Taking back control of our democracy demands the creation of an English Parliament

If the EU referendum result showed anything – other than the desire of the British people to exit the EU – it flagged up how completely and utterly out of touch the political class of this country are with the citizens they purport to represent. The immediate years before the Brexit vote, and since, have illustrated for me the need for constitutional change within England. I believe that an English Parliament within the UK, elected by a system of proportional representation, could re-align the shires with the rest of Britain, and give a voice to those outside the Westminster bubble.

Why do we need a change? Quite simply, Westminster doesn’t represent England. In January 2013, the electorate saw the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, only announcing he would grant the people a say in the future of their country’s sovereignty in order to sure up his party’s grassroots support, and to eliminate a political rival, as it was said at the time – to ‘shoot the UKIP fox.’

For years previously, elected representatives had dismissed eurosceptic concerns in the English counties. In 1997, eurosceptic opinions were confined to the margins, with the Referendum Party and UKIP both shut out due to the First Past The Post System. And with little electoral power, these parties and their supporters were cut adrift from the debate, and could be easily elbowed out of the discussion by the mainstream establishment in politics and the media – until the rise of the internet. To complain was to be ‘left behind’ or ‘racist’ and disgruntled voters we told to ‘get with the programme’. Globalisation was king – and inevitable – and anyone who objected was viewed as living in the past, lost in a black-and-white world of antiquated British nostalgia.

The majority of the inhabitants of both the House of Commons and House of Lords backed Remain, and many in their private thoughts still back a globalised Britain, shrugging their shoulders at the growing disbelief across the English shires over reckless levels of migration, and the associated impact on the NHS, job security and housing – a situation enabled through the EU’s principle of free movement of people.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had the machinery at least to provide a mouthpiece in shielding parts of the UK, with smaller parties finding space to represent opinions that have not been commonplace at Westminster. Would Scotland have ever had the Independence referendum, if not for the success of the SNP, which grew in size, despite earlier derision, and had the space to articulate a desire for independence, held by over 44% of voters in 2014?

And now, in recent months, as the Westminster government keep saying they will honour the will of the people, Brexiteers watch a House of Lords, dominated by unelected Remainers, seek to prevaricate and slow down the UK’s exit from the EU. Further mistrust stirs, yet who can be found in either House to speak for England? Mainstream fears are confined to the backbenches, political commentators, radio phone-in programmes and YouTube

Westminster politicians may argue that regional assemblies in England are the answer to providing greater accountability and representation. Yet there is little support for them. John Prescott’s attempted North East Assembly was defeated by over 77% of voters there in 2004. A national parliament for England would acknowledge the civic existence of the country – as the Welsh Assembly did for the people of Wales after their referendum in 1997, a cultural symbol as well as a forum to promote the interests and opinions of over 3 million people.

It’s fair to say that in order to take back control of UK sovereignty, borders, laws and money, we need to take back control of our democracy. Simply returning powers to the same hands who were willing so freely to give them all away will not instill public trust.

A parliament for England, elected by PR, would set it in line with the other nations of the UK and bring powers a step closer to the grassroots. Then we can continue where we left off in 2016, with a genuine representative institution for England and at the same time protect the hard won referendum result from those who would overturn it and subsume us into a centralised United States of Europe.