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A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

A Federal Union…or bust?

Arthur Aughey has described the brand of English nationalism emerging since the devolution settlements of the late 90s as still “a mood, not yet a movement”. A part of that “mood” is the Campaign for an English Parliament, their strategy outlined here is:

to assemble the most powerful coalition of expert and public opinion possible with a view to securing an English referendum on the question of establishing a Parliament for the residents of England.”

A prominent member of that campaign, David Wildgoose, recently delivered the following speech at the Liberal-Democrats conference, outlining the stark choices, as he sees it, presently facing the United Kingdom.

It’s obviously directed primarily at a Lib-Dem audience but I believe there is enough food for thought also for the  Unionist reader to justify publishing it here in its entirety:

“I was the Liberal Democrat candidate at the 1994 Rotherham by-election where I was privileged to finally meet Richard Wainwright, who had been Liberal MP for Colne Valley. Back in 1977 during the first devolution debates Richard said “For a government to propose that some British people shall have two Parliaments to shout for them, while others are left with only one, is the last word in political debauchery”.

During the same debates, the Tory George Gardiner made the following point: “What kind of argument would we confront from the Scots and the Welsh if it were proposed, instead of a Scottish or Welsh Assembly, to set up only an English Assembly, but still to bring the full number of English members to this House or even to increase their number proportionately, to continue to vote on Scottish and Welsh matters, which, in the case of England, had already been devolved to an English Assembly? We know very well that there would be uproar in Scotland and Wales.”

Of course, things have moved on from then. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all now have Devolution. As Richard Wainwright put it, they all have 2 Parliaments to shout for them and their interests. The exception, of course, is England. <> [An additional interjection caused by Andrew George MP having just described Devolution as having occurred to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland leaving only the “disgruntled remainder” and that we needed some means of dealing with the “remainder”.]

We have gone past the point of John Major’s campaign in 1997 that we had just “48 hours to save the Union”. That anti-Devolution battle was lost. The Union survives. It is however still under threat, not least by the growing resentment within England at the second-class citizenship that has been foisted upon us without our leave. Because the people of England have been prejudicially disadvantaged post-devolution, in a way that the Scots and Welsh never were pre-devolution.

“At the very least, the English deserve the opportunity to decide. They should be offered a referendum, just as the Scots and Welsh were, on their constitutional future. Failure to provide that option would be a shocking display of disdain for nearly 50 million United Kingdom citizens”. Not my words, those of the Conservative David Davis.

The current situation is not stable and won’t last. Reversing Devolution is no longer an option, if it ever was. If the Union is to survive then a positive case for this must be made that addresses the conflicting desires of the people that make up the United Kingdom.

The Campaign for an English Parliament believes that this can be addressed by the creation of an English Parliament to stand alongside those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A federal Union will enable us to separate what divides us from what unites us. To get the best of both worlds. Independence on health, education, social policies, to plough our own furrow in a manner we find appropriate. But united as one voice when speaking on the world stage politically, economically and militarily, alongside the social solidarity to help each other out when dealing with such pressing matters as unemployment or the environment.

There is of course one other option for the nations of the United Kingdom, the one that will otherwise inevitably be chosen by default.

Breakup.

Many of you, like me, will have been watching the BBC’s recent series of programmes on Scotland. “Dinner with Portillo – Why Should We Care About Scottish Independence?” was broadcast on BBC4 on the 15th September and had a number of well known people openly discussing the breakup of the Union. The majority were actually in favour of such a prospect. Portillo and Clogharty’s opinion could best be described as “Close the door quietly when you leave”, an attitude which, if anything, infuriated the Scottish Nationalists even more than that of wanting them to stay and which Hardeep Singh Kholi described as “typical English arrogance”.

Hardeep had something else to say as well.

“Why should the English stomach Scots MPs having a say on their political future when the Scots wouldn’t for a moment accept the reciprocal arrangement, it would be unconscionable in Scotland?”

Indeed.

Henry McLeish, the former Labour First Minister of Scotland, and the man who saw the Scotland Act through Westminster, was also at that dinner. He has said that the English need a voice and that the current assymmetric devolution cannot be sustained.

The Welsh Conservative Assembly Member David Melding has just published a book “Will Britain Survive Beyond 2020?”. He says “The best way to preserve Britain as a multi-national state is to accept that the UK…requires a new settlement. This settlement will need to be federal in character so that the sovereignties of the Home Nations and the UK State can be recognised in their respective jurisdictions”.

George Monbiot, speaking at the recent Plaid Cymru conference has also called for an English Parliament.

And so on.

Yes, there is plenty of thinking going on in all the major parties.

Apart from one that is.

A party that claims to be set up on a federal basis and which publishes manifestos for Scotland and Wales but not England. A party that has a Scottish Conference, a Welsh Conference, but not an English Conference. The party which has benefited greatly from the Proportional Representation elections to the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and has the most to gain from an English Parliament that is likewise elected by PR – but which inexplicitly does not support such an outcome. The Party that in the past liked to claim that it was the “big thinker” on constitutional issues but which now sits on the sidelines and pretends that nothing has changed and thus nothing needs to be done.

YOUR Party.

Tom Nairn in his book “After Britain” said “Blair’s Project makes it likely that England will return on the street corner, rather than via a maternity room with appropriate care and facilities. Croaking tabloids, saloon-bar resentment and back-bench populism are likely to attend the birth and have their say.” Looking at the news reports of the “English Defence League” I would say that those are prescient words.

Here are some more, from Neal Ascherson:
“Yes, there is an emerging Englishness which is still thought to be slightly incorrect. Something is bursting to come out. But sadly, the English intelligentsia, or the liberal English middle class, which ought to be leading political developments, ought to be taking over this emerging feeling; saying yes, let’s make a democratic, tolerant, forward-looking nation; is just sitting back and saying ‘English nationalism, awful, horrible, leave it to the yobs’.”

England is being reborn. Some of us are campaigning for that democratic, tolerant, forward-looking nation. For example, I have here some leaflets from the “Workers of England Union”, a Union recently set up to campaign on behalf of the ordinary working people of England. The back cover says “Join a union that cares for England and its workers”. The front cover says “Putting the workers of England first”. Yes, England is being reborn, with or without you.
And so my ongoing question to you is, Are you going to join us in that project, or remain with the reactionaries?”

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44 Responses

  1. fair_deal says:

    Always been a fan of federalism.

    However, one of the consistent reasons why the federal Union idea has fallen (apart from the unwavering believe in parliamentary sovereignty) is that an English parliament would be too big in comparison with the other three and dwarf the others in terms of relationship and ability to influence central government.

    It would also do little in terms of public expenditure disjoints (neither would the reform of Barnett) as England as one unit doesn’t take account fo the substantial differences between parts of England.

    • If England would be “too big” as part of a federation then obviously this would apply even more so as part of a Union which it could dominate absolutely and always override in its interests.

      Except of course, several centuries later, this doesn’t appear to have been the case.

      The whole point of federalism is that of the clear separation of powers and responsibilities. An English Parliament would ONLY be responsible for England.

      England being the biggest wouldn’t mean anything. England has always had the biggest population. Wales is twice the size of Northern Ireland and Scotland nearly twice the size of Wales. There’s quite a disparity there as well, but for some reason only England is being singled out!

  2. fair_deal says:

    “it could dominate absolutely and always override in its interests. Except of course, several centuries later, this doesn’t appear to have been the case.”

    England potentially could behave in such a manner if all or most of its MPs were of that mind. Parliamentary sovereignty allows them to do so. At various times England’s interests have predominated in how the Union developed – the reason we had a unitary model rather than a federal one was at English insistence.

    Then Blair came along with his half-baked constitutional ideas and created this bastardised form that is neither one not t’other.

    BTW what are England’s interests? How have these been determined?

    “The whole point of federalism is that of the clear separation of powers and responsibilities. An English Parliament would ONLY be responsible for England.”

    The practical operation of federalism is not as clear cut as you present it. It is as much about the powers being at the best level of government as the division of them. The division of responsibilities and costs for federal systems are always an ongoing discussion in federal countries Canada and the United States being two good examples. It isn’t a clear-cut concise arrangement with no grey areas and no tensions between the national and federal bodies.

    Under federalism a national government will still have powers and controls over sections of public finance that would impact on England and the other constituent parts. So it would not be a simplistic division with the four local parliaments getting on with its business and the national government getting on with its work with ne’er the twain meeting.

    “England being the biggest wouldn’t mean anything”

    It’s size would give it claim to ‘alternate’ government to the national government. An english parliament can easily claim it is speaking for the majority of the Uk population. It’s physical, popualtion and economic size would give it huge sway on the national parliament.

    “There’s quite a disparity there as well, but for some reason only England is being singled out!”

    The relevance of size to a debate is in the comparison and I note you omit england from your statistical comparison. This is a discussion about the potential impact of size in a UK context. England accounts for over 80% of the entire population, add to it the economic predominance of the UK. The reason why the differences in size between scotland wales and northern ireland are rarely mentioned is because those differences are dwarfed when you examine them in a UK context and include england in the comparison.

    In that context England has over 80% of the UK population. If wikipedia is to be believed it’s GDP is an estimated 2.2 trillion dollars while the other 3 combined barely gets over $300m. England is 10 times bigger than scotland. England is 17 times bigger than wales. England is 28 times bigger than NI.

    • All fair points, especially those of the division of federal powers. However I would argue that a federal (or confederal) system with an as far as possible specific division of responsibilities would be better able to cope with the current tensions that we have now, c.f. The Calman Report in Scotland, or the planned referendum in Wales.

      And Yes, England has the population size and the economy.

      So why is it being ignored?

      Scotland and Wales are both looking to holding a third referendum on their future whilst England has still to be asked.

      If it’s a problem, it’s not of England’s making.

      There’s an old saying, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it”.

      We were never asked our opinion about the current Devolution setup – just the opposite in fact, we were told it was none of our business.

      If England’s size would give it claim to being an ‘alternate’ government to the Union Parliament then when the Devolution votes were held the other Home Nations should have listened to the voices of those of us pointing out the consequences? The fact that they didn’t is not England’s problem. Accepting that actions have consequences is part of growing up.

      There is nothing stopping the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from campaigning for an end to Devolution and the restoration of a single Parliament for a single people.

      No such Campaign exists.

      It is simply not reasonable to demand Devolution for one part of the UK and then refuse to countenance the same Devolution for another part of the UK.

  3. Maria says:

    I have a newspaper report somewhere from the 1920s or 1930s in which the subject of Scotland having its own parliament was raised at Westminster! I must find it and put it on-line.

  4. fair_deal says:

    David

    I think we probably share a broadly similar analysis of the present constitutional challenges the UK faces in particular the undermining of the principle of equal citizenship and Blair’s refusal to answer the West Lothian question basically because he didn’t have one.

    Our key point of difference is whether the solution is an english parliament or english parliaments. I favour the plural for the reasons above.

  5. English Republic says:

    “Our key point of difference is whether the solution is an english parliament or english parliaments. I favour the plural for the reasons above.”

    Fortunately it isn’t a decision for you to make, Fair Deal. You may not have a problem with your country being partitioned but you will find the vast majority of this country’s people do not want that to happen here. The people of the so-called “Celtic nation’s” voted to set up national parliament’s based on the historic nation’s of these island’s (or part of a nation in northern Ireland’s case) so as David says, you made your bed, now lie in it. If an English national parliament upsets the union applecart then I think you’ll find the majority here will opt for the other option….. English independence.

  6. Michele says:

    FairDeal – I understand your inherent distaste at the possibilty of an English Parliament which you feel will dominate politicial debate – but I don’t understand your reasoning.

    A federal option works extremently well here in Australia, a different type of model works in US, Canada and so on and so on. Here in Oz we have states into which you could place the whole of UK many times over, and yet they are part of a federal unity. Some states like Tasmanis are are in a federation with states the size of western Australia – and it works.

    Why – because, as David has tried to explain – each state is, in domestic matters, self-sustaining and self-governing. Within the federal parliament each state’s representation is such that all voices are heard and all votes count equally.

    So extrapolate that into the UK and each Home nation’s Parliament is responsible for its own domestic legislation – so in what way will England’s size (minuscule put up against the area of Queensland)over ride any other home nation’s parliament.

    And at the federal level as each nation should be equally represented the fact should not arise.

    It makes perfect sense to anyone who has a feeling for justice. And I cannot help wondering why you are so desperate to hang onto a union which is obviously falling apart that you ignore the only chance you have of salvaging something out of the mess.

  7. J Hutchings says:

    I agree with David Wildgoose’s comment. The initial move towards devolution was done in a very and specifically anti-English manner and when anyone dared to say even ever so quietly , hey, don’t you realise the consequences of what you are doing, it implies the eventual demand for national expression for England also and possibly the unravelling of the UK, they were given the full PC routine to shut them up.
    Labour is now looking at possible permanent marginalisation as a direct result of their own actions which was not difficult to predict and yet raising this topic with them at the time(1990’s)met with an impenetrable wall of arrogance (and complete historical ignorance of the fact that Labour of all parties is the product of the Union)

    England needs a parliament and government of her own, wheter within or without the Union is a matter for the English to decide, though whatever the arrangement it must be completely separate from any British entity.

  8. fair_deal says:

    ER

    “Fortunately it isn’t a decision for you to make, Fair Deal.”

    Actually if the UK is going to adopt a federal structure it will be because it will be a UK wide decision. Also the legislation will have to pass the UK parliament, just as it did for Scotland Wales and NI. So all of us will be making it.

    Michele

    “A federal option works extremently well here in Australia, a different type of model works in US, Canada and so on and so on.”

    Apologies if I have not been clear enough, I have believed in a federal union for the UK since I was a teenager.

    I realise that no federation is made up of parts of equal or comparable size. However, I also realise the tensions that differences in size and economic propserity cause. For example the resentment towards the Atlantic states in Canada that have had significant problems economically. The issues that Alberta’s oil wealth has caused never mind cultural issues with Quebec.

    In neither Australia, Canada, Germany nor America is their one part that is predominant as Enlgand would be in a UK context. For example in Germany there are 16 states. The largest has a population of 18m out of 82m and $700bn GDP out $2.9trn. In Canada, there are 13 parts with the largest state having a population of 13m out of 33m and about $500bn out of $1.3trn. In Australia the largest state has a population of 7m out of 20m and a GSP of A$345bn out of A$1084trn (Please treat GDP stuff as rough figures I’m having to do some currency changes to get the figures). In the USA the largest state is 36m out of a population of 307m and 13% of the USA’s GDP. There constituent parts have to build alliances. In a UK context england wouldn’t. Also none of them are so large as to claim to be the alternate voice for the country to the national government, England could.

    Besides the issue of predominance in the UK there is also the disjoints between the South East of England and the other parts – a english wide parliament would not necessarily be good for all parts of England.

    I would also point out that devolution to more than one English parliament achieves many of the same ends as an single English one in terms of addressing the democratic imbalances Blair’s reforms caused.

    • Terry says:

      England wasn’t asked about Scottish or Welsh devolution.

      No consideration was given to the fact that Scotland is…
      a) twice the size of Wales and four times the size of N.Ireland.
      b) less homogenous than England

      The precedent is set.

  9. fair_deal says:

    Trevor

    “England wasn’t asked about Scottish or Welsh devolution.”

    Yes it was, it was part of the Labour and Lib Dem manifestos in 1997. Also it was not a referendum alone that decided that devolution occurred it was three steps, a national election with a government returned committed to it, a referendum that passed and an act of parliament. So in two of the stages English voters and then English MPs had a say. That is the process of the ‘precedent’ set,

    The commencement of devolution in England was also killed at birth by a referendum.

    • Terry says:

      Fair_deal,
      1. the Labour manefesto promised to allow a referendum in Scotland/Wales (not England)
      2. Westminster MPs vote on party lines, not national ones
      3. devolution has never been offered to England, under the same terms that it was offered to Scotland or Wales
      … we’re still waiting

  10. fair_deal says:

    “1. the Labour manefesto promised to allow a referendum in Scotland/Wales (not England)”

    And? The point was it was a manifesto commitment of the party that was elected to government and a manifesto commitment of two parties that gained a majority of the MPs in England. People voted for Scotland and Wales to get a referendum but not England.

    Also that is not entirely correct, the labour maifesto said “Demand for directly elected regional government so varies across England that it would be wrong to impose a uniform system. In time we will introduce legislation to allow the people, region by region, to decide in a referendum whether they want directly elected regional government.” And English people voted no.

    “2. Westminster MPs vote on party lines, not national ones”

    There is no obigation on an MP to do so.

    “3. devolution has never been offered to England, under the same terms that it was offered to Scotland or Wales”

    None of the three devolved parliaments operate on the same basis so there has never been an ‘equal’ devolution option to any part of the UK. The area of England that was offered a form of devolution rejected it.

  11. 1. In 1997 the people voted for a whole package of policies, not solely a specific item. They also voted for MPs in England who were supposed to look after their interests – something they manifestly failed to do.

    2. “Westminster MPs vote on party lines, not national ones” – not strictly true as MPs such as Diane Abbot have commented in the past. Scottish and Welsh MPs in particular vote along national lines in the interest of their home nationality. English MPs (many of whom are Scottish and Welsh in any event) do not do so, they vote along Party Lines. This may be the result of a “UK = Greater England” mentality, but for whatever reason why they do this, they still do it.

    3. Devolution has NEVER been offered to England, at all, nada, zip. Local government re-organisation was offered to the North East of England but was rejected by the electorate, many of whom were reported at the time of being extremely concerned about what it would mean for the territorial integrity of England.

  12. fair_deal says:

    Point 1 That’s what happens in a general election, why should one policy in it be singled out for differential treatment.
    Point 3 what is the basis for the territorial integrity issue? I remember following it at the time and can’t recall that as an issue.

  13. English Republic says:

    I don’t think I need to add anymore as Terry and David have put the case for England perfectly. You “Fair Deal” seem oblivious to what fairness actually is and are just another Irish/Scots/Welshman with a chip on his shoulder because the English are at last getting uppity about the un-democratic apartheid state that the so-called “united” kingdom has become. How England is governed will ultimately be decided by the people of England, just as the Scot’s, Welsh and Irish made their choices without interference from anyone in England.

  14. fair_deal says:

    Point 1 that’s what happens in a general election. Why is one policy to be excepted from it?
    Point 3 I followed the NE referendum but can’t recall territorial integrity as a voter issue. What are you basing that on?

  15. oneill says:

    English Republic (and others)

    “Actually if the UK is going to adopt a federal structure it will be because it will be a UK wide decision”

    Although it would also be a UK-wide decision voted on by a UK parliament where the vast majority of MPs come from English constituencies; in other words it’s not the people of N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales which are preventing even a referendum but your own English MPs. In other words what I (or Fair Deal or Scottish Unionists or Welsh Unionists or our MPs) think on the matter is of minimal importance ultimately compared to the attitude of your own MPs.

    That being the case (and assuming you agree that a decision on the referendum can only be given by a vote in the UK parliament) an open question for you and the other English nationalist on this thread how do you go about changing the present opinion of that majority?

  16. otto says:

    Any thoughts on how this actually works? Do we have a small federal senate in the Lords Chamber and a large English Parliament in the Commons’? Do we have a plenary Union session breaking up into “national grand committees?”. Any preferences?

  17. Terry says:

    fair_deal. I’m sorry but an MP is very much obliged to tow the party line. They’re not forced to, but defying the whip is a dangerous thing for an MP to consider. It happens all too rarely, unfortunately.

    Interestingly the incidence of Scots and Welsh MPs defying the whip when the matter before them doesn’t concern their constituents (unimportant issues like Health, Education, crime etc) is… zero. The WLQ in action.

    Secondly, you place too much importance on the manifesto. If Governments could be forced to resign on grounds they failed to keep manifesto promises, we’d have had more administrations than the Italians.

    Finally, you rightly say that Wales and NI were offered a different version of devolution. Leaving NI aside (because of its peculiar problems), Wales want the WA to have the same powers as the Scottish one. There are many powerful people who agree with this and it will almost certainly happen.

    The English are also demanding the same but are denied it because they’re; too big; dominate Westminster anyway; are little Englanders; don’t really want it; rejected regionalism for spurious reasons; likely to damage the Union; don’t really exist*.

    *cut, paste and repeat ad nausea

  18. English Republic says:

    Oneill,

    I think perhaps it would be helpful to seperate the two issues here as England gaining home rule and the UK becoming a federal state are two different issues one of which is of concern to the English only and the other is a UK wide issue. There is amongst the wider populace a strong sense of English identity and there are high levels of support for this to be reflected politically with some kind of English parliament. At present there is no clear policy from any of the three main parties on how to deal with England although the Conservatives and the Lib Dem’s are aware that a problem exists, they just haven’t yet come up with the right solution yet. The CEP do a great job in bringing England’s democratic deficit to the attention of those with the power to bring about change and it is they who I believe will eventually break down the wall that has been put up by all three parties for the past decade.

    The question is, who will grasp the nettle first? Although they probably have most to gain from an English parliament, the Conservatives seem unlikely to be the ones to do this, especially with the uber-unionist Cameron in charge. As unlikely as it seems now, I think a combination of Labour and the Lib Dem’s will finally give England her parliament after they have both faced electoral wipe out here next year. Labour by then will be rid of its Anglophobic leadership and will, I beleive finally see the light as to why they have become so despised by the English public. The Lib Dem’s are already moving in the right direction and have been since they replaced their own Anglophobes (Kennedy and Campbell) at the top. Once a government is elected that finally listens to the will of the English people a referendum in England should swiftly follow which I beleive will result in an overwhelming “yes” vote in favour of a national English parliament.

    Once England has decided how her people wish to be governed, we can then move on to how the three and a bit nation’s of the UK relate to each other. Now events in Scotland may overtake all of this and make this discussion fairly accademic, but for the record, this would be my prefered outcome. Rather than a federal system with sovereignty held by the union parliament and devolved to the nation’s of the UK, I believe that a confederal union with each nation retaining its own sovereignty, creating its own wealth and spending its own money, but pooling their resources in areas that are agreed by all four nation’s would make for a far more stable union than the one we have at present. Who knows, such an arrangement may even appeal to your compatriots to the south?

  19. That being the case (and assuming you agree that a decision on the referendum can only be given by a vote in the UK parliament) an open question for you and the other English nationalist on this thread how do you go about changing the present opinion of that majority? (O’Neill)

    We appear to have been presented with two choices.

    (1) Appealing to the decency and common sense of MPs to see that that deliberately discriminating against the majority of the UK’s citizens based upon the country in which they live (England) is unfair, unreasonable and damaging to the unity of the United Kingdom.

    (2) Agitating to break up the United Kingdom. Once this movement gains momentum then politicians will be forced to deal with it.

    Option 1 has so far been an epic fail.

    Option 2 involves the possibility that once such a movement has gained momentum that it will be unstoppable.

    Unionist politicians are playing with fire.

    And for that matter, the same goes for so-called “Unionist” bloggers, e.g. “Chekov”, who live in another part of the United Kingdom and yet claims to know the mood of ordinary English people … better than ordinary English people. There’s a phrase for that. “Breath-taking hubris”.

  20. owenpolley says:

    I hardly pulled my argument out of thin air. The citations are in the post.

  21. fair_deal says:

    BTW it is somewhat of a historical mis-representation to present the situation as England was demanding devolution in 1997 but was denied its chance. The growth in demand for English devolution grew out of the imbalances of the Blair reforms.

    “You “Fair Deal” seem oblivious to what fairness actually is and are just another Irish/Scots/Welshman with a chip on his shoulder”

    I see you have gone for lowering the tone of the debate but I will avoid the temptation to follow. For the sake of accuracy and your education I am none of the identities you listed.

    I believe in a federal UK with all the parliaments beneath the national parliament having equal powers – what is unfair about that?

    Terry

    “I’m sorry but an MP is very much obliged to tow the party line. They’re not forced to, but defying the whip is a dangerous thing for an MP to consider. It happens all too rarely, unfortunately.”

    42 days? 10p tax rate? It does occur.

    David

    “Point 3 I followed the NE referendum but can’t recall territorial integrity as a voter issue. What are you basing that on?”

    I would appreciate an answer

    “Appealing to the decency and common sense of MPs to see that that deliberately discriminating against the majority of the UK’s citizens based upon the country in which they live (England) is unfair, unreasonable and damaging to the unity of the United Kingdom.”

    Is this not a tacit acceptance of the earlier point that the predominance of england of the UK?

  22. Fair_Deal, I don’t know where you are based, but I am based in Yorkshire. We were scheduled to have a referendum following the referendum in the North East, and our press, e.g. the Yorkshire Post, covered the referendum campaign as a matter of course, alongside the national press.

    I distinctly remember the surprise of some journalists (and No, I don’t remember who) when they reported that one of the concerns they were being told was a reason for voting No was what this would mean for the territorial integrity of England.

    I am sure that if you invest some time that you will be able to verify this – at least one of these reports are bound to have made it into the web. Alternatively, anyone reading this may also be able to post a relevant link.

    Moreover I would appreciate it if you don’t insinuate that just because I haven’t provided a link that I am lying about this. After all, it was several years ago and not everything gets on the Web, nor stays on it.

  23. English Republic says:

    Fair Deal,

    If I am lowering the tone it is because you fail to see why your “federal UK” ideas should be so objectionable to the vast majority of people in England. Apologies for assuming you were either Irish, Scottish or Welsh, it’s just that your lack of understanding of how most people in this country feel about our relationship with Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland right now makes me think that you know little about England or the English. You sound too much like a unionist from one of the “Celtic” nation’s who think that the union is all about them and just take for granted that the English are content to accomodate the Scottish/Welsh/northern Irish unionist “have cake and eat it” attitude to the union. The truth is that we are not and we are fast approaching the tipping point when the union will be un-salvageable and it will be the English who will end it.

    You stated “I believe in a federal UK with all the parliaments beneath the national parliament having equal powers – what is unfair about that?”

    What is unfair is that you advocate the partition of England into smaller units to accomodate your idea of a federal union. That is not fair because the national integrity of Wales and Scotland is not called into question and yet England must be sacrificed to satisfy the unionist desires of people from outside England who’s double standards regarding England gaining a national voice in the same way as Scotland, Wales northern Ireland know no bounds.

    That is not a price that I or most of the people of England would be willing to pay and if it came down to a straight choice between federal union with partition and independence from the UK, the majority in this country would choose the latter. If you really cared about the future of the union then I would suggest that you re-think your idea’s.

  24. Terry says:

    Fair_deal. Yes you’re right, some MPs do sometimes vote the right way when their conscience gets the better of them. However, they risk having the parliamentary party whip withdrawn and then they would struggle for reselection of they didn’t carry their constituents or local party with them

    This is why Scottish and Welsh Labour backbench MPs are much less likely to rebel against the Government than their English counterparts, according to the Constitution Unit (CU) at University College London.

    They cite the “most significant factor” is that Scots MPs are unlikely to vote against their own Government on English-only laws because they face no external pressure from their constituents or local party.

    CU researchers analysed data from almost 500 votes in the House of Commons between May 2005 and June 2007. This revealed that Scottish Labour backbenchers rebelled in an average of 1.8% of votes, 1.9% among Welsh MPs, compared to an average of 3.4% for their English counterparts.

    Lovely! Is this how we ended up with a tax on tertiary education, foundation hospitals and another Heathrow runway? Yes, I’m afraid it is.

    See here for more details…http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scottishlabourparty/Scottish-Labour-MPs-least-likely.3497482.jp?CommentPage=1&CommentPageLength=1000

  25. owenpolley says:

    It’s just that your lack of understanding of how most people in this country feel about our relationship with Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland right now makes me think that you know little about England or the English.

    So most people in England want to desolve the Union and set up an English Republic do they?

  26. English Republic says:

    “So most people in England want to desolve the Union and set up an English Republic do they?”

    Did I say that? As my nom de plume suggests it would be my prefered course of action of course, however I don’t think that support for republicanism is that strong here at the moment so I think an English Republic would be a fairly distant prospect. That said, the generation that give un-questioning blind loyalty to such an un-democratic institution will die off eventually, as will the monarch who presently occupies the role to be replaced by her wholly unsuitable offspring so who knows, it may come sooner than I think. The number of English people who would like to see the dissolution of the union on the other hand……..

  27. fair_deal says:

    David

    Thanks for that. I am relying on memory from and it would have been national press coverage I was relying upon. Thus if it was in the local Yorkshire and NE papers I would not have come across it.

    ER

    “Fair Deal,

    “If I am lowering the tone it is”

    So it’s my fault? Don’t think so, we are each responsible for what we type.

    “you fail to see why your “federal UK” ideas should be so objectionable to the vast majority of people in England.”

    What is the basis for that second statement or is it that you do not like my views? The vast majority of people in england are yet to express a view for a parliament of their own – campaigns commencing and new parties advocating it do not mean a vast majority presently accepts or supports the concept. No mainstream party has yet adopted the ideas – although i must admit the idea of a single english parliament is more sensible than the guff the tories have cobbled together.

    “who think that the union is all about them and just take for granted that the English are content to accomodate the Scottish/Welsh/northern Irish unionist “have cake and eat it” attitude to the union”

    Perhaps if you relied less on preconceived notions of what you think people think and focus on what is said the discussion could be productive.

    I do not believe the Union is all about any one section of the UK or less than it. I am a believer in the principle of equality of citizenship within the UK, so I believe it is about all of us. That is why I do not like the Blair reforms and its significant imbalances and reduction in democratic standards in particular for the English. It is also why I do not agree with a single English parliament based on the same principle.

    As a believer in devolving power down to the lowest level of government I consider England to be too large a unit and as I have said before I also see it having problems in dealing with the significant disjoints between the different parts of England. A point I have had no reply to just accusations about my percieved attitude.

    I’ve developed my views not on the basis of where I was born but looking at the choice of principles there are, choosing the ones I believe I can subscribe too and try to apply them consistently.

    “to satisfy the unionist desires of people from outside England”

    Last time I checked the English were still voting for Unionist parties so it is not a SCot/Wales/NI desire alone. Again I beleive you are overstating the case. You may very well be ultimately successful in your campaign in what you advocate but as far as I can see you are not their yet and believe it is unwise to claim so.

    BTW I’m not a Celt either – heap of clap trap pushed by the separatists in NI Wales and Scotland – England has as much claim to Celt as anywhere else in the British Isles.

    Terry

    If English MPs are the most rebellious – surely that would make things easier for those with English concerns and undermines to some degree your earlier point about the lack of rebelliousness?

    I would again point out that devolution to more than one english parliament would have prevented all of the policies imposed by Blair’s deliberately blindness to the West Lothian qestion that you highlight.

  28. oneill says:

    English Republic

    Sorry for the delayed reply.

    “I think perhaps it would be helpful to seperate the two issues here as England gaining home rule and the UK becoming a federal state are two different issues one of which is of concern to the English only and the other is a UK wide issue”

    Again, English “Home Rule” can only result from a vote at the UK parliament at Westminster- unless something very dramatic happens in the interim that will be a matter voted on by MPs of all the UK, not just England (although again, with MPs represneting English constituencies making up the vast bulk of the HOC effectively it will be England voting “yes” or “no”). Should the English have the right to vote on their own parliament? My own personal opinion is “yes” but to say the matter is “of concern to the English only” is on a whole range of levels clearly missing the point*

    Regarding the rest of your post addressed to me, you should never underestimate the cynicism of our politicians.

    Why is Brown, much more than Blair the architect of devoltution and a signatory to a “Scottish Claim of Right” now a conviction Unionist you reckon? A Damascene conversion or the small matter of a resurgence Scottish and Welsh nationalism threatening to bury Labour for at least the medium term? Exactly. That kind of cynicism is your best chance in my opinion.

    In the meantime, though, you should be looking to build on possible or potential alliances instead of trying to antagonise those who have already halfway been bought over to your point of view.

  29. Fair_Deal: I trust you will find the Constitution Unit to be an authoritative source. A quote taken from their November 2004 report:

    If that is true, the romantic stirrings of Yes 4 the North East failed to resonate among a population that is probably more ‘English’ – rather than British, with vague notions of Englishness – than many realise. One of the authors was struck by the number of times respondents in straw polls raised worries about the impact a partly-devolved North East would have on the unity of England, and the implications for other regions.

    You can download that report here:

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/files/research/devolution/dmr/regions_november_2004.pdf

  30. Incidentally, the fact that one of the authors of the Constitution Unit report was surprised at English attitudes amongst English people probably says more about the breadth of their social circle than anything else.

    Those of us with ordinary working class English families attending traditional English pubs and drinking traditional English beer are able to listen to the conversations taking place around us.

    And believe me, outside of the “Westminster Bubble” something is stirring. It may not yet be the top priority, but it is there.

    Ten years ago there was no such thing as English Nationalism. Thanks to a blatantly unfair and frankly bigoted Devolution Settlement English Nationalism now exists and is growing.

    Trying to pretend that this isn’t significant is just burying your head in the sand. We are the “canaries in the coal mine” – and you are ignoring our warnings.

    Next year there will be a General Election and probably referenda on both increasing the powers of the Welsh Assembly and also on Scottish Independence, all taking place against a background of truly dreadful public finances that will need savage spending cuts.

    A perfect storm that could well prove the tipping point.

  31. Terry says:

    fair_deal I’m not saying MPs with English constituencies are more rebellious, I’m saying they’re the only ones representing anyone in 85% of cases. Surely a very bad situation for any democratic institution?

    Even though this class of MP (there are now two classes because those from devolved countries have little to do, except meddle in affairs that don’t concern them) has a propensity to be more rebellious, it only amounts to 3-odd% and there is a 20% non-English hurdle of MPs to overcome before it makes any difference.

    You have a point about power being devolved to a more local level. I think it should be devolved to the county level (no new institutions necessary) and I would campaign for it to be pushed to the top of the English Parliament’s agenda.

  32. Chekov says:

    Those of us with ordinary working class English families attending traditional English pubs and drinking traditional English beer are able to listen to the conversations taking place around us.

    And believe me, outside of the “Westminster Bubble” something is stirring. It may not yet be the top priority, but it is there.

    Something is stirring amongst the beardie real ale drinkers. Might as well start writing the obituaries for the Union now.

    The portrayal of ‘traditional’ Englishness is all we really need to know about these English nats.

  33. That’s right Chekov, you can’t answer the arguments we are putting forward so you have to resort to ad hominem attacks. You lose.

  34. English Republic says:

    Sorry for the delay in replying Fair Deal and Oneill, I was far too busy yesterday!

    Fair Deal,

    “So it’s my fault? Don’t think so, we are each responsible for what we type.”

    No, it’s not your fault, but if you stick your head over the parapit and offer an opinion on how someone else’s country should be governed, don’t be surprised if someone from that country tells you to mind your own business.

    “What is the basis for that second statement or is it that you do not like my views?”

    You are perfectly entitled to hold a view on how England should be governed just as I am entitled to have a view on how northern Ireland is governed too, in a true democracy though neither of us should have a say at the ballot box concerning these matters.

    “No mainstream party has yet adopted the ideas – although i must admit the idea of a single english parliament is more sensible than the guff the tories have cobbled together.”

    Not yet they haven’t, although I think that tipping point is just around the corner. Polls consistently show strong support in favour of an English parliament in recent years. That level is only going to increase with mainstream support. I think you and I may have found some common ground re: the Conservative’s “solution” though!

    “As a believer in devolving power down to the lowest level of government I consider England to be too large a unit and as I have said before I also see it having problems in dealing with the significant disjoints between the different parts of England. A point I have had no reply to just accusations about my percieved attitude.”

    Again we have some common ground, I too would like to see devolution to the lowest level, whether that be genuinely local (parish or historic town rather than multi-town boroughs that exist at present), historic county or where needed, regionally but using region’s with some sort of historic basis that don’t cut through traditional boundaries. Where we differ though is that this should all be subordinate to an English parliament to maintain our national integrity. A federal UK should have no say in how England devolves power within her borders. As for your point regarding the “significant disjoints between the different parts of England” I argee too, England isn’t a homogenous nation, but then that makes it just like every other nation on Earth! If you want a prime example of “significant disjoints” within a nation, may I suggest you look a little closer to home?

    “BTW I’m not a Celt either – heap of clap trap pushed by the separatists in NI Wales and Scotland – England has as much claim to Celt as anywhere else in the British Isles.”

    Agreed, hence the prefix “so-called” and the inverted commars around the word “Celtic”. It has become a commonly used term to describe the non-English parts of the UK though (Celtic fringe etc.) hence my use of the term. I have little knowledge of my own distant ancestory but I’d guess I’m more than a little “Celtic” myself.

    Oneill,

    “Why is Brown, much more than Blair the architect of devoltution and a signatory to a “Scottish Claim of Right” now a conviction Unionist you reckon? A Damascene conversion or the small matter of a resurgence Scottish and Welsh nationalism threatening to bury Labour for at least the medium term? Exactly. That kind of cynicism is your best chance in my opinion.”

    I absolutely agree with that, hence the reason I believe it will be Labour who finally grasp the nettle, although I cannnot see the commited Anglophobe Brown being the one to do this in spite of the electoral advantage it would give him.

    “In the meantime, though, you should be looking to build on possible or potential alliances instead of trying to antagonise those who have already halfway been bought over to your point of view.”

    Agreed, however trying to tell us how we should be governed will only antagonise us too. If Unionist’s really cared for the union then they would do well to start listening to English public opinion.

  35. Chekov says:

    That’s right Chekov, you can’t answer the arguments we are putting forward so you have to resort to ad hominem attacks. You lose.

    I’m not sure you’ve made any arguments which haven’t already been countered.

    I’ve followed the debate quietly, chiefly because you didn’t address any points which I had made in my piece, other than a bizarre allusion to the illegitimacy of non English input in the argument.

    In terms of debate Fair Deal has done a good job of clubbing each of you to the figurative floor all by himself.

    The ‘traditional English pubs, traditional English beer’ stuff deserves comment. It’s exactly the type of romanticised, self-mythologising, prescriptive view of a nation I’d expect. It’s practically beyond parody.

    View my comment as an observational aside. You’re not in a debate with me, and the debate that you are in is already a walkover.

  36. Chekov, you’re absolutely delusional. You haven’t countered any of our points!

    As for the “traditional English pubs” comment, you’re are jumping on what is known as a “rhetorical flourish” as though it is the substantive part of our argument.

    In fact your obvious contempt for English people and English sensibilities are exactly why the Union is in such danger. Prior to Devolution English MPs tried to govern in a way that acknowledged the sensititivities of the other Home Nations. Since Devolution the utter contempt for England and its people has been breathtaking in its openness – including your own.

    But feel free to continue living your delusion.

    Reality will be forced to intrude sooner or later.

  37. Terry says:

    Fair_deal did attempt to defend the indefensible, but he/she left the debate four days ago. I think his/her conduct was dignified, rational and each point was supported with independent references. Well done fair_deal, you never took the debate into the gutter.

    Unfortunately no argument can overcome the breathtaking unfairness of the current situation and each point made was easily knocked into the long grass.

    Now he/she has left the debate, there only remains the likes of Chekov and his arsenal of slurs and snide remarks.

    Chekov himself (it is surely a he) states “You’re not in a debate with me…”

    You’re right; you’re not in a debate. You’re just a loudmouth shouting from the back.

  38. owenpolley says:

    Fair_deal did attempt to defend the indefensible

    ‘The indefensible’. Really? Exactly the type of excessively emotive language which has infested this thread.

    Unfortunately no argument can overcome the breathtaking unfairness of the current situation and each point made was easily knocked into the long grass.

    He had you tied up in knots. He produced rationale and evidence, as you suggest, whilst from the other side we’ve had hearsay, rhetoric and constant carping about the most extreme injustice imaginable. An injustice, incidentally, which has apparently been inflicted on England despite the vast vast majority of people in this country being English. That’s quite a propensity for self-injury.

    Additionally we’ve had the mildly pejorative stuff about the ‘Celtic nations’ and the insinuation that its no-one’s business if they aren’t English, no matter that the matter under debate would have the most profound impact upon the whole United Kingdom! And you still perceive that you’ve romped home with a memorable victory! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    Now he/she has left the debate, there only remains the likes of Chekov and his arsenal of slurs and snide remarks.

    He/she, I imagine, has left the debate, because of the blithe fashion in which his substantive points were handled, the insinuations that it wasn’t a debate in which his input held any value, and the hysterical, shrill, constant squeal of grievance. Now, my input having been introduced under the pretext that it was ‘breathtaking hubris’ for me to make a contribution at all, you just have me. Taking the piss.

    As for the “traditional English pubs” comment, you’re are jumping on what is known as a “rhetorical flourish” as though it is the substantive part of our argument.

    Your ‘rhetorical flourish’ just happens to be indicative of a romanticised view of your nation. What’s next? King Arthur?

    In fact your obvious contempt for English people and English sensibilities are exactly why the Union is in such danger.

    I can assure you that I don’t have contempt for any group of people, based on their nationality. I am certainly contemptuous of all types of romantic nationalism and persecution complexes too.

    Prior to Devolution English MPs tried to govern in a way that acknowledged the sensititivities of the other Home Nations. Since Devolution the utter contempt for England and its people has been breathtaking in its openness – including your own.

    All these years I’ve been labouring under the misapprehension that Irish nationalists are the ‘Most Oppressed People Ever’. Pause to reconsider.
    Thank goodness I’ll be joining with the greatest number of English people to give my vote to the next government, come May, and that party has the Union at the heart of its concerns

  39. Terry says:

    Owenpolicy, you are absolutely delusional if you believe fair_deal has “tied up in knots” anyone on this side of the debate. Can you remind me what points have been proven, because they elude me?

    Please respond with sentient argument, without resorting to such emotional hyperbole as “hearsay… rhetoric… carping…. pejorative… insinuation… blithe… hysterical…shrill… squeal… Taking the piss….romanticised… contemptuous… persecution…‘Most Oppressed People Ever’. which littered your last over verbose post.

    As for your intention to vote for a Party that has the Union at heart, consider this…

    Scottish and Welsh nationalism has gone from strength to strength since devolution. English demands for a Parliament of their own has gone from absolute zero in 1998 to almost 70% now being in favour (according to a host of polls).

    This is a phenomenal show of heartfelt, groundswell opinion, especially when one considers that there has been no newspaper campaign, nor political party pushing the agenda.

    If you really care for the Union, you would demand action is taken before this steady stream becomes a torrent. It is the likes of you, and others with their heads in the sand, who threaten the Union.

    If that is your intent, you should admit it!

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