Friday, March 10, 2006

Falconer's no to English Parliament is the beginning, not the end

Constitutional Affairs Secretary and former Tony Blair flatmate Lord Falconer has today delivered an uncompromising statement on the Government's attitude to an English Parliament.

He said an English Parliament would control the greater part of the economic power of the UK, leaving a federal UK parliament "hanging on its coat-tails."

"To the idea of an English parliament we say not today, not tomorrow, not in any kind of future we can see now. Devolution strengthens the union of the UK. English votes for English issues would wreck it."

The full story can be read here.

So where does this leave us? Does this mean that those of us who support an English Parliament and a federal UK should pack up and go home? Absolutely not.

To start with, Falconer is toast when Brown takes over. He is only in the Cabinet because he's an old legal chum of Blair's, and the PM is so isolated in the Labour Party he needs to surround himself with cronies. Furthermore Brown has already said he will have a wide-ranging look at the constitution when he takes over.

But the real significance of today's comments is that Falconer felt it necessary to make them at all. It means the idea of an English Parliament is, finally, on the mainstream political agenda.

What this does is create a great opportunity for the Campaign for the English Parliament to get its message across and expose the contradictions in the Government's argument.

For example, the BBC is running a Have Your Say on the issue which is now running to eight pages of coments, together with a poll which currently shows around 63pc in favour of an English Parliament and 37pc against.

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote on that thread:

"If Falconer's argument against an English Parliament is that it will ultimately lead to a "federal Britain," then I would have to ask him where he's been for the past nine years. The actions of his own Government in creating devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales and the attempts to create a similar structure in Northern Ireland have - quite rightly in my view - taken us three quarters of the way towards a federal UK already. An English Parliament is simply the missing piece in the jigsaw."

Plenty more debate on this at Iain Dale and the CEP newsblog with an eloquent summing up from Little Man in a Toque.

March 14 update: Roy Hattersley gives his backing to an English Parliament with this piece in the Guardian.

1 comment:

Toque said...

Hattersley's public support for an English parliament confirms your opinion that it is now a mainstream topic.

It looks like we can start expecting more unequivocable statements in support or opposition from now on.