Campaign For a National Referendum (3): Frank Field backs a UK-wide referendum

In his speech to the University of Hertfordshire on Tuesday of this week, Labour MP Frank Field made out a strong case for the right of all UK citizens, not just Scottish voters, to determine the future shape of the UK: “Wendy Alexander . . . recently called for an early referendum on independence. Yet her plea was couched as though it was an exclusively Scottish matter. For reasons I am about to detail any referendum needs to be UK wide. The English, Welsh and citizens of Northern Ireland have as much interest and as much a right to be consulted over the break up of the Kingdom, and on what terms, as do the Scots themselves”. This is exactly the position of A National Conversation For England, and Frank Field is to be commended for taking up the cause within the parliamentary Labour Party.

Frank Field also argued that Gordon Brown should seize the initiative on the English Question, which could secure him substantial electoral advantage in England and enable him to mould the terms of the debate, even though the eventual shape of the new constitutional settlement should be open-ended at this stage and would ultimately be down to the British people to determine. This is exactly the position taken by this blog: addressing the English Question now may be the only way the Scottish First Minister for England could save his premiership and prevent New Labour from being obliterated in England at the next general election; indeed, it may be the only way to prevent the UK from drifting into a break up the outline of which is determined solely by Alex Salmond.

The rest of Frank Field’s speech is a textbook presentation of the injustices to England of the present asymmetric devolution settlement. The MP makes it clear that an English parliament will eventually happen, as part of a new federal set up, he thinks. The real political question for him is who will be in power to steer it through and secure party-political advantage from it: Brown or Cameron.

It’s good to see someone like Frank Field, respected for his common sense and concern for Labour’s core working-class vote, seeing and speaking sense on this issue. Personally, I’m not too bothered about Labour taking a hammering at the next election, which they thoroughly deserve for their persistent discrimination against the English as a whole, neglect of the English working class and contempt for Middle England. But if enough senior Labour politicians wake up to the English Question, and a process begins that could lead to a fair UK-wide referendum on a comprehensive national constitutional settlement, this can only be a good thing.

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4 Responses

  1. There should be a UK-wide multi-choice referendum. Independence should definitely be a question for every UK citizen.

    The silence is deafening from UK MPs.

  2. Brown should not be part of negotiating the split of the UK’s assets and debts. It would be a conflict of interests, so we need English representatives to do it for us.

  3. Not only will Brown or anyone from the British government not be acceptable as negotiators for England

    – since they have no mandate to negotiate for England and their loyalties are highly suspect-

    but if they do try and do so then any deal they make can be rejected by the English as not done in our name . This objection should be placed on record NOW with a clear statement in advance that any deal done will be repudiated by the English if they , as the English , consider it not to be in their interests.

    A large part of such a deal is the negotiation over British national debts. It is hugely in England’s favour that Scotland take away her attributable share of the debts . Any debts not attributable to England are not England’s responsibility. This must be made clear now.

  4. Yes, I’m not sure how such a ‘negotiation’ would be handled. It would probably be more of a constitutional convention, which should involve the opportunity for anyone to make a contribution. There was a debate a while back on the OurKingdom site about how to use the Internet for just such a public consultation. I think this can be done quite straightforwardly because popular views can emerge quickly and clearly through Internet debates and polls. Indeed, emerging views from the formal constitutional convention (if this was an actual body comprising politicians, academics, industry groups, lobby / pressure groups, journalists, bloggers, etc.) could be put to an Internet poll and discussed in blogs, enabling workable propositions to emerge.

    However, this is all theoretical; I doubt whether Brown will have the wit, imagination or courage to kick off such a process.

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