In bed with a stirring English elephant

John Osmond examines the consequences for Wales of a new report’s findings that England is demanding a political say

English identity is becoming politicized in a process that will have far reaching consequences for Wales and the political parties. This is a major conclusion from a reading of England and its two unions: The anatomy of a nation and its discontents, a new report published by the IPPR (here) and launched at a seminar in Cardiff Bay yesterday.

The report is packed with data that shows a distinctive politics of England is on the ascendant, whilst British sentiment is in decline. According to the 2011 census, in England 7o per cent of the population now identify themselves as solely English (60 per cent) or English in combination with some other identity (10 per cent). Only 29 per cent described themselves as feeling any sense of British identity. According to the IPPR report the headline political consequences are:

  • This strong feeling of Englishness as the primary identity is surprisingly uniform across England, both in socio-economic and geographic terms, with London and black and ethnic minority groups being outliers of difference.
  • The English are increasingly unhappy with the implications of devolution to Wales and Scotland and with the status of England within the UK.
  • The English increasingly want England recognized as a political unit within the UK, but are split on how this should best be achieved – whether by a separate English Parliament, or by English MPs voting for English laws at Westminster.

The report explores at length English disaffection with the EU. If a referendum were held tomorrow 50 per cent would vote to leave the EU, 33 per cent to say in, 5 per cent wouldn’t vote, with 12 per cent Don’t Knows. As the IPPR report states:

“These figures throw prime minister David Cameron’s manoeuvring around a possible future referendum on EU membership into stark relief. His is an extraordinary double gamble. First, unless he can bring home a significantly altered relationship with the EU, the English might well vote to leave. Second, recent polling in Scotland suggests the Scots think rather differently about Europe, and these differences could impact significantly on the independence debate.”

Why is all this so important for Wales? At yesterday’s seminar Professor Roger Scully, of the Wales Governance Centre and one of the authors of the report, pointed to two reasons. The first was that the emergence of a distinctive English politics presented a challenge to the Labour Party, which, historically, has been reluctant to address England on these terms. As he put it, “Labour is now the only serious British-wide party and there is a potential for it to be pulled between competing narratives for the three nations.”

He said there was an analogy with the experience of the Conservatives in Scotland. In the 1980s and 1990s they failed to address the emerging distinctive Scottish agenda around the demand for a Parliament.  As a result they have become marginalised in Scottish politics. If Labour doesn’t have anything positive to say about England and its demand for a distinctive voice then they risk becoming marginalised in English politics in the same way.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Wales Governance Centre and a co-author of the report, said Labour would be foolish to cede England as distinctive territory to the right wing, in the form of the Conservatives and also UKIP which was, in effect, an English Nationalist Party. “The reality is that in England the left have got the best tunes historically in voicing English aspirations,” he said.  As the IPPR report puts it:

“From the Levellers to Orwell and Tawney, there are serious intellectual roots to the English radicalism on which significant strands of the Labour tradition draw. There is no reason to believe that recognising England as a political community and giving it a voice must be inevitably linked to the more inward-looking and defensive agendas pursued on the political right.”

Professor Scully said the politicisation of England also has major implications for the Silk Commission, which will have to take into account the implications for Wales, alongside the more immediate impact of next year’s Scottish independence referendum.

The temptation may be for politicians across the parties to ignore the findings of this survey. They will argue that constitutional issues are relatively low down the list of most people’s priorities of most people who tend to vote on the bread-and-butter economic and social questions. They will also point to the lack of a consensus around any solution. The following table gives the report’s findings on English constitutional preferences:

English constitutional preferences

Status quo – governed as at present by Westminster


English votes for English laws at Westminster


English Parliament


Regional Assemblies


Don’t Know


The striking result in this table is that less than a quarter are content with the status quo. But the alternatives all have problems. A separate English Parliament would lead directly to a federal or even confederal constitution for the UK, a prospect unlikely to appeal to either Labour or the Conservatives. English votes for English laws, the recommendation of the recent McKay Commission, would present major dilemmas to the parties, especially Labour.  There could be the potential for an election result with different majorities in England and Britain as a whole The Conservatives could win in England, but Labour in Britain as a whole, as happened in 1964 and 1974. One way this could be addressed would be by introducing proportional representation for Westminster elections, but again that is a prospect unlikely to appeal to either Labour or the Conservatives.

An alternative scenario for giving England a greater voice and representation to match Wales and Scotland would be to establish English regional assemblies. However, this only appealed to 8 per cent of respondents. A referendum in the North East on a regional assembly was lost by a four-to-one vote in 2004.

The IPPR report concludes that there are few signs that mainstream politics has woken up to the emergence of an English political community defined by a distinct English identity, its devo-anxiety and Euroscepticism, and its support for English political institutions. It hazards a number of reasons

Much of the political class remain in denial, failing to acknowledge the trends identified in this report, or refusing to admit their salience. Others prioritise Scotland, fearing that engagement with the ‘English question’ may in some way strengthen the hand of Alex Salmond ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. It would seem a little odd, though, if advocates of union refused to talk about its largest constituent part at a point when in Scotland the very terms of union are being challenged. Where is the English perspective – which is not the same as the Westminster perspective – on what the UK union is and should be?”

The authors identify a further fact in explaining why politicians at Westminster are failing to address the emergence of an English political identity, a sense of trepidation about what contemporary Englishness stands for:

“For some, Englishness seems to be regarded as a dark and chauvinistic force, best kept under wraps. The evident association of English discontentment with the right-wing populism of UKIP may well reinforce that concern. In particular, progressives may be reluctant to engage with the emerging English agenda for fear of legitimising what they see as the grievances of ‘little Englanders’. This, we believe, would be a serious error. The issue is not going to go away. This is not merely because of the public attitudes identified in this report – although they constitute sufficient cause in their own right – but also because the continuing processes of renegotiation of the terms of union in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will ensure that England, by default, becomes ever more clearly delineated as a distinct political arena. Any decision to ignore English discontentment for fear of guilt by association with right-wing populism is only likely to further feed such discontentment – and perhaps encourage it to develop more toxic undertones, if the perception grows that the political class is simply ignoring issues of real concern to people.”

Politicians at Westminster might comfort themselves that all this is merely constitutional navel gazing, and that when it comes to the general election voters will be reoccupied by the economy, education and the health service. At yesterday’s seminar the two Welsh authors of the report agreed that such bread and butter issues preoccupied voters more. But Professor Scully said it would be foolish to allow the underlying English constitutional issue to fester until it suddenly emerged as the major concern. Professor Jones said there was an analogy with Wales, where polling began to see the emergence of a politicization of Welsh identity around 1987 – after the third Conservative UK general election victory in a row (while Wales supported Labour by a large majority). This politicization found expression in the 1997 devolution referendum little more than a decade later. As the IPPR report concludes:

“The challenge is for the major parties to take England seriously, and this appears easier for the Conservatives than Labour. Conservative supporters in England identify more strongly as English than Labour supporters, and are more anxious about devolution, more Eurosceptical, and stronger advocates of English political institutions. There is an obvious strategy of tacking more overtly towards these positions, not least to ward off the inroads UKIP is making in this section of the electorate. The Tories’ Byzantine manoeuvres on the question of an EU referendum around the 2013 Queen’s speech are an obvious, if clumsy, example of this strategy in action.

“There is a bigger challenge for Labour. Some may review the data here and conclude that Englishness is natural territory for the right and should not be a ground on which Labour competes – especially if a ‘more English’ Labour might undermine the party’s standing in Scotland and Wales. Yet the importance of Labour’s strength outside England is easily over-stated. Labour has never won a stable and enduring parliamentary majority without winning a majority of seats in England – Labour needs to win in England to win UK elections.”

John Osmond is Editor of ClickonWales

28 thoughts on “In bed with a stirring English elephant

  1. Such fun! Nationalists in Wales, in the certain knowledge that only a very small part of the population here want Independence, are becoming excited that Engish nationalism could give them success against the wishes of the Welsh majority. It’s all very well making surveys whilst the Independence vote in Scotland is in everybody’s minds….and all the anti-British rhetoric that goes with it, but try a survey when Scotland has voted for a continuation of the Union.

  2. Well put Jon! I’d also noticed that Welsh nationalism and associated blogs has recently started pinning it’s hopes on a very unlikely uprising in ‘Englishness’. It’s as if they’ve already given up on the possibility of clinging to the coat tails of a yes vote in Scotland next year.

    I’ve always found it very telling as to the character of a Welsh nationalist, that they’d happily see Wales become independent as a sort of side effect of events elsewhere. Just goes to show what they think of the democratic and majority wishes of their fellow country folk. So long as they get what they want, to hell with what 93% (dropping to 91% if Scotland became independent) of Welsh people feel.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me how some people on these fora are inacapable of understanding that a range of opinion is possible between two extremes. It must be quite exhausting swinging between them both in a vain attempt to understand what is happening politically around us.

    This is a very significant development in that it confirms Tom Nairn’s thesis in his book ‘The Break-up of Britain, and that it should come from England. It is, to all intents and purposes, a response to the West Lothian question.

    What it shows, however, is that the Conservative Party is comfortable with an English identity in ways that the Labour Party is not. This is not something new. It began with Margaret Thatcher’s election which represented, amonst other things, a desire to do away with the social democratic consensus that had governed the UK since the end of the Second World War (It was this culture that underpinned the idea of Britishness whose purpose was to rebuild an economy that had been devastated by war as well as all the wealth that had been lost to the USA through lease-lending). That sense of Britishness has never recovered from that attack and as we see now from this latest development, it never will.

    What is interesting is how relationships between the nations will re-form after the Independence referendum and the changes proposed to the Houses of Parliament.

    In particular, the Labour Party is faced with the biggest difficulty of all, as outlined in the article. There simply is not a valid argument for defending a political system in which MPs, whose constituencies are not affected by legislation, get to vote on that legislation. It is indefensible. Labour has always relied on seats won in Wales and Scotland to govern in England. If these changes are implemented, they will now have to win in England in their own right.

    The dilemma is, therefore, that to do so will involve having to present policies to the English electorate, with its more individualistic culture, that would not go down well with the Scottish and Welsh electorate where a more social or community based political culture prevails. If Ed Miliband thinks that reforming relationships with the trade unions is a difficult issue, wait until he has to face up to this one. It will be an immense challenge.

    Added to all this is the complication of a promised referendum on European Union membership in 2017. I think that, as John pointed out, the likelihood of England leaving the EU is increasing. It does depend of course on the Conservatives winning at the next election which does not at present look likely but Labour’s chances of winning also appear to be receding. If this were to happen, how likely is it that Scotland and Wales would be happy to follow that political lead? The First Minister has already stated how crucial EU membership is to Wales in seeking to regenerate its economy. And if Scotland decides to stay within the UK but loses EU membership, how long will it be before another referendum campaign is launched for Scottish independence based on recovering membership of the EU?

    One thing is clear, however. The constitutional ground on which the UK has shifted considerably. And we shall have some years yet to see where we stand once the seismic tremors have subsided.

  4. The findings of the IPPR report underline the high emotional/irrational content of politics, although we all have to face the fact that, as the saying goes, perceptions (even misperceptions) are realities. The fact that the report talks of ‘devo-anxiety’ in England points to a worrying psychological state that is usually associated with a failure to keep things in perspective. Nevertheless, to the extent that the changes in English opinion described in the report, are based on perceptions of unfairness to England, it is worth asking what might be the dimensions of this unfairness? How well founded are they?

    Four possible dimensions of perceived unfairness occur to me:

    – first, that England/UK is put upon by the workings of the EU
    – second, that England is put upon by the devolved territories collectively
    – third, and most specific, that England gets an unfair in public funding when compared with the Scots
    – and fourth, that there is an inequality of treatment across England itself, combined with a powerlessness to affect it.

    On Europe, while it is true that the economic and social cohesion of the EU has been affected by enlargement of the union, and the impact of the Eurozone crisis, it is hard to argue that England/UK has been unfairly treated when compared with other member states. For some decades the workings of the EU have been both under-reported and misreported – the hostility of many media organisations being driven by a partisan hostility to the ‘European social model’.

    As for England’s relationship with the devolved territories, the one demonstrable and incontrovertible incidence of unfairness is the over-generous treatment of Scotland under the Barnett formula when compared with public funding in England. This has been so regularly reported that it has achieved widespread notoriety, even in Wales. The generous funding of Northern Ireland (and of central London) and the under-funding of Wales do not seem to attract the same attention. Neither does geographic inequality within England – England’s treatment of itself – get the attention its deserves.

    But Barnett apart, it would be a brave soul who would argue that, taken in the round, England lacks for political, economic or cultural clout within the UK. It is not surprising that an entity comprising 85 per cent of the whole does not know its own power. It’s a common problem for giants, even gentle ones.

  5. If self-determination/independence comes, it will be because the people of Wales have agreed to it. Politics, constitutional change, and events are intertwined.

    It’s undeniable that the Scottish referendum is symptom that something is fundamentally wrong with the UK – all but the most blinkered have realised it over recent decades. The rise in support for Plaid since the 1960s is part of it, as is the more recent rise in English national sentiment as a reaction. It has led to inadequate and ill-conceived constitutional change, particularly in Wales. More constitutional change is inevitable, and is in the process of happening.

    Events may overtake the process, such as in Scotland, which will affect the subsequent direction of change in the UK or rUK as the case might be. If Scotland exits, then political opinion in Wales will have a choice, to continue with the status quo, or demand significant constitutional change. It will be a democratic choice, and not on ‘the coat tails’ of the Scots. Politics is reactive, we have to live with it.

    As a supporter of independence for Wales, I would prefer the drive for it to come from within Wales. I will celebrate Scottish independence with the Scots as I believe it will be better for them in the long term, if not immediately. It is the natural thing for an individual and a nation to be both independent and inter-dependent, but in that order. The same applies to Wales, although its circumstances are very different.

    Independence will come, whether you and I like it or not, as the UK is incapable of instituting any kind of reform which can hold it together. A federal solution is not workable given the asymmetry, even if the Westminster system were capable of committing suicide to deliver it.

    It’s going to be tough, probably very tough, to undo the centuries of damage & decline, and accept the drop in living standards which it will entail initially. Other small nations have managed it with far fewer resources that Wales has, even though they have their problems – all nations do – the UK itself has serious issues, debt being one of them.

    Not one of those small nations, despite the issues facing them, be it Iceland, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, or Slovakia wish to cede their independence. Eastern European nations, starting from a low base have overtaken Wales in terms of prosperity and standards of living in just two decades. It can be done here, but there will be real pain. I’d rather we chose to face up to it of our own volition and tackle it with our own resources, rather than have events direct us. Either way, it’s going to happen. The only question is the timescale.

  6. “The generous funding of Northern Ireland (and of central London) and the under-funding of Wales do not seem to attract the same attention.”

    Yes, it’s a shame that in the (in)famous Eurfyl ap Gwilym interview on Newsnight, Paxman just could not or would not grasp the arguments being put forward regarding Wales and the Barnett formula. Neither could he grasp the concept there could be tensions or conflicts of interest within the so-called ‘Celtic fringe’. He could only see the matter in terms of England v the ‘Celts’.

  7. A lot of interesting comments giving much food for thought.

    There are a couple of points you make that I would like to respond to. I think your point about the political and media hostility to the European social model is well made. Given the preference there seems to be in Wales for that type of model, the risk of England pulling out of Europe would leave us even further isolated from the European model than we are now.

    I also agree with your point regarding the power of England to influence matters within the UK even after any new developments in the devolution process. David Cameron’s attacks on the NHS in Wales in a forum where the Assembly has no right of reply is evidence of this. There is nothing so ferocious as an English politiclan standing up for “the national interest”, usually in the context of the European Union.

    The question is which of our interests are likely to be compromised by a powerful neighbour other than the reluctance to grant further powers to the Assembly?

  8. Anything to divert attention away from failed and unaffordable devolution in Wales, Scotland, and Ulster with every indication of much worse to come if this experiment in divisive tribalism isn’t ended soon…

    Let sleeping elephants lie!

    Just out of interest – please can anybody tell me exactly how much this navel-gazing cost and how much each contributing organisation paid in including the costed hours put in by academics?

  9. Why are the people of Britain allowing the tail to wag the dog?

    A tiny minority of people in Britain wish to see us partitioned into ancient tribal sectors, this isn’t progressive its regressive.

    My message to English and Welsh nationalists is that we are socially and economically intertwined on this small island and we aren’t going to sail off in different directions. We have to continue to work together whatever happens so stop this corrosive tribalism.

  10. @ John R Walker- what about you tell us why you clearly are unable to accept that some people in Wales, Scotland and NI don’t want to be ruled from London?

  11. @ John R Walker

    Devolution has not failed as evidenced by the vote by the people of Wales to give the Assembly legislative powers. If it had been a failure, they would have voted against doing that.

    Regarding England, the point of the article is that the elephant is no longer sleeping hence the proposal to give English MPs a veto over England-only legislation.

    I can only sympathise at the evident distress you feel at seeing your argument become increasingly marginalised with every passing political development. If you genuinely believe that you can persuade the public to abolish devolution then I can only say that you’re in for a very unhappy time,

  12. Rhobat

    Devolution in Wales has failed as evidenced by health, education, the economy, business development, transport, and a raft of other things… Which part of failure don’t you understand?

    When I grew up we used to shout jokingly about ‘home rule for Yorkshire!’ every time some muppet in Westminster came up with another dumb idea that didn’t ‘work for us’ but nobody was bloody daft enough to try and carry it through even though Yorkshire is pretty much big enough and well enough resourced to stand on its own feet as a small nation-state – unlike Wales under current management.

    Nor did the canny people of the North East fall for it when Blair and Prescott tried to con them in the 2004 Regional Assembly referendum. 78% of them voted it down – and in the process killed off the division of England agreed between Heath and Monnet as part of the Treaty of Rome pre-accession talks – and I’m pretty sure they would do the same again if faced with the same senseless proposition.

    I can’t explain why the few people in Wales who bother to vote appear to have a Regional death-wish. I’ve spent half my life in Wales and I still don’t understand why turkeys keep voting for Christmas… Maybe it’s because ‘Christmas’ is the only deal in town – there isn’t a meaningful political alternative on offer but that can be fixed. Maybe you can explain that to me using some rationale from the present day and the near future, not from some historical dream world that probably never really existed?

    Whether it’s Plaid in Gwynedd or Llafur in Cardiff – why do people keep voting for abject failures?

  13. It seems some people spend all day fantasizing about independence and trolling the internet for stories to reaffirm their beliefs. Its got do desperate now they are even clinging to the hope that England will cut Wales loose!

    Well England is as disinterested in politics as Wales and will only bother voting at general elections and on nice sunny evenings when they fancy a stroll.

    One in four people in Wales voted for devolution and most of these were the ones mentioned in my first paragraph, give the British people something to vote for and they’ll turn out…begging next year in Scotland when independence is rejected.

    I hope the samaritans call centre is well staffed on September 19th 2014

  14. As an Englishman who has had the privilege of living in your beautiful nation for over 20 years, I can confirm that English-ness is on the increase. Friends over the border are now using the term “English” were they once would have said “British”. Most English people that I talk to, both friends and relatives, are in favour of an English Parliament. They think it should be at least as powerful as the current Scottish Parliament, if not more so. Sadly, British nationalists – mostly in the Labour Party, but also some in the Tories and UKIP – don’t accept this. They live in some kind of post-war Utopia. They talk about Britain and the UK but don’t accept that it is an amalgamation of different nations, cultures, and peoples. Thankfully, change is in the air across our continent. Let us celebrate national expression, and hope England gets its parliament in the very near future.

  15. Independent Government is all very well until you see just who would form that government. Poor old England would get a right wing administration pursuing American type policies based on privelege of birth and privelege of wealth. Would they develop some utopian idealistic nonsense along the lines of “The American Dream” that is devised to keep the poor in their place with vague promises that anyone who works hard enough can make it to the “Top”? I think that that is a certainty….don’t we already see it each time Cameron enlists the support of “Our hardworking families”?

    And in poor old Wales; What would we get in perpetuity? We would get a Government that is permanently the slave of Culture and Language Nationalism…..afraid of the world on its doorstep……determined to keep everyone at bay in case they dilute our culture. A culture recognisable to only a tiny fraction of people in Wales. Would we be able to balance the proper care of the poorest and most needy in our society with the need to generate wealth to fund that social care? Ideology and lack of talent would get in the way. Socialism without social wealth is a chimera and social wealth without properly controlled capitalism and socialist distribution is a divisive disaster.

    We don’t recognise it perhaps but the strength of the UK lies in its diversity of outlook…each region mitigating the excess of the other. A very imperfect balance but one that has ensured that after Right wing excess comes left(ish) compensation as administrations are replaced and after left wing ideological mistakes come the corrections of free market rationalisations. Sadly if any of the constituent parts of Britain go their own way we will all be worse off. Nationalists drive division…a very few people whose own quest for power and control uses envy of others to break up the status quo…..”look what Scotland’s got that we haven’t” “look how much better off we would be if we were Ireland, Iceland, luxembourg…” .

    It isn’t a pleasant ideology in England or Wales or Scotland, it is nasty and divisive and xenophobic. Sensible people would be well advised to steer clear of it.

  16. @ Henry Wilson

    I remember being in Oxfordshire during a World Cup or European Championship and being startled by the number of English flags flying from car windows at the time. My thought was that only a few years back, it would be the Union flag that would have been on show. It was also startling how suddenly the change had taken place. It didn’t seem to demonstrate any depth of feeling towards British identity that people were willng to switch en masse to an English identity so quickly.

  17. Rhobat Bryn Jones, I wasn’t in Oxford during the last footie World Cup but happen to be at the time in Flintshire and display of English flags was mesmerising and far more than I have seen in Chester later in the day.. Few days earlier my kids wanted English flags and footie kits but we could not find any in Bangor and Tesco staff apologised as they have been requested not to display any England footie items as apparently that would be offensive to the locals.. We then went to Llandudno and they had loads and in Broughton retail park, Tesco was awash with England footie things throughout the store… Not sure what the moral of this is, but there are still substantial parts of Wales that respect cultural diversity!?

  18. Jon Jones has it spot on. I fear a Wales run by backward looking nationalists both on a personal and economical level. The Nats are currently telling us to buy Welsh which is a great way to alienate Wales’ biggest customer of services and goods ie England! if England were to become half as parochial as Wales we’d be in trouble which leads me onto my next point. People in England putting the flags of St George on their cars was not a sign of nationalism but a sign of their over optimistic trust in David Beckham and co..this has since turned to scepticism.

  19. Very true Rhobat. For many English people the British identity is a shallow facade. A lot of people see Empire and its inclinations in the British ideology, and therefore look for something else. I think the 1990s turn to Englishness came with a left-of-centre move from Conservatism – Majorism – to more progressive policies and outlooks. There was also a pro-English sentiment at the time of the devoution referendums that never really got reported or reflected by the media.

    Jon Jones: your dismissal of English, Welsh and Scottish nationalisms is, unfortunately, a fairly typical attitude put across by British nationalists. My nationalism good, your nationalism bad! Something, as an English nationalist, I come across from Brit Nats on a daily basis.

  20. Jon Jones, 9.56

    I’ve read your post as carefully as I can and it seems to me that you’re basically saying:

    1. Independence for England would lead to perpetual American-style neo-conservatism

    2. Independence for Wales would lead to perpetual language and cultural insularism (whatever that may be. Perhaps you could give me an example in the real world of this sort of country to help me understand what you mean by that. Or do you think that Wales would be unique in this respect, that there is no other country that currently displays these characteristics?) without the talent to manage a balanced economy (presumably resulting in perpetual poverty)

    3. The purpose of, and the value in, the UK is to balance out, ameliorate, dampen down regional extremes

    4. Nationalists are “nasty and divisive and xenophobic”

    Firstly, if those were the ‘ideological’ preferences of those two nations in an imagined future as reflected through their democratic processes… who exactly are you to pour scorn on them? I don’t know if that would be the case (it seems utterly implausible in fact), but I certainly don’t object to the English going down that route should they choose to. And I’m pretty sure Eamon de Valera would have something to say to you about “better a poor Ireland…, etc.”. You seem to suggest Jon that a constitutional settlement should be chosen (constructed?) which delivers your preferred ideological and utilitarian outcome (middle-of-the-road, monolingual, social democracy? [please correct as you see fit]). There’s nothing wrong with your ideological preference by the way, very noble in many ways, but aren’t you just a little embarrassed of your need to impose it on everyone else through the structures of a state, your intolerance of diverging views and the right and ability of different geographies to exercise those views? It seems a tad Napoleonic…

    Secondly, your colourful prophesy of doom is very entertaining but it would be stronger if you provided evidence for why you think that an independent Scotland, England and Wales would be so radically different, so innately dysfunctional, compared to all other independent states in, say, Northern Europe (is that a fair comparator group? Or perhaps you’d like to go further south into Europe and cite Greece and Portugal as comparators? Or the Balkans?). Which international precedent do you have in mind that informs this pessimism? Or again, are Scotland, England, Wales uniquely incapable of developing balanced and successful economies and societies? And being friends and allies at the same time?

    Thirdly, if I thought for a minute I was engaging in conversation with “nasty and divisive and xenophobic” people, I wouldn’t hang around very long. The idea would sicken me. We are after all defined by the company that we keep. Perhaps Jon you should reconsider whether you write on this site (or even visit it) if you have such a low opinion of many of your fellow contributors, who are after all Welsh nationalists.

  21. @ Jacques Protic

    It means that there is more demand for English flags in Llandudno than there is in Bangor. But your basic objection is that Wales is different from England. You wouldn’t happen to have moved to Wales from England by any chance?

    @ A Dose of Realty

    I hadn’t actually noticed before that your moniker refers to Realty rather than Reality which puts you in an entirely different context.

    The best solution for fear is to check it out against the reality. This means looking at all the evidence and not just those facts which reinforce your fear and prejudice.

    Had English supporters wanted to show their support for Beckham they would have pictures of Beckham on display. They chose to display the flag of the English nation, a flag recognised and understood by all.

  22. Isn’t it strange Henry Wilson that those who Identify as either “English” or “Welsh” are less tolerant of Immigration than those who Identify as “British”. It rather supports my contention of a greater tolerance amongst those of us who include British in our self designation.

  23. @ John R Walker

    “Which part of failure don’t you understand?”

    I’m not sure from where you get the idea that I don’t understand the concept of failure.

    “I can’t explain why the few people in Wales who bother to vote appear to have a Regional death-wish. I’ve spent half my life in Wales and I still don’t understand why turkeys keep voting for Christmas…”

    So if I read you right, you’re saying that you’ve lived half your life in Wales and you don’t understand the way the country votes.

    “Maybe it’s because ‘Christmas’ is the only deal in town – there isn’t a meaningful political alternative on offer but that can be fixed.”

    The only political deal in town is democracy with all the complications and complexities that come with that. As Winston Churchill once famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Trying to understand what goes on within it is the purpose of such fora as these, since no-one has a monopoly on understanding

    I also don’t understand what other political alternatives you have in mind.

  24. English independence is the best way forward for the English. We 70%+ majority English (as shown by the 2011 census) must not be held back by the minority British population (<20% in England) or the Celtic Fringe any longer. The Celtic countries can take their deficits and debt with them. That'll be interesting for Northern Ireland.

  25. ” It rather supports my contention of a greater tolerance amongst those of us …”.
    In essence you’re saying that you, and those like you, are superior to most other folk. I’m sure this blog is not here as a forum for you to say that.
    Surely people are what they are. I see no tolerance for those different from you. It’s not the fault of Sco/Welsh Nats that you Brit unionists are starting to fall out with English Nats and you’re showing the same imperious impatience with them, you’ve always shown us.

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