Ed Miliband talks up England but rejects English Parliament


Ed Miliband: "We are stronger together as a United Kingdom"

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Labour should not be afraid to talk about England's national identity, Ed Miliband has said, but he rejected calls for an English Parliament.

The Labour leader said "Englishness" had been overlooked in the debate about Scottish independence.

Expressing national identity should strengthen the case for the UK not undermine it, he argued.

His speech was dismissed by Plaid Cymru as "vacuous" and English Parliament campaigners said it was "disingenuous".

In his most direct attempt since becoming opposition leader to address the future of the UK - and drawing heavily on his own family history - Mr Miliband said those seeking to break up the Union were offering a "false choice" and a "narrow view" of national identity.

Describing himself as the son of a Jewish refugee, who grew up in London but spent time in Yorkshire and is an MP there, Mr Miliband said Britain should be a country "where it is always possible to have more than one identity". People should not have to choose between being British, English, Scottish or Welsh, he said.

Jeremy Clarkson

The Cross of St George had been reclaimed from the BNP, he said, and he "applauds" people who flew it, adding: "Now more than ever, as we make the case for the United Kingdom throughout the United Kingdom, we must talk about England."

He also took a swipe at Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who said in a recent newspaper column that breaking up the Union "would be as sad as waving goodbye to a much loved, if slightly violent, family pet".


Mr Miliband's speech is designed both as a defence of the Union and a message to his own party.

He hopes that, by encouraging English voters to be more confident and relaxed about expressing their culture and identity, he will engage them in the debate about the future of the UK.

He is concerned that indifference among English voters about valuing the Union may encourage Scots to vote for independence.

But his speech is also designed as a deliberate contrast to Gordon Brown's emphasis on 'Britishness'.

For too long, Mr Miliband believes, Labour has been reluctant to talk about England.

The party has been happy to stress its Welsh and Scottish roots while being unwilling to celebrate its English working class traditions and history.

But Mr Miliband rejects the idea of an English Parliament - he is calling for a change in attitudes, not the Constitution.

Mr Miliband said: "In Scotland, the narrow nationalists of the SNP pose a false choice. They ask: are you Scottish or British? I say you can be both.

"And here in England there are people like Jeremy Clarkson who shrug their shoulders at the prospect of the break-up of the Union.

"A narrow view of identity would mean concern for the young unemployed in Scotland does not reach Newcastle or that we in England would care less for the pensioner in Edinburgh. What a deeply pessimistic vision.

"It's a mistake wherever you find it. Having to say: Scottish or British, Welsh or British, English or British. I don't accept any of that. It's always a false choice."

Mr Miliband acknowledged the influence on his thinking of his new policy chief Jon Cruddas, the Dagenham and Rainham MP who was at the forefront of a campaign to beat the BNP in East London and has called on Labour to reconnect with its English working class roots.

But instead of setting up an English Parliament, which would involve "more politicians", extra powers should be devolved to English local authorities, argued the Labour leader.

Quizzed afterwards about why he did not support an English Parliament, Mr Miliband said: "I don't detect the demand that there was in Scotland, for a Scottish Parliament, in England. I don't feel that. I feel like people want an appreciation and a recognition of English identity."

'Partnership of equals'

An ICM opinion poll for the Daily Telegraph in January suggested 40% of Scots backed independence, while 49% of English people favoured an English Parliament.

English voters - who would not get a vote in a referendum - were also more keen on Scottish independence than Scots, with 43% supporting full independence.

Start Quote

The current UK constitutional arrangements are unsuitable for Scotland, and unfair for England”

End Quote Humza Yousaf SNP MSP

Peter Davies, mayor of Doncaster, who campaigns for an English Parliament and counts Mr Miliband among his local MPs, said Labour had already broken up the United Kingdom and it was "unfair" that people living in England had to "subsidise" those in Scotland and Wales.

"It is not just Jeremy Clarkson who has shrugged his shoulders at the break up of the Union, it has been the Labour Party for the past 20 years, and the entire political elite," said Mr Davies, who is a member of the English Democrats.

He accused Mr Miliband of being "disingenuous" and said the real reason he opposed an English Parliament was that the "Labour Party would not be able to control it".

The SNP said Mr Miliband's speech showed "how out of touch he is with Scotland".

Humza Yousaf, the party's MSP for Glasgow, said: "The fact is, the current UK constitutional arrangements are unsuitable for Scotland, and unfair for England.

"What Mr Miliband desires for England can only be delivered by Scottish independence, giving both nations a new relationship based around a partnership of equals, bound by a social union of our shared history and culture."

Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, which backs an English Parliament, branded Mr Miliband's speech "vacuous and lacking in substance".

Supporters of Scottish independence, led by First Minister Alex Salmond, launched their campaign last month for a yes vote in a referendum due in 2014, saying Scotland would be "greener, fairer and more prosperous" as a result.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all oppose such a move, saying the UK will always be stronger as the sum of its constituent parts. The three main parties also reject a separate English Parliament.

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to campaign strongly for Scotland to stay within the Union. In a speech last year, he was criticised for calling for an end to "state multiculturalism" and arguing the UK needed a stronger national identity to stop people turning to extremism.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Born in Scotland. Educated in Scotland. Lived in Scotland for all 54 years. However, I am British first and Scottish second and happy to be both. I will be voting No to independence when the time comes, if only because I believe the four of us are stronger united. Also, I detest the chip-on-the-shoulder element which suffuses so much nationalism here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    The Labour Party is seen as very anti-Cornish in Cornwall incising on being against the language,culture and history of the Cornish people..We need to remember that 50,000+ signed a petion for a Cornish Assembly a massive number for the Duchy this was duely lost and snobed by the Government of the day a Labour Government the reason why there is only one fly in LAB.cllr. on Cornwall council

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    @596 - I'll think you'll find that the Welsh Government is actually a good deal more cost effective than Westminster. They cover a considerable amount of common ground with a lower per capita head count when it comes to officials, and they pay much more modest salaries too. It's government on a shoestring compared to Westminster, and not a 'waste of money' at all. Austerity democracy in action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    I totally disagree with Millipeed, he is trying but failing to be populist. I always describe myself as English first and British (if asked) second. As a proud Englishman why not, if the Scots,Welsh, and Irish can have their own assemblies why should the English be denied this and singled out as not worthy. The man is sad, and definately out of touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    At the last GE I expected real change the way politics was run and I haven't witnessed any changes yet. Perhaps with Scotland that change will come and I as an Englishman wish Scotland every success in governing itself. Perhaps then the political system in England will gets its wakeup call to change its ways as it hasn't had so far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    JonnyBoy @ 590. It was Ensign Charles Ewart of the Royal North British Dragoons (more commonly known as the Scots Greys) who captured the regimental eagle of the 45e Régiment de Ligne (45th Regiment of the Line) at the battle of Waterloo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    @595 - agreed. 'Indigenous English/Welsh/Scottish' etc is meaningless anyway. These islands have had ceaseless immigration for thousands and thousands of years. You'd have to go back to the Beaker People if you wanted to make a claim to be the first residents, and therefore indigenous. It's all nonsense. Nationality is a state of mind in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    Mr Miliband said: "I don't detect the demand that there was in Scotland, for a Scottish Parliament.

    But as he only goes to leftie areas of England where he'll be fawned all over, he'll detect very little outside his leftie political elite world.

    Come to a Conservative area, we'll explain it all to him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    What are all our politicians afraid of?.Why can't we have an English parliament,so that only English MP's vote on purely English matters,it is discrimination against the English as things are now.We "English"are now the second class citizens of Britain.Official papers,Irish,Welsh,Scottish,British,NO ENGLISH.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    To be English is to be an immigrant to the UK; after all, the original English were Anglo Saxon invaders - Germans - arriving circa 5th Century. Then came Vikings and Normans; today England has Eastern Europeans etc. etc. England is based on immigrants! The Celts, who arrived circa 600 BC are the only true indigenous Britons on this island. Let's join Scotland and Wales and govern England!

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly may be a complete waste of money, but as it is the English who pay for them, then it is a folly that the Scottish and Welsh can live with. But, for the English to waste money on their own parliament, would be completely foolish.
    It would be like buying yourself a dodgey sweater for christmas!

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    569. TalkTorque
    Would using the term "Indigenous English" be acceptable? or would it be be considered racist?
    Not racist but too ambiguous to be meaningful...

    I mean how many generations back would you go to define "indigenous"?

    And upon which of your parents would it be based? What would become of, say mixed race people with one Scottish and one English parent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    I moved to Wales 24 years and until then never ever thought of myself as English but British. I soon found out that I was definitely English especially when Rugby was on. I love living in Wales and my children are definitely Welsh. I am quite envious because there is something almost tangible about the pride they have in their country and culture, something I have never felt as an Englishman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    My grandmother used to say that pride comes before a fall.

    It's a pity that all politicians and bankers didn't think about that rare wisdom.

    Yet, here they still are - telling the rest of us what to do. Grrrr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    In 2014 I'll be voting YES for Scottish independence.Why?-----because it's a natural state of affairs,and additionally Scotland has a greater sense of Social Responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    I note with interest that the top rated comments are not editors picks.

    A case of the medium getting in the way of the debate. Framing the debate in this way causes many of the problems outlined in the piece.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    @580 "Napoleon was defeated by the British Army, not English."

    Of course. Von Blücher is such a British name, we'd be hard pressed to forget it wasn't just the English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Who does Milliband think he is to call this a false choice? Sure, for some they can see themselves as British and then Scots, English or another nationality. But for others, me included, I think of myself as Scottish and have no sense of being British at all or even what that should mean. It's not a choice either, just the way I've always felt and still do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Human @ 251. I think that you meant to write "England AND Britain". If the Scots vote for independence then they will be on the edge of something new and exciting for them. If they vote no then are we going back to the "same old"? I would vote yes just to avoid that. Vote "No" and you should be saying goodbye to the constituent parts of the nation that is Britain. No more us and them in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    Another quote, and an old one too, but I would like someone to work out from which country this particular song refers:

    'Man Dogs and Englishmen Go out in the Midday Sun'

    Okay is it: British, English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Cornish or East Anglian'ish not forgetting IOW'ish (they always get left out) Answers on a Post C/O BBC HYS


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