The Brexit Party has announced that it is contesting the Welsh elections next year on a flagship policy of abolishing the Senedd.
The Welsh Assembly – now called the Welsh Parliament, or Senedd in Welsh – was established in 1999 following a referendum in 1997 in which the Welsh people voted by a majority of just 6,721 votes to introduce devolution in Wales. A further referendum in 2011 on increasing the powers of the Senedd produced a rather more emphatic 219,752 vote majority in favour.
It’s more than a little bizarre that a political party established entirely on the premise of forcing the British government to respect the result of the EU referendum would base a whole election campaign on overturning the results of two referenda in Wales.
The latest polling Wales suggests that 22% are in favour of abolishing the Senedd, 24% want to leave it as it is, 20% want to give it more powers and 16% want Welsh independence. It looks like the end of the road for the Brexit Party’s four Senedd members.
The MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham, Daniel Kawczynski, is trying to use the Coronavirus to campaign for the abolition of devolution in Wales.
Kawczynski is unhappy with the “expensive and unnecessary” Welsh government having different lockdown rules to England meaning his constituents can’t go to the beach in Wales.
He was particularly unhappy with the Welsh First Minister recording a video message aimed at English people telling them that the British government’s lockdown rules only apply to England because British politicians won’t say England.
Kawczynski is worried that the Welsh government having different rules poses a risk to the “cohesion of Britain”. He cites the golf courses in Shropshire that straddle the border as a reason for overturning the Welsh votes of 1997 and 2011 and abolishing the Senedd.
What Kawczynski and other British nationalists are most worried about isn’t that Scottish and Welsh devolution will lead to them becoming independent but that lack of devolution in England will lead to a backlash that will break the union. They can’t afford to put England on an equal footing with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because their privileged position in the union is what keeps the flame of unionism burning and they can’t afford for the people of England to start asserting their Englishness because the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. This is why you’ll never hear a British politician say England if they can say Britain or the country instead.
Boris Johnson addressed the nation last night to outline the slight relaxation of the lockdown rules but it was left to the First Minister of Wales to tell English people that the announcement only applies to England.
The new rules mean people in England can travel wherever they want for exercise and relaxation as long as they maintain social distancing with effect from Wednesday. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments chose not to follow the British government’s rule changes for England and the restrictions on movement still apply there.
There is an unwritten rule in Westminster that England must not be named. The racist devolution system that excludes England and the British establishment’s tenuous grip on political power in England relies on the institutional discrimination not becoming a topic of conversation in England. That means that when Boris talks about lockdown rules in England he talks about the country. When Ministers go on TV and radio to talk about the lockdown rules in England they talk about the country. When people listen to them talking about the lockdown rules in the country they don’t hear England.
So because Boris et al don’t explain that they only speak for England the First Minister of Wales was forced to do it for them this morning with a message to English people telling them that Wales is still locked down and to stay away. That’s right, the First Minster of Wales had to tell the people of England that the British prime minister only makes the rules for England.
An English Parliament with an English First Minister taking charge of England’s response to the Coronavirus would have ensured there was no confusion as to who the new rules applied to. And when this pandemic is over and done with it would ensure there was no confusion as to which country they were talking about when politicians were talking about transport, fishing, environment, farming, forestry, education, health, social care, housing, planning, local government, sport, culture and tax.
Sir Keir Starmer, the millionaire London MP chosen to lead the Labour Party, has called on the British government to ensure that nobody in England is more than 20 minutes away from a Coronavirus testing station. He didn’t say England, obviously, but that’s what he meant
I’m sure it would be fairly easy to put a testing station within 20 minutes of the average Londoner. You can get a long way on the tube in 20 minutes but London is just 607 out of 50,360mi2 of England, 92% of which is undeveloped.
So how would the MP for Holborn & St Pancras’ 20 minute plan work here in Shropshire where about 80% of the county is farmland, forest, open spaces or water?
Shropshire has two main towns next to each other – Telford and Shrewsbury – connected by a motorway and dual carriageway. It takes about 20 minutes to get between the two. It takes 20 minutes to drive from Ironbridge in south Telford to Bratton in north Telford and most of that journey is by dual carriageway and A roads. Getting from the border village of Priest Weston to the nearest town of Church Stretton will take over half an hour. It is the 13th largest county in England by area but 42nd out of 48 for population. It is the 6th most sparsely populated county in England. It would take hundreds, if not thousands, of testing stations to ensure that even people living in our large towns are within 20 minutes of one let alone the people who live in such remote locations that it takes them 10 minutes to get to a road. And if you need to use public transport then for most of the county you’re out of luck.
This kind of statement shows what is wrong with British politics. The leader of the Conservatives, the Labour Party and the Lib Dems are all MPs for constituencies in London and London is not England. London isn’t even an English city any more, its culture and values are entirely out of step with the rest of the country. The British Parliament is dominated by London and the south east of England whose MPs think that if something is right for their corner of the country it’s right for the rest of England and more often than not it isn’t.
The centre of political power in England needs to be moved right out of London and the south east and well away from metropolitan areas. England needs a parliament of its own, be it devolved from the British Parliament or independent. This parliament should be somewhere more representative of the majority of the country and I would (obviously) suggest Shropshire.
The first English Parliament involving commoners was held at Acton Burnell near Shrewsbury in 1283. Shropshire is the birthplace of the modern Olympics, the industrial revolution and the skyscraper and has given the world some of its greatest minds such as Charles Darwin, Dr William Penny Brookes, Clive of India, Abraham Darby, A E Houseman, Wilfred Owen and Roger de Montgomery. But most importantly, it would remind politicians that the bustling city life, 24 hour economy, world class public transport system and melting pot of different races, religions and cultures that they experience in London is alien to most of the country.
It would also help them to understand why saying that nobody should be more than 20 minutes from a Coronavirus testing station is little more than wishful thinking outside of the London bubble.
Peter Bone MP has introduced a Bill into the British Parliament for the creation of a new bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to celebrate the British union.
He didn’t explicitly mention that the bank holiday wouldn’t apply to Scotland of course but it’s a devolved matter and there is absolutely zero chance of the Scottish government legislating for the same bank holiday in Scotland.
The British government have refused to recognise St George’s Day despite sustained, widespread support for a holiday in England but for some inexplicable reason think that a bank holiday to celebrate the British union in just three of the four member states of the UK is a good idea. The irony will be lost on them, I’m sure.
Personally, I would rather go to work than have a day off to celebrate the British union. Brexit, yes. Britain? No.
Scottish nationalists are up in arms because Boris Johnson said that the Scottish Parliament has no role in approving Brexit.
The SNP think the Scottish Parliament should have a veto over Brexit because of a convention that says that British bills affecting devolved matters should be approved by the Scottish Parliament.
There are three primary reasons why the SNP are wrong.
It’s a convention not an obligation. There’s no law that says it has to happen. At a time when parliamentary conventions that have been around for centuries are torn up in the name of overturning democracy, the SNP really can’t complain when their own side’s tactics are used against them.
The convention exists to seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament when the British government legislates in their place. Brexit is taking powers from the EU and giving them to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament can’t legislate on these things currently as they are EU competencies.
Devolution is power shared, not power given away. The British government retains the right to legislate on all matters, devolved or not.
Boris is right: the Scottish Parliament has no role to play on Brexit and no amount of huffing and puffing by Scottish nationalists will change that.
Sorry snowflakes, it’s not going to happen. The Lib Dems might be riding high in the polls thanks to their pledge to overturn the democratic vote to leave the EU but they’re not going to win an election.
But just imagine if they did (well, it is nearly Hallowe’en).
Jo Swinson, is the British MP for East Dunbartonshire in Scotland. Like Gordon Brown a decade ago she has no democratic mandate over about three quarters of what goes on in Westminster as her constituents give that mandate to Members of the Scottish Parliament. She has no moral or democratic right to be British Prime Minister.
If the convention of English Pauses for English Clauses was upheld we would see the ridiculous and unsustainable situation where the British Prime Minister spent three quarters of her time in the House of Commons unable to vote on legislation because as an MP elected in Scotland she would be barred from voting on something that was devolved to the Scottish Parliament in her own constituency.
There is no way that Jo Swinson – or any other MP elected in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – could be British Prime Minister now that the constitutional fudges to paper over the gaping cracks in the union are embedded. They don’t stop MPs elected in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from interfering in legislation that should be the responsibility of an English Parliament because MPs from all four member states of the UK get to vote on an English-only bill at the end but they stop the routine interference in English business that MPs elected outside of England seem to think they have a right to.
An MP elected in Scotland as British Prime Minister would be nothing more than a figurehead with the real power and influence being wielded by an MP elected in England who was able to vote on all parliamentary business. The only way someone like Jo Swinson could legitimately and effectively be British Prime Minister would be to create an English Parliament with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament and to devolve those same powers to the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. Only when a British MP elected in any of the member states of the UK has the same mandate at Westminster as any other could a British Prime Minister elected somewhere other than in England be tolerated.
Fifty Scottish “celebrities” have signed a new declaration of independence, calling for the establishment of an independent socialist state.
The 12 demands in the declaration are:
It is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, now and in the future. In all political deliberations, decisions and actions their interests should be paramount.
Scotland should be an open and democratic society in which no individual is excluded, oppressed or discriminated against on account of their race, colour, faith, origin or place of birth, physical or mental capacity, sex, sexuality,gender or language.
Scotland should have a written constitution which clearly lays out the rights of its citizens, the country’s system of government and the relationships that exist between government, its instruments and powers and the rights of individual citizens.
Scotland should take its place as an independent country on the world stage, free to join international organisations and alliances for purposes of trade and commerce, and for the protection and care of the planet’s natural environment, without which the human race cannot survive.
Scotland should uphold internationally acknowledged values of non- aggression and self-defence, and should refuse to maintain, stock or use, for itself or on behalf of any other power or government, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction.
There should be clear separation of the powers of the Scottish parliament and government (the executive). The judiciary should be completely independent of government.
Independence will provide an opportunity to review and, where necessary, change the systems of both national and local government, in order to make them more accountable to the people and more beneficial to their needs.
Ownership of land, property and natural resources should be subject to open and democratic scrutiny. The ability of communities, both rural and urban, to own the land in and on which they exist should be enhanced and extended.
There should be total transparency in the way property in Scotland is bought, sold or possessed.
Freedom of speech and action, and the freedom to work, create, buy, sell and do business should adhere to principles of environmental and communal sustainability and responsibility. Profit and economic growth should not be pursued at the expense of the wellbeing of the people or their habitat or that of other people or nations.
We affirm the values of care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit in all our dealings. Such values are the foundation stones of a fair, free and open society where all citizens have the opportunities to lead the best, most fulfilling lives they can.
It is our belief that the best option now open to the Scottish people is for Scotland to become an independent country. The alternative is to accept that Scotland’s fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.
To be fair to them, there is some good stuff in amongst the pie in the sky lefty nonsense. Asserting popular sovereignty, improving democratic accountability and protection of freedoms are sentiments I can’t help but agree with even if the rest of it is less palatable.
It is a real shame that politicians and public figures don’t feel so strongly about England’s future or for the rights of the people of England. A group calling itself the English Constitutional Convention has been in existence for many years and has made half-hearted declarations that have been largely ignored, even at the height of the campaign for an English Parliament when the subject was in the news on an almost daily basis. Its close association with the toxic English Democrats means it is unlikely to ever gain mainstream support.
A similar declaration for England would do much to highlight the institutional discrimination against England within the British establishment and empower the English people to take control of their own destiny. The English identity is much more prevalent than the British identity and has been for many years but it is suppressed as a threat to British supremacy. An English people expressing their Englishness with the blessing and backing of public figures would deal a fatal blow to the status quo and consign Britishness to the history books once and for all.
British nationalists will view this with fear and dismay but they are an increasingly small minority. For too long we have been told that describing yourself as English is somehow wrong and not the sort of thing you say in polite company whilst our flag has been unfairly associated with British ethnic nationalists and white supremacists by those who wave the same flag as the likes of the BNP and National Front.
Former First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – a role that hasn’t existed in England for over three centuries – have suggested that the UK should be federalised to save the British union.
Lord McConnell , Carwyn Jones and Lord Trimble have written a letter in the Telegraph calling for a new Act of Union and constitutional settlement which would include a devolved English Parliament.
An English Parliament is long overdue. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had devolved government for over two decades. Scotland has had two devolution and one independence referenda since 1979, Wales has had three devolution referenda since 1979 and Northern Ireland has had two devolution referenda. There has never been a referendum on English devolution, only for regional government. Londoners voted for their own regional assembly whilst voters in the north east of England voted against having one there and that is as far as the British have been prepared to go.
A federal union would be a good starting point but it doesn’t go far enough. England needs its independence, not to be controlled at arms length by the British. A confederation is a much preferable alternative to federalism where each member state of the UK gains its independence and devolves power to a central government, flipping federalism on its head. A union by consent would be much stronger than a union by force.
The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) covering Shropshire has plans to downgrade the accident and emergency department at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and operate just one A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
When the CCG carried out its statutory consultation on what it optimistically calls “Future Fit” it didn’t just consult residents in Shropshire but included those in Mid Wales who fall within the catchment area of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Unsurprisingly, people in Mid Wales supported the plan to centralise the A&E service at Shrewsbury.
Health is a devolved matter, the NHS is Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh government. The Welsh government receives more money per head of population in public funding than the British government spends in England. Last year the British government spent £8,989 per person on public services in the West Midlands. In Wales it was £10,397 per person. That’s a £1,408 premium for every man, woman and child in Wales subsidised by the English taxpayer.
Lucy Allan has said that too much importance has been given to what the Welsh thought about the plans at Telford’s expense. I agree wholeheartedly. People in Wales shouldn’t have had any say whatsoever on the plans for Shropshire’s hospitals. I didn’t expect to have a say on the plans for the Newtown bypass even though I used it every summer because I don’t live in Powys. People in Powys shouldn’t expect to have a say on the plans for our hospitals in Shropshire just because they use one of them.
One of Montgomeryshire’s AMs has expressed his delight that Shropshire’s single site A&E is going to be close to Wales, as has the British Secretary of State for Wales. They’re happy because a town with a larger population than the whole of Powys and which will soon have a larger population than Powys and Ceredigion combined is losing the A&E its residents pay for because it suits people in Powys and Ceredigion who don’t.
The question is, would this have happened if we had an English Parliament? My answer is that the chances of it happening would be infinitesimally small. An English government directly elected by people in England to represent English interests alone would have been unlikely to allow the downgrade of a hospital in England to mitigate the Welsh government’s underfunding of the Welsh NHS. An English Secretary of State wouldn’t “fully back” plans to close an A&E in England because it makes it easier to service people living in Wales to the detriment of people in England. It is because England is still under direct rule of the British government that these things are allowed to happen in England and it because these things keep on happening that we need an English Parliament, Executive and First Minister to represent English interests.