Monday 22nd September
Makes sense doesn’t it? Well, if you don’t really think about it too hard. It’s a good slogan, appealing to Nationalist sentiments and trying to gain some sort of rebound from the Scottish Debacle. But in another way it seems a strange sort of reaction from Cameron after his belated profession of such love for the Union to want to threaten to break it up even more. He loves the Scots so much that he wants to stop them from sending M.P.s to Westminster to vote on anything that concerns just England. It is so obvious that he wants to link the idea of some sort of English Parliament to more devolution for Scotland as being done purely for Party political reasons and to put Labour into a trap, that it is almost laughable. He is trying to be too clever. It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep to the very tight timetable to devolve more powers to Scotland on its own without tying it to not even formed or stated ideas about a devolved English Parliament.
And anyway the real problem is far greater than that. We live in what is called a United Kingdom but one which is dominated by population and even more by economics by a far too weighty England. England is simply too big in relation to the Celtic fringes (and we must consider Northern Ireland in there as well). And England itself is dominated both by numbers and by economics by a far too weighty London. The voters in Yorkshire or Cornwall feel just as much alienated by Westminster as did the voters in Edinburgh or Aberdeen. One of the things we forget about Thatcher was that she was the great Centraliser. She closed down the GLC and all the Metropolitan regions, which had looked after the interests of great cities such as Birmingham and Manchester and she centralized more and more power in London. An English Parliament would be just as remote and unsympathetic to the needs of people in the regions as the present Westminster is.
The whole problem of alienation is caused by people feeling that decisions are being made far far away from them and by people who do not understand their concerns. The only solution is more devolution to the regions themselves, not a specifically English Parliament, which would simply be Westminster Mark 2. And to get this right you have to be careful and take your time. To try to push this through in a few months when the arguments haven’t even been heard is foolhardy and actually quite desperate. And it will fail.