This report is so important in understanding the tremendous progress that the English Cause has made that I have prepared this. It is still quite long but has all the key things to note.
EXTRACTS FROM THE JULY 2013 IPPR Report.
“ENGLAND AND ITS TWO UNIONS”The IPPR is a Labour supporting “think tank” and was one of cheerleaders for the Labour Government’s attempt to break England up into regions. They are still trying and their latest scheme is for a Northern Parliament.
The report is written by:-
Richard Wyn Jones is professor of Welsh politics and director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University
Guy Lodge is an associate director at IPPR and co-editor of Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal Charlie Jeffery is professor of politics and vice principal for public policy at the University of Edinburgh
Glenn Gottfried is quantitative research fellow at IPPR
Roger Scully is professor of political science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University Ailsa Henderson is professor of political science at the University of Edinburgh
Daniel Wincott is head of Cardiff Law School and co-chair of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.
So note that while there is some measure of academic professionalism that the report’s authors include not one single English patriot. The results are therefore all the more strking! Here are all the important extracts:-
NATIONAL IDENTITYAs in 2011, at the first stage most 2012 survey respondents identified themselves as both English and British. However, more identified themselves as English (60 per cent) than British (58 per cent). And although the difference between these two groups reduced from 6 per cent in 2011 to 2 per cent, the level of British identity recorded was the lowest in any survey reported here (going back to 1996).
Only 10 per cent of respondents claim to be ‘more British than English’. In this sense there was no discernible post-Olympics ‘Britishness bounce’.
Although most people retain an overlapping English and British identity, what has emerged – as we argue in our previous report – is ‘a different kind of Anglo-British identity in which the “Anglo” component is increasingly considered the primary source of identity for the English’. What’s more, this trend has not gone unnoticed within England: when asked, 58 per cent agree that the English have ‘become more aware of English national identity in recent years’.
Further evidence of the strength of English national sentiment is provided by the most inclusive survey of them all, the (2011) Census. For the first time, the 2011 Census explored patterns of national identity across the UK by means of a question similar to the first part of the ‘forced choice’ question discussed above.
In England, fully 70 per cent of the population identified themselves either as solely English (60 per cent) or English in combination with some other national identity (10 per cent). In another finding that is in line with the 2011 FoEs, the census found only limited regional variation across England – with one significant exception – in the strength of English national identification. That exception was London. In the dual capital of England and the United Kingdom, while English national identity remains the most popular choice, Englishness was notably weaker than elsewhere and Britishness rather stronger.
What is particularly striking about the census data is the weakness of British national identity in England….. - Only 29 per cent of census participants identified themselves as feeling any sense of British national identity. ……. Although the census was taken before the Jubilee and the Olympics in 2012, the clarity of its findings on the strength of Britishness runs starkly contrary to the narrative of revivalism that we saw throughout last year.
That fully 40 per cent of people in England would, if given the opportunity, choose an English passport is striking, especially given the complete absence of any public debate around English citizenship. Nonetheless, even if England is emerging as a political community, Britishness remains a more important reference point for political identity for the people of England than for their neighbours in Scotland or Wales. This should, of course, come as little surprise given that debates about the notion of Scottish and Welsh citizenship are of long standing – be that explicitly through those nations’ respective nationalist parties, or implicitly through the actions of devolved government.
Is the rise of English sentiment confined to particular social and demographic groups? Across all age-groups, social classes and both genders Englishness is stronger than Britishness. The one important exception concerns members of England’s ethnic minorities.
Indeed, if the soon-to-be-published Scottish census data is consistent with expectations then the UK will be revealed as a state in which British national identity is not the main national identity in any of the three national territories of Great Britain.
ENGLISH CONSTITUTIONAL CONCERNSSCOTLAND ETC
Our 2011 survey revealed substantial dissatisfaction in England with how Scotland, in particular, is treated within the UK. Scotland was felt to receive more than its fair share of public spending (and England less than its fair share).
The strength of feeling in England is further illustrated by the fact that the number who say that Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending has more than doubled in the last decade (from 24 per cent in 2002).
The English also overwhelmingly believe that public services delivered in Scotland should be funded by taxes levied in Scotland, and that Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on English laws. While changes to the wording of the question mean that data from our 2011 and 2012 surveys are not strictly comparable (but do enable direct comparison with the longer BSA time series), the 2012 findings are nonetheless striking. Over three- quarters of respondents supported the proposition that the Scottish parliament should pay for the services it delivers out of taxes levied in Scotland, while more than 80 per cent agreed that Scottish MPs should not vote on English laws. Note also the intensity of feeling: 49 per cent and 55 per cent of English respondents ‘strongly agreed’ that, respectively, Scotland should pay its own way and that Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on English matters.
These findings could prove particularly significant should Scotland vote to remain in the United Kingdom in 2014. All the major unionist political parties are committed to strengthening the powers of the Scottish parliament over and above those set out in the Scotland Act 2012. In designing a model of ‘devo-more’ for Scotland, the Unionist parties will surely need to reflect on the state of English public opinion presented here, if the model is to prove sufficiently versatile to work effectively.
That our English respondents believe that Scotland benefits disproportionately from the union is further underlined in their responses to a question that probed perceptions of the economic benefits of being part of the UK. When asked whether the English or Scottish economy benefits most from being part of the UK, just under a half of English respondents (49 per cent) point to the Scottish economy. In contrast, only 23 per cent of English respondents say that the English and Scottish economies benefit equally from membership of the union.
Also striking is the lack of trust in the UK government to act in England’s interests. As in the 2011 survey, around 60 per cent of respondents did not think that the UK government could be relied upon to do so, with 44 per cent trusting it ‘not very much’ and 18 per cent ‘not at all’….
Such sentiments are widespread across England. Although Londoners appear a little less dissatisfied than the English average, there is a striking regional uniformity in views. The overall message is clear: English dissatisfaction with the territorial status quo is both broad and deep.
Following the publication of The dog that finally barked, one question regularly posed to us was how salient were the questions of territorial governance that we highlighted within it? After all, survey participants may express dissatisfaction when specifically probed on an issue without necessarily regarding it to be a high priority. Our 2012 survey attempted to assess this by asking respondents to prioritise those constitutional issues that they regard as requiring ‘urgent action or change at this time’. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the UK’s relationship with Europe was accorded highest priority. But, strikingly, the question of ‘how England is governed now that Scotland has a parliament and Wales has an assembly’ was in a clear second place, well ahead of a range of other constitutional issues – including voting reform, reform of local government and the House of Lords, and even the position of Scotland within the UK – to which the political system itself has accorded much higher priority in recent years.
Equally, English Independence might be seen as a potential response to the electorate’s call for action. We broached this possibility for the first time in our 2012 survey and garnered an intriguing response. Despite no significant political party or actor advocating this option, those supporting the proposition that ‘England should become an independent country’ (34 per cent) were only narrowly outnumbered by those in opposition (38 per cent). And when asked how they would respond if Scotland were to vote to become independent, a plurality (39 per cent, compared with 33 per cent who disagreed) then said that England too should become independent.
Putting to one side the (currently unlikely) possibility of English independence, our 2012 survey included several questions designed to probe respondents’ views on how England should be governed. Responses to these questions confirm:
• low and decreasing support for the status quo
• very low support for English regionalism
• strong support for a form of governance that treats England as a distinct political unit
• continuing lack of consensus about which English option is appropriate.
It confirms low support for the territorial status quo, at 22 per cent. And in combination the two ‘English options’ again garner majority support with, again, English votes on English laws winning the backing of the largest group. It also confirms that, even when considered alongside other options, there is some support for English independence.
At this point it may be tempting to conclude that our previous caution in arguing that views in England have not coalesced around a particular ‘English option’ is misplaced or outdated. Should ‘English votes for English laws’ now be considered the favoured alternative to the status quo? When respondents were asked to choose directly between English votes on English laws or an English parliament, they split their votes almost evenly – and both options were more popular than the status quo. Perhaps the clearest finding from these responses is that the status quo is not much of an option. Moreover, on a variety of question wordings, the status quo is consistently less favoured than alternatives which would give some form of institutional recognition to England as a whole.
ENGLISH POLITICISATIONThe final and perhaps most significant claim highlighted in our previous report, The dog that finally barked, was that English national identity has become politicised. Specifically, our 2011 data suggested that the stronger a person’s sense of English identity, the more likely they were to be dissatisfied with the place of England within the post-devolution United Kingdom. Our 2012 survey data strongly confirms this conclusion.
It is clear, even in the context of high levels of overall discontentment, that those who identify strongly as English are more dissatisfied with those governing arrangements than those who feel more British. And the relationship between identity and dissatisfaction was at least as marked in 2012 as in 2011: it is unassuaged by any post-2012 Jubilee/Olympics glow.
It is clear that the ‘English options’ find most favour among those with the strongest sense of English national identity. Indeed, the status quo is the most popular option only among those claiming an exclusively British national identity. The status quo is the fourth most popular constitutional option among those who feel exclusively English, trailing not only English votes on English laws and an English parliament but even English independence outside the EU.
2. ENGLAND’S TWO UNIONS: EUROPE AND THE UKThis section is concerned with how English attitudes towards the European Union relate to attitudes towards England’s other union, the UK.
The EU is very unpopular in England. When asked whether they considered the UK’s membership of the EU to be a ‘good thing’ or not, 43 per cent of respondents held a negative view of membership, compared to 28 per cent with a positive view.
And when asked how they would vote in a referendum on continuing UK membership of the EU (and holding such a referendum is favoured by 67 per cent of respondents) the verdict was even more decisive. Fully half would vote for the UK to withdraw, only one- third to remain.
These figures throw prime minister David Cameron’s manoeuvring around a possible future referendum on EU membership into stark relief. His is an extraordinary double gamble. First, unless he can bring home a significantly altered relationship with the EU, the English might well vote to leave. Second, recent polling in Scotland suggests the Scots think rather differently about Europe, and these differences could impact significantly on the independence debate.
For example, in February 2013, Ipsos-MORI found that 53 per cent of Scots would vote in a referendum to stay in the EU and 34 per cent to leave – almost a perfect inversion of the English views revealed in FoEs. Just as strikingly, a Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times in May 2013 found that 44 per cent of Scots would be ‘very’ or ‘quite’ likely to vote for Scottish independence ‘if the UK was looking likely to vote to withdraw from the EU’ and 44 per cent very or quite unlikely to vote for Scottish independence in the same situation. Most polls have shown that about half of Scots intend to vote ‘no’ in the independence referendum next year compared with only a third or so who intend to vote ‘yes’. But Euroscepticism elsewhere in the UK could potentially narrow that gap if Scottish people feel they could be dragged out of the EU against their will. Ipsos-MORI’s polling reaffirms the point. Asked ‘regardless of how you intend to vote in the Scottish independence referendum’ whether or not ‘an independent Scotland should be a member of the European Union’ 61 per cent favoured membership (including 59 per cent of those who intended to vote ‘no’ to independence) and only 33 per cent favoured Scotland not being an EU member. English Euroscepticism may be as much of a challenge to the UK’s own union as is Alex Salmond.
As we have already discussed, Englishness as a national identity has both strengthened over the last decade and become increasingly politicised. Yet conventional wisdom would set this tide against that of Euroscepticism, which has historically been strongly associated with the symbolism and rhetoric of Britishness. Traditionally it is the Union flag rather than the cross of St George that is waved by members of Ukip, the UK Independence party, which has grown dramatically in prominence as the standard-bearer of Euroscepticism in the UK.
Yet our data shows a strong, consistent and unambiguous link between Euroscepticism and English, rather than British, national identity. For example, when asked whether or not UK membership of the EU is a good or bad thing, negative views are much more prevalent towards the more English end of the identity spectrum. Conversely – and again counter to received wisdom – attitudes to European integration are notably more positive among those with a more British identity. It is British identifiers who are the Europhile group in England.
The association between English identity and Euroscepticism (and conversely between British identity and more positive attitudes to the EU) can be further illustrated by the relationship between national identity and voting intentions in an EU referendum. Support for leaving the EU is much higher at the English end of the identity spectrum; a plurality of those with a mainly or exclusively British identity support continuing membership.
2.1. DEVO-ANXIETYHaving established Euroscepticism in England as something associated with English – and not British – identity, we now turn to explore the relationship of Euroscepticism to what we might term ‘devo-anxiety’ among the English.
As the tables show, in each case, those who adopt the Eurosceptic position (regarding EU membership as a bad thing; indicating they would vote for UK withdrawal from the EU; and regarding the EU as having most influence over the way England is run) are also notably more dissatisfied with the constitutional status quo in the UK.
Even in the context of questions that reveal substantial discontent across the population as a whole – those concerning Scottish MPs voting on English laws and the absence of a clear relationship between tax and spending in Scotland – Eurosceptics are clearly those most likely to harbour such discontent. And they do so extraordinarily emphatically: at levels approaching unanimity of response which are very rarely seen in social surveys.
Attitudes towards England’s two unions, therefore, are clearly linked: Euroscepticism and devo-anxiety are two sides of the same coin of English discontent.
Euroscepticism is also clearly associated with a demand for greater recognition for England in the UK’s own constitutional arrangements. Eurosceptics are strong advocates of a clearer institutional demarcation of their country within the UK. It is only the least Eurosceptic respondents who offer plurality support for the current constitutional position. By stark contrast, for more Eurosceptic respondents the status quo is the fourth most popular option, trailing behind English votes on English laws, an English parliament and an independent England outside the EU.
In short, although political commentary – especially around the rise to prominence of Ukip tends to portray Britishness as being in tension with European integration, our findings show clearly that it is those with the strongest and most exclusively British sense of national identity who are most supportive of the EU. Euroscepticism is concentrated most heavily among those with a more English sense of national identity. It is English, rather than British, hackles that rise in response to Europe, just as it is those who identify more strongly as English who feel most aggrieved by the perceived iniquities of devolution and wish to give England some explicit recognition within the UK.
4. CONCLUSION: THE PARTISAN POLITICS OF ENGLISHNESSGiven the substantial discontentment in England with the territorial status quo, it is unsurprising that these sentiments are observable among supporters of all political parties. But there are also important differences between supporters of the different parties. In general, we find Liberal Democrats at one end of the spectrum and Ukip supporters at the other. The former are the most British in terms of national identity and (ironically, given their party’s long history of campaigning for constitutional reform) the most content with the constitutional status quo both within the UK and vis-à-vis the EU.
Equally ironically, given their party’s Union Jack-bedecked symbolism and British rhetoric, Ukip supporters are by far the most English in terms of national identity and are by far the most strongly discontented with both of England’s unions, favouring major constitutional change both domestically and in the UK’s relationship with the EU. Conservative supporters share much common ground with Ukip and count, likewise, as constitutional radicals. Labour supporters are on average the most evenly spread in terms of identity and constitutional views (or, to put it less charitably, are the most divided).
4.1 IDENTITYThe first point to note is that party support in England is clearly associated with national identity. It is only Liberal Democrat voters in England who are more likely to prioritise their British identity (and even among this group it is only very marginally the case). By contrast, Labour voters place more emphasis on their Englishness than on their Britishness: while a plurality say they are equally English and British, far more of their supporters can be found at the more exclusively English end of the scale (31 per cent) than at the more exclusively British end (19 per cent). However, the strength of English sentiment is most striking among Ukip and Conservative supporters. Fully 55 per cent of Ukip supporters, alongside 43 per cent of Conservatives, favoured the two ‘more English’ options. While the majority of supporters of all parties choose some form of overlapping Anglo-British identity, for Tories and Ukip supporters the English end of the spectrum is clearly favoured.
Intriguingly, a substantial majority of Ukip supporters would choose English rather than British as their passport nationality. This is in stark contrast to the position among Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters (although even here, around a third would choose English as their passport nationality.) Conservative supporters were much more evenly divided with a narrow plurality favouring the British designation. Once again, the overall picture is that while supporters of all parties consider themselves both British and English, Englishness weighs more heavily among Conservatives and, in particular, Ukip supporters.
4.2. DEVO-ANXITY AND EUROSCEPTICISMTurning to our measures of devo-anxiety, we again find some striking differences between party supporters. Discontent is widely shared, but is felt particularly strongly among Conservative and, especially, Ukip supporters. The strength of feeling here is very striking: 67 per cent of Conservative supporters and 84 per cent of Ukip supporters agree strongly with the proposition that Scottish MPs should be denied a vote on laws that affect England only. Only in relation to levels of trust in government working in the English interest does the prevailing pattern of discontent vary: here, Conservatives (but less so Liberal Democrats) are notably more trusting in the UK government, suggesting that this question is, at least for supporters of the senior partner in the Coalition government, acting as a proxy for partisan support.
While attitudes towards the UK’s internal territorial constitution reflect varying levels of discontentment, those towards the EU reveal sharper contrasts between party supporters. Liberal Democrats tend to view EU membership positively, while Labour supporters are evenly split. By contrast, Conservatives are overwhelmingly Eurosceptic, regarding UK membership as a ‘bad thing’ by a margin of five-to-two. They are even more likely to vote for UK withdrawal in a referendum.
However, and as might be expected, Tory attitudes look moderate when compared to those of Ukip supporters. Indeed, the proportion of Ukip voters who would vote ‘no’ to EU membership in a referendum – 91 per cent – is close to unanimity. Equally striking is the finding that fully 69 per cent of Ukip voters believe that the EU has the greatest influence over the way that England is run; among Liberal Democrats, by contrast, the equivalent figure is only 18 per cent. In sum, partisan perceptions of and views about ‘Europe’ differ starkly.
By contrast, Conservative and Ukip voters are the least enthusiastic about the status quo, the latter in particular. With the one aforementioned Labour exception, ‘English votes on English laws’ is the plurality option across party supporters whatever the menu of options offered – and again by some margin among prospective Conservative and Ukip supporters. Among Conservatives, support for an English parliament – the more ambitious option – rivals that for the status quo, while among Ukip supporters an English parliament is very much more popular than the status quo. Such is the disdain among Ukip supporters for the current order that even support for English independence (outside the EU, of course) is more popular than the status quo. But in terms of how the Coalition government might respond positively to calls to address the English question, the clear plurality support among Liberal Democrat supporters for ‘English votes on English laws’ is probably at least as significant.
Our findings show that Ukip support reflects English discontentment with the political status quo – and not simply with ‘Europe’. The breadth of this discontent, as outlined here, has recently enabled Ukip to overtake the Liberal Democrats in poll ratings and to secure a ‘projected national share’ of 24.8 per cent of the vote in the May 2013 local elections – elections that also gave the party a meaningful local government presence for the first time in much of England.10
Yet in the only local elections held outside England in May 2013 – in Ynys Môn, in north- west Wales – Ukip actually saw its vote decline significantly. Similarly, in European parliament and UK general elections since 1999 (when Ukip first emerged as a reasonably significant player) Ukip’s performance in Wales and (especially) Scotland has consistently lagged well behind that in England; in the June 2013 Aberdeen Donside Scottish parliament by-election Ukip lost its deposit despite a highly publicised campaign spearheaded by Nigel Farage. It is those who feel most English and most discontented with the territorial status quo who are flocking to the Ukip banner in increasing numbers. Ukip might better be described as England’s nationalist party than the UK’s independence party.
Two points stand out. The first is how poorly the established parties perform: not once does their combined total represent more than 45 per cent of respondents. Indeed, in both June 2011 and November 2012, the proposition that ‘I do not think that any party stands up for the interests of England’ was the most popular choice.
By April 2013 that had changed, bringing us to the second point: the rise of Ukip as the champion of English interests. Viewed in the light of this finding, the party’s strong performance in the local elections just a few weeks later is unsurprising. ‘England’s nationalist party’ is on a roll. Since June 2011, it has more than doubled its support as the party that best stands up for English interests, and in April 2013 was the top choice among respondents in England. Ukip’s rise in this context will be of particular concern to the Conservatives. Those who reported in FoEs 2012 having voted Conservative at the 2010 UK election are split on which party who they believe best stands up for England: while 38 per cent say the Conservatives, almost as many (34 per cent) say Ukip – and this figure has almost doubled from 18 per cent in 2011, hinting at the potential for Conservative electoral support to drift over to Ukip.
Ukip – a party traditionally associated with espousing a 1950s-style British traditionalism – has been reluctant to play the English card, for fear it might muddy their position on Europe and weaken the union. But with its support so heavily concentrated in England and finding itself attractive to voters who are increasingly interested in a decidedly English strain of populism, it seems likely that it will seek to champion the cause of English nationalism more explicitly. Should it do so, it could further strengthen its appeal in England with potentially far-reaching political implications.
4.4 The political implications of EnglishnessWe argued in The dog that finally barked that politics in Westminster’s ‘bubble’ had paid insufficient attention to the strengthening of Englishness. That argument appears stronger still in 2013. Apart from isolated interventions – such as Ed Miliband’s 2012 speech on England11 (which sits rather uneasily with the ‘One Nation’ imagery he has otherwise evoked) – there are few signs that mainstream politics has woken up to the emergence of an English political community defined by a distinct English identity, its devo-anxiety and Euroscepticism, and its support for English political institutions.
There are various reasons for this. Much of the political class remain in denial, failing to acknowledge the trends identified in this report, or refusing to admit their salience. Others prioritise Scotland, fearing that engagement with the ‘English question’ may in some way strengthen the hand of Alex Salmond ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. It would seem a little odd, though, if advocates of Union refused to talk about its largest constituent part at a point when in Scotland the very terms of union are being challenged. Where is the English perspective – which is not the same as the Westminster perspective – on what the UK union is and should be?
Another factor is a sense of trepidation about what contemporary Englishness stands for. For some, Englishness seems to be regarded as a dark and chauvinistic force, best kept under wraps. The evident association of English discontentment with the right-wing populism of Ukip may well reinforce that concern. In particular, progressives may be reluctant to engage with the emerging English agenda for fear of legitimising what they see as the grievances of ‘little Englanders’.
This, we believe, would be a serious error. The issue is not going to go away. This is not merely because of the public attitudes identified in this report – although they constitute sufficient cause in their own right – but also because the continuing processes of renegotiation of the terms of union in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will ensure that England, by default, becomes ever more clearly delineated as a distinct political arena. Any decision to ignore English discontentment for fear of guilt by association with right-wing populism is only likely to further feed such discontentment – and perhaps encourage it to develop more toxic undertones, if the perception grows that the political class is simply ignoring issues of real concern to people.
The challenge is for the major parties to take England seriously, and this appears easier for the Conservatives than Labour. Conservative supporters in England identify more strongly as English than Labour supporters, and are more anxious about devolution, more Eurosceptical, and stronger advocates of English political institutions. There is an obvious strategy of tacking more overtly towards these positions, not least to ward off the inroads Ukip is making in this section of the electorate. The Tories’ Byzantine manoeuvres on the question of an EU referendum around the 2013 Queen’s speech are an obvious, if clumsy, example of this strategy in action.
There is a bigger challenge for Labour. Some may review the data here and conclude that Englishness is natural territory for the right and should not be a ground on which Labour competes – especially if a ‘more English’ Labour might undermine the party’s standing in Scotland and Wales. Yet the importance of Labour’s strength outside England is easily over-stated. Labour has never won a stable and enduring parliamentary majority without winning a majority of seats in England – Labour needs to win in England to win UK elections.
So there is no alternative but for Labour to contest the changing England described in this report. It needs to find a distinct, progressive platform from which to secure and develop its strength in England – or risk leaving ‘Englishness’ to become ever-more- closely associated with the political right. It needs to recognise that its supporters also – if currently less emphatically than Conservative and Ukip supporters – have a strong sense of English identity, embrace English national symbols, and share concerns about devolution and Europe.
Doing so, of course, represents a serious challenge for the political parties that contest elections in England and for a political system that has thus far failed to provide a distinctive platform for England’s concerns and growing discontents. But the English discontentment with the status quo that is revealed in this report is so substantial that political leaders cannot afford to avoid the issue any longer.
The conclusions of the report highlight the fact that the primary concerns of the authors and of the IPPR are how all this affects Labour. We need not be worried by that but the Report does show that the English are awakening! For any English Nationalist that can only be a good thing, even if there is confusion about UKIP!