Britain expects

To continue from yesterday’s ‘All for one and one for all..?

The Cameron, Miliband and Clegg trio rush to Scotland at the last minute, the subsequent intervention of Gordon Brown and the ensuing hasty vow has produced a veritable mess.

Those that say if Scotland has a devolved parliament, so should England, are right. I had expected that this would naturally happen anyway: if Scotland had voted ‘yes’ then we would have moved towards our own parliament by default; as Scotland has voted ‘no’ (this time) that we would get an English parliament by political and general public demand. Add to that the calls from Northern Ireland and Wales for more devolved powers and Westminster’s acceptance that this is reasonable, then an English parliament seems inevitable. In this light, the West Lothian question is finite and a bit of a false controversy being used as a distraction.

However, if the Scottish settlement does come first and, bearing in mind that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish positions are not going to be resolved particularly easily or quickly and, if the proposed constitutional convention is to take place with serious intent, the West Lothian question will continue to loom large for some time, yet, won’t it?

I understand Cameron’s intention/desire to sort England out in tandem with Scotland. I get that this complicates things and why Scotland should now suspect the predicted delaying tactics and a possible dilution of what she’s been promised. Perhaps she was promised too much. I’m not sure, largely because I don’t know what the rest of us are going to be promised in the counterbalance. And I understand why Labour is accused of panicking about the loss of constituency MPs and indeed, the chilling fear creeping into those of us who see and feel an urgent need to be rid of the Tories now coming under further threat. Nevertheless, however it ends up being achieved, English voters for English (only) laws is a democratic no-brainer in a United Kingdom composed of country-centric devolved governments.

Obviously, the West Lothian question suits Cameron and his party very well. Of course he is being a political opportunist. I would expect him to put his party’s interests first if he could and to shaft Labour – it’s his MO, after all and could be said to be his best shot at a second term in Government.

However, Miliband, although he can be accused of dithering for fear of his majority, (though whether the WL issue actually guarantees Labour’s loss is much contested and besides, if people want shot of the Tories, they could always get off their arses and vote) he is still correct to say that making isolated changes is not a good idea and that we have to first look at the whole picture to work out the implications to cohesion, fairness and democratic integrity.

The political expediency and the evident complexity involved in the constitutional and democratic reform of four countries are being revealed daily. Some politicians claim we cannot have a link between the Scottish deal and English-centric issues but, how can we not? We cannot afford to be bestowing privilege to one country over another any more than one region over another. And yes, that is shit for Scotland but have not the acts of arbitrary privilege and badly weighted power deals been major, long-term parts of our current social destruction? However, Scotland has been promised certain powers within a certain time and to break this vow, either by detail or timetable, is simply disastrous to issues of trust, irrespective of whether it’s fair or reasonable. What a bloody farce!

And now, Federalists and devolutionaries who advocate extra tiers of autonomous governance as the vehicle of greater people power are pushing their ‘solutions’ into the mix. Such ideas as they express are a vital part of a wider discussion but blithely adding them to the Scottish timetable is unhelpful. Either deal with the Scottish settlement separately or throw everything back into the mix but don’t conflate in selective half measures.

The three main party leaders and peripheral actors look to be stitching us all right up, not just Scotland. I’m sure that many politicos are approaching or think they are approaching this whole conundrum with good intent. Others, I’m just as sure, are merely relishing the opportunity to settle scores and create mischief. Whichever end of the spectrum our leaders and media started from, be it singular career, tribal or ‘national’ interests, they mostly appear either naive or wilfully ignorant of the number and correlation of constitutional and democratic implications and have defaulted to their own win-win over that of the Commons’ benefit.

Really, though: did anyone actually believe political promises made in panicked haste would not be messed about with or broken altogether? But what is Britain, now? It’s clearly not the once and for all settled argument that the establishment would have us believe it is. Is it just a geographical abbreviation, one big country, four separate countries joined in equal union, or four countries who should separate? To be honest, I reckon we could eventually adjust to any of those with broad public consent and that reaching a concord over the choice is a priority that should mark the direction of reform and empowerment. Uncomfortable, frustrating and daunting as that may be for many, it is the heart of a push that has finally come to shove under a dawn of rising realities.

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8 thoughts on “Britain expects

  1. There are two aspects to this situation which strike me:-
    1. It’s the breakup of the Union. So what? We lost an empire already so losing the original minor grouping will not make much difference.
    2. We can’t have an English Parliament. The Members would have to be described as MEPs, which – of course – is the description already used for Members of the European Parliament. All very confusing if we are not careful!
    We could, of course, have a Union Parliament (MUPs) to decide union-related legislation or a Federal Parliament (MFPs). Of course, the term MUPs could be misdescribed as muppets!

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  2. A superlative and politically astute essay, but I’m wondering if it is possible for Britain’s sick and disabled (who represent at least 15% of the population) to have a seat at these constitutional negotiations? They need a new deal, one which treats them fairly and with respect. Welfare reform ‘status quo’ is no longer acceptable.

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    • Wowee ! What a radical political solution for disabled people to be thought worthy of having a voice on the forth coming (whenever ) constitutional negotiations. Samuel Millar would possibly be an ideal fly on the wall !

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    • Thank you, Samuel. That is high praise, indeed. I don’t know what form it will take but I hope it involves more than invitations to sit at tables and that it is open to everyone. Any constitutional/democratic reform must, by definition, be all inclusive.

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