A minister for England?

On 8 March 2016, in the Boothroyd room of the House of Commons, Jim McMahon, member of parliament for Oldham West and Royton, called upon Jeremy Corbyn to create a minister for England, while Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, reaffirmed his call for an English parliament.

These suggestions followed Toby Perkins MP’s private member’s bill that called for an English national anthem on the 13 January and Tristram Hunt’s call for an English referendum to find a solution to the English question on 4 February in Winchester.

Is this the beginning of a culture change within the Labour party? How will Corbyn respond to these Labour MPs who are trying to improve the representation of England?

It appears that these Labour MPs have realised that Labour needs to rediscover its national pride in England. The Labour leadership needs to listen to these MPs and they would do well to change their approach. We cannot have any more situations of Labour MPs saying, ‘there’s no such nationality as English’. The people of England need a political expression. The question is: will that expression be Labour? The writing is on the wall: regionalism is not stronger than Englishness. It will never supersede it.

Many thought that the United Kingdom Independence party’s opposition to regionalism would mean that it would take on Englishness, but this has stalled due to the ultra-Conservative, English regionalist, Thatcherite takeover of Ukip by Douglas Carswell and his clan. Labour needs to seize this opportunity and it needs to urgently start sounding convincing when it talks about England. If it does not, the angry white English working class, the traditional Labour voter, will march off into another political party that does express their English patriotism. Before dismissing this, contemplate the research undertaken by IPPR, the Centre for Constitutional Change and a 2014 article in the Guardian entitled ‘How Labour is failing to grasp Ukip’s appeal to angry white voters’.

For Labour to sound convincing it needs actions not just words. McMahon and Umunna both appeared to understand this as they talked about actions being needed. If Labour moves quickly then we could regain the initiative in England. Just imagine a shadow Labour English minister talking about saving the NHS in England? The Conservatives would not know what to do!

Creating a shadow Labour English minister would be the dramatic action needed to show the Labour leadership is sincere about England. Symbolism is important – you only need to look at the huge support that Toby Perkins’ bill for an English National anthem has received.

Corbyn should remember that Labour supporters in England are not going to apologise for who they are. They are English and either the Labour leadership takes the advice of McMahon and Umunna or they will be left out of the debate and out of power, perhaps forever.

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Eddie Bone is campaign director of the Campaign for an English Parliament

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Photo: Stuart Bryant

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Comments: 15...

  1. On March 16, 2016 at 7:02 am Neil Hailstone responded with... #

    A Minister for England is a step in the right direction. Obviously to correct the democratic deficit with regard to the position of England an English Parliament is needed.

    • On March 17, 2016 at 12:12 am Alun Palmer responded with... #

      Exactly

  2. On March 16, 2016 at 11:44 am vieuxceps2 responded with... #

    I feel that these timid steps, first EVEL and now a Minister (Shadow) for England only diminish thestrength or our claim to our own Parliament for our own Nation.We have not come this far only to be pacified with kiddy-sweets. We must stand for our independence as a nation within a federation if need be, but regionalism and tokenism count for nothing in this fight. A Parliament for a self-governing England as we had before 1707 is the ony prize acceptable. All else is compromise.

  3. On March 16, 2016 at 12:03 pm Scilla responded with... #

    With the takeover of Labour in Scotland by the SNP it is clear that If Labour is serious about getting back into governing Britain it needs to attract the votes of people in England. Except for the few MPs mentioned here Labour has turned its face against England and its traditional core vote. In order to prevent a dangerous nationalism in England Labour must recognise that England is, just as are Scotland and Wales, a proud and ancient country, united for far longer than the rest of the Western world. Labour needs to ditch its divide and rule policy of regionalisation, however represented, and treat England as a whole in the same way that it does for Scotland and Wales. This means it must have policy for England, a manifesto for England, respect for the culture and traditions of England and for the people who consider England to be their chosen or inherited home. That necessitates a champion for England in a Minister for England.

    • On March 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm vieuxceps2 responded with... #

      A cogent summary of the case for an English Parliament,an aim which I support wholeheartedly. However, I question whether there might be “a dangerous nationalism in England”. No-one considers the self-named ScottiTh Nationalist Party to be other than a political grouping, as indeed is Plaid Cymru or rhe Labour Party.
      Wht should English nationalism be perceived as “dangerous”?

      • On March 17, 2016 at 12:10 am Alun Palmer responded with... #

        Too many in Labour do percieve that, even though it is total codswallop, but if they want to recover from the SNP they will need to change their mind on that.

        • On March 17, 2016 at 9:46 am Pete McGrath responded with... #

          Yes, Labour will need to change its mind on that, and pretty soon, but that would mean having to overcome a century’s worth of Anglophobic bigotry. Quite a challenge, it’s fair to say. Personally, I think they can’t and won’t change, because they don’t want to change.

    • On March 17, 2016 at 12:08 am Alun Palmer responded with... #

      Dead on. They lost Scotland, and they realise they need to find votes elsewhere. Labour policy is still regionalisation AFAIK, but that has so little support with the public that it is dead on arrival as a policy.

  4. On March 16, 2016 at 2:36 pm Guy Parfitt responded with... #

    UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall previously campaigned for an English Parliament, and personally, I know a number of people in UKIP who believe the present deal for England is out of kilter. A fair democratic devolution solution for England isn’t too much to ask for; A Minister for England, and a parliament for English democracy, sovereignty and cultural recognition, inline with the other nations of the UK, would give equality to English people, with that of their neighbours.

    • On March 17, 2016 at 12:11 am Alun Palmer responded with... #

      Of course it is out of kilter, but that doesn’t mean people will support UKIP if they don’t support it for other reasons.

  5. On March 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm Dean Allen responded with... #

    Could somebody please tell me where I can find a political party that expresses English patriotism? If there is such a party, I might vote for it.

    • On March 16, 2016 at 9:50 pm Charles responded with... #

      The reality is that those parties that believe in the EU know that the only possible future is with the EU policy of a regionalised England. Therefore a Minister for England is a non-starter. Should the UK vote for Brexit Unionist parties might consider a Minister for England in the hope that this will buy off the English. However such a Minister would have to toe the party line and would soon be recognised for the fraud that they are. England is the cash cow of the Union and English money is the only thing that holds it together so keeping England under control is essential for a unionist party. Only a party such as the English Democrats (englishdemocrats.party), interested only in England, can give England the freedom and prosperity it deserves and has the policies that will enable this to happen..

  6. On March 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm tartanrock responded with... #

    A Shadow Minister for England would be an important step forward, putting the Tories on the back foot. It has already become apparent that the Tory government has no real intention of making proper use of EVEL, as shown by its recent attempt to pass ‘devolution’ of Sunday trading to local authorities through a Bill that allowed the SNP to vote. EVEL as practised by the Tory government is as feeble as Cameron’s jubilantly announced ‘reform’ of the EU. His administration has no interest in real constitutional reform, here or in Europe. The long term solution must be a federal Britain, with each nation having its own domestic parliament, as many Labour MPs recognise. In the meantime any incremental steps towards political and constitutional recognition of England should be welcomed. Regional devolution, or more properly, decentralisation, is not a substitute but rather an ancillary process that should be under the supervision of English MPs only. The ‘English Question’ is now a live issue and the Labour leadership needs to come to terms with it instead of backing away.

  7. On March 17, 2016 at 12:06 am Alun Palmer responded with... #

    They have realised that this is the only way forward for England, but most Labourites, including Corbyn, seem to view English nationalists as automatically right-wing neo-Nazis, which is total rubbish, but a problem none the less.

  8. On March 20, 2016 at 12:20 pm Ocromwell responded with... #

    An English Parliament with a First Minister is long overdue. It is what I and many other former Labour supporters are campaigning for. Say no to anything else. EVEL, regions etc. It has to be four parliaments within a Federal UK or English Independence. Oh and it’s time England had its referendum.

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