I was chatting to a friend of mine today that I meet regularly on my morning bike ride and as us old chaps do, we were ‘putting the world to rights’ and during the conversation he made a very good point that “Too many people set out to solve the wrong problem, they need to stop and think more.” He was right and the question of “English votes on English matters” is a prime case in point.
I like David Cameron and frankly come next May, realistically he is the “only game in town” when it comes to who the next Prime Minister should be but, setting the petty politics to one side on this he has got it wrong, it really isn’t a problem worth solving. More than that and uncomfortable though it may be for some Celtic politicians to acknowledge in a positive way, it goes to the heart of what the Union is really all about which is not about local assembly or parliaments.
Reduce the Rhetoric
On the one hand, the passion and amount of engagement by the Scottish electorate during the recent Referendum was good to see but on the other hand, far too much of it led by Salmond amounted to little more than petty nationalism. It might have been funnier if the current collapse in the price of crude had happened then, it would have been be a case of shooting the nationalist fox, which Salmond would no doubt attribute to ‘some English plot’ !
Alex Salmond is very good at being a pompous gobshite that winds everybody up but it is a mistake to meet nationalistic drivel from him with “English Nationalist Drivel” because it takes the issue into fairyland and total nonsense. My advice to David Cameron and the Conservative leadership is, use the Christmas break to quietly drop the whole thing. Say you are striving to reach cross party consensus which we know will never happen and just kick it into the long grass where the whole proposal belongs.
Whilst from a Tory perspective, the English Votes issue might discomfort the Labour Party and poke two fingers in the eye of UKIP, “English votes on English Issues” is totally irrelevant when it comes to votes at Westminster.
The UK is England and Westminster is the only significant Parliament or Assembly within the UK the numbers have it ! Of the roughly 64 million in the UK, England has 53.9 million, Scotland 5.3 million,Wales 3.1 million, and Northern Ireland 1.8 million. The truth is that the strength of the UK economy mainly resides in England along with the majority of the tax base and finally, who forms the UK Government is decided wholly in England.
Put another way, Even if the SNP held every Westminster seat in Scotland returning all 59, they would not be able to force any issue on Parliament. Even if they ‘held the balance of power’ in a hung parliament as is their ambition next May, no UK Prime Minister of any party could allow the passing of any legislation that disadvantaged the English electorate. Taken to an extreme, if Alex Salmond were PM at Westminster, it is the English voter he would have to court, not the Scottish electorate because his ‘position’ would not lie in Scottish hands.
As an Englishman albeit of Anglo/Irish origins, we have always had to put up with a Celtic Whinge over all kinds of issues, they demand a “respect” from us English that they do not extend to us but in its own way, that too is a clear signal of just who needs who the most.
It is difficult to determine exactly how important the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Stormont will be going forward and in the medium to long term, each performs a different and rather local function where they are based but what will not be in doubt is the supremacy of Westminster within the UK. Having got the Scottish Referendum out of the way, the next and most important constitutional matter on our immediate horizon lies in the question of our relationship with the EU.
If the UK leaves both the EU and the ECHR then it will be on the basis of the “Supremacy of the UK Parliament” as the ultimate Law making body for the UK rather than anything else, not immigration or how much we contribute to Brussels.
Although I hate to say it to David Cameron, the “English Votes” issue is as much a waste of time as the “Lets Reform the Lords” game that every dumb arse politician devoid of an original idea falls back on. Just let it go Dave and let’s move on, more complex constitutional matters await that have too long been overlooked by every party in the UK like “The Separation of Powers”, want a really tough but important ‘gig’, try that one.