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Friday, 27 March 2015

We will hold Ed and Westminster to ransom: SNP chief boasts!


Following Alex Salmond’s outspoken interview on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday there have been a spate of articles in the various newspapers making much of Alex Salmond’s “threat” to use the SNP’s likely 50+ MPs to force the next (Labour) Government to give all sorts of concessions, not only to Scottish interests, but also to “progressive politics”.

There has been much wind and fury expended on this topic, but what all the commentators do seem to miss is that this is a problem entirely of the British Establishments own making.

After all the English Democrats and the Campaign for an English Parliament have been pointing out for nearly 15 years that what needed to happen, in order to make a level playing field for all the Nations of the UK, was an English Parliament, First Minister and Government, with at least the same powers as the Scottish ones.

There were no sensible or credible arguments against this proposal ever made, merely smear tactics, because it was not seen as being in the interests of either of the three leading parties! If that proposal for a proper Federal UK had been accepted there would now be very little difficulty in accepting SNP representation for Scotland.

The effect of having such a reform would have been to create a Federal United Kingdom, in which the powers and positions of all the various levels were crystal clear and legally binding. It would follow that had that been done, Scottish MPs of whatever colour would not have been able to vote on English-only issues. They would only have had the jurisdiction over the remaining issues reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament. In just the same way it is not for the Federal United States Congress to legislate for non-Federal matters which are subject to the States’ jurisdiction. So, for example, we have just had the State of Utah legislate to re-introduce the firing squad method of execution of criminals sentenced to death by their (States) courts. This is nothing whatever to do with the Federal Government and the Federal authorities have no jurisdiction over it whatsoever.

In the same way, had there been a proper Federal UK structure created, rather than a mish mash set up and maintained for what they thought was the convenience of the Establishment parties, Mr Salmond’s MPs would not have been in a position to vote on England specific taxes, part of the product of which could then be spent in Scotland, or to influence the English Government on what it did with the English NHS or English transport policy, such as the proposed building of the HS2.

It is the very absence of an English Parliament which makes it now seem quite unlikely that the Conservatives will form part of the next Government after May 7th.

I am looking forward with interest to hear what kind of diversion tactics they get involved in, in order to try and disguise the fact that the difficulty that they are going to be in is as much as anything a product of their own incompetence and lack of forethought! But then we have been with this very much before with the Conservatives, David Cameron appears to be someone with very little strategic vision and is as one commentator rightly pointed out “slapdash and complacent”. Well now, Mr Cameron, it looks like the Caper Caillie are coming home to roost!

Here is one of the articles I was referring to:-


holds Ed to ransom: SNP chief boasts he would dictate a first Labour budget with plans for £180bn spending spree to 'end austerity'

SNP leader Alex Salmond has revealed he plans to hold Labour to ransom
A landslide for his party would allow him to dictate Ed Balls' first Budget 

Mr Salmond also said construction of HS2 rail line must start in Scotland
Comments described as one of the 'scariest interviews' in political history

Alex Salmond has boasted that a SNP landslide at the General Election would allow him to demand that Ed Balls ends austerity

Alex Salmond vowed yesterday to hold a Labour minority government to ransom to secure a £180billion debt-fuelled spending spree.

Scotland's former first minister boasted that an SNP landslide at the General Election would allow him to dictate Ed Balls's first Budget as Chancellor – and demand that he 'end austerity'.

Mr Salmond also declared construction of the HS2 rail line would have to start in Scotland and Britain's nuclear defences be scaled back.

With polls pointing to a hung Parliament and the SNP on course to win dozens of seats from Labour, he said of last year's independence referendum: 'We haven't lost after all. If you hold the balance, then you hold the power.'

Tory Defence Minister Anna Soubry told him he had delivered one of the 'scariest interviews' in modern political history.

Boris Johnson increased pressure on Labour to rule out any post-election deal with the SNP, which is predicted to take as many as 50 of Scotland's 59 seats, up from six in 2010.

'Labour would be drawn to feed the beast,' he said. 'That's what they have always done. They have created the problems by trying to appease Scottish Nationalism. They have endlessly encouraged it rather than taking it on.'

The Conservative Mayor of London called himself an 'absolutely fervent unionist' and said he was 'very worried' the SNP was deliberately stoking resentment against the Scots in the rest of the UK. He condemned Labour for vowing to use a new levy on expensive homes in the South East of England to pay for public services north of the border.

'I was appalled by what [Scottish Labour leader] Jim Murphy had to say about despoiling London and the South East with property taxes in order to pay for Scotland,' Mr Johnson said. 'That's not going to promote good relations'.

With polls suggesting the SNP could hold the balance of power at Westminster – and fears a deal with Labour could break up the Union – Mr Miliband finally bowed to pressure from senior colleagues last week and ruled out a formal coalition with the Nationalists.

But he has refused to reject a 'confidence and supply' deal, which would see the SNP guarantee to vote for key legislation in the Commons in exchange for concessions. More likely still is the SNP negotiating with a minority Labour government on a vote-by-vote basis.

When asked by the BBC's Sunday Politics yesterday, Mr Murphy declined six times to rule out such an arrangement.

Mr Miliband will today travel to Scotland in a desperate bid to shore up votes, stepping up his warnings that an SNP surge would risk keeping David Cameron in power.

The latest poll suggests Labour is failing to stem the Nationalist tide, with the SNP 21 points ahead on 47 per cent.

The Conservatives last night unveiled an animated campaign video, featuring Mr Miliband dancing a jig as Mr Salmond 'calls the tune'.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the former first minister said he would work with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party in a 'progressive' alliance.


Anna Soubry launches a fierce criticism of Alex Salmond on the Andrew Marr show

Alex Salmond faced an extraordinary assault yesterday by Conservative MP Anna Soubry over his plan to hold Westminster to ransom. Here are highlights of their exchange on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:

MISS SOUBRY: I have to say, I think [Mr Salmond’s] is one of the scariest interviews I have heard for a very long time.

MR SALMOND: Scary? Come on …

MISS SOUBRY: Absolutely! It’s not personal at all. I’ve met Alex a few times – he seems a very charming man, but absolutely terrifying.

The thought that we are in a position where you could be actually controlling, in the way you have described, this United Kingdom fills me with absolute horror. The audacity is astonishing.

There was a wonderful debate in Scotland. You lost it. We are a united kingdom; that’s what the people of Scotland wanted and because of the inadequacies of Labour north of the border …

MR SALMOND: But Anna …

MISS SOUBRY: You guys are now in a position whereby you would be this power broker.

MR SALMOND: So we haven’t lost after all then …

MISS SOUBRY: Exactly! It’s a back-door way of breaking up the Union. It’s really concerning.

MR SALMOND: I wanted Scotland to be independent. I wanted to leave Anna to her own devices in the House of Commons. She wanted us in the House of Commons. Now she’s complaining that we are going to have too many seats. I mean, goodness me …

MISS SOUBRY: This is really concerning for our democracy and for the safety of our nation as well, because of his views on Trident.

MR SALMOND: This is about a gateway decision on renewing the next generation of nuclear weapons, and that would be taken next year. It’s £100billion.

Anna wouldn’t be a defence minister under my formulation [of propping up a minority Labour government]. It’s nothing personal, I just have a fundamental disagreement. She wants the poor to pay. I don’t think we need the new nukes.

MISS SOUBRY: The real problem is this: Alex has made it very clear that, as far as he is concerned, there would be no deal with Labour unless there’s no renewal of Trident.

He has made that very clear. That’s true and honest to his own beliefs…

MR SALMOND: You couldn’t have coalition or confidence and supply, but a vote-by-vote basis is what comes up in the House of Commons …

Miss Soubry: No, no, no. Hang on a moment. When you and I were doing [BBC Radio 4’s] Any Questions, you said it was a red line for the SNP.

MR SALMOND: Yes, for a coalition or confidence and supply, obviously. Vote-by-vote is vote-by-vote …

MISS SOUBRY: We now have a situation whereby Labour is in real danger. There’s an absolute possibility that they will sell out on Trident, they will sell out on our defences. What chaos. Absolute chaos! Chaos.

MR SALMOND: My view is, confidence and supply we describe as possible; I think vote-by-vote is probable.

MISS SOUBRY: God, what a way to run a country!

MR SALMOND: Listen, I ran a minority government for four years …

MISS SOUBRY: Yes, but that was in Scotland. We are are a United Kingdom [Parliament] where we do defence and do other things as well.

He suggested the SNP could support a minority Labour government on a vote-by-vote basis even if it refuses to scrap the Trident nuclear deterrent, a previous 'red line' issue. A 'tartan bloc' at Westminster would 'move the Labour Party in a different direction', Mr Salmond said.

'I think there are lots of people – certainly lots of people in Scotland, but I think people across these islands – [who] are pretty fed up with the duopoly at Westminster and might want to see politics a bit more interesting, where parties have to work for their votes and justify things on a vote by vote basis,' Mr Salmond added.

Asked if Ed Balls would have to negotiate his Budget with the SNP, Mr Salmond replied: 'Yes, any minority government has to negotiate in order to win a majority for its proposal. That is patently obvious. To deny that is to deny reality.'

One of the SNP's many demands is to delay plans to tackle Britain's deficit by spending an extra £180billion over five years on the country's credit card. Treasury chiefs have warned that it would drive up debt.

Challenged to explain how he would respond to Mr Balls if Labour told him 'where to go', Mr Salmond said he would demand that the Scottish phase of the HS2 rail line be built first, rather than the London section.

'Let's say, for example, instead of this very, very slow fast-rail coming up from London, I think we should start [building] it from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Newcastle and I put that down as a Budget amendment,' he said. 'It would have substantial support in the North of England from the other parties and will carry the House of Commons. What does Mr Balls do then?'

Later, he told Sky News's Murnaghan programme: 'What I think is possible is a confidence and supply arrangement where we have a limited number of objectives and in return we would vote for Budgets.

'More probable is a vote-by-vote arrangement. We would move, or attempt to move, the Labour Party away from signing up to the Tory austerity agenda.' Miss Soubry said the possibility of Mr Salmond controlling a Labour government filled her with 'absolute horror'.

She told the Andrew Marr Show: 'That was one of the scariest interviews I've heard for a very long time … absolutely terrifying.'

Confronting Mr Salmond directly, she added: 'The audacity is astonishing. There was a wonderful debate in Scotland – you lost it. We are a united kingdom; that is what the people of Scotland wanted.' ...

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: 'Thanks to Labour's collapse in Scotland the only way Ed Miliband will get to Downing Street is if he does a grubby deal with Alex Salmond.'

He added: 'In every vote … weak Ed Miliband would dance to Alex Salmond's tune – it would cause chaos for the country.'

Scottish Labour Party leader Jim Murphy (pictured) refused six times to rule out a post-election deal with the SNP

Labour's leader in Scotland refused six times to rule out a post-election deal with the SNP in a bruising TV interview yesterday.

The BBC’s Andrew Neil asked Jim Murphy repeatedly whether he would renounce a so-called ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with the nationalists.

Both sides have made clear that there will not be a formal coalition with the SNP holding ministerial posts – but neither have ruled out a looser agreement, with the nationalists supporting Labour in certain votes.

Mr Murphy insisted he would ‘not get into further detail of a post-match analysis of a contest that hasn’t yet taken place’.

He said: ‘We are in this contest to win, not for a near draw.’ Asked again if he would rule out a deal with the nationalists, he said: ‘If we are the biggest party we will put our positions on the minimum wage, the living wage and much else besides, if the SNP vote for it, that’s nice.

‘If they vote against it that is their mistake because if we cannot get a majority in the House of Commons ... the SNP would be responsible for bringing down a Labour government.’

He went on: ‘We are trying to win an election, we are trying to win the majority, we cannot do that when the whole debate is about what happens after the election.

‘Let’s talk about public spending, how we make the UK stronger at home, how we eradicate poverty. Let’s have those big discussions, then let’s debate after the election what happens after the election.’

Mr Murphy, the MP for East Renfrewshire, has been leader of the Labour Party in Scotland for just four months.

He took over in the shadow of the independence referendum in which Labour’s performance took a battering and its former Scottish leader, Johann Lamont, was forced to resign.

Mr Murphy is highly regarded in the party and has tried to run a unity campaign based on tackling poverty and inequality.

But he is grappling with polls suggesting Labour – which won 41 out of Scotland’s 59 seats in 2010 – could lose almost all of its MPs north of the border in May.

Click here for the original article >>>

Thursday, 12 March 2015

English Democrats' Spring Conference 2015

We had a good Spring Conference with the Party very united and we adopted the proposed policy amendments and we re-elected our National Council. I also was filmed by the BBC as I delivered this speech:-

Ladies & Gentlemen welcome to our 2015 Spring Conference in York.

York is one of our most beautiful and ancient historic cities where many of the pages of English history have been written.

Not very far from here, King Harold Godwinston destroyed the last great Viking invasion led by King Harald Hardrada in 1066 and also his own brother Tostig, the rebel Earl of Northumbria was killed.

It is also not far from here that earlier Viking invaders spread-eagled the last Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria. Spread-eagling was a sort of Viking cross between torture and human sacrifice in which the victim was tied down on the ground and his chest opened to display the inside of his ribs as the feathered wings of the eagle, whilst Odin’s sacred birds, the ravens, swooped down to feast on his still living heart and lungs. Think about that ladies and gentlemen next time you see a pub called the Spread-eagle! And if you do go inside raise a glass in memory of our Anglo-Saxon forebears who fought off the Vikings to create the new English Nation which united on the 12th July 927 at the Council of Eamont - near modern Penrith!

So here we are ladies and gentlemen in the very heart of England holding an important meeting for the future of our country. Our numbers here today show that we still have much work to do, but we shouldn’t be daunted or down-hearted about that task. I think events are moving in our direction.

It is noticeable after the Scottish Referendum that many more people in England have woken up to the unfair way in which England is treated and even William Hague who once told the BBC in discussion with Jack Straw that he hated and feared English nationalism has begun to make conciliatory gestures towards English nationalism. Incidentally Jack Straw, who was recently exposed using the current arrangement to enrich himself, once said that “The English are potentially very aggressive, very violent”. But William Hague said that “English Nationalism is the most dangerous of all forms of nationalism” and even he, ladies and gentlemen, even William Hague, hating the idea of England, as he evidently does, nevertheless has at least made a half-hearted effort to tinker with the procedures of the House of Commons to give some recognition to English interests.

That EVEL proposal will of course come to nothing and is probably meant as nothing more than what Conservative HQ call a “populist positioning policy”, which you and I, ladies and gentlemen, might well translate with the Army expression “bullshit battles brains”. It is only a device to bamboozle English voters to vote Conservative. So ladies and gentlemen let us not forget David Cameron’s insult to the English when it comes to the ballot box. This is what he said about his national identity "I'm a Cameron, there is quite a lot of Scottish blood flowing through these veins" and this is what he said about people like us “I’ll take on the sour Little Englanders, I’ll fight them all the way”.

Ladies and gentlemen when even our enemies are having to give ground on our agenda we know that our Cause is making headway.

This year is also the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta. Magna Carta is one of the greatest legacies of our Nation to all the peoples of the Earth. For in it our Nation first devised the idea that even Kings are subject to Law. No previous nation had ever dared to think such a thing. For example in Ancient Rome, ladies and gentlemen, the Will of the Emperor was the supreme law! In most other States throughout history there hasn’t really even been a concept of ‘Law’.

This year also there is a much less well celebrated but important historical anniversary – the 750th anniversary of the first English Parliament. That is the Parliament summoned by Simon De Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. Recently I was being interviewed by the Financial Times and was able to point out to them the very spot in the walls of Westminster Abbey which triggered the events which led to the first English Parliament. King John’s son, Henry III was building his vast and magnificent remodelled Westminster Abbey and he had spent so much on it and on his other building projects that he ran out of money. Being the government he thought that he had the right to take as much out of the pockets of the English as he wanted – just like our own government today!

But he was in for a rude shock as his excessive demands led to rebellion and to the first English Parliament which took place in the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey 750 years ago. The Chapter House is still there and I am looking into whether we could hold a meeting of our English Parliament there!

We have come here at least in part to prepare for the launch of our general election campaign for May 7th 2015. We recognise this is a General Election in which patriotic English people are likely to give UKIP, the “Believe in Britain” party, a chance, but after the election we need to be positioned and understood to be the “believe in England” Party. This is because, Ladies and gentlemen, I believe in England. Do you believe in England?

We stood in the Police Commissioner by-election in South Yorkshire last year and still got a credible result of 8,583 votes and retained our deposit but the statistics that shows our potential is:-


Number of votes: 46,883

Spent: £157048.65

Cost per vote: £3.35

English Democrats:

Number of Votes: 8582

Spent: £9567

Cost per vote: £1.11

It was also interesting that UKIP spent more than three times as much than we did on each and every vote that they received. I think the moral is that if we were actually able to raise enough money to match UKIP’s spending, not only would we beat them, but we would have been more likely to win election than they ever could be.

I wonder could that be something to do with the relative appeal of English nationalism as against British nationalism?

Ladies and gentlemen those of us who spend far too much time on the internet, Facebook and Twitter, even those of us who are trying to push our message I think will have come across huge numbers of over enthusiastic UKIP supporters who think that UKIP is going to be forming the next government!

I have got a message for them and for those English nationalists who think that UKIP may be the answer, despite its un-English stance. That message is:- No they won’t!

This election is an election where, for the first time ever, there is a great deal of detailed information on the likely outcome. Lord Ashcroft the former Tory donor, has spent literally millions of pounds in having opinion polls done in virtually every constituency in the United Kingdom. So we have a very clear view of the current picture and so the likely outcome of this General Election.

In the past opinion polls have generally been done on opinions across the whole country, but as the results for the Social Democrat Party showed in the 70’s, you can have a full quarter of the vote but if your vote is spread out across the country you will win hardly any seats. It is for that very strong electoral reason that the British Establishment have clung on to “first past the post” system, which gives them a disproportionate number of seats, especially given their increasingly limited support. It is the “first past the post” problem that UKIP have to contend with. It is because of “first past the post” and its effect of constituencies on the result that Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggest that UKIP will win between 3 and 5 seats.

Despite some recent UKIP spin, one of the seats that they appear to be increasingly unlikely to win matters perhaps more to them than any other because it is South Thanet, the seat that Nigel Farage is standing in.

I think you can already see fault lines developing in UKIP from the comments made by Douglas Carswell that he supports multi-culturalism and has criticised Enoch Powell’s views on the problems of mass immigration whereas Mark Reckless supports starting to think about repatriation of immigrants. So it’s easy to see that without Nigel Farage to hold them in check as Leader in Westminster, UKIP is likely to descend into open civil war and one of the issues they will fight over is the question of English nationalism.

Turning from UKIP to the likely consequences of the General Election, Lord Ashcroft’s polls show that the Conservatives and Labour are likely to win a very similar number of seats and that that number is likely to be well short of a majority in the House of Commons. This means that it seems unlikely, as things stand at the moment, that either Party will be able to form a government without assistance from smaller parties. It follows from this that the really important battle may well prove to be how many Liberal Democrat seats are lost and also equally important how many Scottish National Party seats are won.

So far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned, Lord Ashcroft’s polling suggests that they may well lose all but 20 of their seats. One of their seats that is in the balance is that of Nick Clegg at Sheffield Hallam. That is a constituency where there are a lot of students, many of whom will not have forgotten Nick Clegg’s dishonesty over student top-up or tuition fees. To add to the mix, the English Democrats will be standing in that seat and our candidate is Steve Clegg. Stand up Steve. So we will have Steve Clegg of the English Democrats hopefully higher up the ballot paper than Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats! It may only need a couple of hundred Liberal Democrat voters to make a mistake to decapitate that Party. What do you think of that ladies and gentlemen?

So far as the SNP are concerned, some opinion polls have put the number of potential wins for the SNP, out of the 59 seats in Scotland, at 56, almost wiping out Labour, wiping out all but 1 of the Liberal Democrats seats and wiping out the Conservatives in Scotland. Remember that whereas the first past the post vote will reduce UKIP’s vote to small numbers because it is spread out, the SNP are in the opposite position because the 45% of the Scottish who voted for Independence are concentrated in Scotland, whereas their unionist opponents are split which means that the SNP will win more seats than is proportionate.

If the Liberal Democrats are reduced to 20 then on the current opinion polls it will not be possible for either the Conservatives or for Labour to form a government with only an alliance or coalition with the Liberal Democrats. That means that they would have to form an alliance with the Scottish National Party.

The Scottish National Party have made it clear that they would not support a Conservative administration and therefore we may well see a coalition, or a “confidence and supply” agreement, between Labour and the Scottish National Party. You can be very sure that the price of such an arrangement will be deeper in-roads into English national interests.

To add to the interest in the outcome of this General Election it may be that Labour will need to also bring in the other parties that the SNP are in alliance with, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and Sinn Fein.

It may interest you to know that it has been reported and it has not been denied that senior Labour figures have already been in talks with Sinn Fein to see whether they would come into such an arrangement. I wonder ladies and gentlemen whether such a government shouldn’t be known as the Government of Anti-English Conspiracy?

I wonder if anybody here thinks that these prospects for the General Election, coupled with the effects of the fixed term parliament act which means that the arrangement, once in place, is likely to last 5 years, however ineffective and unpopular it becomes, that after that even the most politically comatose Englishman and Englishwoman won’t be roused out of their lethargy and political slumbers to support the only English nationalist party? Ladies and gentlemen do you think that they will also stop Believing in Britain? I do ladies and gentlemen.

So ladies and gentlemen as I said I believe in England. Again I ask do you believe in England? Well then ladies and gentlemen let’s live up to our motto and put England first. Who is with me?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin – The writing on the wall for the UK?

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin – The writing on the wall

Anyone who knows their Bible knows the story in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 5. The articles below give us some cause for optimism that, this time, the 'writing is on the wall' for the British Establishment and the United Kingdom.

Here is the King James version of the story of the writing on the wall:-

Daniel Chapter 5

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.

3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.

4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

6 Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.

8 Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.

9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

10 Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed:

11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;

12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.

13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry?

14 I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.

15 And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing:

16 And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.

18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.

20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:

21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.

25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

29 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

Here are the Articles:-


Why an SNP surge at Westminster could mean the end of Britain

Scotland’s political earthquake isn’t over, and the rest of the UK doesn’t yet understand the consequences

Anyone seeking to understand the strength of the SNP should look to those parts of Scotland where the party is supposed to be weakest. At the last election, the nationalists took just under 10 per cent of the vote in the Scottish Borders. This year, Tory canvass returns suggest the SNP may treble its share of the vote in one of the most staunchly unionist seats in Scotland.

For months, opinion polls have made unremittingly gloomy reading for unionists. The nationalists are heading for a victory on a scale still not fully comprehended in England. The polls suggest the SNP could win as many as 55 of Scotland’s 59 seats, up from six at present. No one can quite bring themselves to believe an earthquake of such magnitude is about to strike Scottish politics. Bookmakers’ odds forecast a smaller SNP landslide, but winning even 35 seats might be enough to prevent Ed Miliband from winning a majority. Without its Celtic base, Labour would struggle to govern Britain — unless a deal is cut with the nationalists.

Far from finishing the SNP, the referendum campaign has left them stronger than ever. Indeed, the SNP is no longer just a party, it is a movement — and one boasting, per capita, more than twice as many members as the three main unionist parties combined. One in every 50 adult Scots has joined the SNP since the referendum. Nicola Sturgeon’s party has more members than the British army has soldiers.

Scottish elections have rarely made much difference in Westminster. Indeed, at the last election, nothing changed north of the border: every Scottish seat returned the same result in 2010 that it had in 2005. Scotland’s election was a quiet affair, untouched by change (or enthusiasm for David Cameron). This year, in contrast, England’s election may be inconclusive while Scotland will be the scene of a political insurrection.

Neither Cameron nor Miliband are in any position to shape the outcome of the election in Scotland. Each is curiously powerless. They sit in London, anxiously awaiting the news from the north that may determine their fate. The SNP, which has been polling at more than 40 per cent for four months, holds a significant structural advantage. Unlike its rivals, it has a cause which motivates an army of supporters — and a cause is a fiercely powerful thing. Stronger, certainly, than anything offered by a weak and divided unionism. Who else, the SNP says, can be trusted to put Scotland’s interest first?

The unionists try to pretend this isn’t happening. In Edinburgh last week, David Cameron claimed the constitutional question has been ‘settled’. No one in Scotland recognises it as settled, however, and if the Prime Minister thinks it is he is deluding himself. Unionism’s complacency remains a problem second only to unionism’s inability to recognise that it has a problem.

Every device intended to kill Scottish nationalism has ended up making it stronger. Devolution succeeded in killing Toryism north of the border, but only at the expense of fertilising nationalism. Labour’s hegemony in Scotland needed an opposition and the SNP was happy to fill that void. The independence referendum made the idea of secession seem a plausible reality. An alternative future was glimpsed and sold with commendable, if heroic, optimism. In the circumstances, it was little surprise that 45 per cent of Scots thought it a risk worth pursuing. In the long-term, this bodes ill for unionism and, if nothing else, the SNP is adept at playing the long game. It need only win once; unionism cannot afford a single defeat.

So, far from the Scotland issue being settled, it looms larger than ever. In terms of domestic politics, it is the greatest challenge to the authority and confidence of the British state since 1918, when Sinn Fein won a landslide victory in what, in the end, became the Irish Republic. For obvious reasons, the SNP dislikes comparisons with Sinn Fein. Nevertheless, its aim — the dismemberment of the British state — is the same. And this, in turn, makes Ed Miliband’s reluctance to rule out a post-election deal with the nationalists utterly baffling. The SNP likes the idea of being kingmakers but its true aim is to be wreckers. If Miliband genuinely wants Britain to stay together, why even consider joining forces with a party whose central aim is to tear Britain apart?

The idea of a weak and limping Miliband government dependent upon Alex Salmond’s support — albeit on a confidence and supply basis — is a useful second prize for the SNP. But the gold medal-winning result is another Conservative-led government lacking ‘democratic legitimacy’ north of the Tweed and Solway.

A second term for Cameron will add weight to the SNP’s claim that Scotland and England are such diverging polities that it makes less and less sense for them to be part of the same political union. The SNP’s agenda is to sue for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

Here we may perceive a difference between the SNP leadership and its newly swollen membership. The lion’s share of SNP voters (and, for that matter, Scots) prefer the idea of an SNP-dependent Labour government. In other words, the Tory argument ‘Vote SNP, get Labour’ encourages Scots to vote for their preferred outcome. This is worse than a dubious political strategy for the Conservatives to pursue — it is a reckless one.

Then again, Labour’s ‘Vote SNP, get the Tories’ warning is little better. It is intended to revive Labour’s vote in its besieged west of Scotland heartland, inviting Labour defectors to remember how much they hate the Tories. But this rendition of an old tune — one trotted out at every election for decades — shows little sign of persuading Labour-supporting ‘yes’ voters to return to their ancestral fold. According to one recent poll, just 8 per cent of ‘Yes’ voters plan to endorse Labour candidates in May.

And why would they return? What’s to return to? Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour’s new leader, claims a vote for Labour is a ‘patriotic’ vote but this, like so much else in Scottish politics, merely reminds voters that Scotland’s political weather is made by the SNP. Murphy appreciates that Scottish Labour must be more than just London Labour’s northern branch office, but almost all of Scottish Labour’s brightest and best — a relative term — are in London, not Edinburgh. Even Murphy only became leader in Scotland because he’d been passed over by Miliband in London.

The referendum campaign necessarily divided Scots along the line of the national question; the future of the country is plainly a greater issue than any differences over the NHS, education or even economic policy. This being so, no one should be surprised by the nationalist surge. The logic is chiselled from granite: if you voted ‘yes’ in September, why would you vote for a unionist party in May?

Moreover, if the election contest is framed as a battle to secure greater powers for the Scottish parliament (or ‘For Scotland’, to adopt the SNP’s shorthand) then voting SNP is the surest, perhaps only, way of ensuring the Scottish Question remains high on Westminster’s agenda. Even Labour voters accept that the SNP is best-placed to secure more powers for the Scottish parliament. Given that the nationalists may well become the third biggest force in a hung parliament, there will be ample scope for mischief.

If this infuriates English voters, so much the better. Alex Salmond will, in effect, be dispatched south of the border as Nicola Sturgeon’s ambassador to London’s television studios. His role is to run a guerrilla campaign, fomenting discord and division. Resisting his provocations will not be easy, not least because so few English Tories, whose arrogance is matched only by their ignorance, are aware that Labour is merely the opposition, whereas the SNP is the enemy.

The Scottish Tories see matters more clearly. In Edinburgh and Glasgow and Aberdeen, cities where the SNP is challenging Labour, there is considerable anecdotal evidence supporting the suspicion that many Tories are prepared to vote Labour, the better to thwart the nationalist advance. They would rather risk a Labour government than an SNP landslide that might put Cameron back in Downing Street. A Miliband administration is a misery that need merely be endured for five years. A nationalist victory, by contrast, risks a second independence referendum which might break the Union forever.

To the SNP, the next general election is just a staging post. Winning a majority of Scottish seats would be an excellent start, but influencing the governance of the UK is of relatively minor importance. Any deal with Labour — or even a stage-managed week of negotiations — will be conducted with the 2016 Holyrood elections in mind. An SNP majority next year would bring the power to call for a second referendum. And if a majority of Scottish voters call for one, through an SNP (and Green) vote, how can Westminster reasonably say no? This is why so many Scottish unionists will vote tactically in May: it is crucial that the nationalists’ momentum is checked now.

Then comes Europe. Should Cameron lose the election less badly than Miliband and earn a second term, he is committed to a referendum on EU membership. While Scots are more Eurosceptic than the SNP allows (a third say they would vote to leave), the English are still far more likely to vote to leave the EU. If they do, and Scotland votes to stay in, the thirst for independence might prove unquenchable. (Equally, how would England react if Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish votes determined the outcome of the EU referendum?) Cameron’s European difficulties are another opportunity for the nationalists. And a reminder that the Union can be lost in London as well as in Scotland.

It is depressing that so many English Tories are plainly more exercised by ‘threats’ from Brussels than from Edinburgh. As one Cabinet member puts it: ‘Scotland really is, now, another country: I’ve given up understanding it.’ Many have given up caring, too. It is clear that a good proportion of English Tories would accept a notional bargain in which Scottish independence was the price of levering the rump UK out of the EU. That leaves Scottish unionists, especially right-of-centre unionists, as the forlorn last-believers in a faith long since abandoned by everyone else — including those they mistakenly reckoned as their co-religionists.

Scottish votes could well determine the outcome of this general election, but the matter of Scotland — that is to say, the battle of Britain — will not be resolved this May. This is just a preliminary skirmish for the other, larger, battles that lie ahead. David Cameron would be wrong to think that his mission in May is to sneak over the finish line: his fight will have just begun. So unionists are entitled to feel a deep and heavy sense of foreboding. This election is going to be a disaster.

Tim Mongomery at The Times

Like the Greens, Nigel Farage’s party is a fractious coalition held together by protest votes. Don’t bet on it surviving

Buy land that doesn’t have permission for housebuilding. Once you’ve acquired the land you alter the planning permission. You’re the government after all. Build 500,000 homes at a cost of £100,000 per property. Spend another £50 billion on infrastructure so the new houses have roads and schools and GP surgeries. Then borrow the £100 billion total at the historically low interest rates we currently enjoy — an annual cost of £2 billion. That £2 billion can be financed by charging rents of about £400 per month on each new home. Moreover, as you sell the homes in future years, under a supercharged right-to-buy scheme, taxpayers should make a tidy return.

That should have been Natalie Bennett’s answer to the question posed by Nick Ferrari on LBC radio on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Green party’s leader, the BBC’s Evan Davis is not her economics adviser. If she had used the explanation Mr Davis gave Newsnight viewers that evening she would have more than satisfied Mr Ferrari and his listeners. While most Green policies are nuttier than a nut cutlet, this is actually a policy that deserves cross-party support. It makes a lot more sense than throwing £20 billion of taxpayers’ money at private landlords every year in the form of housing benefit.

But, flattened by the Ferrari, she sounded like an amateur and is now something of a national laughing stock. While parties can tolerate being ignored, despised and even feared, they never want to be ridiculed. Ms Bennett’s “brain fade” does not have to be fatal, however. People aren’t voting Green because they expect to see her as prime minister or Caroline Lucas as chancellor on May 8. They’re voting to send a message. They want a greener government that spends more money on welfare and less on defence. In fact the Greens don’t really want to spend anything on defence. They think that nice Mr Putin can be persuaded to leave Ukraine over a nice cup of calming camomile tea. Ms Bennett’s car crash interview does not change the average Green voter’s calculation.

Ukip voters, by contrast, want to spend more on defence, less on welfare and quite admire Vladimir Putin. Otherwise, however, they have more in common with Green voters than they’d probably like to admit. While its immigration and European policies are pretty well known I doubt that one in 20 voters could name another Ukip policy. This might matter if people were voting Ukip because they wanted a Ukip government, but few do. They want control of immigration and hope that by voting Ukip they can shake the political establishment out of its complacency.

The man who most understands the need for a simple message is Nigel Farage. He knows that his party is hopelessly divided on many issues. While he is a pretty conventional libertarian he knows that large numbers of Ukip’s older voters are socially quite reactionary. But there isn’t just a gap between Ukip’s leadership and Ukip’s voters, there are growing gaps between Ukip’s leading lights. Patrick O’Flynn, MEP, for example, wants Ukip to move in a much more blue collar-friendly direction. He has advocated a tax on luxury goods and has welcomed George Osborne’s high rates of stamp duty on large properties. Mr Farage, however, has described such measures as “hate taxes”. O’Flynn is no ordinary MEP: he’s Ukip’s economics spokesman.

Paul Nuttall, of Ukip, wants sex education for under-11s scrapped. Mr Nuttall isn’t just Ukip’s deputy leader, he’s also its education spokesman. But, as with Ukip’s economics spokesman, don’t think that what Ukip’s education spokesman says is actually Ukip policy. That’s not how the party works. Mr Farage says he favours sex education for under-11s as part of a “rounded education”.

Earlier this week, Douglas Carswell declared in this newspaper that Enoch Powell was wrong. The many Ukippers who supported Nick Griffin’s BNP until a few years ago will not have approved, but the former Tory MP is brave and wise to take them on. While it is perfectly acceptable for Ukip to retain diverse views on luxury taxes, sex education or the future of the NHS — and Mr Carswell has been far from consistent on the healthcare issue himself — no modern party should have room for Powellite views on race.

So long as Mr Farage is Ukip’s leader this misfit coalition will probably be kept together. But how long will he stay leader? The website, run by three academics, suggests that the Tories have a 95 per cent chance of stopping Mr Farage from winning Thanet South. While this seems high I should point out that it’s not an anti-Ukip website. It also attaches a 93 per cent probability to Douglas Carswell retaining his Clacton seat.

If Ukip wins between six and a dozen seats and Mr Farage loses in Thanet, it will be difficult for him to retain his leadership. The centre of gravity of Ukip will have moved to Westminster and away from him. Without Mr Farage to keep the lid on things the fight for Ukip’s soul will then boil over. Will Ukip choose the Gladstonian reforming agenda of Mr Carswell? The populist economics of Mr O’Flynn? The anti-state libertarianism of Ukip’s earliest days? Or will it swing further leftwards to make gains in the north?

The battle for Thanet South will be one of the most important of this general election campaign. If Nigel Farage is kept out of parliament, Ukip’s misfit coalition is unlikely to last much longer.

Simon Heffer: Could the general election lead to constitutional crisis?

Another hung parliament and the ill-conceived Fixed Term Parliaments Act could compromise the country's constitution.

Although it has become a commonplace that the outcome of the general election on 7 May is less predictable than almost any in living memory, the consequences of a result that does not provide a majority government are only now beginning to be grasped. General elections are the agents of our democracy. They are supposed to ensure some relationship – however imperfect – between the will of the people and the composition of the executive that governs the United Kingdom. However, this was not strictly the case after the election in May 2010. No party won it. Once the Conservatives decided not to try to govern as a minority administration – it was never an option for Labour, with almost 50 fewer seats than their rivals – the outcome was a coalition for which, as with all coalitions formed after an election, nobody had explicitly voted. That coalition government has since then implemented a programme for which the electorate supplied no mandate, for the obvious reason that that specific programme had not been put before it at the general election.

Now it is quite feasible that what we call our democracy could be even more compromised in May. If there is a clear winner of the election, we can all continue smugly to congratulate and delude ourselves that our constitution is a model for the rest of the free world. But if there is not – as most opinion polls now suggest – the full consequences of the cocktail of constitutional changes made by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats since 2010, and by Labour after 1997, will suddenly become apparent. And it is far from impossible that they could provoke the greatest constitutional crisis in Britain since before the Great War.

Suppose no party wins outright, and the one with the largest number of seats is asked to form the government. Suppose also, for the sake of argument, that that is the Conservative Party. David Cameron, as the incumbent Prime Minister, meets parliament and offers a Queen’s Speech. His parliamentary party has made it clear it prefers minority government to more compromises with the Lib Dems; yet there may well be too few Lib Dems to give the two parties an overall majority. Even with support for him from the Democratic Unionists and Ukip MPs, he cannot carry the vote.

Labour, in this scenario, may have fewer seats than the Conservatives – thanks, perhaps, to the slump in the party’s standing in Scotland, and Ukip eating into its vote in English constituencies it hoped to win from the Tories – but with the help of the surviving Lib Dems, a much-expanded parliamentary SNP and Plaid Cymru, it can, and does, vote down a Queen’s Speech promising stringent further cuts. Cameron then resigns: and the leader of the Labour Party, for whom even fewer people voted than for the Tories, becomes prime minister. This is because the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011 allows for no dissolution when a prime minister has been defeated in the Commons on his legislative programme. If, after 14 days, Labour were to find that it could not get a Queen’s Speech through, either, there would be another election. More probably, either a rainbow coalition of the same left-leaning parties which voted down the Tory Queen’s Speech would then become the government of the United Kingdom, or Labour would run a minority government, having negotiated a confidence-and-supply arrangement with those minor parties.

However, given what has been promised to Scotland in the shape of tax-raising powers, even a confidence-and-supply arrangement could prove controversial: and this is where another constitutional change, that of devolution, could start to have profound constitutional consequences in the United Kingdom parliament and in England. Passing a Budget would almost certainly entail Scottish MPs, whether SNP, Labour or Liberal, voting for some tax-raising powers that would not affect their own constituents. And when Labour began to seek to pass measures that affected only England – say on health or education – it would, as things stand, be perfectly within its rights to do so using the votes of Scottish MPs. It would, however, remain to be seen whether the English electorate would be any happier about that than their Scottish equivalents would be for English MPs to renew their control over domestic Scottish matters. There are 533 seats for English MPs, so Labour would need to have at least 267 of them to be sure to pass any measure that affected only England using English votes alone. As it currently has 190, and even the most optimistic polls suggest Labour would pick up at most 50 to 60 English seats if the election in May goes well for it, a majority of English seats may still elude it.

Early this month William Hague set out a strange plan to deal with the democratic deficit suffered by England after devolution. It specified that the committee and report stages of any legislation that affected England alone, or England and Wales alone, would be dealt with solely by English, or English and Welsh, MPs. However, in order not to do something called “compromising the integrity of parliament”, Scottish members would be allowed to vote on the third reading.

Hague seems not to have understood that this would mean the routine vetoing of legislation proposed by a Labour government, because by third reading the shape that the legislation would be in would most likely be offensive to that government. Such bills would have been butchered by an English grand committee that would most likely be dominated by English MPs, to a point where they would have had any Labour policy hacked out of them, thereby defeating the government’s original purpose for the legislation. For example, it is quite likely that a bill on the NHS proposing to undo the Lansley reforms could have the attempt to overturn those reforms completely removed from it, making it almost pointless to pass it on third reading. However, such a ludicrous system will not be put in place before the next election because the Lib Dems would not vote for it; and whatever the outcome in May, it is unlikely to happen at all, such is the widespread dissatisfaction with it.

The SNP, which could well find itself with more than 40 seats after 7 May and therefore with the sort of clout the Irish Nationalists had while keeping Asquith in power after 1910, currently does not vote on solely English matters at Westminster. It has tried to argue that it could vote on the English National Health Service, giving the argument that funding shortages in England could drive people over the border to seek treatment in Scotland. But that is too far-fetched for many English MPs and, more to the point, for many English voters. For English MPs now to demand a say in the running of the Scottish NHS would be regarded as an outrageous and reactionary act of effrontery; it is surprising that some Scots do not see that this argument cuts both ways.

The SNP’s own credibility would be at stake if it suddenly started to vote on matters that for Scots are settled at Holyrood and in which the English have no say. The widespread assumption among Tory MPs is, however, that it would start to vote on solely English measures, however hypocritical that was. Otherwise, Labour could use its own, probably diminished, numbers of Scottish and Welsh MPs to pass measures that do not affect Scotland and Wales; but that would sit oddly with the party’s supercharged commitment to devolution and the removal of English influence from Welsh and Scottish affairs. And if the SNP realises the impropriety, given its principles, of voting on solely English issues, it would confine itself to helping Labour win votes of confidence and passing measures affecting defence, foreign affairs and the National Lottery; nonetheless a Labour administration might prove unable, without SNP support, or the support of non-English Labour MPs, to pass measures essential to the government of England.

Tory MPs are preparing to make an outcry if English laws are passed with Scottish votes, and it would be unwise to underestimate the effect such a campaign might have on the government’s standing. Since last September’s referendum, attitudes to this in England have changed. It might seem to be a quick fix for Labour in enabling it to gain power, but the resentment it could well create among an English electorate that is not stupid, and certainly smart enough to notice what the Tory press would daily call the interference of Scots in important matters that do not concern them, could cause Labour profound long-term damage. Some Labour MPs are aware of the democratically contradictory nature of this possible strategy, and deeply uneasy about it.

With Labour perhaps divided on other matters – such as the extent of the implementation of spending cuts, as recently suggested by Lord Liddle, and the general continuing criticism of the party leadership by Blairites – the government might quickly lose support during such a controversy. The SNP might also not enjoy the negative publicity, conscious of the great damage done to the Lib Dems by their participation in government. The Labour government might then find itself unable to get important measures through that would affect 85 per cent of the population of the UK, and feel it has no option but to resign. And that might in turn propel into office another minority Conservative government, quite possibly under a leader other than David Cameron, again because of the difficulty under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of securing a dissolution. As before, if the Conservatives cannot form a government after 14 days, then there can be an election; or it would require a vote of two-thirds of the House of Commons, something unlikely to happen because it would entail large numbers of turkeys voting for Christmas. It would be much better for the country just to have another election, as was the practice previously, but the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act forbids such a simple solution. And while such a crisis plays out Britain would be at the mercy of financial speculators, and contempt among the electorate for the political process, which is already at an unhealthy level, would balloon.

Even before the ill-considered Fixed-Term Act, which senior politicians of all parties now wish to repeal, and the focus on democracy in England in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, our electoral arrangements were far from ideal or equitable. Sometimes the party with the largest popular vote comes second in terms of numbers of seats: Labour did in 1951 and the Tories in February 1974. What has been called a “postcode lottery” means that a single vote carries far more weight in some constituencies than it does in others, in terms of the ease with which one party or another can be elected. The first-past-the-post system has long enabled the Tories and Labour to win most of the seats, while the Lib Dems, with over half the number of the main parties’ votes, have nothing like half their number of MPs. Now, it is quite possible that at the May election Ukip could register many more votes than the Lib Dems, yet end up with a small fraction of the Lib Dems’ parliamentary seats. Only the introduction of a system of proportional representation, such as is used in the European parliamentary elections, could obviate this injustice.

Yet in 2011, when at the insistence of the Lib Dems a plebiscite was held on introducing the Alternative Vote, it was roundly defeated by 68 to 32 per cent. Therefore we must assume that the public, or at least the 42 per cent who cared enough about the future of our electoral system to vote, are quite happy for the present system to continue.

What we cannot assume is public support for the Fixed-Term Act. The Lib Dems had a commitment to fixed terms in their 2010 manifesto; but the dominant partner in the eventual coalition, the Conservatives, did not. Fixed terms may work in presidential systems such as the US or France, where the head of government is elected separately from the representative assembly, and where therefore the political culture is fundamentally different. Here, the act limits the democratic option, as previously existed, of a failed government going to the country as soon as it has lost the confidence of parliament – as with the Callaghan administration in 1979; or of a government so weakened by events that it decides to seek a new mandate from the electorate, as Edward Heath unsuccessfully did in February 1974. It also prevents a government calling an election at a time of its choosing, although, as John Major found in 1997 and Gordon Brown in 2010, prime ministers do not always call correctly.

When Nick Clegg introduced the Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill in the Commons on 13 September 2010, the government front bench – as a Labour MP pointed out – was devoid of any Conservative ministers to support him. He claimed the measure was designed “to remove the right of a prime minister to seek the dissolution of parliament for pure political gain”. That was not quite true. Removing that right was indeed one of the reasons for the Lib Dems’ devotion to the idea of fixed terms. But the real reason why the promise was made immediately upon the conclusion of the coalition talks the previous May was an intervention by Sir Gus O’Donnell, the then cabinet secretary.

There are two categories of senior civil servant: those who act as true mandarins in tendering advice and implementing ministerial decisions with strict objectivity, whether they conform with that advice or not, and those who take a robust interest and keen delight in politics and the political process itself. Anyone who has come across Lord O’Donnell – as he has since become – will be aware that he belongs more to the second than to the first category. He was especially effective in Whitehall in dealing with ministers who were either inexperienced or not very bright. Cameron, whose first office of state was that of prime minister, and Clegg, whom few would expect to winMastermind, were putty in his hands. O’Donnell correctly identified that the international markets were waiting to see how serious the new government was likely to be in tackling the economic difficulties of the time, notably a deficit excessive both historically and by comparison with those of economies in the eurozone. He argued that announcing in the summer of 2010 that the next general election would not be held until 7 May 2015, barring exceptional circumstances, would constitute a promise of stability that the markets would love.

Whatever Cameron’s doubts about this – and in that way that he seems to lack conviction about almost everything, it is hard to discern whether he had strong feelings either way – he could see this might be a deal-breaker with the Lib Dems: and so, despite what he must have known would be deep hostility from many in his party, he signed up to the idea. So when Clegg, in his vapid and shallow speech on the second reading, said that the result of passing the bill would be “no more feverish speculation”, once a parliament entered its latter phase, “distracting politicians from getting on with running the country”, he told less than half the story. And those who should be running the country seem to have found plenty of distraction elsewhere to compensate for not having the date of a general election to speculate about.

One of the many points Nick Clegg seemed incapable of grasping, in choosing largely to ignore or not being able to notice that there might be other consequences of this measure, was that some displacement would occur. “The political parties end up in perpetual campaign mode,” he told MPs, “making it very difficult for parliament to function effectively.” Parliament is scarcely functioning effectively now, more than three months before an election. MPs of all parties are mostly in their constituencies, attempting to secure their re-election. Fixed term or not, that was always going to happen. The arguments to which Clegg devoted his speech in September 2010 in supporting his case for this fundamental change to the constitution have turned out mostly to be hollow.

But then he gave himself away on the day in response to an intervention by Sir Peter Tapsell, the Father of the House and widely respected on both sides of it, who first sat in the Commons in 1959, nearly eight years before Clegg was born. “Why,” asked Sir Peter, questioning the change, “do the Rt Hon Gentleman and our Prime Minister think that they are wiser than their 40 predecessors?” In a response sublimely fatuous even by the Deputy Prime Minister’s standards, he replied: “It is not a question of wisdom; it is a question of the weight of history.”

Bernard Jenkin, another Tory MP, accused the government of “gerrymandering the constitution in favour of a particular coalition” and of making up the constitution “on the hoof”. He called for a constitutional convention to weigh up the pros and cons properly. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and historian of parliament, took issue with the five-year fixed term, pointing out that since the Reform Act 1832 parliaments, on average, had lasted three years and eight months. This was a more remarkable statistic than Bryant disclosed, because until the Parliament Act 1911 an act of 1716 required general elections to be held only every seven years. Jack Straw took up Jenkin’s point and accused the government of rushing through the bill without proper pre-legislative scrutiny. His colleague George Howarth came more directly to the point, describing the measure as “squalid in intent”.

The bill passed, but it is important to recall the extent of the doubts and fears expressed at the time by both Labour and Tory MPs, for it means that if we have a constitutional crisis caused by the act nobody can claim to have been unwarned. That 1911 act that established five-year parliaments as a maximum, and whose purpose was principally to end the veto of the House of Lords, was the result of precisely the extensive pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation that Jenkin and Straw (and many others) called for in 2010, but which in an act of scandalous dereliction, given the gravity of the measure, was entirely absent. The consequences of removing the peers’ veto – a necessary step in a country close to achieving full manhood suffrage, and which within 20 years would have extended the vote to all men and women over the age of 21 – were so completely discussed in the Commons, in the Lords, on public platforms, in the press and (most significantly) at two general elections within 11 months that very few were unaware of what they would be. And the widespread acceptance of this change to centuries of constitutional practice, as well as the absence of unpleasant surprises afterwards, were a tribute to the effectiveness of an exhaustive debate before it occurred.

The possible constitutional crisis of 2015 could be the gravest since that of 1909-11, which was occasioned by the peers’ rejection of Lloyd George’s “People’s Budget” and, once the fight over their right to throw out money bills was lost, their persistent refusal to contemplate surrendering their veto on all other measures. It was only when A J Balfour, the Unionist leader, was told in July 1911 that George V had promised Asquith, his prime minister, that he would create hundreds of Liberal peers to force the Parliament Bill through that the Unionists gave in and let the bill pass. The Lords were persuaded to surrender their veto on money bills by the Unionists’ defeat in the general election of January 1910, which forced them to pass the People’s Budget. When the peers would not agree to surrender their other veto powers Asquith requested another dissolution, and in an election in December 1910 the Unionists lost again.

Most MPs realised the game was up: many peers didn’t, hence the need for Asquith to extract the promise from the king to agree to use his prerogative to create enough peers to defeat the forces of conservatism in the upper house. But in the two years while this conflict continued, the matter was, at least, robustly discussed and extensively dissected.

Because such a debate did not precede the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, and the coalition was able to drive the measure through parliament without needing to pay attention to points of serious dissent, we stand at risk of a profoundly anti-democratic outcome from the forthcoming electoral process. This is recognised across parliament. Senior politicians from both the Conservative and Labour Parties, including Alan Duncan, Peter Tapsell, Jack Straw, Gerald Kaufman and Kenneth Clarke, have all called in recent weeks for the act to be repealed. Given that the present parliament has so little to do, it is a wonder that the Conservative Party – which has never liked the act – does not make common cause with the substantial number of Labour objectors and seek to repeal the bill now, before the election. It would hardly matter if that broke the coalition, which has but a few weeks to live in any case.

If that should mean that 2015 was a year of two elections, so be it. At least the second election would give the public the opportunity to reflect upon the indecisive outcome of the first, and to choose whether they wished to cast their votes differently. This is important not least because of the position with Scotland, and the growing controversy over the exercise of votes on English issues by Scottish MPs. If that question, raised by Tam Dalyell 40 years ago, is to be settled in a way that inspires the confidence of all concerned, it has to be settled by a government with proper democratic legitimacy. But if the British are to have a democracy in which they can properly believe, they cannot tolerate governments that come about contrary to the will of the people, and then are allowed to rule indefinitely because the mechanism to remove them has been abolished. The one lesson that should, above all, have been learned from the past 20 years or so, is that if a government decides to unpick parts of the British constitution, it should not begin to do so until all the consequences have been exhaustively considered, and – in keeping with the best ideas of a democracy – until the public has signalled its approval at a general election.

What do you think? Has the moving hand written “Mene Mene Teckle” on the wall for the end of the days of the United Kingdom?