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 666.

    This sort of topic is silly. English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish what does it matter? The annoying thing is that for some reason we have to please immigrants and let our national identity be abused because it might be "racist" if we try stand up for ourselves. I have friends from all over the UK and I believe this whole "you are either british or your national identity" is nonsense. You are both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    @634 Calum Mckay

    This nonsense about the National Front or latterly British National Party using the cross of St.George is usually wheeled out every April 23rd. The truth, as you say, is that both the NF and BNP swathed themselves in the Union flag.

    If they were used then the English banner flew alongside the cross of St. Andrew the red hand of Ulster and Welsh dragon, all together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

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

    That's because they didn't even think it should exist - remember Prescott's (failed) attempt to foist a regional assembly on the Northeast? Had it succeeded I wonder where that would have led. But now 'Ed' says it's ok to be English again. Gosh thanks Ed, as if we needed you to tell us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    @659 - what sort of example is that? It does not justify the comment you made in your previous post, does it? Besides - when you resort to quoting the tabloid press? You've lost the argument...

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    Pity he forgot to mention these feelings to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair when they were spending billions on un-needed Parliaments and Assemblies in Scotland and Wales. What's changed now? Could it be he needs our votes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    It is a shame that the Labour numpties continue to discriminate against the English and deny us a parliament when our Welsh and Scottish counterparts enjoy that right.

    Milliband should be ashamed of himself for putting the English down, No wonder no one voted for that joker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    The Labour Party - happy to celebrate any culture, religion or gender that is not English, Christian or male. As a member of all 3 groups its 3 good reasons why I don't vote Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    652.Rhyfelwyr - Please follow the link to the daily telegraph, this was a recent case. As you can see this is not a risible claim and as such deserves an apology. in the interest of fairness the white woman who racially abused train passengers was convicted fairly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    The House of Commons should become the English Parliament and the House of Lords should become the British Senate ensuring the 4 Parliaments work cohesively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Don't know any Polish, Jewish or marxists where I live. .

    Thank god we have Miliband though, down in Londonland . . telling us what we will and won't have if he gets into power.

    No vote from me !

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    "I refuse to accept that the country I know and love is really full of narrow minded xenophobic bigots which this debate seems to indicate."

    Typical Labour. If people don't agree with you play the racist card.

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    I love this talk of English identity especially as no-one seems to define this identity. The other union nations seem to define their identity in terms of the differences between themselves and the English which they usually define as those who live round London.Unfortunately most other English also seem to define themselves by differences between them and Londoners. So please define Englishness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    Having read various comments in recent times from our southern friends regarding Scottish independence, I'd just like to say:

    If the English want their own Parliament, then let them have it.
    You have permission to proceed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    Good luck to everyone with independence and devolution, but I don't know what I would do if all the other nations left Britain and I was stuck being... just English. My hometown Brighton is a tranquil field of Green and Rainbows by the sea, surrounded on all sides by white and red crosses, whose BNP thugs came and trashed our town during Jubilee weekend. Could we confederate with someone else?

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    @651 - and your reference for this rather risible claim is?

    (I won't hold my breath. People who express such sentiments rarely bother with evidence.)

  • Comment number 651.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    Scotland can vote on matters pertaining to them, Wales and Northern Ireland have their assemblies. Why oh why cannot we have votes on areas that only affect England being vote on purely by English MPs? We are stronger in Union - but we also need equal rights to democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    It is not in Labour's best interests to have an English parliament. The Scots supply them with a large portion of their MPs. (Pretty much a no brainer there.)

    If there is no English parliament then at the very least, Scottish MPs need to be excluded from votes impacting England and Wales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    I don't understand why Labour wouldn't be able to control an English parliament?"

    That's a statement - you don't understand something - it's not a question, so need need for a "?".

    The reason Labour would not be able to control an English parliament is that they would never gain sufficient seats. They depend on Scots and Welsh Labour MPs for their majority - when they have one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    Dear Ed,

    Do you really believe that after Labour's destruction of our national identity by forced mass immigration (multiculturalism) in order to create an extremely grateful core voter base - the British public are that stupid/gullible to take you @ your word when nothing but hypocrisy flows from your mouth like a river, think again Teddy boy and see if people will trust you again.


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