Labour contenders have no answer to the English question

The excellent new OurKingdom blog from OpenDemocracy has asked each of the Labour Deputy leadership contenders for their solution to the English question:

   The elections in Scotland and Wales saw
significant victories for the nationalists, whilst in England the
Tories have been drawing attention to the ‘€˜West Lothian Question’€™. What
should be done, if anything, to give England more representation or ‘€˜voice’€™?

   Peter Hain: We need much better
answers to the ‘€œEnglish question’€, and that means radically
strengthening accountability in the English regions – continuing to
decentralise decision-making on issues such as skills, transport,
planning and housing to the regions.

   Hazel Blears:   My answer to the
West Lothian question is greater devolution below the level of the
nation state. Empowering citizens and communities breaks some of the

   Harriet Harman: It would be
crazy to adopt the Tory policy of only allowing MPs from English seats
to vote on certain legislation. It would turn some MPs into second
class members and it would undermine the fact that in our Parliamentary
system the Government depends on its majority in the Commons. I support
more regional democracy to mirror the Parliament in Scotland and
Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland.

   Hilary Benn: I think the best
thing we can do is change the way we do our politics. I do not support
an English Parliament, and the West Lothian Question is a consequence
of devolution in the United Kingdom.

   John Cruddas: Firstly, I am not
in favour of an English parliament. I think when the Tories call for
this they risk stoking up nationalism. We should value the Union that
is Great Britain, and Scottish and Welsh representation is very
important in this. What I think is needed is for Labour to reconfigure
its electoral strategy so that it is not just concentrated on the
supermarginal seats and those seat’s swing voters. This should be
bolstered by a reinvigoration of the party based grassroots
campaigning, to make the party a force in people’s everyday lives and
addressing their insecurities. We also need to strengthen what
democratic bodies we already have in England, local councils and local
democratic bodies.

   Alan Johnson: The fact that we
had some disappointing results in Wales and Scotland does not mean that
we should slow our pace of reform, or that we should turn our back on
the principle of moving power away from Westminster. We need to
continue to make a positive case for devolution and not fall into the
trap of ‘zero-sum’ debates- meaning that because Wales and Scotland
have been given more power, that this somehow makes the English less
powerful, or a marginalised group within the United Kingdom. (openDemocracy)

The CEP’s Tom Waterhouse points out the flaw in all this talk of Scotland, Wales and the regions:

The plans to balkanise England into regions failed when it encountered
that annoying little thing called “democracy”: in the only referendum
to be held on a regional assembly in the north east of England, the
idea was emphatically rejected by 78% to 22%. Despite this,
regionalisation in England has continued. It’s undemocratic, it’s
unwanted, it’s unfair. That the candidates said nothing of this does
not bode well for England in the near future. It certainly shows that
talk of “re-engaging” with voters and the public is just as false as it
was in 1997. (openDemocracy)

It’s inconceivable that the English regions would have the powers of the Scottish Parliament, so regional devolution would do nothing to address issues like this:

plans by the ruling Scottish
National Party to scrap tuition fees will be
unveiled on Wednesday and are expected
to pass through the Edinburgh
parliament with the support of the Greens and
Liberal Democrats.

From 2011, student loans will also be
wiped out and maintenance grants

In addition, students from the European
Union will also get free university places
in Scotland.

But English, Welsh and Northern Irish
students will still have to pay for the

Last year the SNP pledged that any
move to scrap tuition fees would also
cover English students in Scotland.

But Scottish education secretary Fiona
Hyslop is expected to abandon that
commitment because of fears it would create
a rush of English students north of the

There are 15,000 English
undergraduates in Scotland paying £1,700 a year for a
four-year degree.

On top of an average loan of £11,000, it
means they leave with a typical debt of

Students in England must pay top-up
fees of up to £3,000 a year – and
universities are expected to be allowed to raise
their charges from 2010.

Ironically, Tony Blair had to rely on the
votes of Scottish MPs to push through the
introduction of tuition fees at English
universities. (Daily Mail)

I think the Scots are right to abolish tuition fees, but the majority of English MPs also voted against them, so why do students in England have to pay up? Because Gordon Brown is determined to keep a rump of Scottish MPs who are accountable to no-one but the whips on English issues.

Maybe it’s ‘stoking nationalism’ to point that out, but New Labour has been doing a fair bit of stoking nationalism itself.

It appears that stoking nationalism is OK if it’s British nationalism and it means removing services for immigrants and Brown-nosing the Prime Minister.

It’s not OK if its English nationalism and it means defending services for everyone from an unaccountable elite.






2 responses to “Labour contenders have no answer to the English question”

  1. David avatar

    I think the time is right to harness the major disaffection there is within England to the simple unfairness of the consituational settlement. English people are notoriously fair minded we have shown this many times over the years. Browns latest idea to strength the idea of “britishness” is just another example of trying to mask the problem – he knows that its only the English who ever believed in “Britishness” the scots, welsh and irish have neve bought into this. A good example of our gulable we english are is to look at old footage of the 1966 world cup at wembly – you will see that the union flag is used most of all and there are only a few st george flags – you never see this at a scotish or welsh match.

  2. university of houston law school tuition avatar

    university of houston law school tuition

    university of houston law school tuition

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *