At the end of the last century I wrote a book predicting that Labour’s constitutional revolution would be very destructive of the UK. At the time Labour derided my language, claiming it was excessive to argue that their modest constitutional changes were revolutionary and would lead to the destruction of the UK as we knew it, and to overturning its way of government. I think it is time to look again at the forecasts and to ask what has happened?
I wrote then
“The UK is in the grip of a constitutional revolution. The cumulative effects of the (EU) treaties are made more radical by the quickening pace of European integration on the continent….The ECJ is making more and more advances…The Court now overturns Acts of Parliament…. The Labour government has adopted much of the European agenda as its own…Labour willingly advance the cause of more European government…the Social Chapter…the European Charter of Human Rights…limiting our legislature in criminal and judicial matters. Labour’s plans to split the kingdom into regions are often urged to ensure that we have regional governments that can act as supplicants for European funding… Even their plans for proportional representation are part of a scheme to bring us into line with the continent. ..The British government has decided to introduce these (PR) for elections to regional Parliaments and the European Parliament. Undoubtedly the government’s devolution plans will create more tension and conflict, not less. It is helping to fuel nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales…
“Third Way politics is allied to a hatred of Parliament, which remained stubbornly confrontational and argumentative. …Ensuring Parliament met as infrequently as possible, arranging set piece meetings on subjects like Northern Ireland more likely to produce cross party agreement, and scaling back Prime Ministerial appearances…were all part of the plan to try to prevent parliamentary argument disrupting third way consensus. A Parliament elected by a different means that did not produce a majority government would be the ultimate conclusion of this course of action.
“devolution Labour style will devolve more power not to people but to politicians and administrators. Far from cementing the UK, it will pull it part as advocates of a Europe of the regions intend. ….the relentless drive to a European state continues. It is time to ask the question, will this government break the UK apart? How far do they wish to go in transferring government from London to Brussels and regional centres?”
Much of what I feared came true. Over the following decade Labour signed the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties, transferring 168 major areas of policy from UK control to majority voting in the EU. That included control over our borders and immigration policy, energy and some criminal justice amongst many.
Their devolution policy, far from settling the kingdom, gave a huge boost to Scottish nationalism and has led directly to a vote on whether Scotland wants to stay in the Union at all.
The Human Rights policy has led to senior Judges now pointing out that Parliament has lost its sovereignty in crucial areas of law, and to many domestic complaints about actions and judgements that the UK can no longer decide or control.
Parliament has been damaged by moving to shorter hours and fewer days in session, by a single PM Questions each week, and above all by now facing many areas where Parliament cannot change the law even if it wishes to, owing to EU law.
Labour changed the UK and its constitution radically. We no longer have a constitution based on a powerful Parliament subject to the sovereignty of the people, expressed at election time in the ballot box and the rest of the time as public opinion. We are now a member state under European control in many fields, and a divided nation arguing about whether to stay together or not. I rest my case.