Why I am a patriot and an internationalist

To be patriotic, is to appreciate and be grateful for all that is valuable in the country you live in. It does not require you to be a xenophobe or a blinkered nationalist.

The failure to recognize and to appreciate one’s heritage is a sign of an all-round ingratitude. Ingratitude in turn breeds cynicism. As Oscar Wilde had it in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

Hear, hear!

The Britishness agenda, pushed by the ruling class to justify their wars, will not unite working people in England, much less Scotland, Wales, or Ireland.

Our gratitude should be to the Diggers, the Levellers, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Suffragettes, and all those working people around the world who have struggled for social justice, without whom our lives would be much harder.

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Alex Salmond bigs up devolution for England

I’ll admit I’ve only skim read the St Andrew’s Day speech by Wendy Alexander, the beleagered leader of Scottish Labour, but this sticks out like a sore thumb:

Most British citizens want to see the Union continue.

A bold assertion, without basis in fact. Is it something that most people are actively concerned about? Considering that most people live in England, and the issue is presented in a distorted fashion by print and broadcast media…

It’s not constitutional arrangements that get people worked up, it’s injustice. First Minister Salmond seems to understand this, the implication being that he’s playing up the injustice of Scotland having devolution and England having no devolution.

In today’s interview in the Telegraph, entitled ‘An English parliament would be a good step’, Salmond comes out for England, as much as he does Scotland.

If Mr Salmond has his way, Scotland will no longer be anyone’s fiefdom, but an independent country. The only problem is that he has to convince the Scots that this is what they want. “We have got a scheme, it’s called independence, it’s nice and clear but if people want another option on the referendum ballot paper, then I don’t have an objection. But it has to be a defined option, such as fiscal autonomy. It can’t just be, ‘A little bit more of what we have got’.”

If his fellow Scots don’t back the idea, his masterplan appears to be to push the English into telling the Scots that they have had enough of them. “If people in England want to have a referendum on Englishness they can ask their representatives. I think it is a good thing to have a developing sense of Englishness,” he says. “An English parliament would be a good step.”

But the leader of the SNP laughs at the suggestion that he is infuriating the English on purpose, by floating the idea of free prescriptions, free university education and free school meals for the Scots at the expense of those south of the border.

“I would put it more positively. My objective is to build the confidence of the Scottish people so they will accept the normal responsibilities of being an independent country. The idea that I would propose to freeze the council tax in Scotland to irritate people in England is ridiculous. I don’t get up in the morning wanting to annoy the English. I’m the biggest practising Anglophile in Scottish politics. I like the English.

So why does he find it so hard to share a flag and national identity with them? “The idea of national independence is about a country standing on its own two feet, governing its own affairs, having the self respect that self determination brings. It’s not whether you like another country or not. I like Americans but I wouldn’t suggest that we should be governed by America.” [Emphasis added.]

That last question implies that British national identity is the same thing as English national identity. This is obviously untrue, one only has to look at the political expressions of English nationalism as compared to British nationalism. Do you regard Gary Bushell as being the same as Nick Griffin? I think not.

Getting back to a comparison between Alexander and Salmond, here’s more nonsense from poor Wendy:

The Union is something for all its constituent nations: the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. – but for England too. It is not for me, as leader of Scottish Labour to suggest changes there but I do say to Scots that we should support and welcome greater local and regional decentralisation in England, allowing voices in different parts of England to be heard on their issues just as we have sought that for ourselves. Looking to the future the so called English question is properly for UK colleagues to consider. We must resist nationalists of whatever provenance fanning English resentment for partisan reasons.

So, the message is: we ain’t for an English parliament, we’re for regionalisation. Now, an English parliament is popular, according to the best polls we have. Regionalisation has been rejected by one part of England (namely, the North East) in a referendum, and there’s no palpable demand for regional assemblies – they only get a mention by politicians when someone brings up the English question. So, from the Scottish Labour Party, there’s no solidarity being offered to the English…

This news item caught my eye, as it’d be a good idea for unions south of the border to promote devolution for England in a similar fashion:

Trade union leaders have called for a campaign to increase the financial powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Unison’s Scottish Council discussed the issue in response to the Scottish Government’s “national conversation” on independence.

The public sector union wants powers in areas such as equal opportunities, energy and broadcasting to be devolved.

[…]

At the meeting in Glasgow, Unison delegates from across Scotland backed further devolution from Westminster.

Its leaders believe there is potential for some powers to be transferred on immigration and public sector pensions, as well as extending powers over public borrowing and tax-raising.

All of this makes me wonder, what chance is there of a “national conversation” in England? Or perhaps, an English Constitutional Commission?

Might the unions in England threaten Labour with the national question in the row over reforms to party funding?

And is the SNP’s decision to work with the Tories in local government part of the masterplan?

Let me make a prediction: the next leader of the Liberal Democrats in Westminster will jump on the English question. There, now prove me wrong Chris Clegg. Erm, I mean, Nick Huhne.

Whatever.

On the Price of migration, capitalism, and England

An MP has accused some employment agencies of scouring Eastern Europe for cheap labour at the expense of the poorest Welsh communities.

That MP is Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price who serves Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and is a socialist and supporter of national self-determination.

Adam is right to raise this issue – what he says is correct and we can’t allow the public discourse on migration to be devoid of a class perspective. That is to say, the question of class must not be left out of the debate.

Obviously, migrant workers in any country are disadvantaged because they are not in their settled environment. The labour movement is right to assist migrant workers, but there’s no point in being uncritical about why the ruling class wants to move workers from one part of the world to another.

The reason migrant workers matter so much to the capitalist economy in the UK is because they can be more profitably expoited than settled workers. Those migrants of the recent wave who stay and become settled may find themselves in a similar position to today’s settled workers. So it goes, and it goes for a reason – profits. In this situation, migrant workers are often blamed for being victims of circumstance; if any one group of people is to blame it is not migrant workers. The blame lies with the capitalist class which exists at the expense of workers, both settled and migrant; it is the capitalist system, which subordinates the needs of humanity to the accumulation of surplus value.

I wrote as much in an essay “On migration, racism, and identity” which I wrote in July of this year:

Sudden demographic changes can lead working people to believe that migrant workers are their enemy, and the bourgeoisie is keen to promote this rationale. I am not suggesting that this was planned, rather that, for the capitalists, it is an added bonus that mass migration disorients settled workers.

Working conditions for migrant workers are often worse than those of settled workers: cases of bonded labour have been exposed. Despite the subjective differences, the objective fact is that workers of all nationalities must struggle together against their common enemy if they are to improve their living conditions.

The piece is worth reading, as it compliments what I have to say here an is of a higher quality – certainly, it’s more polished than this hurried post!

As Adam says, we a seeing a return to nineteenth (and twentieth!) century working practices with bosses pitting one group of workers against another. Another example of this Islamophobia, which divides the working class on grounds of religion and race; in the current climate, Islamophobia legitimises discriminatory practices and fuel racist abuse against people of colour, thus allowing the ruling class to bring in police state measures and send the armed forces to fight wars of occupation in the Middle East.

I get the feeling that if Adam Price was an MP for an English constituency, he’d have gotten some stick from the three Brit parties. As it stands, Adam is a keen supporter of devolution for England but were he was English, his comments on migration would would have been misrepresented in the mainstream media, and politicians would again make a false connection between supporters of a devolved parliament for England and assorted far-right tendencies.

The problem is that aside from the patriotism of sports like cricket, rugby, and football, there is no reflection in the mass media of the inclusive Englishness with which most people in England now identify. Mainstream media outlets in the UK – both state and corporate – regurgitate the muddled British “national” identity pushed by the ruling elite. The ostensible purpose is inclusion, the real reason is to undermine the civic English conciousness which threatens the future of the British state.

So I was upset for more than one reasonn when England were beaten by Croatia last week – it was bad enough that the Croatian team ran rings around England, with our national team out of next years European tournament, there would be no opportunity to discuss enclusive Englishness and articulate the case for a devolved national parliament for England.

As there are no English polticians making a forceful case for devolution, it is left to Welsh nationalists like Adam Price and Scottish nationalists like Alex Salmond. Of course, there is a reason for their support of an English parliament – it would end the Union, result in Scotland and Wales becoming independent nation states.

Perhaps it won’t be too long before there prominent MPs who stridently make the case and highlight the civic national identity that already exists without state sponsorship – merely complaining about the Barnet Formula and the underfunding of English regions is not good enough. But until that time, the work of Price and Salmond in raising the English Question is to be welcomed.

There’s no power in this union

[Saturday, again]

I reckon that New Labour is regretting devolution. It cannot be reversed, and anything that is done to hold the union together will only cause further damage. If anything is certain, it is that the Barnett Formula will be ditched by Brown and the Tories will continue to play the “English votes for English laws” card – though both parties are for the union, as the unprecedented events of this week have shown, with Labour, the Tories, and the Liberals uniting against democracy in Scotland.

Anyway, here’s what the IPPR are telling New Labour:

Cut Scots cash and MPs, Brown is told
JAMES KIRKUP
POLITICAL EDITOR (jkirkup@scotsman.com)

GORDON Brown should cut the number of Scottish MPs and reduce Scotland’s share of UK public spending, a think-tank with close ties to the Labour Party has argued.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says that only by altering Scotland’s constitutional and financial position in the Union can the Prime Minister assuage potential English anger. Otherwise, the researchers warn, rising unhappiness in England could ultimately threaten the unity of the UK.

The IPPR is often described as Labour’s favourite think-tank, and its researchers are often consulted by Labour ministers developing government policy.

Its latest contribution to the growing debate about the UK constitution comes only a day after Alex Salmond launched his “national conversation” about the future of Scotland.

In an article published in its own academic journal, the IPPR concludes that with the election of a Scottish National Party administration in Edinburgh, “the benign circumstances into which devolution was born have begun to unravel”.

Mr Brown has also talked of a nationwide reassessment of the UK constitution, promising “a new British constitutional settlement” that gives more power to the Westminster parliament and could even see the creation of a formal “bill of rights”.

But the government has been more reluctant to discuss changes in the relationship between the nations that make up the UK, and the IPPR paper’s authors, Guy Lodge and Katie Schmuecker, warn the Prime Minister that inaction is not an option. “Public support for the Union remains strong; but its maintenance will require reform,” they say.

In particular, the paper identifies an answer to the “English question” as Mr Brown’s urgent priority: “English indifference to the Scots and the Union may be transformed into frustration and antipathy.”

Under the current settlement, not only can Scottish MPs vote on issues that affect only English constituencies – with no matching right for English MPs – but Scotland also benefits from higher per-head public spending. The Conservative answer is a policy of “English votes for English laws”, banning Scottish MPs from voting on “English” affairs. Mr Brown has rejected that idea, and the IPPR brands it “fundamentally unworkable”.

But the researchers do identify other ways of redressing the perceived imbalance between England and the rest of the UK. First, the number of MPs from the devolved nations could be decreased.

“The number of Scottish MPs has already been reduced, but they are still over-represented compared to England,” the paper says. “Such a move would also be justified on the grounds that, since devolution, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs have less to do at Westminster.”

The IPPR also calls on Mr Brown to scrap the Barnett Formula that delivers higher public spending for Scotland. The Prime Minister has pledged to retain the formula.

But describing the current arrangement as a “core injustice”, the IPPR says the formula is “widely perceived as unfair … [and] ripe for reform”. It concludes Mr Brown should look at replacing it with a fairer model.

UNCHARTED TERRITORY
SCOTLAND may have to make a “unilateral declaration of sovereignty” if Westminster tries to block Alex Salmond’s plans for constitutional change, according to one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Parliament.

Canon Kenyon Wright, who was the convener of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which helped to deliver devolution to Scotland in 1999, said the First Minister’s plan for a “national conversation” could potentially lead the UK into uncharted constitutional territory.

Under the current devolution settlement, power is only “lent” to Holyrood and final sovereign authority over the constitution always rests with Westminster.

That means any change in Scotland’s constitutional position, or even increase in Holyrood’s powers, would have to be approved by MPs in London.

According to Canon Wright, that raises the possibility of a direct conflict between Scotland and Westminster.

“If the Scottish process came up with the conclusion that we should have a reformed Scotland, but Westminster says no, then in that case, a unilateral declaration of sovereignty would be justified,” he told The Scotsman yesterday.

He added: “Where that takes us, goodness only knows.”

Gordy goes to Washington

[Monday]

Don’t call me Dave
Forget about David Cameron. Okay, he’s trailing in the polls by eight or nine points, his own MPs are mouthing off about him – Graham Brady, who quit the frontbench over Cameron’s stance on grammar schools, for one – and columnist Peter Oborne has raised the possibility that it could be game over for the Tories if Cameron leads them into a fourth consecutive election defeat.

So, the man who was built up by the corporate media now finds himself the subject of ridicule. No ideas, no direction, and no hope. Cameron has an uphill struggle: to convert his party, to beat Brown as a leader. See, Brown has a head start – he’s been crowned without an electoral test. As the current PM, he just has to keep his place at Number Ten, Cameron must prove himself – this is the expectation.

Cameron says he won’t waver, despite criticism he lacks appeal in Midlands and North of England. He is now compromised. If he does another U-turn and obeys the wishes of his party, he looks weak because he swore against it; yet if he soldiers on, more and more detractors will speak against him, and the perception will be of a party in disarray.

The discourse for Cameron is proving that his party has changed. Will Brown be held to his change of relations with US? No, not likely – here we are in realpolitik mode and the media won’t be pressing him on this “change”.

Most unwanted!
We know who Gordy is, don’t we? He tells us often enough. He is change. Well, he doesn’t smile as easily as Blair. He’s a bit awkward, a tad scruffy. It is a change of style, but not substance because nothing has really changed.

No change in relations with the US: we should be grateful for the most powerful empire ever to exist, says Brown. No change in government attitudes towards industrial disputes: the posties – and all other workers – must accept a pay cut to hold off inflation, says Brown. (Presumably he doesn’t want the bosses to accept lower profits and reduced bonuses…)

Why isn’t Brown trailing in the polls? Are they meaningless? How can a man to take over as PM with no election, change only one or two of hundreds of massively unpopular policies, invite generals, coppers, and bosses into government and remain popular?

The answer is, of course, that he is not popular. Remember – these opinion polls are of voters. People who say they will vote in a general election. Not exactly a supermajority of the population; of which, a few thousand are asked to give their opinion. So taking an opinion poll is not the same as taking the pulse of the nation(s).

Severe flooding causing billions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses; an ongoing postal strike; deaths and casualties of troops fighting illegal and immoral wars in the Middle East – Brown doesn’t want to talk about this.

No, the flag! The Union flag is Brown’s priority (he’s British, you know!). The butcher’s apron is to be flown all year round from government buildings – but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

And terror – Brown is set on doubling the 28 day internment to 56 days, insisting it is needed despite the lack of evidence. It’s partly party political, it lets him out-tough the Tories, but for the most part it serves the interests of the ruling class, who will need such laws on the books should the tide turn on a mass scale.

Right now, Brown’s meeting with George Bush is in the news. What did he mean by “full and frank”? Was he displeased at Bush’s lap of honour in the golf cart? My big talking point is this: considering UK service-personnel are dying in immoral, illegal, and unpopular wars of occupation in the Middle East, what impact will Brown’s commitment to the “special relationship” have on his own reputation?

Independence thirst?
On Scotland, Brown’s abandoned homeland, the head of the Scottish government intends to publish a white paper on an independence referendum within the next two weeks, to mark the SNP’s first hundred days in power.

It won’t be easy to bring forward a referendum: the Scottish Parliament is packed with members of the Westminster parties, and the unionists are dead against giving the Scottish people a say on the future of their nation. If it is true that over a third of MSPs are in favour of independence and that there is not sufficient public support for an independent Scottish state, then the unionists should call Salmond’s bluff and back a referendum wholeheartedly.

Scottish independence is a big deal for socialists in England; we cannot let English national identity become purely defined by feelings of antagonism towards Scotland. The asymmetrical devolution carried out by New Labour is resulting in a resurgence of the English national identity, discrete from that of British “national” identity offered by the ruling class. Socialists should support the Campaign for an English Parliament and socialist bloggers should join the Witanagemot Club.

There is one other factor besides the issue of national self-determination, it must be said. For if it is true that Britain is the most important ally of the US, the world’s number one imperialist power, then it is our duty to break the Union into its component parts, thus weakening Anglo-American imperialism and at the same time fighting for change in the interest of the working class.

Is this a joke?

Perhaps the strangest racism row ever:

A RASTAFARIAN binman was stunned after bosses banned him from wearing a St George’s Cross bandana — fearing it was RACIST.

Matt Carter, 33, used the headscarf to keep his long dreadlocks away from machinery and had been sporting the patriotic look for the last seven months.

But Barbados-born Matt, who moved to Britain eight years ago, said he was given a dressing-down after council bosses received complaints.

Last night Matt, of Burnley, Lancs, said: “I always used to wear the bandana and no one ever said anything to me about it until complaints were made.

“I received a verbal warning and was told the St George’s Cross was not allowed to be seen on any clothing we wear because it could be considered offensive and racist.

“I still need to wear a bandana so I’m wearing a skull and crossbones one now. It’s to keep my hair away from the machine when I’m working — or else it could be dangerous.”

Matt, who has worked for Pendle council for five years, was told he was breaching a uniform code. A spokesman said: “Matt knows cleansing staff have a uniform and there are clear rules about what they can wear.

“We’ve made it clear they are not allowed to put stickers or flags on bin wagons or wear clothing which shows support for a certain team, group or country.

“We can’t make one rule for one person and one for another. Uniforms help make it clear to Pendle people who our workers are.”

Will he be given another verbal warning for supporting piracy? This is ridiculous.

Surely the council should not be discouraging people who have come to live and work in England from feeling at home.

And who could possibly construe a black worker wearing an English flag as racist?

I suspect that there would have been a different approach if the flag had been that of the British Empire…

On migration, racism, and identity

[Sunday]

Some thoughts on the expanded EU, the effects of mass migration on settled and migrant workers, the anti-racist racism of New Labour, the crisis of identity in England, and the attitude socialists should take to devolution for the English (hint: positive). By no means definitive – I’ve left out a lot, come to think of it.

The establishment of the free movement of labour in EU states was to benefit the ruling classes rather than bequeath any freedom to workers. Though individual workers have gained from being able to travel to richer countries and earn comparatively more money, but as an international class, workers have been weakened by this development. Certainly, the economic situation in the ex-socialist countries has not been improved by young and skilled workers leaving in droves.

Meeting a gap in cheap and skilled labour by effectively importing workers from Eastern Europe has allowed sustained economic growth in the UK, along a massive increase in indebtedness. Cheap labour and cheap credit cannot last.

Sudden demographic changes can lead working people to believe that migrant workers are their enemy, and the bourgeoisie is keen to promote this rationale. I am not suggesting that this was planned, rather that, for the capitalists, it is an added bonus that mass migration disorients settled workers.

Working conditions for migrant workers are often worse than those of settled workers: cases of bonded labour have been exposed. Despite the subjective differences, the objective fact is that workers of all nationalities must struggle together against their common enemy if they are to improve their living conditions.

Bordering on racist?
Is it possible to have non-racist immigration controls? The most radical slogan is “no borders”, frequently deployed at anti-G8 demonstrations. But I feel this is a misguided call as it is not understood correctly by the wider population. To working class people who are not racists but are concerned about the effects of migration, the call for open borders might be interpreted as more of the same; I have spoken to many people who opposed the mass migration of Eastern European workers for non-racist reasons.

Calling these people racist or insinuating a racial subtext doesn’t help matters: my worry is that racism will become a positive label, a badge worn with pride. Instead of people starting off a rant with “I’m not a racist, but…” they will be upfront about it. Assuming critics of immigration policies are racist is as mistaken as assuming critics of the US government are anti-American or critics of Israel are Judeophobic or against the Israeli people.

Anyone would think from the frequent comments of New Labour types that the so-called “white working class” is inherently racist and has its roots in the UK. The truth is that working class white people have immigrant ancestors too. It is more accurate to talk about a settled population, which fits more comfortably into the discourse of the civic nation.

The fact is, of course, that immigration and asylum laws are racist – they are directed predominately towards working class people of colour – they are both classist and racist. The case in point being Boris Berezovsky a billionaire formerly of Russia, who with ease gained asylum in the UK after falling out with his clique around President Putin.

The problem is, I think, that immigration controls are not viewed in terms of class. The kinds of migrants that the capitalist class would like to limit are those it does not need: if a points-system is introduced to the UK it will prioritise skilled and professional workers, blocking those workers who are unskilled or whose skills are not currently required.

Class and colour
The only time the working class is mentioned by name these days is as part of a discussion on community cohesion. Most recently, there have been suggestions from New Labour MPs that there should be a points system in social housing allocation to assuage the concerns of the “white working class”.

What struck me, beyond the obvious unpleasant tinge to this debate, was that they had wrongly assumed that immigrants cannot buy houses. But there is no point in taking the aim of the proposals seriously, though the content must be challenged.

Any attempt to end needs-based provision of public services, by limiting migrants’ access to social housing, for example, must be met with resistance for it is an attack on the working class as a whole.

Since the coronation of Gordon Brown, the housing crisis has become a political issue. The increases in interest rates and consequent upward rates of repossession have prompted the political class to make noises about solving the problem. Supply-side measures would help ease things, but the housing bubble will hurt, whether it bursts or just deflates…

Race-baiting and no debating
It is interesting to contrast the floundering David Cameron with the flailing Michael Howard in the 2005 general election. The Tories’ ads in the campaign employed “dog whistle” tactics: “It’s not racist to talk about immigration” accompanied their main slogan, “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” This was a direct appeal to people holding xenophobic or racist views.

I can’t imagine this happening again at the next general election, but it is worth noting that there has not been an open and honest debate on mass immigration. This is not because of the PC police ready to label racist anyone who expresses a negative view about an increased inward movement of people – but because the last thing the ruling class wants is an open and honest political debate about anything.

There has been plenty of overtly racist coverage of immigration in the British press, and awareness of the divide and rule tactics of the capitalist class is subdued by means of racialising the debate. One earnest BNP supporter I spoke to said “Yes, I know the problem is capitalism” before explaining that he was not a racist, he merely objected to multiple cultures existing within his country. When pressed, he could not clearly say whether he was English or British, something I find significant.

Identity crisis
Perhaps my acquaintance is telling the truth and he sincerely believes that voting for the fascists is a way of protesting. But lending support to reactionary British nationalism and overt racism will achieve nothing. He rightly countered that a protest vote for a left-wing party wouldn’t mean much either, and by doing so he conceded that his protest was passive rather than active.

The difference between a protest vote for the far right and the far left is great, as I explained to him. The reactionary politics of the BNP play into the hands of the ruling class, who seek to divide workers and undermine class unity. There is culpability on the part of those who vote BNP, of course. But my own discussions with people who have or would vote for a fascist party lead me to believe that the construction of an inclusive English national identity is of great importance.

In the coming years the Union of England and Scotland may come undone. The civic nationalism of the SNP may succeed in creating an independent Scotland, leaving the English with an identity crisis as Britain falls apart. The British national identity has been fostered by the ruling class over the last two centuries and exists in opposition to the sense of Englishness, Scottishness, etc. felt by working class people.

The Union flag, the monarchy, and the Empire are the hallmarks of British nationalism, and the discourse of “greatness” seeps into the political representation of English civic nationalism, as expressed in the English Democrats Party. This is perhaps because the issue of English identity has been neglected by socialists, though this might be a marginal factor in the choice of language used by the EDP!

Socialists of England unite?
Groups who tailed Labour never challenged the British nationalism of the party, and to this day the suggestion that there could be or should be a progressive patriotism (made most notably by the singer Billy Bragg) is met with disdain. The seemingly inclusive sense of Britishness pushed upon immigrants from the external colonies of the Empire was tolerated, perhaps because of this association with Labour. Most definitely, hostility to the inclusive nationalisms of the internal colonies of Wales and Scotland was motivated more by loyalty to Labour than the policies of Plaid or the SNP.

The “party question” has always been a fault-line on the left –I will take it as given that most socialists are outside and against the Labour party, whether in the Socialist Party or the Socialist Workers Party, but I will leave the organisational issue to one side. For a time there was a single socialist party in Scotland which could have provided inspiration for a similar organisation in England, but now we must come to terms with the slow death of the Union and consider our approach to England.

Briefly, I will say that the problem socialists in England have with the issue of national identity rests with the confusion between England and Britain – a deliberate mix-up on the part of the ruling class, I might add. England is not a political entity – there is no English parliament to match the devolution in the other nations of the UK. Whether socialists speak or remain silent on the matter, the debate about devolution for England will proceed. It is not enough to say that Scottish or Welsh independence won’t happen or will only result in EU domination, and the silence on the English question is indefensible.

If we wish to see an inclusive and progressive English national identity, we must open our mouths. Constitutional affairs must be given parity with “economic” struggles and the left in England must adapt to the reality and process of devolution and make the case for a socialist England.