Saturday, March 01, 2008

The English Question at the Seaside

I'm sitting in my car on the seafront at Thorpeness in Suffolk, where I am to speak at a Conservative Policy Forum discussion on the vexed subject of The English Question. Om the way here I was told they wanted me to speak for an hour! Well, much as I may like the sound of my own voice, I think even I would nod off in the middle of a speech of that length. Gladstone I ain't. I'm mainly addressing the issue of what the Conservative Party's stance on English devolution should be. I will be saying that the Tories are the only party which can deliver it and all the various splinter groups who are feel strongly about this issue would do well to remember that. Both the other parties still obsess about regional devolution, which I believe would be highly 'unEnglish' and foolhardy.

The local MP, John Gummer, will be giving his views at the same event this afternoon. Sadly, by then I shall hopefully be at Upton Park explaining in a rather more direct way where Chelsea can stick the blue flag... Now, to the tune of the Red flag...

From Stamford Bridge to Upton Park
Stick the blue flag up your ****


Mulligan said...

From Upton Park to anywhere
You ain't got no silverware

Enjoy the game.

Anonymous said...

Iain, on the English question. I agree that regional devolution would not really work in England as we don't have a regional identity; but equally I dislike most government departments making decisions from a London centric point of view. So rather than changing to an English Parliament or a parliament for the Midlands; South West; North West etc. Why don't we use the county system which is already in place?
Instead of having quangos running hospitals; etc etc etc have a cabinet system from each county council. Let London make decisions which affect the whole country let my local county make decisions which affect my local area.
Be interesting what your other readers think of how to make power closer to the people and how to increase local democracy?
At the moment we do, in my opinion have the daft system whereby the Prime Minister can be held to question for the defence of the nation (rightly so) and the level of dirt under the second bed in ward C of my local hospital.

First time I have commented to your blog; so hope people dont just critise what I have written and instead maybe debate and suggest ideas - oh we could have a conversation....

Anonymous said...

Off-topic already Iain... but as I know you like a good Hazel story:

Anonymous said...

Having recently been ill, we discovered first hand the true cost of illness in England.
I had not visited a doctors for almost 3 years, but was forced to do so in this instance.
I first called the NHS helpline, because no doctors were on call. They said go to a walk in centre. We haven't got one and I couldn't walk anyway.
To cut a long story short, we had to pay parking fees for me to be admitted into hospital. Parking fees for visits. Fees to watch TV. Prescription fees. Had to endure a mixed ward, where the poor soul opposite (a litte confused, bless him) had his nether regions on display for all to see. I closed my curtains so that the men in the ward couldn't see me crying in pain, but the nurses kept opening them again. I complained because the floor was dirty and my feet stuck to it, near my bed. It was over an hour before anyone would come and clean it.
I begged to be allowed home after 3 days, because we couldn't afford the costs and had I stayed longer, my husband would not be able to visit me. I am awaiting an emergency MRI scan, which will take a few weeks.
I returned to work, because my employer said I could have a sitting down job and two households depend on my minimum wage income (I help out my daughter's family, who cannot manage without that financial help each month. If I go down, so do they). We all work and do not claim benefits, so no help is available. Not that I want help. I just want to be able to pay my own way and healthcare is increasingly becoming too expensive for us.
I expect to undergo an operation eventually and spend each day in pain until then, but when that happens, I will have to sign myself out early due to the costs of using the health service in England.
I hate Gordon Brown and I hate the Labour government for praising this treatment of their English constituents. God help out pensioners!
I can verify all I have said above.

David Lindsay said...

How many politicians do we really need? Imagine who they would be. Actually, you don't need to imagine. Just look at Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont.

Most English people, possibly all, have no doubt where their Parliament. It reserves the right to enact any legislation it likes for any part of the United Kingdom, and Brown has dropped more than broad enough hints that he intends to get on with doing just that. Let him. Nowhere on earth would recognise a Scottish UDI, and with a Scot as PM in London everyone would just laugh at such a thing.

The English might increasingly say that they are English rather than British, but ask them to name an English institution and everything they could list except the sports teams would actually be either British (Parliament, the Armed Forces, and so on) or more than British (the monarchy, the English language, Anglicanism, cricket). Even the legal system is shared with Wales.

The basis for an English State simply does not exist.

Old BE said...

I agree 100% with Mr Buxton, I have thought this for a very long time but I don't know why the Tories are not proposing it. The downside would be that we would have a "postcode lottery" but the upside would be that people would know who to blame when their services were bad/taxes too high/etc.

Anonymous said...

Gosh I am not sure I want Iain Dale telling me what is English or not. The Tories are begining to realise that this is not such a simplistic issue. As long as Westminster can impose rule on Scotland by a simple Act of Council then the problem continues. Tories need to decide what is important to them and as long as this nonsense of the English Question continue the party will remain in its current ineffective and failing state in Scotland.

Jeremy Jacobs said...


Did you read Daniel Finklestein's piece in the JC yesterday about
"anti-semitic" chants from the Chelsea hoardes last Sunday at Wembley?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12 noon ...
"Having recently been ill, we discovered first hand the true cost of illness in England....
I hate Gordon Brown and I hate the Labour government for praising this treatment of their English constituents. God help out pensioners!
I can verify all I have said above."

Don't worry. In 2 years time we will have a Conservative government and all will be well. All your troubles will be over.

wonkotsane said...

The majority of English people want an English Parliament, they should therefore be given one. Whether the British want England to have a Parliament or not is irrelevant. Whether the British MPs want to keep Britain artificially alive for their own selfish career aspirations or not is similarly irrelevant. We want it, we should have it.

@molesworth_1 said...

Football, 26 mins in 3-0, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaa



Anonymous said...

anon 12.00 noon: not sure why you think thisis an English only issue, you should try being ill in Wales.

Still, nationalism and scoundrels and all that!

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side, Iain, instead of watching the Hammers getting stuffed, you could have been forced to eat one of J S-G's famous burgers.

At least you'll be alive to read the sports headlines tomorrow.

And weep.

Anonymous said...

BBC Sport website is saying that West Ham have had 64% of the possession in this game.

Is that because Robert Green hangs onto the ball for so long each time he has to pick it out of the back of his net?

Anonymous said...

If the Tories win the next election, I am wondering whether Mr Cameron ought to formally talk to SNP and Plaid to suggest an English, Welsh, Scottish Assembly for the relevant national matters and some subset of Assembley members coming together at Westminster once a month to vote on UK matters.

Surely that would kill Labour for ever as Conservatives, Plaid and SNP would be the natural national parties wth Labour/LibDem in an alliance forced into being the perpetual opposition in all three assemblies. I am not sure how Northern Irish parties would fit into this pantheon but I suppose Unionists would tend to vote with Tories on UK matters.

Anonymous said...

I was struck by Harry on TV last night saying he doesn't like being in England much these days as the question of kicking his heels at Windsor was raised.

The implication would appear to be that he prefers eating out a mess tin in Afghanistan with the increased odds of being shot!

It reminded me of the story last Sunday about English border villages being in favour of joining Scotland because of the better public services.

Both are a damning indictment of a Gordon Brown run England.

Anonymous said...

Yes, changes can only be made by a party in Government (and the Conservatives look like the only means to achieve that) but that doesn't diminish the role of the "splinter groups" who are seriously informing the debate and potential pitfalls if issues remain unaddressed.

A failure to seriously address the concerns because of purely party political reasons - whether internal or inter-party advantages - will just see the same issues raise their head in a few years. The current situation is a monument to that.

What is needed is a realisation of a new union of four nations with shared values expressed through the UK. Westminster sovereignty should be replaced by 'shared British sovereignty'. That could even have scope for working with other British Commonwealth countries in areas of shared interests I defence, broadcasting, fighting crime etc.

For that to be realised and for the entire question to be addressed it would require an equality of powers between the UK's four nations. That means maxing Wales' powers to that of Scotland and Northern Ireland; with Scotland and Northern Ireland acquiring the powers that the other has which they haven't - justice, policing, DWP, civil service.

With those powers then set that would make the majority of English MPs the de-facto Parliament of England. From them an English Executive can be established which doesn't require an additional English Parliament.

On UK powers then an Executive from all MPs would be formed.

From there further powers could be looked at for the national executives.

For me the ideas proposed by Mark Field have been clear and address the issues of funding.

Failure to address those issues will only result in a return to this debate in rapid time.

Political bravery will address this issue properly. Political cowardice or seeking advantage will lead to nothing but terminal turmoil.

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic:

I notice that this blog is on Blogger and your West Ham blog is on Wordpress.

Which do you think is best for someone wanting to start a blog?

Anonymous said...

I think you had a lucky escape Iain. I think watching West Ham lose 16-0, whilst having one's genitals rolled through a mangle, would be a more pleasant experience than spending an afternoon in the same room as that odious little toad.

Andy said...

4-0. Stroll in the park!!

Archbishop Cranmer said...

His Grace would very much like an English grand committee, but, alas, the Conservative Party will not go that way for fear of imperiling the Union.

Yes, of course the Union is imperiled anyway after a decade of Labour's constitutional tampering, but still His Grace is not at all sure that the Conservative Party will have the courage to remedy the situation, though it is very useful Opposition posturing.

Iain Dale said...

New at this. I would go for Wordpress. It gives you more facilities and is easier to set up and develop.

William Gruff said...

David Lindsay: The basis for an English state not only exists but currently forms the foundation of the Br*tish state, which functioned well enough before Messrs Blair, Brown & Co. decided to 'modernise' everything for their own short term advantage. Parliament, the monarchy, the armed forces and the Anglican church were the basis of the English state long before they were Br*tish or 'more than Br*tish' and will be so again, when the now far from united 'United' Kingdom is dissolved. The West Lothian Question is rather more than merely a minor technical anomaly, as unionists know only too well.

What was the point of your far from incontrovertible unsupported statement?

Anonymous said...

David Lindsay carefully describes an England completely dominated and occupied by the British state and then says that because this is so then England needs no representation or self government because the British do it for us . Just like in occupied and dismembered Poland of yesteryear except that was the Germans, Russians and Austrians doing it.

Sure , we don't have many institutions of our own - except in sport The British have made sure of that and they are continually trying to close down even our sports teams and make them " British".
B-gger that and b-gger the British .

The English are an ancient parliamentary people with their own specific history , institutions and traditions who were bounced into a marriage of nations with Scotland in 1707 after no consultation with English people at all .This was principally at the behest of longstanding Scottish pressure for union though they have since rewritten history since to claim it otherwise . The deal put together by the two elites was that the two separate parliaments and indeed the two separate countries be merged as one ie Great Britain. The 1998 Scotland Act which gave Scotland back her own parliament and government but did not do the same for England was a racist and nationalist action of the first order .

England is there all the time but is still denied a national parliament , national government and national existence
- by the British state - and lives a suspended surrepticious existence in the meantime .

Iain ,of course we need our own parliament.

Anonymous said...

What was Gummer's line on this Iain?

I suspect the worse.

David Lindsay said...

William Gruff, for the reason that I set out, the West Lothian Question does not actually exist at all. Parliament can still enact any legislation it likes, which prevaisl over that enacted by any devolved body. The clauses are clearly there. There is no West Lothian Question.

How do you propose to dismantle the monarchy, the English language, Anglicanism or cricket outside England (and none of them has ever been peculiar to England), in order to make them, for the first time ever, exclusively English? It simply cannot be done.

And we all might like to consider that, because he is a Westminster MP and not a member of the SNP, the Scots regard Gordon Brown as an English puppet if not an actual Englishman. So much for the Scottish Raj!

Anonymous said...

You Can't have a Union within a Union' The sooner Cameron realise it the better.
The trouble ahead will be unforgivable if he gets it wrong, and David Davis will be proven right, even though those in nameless suits shot him down.

The Secret Person said...

David Lindsay - I don't understand your point at all. Why do we need to make the English language exclusively English in order to have an English parliament? They manage a Scottish parliament, working in English, without it being an exclusively Scottish language. And what is the relevance of cricket?

You said earlier we share a legal system with Wales. Well Wales has an assembly (which is likely to gain the powers of Scotland's parliament) despite sharing a legal system with us.

No other nation is expected to jump through such ridiculous hoops in order to gain self-determination.

The West-Lothian question may exist de facto rather than de jure, but it none the less exists. Laws have been passed, such as tuition fees and foundation hospitals that affected England which a majority of English MPs opposed. How do you justify this?

If the UK parliament overruled a law in Scotland based on English votes that would be wrong. The theoretical possibility of this wrong, doesn't mean we need the West-Lothian question so two wrongs can make a right.

The Secret Person said...

PS Ian, I guess as a Witanagemot club member you are a supporter of an English parliament. Do you have a more specific form in mind?

David Lindsay said...

"Well Wales has an assembly (which is likely to gain the powers of Scotland's parliament)"

Don't bet on it. Not for nothing has Brown appointed a very hardline Unionist, and implaccable opponent of the Labour-Plaid Cymry coalition at Cardiff, as Secretary of State.

"Laws have been passed, such as tuition fees and foundation hospitals that affected England which a majority of English MPs opposed. How do you justify this?"

Exactly the same body could, by exactly the same means, pass them in relation to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, too. It simply chooses not to. But it could. Which is the point.

The Secret Person said...

"Exactly the same body could, by exactly the same means, pass them in relation to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, too. It simply chooses not to. But it could. Which is the point."

It is your point, it is not mine. Yes UK parliament remains sovereign, and can do whatever it wants. But in reality it doesn't and hasn't.

An English parliament (which could also be overruled) would at least make the situation equal. A full federal structire with clearly defined national and UK responsibilities would stop this overruling.

But you already ruled that out because of something to do with cricket I think???