Senedd Ceiling

The great and good of Wales are tackling the most important issue facing the Welsh with a letter urging the Welsh government to rename the Welsh Assembly to the Senedd.

The Welsh government are already planning a rebrand of the Welsh Assembly by giving it two official names: Senedd Cymru and Welsh Parliament. But having an official English name alongside the Welsh is apparently a problem as it will lead to the Welsh name and therefore the entire Welsh language falling into disuse.

Now, I’m all for preserving the Welsh language and even encouraging its use in Wales. I was born in Shrewsbury, just 10 miles from the Welsh border and have never lived more than 30 miles from Wales. Most family holidays as a child were in Wales and I am fairly proficient in road sign Welsh as most people in the western half of Shropshire generally are. It’s not unusual to hear Welsh accents in places like Shrewsbury and Oswestry or even Welsh being spoken in public. Almost a third of the population of Wales speak some Welsh and just shy of a fifth of the population are able to read and write Welsh as well as speak it. The language is not going to die out because the Welsh government has an official English name as well as Welsh.

When the time comes, maybe we’ll have the same debate in England about the naming of the Thæt Angelmot? Or should it be ᚦᚬᛏ•ᛅᚾᚴᛁᛚᛘᚬᛏ?

Braveheart

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Oliver Cromwell Dissolving Parliament

The new Parliament of Great Britain sat for the first time on 23rd October 1707. It replaced the English and Scottish parliaments on 1st May that year but didn’t sit for nearly 6 months. It sat for just 11 months before it was dissolved and elections held for the first time.

The Act of Union 1707 was the beginning of the end for England. The union of Great Britain started with England bailing out Scotland and it has continued thus for over three centuries. The Scots have been over-represented throughout the life of the British parliament in terms of numbers and influence.

The Scots never gave up their national identity or bought into the idea of being British. The English happily adopted this new fabricated identity as it was little more than a rebranded Englishness. The Scots adopted English laws and sent MPs and peers to what had been the English parliament. They saw little difference to how it had been before the rebrand.

Fast forward 312 years and England barely exists. English and British are used interchangeably far too often, we have no self-government, MPs elected in other countries make our laws, we have no national anthem and the very idea of Englishness is something dirty that should be eradicated at all costs to British politicians.

But there is still a glimmer of hope. The English identity is still strong and in fact more people than ever describe themselves as English or more English than British when asked. Unfair funding that steals from the English to bribe the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish makes people angry. The disgraceful way that the British parliament has been blocking Brexit that was overwhelmingly supported in England means millions hold the British political class in utter contempt. Having the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers insulting English voters for voting for Brexit and demanding that their views be given precedence over ours is increasing support for booting the Scots out of the union – something opinion polls show that the majority of English people would already be quite happy with.

We will see the end of the British union in the coming years, I am quite confident of this. The current system is unsustainable, built on privilege for the few at the expense of the many. Such is the narrow minded obsession with placating the rebellious Scots amongst the British political class that they have failed to recognise just how unimportant the union is becoming to the English. It is the English that will bring the British union to its long overdue conclusion, not the Scots and it will come to the complete (and satisfying) surprise of the British when it does.

Jo Swinson with EU Flag

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.

Lutfur Rahman Outside Court

The British government have announced plans to introduce compulsory voter ID in a half-arsed attempt to tackle voter fraud.

Voter fraud is a real problem but voter ID will do very little to address it. The majority of voter fraud is with postal votes, not voting in person and for that there is no requirement to prove your identity. In fact, there is very little done in practical terms to prove a postal voter even exists.

The problem is that postal vote fraud is most common in areas with large immigrant populations and on the rare occasions that someone is actually prosecuted for postal vote fraud it’s usually someone of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin. This isn’t speculation, it’s one of the conclusions of an investigation by the Electoral Commission. Attempting to tackle postal vote fraud by targeting communities where most of it is happening is denounced as racist of course it is vehemently opposed by Labour who benefit from it the most.

Postal voting on demand was introduced by Labour in 1999 and became law in 2000. It was sold as a measure to remove barriers to voting and increase voter participation. In reality it has resulted in widespread postal vote fraud which undermines trust in the system. Speak to most election candidates and they will have stories about the fraud that happens in elections and goes uninvestigated. Whether it’s “community leaders” collecting postal votes, “helping” people in care homes fill out their postal votes or simply inventing people who don’t exist or who live elsewhere, it is all facilitated by the availability of postal voting on demand.

Prior to the change to allow postal voting on demand, voters were required to apply to the local authority for a postal vote. To get one they had to give a valid justification for not going to the polling station in person on the day. Sickness, infirmity or holidays were valid reasons; laziness was not. The system worked perfectly fine and the only real disincentive to voters was that it made it very difficult to defraud the system.

There are, of course, instances of people committing voter fraud at polling stations and compulsory voter ID would probably put a stop to much of it but it is fixing the wrong problem. Postal voting on demand needs to stop.

Those who follow politics will be well aware of Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets in London. He and his Tower Hamlets First Party were found guilty by a special election court of widespread fraud and corruption. The local authority was put into special measures, a delegation from the Department of Communities & Local Government took over the day to day running of the authority and Rahman and his cronies were booted out of office and banned from standing for election again for several years. But even with widespread voter fraud it still took years and the bravery of a few individuals to bring Rahman and his motley crew to justice. It was fought all the way by threats and intimidation, accusations of racism and editorials from left wing media deploring the witch hunt against those respectable men who were being unfairly targeted because of their ethnic background. What happened in Tower Hamlets and the stance taken by the media won’t change if voters have to produce ID to vote and the reaction by the Labour-supporting press (and the Labour Party itself of course) condemning the plans because it will deprive Labour of all those fraudulent votes backs that up. Returning officers will still be scared of investigating fraud for fear of being accused of racism, as will council officers checking ID for the same reason. Fear of spurious accusations will ensure the system remains open to abuse.

If compulsory voter ID does go ahead it will bring about a problem in itself. Whilst announcing the proposed change it was said that local authorities would provide a voter ID card free of charge to anyone who doesn’t have photo ID. That’s all well and good but how will the local authority prove the identity of the person requesting the ID card if they don’t have photo ID? What system can they put in place that is any different to what vetting system already exists for postal vote applications that fails to prevent fraud now? Fake identities will be legitimised by the existence of an ID card that is the product of a flawed system.

The biggest problem with the suggestion for me, though, isn’t that it’s proposing to fix the wrong problem or even that it will be quite obviously as open to widespread fraud as the current system is. It’s the idea of a compulsory ID card. These things are the thin end of the wedge, they always are. It will start with compulsory ID for voting and then it will be required for accessing council services. Then shops and other organisations will start requesting it and before long it will have to be centralised into one ID database by the British government to make sure it’s “safe and secure”. In a few years we will all be required carry an ID card by law. It might take a few years but it will happen, there is no doubt about it and I will not carry an ID card nor submit myself into an ID database. If that means I can’t vote then so be it but I will not participate in any ID card scheme.

Edward III Great Seal of England

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. There should be clear separation of the powers of the Scottish parliament and government (the executive). The judiciary should be completely independent of government.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. There should be total transparency in the way property in Scotland is bought, sold or possessed.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.

G.K. Chesterton, the Secret People

ULEZ sign

The British Department for Transport is launching a public consultation on the introduction of road pricing to replace car tax to plug the £40bn black hole in the public finances that would result from the wholesale switch to currently untaxed electric vehicles.

This idea has been mooted in the past and resulted in a petition gaining over 2m signatures opposing the idea. The British government dropped road pricing but apparently only for a few years.

Now, I’m not opposed to the idea of paying for the amount of wear and tear you cause on the roads by linking vehicle tax to the weight and number of miles you travel. If you do the school run in a 4×4 you would pay a higher rate than someone doing it in a Fiat 500 because heavier cars cause more damage to the roads. If you do 20,000 miles a year you would pay more than someone who does 10,000 miles a year because double the distance means double the damage. Petrol and diesel cars should attract a higher tax rate than electric cars because air pollution dirties and damages street furniture and the built environment as well as causing health problems, treatment for which is paid for by the taxpayer. The more a vehicle pollutes the more it should cost to run as more pollution means more cost to the taxpayer.

What I do oppose, though, is the idea of tracking vehicle journeys under the cover of road pricing. It is illiberal and dangerous to give the state the ability to routinely track our movements. EU legislation that requires a satellite tracking device to be fitted to new vehicles has already come into force this year. It is sold to the public as a safety feature to allow emergency services to locate your vehicle in case of an accident but its real purpose is twofold: firstly, it provides a much needed income for the unneeded, unwanted and unreliable Galileo satellite navigation system the EU built and secondly, it allows road pricing to be introduced. The British government have (of course) decided to keep this law because there’s nothing they like more that being able to track and tax people with impunity.

I am fortunate to be able to afford the price premium an electric car attracts. I have driven many thousands of miles at no cost which has more than made up the difference in price compared to a petrol or diesel car. It’s also infinitely better to drive than a petrol or diesel car and I would never go back to burning dead dinosaurs to get from A to B but that’s another topic entirely. Driving an electric car means I don’t have to pay road tax which (with free charging options available to me) means I can sometimes go months without it costing a penny to run. It’s nice while it lasts but it’s not sustainable to continue not taxing electric cars and I don’t mind paying my fair share.

There is a partial solution available to the problem of road tax payments being in decline and it can be implemented in three weeks’ time. Irish hauliers use England and Wales as a “land bridge” to the EU and contribute nothing to the upkeep of our roads. There are an estimated 150,000 Irish lorries using our roads to get to the continent and I have no idea how many journeys those lorries make in a year. Charging a reasonable fee every time a foreign vehicle travels on our roads could generate hundreds of millions in tax to fund our roads and other public service, keeping down the burden on UK motorists.

If a road pricing scheme is introduced it needs to consist of something like congestion charging and/or ULEZ in towns and cities or perhaps an annual tax based on miles travelled, the distance being recorded by the MOT tester every year. It must not include any draconian surveillance technology. Big Brother does not need to know where we are at any given time.

It must also fairly attribute costs to heavier and/or more highly polluting vehicles, incentivising lighter and cleaner vehicles. Equally importantly, a road pricing scheme must take into account ability to pay and need.

A disabled person may need a larger vehicle and that vehicle might not be clean and efficient. They should not be penalised. Nor should large families that need a large enough vehicle to fit everyone in. There is an argument that people should only have the children they can afford and that making allowances based on the number of children is in effect a state subsidy but when an estimated 42% of marriages in the UK are expected to end in divorce it is increasingly common to have a large blended family.

To make road pricing fair will not be a simple task. It will require careful thought and a level of intelligence and foresight that is almost entirely absent in the civil service. This means that any road pricing scheme is almost certain to be inherently unfair to those who are responsible and to those who can least afford to drive because this is what always happens when civil servants try to come up with a one-size-fits-all policy that involves taking or paying out money and it is for that reason that I will continue to oppose the introduction of road pricing by the British government.