Monday, 16 April 2007

Dale vs. Cameron

*Links updated 25th May 2007*

Following on from David Cameron's recent article Scots and English Flourish in the Union in the Daily Telegraph, Iain Dale responds with this brilliant article, Cameron can't ignore Devolution for England. Superb stuff, Iain.

What a God-send is Iain Dale. Reading Mr. Cameron's article was so frustrating. He did at least mention the idea of English Parliament, but to dismiss it because of the "it means more politicians" arguement shows that we still have a long way to go.

With reference to that particular criticism of the idea of an English Parliament, let me echo what I wrote in Answering the English Question (which has just been published by the CEP- e-mail is you would like one):

"...if 529 English MPs at Westminster can currently handle the workload for all areas of public policy in England, whether that is for Foreign Policy or Education, then could not 528 members (176 English Westminster MPs plus 352 English Parliament members) be able to cope?"

Or, as former CEP Chairman Michael Knowles put it, "Devolution does not increase the size of the population. There therefore should be no need to increase the amount of parliamentary representation".

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Celt Gelt

This little beauty comes from Hereward the Wake.

"CeltGelt", written across the face of famous Scottish economist Adam Smith (the first Scotsman to appear on an English banknote- no Englishman has yet appeared on any of the numerous Scottish bank notes), refers to all the money that is taken from England and given to Scotland every year. Last year, roughly £9 billion was given to Scotland. This is because of the Barnett Formula, which works out how much of the UK tax pot is dished out to the countries of the UK. For the last couple of decades, it has been outrageously unfair to England.

There is now a campaign urging everyone to write "CeltGelt" on their £20 notes. Not just in protest at the Barnett Formula, but at the fact that Edward Elgar- composer of the music to "Land of Hope and Glory", was taken off our £20 notes and Scotsman Smith put in instead.

My £20 is in the post to you, Hereward.

Start a Debate

I'm absolutely delighted that make it an issue has posted my debate, "Tom Waterhouse: Time for an English Parliament?".

You can get involved here.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Why MPs don't want an English Parliament

There are many reasons given by opponents of an English Parliament about why such a thing would be a bad idea. “Unworkable… it would rival Westminster… another layer of government… etc. etc”. But there is actually something in these excuses. MPs fear what they call “another layer of government”. But not because it would be an unnecessary cost for the electorate. Heck, if cost were the measure of everything, we wouldn’t have elections. They are scared…

I recently met with an MP to discuss the case for an English Parliament. I drove to his office in the south-west of England after a promising letter to one of his constituents who is also a CEP member.

I arrived in good time and had no trouble whatsoever in finding the office without detailed instructions- I found it by chance by driving down one of the streets in the town centre. Above the office was a huge sign alerting everyone to the fact that this was indeed the office of their MP. Emblazoned with the Party colours, this was more than just an office- it was Campaign central.

Inside were 4 people at work on computers- answering e-mails, writing letters and sending faxes to constituents, journalists and colleagues and so on. I wondered what life was like in the offices of the MP’s local political rivals. Nothing like this hub of activity, you could bet. This place really was buzzing, and all the time humming the tune of “This is your MP”. Everything it did was geared for one thing: getting this MP re-elected at the next general election. Not only did the MP’s livelihood depend on its success; so did the careers of those working in the office, this no doubt being the stepping-stone to pastures greener. Make a good job of working for this MP and, who knows? They might be the Party candidate running for election in 10 year’s time. The fuel for this Party machine is the parliamentary constituents of the area. Every constituent is a potential voter. Every problem solved is a potential vote winner. The more time and energy you put into your constituents, the more likely they are to re-elect you.

Now imagine we had our way and an English Parliament was created. This MP would have to share his honey-pot of constituents with another political animal. No longer having a monopoly on being the constituency’s problem-solver-in-chief could seriously hamper one’s efforts to get re-elected. Heaven forbid, they might even have to share the constituency with someone from a rival Party.

Closely related is the fact that MPs will feel their role will be reduced in prestige should an English Parliament be created. At the moment, an MP is the top dog. Lending their name to something immediately catches the eye, or adds weight to something. But what if there were to be someone with almost the same ability to make a difference?

There is also the fear of the unknown. The way an English Parliament is elected- i.e. the electoral system used, would have a dramatic effect on MPs. Indeed, Scottish voters elect two MSPs to represent them- double trouble for a UK MP that’s not keen having others on his patch.

Many MPs see an English Parliament as a direct threat to their majorities, their seats, their prestige, their way of life. When they say “people don’t want another layer of government”, they mean they don’t want the competition. An English Parliament wouldn’t be another layer of government- and that’s the problem. It would take over responsibility for things currently done by Westminster, and see English Parliament Members take over responsibility for things currently done by UK MPs. When they say, “it would rival Westminster”, what they are really scared of is a new rival.

We must not let their disgraceful self-interest stand in the way of Justice for England.