So I was pleased to see a guest post on Lib Dem Voice today by Dave Dyke of the England Left Forward network.
What to do about England in the new devolved United Kingdom is a question that will not go away. A Useful Fiction quotes Anthony King’s description of the country under the current settlement as “a huge whale in a small bathtub”, and without the counterbalance that the new parliaments offer in Scotland and Wales, it is England that has suffered most from the demise of local democracy.
The traditional Liberal answer is to call for assemblies to be set up in the English regions, but I do not find this attractive. There are problems on agreeing where the boundaries should be drawn and the inconvenient fact that on the only occasion when plans for an assembly were put to the public (in the North East in 2004), they were voted down decisively.
More than that, the regional system Labour has set up acts like a shadow, unelected variety of local government that makes it easier for Whitehall to force new infrastructure projects through in the force of popular opposition.
Perhaps the real problem is that English regional government appeals to those who do not feel comfortable with Englishness at all. Many on the liberal-left who are indulgent to Celtic nationalism still fear that England is too big and too irredeemably Tory to be allowed a modern constitutional form. They would rather see English identity hobbled by a collection of smaller assemblies.
Dyke writes that he has set up the network for two reasons:
You can read more about England Left Forward on its own website.
The first is to provide a space for those of us on the Left, whether progressives, socialists, social democrats, liberals or greens, to articulate, debate and resolve the various aspects of the English Question; in particular with respect to providing England with a legitimate political voice.
The second is to identify a vision for the various aspects of England and Englishness that is not nationalistic in nature, but draws on the experience and contributions of all who engage in the debate. A vision that also incorporates the values of individual freedom, equality of opportunity, and a fair and just society based on the rule of law. For England is a country; it is not a colour, a race or a religion.