The Labour leadership’s astonishing U Turn on a referendum about Scottish independence in Scotland leaves Gordon Brown in an even weaker position over both the EU and England.
Up to this point we have been told that big constitutional issues – like Who governs the UK – is a matter for the UK Parliament and not for a popular vote. We have been deprived of the promised EU referendum on the grounds that it is too complicated for the voters to grasp and has to be left to professional politicians.
Now we learn that the question of who governs Scotland is a matter just for the Scottish people.
In that case Who governs the UK? should be a matter for the UK people. The case for a referendum on the big transfer of powers recommended in the EU Constitutional Treaty on this logic has to be put to the voters.
The Scottish example comes across as yet another injustice to England. If Scottish voters can settle their fate within the Union unilaterally, why can’t the English? Gordon Brown should now offer the English a vote on whether they wish to stay in the Union, which would force him to recognise the unfairness of the current settlement and to offer improvements in order to secure the continuing consent of the English to his constitutional arrangements. As a Unionist myself I want English votes for English issues – the restoration of the English Parliament at Westminster with dual mandate English MPs.
Under Labour we have had to put up with lop-sided devolution for a decade. Now under Labour we have to put up with lop sided democracy, where five million Scots can express a view on our constitution, but 50 million English cannot. When Labour first presented its skewed devolution proposals I argued that, far from strengthening the Union, they would weaken it as they were unfair on England. This further twist will do yet more damage. It is as if the SNP has found a way to get the London government to do its job for them. It has always been SNP strategy to make England angry with the Union. They have an able assistant in this cause in Gordon Brown.
The alternative explanation is that he is so weak he cannot control or influence Wendy Alexander, the Labour leader in Scotland. Labour’s devolution has badly miscarried from their party political point of view. They now have a Conservative Mayor of London, an SNP-led government in Scotland, a coalition government with the Welsh Nats in Wales, and no Labour representation in the Northern Ireland Assembly. I am sure their original idea was to create devolved government in places Labour usually won, and offer a voting system which made it difficult for anyone else to gain a majority.