The politics of identity

When I first entered UK politics we discussed mainstream subjects like living standards, taxes, the level of public spending, the balance of payments, criminal justice, planning and transport. We thought little about identity. We had inherited a United Kingdom which was self governing, proud of its history, and on the side of freedom and democracy.

We English did not usually distinguish between our Englishness and our Britishness. We thought of the Union flag as our flag and the national anthem as our anthem, even when we were supporting English rather than Union teams. The Irish debates about Home Rule and separation of the Republic were too distant
to be even memories for most.

Welsh and Scottish nationalism attracted little support, and debates about them were largely confined to Wales and Scotland. Too few MPs were elected for these nationalist parties to make it much of a UK debate. In the 1970s Labour in a state of panic, with more representation in Scotland and Wales, embarked on its first devolution proposals to “head off” incipient nationalism. They failed to secure the requisite majority in either country for devolved assemblies, against a voter backdrop of limited interest. They had misread the “threat” and the politics.

The long period of Conservative government from 1979 to 1997 saw modest progress by nationalist parties, but still it was a minority issue which did not engage Westminster very much and England not at all. It was Labour’s arrival in power in 1997, determined to drive devolution through which transformed the level of interest in the politics of identity in the UK and led to the current strength of the SNP.

Labour’s enthusiasm for a devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly contained base motives. Some of them wanted these bodies so they could always govern a wide range of issues in these parts of the UK, even when the Conservatives had won a majority in the country as a whole. Labour just assumed they would always have a majority in these regional Parliaments. Instead, the SNP used the platform and the opportunity of the Scottish Parliament to grow in support. Eventually the impossible happened and Labour lost control to the SNP of its creature Parliament.

Once you have a nationalist party within a Union which can command a majority in its part of the wider Union, politics has to change. The parties of the Union cannot retreat to the comfort of their majority at Union level and pretend that the nationalist majority does not exist. I will be returning to this set of issues in future posts, to develop what might happen next.


  1. petermartin2001
    November 16, 2014

    I sense the theme of these posts is going to be ‘It’s all Labour’s fault’. Some of it is, but not all.

    The Unionist Party (of Scotland) had about 40% of the Scottish vote and 24 Westminster seats, when it was absorbed into the Conservative Party in 1965. By 1997 there were no seats left! There has been a slight recovery since. The Conservative Party has now got one seat, on the border with England.

    Discarding the Unionist name was a huge mistake made by those with little understanding that Scotland regarded itself as a separate country but which overwhelmingly, at the time, wished to be part of the UK. It did not wish to be a part of England.

    The perception in Scotland is that the Conservative Party is an English party. The Unionists in Scotland were clearly Scottish so there was no problem, at least on the issue of nationalism, of anyone in Scotland supporting them.

    The Tories can’t blame Labour for throwing away the good support they had there.

    1. Hope
      November 16, 2014

      Presentational difference only. SNP and UKiP are doing so well as they offer a difference. Major on TV today trotting out the same rubbish arguments in support for the EU as he did for the UK to be in the Euro. He cost households and business a fortune for his fantically stupid ideology for the UK to become a region of the EU. I remember my mortgage being increased to intolerable levels because he wanted to be in EURO currency. Had he been successful the country would now be broke! All them claimed we would be economically doomed if we did not join ( later Blaire, Heseltine and Clark sharing a platform to sing the same tune). He forced the Tories to be in opposition for a generation and still cannot win a majority because his clone, Cameron, is modernising the Tory party to what Major and others wanted the party to become. JR and few die hards remain thinking they can shore up support for conservatism while the leadership is doing all it can to recruit people of a similar mind to them. Like immigration to the UK, JR will be overwhelmed by the new crowd. Cameron has now made it clear that he has more in common with Labour and Libs than UKIP, the demise of the Tories continues.

      1. Andy
        November 16, 2014

        The problem was that joining the ERM was the latest fashion on the road of the prevailing vogue. Most people did not understand what they were joining and in the end it was shown not to work, but that didn’t stop the continental Europeans rushing head long into creating the disaster we see today known as the Euro, which (surprise surprise) doesn’t work. All was of course foretold by a few, notably Bernard Connolly in his book, The Rotten Heart of Europe.

    2. Leslie Singleton
      November 16, 2014

      Peter–Wise and profound words–I hadn’t thought my opinion of the Conservative Party could get any lower but you have managed it–And to think that my opinion of the Labour Party is worse, much worse.

    3. Denis Cooper
      November 16, 2014

      In the 1955 general election the Conservatives and Unionists not only won more than half of the seats in Scotland, which of course under the FPTP system would have been possible with just a plurality of the votes cast, indeed with a minority close to a plurality, they actually won more than half of the votes cast.

      But as shown in the chart here:

      that was the peak of their support and their share of the votes began to slide in 1959 and carried on down; there was actually a small and brief recovery during the Thatcher years before the slide resumed and support fell to the pitifully low levels seen now, with ingrained and openly and sometimes virulently expressed hatred of the Tories so far outstripping their residual support that even many of those who do still support them are afraid to come out into the open.

      1. petermartin2001
        November 16, 2014


        That’s an interesting article. It fairly makes the point that Margaret Thatcher isn’t solely to blame for the demise of Unionism/Conservatism in Scotland. That’s just a lazy explanation of a complex problem.

        It also fairly makes the point that Unionism has been identified with Protestant sectarianism in previous times. Was this one reason why the name was dropped? It doesn’t have to be like that though. There could, and should, be a force for progressive Unionism which would aim to attract support regardless of religious persuasion.

        Whatever it was called, it would have been better to have had a clearly separate political party in Scotland which would have also had the freedom to criticise Westminster governments, both Labour or Conservative, whenever it felt that Scotland interests were being overlooked or disregarded. This would have been rather like the way the Bavarian CSU criticise the German CDU led government from time to time, but, nevertheless ultimately do provide them with the political support they need from a part of Germany which doesn’t regard itself as just another regional area.

    4. libertarian
      November 16, 2014

      Peter Martin

      Totally agree. The Conservatives blew this even more than Labour. We just witnessed a spectacle in which the birthplace of Adam Smith and so many of the creative, free market thinkers of the last 300 years had NO representatives standing at all for free market, low tax, libertarian principles in Scotland during the Independence debate.

      I will also tell the SNP the reason they lost the vote is they tried to not only get a vote for independence but a vote for socialist independence. That is the reason they failed.

      The dictum about a One Nation philosophy is incompatible with championing local, free market, low tax small government. The Conservative Party isn’t a free market party any longer and bizarrely its One Nation stance is a shambles as it has no representation in Scotland or Northern Ireland, is severely distrusted in Northern England and has happily started to give away its support in the South East.

      John R I would respectfully suggest that before you spend any more time highlighting the strategic failures of other parties you took a long hard look at reinventing yourselves.


      Scotland needs a new Scottish free market party

      1. petermartin2001
        November 16, 2014

        I think we might agree more on the desirability of maintaining the Union than the nature of the ‘free market’ economy.

        Like it or not, modern 21st century capitalism is led by Government. All money in the economy is only there because the Government has spent it into existence. ie Government is the issuer of the currency.

        If the SNP lost, it would have to be because they and/or a large section of the Scottish population, were unwilling to accept that a separate government has to mean a separate currency too. If the currency isn’t separate there can be no true independence. We only have to look at the goings on in the EZ to see that.

        1. libertarian
          November 17, 2014


          Oh dear me no.

          21st Century capitalism is well ahead of the curve. The government has no idea what the markets are doing, they’re just trailing along behind. NO money is there because of the government, they just print notes. The real value in the economy is generated by the markets. You seem very confused about the nature of money. Printing notes has nothing to do with wealth generation we do not have a zero sum economy. What will you say when like Sweden now we become a cashless society and no one issues notes?

          Scotland voted to remain in the union because like you the socialists don’t understand money and what it is. Thats my point a free market approach to independence would have happily embraced the establishment of a Scottish Pound or Dollar. The Irish managed it quite easily when they gained independence. They of course then gave it away again, but that’s another issue of embracing socialism and failing. I agree totally about the EZ ( you however seem confused, you say the UK government generates wealth but the EZ doesn’t ? )

          Just to be clear I believe the Scots missed a glorious opportunity to be independent, If I was a resident of Scotland I would have gone for it anyway and then fought over the type of independent government.

  2. Mark B
    November 16, 2014

    Good morning.

    I argue that you can just as easily define Nationalist’s by what they stand against, as as much as what they stand for. The SNP want independence, but they also want to be free from Westminster.

    And it is this yearning to be free that drives them. They are frustrated because people do not necessarily see things the way they do. The same of course could be said of UKIP. And all though the former wants to break free from the Union (UK) and remain part of another Union (EU), the opposite is true of the latter. But in all other respects, they are both very much the same. And their supporters tend to be, if not the same people, then certainly the same type of people.

    Like the SNP, Sinn Fein and others, they are generally seen as a single issue party / movement with an uphill battle to fight. But although they have an absolute objective, they have no set time scale, again, strangely, like the EU itself.

    What Labour in its arrogance had done, and it was arrogance, it created devolved Parliaments by which single issue parties can gain the upper hand over the larger parties. The near implosion of the Scottish Labour Party (oh how I love the irony of this, but must not dwell on it more than I would like) will create a situation the like of which this country has not seen.

    And although our kind host has stated he wishes to look at issues which may arise from a SNP dominated Scotland, I would urge him to consider the implication to his own party and that of England. The SNP have stated they will never go into coalition with the Conservative Party. They absolutely despise you ! Ergo, they, with the help of Labour, will do all they can to spite the Conservatives and the English. So I guess, that the Balkanisation of my country at the hands of Marxist and traitors will be a certain conclusion.

    If either our kind host, or any member of his party have a care for England and the English, they will ignore UKIP and concentrate on a possible Labour / SNP alliance. ie Vote Labour, get SNP !

    1. Hope
      November 16, 2014

      JR I came across this quote, is it correct? If so, what is the identity of the Tory party and the identity of Cameron as he placed this MP as a minister in his cabinet while saying he is a Eurosceptic? Does this demonstrate there is no difference in the LibLabCon?

      “I look forward to the day when the Westminster Parliament is just a council chamber in Europe”. KennethClarke, Conservative Chancellor in International Currency Review Vol 23 No 4 1996.
      I note Major still hammering away to get the UK to be region of the EU. He did untold damage to our sovereignty and freedoms and liberties by signing Maastricht.Why does he think he made the Tory party unelectable for so long? Does he think we like his views? Incredible delusion.

    2. Bob
      November 16, 2014

      @Mark B
      The Tories are concentrating on an alliance with Labour.
      David Cameron is now pleading with Labour supporters in Rochester to save his candidate from defeat the way they did in Newark.

      They should stop the pretence and officially merge the two parties, because thinking voters are increasingly waking up the the reality of the Hobson’s Choice they have been presented with over recent years.

      1. adams
        November 16, 2014

        I spoke to a shopkeeper in Rochester last week and he said all the Liebour supporters he spoke to said they were voting Tory to keep UKIP out !
        Why not ? Both Parties love the EU and mass immigration . The EU arrest warrant was much approved by both front benches . Why not merge as you suggest ? Reality at last instead of the fantasy charade we are served at the present . It is simply UKIP against the rest .

  3. m
    November 16, 2014

    Every new edict suffers from the Law of Unintended Consequences, and every Politician thinks that this law does not apply to them or their pet project. The solution is to have fewer edicts and less Government.

    We thought of the Union flag as our flag and the national anthem as our anthem

    Perhaps this is easier to do when Parliament is London and laws were discussed and made in England.

    Now all three main Party leaders want the decisions to be made in Brussels and all the laws to be written in Euroland, I have a lot more empathy for the various Nationalist causes.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    November 16, 2014

    I think many are aware of what may happen next. It is more about trying to manage things in a fair and legal way.

    The Country started to crumble however in the 80’s and gathered momentum in the 90’s. Whether it was due to politicians and politics or greed and dishonesty generally, I will never know,but the long trail of recurrence where firms were brought down and deception was rife started in Thatchers terms.Labour took the biscuit in the 1990’s with the most gross mismanagement imaginable.

    Staff were put into positions where they were unable to summon up a modicum of business ethical sense and made a mockery of those who were sensible , fair and understood the difference between competition and dirty tricks.

    Many of the comments from people around that time followed in the same mode that if you tried to challenge the system on an individual or collective basis then you would have your mental health questioned.The problems still continue with people putting others down who are more intelligent , skilful and qualified by others who deliberately either fabricate a mistake or make a fuss about the insignificant to put them out of a post and make money out of them.

    I cannot see the situation changing as more an more cultures offer their perspective on fairness and justice.

    1. Mark B
      November 16, 2014

      MBJ said:

      The Country started to crumble however in the 80’s . . .

      So am I to assume you neither remember or have lived trough the 70’s? Because I think that’s when the rot really set in. Although I think it was a little earlier that it began.

      Lady Thatcher’s time in office saw much destruction of British industry but, it was an industry that could only survive on government handouts, at the expense to the rest. One might argue, if you think about it, that we have come full circle. Eg. Subsidised green crap !

      Reply There was a greater loss of industry under Labour, who presided over a huge run down of coal and steel with the loss of many jobs

  5. Peter A
    November 16, 2014

    Devolution and a consequent decimated majority in Scotland could indeed haunt Labour. Would the English public allow a Lab/SNP coalition in Westminster ruling over English matters?

    Wales and Scotland together, have a similar population to London yet have almost 20 more MPs. The suspicion is that almost any anti-democratic fudge will be applied to prevent the English being ruled by consent.

    I know you are fierce and constantly strong on the EVEL message John but I do not understand why your colleagues aren’t fighting the Main Stream Media harder to push it front and centre. Just like Europe it is about the repatriation of sovereignty and money! It should be gourmet fodder for the Tory cavalry. Much too little from Mr Hague on this.

    Years of Labour promoting multiculturalism at the expense of British values and a school system intent on forging a guilt ridden national identity has made the promulgation of Englishness rascist, hateful and something to be feared! I notice a clear urban/country divide in this.

    1. Bob
      November 16, 2014

      @Peter A
      EVEL was passed to William Hague because they knew it would go the way of everything else that he has handled – nowhere!

      As regards multiculturalism, I think you’ll find that the modern Tories are fully in favour.

    2. Denis Cooper
      November 16, 2014

      “Wales and Scotland together, have a similar population to London yet have almost 20 more MPs. The suspicion is that almost any anti-democratic fudge will be applied to prevent the English being ruled by consent.”

      1. The same electoral quota is used in Scotland as in England. That is to say, the aim is that as far as practicable the average number of voters per constituency should be the same in Scotland as it is in England. However to accommodate geographical difficulties there are 2 extra seats in Scotland over and above the 57 there would be on the strict application of that quota.

      2. On the hand, Wales is still deliberately over-represented at Westminster. If the same electoral quota was applied as in England there would be about 33 seats not 40; so that accounts for another 7 extra seats, making 9 out of your 20.

      3. As for the remaining 11 extra seats it is difficult to say whether this is because the number of electors in some of the London constituencies has been allowed to grow too large, or because you are not referring to the number of parliamentary electors but to the total population including a large proportion of foreigners who are not eligible to vote in elections to the UK Parliament.

  6. Lifelogic
    November 16, 2014

    The country is in desperate need of far less government and at all levels, yet all we ever get is more & more. Only a strong sensible majority government at Westminster is ever likely to achieve that but the Tories seem so keen just to be another big government, high tax, pro EU, fake equality, English socialist group.

    I happened to catch the SNP conference. They were talking about the 50/50 campaign (or active legalised discrimination against men campaign). They were clearly nearly all bonkers. The campaign has been joined I understand by the Greens, Libdems and Labour. Not yet Cameron but he is so very little different to these people no doubt he will.

    Certainly the botched together devolution by Labour had very base motives – that have badly (but predictably) misfired on them.

    1. Mondeo Man
      November 16, 2014

      Lifelogic – The problem is that government steps in where it oughtn’t and stays out where it ought.

      1. Lifelogic
        November 17, 2014

        Indeed as with the roads where the governments idea of public service is to fine and mug motorist and block the roads with bus lanes, bike lanes, islands, and anti car red traffic lights. Yet they cannot even repair the pot holes.

  7. Richard1
    November 16, 2014

    Yes Labour have brought their Scottish predicament on themselves. If Labour believe, as they now claim to, in regional devolution then this is what they should have proposed in Scotland – assemblies in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh etc for local areas, not a Scottish parliament. We now need Justice for England, which means English votes for English issues to match the devolution in Scotland.

    1. Denis Cooper
      November 16, 2014

      If you want to match the devolution in Scotland then you need a separate and separately elected devolved Parliament and government for England.

      1. Richard1
        November 16, 2014

        There will never be a majority for another tier of paid politicians. The most practical option is English MPs vote on issues affecting only England.

        1. Denis Cooper
          November 17, 2014

          If you are so confident that the English will never vote to have what the Scots have had for fifteen years now, despite successive opinion polls indicating that they would, then you should have no fear of that being put to the test in a referendum.

          1. Richard1
            November 17, 2014

            Yes why not. The choice could be 1) English votes for English issues in Parliament 2) a whole new English Parliament or 3) continued rule by UK MPs including those from devolved parts of the UK. I think 1) would win.

  8. Old Albion
    November 16, 2014

    I look forward to the SNP winning the (vast) majority of Scottish seats in the next general election. Then just as day follows night, a second Independance referendum will take place. They won’t ‘get it wrong’ a second time.
    Then Westminster will be forced to admit; England as a political entity does exist.

  9. formula57
    November 16, 2014

    In acknowledging a nationalist majority, it might also be acknowledged that no enduring compromise with it is possible, as N. Sturgeon has been making clear.

    Let us hope therefore that “sentiment, history and politics”, the reasons given hitherto that apparently compelled preservation the Union, will be recognized for their insubstantial nature and that Scotland will be freed to pursue its own demise, unaided and unfunded by the rest of us.

  10. ian wragg
    November 16, 2014

    If you keep importing foreigners at the current rate, there will be no British identity.
    Perhaps I should say English as 95% of what you import settle in England.. Of course this is the ultimate goal, Destroy England and give the other 3 independence and we can become a vassal state of Brussels.
    I see the DoT. is metricating all our road signs. Did Parliament get a vote on this? or is it following the relentless federal agenda from Brussels.
    I see from Open Europe, the EU intends to spend £146 billion against the £140 billion agreed. So much from CMD’s budget reduction. I suppose another supplementary bill will be in the post to cover the extra.
    When will the lying stop.

  11. James Matthews
    November 16, 2014

    I don’t disagree with much about this post as a survey of how we got where we are, but it leaves out one significant strand – the deliberate destruction of English identity by a significant proportion of the British left. This has used a number of tactics. Most successful of these has been the deliberate fostering of mass immigration and the accompanying shift of emphasis from integration and assimilation to “multiculturalism”, which has meant that the English are now just another culture within England (and, in some significant parts of it, a minority culture).

    Other strands include the refusal to teach English school children their own history and culture, the drive for Regional Assemblies, tacitly supported by the BBC, and the standpoint of the BBC itself, which, with is secure statutory funding and overwhelming market share, presents the world to its audiences, in its news, current affairs, comedy and drama, as if the Guardian reflects values and attitudes universally shared by all reasonable people.

    Make no mistake, when Yasmin Alibhai Brown says “London is ours” and when Jack Straw and Vince Cable say that English nationalism is uniquely malign and must be suppressed at all costs, they really mean it.

    That is not to absolve the mainstream English political right. Except for the brief interlude of the Thatcher years, they have offered pathetically little resistance in the culture war which they have been so comprehensively losing.

  12. NickW
    November 16, 2014

    When one looks at the results of Blair’s “Cunning” plans, which have resulted in a catastrophic rift between Scotland and England, the destruction of England by immigration and hideous death and destruction in the Middle East, one has to conclude that Satan himself could not have done a better job.

  13. John Robertson
    November 16, 2014

    Nicola Sturgeon set out a clear simple strategy yesterday and the big message there is if Scotland votes SNP they can get big influence on what they want in a SNP Labour coalition. Were that to be the case that would be a troubled time for the English with an anti English Labours not wanting English votes for English matters and an SNP that would go along.

    The English voter needs to wise up to this big change and suspect once they see the SNP on TV debates to come then they may realise what an inequitable situation may arise if there was an SNP Labour coalition government. Maybe it will sway the electorate to the Conservatives when they see a very confused message from Labour. It will be a troubled England without it’s say on it’s own matters and where might that take things?

  14. JoeSoap
    November 16, 2014

    The electorate senses that the leadership of all 3 main parties is London-centric. The Scots and Welsh never took to Thatcher but lived with Blair because a/his constituency and “roots” were of the Borders and b/he promised greater devolution. It bought him time. The Scots again lived with Brown. Now we are back to the choice of Cameron or Miliband in Liblabcon, both seen as Londoners, both big state, tell the little people what’s good for them.

    How do we get out of this? We probably won’t quickly. The factional parties will make inroads until a leader emerges from one of them which can unite Britain again. Our national psyche is neither for Coalitions nor dictators, so we will choose the middle road eventually, but perhaps we need to go through factionalisation first. The best thing which could come out of this is a system, however remote now, which solves the problem of politicians talking down to the little people, whilst at the same time providing strong leadership for the nation. We have to hope that the system arrives before a dictatorship. One thing is for certain-people like Cameron who make straight promises or weasel-word promises which they don’t keep need to be shown the door.

  15. DaveM
    November 16, 2014

    Sturgeon has made it quite clear that the SNP will not make a deal with the Conservatives which means the Labour party will be in a coalition. They will make concessions allowing the SNP to run Scotland, and will extend further devolution to Wales so they can send their people there to cut their teeth ready to move to Westminster.

    In the meantime they will regionalise England and change election boundaries to ensure they have more English MPs. They will then allow the EU to make all our laws and foreign policy while they concentrate on taxing the English to death and spending it on stupid projects and benefits.

    It is now getting to the stage where Cameron could come back from Brussels with an agreement stating that “the UK can do whatever it likes with all its benefits and none of its bad points but that it has to pay £50 for the privilege” and people will still vote OUT.

    The Conservative Party has the perfect opportunity – NOW – to come up with a plan which appeals to all parts of the UK. And that plan has to be a blueprint for a federal UK outside of the EU, with realistic and genuine home rule for England. That’s the only way this union is going to stay together. The Tories need to stop living in the past. We’re never going back to that time that you described at the beginning of this post John. Thankfully, if you want my opinion.

    When are you all going to look to the future? Say what you like about Farage, but he looks to the future while drawing on positives and lessons learned from the past. He knows that people like a union, but that they also like being Scottish, English, etc. I’m not a “South Wester” or a “South Easter”, I’m English. That doesn’t mean I hate the Scots or the Welsh, and it doesn’t make me a racist or a xenophobe. But the current policies telling me that I’m a European citizen and that my country is getting dismantled and that my ancestors built this country to accommodate the foreign hordes and that I just have to “suck it up” are pushing people like me in that direction

  16. Bert Young
    November 16, 2014

    Devolution in the first place was wrong ; the result of it today is a disunited United Kingdom and a deep feeling of mistrust – bordering on hate . Whether it is now possible to patch things together is extremely questionable . The Barnett formula was wrong , educational discrimination is wrong , differentials in benefits are wrong – and so and so on . We English are at the bottom of the pile and seeking a rebalance is both natural and necessary at this time .
    I strongly support the efforts to create a more reasonable deal for England although I dislike the idea of a purely English Parliament . There are many cross border relationships and markets linking us together ; going as far as separation is too tricky and , in my view , should be avoided . Minority representation and the threat of it on the balance in Westminster has to be sorted out as a matter of priority – already it has produced a gloat from Sturgeon that it will result in a balance of power to the SNP . I would rather the Scots be set loose than have the SNP in an over-influencing role .
    Cool and sensible heads have to come together to bring about the changes necessary charged with a solution before the GE . Unless this happens devolution becomes a different and many sided thorn .

    1. bluedog
      November 16, 2014

      ‘Devolution in the first place was wrong ; the result of it today is a disunited United Kingdom and a deep feeling of mistrust – bordering on hate .’

      Absolutely right, and its not just hate between the nations of the UK. The SNP was always regarded as a lunatic fringe in Scotland and if Blair had not been such a cynical opportunist the British government could have simply stared down the Nats. There was never going to be an armed insurrection, despite Salmond’s dark mutterings the other day. There was a brief period in the 1970s when the Irish troubles seemed as though they might spill over into Scotland, but by the early ’90s all that sectarian animosity had died down. However, the SNP walks a very fine line, and the old Covenanter/Catholic tension is always just below the surface in Scotland. It would not surprise if Sturgeon lost control of the debate and found herself trying to manage a sectarian divide in Scotland.

      A competent Unionist political entrepreneur in Scotland could win a very broad base of support. But where is she/he?

  17. The PrangWizard
    November 16, 2014

    The idea that England and the English should not promote, nor defend its and our identity for the sake of preserving the Union has got us into the sorry and potentially dangerous state we find ourselves today. The English have been told for years to put their interests second and third to others. Fly the Union flag instead of our own. Too many people are now confused as to which is the flag of England.

    It is time we abandoned such a weak stance. This has led to our having a border with a nation purporting to be part of the Union but which is openly hostile, via the SNP to England. Nicola Sturgeon now says ‘just think what we can get from Westminster if we have a large number of MPs’. What she means is just think what we can get via blackmail and threats from England. It has also been said that Scots will ‘take matters into our own hands’ if they don’t get their further devolution demands met. Is that the attitude of a friendly and co-operative member of a Union?

    Where will the weak idea of ‘English Votes.. ‘ stand if the SNP refuse to co-operate when they have 20 or 30 MPs? How will the English react when Scottish MPs make England ungovernable by the English for themselves?

    The only way to prevent this is firstly to challenge and reject threats, end appeasement, but vitally to make plans for a true English parliament as a matter of urgency. And your party needs to present an unambiguous Manifesto for England for the GE.

    What is the point of the Union when we have an openly hostile member? If it has to end then so be it, Scots are already talking about a second independence referendum, and they clearly seem to me to intend to act within the Union as if they are already independent especially if they get a large number of MPs.

    Where is English identity reflected back in our major cultural institutions? We have ‘national’ this and ‘national’ that but they are British, not English. We have a British Library, and a British Museum. Where is the National Library of England? Where do people go to learn about England and the English? Scotland has its own clearly identified institutions – National Library of Scotland and so on. Why does the British state thus require the English nation to remain invisible, yet encourage others to assert their identities?

    I hope we will read something robust. It is time.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    November 16, 2014

    What you can do is get rid of the unjust Barnett formula, which makes devolved Governments look good. Public expenditure per head is £8,500 in England, £9,500 in Wales, £10,000 in Scotland and £10,800 in Northern Ireland.

    Nicola Sturgeon’s speech accepting the SNP leadership was absolutely outrageous. She boasted about measures past, present and future that are financed by English taxpayers. These include free University education, abolition of the so called ‘bedroom tax’ and a massive boost to State funded child care.

    Get rid of the Barnett formula and you will have a more rational basis for judging the performance of devolved administrations. I don’t care if its retention was included in THE VOW, for which there is no democratic mandate. John Redwood can quote some vague wording in the Conservatives’ 2010 manifesto if he likes; it doesn’t justify THE VOW and it certainly doesn’t justify Gordon Brown’s promise of Home Rule for Scotland.

    It is instructive that Wales, which has a lower average income than Scotland, benefits less from the Barnett formula, and struggles more with its public expenditure. The fact that the Welsh administration cut NHS expenditure is no coincidence – they had to cut something.

    Scotland is entitled to its fair share of North Sea oil and gas royalties and profits. With the international oil price dropping like a stone, they may be disappointed with the outcome.

    1. Lindsay McDougall
      November 16, 2014

      Let me take this opportunity to demonstrate how little there is in THE VOW – I refer to the actual text, not the plethora of words uttered afterwards.

      “The Scottish Parliament is permanent and extensive new powers will be delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed and announced by our three parties, starting on 19th September.

      And it is our hope that the people of Scotland will be engaged directly as each party works to improve the way we are governed in the UK in the years ahead.

      We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen.

      And because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.”

      There it is; four short paragraphs. And the third and fourth paragraphs contain a contradiction, because the Barnett allocation for resources is blatantly not equitable.

      Focus on the key point; there is a commitment to allow Scotland to raise a tax or taxes hypothecated to NHS expenditure. THAT’s ALL.

  19. alan Wheatley
    November 16, 2014

    I agree with this analysis, having, similarly, lived through the times described.

    I think as a nation we, in all parts of it, were far better off when we were content and thought it important to be “British” (a citizen of the United Kingdom) no matter what else in addition we coupled as our identity. It must be the case that the nation as a whole will achieve more, to the benefit of all its citizens, if they are working together compared with the sum of the parts working separately.

    But, of course, the Nation is not homogenous and, indeed, many of us relish its variations and local peculiarities. So governance in every detail from the centre has not and never will be an acceptable form of government. The objective is to strike the optimum balance between national and local governance, and a failure to do so has led us to where we are.

    At the heart of this failing is an absence of the three pillars of good governance: responsibility, accountability and resources. We can see this happening in local government where the local authorities are in many respects merely the agents of central government.

    To some extent this is understandable, as at local elections it does seem that voting preferences are determined more by national rather than local politics. This is not so much the voters fault as it has been difficult to know who is responsible for what, and following local government reorganisations and national assemblies the situation has become even more complicated.

    Local authorities must take their share of the blame. For instance, the reason the recipes from business rates were switched to central government was because too many local authorities were squeezing businesses to raise their income: businesses don’t get a vote. It seems all this has been forgotten in an emerging debate about returning business rates income to local authorities.

    No one can deny there is widespread dissatisfaction with central government, and that this has been building over some time. The less the prospect of improvement in central government ( as exemplified by the regular uses of the term “LibLabCon”) the more people will look to an alternative, and quiescent national feelings are obviously an alternative ripe to be exploited.

    This is a big subject, and I welcome further, related posts.

  20. Amy
    November 16, 2014

    That’s an interesting point by Peter Martin. Sounds like the Scottish Conservatives should rebrand as a Unionist party and be seen as more independent and Scottish. The rise of other parties definitely seems to be because of devolution and also because of the centralisation of power to the European Union, in particular, because both do not have a first past the post system. In America they’ve held on to their two-party system because they don’t proportional representation (I believe) at any level.

  21. Cliff. Wokingham
    November 16, 2014

    I suspect identity has become important because many fear losing what identity they still have.

    The Scots are passionate about their identity as are the Welsh. You are right about the English seeing themselves more as British rather than English and I suspect the same can be said for the Unionist community in Northern Ireland however, I detect a wind of change and I am starting to hear more patriotic English voices now.
    The reason for these new patriotic English voices? Perhaps as a reaction to all the Scottish this and Scottish that which we heard during the recent referendum debate in Scotland. I watched Question Time on Thursday and now it seems the Welsh want the same as the Scots too. In a nation of so called equals, you can’t give some thing to one group and not to another.

    We then come on to Europe. If we continue to go down the path we’re on now; more Europe integration….Yes I know what Dave says, but we are seeing our country slipping deeper and deeper into the United States of Europe. I am proud to be English or an Indigenous Islander as I prefer to describe myself on ethnic monitoring forms so loved by our state, but I do not and can never see myself describing myself as European as a nationality. England will become little more than a “county” within the nation of Europe. If we don’t stop the rot now and as our youngsters are brainwashed, via our so called education system, into be good little socialists and we continue to flood our nation with newcomers, so our national identity and our people’s desire to keep that identity will diminish.

    Personally, I blame egotistical politicians and their “Nanny knows best” attitude for the chaos we see in our country; people feel frustrated that they’re not being listened to and many, I suspect, feel excluded from the democratic process.

    Perhaps you could answer a question about the Conservative draw tickets I received yesterday as a Conservative supporter to buy or sell; do the monies paid in to WCA actually fund our local branch or does it go to central office to fund the whole party? I am happy to help fund WCA and yourself, but I do not want to fund Mr Cameron and the so called Conservative Party(sic) as a whole because, if I really wanted to fund a left leaning party, I would do so.

    Reply It’s mainly local funding to pay for the Wokingham office. (75% of proceeds)

  22. Robert Mackie
    November 16, 2014

    Dear Sir
    I do hope you are raising the noise issue for residents in and around the Wokingham area as to increases in aircraft noise in the early hours even after trails have been said to have stop.

    Your Faithfully
    Mr R.H.Mackie

    Reply I am

  23. Mondeo Man
    November 16, 2014

    Note that were any other group discriminated against in this way there would be rioting. Instead we peacefully vote UKIP

    The Conservative party criminalises us for it – if being a closet racist is a crime without the closet – or they might even suggest we’re borderline sectioning cases (loons.)

    There is such a rift between politicians and their people that we no longer look at each other as though we are human – of the same species.

    November 16, 2014

    When there is an external “enemy” or threat, people rally round.They feel a oneness, a unity of purpose even perhaps a certain spirituality. This was evident in the last war. We realized our national Self.

    Politically, people externalized their problems and indeed their societal imperfections. And it must be said our wartime nation had enormous economic and social ills which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and Hitler.

    The perspective and eyes of the people of Scotland will in the passing of time be directed away from the south of their borders in now incalculable multifarious blasts. Their unity shall be tested.

    I feel we English and Scots would lack historical perspective and wisdom if we close our hearts to a fair future and infinitely more intense union.

  25. Tad Davison
    November 16, 2014

    I don’t usually post links, but as our host took part in this debate to which it relates, I think on this occasion he might allow me a little latitude. It feel it says a lot about our national identity.

    It’s to an event entitled ‘This House Believes New Labour Ruined Britain’ and was hosted by the Cambridge Union Society. Highly recommended!

    Tad Davison


    1. Bob
      November 17, 2014


      ” Highly recommended!”


  26. DaveM
    November 16, 2014

    Relating to yesterday’s post and his appearance on the Marr show, maybe one of your colleagues should put a sock in John Major’s mouth. If his comments on a “temporary” control on immigration are Con party policy you’ve just lost my vote.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 17, 2014

      Every time John Major is on TV he much add hugely to UKIP’s support.

      Why exactly does the BBC interview Sir John Major on the basis of are there any words of wisdom you would like to impart to the nation Sir John? ……. and is there anything else you would like to add ……..

      But when they interview Nigel Farage we just get endless pre-planned attempts from the BBC to brand him and the party are racists using quotes from anyone who have ever had anything to do with the party ever?

      I see some head of a primary? school has asked a school Governor to resign for the crime of joining UKIP which she thought was incompatible!

  27. Denis Cooper
    November 16, 2014

    Six months now, that’s all the time available to British Unionists to act to forestall the disaster of the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster after the next general election. On present showing Labour will still easily be the largest party, but thanks to the loss of about a quarter of its support over the past two years it will no longer have an overall majority; there will be far fewer LibDem MPs to potentially make up the shortfall in a coalition with Labour; even if UKIP greatly exceeds my own expectations by getting twenty-odd seats – I wouldn’t be surprised if they got 20% of the votes but still less than a handful of seats, under the FPTP system – that will not be enough to form a majority coalition with a Tory party with many fewer seats than Labour; it’s possible that Labour and two or more small Unionist parties could cobble together a Unionist coalition and keep the SNP out of it, or it may be that the Tories will have to agree to allow Labour, or maybe a Labour-led coalition, to run the country as a minority government just to keep out the SNP and preserve the UK intact; the outlook is extremely gloomy.

    And even if the 2015 UK general election does not lead to the SNP calling the shots at Westminster, a year later there will be the general election for the Scottish Parliament; and there the SNP is presently heading for a massive win, and on a manifesto which will very likely include a promise that they would hold another independence referendum even though that would clearly be illegal under UK law without permission having been granted by the UK Parliament as it was for the previous referendum.

  28. Eddie Hill
    November 16, 2014

    What a fascinating topic! I look forward very much to this thread evolving and the comments that will follow.

    I’ve got a couple of issues/ questions to contribute, for what they’re worth.

    I’m not sure I detected from this opening salvo the line your thinking is taking. Are you opposed in principle to the politics of identity? Are “the politics of identity” synonymous with nationalism? Is nationalism a good or a bad thing? Are all nationalists necessarily right-wing and, in particular, are Scottish nationalists necessarily right-wing, or could they be socialists that are deserting Labour in their droves? Are socialists and nationalists necessarily antipathetic?

    Do “the politics of identity” satisfy mankind’s desire for “recognition” (as defined by people such as Francis Fukuyama).

    Is a desire to be recognised as “English” rather than “British” a good or a bad thing?

    1. DaveM
      November 16, 2014

      This is the dilemma – in Scotland and Wales, nationalism is associated with socialism (ie a good thing to LibLabConners) whereas in England it’s associated with extreme right wing politics. Maybe because it’s England which is constantly invaded and which bears the brunt of those invasions.

      Don’t think Wales is without its right wing elements though – after all they’ve had their fair share of immigration and south coast invasions too.

  29. DaveM
    November 16, 2014

    OT – just received a breakdown of my annual tax and what it’s spent on.

    Amongst other things, more spent on national debt interest than on defence? £99 to the EU? Quite a lot on pensions and education when I have a private pension and pay for education?

    More importantly, how much did HMRC spend on sending every household one of these which probably achieved the square root of nothing other than p**sing everyone off? And when it’s impossible to contact HMRC other than via the internet – surely they could have emailed me that info?

    In the words of my kids – OMG. It beggars belief.

  30. John Robertson
    November 16, 2014

    One call from the Scottish Nationalists is that the UK should foot the bill for decommissioning of the oil rigs. On the face of it that might seem reasonable upto the years they don’t have control over revenues. However with devolved taxes that would mean a higher proportion is born by the UK than Scotland would contribute too. This is a matter will become very complicated with tax devolution, I don’t have confidence a Labour SNP coalition would deliver a fair deal for all.

  31. Javelin
    November 16, 2014

    Scotland is like a spoilt child or girlfriend. The more you give the more petulant they get.

    The best solution is to call their bluff and give the Scots a trial run at being separate economically for an economic cycle. I hear The SNP banging on about how they will spend all their money to help the Scots but nothing from them on how to raise the taxes in the first place.

    Simply give them enough rope to hang themselves by letting them issue their own bonds or raise or lower taxes – let’s see them get into debt or crippling taxes. The SNP don’t have magic bullets so let them hang themselves.

    1. Tad Davison
      November 16, 2014

      Interesting idea Javelin, given that the oil price per barrel is presently nowhere near what the SNP expected it to be to pay for all their pet projects.


  32. Terry
    November 16, 2014

    You paint a picture the depicts the reign of Blair as being the start of the turmoil in this country. Of course it really kicked off in the 70’s when both the Tory and the Labour Governments were held to ransom by communist Trade Union Leaders. And by now, we would have become a satellite of the USSR had it not been for one Margaret Thatcher who assembled a team to fight tyranny. And won.
    Sadly and grotesquely, she was stabbed in the back by her own party and proved a very hard act to follow. Ensuing economic incompetence ensured that the Conservatives would be condemed to the opposition benches for a decade and more. And with the inward rush of the star spinner and pathelogical liar, most all of Mrs T efforts and schievements where thrown out or given away in the name of socialism and probable incentives to secure the qualification for a future top EU job.
    I look back on the decimation of Britain as I feel the old soldiers of WWII must, when they see how their friends died in battle defending the independence of our nation. Only for it to become divided and now a satellite of the European Union. They must weep, as I do, over the current denigation and demises of Great Britain.

    1. Tad Davison
      November 16, 2014

      One of the back-stabbers was on the Andrew Marr Show today. I urge everyone to watch it, and try not to throw a brick at the set when John Major tells us how important the EU is to the UK.


  33. ChrisS
    November 16, 2014

    Frankly, given as the SNP is clearly going to create and maintain uncertainty for however long it takes to get their own way, we would all have been better off had the Scots voted for Independence at the first attempt in September.

    We now face the real possibility of a Labour/SNP government after May in which Miliband has one or two more seats than the Conservatives but less votes and gets into power via a deal which relies on up to 50 SNP members to get legislation through the house to govern England.

    It is therefore essential that the Libdems and the Conservatives negotiate with the other parties at Westminster and get the necessary change in standing orders through the house to prevent Scottish members voting on English matters. This has to be in the best interest of the Libdems as well as the Conservatives.

    With EVEL in place, Miliband would then cause a constitutional crisis if he tried to reverse the decision after the election, using votes of SNP members to drive it through.

    It is also very important that the LibDems and Conservatives ensure that 100% of income tax is devolved to ensure that Labour is not free to increase higher rates in England if they win. I would also devolve everything to do with CGT and IHT as well.

    With the SNP now openly breaking their word over accepting the referendum result and determined to push the Independence agenda, we are going to end up with separation sooner rather than later.

    If they almost wipe out Labour in Scotland next May, it could even happen before England votes in favour of leaving the EU.

    1. Denis Cooper
      November 17, 2014

      Well, obviously all elected members of the UK Parliament have a perfect right to vote on any changes to the standing orders which determine how their UK-wide chamber operates, and it could not possibly fall within the scope of any existing prohibition on MPs elected outside England voting on laws which only apply to England. So while reversing previous changes to implement EVEL might create a political furore it would not create a constitutional crisis as such.

      Assuming that EVEL had actually been put in place before the general election, which is very unlikely to happen given the opposition from the LibDems as well as Labour, after the election had resulted in the SNP winning many more seats than now those parties could simply vote for it to be reversed on the grounds that it was imperative that the country had a stable government, even if that did mean including the SNP in a workable coalition government or at least enabling them to keep some other government in office.

      I would suggest that it would be the attitude of the Tory party which determined what happened in the situation where Labour was the largest party but did not have an overall majority. If those leading the Tory party were prepared to give a reliable commitment that they would allow a minority government to remain in office and pursue policies which they might oppose but would not vote down if that meant the government would fall, for the sake of giving the country a stable government, then there would be no need for Labour to turn to the SNP to make up an overall majority.

      1. ChrisS
        November 17, 2014

        The likely outcome you referred to in your previous post was a UKIP vote of 20% but maybe only 4 or so seats.

        Given Clegg’s statement before the last election that to him votes are more important than seats, I can see a scenario where :

        The Conservatives have the largest number of votes ( 33% ),
        Labour ( 29%) but with the largest number of seats,
        UKIP ( 18% )but with only 2-6 seats,
        LibDems ( 10% ) but with 20 seats
        SNP ( 2.5% ) but with 40 seats ( ! )

        The current electoral system means that the SNP would be grossly over represented, even compared with the advantage enjoyed by Labour but the result would be a scandalous obscenity when comparing the outcomes for UKIP, the SNP and the Libdems.

        In those circumstances, a Conservative/UKIP/Libdem coalition could well have a lot more votes than Labour and the SNP combined and possibly more than 60% of the popular vote. It would only just have a few more seats than Labour/SNP.

        Everyone would have to give way – Nigel Farage would have to forget any idea of a 2015 referendum – and, in terms of votes, Clegg would have to reluctantly come to terms with being the junior partner in a three-way coalition. He would not be Deputy MP, for example.

        With results like these, there can be no doubt that the FPTP system is well passed its sell by date and should clearly be replaced. The only reason for retaining it has been that it produced strong Government up to 2009. That is no longer the case.

        As I said previously, looking forward, the overall political situation would have end up a lot more stable had Scotland voted for independence at the first attempt.

  34. John
    November 16, 2014

    Hi John,
    Will the Conservative party be putting forward a manifesto for England in 2015?
    If they are should I vote for their view of Britain or England? If I disagree with their vision for England wouldn’t I be betraying my English self by voting for them? Gets very complicated very quickly doesn’t it.

    1. Tad Davison
      November 16, 2014

      I quite like Peter Hitchens’ take on it.


  35. Tad Davison
    November 16, 2014

    At this late hour, I have only just seen today’s Andrew Marr Show on the iPlayer and his interview with Major. I said at the time of his virtual enthronement, how the hell did this EU-loving stooge ever get to be Prime Minister?

    Nothing has changed in the interim period!

    He is still so far down the road of EU federalism, it’s unreal. To him, it’s a panacea. A cure-all if we only had more of it. And the number of times he unwittingly gave away how he’d been deceived and twisted by the EU since his time in office, I am left to wonder why Eurosceptics aren’t tearing his words to shreds?

    As for Marr’s programme itself, it could have been labelled a party political broadcast for the pro-EU Labour party, and people would hardly have known the difference!

    Tad Davison


  36. bluedog
    November 16, 2014

    An excellent piece Dr JR, and the point made is moot indeed. The devolution genie is well and truly out of the bottle and the only hope now is to follow the path to its logical conclusion, a federated UK.

    Federation is not a panacea, it contains advantages and disadvantages, but it is an idea whose time has come and it may be the necessary tool to retain the Union. Inevitably a federal UK will become a conspiracy against England whereby the minor entities are given remarkably powers as the price for participation. But that is already the case under the partial devolution, a situation aggravated by the panic promises offered to the Scots before their vote. Let there be no doubt, retention of the Union, including the possible return of a united Ireland, must be recognised as the over-riding objective of British statecraft at present.

    The Union would receive a mighty boost if the UK were to leave the EU, while somehow retaining a free-trade agreement.

    1. Denis Cooper
      November 17, 2014

      “Let there be no doubt, retention of the Union, including the possible return of a united Ireland, must be recognised as the over-riding objective of British statecraft at present.”

      I see no prospect whatsoever that the citizens of the Irish Republic would vote in a referendum for Ireland to be re-united but with the whole returned to once again being part of a United Kingdom dominated by the English, which they would have to do under the Irish constitution.

      Otherwise I agree with you, preserving the British Union should be seen as the top priority for those who are actually committed to it, and actually in my view it is a higher priority than leaving the EU, crucially important though that is.

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