Thursday, January 18, 2007


Future of Multi-Level UK Politics Needs a Royal Commission

Two articles recently highlighted the UK's system of 'multi-level government'. Yesterday we had Simon Jenkins writing on the need for more devolution and today we have Peter Mandelson urging a closer relationship with the EU and the euro. The latter is a, by now, familiar clarion call to pro Europeans to 'confront the visceral anti-Europeanism in British political culture'. He argues that we would be better placed to deal with globalization and the challenges of the Asian renaissance, if we seek a solution via Europe. Similarily with the requirements of the post Iraq world when we will need to 'establish a more equal relationship with with the US'. Of course anything which accentuates the importance of the EU is likely to advance career options for the epicene Commissioner in the domestic political context, after which I have always suspected he still hankers.

So much for the supra-national level; Jenkins addresses the sub national one. He argues that:

i) 'Prescott's best answer to the West Lothian question would have been to have conferred partial autonomy on England's counties and cities. They would be viable: the county of Hampshire is the same size as the autonomous state of New Hampshire, and three times the size of sovereign Luxembourg'

ii)Many of Scotland's requirements for more autonomy are 'not beyond the wit on man' to answer. He points to the 'common travel area and shared citizenship since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922' and the shared economic union forged between the Slovaks and the Czechs after they parted in 1993.

iii) 'All parties...[should] to agree a grand commission to review constitutional arrangements between Westminster and the components of the UK-national provincial and local. This commission would put its proposals to the relevant electorates, who would decide'.

Not a bad first step towards finding solutions for the immensely complex problems thrown up by Labour's attempts to make our politics more democratic. But, a small point maybe, Simon is wrong to say Scotland has '72 Scottish MPs'; the number was reduced to 59 before the last election.

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