The ever expanding constitutional question…

Though it is generally true that Northern Irish Unionists don’t pay a huge amount of attention to affairs across the water, one at least is developing a strong reputation in Britain for narrating the changing tensions within the British constitutional debate. Ulsterman Arthur Aughey now blogs at Campaign for an English Parliament. Tom Griffin picks up his recent remarks on Gordon Brown’s early constitutional moves.

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  • Events since the Scottish and Welsh elections have proved Augrey to be 100% right regarding the need to “tidy” up of the constitution. Salmond, wily old bird that he is, is of course taking as much advantage as he can from the confusion. The Welsh situation seems to be moving into an ever deeper bureaucratic quagmire due mainly to the splits in the Welsh labour party-we’ve now got the situation of Hain giving Welsh MPs the right to scrutinise the transfer of every new power to Welsh Assembly.

    But have they got the power to veto transfer, or is he just doing it out of politeness to stop them from the old boys from grumbling- I don’t think even Hain really knows

  • Dewi

    oneill – linked to that issue is that with powers being transferred to Cardiff there would have to be an accompanying reduction in the number of MPs – causes some consternation amongst our Westminster Labour Paisleyites ! (Delight to the rest of us !)

  • Dewi
    That part of the WLP have no great desire to work with nationalists, so I’m not sure I’d label them Paisleyites;)

  • Dewi

    That part of the WLP have no great desire to work with nationalists, so I’m not sure I’d label them Paisleyites;)

    Laughed out loud – and still laughing ! Dinosaurs maybe !

  • Phil

    Some of the most vocal supporters of a national parliament and political recognition of England as a unified country in her own right are of the traditional unionist kind and include many Irish unionists such as Mr Aughey. Although I support England’s secession from the UK, I much prefer their kind of unionism than that of career politicians who’s unionism is entirely driven by their aspirations to be players on a global stage that their own national parliaments in Cardiff and Edinburgh (that they helped to create) just don’t offer them. It is these “unionists”, aided by their quisling colleagues who “represent” English constituencies that have chosen to ignore the will of the English people who overwhelmingly wish to see their country governed by people who put the interests of England first without inteferance from people who have not been elected by a single vote cast in England. Our so-called representatives will instead go to any length to keep the union intact at all costs for their own selfish reasons and usually at the expense of the people of England, both culturally and financially.

  • Dewi

    agree phil – go for it !

  • Dewi

    Seriously I reckon a half educated monkey could have run the Welsh economy better than these idiots have done for the last 100 years. A happy divorce would be welcome.

  • Phil
    You speak of the English people as if they were an homogeneous unit.

    In the event of an English parliament, there will still be MPs from many different types of constituencies with many different priorities; a MP from say Sunderland or Blackburn will certainly not be putting the interests of your particular part of the country first, yet you and the rest of the taxpayers of the SE will still be expected to subsidise such areas- how would you feel about that?

    Our so-called representatives will instead go to any length to keep the union intact at all costs for their own selfish reasons and usually at the expense of the people of England, both culturally and financially.

    In what ways has the Union been to the expense of the people of England culturally?

  • DK

    “In what ways has the Union been to the expense of the people of England culturally?”

    This is a great question, but it only gets at one aspect of why the English are becoming restless at their apparently reluctant co-members of the UK. The main reasons are probably psychological and financial:

    Psychological in that the incesssant complaining about the English from the other UK countries has some affect: Would you want to remain married to someone who constantly went on about how awful your ancestors were. While every country has a pro-Union majority, it is a silent majority: there is no praise to counter the carping.

    Financial in that there is a suspicion that the other countries are getting benefits that England does not enjoy (such as the Scottish free university places), and that there is a net flow of cash out of England to subsidise the others.

    What this adds up to is a perception of a bunch of whining teenagers who aren’t grateful for the fact that they are freeloaders in your house.

    The effects on English culture are that overt displays of English nationalism, or pride in the English nation are frowned upon, as it would provoke the teenagers to a tantrum. A typical Scot might say happily that they are proud to be Scottish; a typical English person would nervously mumble about it being alright to be English.

    And the weird thing is that the English do have a lot to be proud of – they have excelled in the field of arts (notably music and childrens literature) and their economy is the best among comparable-sized countries in the EU. But a lot of this is subsumed into the overall “British” label, for fear of offending the teenagers.

    The solution is that it is time for the teenagers to grow up. They want to, and England should help. They can’t stay at home forever.

  • An English Parliament is unnecessary. Given that, according to the CEP, 80% of Westminster MPs represent English constitutencies, the simplest way to deal with the issue is to set up a system where only English MPs vote on devolved matters e.g. health, education. Then all MPs continue to vote on reserved matters e.g. tax, defence. This woudl also be cheaper, and remember England doesn’t have elected regional assemblies because the 1st referendum in the North East showed they didn’t want one, and the campaign against included the expense involved.

    But there’s another reason why an English Parliament would be a disaster. Like it or not, English nationalism is linked with right wing, racist elements. At its simplest, it has a strong component of being against outsiders. People who want a separate Parliament for ‘cultural’ reasons usually mean this, IMO. Welsh, Scottish and Irish nationalisms have stronger connections with the left and don’t seem to me to be so exclusive. And yes, I am English.

  • slug

    The long term solution is devolution to the english regions. I would anticipate a smaller number of regions than at present, say 6 + London.

  • Dewi

    Jenny – big problem with that “solution” is that (as very nearly happened the last time) you could have a Labour Government but a Tory majority amonsgt English MPs.

    I presume the Cabinet etc would be Labour and deal with Wars etc but all the domestic policy detrmined by Tories – can’t see that working in same legislature – surely the “ruling” party regarding English only matters would need a Cabinet etc etc ?

    Your point about English nationalism is well made – the answer is to reclaim it for the people like wot Billy Bragg says !!!

  • England’s greatest cultural achievements – music and children’s literature! Lol.

  • Dewi

    Ziz – that’s the first time ever I’ve laughed at one of your posts !!! Mind you I always thought Shakespearw was a bit over rated………

  • Dewi – good point about possible Tory majority among English MPs. In reality, a minister for a devolved area (e.g. health) at Westminster is already only responsible for English policy and under your scenario would have to work with English MPs to get policy agreed, even if they were from another party. There could be increased provision for private members’ bills too.

    Culturally, Billy Bragg may be right, but why hasn’t English nationalism caught on with the English left?

  • Dewi

    My point being that under the scenario described the Labour Health Minister would have no power as Government policy would be determined by the Tory majority MPs – don’t think sustainable

    why hasn’t English nationalism caught on with the English left?

    I think it is a bit – the flying of the St George Cross is becoming commonplace amonst ordinary people. It is worthwhile remembering however that England is a farly right wing country (More Tory Votes than Labour in last General Election.

    Why do you think not ?

  • Phil

    Thanks DK, I couldn’t have put that better myself. I would disagree regarding the English being pro-union though. Opinion regarding Northern Ireland have consistently been in favour of British withdrawal and in recent years support for Scottish independence has increased to the extent that a majority now favour it. It would be interesting to see the response if the question was put from an English perspective ie “Do you favour England’s independence from the UK?” rather than from the usual Scottish angle though.

  • Dewi

    “Do you favour England’s independence from the
    UK?”
    Phil – u r scaring me – u will be keeping the Queen right ?

  • “why hasn’t English nationalism caught on with the English left?”

    Jenny, do you think the BNP are a particularly right wing party economically? I’d doubt whether they are.

    Is Billy Bragg really encouraging nationalism or patriotism?

  • Dewi and Ziznivy – “why hasn’t English nationalism caught on with the English left?” Like so much, the legacy of Thatcher, and generally the English right embracing it so wholeheartedly. Plus the internationalist nature of the English left – it’s easier to take hard-line positions on struggles elsewhere if you don’t have to live there (ref. the London left and Ireland); rather than to try to challenge hegemony at home.

    Ziz – the BNP seem to think that all economic problems will disappear if immigration is stopped. Their 2005 manifesto proposes the replacement of income tax with a consumption tax, which is just playing to the gallery. So neither left nor right wing, just not very serious, for which I suppose we should be grateful.

    Ziz – nationalism or patriotism – I’m guilty of not making a distinction between the 2 myself because I just don’t get territorial politics. The dictionary tells me nationalism is an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries, which is not how I would see Scottish, Irish or Welsh nationalism at all. But on that basis BB is promoting patriotism. Could the linguistic distinction provide an opportunity for the English left?

  • DK

    Ziznivy: “England’s greatest cultural achievements – music and children’s literature! Lol”

    Glad you liked that, but it was the best I could think of off the top of my head. Culture is usally concerned with music and literature and I am not too versed in literature, so the global dominance of english authors in Children’s literature (thinking of Harry Potter, Phillip Pulman, Lemony Snicket, Tolkein, even the Gruffalo) was an easy choice.

  • DK

    Oh balls, Lemony Scicketts a Yank. So much for that list.

  • Dewi

    http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/cms/12003.htm

    A bit old Jenny but I wouldn’t disagree with link above.

    I suspect Ziz’s distinction is:

    Patriotism: noble, honourable and good.
    Nationlism: evil and bad.

    Me – need to be a bit careful about words but don’t accept nationalism as extreme – it’s normal.

  • DK

    Although I could have added that Tracey Beaker woman. However, Northern Ireland has CS Lewis, while Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) is from the Republic.

  • Ziznivy

    “which is not how I would see Scottish, Irish or Welsh nationalism at all.”

    So what we’re actually dealing with is the instinctive left-wing sympathy for seperatism which completely disregards any nasty ethno-nationalist origins. The Scottish, Irish and Welsh nationalist impulse is exclusivist and exactly mirrors nationalism in larger countries. No doubt you harbour similar indulgences for Palestinians, Chechens etc.

  • Dewi

    Waht are you trying to say Ziz – that small country nationalism is bad and big country nationalism good ?

  • Certainly not. I’m pointing out that behind Jenny’s comments seem to lie the opposite assumption.

  • Ziz – ‘The Scottish, Irish and Welsh nationalist impulse is exclusivist’ – but it’s not expressed that way politically. Where is their equivalent of Veritas or UKIP, never mind the openly neo-fascist parties? And where is the English equivalent of left/ centrist Plaid C, Forward Wales, SNP and even SDLP and SF? And in other parts of the world it would also be an empirical point, don’t know enough about it to say whether it would correlate with size of country or imagined national territory

  • SF are effectively a neo-fascist party. Being economically leftist / centrist does not make the rest of a party’s policy left wing. You are becoming fixated with labels and comparisons and failing to see that if you shed the posturing the same ethno nationalist impulse lurks below these parties. Veritas / UKIP are basket cases and don’t bare serious comparison. It is to the eternal credit of the English that no serious nationalist movement has arisen.

  • Jenny, have you heard of Gerry McGeough?

  • kensei

    “SF are effectively a neo-fascist party”

    Bollocks. Who is one of the strongest supporters of immigrants, gay rights and women’s rights on the island? You might hate them, but at least target your criticism so that it in some way intersects with reality.

    “Jenny, have you heard of Gerry McGeough? ”

    yeah, because him, RSF and dissidents pulled ina lot of votes, North and South.

  • George

    Zizivny,
    would you describe the DUP as effectively an ethno-fascist party?

    If not, why not?

  • Dewi

    It is to the eternal credit of the English that no serious nationalist movement has arisen.

    Ziz – that’s so funny – they conquered half the world – the whole of their class ridden society was a nationalist movement in the worst sense.

  • al

    would you describe the DUP as effectively an ethno-fascist party?

    If not, why not?

    Posted by George

    — Be more interesting to see why you might…

    please feel free to explain “ethno-fascism”

  • “Bollocks. Who is one of the strongest supporters of immigrants, gay rights and women’s rights on the island? You might hate them, but at least target your criticism so that it in some way intersects with reality”

    Oh! Sore point! Supporters of murderous ethnic cleansing and sectarian murder. Proponents of cultural genocide. An authoritarian attitude to their own community. Disingenuous attempts to link themselves with other minority causes don’t actually count in the credit column.

    Gerry McGeough is a classic example of old school SF, but alas he’s refused to move with the message. A fascinating insight into the mentality which resides behind the spin and PR.

  • kensei

    “Oh! Sore point! Supporters of murderous ethnic cleansing and sectarian murder.”

    Please don’t insult what happened in WW2, or in Rwanda by using the term “ethnic cleansing” in relation to our grubby little conflict.

    And I think you may have noticed the situation has moved on quite a bit. Are you having a Life on Mars Thing?

    “Proponents of cultural genocide.”

    I have no idea what that means.

    “An authoritarian attitude to their own community.”

    They keep voting for them.

    “Disingenuous attempts to link themselves with other minority causes don’t actually count in the credit column.”

    Ah, it doesn’t count because you don’t agree. I’m sorry, but there is no way you can credibly link facism to SF, especially the modern sooped-up-SDLP version.

    Just for reference, you are in a coma and Gene Hunt is a good guy.

  • Phil

    Dewi,

    Don’t be scared mate, it will be liberating for us all. Regarding Queenie, I’m no fan of the concept of a hereditary head of state, but for some strange reason she and her parasite family seem to be quite popular amongst my fellow Englanders, so I’m afraid that we might just be stuck with them for the time being!

    Jenny,

    I think that the reason that there is no leftist nationalist movement in England is perhaps because as a country we are naturally centre-right as a nation. Also, in order to gain power, the left have always traditionaly relied upon the votes of the heavily industrialised south Wales and central belt of Scotland. For them to support English independence would be political suicide.

  • “that’s so funny – they conquered half the world – the whole of their class ridden society was a nationalist movement in the worst sense.”

    Britain (including Wales, Scotland and Ireland) had an Empire in an age of empires. Comparitively speaking it was a reasonably benevolent empire and indeed brought benefits to untold numbers of citizens who were not English. You might want to do some comparitive studies of empires to see how virulent nationalism powers much more exploitative empires than the British Empire.

  • kensei

    “Comparitively speaking it was a reasonably benevolent empire and indeed brought benefits to untold numbers of citizens who were not English.”

    “Comparatively benevolent Empire” is akin to “slightly more cuddly psychopath”.

  • “They keep voting for them.”

    And if they don’t a car full of nice men will come round and ensure they vote for them. Democracy’s great!

    “And I think you may have noticed the situation has moved on quite a bit. Are you having a Life on Mars Thing?”

    That’s ok then. They’ve decided the whole ethnic cleansing thing is getting a bit counter-productive and they’ll tactically knock it on the head for a while. Btw systematically clearing areas of a group of people is ethnic cleansing whether there have been more extreme instances of it or not.

  • “Comparatively benevolent Empire” is akin to “slightly more cuddly psychopath”.

    Rubbish.

  • Also, in order to gain power, the left have always traditionaly relied upon the votes of the heavily industrialised south Wales and central belt of Scotland. For them to support English independence would be political suicide.

    Not good enough Phil.

    True socialists (as opposed to the NU Labour-Lite, careerist variety) in England have always been more interested in pursuing idealism rather than power, look at Tony Benn’s various crusades over the decades for example.

    Can you give us a list of English socialists (or even one for that matter) who’ve joined the English Parliament camp?

  • kensei

    “And if they don’t a car full of nice men will come round and ensure they vote for them. Democracy’s great!”

    Yeah, SF got 26% of the vote because people will come round to all their houses if they don’t.

    “That’s ok then. They’ve decided the whole ethnic cleansing thing is getting a bit counter-productive and they’ll tactically knock it on the head for a while. Btw systematically clearing areas of a group of people is ethnic cleansing whether there have been more extreme instances of it or not.”

    It wasn’t ethnic cleansing. There were large population shifts on both sides as a consequence of the low level civil war we had going on. “Ethnic cleansing” has conjures some fairly specific images in modern parlance and is a wee dog whistle term. Really, don’t.

    “Rubbish.”

    I hate to break it to you, but the record of the British Empire in India, China, Africa and yes, Ireland is really not that great. Nevermind the exploitation and the sheer affront to democracy, the death toll in itself is eye popping.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Kensei,

    “I’m sorry, but there is no way you can credibly link facism to SF, especially the modern sooped-up-SDLP version.”

    I think they’re a bit mixed on it. Whilst they maybe opposed the blueshirts they supported Thomas Russell. Comemorating him as recently as 2003.

  • “It wasn’t ethnic cleansing.”

    So you’re so myopic that you deny there was a murderous campaign to expel unionists from border areas for example! Dear lord!

    “Yeah, SF got 26% of the vote because people will come round to all their houses if they don’t.”

    Certainly didn’t do them any harm. Hitler’s mob got rather more than 26% btw. Their rallies were rather similar to republican ones as well.

    “I hate to break it to you, but the record of the British Empire in India, China, Africa and yes, Ireland is really not that great. Nevermind the exploitation and the sheer affront to democracy, the death toll in itself is eye popping.”

    Certainly not if you’ve been brainwashed from an early age into believing every ill is down to colonialism. Others might differ.

  • kensei

    CC

    “I think they’re a bit mixed on it. Whilst they maybe opposed the blueshirts they supported Thomas Russell. Comemorating him as recently as 2003.”

    How does this impact on their current ideology?

    Ziv

    “So you’re so myopic that you deny there was a murderous campaign to expel unionists from border areas for example! Dear lord!”

    There was an armed campaign everywhere.

    “Certainly didn’t do them any harm. Hitler’s mob got rather more than 26% btw. Their rallies were rather similar to republican ones as well.”

    How do you know? They might have got more than 26% if these sinister people had not have been everywhere annoying people. Hitler didn’t keep going to the polls. If he had, you could have levelled that he was a bad man, but not that he was undemocratic. If he had have, I don’t know, supported religious freedom and gay rights for some bizarre hidden motive history might have also been a bit different.

    “Certainly not if you’ve been brainwashed from an early age into believing every ill is down to colonialism. Others might differ.”

    Is every ill down to colonialism? Nope. Are a lot of them? Yup. I’d love a justification of the Opium Wars, just for fun.

  • A brave campaign against trading restrictions.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Kensei,

    “How does this impact on their current ideology?”

    Because they’re only after commemorating him. That suggests to me they weren’t totally opposed to his views.

    For example, if a group was commemorating Hitler I’d tend to think that they were national socialists or at least sympathetic.

  • Phil

    oneil,

    I suppose that Billy Bragg would be the most high profile socialist to support the creation of an English parliament but I thought that true socialists were internationalists anyway? I take your point regarding Tony Benn. Real socialists like him are few and far between in parliament these days (young Hillary is certainly no chip off the old block is he?) where social justice, fairness and equality are more important than the party’s welfare which makes the British nationalism of New Labour, which is entirely driven by the needs of the party to remain in power, all the more nausiating.

    This article may be of interest regarding the left’s attitude towards English nationalism anyway.

    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=677

  • Thanks Phil, interesting reading.

  • kensei

    “Because they’re only after commemorating him. That suggests to me they weren’t totally opposed to his views.

    For example, if a group was commemorating Hitler I’d tend to think that they were national socialists or at least sympathetic. ”

    Sean Russell’s not quite Hitler though, is he? Maybe, I don’t know, their admiration rested on some other point. And this is the sum total to label SF facists?

    Might as well claim FG are facist based on their history.

  • There’s a tradition of fascist sympathies in Irish nationalism alright.

  • kensei

    “There’s a tradition of fascist sympathies in Irish nationalism alright.”

    Facist sympathies were not unknown in Conservative circles in the 30’s, and that is a statement that extends far beyond Ireland. A lot of groups mobilised against the Blueshirts. The support for Spainish facists came more form the Catholic Church than any Republican tendencies.

    It should also be noted that while significant sections of Europe succumbed to various “isms”, Ireland remained democratic.

  • Dewi

    Britain (including Wales, Scotland and Ireland) had an Empire in an age of empires. Comparitively speaking it was a reasonably benevolent empire and indeed brought benefits to untold numbers of citizens who were not English. You might want to do some comparitive studies of empires to see how virulent nationalism powers much more exploitative empires than the British Empire.

    Ziz – your point was that there had never been an Engligh Nationalist Movement….well like fuck !

  • But was there really much of a campaign for English separatism in the days of Empire? And what does a multi-ethnic empire have to do with the nation-state ideals of nationalism?