Home > Bit of politics > Isn’t this just obvious to everyone?

Isn’t this just obvious to everyone?

Clive has a good piece up on CiF on the way that internationally, David Cameron is going to be perceived as the UK’s George W Bush, both for his buffoonery and his disdain for international agreements.

Being a CiF thread, the comments spiralled into Europhobic lunacy. However, responding to a silly-ish question there did give me the opportunity to articulate both my support for the EU in principle, and my opposition to an English parliament, more coherently than I’ve managed before:

In practice, some things work better at the level of 500m people, some things work better at the level of 50m people, some better at the level of 5m people, some at the level of 500k people, and so on down the chain.

Hence, there’s a role for the EU, the UK, the UK regions, district councils, and parish councils. At the moment, outside of Wales, NI and Scotland, everything is far too centralised at the second level (which is why an English parliament would be a waste of time – what we need are seven English parliaments, each with the power of the Welsh Assembly at least, representing a manageable number of people), with too little power delegated to regions, districts and parishes.

I’m struggling to see how anyone could sensibly disagree with that. Yes, “the EU is corrupt so we shouldn’t be in it” is a valid argument for all I disagree, but isn’t the claim the UKIP/English Democrat types are making – that the optimal area of government for us happens to correlate directly with the outcomes of a few battles between 1000 and 300 years ago – just utterly insane?

  1. June 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm | #1

    What you advocate sounds rather like federalism, but that's maybe another issue…

    The problem is with the sentence "I’m struggling to see how anyone could sensibly disagree with that" – surely it's obvious that an argument for an English Parliament is emotional and not sensible?

  2. June 11, 2009 at 10:34 pm | #2

    Possibly so – although if the constitutional arrangements for Wales count as federalism then the principle of a federal England has already been conceded (unlike Scotland and NI, where the legal system has always been separate, Wales was legally and administratively part of England up to devolution…)

    & yes of course, but it does no harm to force its advocates to admit that.

  3. Chris Baldwin
    June 11, 2009 at 11:38 pm | #3

    I very much agree. A system of devolution where one of the regions contains 85% of the population makes no sense. Additionally, as someone from Yorkshire, I don't really feel a greater connection to people from Kent than to people from Glasgow.

  4. June 12, 2009 at 12:09 am | #4

    This (posted by me on LC in response to yet another 'we should appease the BNP by becoming nationalist twats' screed) comment also seems relevant here:

    Englishness *doesn’t* exist in the way Scottishness or Welshness do. (Even though in both those cases, much of the culture is a recent creation based on invented 19th-century romanticism and bitterness about being ruled from England), there *is* a shared identity between people from Swansea and Holyhead that simply doesn’t exist between people from Cornwall, Yorkshire and London.

    The kind of Englishness that English Nationalists talk about is a regional, suburban, southeastern-to-south-Midlands, identity. It’s Orwell’s stereotype of old maids, warm beer, cricket, etc. It has zero relevance to at least half the people in the country – including many of the BNP’s heartlands.

    Scotland, Yorkshire, London, Merseyside, and old Lancashire are real places with real identities. At a higher level, the UK is defined by its common language, its experience with industrialisation and empire. But England just reflects the outcomes of some battles that some kings had a very long time ago.

  5. June 12, 2009 at 2:22 am | #5

    John, and Chris, is right.

  6. June 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm | #6

    I'm in favour of democracy that is based upon a demos….

    "Scotland, Yorkshire, London, Merseyside, and old Lancashire are real places with real identities."

    The current "regions" put Cornwall with Gloucestershire, Kent with Oxford, parts of Lincolnshire with Yorkshire, Cumbria with Liverpool. These are no more places with shared identities (that demos thing) than the UK is.

    The bit you're missing is that UKIP's argument for an English Parliament also includes devolution of huge powers down to those county and unitary councils which are indeed the proper units.

  7. June 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm | #7

    …which is all great. But counties are far too small to take on the kind of powers that the Welsh Assembly has, so you need some kind of "1m-10m people" unit. And Cumbria/Liverpool and Oxford/Kent have a hell of a lot more in common culturally and socially than Cumbria/Oxford or Liverpool/Kent.

  8. Neil
    June 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm | #8

    "The current “regions” put Cornwall with Gloucestershire"

    So do ITV. The market has spoken.

    (resists temptation to cite those counties' shared culture of, um, close families)

  9. June 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm | #9

    It's a stroke of luck, though, that the war-set borders of Wales and Scotland are correct for those countries, as are those of France, Italy and every other nation in the EU. It's just England – a country whose lack of national identity is plain every time there's an international sporting event – that should be broken up. I'm amazed anyone might not see that.

  10. June 13, 2009 at 9:51 pm | #10

    Italy and France are countries. The UK is a country. I'm not suggesting breaking the UK up, any more than I'm suggesting breaking up Italy or France.

    If Scotland, NI and Wales became independent, then England would be a country, and at that point an English parliament would make sense – to handle the matters it currently makes sense for the UK parliament to handle.

    But a regional parliament serving 50 million people, when you've a national parliament serving 60 million people, just doesn't.

  11. June 13, 2009 at 11:52 pm | #11

    No, England and Scotland are countries with different linguistic backgrounds (even Scots developed independently of English), legal systems and cultures. Wales is a Principality, with an independent linguistic and cultural traditions. The UK is a supranational grouping – a remnant of a larger one that included Ireland, also a country though at present partitioned.

    England is just as capable of becoming independent as are Wales and Scotland, though the English are less inclined to do so, hence the lack of strong nationalist movements. But the English on the whole have a very strong sense of national identity, if rather a complacent one that doesn't feel the need often to wave flags around.

    Wales and Scotland are no more rational as administrative areas than is England. It might make more sense, for example, to have a region that included the English and Welsh Marches, then one for S Wales and Cornwall and another for North Wales and Dumfries and Galloway. Lumping Dundee together with the Western Isles is purely the product of an understood Scottish national identity.

    In other words, neither Scotland nor Wales are optimal units for administration except insofar as they have a national identity. They do, so does France, and so does England.

    I think you're inconsistent in the application of this principle.

  12. Harry Gardener
    January 2, 2010 at 12:24 am | #12

    [comment censored - it might be libellous, and if I have to take sides between Peter Risdon and Darius Guppy it's "anyone but Guppy" any day of the week]

  1. June 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm | #1

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