I have spent an illuminating afternoon educating myself upon the history of the English Parliament, courtesy of Wikipedia (groan not – it may not be totally authoritative but it is readable and, ultimately, fascinating). What comes across very clearly is how our Parliament has been forged throughout history by the need to reconcile the people with their rulers. At every stage the power has ebbed and flowed, contingent upon circumstances and the attitude/impecuniousness of the rulers of the day, occasionally breaking into outright civil war, but always reverting to the pragmatic solution that was felt appropriate to the time.
Even to this day (Wikipedia informs me) an unfortunate MP is handed over to Buckingham Palace as a hostage against the safe return of the Monarch from the State Opening ceremony. Truly our Parliament has been forged in the flames of history.
A similar conclusion can be reached about the representation of Scotland in the “English” Parliament, which has been going (on and off) since at least the reign of Charles II until the Treaty of Union in 1707, and continues to this day (despite the 1997 re-imagining of a devolved Parliament in Holyrood, governed by rules set by the Westminster Parliament).
For more than three hundred years Scotland has been governed exclusively from Westminster, and the Scots have played their full part in the governance of Great Britain; and still do, despite (some would say because of) the great “Blair Meddling” when devolution was set up in 1998 (possibly as a step towards the proposed “Europe of the Regions”?).
I wonder whether Scotland is now better governed than previously?
I was brought up as a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Our nation has a fabulous and chequered history that has forged a legendary reputation for fair play, justice, “my word is my bond” integrity, and the nurture of modern democracy.
Now, I’m not about to wallow in nostalgia – a fair reading of history will turn up many unsavoury episodes – how could it be otherwise? Some would rightly say that we have in large measure squandered that hard won reputation by turning away from Ireland during the potato famine, from the Commonwealth in 1972, by abandoning Zimbabwe to its ghastly fate under Mugabe, and more recently by finding reasons/excuses to curtail the right to trial in open court, to restrict the right to trial by a jury of our peers, to monitor a citizen’s private communications, to restrict legal aid towards vanishing point, and to make it hugely easier to refuse entry to the foreign spouse of a British citizen than to keep out proven criminals of foreign nationality.
It seems to me that somewhere we have lost the plot, and a truly lively democratic society would not have tolerated these retrogressions.
My aspiration is to restore our legendary reputation. There is nothing reprehensible about an aspiration to fair play and integrity, to generosity to those less fortunate than ourselves, to the protection of UK residents from the unwanted interference of the over-mighty, and yes, to expect every man to do his duty.
The basis of UKIP’s power has been that we take the side of the population against the self-serving politician, of common sense against the hopelessly idealistic, of practicality against the impracticable, of simplicity against the over-complicated, of defence of the citizen against arbitrary power of the authorities, of democratic accountability against the gravy-train, of free speech against political intimidation, of the democratic nation state against the self-appointed champions of the superstate.
So let us apply these principles to the idea put forward more than once by our leadership as if it were settled UKIP policy: that England needs its own parliament.
In terms of purely theoretical symmetry this case is unanswerable, but I venture to suggest that in terms of practicality, expense, legal clarity, general over-complication of politics and likely bamboozlement of the electorate this is a no-no.
Is there an alternative? It may have been beyond the wit of the Tories to devise, but a simple test should suffice: would the matter under debate at Westminster fall within the remit of a devolved parliament’s powers if it were to relate to Scotland or to Wales rather than to England? If so, then MPs who represent constituencies within the relevant country of devolution and peers of lordships associated with the same should take no part in the debate within our existing Westminster parliaments.
We do not need a new English Parliament, we have quite enough parliaments to cope with already.