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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The drums are getting louder!

The drums are getting louder!

Over the last few years we have seen an increasingly audible and increasingly un-ignorable, drum roll of problems arising out of militant Islam and Islamist activists.

This drum roll whilst getting louder and faster is of course nowhere near its crescendo as yet.

But recently here in Europe we have not only had the attacks in France, Belgium and Germany but also a number of foiled attacks and also attacks that are no longer sufficiently dramatic to attract much media coverage but which would once have been reported.

Then on the same day we have now had the deliberate murder, using a truck as a weapon, not only of the Polish truck driver, but also of a dozen who were at a Christmas market in Berlin, but dozens of other, no doubt, many very seriously injured.

There was also on the same day the outrageous murder of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey by a Turkish policeman. Had the Russians wanted to they would be well within their rights to treat such a murder as a cause for a very serious escalation of hostile relations between Russian and Turkey. President Putin has however shown himself to be very statesman like in his response to this provocation, which after all is of no lesser level of provocation than the provocation to Austro-Hungary of the assassination of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand.

It would seem that President Putin has seen that President Erdogan’s over-zealous reaction to clamping down on his political opponents, following the attempted coup in Turkey, and the ending of the siege of Allepo, as being a moment in which Turkey has far fewer allies than it had, but also the moment in which Russia could emerge in the Middle East as a far bigger and more effective power broker than has been the case in recent history.

Given that President Erdogan has a track record himself of being an Islamist and indeed has spent time in Turkish prison for his Islamist activities, it remains unclear whether a rapproachment between Turkey and Russia will lead to any slackening of the tempo of the Islamist drum beat.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the effect of the current low oil price, not only on the Russian economy, but also on the long term prospects of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are using up the capital that they have built up over decades. Not long ago the Financial Times was predicting Saudi Arabia would run out of money before 2020. If that happens Turkey will probably again become the leading Sunni power and also there will be a collapse in funding for Sunni Islamism across the world.

The oil price is however a consequence of an undeclared economic war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Iranians calculate that they have much greater ability to endure low oil prices for much longer than Saudi Arabia and therefore they can economically bleed out Saudi Arabia and emerge as the regional Shia Power. If that happens there will be, of course, a whole new real politique dynamic in the Middle East.

In the meanwhile the drum beat will I suspect continue to grow louder and faster as Saudi Arabia starts to see the collapse looming. That may be the moment when the panicky crescendo hits us.

As citizens of Western European countries we can only hope and campaign for our leaders to show more sense than they have done so far over the Islamist question! Or to replace them!

Happy New Year!

Monday, 26 December 2016

The value of English subsidies to Wales

The value of English subsidies to Wales

On Monday, 12th December, I was invited by the Law Society of England and Wales to a reception in the House of Lords to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Prime Ministerial Office of a famous solicitor – David Lloyd George (cue lots of jokes about whose father or grandfather “knew” Lloyd George!)

It did however give me an opportunity to talk with various interesting people including a Welsh law professor who candidly said to me that he felt that the Union of the United Kingdom was well worth keeping for Wales solely because the Welsh needed English subsidies!

The learned professor also made clear that he felt that without English money the Welsh standard of living would be drastically reduced.

I agreed with him about the standard of living, but naturally politely avoided agreeing with him about the merits of the Union!

I wonder if, looked at the other way around, how many English people would say that paying subsidies to Wales is of benefit to us English?

Here is a detailed paper bythe Welsh Assemblyon this >>>

What do you think?

Friday, 23 December 2016

Answers to the “England is too big” to have its own Parliament argument

Answers to the “England is too big” to have its own Parliament argument

I have recently been hearing of several Tory MPs who have been doing the rounds making arguments against an English Parliament.

One of those is Sir Oliver Heald MP, who recently spoke at a meeting of Oxfordshire Conservatives, in which he claimed the reason why England could not have its Parliament and Government like the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish ones was because England is too big at 85% of the population of the United Kingdom. According to him the provision of an English Parliament would apparently lead to the breakup of the Union because Federal States cannot survive where one part of the State is 85% of the Federation.

On hearing this I immediately responded that first of all one of the things that Federal States always do is have measures in place to balance out the dominance of their larger States. So for example in the United States, California is by far the most heavily populated US State and also the richest. However it only has two Senators, just like Oklahoma in the Federal Congress.

It is also the case that Oliver Heald’s argument does not hold water in terms of history.

The reason the Soviet Union collapsed was not because Russia was “too big”. The USSR collapsed because the Soviet system had become economically bankrupt, partly as a result of the Soviet defeat in war in Afghanistan, but also partly because of the attempt to match American defence spending with regard to Reagan’s “star wars”.

Equally Austro-Hungary did not collapse because Austria was “too big”, it collapsed because Austro-Hungary was defeated in war (also because of the idiocy of Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to negotiate with multi-national states!).

As Oliver Heald’s suggestion as to how to cope with England being “too big” is to split up England into “Regions” of one sort or another (the latest being “City Regions”), my response to him, and any of his ilk, is that any question to which the answer is to split England up is the wrong question.

If the choice is between splitting England up or splitting up the United Kingdom, I have no hesitation in demanding that the split is that of the vastly overrated, expensive, grandiose and laughably decadent United Kingdom.

When it was suggested, before the First World War, that Ireland should have Home Rule and the then Liberal Government forced through Home Rule legislation, Tory troublemakers stirred up Ulster with cries of “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right”. How much more justification would we English have to fight if the cry was to split England up? Perhaps we should have a cry that “England will fight and England will be right”?

I mention the bloody history of Irish Independence intentionally because unthinking Tory unionists like Oliver Heald MP need to remember that it was Tory intransigence and the refusal to grant the reasonable request for a devolved Irish Parliament and instead the call for Ireland to be split which led not only to the bloodshed of the struggle for Independence but the still worse Civil War. This has stained Irish politics with blood ever since.

The idea that patriotic Englishmen and Englishwomen will not only indefinitely allow England not to have its own proper voice of political expression but also quietly sit by whilst over a thousand years of English history is discarded and England is broken up, is simply crazy. In fact it is not only crazy but it is utterly irresponsible!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Labour’s Scottish Leader, Kezia Dugdale, declares WAR on England!

Labour’s Scottish Leader, Kezia Dugdale, declares WAR on England!

Recently the BBC was lauding one of their Labour pets, the Scottish Labour Leader, Kezia Dugdale, who was making what was hailed as an important speech at the Labour supporting Institute for Public Policy Research “think tank”. Here is a link to that speech >>> Kezia Dugdale on her plan for a federal UK - YouTube

It is remarkably poor and ill thought out, but what caught my eye was this comment in the starry eyed BBC news coverage.

Labour’s Kezia Dugdale makes proposals “with the objective of adding English regionalism to existing devolution” in a federal UK!

So there we have it ladies and gentlemen Labour’s Scottish Leader has declared WAR on England. For what else is it, when a leader of one nation calls for the dismemberment of another nation, but a declaration of war against that nation?

History is full of many instances of lesser provocations than moves to dismember a country being considered, in St Thomas Aquinas’s terms, a cause (“Casus Belli”) for a “just war”.

I wonder what it is about the “very idea of England” (per Charles Kennedy) that so many Scottish leaders seem to find objectionable?

Are they perhaps still fixed on a rematch of the Battle of Flodden? I suspect that there would be many in England who would be up for that fight! And the result would be the same!

(Kezia Dugdale is also quoted as follows:-

“Kezia Dugdale has CALLED for a "new Act of Union" in a bid to "save the UK for generations to come".

The Scottish Labour leader outlined her plan for a "federal solution" for the UK in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research in London.

It would see extra powers for English regions as well as Holyrood via a "People's Convention" for the UK.

The SNP said Labour had been promising "federalism max" for years but had "consistently failed" to deliver.

Ms Dugdale tasked former UK justice secretary Lord Falconer with exploring a federalist approach following the UK's vote to leave the EU in June.

Her deputy Alex Rowley has called for Scotland to "move beyond narrow unionism and nationalism" and wants Scottish Labour to campaign for "home rule within a confederal United Kingdom".

Ms Dugdale pointed out that the 1707 Act of Union still underpins the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK, arguing that there should be a new act "for this new century".

She said: "The time has come for the rest of the UK to follow where Scotland led in the 1980s and 1990s and establish a People's Constitutional Convention to re-establish the UK for a new age.

"The convention should bring together groups to deliberate on the future of our country and propose a way forward that strengthens the UK and establishes a new political settlement for the whole of our country.

"Some may say this is unrealistic, but it would follow the model of the Scottish Constitutional Convention which, without government support, established the basis for the settlement that delivered a Scottish Parliament in 1999.

"It would also - for the first time - provide a coherent approach to answering the question of how our country is best governed.

"I would not want the convention to just deliberate and report, but to produce a new Act of Union which would reaffirm the partnership between our nations and renew it for the future. After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.

Here is the link to that article >>>

Monday, 19 December 2016

Rumours of Far-right groups being “proscribed” by the Home Secretary

Rumours of Far-right groups being “proscribed” by the Home Secretary

For the last few weeks there had been rumours circulating that the current Home Secretary intends to ban a small neo-Nazi group called “National Action”. This is the same repellent Amber Rudd of the spiteful personal attacks on Boris Johnson (when she was losing in the EU referendum debates).

Ms Rudd is said to be particularly anxious to ban a “Far-right” group or party, probably mainly out of the multi-culturalist, tokenist urge not to “profile” Islamists, but instead to balance proscriptions against their organisations with a diversity of political opinion and racial stereo-types!

Here is the Home Office Press announcement:-

National Action has today become the first extreme right-wing group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.

An order laid in Parliament on Monday (12 December) to proscribe National Action under the Terrorism Act 2000 has now come into effect following debates in the Houses of Parliament. As a result, being a member – or inviting support for – the organisation will be a criminal offence, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

National Action is a neo-Nazi group that was established in 2013 and has branches across the UK. It has been proscribed following an assessment that it is ‘concerned in terrorism’. The group’s online propaganda material, disseminated via social media, frequently features extremely violent imagery and language. National Action also promoted and encouraged acts of terrorism after Jo Cox’s murder.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:

As Home Secretary, I am clear that the safety and security of our families, communities and country comes first.

National Action is a racist, antisemitic and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology. It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.

Proscribing it will prevent its membership from growing, stop the spread of poisonous propaganda and protect vulnerable young people at risk of radicalisation from its toxic views.

Decisions about whether to proscribe a particular organisation are taken after extensive consideration and in light of a full assessment of available information. 

The Home Secretary took the decision to proscribe National Action prior to the trial of Thomas Mair, who was convicted and sentenced for the murder of Jo Cox MP. 

National Action becomes the 71st organisation to be proscribed, alongside 14 organisations connected to Northern Ireland.

(All the rest of the proscribed groups look as if they are Islamists).

Here is a link

Now that such a ban has been ordered against “National Action”, the question might be what from a lawyer’s perspective could they do about it?

The ironic thing is that probably the main thing that they could do about it is take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. This is the Court which deals with the European Convention of Human Rights (and is not the EU Court, which is the European Court of Justice).

However the start point for any lawyer is of course the legislation which applies to the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales. The relevant legislation would appear to be the Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended).

Bearing in mind that terrorism was robustly and successfully dealt with relating to the IRA you might have thought (and be right) that there were more than sufficient crimes on the statute book to enable Islamist terrorists to be dealt with.

That of course is not the thought process of the current British Political Establishment which is often very much more concerned with appearance than the substance. So there has been constant tinkering with often trifling amendments to the legislation and Home Secretaries regularly conceal total failure to do anything useful by introducing a new bit of legislation, in the probably successful hope that that will enable them to bamboozle their Party colleagues and ill-informed journalists that something is being done!

In this case the Terrorism Act, even though only on the statute book in 2000, has already been tinkered with. But the current version of the relevant clauses are as follows:-

Terrorism Act 2000

2000 c. 11Part II Procedure Section 3


(1)For the purposes of this Act an organisation is proscribed if—

(a)it is listed in Schedule 2, or

(b)it operates under the same name as an organisation listed in that Schedule.

(2)Subsection (1)(b) shall not apply in relation to an organisation listed in Schedule 2 if its entry is the subject of a note in that Schedule.

(3)The Secretary of State may by order—

(a)add an organisation to Schedule 2;

(b)remove an organisation from that Schedule;

(c)amend that Schedule in some other way.

(4)The Secretary of State may exercise his power under subsection (3)(a) in respect of an organisation only if he believes that it is concerned in terrorism.

(5)For the purposes of subsection (4) an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it—

(a)commits or participates in acts of terrorism,

(b)prepares for terrorism,

(c)promotes or encourages terrorism, or

(d)is otherwise concerned in terrorism.

[F1(5A)The cases in which an organisation promotes or encourages terrorism for the purposes of subsection (5)(c) include any case in which activities of the organisation—

(a)include the unlawful glorification of the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism; or

(b)are carried out in a manner that ensures that the organisation is associated with statements containing any such glorification.

(5B)The glorification of any conduct is unlawful for the purposes of subsection (5A) if there are persons who may become aware of it who could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified, is being glorified as—

(a)conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances, or

(b)conduct that is illustrative of a type of conduct that should be so emulated.

(5C)In this section—
“glorification” includes any form of praise or celebration, and cognate expressions are to be construed accordingly;
“statement” includes a communication without words consisting of sounds or images or both.]

[F2(6)Where the Secretary of State believes—

(a)that an organisation listed in Schedule 2 is operating wholly or partly under a name that is not specified in that Schedule (whether as well as or instead of under the specified name), or

(b)that an organisation that is operating under a name that is not so specified is otherwise for all practical purposes the same as an organisation so listed,

he may, by order, provide that the name that is not specified in that Schedule is to be treated as another name for the listed organisation.

(7)Where an order under subsection (6) provides for a name to be treated as another name for an organisation, this Act shall have effect in relation to acts occurring while—

(a)the order is in force, and

(b)the organisation continues to be listed in Schedule 2,

as if the organisation were listed in that Schedule under the other name, as well as under the name specified in the Schedule.

(8)The Secretary of State may at any time by order revoke an order under subsection (6) or otherwise provide for a name specified in such an order to cease to be treated as a name for a particular organisation.

(9)Nothing in subsections (6) to (8) prevents any liability from being established in any proceedings by proof that an organisation is the same as an organisation listed in Schedule 2, even though it is or was operating under a name specified neither in Schedule 2 nor in an order under subsection (6).]

(Click here for the original >>>

This wording is worth studying. As is in particular this section:-

“(a)commits or participates in acts of terrorism,

(b)prepares for terrorism,

(c)promotes or encourages terrorism, or

(d)is otherwise concerned in terrorism.

[F1(5A)The cases in which an organisation promotes or encourages terrorism for the purposes of subsection (5)(c) include any case in which activities of the organisation—

(a)include the unlawful glorification of the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism; or

(b)are carried out in a manner that ensures that the organisation is associated with statements containing any such glorification.

(5B)The glorification of any conduct is unlawful for the purposes of subsection (5A) if there are persons who may become aware of it who could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified, is being glorified as—

(a)conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances, or

(b)conduct that is illustrative of a type of conduct that should be so emulated”

These words show that the behaviour of the group that Ms Rudd has proscribed would have to have fallen into these categories. If the group has not behaved in that way then she will not have the legal power even in English Law to ban the group and the group I would say should apply to the High Court for Permission to Judicially Review.

The Permission stage of Judicial Review is relatively cheap but they should use a member of their group as the spearhead of the Judicial Review who has no assets or income, save for Welfare Benefits, so that if there is a Costs Order it cannot be enforced. Such person should first be given a prominent sounding office within the organisation.

If the challenge is being mounted, as I said on the basis that the group’s behaviour does not properly qualify for a ban to be proscribed under the Terrorism Act, then it will be worth raising the European Convention of Human Rights position which is directly applicable to English Law through the Human Rights Act 1998. In any case it might also be worth making a direct application straightaway to the European Court of Humans Rights for breach of the group’s human rights as set out in the Convention. This should be done anyway if the Judicial Review Application is rejected because even if the proscription is legal under the Act that will not necessarily make it so under the Convention.

Let us therefore turn to the relevant articles of the European Convention of Human Rights whose full title is:-

The European Convention on Human Rights 

(signed in ROME on 4 November 1950)

The relevant Articles are:-


1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”


1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”


1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, this article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.”

(Here is a link to a source setting out the full Convention >>>

The way that Convention rights under the European Convention are interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights is that the general right at the beginning of each Article is subject only to the limited number of specified exceptions, as set out in the second part of the Article. 

So if Ms Rudd cannot bring the reason for her proscription within those exceptions then her action must be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights and so illegal.

As you can see from the text that is likely to be difficult for her unless the “National Action” group has actually done something that would amount in common sense terms to terrorism, rather than the overly openly sweeping authoritarian and all-embracing provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended)!

All in all and speaking not only as somebody who is interested in politics, but also as a lawyer with direct experience of Human Rights cases, I would say that the prospects of a successful challenge to any proscription of any group that has not really been terrorist would be very good. There is also no reason why bringing the challenge should be expensive for any such group.

If on the other hand the group in question has been involved in actions which are within the normal meaning of the words terrorist, then of course the chances of a successful case against the Home Secretary would be minimal, provided she has followed the correct procedure as laid down in the legislation.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Immigration to UK hits record 650,000, official figures reveal

A New Manchester to be built?

Immigration to UK hits record 650,000, official figures reveal

The British Government has released a gross estimate of 650,000 immigrants coming to the UK in the last year alone. Their figures lead to a net figure of 327,000 more people. So according to the Government’s dodgy and unreliable guesswork 650,000 migrated here to live, almost all in England, between June 2015 and June 2016! (See article (Immigration to UK hits record 650,000, official figures reveal) >>>

These figures are extremely unreliable as they are not based on any carefully checked data at all. They are largely a guess given the numbers coming in through the major airports. In all probability the real number is significantly higher. Some discussion of the quality of these statistics can be seen in this article by Migration Watch >>>

In any case, even on the British Government’s own statistics, however unreliable, in the last year alone, more immigrants came to England than came in the previous thousand years prior to 1945!

Another way of looking at it is the population of a city greater than the size of Manchester came here last year!

These people will have to be provided for with food, water, jobs, welfare benefits, medical facilities, the NHS and education for their children, use of transport facilities and, just as importantly they will have to be housed.

The British Government is already intending to build literally millions of new houses in England in response to the mass immigration which we have had since Tony Blair came to power. Now a further city the size of more than Manchester will have to be built!

Soon the English patriotic anthem of "Jerusalem" will have to be changed from mentioning a ‘green and pleasant land’ to a ‘grey and concreted over land’!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Consultation on what an English Parliament might look like - what is your view?

Consultation on what an English Parliament might look like - what is your view?

The issue of an English Parliament continues to rise up the scale of answers and of information and in response to this the Constitution Unit of University College London is consulting on it. Here is their briefing. Do complete their form!

What might an English Parliament look like? The Constitution Unit is consulting on the design options

Posted on November 24, 2016 by The Constitution Unit

The Constitution Unit has recently begun work on a new project examining the design options for an English Parliament. This was once seen as an unrealistic proposal but support has grown in recent years and it therefore now deserves to be taken more seriously. Nonetheless many major questions about what an English Parliament might actually look like remain unaddressed. In this post Jack Sheldon and Meg Russell set these questions out and invite views on them through a consultation that is now open and will close on 27 January 2017. 

Calls for an English Parliament have long existed, but frequently been rejected by academics and mainstream politicians. Although a Campaign for an English Parliament was set up in 1998, as the devolved institutions were being established for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the idea did not get off the ground. A central argument has been that such a parliament, thanks to representing almost 85 per cent of the UK’s population, would, in the words of the 1973 Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution, result in a Union ‘so unbalanced as to be unworkable’ (para 531). As critics such as Vernon Bogdanor (p. 13) have pointed out, no major existing federation has a component part this dominant, and unbalanced federal systems (e.g. the former USSR and Yugoslavia), have tended to fail. Elites have thus often proposed devolution within England, rather than to England as a whole, as the preferred solution to the ‘English question’, and considered an English Parliament an unrealistic proposal. As the Constitution Unit’s Robert Hazell wrote in 2006, ‘An English Parliament is not seriously on the political agenda, and will never get onto the agenda unless serious politicians begin to espouse it’. 

Growing salience of the English question 

But various factors have increased the salience of questions around England’s place in the devolution settlement, and the idea of an English Parliament has gained new friends as a result. One factor is the gradually greater powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly beyond those bestowed in the 1990s – including legislative powers in an increasing number of fields and significant tax-raising powers. This means that a growing amount of business at Westminster concerns England (or sometimes England and Wales) alone. In turn, this brings the famous ‘West Lothian question’, concerning the voting rights of MPs elected from the devolved nations, more to the fore. The Conservative government consequently introduced a form of ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) in 2015, through changes to House of Commons standing orders. But the new arrangements have been rejected by opposition parties, so might not survive a change of government. Furthermore, the version of EVEL that has been introduced does not actually prevent Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs from vetoing English-only legislation. It is therefore far from clear that this will prove to be a satisfactory long-term solution. 

Another contributing factor is growing interest in the future of the Union pre- and post- the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Various unionist politicians, pundits and other political observers have considered how Scottish demands for greater autonomy may be satisfied within the UK, and federalism is being increasingly discussed. The EU referendum result has led some such as Professor Jim Gallagher (Director-General, Devolution Strategy at the Cabinet Office from 2007–10) to suggest that the devolved nations, whilst remaining within the UK, might each pursue different relationships with the EU post-Brexit. Heavyweight political support for something similar has come from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. The threat of a second Scottish independence referendum, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote and repeated since, means the government needs to take such proposals seriously. This would clearly require the consequences for England to be addressed.

A third factor is a growth in English, as supposed to British, national identity among the population. Professor Michael Kenny argued in his 2014 book The Politics of English Nationhood that politicians needed to ‘accept and speak to the implications of this shift’ (p. 239). Already we know from polling that those identifying as English rather than British were more likely to support UKIP and the Leave campaign, leading mainstream politicians to consider how to increase their appeal among patriotic English voters. The English question has traditionally exercised Conservative politicians in particular, but it is now within the Labour Party that these issues are being most urgently discussed. Recent manifestations include an e-book, Labour’s Identity Crisis: England and the Politics of Patriotism, edited by former Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, and a new group of MPs, Red Shift Labour, which has published three reports on how the party can improve its English appeal. A central message is that Labour must be more prepared to embrace English identity. As yet there is little agreement on how this should be achieved, but constitutional solutions are among those being discussed. 

Support has grown for an English Parliament, but no detailed blueprint exists 

Hence 10 years on from Robert Hazell’s comments, the idea of an English Parliament commands significantly more political support. On the Conservative side the most persistent advocate has been John Redwood, whilst other prominent supporters include David Davis, now Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Lord Salisbury. Within the Labour Party Frank Field, a longstanding exponent of an English Parliament, has recently been joined by the former shadow cabinet members Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umunna. John Denham, who served in Gordon Brown’s cabinet and established a Centre of English Identity and Politics at Winchester University in 2015, is open-minded towards the idea. The Scottish National Party are also favourable, and Paul Nuttall, widely expected to win the UKIP leadership election, has pledged support for ‘an English Parliament for English people’. Of course, many other politicians remain convinced by the case against an English Parliament, and neither the Conservative or Labour leaderships appear close to support. But the growing interest across the political spectrum means that the idea deserves to be taken more seriously than previously. 

Nonetheless, there remains no detailed blueprint for what an English Parliament might actually look like – compared, for example, to the proposals produced by the Scottish Constitutional Convention which formed the basis for the design of the Scottish Parliament. Hence we have recently begun work on a new project at the Constitution Unit, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, that seeks to address this gap. The project follows the Unit’s influential work on the design of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in the 1990s. We will not be advocating for or against an English Parliament – there are strong arguments on both sides and it is ultimately for politicians to decide which case they find more convincing. Instead we will undertake an objective analysis of the options for the detailed design of such a body, in order to inform future deliberations. Whilst some proponents have addressed some design questions they often disagree on key points, while other major questions remain largely unaddressed. We will ask (and – as indicated below – are seeking views on) questions including the following: 

Should an English Parliament be established as part of a settlement to bind the UK together in a more stable way, or to facilitate English independence? Many supporters of an English Parliament are motivated by a desire to prolong the Union in the context of pressures for Scottish independence. Frank Field, for example, has written that an English Parliament is ‘the only way to save the UK’. Yet there have been recent moves towards supporting English independence among some of those campaigning for an English Parliament. The English Democrats have come out in support of independence and Eddie Bone, the Campaign Director of the Campaign for an English Parliament, has suggested that ‘English independence might be the only way forward’. 

Should an English Parliament be separately elected, or should it be composed of English members of the House of Commons holding a dual mandate? The first of these is favoured by the Campaign for an English Parliament, and would mirror arrangements in the existing devolved nations, but the second commands significant support among advocates of an English Parliament, including Conservative MPs John Redwood and Andrew Rosindell.
What powers should an English Parliament have? Most proponents agree that these should be equivalent to the powers of the Scottish Parliament, but in some models, for instance that proposed by Conservative MP Teresa Gormanin the late 1990s, an English Parliament would be responsible for everything except foreign affairs and defence. 

How many members should there be in an English Parliament, and within what structure? Under the dual mandate model mentioned above the number of members would clearly be determined by the number of English members of the House of Commons (currently 538). Were a separate English Parliament to be established it might be different – the Wilberforce Society, for example, has proposed a 180-seat English Parliament. The body might also be either unicameral or bicameral. 

What electoral system and boundaries should be used for an English Parliament? Alternatives to first-past-the-post have been used for other devolved parliaments in the UK, but it is not certain that this would also be the case for an English Parliament. The dual mandate model obviously implies the use of first-past-the-post (so long as that system continues to be used for Westminster elections), whilst many leading advocates of a separate English Parliament have not been clear about what electoral system they envisage being used. 

Where should an English Parliament sit? Some supporters of an English Parliament suggest that it would be based at Westminster (either in the House of Commons or House of Lords chamber) but others, including the singer Billy Bragg, have proposed locations outside London. 

Should there also be an English government and First Minister? This is a key demand of the Campaign for an English Parliament and would almost certainly be a feature of any separately elected English Parliament. However, under the dual mandate model the UK government might continue to perform the role of the English government. The Conservative Welsh Assembly member David Melding suggests that, under his version of the dual mandate model (pp. 244–245), a UK government lacking a majority in England could either form a coalition to secure an English majority or seek to govern England as a minority administration. 

How should an English Parliament be financed? The Barnett formula, used to determine the level of public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, would not work for an English Parliament with powers equivalent to those of the existing devolved institutions, as it is based on the UK government’s English expenditure. Hence a new funding model would be needed.
How should an English Parliament relate to sub-national bodies such as city-regions? In debates about how to respond to the English question an English Parliament and regional devolution within England are often presented as alternatives. But in practice might it be desirable to have both? 

What implications would an English Parliament have for the UK parliament and government? Many proponents of an English Parliament suggest that the establishment of an English Parliament should lead to a reduction in the number of members of the UK parliament and perhaps even the abolition of one chamber. Frank Field, for instance, suggests reducing the UK parliament to a Senate of 250 members. In a report published in 2015 the Constitution Reform Group, headed by Lord Salisbury, stated that ‘it will almost certainly be a design specification for any new English Parliament proposal that it results in and accommodates at least a corresponding reduction in the size and cost of the Westminster Parliament’ (p. 23). A separate English Parliament would clearly also have major implications for Whitehall.
We are aware that there will be a range of views on these questions. We are hence today launching a consultation that will close on 27 January 2017. This is not about whether or not there should be an English Parliament but about how such a parliament should be designed were it to be established. It is also designed to tease out the diversity of views, and get a sense for whether there is any viable model around which proponents might unite. 

It should be stressed that our consultation is not an opinion poll where responses will be counted up in order to measure the balance of opinion. We are seeking fairly detailed responses and particularly encourage responses from those who have given these questions considerable thought, and/or who have expertise in areas such as electoral systems, federalism, subnational government or devolution finance. We very much look forward to reading what respondents say, and this will guide our research as well as helping us to formulate our conclusions. We plan to publish our report late in 2017, and before then will include updates on the Constitution Unit blog.
About the authors
Jack Sheldon is a Research Assistant at the Constitution Unit, working on the Options for an English Parliament project. He is also editor of the Constitution Unit newsletter and blog.
Professor Meg Russell is the Director of the Constitution Unit.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Death of Fidel Castro

As we come towards the end of 2016 and our traditional Christian season of Advent in the run up to Christmas, how appropriate it is that in this year of tremendous political change with both the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump that a year of dramatic not to say Revolutionary change should be topped off with the death of the one remaining emblematical figure of the Marxist Leninist version of internationalism!

I am referring of course to the death of Fidel Castro.

The intellectual and moral chasm between the old and the new can hardly be set out better than the difference between President Barack Hussein Obama’s statement and that of President-elect Donald Trump. Obama’s comment was as follows:-

Statement by the President on the Passing of Fidel Castro

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

(Here is a link to the original >>>

Donald Trump’s statement was reported as follows:- “

Donald Trump Issues Perfect Statement On Death Of Fidel Castro

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said in a statement issued a couple of hours after his tweet.

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

The President-elect added, “Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”

(Here is a link to a report on the original >>> )

For this year we only need the results of the Italian referendum to see whether the current EU puppet Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi will fail in ripping the heart out of Italian democracy and also whether Austria will elect the patriotic Mr Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party of Austria, or the Communist internationalist, Alexander van der Bellen - then our “Year of Wonders” on the international scene will probably be concluded!