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.