Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Devolution and Democracy

Why should Scottish MPs be able to vote on schools or hospitals in England when English MPs cannot do the same for Scotland? - Tam Dalyell MP, arguing against devolution for Scotland:

How do you feel about restricting the vote of Scottish MPs to Scottish issues, Welsh to Welsh issues and the English, let’s not forget them to English legislation?

Presently, the fuss is all about Labour using its “Foreign” MPs to ram through its Parliamentary programme, while MPs with English constituencies are denied the opportunity to vote on what happens north of the border.

Now, we used to have something called a “Union of Great Britain” where everyone voted as part of a great Parliamentary democracy. Then we had devolution or what author Peter Hitchin called” The abolition of Britain” in his book which set out to describe how one particular political party planned to change the boundaries and regulations governing our democracy to ensure that once they were in power, it would be very difficult to vote them out.

Jonathan Friedland, in the Guardian, believes that David Cameron’s plans to introduce a kind of voting parity between MPs would be the death of our Parliament, “The four nations of the union, separately writing their own laws, would eventually go their own ways. The union would break up.”

Is the present system fair? What do you think?


Mr Friday said...

I personally think it has mileage and is a fair way to proceed.

However, I would really like to believe that David Cameron is concerned about this from a constitutional point of view rather than just limiting the power of the Scottish Labour vote in "bailing out" its English colleagues as any change can only benefit the Conservatives.

But I don't.

Cllr David Green said...

First, some statistics. Here's the results of the last general election (2005), broken down by region:


Labour 286 seats
Tory 194 seats
Lib Dem 47 seats
Respect 1 seat
Ind 1 seat


Labour 41 seats
Lib Dem 11 seats
SNP 6 seats
Tory 1 seat


Labour 29 seats
Tory 4 seats
Lib Dem 3 seats
Plaid C 3 seats

Labour gained a clear overall majority in every single region. Therefore every single region is governed by the party they elected.

In terms of popular vote, Labour got 58,000 less votes in England than the Tories, due to turnout being low in safe Labour seats and high in Tory safe seats. But if Bromley and Chislehurst is any guide, this is about to change. It takes just a handful of Bromleys to cancel the small Tory lead in the popular vote. Remember too that in 1997 and 2001, Labour got 2.6 million and 1.35 million more votes in England than the Tories.

The myth that the Tories "have a majority" in England came about because some in the Tory party seized on the tiny popular lead over Labour in England (out of some 20million votes) to salve their egos after they got thrashed for the third time. This myth has grown and grown amongst people who haven't looked at the figures and think the Tories "won England" and that this is an easy way to steal power even though they lost the general election.

DrMoores said...

I think that we should look at the electoral reform society conclusions before we go any further:

"Anti-Conservative bias in the electoral system
It has been widely noted that the current electoral system is biased against the Conservatives. Labour won the 2001 election with 412 MPs against 166 Conservative MPs, and a landslide majority of 165, but with a lead of only 9 points in the popular vote. John Major's Conservatives had a popular vote lead of not much less – 7.5 percentage points – but a paltry majority of 21 and 336 MPs compared to Labour's 271. If the parties polled the same total of votes, and there was a uniform national swing, Labour would still have an overall majority. The Conservatives need to lead by something like 4 points to draw level in seats, and by about 9 in order to enjoy a bare overall majority. This is probably the largest degree of bias the system has ever produced. "

Cllr David Green said...

The Tories are far too focused on the short-term issue of Gordon Brown's leadership. In truth, the top of Labour is dominated by Scots because of the legacy of the 1980's when most Labour MP's entered parliament as representatives of Scottish constituencies. English Labour MP's surged into the house in 1997, and they are 1-2 generations younger than the leadership. The next generation of Labour leaders will come from this group - David Milliband, Ed Balls, John Denham, Hilary Benn, Steve Ladyman, Englishmen all.

A Gordon Brown government could legislate for an English Parliament during his premiership, at the end of which the English Labour successors to Brown would be ready to take over.

The Tories are so distracted by Gordon Brown becoming leader (a short-term issue), that they don't realise they are making a long-term strategic mistake. They are in effect conceding that they will never gain an overall majority in Britain and by bringing up the English issue, they are conceding defeat to us for all time. There is a natural centre-left majority in England, and Labour are already winners in Scotland and Wales. Labour has nothing to lose and everything to gain - the Tories could be forced into opposition, with no prospect of a coalition, for most of this century in an English parliament, especially if they persist in continuing with mad ideas such as anti-europeanism and other nasty party stuff.

Anonymous said...

The present system is not working for the English and I for one am fed up subsidising Scotland. I don't see it as merely the Tories being obsessed with Brown. As for the next Labour leader coming from the likes of Dr Ladyman it seems unlikely unless he plans on moving to a new constituency.

People are sick of New Labour and the constant flow of embarassments like that useless oaf Prescott, and the way that everything is done for short term gain. The country is going to hell in a hand cart with these clowns in charge.

As for the Tories "mad ideas such as anti-europeanism" what a load of tosh. I see no evidence of this whatsoever particularly with "Dave" in charge. Mind you I don't see the European dream lasting much longer anyway. It will go the same way that communism did in Eastern Europe.

Mr Friday said...

I didn't say that the Conservatives have a majority in England - and let's face it, a Labour majority isn't much use if a significant % of those Labour MPs actually vote against the Government.

Labour are becoming all the things they relentlessly accused the Conservatives of being pre-97. They have lost the faith of the electorate and have become a sleazy laughing stock who are willing to let our soldiers go to their deaths on half-truths and complete untruths in some ludicrous crusade to cement Blair's legacy.

I wonder why they are not so keen to invade North Korea ?

Anonymous said...

Back to the issue about scotland e should be seperate,it is because of them we have to put the clock back and have those dreadful dark nights in fact it is dark in the morning and afternoon.i suffer from seasonal affect syndrome and this makes it worse.the majority of people i speak to say the same so the sooner we arent governed by scotland over this issue the better!

James Maskell said...

Cllr Green, by saying "anti-europeanism" was refering to the EPP-ED issue. To explain to non-political anoraks, the EPP-ED is the biggest group in the European Parliament. The Conservatives are part of the said group but under Cameron will be leaving it due to the Leadership's belief that as a Euro-sceptic party, they should not be part of this group, which is federalist and pro-integration. Cameron is currently negotiating terms for a new Euro-sceptic group.

Anyone here, apart from Cllr Green, think that that equates to "anti-europeanism"? Dave, if you dont like this change in policy, perhaps you'd care to explain why? Im interested to hear your thoughts.