Monday, November 27, 2006

 

Labour's Devolution Strategy in Danger of Unravelling?

It must be a worry to Gordon Brown that his party's strategy for his home country is in danger of coming apart. Until the sixties home rule for Wales and Scotland was regarded as something of an eccentric diversion. But when MPs started to be elected for both Plaid Cymru and the SNP both main parties began to take notice. The Kilbrandon Report(1969-73) was the result. This considered independence and federalism but opted for devolution, initiating the tangled course taken to New Labour's implementation of this original vision shortly after 1997. But a major part of this vision was purely political. Labour felt that potentially nationalist Celts could be 'bought off' with a solution which provided a fair degree of autonomy backed up by legislative accountability.

After uncertain starts both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have become established if not warmly accepted by their respective countries. But the trouble with democracy is that eventually opposition parties tend to gather support and win elections. For years it seemed that neither national constituencies favoured independence and supporters of the union hoped it would become one of those formal shibboleths that meant little in practice, like Labour's Clause Four for example. When nationalist results seemed to indicate falling support at the last set of elections in 2003, some commentatotors concluded Labour's ploy of emasculating their appeal had succeeded. It had, but only for a while.

Recent polls show over half of Scots voters(52%) want independence and a real possibility exists of the SNP winning power in May 2007. What would they do next? It is unlikely they will sit on their hands and do nothing; we have to assume they mean what they say. A referendum would reveal how willing voters are north of the border to cast themselves adrift from England and Westminster and join the smaller nations of the EU. It would be a huge gamble for them as they currently receive a £10bn public spending surplus- courtesy of the ancient Barnett Formula- compared with England.

Unsurprisingly, this disproportionate distribution is one of the reasons why 59% of English voters also favour independence for Scotland. Yes, the unthinkable has become the thinkable and both Brown and Blair are seriously worried. They are right to be alarmed as England voted narrowly more Conservative than Labour at the last election. Scottish Labour seats are vital if Labour is to remain in power after 2009. Meawhile the Conservatives, lacking Scottish support and keener on exploiting English dissatisfactions with Scotland's extra handouts, are not too worried. Hence we saw Brown and Blair lashing out at the SNP at Labour's Oban conference over the weekend. Labour's smooth solution to the famously intractable devolution issue always seemed a bit too good to be true. Some critics said Labour had not thought it through properly; recent developments suggest those critics might have been right.

Comments:
Of course I was completely against devolution. The Scots have no right to have a Parliament. They should have been told that, and then shut up over the subject.

The current situation is entirely unacceptable. I would hope, though doubt, that a Conservative Government would close down the Parliament. No talks. No negotiating. Simply close it. Knock the bloody thing down and let everyone see us do it. Not surprisingly people in England have enough of being treated like second class citizens, and are demanding an end to their subjugation. They should not be ignored. The Parliament should be closed, Westminster's power restored, and the leaders of the people of Scotland should apologise to the people of the United Kingdom. The process for Wales would then be much the same.

The whole thing was an electoral racket by Labour. They thought that they could have perpetual socialism north of the border, without having to risk anything in UK elections. The price is paid by the English people, in the form of the Jockroaches currently in Cabinet.

Of course there was one other flaw. The people of Scotland(in as far as the region nominally exists) may well consider themselves socialist. But even they were never bound to vote Labour in perpetuity. The main opposition party is...the SNP. Change of Government, even if just because "a change is as good as a rest", equals independence. Thus the remaining loyal people in Scotland are held hostage in much the same way as the Protestants are. They can be British as long as they want. But as soon as the anti-British forces win a single vote, the Kingdom is broken. Forever. Unacceptable. Much better to simply say NO to this. It matters not what the people of any region of the UK desire. The will of the people is expressed by ALL the British people. No more regionalism. No more nationalism. No more disloyalty.

And if Salmond, Adams or any of those Welsh f***ers have a problem with it, then simply send them to prison.
 
Michael
I know I shouldn't encourage you but many thanks for that wonderful comment.
 
Skipper: At the moment the SNP have 27 MSP's to Labour's 50. Under AMS it is very unlikely the SNP will win an overall majority (65 MSP's); that, of course, is why AMS was chosen. The most they can hope for is to become the largest party (ambitious,but not impossible) and that Labour and the Lib-Dems (or even Labour, the Lib-Dems, and the Greens) together don't have an overall majority (a lot more likely). That could lead to an SNP minority administration (assuming Labour and the Lib-Dems don't form a "grand coalition" with the Conservatives). But a Scottish Parliamentary motion to hold a referendum on independence could still be defeated if the Conservatives joined Labour and the Lib-Dems in voting against it. Truth is, there are all kinds of possibilities and we just don't know what would happen.
 
P'holic
Thanks for that very interesting and informative comment- I'm learning a lot from all this.
 
Good posting on the devolution issue Skipper!

Helps us lesser mortals understand the complexities behind this MESS.

Strange how the recent decades have thrown up sudden changes in countries which we once thought were fixed for ever - such as the former Soviet Union, and the Balkans.
 
Skipper: Sorry to bore on about this, but have you seen Anthony Wells on his excellent Polling Report blog? He reports on the latest ICM poll in the Scotsman. The Scotsman calculates that, on the ICM figures, the SNP would have 43 seats, Labour 38, the Lib-Dems 25 and the Greens 5. That could mean a Red-Yellow-Green coalition (an overall majority of 7). Of course, the election is not until next May.
 
The dis-united kingdom has never been a country, the sooner England is re-unified and the parcel of rogues sent back across the relevent borders the better.
Roll on an English Parliament by what ever means.,
 
Back in October I wrote the following piece in support of the view that the union is slowly dying:

"Michael Portillo surprised me a couple of months ago by saying that the union - ie, the United Kingdom - was not "sacrosanct", and went as far as to say that he predicted the disintegration of the UK in the medium- to long-term. Surprising because, as a Tory, Portillo would reasonably be expected to side with the unionists; and surprising because I probably had seen the UK as a permanently sovereign entity hitherto. The union has survived far more radical attacks on its existence than are levied today, the most notable being the Irish war of independence, 1919-21. So why the slow death of the union?

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - in that order - are in political limbo. For Scotland in particular, this is a favourable political limbo: this country has more representation than anywhere else in the UK, despite the boundary changes in 2005. As a part-consequence, Scots receive about £1,000 per head more in tax benefits than the English. Since this is a harmonious status quo - and even Northern Ireland could be described as harmonious, though a little bitterness lingers on - the death of the union will be slow. Nevertheless, the political climate is gradually lending more saliency to the issue of independence. A new poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times suggests that 44 per cent of Scots back a separate Scotland compared with 42 per cent who do not. In his Built to Last document (reviewed here), Cameron claims that people should recognise that "the policies of Conservatives in Scotlandand Wales will not always be the same as our policies in England". Gordon Brown's accession to 10 Downing Street will necessarily raise the West Lothian question every time he proposes an issue that will effect the English and (perhaps) Welsh electorates but not his Scottish constituents. Brown will of course try to brush this question off by stressing core British values. But the constitutional anomaly created by devolution is unsustainable; debate over the political validity of the UK a foregone conclusion.

I am also surprised by the number of English people who, when abroad, refer to "England" and not "Britain", even when they are clearly referring to the nation as a whole. Foreigners, particularly Americans, have a tendency to talk about England, too, when really they mean the United Kingdom. Perhaps, given the laudable global tendency towards the break-up of artificial unions combined with greater international co-operation and migration, I should stop being so surprised."
 
Thoughtful post SPL. Ifyou have not already done so take a peek at Simojn jenkins' piece in Guardian today as it chimes in with your analysis.
 
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