First Posted on July 22, 2021 by The Constitution Unit

John Denham discusses how England is becoming more centralised by a Prime Minister keen on ‘unfettered leadership’, arguing that the model of elected mayors is losing its attraction to central government. This extension of the powers of the Union state over England might well be described as the ‘English variant’. It faces unique and significant policy and political challenges.

In the early months of 2020, there seemed to be a sharp contrast between Conservative policy towards the governance of England and its approach to the devolved nations. Its 2019 manifesto…

England’s flag of names

Ahead of Sunday’s final, English Heritage has unveiled St George Cross banners that carry the names of the 30,000 most common surnames in England. The names — whose origins can be traced on-line — reflect 21st century England in all its diversity.

The banners, and an associated website, originated in conversations over one year ago. The charity, steward of Stonehenge, Dover Castle and other iconic sites and buildings, wanted a symbol to launch a year-long series of events about English history and English identity. But what symbol? And which history? Both can be hotly contested.


It so dominates the Union that Westminster thought it could ignore England’s distinct interests. But recent years have proven politicians ignore voters who identify as English more than British at their peril. (originally posted on Prospect 14.6.21)

ByJohn Denham&Lawrence McKay

June 14, 2021

A thread of political Englishness runs through our nation’s momentous 21st-century upheavals: its first two decades opened with Labour dominance and ended with four Tory victories and the UK outside the EU. The same English power turned the relatively liberal conservatism of early 2016 into Boris Johnson’s “culture warring” party, and left Labour secure only in diverse…

John Denham

Although much progress has been made, English identity has lagged behind the inclusivity of Britishness. As a national identity, rather than a community identity, Englishness must be open to everyone making their lives in England. There are real dangers if we make progress too slowly. Sport has had to carry too much of the weight of projecting an inclusive Englishness. It is now time for many other organisations across civic society, politics and the media to step up and share this national responsibility. …

Forget Hartlepool’s Labour history. By one key measure it was one of the most difficult seats for Labour to win. Hartlepool is not just in England but is a town that has more voters who say they are ‘more English than British’ than most others. Equally important, it has fewer voters who say they are ‘more British than English’ than almost anywhere else.

It is the ‘more English’ who have overwhelmingly supported both Brexit and Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and the ‘more British’ who provide the bulk of Labour’s support.

Around [1]40% of Hartlepool voters are estimated to be ‘more English’…

Prof Michael Keating’s new book State and Nation in the United Kingdom was published on 9th April. I was invited to make some remarks at a pre-publication discussion at the PSA’s annual conference in March 2021. I focussed on what Michael describes as the ‘loss of the polyvalent union’.

I understand the idea of a polyvalent union as one in which different conceptions of the union could co-exist, in tension but relatively successfully, for many years. England might imagine the union to be the extension and expression of its interests, while Scotland could be confident that the union recognised and…

How the people of England view England, Britain and the union

This is the 21st St George’s Day since devolution left England as the only part of the United Kingdom with no national democracy. With the union at the centre of public debate once again it’s a good time to talk about England and the people who live here. As by far its largest part, what happens in England is frequently more consequential for the union than events in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Rather than weigh into the constitutional debate, I will share some thoughts on the different ways…

‘She had often seen a cat without a grin, but never a grin without a cat’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

There is something odd about the politics of the left in England. I won’t call it the English left, because, very largely, it thinks of itself as British (and is sure that to be English would be something rather unpleasant and reactionary).

While its preferred national identity may be ‘British’, the left’s politics do not appear to relate to any actually existing Britain at all. It is increasingly common for activists on England’s ‘British’ left to express sympathy for Scottish…

Prof John Denham

Dr Lawrence McKay


There is a curious paradox about the governance of England. Many English voters want to see changes in the way that England is governed. Most want to see England’s interests defended within the union. Yet in political discourse England is rarely mentioned[1] and, occasional calls for local devolution aside, substantive debate about reform is limited. …

John Denham

Director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at Southampton University. Former Labour MP and Minister. Director of the Southern Policy Centre

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