Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A Guide to the Barnett Formula

I’ve been running with the hoodies of blog steerage (as a Scottish journalist once coined) for a few years now and the same arguments keep coming up time and again.

So, I’ve decided to create a ‘cut out and keep’ guide to the Barnett Formula. I’ll do the same for an English Parliament, but first...

1. Does Scotland actually receive more money than Wales and every English region, without having to pay a penny extra in taxes?

Yes, here are the facts.

2. Isn't it based upon need and if Scotland have greater need, shouldn't they have a greater share?

It's not based upon need and Scotland don't need it.
As Alistair Darling pointed out, Scotland has the highest income per head in the UK, outside London and the South East. So why does the third richest "region", out of twelve, get the second highest handout? More importantly, why don't English MPs challenge Brown when he lies to Parliament that Barnett is based on need?

3 Someone once told me that London gets more than Scotland, is this true?

It is possible to show London gets more if you include “invisible” expenditure. How ANY taxpayers’ money should ever be allowed to become invisible in the first place is a separate question, but a (not exhaustive) list of invisible spending can include such items as civil servants' wages, army, navy and air force top brass, the Queen’s frocks, Gorbal Mick’s expenses, MPs second homes, plasma teles and the deputy Prime Minister’s dinner bills. None of this goes to people in the form of services (as in Scotland). It just means more well paid people, higher house prices, more Michelin starred restaurants and a lower standard of living for ordinary people. A double whammy as someone once said.

4. Would it make any difference if such largess was reigned in?

David Cameron said “I always say to English audiences …do not believe that there's some pot of gold here…Get it in perspective."

OK Dave (may I call you Dave?), let’s do that. In the ten years following devolution, Scotland received almost £60bn more than England

That’s a lot of money when spread between 5m people, but in England (ten times Scotland’s size) it is enough to pay for the entire schools and universities budget. This also translates into better pay for nurses, teachers, smaller class sizes, life saving cancer drugs (not available in England), free tertiary education, sight saving drugs etc etc.

5. Does oil have anything to do with it?

No, if Scotland is part of the UK it is UK oil and its benefits should be distributed on the basis of need. This may be a good argument for independence (see below) but not for special (ie unfair) treatment.

6. Does England subsidise Scotland, or is it the other way around?

Tony Blair puts England’s contribution at £10bn and the Scotsman Newspaper recently put it at £20bn. The McCrone report stated 30 years ago that Scotland’s surplus would be “embarrassing” if they were an independent nation. The truth is, no one knows because successive Government departments have obfuscated the facts. Maybe Scotland subsidises the rest, maybe England, maybe not…who cares?

The point is WE ALL PAY EXACTLY THE SAME TAXES, BUT SOME BRITONS GET A LOT MORE BANGS FOR THEIR BUCKS (See 3 above) and this is THE problem with Barnett.

7. Should Scotland be “fiscally independent”?

No, this phrase suggests a special treatment within the Union (see 3 above) they should either be “in” or be “out”… makes yer choice!

8. Should Scotland be independent?

I’d vote for it, but that’s my opinion. Your opinion should be based on more factors than money though.

9. Is the Union dead?

I can’t see England putting up with this situation for much longer, can you?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Who's kidding who?

Last Saturday's episode of Dr Who, broadcast on BBC1, had a scene which portrayed the English as racists by using the phrase "England for the English" in the context of someone being sent to a labour camp.

Dr Who is made by BBC Wales and they have been consistent in their use of “Britain” and “British”, until now. Rather than use the better known and older phrase "Britain for the British", they changed it somewhat. Why? And how did this come about?

I imagine a room somewhere in BBC Wales, two writers are working their way through their creative block... about "British Jobs for British People"?

... No, that wouldn't work, the author is Scottish

...OK, how about "Britain for the British"? It was the title of a book written in 1902 by a socialist and was adopted as a theme by the then fledgling Labour Party. It was also a popular theme for the National Front in the 1970s and is commonly used by the BNP today.

...No, that wouldn't work either, because it includes Scots and Welsh. We've got to think of a way to slag off the English whilst leaving the Welsh and the Scots squeaky clean.

...I know, I know! How about we change the word "Britain" to "England" and then change "British" to "English"? So, "Britain for the British" becomes "England for the English"!

... Brilliant! That way we can liable the English and leave a subliminal message in the minds of the viewer

... Yes, but will it work? Surely people will realise that English national sentiment has only arisen since devolution and if anything they're the most tolerant nation in these islands.

... God no, they'll realise nothing! The tellie is often the only source of information for these plebs and we ARE THE TELLIE!

... are you sure they'll forget so easily?

... they're like bloody goldfish! Most are so dumb they won't remember the phrase "Britain for the British" was ever used by the time the programme has finished.

... Got it! So, if we say it often enough and no one complains, it'll become received knowledge and everyone will only associate such a negative phrase with England and English!


... Well now we've put that one to bed, let's go and
thump an English horse!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

"...we need to make a transition to democracy as soon as possible"

How long will the international community sit on its hands whilst this man refuses to legitimise his Government with a fair election? This bigot refuses to accept the democratic will of the people he governs! He thumbs his nose at every principle and moral obligation, whilst desperately clinging to power. A power he knows would be taken from him, if he ever dared hold an election.

Democratic plebiscites are swept aside, if they don’t go his way. If he thinks he'll lose an election, he simply refuses to hold it!

Some of his citizens are actually dying because he has agitated tribal differences and openly diverts money from the majority of people in order to give his own people preferential treatment. The principle of "One Man, One Vote" has been swept aside so that his tribe can wield a disproportionate amount of power.

Every democratic indicator shows the majority are thirsty for the same democratic and fiscal privileges as "his people" but he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge their calls.

Bare-faced lies are his only justification for such measures and the opposition are too timid to challenge him. There are some brave dissenting voices, even amongst his own ranks, but such dissent is ruthlessly suppressed by an individual ominously referred to as "the Chief Whip”.

The title of this post quotes Brown addressing the summit launching the 43-nation Union for the Mediterranean, in Paris. He was referring to Zimbabwe when he said "We should not lessen the pressure on this regime,I believe we need to make a transition to democracy as soon as possible."

Well Mr Brown, at least Robert Mugabe (pictured) has led his party to democratic victory at least once! You can’t even claim this moral authority, never mind justify the continuance of Barnett and the lack of an English Parliament!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Letter in the Sunday Times

England's Health Apartheid was summarised in the Sunday Times with this cartoon by Heath.It shows a scot in the "top tier" looking healthy giving a thumbs up sign, whilst in the "bottom tier" is a sick looking patient in the "UK" bed. OK it didn't say "England" but it is a start.

There is also an article reporting "MPs tell Brown to purge his Scots" opposite another "NHS scandal: dying cancer victim was forced to pay". I don't mind how many Scots there are in the UK Government, they should be selected on merit. What I do object to is Scots Ministers/Prime Ministers failing to address the democratic and funding deficit in order to feather the nests of their kith and kin in the North.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Devolution is not a matter of life or death. Oh wait, IT IS!

My blogs are often light hearted, but here is a story that demonstrates the extent of this Government’s discrimination against England and how a lack of an English Parliament really can be a "life or death" matter.

Englishman Jack Hose has paid National Insurance (at the same rate as those in Scotland) for fifty years. He now has cancer and was sent home by the Royal Bournemouth Hospital "to die”. He then discovered a cocktail of drugs (including Cetuximab) that has managed to stabilise his condition.

Guess what? The drug Cetuximab is not available on “the NHS” according to the Sunday Times. Guess what else? It is freely available to the likes of Brown, in Scotland… well thank God for that!!

The odious slimeball that is the ENGLISH Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, had the breathtaking, blood pressure soaring, homicidal inducing gaul to say this victim shouldn’t be allowed to PAY FOR IT HIMSELF because it would create a “two tier NHS”.

WELL Mr. GOVERNMENT “WE ARE LISTENING” MINISTER …A TWO TIER SYSTEM WOULD BE AN IMPROVEMENT ON THE FOUR TIER ONE YOU’VE CREATED! By the way, guess which nation has the bottom tier (in terms of spending?) ...of course, England!

Please write to Johnson and the Times. For some reason I’ve never been able to leave comments on the Times pages (anyone know why?), but please leave your comments there.

Friday, 23 May 2008

"Now I don't think you wanted to do that, did you?”

It is possible to bury bad news on a day full of bad news. This is a day full of bad news for Gordon Brown (right), so I would like to record this little nugget that may have passed him, and most of us, by.

Firstly, a little background on the workings of our illustrious leader…

Gordon Brown is not a Unionist. Gordon Brown is a Scottish partisan who has recently embraced the union in order to prevent (divert) the majority of Britons from threatening the privileged status that he himself has organised for his fellow countrymen. Brown has ensured, and continues to ensure, that Scotland’s interests are “paramount” in all his “actions and deeds” as he solemnly swore he would do, when he signed the Scottish Claim of Right in 1988.

The Plan
Brown was a major architect of the devolution settlement. It was designed to promote and protect two things dear to his heart, 1 Scotland and 2 the Labour Party. His design was to put Scotland beyond the reach of the Tories and take the wind out of the nationalists’ sails, thus making Scotland forever Labour. Hurrah!

This is why power was devolved to the Celtic (Labour) nations when national division made little sense. However, the national settlement could not be extended to England (no English Parliament for you laddie) so he planned to carve out other Labour strongholds on a regional level who could also be given assemblies too. These Assemblies would have less power than the Scottish Parliament thereby neutering England AND the Tories by putting vast areas of the UK beyond their reach. The man’s a genius!!

The Result
What a politician! What a Machiavellian giant who would forever be remembered across the centuries as the man who saved the Tories in Scotland! (Huh? surely saved Scotland FROM the Tories??). No! Read that again... Gordon Brown is the man who saved the Tories in Scotland!

It's true! According to Angus McLeod of the Times, the Tories were a spent force in Scotland by the 1990s, but “…the Scottish Tories have been left thanking God for devolution ever since. That, and probably that alone, has saved them from complete decline in Scotland.”

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? As Oscar Wilde once said, (referring to the death of Little Nell in Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop) “you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh”.

If this is your epitaph Gordon, I recommend you take another look at the Crewe and Nantwich bi-election results, just to cheer yourself up a bit.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Brown Knows!

Sometimes, campaigning for a cause that lacks the backing of any major political party or national newspaper, feels like flicking grains of rice at a bulldozer that’s about to squash us into oblivion.

But other-times, you get a chink of light that shows it actually does some good. A sign that all our letters, blogging, lobbying and arguing in cyber space actually does get through to those in power. One such time was yesterday when Gordon Brown said “There is also an English lobby for a separate English parliament.”

He used it in the context that giving England what he has granted his fellow countrymen would somehow be damaging to the Union. (This is the Union that he himself has destabilised more than any other person in history and the same Union that an English Parliament would actually serve to save.) Anyway, as Jack Straw should have said (according to Secret Person) “I am wholly in favour of an English parliament. If you stay on the current route, there would be little advantage seen by those in England for maintaining the Union, because the argument would be, what exactly is in it for us?”

Well said secret person, but let’s just bask for a moment in the knowledge that we’ve managed to pierce Brown’s ivory tower… "An English lobby for a separate English Parliament!"

Does he mean us? I think he does, you know? He knows! Brown knows!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Give us a Poll Straw!

Jack Straw (left) has once more stated that an English Parliament would destroy the Union. He told the Justice Committee:…

…an English parliament would be a disaster …blah, blah…Wales and Scotland would demand independence …blah, blah… EVoEL would effectively create an English parliament …blah, blah… current arrangements are to the advantage of every section of the UK …blah, blah… no serious sentiment” in England for an English parliament …blah, blah, ad nauseum

I could nail every one of the above falsehoods, but we’ve been here before and it would make little difference. Straw himself knows these statements are false, so there’s little point stating why.

How do we know this? Well, here is a handy ‘cut out and keep’ guide to referenda, their constitutional value and use by the Labour Party…

1. Labour are the only party to use them
2. Labour only use them if they are sure people will vote in accordance with Labour policy
3. The result is then used to suppresses opposition (inside and outside the party) because “the people have spoken”
4. Labour don’t have to implement the result if it doesn’t agree with “2” above

So, here are some examples of this policy in action…

1975: UK join the EEC?...
Labour policy = Yes: Result = Yes = THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!

1979: Devolution?...
Labour policy = Yes: Result = No = "ay? sorry, I'm sure this isn't what you meant, so we'll ask again later"

1997: Devolution?...
Labour policy = Yes: Result = Yes =THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!

2004: Regionalisation?
Labour policy =Yes : result = No = "don't be silly! We know what you meant, we'll give it to you anyway (who the bloody hell decided to ask the people to speak on this one? Prescott, you make me sick!)

2007: Lisbon Treaty?
Labour policy = Yes: Expected Result = No = "Don’t anyone dare suggest we ask these plebs what they think, because THEY DON'T!"

2008: Scottish Independence?
Labour policy = No: Expected Result = No, er Yes, er...: therefore “Bring it on!, er no, leave it, ooh, er!"

One sunny day: English Parliament?
Labour policy = No: Expected result = Yes = "Don’t ask these plebs what they think! (unless they're Scottish, in which case keep asking)

So, this is how we know Straw’s doesn't believe what he is saying! If he did think there is “no serious sentiment for an English Parliament”, we’d have a vote tomorrow!

Friday, 25 April 2008

We’re not all “right” Jack and never were!

I’m going to speak at a St George’s Day dinner for a local branch of Rotarians, so I thought I’d set my stall out by pointing out that you don’t have to be racist just because you’re standing up for England. I then read Jack Straw’s article in the Mail and thought, “no dammit, I’m not going to apologise for something that doesn’t need an apology”.

Some politicians, especially those of the centre-left, often attempt to smear any expression of Englishness by making an association with the far right. If there is no connection, they make one up and Straw’s article is a classic example.

He purported to tell us to celebrate St George’s Day but began by telling a story about meeting a BNP (it's “buh” for Britain Jack, not “eh” for England) thug on a doorstep. He somehow managed to weave in the murder of Stephen Lawrence and spent much of the article banging on about St George being “one of them” (Jack’s words not mine) because he was a Persian who wandered around the middle east before dying in what is now Turkey. So what Jack? You’ll be casting doubt on the validity of the Dragon next.

So, why point out George’s ethnicity? Is he trying to make us more “inclusive”? England is one of the most (the most?) inclusive nations in Europe and certainly the most ethnically diverse in these islands. Maybe he expects us to recoil in horror, then seek out a more racially acceptable saint? (How about St. Patrick? He’s English). No, I think he was just slinging mud by making associations where none exist.

In short, we don’t have to claim Englishness from the far right because they’ve never had it.

I’ve rewritten my opening sentence and it now reads “I am a member of the Campaign for an English Parliament, but I am NOT a 280 Pound Easter Bunny”.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

By George I think they’ve got it!

Happy St George’s Day!

The lead up to today has had its fair share of fascists trying to tell everyone else what to do (eg Bradford police/council), but far less than normal. There has also been real cause for celebration.

Google has always celebrated everyone’s national day except England, but wait, what's this?… who is that bloke at the top of the hill? Could it be? Yes it is! OK, a foreigner would be forgiven for thinking it is Dragon’s day, given the prominence of the dragon… but as someone once said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well done Google images!!!

Having recovered from this gesture of inclusiveness, I thought I’d Google St George and I found THIS! Gordon “Britishness” Brown is going to fly the Cross of St George from No. 10! A Downing Street spokesman said, "The prime minister's view is that of course we should celebrate our Britishness, but celebrating our Britishness does not mean we cannot also celebrate our Englishness, Scottishness, Welshness or Northern Irishness."

He said Englishness (by proxy, but nonetheless…) and he put it ahead of the other nations.

Is the wall beginning to crumble after all these years of banging our heads against it?

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Murphy’s Law

A while back I blogged about the Welsh Health Minister wanting to make the English jealous over free prescriptions and introducing measures to stop Health Tourists (English) from taking advantage. However, when the shoe’s on the other prosthetic limb, a host of UK politicos lined up to say it’s not a problem if the Health Tourists are Welsh.

According to Christine Russell (Chester, Lab) “20% and perhaps even more of its beds were occupied by patients from the Welsh side of the border”. This is causing English Health Trusts to lose “tens of millions of pounds”. Yet she had “no absolutely objection to patients who live in Wales actually being treated at the Countess of Chester Hospital - it is their local hospital."

Paul Murphy (Welsh Secretary) left, said “the NHS, a UK-wide service, should not be affected by cross-border issues.”

However, Darren Millar,(AM Clwyd West, Con) recently pointed to 3 million patients registered with GPs in a country of 2.9 million said: “These shocking figures, when read alongside the fact there is a 5% increase in the number of NHS prescriptions issued in Wales over the last 12 months, shows that there is a serious problem. The Assembly Government must tackle prescription tourism sooner rather than later.”

Welsh Health Tourists blocking 20% or more English beds = "absolutley no problem"
English Health Tourists taking 3% of Wales’ prescriptions = “a serious problem”

GOT IT? Well, you can be sure you'll get the bill!

This is a serious problem. In the absence of a minister with responsibility for England, I’ll ask the Wales Secretary to sort out these people who seem to think that the NHS is NOT a UK-wide service. Watch this space.

Monday, 7 April 2008

CEP stands up for English university students

Press Release: CEP stands up for English university students while the NUS lets them down

The CEP carries on with its opposition to the Government’s policy of discrimination against English university students.

The Campaign for an English Parliamen has deplored the decision of the National Union of Students last week to end its opposition to the tuition and top-up fees which are being imposed upon English university students.

‘We want every English student to know’, stated Mrs Scilla Cullen, Chairman of the CEP, ‘that the Campaign for an English Parliament will not stop campaigning against the fees New Labour has inflicted on English students while sparing Scottish and Welsh students. English students are being hit with immense debts while Scottish students are not.

In England university students have to pay £3145 each year of their university life. Students loans then have to be repaid at 4.8% interest rates after graduation.
Welsh students don’t have anything like the fee burden English students have.Their fees are only £1255 pa.’

However, in Scotland university students have no fees to pay. What’s more, the Scottish parliament has also made grants up to £2510 available to Scottish students coming from families on low incomes, which are not available in England. To make the discrimination even worse English students at Scottish have to pay their fees, while EU students do not; and Scottish students, and indeed Isle of Man students, at English unviersities pay no fees. What is quite grotesque about the whole situation is that, at the same time as the Scottish Parliament was legislatiing to relieve its students of fees, the vote in the UK Parliament to impose top-up fees on English students was carried only by the Scottish MPs in Westminister voting for them to give New Labour its majority in the vote in the House.The majority of English MPs voted against them.

‘The only way forward out of this discrimination’ says Mrs Cullen, ‘is for England to have its own parliament just as Scotland has. The UK government is just seeing England, which provides 85% of its whole tax revenue, as a milch cow from which Scotland and Wales benefit at the expense of the people of England. All the MPs who have imposed these fees upon English students got their university education completely free. The injustice to England is grotesque; and it is time that of the 660 Westminster MPs the 550 who are English start to stand up for their country. England should matter as much to them as Scotland does to the Scottish MPs both at Westminster and Edinburgh. They should stand up for their constituents. I can assure English students that is what an English Parliament will do.’

All students are invited to the CEP National Conference taking place at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn London on Saturday April 26th from 10:30 to 4:30. It is free and open to everyone.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

No End in Sight

Yesterday’s "Darling I Love You" April fool spoof about the Government scrapping the Barnet Formula was trumped by Brown’s own efforts. Speaking on April Fool’s Day, the Prime Minister, insisted that public expenditure would continue to be decided by the demonstrably unfair mechanism.

Without a shred of shame or irony AND on the same day that Scotland decreased prescription charges whilst England was forced to raise theirs, he said "We are pretty clear that we have been fair to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by it."

We're pretty clear about that too, but how can he fail to mentioned England? I know this would make the above statement nonsense, but HOW can he say it without some journo, opposition MP or civic minded citizen pulling him up?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Darling I Love You!

Gordon Brown first denied any knowledge of what was happening in his own Government. A little more fudge was thrown around when Darling insisted that it was not a "review" but rather a "factual paper". Then, in an attempt to pass the hot potato around the House, all parties were invited to partake in the erm, factual paper.

Finally, in a remarkable turn of events, Alistair Darling announced today the Government will scrap the Barnett Formula! This Formula is the mechanism through which Scotland is gifted more money for welfare spending than Wales and EVERY English region, despite there being no need and them not having to pay a penny extra in taxes.

For this to be announced by a minister from a Scottish constituency, on Brown’s watch, is nothing short of remarkable. It flies in the face of their constituents’ interests and it is contrary to their solemn oath to ensure Scotland’s interests “are paramount”. Critics have labelled this announcement a cynical attempt to stop Labour’s slide in the polls; but Jack Straw vehemently denied this saying “I think Gordon has finally decided to do the decent thing by making welfare funding fairer for everyone and not just feathering the nests of his kith and kin up north”.

The SNP said that it would oppose any attempted "smash-and-grab" raid on Scottish spending, but Labour's Wendy Alexander was in a conciliatory mood. The Leader of the Scottish Parliamentary Party commented “to be honest, I think we did well to get away with it for so long. We’ve got so much money swilling about up here it’s getting embarrassing, but you’re no getting any back!”

The Government has not indicated if Scotland will be asked to repay the £69Bn overspend since 1998, but it is thought unlikely. The full details behind this story can be read here.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Brown's Britishness in the Telegraph

Great Simon Heffer article in the Saturday Telegraph, where he simply states “Gordon Brown needs the Union…but do we?”

We are familiar with the arguments, but my favorite bits are…

Our Prime Minister's lucubrations in this newspaper earlier in the week about the Union, and why he loves it, demonstrated what politicians feel they have to do when they become desperate. Happily, since our readers are so intelligent, they spotted this at once, and our letters pages have been full of their measured, but understandably angry, responses to this piece of opportunism.

Good to know all that letter writing makes an impact, but he goes on to say…

Large amounts of English taxpayers' money is now spent in Scotland without the benefactors having any say in how it is spent. Nor were the English consulted about whether they wanted this arrangement.


The final insult is that Scottish MPs at Westminster vote on matters that affect only the English. The Union has had it, and Mr Brown knows it. It is a state of affairs for which the term "democratic deficit" could have been invented.

Fantastic. Well said Simon!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

NuLabour, NuSpeak

George Orwell predicted in “1984” that the Government would limit thinking by forcing the populous to use “newspeak” words. One term of newspeak was “unperson”, where a person would be eliminated from history by erasing all references to them. His prophesy was wildly inaccurate. If only he had thought 50 million times bigger, changed unperson to “unengland” and the date to 1998, he’d have been bang on the money.

I, like many, was insulted when some jack booted recruitment officer from the Manchester Constabulary rejected a recruit because he had “England” tattooed on his arm. In order to report this fascist, I decided to write to the CRE’s Trevor Philips. You may remember Trevor who once sensibly said “…for young people in this country, the sight of the Cross of St George being flown for a winning England team is a cause for widespread rejoicing”. Clever Trevor!

Guess what? The CRE has been replaced by something called the “Equalities and Human Rights Commission”. So, as a human looking for equality, I decided to drop them a quick email asking if they could put a stop to this nonsense. They have three email addresses, namely…

…there are many, many other examples, but for some reason this one just sapped my strength.

Friday, 21 March 2008

You’re a liar Mr Brown and you know it!

During PMQs this week, the appointed Prime Minister said “The allocation of funds in the UK is based on a needs assessment that started more than 30 years ago, has been agreed by all parties subsequently and has been followed by every government since…It is based on the idea we should allocate resources in the UK on the basis of need. That is the basis on which the Barnett Formula exists.”

This is an absolute lie, yet it has been ignored by the Tories and the national newspapers. The MP that questioned the PM, was Graham Stringer MP for Manchester, who you may remember as the man No.10 tried to gag when he raised Barnett last year. Mr. Stringer said: “It was a bizarre answer and 100% wrong.”

Fiona Hall, a North-East Liberal Democrat Euro-MP, said: "The very problem is that it is not based on need. The formula has no legal or democratic justification and my constituency has increasingly lost out due to this unfair system of funding distribution."

The Nationals don’t seem too bothered, but where it has been picked up in the press, it has been described as…

A “Gaffe” in the Liverpool Post
A “Gaffe” again in The Northern Echo
…and my favorite a “Brownie” in The Spectator

A Brownie? Funny, because I would have called it a bare faced LIE!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

"There is a strength in the union even of very sorry men" The Iliad, Homer

IPPR North have published the document “Where Stands the Union Now?” by John Curtice, Professor of Politics and Director of the Social Statistics Laboratory at the University of Strathclyde.

There are countless surveys that demonstrate that there is a significant majority of people in England who demand constitutional equality with their fellow citizens. There is also evidence, such as the annual British Social Attitudes Survey, where such demands for equality are lukewarm or fall to a level of circa 20-25%. Curtice explains this phenomenon to be the result of the wording of the question, which he says is “crucial”.

Support for an English Parliament falls away if the wording implies, or specifically states that an EP would weaken, threaten, or even end the Union.

Ask people in England if they want ‘the establishment of an English Parliament within the UK, with similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament’ and 68% say “yes”.(1)

Imply that an EP MIGHT mean an alternative to the UK by taking out the phrase “within the UK” and add “England only” and those in favour drop to 51%(2)

Imply that an EP WILL mean an alternative to the UK (status quo) by asking “…choose between the three main options that have been proposed for England – the status quo, regional assemblies and an English Parliament.” And support for an EP crashes to 20-25%. (3)

Refer to an EP along the same lines as the Scottish one, viz ‘…now that Scottish devolution is well established – and may be extended – England should now have its own parliament too’. .. and the figure shoots back up to 65% (4)

The above surveys (referred to in Curtice’s paper) took place between January 2007 and January 2008. This is a very short time for opinions to oscillate from 68% to 20% and back to 65%. Given the wording of the question and the response, the only explanation for such wild fluctuations is the perceived threat to the Union, in the mind of the interviewee.

This phenomenon is not restricted to England, although Scotland tends to approach it from a different angle. As Curtice points out “When Scots are simply asked whether they support or oppose ‘independence’ plenty of polls find that over half do so.” This is because they see independence as less interference from Westminster rather than separation from the UK. When asked if Scotland should be “independent, separate from UK and EU or separate from UK but part of EU” those wanting independence fall to around 25-30%. (5) These numbers very similar to the English “status quo”.

Given the above, I find Curtice’s conclusion that “…that England remains relatively uninterested in devolution for itself…”. extraordinary, given his own observation that “… the wording of survey questions is crucial.” and his own evidence showing two thirds favouring an EP in two separate surveys. I can only assume that he is working to an agenda that is not wholly that of an academic independent observer.

The lesson for us (IMHO) is to emphasize the damage asymmetrical devolution is doing to the Union. Inequality breeds resentment; resentment will put an intolerable strain on the Union and that is why we need constitutional equality with our fellow citizens and only an EP will do.

1. November 2007 ICM Survey
2. January 2008 ICM Survey
3. January 2007 British Social Attitudes survey
4. May 2007 Populus Survey
5. “Where Stands the Union Now?” Table 3

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Ministers without a Clue

Last Saturday, the Politics Show talked of free parking at Welsh hospitals which was described as “…something widely welcomed across Wales and reported with envy by some English newspapers.” (See, we’re just being envious again, but when the shoe is on the other prosthetic limb, we should all be treated equally because the NHS is “UK wide” and run on a basis of “need, not geography”, see below).

What caught my eye was the paragraph describing the “UK Health Minister” criticizing the Welsh NHS, and a rebuttal by the “Welsh Health Minister”. So, I fired a letter off to the Beeb asking the following…

If Edwina Hart is Welsh Health Minister and Andy Kerr is the Scottish Health Minister, how can Ben Bradshaw be the UK Health Minister?
Are Scotland and Wales no longer part of the UK? Is it that Hart and Kerr report to Bradshaw?
If they don't report to him and Wales and Scotland are actually still part of the UK, doesn't this make Bradshaw the English Health Minister? If he is, why is he not called the English Health Minister?
Doesn't Auntie have to swear some kind of oath to report accurately? Isn’t she supposed to expose politicians attempting to mislead?
Yours etc.”

Veterans of the English Question know the answers, of course, but I wondered if those in power could justify the slight of hand. Just in case the Beeb didn’t reply (they didn’t) I decided to ask the Ministers themselves. I wrote to Bradshaw (English Health), Balls (English Children), Kelly (English Transport) and Johnson (English Health, again).

The main part of my letter asked…
“Do you have any jurisdiction outside of England? If you don’t, why is your office not called the Department of English XXXX, or Department of XXX (England)?”

To date, no one has responded. It seems a simple question, why do they find it so hard to answer?

Monday, 10 March 2008

Why the Health Service Makes Me Sick!

It is well documented that England has the worst health service in the UK, due to the fact it is not in control of its own service. The lucky Welsh however are in control and are able to give their citizens such things as free prescriptions.

In the words of First Minister Rhodri Morgan last year he was happy “to make the English jealous” when he cited a news headline regarding the “two tier Health Service”. In order to keep out the “jealous” English, the same bloke announced “tighter controls to keep out ‘Health Tourists’”. For health tourists, read English!

There are cases however, where it is more convenient for the Welsh to use English hospitals. This report tells of a man who has to travel to Cardiff for artificial limbs.

So, how have the English reacted to this Health Tourist from Wales?

Well, a number of Labour MPs have lined up to tell the Welsh exactly where they can go…

Christine Russell, (Chester), who admits at "least" 20% of the beds in Chester are occupied by Welsh health tourists, "I have no absolutely objection to patients who live in Wales actually being treated at the Countess of Chester Hospital - it is their local hospital."

Paul Murphy (Welsh Secretary) said “the NHS, a UK-wide service, should not be affected by cross-border issues.”

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) said "The NHS should treat people on an basis of need, not geography".

So, there you have it. Health is UK-wide, unaffected by national borders or geopgraphy… if you're Welsh, but if you’re English “it is a devolved matter”.

We must be the kindest, most generous people on earth! That or complete mugs!

Saturday, 8 March 2008

"The very best of Scotland"

This is a bit of old news (November 07) and at first sight a little off topic, but it does demonstrate what can be done with a national Parliament and thirty percent extra spending money.

England has to make do with border signs such as the one on the left. I'm not sure if there is an English Culture and External Affairs Minister (actually I do, there isn't) to co-ordinate such things, but simply “Welcome to England” doesn’t really grab the soul, does it?

North of the border however, the Scottish Government were able to instruct top Scottish Ad agency “The Leith Agency” to come up with a slogan

After six months and a bill to the British taxpayer for £120,000 they devised a slogan “…representing Scotland's landscape, its people and achievements”

Scotland's External Affairs and Culture Minister Linda Fabiani said: "This Government is determined to make the most of Scotland's image and reputation … these images will welcome people arriving in our country and Scots coming home, giving everyone a taste and glimpse of the very best of Scotland - enticing everyone to see more.”

Sounds like a tall order Linda, but given six months, £120 big ones and the collective creative genius of the Leith Agency, I’m sure they managed it.

Well, no, not really. Their slogan is…

“Welcome to Scotland”

Friday, 7 March 2008

HSE Have No Safety Policy on Flags in Schools

The HSE have kindly replied to my email asking for a position on flags/English emblems in schools. I won't repeat the whole letter, but the pertinent parts are...

"...Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation within workplaces and therefore do not hold information regarding policies for national flags in schools."

"The Department for Children Schools may also be able to offer further information and guidance. Their contact details are -"

Department for Children Schools
Tel: 0870 000 2288
Fax: 01928 79 4248

So, no ban from the HSE. I'll try The Dept for Children Schools and let you know what happens

Friday, 29 February 2008

Not Waving, just Flagging; or why Red equals DANGER!

I’m trying to get to the bottom of this. English flags, according to a report commissioned for Ed Balls (left) the Children’s Secretary, are often banned from schools with Health and Safety being cited as the reason.

Precedence for such bans is well documented. If you Google “’England Flag’ banned”, you’ll get 2,050 hits and they detail councils, schools, Tesco etc all banning the English flag, often for the same safety excuses. If you Google “’Scotland Flag’ banned” you get 149 hits, but none of them report the flag actually being banned.

You will also easily find well documented cases (here, here, here and here) where possessing an English flag has indeed caused its wavers Health and Safety problems. However, closer examination seems to show that these problems are more attributable to dangerous Scotsmen, than dangerous flags.

Strangely there is a lack of similar stories for Scottish Saltire wavers, so maybe there is some truth in the health and safety claims. We need to examine this further…

In Scotland, the picture is very different. The Scottish Saltire is obviously very safe, as you can see from the photo on the right. Salmond is visiting St Margaret’s Primary School near Edinburgh where just about every child is recklessly waving a Scottish flag. He seems quietly confident, although his colleague grins nervously. The kids are obviously unaware of any kind of imminent danger and, as far as we know, the HSE have not commented on the incident.

So, why is the Scottish flag so safe for school children and the English one so damned dangerous?

One theory, put about by crackpots like me, is that Scottish schools are controlled by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Parliament is accountable to the Scottish people. English schools, on the other hand, are controlled by the British government which is headed by a person who is accountable to, er the Scottish people as well (no, really, I’m being serious).

The other theory is that it’s the colour red that makes it so damned dangerous. Look at the Scots’ flag, it has no red, just relaxing blue. Could it be that danger lurks within the colour red? This is the only other possible explaination for well educated teachers out there to genuinely believe that Scottish flag = safe, English flag = dangerous! (again, I'm being serious).

I have written to the BRITISH Health and Safety Executive asking if they have an official line on why English flags are such a peril. The web site says they’ll get back to me within ten days; if they do, I’ll let you know what they say.

In the meantime, for the safety conscious amongst us, I’ve found a hard hat with a Cross of St George on it.

I must admit that I can’t decide if it is a safer flag, or a more dangerous hat. I’d better ask the HSE for a ruling!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Maybe we should all be Scottish

The CEP is outraged at the SNP’s attempt to grab Berwick for her own, after 76% of the town “voted” in favour of “returning” to Scotland.

However, this vote seems to have been driven by a desire for extra public spending, rather than any desire to be Scottish. According to the Scottish Express, “vast swathes” of northern England also want to be Scottish and I would guess it is for the same financial reasons.

My own personal opinion is that we should all become temporarily Scottish. Just think abut the benefits…

  1. We would have a national Parliament as well as being over represented in the UK one
  2. We would have 30% more money to spend on public services without having to raise a single penny in extra taxes (to pay for cancer drugs, university fees, etc)
  3. We could have a popular vote to change the nation’s name to “England” and relocate the Parliament building to somewhere south of the Tweed.

The only problems I can see regarding this strategy are…

  1. Scotland would be without a Parliament. It would be very sad, but surely it’s better for 84% of the UK to be properly represented than a mere 8%. One measure to solve this could be that we divide them up into regions and appoint an English MP to be their First Minister. This shouldn’t present a problem.
  2. I can’t think which part of the UK would be stupid enough to put up with second (or should that be forth) rate services to pay for it. Maybe Northern Ireland and Wales could work it out between themselves.

Unless anyone can see any other downsides, I think we should get in touch with Alex ASAP.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Postcode Lottery Confuses Opposition Minister

The Press Association have circulated a story on Tory anger over what is obviously a postcode lottery for ambulance response times.

The story was picked up by the nationals and mostly repeated ad verbatim. The News of the World however, helpfully listed “The 20 Worst Trusts in BRITAIN”. I was concerned to see that Buckinghamshire was listed the 12th worst out of 150 Trusts in the COUNTRY.

Stephen O'Brien, Shadow Health Minister said: "It is a damning indictment of Labour's treatment of our NHS that ambulance provision varies so widely ACROSS THE COUNTRY. Alan Johnson has clearly not got a grip on the NHS.”

…and Mr O’Brian, like most in Fleet Street, has clearly not got a grip on what constitutes “Britain”, the “English NHS”, the “whole of the country” or Labour’s NHS policies.

We are talking about ENGLAND! Alan Johnson has very much got a grip on “the NHS”; it is not an indictment of Labour… this is how it was designed to be!

If Mr O’Brian needs any more clues, he should read Simon Heffer’s article in the Telegraph. He hits the nail on the head when he says “Two Labour heartlands, Scotland and Wales, were offered their own assemblies. There is no prospect of an English parliament, even though it deserves one”

Friday, 22 February 2008

Museum will celebrate England’s most elaborate gift to the world

"The English Project — which is due to open in 2012, as part of the Olympics cultural programme, with support from the British Library and the BBC among others — will aim to deepen our knowledge and understanding of... the English language."

OK, we're talking about the language and not the nation. I'm surprised however that the Government has allowed a public body to address England's cultural contribution to the world. Maybe there's hope, or maybe Brown has not noticed yet.

What are the odds that it will be "Britain's" contribution by the time it comes out? Still at least they're not calling it "regionish" or "this countryish"...yet!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Ken Clarke rejects English Grand Committee

As reported in Scotland, Wales and Conservative Home, Ken Clarke has poured cold water on the idea of an English Grand Committee. An EGC was suggested by Malcolm Rifkind to pass England-only laws, and it was described as “elegant” by David Cameron.

But Clarke yesterday advocated a simpler alternative would be to identify a small amount of legislation that only affected England, and allow only English MPs to vote. He said “I don’t believe this argument that it’s not possible to identify a comparatively small amount of legislation that is totally English.” and added, “I think there is a parliamentary problem that needs to be addressed by Parliament, before what is a niggle becomes worse.”

The Conservatives accept devolution for the Scotland Wales and NI, but cannot agree on how to answer the English “niggle”. The message seems to be, you need an Assembly if you’re a nation of 2-3 million, a full Parliament if you’re a nation of 5 million, but you don’t even need a committee if you’re a nation of 50 million, because there’s a “comparatively small amount of legislation”.

Thanks Ken, I suppose giving us equal status with the Scots and Welsh, ie a full English Parliament will be out of the question then?