Ladies & Gentlemen & fellow Members of the English Democrats,
I am delighted to welcome you to our sixth Annual General Meeting. We have arranged to meet here again in Leicester as last year’s event went so smoothly and also because David Lane had again very kindly agreed to help organise this conference. My thanks go to him for all his hard work in organising our meeting.
For next year’s Annual General Meeting we will be looking to hold our Conference in a part of the country where we haven’t previously held one of our general meetings and I hope that an Area will want to step in and offer to help organise that.
Last time, last year, when we were here, I was saying that I thought Gordon Brown (picture 1) might well call an Autumn General Election - although it was already beginning to look as if he might have dithered too long. And what difference a year has made to his fortunes! He did not listen to my advice and he is now caught by the credit crunch. Speaking of the credit crunch - it will affect us all, some more than others. What about this picture? (Joke/pictures 2 – Queen & Clarkson).
I would not claim to be much of a public speaker, being out here in front of you is not something that I crave and neither is the limelight. What I do care about is the future of our country and our nation and that is why I am out here - on the basis of: if not me, then whom?
(Alfred Picture 3)
David Lane has got a sales theory that all of us can be divided up into some curious categories. One of those categories is “Warrior”. David tells me that he thinks I have the characteristics that he expects to find in a Warrior type. Well the English Democrats, which is the spearhead of the English movement, certainly have battles and a war on our hands to save our country! I am guessing that all of us here are fighters to some extent for our country and of course battle is the best place for a warrior - so I would seem to be well qualified for the task at hand!
As the famous story of King Alfred burning the swineherd’s wife’s cakes shows, even when all seems lost and the whole country is overrun by the enemy, it is still possible for a warrior to turn the situation around, but of course, just as Alfred found, volunteers are always in short supply for battles.
I was watching the Mel Gibson film, Braveheart, the other day, and in that Robert the Bruce is made to say that Scotland can’t win because:- “This country has no sense of itself”.
As an English Nationalist you might think it odd of me to like Braveheart, but this is a good point. Just listen to this extract from the Rough Guide to England:-
The English are the most contradictory people imaginable, and however long you spend in the country you’ll never figure them out. As a glance at the tabloid newspapers will confirm, England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts, obsessed with toffs and C-list celebs. But it’s also a county of animal-loving, tea-drinking, charity donors, where queuing remains a national pastime and bastions of civilization, like Radio 4, are jealously protected. It’s a country where accent and vocabulary can stamp a person’s identity like a brand, but it’s also a genuine haven for refugees, with immigrants from more than 100 ethnic backgrounds. It’s a nation that prides itself on its patriotism – yet has a Scottish prime minister, an Italian football coach and a Greek royal consort. Ask any English person to comment on all of this and you’ll get an entertaining range of views. Try to make sense of these, and the resulting picture might suggest something akin to a national identity crisis.
In good faith this travel-writer is saying just what Robert the Bruce was saying but about us English. So I say to you that, as the spearhead of the English Movement, it is not just our job as English Democrats to organise to fight and win elections but also to give England a sense of itself - just like the SNP have done for Scotland.
In building up our organisation, one of the things that we now know - to our cost, is that there are no shortcuts because even though all of us are impatient for our Party and Cause to make even greater headway - and more quickly - it is this very impatience that led your National Council and myself to think that the selection of a celebrity would help get us more publicity in the London Mayoral elections and it is that which finally led us to select Matt O’Connor when Garry Bushell was told that he couldn’t continue to work as a journalist during the London election campaign and therefore he wasn’t able to stand for us. I can tell you now that selecting Matt O’Connor made no difference to us getting any additional publicity except in Scotland and when he did the dirty on us - only then did we get a little bit more coverage - of a hostile nature.
We did however succeed in building up the profile of our Party by being one of only six parties to stand a full slate of candidates in the London Mayoral and Assembly elections. That profile does pay off in dealing with the media. For example: In by-elections we are now getting some coverage – we got David Roberts, in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, several interviews and also onto Newsnight and as we saw in the by-election at Haltemprice & Howden, where Joanne Robinson stood for us, she got several interviews and mentions on the BBC.
We still didn’t get anything like the coverage there that the Greens got, because of course, as we all accept, the media is against us, but we did at least get a much fairer crack of the whip than we have been used to getting in the past.
The importance of building an organisation is also shown by Joanne’s result she got over 7%, she saved our deposit and she nearly beat the Greens into second place - which is significantly better than the results we have obtained in other by-elections because there was a well organised local branch which supported her, and which was able to leaflet most of the constituency.
What else have we achieved in the last year? Well we have had much further progress in discussions of the English question within the media - the Spectator even had its own front page cover in April entitled:- “Welcome back England”, having written England off in a previous edition.
I think it is fair to say that even the Government knows that they have serious trouble with Gordon Brown’s “Britishness” campaign. I was talking to one of England’s Scottish Transport Ministers, Tom Harris, and he told me, as soon as he read I was an English Democrat, without prompting, that he thought that we should have an English Parliament.
Also within Labour I think the comments on 18th June in Parliament of Derek Wyatt MP are worth quoting :-
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this morning, Mr. Chope. It is four years since the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs, the body that is supposed to represent English MPs, has met. We do not have a Grand Committee like the Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish. The English do not have Secretaries of State, Assemblies or Parliaments. The English have something that has rarely met since 1997: the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs. That is the best that we can do for the largest proportion of voters and the largest number of constituency MPs. That is not appropriate.
Today, I shall make some radical proposals for the long-term reform of the British constitution and public finances. They will set me at odds with the policy of my Government and party, but I am convinced that standing still is not an option. The present arrangements are producing growing resentment all over the United Kingdom, particularly in England. I hope that my party will not trap itself by defending the status quo for ever, as that would put the future of the United Kingdom at risk.
This debate has a simple theme. My constituents are living in a half-finished house that costs them money, and they are beginning to resent it. The half-finished house in our country—the United Kingdom—has, like so many historic houses, grown up over the centuries without a master plan and according to the needs or whims of successive owners. Nearly 90 years ago, after a long and bitter dispute, we gave the neighbouring property to its sitting tenants—although some preferred to go on living with us. We spent the next 70 years or so trying to improve our house to make it a better place in which to live and trying to protect it from outside attack. We made no changes to the structure of the house and all the rooms and facilities were shared among all the residents.
However, in the past 10 years, there has been some major remodelling of the property. We converted the upstairs into a separate flat for the Scots and created another flat with inferior facilities in the west wing for the Welsh. We then persuaded the Northern Irish to live in another flat in the orangery—although many of them wanted to live with their neighbours next door. All that remodelling failed to create any special space for the English. They went on living in the property, but the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish were still free to walk in and help themselves to the fridge and the drinks cabinet. They could even make rules for the English that they themselves did not have to follow. Meanwhile, the English went on paying most of the household bills.
More and more of the English, including many of my constituents, are finding that an uncomfortable way to live. They put up with it when there was plenty of money coming into the house, but now that money is scarcer and outgoings are rising, they are beginning to question it. I propose some restructuring of the property so that we can all live in the way that we want to without imposing on one another. I am also calling for a fair and transparent system of meeting the household bills. That will entail replacing the Barnett formula, which, as we know, was intended to be a temporary expedient that would last six months. However, the formula still regulates the financial relationships between the separate devolved entities of the United Kingdom. Our household settles its accounts through arrangements that were set up in the 1970s for reasons that no one can remember and with results that no one can understand.
Our present constitutional settlement creates anomalies and inequalities. The people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acquired distinct powers over key public services and other matters that are denied to the English. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote for policies that apply only to the English and that they have never sought for their own constituents. Despite the recent reduction in the number of Scottish MPs, there are distinct disparities in the value of votes in general elections between different parts of the United Kingdom. The Library note on this debate points out that a Scottish elector’s vote is worth 8 per cent. more than an English one, a Northern Irish vote is worth 13 per cent. more and a Welsh vote is worth 21 per cent. more. Where is the equity in that system?
The people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have used their new powers, particularly in health and education, to make their experience and entitlements notably different from those of the English. Those are funded by a complex and opaque system of financial transfers. To the English at least, it appears that the other parts of the United Kingdom are being shielded from the full financial consequences of their decisions, for example in relation to free personal care for the elderly. In the measured words of Professor James Mitchell of Strathclyde university:
“the current situation in which the Scottish Parliament provides more generous public policies than elsewhere without having to pay the additional cost is leading to a problem of legitimacy in England.”
Before going further, I would like to thank Dominic Webb of the Library’s economic policy and statistics section for two papers of great clarity on the murky subject of the Barnett formula. I have also drawn on the work of David Heald of the university of Sheffield and Alasdair McLeod of the university of Aberdeen.
The financial relationships between the nations of the United Kingdom were created haphazardly and with the minimum of public debate. Money is transferred directly in outright grants to the devolved Administrations. Those grants are strongly influenced by the Barnett formula, which automatically allocates increases in public expenditure to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the basis of their population. Money is also transferred indirectly by the operation of the UK-wide tax and social security system and through public spending on UK-wide public services, such as defence and diplomacy. Official statistics give us some information about the first of those indirect transfers, but not the second.
Finally, money is removed from the United Kingdom by the European Union and partially returned to each of its different regions.
We have also recently had the Taxpayers Alliance do a report on the Barnett Formula costing English taxpayers £200 billion in the last two decades! I count this as a success as I suggested he do it to Matthew Elliott, their Chief Executive.
David Cameron (picture 4) on the other hand continues to be adamantly against any show of Englishness. In proof, I give you a quotation from a recent article by a journalist, Mark Stuart.
“As an ardent Unionist, I was greatly encouraged by David Cameron’s remarks earlier this year, when he took part in a grilling from Yorkshire Post readers. When quizzed by Paul Cockcroft, a member of the Royal Society of St George about introducing a new public holiday to celebrate St George’s Day, Cameron rejected the idea, adding: “I want to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, not just England. I think we’re stronger having England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland united”.
So one of the first things English nationalists need to realise about David Cameron is that he will leave them disappointed. The Conservatives have no plans to establish an English Parliament. Nor do they propose solving the so-called West Lothian Question”..
We English Democrats need to bear this in mind when people say to us that the Conservatives might be willing to do something for England. I think that Conservative Leadership is actually our nation’s worst enemy.
Despite this I offer you hope in the words of a 8 year old girl, my younger daughter, who on hearing a famous and thunderous hymn to Imperial Britishness said “Daddy why are they singing Rule Lasagne?”
Despite such signs of hope we shouldn’t under estimate the difficulty of what we have to achieve. What the Glasgow East by-election results show (results picture 5), to my way of thinking, isn’t a huge shift against the two main Establishment parties, Conservatives and Labour, this is a result that shows the power of organisation in this case of the SNP in a coordinated campaign of leafleting and getting people out to vote. It also shows that the Liberal Democrat vote may be a softer vote than anybody has dared to admit or for us English Democrats – dared hope!
In the last year we have, of course, stood in various elections- as one of only 6 parties to manage it in the London Mayoral and Assembly elections - Thank Steve Uncles and the Assembly candidates. The local elections – Thank candidates. We have stood in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election – Thank David Roberts and Margaret Torr – and in the Henley by-election – Thank Derek Alpass. And in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election Thank Joanne Robinson and Michael Cassidy.
What do we have coming up in the next year? Well we know for sure that we have a major opportunity in June of next year with the European elections (draft poster picture 6). We already have, with the help of Steve Uncles and myself, funding guaranteed to enable us to stand throughout all of England. This means that we will qualify for a Party Political Broadcast and all the media coverage which we are entitled to from being a full-contestant.
I would just point out again to show just how important organisation is because, if we were to miss out just one Region of England we would then not be entitled to any coverage.
But in fact we can confidently go forward knowing that the English Democrats will be able to stand fully covering England. This will also be a good opportunity for as many of our people as possible to stand as county council candidates (wherever the Government still hasn’t abolished the County Councils), because our European election coverage should help get them good results as well. In any county where we get beyond 1/6 of the seats being contested by our candidates there we will also be entitled to additional local coverage.
I would take this opportunity to just remind us all why we want to stand in the EU’s Parliamentary Elections. This is of course not at all because we are in support of the EU Parliament or the EU project. When we think how much the EU costs England and how the EU’s regionalisation project is being used as a weapon to try to destroy the sense of Englishness, no English Nationalist could easily be a Europhile.
No, the purpose of us standing in the European elections is because it is the easiest election of all in which to get full coverage, even as a smallish party, and even as a growing one! If we can fund a leaflet drop in each Region (which will cost about £25,000 per region) then we also get a state subsidy worth over £1m for free delivery to every house and business in England.
The purpose of us standing is also because the proportional representation system allows us the best chance of getting somebody elected and when we do get somebody elected the resources that it will give us to professionalise our party will be very great. If we are lucky enough to get people elected, which will no doubt depend on how much of a campaign we can manage to finance, any MEP we have elected will have a team of four full-time paid Party activists.
We do not propose to fall into the same trap as UKIP has fallen into. We will have only one of our MEPs at a time regularly in Brussels to check whether there are proposals coming forward that all of our MEPs should try to make a special effort to oppose. Apart from that, we will use the position of MEP as a platform to campaign full time in England where it counts.
Going back to warriors and battle, (picture 6) I would remind you of the ancient Chinese, Zen Buddhist, teaching of, Sun Tzu, Master Sun, in his famous book The Art of War which I am told is virtually compulsory reading for all Far Eastern business people and politicians. Can you see from these quotations why we should be standing in the European Parliamentary elections?
Master Sun says:
“By taking equipment from your own country but feeding off the enemy you can be sufficient in both arms and provisions.”
Cao Cao, a Disciple says:
“Armaments are taken from the homeland, provisions are taken from the enemy.”
Master Sun also says:
“Therefore a wise general strives to feed off the enemy. Each pound of food taken from the enemy is equivalent to twenty pounds you provide by yourself.”
Ho Yanxi, another Disciple says:
“If you use the enemy to defeat the enemy, you will be strong wherever you go.”
So much or battle and organization.
One of the things about battling away is that it is very wearing. I think we should thank all of our NC members here. I am also sad to say that two of our National Council members are standing down, although I am very grateful to them both for all the work that they have done over the years.
If I can mention first Fred Bishop (Fred Bishop picture 7). Fred has worked hard for the good of the Party and to try and building up an organisation in the West Midlands. He was also very active in supporting our Monmouthshire campaign last year. Thank you Fred.
Our second person stepping down from the National Council will be also someone well known to you all, Christine Constable (Christine Constable picture 8), who after six years of unremitting effort and considerable personal cost, is stepping down to, understandably, spend more time with her family.
Christine has been an absolute tower of strength and an indispensible ally in helping to build up the English movement. She will be greatly missed and I hope she will miss the thrills and spills of the Cause enough to want to come back soon.
Lastly ladies & gentlemen, I thought I could do no better in reminding us all why we are here other than to read the letter of one of our members who is unable to be here today, Mrs Doris Richardson of Godalming:-
“This is just to say I am unable to attend the meetings as I am 92 years old and also do not please waste Democrat funds sending me all the large brochures. I can help by sending the occasional cheque, but am in no position to take part. I agree with all the Democrats stand for and are hoping to achieve and wish to make it clear that my membership will continue and hope you will please note although I cannot be with you, I am wishing the Party every success in the following years.”
Picture 1 – Gordon Brown picture
Picture 2 – Queen & Clarkson etc.
Picture 3 – Alfred picture
Picture 4 – Cameron photo
Picture 5 – Glasgow East Results
Picture 6 – Draft EU election poster
Picture 7 – Fred Bishop photo
Picture 8 – Christine Constable