Over the last 3 weeks I have attended a number of different events such as Labour Party policy meetings, an address by Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey and Compass’s AGM. The meetings were held at venues across London including the House of Commons. My aim was to raise our concerns about the unfair deal that people in England are experiencing and ascertain a spectrum of views on establishing a democratic voice for England by creating an English Parliament. Unfortunately the meetings didn’t make good listening.
One of these meetings completely ruled out an English Parliament, stating that it would end the Union and mentioned that it shouldn’t even be added as an option to any referendum. The two options offered were a legislative body (grand committees) and reducing Scottish and Welsh MPs. Most of the talk was of ‘massive devolution’ for England. It was discussed how Whitehall was unchanged after devolution and they didn’t see demonstrations on the streets of England. One professor who gave a presentation even stated that Westminster was the English Parliament. However, the main concern from our point of view was that in general, these meetings discussed not informing the public of what they intended to do, which is to take a ‘salami slicing approach’ as the best way to ‘massive’ devolution.
One individual mentioned that it was necessary to ‘beef up’ city regions and that ‘tax bribes’ would help people change their minds. Fortunately we were able to keep the subject of an English Parliament alive in these meetings, despite Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke stating that he liked belonging to the British Labour party and did not think people wanted an English Parliament. He seemed to forget that there is a Labour party for Scotland and Wales but not one for England.
I asked Len McCluskey why England should be discriminated against, with specific emphasis on the English tax burden. His unfortunate response was to state that he did not mind Scotland getting more than their fair share and he didn’t want to divide Britain. This reply does not add up considering that there is already a TUC for Scotland and Wales but not one for England. So it appears that it is ‘OK’ for Scotland and Wales to have political voices but not England. After the event he would not engage in conversation after I revealed who I was.
At the Compass event I had the dubious pleasure of listening to a Scottish lady stating that she thought the Scottish border should be moved down to Birmingham as she felt she had more in common with people in the ‘North’ than the South. I challenged this by pointing out that England has a 1000 year long history as a unified country and her view could be seen as ‘quite rude’, attempting as she was to dismiss our national bond. This only led to my being shouted down by people who thought we should learn from the Scots and the Welsh.
Over the next few weeks I will be attending more events so I will keep you informed. The campaign team distributed copies of our newsletter and magazine and we will all continue to spread the word and bring England’s cause to the fore.
All the best
Eddie Bone, Chairman
Campaign for an English Parliament