Christine Constable: English Democrats and the SNP forming common ground?
Christine is Vice Chairman of the English Democrats.
The Newsnight debate "Disunited Kingdom" on Monday 17th January was top heavy with audience and speakers and sadly because of this many interesting points were not fully explored, although I was pleased I had at least one opportunity to put the English position.
My visit to Holyrood, interviews for Border Television and Newsnight brought me face to face with the SNP and I was pleased to say I found the whole atmosphere in Scotland one of cordiality and shared purpose.
From a personal point of view I have no desire to see an end to the Union, nor is it a policy of the English Democrats. What Scotland and England share however, is a yearning desire to be who we are English and Scottish.
To increasing numbers of people their national identity is more important than to be simply known as British. The term British has over the years been so devalued, that most people would struggle to be able to describe it or to know "how" it unites so many of the diverse ethnic and religious citizens it seeks to represent.
For many, to be British could also mean an inability to speak English, wear conventional clothing, or not to have much involvement in mainstream society - so fractured and divided has our society become under Labour, being British is akin to describing someone simply as a member of humanity, a "catch all" a diplomatic nicety.
I like the Scots. I found on my trip to Edinburgh a shabbier and less confident Edinburgh than I had seen some 10 years previously. I was surprised at the lack of confidence expressed by the Scots and their constant preoccupation with the large shadow of England they felt laid over them like a suffocating fog.
For me, as an English nationalist I couldn't really understand why they had such a low opinion of themselves. I spent one afternoon visiting galleries and Edinburgh Castle and felt proud for Scotland and have always admired their fierce determination to express their Scottishness and good luck to them. The SNP care deeply about Scotland and I admire them for that and felt much sympathy for their objectives to see Scotland become a thriving nation in its own right, something I want for England too, within or outside of the Union however this comes about.
After coming back from Edinburgh I was sorry to see David Cameron be so emphatic in his rejection of an English Parliament and even more suprised to see David Davis reject an English Parliament too, it doesn't make any sense, electorally or democratically.
A parliament is the expression of a nation state, by objecting to England having her own parliament is a public rejection of England's right to be a nation and to be recognised as such. England is fighting for her very existence, and the more the Conservatives refer to "regional government" and feed the European agenda to dismantle England as a nation state, the more the English electorate will reject the Conservatives I can see it all around me, people are drifting away.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights requires that states enable the political representatives of the people to be "freely chosen". Without an English Parliament and English Executive, the English will be in the position of not being able to "freely choose" their First Minister - this point will be hammered home should Gordon Brown ever get the job.
Conservatives are wrong to deny England a Parliament of her own. The people want it (68% in favour Sunday Telegraph ICM Poll/ 61% BBC Poll), the Scots and Welsh want it too. Only the Scottish led and financed parties are rejecting the popular will. I fear that the Conservatives are making a dangerous mistake in not joining with the English Constitutional Convention in the forthcoming national debate on English Devolution. By rejecting so firmly an English Parliament they leave themselves with little room to manoeuver. The public mood is swinging behind the demand for English democracy, the Conservatives (along with the other two parties) could well find themselves rejected by the people of England for not defending English democratic rights, proving that despite burning Conservative fingers in Scotland, Tories haven't learnt any lessons and are doomed to repeat the same mistakes all over again, this time on the more important stage of England itself.
As a democrat, a nationalist and a patriot I see no danger in wanting an English Parliament - if the Union cannot withstand democracy then the Union has had its day. If the Union has a role and the case for it is strong, let it prove itself in an open democratic debate, retain as Bill Cash suggests its legitimacy by submitting itself to a UK wide affirmation of its importance via a referendum - only those who fear democracy reject the popular will a risky and dangerous position to take.