Friday, May 26, 2006

This Royal Throne of Kings has a problem

Was just prompted by a friend to pick up my copy of the Complete Works, hadn't looked at it for a few years. I was looking for Macbeth, but there was a page marked. Most certainly not a bookmark, just an envelope addressed to my address before last, keeping a page for reference. Which page?
Richard II:
John of Gaunt:
Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
So, England has a problem that needs solving. It's come up (again) in the comments on the previous post, so I thought I'd open a question for debate.

Squaring the circle. How do you bring power as close as possible to the people, recognise the existence of England as a unit, and ensure that a Parliament of 80% of the population does not destabilise or undermine the British parliament?

How is the need to take power away from the centre helped by creating a new administrative unit that is as big as England? How does this improve the way I am governed?

I ask this in the attempt to have a reasoned debate - can "nationalism" be removed from this discussion? Does "England", in and of itself, matter? England is nearly as big as Britain. If Britain is to continue to exist as an administrative unit, what will the England govt do? I've said before that a medium term objective of all disparate reformers has to be a constitutional convention, and in that, nothing can be ruled out or ruled in. I'm convinced that a Parliament for England is an irrelevence for as long as Britain exists, too distant and remote.

However, can we devolve power from the center into units big enough to be effective but local enough to be responsive? And can such a system also include an "English dimension" in some way?


Anonymous said...

The answer is simple, it called voting for a parliament. Get rid of the 'party system' and only vote for a candidate that will represent your views. Individual candidates standing for election, should live and pay full council tax within the constituency and not treat the address as a second home. They should only be able to raise funds (to a capped limit) from within the constituency that they wish to represent. If they move home from within the constituency which they represent, then they should apply for the chiltern hundreds or the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the manor of Northstead.

No representation unless you represent

Posted by Anoneumouse

Anonymous said...

How does getting rid of parties help me choose a candidate that represents my views? Anyone is free to stand, yet the overwhelming majority vote for party backed candidates, because those candidates at least have clear positions.

I'm in favour of local representation, but I wouldn't go so far as to excluse someone; democraticic accountability has to include the right to elect someone not  local.

On that, much better to revolutionise the whips system; turn them into an information office, with advice publicly posted. Combine it with a better electoral system  to allow real choice (and encourage independents) and we could get somewhere. But that's all Westminster/Britain problems & solutions, doesn't reflect an answer to England. 

Posted by MatGB

Anonymous said...

The problem is - most people aren't interested in this stuff. The status quo suits both parties - Labour because the scottish votes come in handy, the Conservatives because they're a unionist party; and public disinterest means there's no groundswell of support for constitutional change.

I think a constitutional convention is a great idea, but I honestly haven't the faintest idea why anyone in any position to organize it would decide to hold one.

Actually, scratch that, one thought: leaving a mark on history. Brown is apparently showing interests in this direction, possibly for precisely that reason.

But other than that... why bother? 

Posted by Jonn

Anonymous said...

"Does "England", in and of itself, matter? England is nearly as big as Britain".

Alternatively "Does "Britain" in and of itself matter? Britain is not much bigger than England". 

Posted by Derek

Anonymous said...

"Does "England", in and of itself, matter? England is nearly as big as Britain."

Why not say

"Does "Britain", in and of itself, matter? Britain is not much bigger than England"  

Posted by Derek

Anonymous said...

Derek; that's a valid perspective, and one I respect but disagree with. To me, Britain matters. As Britain, the combination of our three nations has performed great things. I respect that to others it is less important.

I'd like to preserve the 1707 Union. The stated aim of, for example, the CEP, is for this to happen. I truly believe that an English Parliament means the end of Britain as an effective entity, I'd like to avoid that. Those that disagree are of course free to do so, and at least it's a position that is fully coherent.

Jonn, the Convention has to be as part of the new settlement that, for eexample, L-C is working on. Has to be. People may not care, but that's I suspect partially because they don't know. Power showed that people aren't apathetic, they're disillusioned and disconnected. A new settlement has to be part of that. 

Posted by MatGB

Anonymous said...

It's gratifying that the debate has moved to this point. Personally I want independence for England so a further localisation would be more than acceptable to me without having to worry, then, about the subsumation of England by a Blair-esque PM or the EU's sneaky power grabbing...

(Copied from the 'wrong' place). 

Posted by Gavin Ayling

Anonymous said...

You mean here ? Only reason comments are open is this new comment box appears even if I turn them off, and I didn't think it was worth fixing. Still, multiple threads isn't too confusing.

As you know, I'm in favour of a reformed Britain staying in a reformed EU; I haven't given up on the idea that either is redeemable, yet. But I do respect the intellectual coherence of your position, there's no possible contradiction there.

But yes, the debate is progressing nicely; we need to square the circle of dealing with both governance and equality/fairness, and if we can do that, I think we have a winner.

Best I've come up with is some sort of provincial/regional arrangement, which has an "English" decision making power for those decisions that simply have to be made at the England but not UK level; given that England and Wales share the same law code, etc we could involve Wales in elements of that as and when necessary, etc. No idea how it would actually work in practice, but it has the potential to solve all the problems. I think counties are simply too small for modern needs, but England is too big; the mess Whitehall made over Foot and Mouth proved that to me even if I didn't already know it.

Rambling. More reading, then to bed. 

Posted by MatGB

Anonymous said...

The size of England in relation to the size of the UK is often touted as a problem when discussing devolution but just think about it and you'll see that it is irrelevant. An English Parliament would deal with devolved matters affecting only England. Its influence and sphere of interest would largely be restricted to England and English affairs. What interest would the English Parliament have in devolved affairs north or west of the border? The matters dealt with by the devolved governments in the UK relate to their own nations with any matters affecting the whole country or that are reserved dealt with by the British government. Therefore, the size of England is totally irrelevant to the establishment of an English Parliament and will not marginalise the other three nations of the disUnited Kingdom. 

Posted by wonkotsane

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