The National Conversation For England supports the National Conversation for England

I was somewhat surprised this morning to find that Gareth Young had posted a campaign carrying the name of this blog on the Labourspace forum. Surprised in a couple of ways: first, the theft borrowing of the name, for which Gareth has in any case apologised. Besides which, I nicked the name off the SNP, and I don’t own copyright; second, I was surprised at the choice of forum, the Labour Party in government having been so implacably opposed to any discussion or even concept of the English Question.

However, on reflection, I think Young’s tactic is sound. It’s all nice and cosy preaching to the converted, as we English nationalists are apt to do. But if change is going to come – to nick borrow a phrase – then it’s going to have to be espoused by people with the power to do something about it. The Tories have recently made it clear, if there was ever any doubt, that they are simply not interested in engaging with the English Question nor in consulting the people of England as to what they might actually want. If we get a Tory landslide at the next general election, it’s hard to envisage them doing anything – even Ken Clarke’s hopelessly inadequate ‘English Pauses for English Clauses’ solution – to address the issue of the English democratic deficit. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems under Nick Clegg seem at times to be pathologically incapable of acknowledging the very existence of England, failing totally to connect their belief in extending and improving democracy to the fact that England is the only nation in the UK without a government elected under PR.

So if any of the major political parties are going to espouse the cause of English self-government, even if only in the context of devolution, then it may well have to be the Labour Party in opposition. There have been encouraging signs of late that many on the left of English politics are beginning to acknowledge the need to develop a ‘progressive’ English nationalism, or at least to channel the patriotism of their traditional support base in England – the working class – in a more positive, inclusive and progressive direction. I personally don’t buy in to the concept of ‘progressive’ politics: a term that carries the baggage of a whole liberal (with a small ‘l’) and secular social, political and philosophical agenda that I regard as questionable in some of its core assumptions and practical consequences. Nonetheless, if the right of the English nation to choose its own form of government is going to be advanced, we’re going to need all the allies we can get, including some of the powerful army of liberal opinion formers within the Labour Party and ‘progressive’ media. Accordingly, I wish Gareth’s campaign well and urge my readers to support it, if they haven’t already.

One key component of Gareth’s campaign is the principle of popular sovereignty. I’ve discussed this in previous posts and laid it out as one of the constitutional foundations for a prospective federal UK. If this principle were accepted for England, it would involve a radical break with the current fundamental UK constitutional principle of parliamentary sovereignty, which essentially involves the exercise of royal sovereignty by the democratically elected parliament. A re-founding of English democracy on the basis of popular sovereignty would therefore involve dismantling the present UK state, whose unity and governance is symbolised and personified in the person of the monarch: the king or queen’s sovereign rule of the whole of the UK (subject to parliament) is what makes it a united kingdom. This does not mean that a ‘sovereign England’ – a newly constituted England in which the people were regarded as sovereign – would necessarily have to be a republic, or part of a ‘Federal Republic of England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland’ – or whatever. But the transition to government on new founding principles would be a historic moment in which the English nation could be confronted with the decision, among other things, about whether to retain its ancient Christian monarchy.

All the more reason for those of either political persuasion (republican or monarchist) to get involved in the national debate – conversation, indeed – that is gathering momentum. Hence, I would urge you to get behind Gareth’s campaign: ‘Knock and it will be opened to you; ask and it will be given to you’. In other words, we have to keep on pushing on the door and levers of power; and eventually, they might just give in.


One Response

  1. i think mr brown needs reminding that we are subjects, not citizens.

    their is a big difference, subjects are born with rights that can not be taken away by parliment (common law, bill of rights 1689 and magna carta)
    citizens are granted rights by the state and can have them removed whenever the state wishes (read the laws as dictated by the eu)

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