Close adviser to Ed Miliband calls for creation of an English Labour party

A call for the establishment of an English Labour party in the wake of the proposed transfer of further powers to Scotland is made on Wednesday by Labour MP John Denham, suggesting there is a growing concern that England is missing out in the race to the devolution of powers.

He argued, in common with a growing number of MPs, that the constitutional implications of further powers for Scotland require a wider rethinking of the British constitutional settlement.

Denham, the MP for Southampton Itchen and a close personal adviser to Ed Miliband, wrote on his blog, the Optimistic Patriot, that the question of who was speaking for England, and for Labour in England in this process, was becoming "ever more insistent".

He writes: "While Wales and Scotland have parties that operate with considerable autonomy and little deference to the Westminster leadership, or Labour across the UK, England has no equivalent. Yet it's clear that if English Labour had had its own voice, England would not be the centralised nation it remains today.

"The demands of Labour's local and regional members and elected local leaders would have been articulated more consistently than has been the case. An English party, and its MPs, would have had to listen to the calls for English devolution, and English policy concerns, in a way that a party with always one eye and one ear on its Welsh and Scottish interests cannot."

Labour candidates in England are debarred from running as English Labour, in contrast to the distinct campaigning identities adopted in Wales and Scotland.

But Denham claims: "The failure to settle England's constitutional status is now becoming a long term weakness for the Union, not a strength. In any case, the developments of the past 48 hours have swept previous reservations away. England's position must be resolved.

"The governance of England after the next election will now look very different. If we are to get 'nothing else than a modern form of Scottish home rule within the United Kingdom', which 'moves the UK as near to federal arrangements as is possible' (both from Gordon Brown's Midlothian speech) are to be tabled and agreed in months, then it's hard to see how the next Labour government can run England as the centralised Westminster government of the past."

He admits that finding the right solution will not be easy, with proposals to restrict the roles of Welsh and Scottish MPs, an English parliament or federal UK structures all having recognised problems.

The Labour policy review is already promising 'the biggest devolution of power to our cities and county regions in 100 years' though the current plans do not settle the future arrangements for law making and representation.

But Denham insists "England's constitutional future cannot be determined by a UK Labour party in which the Welsh and Scots have both their own voice and a collective say. English Labour needs to be able determine its own future constitutional preferences before agreeing the best UK outcome with other national parties."

Powered by article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for on Wednesday 10th September 2014 00.09 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010