Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

23 September 2007

Jack Straw: Impartial Constitutional Architect or Labour Party Politician?

They had Jack Straw – GB’s [Gordon Brown’s] appointee to draw up proposals for constitutional reform – on the early-morning ITV news show this morning. I tuned in at the point where he was warning the Tories away from supporting measures allowing English MPs only to vote on England-only matters. This would, he said, inevitably lead to the formation of an English parliament, which would inevitably lead to the break up of the UK.

These are intimidation tactics. For a start, an English parliament would not necessarily have to result in the break up of the Union (though many who support the parliament do also back English independence). There are all sorts of constitutional arrangements that could allocate powers to England equivalent to those enjoyed by Scotland and Wales, while other powers and responsibilities remained the prerogative of a UK parliament and executive. Again in intimidatory mode, in the interview, Straw sought to remind the Scots that their powers were devolved not constitutionally established and that, by implication, they could be taken back by Westminster. This was as if to warn the Scottish Nationalists implicitly not to rock the boat, for instance by supporting English demands for English MPs only to vote on England-only matters, or pressing for the Scottish parliament to ‘abrogate’ powers for regulating Scotland’s fiscal and financial affairs in complete independence from the Westminster government.

Straw’s main argument, perhaps his only one (I’ve heard him elsewhere make the same case) for the need to preserve the Union at all costs is that, according to him, England’s international status and influence would be diminished by breaking Britain up. The example he gave on this occasion was European countries that have broken up and supposedly now have less influence in the EU as a consequence. Hmm, excuse me, but ask the Czechs or the Slovenes whether they’d rather be independent members of the EU or be dependent on a Czechoslovak or Yugoslav regime for their internal governance and external affairs, and I think you’ll find the riposte to that example. But what of Britain’s role, say, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and in global strategic affairs? It’s unlikely that an independent England (assuming England took over the legal personality of the UK) would be kicked out of the Security Council unless it chose to leave. Doesn’t it have a veto on such a decision, in any case? And this move would not be supported by either the US (which would continue to see England, as it does Britain, as an essential international ally) or France, who would be worried that its own disproportionate representation on the Security Council might thereby be undermined. It would be far more likely, in my view, that additional countries might be voted in as permanent members, such as India and Brazil – which would be no bad thing, in any case.

But this is all completely hypothetical and shouldn’t stand in the way of the primary consideration, which is that if the English people want greater or total separation from the UK, it is their right to have it. Straw, like Blair, is hung up on the idea of Britain as a major world power, which it really isn’t and can’t sustain other than as a close ally of the States, enabling it to exercise limited moral and strategic influence on that country. Better to forge a new and truly post-imperial identity as England; and I’m far from convinced that our European neighbours wouldn’t be better disposed to collaborate with a reinvigorated, dynamic England than with island-fortress Britain.

So by warning about the diminution of Britain’s stature if the UK was broken up, Straw is once again resorting to scare tactics. The most fundamental rationale for his and the Labour Party’s support not only for a Union reinforced by a written constitution but also denying the right of English MPs alone to vote on English affairs is that he wants to avoid Labour losing the power to form a UK-wide, centralised government based on a minority of the votes. This was evident in his evasive response to the interviewer’s question about the meaning of GB’s inclusion in government of members of other parties. In passing, the interviewer alluded to the fact that Straw had previously vehemently opposed PR: another measure that would prevent Labour from ever gaining absolute power again. Straw merely described Brown’s supposedly more collaborative approach to government as an attempt to rebuild a nationwide (Britain-wide) consensus and unity, which had been impaired by the Iraq War.

This might be one of the spin offs of Brown’s tactic, and one which serves the overall strategic objective of bolstering the Union. But, it has to be observed, there is also a potentially massive electoral pay off, judging from the latest opinion polls. From the actual effect, infer the intention: it was Brown’s aim all along to leverage this supposedly more inclusive approach to government to bring back wavering voters into the Labour fold. ‘You don’t need to vote for another party and thereby risk a hung parliament, which might require coalition government and might further weaken the Union that is in peril – just vote for avuncular, trustworthy Brown and you get effectively a coalition government anyway!’

Clearly, you’ll never get more proportionate representation for English people by electing a Labour government. They want to retain a UK-wide government elected by the first-past-the-post system, which gives them such big disproportionate majorities on a UK-wide vote, let alone an England-only vote. Oh yes, I’ve just remembered: in the last election, the Tories – even on the first-past-the-post system – beat Labour in England; they and the Lib Dems would hammer them under PR. No wonder Jack Straw, who at one point admitted his partisanship, doesn’t want English MPs to vote on England-only matters!



  1. England’s international status and influence would be diminished by breaking Britain up.

    Oh no. if anything England is going to emerge from over 300 years of crap and take the world by storm. Actually, I think we havent been in control of our country since 1066, but that’s a whole other issue.
    Can you imagine us in control of our country? It will be like starting all over again. It will be like a breath of fresh air. Which is precisely why scum like straw dont want it to happen. Who is going to be first out of the door when it happens? All those who showed their hatred for England, that’s who. Bye bye Jackass!

    Straw is an idiot. Oh the English are so violent and nasty ah? Er, yeah maybe we should take a leaf out of his compatriots books and bomb scotland using helicopter gunships ah? Violent? Yeah he should know what it means. He comes from a violent and devious group ah?

    As for what he said. Well, it’s all horseshite. Him and his new labour mates are running scared. They are yellow through and through. That’s why they’re spouting off. They’ve got the picture at last. We aint going to back down.
    It makes me puke. These idiots are the cause of the present situation and what do they do? Carry on lying and blaming everyone else for what’s gone wrong. It is their fault we’re in the present situation; not anyone elses. Straw is an out and out pompous, put on plum in the mouth, twat! Let the idiot spout off, it wont do anything but spur everyone on. As for trying to intimidate the tories, well, that just sums up what i’ve been saying. Try this, that, and the other, if none of those things work think up some other crap and try that. Blame anyone and anything but new labour! And so it goes on and on. It was like what, ten years ago when the loony left decided all on their own that the British union flag was the flag of the right-wing and evil. Then some bureautwat c*nt thought up the Gordon’s British rubbish then hey presto, just like that, the Union flag isn’t the flag of the right-wing, it’s all legitimate again! Absolutely pathetic aint it?
    They do make it hard for me. I can’t work out who is the biggest new labour C*NT! I have so many to choose from.

    Comment by M Anderson — 27 September 2007 @ 4.21 am | Reply

  2. Didn’t he get all hot under the collar for condelezza rice? Didn’t he make snidey immature comments about the English? These two things are all you need to know about idiotic Mr Straw. He should be professional! Getting all cozy with fellow so-called politicians is not professional! Making ridiculous childish comments about a whole group of people isn’t professional either. How would Straw do in the real world? He wouldn’t!

    I actually think it’s sort of funny that someone with the backbone of a jelly fish would try to intimidate others. Then again, it’s easy to spout off when you have several body guards. Isn’t this what is wrong with the so-called UK though? The wrong people are in control! Dubious, devious, power-crazy characters should not be in control of anything!

    Comment by cujimmy — 27 September 2007 @ 3.50 pm | Reply

  3. I agree that Straw’s main argument for the need to preserve the Union at all costs is that, according to him, England’s international status and influence would be diminished by breaking Britain up. But then he has also hinted at other internal issues.

    Comment by Bipin Adhikari — 5 January 2008 @ 8.30 am | Reply

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