Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blair plays with words over English Parliament

In a speech to regional newspaper bosses earlier this week, Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the issue of an English Parliament in terms which some of those present quite understandably interpreted as giving support to the idea. He said that if people in England were asked if they wanted a Parliament like Scotland's they would overwhelmingly agree, adding: "I think to then take it a step further and say, 'Actually we want to bust up the UK'... no, I don't think people want to bust up the UK."

This has since been reported in the Yorkshire Post and followed up by Gareth Young on the CEP newsblog and Iain Dale both of whom justifiably take the PM at his word.

Unfortunately, the transcripts of the daily Downing Street briefings tell a rather different story. Blair's spokesman was specifically asked on the day of the speech whether he supported an English Parliament, and this is what he said:

Asked what the Prime Minister thought of the idea for a devolved parliament for England, the PMOS said that the comments running on the wires from the Newspaper Society event today would cover what the Prime Minister had said including why he values the Union, and he believes that the Union as a whole operates better together as a unit; his argument was that the momentum of history is towards better co-operation and in terms of Regional Assemblies, we have set out our position on that. Asked if the Government believed that there should be an English Parliament, the PMOS said no.

In other words, not for the first time, Mr Blair has been facing both ways at once, allowing an audience of English newspaper editors to think he was receptive to the idea of a Parliament while allowing Tom Kelly to piss all over it once they were safely on the train home.

What he seems to be saying is that the majority of voters in England who say they want their own Parliament are basically wrong - an interesting definition of democracy from our beloved leader.

Other recent interesting bloggage on the English Parliament issue from:

Iain Dale - 68pc want English Parliament but Cameron doesn't
Dizzy Thinks - Is the Union finished?
Little Man in a Toque - One Helluva Beating, and
Skipper - Labour's devolution strategy in danger of unravelling.

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skipper said...

Blair seems to have excelled himself in facing both ways on this one. BTW my title ends with the words: 'of unravelling'.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing is a big joke. I would trust Blair as much as I would Saddam Hussein. The boy is a snake and that's about it. He has no redeeming features. Why are the media even asking him what he thinks? They are in it with blair that's why. It's all a sham. The media are as responsible for the current mess as blair is.

3 lions said...

These ministers will be against it because having to return to scotchland once we are independent will meanthe endof their gravy trains..

Raymond said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the petition for an English parliament. The measly 479 signatures this has disagrees with the notion that a majority want it. (It comes in below "legalise cannabis" and "Create areas of the seas around Britain where all commercial fishing is banned for ten years to allow stocks to recover".)

Anonymous said...

I am doing a letter campaign and will deliver the letters to 10 Downing St in December.

Send me a letter simply saying

"I demand an English Parliament be established in 2007" (300th anniversary of England's Union with Scotland)

Petitions with this title are welcomed

Include your name and address (nobody will contact you) and send to

Stephen Gash
9 St Augusta View
Carlisle CA3 9RB

Join in with people from all over England as well as Canada, Australia and the USA

james higham said...

It's no surprise. He was like that at the Labour Conference prior to his 'inauguration' and he's like it now. The only thing to have changed is that first the blogger and then the voter is waking up.

crackersonlymakte said...

Paul, thought you might be interested in today's page 2 of the Sunday Times which features a story by the paper's political editor David Cracknell about Blair's visit to see Bush in Washington on Wednesday. The trip - known about by the entire Westminster lobby for some time - has been the subject of a strict embargo for the usual and entirely understandable security reasons. Crackers, for reasons best known to himself, decided to reveal the contents of the operation note on the trip which will doubtless infuriate No 10 and the rest of the parliamentary lobby.
Sounds funny, but I reckon you'll find it's a pretty unprecendenting breach to give exact details of a trip like this....and bet you're glad you don't have to deal with crap chancer hacks like Crackers who has a reputation for making stuff up!

Bryan McGrath said...

Ian Dale and the rest of the Tories supporting another layer of government, you can take this rush for the centre ground a bit too far.

With Northern Ireland and Wales about 1.5 million each; Scotland 5 million and over 50 million in England, I'm afraid national parliament do not really make sense.

So the next step will be Ian Dale supporting regional assemblies for England, I can't wait.

Could it be this interest in an English Parliament is driven by a belief that the Tories could win a FPTP election in England?

Surely not, that would suggest a truly cynical (and desperate) attitude by the Tories.