Theresa May is criticised for her handling of the European Arrest Warrant vote. Photo: BBC
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35 Tories rebel after Speaker halts May on European Arrest Warrant

Disarray in the House after the Speaker gives backbenchers a chance to clarify this evening’s debate on European crime measures.

This article originally appeared on the New Statesman's election website May2015. Follow it on Twitter @May2015NS.

What is going on in the House?

Points of order are flying, the Home Secretary is speaking in disjointed hesitations and Labour sense a chance to escape a torrid news cycle.

The furore is over what exactly parliament are debating, and whether the government is trying to use tonight’s vote to pass measures they haven’t give the House a chance to debate.

The issue at hand is a package of European crime measures. The government opted out 110 of the measures last year but are now partially opting back into 35 of them.

These include a contentious measure know as the European Arrest Warrant. It is opposed by dozens of backbench Tory MPs and Ukip (who protested against it outside the House today).

The debate this evening was meant to be on only 10 of the EU crime measures, and not the EAW. Except Theresa May and the government tried – and still appear to be trying – to suggest that a vote for those measures would also given them approval to opt into the EAW.

In winning approval in this way, it was hoped the government would escape a fight with its backbenchers, who would not approve the EAW in a clearly stated debate.

The problem for the government is the Speaker, John Bercow, suggested members would have some “latitude” to discuss the measures the government has excluded from tonight’s motion, but is planning to opt-into.

During the debate, that “latitude” turned into a scarcely veiled criticism by Bercow that “Most of us think a commitment made is a commitment that should be honoured”.

He was referring to David Cameron’s promise to hold a vote on EAW before next week’s Rochester by-election. There ensued a farce where David Davis summed up the mood of the House by telling Bercow “We are debating we know not what”.

Continued calls were made for May to clarify whether the House was actually debating the EAW, and whether the government would take a vote tonight as a vote for EAW.

Bercow clarified that “the vote is on the regulations, not the European Arrest Warrant”, and then the House divided for a vote on whether to extend the current non-debate of the EAW, or have a longer debate which would, presumably, have involved a more direct debate on the EAW.

After reportedly rushing Tories MPs to the House – including the Prime Minister himself – the government passed the motion to continue their shorter debate by just nine votes. 35 Tory MPs rebelled against the motion, seeking a fuller debate on the EAW.

It remains unclear whether May will try to use tonight’s vote as an endorsement for the EAW. Labour’s Chris Bryant has asked whether she will permit a direct vote in the next week, but has so far received no answer.

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

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Labour must reclaim English patriotism if we are to beat Ukip and the Tories

We can't talk about the future of our country unless we can discuss the past. 

I was a parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, but the place which I currently call home is Hackney, London. This distinction is worth explaining. The questions of Labour and Englishness – what exactly is the English problem that we’re trying to solve, why do we need a progressive patriotism, does it already exist, if not why not and if we had one what would it look like? – are, above all, questions of identity and place. We need to build a patriotism that includes and resonates with residents of both Hackney and Thurrock. Currently they are very far apart. 

I’m the little girl who sat on her dad’s shoulders to wave a flag at Princess Anne’s first wedding. And I was also, like Sadiq Khan, waving a flag at the Silver Jubilee in 1977. I’m an ex-Catholic, I’m a Londoner, I’m English and I’m a woman, and all of those identities are important although not necessarily equally so and not necessarily all of the time.

But I’m also a member of the Labour party, not only as a candidate, but now as an activist in Hackney. And that is where I see the difference very strongly between Hackney and what I experienced in Thurrock. 

Thurrock was Ukip ground zero last year - 12,000 people voted for Ukip in a general election for the first time, on top of the 3,500 that had voted for them before in 2010. Most of those 12,000 people had either not voted before, or had voted Labour. 

This isn’t just about being in two different places. Sometimes it feels like more than being in two different countries, or even like being on two different planets. The reality is that large swathes of Labour’s members and supporters don’t identify as patriotic, fundamentally because patriotism has been seized and colonised by the right. We need to understand that, by allowing them to seize it, we are losing an opportunity to be able to reclaim our past. 

We do not have any legitimacy to talk about the future of our country unless we can talk about our past in a better way. We have tried but our efforts have been half-hearted. Take Ed Miliband's call for One Nation Labour, which ended up amounting to a washed-out Union Jack as a visual for our brand. It could have been so much better – an opportunity for an intellectual rebranding and a seizure of Conservative territory for our own ends. Ultimately One Nation Labour was a slogan and not a project. 

There is a section of the left which has a distinct discomfort with the idea of pride in country. It has swallowed the right-wing myth that England’s successes have all been Conservative ones. This is a lie, but one that has spread very effectively. The left’s willingness to swallow it means that we are still living in a Thatcherite paradigm. It is no wonder progressives revolt at the idea of patriotism, when the right’s ideas of duty and authority quash our ideas of ambitions for equality, opportunity for all and challenging injustice. But we risk denying our successes by allowing the right to define Englishness. It’s England that helped establish the principle of the right to vote, the rule of law, equal suffrage, and the fight against racism. 

If Englishness is going to mean anything in modern England, it needs to be as important for those who feel that perhaps they aren’t English as it is for those who feel that they definitely are. And a place must be reserved for those who, though technically English, don’t see their own story within the Conservative myth of Englishness. 

Although this reclaiming is electorally essential, it is not an electoral gimmick. It is fundamental to who we are. Even if we didn’t need it to win, I would be arguing for it.

We need to make sure that progressive patriotism reclaims the visual language that the Conservatives use to dress up their regressive patriotism. Women need to be as much in the pantheon of the radicals as part of the visual identity of Englishness. Women tend to either be there by birth or by marriage, or we are abstract manifestations of ideals like "justice" or "truth" – as seen on city halls and civic buildings across the country. But English women need to be real, rather than just ideal. Englishness does need to be focused on place and connection, and it should include Mary Wollstonecraft and Sylvia Pankhurst as well as Wat Tyler and Thomas Paine. 

We can’t pretend that we’re always right. The most patriotic thing you can do is to admit sometimes that you’re wrong, so that your country can be better. I love my country, for all its faults. But I do not live with them. I try to make my country better. That is progressive patriotism. And I know all of us who want to be part of this can be part of it. 

This article is based on Polly’s contribution to Who Speaks to England? Labour’s English challenge, a new book published today by the Fabian Society and the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Winchester.