Tuesday, October 24, 2006

English Constitutional Convention: A Letter to the Telegraph

I'm a co-signatory on a letter to the Daily Telegraph announcing the setting up of an English Constitutional Convention. As regular readers know, I favour an English Parliament to solve the democratic deficit now being experienced by the people of England. I don't want anything like the white elephant of the Scottish Parliament, but it's clear that the status quo is not enough. Sometime in the next next few years this is an issue which all parties have to take seriously. At the moment the Conservative position is that English votes on English measures will solve everything. It won't, and is merely a short term band-aid solution. Anyway, we'll be talking about this subject on tonight's Vox Politix, so hope you'll be watching!...

Sir – The current "post-devolution settlement" is iniquitous to England.Scotland and Wales have their own Parliament and Assembly, and yet are still over-represented in the House of Commons; the West Lothian Question has yet to be answered – why should Scottish and Welsh MPs preside over English matters when MPs representing English constituencies have no reciprocal right? And the long-discredited Barnett formula, the system by which regional funding is allocated, remains grossly unfair to the taxpayers of England.It has been nearly 10 years since the people of Scotland and Wales were consulted in a referendum prior to devolution. No such courtesy has been extended to the people of England, and our politicians seem reluctant even to allow open debate on the subject.Dividing England into "regions", while leaving Scotland and Wales as "nations", is rightly unpopular and undemocratic. Stopping Scottish and Welsh MPs voting on English issues will cause as many problems as it solves. The question of the establishment of an English parliament must be considered and the option placed in front of the electorate. At a meeting in the House of Commons today, the English Constitutional Convention will be formally established, with the aim of promoting debate and raising public awareness of England's democratic deficit. As patrons to the convention, we urge the Government, Opposition and all the people of the United Kingdom actively to participate in that debate. England will be heard. The time for silence is over.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley; Lord Stoddart of Swindon; John Horam MP; Professor Hugo De Burgh; Professor Jeremy Dibble; Prof Roger Scruton; Dr. Gerald Morgan Trinity Dublin; Jervis Kay QC; Garry Bushell Journalist; Iain Dale Conservative commentator; Neil Addison Barrister; Mike Knowles, Chairman, Campaign for an English Parliament; Robin Tilbrook, Chairman, English Democrats; Christine Constable, Chairman, English Lobby; Bishop Michael Reid; Rev Richard Martin; Richard Long, Solicitor; Andy Smith, Past President, Chartered Institute of Journalists; Simon Lee, Lecturer, Hull University; Prof Charles Greenawalt

UPDATE: Can I just clarify what I meant by the White Elephant of the Scottish Parliament, as it has caused some speculation in the Comments. I primarily meant the building, rather than the institution. Having said that I do believe that a vast bureaucracy has emerged surrounding the Parliament and would not wish to see a repetition in any English equivalent. My way round this is to abolish MSPs and AMs and have Westminster MPs sitting in Westminster for three weeks in every four and in their national Parliaments for the other week. That way you don't get an extra layer of politicians and much of the bureaucracy surrounding the various Parliaments is rendered redundant. However, this is NOT what the English Constitutional Convention is proposing. It is being set up to give people a chance to air their views and for the various alternatives to be put to the English people. Its remit does not extend beyond that, for the moment.

86 comments:

youdontknowme said...

I don't think there will be an English parliament anytime soon. Labour would never be ok with it because it would mean they would never govern it again.

The conservatives believe it would lead to the breakup of the UK so they would never be for it.

Scott said...

Iain,

I am a Scottish lawyer who has sympathy for the points you make. I wondered though if you could explain why you consider the Scottish Parliament to be a "white elephant". Are you referring to the building or the body?

I can only state that many long overdue reforms to our system in fields from property law to family law - including legislation protecting adults with incapacity - have been passed that were held up for years in Westminster (in some cases for nearly 15 years), despite the volume of legislation produced in Westminster.

Anonymous said...

Gary Bushell?

dynamite said...

Gary Bushell certainly lends weight to the campaign.

no longer anonymous said...

How about an even more democratic plan - devolve power down to County Councils? That would put a stop to South-North money transfers.

Cranmer said...

His Grace would also have been signatory to this documents, if he had a right hand to write with...

Anonymous said...

Incredibly interesting and good luck with it. About time we addressed some of our constitutional questions. The present government has pulled bricks out of the wall without considering the consequences. Half-hearted, compromise reforms that have left us with a number of issues. My only concern is that we will have to rewrite the entire constitution to come up with something that seems acceptable and that it will be many years before we realise whether we have improved or damaged the country. It will hasten the break-up of the UK and have a large number of unintended consequences.

The Druid said...

Kilbrandon looked at this and rightly concluded that a Union with with English parliament would be so out of balance to be unworkable.

Proper devolution in England is the way to go. The English regions should have the same powers as Scotland. And not be the toy assemblies that Prescott was peddling. They were an insult from an insulting man. That way we might preserve the Union and get some Conservatives in government.

Paul Burgin said...

youdontknowme, some individual Labour members are for it (including myself), esp given the fact that the idea of regional assemblies seem to be on the backburner. Every so often, there are issues which require cross party support, this is one of them!

newmania said...

Chris Whiteside has an excellent and refreshingly calm summary of the position on his excellent blog. He concludes:

“Frankly, whether you call this "an English parliament" or "English votes for English laws" is a matter of semantics rather than substance. What I am clear about is that I want to see a fair and even-handed democratic solution for the UK and I want to see it without an increase in the number of politicians.” Worth reading as is everything he writes actually .

This is not quite the Iain dale position which to me is unduly nationalistic, a most un-English trait.
I prefer to leave the tit for tat mud slinging to the non-footballing , oil greedy , racist, Barnett teat sucking , pictish horde sulking in their midge infested bogs. We must retain our sange froid recognising the childish inferiority complex of a nation whose contribution to Literature is third rate novelty act they can`ty bear to read themselves. Burns night ?! Why not Pam Ayres night.

Also the only game of rugby they ever won was by constantly lurking offside.

antisophist said...

Iain,

Why not also support devolution of Scotland and Wales if that is what they seek?

Solves the W Lothian question and gives them self-determination. I imagine you would never support full UK membership of the EU (currency incl.) due to loss of sovereignty.

If seperate sovereigny is what S + W seek (sovereignty that is) why should they not have it? And who are the English to potentially deny it?

Vlad the Impala said...

The adoption of devolution by the first term Blair government will go down in political history as the first step in the ultimate dissolution of the United Kingdom. Some of the pressure for this dissolution is indigenous, specifically the growing success of pro-separatist voices in Scotland itself. Some of the pressure comes from the way the EU deals with regions as a way of weakening the supremacy of national governments as well as reflecting realities on the ground on the continent. But most of the pressure will come from increased disatisfaction by English voters about the inequalities produced by the devolution settlement. This is more than just an issue of availability of medicines or care for the elderly which the British fund, the Scottish population enjoy but the English are denied, but the sense that English people are progressively being stripped of any voice in their own life and future. I am very pro-Scottish, and follow events there closely, but even I am getting fed up with my future being set by politicians who have no direct relationship to my life, and whose own constituencies are immune from some of the ill-thought through legislation inflicted on us. The government's attempt to foist regional assemblies on England as a sop to these sentiments shows just how shallow runs their political thinking - a group of unelected, unaccountable and (from the evidence) incompetent appointees whom we have no power to influence or remove. The Conservative Party needs to have a more visionary, radical and democracy-centered approach to restoring the nation's political life, starting with being honest about how they are going to deal with post-devolution Britain.

Anonymous said...

You mean Kent needn't become a suburb of Belgium after all.

As for Scotland we're just jealous of them having an ability to discuss things. The 'white elephant' is exactly what we want.

Thing is they'll waste their independence from Westminster by throwing it away to Brussels. England though will be a Conservative eurosceptic country with its own currency, system of law, the largest city in the Western world (Thames TV is 27 million people)and the world's most important financial centre. Scotland will become a kilted Brussels Socialist Sprout.

cynic said...

We have an English parliament, it's at Westminster. We let a few Scots and Welsh sit there but in return we get to boss them around. It's not such a bad deal.

rk said...

I’d also like to make similar points to Scott.

There is indeed a democratic deficit and the west Lothian question remains unanswered but no Tories seemed to mind for the 200 years when the shoe was on the other foot. For all that time a majority of English MPs could outvote or block a minority of Scottish MPs on legislation only concerning Scottish law. The deficit was arguably greater since a Scottish measure voted for by every single Scottish MP could still fail. I’m not familiar with what happened in practice (did English MPs vote or abstain?) but the simple limit of legislative time meant long delays for Scottish issues being addressed.

That said I don’t see the problem of an English Parliament given the same powers as the Scottish one. As for the Scottish Parliament being a “white elephant” I take it you mean the building. Does that imply that the English Parliament you advocate would sit in Westminster? In which case the only tangible difference between the policy of “English votes on English issues” and your position is the employment of another 300+ politicians. Are you angling for one of these?

strapworld said...

anonymous and 'dynamite' show their snobbish conservative values.

Gary Bushell is not my kind of journalist, but I recognise that he appeals to a far bigger audience than anonymous and dynamite would ever achieve!

This important debate, and I applaud Iain and all the signatories, needs to appeal to all English People, of all ages and of all classes and I applaud the inclusion of Mr Bushell...who is, after all is said and done, entitled to an opinion!

The attitude of anonymous 11.26 and dynamite, frankly, disgusts me.

Cicero said...

Easy to see why the English have quite sensibly voted to have Scottish people rule them for so long.

Poor dears- what utter nonsense most of these comments are- especially the "lurking offside"- you really never recovered from 1990, did you?

We had devolution- in the shape of the Scottish and Welsh office- for decades. Now we have more democratic control over devolved powers- but we should have proper home rule. So should England. Home rule in a federal Britain. That solves the West Lothian question immediately by making all units equally autonomous.

BTW the idea that devolution=dissolution is quite wrong. In fact without the concession of devolution, the Uk might have already broken up.

Pam Ayres- oh deeeerie me.

Lagwolf said...

I notice that the Daily Politics could not be bothered to discuss this subject on today's show.

Anonymous said...

Vlad is right when he points out that pressure to regionalise comes,in part,from Brussels.

no longer anonymous said...

Alternatively, massively restrict the size and scope of government so we wouldn't have all this fuss. If there was no NHS you wouldn't have the Scots and English fighting over who gets an unfair proportion of NHS funds.

Schoolboy-Error said...

Yes,Blair's ultimate legacy will be the break up of the union.Now that we've reached the tipping point, 44% to 42% in favour of independence.Many Scots (including politicians) will feel strong tugs on their heart strings.The tide of history will flow with those with the greatest passion on their side and this is obviously the nationalists.

Neil Craig said...

As a Scot I have no rights here but I would still make a suggestion. An all England Parliament would be unbalancing & will limit the way different regions can experiment with different policies (this is applying the scientific method to government) but we must live with it if that is what England wants.

However I believe a right for regions to change to a separate regional assembly in future if there is ever a majority for it should be enshrined.

Anonymous said...

And over on CH,TM is £100 lighter.
Is it possible to insure against broken promises?

Danvers said...

How about something that solves the West Lothian Question (or the Gordon Brown/John Reid/Alastair Darling etc Question, as it should now be called) AND House of Lords reform? I guess this would result in some sort of federal system, which the Scots and Welsh will object to on the grounds that England would still dominate. Still, it is time for radical thinking and not the constitutional vandalism of the last 9 years.

Rural Housewife said...

I am sick and tired of being expected to apologise for being English, (always put it on my nationality after all the Scots can be Scottish etc) for being white, for being a Christian, for being married, for staying at home to bring up my children (now have to stay at home and look after my grandchild because her parents cannot afford a house)

When I reached my 60th birthday I was told by some official that he did not know why I expected a pension when I had not worked when my children were small! -this despite the fact that I had payed for 15 years and my husband had supplemented. That I have undertaken numerous charity and volunteer work.

I am not living in a Region I am living in England. I am proud to be -English -we gave women the vote and equality, we abolished the slave trade -we support numerous charities which help overseas -I have stoppped supporting the Red Cross because if they are ashamed to be seen having links with Christians then they must be ashamed of taking Christian money. We abolished prison for homosexuality. We had a superb Health Service.
isn't all that something to be proud of?

my father thought that he gave 6 years of his life for freedom -I am glad he isn't alive to see what that freedom has spawned in this self -seeking, illiterate, illogical, classridden government.

I am from the poorest beginings but give me the old aristocracy and old school tie any day -bad they were bad but good they outclassed any of this lot in responsibility and compassion.

I feel better after that!

dynamite said...

Rural housewife, I know just what you mean, it's political correctness gone mad. I find the best thing to go is to climb into a box full of straw - I suggest you try it.

I'll call for you when it's safe to come out.

youdontknowme said...

Paul Burgin-That might be true but the only people that really matter are the top of the parties like Blair and his cabinet. If Brown was to become leader he would not want an English parliament because it would mean he couldn't even vote on matters that he proposed essentially leaving him no power even if he was PM.

Wadhurst in the Peoples Republic of Mancunia said...

Why not simply end the sham of devolution and restore the United Parliament at Westminster to its rightful and historic status.
The United Kingdom should have one united Parliament.

Also seperating England from the rest of the UK would leave English identity in the hands of football hooligans and chavs - we would probably have a bank holiday on Rooneys birthday - we (in England)need the rest of the UK, in order to preserve our collective BRITISH identity.

Ken from Gloucester said...

A lot of people missing the point here.yes we must solve the West Midlothian question which Labour wont touch because it keeps them in power,but we must also look at the Barnett formulae!!


Is it right that in this United Kingdom it will cost me £25,000 per year in England for care home treatment and nothing in Scotland!!


I am beginning to think that Scotland should have it,s own independance and go its own sweet way. It will save the English billions of pounds.Best of luck to Scotland!Hope you can raise some revenue.

Anonymous said...

Iain I'm all for there being an English Constitutional Convention, especially if it leads to the West Lothian Answer.

However, your letter in today's paper does indicate that some closed issues already from you and your signatories (ie Regional Assemblies). If you want a convention it should be something were dialogue leads to the best outcomes rather than simply cemeting pre-concieved ideas.

You yourself also refer to a Parliament which has actioned changes in policy from Westminster as a 'White Elephant' yet in the previous sentance are calling for a Parliament in England.

How are you defining white elephant? Do you mean you want greater or full fiscal autonomy for each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Do you want more devolution of powers and responsibilities?

I think this is something that needs clarity as it seems to be a dichotomy as they stand side by side in this post.

Paul Burgin said...

Not necessarily youdontknowme. In theory an English Palriament would, in effect, make the UK Parliament a federal assembly and therefore any UK Prime Minister, be they English, Scots, Welsh.. would have similar limits.

youdontknowme said...

Wadhurst-We should not end devolution. The people of Scotland and Wales want it and if they want it why should we, the English have any say in what they want?

If they want to give up their devolved parliament and assemblies it should happen but if not they shouldn't.

We can maintain our British identity through devolution. British identity is not watered down by devolution. Just look at all the countries who operate under federalism. Is American identity watered down because states and cities are allowed to make up their own laws? No it is not so I don't see how we would lose our British identity. All we need is a constitution setting what the central government can do and what the devolved governments can do.

Devolution may lead to Scottish independence but if they want it why shouldn't they be given it? Self determination is for everyone and if that self determination includes stopping Scotland taking English money it gets better.

youdontknowme said...

Paul-Do you mean that an english pm wouldn't be able to vote on scottish matters? I dont quite understand what you are getting at

wrinkled weasel said...

I am not sure why you consider the Scottish Parliament to be a "white elephant".

It managed to be ahead of the English (which I am, though living in Scotland) in ,for example, banning smoking, more humane bankruptcy laws, Is about to get tougher (and rightly so) on drink driving by lowering the limit and to top it all, the SNP want to stop discrimination against English Students, by levelling fees to align with Scottish students, denouncing the current Labour/Lib Dem arrangement as "Anti English" That is the SNP I am talking about, not the Conservatives. I could have kissed Nicola Sturgeon when I heard that.

In case you didn't know, Scotland is another country - it has its good points and the bad - but it is somewhere else, with a very different cultural and social outlook.

I am neutral about independence, since it is not really up to me, but the parliament works, it reflects the genuine differences between the countries and has a popular mandate.

Try not to be so scathing.

As for Scots trying to run England, I shall not worry until Andrew Neil, Gordon Brown, and Reid et al start dropping dark hints about forcible adoption of Scottishness such as wearing the kilt, eating deep fried onion pizzas and having Gaelic support teachers (who can wear the kilt) in Surrey .

Dee said...

I support the Scottish Parliament. I support the Welsh Assembly being upgraded to a Welsh Parliament. Most of all, I support an English Parliament, though I believe it is a case of when, rather than if.
The only question that is relevant to an English Parliament, is how much damage will be inflicted on England we get one?

Scotland is being given direct control of its asylum policies, now, yet England's asylum policies will remain in the hands of an MP elected in Scotland - go figure!!

The Druid said...

Iain has this Convention got a website where we can send our two pennies worth? Also your peripatetic membership would be unworkable. Sounds like a variation on the Euro Parliament farce. No offence!

I really don't know what the problem is here. We exported constitutions to most of the world yet seem hell bent on making a dog's dinner out of our own.

Why not have a Union Parliament at Westminster with a much smaller H of C and an elected Senate (by law half the size of the Commons) to run the UK. And out in the Nations and regions legislative assembles and executive councils running broadly speaking the same affairs as the Scottish Parliament. Please no eye wash about England being kept together. Its too big. For instance, Cornwall has little in common with the North East, which in truth has more in common with the Scots over the border. (London would keep its existing arrangements. It can't be trusted not to elect loonies.) I'd have an independent commission to work out shares of revenues from Union taxes etc for the "state" governments. And I would keep a subsidy for places where appropriate.

But that would solve the West Lothian question. And maintain responsible government which is to a large extent the basis of our constitution.

Who knows it might revive politics, and make government more responsive to the needs of the people? Especially if we leave the EU. That lot can't run a booze up in a pub.....

youdontknowme said...

The SNP are a good bunch of people. They actually put the Scottish people first unlike the British government who put the British people last.

If only the English had a government that cared about them.

dynamite said...

The attitude of anonymous 11.26 and dynamite, frankly, disgusts me.

Strapworld, if you're disgusted by people who think that Garry Bushell is, perhaps, not the brightest star in the milky way, then you should probably get out more.

LMO said...

I love the idea people think the Scots would stop getting their hands on England's money if they get independance and throw in with Europe.Who is one of the biggest(2nd?) financial contributors to the EU,minus Scotland's contribution?

Vlad the Impala said...

From my perspective (a youth ill-spent studying anthropology) there is a critical difficulty at the heart of the devolution and constitutional debate: how do you define the separate regional nationalities. It is almost impossible to answer (which is probably why its hardly even been raised) unless you go for location (not even birthplace). Wretched jokes apart, what, exactly, constitutes Scottish-ness or being Welsh or indeed English - and what rights should that confer?

A Scot born in London, even first generation, gains no advantage sending their children to uni in Scotland, but an immigrant whose children are born in Scotland does. And I'd guess a substantial majority of people living in England have Scottish, Welsh and/or Irish blood but at present that counts for nothing versus where they happen to to live.

As an immigrant from The Colonies who became a UK citizen, I have no side in this debate but am fascinated at the process of self-identification going on. Its a lot clearer in Scotland but even then, you have some interesting and conflicting cross-currents, including religious ones.

The democratic deficit several bloggers mention is only partly due to the curiousity of the West Lothian question and Barnett formula. It has its real core in the belief of the present government that they are not accountable, either to parliament, the electorate or indeed their own party -- and is reflected in the steady erosion of connectivity between citizen and government at every level.

This is no recipe for the longerm health of any society, devolved or otherwise.

Hilary B said...

"My way round this is to abolish MSPs and AMs and have Westminster MPs sitting in Westminster for three weeks in every four and in their national Parliaments for the other week. That way you don't get an extra layer of politicians and much of the bureaucracy surrounding the various Parliaments is rendered redundant".

If a Parliament is what the majority of Scots voted on, why should they not have that? Why remove it after 8 years to solve English concerns?

And remember that Scottish local government has only one level now - having been reformed prior to devolution.
And PR next year will reform it again.

Get the whole picture straight befrore you make judgements on how the sytem works elsewhere.

kloot said...

I'd hate to be an Ulster Unionist reading this article. I caught the letter in the paper today and I was intrigued that it failed to mention NI. And then reading down through the comments again there is no mention of NI. Nowhere!

Interesting. Does this back up the comment often hurled in the Unionist direction that no one on the 'mainland' cares about Northern Unionists anyway.

Personally, I think that the English deserve their own parliament. However, it makes sense that English MP should control English interests. However, does the UK parliament not become a quango then, a waste of money whose main purpose is to shore up the Union ?

AnyonebutBlair said...

If the Scots n' the Welsh want to go and be small peripheral contries (no bigger than Latvia) in the EU, then let 'em I say. We have been ruled over by the Scottish Raj for far too long, with an in-built parlimentary pro-labour bias due to the over-representation of Scots & Welsh MPs. Time for a consitutional re-balancing. The English pay for virtually everything in the UK (tax receipts from Scotland and Wales are negligible) as for Oil n' Gas well I think the Scots need to do their maths again. PS the Oil n' Gas is virtually gone anyway.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the clarification of a view points there Iain.

Although you are looking at moving MSPs and AMs from Edinburgh and Cardiff to London during the week adding a third residence required for some of them. Also proposing this at a time that people are revisiting why the European Parliement requires having two homes is crazy.

Paul Burgin said...

I mean, the whole constitutional status of the UK Parliament would be affected. If, for example,an Englsih Parliament had the same powers as a Scottish Parliament, then Westminster MP's would be unable to vote on a raft of issues, because they go under the English or Scottish Parliament!

Anonymous said...

Rural housewife your Father was only one of many from these Isles who gave up many years of their young lives for King and Country. My Father soent five years in Burma and throughout South East Asia he died when he was fifty and I was fourteen. I never got to have a drink with him, show him my own son, have him at my wedding or tell him that I loved him.

I did visit war graves in Rangoon a few years ago where many of his comrades lie who never got to set foot in the UK again, it was too moving to describe here.

Oh and by the way Rural Housewife he was Scottish from Edinburgh which is a long way from Mandalay as is Cardiff Londonderry, Belfast and Dundee.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise Bushell was on there. Iain, you really should pick your friends better than this. The fact that some of his views are popular doesn't make him any more acceptable.

I don't mind robust right wing journalists but Bushell is a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, and also a fat b*stard. Stay well clear of him, he's dodgy.

Martyn said...

There is a kind of abstract political sense in the setting up of an English parliament and Iain is right to point out that 'English votes on English laws' is a largely unworkable policy. However, in a situation where one nation in a union is so much larger than its partners then it will present difficulties. Add to it the cost and bureacracy and the lack of real devolution it will represent then it looks like a bit of waste of time and money. Scots voting on English laws whilst the union exists is a small constitutional anomaly, not a major one. One nation has 5 million in its population, another has 50 million. Also this is more of an issue for people in the south than it is in the north. Southerners often speak as if Scotland is impossibly exotic, distant and bizarre. In many ways the North has more in common with Scotland than it does with the Home Counties. An English parliament dominated by the south would lead to an increased sense of northern difference and paradoxically might well ressurect claims for devolution to the North. Another way to devolve within England would be through real radical localism, giving local authorities or combinations of local authorities an extensive range of powers.
Personally I'd vote against an English parliament. It's an abstract 'me-too' kind of idea, a fact which is reflected that in most of the people involved in the convention are a bit peculiar . Garry Busshell ? Vernon Coleman ? Canon Wright's inclusion has given it a shot in the arm, but the credible English involvement looks a bit scant.

I want power for my local area, not for a southern English stitch-up. If as one commentator suggests "England will become a conservative eurosceptic country", then large parts of the North of England are unlikely to feel particular English for very long. Southern, narrowly defined right-wing Englishness is not Englishness but sectarianism.

Andrew said...

newmania: "This is not quite the Iain dale position which to me is unduly nationalistic, a most un-English trait.
I prefer to leave the tit for tat mud slinging to the non-footballing , oil greedy , racist, Barnett teat sucking , pictish horde sulking in their midge infested bogs. We must retain our sange froid"


Do as you say, not as you do, you racist runt. Pot, kettle, kettle, pot.

ken from gloucester: "It will save the English billions of pounds. Best of luck to Scotland! Hope you can raise some revenue.

It'll save the Scots a billion pounds a month in oil tax revenue that currently goes to Westminster too. See: here and here for details.

As for Iain and his English parliament hobby horse, I thank the stars that most English people seem to have more sense than he and the small band of nationalist malcontents that get over excited about this issue - it was never a problem when English MPs ran Scotland, was it! Most of us on these islands want to keep Britain British, and most of us don't want yet more bloody politicians on the taxpayer teat as part of a so-called solution to the West Lothian/Barnett question.

For a learned and sensible study of the issues and the upsides and downsides of potential solutions to these constitutional isses please read and digest this excellent paper by Iain McLean at Oxford University.

P.S. Strapworld, I'm Glad to see you're keeping your usual anti-Scots strapped down for a change :-)

CityUnslicker said...

When the Scots vote for SNP in May 2007 there will be a democratic mandate for full independence.

I would welcome this, if the Scots so desire who are we English to oppose them. I see no need for an Abraham Lincoln amongst us, although I am sure Tony would love to emulate the great man.

In this likley scenario then Westminster will become an English Parliament in any event.

Roll on the 2007 elections and let's hope labour do really badly!

HM Stanley said...

Ian:

As I have previously indicated in this space, in my view there is nothing conservative about calling constitutional conventions...or fetishizing democracy by calling for a wholly elected House of Lord (yesterday's post). To paraphrase Trollope (commenting on a Disraeli-like character's followers in one of his novels)...it is a travesty to have a conservatives who do not believe in conserving anything.

All these suggestions are fine, as long as they are not prefaced by "as a conservative"!!

Also, it is just horrible that constitutional issues of such momentous proportion are discussed in terms of Bliar v. Brown v. Tories v. Labour. Come on guys!! What's the different between you and TB who abolished a 1000 year old office---Lord Chancellor---in a back of an envelope reshuffle?

Paul said...

A letter, how quaint.

Personally I want less politicians not more, what on Earth was wrong with local authorities governing locally?

Rural Housewife said...

Actually annonymous - I am married to a Scotsman whose family has served in the Highland Regiments for generations and who gave four young lives from one family in WW1

Also the head of my husband's family was on the Burma Railway.

Why is it that everyone can be proud of their heritage except the English.

The English might not have always behaved to high standards -but neither did the Scots! It does not behove anyone to dredge old scores there is always good and bad.

but we are talking about now

All we ask is to have equal rights over our daily lives.

I think politicians have gravely underestimated the growing anger of the rank and file of this country.

g eagle esq said...

'
Sehr geEhrte Iain

Have you any idea how much it is going to cost to have yet another layer of Politicians interfering in our lives

Your obedient servant etc

G Eagle

PS I hope Rural Housewife & Anon 4:27pm will forgive my impertinence in congratulating them on having (like me) such wonderful fathers of whom they are rightly so inordinately proud and who did so much to preserve future Generations from the Darkness of Hitler & Tojo

g eagle esq said...

'
Sehr geEhrte Iain

Have you any idea how much it is going to cost to have yet another layer of Politicians interfering in our lives

Your obedient servant etc

G Eagle

PS I hope Rural Housewife & Anon 4:27pm will forgive my impertinence in congratulating them on having (like me) such wonderful fathers of whom they are rightly so inordinately proud and who did so much to preserve future Generations from the Darkness of Hitler & Tojo

uk-events said...

A couple of years ago, John Prescott asked us in the North East if we would like a regional assembly.

We told him where to go.

The same should happen with the demand for an English parliament.

What absolute nonsense.

Just because the Labour party have pandered to the nationalist imbeciles in Wales and Scotland doesn't mean the same is needed here.

We have a Parliament. To coin a phrase "the mother of all parliaments".

Instead of further diluting powers and splitting the nation, we should abolish those in Scotland and Wales and return to being a United Kingdom!

I'm amazed that in a country of this size we've setup such pointless bodies.

If the Welsh and Scottish don't approve, its quite simple, we give them no representation in Westminster, let them determine their own affairs.

Peter from Putney said...

It's just as well you decided to remain "Anonymous" at 4.31pm above. Mr Bushell has deep pockets and as an experienced and sometimes controversial journo, I imagine knows he has a good working knowledge of the English Law of Libel.

David Lane said...

This is a fantastic development, at last the momentum is building. I am Englishman who for the first time in my life has felt the need to join a political party...the English Democrat Party. The current inequalities of government are becoming increasingly apparent to an awakening English public...the sooner we have aa English Parliament the better!

David Lane
Bedworth

youdontknowme said...

uk-events:

Nationalist imbeciles? you are aware that the scottish and welsh had a vote on the issue of devolution in 1997 (could be slightly later) and most voted for one? The Welsh were less enthusiastic with the yes vote not winning by much.

If you want to destroy their devolved assemblies you are essentially against the democratic will of people to decide what is best for them.

Anonymous said...

You are believed to be influential with Cameron.

Re Home pages on his fiasco on the Kirklees question, tell him to go! he has managed to upset so many of his own.Wait until the mornings fucking papers make a meal of it-- and you support Cameron as a leader?

Iain Dale said...

Right, let's respond to a few comments...

Newmania 11.53, not sure why you think my position is nationalistic in any way at all.

Stephen Glenn, My mind is not closed at all. I don;t think there is anything in the letter which is prescriptive, All it is really doing is calling for a proper debate on English devolution. I referred to the Scottish Parliament as a White Elephant meaning the building as opposed to the institution. I explained this at the end of the post. Your point at 4.10 is odd - I am not proposing anything of the sort. I propose abolishing MSPs and AMs. MPs effectively would then do both jobs.

uk-events said...

>If you want to destroy their devolved assemblies you are essentially against the democratic will of people to decide what is best for them.

I'm not thinking about "whats best for 'them'"

I'm thinking about whats good for ALL of us.

We are one nation. End of. These hugely expensive talking shops are utterly pointless.

There are two very simple answers to the west lothian question - no scottish or welsh mps at Westminster or not Scottish or Welsh "parliaments"!

youdontknowme said...

"I'm thinking about whats good for ALL of us."

So you don't believe that freedom is good for all of us?


"We are one nation. End of. These hugely expensive talking shops are utterly pointless."

They are not talking shops. They actually achieve things. Just look at some of the things they have done.

Before devolution Scotland and Wales were more or less ignored and now they are getting things done within months that would normally take years.
Not everything is best for all countries.

Take the EU for example. Just recently they have decided to make a law stating car headlights must be on during the day. This is ok for a place like Norway which gets dark early but is just stupid for places like the UK.


"There are two very simple answers to the west lothian question - no scottish or welsh mps at Westminster or not Scottish or Welsh "parliaments"!"

I think the Scots would take the first option. There is a growing move towards independence. The last poll showed something like 44% were in favour of independence. If there was a scottish referendum today the indepedence movement would probably win.

Anonymous said...

I used to be in favour of an English parliament and some kind of federal arrangement but now I've come around to the view that it would just add another layer of bureaucracy and complexity. I think the most elegant solution is independent nationhood for all four states of the current union (or the development of some kind of transitional architecture towards that end). I think in time all four states would benefit.

Patrick Harris said...

The only solution is a Parliament for England, devolved powers a'la Scotland. Failing this - complete independence. If powers are to be devolved to the "regions" it will only end in the break up of England and complete loss of English culture and identity. Let the English have their say through a referendum in the manner that was afforded to the other constituent countries of the Dis-United Kingdom. The English are fed up with being sidelined. An English Parliament or complete independence - nothing less

Gammarama said...

*cough* Scottish oil */cough*

No1 fan said...

Just found a great Blog from a WPC. Great view of the world. Well worth a look Dale!!!!

www.pcbloggs.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

As one of the Velcade Three asked,'is an English life worth less than a Scottish life?'

Is an English voter's right to democracy worth less than a Scottish, Northern Irish, Eire, or Welsh voter's?

Are English MPs worth proportionately less in the selection process for Government Ministers?

Has a Scots cabal from a country which represents just 8% of the people of Britain the right to hijack the democratic power of the other 92% - including the c 50 million people of England?

Has that Scots cabal the right to bypass due parliamentary and legal process in order to establish a nascent dictatorship in which they hold all the key positions?

Has that Scots dictatorship the right to tyrannise the 50 million people of England with punitive, unjust and discriminatory laws, to pauperise their services while siphoning off their taxes to other parts of the Union?

Outrageously and shamefully, Britain's, disproportionately Scots, Government has answered 'yes' to all of these questions.

How can the people of England prevent this gross and iniquitous injustice ever happening again?

Only by winning Independence for England, our own, written Constitution and our own, democratic, parliament.

Thank you Iain for taking up this fight. When England is free again, we should make you a Saint!

Auntie Flo' - anon as I haven't an account yet.

ian said...

Iain. Do you think a town like Chesterfield should have it's own goverment?

TV Quit said...

Gary Bushell? What are you thinking?
Not only was he a candidate for the English Democrats at the last election, but he's such a gobshite channel 5 blush when they wheel him out for £50/hour sunday night polyfila TV voxpops. Shame on you.

youdontknowme said...

gammarama-

I think Scottish oil has almost gone.

Clark said...

Chesterfield 2 - West Ham 1

LMFAO

newmania said...

Andrew ( Mac Dumb) You did not detect the note of irony that I so skilfully wove into my contribution . The cunning shift of emphasis was almost undetectable I admit . I was seeking an effect of exquisite subtlety and that must be why it eluded you.

( Refer back to broad gag and reaction of pompous halfwit)

…who incidentally (the half wit) is wrong. There is naturally broad support for an amendment to the current constitutional absurdity. My only difference with Iain Dale is that I see no need for a grandiose statement of Englishness with ghastly modern art in the foyer. I would rather see an evolution of the Westminster proceeding via English votes to short period of UK legislation.. This would allow a debate en route with all the implications clear as we go. (Mac Dumb will no doubt be licking his thin Scottish lips at the savings involved ). It is not a large point perhaps but I do not want the English to become an parochial backwater like Scotland and symbolically the continuity of a Parliamentary solution would retain a link with the past .Still , it will be interesting to hear the proposed discussion and I may well change my mind . I often do .

In fact I begin to find the charming peasant simplicity of MacDumb rather picturesque.

See

Anonymous said...

Chesterfield, ra ra ra ra.

javelin said...

The English need the Scots - look at any of the front benches. They would be leaderless and rudderless without us. The extra tax they pay us is a small price for our leadership.

newmania said...

You don`t know etc.-I think Scottish oil has almost gone. :

They don`t and this figures much in Scottish Nationalist propaganda. In fact most of it would belong to Norway without the Shetland Isles. If I was an Islander I would be looking for independence myself and selling to the highest bidder.

I am glad we get onto Oil though because the drive for devolution has come , not from Iain Dale , but primarily from Scots. It has never ,in reality , been about a misty vision inspired by Walter Scot but from this compaint .

"Wha` izit thut Scort-lan` ez thay ainly country tai deskevver oil and git poorer "

This is one of the reasons that the suggestion of a English Parliament is going to wrong way . Without moving towards full devolution it will be a talking shop and as it does UK wide problems on a large scale will have to be dealt with. Oil , Foreign Policy ,EU membership and a mass of knotty legalities .
Westmister is the best place to handle what will be a long and difficult transition.

More work for the parasites .

Vlad the Impala said...

Iain, I would really like some clarification on who is Scottish, Northern irish, Welsh and English and what rights that would confer in a political system segregated along regional lines? Do we determine nationhood based on birthplace, parentage etc? I cannot for the life of me see how, in a country where there is such an admixture of nationalities, you can make such clearcut distinctions other than by "affiliation" - eg, anyone can presumably move (by choice) to Scotland and "become" Scottish - and equally lose those rights if they leave.

Given the porous nature of our society, having individuals in the British Isles subject to differing laws and regulations because of where they happen to live or move invites all sorts of problems for the future. People of Scottish family background living in England have no rights of access to the greaer social benefits in Scotland unless they move there.

If the creation of separate legislatures for each region results in wide disparities, whatever cohesion remains in Great Britain will erode as swiftly as our democratic rights appear to be. At what point do the regions themselves set criteria to determine who is excluded and included for the purposes of political power and social benefit? That seems to be one, not illogical, outcome of where we are heading.

Buenaventura Durruti said...

No problem with an English parliament: English, Scottish, welsh, & NI with same powers and voting systems.

And a small two chamber UK parliament. The upper chamber elected with EQUAL representation for each constituent part of the UK and the power to block legislation.

Anonymous said...

peter from putney - do you think Mr Bushell would find it easier to sue me if I used 'Hugh Jass' instead of 'anonymous'? (I'm not actually in the book under that name, but don't tell anybody)

But presumeably if Bushell is such an expert on the libel laws he will know there's a defence of 'honest opinion'.

youdontknowme said...

"The English need the Scots - look at any of the front benches"

All of them need to be out in front of a firing squad.

Labour are the worst government we have ever had.

Martyn said...

No follow up to the convention ? Just been checking out the 'Bishop' Michael Reid. I didn't think he was an Anglican and it appears he just gave himself the title of Bishop when he set up his own church. It's a bit controversial to say the least isn't it ? Dodgy insurance dealings, allegations of abuse, cult-like expectations placed on its memberships etc. So there's Bushell (an unpopular populist), Vernon Coleman ( curious eccentric self-publishing author) and a pretend Bishop and sect leader who doubtless believes in daftie concepts like creationism . It's hardly speaking for England is it ? It think it show's the lack of strength of the English parliament campaign that such people are the headline names at a constitutional convention. The Scottish and Welsh conventions contained a good few proper bishops, business leaders, senior politicians , trade unionists etc. Scotland and Wales are very small minorities within the UK (10% and 5% of the population accordingly), however they voted it would be extremely difficult for them to completely distort the political priorities of the majority nation. Devolve to local authorities within England, make Westminster elected by PR and continue reducing the number of MPs from Scotland and Wales in line with the powers of their devolved bodies.

From where I'm sitting the campaign for an English parliament still looks fairly eccentric and marginal to me. The marginal anomaly of a small number of MPs from tiny minority nations within the UK voting on the majority nations legislation does not require the setting up of an expensive new body. I'm sure this was never an issue when the Ulster Unionists baled out Conservative governments despite the existence of a Unionist dominated Northern Irish parliament at Stormont.

Gordon Brown should open this issue up and offer a referendum on an English parliament if it can be shown there's enough real interest. Once the arguments are laid bare I think the pragmatic people of England would reject proposals that would be easy the characterise as expensive and unnecessary. I think a debate and possibly a referendum is needed however to lance the boil and disabuse the fantasy of anti-English discrimination in our system of government. I suggest that has more to do with the psychology of the southern-English right coming to terms with being defeated at three elections on the bounce.

ghost of john trenchard said...

why not go the full hog and just give Scotland and Wales their independence, if that is what they wish?

Introducing an English parliament within the current setup with , as night follows day, introduce yet ANOTHER layer of bureaucracy.

ghost of john trenchard said...

"If the Welsh and Scottish don't approve, its quite simple, we give them no representation in Westminster, let them determine their own affairs."

i would agree with that - its either a UK parliament or separate states. we dont need yet another layer of bureacracy.

David Lindsay said...

Further to Martyn's comment about Southern Tories being unable to cope with defeat, I think that he is on to something there. We all need to get over the idea that General Elections are won and lost in the South-East. If they were, then there would now be a Tory Government with a large majority.

In fact, in 1992 and 1997 respectively, the Tories won first many and then most of their seats in Scotland, Wales, the North and the Midlands, thus first nearly and then actually losing office. Their failure to regain those seats has been their failure to regain office.

In 2005, the Tories won back many of the seats lost incidentally in the South-East. A fat lot of good it did them, because the South-East is simply not where General Elections are won and lost.

Stephen Gash said...

Frankly, I'm aboout fed up with politicians, Scots, Welsh and Irish people telling me what I can't have.

Whether it be life-saving drugs or an English Parliament, only the English are denied.

The more my country, England, is bulldozed into regions the less I want to remain in the UK.

Well actually, I don't want to remain in a Union with scotland anyway.

Well in fact, I can't really see the benefits for England being in the UK.

David Lindsay said...

I meant LOST many and then most of their seats in 1992 and 1997, of course. Sorry!