Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tony Blair in "clueless idiot" shocker. Apparently The problem with the West Lothian Question isn't that Scottish MPs can provide the votes needed to impose policies on England which will not affect Scotland thanks to its separate legal and political systems, it's that to NOT allow them to override the auld enemy to the south would "create two classes of MP" and this would create "all sorts of problems".

Problems for who, Tony? For your party, which got 600,000 fewer votes than the Tories in England, by any chance?
"We have got a UK Parliament. In the end I totally understand why people think it's a good idea from other political parties, but in the end, if you try to divide MPs up into two categories and then you have to define the legislation they are able to vote on, you will find it very hard"
No Tony, it's not very hard. You look at the legislation and ask "is this going to affect England only?" (e.g. quite a chunk of education and health policy) - if the answer's "yes" then Scottish MPs shouldn't vote... If you find that "hard" you're a moron, Tone.

15 Comments:

Blogger Jonn Elledge said...

Problem is, parties will talk about constitutional reform when in opposition because it gives the impression that they're going to be a breath of fresh air, ready to cut the crap, think outside the box, and various other cliches intended to imply they're not going to be The Same Old Shit.

Then they get to power, and find that actually all of those problems with the 'constitution' that concentrate too much power in the hands of the executive are bloody handy when you are the executive and you want to do stuff.

I ranted about this yesterday at greater length than is strictly healthy here. Not Little England had a good one on it here.

2/07/2006 03:54:00 pm  
Blogger BondWoman said...

It sounds invitingly simple, doesn't it, just to institute a simple "rule" whereby different groups of MPs vote on different things, but actually to put it in place as a binding set of rules is a deal more complicated in practice. It's hard to see how it can be done without some sort formal written constitution, because otherwise - what are you doing, just creating a constitutional convention that Scottish MPs won't vote on English matters. But what happens when they do vote? I'm not against the thoroughgoing federalization of the UK, but it needs to be accompanied by electoral reform, and a whole bunch of other modernization steps. Like a complete reform of the House of Lords. Oh, and what about the monarchy for that matter... It's a can of worms, and I can guarantee it would be bloody expensive to implement.

2/07/2006 03:58:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

The Tories have applied this rule for years. Admittedly, they only have one Scottish (Borders) MP, but still...

DK

2/07/2006 04:05:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

The thing is, it IS incredibly simple. All that would be needed is to introduce a new parliamentary conventon, presided over by the Speaker along the lines of the ten minute rule. If the Speaker deems a particular vote only to be relevant to England, only English MPs would be entitled to vote. If anyone wishes to dispute that ruling, or reckons that a ruling should be made on a piece of legislation up for debate, they could raise a point of order. Sorted.

2/07/2006 04:27:00 pm  
Anonymous revinkevin said...

The best solution is for an English Parliament with due mandate MPs, the other countries in the Union could have due mandate MPs as well, it would save money and be good for democracy for all members of the Union

2/07/2006 04:56:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

That's certainly A solution - but it must be said I can see very little justification for an English parliament - largely because there's so little legislation that affects only England (Wales is often affected as well, for starters). All that's needed is some kind of parliamentary procedure for the few occasions where English-only issues crop up. Or full Scottish independence, but that would be utterly impractical for the Scots despite what some of them may think.

In any case, once you start splitting up the UK, why stop with the currently-recognised nations? Where's the cultural coherence between Cornwall and Northumbria? They're just as different as Kent and Gwent. And why shouldn't we revive the Heptarchy? Or the Danegeld?

Once an English parliament were introduced, if you take the argument to its logical extreme why should an MP from Durham vote on an issue that will affect Truro but not his own constituency when an MP from Aberdeen isn't allowed to vote on an issue affecting only St Albans?

2/07/2006 05:23:00 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

NM, effective problem is that, as for example Ming has set out (y'know, those LibDems you mostly ignore but mostly agree with?), the UK parl has the power to apply any legislation to Scotland, even retroactively, as currently constituted.

All it takes is an Order in Council. Just because it hasn't been done yet, doesn't mean it wouldn't happen. We need a full review of the constitution. English Parliament wouldn't actually help with the whole decentralising ideal (need?), and NuLab aren't interested in anything dull and not headline making.

2/07/2006 10:51:00 pm  
Blogger john b said...

Nah, what we *really* need is a set of regional parliaments. Not only would it solve the West Lothian thing, it would really annoy the Little Englandy weirdos. And if the Daily Mail-ites of Southeast-outside-London want to elect themselves a new Taliban, then they could do so without hurting the rest of us. Absolutely no drawbacks...

2/07/2006 11:42:00 pm  
Blogger Jonn Elledge said...

Problem with the regional Parliament idea - and I agree, it's a good one (after all, there are more people in London than in Scotland) - is that people don't want it. They voted it down in the northeast, which was the region where it had the highest degree of support.

People take an attitude of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' to the constitution. And while politics wonks and bloggers may think it's very broken indeed, many of those who just want a national government and the ability to turf if out after a bit are often contented with the status quo.

I've just realised, that's two comments on the same post I've started with the word 'problem'. Awkward, aren't I?

2/08/2006 10:01:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

firstly we need an English Parliament mainly because we're English.Then devolve power back down to the shires and counties.
Trim down the number of English MP's too.Let locals solve local problems.There is no need for even English MP's to involve themselves very much.
Scrap the national lotto in favour
of local causes like hospitals etc.
There used to be local banks in England,why not re-introduce them?
let them set their own rates rather than what the bank of England wants?

2/08/2006 11:02:00 am  
Blogger Jonn Elledge said...

I think the reason that local banks base their interest rates on those of the Bank of England is because they borrow most of their money in the short term money market, where the central bank sets the rates. This, combined with competition, means that the smaller banks end up following centrally set rates pretty closely.

2/08/2006 01:03:00 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

@ John B: Pretty much agree, I just dislike the regions as drawn, and indeed the name 'regions'. I'm a provincial lad, why can't I have a provincial assembly like wot London's got?

John Elledge: the North West 'white elephant' was voted down because a number of people campaigned against it, including a number who, like me, thought it was a waste of space that didn't go far enough. It wasn't devolution of power from Westminster, it was a local govt reorganisation. Designed by John Prescott. I'm in favour of some form of regionalism, but PRescott's offering wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, if they offered similar in the Westcountry (note, not the South West) I suspect I'd vote against it.

Bit like the French no vote; they didn't llike the constitution because it wasn't federalist enough (in many cases)...

@ Anon 11.02: just put a nicname in the comment box so I can refer to you? Oh, and, um your post is a little full of holes; we don't have local banks because they've merged, natural process, but there are a few still kicking about if oyu look hard enough. Same for the building societies, mergers all round. Banks can set interest rates, they just tend to follow the lead of the BofE as John says.

And in what way does an English Parliament, with 80% of the population, make things more local? It solves nothing except a sense of national identity, we can create that without a bunch of politicians on top of the Britsh Parliament. Too big, not worth it, doesn't actually solve any of the systemic problems that are in place.

Oh yeah, NM? the 60,000 less voteres all explained, and more, by differential turnout caused by rotten borough safe seats, caused by the electoral system.

It's a non-point, it just looks good until you look at the numbers properly...

2/08/2006 07:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The solution is not that simple. It raises the question of what will happen if a party has an overall majority to form government, but a minority in England and so is unable to push through legislation. It creates the possibility of a hung parliament for England but not UK. In other words it challenges (in quite a serious way) the current first-past-the-post system.

The question then arises, if you are prepared to go down this route ("simple solution"), then why not have a proper reform of the electoral system: elected second chamber, proportional representation, etc.

2/09/2006 11:05:00 am  
Anonymous Jonn said...

Anonymous (the most recent anonymous) makes some very interesting points about how England-only legislation could knacker FPTP.

So how about this for a partial solution: reform the Lords as a kind of British Bundesrat, electing representatives of each of the UK's region on a proportional list basis on a different electoral cycle to the Commons. This wouldn't need to be the whole of the Lords, but could make a fair chunk of it.

That way, there is a form of regional representation; the Lords stops being semi-reformed; there's more scruity of the executive; and England can stop worrying about being underrepresented.

It's not perfect - as I wrote that it dawned on me that it wouldn't actually deal with the westlothian question, unless the Commons introduced some form of regional division bell as well - but it might be an improvement.

2/09/2006 12:39:00 pm  
Blogger Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I'll repeat my comment from Iain Dale's blog on this:

There is a possible solution to the whole situation that is not only frequently overlooked but has been tried before and proven to work.

When Northern Ireland had a Parliament of its own, nobody ever compalined about the "North Belfast Question". Nobody ever talked about Northern Irish MPs only voting on restricted matters, or having two categories. The reason was that a compromise was reached whereby Northern Ireland was cut from twenty-nine to thirteen MPs (later twelve when the University seats were scrapped) who could vote on everything. The reduced voice/equal status MPs arrangement worked at Westminster for fifty years.

Cut Scotland to forty MPs (cue squealing from Labour & Lib Dem MPs as a third face political extinction) and allow them to vote on all matters. Sure there will be a few occasions when anomalies still arise, but it's a much better solution than trying to create two parliaments in one or electing yet another parliament, one that hardly anyone wants.

3/19/2006 04:13:00 pm  

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