Sunday, 29 January 2012


This is the first example of the kind of article I have been dreading, the hymn to Englishness and all that encompasses. This one comes from a 'life-long Labour supporter' - as if that makes it okay - and it is printed in the Independent, not normally the home of extreme views.

Now don't get me wrong, I agree with pretty much everything this writer says about England and its proud traditions, creativity and strong identity, including the lively range of modern influences he cites. I am a proud Englishman and I celebrate this country every day in all its myriad variety but this article contains a few grains which will germinate and grow into pernicious weeds if allowed to continue.

First, the author gets in a few clear digs about Scotland: about how he is 'angry' that English students must pay fees at universities there, a mention of the incidence of 'sectarianism' which can sometimes be found in Scotland.

Second, the writer yearns to be proud of his country and how he longs to celebrate it with an anthem, an English equivalent of Burns Night, how we should have Jerusalem as the national anthem. Oh dear, this is the last recourse of the scoundrel writ large.

Again, I agree with the sentiments and I, too, object to many aspects of our relationship with Scotland such as the unfair constitutional settlement and the continued influence of Scottish MPs over my life but this is the start of a national challenge from England to the challenge laid down in Edinburgh by Pandora Salmond and the SNP.

I've said it before and I'll be hoarse by the time this debacle draws to a conclusion: the point about Englishness is that we have all these advantages but we don't need to trot them out every five minutes. The very essence of Englishness is a sense of quiet confidence in who we are. I don't need a flag introduced by the Normans to make me English. A beautiful piece of music like Jerusalem moves me but it is not necessary to make me English. For Heaven's sake, any country whose citizens can remain proud of its identity and existence even when our football team performs so lamentably at every international tournament has got to be described as being at ease with itself.

Pandora Salmond dreams of two countries living side by side in peace with a shared country and monarch with only a healthy rivalry between us. To use an English phrase from my home, London, he's having a laugh. When the trouble begins - be that at a football match, in a manufactured argument over Berwick, or with an attack on an innocent individual in one or other country we must all be absolutely crystal clear about where the blame lies: at the doors of the SNP and the home of Pandora Salmond. To make that stick we need to avoid playing his silly game.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Coming into work yesterday morning I was gnashing my teeth at 'commentator' Neal Ascherson who called for the English to discover their nationalism and sense of identity. Oh dear, Neal, that's just what we don't need.

England is a settled country which is at ease with itself. It is big, diverse and, over many centuries, it has absorbed different cultures into its social make up, generally successfully, whatever some critics might say. The last thing we need is a homogeneous sense of identity. We need a shared pride in all the good things in England, not to mention a shared sense of anger at the things which do not work for us. Like devolution.

What we absolutely, categorically do not need is a sense of nationalism. Nationalism is divisive, aggressive and negative. It is a hatred of the 'other' and a statement of identity in response to the perception of a threat from that nebulous 'other'. [Philosophy lovers: this is Ernest Gellner's version of nationalism, which I subscribe to. Argue if you will but that would be tedious.]

What England needs - and has in buckets full in my experience - is patriotism, a sense of pride in itself and, crucially, a sense if its place in the union and the wider world. We have an infuriating football team, some of the world's finest athletes, THE world city - London - a landscape of sumptuous diversity, from the wealds of Kent to the mountains of the Lake District, history to gasp at, seaside to revel in, the best theatre in the get the picture.

And of course we have the Olympics, which we won against the French. I say that because it matters. We have a rivalry with the French which extends to most levels - just look at the Prime Minister's disastrous recent foray into Europe. Our rivalry is intense and it can sometimes be personal, as it was at the European summit but to this humble blogger [that is an oxymoron, isn't it...] it is entirely acceptable and productive. We compete with the French but we also work closely with them and share much, such as energy and military intelligence, tactics and materiel. Over recent years I have visited France for family holidays and had a wonderful time. The French are almost all warm and welcoming to visitors and there is much to love about their country but that doesn't mean we can't both enjoy a productive rivalry. Both sides enjoy it and it is creative.

Identity does not need narrow SNP nationalism and the bizarre notion that standing alone on a smaller piece of rock is somehow going to enhance one’s nation. It simply needs the self-confident recognition of what the country and its people are. That doesn't take governments or borders, it just takes people. Scotland seems to do fine on its self-identity without the need for the impoverishment of its own government. If I were Scottish - and yes, like most people at the moment I can claim some heritage in that direction - I would be asking Pandora Salmond just what he hopes to achieve from his petty flag-waving apart from that.

We will all be diminished if the union breaks up but if it does I expect England to get along just fine without the pettiness of nationalism. We don't need it - and neither does Scotland. The union works. Let’s hope that nationalists like Pandora Salmond and Neal Ascherson eventually give up and scurry off to shout at passers-by, leaving the rest of us alone to get along with life and a celebration of who we are, not a hatred of others.

Monday, 16 January 2012


Some brief examples of how the Lib Dems are achieving stuff in government:

Nick Clegg wants to see more employee ownership of businesses to make them fairer and to encourage workers to commit to them. It's an obvious call which only a Tory could object to so Nick will have a job on his hands getting it past George Osborne. I love the comment from Labour's Chuka Umunna that this represents Nick Clegg following Labour's lead. That might have been relevant if Labour had done anything to encourage employee ownership over those 13 wasted years.

Lib Dems are also seeking a commitment for a 'mansion tax', first mooted by Vince Cable and damned by everyone else but, like the prophet he is, now being embraced by more and more people. It won't be in the budget but Osborne has apparently acquiesced to a review. Only a madman would bet against Vince getting his way eventually.

Lib Dems are seeking to get the government to introduce a land value tax, a system which is infinitely fairer than the hated Tory Council Tax as it reflects the provision of local services far more. Liberals have been calling for this fairer tax since the Ark so it would be nice to see it make progress. Unfortunately that would mean the Tories admitting that the Council Tax is a disaster which penalises those on low incomes the most and Labour admitting that they did stuff all to change Council Tax over 13 wasted years in office.

Finally, the debate on Scottish independence is still looking for a champion on the unionist side. In Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy we have two excellent candidates with a national profile few other politicians have. Some have suggested Gordon Brown - seriously! - while truculent Alastair Darling is also in the frame. The counterpoint to Pandora Salmond needs to be someone who is confident, competent and able to speak to voters in Scotland and Charles Kennedy has all those abilities.

That pretty much encapsulates why the Lib Dems are essential for politics in this country. We are the only party which says and does stuff which is important and which hasn't just floated up from the musings of a focus group or interest group of rich donors.

We opposed the introduction of student fees, which both Labour and the Tories supported. If a Tory government had been elected the chances are that the cap on fees would have been completely removed. We performed an embarrassing u-turn on the issue but in the process we have engineered the introduction of a graduate tax, the least worst option. One day that will be recognised. Hopefully that day will come before 2015...

The truth about our success is out there. Regrettably it is hidden by a European crisis and the slow demise of Labour's latest leader. Without an opposition, Britain needs the Lib Dems more than ever.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


The poll to be published in the Telegraph today encapsulates this Englishman's attitude to the Scottish referendum. Making grand assumptions from the poll and using my own opinions as a reasonable guide (this is my blog, after all), the poll seems to show first that English people are generally - and genuinely - relaxed about the whole issue of Scottish nationalism as it is simply not relevant to England day to day. English people also believe that Scotland would be worse off if independent.

Perhaps most crucially in terms of the future arguments with the nationalists, English people would vote for Scottish independence if given the choice.

What all this tells me is that English people like and support the union and are against a break up but it seems to me that there is also very strong opposition to the slow ebb of powers to Scotland which will occur as the nationalists seek more and more baubies in return for staying in the union. To hideously misquote someone famous, if they be so like to go, let them do so and be quick about it. However, if they wish to stay, great but let's make sure we all get fair shares of power, responsibility and control over our respective countries within the union - and let's all get on with day to day life and leave the petty squabbles behind.

And there's still no word on Berwick-upon-Tweed from anyone...

Friday, 13 January 2012


There is a great piece in the Independent from Steve Richards about referendums and how they tend to reflect not the issue at hand but the politics surrounding them. If Scots get the vote in 2014 they will vote based on recent headlines and arguments, not over the perception of hundreds of years of manufactured grievance, regardless of what people will say.

My anger is increasing by the hour as the debate continues as, even someone with the political antennae of Steve Richards is ignoring the grey thing with a long nose standing behind the antagonists - what happens to England. England is uniquely disadvantaged in the UK already as the only entity with no separate representation, as well as the continued injustice of Scottish MPs in particular having power over England while English MPs have no reciprocal powers in many areas.

I have never been enthusiastic about an English parliament as England is pretty big and, frankly, the common ground between Carlisle and Dover is limited in many areas. Unfortunately the Scottish nationalists are thrusting a stick into the nest and it can only be a matter of time before there is a reaction.

And that's the crux of my problem with Scottish nationalism: not the desire of Scots to bake shortbread under their own flag but the fact that the corrosion of nationalism does not stop at Berwick upon Tweed (and that one's gonna be a mare to resolve...), it will spread far and wide, not only destroying Scotland's economy but also affecting ours. And that's why we need political equality and a say on this ticking bomb before it is too late.

Well done Pandora Salmond. Well done.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


One from the 'it's not all bad' folder, an article from the Independent which points out that if one takes out the public sector the British economy is set to grow and that it already has beyond 2007 levels. 'New' Labour pumped money into the public sector so a degree of retrenchment here is not really surprising.

The article also points out that the UK - assuming the self-destructive Scottish Nationalists don't get their way - will slump from being the fifth largest economy in the world this year to, er, the sixth largest in 2050. Well, hoard the bottled water and cans, Mabel, we're going under...

Things are grim at the moment and only a fool would deny that but a simple nod to somewhere like Haiti with its terrible post-earthquake problems or Greece with its economic crisis should be enough to encourage us all to count our still considerable blessings.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


Dear Mr Cameron

In the light of efforts by opportunistic politicians in Scotland to break up the highly successful union between England and Scotland which has existed for over 300 years - benefiting both countries - as well as the continuation of the appalling constitutional settlement which has been foisted onto England by Labour since devolution, I would like to know when your government plans to enact legislation to ensure that all residents of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are given the chance to vote on the potential break up of the United Kingdom in advance of any such non-binding vote for Scottish voters alone. As this country is a union of nations it is only right that all citizens from Penzance to Belfast should be given the chance to have a say.

Such a UK-wide vote would ensure that the majority population of the UK can express a clear opinion - no doubt in favour of our country - and that British people are not held to ransom for years to come with increasing demands for powers for Scotland with no corresponding increase in powers for England or English regions in particular. The slow cancer of such calls on the body politic of a country can be clearly seen in the disruptive politics of Canada and Quebec over many decades or, closer to home, in Spain, which has for decades had to juggle the demands of various nationalist parties to the detriment of Spain as a whole.

A referendum on the question of Scottish independence from the UK would also be an opportunity for English voters to have a say on the continuing injustice of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being able to govern themselves in many areas and of Scottish MPs in particular being able to vote on legislation affecting England and Wales while English and Welsh MPs do not have corresponding rights over numerous areas of Scottish administration.

I trust that, in advance of the referendum, British voters will be given clear information on the headline terms of any settlement arising from Scottish independence, including details of the payment the Scottish Government will make to secure control of the two banks in Scotland which the UK as a whole bailed out during the recent financial crisis and a percentage figure for the amount of UK debt the newly independent Scotland will be required to take on - reflecting the population of Scotland in relation to the UK as a whole.

I hope that British voters will also be reassured that, in the event of Scottish independence, the British government will make a cast-iron commitment that it will at no time in the future agree to any financial support for Scotland - the original catalyst for union in 1707, instead referring the newly independent country to the EU and the IMF as befits an independent state.

Please reassure me that any attempted power grab by the Scottish government in return for not seeking independence will only be agreed to after the establishment of an English Parliament with equivalent powers and a cast-iron commitment - enshrined in law - that Scottish MPs will be barred from involvement in any decisions which do not affect Scotland.

Finally, please use your good offices to encourage the FA and the Scottish FA to reinstate the oldest international football game of them all, England v. Scotland, to remind Mr Salmond and his petty nationalist ilk that the best way to resolve conflict remains on the football field over 90 entertaining minutes.

Your party is formally the Conservative and Unionist Party. Please act with urgency to ensure that this name remains relevant in future.

Yours sincerely
Andy Crick
Englishman and proud citizen of the UK, a successful, peaceful country largely at ease with itself - for now

(And this diatribe, dear reader, is why Alex Salmond is a fool as he seeks to rename himself Pandora and prise open the locked, sealed, vaulted box marked 'Nationalism: DO NOT OPEN'. And I'm a moderate Englishman. Wait until others really take hold of this debate)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


There's a 'debate' going on today over immigration and the effect on jobs for young people in Britain. I use the inverted commas because one side of the debate is being led by Migration Watch, a right wing group which is viscerally opposed to any immigration.

On the other side is a proper report based on, er, research, from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) which demonstrates that the rise in the number of immigrants from eastern European - measured by NI Number registrations in local areas - did not correlate with levels of youth unemployment at all. In fact, the report demonstrates, youth unemployment has risen massively since 2008, while at the same time the number of eastern European migrants has fallen.

Immigration is is a huge issue which I have come across rather too often on the doorsteps in recent years and it is reassuring to see that my response to such queries from residents was broadly on the money, namely that immigration benefits our country and does not disadvantage young people here.

The issue of youth unemployment is far bigger than a few Estonians arriving at Heathrow. It reflects disaffectation, education issues and the wider recession. I am reassured that the changes to education the Lib Dems are powering through the coalition, such as the pupil premium and wider choices at 16, are moving us in the right direction.

After all, isn't the answer to provide people with a decent start in life and choices when they need it, especially at 16 and 18? It's so blindingly simple you wonder why no one has thought of it before...

[Note for anti-fees readers. Yep, so am I but if you had a Tory-only government now you would probably have unlimited fees and a real two-tier system in higher education. With the Lib Dems in government we now have a graduate tax in all but name, the fairest possible option and one which does not rely on the low paid and pensioners to pay for Degrees. We still want a free education but Labour opened Pandora's Box with the introduction of fees and we've done our best to make it fair. If a Labour government had been re-elected in 2010, do you seriously believe they would not have raised fees? Think again.]