Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Launch of Yorkshire "YES" to Elected Mayors Campaign
Yesterday I went up to Sheffield and, at a literally packed meeting, was interviewed by Len Tingle, the BBC's chief political reporter for Yorkshire.
After the interview, the meeting heard excellent speeches by Sheffield Chairman David Wildgoose and Leeds Chairman Chris Beverley and was treated to a sumptuous spread of sandwiches and snacks. The meeting then resumed and endured my speech with remarkably good grace!
Here is the text of my speech:-
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for your kind welcome to Sheffield. Thank you also to Matthew and to all those that have helped make this meeting possible.
I thought that I would say a few things about myself. I am a Solicitor; and, Yes, I have heard the old one about solicitors being buried 12 feet down not the regular 6 because “deep down” solicitors are quite nice! I should also confess that we all have our dirty secrets – mine is that I am a “recovering” Tory!
I am one of the founder members of the English Democrats and have been Chairman since we launched in August 2002. We are a Party which has grown organically from nothing to nearly 3,000 members.
All the money which we have raised has been spent on campaigning and many of us have put in significant sums of money into the campaign.
Why have we done this? The answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that we have done it because we love England and are not willing to go to our graves without having done all in our power to preserve our country.
When the English Democrats were launched England faced being broken up into “Regions”. The Regionalisation Scheme was started by John Major’s Government, after Maastricht, but in 2002 was being pursued enthusiastically by Labour with John Prescott saying “There is no such nationality as English” backed by William Hague saying “English Nationalism is the most dangerous of all forms of nationalism”. The aim of Regionalisation, as clearly stated, by the then Liberal Democrats Leader, to a meeting like this of Dunfermline’s Liberal Democrats, Charlie Kennedy who said, and I quote, that he supported “Breaking England up into EU Regions because “it is calling into question the idea of England itself”.
We campaigned in the North East Regional Assembly Referendum for a No Vote and we have now seen off any chance of Regionalisation gaining any popular mandate, if the Labour supporting think tank can be believed – and I think they can – they have found a mere 9% support for “Each Region of England to have its own assembly”.
We have also been, from the start, in the forefront of bringing the Barnett Formula, the unfair extra spending in Scotland and Wales, to the attention of the English.
When I first started campaigning I actually had people accuse me of lying because they had never heard of it from the British media. Again the IPPR report shows awareness of this beginning to rise in early 2003 just as we began actually campaigning.
Now the English overwhelmingly want to see action to address this. The IPPR report says that there is:-
“A growing perception within England that the English get a raw deal from the devolution settlement. (It is) clear that there is an increasingly strong tendency in England to believe that Scotland gets more than its ‘fair share’ of public spending. Indeed the number of people who believe this has more than doubled in the last decade.”
The English Democrats have been campaigning on English National Identity and St George’s Day. The IPPR report says:- On National Identity
“The most significant and revealing analysis stems from contrasting the groups that say they are either exclusively English, or more English than British, with those that say they are exclusively British, or more British than English. …The results are striking. Those that prioritise their English over their British identity (40 per cent), outnumber those that prioritise their British over their English identity (16 per cent) by more than two-to-one.
English not British 17 13 17 17
More English than British 23 19 24 20
Equally English and British 34 25 36 39
More British than English 9 12 9 8
British not English 7 14 6 6
Other 6 10 4 5
Don’t know 3 7 3 4
1,507 750 756 750”
And on St George’s Day the report says:
“One indication of the pride in and attachment to England across the English electorate is the very strong support shown in the .... survey to the suggestion that St George’s Day should be celebrated as a bank holiday. … fully 74 per cent of our respondents agreed with this proposition, with 47 per cent ‘agreeing strongly’. … We should not be surprised … that an increased awareness of and pride in Englishness is being accompanied by such overwhelming levels of support to the public celebration of English national identity.”
Agree strongly 47
Tend to agree 27
Tend to disagree 8
Disagree strongly 4
Don’t know 13
There remains a battle to be fought against the advocates of English Votes for English Laws (aka “EVEL”) and an English Parliament but EVEL, even if it could be made to work, which is a big if, is a red hearing because the key issue is the Government of England, not merely its representation in a parliament, but even with our very limited resources support for an English Parliament is now standing at 36%!
So all in all we are making great progress, even if you focus on the narrow perspective of our core campaigning issues.
But looking more widely for example on our policy of withdrawing from the EU. We started unprejudiced and with a blank sheet but could see that there is no way that an English Nationalist can make a case for supporting the EU. Now our scepticism has been proved by the failures of the EU itself.
Also consider, unchecked mass immigration which can now be undeniably seen as undermining the living standards of ordinary people and also a threat to our own culture. Put thoughtfully and carefully this is a very important issue with huge political potential.
Also I cannot miss out the potential for gains to our Party in the coming 1,000 days before the Scottish Referendum. The British Unionist Establishment is all over the place on this, seeing it just as a Scottish issue but again the IPPR report shows that English people are increasingly assertive that we to have a right to be consulted on what should happen for England. The English Democrats are the only voice for England in this debate.
Ladies and Gentlemen I think that both for English Nationalism and, with your help also for the English Democrats, to coin a phrase “the only way is up!”
Just before I finish let me say a few words about our campaign for Elected Council Leaders (aka “Mayors”).
As you may be aware a couple of years ago we won the elected Mayoralty of Doncaster and in September 2010 I launched our nationwide campaign for elected mayors for every local authority in England.
The Mayoral system is a better and more democratic one than the only legally permitted alternative of a councillor who is selected by other councillors, no doubt on the well worn principles of “Buggins’ turn” and “back-scratching” to be the Leader with a cabinet.
Both roles have exactly the same powers and exactly the same pay and term of office. The sole legal difference is that the Elected Mayor is chosen by the People.
So for a democrat – and we English Democrats chose our name carefully because we are about both England and also about democracy – for a Democrat the option of having an Elected Mayor is clearly the only proper one.
The political opportunity for us as a Party is that we can trigger a legally binding referendum by getting the signatures of 5% of the local electorate on a petition.
Well Ladies and Gentlemen let me tell you that we have registered such petitions with each and every relevant local authority throughout England.
Last Thursday we had the first fruits of this campaign, when we won the first referendum which we have triggered, in Salford and now Salford Council will be having a Mayoral election on 3rd May with our candidate having a fighting chance of taking Salford out of Labour control for the first time since the current local authority was created in the mid 70’s.
That referendum Ladies and Gentlemen is the first of many that we will trigger.
For example, I have hopes of causing an upset in my home area of Brentwood, which is Eric Pickles’ seat, the Secretary of State for Local Government, who is spearheading the partisan efforts of this Government to cause referenda in the 12 largest cities of England, 11 of which are Labour controlled. In Brentwood, Ladies and Gentlemen, rather like the self interested Salford Labour Party, he is nevertheless opposed to an elected Mayor because, of course, that would threaten Conservative control of Brentwood.
As a campaigning issue Elected Mayors is hard to beat because it is local so you will get local media coverage and it requires getting a petition signed but unlike the usual ones this has legal teeth – and you’re solely there for democracy. It puts you firmly in the sensible, “concerned”, citizen pigeon hole!
In Sheffield there is of course a particular point in mentioning all this because you have a Mayoral Referendum in May. I would urge you to campaign for an Elected Mayor for Sheffield and if the vote is yes then our Party should stand a candidate.
With your permission I would therefore like to call this the inaugural meeting of the Yorkshire “Yes” to Elected Mayors Campaign.
Before finishing I have to mention the Elected Law and Order Commissioners – in November this I think will be a great opportunity for us, because I don’t think anyone has a manifesto more in tune with public opinion on law and order.
Ladies and Gentlemen we are meeting here in interesting times for our Party and our Cause but our ambitions will all depend on what help we can get from volunteers and what money we can raise from our supporters. I urge you to get involved and help us make 2012 a great year for the Cause of English Nationalism!
Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for your patience in listening to me and inviting me to come here today.