Monday, July 31, 2006

Chris Huhne on the English Question

Thanks to Tom Griffin of the Green Ribbon blog for drawing to my attention some interesting stuff on the English Question in the current edition of Prospect magazine.

It features four differing viewpoints on the Tories' "English votes for English laws" initiative, the most interesting of which from my point of view is from the former - and future? - Lib Dem leadership contender, Chris Huhne.

"If the Tories do decide to campaign to end Scottish votes on English laws, they will be on fertile ground. Scotland receives far more public spending per head than England, and there is a sense of injustice in poorer English regions," he writes.

Quite so. But Huhne does not go on to advocate English votes for English laws, suggesting instead the issue can be dealt with simply by creating a new Parliamentary convention.

"There is another way the problem could be dealt with without creating two classes of MP: a new convention that prevented purely English legislation going forward unless it had not only a majority of the House of Commons voting for it but also a majority of MPs from English constituencies.

"Labour would not like this approach, as it might prevent the party getting legislation through. Too bad. Those who promote devolution must live with its consequences,"
adds Huhne.

For my part, I would still like to see one or both of the Opposition parties really putting Gordon Brown on the spot over the English Question by backing an English Parliament - or even better, for Brown to outflank his critics in the Anglosphere by coming out in favour of one himself.

But even though he stresses he is writing in a "personal capacity," Huhne's piece in my view shows the kind of innovative thinking we should be looking for in our future political leaders.

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Alfie said...

What staggers me re' the 'English Question' debate is why such heavyweight thinkers reckon the problem is so intractable. The end game will be national representation by the English, for the English - of that I have no doubt.

But the more our politicians waffle and bluster about it, the less control over the whole process they will have. Only a fool in power (Blair) would ignore the real groundswell of support for an English Parliament. He created the appetite for devolution, he must address it, honestly, fairly and quickly. But then again, we all know this will not happen - Blair will never do the right thing - he never has.

Change is coming, quicker than those in their ivory towers can ever imagine - and when it does, it won't be the politicians setting the agenda.

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