Scotland, an English parliament and the Labour Party
My letter in the Guardian of 18 May 2011 questioned Madeleine Bunting’s description, also in the Guardian, of the option of an English parliament as “unappealing” and her fear that if England had its own parliament, it would spell the demise of the Labour party. Unfortunately the Guardian edited my letter in such a way as to obscure its intended meaning in some respects. So here is the full text as submitted to the Guardian, with added hyperlinks:
Madeleine Bunting’s wake-up call about the implications for England of Scottish secession from the UK (If Scotland goes, all we’ll have left is the Englishness we so despise, May 16) is timely and rings many bells, but she needn’t dismiss “the unappealing option of an English parliament” as part of a federal Britain, which would be greatly preferable to dismembering the UK through Scottish independence and good in itself for the whole country. Devolution of all internal powers to the parliaments and governments of all four UK nations, with minimal functions left to the federal government and parliament at Westminster and safeguards against English dominance, would solve many problems besides Scotland’s demand for full self-government, including our besetting sin of over-centralisation, the West Lothian Question and the other anomalies created by incomplete devolution.
Nor need Ms Bunting fear that an English parliament “spells the (Labour) party’s demise”: according to an expert comment on my blog, there have been only two UK Labour governments which didn’t have a majority of members in England, in 1950 and for a few months after February 1974. (After the October 1974 election there was the Lib-Lab pact in which no party had a majority in either the UK or in England.) All other Labour governments have had majorities in England. Labour would need to adapt radically to an internally self-governing England within a federal UK, but that might be no bad thing; the other parties would have to adapt and change too. Given leadership and a national consensus on the objective, it could all be accomplished in under 20 years. Better than Scotland breaking up the UK!