Archive for September 2014

English votes on English laws won’t work, we need an English Parliament

Obviously I’m disappointed that the Scots threw away their once in a lifetime chance of independence yesterday but they’ve had their chance and wasted it. Now it’s our turn to sort out our country.

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have promised the world to Scotland but they can’t make good those promises without putting it to the British parliament and it’s not going to go smoothly. There are MPs demanding an English Parliament and others demanding English votes on English laws. Cameron has promised to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English laws (even though it won’t work – more on that in a moment), Miliband has ruled out anything that will prevent Labour from using their Scottish MPs from passing laws in England and Clegg will only support the recommendation of the McKay Commission which was to change nothing except add an extra stage in the legislative process so English MPs can make their views known. Both Miliband and Clegg only want power devolved to “city regions”.

It is an absolute disgrace that all three leaders of the old parties have happily promised to give the Scottish government extensive new powers but none of them will entertain the idea of an English Parliament. Cameron thinks we should accept a half-arsed fudge that won’t even work whilst Clegg and Miliband think that not only should we accept a half-arsed fudge but unless we live in a city or its suburbs we should accept the sum total of nothing.

English votes on English matters won’t work because anything that costs money will mean Scottish MPs can claim an interest in it because it affects the amount of money available for Scotland. It would change nothing other than dragging out the legislative process in England and delaying the inevitable implementation of an English Parliament unnecessarily. So as it’s got to happen and the British nationalists will try everything they can to prevent it from happening, let’s dispel the myths that they will be using to argue against it.

The most common argument is that it would increase the number of layers of government, increase the number of politicians and cost the taxpayer more money. This simply isn’t the case. We currently have three layers of government in England – local government, House of Commons and House of Lords. By replacing the House of Lords with a federal British Parliament and replacing the House of Commons with an English Parliament we would still have three layers of government. By doing away with the House of Lords we would cut 775 politicians in one fell swoop. By reducing the number of British MPs from 650 to 200 given that three quarters of their job would be done by someone else we would cut another 450 politicians. An English Parliament would need about 400 members so that gives us a net reduction of 825 politicians. According to a paper written by Christopher Gill when he was a Conservative MP, that would save around £250m adjusted for inflation and MP pay rises. For the numerically challenged, here’s a helpful graph:

Another common argument is that England is too big and that it wouldn’t really bring decision making any closer to the people. This is probably their strongest argument but it’s easily countered. In a geographical sense it doesn’t bring decision making that much closer but democratically it does. At the moment MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can make decisions affecting only England which they have no say on in their own constituencies because it’s a devolved matter. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people have given their British MPs a mandate on reserved matters – those things that their own devolved governments don’t have any power over. British MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have no mandate to interfere with the NHS, environment, transport, etc. in England  An English Parliament would only have members elected in England to represent England. A committee of British MPs elected in England voting on British laws for England isn’t the same as an English Parliament with members elected in England to make English laws for England. The sky fairy worshippers realised two thousand years ago that no man can serve two masters – it’s in the bible – so why can’t British nationalists see it?

Let me address the point about bringing decision making not being closer to the people at the same time as the vacuous argument that an English Parliament would break up the union and play into the hands of the EU at the same time. There is an absolutely valid argument that devolving decision making to a local level – be it regional, county or local authority – would improve accountability and decision making. I would envisage an English Parliament devolving power to a local level once the transfer of powers from the British government has taken place. It’s an important distinction that power is devolved from an English government to a local level and not from the British government because local government in England should be subordinate to the English government, not the British government. It’s also important that England has a national government to keep the country together in the face of constant pressure from the British establishment and the EU to break it up into regions and to be able to compete on the global stage in a way that a Birmingham city region or the north east of England couldn’t.

Another argument that will be used against an English Parliament is that England is too big to have a federation with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They will argue that there are no examples of a federation working with one member bigger than all the others put together and that England will dominate the union because of its size. There are three key points to address in that argument. Firstly, it is correct that there are no examples of federations with a mismatch in size that you would see in the UK because it’s never been tried. That also means there are no examples of federations with such a mismatch in size not working. There was no evidence that eating mouldy bread could cure diseases or that if you sailed far enough east you would end up where you started rather than falling off the edge of the world until someone tried it. Secondly, the size of England is irrelevant when it comes to devolved matters because they’re devolved. If they were relevant to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they wouldn’t be devolved. Finally, England should dominate the union. Not to the detriment of the rest of the UK but the needs and priorities of 85% of the population should carry more weight than those of 15%.

One of the arguments that MPs like to use to dismiss an English Parliament – especially MPs elected in Scotland – is that it would create a two tier of MPs. They say that if Scottish MPs can’t vote on all legislation then they would be second class MPs and all MPs should be equal. But there is already a two tier system – British MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can’t vote on devolved matters in their own constituencies, only in England. MPs elected in England can vote on all legislation in their own constituencies, including things that are devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

English vote on English laws simply cannot work and the only way to address the inequality that seriously threatens the union is to create a devolved English Parliament with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. Why should we accept an inadequate, unworkable compromise instead of equality?

The English Commonwealth campaign has set up a petition for an English Constitutional Convention to let the people of England determine the form of government best suited to their needs. I would strongly urge you to sign it.

This is the only chance you’re going to get of getting independence, don’t fuck it up

The Scots go to the polls tomorrow to vote on their independence and the polls are all too close to call it either way.

There’s just 2-4% between the yes and no camp in the polls with a 3% margin of error and 4-8% undecided. It’s going to come down to which side the don’t knows plump for tomorrow and which side is most motivated to go out and vote on the day. A distrust of the postal voting system rife with fraud will probably result in more yes voters preferring to vote in person tomorrow and physically casting your ballot in a polling station feels more real, like you’re actually taking part and not going through the motions. The yes camp have probably got the edge on the no camp when it comes to motivation.

Many promises have been made by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to give more power and money to Scotland, including agreeing to Gordon Brown’s three demands for more money and influence for Scotland in the event of a no vote. The problem is, none of them have the power to deliver those promises. They can make personal pledges and even declare them to be party policy but there’s a general election in less than 8 months and MPs representing English constituencies are getting a little uneasy about how far the English can be pushed before it starts inflicting damage on them at the ballot box. One Tory MP has promised a “bloodbath” when the new powers Cameron has promised for Scotland are up for debate in the British parliament. More people than ever are demanding an English Parliament and expressing their disgust at the unfair treatment of England. There are votes in supporting equality for England and MPs in England will be doing their sums and wondering if they can afford not to support an English Parliament.

I would like to implore our neighbours north of the border to do the right thing and vote for independence. If you vote no you won’t get another chance for a couple of decades at least. When you find out that the promises that have been made are empty and you won’t be allowed to have your cake and eat it if you vote to stay in the union it’ll be too late to do anything about it. There’s no point staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children, it’s best to part on good terms before it turns completely sour. This is the only chance you’re going to get of getting independence, don’t fuck it up.

Gordon Brown demands more money and influence for Scotland

Gordon Brown might not bother going to vote in the British Parliament more than a few times a year since he lost the last election but he’s still capable of screwing England over. Today he made the following demands for the British nationalist parties to sign up to before Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum:

  • A permanent role for Scotland in the evolution of the UK
  • A guarantee of "fairness"
  • A guarantee that the Barnett formula will survive and Scotland will be able to raise taxes to protect spending on the NHS if necessary
The former prime minister has already argued that the UK is on course for major constitutional change even in the event of a No vote. He wants a guarantee that any future constitutional change will be made with Scotland’s involvement. Some will fear that without such a guarantee, calls for more powers for England could be debated without Scotland being consulted.
Gordon Brown wants politicians of all unionist parties to sign a statement that the aim of a “modern union” will be one that secures “security and opportunity for all” by “sharing equitably the resources of the nations and regions”.
Nationalists are likely to point out that there can be no such guarantees given that the unionist parties have not reached agreement on which powers to give Scotland in future.

I didn’t think it was possible for Gordon Brown to be any more offensive or detached from reality than he has been over the last few years but he’s really excelled himself. We didn’t vote for him, we don’t want him yet he still pokes his nose into English affairs (or “the regions” as he calls England) making demands for his beloved Scotland.

English people have had no input whatsoever into the promises the British government have made to give Scotland extra powers if they vote no so why should Scotland have any influence over how England is run? And why should the Barnett Formula – an arbitrary, temporary way of giving Scotland extra money drawn up on the back of a fag packet in the 70s – be guaranteed forever? It isn’t based on need, it’s based on greed; the irrational belief that the Scots are entitled to a share of England’s wealth just because they want it.

Gordon Brown signed the Scottish Claim of Right in 1989, promising to put the interests of the Scottish people first and foremost in everything he did. He honoured that promise throughout his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer, during his brief but destructive stint as Prime Minister and he’s still honouring it now.

But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet. Smile at us, pay us, pass us by. But never forget.

RBS and Lloyds moving to England will have no effect on Scotland

RBS and Lloyds have both said that if Scotland declares independence, they will move their registered offices to England.

The British nationalists have seized on this as a reason to vote no to independence but actually, what problem does this cause? Lloyds is already headquartered in London but employees a disproportionate number of staff in Scotland. RBS has relocated a large number of jobs from England to Scotland since the English taxpayer bailed them out. Both banks have restated their commitment to keeping as much of their operations as is possible in Scotland regardless of where their registered offices are.

Both banks have cited currency and credit rating uncertainty in their decision to move their registration to England if Scotland declares independence but both have omitted to mention the real reason: EU law says that they have to have their registered office in the country in which they do the majority of their business and that’s England for both banks. If RBS and Lloyds want a UK banking licence they’ll have to comply with EU banking law and that means registering in England. If they didn’t move their registered office to England and Scotland joined the EU then they would have to move their registered office to England to comply with EU banking law.

I don’t doubt that both banks are concerned about the implications of a Scottish currency and the impact on credit ratings but as most of their holdings would be held in sterling and most of their business transacted in the rump UK it shouldn’t really make that much difference but again, EU banking law requires them to be risk averse. The fact that both banks are part-owned by the British Treasury undoubtedly comes with a heap of pressure from the British government to support their position.

The bottom line is, if RBS and Lloyds move their registered offices to England it will have no real effect on Scotland. The number of Scottish jobs are almost certain to remain the same, as is the rate of job transfers from England to Scotland.

RBS - This is home

Cameron flies the Scottish flag over Downing Street

David Cameron is flying the Scottish flag over Downing Street until after the Scottish independence referendum to show them that they are the only thing of importance to him.

This is just getting ridiculous now, it’s like England doesn’t even exist. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and the rest of the British establishment are entirely consumed by the Scots and their independence referendum and seem to think that they are the only people that matter. What about us? What about what we want?

I don’t want the Scottish flag over Downing Street. I don’t want the British flag over it either. I want the Cross of St George flying from that pole as the residence of the Prime Minister of an independent England.

Minor website disaster!

I’d like to thank the guys at the company that hosts my website, Runtime UK, for all the work they put in to recovering the database behind it that I accidentally deleted on Sunday evening.

They put in many hours of hard work recovering a database that wasn’t even supposed to be backed up so I didn’t lose the years of material that not only has great sentimental value but also goes some way to charting the history of English nationalism and the (small “c”) campaign for an English Parliament over the last decade for which I am extremely grateful. They even identified a dodgy Ajax script that was destroying the performance of the website to the extent that Google emailed me to tell me there was something wrong with it. This is why it’s worth paying for a good service from a local company instead of the cheapest offering from a faceless corporation. Would the likes of 1&1 or GoDaddy have gone to those lengths to help me? Not a chance.

So thank you Andy and Phill for your hard work and anyone else at Runtime who was involved in my minor (self inflicted) disaster, the doughnuts are on me.

A Scottish no vote will be the end of the union

A YouGov poll released Saturday night is the first to show a majority yes vote for the Scottish independence referendum. A further poll by TNS-BRMB has it at 50/50.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found a statistically negligible 2% lead for the yes camp which means that the referendum could go either way. It was enough to prompt yet another promise of more devolution of powers to the Scottish government from the Brits though with a pledge to hold another Scottish Constitutional Convention to decide what extra powers the Scots want if they vote no over and above the extensive new powers already promised to them by the British government.

If the Scots vote no on September 18th the union is done for. The democratic deficit in England will turn into a huge democratic gulf with Scotland having all the benefits of independence with none of the responsibilities and England still the only country in Europe with no representative national government under a British government so consumed with pandering to the rebellious Scots that they have forgotten we even exist. The people of England are finally seeing that England means nothing to the British, we’re just there to make up the numbers and pay the bills. Giving Scotland yet more powers on top of the extra powers they’re being bribed with to stay in the union whilst refusing to even acknowledge that England has wants and needs is one insult too many.

I’m glad the yes camp is in the lead and I hope with all my heart that the lead increases in the run-up to the election and that the Scots vote for independence on the day. With a bit of luck that will precipitate the end of the union and the return of democracy to England.