Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The forces of EVEL stalk the land!

So there we have it. The Conservatives, in the form of William Hague and John Redwood, have set out the stall for having 'English Votes for English Laws' - the forces of EVEL are loosed.

While it was vitally important to "cement" Scotland within the UK, he said a "balanced settlement which is both fair and better to the whole of the UK" was just as necessary.

"The United Kingdom is in greater danger if the legitimate arguments and expectations of English decision making, on decisions effecting only England, are not responded to," he said.

I don't think that Labour and the Liberal Democrats fully appreciate the challenge they face in rejecting EVEL. I watched Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale setting out Labour's real agenda - dividing the North of England from the South of England, balkanizing the country into 'city regions', 'regions' and such divisions. And Labour - in Danczuk's world - has no intention of giving this balkanized England the same authority in tax raising, over educatio or for health as they intend giving to Scotland and will support giving to Wales or Northern Ireland.

The West Lothian Question used to be an arcane debate that peaked the interest of but a few folk. But the Scottish independence referendum changed all that - not in Scotland where the constitutional settlement is a staple of political debate but in England where such issues were previously the purview of constitutional anoraks. Now - at least in Cullingworth - this issue, in the form of EVEL, is a subject of the Saturday night pub conversation (slipped in between discussion of football and such more important issues). And I don't think I speak out of turn if I say that most English people, from Carlisle to Canterbury and from Filey to Falmouth, want something that looks like EVEL.

The big problem for Labour is that people can see through its argument. It is not a considered argument seeking the best constitutional settlement for England but rather one based on an assumption about the likely outcome of next May's General Election. Labour is hoping that, on 35% of the national vote, it will squeak into an overall majority and put Ed Miliband in Downing Street. The problem is that the forces of EVEL would hobble such a Labour government for it's likely not to enjoy a majority in England.

A further problem for Labour is that, by giving Gordon Brown and others from the Scottish establishment such a high profile, they become the anti-English party, all set to deny English people the rights and powers they are keen to hand to Scotland and Wales. The famous Jack Straw quote about the English not being worth saving - however much it's taken out of context - will be shoved back in Labour's face time and time again. So far, Labour has managed to keep its English MPs in line by promising them goodies for their local areas in the form of more funding, more powers (mostly over bus routes and fixing up the roads) and the cosy little pseudo-democracies beloved of Labour's public sector establishment - combined authorities, economic partnerships and panels all made up of 'sector leaders' and the like.

But when members of the public start asking those MPs about England, start demanding more EVEL in the land, will they still hold the line? Or will they start badgering the party's hierarchy for something a little more substantial than "it's very complex so we need a big meeting" or "we want to give more power to city-regions"? Indeed, those English voters will want to know that EVEL is enough, that having more EVEL resolves the West Lothian Question. And Labour has no answer to this because, unlike the Conservatives over Scottish independence, that Party is too self-serving to put what is right above what is in the Party's interests.

I make no secret of my desire for an English Parliament that has the powers to make those decisions for England that need making. And these include the matters of regions, cities and counties - real issues about our nation that only the demos of that nation should have the right to decide. And let's make no bones about it, the nation we're talking about here is England not Greater Manchester, "The North" or the EU's standard regions. If the representatives of that nation's people wish to pass down powers to localities - cities, towns, counties or districts - then they should be able to do so (or not) without being fettered by the votes of others who do not represent England or the English.

Labour now seem to be scared rabbits as they stare at the idea of England and choose to reject that idea. After decades calling for devolution to the 'historic nations' Labour has been found wanting, found to be interested only in destroying England, chopping it into manageable bits that suit the Party's interests. I suspect Labour is in for a shock - the forces of EVEL stalk the land and their prey is Labour.


1 comment:

asquith said...

The further trouble with regions, and you're presumably on to this, is that it would further entrench very large provincial cities at the expense of smaller cities, such as Bradford, or Stoke (home to no less a man than myself).

I don't see how a decision made in Birmingham is going to suit me any better than a decision made in London. Birmingham, and even more so the thriving Manchester, doesn't need to be making further gains at the expense of outlying places.


I live in a major city, but one which for historical and present-day reasons barely rises above the level of a largish town in terms of infrastructure and importance beyond the district. Therefore it is little different from "Coketown".

(Which is set to worsen if, despite our mutual opposition to it, HS2 happens and we get bypassed for Crewe).

Having a federal parliament for federal matters (defence, foreign policy, currency-related things, some infrastrcture) and several national parliaments would present a huge challenge. I can honestly say I haven't given it that much thought because my gladness at still having my country together overwhelms any qualms I might have had about England's place. That said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austro-Hungarian_Compromise_of_1867 :)