Making case for an English parliament

There's a small but growing English backlash against the 'unfairness' of devolution and the Scottish domination of UK politics. Political Editor Graham Dines investigates the case for an English parliamentENGLAND accounts for 85% of the United Kingdom's population.

By Graham Dines

There's a small but growing English backlash against the 'unfairness' of devolution and the Scottish domination of UK politics. Political Editor Graham Dines investigates the case for an English parliament

ENGLAND accounts for 85% of the United Kingdom's population. But unlike Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, we do not have a law-making English parliament or assembly.

To make matters worse, the Cabinet is dominated by MPs from Scotland who are passing laws which do not affect their constituents.

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Devolution in 1998 has given the Scots and Welsh a taste for self-government. And with Labour's traditional domination of Scottish politics under threat north of the border, there are fears that next year's elections for Holyrood could see the Scottish National Party win the most seats and push for full independence.

But even if the Scots vote 'no', there seems a strong case for making the UK a federal country, with England having its own parliament with the same powers as Scotland.

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The English Constitutional Convention (ECC) - co-sponsored by the English Democrats and the Campaign for an English Parliament - is support by some of the most distinguished lawyers, professors, and clerics in England, as well as nationalist politicians in Wales and Scotland who believe that Labour's devolution settlement is unsustainable.

But what distinguishes them from other parties categorised by opponents as right-wing - the Tories, the UK Independence Party, and the British National Party?

Christine Constable, who lives midway between Norwich and Cromer and is one of the ECC's four organisers, says: “Sometimes we are cast in the role of white supremacists - nothing is further from the truth. We are not racists, we are not far right, we are not disaffected Tories, we are for the rights of English people.

“We are supported across the political divide. We don't care what party you come from, let's build an English coalition. We are fighting an establishment which doesn't want England to have its say.

“Devolution has created a United Kingdom in which Scotland and Wales have executives while England does not. Decisions which affect the English electorate are influenced or made by MPs representing Scottish constituencies.”

It's known as the West Lothian Question - why should the MP for West Lothian pass laws on English education when the MP for West Suffolk has no influence over education policy in Scotland? It suits the Blair government to do nothing to overcome this inequality because it relies on the votes of Scottish MPs at Westminster to steamroller through the Commons unpopular legislation.

“We believe that England is really under the lash as a country. We do not exist as a nation or intellectually. We don't have any English institutions,” says Mrs Constable.

“Until now, the English have not worried too much about 'who we are'. But unless we have a political voice, we are going to be increasingly submerged by Scotland and Wales.

“All three of the major political parties are dominated by Scottish interests. The Liberal Democrats elected a Scot to replace a Scot. Labour's current and last leaders are Scots, although Blair represents an English constituency, and its next leader will be Scottish. And David Cameron keeps talking about the Scottish blood coursing through his veins.”

Mrs Constable says: “The view of the ECC is that England must stop being antipathetic, it's time to stand up for England.

“We are not anti-Union, but pro English. What drove us over the edge were the Scottish MPs who voted through university top-up fees when the policy affected only students in England.

“The ludicrous proposal for elected regional assemblies in England was dropped after the 74% of North East voters rejected it. The Government was proposing unequal devolution - the regions were not going to get the same powers as Wales and Scotland to come up with their own policies on health, education, and roads.

“We want to secure England as a cohesive nation within the UK. Scotland and Wales have first ministers, but England does not. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair spends much of his time overseas, but there are critical issues at home which need the full time attention of a first minister in England.

“Labour does not accept this. The Tories are no better - England is the only nation where they get their votes, but as they are funded by Scottish interests, they are not prepared to change the status quo. By keeping silent, they are tolerating the differing treatment of the England viz a viz the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.”

Canon Kenyon Wright, who chaired the Scottish Constitutional Convention that paved the way for the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament, backs the case, arguing that England has the same “claim of right” to its own legislature as Scotland

Christine Constable stood against Charles Clarke in Norwich South at the 2005 General Election for the English Democrats, garnering 466 votes. A Londoner, she moved to Norfolk in 1985. Married with two children, she has a master's degree in business studies from Loughborough Uni. She has been a manager, director and then a business consultant, but for the past two years dealing full time with the English Question.

It was the 2004 European elections which gave the supporters of an English voice their most publicity. Using electoral rules on free postage, the English Democrats stood in five regions of England and sent out 14 millions leaflets detailing the English message.

This year's district council elections will see a host of candidates proudly standing up for democracy for England - May marks the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union and the abolition of England's parliament.

“We want fairness and equality for everyone in the UK. Unless there is even handedness, differences will lead to resentment and a breakdown of communications between the four home nations.”

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