Is England the key to a Conservative victory?
But Frank Field MP has observed that England might just be the key to David Cameron’s electoral salvation. It is not that no Conservative MP has noticed this, but their reluctance even to raise the subject has more to do with the fear of a Labour assault on their ‘English nationalism’ than it has to do with the issue being a non-starter.
There is no doubt that English voters are irritated, principally because their concerns are sidelined, their taxes subsidise the standards of living in the devolved corners of the UK – in particular Scottish health and education - and, unlike Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they have no national holiday for their saint's day. As a spiritual entity, England has her church (just), but as political entity, England does not exist, and reactions to this range from it being an unacceptable state of affairs to a chronic and profound injustice in need of urgent redress. A Newsnight survey has found that ‘61% of English voters think they should have their own parliament and that this proposition was supported by a majority of Scottish voters. Another poll revealed that a greater proportion of English voters wanted independence for England than did Scottish voters for Scotland.’
Whenever David Cameron has talked of ‘English votes for English issues’, it has largely gone down well in England, but quickly falls off the radar of public consciousness for lack of policy detail. But this, as Mr Field points out, could be the ‘issue to mark him out’:
The Tories are in fact an English party in all but name and their leader doesn't seem to realise this. All bar three Tory MPs sit for English constituencies. Making the English question his big idea could give Mr Cameron the kind of electoral launch for the general election that he gained last time he was in Blackpool seeking the Tory leadership.
The Conservative Party has been the English Party for more than a decade, yet they resile from the electoral possibilities for fear of the political consequences for the United Kingdom. Cranmer understands this, but wishes to point out that Labour’s constitutional vandalism and ill-conceived programmes of devolution has set an unstoppable train in motion. It is infinitely preferable to have a Conservative settlement for devolution than to persist with the half-baked, deficient, catalectic compromises of New Labour.
If the anticipated ‘flurry’ of policy announcements in Blackpool this week is limited to the environment, health, education, and tinkering with taxation, there will be too little to set the Conservative Party apart from Labour. The electorate will stick with the experienced statesman who consistently out-performs Mr Cameron in the personal ratings. But if David Cameron’s Conservatives were to pledge a retroactive referendum on the EU Constitution / Reform Treaty, and also offer a credible solution to the English question, they would be on course for victory.
Frank Field is a true Christian Englishman who loves his country and its liberties. He has many excellent and thoroughly Conservative ideas for welfare reform and social policy. If he were Cranmer’s MP, he would vote for him. The wonder is, after the appalling way he has been treated by Mssrs Blair and Brown, that he hasn’t crossed the floor.