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English Questions Current

constitution , culture , devolution and localism , England , identity , reform



The 'English Question' has recently moved from the margins of British political life to centre-stage. Fuelled by concerns about the perceived inequities of devolution and a growing sense that England and the English are losing out in an unbalanced Union, concerns about the future of England are provoking widespread public debate.

But to see the English question in narrow constitutional terms alone is to overlook a range of important political, economic and cultural factors that have pushed this debate up the agenda. In short there are multiple English questions.

IPPR’s research, kindly funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, will address some of the following key questions:

  • What are the causes and consequences of the steadily growing sense of English cultural and identity that has emerged since the late 1990s? To what degree is this new Englishness driven by political resentments in the context of the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland or the result of a wider set of cultural and social shifts?
  • Are the manifestations of English identity amenable to political inflection and ‘official’ direction or more organic and spontaneous in kind?  Is there a fundamental tension between the ideals of progressive patriotism that sections of the liberal-left favour and the Englishness favoured by sections of the white working class? Does the rise of English patriotism signal the demise of British identity, or is a new relationship between them attainable?
  • Does a rise in Englishness necessarily need to be accommodated through political or constitutional reform? Do the English want, or might they want at some future point, to express themselves through political institutions of their own? What could trigger demands within England for political reform?