Bernard Manning: an apology

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Earlier today I compared Gareth Young in unfavourable terms to Bernard Manning. In light of Gareth’s subsequent comments, I now accept this was entirely unfair. Bernard Manning was at least honest with himself about what he believed in and never took himself too seriously. It is clear that no-one could ever accuse Gareth of either.

My favourite line is this:

James’ idea that all decisions that affect England are best handled at a UK or local level are a mechanical, almost fascist (sic), idea of democracy; it’s not about what form of government the people would want, but rather what form of government we think is best.

Seriously: support for local government and self-determination is fascist? I’ve never disputed that if the English want an English Parliament, they are welcome to one. My argument is that if someone is offered steak (real self-determination and genuine decentralisation), why would you settle for meatloaf (a centralised English Parliament)? I’ve never said anything different. The fact that this challenges and threatens the English nats’ sense of security so much is a constant source of amusement for me.

7 thoughts on “Bernard Manning: an apology

  1. There is next to no support for regionalisation, there is little support for devolution to local authorities. If you think there is, show us some research – a poll, a survey, anything.

    There is support for an English Parliament. Many polls have shown overwhelming support for an English Parliament. In fact, every poll for the last few years has shown overwhelming and increasing support for an English Parliament. Why should the Lib Dems – lead (and I use that term loosely) by a Scottish MP – be telling English people that they shouldn’t have what they want but should get something else instead?

    As I said in the other comments thread, if power is to be devolved to a local level in England then that is for a national English government to decide and not foreign MP’s. Local government is a devolved responsibility in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – MP’s elected outside of England have no mandate to take part in any reorganisation of local government.

  2. Reorganisation of local government that is currently taking place is top-down and in I think one region it is against the wishes of local people who voted to keep their council as it is – a decision now overturned by Brown. This would be anti-democratic even if Brown represented a constituency in England.

    The reason why an English parliament is more popular than elected regional assembies as a way of resolving the West Lothian question is because it is quite simple to achieve. This in no way contradicts a popular desire for local councils to be more accountable and to have greater spending powers; I don’t know if anyone is arguing for a centralised English parliament, in any case.

    The reason a parliament for England is feared by the British establishment is because it would end the Union of Scotland and England and open the way for Scottish and Welsh independence, which is unthinkable as “Britain” would cease to exist as a military power.

    The reason for granting Wales and Scotland a degree of self-government was due to the long years of both nations getting a Tory government when most had voted Labour. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there was the policy of managed decline – in some cases destruction – of the manufacturing industry. (Perhaps if parts of England harmed by this policy had strong national rather than English regional identity, we would have seen calls for self-government.)

    Devolution had been a wobbly issue for Labour in the 70’s, but their commitment to the policy could not be abandoned in power. It wasn’t too dangerous at first: it was certain that New Labour would dominate both institutions. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.

  3. I see ‘wonkotsane’ doesn’t understand the idea of debate…

    The LibDems are putting forward an idea and promoting it. They may win or lose the debate. They are not seeking to impose this upon people (quite how an opposition party does that I don’t know).

    The idea should be debated on its merits or lack of, not on what opinion polls say. Opinion can only be formed after debate, and surely its permissible to have differing opinions from the majority (unless you live in a populist dictatorship or something…)

  4. If only opinion polls could be relied on; if they could then we would have had electoral reform two decades ago. The problem is, it isn’t just direction of opinion that counts, but depth of feeling. The English Question and the Europe Question are both issues were you find significant support for an English Parliament and leaving the EU respectively whenever you ask about them in an opinion poll, but which get nowhere when pollsters ask what are the most important issues.

    The English Nationalists are banking on this indifference suddenly turning into frothing anger. I don’t see it happening, and if other reforms such as electoral reform and genuine localism are introduced, that indifference will only increase.

  5. Depends on the question more than ever. Ask:

    The Scots have got something we haven’t; do you want it?

    Most people will say yes.

    Ask:

    Where do you want the decisions on X made?

    Next to nobody will say England, for anything.

  6. Of course, opinion polls are not terribly reliable. But that’s not really the point…

    We haven’t had electoral reform because it’s not desirable for either the Tories or Labour – yet. (I suspect that a hung parliament at the next election could result in a shift of some sort, and there appears to be some motion by the Scottish Lib Dems on powers for the Scottish Parliament.)

    I am disappointed that the Liberal Democrats are not supporting an English parliament – but I’m not surprised, at least you had that debate, though.

    The party is not supporting the restoration of workers’ rights along with our other long lost civil liberties… I bet it wasn’t something considered for debate, let alone debated.

    Again, no surprise – the Lib Dems are a party of big business, after all. Hence, support for the occupation of Afghanistan, Ming’s criticism of Kennedy’s appearance at the Stop the War demo, etc. No one supports privatisation – try and find an opinion poll that gives a majority – yet the Lib Dems voted to sell off our postal services.

    That’s not to say that all Liberals are servants of the ruling class or supporters of asymmetrical devolution… Simon Hughes, a man I have a lot of respect for, supports a devolved parliament for England.

  7. James, I am afraid that this bigoted anti-English attitude is exactly what made me leave the Liberal Democrats, a party of which I was a founder member and for which I was a Parliamentary Candidate four times including a Parliamentary by-election.

    I would have preferred that devolution had been carried out UK-wide to UK regions, but that didn’t happen. Instead we got explicit National Devolution that explicitly ignored England. Since that time the English have been continually abused simply for asking for Equality. And it is these attitudes that will kill the Union, as more and more people just asking for fairness have their simple, reasonable request thrown just in their face along with a stream of abuse.

    We can have an English Parliament and a renewed Union with a renewed Constitutional Settlement.

    Or we can have a growing anger that tears the Union apart.

    You seem to be siding with the latter.

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