Archive for the ‘english question’ Category

We are less vocal on how England’s governance should be arranged, with the exception of supporting Cornwall’s right to self-determination, we believe that what happens in England is a matter for people in England of course. We would like to see an English Parliament emerge, with groups of local authorities forming a decentralised regional level of government beyond this. Whether this will happen will depend on English public opinion, and the extent to which the major parties in England react to the situation. 
My party – The Party of Wales – would love to work with an Alliance of progressive forces from all parts of England, as well as those in Cornwall with whom we already have a loose alliance. In 2010, it was Plaid Cymru (and the SNP) who led the calls for a rainbow alliance of progressives, which would have stopped the coalition between the Tories and the Lib Dems. We would be prepared to do that again if need be.  
A broad network in England, united behind a core set of progressive values could well include the Greens and other environmentalists. It could include the trade union movement, many in the churches and other faith organisations, the new People’s Assembly movement, our sister party Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall, refugees from Labour and the Lib Dems and, yes, refugees from Respect and the SWP, too.

Thanks to Leanne Wood for not forgetting Cornwall. I’ve blogged on the same theme some time ago for OurKingdom: To reform the UK state we need a democratic green alliance.

Following an original post  – The Wonderful Chaos that is English Regionalism – here is a quick look at some recent developments.

Yorkshire – After a promising start the Yorkshire Independence campaign (pro-devolution in reality) appears to have died a silent death. On the other hand a new Yorkshire Devolution Movement has sprung up and recuperated some of the former members of YI. YDM have produced a new blog, facebook page and twitter account that are all in need of a little tidying up but still seem promising.

Northumbria – The various facebook pages are long silent and, with its internet presence at zero, the Northumbrian Party seems to have vanished. Nothing but silence? Not quite. I’ve just stumbled across the New Northumbria blog. On the whole though no one seems to want to organise for Northumbria. The Wessex Regionalists describe the situation well in their blog post – Our Friends in the North.
While they seem hopelessly bound to the one nation (i.e British state-nationalists) Labour Party I will still give mention to the Hannah Mitchell Foundation. A Labour/socialist think-tank that supports devolution to the North of England. Sadly, when contacted concerning Cornish and grass-roots English devolution their responses was not just a little cold. Due to their proximity with Labour, perhaps the artificial government zones, including the South West region, are their preferred framework for devolution.
Both the UK Libertarian Party and European Federalist Party have given assurances that they support regionalism within the UK and England itself.
The original post can be found here.
In response to my blog here the English Regionalist John Baxendale wrote the following thought provoking comments. I’ll try and respond myself when I get some time but in the meanwhile all thoughts would be most welcome. 

I was very interested to read your response to my piece on the North of England, and to get a Cornish take on the issues I raised. One of my main concerns in writing the piece was nationhood: what is a nation, what privileges does nationhood bring (even without a state), how does the perception that Scotland is a nation and Yorkshire, with much the same population, isn’t, affect the way the two are viewed and treated within the polity of the UK? Everybody seems to agree that Scotland is a nation in some sense(whether or not they think it should remain in the UK), and nobody – not even the most rabid Yorkshireman – seems to think that Yorkshire is (although as I argued, if you go back a thousand years or so it easily could have been). Much the same could be said of Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia. So what is it, other than historical accident, that makes a nation a nation?

You argue that ‘Cornwall has a distinct national identity’, and I respect this view, although I would still ask what that means: is it enough to have a historic language, even if most of the population no longer speak it – or an autonomist movement, even though it doesn’t as yet attract much support at the ballot-box (and I do know the ballot-box isn’t everything) – although I have to admit that Yorkshire, Northumbria etc. have neither of these. Before you choke on your pasty again, I’m by no means dismissing out of hand your belief in Cornish nationhood, still less the existence of a ‘Cornish question’. Being a nation isn’t a simply yes/no issue, with an answer fixed for all time, but a product of history and struggle. The history of European nationalism suggests that the most crucial element in the emergence of nations is the existence of a body of people who believe there is a nation there, and are prepared to organise, agitate and argue the case for it. Languages can be re-learned, distinct cultures identified and strengthened: others have done it, so why not Cornwall? 

The other question my piece asked was medium-term and practical: if Scottish independence is coming (and why not, if the Scots want it) how do we stop my part of the world and yours being crushed by the London/South-East juggernaut? And what role could ‘regional’ identity play in that struggle? Here I entirely agree with your closing paragraph. In the hearts and minds of the people English regional identities are strong, but as a political force they hardly exist, and few regard them as a basis for resisting the London dominance they grumble about so much. Whether such resistance takes the form of regionalism or nationalism seems less important than the need for it to be expressed more strongly and seriously and politically than it is. From what you say, Cornwall, though it still has a long way to go, is rather further along this road than the rest of us.
So there are Republic Wales and Republic Scotland campaign groups now as well as the UK wide Republic group, but why no Republic England (or Six Counties)? Or, from another angle, why the specific Welsh and Scottish groups? 
I’ll see if I can get an answer from Republic because at the moment it looks like they are playing a two-faced game with national sentiment. Either you set up Republican groups for all the home nations – and I would of course include Cornwall in this – or you don’t and you stick to one UK wide group.
Coming back to Cornwall. If there is one region (nation) of the UK that has a very specific and murky relationship with the Monarchy then it is Kernow. Hence the need for a dedicated Republic Cornwall group to shed light on the dirty dealings of the Duke and the feudal laws that can have such influence on the democratic decision making process.

As a footnote. A new Republican Party of Great Britain has been launched but they seem of little interest to Cornish campaigners. Their idea of devolution is to a massive South England region. 

The General Secretary of the Celtic League has written to Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council to enquire what level of cooperation exists between it and the Breton Regional Council.
The letter from the GS follows a visit last week of the First Minister of the Welsh Senedd (Government) to reaffirm the ‘special relationship’ that exists between Wales and Brittany. The full text of the letter is set out below and has been copied to Minister Edwina Hart from the Welsh Senedd for their interest.
Councillor Leader Alec Robinson
Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council
28 June 2011

Dear Councillor Leader Alec Robinson

Memorandum of Understanding

I am writing to ask if Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council has considered the possibility of agreeing a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between Cornwall and Brittany in much the same way as Wales and Brittany signed such a memorandum in 2004.

You may be aware that last week (24th June 2011) Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones visited Brittany to talk at the Breton Regional Council, where he reaffirmed his administration’s intention for continued cooperation between Wales and Briitany, while at the same time identifying other areas where cooperation could be further developed, such as in the field of climate change. Monitoring the effects of climate change I believe is an area of interest to Cornwall Council too and with the location of the United Nations CLIMSAT centre in Brittany, it may be mutually beneficial if a closer relationship was forged in this area.

With Cornwall and Brittany being in such close geographical proximity and the many existing cultural and linguistic links between the two areas, would it not be pertinent to formalise this relationship further with a ‘memorandum of understanding’?

With regard to Wales, can I ask what level of cooperation is undertaken between Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council and the Welsh Senedd (Government)? I am aware that Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council has ‘observer status’ on the British Irish Council and that some forms of cooperation between Wales and Cornwall is inevitable in this regard, but what other measures of cooperative work is undertaken between the two administrations?

Also I would like to know who the Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council representative is on the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), which I understand Cornwall Council to be a member of? I have copied Minister Hart from the Welsh Senedd into this correspondence, because I believe she may be able to give some indication about how the relationship between Wales and Brittany was initially formalised and any potential areas for further cooperation between Wales and Cornwall in the future.

Many thanks for your consideration in these matters.
The UK Government has announced that later this year a commission will be set up to consider the ‘West Lothian’ question and whether the influence of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament (MP’s) should be restricted on matters that effect only England.
Since the devolution of Scotland and Wales unionist Members of Parliament (MP’s) in England have complained about their colleagues from Scotland and Wales being able to vote on matters that only effect England, whereas English MP’s have not been able to exert the same influence on matters that effect Scotland and Wales. The ‘West Lothian question’ was a term coined by former unionist Labour MP Tam Dalyell in the 1970’s who claimed that if devolution ever occurred it would lead to what he thought to be an unfair advantage for Scottish and Welsh MP’s over their English counterparts.
Since the announcement of the plan to form the commission by the Conservative Party, some Labour unionists are expressing concerns about how this development would affect the current Union between these countries. Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain was reported in the Western Mail newspaper on Tuesday (28th June 2011) that:
“The whole principle that underpins the Parliamentary system in the UK is that all MP’s have equal status. If Welsh and Scottish MP’s were not allowed to vote on matters that superficially seem only to relate to England, that principle would no longer apply and MP’s representing seats in Wales and Scotland would have an inferior second class status.”
Mr Hain also claimed that the Conservative Party was prepared to allow the development because they knew that if votes were restricted it would severely weaken the power of Scottish and Welsh Labour MP’s within the UK, adding:
“If that happened, there would be no question of any MP from Wales or Scotland ever becoming Prime Minister again.”
At the same time Mr Hain said that he was opposed to a Parliament for England:
“There are around 50 million people in England and 10 million people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. If therer were a Parliament covering the whole of England, we would have a very imbalanced constitutional settlement that in my view would be unsustainable.
“I am extremely concerned that David Cameron has a ruthless agenda that is not about what is best for Britain, but what is best for the Conservative Party” In pursuing this agenda, the Tory-led Government risks breaking up the UK.”
It must not be forgotten that the UK Labour Party is heavily dependent on voters in Scotland and Wales and without their support it is unlikely that the Party would win any general election in the UK. If voters in Scotland and Wales felt that the influence of their parliamentary representative was being restricted, then it would be interesting to see how that would affect the way they vote in general elections. It would therefore be extraordinary if it turned out that the UK Conservative Party, which champions itself as the defender of the Union, was in fact a catalyst in its speedy demise.
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary
Celtic League
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.
TEL: +44 (0)1209319912
Mobile: +44 (0) 7787318666
Internet sites here: Celtic LeagueNews Group.
Lets get the bitter out of the way first. Plaid Cymru loosing AM’s to British nationalist Labour is regrettable but this has to be seen in the perspective of the self same nation voting for greater devolved powers on the 3rd of March. Wales is awake and on the move even if the party responsible for this, Plaid Cymru, has been snubbed by a section of the electorate.

In the English local elections even it was gratifying to see the Lib Dems get righteously stuffed – just deserts for their two-faced behaviour some might say – this was largely to the benefit of Labour and the Tories. It’s a shame fourth parties couldn’t have made more of this opportunity. Congratulations must got to the Greens in Brighton for coming in as the biggest group on the council but we need this repeated on mass across England. Equally why are there so many minor left-wing parties and groups who seem more interested in fighting amongst themselves over ideological issues than coming together to form a relevant force on the left of Labour?
Cornwall failed to take advantage of the AV referendum and make a bold statement against Devonwall via the mass spoiling of ballot papers. I can’t say I’m that surprised. Only one blogger was actively promoting this option. For such a campaign to have been successful it would have need the combined efforts of a united Cornish movement (oh for the day) and at least the support of one of the big three.
With its clear rejection of even the most pitiful of electoral reform and the increase in Tory councillors England seems to be slumping into a reactionary paralysis where any reform of its creaking political system will have to be imposed from outside. Such a sad contrast with the Arab Spring. This brings me to the sweet.
The Scottish National Parties massive victory over the UK’s sclerotic unionist parties will have a far greater effect on democracy in the UK than AV could ever have. Whilst the electoral system does need urgent reform – ie some form of proportional representation – the real issue is Westminster. With its monopoly on power, hyper-centralisation and mandarin classes shy of loosing any ounce of their influence, the seat of power in London is the real nut that needs to be cracked open so that its sweet contents can be re-distributed across the UK. The SNP  could well be on the verge of smashing the first cracks in the shell. 
Whether the Scots vote for independence or not the UK will still have to change. A continued re-distribution of power from the centre is inevitable. Some form of federalism appears the only option and already voices can be heard calling for an English parliament as the next logical direction for reformers to take. Surprisingly even from within the ranks of the arch-conservatives UKIP can be heard calls for a federal UK including parliaments for Scotland, Wales, England, the Six Counties and even Cornwall [1][2][3].
A decade of radical change lies ahead and now more than ever Cornwall needs to decide where it wants to go. Whether to strike out on a bold and empowering path or acquiesce as the toe-end of an uncaring centralised England. Equally all who are serious about Cornish self-determination – by whatever path – need to think long and hard about their current political allegiances, what they have obtained so far and what now needs to be done.