Friday, July 03, 2015

An English veto

The UK has developed a distressing habit of making significant constitutional changes for partisan political reasons. Last term it was the Tories' attempt to equalise the size of electorates - a move which would have improved their electoral system but was driven purely by an effort to shaft the Labour party. That was defeated - the LibDems decided it wasn't in their partisan political interest for UKanians to have an equal voice in Parliament - but this term we have "English Votes for English Laws" aka "preventing Scottish MPs from voting on things".

As with equal sized electorates, there's a reasonable argument underlying it: the UK has devolved a lot of policy to the Scottish Parliament, so why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on matters which only affect England? But the real driver is the desire of the Conservative party - which dominates in England - to lock Labour out of power forever, combined with some pretty toxic English supremacism. Because what EVEL actually means is that in order to govern in practice - that is, enact its policies - a party would not to win not only the confidence of parliament as a whole, but also of English members - basically, an "English veto" on government, forever. England uber alles!

The core problem here is that, for historical reasons, Westminster effectively does double duty as both the UK and English Parliament. But the solution to this isn't self-serving changes to standing orders to diminish the role of Scottish MPs and make it clear that they are a subject people, but a fully devolved English Parliament with powers equal to the Scottish one. But the UK will never do this - firstly, because it is democratic; and secondly, because then it would invite quite reasonable questions about what Westminster is actually for. After all, if Scotland and England and Wales and Northern Ireland each govern themselves, do they really need 650-odd elected parasites (and fuck knows how many unelected ones in the Lords) to handle the few issues they decide need to be handled jointly? I think not.

As for the solution, the SNP is threatening a legal challenge, which will of course fail due to Parliamentary Privilege. Which leaves them with the other option: walk. If the Tories want England, let them have it. At least Scotland can be free.