Wednesday, 18 November 2015
SPEECH FOR KENT UNIVERSITY POLITICS SOCIETY
SPEECH FOR KENT UNIVERSITY POLITICS SOCIETY
I was recently invited to make a speech to the University of Kent at Canterbury Politics Society to speak about the case for an independent England. Below is the text of my speech. What do you think?
I am delighted to be invited here to talk to you about English Independence and why now I think the time has come for it.
First I will introduce myself, I came to this very College as a student back in 1977 and my Tutor was the celebrated distinguished Marxian (as opposed to Marxist!), Professor David McClennan. My son has recently finished at university and I have to say that if he is anything to go by then I and most of my contemporaries worked far less hard than I suspect you are working!
After University where I had studied Politics and Economics I taught Politics and Economics A Level and then changed career and qualified as a solicitor.
In recent times I and a lot of others have felt that our political system has very much lost its way and in particular whilst there is a voice for Scotland, the Scottish National Party, a voice for Wales, the Welsh National Party, there was no voice for England and that is what has led to the creation of the English Democrats, of which I am the Chairman.
For years our key campaign was for a “government, first minister and parliament for England with at least the same powers as the Scottish ones within a Federal UK”.
A few years ago however, following a unamimous discussion amongst our activists we put a resolution to our Members to adopt a key manifesto commitment to English Independence. When that was passed by our conference that put us fully in line with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, both of whom want independence for their countries.
What does Independence for England mean you might ask? What it means of course is the dissolution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I ought to give you a bit of history at this point but I will try and keep it within reason.
The word Britain originally meant the Roman province in classical times. For much of the period of the Roman Empire it went only as far north as Hadrian’s Wall and therefore did not include Northumberland but it did include what is now Wales. The Roman’s never took over what is now Ireland.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire what is now England was settled by the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, whose political systems gradually coalesced into the Kingdoms of the Heptarchy but by 731 AD the Venerable Bede was writing about England and the English Nation. England would never have come into unified existence except as a result of the Viking invasions. Alfred the Great not only started the fight back but set up many of the social, political and cultural institutions that have come to define Englishness as the mission for his dynasty, the House of Wessex. So successful were they that under his Grandson, the great King Athelstan, England was united on more or less its current borders. Which it has retained more or less uninterruptedly ever since the 12th July in the year of our Lord 927.
Ladies and Gentlemen let’s stop there for a moment and consider other European countries when they came into existence. Can anybody tell me when the United Germany came into existence? What about the unification of Italy? We could carry on playing this game but the point is that there are no other nation states in Europe or indeed anywhere else that are as ancient as England.
This is by no means the only example of “English exceptionalism” but it is nevertheless significant in terms of the standing that England has. Not only the oldest nation but in some senses the pattern for all other nations. In this year of 2015 there have been some celebrations of another “English Exceptionalism” that of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede where England became the first country ever to make its King subject to the Rule of Law.
If you compare that with Roman law, as handed down to us through the Institutes of Justinian, Roman Law is by comparison the law of tyranny, which specifically states that the Emperor’s Will is Law.
Well Ladies and Gentlemen since 1215, the English King’s Will has not been law in England.
Perhaps even more significantly a system of courts and of the involvement of local people in local administration dates back to Saxon times, as does another example of “English Exceptionalism” which was that our aristocracy were never seen as being legally a separate cast unlike a French aristocrat who before the French Revolution could not be required to pay tax but also not be either prosecuted or sued in a court of law. Our aristocracy has never been like that and indeed in the 18th Century at the very height of the Ancien regime in France Earl Ferrers was hanged at Tyburn having been convicted in an English court of law of murdering his butler.
The Kingdom of England is therefore particularly ancient but the first national union that took place within the British Isles was the Union between England and the newly constituted principality of Wales in 1536. That was a full Union whereby Wales was fully incorporated into the political, legal and religious structures of England.
The next Union is 1707, which was the Union between the Kingdom of England (which as I say included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. That Union is a partial union. Although the Scottish monarchy and the English monarchy, which were already the same person, changed its title, to the King or Queen of the new Kingdom of Great Britain. Nevertheless the Scottish and English legal systems and religious structures, the education establishments remained separate. In effect the main result of the Act of Union of 1707 was the merger of the parliaments of England and Scotland. This Union took place in response to war with absolutist France under Louis XIV, and was not a popular measure in either Scotland or England but just part of the elite building up the constitutional infrastructure that enabled the creation of a world empire.
The next Union also took place against the backdrop of war and empire, this time against Napoleonic France in 1801 with the Union between Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. This again was a partial Union and in the case of Ireland did not even allow Irish traders to have full access to English markets.
In 1922 a further change took place to the structure of the multi-national state known as the United Kingdom, when Southern Ireland succeeded in obtaining its independence, leading eventually to the current constitutional structure known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I think this explanation is necessary to understand what exactly the United Kingdom is and therefore to be able to question whether it serves the best interests of the People of England and the English Nation.
You may also ask me whether there is such a thing as the English Nation after 300 years. Well my answer to you would be to say yes of course there is and the simplest demonstration of that is the strong sense of national identity shown in the 2011 National Census Results organised by the Government’s Office of National Statistics. For the first time in it we in England were asked whether we felt that our national identity was English rather than just British or Irish or a foreign national identity.
The results horrified the British Political and media establishment because even including the very multi-racial London, over 60% of the population of England said that they were “English-only” and not “British”. A further just less than 10% said that they were “English and British”. That is 70% of the population of England including London saying that their national identity is English and also there was less than 30% that said that they were in any sense “British”. The difference was made up of course by people who said they were “Non-British” national identities.
Outside of London typically 70% of the population say that they are “English-only”. adding those that say that they are “English and British” will usually take you up to somewhere over 80%.
So Ladies and Gentlemen it is absolutely crystal clear that there remains a strong sense of national identity in England. Indeed, despite 50 years of increasing mass immigration it remains by far the dominant national identity in England.
However I mentioned the expression “English Exceptionalism”, of course, not only is England exceptional in its cohesion, Rule of Law, our representative parliament, our constitutional monarchy, our glorious history, the first agricultural revolution, the first industrial revolution and so many other achievements but now the English are also exceptional in having no English national parliament, no English national government and no English First Minister.
So whichever way you look at it there are some serious issues which need to be addressed for England from a constitutional point of view.
There is also the point that politics does make a difference to outcomes. So because the Scots have their own First Minister, their own Parliament and their own Government and Secretary of State, whose job it is to look after their interests, what it means is that they get a lot more money spent on them than is spent on English people. That is over £1,600 for every man, women and child, which means that an average Scottish family of two parents and three children is getting and extra £8,000 spent on the sort of things that Government provides, whether that be transport, roads, schools, universities, hospitals and so on.
So even if you don’t follow me into thinking that the best way forward is that the English should become independent, it is in your own interest to at least demand a proper English Parliament, English First Minister and English Government so that amongst other things the unfairness of the Barnett Formula is ironed out.
Turning to the arguments for independence, we would like to see England fiscally autonomous. This would be significant when you bear in mind that England is the only part of the United Kingdom for which there is net tax revenue. What that means is that if we were to stop paying the subsidies that we currently pay to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we would go a long way to curing the over-spending of the Government.
The House of Lords reported in 2009 that the subsidy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was running at figure of £49bn per year. That figure is less than what would now be the current figure. Needless to say Government however is not very keen on explaining exactly how much they are spending because they know English people will be mighty unimpressed. If we were fiscally autonomous we would be deciding where we were going to spend our money on our nation.
If England left the United Kingdom the United Kingdom would be dissolved. The United Kingdom is the constitutional entity which joined the European Union and it is a fundamental Rule of Law that if the entity which enters into an arrangement ceases to exist then that arrangement ceases to exist.
That is why in the run up to the Scottish referendum, Senor Barroso, the then President of the European Union Commission, came over to say that if Scotland voted to go, Scotland would not be an accession State and would be automatically outside of the EU. The same logic applies to England. It is therefore a complete solution to not only the imbalance of the arrangements within the United Kingdom Union but also the £18bn a year which England gives to the EU which would also automatically cease.
Clearly if England becomes independent then many of the issues of democracy are immediately resolved as we do have our English First Minister, Government and Parliament.
England is 85% of the UK so England on its own is something like the 6th largest trading nation on earth and we really do not need the expense of maintaining either Union to keep that position.
Indeed if we were independent we would have a better chance of ensuring that our rules and regulations and subsidies etc., could be more focussed on English interests.
It might interest you to know that in Abu Dhabi quite recently the British Trade delegation ran a fair in which they were specifically promoting Scottish products - not products from England or Wales, just Scottish. That an English Trade Delegation would not do that it won’t surprise you to know Ladies and Gentlemen.
The North Sea
Fishing in the North Sea has, under the EU Accession Treaty, been handed over to the jurisdiction of the EU. Clearly an independent England would immediately reassert sovereign rights over our part of the North Sea.
Our part of the North Sea would be a greater part than is currently allocated by Whitehall between Scotland and England because the normal International Convention on deciding the sea boundary is that you follow the average of the national land boundary.
Ladies and Gentlemen if you imagine putting a ruler on Carlisle and Berwick upon Tweed and drawing that 200 miles out to sea you would then see that quite a lot of North Sea oil and fishing is in fact English and virtually all the gas being produced is English as well.
At the moment there is a British seat on the UN Security Council, however are moves afoot to try and make that an EU seat rather than a British seat.
I must admit I am not terribly bothered whether we kept that or not as I think it tends to be part of the Imperial British legacy that the British Government wants, in the words of Douglas Hurd, “to punch above our weight on the world’s stage”, as if we were still a major world power. I am against that, but if our people wanted to retain the UN seat then probably the same principle would be followed as happened with Russia. When the Soviet Union broke up, Russia got the Soviat Union’s seat on the Security Council. Incidentally England is of course still a far richer country than Russia.
Legacy of Imperialism
The Union of the United Kingdom was formed, as I have already said, in order to advance the Imperial project and as part of the struggle for Imperial dominance with France. Thankfully those days are over, but the legacy hangs on in Government. British Governments still wants to prance about on the world stage making out that we are an important power. That is the reason we got ourselves into the mess as of Iraq, Afghanistan and even more ludicrously and disastrously Libya. I would say let us revert to the traditional English virtue of minding our own business!
And so Ladies and Gentlemen what I would like to see and what the English Democrats campaign for is for England to resume its place amongst the Nation states of the earth and to become a modern, democratic, prosperous, independent European Nation State.
What do you say Ladies and Gentlemen?