openDemocracyUK

But which of our political parties will offer a fair and just settlement for England?

As the political parties decompose a forgotten nation haunts the British general election - and Brown's only chance of holding on to office is likely to be at its expense.
Simon Lee
14 April 2010

WITH the most discredited Parliament in living memory now dissolved, the party manifestos being published and the first televised leaders' debate imminent, the General Election campaign has been well and truly joined by the broadcast and written media.

However, on the streets of Hull North, you could be forgiven for not knowing an election is taking place.

Save for a few Liberal Democrat and Labour Party posters, the campaign is invisible.

The Labour Party appears to have assumed its lead in this constituency is unassailable.

The Conservative Party cannot win the seat. Only the Liberal Democrats appear to regard the seat as potentially winnable, a fact reflected in their greater visibility.

This highlights one of the two most conspicuous features of this election.

First, unless you live in a marginal Middle England constituency on one or more of the political parties' hit lists, you will not be seeing much political activity.

The membership of both of the major parties has collapsed during the past decade. Neither party has the troops on the ground to mobilise voters.

For many disillusioned voters, this lack of visibility of politics may appear to be a blessing in disguise, but this trend will likely contribute to an overall UK turnout nearer to 55 per cent than 60 per cent, the lowest turnout on record.

If so this will be the most potent symbol of the extent to which British politics is broken. Paradoxically, this may make it the most important General Election since 1979.

The second feature of this campaign is the political invisibility of England.

This week's manifesto launches address policies for public services that apply to England alone, not Britain or the UK.

But, from the parties themselves and the broadcast media, you will never know this because it is a fact rarely acknowledged.

Instead, you will hear Gordon Brown talk of "this country".

He cannot afford to say the word "England" because, although his power over health and education policy is rooted in England alone – because of devolution – he does not represent an English constituency.

Nick Clegg has warned of the possibility of major social strife if a minority Conservative government seeks to impose major spending cuts. However, a more likely scenario is the Conservatives will win both a clear majority of seats and the majority of votes in England while not winning an overall majority at Westminster.

If Labour and the Liberal Democrats then form a coalition government after the election, and seek to pass legislation and policies for England, including major spending cuts, using the votes of MPs representing seats in Scotland, Wales and possibly Northern Ireland too, Nick Clegg's major social strife may well materialise.

In such circumstances, voters in England will be entitled to ask: "Who legitimately speaks for England?"

It cannot be any political party that relies upon the votes of other nations at Westminster to determine the policies which will shape the future of England alone.

When New Labour introduced its White Paper on Scottish devolution in 1997, it asserted that the consequence of "entrusting Scotland with control over her own domestic affairs" would be "a fair and just settlement for Scotland".

But which of our political parties will offer a fair and just settlement for England?

Unless and until the political power to design the policies and allocate the public resources that affect their daily lives is devolved - by what is now an out-of-touch and hugely discredited British political elite - to the people of England's towns, cities and localities, there will be little incentive for a disillusioned and disenfranchised electorate to reconnect with the democratic process.

From the Hull and East Riding community website with thanks

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

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