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Cameron rats on early devolution & is nakedly partisan to secure Tory interest

Leaving PhotosSo much for ‘The Vow’ agreed by all three party leaders just a week ago in the spirit of the union together. It is rapidly unravelling in a welter of uncertainty over what the ‘extensive new powers’ for Scotland will be, the timetable for their delivery, and above all by their being linked to party political gaming in Westminster. The Vow committed them keeping Scotland’s current share of public spending, yet the day after the referendum Hague was already saying that with increased devolution the Barnett formula would be ‘less relevant’ over time.

There isn’t even agreement on the degree of fiscal powers to be devolved. The timetable is also slipping, with a draft bill to be published in January, but almost certainly no second reading debate before the House is prorogued on 30 March for the general election, so that all the detailed negotiation is postponed till a new government is formed.

But what is really corroding the unionist atmosphere is Cameron’s gratuitous decision, at 7am the next morning just 9 hours after the voting finished, to try to drive through exclusive English rights for MPs with English constituencies as a condition for further devolution to Scotland. There is not a murmur of this in the Vow, and it was brazenly dropped into an already incendiary debate in order to guard Cameron’s flank against UKIP and his own turbulent Tory right-wingers – not a statesmanlike or magnanimous way of healing the nation after the heated divisions of the last few weeks. Unfortunately this is typical of Cameron, not by any standard a conviction politician, but rather one blown about by the shifting power tectonics beneath his feet.

The West Lothian Question is a real one, and there is certainly a good case for changing Commons procedure to ensure that English views are given a more decisive role over purely English matters. But such issues will not be resolved by the PM’s sudden lurch into a parti pris reflex, and what is clearly needed is a constitutional convention as the best means to gain cross-party consensus by carefully considering all the options, including an elected second chamber composed of representatives from all the regions.

In particular the convention should heed the advice of the McKay Commission, chaired by a former clerk of the House of Commons, which recommended that decisions bearing specifically on England and Wales should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of English and Welsh MPs, but at the same time no MP should be prevented from voting on any bill and the right of all UK MPs to make all final decisions should be preserved.


  1. John Reid says:

    We’ve got to admit that the boundaries meaning the Tories can’t win with more than 7% of the vote! yet in 2001 the boundaries were we could have got less votes than the Tories and still won a small majority, are un fair

  2. Mukkinese says:

    Nothing is slipping yet. We need to watch the Tories, but let’s not cry before we are hurt.

    Cameron knows he does not have a chance of pushing the Tory English parliament plan through parliament.

    Even this early, every other party has come out for a consultation process.

    Their EVEL plan is merely a cheap election ploy. They and their friends in the media will try to paint anyone who does not support the Tory plan as somehow anti-English.

    That is the tactic we must address and we must do so now…

  3. John Reid says:

    Interesting how labour was ahead in th e opinion polls from may 2005- Aspr 23rd 2006. apart from the 10 days when Cameron became leader in Dec 2006,and labour were ahead in the polls 5 times between may 2006 and July 2007 when Gordon took over.

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