Saturday, 30 July 2011

Defending the 'Union'

A post has appeared on The Conservative Blog with the title "If Ukip won't defend the Union, who will?", mentioning that Nigel Farage has endorsed the creation of an English Parliament and asks the author of a post on Independent Home whether Farage is attempting to 'hoover up' the English Democrat's votes.

The break up of the United Kingdom began with Blair's policy of offering Scotland and Wales limited devolution, a policy I am sure was followed in order to gain him the landslide general election victory he achieved in 1997. In common with most politicians who have 'bright ideas', little did he realise what a Pandora's Box he had opened - actually he probably did in his zeal to aid the EU in their grand designs! Plus he knew

The problem is now exacerbated with what are, probably, justifiable calls for an English parliament, calls that would cement a form of 'federalism' into UK politics. Were that move to be made now, whilst we are still a member of the European Union, it would accomplish the EU's regionalisation agenda for them. After 14 years of devolution, how could the process be undone? Having released the 'genie from the lamp' and found him rather 'independent of thought', our political leaders are faced with a dilemma to which they know not the answer.

Of course, were the Scots and Welsh to accept a similar situation to that of the USA, then they could have the autonomy they seek, however I doubt whether that would be acceptable to Alex Salmond - who I believe harbours complete independence via membership of the EU (and I won't enter the debate about 'independence' under EU rule!)

Of course, there is the question of who needs to be 'governed'? We are perfectly capable of 'governing' ourselves in local matters, locally; and really only need an administration centre to handle national matters which have been sanctioned by the people. Farage seems to belong to the 'Carswell school' in believing that we still need politicians to regulate our lives - if he didn't, would he too not be advocating true devolution and a tad of "Referism"? Still, presumably once a politican, always a politician.......?

The practise of administering a nation's affairs are quite simple really - the trouble is that we have politicians who think they can but don't realise they can't and won't let the people try.......

Just saying.....................


TomTom said...

Much as I loathe Blair the policy on Devolution was not his but that of the late-John Smith which Blair inherited.

BTW...very few EU countries offer the level of autonomy Scotland enjoys certainly not France, and Germany is not really a federal system if you look, it has a fake federal structure married with central control

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: Appreciate the John Smith bit but it was Blair that pushed it through......

DeeDee99 said...

Blair let the Devolution genie out of the bottle and it won't be possible to put it back. We cannot continue with Scots, Welsh and NI MPs voting on matters in England which do not affect their own constituents and England being the only country in the Union that does not have its own Parliament.

The Union isn't going to last in its current format. We should be moving towards a Federal UK.

PeterCharles said...

Indeed there is no putting the genie back in bottle, the Law of Unintended Consequences stands inviolate, more so in politics than in any other sphere. An interesting question is why? I put it down to a philosophy a boss of mine was prone to enunciate, "It doesn't matter what you did yesterday, it doesn't matter what you might do tomorrow, it only matters what you do today." That perfectly encapsulates the political mindset, an inability to see beyond the now and the 'need' to react to 'now', doing something even when common sense says doing nothing is by far the best option.

DeeDee99 is right in that we are inevitably heading toward a federal structure of some description and WfW is right that the Welsh and Scottish Nationalists want 'real' independence, preferably with the large per capita gifts like the EU lavished on Ireland for decades. Where they are wrong is in the need for an English parliament, all that is needed is to prohibit non-English MPs from voting on matters that only affect England. I am a little surprised that the Tories haven't pursued that line as it would decimate the Labour vote, naturally it would be completely unacceptable to Labour for the same reason. Another benefit would be that you could then reduce the salaries of non-English MPs in line with their no longer required presence, I would guess that might be up to a fifth, probably rising to four fifths once devolution runs its course. Certainly the one thing we do not need is more politicians, we have too many as it is.

Woodsy42 said...

I feel we have a potential English parliament, Westminster. Once the Scots and Welsh have parliaments of their own they should cease to send their MPs to it. We need a separate federal forum for co-ordinating the separate parts.

TomTom said...

The way to do it is to have the House of Commons as English Parliament and the Upper House as the National (UK) Chamber with the Parliament Acts abolished.

Then any UK national issues go to the Upper House and English, Scottish, welsh issues are dealt with at regional level with no Barnett Formula

The Gray Monk said...

I have to agree with Tom Tom, the Commons as "English" Parliament and the Upper House remodelled as the Federal Chamber makes sense. It eliminates the need for another House of Fools and their hangers-on.

The scrapping of the Barnett Formula and the Parliament Acts would also be a good thing. The nonsense that Blair left us, of Scottish, Welsh and NI MPs voting on matters having no impact on their own constituents must be ended. A "Federal" UK seems the inevitable outcome since Blair's ideological vandalism and Labour's very deliberate attempt to use the EU Regional concept to destroy England as a nation. Breaking it up into nine "regions" - with them almost guaranteed control of at least four - and flooding the country with third world immigrants, would have given them permanent control of the "English." Let us not forget that Jack Straw famously said "there is no such thing as an 'English' nation."

Creating an English House and a Federal Parliament almost certainly will ensure that we can never again suffer the likes of Blair and "Liebor" in power.

cosmic said...

An English house and a Federal Chamber seems to solve the problems most neatly and completely. It deals with the mare's nest devolutionary arrangement that Blair created and his half-assed screw up of HoL reform, as far as I can see, all done for short term personal gain as was the HRA. As I recall, Michael Foot had a similar thing to deal with, and one way or another managed to derail it.

It would require a new constitutional arrangement, which is no bad thing in principle. I don't trust the political establishment to do a good job of it.

There is no good solution and the EU is a brooding presence. A large part of the resistance would come from that it doesn't fall in line with EU plans.

One thing is certain, the Union as it was has been fatally wounded and the toothpaste can't be put back in the tube. English votes for English matters appears to much of a compromise to keep the existing codge together.

A federal solution pretty well involves institutionalising the transfer of funds between members, as happens in the USA and as the EU is attempting with the Euro crisis. We have the same thing now with the Barnett Formula.

Jamess said...

Instead of an English parliament, how about county parliaments (made up of MP's in that county acting as an "Upper house" and local councillors in a lower house) with the same powers currently given to Scotland.

Scotland then becomes like any other county of the UK (if it wants, it could disband the expensive MSP's and Scottish parliament, and devolve down to county level like the rest of Britain).

Health, Social Security, Job regulations etc would all be devolved down a level. Any raising of the tax level or new law/increased penalty must be approved by a local referendum.

Any county that continues our ludicrous spending rate quickly goes bust and surrounding counties learn the appropriate lessons. Whilst any county that implements good policies becomes an example for other counties to follow.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DD99, PC, W42, TT, TGN, c, & J:

Interesting comments and suggestions. However:

We are indeed on a 'Federal' path forwards now, but the opportunity to revise politics is enormous. By devolving all national matters downwards to local authorities, thus making councillors (or 'local' MPs) would make it possible to probably halve the number of existing MPs in Westminster. There is also the point that with local MPs we would not need the number of councillors as at present. As J states in his last paragraph, it would concentrate their minds wonderfully! Likewise, we dont need 746, or whatever, in the HoL, which would then become a 'revising' chamber to the HoC dealing only with 'international' matters.

The only point I have on the comments made is that they assume the same number of politicians and, as PC says, we do not need more of them!

Thinking of putting these suggestions forward for further discussionin a post........

PeterCharles said...

"... By devolving all national matters downwards to local authorities ..."

This traditional LibDem mantra is one of the oft-heard 'solutions' that always makes me very, very nervous.

My experience is that local government is far more corrupt than national government. There isn't the scope for people to be 'helpful' and rewarded with generous sinecures, consultancies or non-executive directorships by all manner of grateful multi-national businesses and the like, I admit. On the other hand local government is riddled with learning-to-be politicians, bloody old fools of the know it all tendency bored with retirement, nepotism and power-tripping councillors, contracts awarded to 'friends', an unbelievable level of freebies, posh hotels and foreign 'fact-finding' jaunts to name but a few. Local graft and venality and sheer incompetence are rife, rarely reported because local council issues aren't really of interest and in truth taken individually, things are small scale anyway, they don't usually involve cash in brown paper envelopes, and most of it is done on the basis of a favour for a favour, or a favour for a potential favour, or to impress people with their 'power' and importance, typical 'old boys network' stuff. It is even in some ways almost understandable, 'Well, he's my wife's cousin and I know him well, he will do a much better job than anyone else,' kind of thing.

If it were up to me I would actually take politics out of local government. They would provide essential services in accordance with the law, run by professional managers. I would still have local councillors but their role would oversight, making sure there was no graft, theft or incompetence, they would have no decision making power other than hiring and firing the senior managers. They wouldn't need CEOs on £150,000 a year either, the managers employed would be equivalent to private sector office managers, £30 - £40,000 a year tops.

Jamess said...


I agree there's a huge risk to devolving things downwards. I think most of the risks could be removed if:

-All the money spent came from local taxes.
-Any tax rise had to have the consent of the majority of people via a referendum. (New budgets with lower tax rates needn't have a referendum - thus any time a referendum happened everyone would know it's because a tax rise was taking place).
-Forced elections if the county is bankrupt.
-Greater transparency in what was spent.

A Gordon Brown at a local level might be a pain for people in Fife, but they would quickly go bankrupt (as opposed to putting multiple generations of a whole country in debt)and once a change in leader took place things would quickly get straightened out.

PeterCharles said...

I don't really agree there, Jamess.

Local income tax might make people take a greater interest in local politics, but the welfare dependent are likely to pay little or no tax yet would almost invariably vote for tax increases and in some places they are a majority.

Then there is the problem that you would still have to have some national redistributive or top up element which itself would be problematical.

Particularly affluent areas would have little need for many local services and hence would be low tax voting areas, or would be if it wasn't for the fact the national distribution element they would normally be entitled to expect wasn't hived off to other places as it probably would be.

Then you would have the half dozen or so areas that might well opt for Sharia law, even if passed in the form of Bye laws, wouldn't that be a boost for community relations?

Devolving power downwards has great potential for splintering our fragile national cohesion if wrongly implemented.

No, my preference is for small government, minimal government if possible.

Jamess said...


"No, my preference is for small government, minimal government if possible."

I agree with you there. I just don't see it as something that is politically possible at the moment. (Maybe it will be in 5-10 years down the road when everyone will see how utterly broke we really are).

If redistribution happened after devolving things down to a county level, then I agree we will still have the same problems that we had before. The only difference is that there might, with luck, have a whole county united in not paying tax, instead of isolated individuals.

If we want to see a minimal state (eg one without the NHS) it is possible to imagine localising National Health Trust, decreasing central government funds whilst giving local councils/county parliaments the opportunity to increase local giving for their "NHS." Labour areas who want a strong government run healthcare get what they want, conservatives (if they still exist) can deregulate and allow private medicine to take over. Eventually people will see that private healthcare works far better, and those areas with state run healthcare will be bankrupt and will have to reduce government.

Big government states will always fail, but the bigger the state the longer it takes the sinking ship to finally sink. Reducing everything to a small level speeds up the process and allows an evolutionary process to take place.

As for Sharia, I'd imagine that if oil rich, Sharia run Saudi Arabia can be such a clown of a country, then if Birmingham went Sharia, it too would utterly fail and with it, the desires of the Islamists: moreover, Britain would see the threat we're really under.

I completely agree that small government is best - I just don't see how we're going to get there without being forced to by something that will make the Great Depression seem jovial.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

J & PC: Forgive me intruding in what is a discussion twixt the two of you, however it is my 'house'......

Nepotism, PC, is indeed rife in WODC, as it probably is elsewhere in local government.

Ah, but who sets the law and should not local law be set by those in that locale?

Can you take politics out of any form of government - you still have the 'left vs right arguement? That could easily be solved by the requirement that as it is 'our' money they shud be forced to present a budget detailing the monies they wish to spend and local people then accept or reject said budgets? Couple that with the fact that anything they wish to do, in addition to their 'manifesto' is subject to referenda, people still retain control of their locale?

J: if you want local taxes then should not that locale have the decision on how that money is spent? With local taxation it would be up to the local authority to set the rate they needed - too high and businesses and people would soon go 'next door' thus that local area would benefit. By that simple example we then have something we have never had before - local authorities in competition to attract business and people and thus a downward pressure on taxation?

Perhaps a post on this subject of democracy and localism, to which you both may wish to contribute????

PeterCharles said...

WfW you are always welcome to join a discussion, as you say, it is your house :-)

A fuller debate on the practicalities and implementation of local or devolved democracy would be interesting.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: I may just do that in the days to come......

Jamess said...

WfW: I look forward to reading your thoughts...

WitteringsfromWitney said...

J: Look for next post?