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Labour and the English Question

29 September 2016

St George and Union Flags

The Labour Party is struggling to adapt to a shift towards English political identity, delegates at the party’s conference have heard.

The claim by researchers from Cardiff and Edinburgh universities came in response to data revealing substantial resentment, including among Labour voters, about the way that England is treated within the United Kingdom.

The findings, taken from the latest Future of England survey, were presented at a fringe meeting of the Labour Party's Annual Conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, 27th September.

The latest evidence is consistent with previous survey findings, indicating ongoing bitterness about the perceived benefits that other UK nations - in particular Scotland - receive from being part of the Union.

Despite this dissatisfaction with the status quo, opinion remains divided on how best to strengthen England's voice within the UK, although ‘English Votes for English Laws’ appears to enjoy the greatest support with the electorate as a whole.

The survey also found that regional government within England, an idea that has been promoted by some within the Labour Party, is the always least popular option – and gets little endorsement even from Labour supporters.

Coming barely three months after the vote to withdraw from the European Union, the survey presents further questions for the future of the UK, after the referendum result exposed differing attitudes towards how the United Kingdom is governed.

Professor Roger Scully, Director of Cardiff University's Wales Governance Centre, said: “The Labour Party is struggling to come to terms with Englishness. The latest evidence suggests that an English political identity has become mainstream among political attitudes within England, and that discontent with England’s treatment within the UK is not going away."

"We have already seen how concerns over Britain’s relationship with Europe have resulted in a vote for Britain to leave the EU. The challenge for the Labour Party is to come up with a convincing, compelling answer to the English question, both to engage with their core supporters and the English electorate as a whole."

Professor Roger Scully Director of Cardiff University's Wales Governance Centre

The 2016 Future of England Survey was conducted between 10 - 21 June 2016, with a sample size of 5103.  The project is led by Professor Roger Scully and Professor Richard Wyn Jones (Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University) and Professor Ailsa Henderson and Professor Charlie Jeffery (University of Edinburgh).