How can the PM save the Union?

The Prime Minister tells us he will do whatever it takes to save the Union.

He should begin by remembering it was the Labour government he supported which put through lop-sided devolution for Scotland, and half-hearted devolution for Wales. Far from saving the Union, as advertised, these schemes made the Union unstable. I wrote my book, “The Death of Britain”, to explain how Labour’s constitutional revolution meant “tearing our country up by its roots”. I argued that “devolution Labour style will devolve more power not to people, but to politicians and administrators. Far from cementing the UK, it will pull it apart as advocates of a Europe of the Regions intend”.

If Gordon Brown is serious about wishing to save the Union, he needs to understand the strong feelings of injustice in England.

1. English people do not want their country balkanised into Euro regions. We do not think you make up for the lack of an English Parliament by offering elected Assemblies for the South East or the North West. Indeed, these unelected regional governments throughout England, which Labour wishes to offer in elected versions as substitute, need to be abolished to show the government has at last understood the meaning of the “No” vote in the North East. Regional government in England is an insult to those of us who love our country.

2. English people want some symmetry in the constitutional arrangements. If Scotland can decide matters like local government finance, planning, health, education and the environment without English MPs being involved, why can’t England decide the same things without Scottish MPs being involved? Nationalists in England now want the extra cost and complexity of a full English Parliament in addition to Westminster. I prefer making English Westminster MPs do both jobs. The same could also apply to Scotland, with the Scottish MPs settling Scottish matters in Edinburgh for part of the week, and joining us to settle Union matters for the rest of the week. If Scotland wants to have two lots of representatives, as they do now, they should have the pleasure of paying for them.

3. Many English people want fairness in allocating the money. Constituents want to know how it is that Scotland can afford a better deal on student finance and, in some cases, a bigger range of pharmaceuticals on the NHS. Gordon Brown should tackle the more obvious anomalies that hurt England.

4. The Prime Minister should grasp that the biggest constitutional threat to the Union comes from EU developments. English people are not going to be happy until they have a vote on the Constitutional Treaty, and have their view taken seriously that we want less EU power over us, not more.

I concluded in 1999 that “The Government’s devolution plans will create more tension and conflict, rather than less. We already see London complaining that Scotland gets too much money. We will soon see Wales complaining that it is not being treated seriously and Scotland complaining that the powers it has received are not enough… It is all playing into the Commission’s hands beautifully. It is creating a Europe of the regions in the way the Commission wants. It is helping to fuel nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. London is useful to begin the process of regionalising England…The end result will be a more divided, more factious, more overgoverned, more overregulated UK… it will just create more armies of bureaucrats and politicians wringing their hands, complaining that they do not have enough power, and levying money from people to keep themselves in a lifestyle to which they wish to become accustomed”

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21 Comments

  1. adam
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Why cant we have more mps like you.
    The Euro Region question was brought up on QT, thursday. They spent 20 sec on it, the tory claimed it wasnt true and they quickly moved on.

    Is it any wonder i believe in a conspiracy to destroy the nation state and a lot more.

    There was a north east referendum over regionalism/devolution, people voted no. The Government just ignored that.

    This Lisbon treaty has already been rejected. Votes dont stop the EU

  2. Freeborn John
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Political unions in the past were held together by military force, but in the democratic age they only persist due to the shared identity of the people they govern. We each identify with multiple communities, e.g. the street or town in which we live, England, Britain, the Western world or the whole of humanity, but the strength of these identities differs greatly. The legitimacy of political institutions is almost entirely dependent on the strength of these identities. If an individual feels their Scottish or European identity is stronger than their British identity they will desire the political decisions that shape their life to be taken in a Scottish or European parliament rather than at Westminster. If that view becomes the majority opinion in their community, then referendums will be won for independence or to create a European state.

    The strength of national identity creates the solidarity required for us to accept the redistributive functions of the state. Without it we would not tolerate our taxes being taken to fund the unemployment benefit, education or healthcare of people elsewhere in the community that we will never personally meet. These solidarities exist within nations, but not between nations, so taxpayer largesse does not extend to fund such services for people in other countries. Therefore government as we understand it today is entirely dependent on the strength of this common bond between the governed.

    Scottish identity is strong, but there is still a majority in Scotland that identifies more strongly with Britain and would vote against the formation of a separate Scottish state. Civilisational values are (as EU Federalists are discovering) a weaker form of community than that required to hold a state together. There no European values which are not also Western values that we have share with the Anglosphere, with whom we also share a language.

    If we want the British state to endure it is important to take steps that will strengthen our British identity. The good news is that once national identities are formed they tend to be self-reinforcing. The role of national institutions is very important in this respect. National newspapers, broadcasters and cultural institutions can play their part, but it is the state itself which is in the strongest position to reinforce the national identity upon which its legitimacy and survival ultimately depends. The redistributive functions of the state can be used to buy popularity in less-affluent regions (as the EU did in the poor four’ of Ireland, Spain, Portugal & Greece and is doing now in Eastern Europe). The Barnet formula fulfils a similar purpose in the UK. More should be done to tell Scots how they benefit financially as part of Britain. The UK should also, as part of any wider negotiation concerning our relationship with Brussels, repatriate EU funding of regional-assistance projects (roads, etc.) within the UK and replace all those blue-flags that can be seen on Highland roads with indicators that the funds really came from taxpayers in other parts of the UK.

    State education is however the strongest tool available for reinforcing national identity. This is why many countries have national curriculums that teach a particular view of history which reinforces the national narrative and foundation myth, and why flags & anthems may be seen & heard in their classrooms. Such methods might be regarded (perhaps rightly) as un-British, but we should not simply assume that the British state will retain its legitimacy simply because it is long-established. There is reason I think to teach children more about the achievements of Britain and the role that the Welsh and Scots have played in those achievements. As a minimum we need to ensure that those in Brussels or Edinburgh seeking to undermine the British state are denied any control of education policy & regional assistance funds, and do not establish cultural or media institutions with the intent to use them to build-up other identities detrimental to the British.

  3. Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    This is exactly our argument and the argument that is deliberatley avoided by politicians who are supposed to represent us at westminster and avoided by the main stream media. please say this to the peoples of England on the bbc.

  4. Ken Stevens
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

    Can't really add to or challenge anything substantive to your viewpoint.

    :-))

  5. helen
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Exactly so. But we can't move backwards, only forwards. The future is unknown and unwritten, but one thing is certain – the English will destroy the Union themselves if this continues. And rightly so.

    Now that devolution has begun, we must all have parity. The arguents against an English Parliament are full of holes. The ONLY reason that England is denied her own parliament, is because our british rulers are afraid it will mean the end of the Union. Well the Union is coming to an end anyway, with or without an EP. It is well past it's sell-by date and becoming a noose for chippy Scots to strangle the English with. It won't be long before it hits business investments and tourism. The Union is destroying us and Westminster is complicit in that progress.

    We must now plan for our future and that begins with the process of rebuilding our democracy. That will require an English Parliament (and Welsh, come to that). Why fight the inevitable and create further divisions in the process?

    The Union is in its death throes. Please put us out of its misery before it impoverishes our people further.

    You know, I can't helping feeling that our British rulers have brought all this upon themselves. This is the legacy of those in Westmister. May they weep into their Union Jack pillow cases for many years to come.

  6. Stephen Gash
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    If I may say so John, that was a very longwinded way of saying "the English must be treated as 3rd class citizens for the sake of an imperfect UK".

    This is how I see it. "British" politicians like yourself, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg are desperate to cling to the UK corpse.

    All deny the English even a say on anEnglish Parliament because you say it will break up the Union.

    Meanwhile the Conservative ineffectual opposition is doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the House of commons to halt the relentless progress of England's replacement with regions.

    Cameron is more concerned with asking fatuous questions at PMQs merely to make Gordon Brown look more inept than we already know he is. This merely makes Cameron look like a point-scoring windbag.

    At least one, I would say three, of Cameron's permitted six questions every week should be challenging the iniquities the devolved UK heap upon England.

    Also, pointing out that Brown signed the Scottish claim of right yet he is First Minister of England without a single English vote would do more to undermine Brown's position.

    Of course Cameron won't do this because the Tory solution to the English question does not provide England with an English First Minister and an English executive.

    Meanwhile, we still have top-up fees, patients being denied cancer drugs, prescription charges, elderly people having to sell their homes to pay for social care etc etc in England.

    This is all your fault John, together with your Conservative and UNIONIST Party colleagues.

    We still have regions by the way. I can't remember the last time one of your colleagues asked a question at PMQs about regions or unelected regional ministers.

    The Tories introduced regions by the way, under major. The only difference was that the borders were gerrymandered to suit the Tories. Blair's government merely regerrymandered them to suit Labour.

    The policy is the same though.

    Reply: You are attacking the wrong people. I and my colleagues have regularly condemned regional government in England, and have opposed and voted against successive EU power grabbing Treaties. Know your friends and your enemies, and direct your fire in the right direction.

  7. helen
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    PS Why did Cameron choose that EU Groupie to decide on England's fate, instead of you?

    I think the answer is in the question.

  8. Patrick Harris
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    And, you, John, together with your idjit colleagues on the opposition benches went along with it. Give us the alternative, we already know who to blame, I may not have ementioned it yet but the installation of an English Parliament might get you lot back into power at the next GE. Don't take my word for it.

  9. John
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    "He should begin by remembering that it was the Labour government he supported" –

    What on earth is that supposed to mean? I seem to remember that he was IN that government.

    "Nationalists in England now want the extra cost and complexity of a full English Parliament in addition to Westminster" –

    Yes, it's called having a say about what goes on in your own country.

    Let Scotland have its parliament – and full independence. And equally Wales, who deserves it also and was shafted by Labour. And equally England, who deserves it also and was shafted by Labour.

  10. Ian Evans
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Could I just add to this list of actions for Brown :

    5) Resign!

  11. Colin Baker
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Most of what you say many in England would agree with. England should have its own parliament and is being sold down the EU river by the current government. But they are not on their own are they?

    Unfortunately where many of us diverge from you is regarding using current Westminster "English" MPs to man an English Parliament. I and many others agree with the prinicipal, but we would not want MPs that represent England constituencies and follow a British or EU agenda. You see, after supporting your party for years we now don't trust it.

    Like Scotland, what England now needs are MPs that put England first, just like all Scottish MPs, like Gordon Brown who has signed the Scottisdh Claim of Rights, puts Scotland first. Even you cannot be so naive to think that many members of your party would put Britain first, and many others like Kenneth Clark, would always put the EU first.

    Devolution should include the Englaish in the form of an English Parliament, But the people of England need to decide who its members are, not Westminster.

  12. Dee
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    John
    You are spot on with your assessment. What we should have is either a Westminster Parliament for the Union of the United Kingdom or a federation of the United Kingdom. How that is arrived at is open for duscussion and debate.
    What we cannot have is this undemocratic version of Government. Recent reports have Gordon Brown arguing with Tony Blair about Education and Health. Hold on he is a Scottish MP who voted to devolve those powers to a Scottish Parliament.
    What is clear is that the English didnt vote on devolution and should have been in a democracy. The time has come for this muddle to be sorted out, after-all Labour were only the second largest party in terms of votes caste at the last election and have no mandate for policies that they devolved to Scotland and Wales. Did English education and health appear in their Scottish manifesto? No it didn't.

  13. mike stallard
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    The EU is based on regionalism. Since its inception, the idea that the two world wars were caused by nationalism has been at its heart. Breaking up all the natuions of Europe, therefore, is its whole philosophy and always has been.
    Secondly, the genie of Scottish nationalism and self rule has now been let out of the bottle. How will you push it back in again? Even worse, apparently (Telegraph today) Wales, too is becoming self ruled.
    Third, the Regional Governments are there, ruling us in secret. If you scupper these, then you will have to answser to Brussels.
    Fourthly, Gordon Brown is not the sort of man who will actually face up to all this. (words left out)

    And this is my country with 1000 years of history to be considered too!

  14. Phil
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    "Nationalists in England now want the extra cost and complexity of a full English Parliament in addition to Westminster."

    No, I would say that an increasing number of English nationalists would prefer a full English parliament INSTEAD of a UK one. Most of us are sick to death of our country being shafted for the sake of a disfunctional union and want INDEPENDENCE.

  15. Stephen Gash
    Posted May 11, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    With respect John you say I am attacking the wrong people, but I watch PMQs most weeks and the English question is barely mentioned and regions hardly ever.

    You and your colleagues should be making it a constant thorn in Labour's side

  16. Jefford
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    You are rather coy in stating that the English want "some symmetry" .
    What we want is equity and fairness on a logical basis ie a national English parliament, government , first minister, civil service and institutions and self rule. Plus also fiscal independence if that is accorded to Scotland . Thats symmetry!

    I would be perfectly happy that all this be in the context of a continuing United Kingdom with an overarching British parliament.
    Bearing in mind the totality of British government expenditure along with its colossal built in waste it is a bit mean to deny the English a democratic parliament on the basis of the relatively inor cost savings , if any.

    John , your proposals for dual mandate "English" MP's at Westminster are , I suppose, just one of the stages of the argument that has to be gone through, if only to be examined , found wanting in numerous ways and then rejected. I am sure that you are well aware of the absurdity of the idea and also of the idea of abolishing the Scottish parliament.

    You are steadily travelling the logical an correct end point ie an English Parliament.

  17. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    The Purpose of Devolution is to divide and conqEUr Britain, not really break it up, just shatter it a little, then Jack Straw can go around about how racist the English are towards the Scots,, the Irish and the Welsh to stir up trouble.

    Independance would make stuffing us into the EU that much more difficult so they want a Partially Fragmented union with English Scots and Welsh Bickering at each other, Hence the funding Differences.

    The Europhiles are Creating a new race of People called ' Europeans' with Mass mass mass Immigration, ontop of (many -ed) abortions.(Words left out that cast aspersions on Labour figures)
    Jack Straw Harriet Harman, Peter Mandelson, John Reid, John Prescott are all former British Communist Party members.

    This is what Communist One Worlder Jack Straw had in mind when he said, 'the British are not worth saving as a race'

    We, the EUropean Elite are Creating a New Race of voters called 'Europeans'
    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/865

  18. Posted May 12, 2008 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    John,

    Much of this discussion, including your original post, are very much centred on the politicians and the institutions of government; for instance, whether it would be better for England to have an additional / alternative layer of governance in the form of an English Parliament, or whether it would be better to have our decisions taken for us by some variant of an English Grand Committee.

    However, the really important point about an EP is that it would enable the English PEOPLE to vote separately on English matters, not just the politicians, i.e. for there to be distinct manifestos and party positions on England-only matters and UK-wide ones that the people could decide on separately – e.g. vote Tory on English policies but vote Labour on matters concerning the whole of the UK. Your solution would effectively turn UK elections into two (or rather four – five, including NI) in one, as you'd have to have separate manifestos for each country with the sections on currently devolved matters being different for each. But then you would have the sort of conflict I've just described, with many voters genuinely preferring one party's policies for their own nation and another's for the UK. If you're going to have separate parliamentary bodies (albeit 'virtual' ones under the auspices of a single Westminster parliament), then the logic is that they need to be elected separately. This is also the way to avoid the type of conflict of loyalties for MPs between a UK party / government position and the preferences of voters in the individual UK nations that some objectors to your ideas have raised: who would they be accountable to – the people of England who actually voted for them or the whole of the UK? So you need separate elections.

    Another reason why an EGC would not work is the Barnett Formula. This is what legitimises the participation of Scottish and Welsh MPs in voting on English matters, as spending decisions in England determine the budget for their countries. So you need separation of the financing of devolved matters alongside separation of electoral accountability: parliamentary representatives for each country voted on policy areas devolved to them and accountable to the electorate in those countries for the decisions they make and the money they spend. You can't have a half-way house (which the current set up is) where there is an inequality of representation and expenditure, for which MPs are not accountable to any electorate.

  19. Patrick Harris
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Who the bloody heck wants to save the Union in it's present form, install an English Parliament to bring about parity with the other constituent countries of the UK and bingo – sorted.

  20. Dave Brennan
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    John you really are just as bad as the others the ENGLISH DO NOT want a english parliament as well as westminster we want FULL AND TOTAL INDEPENDENCE no more no less and you and the other quislings have done your best to stop us and now you are fighting for your lives, "nose's in the trough" ring any bells you have had your chance to fight for England and you blew it, how long will it be before blair's heir reins you in and you run away like a child told off.

    If you really care about England and the English then break away from the useless Tories (remember john they are a unionist party not a copy of Nu Liebour) and form a true opposition and fight your corner then maybe just maybe a may have some respect for you.

    John Redwood cares for England and the Engish I don't believe you do

  21. Fred Forsythe (not t
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    John,
    What is this old red herring about the cost of an English Parliament? The cost would not be as great as the current setup. The Scots and Welsh are only British if there is cash or glory in it. Britain is dead. Long live a resurrected England.

    Get out of Europe, stop long term immigration, reduce numbers of immigrants by deporting illegals and those here for criminal disruptive or fraudulent purposes. Then the English people will start to have a little faith in those who purport to represent them.
    If this does not happen I think that a charismatic English leader will emerge and the English will take back their country by less diplomatic means. Non payment of council tax would do it in a month or a general strike would do it in a week.

    Reply: I doubt it, and do not recommend such direct action. The last general Strike was not a success. Proceed by democratic means.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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