Tuesday, January 17, 2006

English Question back on the agenda

Gordon Brown's recent speech on Britishness demonstrates his determination to put the constitutional reform agenda firmly at the heart of a fourth term Labour Government.

It has generated predictable cynicism about his motives - for instance this leader in the Daily Telegraph.

Others can't forgive Brown for being a Scottish MP who continues to have a say over English affairs - as witness this lively discussion on the Campaign for an English Parliament newsblog.

For my part, I reckon Brown is sincere in regarding the current half-baked constitutional settlement as a mess and in wanting to do something about it.

Either way, what is certain is that the English devolution issue is now here to stay.

In the longer-term, the only question is who is going to be first to back an English Parliament - Brown, David Cameron - or the new Lib Dem leader?


Toque said...

"For my part, I reckon Brown is sincere in regarding the current half-baked constitutional settlement as a mess and in wanting to do something about it."

I don't know how you can gauge his sincerity Paul, he's barely mentioned the West Lothian Question or the English Question.

Where has he said anything that indicates a willingness to do something about the constitutional mess? I must have missed it.

Paul Linford said...

Okay Gareth (for it is you I believe) I take your point that he's never actually said these things, but that's the nature of politics (and political reporting) in this day and age.

To give you another example, Tony Blair never actually said he was going to introduce top-up fees - in fact his manifesto said the reverse of it. But all the briefings that went on at the time pointed to that end.

At the end of the day, it is my political judgement that Brown will tackle this issue, based on reading the various signals coming out of his camp as best I can.

If you won't take my word for it - and you're perfectly entitled not to - here's what the Labour MP Tony Wright has to say about it.

Toque said...

Thanks for the link, interesting stuff. However, until he specifically addresses the problem of England I will continue my open hostility to his leadership.

I suppose, even if he did believe that there should be parity between England and Scotland, it would be difficult for him to break ranks with Blair. Even so, the smallest hint of a suggestion might go some way to deflecting the criticism. So why hasn't he done it?

Paul Linford said...

I suspect the answer to that is because even the smallest hint would be blown up into a giant rift by us media types!

If you are going to continue your "open hostility" to Brown's leadership, you perhaps ought to consider who else could take over who has addressed the English Question in the way you would wish. I think you'll find it's not exactly a crowded field.

Toque said...

I agree that Brown is the best candidate. He's Scottish though, and devolution has thrown up questions that make his Scottishness an electoral handicap.

I actually think the PLP will think twice about selecting him. But I'm sure that the Unions and the Constituency Parties will see him through OK.

Either way it's a win win situation for us. We either get a Scottish Prime Minister that will inflame English-Scottish tensions at Westminster, or Brown doesn't go on to lead the Party because he is Scottish - which would be a damning endictment of Labour's own constitutional reforms.

I think it's one of the most interesting aspects of British politics at the moment.