Thursday, March 02, 2006

Power Inquiry: English Question "is not significant cause of disengagement"

Yesterday's post on the failure of the Power Inquiry to address the democratic deficit in England has provoked a good response, including a helpful reply from one of the report's authors, Adam Lent.

In my view this significantly moves the story on, so for the benefit of those who haven't read his comment I am reproducing it here.

Adam writes:

"The report of the Power Inquiry does not purport to be a "complete constitutional reform blueprint" by any means. What the Commission tried to create was a strategic response to the problem of disengagement from formal democracy - that was its remit. There were any number of constitutional issues that could have been addressed which were not because they did not relate directly to this issue.

We certainly did receive some submissions about an English Parliament but the Commission was not convinced by any means that the West Lothian question etc. was a significant cause of disengagement. This was in large part based upon the fact that in all the many hundreds of submissions we received and in all the objective research we carried out - through surveys, focus groups and our citizens panel - the issue of an English Parliament or the West Lothian question was very rarely mentioned. Alongside the issues of the main political parties, executive power and the electoral system, for example, it was a very minor concern.

This is not to say that those campaigning for an English Parliament do not have a legitimate concern but it seemed to the Commission an issue relating to areas other than disengagement."

As I said, it is helpful of Adam to send a reply but if this was the reason for ignoring the English Question I think it is a fairly intellectually shallow one. At the end of the day, how can voters "engage" with the democratic process if the process itself is flawed and, in some respects, undemocratic?

Furthermore, it is also remarkably short-sighted in that the English Question is absolutely bound to rise up the political agenda in years to come.

What, for instance, is going to happen when a majority of English voters wants to elect a Conservative Government, but Scottish and Welsh voters ensure that the UK as a whole elects a Labour Government? It is not impossible that the next election could produce such an outcome.

Will the authors of the Power Inquiry then say to outraged English voters that such a situation is "not a significant cause of voter disengagement?"

Update: More reaction to Mr Lent's comments on the CEP newsblog.


Andy said...

Sorry, I'm confused. According to a number of sources the majority of England's voters voted Tory last time. Is that inaccurate?

Toque said...

In case Adam Lent is reading this is why I didn't vote and this conversation with the prospective Tory candidate casts more light on my decision.

Paul Linford said...


You are right to the extent that the Tories got slightly more votes than Labour in England at the last General Election, but it certainly wasn't a majority and because of the skewed nature of the constituency-based system, Labour still won far more seats.

The full figures are available here.

Andy said...

Thanks, Paul. A lot of the situation seems to be down to New Labour gerrymandering. Why can't politics be fair and straight forward?

Politics in the 21st Century seem more warped than in the 20th! Sometimes I dream of a world without the human race... a peaceful, uncluttered fantasy...

Politics need to get back to fair representation of the people and move forward, improve, not regress (sigh).

What was it Shirley Williams wrote? "Poltics is for People"?

Some hopes.