Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The obvious answers to the West Lothian question are either devolved Home Rule all round or federalism, where every part of the UK has the same rights and powers.

The problem of the obvious solution is what to do with England. With 80% plus of the population an undivided England would be an over-mighty subject. How tempted would the English First Minister be to do to the UK Prime Minister what Boris Yeltsin did to Mikhail Gorbachev?

The Liberal Democrats have favoured a federal United Kingdom, with England being divided into regions so no state of the federation was too big for the health of the whole.

The Labour Party had a policy (proprietor in England John Prescott) to have a form of Home Rule all round, although the proposed English regions were to be weaker than the Welsh Assembly which was itself weaker than the Scottish Parliament. They managed to get devolution up and running in Scotland, Wales and London. Northern Ireland is a special case bit it got an assembly as well.

The Labour plan for rolling devolution stalled when North-East England, the most pro-devolution region of England, rejected an elected Assembly in a referendum. As far as I can see absolutely no further thought has gone into the problem since, from the Labour government.

The Conservative Party, once Mrs Thatcher ditched Heath era thoughts about devolution to Scotland and Wales, stood firmly in the NO camp for each successive devolution referendum.

The Conservatives have convinced a majority of English voters that a regional government composed of central government civil servants responsible to a UK Minister is democratic, whereas a regional executive responsible to a democratically elected Assembly is bureaucratic. This has I fear made both Labour and Lib Dem plans for regional devolution/federation untenable.

If there is to be an all-England governmental unit two models have been suggested.

The one the Tories seem to favour and which some Lib Dem MPs have supported is to use the English representatives in the House of Commons as in effect an English Parliament. This may work so long as the UK and English majorities are of the same party but would cause chaos if that was not the case. For one thing the UK Parliament controls the money that the devolved administration gets.

Would a UK majority be prepared to fund policies it opposes? Would there be different governments for the UK and England? If not how would a UK government, in an English minority, deal with a hostile Parliament when the normal conventions of responsible government could not operate as the government could not get its English business through the House and the English Parliamentary majority could not replace the UK government? If there were different governments we are back at the Yeltsin and Gorbachev situation.

A more satisfactory idea is to follow the Scottish model and create an English Parliament distinct from the UK one. If the new body (or preferably both) were elected by proportional representation, which the Conservatives would no doubt strongly oppose, it would be much less likely that you would have different single party majorities. Hopefully the system would work in a less confrontational and rigid manner than the Westminster model does, so as to reduce the chance of the UK breaking up.

There would also need to be agreement between all the UK and devolved governments about finance. That is always a major aspect of any federal like arrangement, but other polities manage to sort it out so I do not see why the UK should not.

by Gary J on Tue Jun 13th, 2006 at 06:45:13 AM EST
The big problem with this approach, would be the same as the big poroblem with Europe.

Until there is more media coverage of the actual workings of the regional assemblies in the main news of the day, t(and of the european parliament, other than a once in a blue moon way)

the nationalist right will be able to sell this as a layer of beuracracy as the only encounter that the average person will have with these assemblies is through the steady dripping of poison through the right wing press.  Britain would have a far more positive attitude to European institutions, if there were five minutes per night set aside for covering the european parliament. (And lets face it it would be time far better spent than discussing the share prices) However this is not in the interests of politicians at Westminster, as they need to be seen to be out there doing their jobs.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 13th, 2006 at 10:39:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has always seemed to me that it is the UK level of government which would be the obvious one to eliminate, if the European Union above and the nations and regions below became more important.
by Gary J on Tue Jun 13th, 2006 at 04:51:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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