New Year message

2007 is likely to be a year on constitutional struggle, as the bodged domestic reforms of the government together with the unwelcome advances of EU power cause friction in our body politic.

The most likely flare point will be in Scotland, at the time of the Scottish election to their Parliament. If the polls turn out to be correct, and the Scottish nationalists emerge as the largest party, they will put constitutional change very firmly on their agenda north of the border, and will be happy to incite the English to exert pressure against the current settlement in the south. The new unlikely allies will be the Scottish Nationalists, claiming Scotland does not get her fair share of cash ??within the Union, and the English nationalists, claiming she receives too much taxpayers money from English taxpayers.

??Labour’s constitutional changes were never a permanent settlement – they were always a set of tacky compromises, mainly driven by the wish to avoid conflict with the EU and??to appease??Scottish and Welsh nationalism. Paradoxically, they have created worse tensions for Labour with nationalist sentiment in both Scotland and Wales, and incipient tension with the EU when the government wakes up to just how unpopular more EU power is, and what damage it is doing to their crumbling electoral base. Angela Merkel will put the constitution back on the EU agenda, and the government will be forced to straddle its wish to be "good Europeans" with the widespread loathing of the whole idea of the constitution ??by a strong majority of the British people.

??Reform of the House of Lords is still unfinished business. Reform of local government, introducing more elected Mayors, has slowed to a snail’s pace as Labour has discovered they often cannot win the Mayoral elections. Regional government proceeds by stealth, and has to remain unelected because the people of the North east bravely and correctly rejected elected regional government as a waste of money in?? such an overgoverned country.

??There are reforms we need to right the British constitution. They are:

1. Removal of the EU’s power of veto over us, and removal of many EU rules and regulations which cramp us as a people and impede our businesses. Freedom from further incursions of EU power, whilst keeping the common market.

2. A decision of how much power the Lords should have to stop or amend government legislation, and then a decision on how to recruit the right people to carry out that role. If peers are to be elected, it is crucial that they should be elected for just one long term (say 10 years) so they do not have to raise money and curry favour in the way Commons parties have to do to seek re-election. We need people of experience and independent mind with power to hold up or amend meddlesome or badly thought through legislation, but not a replica of the Commons squabbling with??MPs??for power over our lives.

??3. Remove lop sided devolution by asking all Westminster MPs to serve both as Union MPs and as members of their own national assembly. The English Parliament would sit at Westminster on non Union days.

4. Abolition of all unelected regional government in England, with powers passed down to elected Councils or up to the English Parliament.

??Labour have brought more constitutional rows upon themselves, by forcing through so much unwanted regional government, and by encouraging the nationalists in Scotland and Wales without giving them all that they want. They have also made the EU more unpopular, by not standing up for British interests, and by failing to veto the continuing power grab by the Court, the Commission and through the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and the draft constitution.


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  1. Ken Adams
    Posted January 1, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Jolly good

    A question on number 4. Which perhaps you might consider in a later posting, I note you say Abolition of all unelected regional government in England

  2. Kit
    Posted January 1, 2007 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    1. Agree. However, why stop with just a common (free) market with Europe? A free market with the world would be far better.
    2. Agree. I also believe that a PR electoral system would be suitable for the House of Lords. This would reduce the likely hood of both houses being dominated by one party. The use of the Parliament Act should also be limited.
    3. Yes. Please no "English Parliament".
    4. Yes. And more local tax raising powers.

  3. Tim
    Posted January 8, 2007 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Agree on the object for the Lords – "We need people of experience and independent mind with power to hold up or amend meddlesome or badly thought through legislation, but not a replica of the Commons squabbling with MPs for power over our lives."

    This is more or less what we have – so why risk change?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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