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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Eddie Bone: A sensible prescription for an English Parliament

This article was published in The Yorkshire Evening Post on Saturday 27th August. Eddie Bone is a good friend of mine and a fellow campaigner for an English Parliament. The article makes compelling reading and it is nice to see the mainstream press allowing debate on such an important issue.

A DECADE ago, the people of England would not have been discussing the prospect of independence for Scotland.

However, independence is now clearly on the horizon following the historic and game changing Scottish National Party victory in May.

Most people when they’re asked about Scottish independence will say that the unfair system now operating in the UK needs to change and they highlight the Barnett formula which gives Scotland a bigger share of public spending. They might not understand this formula, but they see its effects.

They see things like free prescriptions in Scotland, while in England they have to pay.

They see the Scottish elderly getting subsidised care; they see free university education for Scottish students when English students are landed with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) knows a key concern for the English is the establishment of a different style of NHS created by unfair cutbacks being implemented on them. They now realise that the health service is being protected in Wales and Scotland but not in their communities.

The CEP has been campaigning for over a decade and in the early days most people viewed themselves as British and not English.

What we’re now realising is that more people in England are identifying themselves as English than British and, as national identities evolve, it becomes inevitable that the British identity will become less attractive.
If the Unionist parties fail to show the value of Britishness, then it will disappear.

Although the Union has given us all constitutional stability over the past 300 years, it now means that England doesn’t have a democratic voice.

This has meant most people are rekindling their love of England out of both want and necessity.

They do not want their children to suffer with tuition fees or their elderly relatives to suffer for the sake of feeling British. The chain that interlocks Englishness and Britishness will be broken altogether if it is twisted too hard.

This should make us all reflect on a line in a Rudyard Kipling’s poem when he writes “he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right”.

Although he is talking about a different time period, everyone in England is now awake to devolution and the talk of injustice.

People appear to accept that Scotland always had national institutional recognition, so when Scotland talks about independence, you’ll find that people are coming round to the idea that it might break away.

Yet it is a different scenario for Wales. It is seen as having more of a cultural nationality. The CEP has noticed an uneasy feeling since the Welsh were given more powers through the Assembly.

It seems to have unnerved the people of England and for the first time they are able to see that the break-up of the Union might actually impact on their lives. The domino effect of devolution has finally penetrated English consciousness.

We’re only beginning to feel the real impact of public spending cuts which will accentuate the problems.

Already 64 per cent of people in England are saying “give us a Parliament for England”. Yet what is more surprising is the quickly achieved percentage jump of people in England willing to discuss independence. It appears that the English just did not want to take responsibility for the break-up of the Union.

Now they can place it at the feet of the Scottish they appear happier to express their Englishness.

Our union of nations needs discussion not from a Scottish view as the British Broadcasting Corporation appears to want, but it also needs to be discussed from an English and Welsh perception.

The writing is now on the wall; the English are starting to enjoy Englishness again.

Most British MPs make the mistake that when they initially mention devolution to people in England, their eyes glaze over.

But if you mention the effects of not having a Parliament on issues like prescription charges, all of a sudden they become very vocal, their eyes become bright and they quickly say, we need an English government. And they’re right.

Eddie Bone is chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament.

1 comment:

  1. Good on the Yorkshire Evening Post for running this. I wonder, however, just how near we are to seeing Scotland become independent? Alex Salmond and the SNP, for all their bravado, know that a referendum in Scotland may well not produce the result that they want. A 'failed' referendum on independence may then have the effect of killing off Scottish independence for a good few years, just as the failed UK-wide referendum on voting reform for Westminster has almost certainly killed off such reform for a generation. Further, the Scottish voter has consistently shown that he/she likes to vote Labour for Westminster and SNP for Holyrood, thereby getting the best of both worlds. These calculations in all probability lie behind Salmond's very slow moves to calling a referendum. English nationalists (particularly the EDP)can be heartened by the media's increased interest in 'the English question' (yesterday The Daily Mail carried a poor article on the Scottish-English spending divide, while The Daily Telegraph carries a better one today). However, that is not to say that the solution proposed by the Tory Party (or any other main party) will be an English Parliament. We are probably a good deal further from that than we care to think. Further, and of vital importance, the EDP being such a small party could quickly find its main policy plank kicked away if just one of the main parties backed an English Parliament. The EDP must be aware of this threat (likelihood?) and make greater efforts to develop its other English nationalist policies - for example, on Europe and the EU, on opposition to globalisation and its depredations here and abroad, on opposing oligopolistic markets (such as in food retailing), on balanced migration, on the primacy of English culture and history in England, on affordable housing, and on the resurrection of the English pub! Only by developing a distinctive raft of English policies can we hope to be seen as anything more than a version of the CEP. Forward to a brighter England!