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Tristram Hunt urges Labour to reconnect with English supporters

Published 04/02/2016

Tristram Hunt is a former frontbencher
Tristram Hunt is a former frontbencher

Labour must embrace English "patriotism" and promise a referendum on introducing a national parliament, according to a former frontbencher.

Tristram Hunt will urge the party to be more "honest" about worries over immigration and cultural identity among its traditional English supporters.

The Stoke-on-Trent MP, a prominent critic of leader Jeremy Corbyn, is due to make the intervention in a speech at Winchester University later.

He will say the Scottish independence referendum allowed the country to "reconnect with the power and wonder of democracy" and he wanted the English to "experience the same kind of democratic awakening".

"The Welsh and the Scots have been asked their views on the future of their nation three times since 1973. It's high time the English were given a chance to have their say too," he will insist.

"So let's campaign for a referendum to ask England what she wants. But, much more importantly, let's use it as an opportunity to have a broader debate about who we are as a nation, what we want from our politics.

"I think Labour's Constitutional Convention should advocate for putting the English question to a vote.

"My instinct is that we need a proper English Parliament. But some prefer regional assemblies, and the jury is still out on the new English Votes for English Laws settlement.

"But these are complex issues and no one can claim to have all the answers - so we should put all three on a ballot and let the English people decide."

Mr Hunt will warn that the "sense of Englishness matters to us more and more, and the Labour Party has fallen on the wrong side of that cultural divide".

He will point to fellow MP Jon Cruddas's report on why Labour lost the election, which found "socially conservative" voters had deserted the party.

"They value home, family and their country. They feel their cultural identity is under threat," Mr Hunt will say. "They yearn for a sense of belonging and national renewal. Tradition, rules and social order are important to them. And, tragically, they feel that Labour no longer represents them, or understands their lives.

"In short, they felt we didn't value England, and were not on the side of the English."

The MP will say Labour "needs a much greater honesty in how we navigate Englishness and politics - particularly when it comes to questions of immigration".

The party must go further than "a grudging acceptance of populist English culture", and instead root its offer in "deeply-felt patriotism".

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