A Parliament or a Union – England Can’t Have Both | A.D.M Collingwood

Who speaks for England? Nicola Sturgeon speaks for Scotland. Michelle O’Neill and, until recently, Arlene Foster spoke for the Northern Irish. The Welsh have Mark Drakeford. Even Gibraltar has somebody – Fabian Picardo. But who gives political voice to the English? Whose job is it to represent their interests and unique needs? The answer, of course, is nobody. Nobody speaks for England because, unlike our Celtic brothers and sisters, and even our Crown Dependencies, England does not have a parliament or an executive.

In fact, it is even worse than that. While Westminster has no say over matters that fall within the purview of the devolved parliaments, the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh MPs sitting in Westminster influence and vote on equivalent issues in England.

It would thus be correct to say that the lack of an English parliament within the present constitutional settlement is unfair and undemocratic. There is no arguing against this. It is the logically necessary conclusion of premises that are facts. But England should not have its own parliament. Or more precisely, England should not have its own parliament if it wants the United Kingdom to exist for long.

Like most of the major policies of Tony Blair’s premiership, devolution turned out to be a wonderful vote-winner for Tony Blair, but a deadly landmine his successors had to tiptoe vigilantly around. As none of the Prime Ministers since have been possessed of the necessary cunning and circumspection, it has exploded, maiming – perhaps for good – the United Kingdom.

Rather than stopping dead the separatist impulse, as it was promised to do, devolution has supercharged it. It has handed the Scottish National Party a constitutional toolset with which to sever apart the Union. It has allowed the SNP to take credit for every success while blaming Westminster for every failure. The SNP has also managed to bend the branches of the Scottish civil service to the nationalist will, making the Scottish ‘state’ apparatus itself an engine for separatism.

The SNP has used these devices ruthlessly and relentlessly, and has brought the Union closer to breakup than at any time since Irish Independence.  To assume that no equivalent of the SNP would arise in England after the establishment of an English parliament is to show the same lack of imagination and foresight that got us into this mess to begin with.

It is true that there is no single-issue ‘English independence party’, however, we must assume that if a politician can use something to gain or secure power, she will. And the present fiscal arrangement, within the Barnett Formula, would be the biggest open goal imaginable to any English politician.

Why, our English Sturgeon would ask, should deprived areas of England enjoy any state less support than analogous areas in Scotland? Why should their students have free university tuition? Why should we pay prescription charges?

It would not need a dedicated independence party to ask these questions – just any politician from any party who wanted to score political points (which is to say ‘all of them’). And once one did, they would all have to follow suit: it would be, as Sir Humphrey Appleby might have said, politically ‘courageous’ to campaign against it.

Perhaps those who argue that an English parliament is needed for reasons of fairness would contend that this is exactly why. True enough: it is irrefutably unfair that a poor English neighbourhood has less money spent on it than a similarly down on its luck Scottish suburb.

However, it would place Westminster in the following position: give in to English demands, or create an Independence movement in England. Such an independence movement, and the Parliament that gave it voice, would be a far more potent political force than the Holyrood. In fact, it would be more powerful than the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish nationalist movements and parliaments combined, because England is more powerful than the other nations put together. And not by a little. England’s population, wealth, economy and strategic position massively outmatch the others. 

England accounts for 533 (soon 543) of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Yet if Westminster acquiesced to this huge pressure, what reasons would Scotland have left for subordinating its own strategic interests to Britain?

And here’s the rub. We have become so obsessed with economics in our political discourse on Brexit and Scexit that we have forgotten that England’s strategic and foreign policy interests already quietly dominate in Westminster. If England’s domestic and fiscal interests did, too, Scotland would have no more reason to stay part of the United Kingdom than Britain had to stay in the EU – trade benefits and diplomatic cover.

An English Parliament, and the demands that would almost certainly follow, would ironically make Scotland more like the colony or vassal nation that some of the more fevered members of the SNP imagine it to be now. It would thus, with time, render our august Union virtually untenable.

We can be fair to England or have a union, but it is difficult to imagine we can have both.

Photo Credit.

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2 Responses

  1. The sentiments outlined in this article have resonated with me for many years, ever since we devolved power to regional parliaments. Having Irish, Scottish and Welsh MPs in the UK Parliament, voting on matters which only concern England such as HST2, is wrong on so many levels.

    On a completely different matter, I am intrigued as to who the author is of this wonderful piece, purely from a genealogical perspective, as I am conducting a one-name study into the Collingwood surname.

  2. Dear Mr Collingwood

    Re: “A Parliament or a Union – England Can’t Have Both”

    Your article was a good one that makes good points which I think are equally good as arguments for English Independence, if one opposes the British Political Establishment ______ to “Globalism”!

    Yours sincerely

    Robin Tilbrook
    The English Democrats,
    Blog: http://robintilbrook.blogspot.co.uk/
    Twitter: @RobinTilbrook
    Party Website: https://www.englishdemocrats.party
    Party Twitter: @EnglishDemocrat
    Key facts about the English Democrats
    The English Democrats launched in 2002 and are the only campaigning English nationalist Party. We campaign for a referendum for Independence for England; for St George’s Day to be England’s National holiday; for Jerusalem to be England’s National Anthem; to leave properly and fully the EU; for an end to mass immigration; for the Cross of St George to be flown on all public buildings in England; and we supported a YES vote for Scottish Independence.
    The English Democrats are England’s answer to the Scottish National Party and to Plaid Cymru. The English Democrats’ greatest electoral successes to date include:- in the 2004 EU election we had 130,056 votes; winning the Directly Elected Executive Mayoralty of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council in 2009 and also the 2012 mayoralty referendum; in the 2009 EU election we gained 279,801 votes after a total EU campaign spend of less than £25,000; we won the 2012 referendum which gave Salford City an Elected Mayor; in 2012 we also saved all our deposits in the Police Commissioner elections and came second in South Yorkshire; and in the 2014 EU election we had 126,024 votes for a total campaign spend of about £40,000 (giving the English Democrats by far the most cost efficient electoral result of any serious Party in the UK!). In the 2015 General Election we had the 8th largest contingent of candidates in England. In the October 2016 Batley & Spen, Westminster parliamentary, By-election we came second and easily beat all three British national parties. In the 2017 Greater Manchester Mayoral election we came 5th beating UKIP and beat the Greens in all but 2 boroughs. In the 2018 South Yorkshire Mayoral election we had 14,547 votes and saved our deposit and with a minimal campaign budget achieving 12.8% of the First Preference votes in Doncaster. In the 2021 Police Commissioner election in Essex we got 42,831 (10%) First Preference votes, plus probably the same again Second Preference votes for by far the lowest campaign spending of all the candidates.

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