Most electors want Parliament and the government to fix the economy. The squeeze on the private sector has been going on for four years now. We would like some relief from the tax rises, the inflation rises, the higher government imposed costs and charges. There was some welcome news that at last the inflation rate is falling. When I put it to them, Downing Street assures me they have got it, and are now reviewing the impact of government on the cost of living. There were welcome changes of mind on budget tax measures. The cost of living rises need to come down more.
Meanwhile, the SNP want the issue to be the separation of Scotland from England, the Liberal Democrats want the issue to be House of Lords reform, and the Coalition government has made elected Police Commissioners and the offer of elected Mayors two of the issues brought before us.
Of course an energetic Parliament can handle more than one issue at a time. The problem with constitutional reform is the lack of agreement in the country on what reforms we might like. The offer of elected Mayors in several cities was firmly rejected, just as elected regional government for England was rejected when Labour offered it. A different voting system was rejected. Any particular type of Lords reform, if offered in a referendum, might also be rejected.
The English majority feels frustrated. After all, the English elected a Conservative government in 2010, but the UK has a Coalition government owing to the distribution of seats outside England. That makes decent devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and nothing for England even more unfair and harder to accept. The English feel they pay more than their fair share of the bills, but get a less good deal. Why do Scottish and non UK EU students in Scotland get free higher education, yet our English students going to Scottish universities have to pay? How can Scotland afford a better approach to care for the elderly than England? Why do Scottish MPs at Westminster get to vote on English education, health and environment, when English MPs cannot vote on the Scottish approach to those issues?
There are referenda in the air, but no decisive move to give us the one we want on the EU. There is discussion of a referendum if Lords reform goes ahead. Many more will say if we can have a vote on creating a Mayor, if we can have a vote on how many people to put into the Lords, surely we could have a vote on the UK’s relationship with the EU? Scotland will get the constitutional referendum it wants – should it stay in the UK? Why can’t England have the referendum it wants, on our relationship with the EU?
Parliament could always get back to concentrating on sorting out the economy. If it wishes to carry on with constitutional change it has to recognise that England is getting a bad deal. This is the elephant in the constitutional room. It needs tackling soon.