Last Thursday England elected 297 Conservative MPs,191 Labour and 43 Liberal Democrats. Scotland will send to Westminster 41 Labour MPs, 11 Liberal Democrats, 6 Scottish Nationalists and 1 solitary Conservative. Similarly distinctive results were returned in Wales and Northern Ireland. According to the unbalanced constitutional geometry created since 1997, Scottish, Welsh and Ulster representatives may yet determine who governs Britain, but English MPs will have scant influence on the Celtic fringe. This anomaly creates potentially divisive tensions that can wreck the UK. They can be salved by the creation of a codified constitution. The Independent asked me to write about it.   

Comments

...raises the prospect of perpetual government by the Tories, whereas PR would mean they never govern alone again - high stakes!

I'm more interested in fairness - i.e. a system that reflects what the electorate wants -  than I am in ideology. But I suspect you are wrong about perpetual Conservative government, John. Precedent suggests that a new polity can rapidly adjust to create within its borders the competition between parties that is essential to democratic health. Scotland tends to confirm that - it has an SNP government and yet voted for Labour last week. So, I think a fair constitutional settlement would probably see increased support for the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens in England. If it did not...Well if English voters prefer to elect Conservative politicians that is surely their democratic right.      

Of course it's the people's right to vote who they want in. I was referring to high stakes for the party, rather than making an ideological point. (Although I have to say I'm a bit fed up of reading speculation about 'the end of Labour' etc, so I should probably refrain from making the same sort of speculation about the Tories).

RE: fairness - you're completely right. University top-up fees and foundation hospitals were both voted down in Scotland and Wales, while, as Monbiot writes, “Scottish and Welsh MPs were frogmarched through the lobbies to impose them on England”.

Furthermore, “had Heathrow's third runway been debated only by English MPs, the proposal would have been resoundingly defeated; it was approved by 19 votes, after 67 MPs from the other nations were induced to support the government.”

But what's the solution? English votes on English laws? Changing the makeup of the legislature could deprive the government of a majority, so that seems untenable. A new parliament just for England? Is that workable?

Is the only way of codifying fairness to give full sovereignty to the devolved powers? Or to split England up into similar regional areas, adding another layer of government?

It's easy to see the unfairness of the situation, but far more difficult to see a way of creating a fair one.

 

 

I believe there is! A rainbow coalition of all progressive parties who promote a move towards further devolution to the European Parliament and away from Conservative nationalism is paramount. Blue blood imperialism is over! We need reform to our democratic system and we need to play a bigger role in Europe. The Cons will not give us that. Get the important changes to our constitution set in stone before absolute devolution to our Northern cousins. This way perpetual Conservative rule in the South - an effect of complete Scottish devolution - will inherit a diluted power and not the domination which now threatens Constitutional modernity.

Britain's constitutional moment?