ideal in my view would be a federal structure with a patchwork of metropolitan areas, larger counties and regions with significant powers and possibly and indirectly-elected English Council to decide on things with an English significant (flags and songs, basically). That will take a long whie to happen though, so in the meantime we need to be doing the following:

  1. Scrap the Barnet Formula and reform the funding mechanism. Most “English only” Bills do, in fact, affect Scotland and Wales because they have an impact on spending levels, however indirectly. We need a system that doesn’t lead to a vote on, say, English schools, effecting the Scottish block grant. In part, that probably means fiscal federalism for Scotland as it would require the Scottish Parliament to take responsibility for what it spends.
  2. In lieu of a written constitution, some kind of convention to govern when Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs sit out certain votes. I don’t like conventions, but they do allow for a bit of safe space for something more sustainable to emerge.
  3. Proportional representation. It doesn’t solve the English Question but it does lesson it and render it largely academic. If non-Labour parties had adequate representation in Scotland and Wales, their ability to have a decisive impact on legislation that affects England would be greatly lessoned.
  4. Radical localisation. We shouldn’t merely be concerned about Scottish politicians deciding English policy, we should be concerned about London politicians deciding Manchester policy. Every decision that gets taken out of the hands of Whitehall and Westminster is a decision that doesn’t pose a problem.

I could end by noting the irony of this debate coming up at the same time as the death of Slobodan Milosevic (former president of another lopsided federation), but that would be to trivialise it. But it is sad that so many people’s idea of the Union never amounted to much more than a sense of Greater English Nationalism. The creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly has challenged that to the point that many are now all too quick to predict the death of the Union. The Union can survive, but only if we remember that Englishness is, at its heart, pragmatic. Don’t let the jelly bellied flag flappers ruin it.

46 thoughts on “That pesky F-word

  1. Pretty much agree completely; not sure I’m fully on side with the patchwork thing, and dislike the term ‘region’ in this context, it’s becoming a pejorative anyway, much prefer ‘province’; I’m a provincial lad at heart. Have you had a chance to look at Hazell’s study? Not completely unbiased, but does emphasise the asymetric size issue fairly well.

  2. Agreed. However I suspect the collection of localities you devolve to will have to be weird and wonderful. I note that the Milliband plan for a sort of “greater leeds” city region have been given a great big raspberry. (it seems to be a reinvention of the old county council but with harrogate added!) I think the public mood is just so anti politican that any thing which smacks of setting up new bodies is going to go down in a referendum.

    I’d start in Cornwall (with an assembly) and manchester (with a mayor) . we need someone to jump first.

  3. I would have thought that Yorkshire would be one of the easier places to carve up. At the very least, West Yorkshire would appear to be an ideal candidate for its own devolved assembly.

    One option, which I forgot to list as a possible number 5, would be to pass an Act of Parliament enabling a group of people to call for a referendum for an area to be given devolved powers, sort of like the existing legislation that currently allows local people to call for their own parish council.

    For it to really work however, I think you’d need some kind of boundary review which is convincingly independent of government. The regions that Milliband makes up on the back of a fag packet just won’t cut it I suspect.

    Mat: I’d be happy to call them provinces if it would disarm the current rather silly debate. I’m sure someone would come up with an objection to that term as well though. C’est la vie.

  4. “some kind of convention to govern when Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs sit out certain votes.”

    Not forgetting of course that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not equal in this scenario. Scottish MPs would sit out votes that Welsh and Northern Irish MPs would not. That could be confusing!

  5. Why do we want to carve up distinct entities with strong identities? Why are Wales and Scotland worthy of their own assemblies, but the English aren’t?

  6. All the talk of regional assemblies is way off the ball at the moment. The North East rejected it. Polls in Yorkshire ran 3 to 1 against even though we have the kind of identity most other regions can only dream about.

    People already are tired of electing powerless administrators of government policy in local elections.

    The vicious circle is this: People will oppose new institutions when local government has little enough power already. And they will oppose giving more power to the army of unemployed and retired people who make up local government.

    Breaking out of this circle is difficult, but possible. London is the example I think most applicable. There was a perceived need for co-ordination across the conurbation, and support for a mayor and a small weak authority. The same arguments and similar solutions should be applied to Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

    And for regions? Governors. We wonks may find the personalisation of politics irrational, but it works. And it is the way out of the vicious circle of centralisation.

  7. There may, just, be some life left in the idea of regions that hasn’t been choked out of it by the sausage-fingered Prescott. But it’s going to be a hard sell. I think the real pressure is going to have to come from the bottom up.

    The Tories are pushing “English Votes on English Matters” which strikes me as inherently unstable. Hughes seems to be hinting at dual mandate MPs sitting in a “Parliament within a Parliament” although he’s so oblique it’s hard to be sure.

    My real concern at the moment is that those members of the public who care about this issue are thinking in terms of “fairness” and “equality”, whereas the policy wonks (I include myself) are thinking in terms of “devolution”, “subsidiarity” and “good governance”. We’re just not speaking the same language.

  8. Peter,

    You are absolutely right and I could have rephrased it better. That’s why I think legislation on the issue would be problematic.

    Edward,

    Re-read my post and then argue with the substance, rather than going back to square one.

    Joe,

    I agree that talk of regions is so much pie in the sky at the moment; that’s why my “four point plan” doesn’t include them. As for mayor and governers, I’m personally coming around to them. The downside of “personalised” politics is eclipsed by the upside of seperating legislature and executive in my opinion (something that I’ve only really started to appreciate in the last two years, watching how executive power is abused in Westminster). But, I’m wary of the unaccountable power that Labour’s existing legislation on mayors gives the office holders, and without PR they can have the effect of reinforcing one-party dictatorships.

  9. Paul,

    Re language, you’re right that’s a danger. But I’m not convinced the English Nationalists are talking a common language with the general public either, at least not yet. They have comprehensively failed to make a case for how an English Parliament would in any way improve public services or accountability – to make them “fair”. Our mission is to emphasise localisation specifically from the point of view of fairness and responsiveness.

  10. Subtext: there is no subtext. Judging by what you read into it you are living in your own paranoid little universe.

    The message is simple; fight for your country; don’t sit around and do nothing while your country is balkanised.

    You fail to understand what the Union is. It’s a union of nations. Scotland has had its parliament reconvened, it has been recognised poltically, constitutionally, legally as a nation…..England has not. Multinational states have a tendancy to fall apart, this will happen to the UK too unless the Union is renegotiated as a union of nations. English nationalism will just grow and grow until England is treated fairly, and, after the novelty of devolution has worn off, I believe that Scottish and Welsh nationalism will again start to grow because the UK Government is treating England as the UK – and the UK as England – with the devolved Celtic nations as little more than semi-autonomous adjuncts to England and England’s parliament (as it is seen in Scotland and Wales). No nations parliament should be reliant on anothers, and there should be constitutional parity across the UK. The only answer to this is federalism – a federalism that recognises England as a nation.

    Until that happens then we are not a union of nations which is what the Union is supposed to be.

  11. Toke, I love the way you preface that comment with “you are living in your own paranoid little universe” only to spout the usual “their all out to get us!” crap.

    The formation of an English Parliament is a fast track way to breaking up the Union. I know it, you know it: you barely deny it. Who are you “fighting” anyway?

    If you’re worried about the balkanisation of the UK then, erm, don’t argue for turning the UK into the equivalent of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

  12. The whole idea of devolution for Wales and Scotland
    was to weaken the union for the sake of the EU.
    The Welsh and Scots see them selves as on the road to Independence in Europe.The onus is not on England
    to save the UK at all costs. England is too big for the EU never mind the UK. This government thought it could answer the West Lothian Question simply by not saying”England”.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/otr/intext94-95//Straw12.2.95.html
    The English, like the Scots Welsh and Irish will have their own parliament: England’s local press has put the Nationals to shame and are now discussing the matter.
    If any here are really interested in democracy,why not call for a referendum in England and you can all put the case or not for an English Parliament.

  13. The whole idea of devolution for Wales and Scotland was to weaken the union for the sake of the EU.

    Er, how did you work that one out?

    The Welsh and Scots see them selves as on the road to Independence in Europe.

    Is that why the nationalist vote is in freefall in both nations, and that Plaid Cymru has recently decided to play down its nationalist credentials by shortening its name to just “Plaid”?

    The onus is not on England to save the UK at all costs.

    Who is “England” in this context? Could you explain to me how this distraction helps improve the quality of life of a single person?

    England is too big for the EU never mind the UK.

    It’s smaller than France, Germany and Italy, and they seem to cope okay.

    If any here are really interested in democracy,why not call for a referendum in England and you can all put the case or not for an English Parliament.

    I support, and actively campaign for, a general rule of enabling citizen’s initiatives in the UK, providing a mechanism for any resolution to be put to a plebiscite if enough people demand it. You would start by having a standard threshold of, say, 5% of the population.

    My bet is you wouldn’t be able to get the signatories, and I’d be quite happy to put it to the test.

  14. Votes may well have dropped for the Nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, but this is because the mainstream politicians are now Nationalists. They do not go to Westminster for the good of the UK, They go to represent their own countries. A pity English MP’s do not do the same.
    “Who is “England” Don’t know what you mean?
    If you don’t know who England is you should not be even discussing the issue.

    “England is too big for the EU never mind the UK.

    It’s smaller than France, Germany and Italy, and they seem to cope okay”.
    France, Germany and Italy are represented in the EU
    England is not.There are a Scottish and Welsh voices
    at Brussells but no English voice.
    If England is not required we might as well get out.

  15. The name is Toque.

    >>>“their all out to get us!” crap.

    Where did I ‘spout’ that? You really are living in your own paranoid little universe. I come at English nationalism from a belief in democracy and equality. I wasn’t an English nationalist before devolution to Scotland and Wales but I most certainly am now, asymmetric devolution has seriously disadvantaged England, and the explicit recognition of Scotland and Wales as nations whilst leaving England ruled by the UK is nothing short of scandalous.

    Regions sound good in theory but in reality they do not restore democratic parity and constitutional equality to the people of the UK. Far from being devolution – as we were told – they infact anti-devolution (power being moved away from grass-roots to regional centres with precious little being handed away by the centre), a form of centralisation that goes by the maxim ‘power devolved is power retained.

    Falconer and Raynsford have both practically admitted that regionalisation was balkanisation – England must not have a parliament and regionalisation is necessary to preserve the Union, and will carry on regardless of the fact that the English people are opposed to it. It’s a disgrace. Err, HELLO, it’s a Union of nations, not of nations and regions!

    The only way to answer the West Lothian Question is to allow the people to decide whether the want to reciprocate by ring-fencing English legislation from the Scots and Welsh (an English parliament) or to allow them to decide that it is an anomaly that they are prepared to live with for the sake of the Union (assuming that you believe that an English parliament would break-up the union – I happen to think that it will make it stronger). Give us a referendum and let the people decide, otherwise charges of Balkanisation will stick because they have merit.

    I should add that I am open to the idea of devolving power to English provinces and cities. However, this should be decided upon by the English as part of a far-ranging English Constitutional Convention. The piecemeal approach to constitutional reform adopted by this government has been a nothing more than a costly disaster with no discernable benefits for the people of England – and that goes for all constitutional issues, not just ‘devolution’.

  16. At least this blog is discussing the problem and even suggesting ideas. Thank you. As an English man myself I just hate the fact that I am being completely ignored by the UK government, they have taxed my arse off with stealth and are now quite happy to regionalise England without asking anybody for an opinion or what they want. Is democracy dead then? To the English Yes. Everybody agrees that there is a problem, it will not go away by ignoring it. Referendum please.

  17. I think you know that the cartoon is not suggesting that this government is anything like Hitler. There are no similarities between Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, the disabled and gypsies and Labour’s misuse of Scottish and Welsh MPs.

    But the destruction of democracy is no small matter — if that poster caught your attention, well good! It’s a shame you chose to take the wrong thing from it.

    There is no call for devolution to Regions from the people of England because, simply, the Regions are artificial. Devolution was done according to culturally distinct lines which have been recognised, except for some border areas, for centuries. If devolution has caused imbalance in the UK (I agree) then the solution is to continue the process of devolution to those who are currently denied it.

    There is a fear that the union would be damaged, and I can understand that, but the status quo or regions, would damage it more. Would the simplest thing be to have a referendum including both options?

  18. The UK is a dying animal, Labour killed it by dismembering it in order to pacify the nationalists in Scotland and Wales. Scotland has a parliament which is already asking for greater powers, Wales has an assembly which is steadily gaining powers and which will eventually be a parliament in all but name, the Irish will be self governing as soon as Westminster thinks it can safely get rid of it and it’s troubles – so will someone please tell me, an Englishman, why I can’t have equality with these nations? Why am I stuck with Westminster, why am I at the mercy of Scots or Welsh MPs who can decide my fate? I want an English Parliament now that the UK is bleeding to death.

  19. An English Parliament wouldn’t create an assymetrical federation and if you had sat and thought about how a federal UK would work you would know this. Or perhaps you do but can’t think of a better argument?

    An English Parliament would only deal with devolved matters. This is how the Welsh Assembly works, it is how the Scottish Parliament works and it will shortly be how the Northern Irish Assembly will work.

    The federal UK government will deal with non-devolved issues.

    A devolved English parliament accountable for 85% of the population will be much bigger than the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish governments but it will ONLY be dealing with devolved matters. It wouldn’t impinge on the jurisdiction of the federal government.

    In the US, California has the most money, Florida has the most people and Texas has the most space. None of them dominate the federal government because they all have equal representation in it.

    The same would apply in a federal UK. If each home nation is given equal representation – say 10 representatives each – to the federal government then what’s the problem? How representations are made to those federal representatives would be down the the individual parliament to decide. The 4 home nations could easily be divided up into 10 federal constituencies.

    The federal system works perfectly well all over the world. The main opponents of a federal UK are those career politicians who are too scared that their snouts will be shoved out of the trough and armchair journalists who either don’t know or don’t want to know what they’re talking about.

  20. I’ve been reliably informed that the poster is a WWI poster so it has nothing to do with the Nazis full stop.

    Funny how this blog has categories for ‘Scotland’ and ‘Wales’ and yet nothing for England – I wonder what the subtext for that omission is?

  21. Well spotted toque, well may he ask “where is England” not on this website that’s for sure ,and not in
    the lib/dem manifesto either.

  22. I’ll credit Wonkotsane (crazy name, crazy guy!) with this much: although I’ve often seen it asserted that an EP would fatally unbalance the Union — and my own instincts suggest the same — I ‘ve not yet come across a knock-down argument to that effect. Comparable historical precedents seem to be few, and inconclusive. Perhaps the best that could be said is that it would be a huge leap into the dark. And perhaps that’s all that needs to be said.

  23. Why is it that when people in UK politics refer to “federalism” in the context of Europe they mean it to imply the creation of a homogenous EU Super State, while in the context of the UK, they suggest it would lead to a break up of the Union? As it happens, I think Falconer is right that an English Parliament would break up the UK, but the f-word has little to do with it.

    *The “union” has been broken up for years. It happened when Tony Blair and his anti-English bigots did the deal with the scottish and welsh nationalists. It is not a union when scotland and wales get much more money per person from the “United” kingdom budget than English people per person get! A union is not on-sided therefore if the said union becomes on-sided it cannot by definition be a union anymore.

    The problem with an English Parliament wouldn’t be that it would lead to a federal UK, but that it would lead to an extremely asymmetrical federal UK, which wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests, not least of all the English. In what way would it bring decision making closer to the people?

    *Oh the old “England’s too big” and “it wouldnt bring democracy to the people” lies!
    This line of reasoning is so childish! California is the big earner in the USA. Does it demand that the rest of the USA do what it says? No!
    Maybe scotsman Tony Blair shouldnt have crawled round the scottish nationalists and allowed them their own parliament then none of this would have happened. Blair the scotsman is to blame not the English people.
    As far as bring democracy to the people of England goes Tony Blair’s new labour haven’t done that at all. Us in control of our own English parliament WOULD bring democracy. These two things you’ve mentioned are lies. What is the problem with an assymetrical federal set-up? You dont say why it would be wrong. Are you saying that it would be unfair? Why would it? I note that you DO NOT state that the present state of affairs is wrong! When of course it is. I.E. the failed north east assembly attempt at making England have new labour “regional” assemblies! So, you’re saying that is better than England having it’s own parliament!

    it is bizarre and appalling that the most fervent supporters of an English Parliament are also fervent opponents of decentralisation

    *Why is it? We want decentralisation BECAUSE we have seen new labour try to
    ruin our country! You make it sound like we have no reasons for feeling this way. Fraud! We have plenty of reasons for feeling this way.

    …and choose to dress their arguments up in flag-waving nationalist nonsense.

    *This is our right. We live in a democracy don’t we? Obviously not! Well, according to you that is!

    My favourite example is the Campaign for an English Parliament’s website which has a pastiche of the WWII “what did you do in the war daddy?” cartoon, with a little girl on her father’s knee asking “Dad, what did you do to secure England’s future?“.

    *It refers to world war one ha! ha!

    Subtext: the Scots and Welsh are the equivalent of Nazis who want to destroy our way of lives and rape our women! Godwin’s Law in effect before the argument has even begun!

    *They are. I agree with you at last. Well done for working it out. So you think it’s okay that English women die of cancer BECAUSE new labour have denied them the drugs you need RIGHT? I hope it isn’t your mother who gets it next, but then you’re probably some rich pompous loony left prick who can afford the treatment. Either that or youre a scottish or welsh twat who can get the drugs. Seriously, if you think it’s okay that English people DO NOT get adequate funding and DIE because of it then youre a fucking cunt!

    And the CEP is the “respectable” face of English Nationalism. It’s even madder and badder elsewhere.

    *You make stupid comments but dont back them up. Are you a journalist or a politician? ha! ha!

    Politicians need to tackle the English Question, and quickly. An English Parliament is the threat we may end up with if all goes wrong, not the solution.

    *That sentence makes no sense whatsoever!

    The ideal in my view would be a federal structure with a patchwork of metropolitan areas, larger counties and regions with significant powers and possibly and indirectly-elected English Council to decide on things with an English significant (flags and songs, basically). That will take a long whie to happen though, so in the meantime we need to be doing the following:

    *See, you make comments but dont say why it would be a good idea. Pathetic! Flags? I thought you didnt like flags? ha! ha! Oh there will be an English parliament trust me.

    Scrap the Barnet Formula and reform the funding mechanism. Most “English only” Bills do, in fact, affect Scotland and Wales because they have an impact on spending levels, however indirectly.

    *Tell us how?

    We need a system that doesn’t lead to a vote on, say, English schools, effecting the Scottish block grant. In part, that probably means fiscal federalism for Scotland as it would require the Scottish Parliament to take responsibility for what it spends.

    *Ha! ha! The scottish block grant. Dont you mean the spongers free cheque? Scotland responsible HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    In lieu of a written constitution, some kind of convention to govern when Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs sit out certain votes. I don’t like conventions, but they do allow for a bit of safe space for something more sustainable to emerge.
    Proportional representation. It doesn’t solve the English Question but it does lesson it and render it largely academic.

    *It will never be academic because we arent going to let it fade away. GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK HEAD. ENGLAND IS GOING TO HAVE A PARLIAMENT BY HOOK OR BY CROOK!

    If non-Labour parties had adequate representation in Scotland and Wales, their ability to have a decisive impact on legislation that affects England would be greatly lessoned.

    *What? “non-labour parties”?

    Radical localisation. We shouldn’t merely be concerned about Scottish politicians deciding English policy, we should be concerned about London politicians deciding Manchester policy.

    *Says who? You? So what? This is a just a bogus thing thrown in to try and confuse the real issue. Th real issue being that England is being shafted by scotland and wales.
    The real issue being that scotland is scared of england getting it’s own parliament. Scared you say! But why? Payback for the last 9 years of out and out anti-Englishness that’s why! Nobody can say they dont deserve it after they’ve ALLOWED tony blair to represent them AND fleece England.

    Every decision that gets taken out of the hands of Whitehall and Westminster is a decision that doesn’t pose a problem.

    *Why?

    I could end by noting the irony of this debate coming up at the same time as the death of Slobodan Milosevic (former president of another lopsided federation)

    *Yes that is true it is lopsided. Lopsided in favour of scotland and wales. Of course your comment, trying to link serbia yugoslavia and the uk togther is a complete bunch of rhetoric that actually means nothing. Yugoslavia was a fabricated “country” made by force. The United Kingdom came about because the scottish king came down to England with his scotch mates and usurped it. He is responsible for the union flag and English ships flying it. Before that they flew the English cross of saint george. There are many other examples.

    but that would be to trivialise it.

    *well you got one thing right at least.

    But it is sad that so many people’s idea of the Union never amounted to much more than a sense of Greater English Nationalism.

    *More lies. It was English and northern irish people who kept the union going. We have become English nationalists since 1997. Stop lying.
    But I agree, it is sad that so many people’s idea of the Union never amounted to much more than a sense of Greater Scotch Nationalism. This is proven by the way scottish and welsh new labour have acted towards the English nation since 1997. You cannot deny otherwise.

    The creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly has challenged that to the point that many are now all too quick to predict the death of the Union.

    *The union is dead.

    The Union can survive, but only if we remember that Englishness is, at its heart, pragmatic. Don’t let the jelly bellied flag flappers ruin it.

    Liar! The union is dead and buried and has been for years. Just today the SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY ARE CALLING U.K. OIL “SCOTLAND’S OIL”!! SOME UNION!!!

  24. The Welsh and Scots see them selves as on the road to Independence in Europe.

    Is that why the nationalist vote is in freefall in both nations, and that Plaid Cymru has recently decided to play down its nationalist credentials by shortening its name to just “Plaid”?

    Oh for crying out loud, they are doing that because they see the reaction in England. Of course they want to play it down because for all intents and purposes they are independent. They are quite happy to sit there with their free money from English tax payers. Why wouldn’t they be.
    It is so obvious.
    They know that if England becomes independent of them then the free money dries up. If you cant see that then you’re either on their side or well, you work it out.

    And what do you mean “freefall”? Thst doesn’t mean anything anyway. The scotch and welsh know theyre getting their way so they dont need to become independent of the UK any longer. If they become independent they lose England and that means losing English tax payer money. That is why Gordon Brown is spouting off about “britishness”. They are desparate to keep the union going. Can’t you see?
    I hope you’re not an English tax payer!

  25. What does the bible say? You shall know them by their words? The rubbish below sums you up you fascist. “Carve up”? You dont know yorkshire folk pal. Dream on. As far as making up “laws” to suite yourself, yeah you dont know English history either.

    James Says:

    I would have thought that Yorkshire would be one of the easier places to carve up.

    One option would be to pass an Act of Parliament enabling a group of people to call for a referendum for an area to be given devolved powers

  26. If any here are really interested in democracy,why not call for a referendum in England and you can all put the case or not for an English Parliament.

    James said:
    I support, and actively campaign for, a general rule of enabling citizen’s initiatives in the UK, providing a mechanism for any resolution to be put to a plebiscite if enough people demand it. You would start by having a standard threshold of, say, 5% of the population.

    My bet is you wouldn’t be able to get the signatories, and I’d be quite happy to put it to the test.

    http://haroldtoo.bravejournal.com/

    London hosted magnificient celebrations for St Patrick’s Day in March and in January welcomed in the Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square.
    We, the BBC, asked…
    Should London have a major St. George’s Day celebration? The results were;
    Yes 10,642 Votes ( 92.4 %)
    No 870 Votes ( 7.6 %)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/yourlondon/stgeorges/stgeorge_vote.shtml

    Friday, 10 March 2006, 22:25 GMT

    THE BBC ASKED: Should there be an English parliament?

    Yes 70.71% No 29.29%
    2352 Votes Cast

    Yes 70.72% No 29.28%
    2363 Votes Cast

    Yes 71.16% No 28.84%
    2590 Votes Cast

    Yes 71.29% No 28.71%
    2630 Votes Cast

    13 march
    Yes 72.25% No 27.75%
    2750 Votes Cast

    14 march
    Yes 73.40% No 26.60%
    2887 Votes Cast

    15 march
    Yes 73.61% No 26.39%
    2922 Votes Cast

    Yes 73.66% No 26.34%
    2927 Votes Cast

    17 march
    Yes 73.89% No 26.11%
    2964 Votes Cast

    18 march
    Yes 73.96% No 26.04%
    2976 Votes Cast

    I suppose these BBC polls don’t count? Seems to me that the English nation is flexing it’s collective muscle. I am not sure your view of England is reality. Think what you like, we’ll get our parliament back no matter what!

  27. I can understand your points against an English Parliament (at least they are not as insulting like those of Councillor Peter Arnold). I would however like to suggest that if there were a clar division of responsibilities between national assemblies and the Union Parliament (including the responsibility to raise the necessary funds) the size differential would matter less.

    Taking education as an example; what would be the problem if Scotland decided to introduce school vouchers while England went back to a Grammar/Secondary Modern system and Wales and NI went comprehemsive? Each “nation” would have decided according to the wishes of their own electorates and the assemblies would have to raise the funds from their own tax bases. Should a Scot oppose vouchers he could decide to move to one of the other provinces.

    The problem with the regions as proposed by Mr Prescott is that the public sees them either as yet more jobs for the boys in toothless talking shops or as some sort of eu sponsored anti-England move. While these impressions may not be true, they do have a hold on many in the electorate.

    None of the ideas are perfect, but the current situation is untenable and could in itself lead to the breakup of the Union if English resentment at the democratic and financial imbalances keeps increasing.

    RM

  28. As Chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament I am quite interested in this discussion which a campaign member brought to our attention. What astonished me first and foremost was how free (‘liberated’) the person or group (whatever this liberati’ thing is) is with his or her statements about what the Campaign for an English Parliament is and stands for. Poetic licence and flights of imagination have nothing on what’s beens aid about us. They say we are ‘fervently opposed to decentralisation’. Rubbish -or tripe as we say in Manchester. Utter tripe! We want power shared equally among the three nations of this islands. We want England to have its own parliament with all the powers Scotland has. And Scotland to keep all the powers it now has. And Wales too to get its own Parliament if if the Welsh people want it. Why should be Scotland be 75% independent of the Union government while England has no devolutuion whatsever, absolutely none, and Wales has very little in comparison? The UK is a union of nations, and that should mean all three nations should have the same relationship to the centre and to each other if it going to be viable and harmonious. And if you want real effective full blown decentralisation, think what it would mean if the people of England decided they wanted their own parliament outside of London, say in Manchester or Leeds or Birmingham. If that happened we would be looking at the biggest most amazing and sharing of transfer of power ever in our history. Think what a colossal transfer of employment in media, culture, printing, civil servants, technology, radio, TV, newspapers etc etc etc, and all the power and responsibility that would go with it all, if there was an English Parliament in one of those cities. All the other stuff some of you are suggesting, like a mayor here and there and such like is peanuts in comparison when it comes to decentralisation. Mere peanuts!London as the UK capital would keep the Union Parliament and the City and Wembley and Twickenham etc etc but what a huge transfer or decentralisation of power and jobs there would be if the people of England voted to have their own parliament outside of London. And then it would be up to the people of England in their own parliament, not as decided by UK politicians in Westminster, to decide how to decentralise further -to counties and to the councils and corporations of the big city connurbations, and down to local and even parish councils even. This is actually the power the Scottish Parliament has already. England should have the same, and so should the Welsh is they want it.Which I think they do, but it remains up to them to demand it and take it. The most important thing to realise is that power is never really decentralised until the power to decentralise is taken from the centre and an alternative is in place to use it. The alterantive must first be decided by the people in a referendum. It mustn’t be up to the centre ie Westminster to hand it out and take it back when they want to, as they want to. Referendums are really essential. They cannot so easily be reversed. I am writing this fast, I am not putting it very well, but I think you will get the idea.

    It isn’t a matter of the silly flag-waving the so-called ‘liberatus’ who seems to have started this column spoke about. Basically it is about justice. We are a union of nations. What sort of unfair union are we in when one of its three component nations is 75% indpendent, one is about 10% and one is 0% responsible for its own govenment? It is a deadly lopsided union, unfair, unjust and unbalanced, with the centre -Westminster- hanging on to England like grim death. It will not be tolerated any longer, it just will not work.

    The way forward is not the stupid silly statements of this ‘liberatus’ fellow who hands out insults like confetti. The way forward is to respect each of the three nations of the Union, to decentralise equally to each one of them -and the powers of the Scottish parliament constitutes a superb exemplar, that is genuine devolution- and then for each of the three parliaments to decentralise to its counties and cities and districts as suits its own perspectives and cultures.

    MIke Knowles.

  29. The current situation is untenable, but I’m not convinced that an English parliament is the answer. It’s a possible part of an answer though.

    An English parliament would solve the imbalance created by the present constitutional settlement. But it wouldn’t solve many of the other problems. As pointed out, 85% of the UK is in England. So, for health/education/crime policy, we’d be getting a democratic body that is only 15% smaller than what we currently have. It would still be dramatically over-centralised in comparison to many other countries and, indeed, compared to traditional English/British democratic structures.

    My only real objection to an English parliament springs from the fact that I don’t think any national parliaments are a particularly good idea. I want locally accountable government – for me, this means a return of power to something like county level. The problem then is this: if health, education, crime etc. policies are decided at county level, what’s the point of an English parliament? What would it actually do? It sounds to me like another pointless level of bureaucracy.

    Perhaps there is a need for a symbolic English parliament, some kind of democratic entity to represent England within the union. Certainly the national identity of England should be preserved and promoted. But it must only be done in tandem with far more radical devolution to local level, otherwise it just becomes another interfering level of bureaucracy.

  30. Teletext poll 95% in favour of an English Parliament. BBC Poll 74% in favour.
    Referendum (unrigged) please.

  31. England must have it’s own parliament, to not give England a parliament is completly unjust, unfair and undemocratic, England has no voice. An English parliament will ensure our voice is heard
    signed,
    H & E Justice

  32. To Michael Knowles: Michael, I know you mean well, but declaring a new English capital isn’t what most liberals would regard as decentralisation. It’s merely moving the centre to another fractionally smaller centre somewhere else.

  33. Well this is a fruity discussion!

    Simple logic alone dictates that England needs a parliament. Anything less is intolerable to most average Englishmen’s sense of fair play – and they are the ones who will cast their votes on this arent they? As for the larger debate, I’ve personally done to death the post-modernist thing and looked at whether protecting our nation and its culture is really important in a modern world where we’re all getting mixed up, and the EU would eventually impose its own nationalist ethos.

    And basically, Ive stuck a stake in the ground on an issue that I think is worth being conservative about, and it’s precisely on the issue of culture and identity, and thats the underlying reason why I think such a Parliament is important now. Its also the reason many people may find they are aligned in this debate – irrespective of their party politics.

    In the 21st Century, IMO, we face a struggle for identity, as much as we ever did over class. The Scots and Welsh are able to assert their own (civic) nationalism, and it is deemed wholly acceptable, without all the right-wing connotations. The English are left able to express only “Britishness” – which is downright unfair. Our flag has been hijacked, and demonised, and our English national identity is being eroded. Anyone who has lived through the last 30 years will know that.

    As much as it’s about democratic deficit, it’s about being English and how that transcribes into civic values and how our culture(s) and shared memory are supported in a national context. You are therefore mistaken to label English nationalists as a marginal force, dominated by the right. This is also an authentic and wholesome debate without being xenophobic to the Scots, Welsh or threatening the breakup of the Union. It is just that injustice breeds contempt – and the English do not like being done to! The UK will be quite safe if this problem gets addressed properly and promptly.

    Most people I think you will find, will discover themselves in the nationalist camp by default on this issue, where they had little time for ‘nationalism’ before.

  34. I find it interesting that my own comments haven’t been added.

    What’s the problem? Too damning of your position?

  35. You haven’t posted anything, mate. I love the way you assume I would be afraid of your “killer” arguments. Big man, are you?

  36. I made 3 posts yesterday. One to the board games section recommending Klaus Teuber’s “EntDecker”. And 2 about an English Parliament, including pointing out the comment made at the CEP Fringe Meeting (which I attended) at the Lib Dem Conference in Blackpool by one of the Lib Dem students.

    He asked whether the intention was that the English Regions would have the ability to pass primary legislation and have different laws, alter income tax rates, etc., just like Scotland now, and Wales when the Government of Wales Bill is complete.

    If they didn’t have these rights, in what way are they different to glorified (and more remote) County Councils?

    And if they do have that right, in what way can it not be described as balkanising England into competing mini-statelets?

    Oh, and if my posts weren’t made, then why did I not have to fill in my name and e-mail address this time?

  37. That’s interesting. When I made my posts yesterday they were flagged up as “awaiting moderation”. This time apparently straight through. Or not. Who can tell?

  38. To David Wildgoose (great name, by the way): Conversing via comments is deprecated but, briefly, under existing party policy (currently under review) an ERA would be able to acquire secondary or primary legislative powers subject to a referendum. How you describe that state of affairs is up to you!

  39. The people on here will never change the other sides view point. So why dont we all join together to fight for a Vote of the English people and let them decide.

    2004 North East region 78% against regions.
    2004 YOUGOV 11% for regions 24% for English parliament.
    BBC poll 75% for an English parliament.
    ITV poll 95% for an English parliament.

    Now where we going to have our parliament

  40. Unfortunately, for Liberal Democrat purposes, all of those polls are worthless. The first two only relate to Prescott’s “talking shop” ERAs and the second two didn’t use proper sampling.

  41. So Paul you will join me in a fight for a vote of all of Englands people.

    Do you want an English parliament
    Do you want English regions

    Surely this then would be acceptable to the Libdems.
    Scotland I believe only got one option
    Do you want a Scottish parliament

  42. Wildgoose,

    I don’t know what happened to your previous posts but it is clear for all to see that I’m not deleting them.

    As for your argument about “balkanising” England, I fail to see why the US, Germany and Spain (to name but three) manage perfectly well with significant devolution while we can’t.

    And it isn’t me who is calling for the UK to be remodelled along the lines of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

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