The following article was first published in an American newspaper in 2004 and is reproduced here as it is still relevant to our struggle today.
The views express are not necessarily those of the CEP or its officers.
Robert Taylor is a London-based writer, consultant and media trainer. He has provided training and consultancy for organisations throughout the world, including assignments in the US, Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Russia.
Meanwhile: Always an England? The Scots say no!
By Robert Taylor
Published: Saturday, October 9, 2004
LONDON — You can forget about the U.S. presidential election in November. That merely decides who’ll run America. Something much more important is happening to England – something that could, incredible as it sounds, bring an end to that country as we know it.
In short, England in danger of being abolished. How could that happen? The answer lies in Britain’s curious constitution, which makes England the only major democratic country in the world to be governed by foreigners. For centuries, England, Scotland and Wales have pooled their sovereignty under the British banner, with the British Parliament legislating on all matters affecting them. Then in 1998 Tony Blair established a Scottish Parliament, through which that country largely governs itself, and a Welsh Assembly with more limited powers. But the English continue to be governed by the British Parliament, to which the Scots and the Welsh elect members as they always did.
What sort of people could have created a system that so obviously discriminates against the English? The Scots of course. Though Tony Blair, who was born and educated in Scotland, has convinced the English that he’s one of them, in many ways he’s as Scottish as a plate of haggis, and so are his chancellor and several other leading ministers.
Their motivation for denying England a Parliament is certainly polit- ical, and, in the view of some, insidious. An English Parliament would not only revive the opposition Conservative Party – which always fares better in England than elsewhere – but, worse, will make people feel more English. And that’s an embarrassing habit that the Scottish-led government seems intent on discouraging.
Encouraged by the absence of resistance from the English, who have become used to being governed by Wales and Scotland, Blair’s government now plans the ultimate coup: to abolish England altogether by subsuming it in a morass of its own regions. His Scottish forefathers, who fought the English at Bannockburn, would be gob-smacked that the abolition of England could be achieved without a Scottish arrow being fired in anger. Indeed the brilliance of the plan lies in the fact that it is the English who will be voting themselves out of existence. Some politically aware Scots can barely conceal their glee that “the old enemy” could be so blind.
The plan is that England will be divided into nine regions, each with its own assembly. These assemblies will compete for central government resources and favours, and before long people will stop feeling English, and start thinking of themselves as North Eastern, or South Western and so on. The government has already taken, cheekily, to speaking of “the nations and regions of Britain” – the nations, of course, being Scotland and Wales.
Before we know it, England will be wiped off the face of the map. Soon it may exist only in the sporting context, when England competes in soccer, rugby and cricket. What next? Will the government propose that, instead of England, we should field teams like “The North West” and “The Midlands” to challenge for the World Cup? (Cynics would argue that it would make little difference to the end result.)
In November the people of the North East will become the first to vote on whether to have an assembly. The government is busy sweet-talking them, telling them how much their proud region will benefit from running its own affairs.
The English are belatedly waking up to this danger. A recent poll found that twice as many are in favour of an English Parliament – coexisting alongside the British Parliament – as those who support regional assemblies. But Blair knows that as long as the North East votes for an assembly, he can portray an English Parliament as an unnecessary additional layer of government.
The stakes are high, and time is short. This month, the Campaign for an English Parliament launches its English Constitutional Convention. If enthusiastically received, it will have an impact on the North East’s vote in October, and the CEP’s hope is that the North East will rally to the English cause just in time.
I, too, would like to nail my colours to the English mast. But unfortunately I’m handicapped by my English sense of fair play. The best I can do is to corner my friends and urge them to consider what comes first: region or country? It’s a question to which, surely, there’s only one correct answer.