If you have to understand the political system of a country, you will first have to learn about the history of that country. The history of the United Kingdom has been very much different from the rest of the world, and thus, its political systems are also quite different from the other countries. The Britishers have been the greatest colonisers in the whole world. They never know how it is to be colonised and they also never had anything like the American Revolution or the French Revolution.
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It is thanks to bloggers like myself that Dr Pachauri is “embattled” Four months ago, Dr Rajendra Pachauri was hardly a household name. But to...
I am proud to call myself English and I am certainly not going to apologise for it on this, St Georges Day. It is...
EXCLUSIVE: Withdrawalism’s pantomime horse does the splitsIn Committee Room 7 at the House of Commons this evening, Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell proposed that Better Off Out should wind itself up. Arguing that the supporters of BOO – whom present tonight included Lord Tebbit – have, in one form or another, ‘sat for thirty years’ without achieving the objective of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the two men, supported by Mark Reckless, proposed that BOO should go out of business and be replaced by a cross-party referendum campaign. Their case for this included the belief that Tory MPs won’t join BOO for fear of getting the black spot. Douglas Carswell further suggested that more than half the new Tory intake in the Commons were privately in favour of a referendum, and moreover, were personally receptive to his arguments. The meeting was chaired by Lord Vinson and despite the push by Dan Hannan, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to abolish BOO, it decided instead to keep itself in existence but wish a fair wind to any All Party Parliamentary Group that can be established in favour of an In/Out referendum on the EU. It’s hard to see what the case is for abolishing BOO. Apart from anything else, far from having achieved nothing, it’s the one group in the last quarter century that has given any public salience whatsoever to the idea of British withdrawal from the EU. Beyond that the low politics of the Hannan/Carswell proposal don’t seem to make much immediate sense either. If Tory MPs are reluctant to join BOO because of the implications for their career prospects, any group which is established that doesn’t threaten their personal ambitions isn’t likely to be doing its job. David Cameron has been unambiguous on this point: he fully supports British membership of the EU. A group that he and the whips can tolerate ambitious Tory backbenchers belonging to is, almost by definition, a neutered body. With, in this instance, the proposed distinction of being one that intends to neuter itself. Lord Tebbit made the point that Tory MPs, should redistribution actually happen, will face the tremendous threat of Central Office determining whether or not they get new constituencies in any shrunken House of Commons. While Phil Davies pointed out that BOO and a pro-Referendum APPG are anyway two quite distinct propositions. The latter can, if 6 or more Labour MPs can be found to join it, include pro-EU politicians in favour of a referendum precisely so that they can keep us in the EU. Thus the point of BOO is to keep making the Withdrawalist case, rather than dissolving itself in favour of a cross-party grouping merely agnostically agitating for an In/Out poll. One sub-current to the evening’s discussion was the marked impression that on the Hannan/Carswell side the belief is that to call the referendum is to win it. Others, including the Bruges Group’s Barry Legg, felt that it was personal economic attitudes towards the EU that would ultimately determine how people voted, just as in 1975, and that that was nothing like a sealed deal yet. BOO is a very necessary thing, and whatever very slim chance there is that this Liberal-Conservative Coalition would ever allow an In/Out referendum to be staged on its pro-EU watch, it’s crucial that BOO continues to exist and keeps making the case for withdrawal when eventually the opportunity to do so presents itself. It’s also imperative that Tory withdrawalists should work together rather than, as this evening, at cross purposes.
The euro crisis was widely predicted. What were the motives of those who shut their eyes to it?No one should have been surprised at the crisis of the euro. Not only could it have been foreseen, but it was foreseen. And no, it was not just those of us hostile to the whole concept of the monetary union who foresaw it, but its leading advocates who openly said that it would fail unless there were a single tax and economic policy throughout the eurozone. I recently refreshed my memory of those days to satisfy myself that my memory had not deceived me and found that it had not. Writing in the Financial Times of January 4th, 1993 Chancellor Kohl was perfectly clear. Having described the Maastricht Treaty as ‘an interim step, albeit an important one on the road to European Union,’ he continued, ‘The parts of the treaty dealing with a political union are just as important as those concerning economic and monetary union. Everyone in Europe must realise that we can preserve all our economic achievements only if we also secure them politically. An economic union will survive only if it is based on a political union.’ At the press conference following Central Bank Council Session of the Bundesbank on 20th April, 1995, the Bundesbank’s president, Dr. Hans Tietmeyer, observed that ‘a currency union is in the long term an irrevocable community of solidarity. Every experience shows that it needs a continuing commitment in the form of a comprehensive political union for its survival. By 1999 Chancellor Schroder was even clearer when he spoke at The Hague on 19th January: ‘The introduction of the euro is probably the most important integrating step since the beginning of the unification process. It is certain that the times of individual national efforts regarding employment policies, social and tax policies are definitely over.’ ‘The internal market and the common currency demand joint co-ordinating action. This will require to bury finally some erroneous ideas of national sovereignty.’ Nor did independent observers miss the point. In an interview with Der Speigel fifteen years ago, Ralf Dahrendorf declared, ‘monetary union is a great mistake, an adventurous, daring and misguided goal which divides Europe rather than uniting it … (convergence) is impossible because the economic cultures are too diverse. It is impossible because the cultures are too diverse.’ If it was so obvious that without enforced convergence by the establishment of political union and a single euro treasury with tax powers it would be in danger of failure, why did the creation of the euro go ahead? The answer, I fear, is that the elite of Brussels saw it as a way of enforcing economic and political union. They knew the crisis would come and they intended to use it to grab power from the member states. Instead of resisting such a plan, our political leaders here (and some elsewhere) put their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes and buried their heads in the sand. They must have, or ought to have, known that the leaders of the euro project saw it as a way of enforcing fiscal and political union, that is the creation of the European Republic. They must have, or ought to have, known that a crisis would arise for the euro which would lead either to its collapse or to the ceding to Brussels of economic and tax powers. Of course no-one could have foreseen the way in which the world banking problems emanating from Bill Clinton’s reckless policies would precipitate the euro crisis, but it was always clear that such a crisis would arise. As I tried to explain to the then Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, at the time, ‘No currency can have more than one Chancellor to its name, and no Chancellor without a currency to his name sits in an independent government.’ The Irish predicament is not solely the fault of the euro. But it could not have reached this level of crisis had Ireland been outside the euro zone and it is its membership of the euro which threatens to make recovery impossible. Of course the IMF, the European Union and the United Kingdom have thrown the Irish a lifebelt, but it is a concrete lifebelt. What Ireland needs is not a concrete lifebelt but to be free to sink or swim by its own efforts. Neither the Government, nor the people of Ireland could do more to resolve their problems. I would like to think that we here in the United Kingdom could behave with such common sense, unity and dignity in such terrible circumstances, but all the sacrifices will be in vain unless Ireland is freed from the euro. We were lucky to escape a similar fate. I am glad that so many advocates of British entry to the euro are now admitting that they were wrong. What worries me is that far too many of those guilty of such stupidity remain in high places in our politics. Perhaps we need some form of Truth and Responsibility Commission. Let them recant in public and seek rehabilitation into mainstream political and economic thinking.
The SDSR and why the choice of a maritime or a land doctrine is necessaryChanging options The Strategic Defence & Security Review has been an unedifying spectacle to witness, but this is a result of the competing pressures – operational, political, fiscal and doctrinal – which the armed forces are under. To understand why we have ended up with the SDSR we have, we need to see how these pressures came to be arranged just so. Doing so also explains why a fundamental strategic choice is necessary for Britain. We then need to realistically see what the structural impacts of such a choice will be, and where this will leave Britain’s world role as a result. Britain’s armed forces will be transform over the course of the next five years, and that process will be governed by the SDSR, whether or not it has been the worthy exercise it could have been. The context A consensus emerged from the end of the Cold War that there should be a peace-dividend allowing the nation to reduce military spending from over 4% of GDP in order that it might be diverted to more socially useful ends. The government of the day held a long and considered Defence review resulting in the SDR98; a document detailing how the Armed Forces would be configured to implement a new world role for Britain, that of liberal interventionism, a mechanism for holding governments to account for their failure to uphold international law, and to meet international norms regarding basic human rights, which in the last resort could be enforced by expeditionary warfare. As a result the Armed Forces resembled a mini-US, capable of broad spectrum power projection including the following key strategic capabilities: an army capable of fighting protracted and high-intensity wars; a navy capable of deterrence and over-the-horizon forced entry engagements; an ability to conduct theatre level engagements out of area with all the C2ISR that entails; and lastly a strategic deterrent. Since, at the time of the SDR 98, the Defence budget occupied merely 2.7% of GDP during a period of rapid economic growth, this was actually a viable proposition. It was a stretch, but if this budget priority coexisted with continued growth then this was indeed a defence we could afford. But it wasn’t to be. The Defence budget slipped from 2.7% of GDP in 1997 to 2.2% in 2008, before the recession arrived which killed the economic growth that compensated for defence inflation. However, most lethally, Britain was embroiled in two wars whose endurance and intensity exceeded the planned operational tempo, and which the government paid for by hacking out chunks of the core Defence budget for operational costs, and accepting procurement programs which were completely unfunded. It should be clear that broad spectrum power-projection hasn’t been affordable for some time, a fact compounded by the Gray report which effectively represents a 10% cut over the next decade, the Treasury insistence on Defence funding of the acquisition costs of the Trident replacement which represents a further 2% cut, and, a Treasury demand for up to a 10% reduction as part of the Defence contribution to balancing the country’s shattered public finances. The result If we are not to be capable of broad-spectrum power projection in the furtherance of the British national interest then we have but two choices; to become a narrow-spectrum Great Power, or, alternatively, to concentrate on home defence and give up a leading role in international affairs. The latter option only requires the following two duties: autonomous obligations for the UK’s defence, and contributory obligations for collective defence, whereas the former adds two more. Namely the requirement to be able to effectively wage elective war of both the autonomous and the contributory kind, for, presumably, reasons of national interest. There is nothing immoral in the latter ambition as we have an interest in promoting an international rules based system where laws and norms are adhered to. Responsibility to Protect, a ‘norm’ now quite accepted in International Relations is a case in point. Britain’s position on the Security Council is in part justified by the strategic bargain with friends and allies that we will work to achieve collective security in the widest sense. Thus do we need a force structure that provides an expeditionary capability in addition to meeting the basic and local requirements of collective and national defence. Influence where? The reality of Britain’s position in the world today is that while Britain will likely remain the seventh largest economy by 2050 our influence will inevitably decline as new powers rise. That we will need partnerships which will act as force multipliers in pursuit of British interests is the first reality realists should acknowledge. Second is the fact that we are inescapably an integral part of Europe, and it behoves us to encourage our immediate neighbours to become an effective instrument with which to leverage their combined diplomatic effect. A third and reasonable expectation of reality is the projection that the USA will remain the most significant international actor for perhaps the next forty years, and that we should work to discourage their declining interest in us by making Europe a valuable future partner. And the fourth fact is that outside of this EU/US axis we are allied to some of the fastest growing developed and developing economies. However, they exist in unstable regions and would benefit from the certainty of swift and strategic military assistance. Europe has long tended to overestimate the value of soft-power, and taught a brutal lesson during the Balkans crisis. The result of this was the agreement to perform the Petersburg tasks: humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks & disarmament operations, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking, and support to third countries in combating terrorism. In short the softer security elements separable, not separate from NATO’s obligation to manage territorial defence. Tony Blair’s government should be recognised for the St Malo achievement. By pooling sovereignty at an inter-governmental level (rather than delegated to a supranational level) the rest of Europe was persuaded, at least in principle, to perform security tasks in its near abroad, and for nations to specialise where necessary to facilitate this. This ‘uploading’ of British preferences was a vital first step, but London’s task is to see that Europe becomes a strategic actor in its own right. This requires instilling the collective will to act militarily abroad, and with harmonised structures capable of achieving this. The US is in the process of gradually disengaging from Europe as its alters its posture to face the challenges of 21st century Asia, and the task for Britain is to retain the engagement of the world’s only superpower in order that this relationship remains a process whereby British interests are advanced. Europe, as a result of declining demographics in the wider region, is destined to become a strategic backwater in the 21st century, as the dominant economies in the next forty years will be China and India, with other extra-European actors biting at their heels. Accordingly, Britain’s utility to the US as an unsinkable aircraft carrier will diminish. As American hegemony declines in the face of aspiring new powers it will search for partners to share the burden and confer legitimacy, and Britain’s influence with the US will derive as much from creating and leading an effective Europe as it does from providing military assets. It is a judgement for Britain to make as to where it will gain most advantage – from a military that will enhance EU effectiveness, and thus build a superpower partner, or a military that will most effectively complement US requirements for sustained ground presence, by supplying force that confers multilateral legitimacy on US operations. With regards to those nations, outside of the EU/US axis, whom we seek to influence, an expeditionary capability is both essential and entirely complementary to our obligations to overseas dependencies. The choice If Britain is therefore destined to become a narrow-spectrum power then it is restricted to two fundamental choices; maritime or land, and the choice will be governed by which is deemed most complementary to the goals set out above. The choice of maritime or land is not absolute, our direction is constrained by our commitment to national and collective defence, but it does represent an emphasis that will preserve strategic capability for power-projection over one domain or the other. National defence requires a bare minimum over the land, sea and air domains of the following: an army of at least five brigades to permit defence of the homeland at division level, and defence of overseas territories at brigade level; a navy of a dozen major warships to protect the home waters; and an air-force of four air-defence squadrons to protect the skies above Britain. In addition to this we require sufficient strategic air/sea-lift to move those military assets in defence of overseas territories. Collective defence could add another brigade, so we can deploy a division against an Article V style threat, as well as two squadrons of strike aircraft, and a further three warships for standing tasks. Everything beyond the absolute requirement for collective and national defence is the realm of elective and expeditionary warfare, and this is where the debate over the SDSR has become nasty and fraught with factional infighting. Each service is quick to claim that it can provide a tailored solution for autonomous and contributory warfare outside of obligatory requirements, and each is quick to claim that its elective solution is complementary to obligatory requirements, and thus cost effective. The land argument takes the theme that Rupert Smith’s “wars-among-the-people” will come to characterise future conflict, where enduring and dispersed insurgencies will require significant ground forces to dominate a theatre over an extended period. Ideological conflict will be a generational affair and will require sustained effort on a wide scale to prevent failed states becoming hot-houses for new threats to home security and national interests. At present there are nine combat brigades (including the Royal Marine brigade). This is sufficient to enter a theatre of war with three brigades, and thereafter to sustain a brigade and a battlegroup in theatre. If a land based doctrine is adopted, such as the “Global Guardian” described by RUSI, we might expect the army to increase in numbers from 105,000 to 110,000 on the premise of sustaining nine brigades which with a little juggling of harmony guidelines, would permit the sustained presence of a division in theatre, and justify the framework nation status that brings with it significant command input. The Navy would lose the amphibious fleet and carriers, and thus the justification for the Marines, leaving rapid reaction operations to airborne-forces limited to battle-group level. The land doctrine’s utility for contributory warfare would be significant as it would provide forces for peacekeeping, collective defence and peacemaking at division level, as desired by the EU and US respectively. Its utility for autonomous operations would be problematic for, although the army is looking to create a lighter logistical footprint for its medium weight forces, staging such expeditionary operations requires host nation support for both deployment and supply, incurring considerable cost in time and political capital, and outside of US logistical support would be unlikely to deploy at more than brigade level. The maritime doctrine considers the Georgian war as characteristic of future conflict, where regions subject to geopolitical ‘shocks’ will encourage states insufficiently wedded to the international system to renationalise their foreign policy and thus justify unilateral external action. The chosen response to this problem is the British “manoeuverist approach”, where freedom of the sea allows one to apply surgical force to an enemy’s critical weaknesses, rather than blunt force against the enemy’s main strength. It provides the ability to deploy, insert, command, and sustain a reinforced brigade in theatre, with full access to C4ISR in theatre along with organic air support. While the concept of “Go first, go fast, go home” has been tested to destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, it remains a viable posture for a nation specialising in theatre entry, as long as there are follow-on nations to relieve the burden. Of the nine present combat brigades mentioned the two of especial importance to this doctrine are the Royal Marine brigade and the Air Assault Brigade. If a maritime doctrine were fully adopted, such as the “Strategic Raiding” described by RUSI, we might expect the army to contract to 80,000 men on the premise of sustaining five medium-weight brigades in addition to the two expeditionary brigades, which under the harmony guidelines would permit the sustainment of a brigade for contributory operations, as well as brigade strength rapid reaction forces. In US led coalitions UK forces would clearly be subordinate to US command at the theatre level, however EU deployments would allow theatre control of wider coalition assets. The Navy would keep its amphibious fleet, carriers, and Marines, and would be capable of wider deterrence/presence missions deemed essential for Defence diplomacy. The maritime doctrine’s utility for contributory warfare would be modest as it would only be capable of providing force for peacekeeping, collective defence and peacemaking at brigade level, and would limit our influence within the EU and US. Its utility for autonomous warfare would be considerable as it would permit brigade level rapid reaction forces for defence of overseas dependencies, and in support of allies and interests. Its utility for conflict prevention is likewise considerable given the ability of amphibious forces to be rapidly positioned, remain poised to intervene, and then move on once the threat has passed – true strategic mobility is their ace. In the short term, leading up to 2015, the structure of the armed forces will rightly be concentrated on the Afghanistan mission so we are unlikely to see much change to the army other than a gradual reduction in heavy armour, and a slow return from Germany as closing RAF bases free up space for returning brigades. It is quite possible that much of the amphibious fleet will be put into extended readiness in the same period, or scrapped, depending on the outcome. The impact The land doctrine would be a comfortable choice for the EU as well as the US: for the former it would provide a UK with plenty of boots on the ground to conduct soft security tasks in Europe’s near abroad, for the latter it would likewise provide a UK able to join enduring counter-insurgency wars. The problem for Britain’s ambitions in Europe is that a land doctrine does not add anything that Europe doesn’t already have a great deal of, medium-weight brigades. It would undermine the St Malo pressure to forge Europe into a broad spectrum power over all domains: land, sea and air. Further, an EU that is struggling to be seen as a serious strategic partner would also be hard pressed to explain why its most capable naval power, in a group that is mostly devoid of maritime power projection, has transformed itself into a land power. The perception would be that the Britain had once again chosen the US over the EU, and was this not evidence that we were never truly committed to European Defence? Having British forces frequently hip-deep in unattractive American wars has, in addition, all too visibly encouraged the smaller European partners to let their defence spending atrophy. It has only been when our commitment to European Defence has visibly matched that of France that we have been able to persuade the smaller nations that collective defence is an obligation and not a right. In contrast, Britain’s ambitions for the US under a land doctrine would no doubt benefit in the short term by being able to sustain a division in theatre wherever this generational epic of failed-state conflicts alights next. We would thereby demonstrate a commitment to the US that would no doubt be reflected in their maintenance of the intelligence and technology sharing functions that forms the real and, for us, beneficial core of the special relationship. However, as America’s interests move further east would the British public be willing to follow the US into wars that are perceived to be ever more remote from what’s recognisable as our national interests? In the 2020 time-frame, without a willingness to fight US COIN wars alongside them, and unable to present Europe as a willing and able partner in 21st century geopolitics, how will Britain keep the US engaged in our interests? The maritime doctrine will be an easy sell within the EU but a difficult proposition for the US, for the former would perceive it as a move away from being an auxiliary for American ambitions, and the latter would likewise recognise the loss of a partner capable of making a significant contribution to enduring land operations. It could be all too easily seen as the British firing a continental bullet, and being willing to peacekeep to the last Frenchman. Regardless of the chosen force structure, the problem for Britain’s ambitions in Europe would be to persuade European nations that they need to involve themselves with the harder edge of security provision – with peacemaking rather than just peacekeeping – for only this will prevent Europe’s abundant soft-power from being hamstrung on the international stage, and thus not co-opted to British ends the way we aim to co-opt American power. The challenge will be to push these nations to think of European security as a concerted whole to which they can contribute, rather than an irritation made irrelevant by the US security blanket. This does not require a Euro-army, or any further institutional integration, merely the fulfilment of the inter-governmental cooperation secured by Tony Blair at St Malo in support of the Petersburg tasks. This author takes the view that this will be more readily achieved if Britain configures its forces to meet the maritime element of the power projection spectrum for the reasons stated above. We can and should offer leadership. The challenge for Britain’s ambitions for the US under a maritime doctrine lies in convincing Washington that reducing our capability to support their forces in theatre will increase the probability of delivering the EU that can be a genuine partner in a post-unipolar world. American scepticism of European commitment to deliver effective military capability is well justified. The cost of a maritime doctrine may be considered very-long odds contrasted against the capability we provide today. On the other hand, the US State Department has always be keen to see Britain thoroughly enmeshed in ever-deeper-union, presumably on the logic that if there is to be an EU it might as well be both effective and friendly to American interests, neither of which is assured without British involvement. The question why Britain’s Grand Strategy must be to retain the ability for sovereign and strategic power projection inside an ever more multi-lateral world. But that world will be one where our interests are best served by us delivering a NATO in twenty years time which is not fixed on Article V defence of European territorial integrity, but instead provides a genuine institutional bond linking the security and prosperity of North America and Europe. The needs of the West in its most vulnerable century arguably since the 15th is best met by an SDSR mandating a maritime future for Britain’s Armed Forces: we have a role to play, and should not be afraid of doing so.
For over fifty years, the Ulster Unionist Party was arguably the most successful political party in a twentieth century Western democracy, even if its success was in a rather small patch. For just over five decades it never lost an election, seeing off challenges to its right and left as well as the perennial challenge from Irish nationalism. Even after the basis of its political power, Stormont, was prorogued by Edward Heath in 1972 and throughout the murderous times of the Troubles it maintained a predominant position. Yet despite this pedigree, it could not maintain this position as the peace process developed. It declined from being the largest party in Northern Ireland, with hundreds of thousands of votes and 10 MPs, to fighting for third place, struggling even to break 100,000 and having no MPs. Its position as the leading and mainstream Unionist Party was usurped by the Democratic Unionist Party in 2003 and since then Unionist voters have seemed broadly content with that switch. In response to this crisis, the party has just elected Tom Elliott, a Fermanagh farmer and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, to turn its fortunes around. His election followed a divisive leadership campaign against fellow Assembly member, Basil McCrea. McCrea set out his stall for the UUP to move in a more liberal direction while Elliott did not set out a clear message. Yet Elliott won a decisive 68% to 32% victory, even if the age profile of his support did not bode well for the future. He has set his goal for the UUP to be the top force of Ulster politics but to do so he will have to learn the lessons of the UUP’s decline. The Belfast Agreement is often see as the alpha and omega of Ulster Unionism’s problems but it was much more deep-rooted than that. The seeds of its decline were sown before ink was put to paper on the Belfast Agreement. The UUP’s years of success had led to a complacency that blinded it to a steady decline in organisational capability. Its record of constituency work was poor – something of more significance in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK. Indeed, the DUP’s far superior performance in this regard was a key factor in it always avoiding extinction at the hands of the UUP monolith. Decades in power instilled the UUP with the belief that the party and the Union was one and the same thing. Added to this was a ‘Leader’ culture verging on feudalism. A common joke was that if the Party leader proposed a United Ireland, he’d have had the guaranteed support of at least 40% of the party delegates. This inwardness and self-contentment blinded its decision-making to the public mood. Beyond the party culture, however, and even the evident decay in basic organisation, three main political failures stand out. The UUP first failed to see the changes that were occurring in the SDLP, with John Hume’s greener, pan-Ireland hue being in marked contrast to Gerry Fitt’s openness to an internal, Northern Irish solution. Thus the UUP didn’t grasp the importance of the attempt at administrative devolution in the early 1980’s: something Paisley and the DUP did. Instead, encouraged by Enoch Powell, close friend and trusted adviser to James Molyneaux, they pursued the 1979 Conservative manifesto pledge of integration. Powell mistakenly believed that Thatcher’s personal respect for him extended to policy. But without its primary architect, Airey Neave, brutally murdered by the INLA, the will to implement the policy was not to be found. The normal Tory behaviour of one policy for Ulster in opposition and another in government won through with the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) the result. The Agreement and the failure of Unionism to defeat it was the UUP’s second failure. This political emasculation meant that the scales in any future negotiation were not tipped well for Unionism. And it would make any future agreement a difficult sell: Unionist voters knew that 1985 had been a colossal political defeat, and were inevitably going to react harshly to more and still greater failure. The third failure was in the battle for ideas. Nationalism offered a framework for the solution to Northern Ireland – the so-called three strands (relations within NI, on ‘the island of Ireland’, and, between Dublin and London). Unionism simply didn’t engage. This meant that when the peace process began Nationalism was offering a route map and Unionism wasn’t. This policy drift had been highlighted in a 1987 paper, the Task Force report, jointly produced by leading members of the UUP and DUP (including the now DUP leader Peter Robinson). However, its criticisms were buried and the drift continued. These cumulative failures of inertia offer a partial explanation of John Major’s humiliation of James Molyneaux. The then UUP leader believed he had Major’s ear as public and secret negotiations were going on to develop what became known as the Framework Documents. This also meant that the UUP did not exercise to any effect the parliamentary muscle it enjoyed due to the declining Tory majority. Sadly, having someone’s ear is only of value if you have something to put into it. Molyneaux didn’t. When the Framework Documents were produced in February 1995, the wholesale adoption of basic nationalist assumptions was as clear as Molyneaux’s failure. Unionism would have to spend its political capital during the next decade or so just talking the government back from this high, green, water mark, before it even contemplated attempting to make political advances. None of this boded well for how the UUP would perform in the negotiations that would culminate in the Belfast Agreement. But after Molyneaux’s retirement, the UUP placed its faith in the former Queen’s academic, David Trimble, to chart it through the tricky waters of the talks and their results. Their faith was misplaced with Trimble’s many flaws well-documented in Dean Godson’s biography of him. David Trimble had learned the lesson of the Sunningdale Agreement and its ‘Council of Ireland’ element (something which turned out to be electorally toxic for its Unionist supporters). Hence Trimble focused his efforts on the cross-border aspects of the looming deal, and in the process fatally messed up that the arrangements for devolution, and, still more crucially, the ceasing of terrorist activities and dismantling of their paramilitary structures. The UUP membership did endorse the Agreement 70:30 but the euphoria of the eventual NI referendum result of 71% to 29% masked deeper issues. Unionist voters were split down the middle and it had taken a major blitz in the final week of the referendum campaign to achieve even that. The first Assembly election a few weeks after the referendum demonstrated the unease, with the UUP losing voters to Bob McCartney’s United Kingdom Unionist Party and various independents. Though this also demonstrated a reluctance for discontented Ulster Unionists to go to Paisley’s minority Democratic Unionist Party. The UUP’s approach was to consider this loss temporary and that as the Agreement was implemented in line with Trimble’s conception of it, the voters would return to their natural home. However the Agreement-in-operation did not proceed in this happy fashion. Rather, crisis after crisis ensued, with various, stop-gap mini-deals contrived, none of which could sustain the original vision of the inherently flawed Belfast Agreement. This provided ample evidence for the charge that the UUP were capable neither of negotiating on behalf of Unionism, nor of administrating in its interest. Later Trimble’s leadership clique would come to believe that the electoral damage they had done to the UUP could be repaired by going after a group of voters called ‘Garden Centre Prods’. Yet this proved to be wishful thinking which married a misdiagnosis of Unionist turnout problems with fanincful thinking about referendum voters. Unsurprisingly, it failed. In the UUP’s downfall, there has been one more element worth noting: internal divisions. But this has been blamed for too much, especially by leaders keener to blame their followers than themselves for their party’s misfortunes. There were a number of activists within the UUP who were unhappy with political developments. However, when they ultimately left the UUP for the DUP the majority of their voters came with them. So rather than their presence harming the UUP, it arguably managed to artificially inflate the UUP tally of voters far longer than Trimble’s leadership merited or got gained them. The loss of some UUP MPs who opposed the Agreement is presented as conclusive evidence that a more sceptical position would not have helped the UUP but this ignores the basic point about competence. Unionist voters wanted competent representatives with their interests at heart. Correctness of views was no protection for uselessness. It is underappreciated how much the Unionist electorate was consciously picking and choosing its best team. In the midst of this the DUP did clear-sightedly appreciate the process underway. It noticed both the reluctance of mainstream Unionist voters to switch to it, and, their heartfelt desire for competent, effective leaders. So it began its process of change – and unlike the jerks of the UUP, it followed the approach of the right amount of change at the right time. It set about broadening beyond the Paisley brand emphasising the strength and depth of its team, with the media role given over to Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell. It used its ministerial portfolios to demonstrate competence. It opened an extensive network of constituency offices to build on its already good reputation of work on the ground. It also shifted from outright rejection to seeking the mantle to negotiate on behalf of Unionism which it was given in the 2003 Assembly elections. This dominance was reinforced with even greater victories in the 2004 Euro elections and the 2005 Westminster election. This repeated decline in votes and loss of its position was something the UUP couldn’t fully comprehend. It continued with the belief that the situation was transitory. It claimed voters had been conned and it was the same old DUP. The ability of the DUP to absorb former UUP representatives and members disproved such flawed analysis. UUP grandees intoned that DUP hicks were incapable of making an Agreement. But the DUP did. It said a DUP-Sinn Fein dominated system couldn’t work. However, while it has never been an easy or simple process to work within the constraints of a mandatory coalition, the Assembly is nearing the end of a full-term without interruption and with more decisions through the Executive than in any previous period of devolution. The square of devolving policing and justice was also successfully squared. Discreditably, and unappealingly, successive senior Ulster Unionists whined that failings in the peace process were everyone else’s fault – Blair, Adams, internal UUP critics, the media, anyone but themselves in short. Somehow its right moves delivered the wrong results. In message terms it floundered. Once deprived of its position of predominance it was left without a narrative of its own and it has not succeeded in identifying a new one. It relied on the incoherent oppositionalism of not being the DUP. It tried doubling up its pro-Agreement rhetorical with its strongly pro-devolution Assembly campaign in 2007. This delivered its worst Assembly result. When serial DUP defector Jim Allister started having some success to the DUP’s right with his Traditional Unionist Voice, the UUP’s ultra-Agreementism was inexplicably ditched with it trying to tag along with the Allister attack lines. To add to the confusion the UUP went back to the past trying to renew links with the Conservative party under the name from the ninth circle of brand hell – Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force (UCUNF). It hoped some of the Cameron sparkle would fall onto it but it caused new internal rows and the loss of its sole remaining MP, Sylvia Hermon. By this year’s general election, this two-faced approach became three-faced when the UUP did a partial deal with the DUP, accepting an agreed candidate with in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, while rejecting the same rationale for Unionist unity in South Belfast. By the time the 2010 Westminster election came around the UUP hadn’t noticed that Cameron’s sparkle wasn’t working on the mainland, never mind in Ulster. Also the way it presented the deal demonstrated a fundamental flaw in their thinking – it was all about them not the voters. ‘At the heart of government’ and ‘people at the Cabinet table’ seemed to be about restoring them to some supposed rightful place rather than what it could deliver for their would-be voters. It almost appeared that when faced with defeat in Northern Ireland it wanted to take its football away and find another pitch. The policy pledges it had got from the Conservatives were wafer thin. This view became solidified whenever Cameron appeared to single out Northern Ireland and the North-East of England for extra cuts in a Newsnight interview. By the end, UUP arguments were either ineffectual or neutered. There were puerile attempts to characterise the DUP as ‘Ulster nationalists’ (demonstrating their internal logic that only Ulster Unionists are real Unionists). Whereas the more agile and responsive DUP identified a number of vulnerabilities and acted to neuter them, such double jobbing MP/MLAs and on expenses. The UUP attacks did not adapt to this. The result was the worst Westminster performance in its history. It is into Tom Elliott’s lap that all this has fallen. Around him is a party machine that has seen further decline since 1998. Behind him are party apparatchiks who supported his leadership campaign but are rightly characterised as the ‘cabal’: the people of influence who presided and contributed to the party’s period of decline. By his side are the mainly male, elderly and rural members who voted for him, while the younger, more liberal, East Ulster based activists who backed his opponent, Basil McCrea, sourly sulk. The only uniting factor is a dislike of the DUP: even if that hermeneutic dislike no longer tallies with ordinary, mainstream Unionist voters’ perceptions of the DUP. These issues alone could eat up all of a new leader’s time. Unfortunately Elliott has many more fundamental issues to address. The party needs to end its self-justificatory position on the peace process and admit the errors its lost voters long since convicted it of. The party needs a new and distinctive narrative which is relevant to voters, and is one that its representatives can convincingly sell. The party needs to accept its decline is not a temporary situation but a generational shift. The party needs to stop imagining that its internal prejudices are shared by the Unionist electorate. The party needs to demonstrate that it is competent. It needs to develop a culture of discipline. It needs to engage in and win the battle of ideas in terms of the policy competencies of the Assembly. Its needs to gain a reputation for constituency work. And the UUP needs a coherent and sensible approach to Unionist co-operation. If the UUP manages to do most of these things, realistically it will more likely make it better competition for the DUP, rather than guarantee its restoration as the leading party of Unionism. If it fails to finally rescue itself, it will remain what it is at present: a cautionary tale for all democratic politicians about how not to behave, whatever your past glories. For more, please refer this page
Channel 4 can have it both waysI have always wondered about the logic of those who worship at the altar of political correctness who witter on relentlessly about discrimination being bad, but then somehow think it is acceptable do discriminate in the name of political correctness – in fact they positively encourage it. Last week, Philip Davies MP, Parliamentary Spokesman for the Campaign Against Political Correctness, decided to take Channel 4 to task over their boastfully discriminatory “equality and diversity” practices during the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s review of the station’s Annual Report. Present to answer questions on this particular outing were the Chairman of Channel 4, Lord Burns, the Chief Executive, David Abraham and the Chief Operating Officer, Anne Bulford. It turns out that Channel 4 employs more ethnic minority staff than the official percentage taken from the whole UK population but still offer special programmes to ethnic minority applicants to encourage them to join Channel 4. This way of legally discriminating on the basis of race is meant to be used to offer opportunities to “under-represented” sections of communities within workforces but, quite clearly, using Channel 4’s own figures it is evident that the whole section of the community they are targeting is actually over-represented. The exchange went something like this: Philip Davies: 55% of your employees are women and 12% are from ethnic minorities, which compares with 8% of the public at large. Do you have a target for how many women and ethnic minorities you think should be working for Channel 4? Ms Bulford: We do not have a target in relation to women because the gender balance across the channel is in balance and that works well. In terms of ethnicity, because we are based in Central London we would expect to see our ethnicity at a higher level than the general population at large. In particular at higher, more senior levels of staff across the channel we want to see the proportion of people from BME background in particular increase and have been working hard on that. Philip Davies: Increase to what? Ms Bulford: I would have to look for that. I have that. Mr Abraham: This is a process. We have recently established a monitoring system for recruitment. Representation of ethnic minorities amongst the permanent staff is currently 12% and in 2008 it was 11%, so it has gone up very slightly. The skill set figure for the AB sector as a whole is 6.7% on the 2009 census. Representation of those with disabilities amongst permanent staff is currently around 1%, so that is obviously low, and we will be addressing that both on and off the screen with our major initiative around the Paralympics. In the last three years we have trained over 120 people from BME or disabled backgrounds. Philip Davies: I have read all that in the report. What I am getting at is that you are a national broadcaster, you are not a London broadcaster. Your proportion of staff from ethnic minorities is 12% against the national figure of around 8%, so nobody could criticise Channel 4, it seems to me, for being under-represented amongst ethnic minorities, yet in your report you talk about Channel 4 offering bursaries to African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students on a City University diploma. Was that open only to people who were African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani? Are those bursaries available to nobody else? Mr Abraham: I would need to check the detail on that and come back to you. Philip Davies: If you could let me know. Do you think it is appropriate for a national broadcaster with the figures that I have just quoted? If they were open only to those people do you think that would be appropriate? Do you not think that these things should be open to everybody based on merit and ability and inclination? Mr Abraham: I am quite certain that those criteria were used. We would certainly want to see society represented in its diversity across our screens and in our content. Indeed, that is written into our remit. The details of this particular programme we will indeed come back to you on. Philip Davies: 65% of participants on Channel 4’s work-related learning programme were from a diverse ethnic background. 65% against a population of 8%. Does that strike you as being a broadly representative level? Mr Abraham: We are part of an industry initiative at a leadership level in seeking to address the general level of under-representation that exists in terms of minority interests across the whole industry and in certain instances one obviously needs to make focused efforts and focused initiatives in these areas. It is part of an overall effort to make sure that we are accountable to the make-up of society overall. Philip Davies: There are mentoring opportunities for six individuals partnering with Operation Black Vote, presumably they were available for ethnic minority people only. It seems to me that if you look at your figures the people who are under-represented in Channel 4 are white people, not people from ethnic minorities. It seems a bit bizarre that an organisation that is over-represented amongst ethnic minorities is trying to do more of these things. What about white people? Are you not interested in employing white people at Channel 4? Ms Bulford: There are two separate tasks. There are the people we employ in Horseferry Road and there is also the representation of society at large in terms of the overall industry and the production base that we draw from. There is widespread under-representation of those groups in terms of the production community and part of our job in terms of bringing on those bursaries and those training programmes is to help with access to those people who might otherwise not have that opportunity. Philip Davies: On the same page as all of this stuff, it says here: ‘Channel 4 is an equal opportunities employer and does not discriminate on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, marital status, race, colour, ethnic origin, disability, age or political or religious belief’. We can all sign up to that, that is what I am sure we all wholeheartedly agree with, but on the same page as that you have got all these schemes which it seems to me do discriminate on the grounds of race and ethnicity. How do you marry those two things up? Lord Burns: I understand the point you are making, but in almost every activity that I have been involved in when it comes to more creative work, senior work, those issues which are more highly skilled and those things which are more senior, it is actually a problem of under-representation that one gets. By and large programmes are put in place generally industry-wide to try to nudge things along not in terms of discrimination but to try to give people a better opportunity. I think the same goes in terms of some other characteristics as well. This is not a heavy activity. I have only been there a relatively short time but this is not something which dominates our life. We do feel, along with other industries, we have got to try to unblock, in a sense, what are some of those invisible blocks that do exist in terms of people getting entry to this type of world. I think the media world is one where there is great opportunity for people from a whole variety of backgrounds to engage. I do not think it is surprising that we are sharing that attempt with the rest of the industry. You are giving the impression by your line of questioning that somehow or other we are obsessed with this issue and dominated by this. Philip Davies: I was quoting what is in your Annual Report. Lord Burns: It is not the case. Philip Davies: Do you not think there is something slightly unnerving or not right about the fact that one way or another you seem to be potentially depriving white males or whoever it is who are not entitled to go on these programmes of an opportunity that they may be particularly well suited to in order to flex your diversity muscles and enhance your credentials? I have not noticed you or the chief executive offering to resign your positions to allow somebody from an ethnic minority to take your places. You are quite happy to deny white people the opportunity to get on the first rung on the ladder but it appears you are also quite happy for you to keep your positions and not hand them over to somebody from an ethnic minority. If you are so committed to this why do you not commit to having the Chairman of the company from an ethnic minority? Lord Burns: Come on, that is not the process that is happening at all. It is not a question of displacing people for others. This process, and most of the things you have mentioned, is where one is trying to develop avenues and tracks to enable people to have access who are coming from a background situation where historically access has been very difficult. Now, all this is very interesting and there are several issues which arise. It’s all very well for Lord Burns to say that Channel 4 is not displacing people using these approaches but it is quite clear that if someone gets a job or opportunity simply because of their race then they are displacing someone else who might have got the job on merit alone. There is a human price to pay in all of this. If the “London” argument was to hold true, organisations up and down the country in areas of low ethnic minority populations should only have to match the local percentage to “reflect the community” – yet we know this is not the case. This was, in fact, one of the reasons why the police in Gloucestershire fell foul of the law back in 2006 by going too far in their drive for more ethnic minority recruits and effectively removing the majority of white men from the selection process. This was the only way they thought they could meet the targets that had been set because the ethnic minority population locally was much lower than the national average and yet the only figure used for the purpose of target-setting was that national average. A similar thing occurred in Avon and Somerset and it has undoubtedly happened in other, as yet, unpublicised cases. I am tempted to say that those pushing political correctness can’t have it both ways, but, it seems, they can, and they do. The argument that Channel 4 needs to employ more ethnic minority candidates because they have been historically under-represented in the media industry is in itself worrying too. Even four year olds know that two wrongs don’t make a right. This public corporation also claims that it is their duty to do something “industry-wide” because elsewhere females and ethnic minority candidates are under-represented. Maybe I missed something but I did not realise that Channel 4’s remit involved social engineering. Employment opportunities should be given on the basis of a level playing field yet being a white candidate applying for certain positions at Channel 4 today seems to be rather like being on a see saw which is actively balanced against you. How unfair is that? Oh I forgot – it is great to discriminate against white men – after all, white males look so politically incorrect don’t they? The “Gobbledegook Of The Week Award” must go to Chief Executive, David Abraham, for saying, ‘it is part of an overall effort to make sure that we are accountable to the make-up of society overall’. Even after this gushing pro-PC proclamation, Lord Burns goes on to say that Channel 4 is not obsessed with these issues. Apparently, when translated from fluent (Treasury) Mandarin, this means, “yes, we are doing exactly what you said we’re doing and we say we shouldn’t be doing, but No, we couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong, even if we are doing what we ourselves have said would be wrong”. We always hear about the need for workplaces (including Parliament) to “reflect the community”. I have always pointed out that this is nigh on impossible and that, in any case, staffing decisions should be based on merit and not some current trendy utopian PC project. Philip Davies’ exchange with Channel 4 shows that the aim of “reflecting the community” appears to have been lost amongst the deluge of so-called “equality and diversity” schemes which have taken on a life of their own. If the aim really is to “reflect the community” then the question Channel 4 should be addressing is how they are going to reduce – rather than increase – the number of ethnic minority staff. In other words, if the goal was “fairness”, or even the marginally less metaphysical concept of “balance”, it’s long since been met, and new sets of unfairness and “lack” of balance have been created. Yet again we see here the Progressive mind at work: whatever they do must be right, even if it’s not doing what they said it would, and nor are they themselves doing it for the reasons they claimed we and they should. Progressive minded people just aren’t wrong, regardless of facts, logic or outcomes. Surely what will make Channel 4 the best they can be has more to do with the quality of their staff rather than their diversity, or relationship to abstruse notions of (London weighted) “balance”? Has there ever been a single Channel 4 viewer who has turned off a programme and muttered to herself, “you know, I begin to wonder whether the production staff/commissioning team/diversity enhancement managers were sufficiently balanced, and hence maybe could the total and unutterable pantsiness of this episode of Hollyoaks Later have been avoided?” Or perhaps the point of commercial advertising-attracting government television companies isn’t to make watchable programmes, which might appeal to the viewers (you know, the people who notionally own Channel 4)? Or even to make programmes which are themselves diverse and high quality. No, in Britain today the point of Channel 4 is to make Lord Burns feel good about himself. We hardly pay him enough. And dearie me, no wonder the Coalition can’t possibly privatise this great national institution. Where would our balance be without it? (Obviously markedly less imbalanced, but shush!) For more information, please refer this site
David Cameron may well have stood firm against letting Eurocrats have a peep at our own draft budgets, but he seems to have rolled over by allowing European police agencies to desecrate our own civil liberties – paradoxically making the current reality of British citizens being detained without trial for one and a half years in Greece look like a mere inconvenience. Perhaps a referendum was also inconvenient. But how did we get in this mess? It is because the political class is so keen to say one thing and do another that the British people have little trust or interest in politics. David Cameron promised an end to this with his ‘new politics,’ to roll back the state and radicalise Britain. His rhetoric and some early decisions have given some credence to this. The scrapping of ID cards is a step to be welcomed. The great repeal bill has a great name (shame they won’t let us review the devastating smoking ban). But this radicalism, however faint, was all washed away when the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced from the dispatch box that the UK will opt into the European Investigation Order (EIO), a massive power grab that will leave our private details open to EU governments with completely opposite traditions of justice to our own. The previous government signed the UK up to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), a framework that can leave British citizens in Hungarian prisons for up to two years without trial, a fate that nearly befell two gentlemen from Dorset. Last year, 1,032 Britons were extradited abroad to face trial. Last week, five British boys were deported to Greece on an EAW and can face up to 18 months in a Greek jail until their case is heard. Leaving British citizens open to detention without trial for well over 540 days in Greece dwarfs the debates on 42 and 28 days detention in the UK. Yet this government hardly bats an eyelid at the EAW. Perhaps because it is ‘European,’ it is to be avoided by the Cameroons? Who will resign to fight a by election against the authoritarian EAW and hundreds of days detention? The silence from Tory and Lib Dem coalition MPs is deafening. Any government, however, that believes in limiting the powers of the state would easily withdraw from this policy, one that can leave British citizens at the mercy of governments and legal systems that believe individuals must prove their innocence instead of the state proving guilt. The EIO, whilst not related to the EAW, goes much further in curtailing the civil liberties of British citizens. What the European Investigation Order does is transfer power from the British government and authorities to European governments with far less liberal and more authoritarian political and justice systems. Essentially the EIO draft proposals provide a framework for other European governments to initiate investigations – ordering domestic police authorities in other countries – into criminal acts. This is a new frontier for European politics. We already have frameworks in place for the transfer of existing evidence through the European Evidence Warrant. This allows the transfer of evidence already gathered by British police to be transferred for the purposes of solving cross border crimes. The EIO goes further in allowing EU member states to instruct UK police to interrogate, finger print and hand over personal, private data to other EU member states. Clearly, with the Conservatives opting into the EIO process, this should immediately scupper any idea that this Coalition will really roll back the powers of the state – at whatever level. It is no good scaling back ID and DNA databases when that information can easily be kept and retained by other EU member states. It is worthless to devolve power to ‘elected’ police commissioners, when the completely unaccountable authorities of other countries can request our fingerprints, DNA and banking details as part of foreign investigations where, under their legal code, we all will have to prove our own innocence in any trial. Most worryingly, perhaps, is that we can all be investigated for crimes that may not be crimes in this country. There are no safeguards to ensure that my rights to freedom of speech can be protected from foreign courts that may have criminal laws on speech. There doesn’t need to be much explanation into the consequences this Order could have on our own freedoms and liberties in the UK. Looking back over Theresa May’s statement, it was as if nothing had changed. Arguments were given that the EIO will cut crime and will make us more safe and secure. Were not all these arguments put forward when the previous government pushed through ID cards and its DNA database? In playing the same games as the last government, the Conservatives are trading our liberty for the rhetoric of ‘law and order’ and ever closer union in the EU. This could be excused were it in the Coalition deal. But, as with so much of the Coalition’s on the hop thinking, there is no mandate whatsoever for the EIO. I know we must not talk about ‘cast iron guarantees’ anymore, but the Conservatives pledged a referendum lock on any future transfers of power to the EU. I would say that allowing private data to be transferred to EU states, with the EIO through the EU directive process, is a transfer of power. I am not, however, surprised that Theresa May’s statement did not come with any mention of the word ‘referendum.’ Mr Cameron and Mrs May should remember what Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’
I am proud to call myself English and I am certainly not going to apologise for it on this, St Georges Day. It is very politically correct these days to bash the English or accuse us of being racist or xenophobic if we dare to get out the St George’s flag or show passion for our great country. Yet the same accusations are never levelled at the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish who are also, quite understandably, fiercely proud of their own countries and heritages. I believe that in this climate, England has been shamelessly abused, compromised and pillaged by successive Westminster administrations. Englishness, I want to be clear that, is an inclusive bond and has nothing to do with skin colour. Pride in one’s country and culture is natural. It applies to everyone in England who shares the same values and ideals. The people of England are slowly awakening to the disturbing fact that England has been, and still is, under a sustained attack on its democracy and its heritage. Obviously, as an English Democrat, you would expect me to say that. But, I strongly believe it is true. By this I mean that the democratic voice of the English is very quiet compared to our Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish friends – it is more like a whisper! It is also threatened by the might of the European Union. Over a period of time, the status of England has been eroded. This gathered pace with the creation of devolved parliaments and assemblies in the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom and with the balkanisation of England itself with EU-inspired regionalism. This unfairness and downgrading of England as a nation has led to an increasing number of Englishmen and women becoming disillusioned with their lot. They question why Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs are able to vote on matters which only affect England when their English representatives cannot vote on all the issues, like health and education, that have been devolved to each of these countries’ own assemblies – especially when our taxpayers contribute the lion’s share of the resources. They are sick of paying prescription charges when they are free in Wales. They are tired of paying tuition fees or for care homes when they’re mainly free in Scotland. In essence, they are fed up of being the losing party within a disunited Kingdom. England is a huge country in comparison to those of our Celtic friends. In fact, if you compare the populations of the countries, the English outnumber the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish combined by 5 to 1. I believe there is only one solution to this problem – the West Lothian Question, so memorably labelled by Tam Dalyell. Given the cosy consensus by mainstream parties, reuniting the kingdom, is no longer (in my view) a realistic solution. The only meaningful way to redress the current democratic deficit is to establish an English Parliament for the more than 50 million English men and women who are currently under-represented. Opinion polls suggest the majority of people in England support an English Parliament and the sooner it comes the better. The democratic deficit is also compounded by the European Union. The regionalisation of England is part of a process of emasculating our national identity and culture. We can relate to our towns and villages, our great cities and counties (despite what the late Edward Heath did to many of them in 1974!) and we can relate to our country. I have not come across anyone who says ‘I’m proud of my region!’ The political supremacy of the EU (responsible for the majority of laws that affect us) serves to further increase England’s democratic deficit. There is a simple solution to this problem too. I believe we should withdraw from the European Union and simply trade with our European neighbours. This would end the European Union’s stranglehold over us and give the English the chance to regain control of our own affairs. England’s cultural identity is also being threatened. Symbolically, St Patrick’s Day has, in recent times, received more official support than our own patron saint’s day! This is the public face of the problem and is, quite frankly, outrageous. The concept of multiculturalism has undermined the common bonds of our English nation. It flies in the face of the logic of building strong community ties to promote separate languages through taxpayer-funded translation services. I want people who come to this country to learn the English language and not be restrained by a language barrier that prevents their fully benefiting from and contributing to our English culture. I want to see an England that puts its own people first and that enhances the rich heritage that has shaped our country’s laws and values over many hundreds of years. I want to celebrate my Englishness and preserve our strong sense of identity. I want us to build on the ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ theory and ensure that an Englishman’s political voice is in his own Parliament.