The Scots have a parliament; the Welsh have an assembly; the implacable factions of Ulster shall run their own affairs if they can but remove their hands from one another’s throats; yet the English, the most politically mature of all peoples, shall possess no such means of political expression and control over their own affairs, neither now nor ever. So runs the curious view of our political masters.
When I say our political masters I mean the entire British political elite, for no mainstream party advocates an English parliament or gives any sign that it will do so. This is more than a little strange, because a English parliament is not merely the most just but also the most obvious and economical solution to the inequality of democratic representation and opportunity wrought by devolution..
Why is our political class so utterly determined that England shall be given no voice? The obnoxious truth is that our political elite oppose an English parliament for Anglophobic and self-serving reasons, both domestic and supra-national. There is a general terror amongst them of what they describe as English nationalism, but which in reality is a dread of English interests being realised and fought for. To that general motive may be added two particular reasons, the knowledge of Euroenthusiasts that a strong self-confident England would subvert their federalist plans and the Labour Party’s fear that an English parliament could mean a near permanent Tory majority in England. Those things are obvious enough. But there is something deeper, more subtle, more poisonous, whose acid growth has slowly corroded our entire public life, namely elite sponsored Anglophobia which has its roots in the currently dominant elite ideology of the West, liberal internationalism.
For more than a generation there has been assiduously nurtured amongst our elite a habit of public belittlement of England and the English. The disease spreads far beyond politics and infects the worlds of mediafolk, academics, public servants, pressure groups and important businessmen. These people I shall call the Public Class. The habit has become so ingrained and so widespread, that gratuitous insult by public figures of all things English and the energetic promotion of all peoples and cultures other than the English, has become the norm rather than the exception. Things have come to such a pass that it is now commonly suggested by the Public Class that Englishness does not exist and any attempt to protect English interests is treated as at best chauvinism and at worst racism. We have the unsavoury spectacle of a native ruling elite actively denigrating their own culture and generally acting against the interests of the mass of their people. Historically, such behaviour is commonly found in monarchies, aristocracies and despotisms. In a supposed democracy, it is best described as bizarre.
This dangerous habit of mind for England extends to the one parliamentary party, the Conservatives, which might be expected to rebel against it. William Hague, an Englishman born and bred, gave the game away in an interview in the Daily Telegraph (8/7/98) when he stated “I am not an English nationalist” and declared that he “is determinedly British rather than English” and was “dismayed to see so many St George Crosses at the world cup.” It comes as no surpriseto learn that he has since rejected an English parliament on the ground that “it could prove a decisive step in the break-up of the United Kingdom” (translation: Mr Hague is unreservedly willing to subordinate England’s interests to preserving the union at all costs).
The bogus nature of the claims made by those who scream blue murder at the slightest public expression of English pride or defence of English interests is shown by the uncritical support the same people give to Scotch, Welsh and Irish nationalism. They also give the game away when they argue that England is so large in comparison with the other parts of the UK that a Federation would be unbalanced. In other words, their fear is really that England would naturally dominate a federation. The argument about federal imbalance can be simply shown up for what it is, a demonstrable nonsense, by referring to the examples of the USA, Canada and India. There are sixty Californians to every Alaskan; seventy bodies in Ontario for each person in Prince Edward Island and one hundred and eleven inhabitants of Uttar Pradesh for every human being in Goa.
What exactly is this terrible danger our political elite see in their misnamed English nationalism? It is not that England would oppress her Celtic neighbours. It is not that England would engage in any form of aggressive action against the rest of Britain. The fear quite simply is that an England with its own voice and political focus would attend to its own interests. The political fat would then would be in the fire.
The prime political fact of the UK is that England enjoys such a preponderance in population, wealth, educational opportunity, industry and commerce that she inevitably dominates the other parts of Britain. In fact, England has such a predominant position that she could, if she but had the political will, utterly dictate the terms of any future Union or dismantlement of the Union. She has five sixths of the population. She has more than five sixths of the wealth, commerce and industry. An English parliament with the same powers as the Scots would account for approximately three quarters of total UK state expenditure. Most pertinently the English taxpayer pays massive subsidies to the rest of the UK. An English parliament would eventually mean an end to these subsidies. It is this fact above all others which frightens those who oppose such an assembly. The effect of ending these English payments to the Celts would be profound.
The Eurofederalists share the fears of English interests being realised and defended, but their reasons are different. They understand that a strong, self-confident England would spell the end of their plans to embed Britain within the EU. That Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should have a means of national political expression is nothing to them, because these countries are too insignificant and above all too poor to resist the march of Eurofederalism. England with fifty million people and the third or fourth largest economy in the EU is a different kettle of fish. It is also a fact that opinion polls show the English to be considerably more Eurosceptic than the rest of the UK, many of whose peoples harbour fantasies of being given massive subsidies by the EU in the manner of the Irish Republic, as “nations within Europe”.
Before the 2010 election the Tory position was for “English votes on English laws”, a misnomer because what they really meant was all MPs except those sitting for Scottish seats voting, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies not have the same depth of devolved powers as the Scots’ “Wee pretendy parliament”, as Billy Connolly described the largely English-taxpayer funded edifice in Edinburgh. Since the formation of the Big LibCon coalition, Cameron has made no mention of this. It is a fair bet that the proposal is dead while the coalition exists. If the proposal to shift from first-past-the-post to the Alternative Vote system for general elections becomes law, then Britain will probably be cast into a situation of perpetual coalition, one at least of the partners in which would be the LibDems or Labour. Neither would countenance a move to any measure which would give the English any political voice. Hence, it is difficult to see how either English-votes-for-English-laws or any other move short of an English Parliament such as an English Grand Committee will be on the agenda for the foreseeable future.
The English-votes-for-English laws or anything else short of would have been of little use in immediately changing the disadvantage under which England constantly suffers, not least because the Welsh and Northern Irish MPs would be voting on much of the legislation because it would apply to them. However, it would be of great utility in forcing MPs to publicly address the imbalances produced by the present devolution settlement. That in turn could spill over into the question of our immersion in the EU which is the other end in the pincer movement between Westminister and Brussels to Balkanise the UK .