Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

On an English Parliament

My last post has been hijacked by the rather fervent supporters of the concept of an English Parliament to the extent that it’s impossible to discuss what it was really about – i.e. local/regional vs national identities.

For non-Brits, a quick overview…

The Campaign for an English Parliament and its political offshoot the English Democrats Party are English nationalist organisations that have arisen since devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly.

The argument is fair enough – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now have sole control over various areas of domestic policy (e.g. health, education), but in those same areas, England is still governed by the parliament of the United Kingdom in Westminster – which contains Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs. This means that we have a situation whereby a majority of English MPs could oppose a policy (to do with, say, health) that would affect *only* England – yet the government could pass that policy anyway with the assistance of MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom, even though it would not take effect in their own constituencies.

It is a problem that has long been acknowledged in British politics, that should have been more adequately dealt with before devolution took place, and that has come to be known as “the West Lothian Question” after a 1977 speech by Scottish Labour MP for West Lothian, Tam Dalyell:

For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate… Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

As such – to keep the English Parliament lot happy (though I’m not sure why I should bother considering their wild hostility in my last post and decision to libel me with unfounded accusations) – here’s a dedicated post for them to rant at. (Which will probably be of little interest to anyone else…)

My views on the West Lothian Question

For the English Parliament lot in particular, a selection of some of my past comments on the idea of an English Parliament – which both show some sympathy to your cause, and raise some concerns that I have:

Example 1: (17/08/09) “The campaign for an English Parliament – effectively English devolution – is something that makes a good amount of sense since Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been granted their own assemblies.”

Example 2: (07/02/06) “it’s not very hard. You look at the legislation and ask “is this going to affect England only?” (e.g. quite a chunk of education and health policy) – if the answer’s “yes” then Scottish MPs shouldn’t vote”

And so yes, I do have some sympathy to the arguments for an English Parliament.

What I don’t get, though, is the idea that an English Parliament is the only – or indeed the best – solution. As I said yesterday,

“I still don’t see any convincing reasons for England to be any better a unit of governance than the United Kingdom – both are too large and too diverse to be sufficiently responsive to the needs of the people who live within them.”

But more of this later.

Level of support for an English Parliament

I also am not convinced that a 1.8% share of the vote for the English Democrats in the European elections back in June is indicative of the kind of widespread support that online supporters of an English Parliament always seem to assert.

The figure normally quoted by an English Parliament’s supporters is that 73% back the idea of an English Parliament, based on a solitary BBC poll from 2006. What is normally ignored is another poll the BBC conducted in early 2007. This also showed a majority support for the idea, though this time only 61%.

But look at the more detailed breakdown of that poll and you get a rather different picture – PDF. This showed that only 25% from England thought that England would benefit from “independence” from the United Kingdom, with 24% thinking such a move would be damaging. At the same time just 11% reckoned English independence would “enhance” English culture, with 10% saying it would be “diminished” (and 76% saying it would make “no difference”).

And the headline figure? In England, 73% would “Prefer [the] Union to continue as it is/has done”.

That hardly shows overwhelming support for the idea, in my books.

How much would an English Parliament cost?

OK, so given that I agree that the West Lothian Question can be seen to pose a problem for democracy within England, and ignoring the fact that 73% of the population of England seem not to mind, what are the practicalities?

The obvious question is how much would it cost? Well, the Scottish Parliament’s costs have famously soared over the years – the building alone ending up costing about ten times more than planned.

Then there are the 129 MSPs, with a basic salary of £52,226 (so a bare minimum salary bill of £6.7 million just for the politicians – let alone the other staff and running expenses and the like). Each MSP represents around 55,000 electors – England has a significantly larger population, so either the constituencies would need to be far larger (thus reducing the connection between electors and elected representatives) or we’d need far more politicians (thus increasing the cost).

Either way, taxes would either have to go up, or spending on public services would have to go down. Which would make the wonderful list of things that would become free if there were an English Parliament start to look rather less certain.

Is there another solution?

Meanwhile, we already have 529 English MPs sitting in Westminster – sitting in a room only a few hundred feet from where English Parliaments have sat since the 13th century. There are just 117 non-English MPs.

In other words, England already has plenty of representation in Westminster, at the site of the Parliament of England’s traditional home.

And – at effectively zero additional cost to the taxpayer – it would be entirely possible to pass a quick Act of Parliament to the effect that Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs are unable to vote on those issues that have been devolved to their respective national assemblies. Which would solve the whole West Lothian Question overnight.

This solution is so obvious it’s painful. And just because it was rejected by Tony Blair doesn’t mean that it hasn’t got a chance of being passed in future. It’s certainly got a lot more chance of happening than the creation of an expensive parallel parliament in England, running alongside that of Westminster.

And in any case, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but politicians aren’t very popular at the moment. What makes you think – especially after the expenses scandal – that we want any more of the buggers?

So, English Parliament lot – convince me. Why should we fork out a load of extra money on even more politicians when we could just stop Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs from voting on England-only issues – solving all the same problems that an English Parliament would at a fraction of the cost?

34 Comments

  1. Very good piece. Looking forward to the “more of this later” bit on English regional parliaments, which would be the best solution IMO (it’s a shame that Blair’s controlfreakery ruled out devolving any real powers to the regions, and hence basically killed the concept off).

  2. It comes down to basics. If Scotland Wales and NI want independence, then its up to the English to govern themselves. Why no regional assemblies ?
    1; They are not popular. I think your notion that the North of England is vastly different from the South is misplaced. There is no hatred, animosity or suspicion between people of different counties, just the occasional light hearted banter. English people feel English, and only secondary as Devonians, East Anglians or North Westerners.

    2; An English parliament can adminster such infrastructure as the electricity grid, the East Coast Mainline and the M6. Scotland can adminster them North of the border. Regional Assemblies will just get in the way.

    3; We have the counties to administer at county level. They can be answerable to the English parliament. Again the regional assemblies would get in the way.

    Even the planners of regional assemblies recognise the English entity. After what is “Heartlands ” the heartland of ?

  3. Robin – I can’t win, can I? This is a post about an *English* parliament, not regional ones. I’ll come to them, I promise – just not now. However, briefly…

    1) “English people feel English, and only secondary as Devonians, East Anglians or North Westerners” – have you got any evidence for this – polling data or anything? I don’t deny for one moment that it’s true in some cases, but I strongly doubt that it’s true in all. It’s certainly not true for me – in my personal hierarchy of geographical identities, very local ones come first (I’m a Londoner), then even broader (I’m British), and only then the smaller national identity (I’m English).

    2) An English parliament *can* administer infrastructure, but surely in a coherent geographical block like the island of Great Britain, it would be better to get some kind of overall management structure in place for the whole lot, to ensure greater efficiency and maintain standards for when motorways, electricity lines, railways and the like cross over the borders into Scotland and Wales? (Infrastructure, you’ll note, is one of the areas I’ve already stated that I think is best governed at as broad a level as possible – a prime candidate for the EU to step in.)

    3) Why would regional parliaments get in the way any more than an English parliament? Both would involve putting an extra layer of government between the counties and Westminster. Unless you’re suggesting that we scrap the current Westminster parliament altogether – in which case, if you had regional parliaments underneath the EU, that would again be no different to having an English parliament under the EU.

  4. Robin, I would have to disagree with a number of your assumptions.

    There are significant differences between different parts of the country. Rural Sussex (where I grow up) is very different from central Manchester (where I live now). They have different demands, challenges, resources, and potentials. If differences are as small as you suggest, then we should scrap also local government and have everything run from London.

    The powers given to any theoretical regional parlients would be dependent on what would be most suitable. Regional governments already exist in a wide number of countires, each with differeing arragnements. I for one am rather fond of the German model.

    As for your comments on the county level, they could still exist even with regional parliments. Again, any devolution should be dependent on what is the most suitable level for actions. I would favour in power be drawn down from the national government than having powers drawn up from the local level (the original regional assemblery model).

    While England and the English do exist, there are also signficant differences between different parts of the country….there are over 50m people living in England, its to be expected. However, just saying that England is well England, does not seem to be a strong enough argument to have an English parliment over regional parliments. It should be about what is most effective and suitable for the task at hand, not what it is most soothing to nationalist leanings.

  5. “Why should we fork out a load of extra money on even more politicians when we could just stop Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs from voting on England-only issues – solving all the same problems that an English Parliament would at a fraction of the cost?”

    Well, there are some scenarios where an EP would not cost any extra money, perhaps less, such as English independence or a federal UK where the UK parliament would be greatly reduced in size (for instance, replacing the House of Lords in relation to scrutiny of the national parliaments plus looking after UK-wide affairs); while we could also have a smaller English Parliament replacing the current set of English MPs.

    Second, would you also propose having dual-function Scottish, Welsh and N. Irish MPs (thereby getting rid of their separate parliaments / assemblies) who would be the only ones entitled to vote on matters relating solely to their countries, while all being entitled to vote on UK business? If so, why the double standards in relation to England?

    The point is, it’s not about logic or the most ‘rational’ form of government. That’s Soviet-style thinking: doubtless, the apparatchiks (or the EUrocrats) thought their form of government was the most efficient and rational for the USSR and that the old nations they ruled over without democratic consent were an anachronism.

    It is ultimately about whether England exists as a nation: a sovereign community with the right to determine how it is governed. You seem at points to call English nationhood into question, and you certainly don’t regard Englishness as your primary geographic-related identity. However, millions do, and they do have the right, in my view, to decide whether they wish to constitute a self-governing nation, whether entirely independent or as part of a federal UK (or even EU).

    You question the validity or accuracy of the polls, and, indeed, such things can easily be twisted one way or another to get the result you want. However, there’s only one poll that matters: a referendum on an English Parliament, similar to the referendums that were granted to the Scots, Welsh and N. Irish. An EP wouldn’t necessarily be where the whole process of English devolution / independence stopped. Nor would it necessarily preclude a range of options for more localised / regionalised governance within England, including, for instance, devolution for Cornwall (or whatever the Cornish people wanted). But it is up to the English people as a sovereign community to decide about an EP. All other ratiocinations about the impracticality or cost of an EP are just distractions from this simple core argument.

  6. 1. Westminster MPs only oppose an English Parliament because it would put them all out of a job as the Scottish parliament has done in Scotland. A very good reason to have an English Parliament.

    2. Ask the English people what they do want in an open and free referendum.

    3. Every poll (that is EVERY poll) shows the regional carve up of England to be the most unpopular choice for England’s home rule. The figure is usually 9 – 16%. However, we have regions and regional grand committees.

    The level of support for the English Democrats means nothing when it comes to the matter od an English Parliament. Labour was returned to office on a meagre vote of 22% of the total English vote available which was only slightly less than the level of support for the Welsh Assembly in the Welsh referendum. What percentage of people supported the Iraq invasion and how many support the Afghan war?

    Devolution has shown that referenda are now essential for the deliverance of sound government in England and the English should be given one on an English Parliament and English independence before the next general election.

  7. Woah there britologywatch! I was with you all the way until you said that it’s Soviet-style thinking to want the most “rational” form of government, and immediately contrasted it with the nationalist ideal of a self-governing community.

    Every written constitution in the world, plus a fair few international treaties (NATO, WTO, UN) are attempts to make government or governance as rational and effective as possible. Are you suggesting that because the UK doesn’t have one, we are the only non-Soviet-style thinkers around?? Would you include the USA in the Societ category?

    And I’m sorry, but it’s all too easy to say that millions of English people have the right to decide whether they wish to form a self-governing nation. Tugs at the heart strings (that’s the main weapon of nationalism), but you don’t justify it. Why shouldn’t that right apply to sub-English comminities (e.g. Cornwall) or supra-English communities (England and Wales, or Great Britain, or the UK, or the EU, or the Commonwealth)?

    By all means let’s have the referendum/referenda, but why limit it to a referendum on an English parliament? Why not go the whole hog and give us a range of options? You could easily be accused of trying to railroad us into an English parliament when there are other worthwhile options that could be considered.

  8. @ EvilEuropean

    I disagree with what you say.
    England has always been a culturally diverse (as opposed to a multi-cultural) nation, based upon its ancient counties. People identify most with their home county or sometimes, city. However, when the chips are down we stand together as the English.

    This is what the EU-philes seek to destroy with their reviled regions, that have no bearing on English history, culture or identity.

    If England is abolished and then Scotland and Wales go for independence (within the EU, naturally, to keep the subsidies flowing like that other ‘Celtic tiger’) where does that leave the English? Stateless and powerless.

    ‘United’ and ‘Union’ are euphemisms for ‘screw England and the English’

    It’s bad enough England has been bankrupted by this Scots-led joke of a government, aided and abetted by its backside-licking, sycophantic and treacherous Anglo-British MPs, without giving away England altogether.

    An English Parliament and county councils are what England needs.

  9. All of these discussions seem fine and valid (each to a point for me personally).

    BUT no one seems to be paying any attention to heritage and our shared history. England is, was and should always remain England. I appreciate that this is an emotive argument and as such hard to quantify with stats and figures.

    Personally, in no order; –
    1. I do not want the country (England) broken up into regions.
    2. I favour some powers being devolved to a local level.
    3. I believe that the country has become over centralised on London (I am an English Londoner).
    4. I do want an English Parliament.
    5. I favour complete Devolution.
    6. The English Parliament and its building do not need to cost the earth. In fact Westminster is already there and English.
    7. We do not need to duplicate our representation English MP’s in an English Parliament, no UK to worry about.
    8. We do not need to increase our representation to make the politicians accountable to the people – simply cap the amount of whipped votes that a party can call thus allowing politicians to vote with their conscience.
    9. I also favour a cap on the powers that the EU is constantly assuming, with our own governments blessing.

    These are just a few of my own thoughts.
    As stated they are not based on facts or even on fiscal demands but on emotions. I wish to be governed by my own and not within an unequal union and not by the EU.

    The EU has such a diverse membership – how could it possibly pass centralised laws, edicts and policies that could suit us all?
    Similarly how could we agree on an elected membership with such diversity? Surely we would end up with hung governance all the time.
    As an institution it is almost completely un-democratic with no real controls over itself. Its own auditors won’t sign off on its accounts.

  10. britologywatch – point taken on the reduction of the UK parliament. That could indeed reduce the cost. But considering the apparent continued support for the United Kingdom’s continued existence in pretty much every poll going (including in Scotland and Wales, but with the strongest support for the UK coming from within England), I doubt you’d get that past one of your referendum votes.

    On the “dual-function” MPs issue, of course I’m not in favour of double-standards. But issues that affect just Wales or Scotland should, with devolution, mostly end up getting decided in the Welsh Assembly/Scottish Parliament, so I hardly felt it worth mentioning. (Nothern Ireland is, as ever, a more complicated issue.)

    As for your point about how this isn’t about logic, I’d guessed that much. But as Insideur notes, any referendum on an English parliament threatens to override the wishes of other sub-groups.

    On various English Democrat forums I’m currently being accused of wanting to deny you English Parliament lot the right to vote on the issue. That’s not it at all – the whole point of the last few posts I’ve been making on the nature of identity is that I’m keen for groups with clear shared identities to be able to govern themselves. That may well include the English – but my impression (as an Englishman born and bred, who has studied English history for decades now) is that the English national identity is not a strong one, and that regional identities are in many cases stronger.

    Please also remember that I have not made any practical proposals for what shape localist forms of government would take in my entirely theoretical ideal world – because it is just that: an entirely theoretical ideal. My last post, which sparked off this little flurry of activity from the English Democrat forums, was nothing to do with whether or not an English Parliament was a sensible idea – it was an entirely theoretical discussion about the nature of identity, with a focus on the difference between regional and national identities, and was itself a follow-up to my earlier musings about the differences between national and European identities.

    The reason for these musings? Simple – until you understand the actual nature of things like national identity, you can’t possibly work out how people are likely to respond to proposals to change the way they are governed. I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who thinks the EU is a nice idea, but needs to dissolve far more power to more local institutions of government.

    You English Parliament lot, meanwhile, seem to be coming from the perspective that England is an entirely obvious unit of governance, rather than merely a historic geographical area. To support this, you assert things like “millions feel English” – but the point isn’t *how many* feel English (hell – I feel English, because, well… I am), it’s about *how strongly* they feel English, and whether they feel any other identities more keenly.

    As an example of what I mean, take Yugoslavia – millions no doubt felt Yugoslavian up to the 1990s, because, well… they were. But that would be to ignore the far stronger sub-Yugoslav identities that existed below the surface. I’m obviously not suggesting that we’re likely to see Yorkshire launch a campaign of genocide against Derbyshire any time soon, but still – the focus on the national level can obscure important differences.

    And in any case – thanks to the aforementioned polls showing ongoing support for the United Kingdom – I imagine that, were a referendum to take place, both an English parliament *and* English regional assemblies would currently be rejected by the English electorate. So we’re both talking about theoretical ideals here.

  11. Just a quick note to reply to Stephen and Kieran (I’ve got to pop out for a few hours, so can’t go into more detail at the moment – I’ll try to on my return):

    1) This is nothing to do with the EU. If you want to discuss the EU, there’s about 2,000 other posts on the subject stretching back over six years on this blog. This one’s about an English Parliament.

    2) Kieran says “I wish to be governed by my own and not within an unequal union” – me too. That’s the whole point. I live and work in London, where constituency populations are far larger than elsewhere in the country. Why the hell should a farmer from Cumbria or a fisherman from Cornwall have any input into how I am governed, or I into how their lives are run?

    This is the fundamental question that I’m trying to find the answer to through my recent series of posts on identity – how important *are* those differences? And, in turn, how significant *are* the supposed similarities we all share as members of one nation state, or as inhabitants of one island or one continent?

  12. Point taken

    We currently have; –
    Parish Councillors
    Town Councils
    MP’s
    County Councils
    Regional Committees
    ……………………….
    And then the UK Government
    Obviously then the EU

    There seems to be a gap in the hierarchy to me.
    Obviously beef up the powers of County Councils, bring in more Mayors for major Towns and Cities – but surely the Country (England) needs its own form of governance as a whole.

    Could one option be that we maintain the mechanics of Governance for the UK (all the ministries that enforce and manage) but have individual national Governments? Each National Government would feed its policies into the UK management mechanisms.

    We would maintain a skeletal UK framework whilst operating, effectively, under separate national governments.

  13. Hello Folks,

    I’ll keep this simple. The Devolution W

  14. That was a bit too simple. Must have accidently pressed a button. Where was I…

    Ok, the develution white paper states that Scotland is a ‘Proud Historic Nation’, and a national parliament for scotland rather than regionalisation makes sense on these grounds alone.

    Well, as well as any other arguments, it ought to be recognised that England is also a historic nation, and as such our political unity as a nation ought to be acknowledged equally.

    I don’t consider myself a nationalist, but simply someone using common sense in stating the obvious – a national parliament for a nation. It really is not such a complex matter. To propose politically breaking our nation up for the sake of administrative convenience shows disregard and in my opinion disrespect to our English history and culture as a unified nation.

    Yes every nation includes diversity but lets just come back down to common sense.

  15. Insideur: the point I was making was that rationality alone is not the only basis for governance. It’s also about community, nationhood, identity; some states – the UK, following on from England – also have a religious foundation: the Queen as head of state and head of the Church (of England, of course).

    There is no purely rational or, as nosemonkey would put it, theoretical basis for saying that the territory known as England should automatically be constituted as a self-governing polity. But if there’s enough demand for England to be a self-governing community of this sort (and hence, enough consensus by English people that England is a sovereign nation), then there is no purely rational reason to deny it. Yes, you could canvass the views of larger or smaller communities / territories than England; and, in fact, I went out of my way to say Cornwall should be given a choice of how to govern itself. But, on your view, there’s no reason why any of these units of government are any more or less valid than England. Why not just ask the English people and let’s see what result we get.

    As you rightly point out, the actual question or questions you ask is / are key and obviously predetermine(s) the outcome to some extent. However, in referendums, it’s the usual practice to ask a yes / no question, such as: ‘Do you support the creation of an English parliament?’. Are you saying that, if a majority said ‘yes’, the vote would be invalid because we haven’t asked enough questions? Would you say the same if the answer was ‘no’?

    When there was all that furore over MPs’ expenses a while back, and people started talking about fundamental constitutional reform, one idea that was mooted was that if there was enough public demand (e.g. 10% of voters signing a petition) for a referendum on any issue, this should be allowed. If you can russle up 10% of popular support for a referendum on splitting England up into regions (or any other option you might favour), fine; let’s have the referendum. I’m sure we could get 10% of people to sign a petition in favour of the EP referendum – which, of course, would not make it a done deal with respect to the eventual outcome.

    Nosemonkey: I take your points; but if a majority of English people do feel English enough to wish to be governed by an English parliament, aren’t they entitled to be? The only way to find out would be a referendum. Your example of Yugoslavia is silly, by the way: the analogy is not between Yugoslavia and England but Yugoslavia and Britain. The Yugoslavs always felt they were Croats, Slovenes, Serbs, etc. more than Yugoslavs, which is why the whole thing fell apart once the iron grip of Communist rule (oh, look, that Soviet-style rationality again) was released.

  16. Glad to see an English Parliament being discussed :)

    Thanks for the overview, as a non-Brit I found it very useful.

    Level of support for an English Parliament

    regarding the English Democrats and their 1.8% share. They’re a new party with a small membership and few funds obviously its difficult to get their ideas out there. Even harder with the weight of the establishment against them – but I expect better results in the next election – it’s a party that’s growing – which is more than Labour could claim.

    As for awareness of the English cause in general I’d say it was doing pretty well considering the British Brainwashing Corps and the rest of the big Britisher media doing their utmost to hide the inequalities and injustices of the status quo.

    There are some results from other polls here: http://www.englishparliament.net/english-parliament-opinion-polls

    How much would an English Parliament cost?

    You failed to mention the potential savings. If England had its own Parliament as well as Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland then what’s the point of the UK parliament? There’d not be that much for it to do. That’s would be the place to make savings – MASSIVE savings. The number of UK MPs could be slashed and the same for the civil service.

    And who is to say how an English Parliament would work? Personally I think an English Parliament with a hundred MPs could do a better job than the whole of Westminster as it stands.

    And if an English Parliament is taken to its logical conclusion – independence for England. Then there are also massive savings to be made in the military and by leaving the EU.

    Is there another solution?

    “England already has plenty of representation in Westminster, at the site of the Parliament of England’s traditional home.”

    No England has no representation. You are talking about members of the UK parliament – not one of them is sworn to put the people of England first – and none of them do. Very few actually put their constituents first. They sit in the UK parliament and they put the UK first which generally means put England last and if at all possible don’t mention the E word.

    The English people deserve recognition and representation AS the English people.

    Is there another solution?

    My preferred solution is home rule for England. i.e. complete independence. English taxes for England, English law for England, Home rule for England.

  17. Nosemonkey, I support an English Parliament because I demand equality before the law and the constitution (so far largely unwritten)with my fellow citizens. Can you explain to me why I should put up with less?

    Regarding the level of support; single issue parties have never fared well under the UK FPTP system. For example, the concern over green issues has never translated into votes for the Greens, or the very limited success of the SNP and PC. Most single issue campaigns tend to get more ‘bangs for their buck’ if they form a pressure group and attempt to influence the major two parties. Remember it was Labour that delivered devolution to everyone but England, not the SNP or PC.

    Finally, opinion polls consistently show that the majority of people in England (c. 60-odd%) would like a Parliament with powers similar to the one in Scotland. Polls showing support for English independence tend to be consistently in the 20-odd% bracket, but independence is a wholly different issue to an EP.

    In order to demonstrate a lack of support for an EP you have had to weave those wanting English independence into your figures and then do a logistical back-flip to show a (false) picture for lack of support for an EP.

    The Government (via the IPPR) pull off the same trick, which is why their polls swim against the tide of others. If you want figures and a longer explanation, you can see this blog that I made earlier http://cepbuckinghamshire.blogspot.com/2008/03/there-is-strength-in-union-even-of-very.html.

  18. The new Scottish Parliament building didn’t cost ten times more than planned. The infamous £10-40m was before there was a site, an architect, a design, or really anything. £10m was the estimate for refurbing an existing building, and £40m was costed at (estimate of floorspace) * (cost per square metre of new build office space).

    Labour should hang their heads for having originally spread nonsense on that scale.

  19. Just a quick note to anyone thinking they were engaging in polite debate with Mr Nosemonkey here are a couple of his recent Twitterings on the subject…

    New post (to herd the loons away from my last one): On an English Parliament – http://www.jcm.org.uk/blog/

    Gah – fucking English Democrats / English Parliament types… Why can’t they just FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE?

    Well the reason we’re here is because treacherous dickheads like you are trying to carve up our country and sell us to the corrupt undemocratic monstrosity that is the EU. And if you think we’re just going to sit back and let you talk complete cockwaffle then you’re mistaken.

    Just because you don’t feel English doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with those who do.

  20. Wyrdtimes – that particular tweet was in response to:

    a) my pervious post being taken on an off-topic sidetrack about the specifics of an English Parliament, where I was interested in a more general discussion about regional/national identities (a discussion that was swamped from the start by English Parliament-supporters)

    b) the bizarre hostility of some of the comments coming from English Parliament supporters (which only got worse after I politely asked them to desist), including suggestions that I want to deny people the right to vote (e.g.)

    c) the most important factor – an email conversation I had been having with a chap calling himself Fred Blogz (also going by “Sir Garlichad”), accusing me of being a “ducal EU-phile”, and “EU elitist”, and of deleting one of his comments because I was “losing the argument” – a rather hasty leap to an assumption.

    Despite the fact that I emailed back (politely, I might add) to explain that his comment had been automatically held in a spam filter, he has repeated the claim here and here, refusing to listen to any reason.

    My email was greeted with the following reply “Now I’m done with you. There’s no sense in discussions with the autocracy of closed minds such as yours. Your sophistry should not be dignified by argument.”

    I then offered to write a dedicated post on the subject to let you English Parliament types have the debate without swamping the debate that my last post was *meant* to be about, to which he responded “I would sooner have a, more credible democratic, discussion with next door’s tom cat.”

    This is an attitude that seems fairly widespread among some sections of the English Parliament campaign (although I have had a very nice email from someone from the CEP distancing themselves from some of the more excitable comments) – see, for example, the English Democrats’ Facebook page, where they linked to this page yesterday with the intro “Nosemonkey get’s his Baboon’s bottom spanked by English Nationalists”, with (semi-illiterate) follow-up comments including the paranoid “which part of the corupt socialist(national or international) regime does he work for… is coments are anti english and racist”

    So, when I vented my frustration on Twitter, I had plenty of provocation.

    I have, however, done my utmost to remain civil and polite in all discussions on this blog (and via email) with you and your fellow English Parliament campaigners. Have I ever called any of you a dickhead or accused you of talking “cockwaffle”?

    And have I – at any point – suggested that there is anything wrong with feeling English?

  21. Britologywatch“if a majority of English people do feel English enough to wish to be governed by an English parliament, aren’t they entitled to be?”

    Of course. But the trouble with that is that a majority can always easily outvote a minority, leaving that minority without the same right to self-identification and self-government that the majority can gain. If you held an England-wide referendum on Cornish independence, for example, there’s no way that the Cornish nationalists could win.

    My problem with a referendum is therefore not – as English Democrats are claiming on various forums – that I want to deny anyone the ability to set up an English Parliament, but that I see an English parliament as just one possible solution to the West Lothian Question.

    By all means have a referendum if enough people want a referendum – something I’m not convinced about – but the question can’t be as simple as “Should there be an English Parliament?” – it should instead be a multiple-choice affair, listing all the various options (from the solution I favour where MPs from the devolved regions don’t vote on England-only matters, through regional assemblies, to total English “independence” and the dissolution of the United Kingdom).

    You see, my problem with referendums – *all* referendums, on *all* issues, not just this one – is that it is very easy for them to over-simplify things. Just look at the 1975 referendum on EEC membership. I’m more or less in favour of EU membership, and so think that the result was the right one, and yet I’m fully prepared to admit that that referendum was deeply flawed.

  22. Terry“I support an English Parliament because I demand equality before the law and the constitution (so far largely unwritten)with my fellow citizens. Can you explain to me why I should put up with less?”

    I’m not suggesting you should in the slightest – if anything, with my preference for even more local government, I’m suggesting you should get *more* than would likely be provided by an English Parliament (which would, by its very nature, be split in composition between politicians of various different views from various different parts of the country). As I’ve already stated, I’m trying to work out why I should have any say into how a Cumbrian farmer’s life is run, any more than a Scottish farmer should have any say into mine.

    “In order to demonstrate a lack of support for an EP you have had to weave those wanting English independence into your figures and then do a logistical back-flip to show a (false) picture for lack of support for an EP.”

    Sorry, I genuinely don’t know what you mean here. That 2007 BBC poll showed that 73% want the United Kingdom to continue – I’m no statistician, but that looks fairly categorical to me (not least because it’s by no means clear that the other 27% want English independence rather than simply reform).

  23. Regardless of what’s been said out of hand to you, you’re obviously going to attract a lot more flack by describing people as loons and telling them to fuck off eh?

    For myself I apologise for calling you a dickhead – it was childish of me to retaliate in kind.

    Anyway don’t let that stop you answering the valid arguments for English recognition and representation.

  24. Nosemonkey. Sorry you’ve been getting insults, for which there’s no excuse in rational argument. I do, however, feel you are at times a little less than totally respectful in your turn, referring to ‘you England Parliament lot’ and the like. We’re not a mob, you know; and we represent quite a wide range of political views and visions for England.

    A yes / no referendum isn’t a perfect instrument for determining the best, fairest and most comprehensive solution to particular issues, granted. But I do think your example is a bit silly again (with respect, of course). No one’s suggesting the whole population of England should have a vote on Cornish self-government; similarly, should the whole of the UK, or Great Britain, or England and Wales, have a vote on English self-government?

    Sooner or later you’ve got to determine the level at which popular sovereignty exists. Sure, if you think the whole of the UK should have a say on an English parliament, as it would affect everyone in the UK, then maybe there’s a valid case for allowing everyone in the UK to participate in a referendum relating to it. But then the referendum in question shouldn’t be just about English governance but explicitly about the governance of the UK as a whole: UK citizens voting on how they wish to be governed, not on how the UK should govern England. E.g. perhaps the vote would be about a new federal UK constitution in which all of the nations of the UK (including Cornwall, if a majority there wanted it) would have their own sovereign legislatures and would pool certain issues in a Pan-British parliament and government, e.g. security, defence, borders, macro-economics, transport and energy strategy, etc.

    So obviously, whether we should have an English parliament isn’t the only question that should be asked overall, and maybe any actual referendum would have to canvass views on a different option or set of options. But ultimately, it’s up to the people living in England to decide if they wish to be a sovereign nation; and, if so, whether they also want a national parliament of their own.

  25. Fred Bloggz (aka Tom Ritchie from Glossop) is well known as a moron so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.

    I don’t see why an English parliament cannot take account of local and regional identities (not that the latter exists in any meaningful sense, but if it did…). Increasingly I think the English face a choice between Democratic Replublicanism or the continuation of Parliamentary Sovereinty (absolute sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament). If we embrace the former we have not only the option of federalism (or preferably confederalism in which sovereignty lies with the nations and is ceded to the centre) but also the option of an English parliament in which non-MPs (local politicians) can participate in Committees. The advantage of Committees brought together like this is that they are not constrained by cartographers’ lines but can be composed of local councils with a common interest (ie local authorities that lie along the Thames or M1, or who have an interest in coastal defences, or particular social issues to address) and power is retained at local level and not removed to more remote regional bodies with whom no one identifies.

    Where there is demand for a Committee the MPs for that area (or common interest) can convene one. And in an English Parliament with more time to spend on English issues (freed from UK business) there will be more time available for Committees and better debate and scrutiny of English legislation. We also wouldn’t have the inescusable situation we have now where membership of English Regional Select Committees do not reflect the voting pattern of the region in question, and may even draw members from outside that region (Labour placemen drafted in to ride roughshod over local democracy – which was the original purpose of the despised regional assemblies under Labour).

  26. Wyrdtimes – glad to see you’re vaguely starting to understand where I’m coming from. Please note, however, that my exasperation was a general one – not any kind of personal attack, just an expression of frustration. Unlike your delightful tweet describing me as “An ignorant pro EU pro English regions arsebiscuit talking bollocks”.

    I tend to try and avoid personal attacks on here because, as you note, it makes you look infantile and immediately undermines your argument. Hence posting on Twitter rather than directly onto this blog. (I don’t always manage to contain my frustration against individuals, for sure, but I tend to keep personal attacks confined to politicians and public figures, rather than mere bloggers, and definitely try not to throw insults at people when I haven’t bothered reading what it is they are actually saying, rather than what I think they are saying based on my own preconceptions and world-view.

    Britologywatch“Sooner or later you’ve got to determine the level at which popular sovereignty exists”

    This is precisely what I was trying to do – in a very general, theoretical sense – in my last post. You have to talk in general terms to understand the concepts before you move onto the specifics – this was why I was a tad annoyed by the comments getting hijacked by a bunch of people talking about the specific case of an English Parliament before we’d even worked out the general theory of what kinds of bonds and similarities are sufficiently strong to justify a separate form of government.

    Toque – Thank you! Finally a sensible, practical suggestion for how an English Parliament might function, based on considerations of where and how power should best be pooled, rather than just emotional appeals to an ill-defined sense of nationhood.

    The committees idea is an intriguing one, and I can certainly see how that might work – satisfying both English nationalists and providing a solution to the problem of finding appropriate responses to regional concerns. It sounds fairly similar to my own preferences for the way the EU should function, in fact – a series of overlapping tiers, with numerous opt-ins and opt-outs based on a combination of political will and practicality.

  27. I’ll take no lessons in manners from you.

    Do remember that my tweet “An ignorant pro EU pro English regions arsebiscuit talking bollocks” came after your telling English Parliament “types” to fuck off.

    I for one find that insulting and personally I think that some kind of retort is well in order. but in the spirit of reconciliation I’ll retract and apologise for the word “arsebiscuit”. How’s that for you?

  28. “Thank you!”

    My pleasure. I rather doubt that many English nationalists want to replicate the present House of Commons. If an English Parliament is created we need to look at voting systems, ways of promoting a more less combative, more consensual, politics (pr, greater use of committees, new chamber, etc).

    Much of the legislation that has been pushed through by the last three New Labour Governments – a lot of it poorly drafted, improperly debated and not subject to the necessary scrutiny – would/could have been avoided with an English parliament elected by PR. Labour have used their huge Commons majority to legislate and legislate and legislate, and much of what they have done, thanks to the territorial extent of their powers, has impacted more heavily on England than it has on the other nations of the UK.

    The report of the Commission to Strengthen Parliament (2000) concluded that:

    “Primary legislation suffers from inadequate scrutiny in the House of Commons;
    Delegated legislation is also subject to inadequate parliamentary scrutiny, and;
    in regard to European legislation, there is a need for substantial improvement in the scrutiny.”

    The Law Commission found much of the law:“is riddled with faults and flaws”…. and it is often only the imagination and ingenuity of our judges which conceals with judicial sticking plaster the depth of the fault lines.

    Westminster is one of the most overburdened parliaments in the world and the quality of English and UK legislation suffers because of sheer weight of parliamentary business and the priorities of the British government’s legislative programme. An English parliament would create a forum for the discussion of English issues (just as the Scots and Welsh have their national forums) and allow for proper scrutiny of English legislation and better post-legislative parliamentary scrutiny of executive action (for both the UK and for England).

  29. How about the orkney Islands, they would do much better if they split from Scotland (better claim on North Sea oil) They may find that they have more in common with Norway that Edinburgh (combine their new oil wealth). If Scotland can be a unified country dispite the differences why not England.

    I believe that Labour is trying to split England in to regions because they don’t like the idea of England being bigger and more successful than Scotland and that they would never return to power again.

  30. Well, I am English and I say, I have had enough of all the supposed counter arguments to the English having their own parliament.

    The English have a right to self-determination just like everyone else.

    The English have a right to be treated just like everyone else.

    The English are going to have their rights recognised.

    Incidentally, the arguments against having an English parliament are stale and boring. It is always the same rubbish, i.e. it’ll cost too much, we (who is we?) do not want more m.p.’s, people in newcastle arent the same as those in the south, blah, blah, blah.
    Firstly, the scottish parliament and welsh assembly cost money; nobody whined about that. Nobody said one word about it.
    Secondly, nobody has ever been asked about whether they want more m.p.’s and again, nobody was asked this question prior to the advent of the scottish parliament and welsh assembly. Why is this question being asked only now?
    Thirdly, English people in Newcastle and English people in Essex are the same. Infact, English people in other countries are still English even when they’ve never been to England. Yes, there are many ethnic English people around the world who identify as English. I know because i’ve met some of them. They are proud of it to.
    Do you think that the whole of the UK should have a say on an English parliament? Why? The English did not have ANY say in whether scotland got a parliament or n ireland/wales got assemblies? None of the anti-English talked about a UK referendum then; so why now? As usual, it’s to keep the English down. I am sick and tired of all this double-dealing.
    The “English parliament lot”? How old are you? You sound like a small boy.

  31. Just to throw this OurKingdom article into the debate. Cornwall Forward!: http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom/philip-hosking/2009/09/18/cornwall-forward

    All comments welcome.

  32. Level of support for an English Parliament

    The figure normally quoted by an English Parliament’s supporters is that 73% back the idea of an English Parliament, based on a solitary BBC poll from 2006. What is normally ignored is another poll the BBC conducted in early 2007. This also showed a majority support for the idea, though this time only 61%.

    That hardly shows overwhelming support for the idea, in my books.

    You seem to have forgotten all the other polls taken. I wonder why? Telling a lie is easy. Does the truth scare you?

  33. Or – just perhaps – I wasn’t aware of the polls you mention and was willing to be convinced otherwise? Hence, erm, my final paragraph starting (in bold) with “So, English Parliament lot – convince me.

    As it is, all I’ve been convinced of is that the majority of English Parliament supporters appear to be rude conspiracy theorists who are incapable of formulating coherent responses to perfectly reasonable questions, criticisms and concerns without resorting to ad hominem attacks and name-calling.

    And this is one of the key reasons why I don’t think any of you are representative of the average Englishman – because one of the key characteristics of the English has long been an ingrained sense of politeness. If you’re rude – as you are – then in my books you’re not English.

  34. Ah, how I long for a new article by our nasal simian prophet. Is there anything we can look forward to? Dying for another of your refreshing insights into the EU. I’m falling out of touch on European affairs, and surely there must be things to mention, what with all the recent developments.