Monday, 15 September 2014

Shuffling towards a federal UK

In response to Gordon Brown's proposals for "home rule" for Scotland in the event of a No vote, there have been many murmurings about what is to be done about England and the West Lothian Question. In line with the current government fashion, the most popular change suggested is to resurrect regional devolution, only this time to city regions in the form of combined authorities.

Although giving more powers to cities would be welcome, it is not clear what this has to do with the matter at hand, namely who gets to write legislation for England. More importantly right now, it is a gross insult to Scotland to assert that English regions are constitutionally equivalent to the whole of their country. If the union is to mean anything, it should mean equal treatment for the constituent countries, and the only logical conclusion is an English parliament.

As I've argued before, if such a parliament was designed correctly it would have the added benefit of reducing the unhealthy dominance of London over the rest of the UK. It would moreover concentrate minds in Westminster wonderfully in a future referendum if Scotland were entitled to take 8% of London with it if it separated.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Independence means independence

At one point during the seemingly endless interrupting competition between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond I took a look at what I had written previously on the subject of Scottish independence. What I recalled as fairly recent posts turned out to be two and a half years old. I can only imagine how interminable the independence debate has been for the poor residents of Scotland.

Nevertheless I was surprised how relevant the point about currency options for the discarded "devo max" option remains today. In essence, what the SNP are trying to propose as independence is devo max: they want to keep the Pound, the Queen, the BBC, and other trappings of the UK while having maximum powers in every other respect.

If anything the idea of a Poundzone is even more stupid for an independent Scottish state, as it would require a political union of a kind which negates its own independence. Salmond must know this and therefore I suspect he would want negotiations for such a union to fail in the end if he truly believes in Scotland running its own affairs. His strategy may be to sell independence as devo max, but that's just a means to an end. That's why after two and a half years he has no good answer to the currency question, and why Better Together are absolutely right to bang on about it as much as they can.

Monday, 26 May 2014

It's the fees, stupid

(Yes, that's my real signature)

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems ran an admirable European election campaign. It is clear what they stood for in leaflets and in broadcasts: "the party of in", in their well-honed words. Clegg was even prepared to take Farage and UKIP on directly in two TV debates. For people who believe, the disaster of the Euro project notwithstanding, that the EU is a good idea, here was a party prepared to make that case bravely and forcefully.

Labour, by contrast, had nothing to say on Europe. Literally nothing: their election leaflets were concerned only with domestic issues, and they bizarrely chose not to attack UKIP at all, despite the open goal that their "Thatcher on steroids" worldview presents, not least in areas in the North where they are now challenging Labour's traditional strongholds. I admire Ed Miliband in many ways, but it's hard to argue that their campaign this time round was anything other than dismal.

And yet I couldn't bring myself to vote for the first lot.

A cursory glance at Lib Dem Voice suggests that many, if not most, of their activists think they are being punished for making the case for Europe. This couldn't be further from the truth: the European case resonates well with the ex-LD voters they desperately need back. They've been stuffed despite their European stance, not because of it.

Others think it is an inevitable consequence of being in coalition. Wrong again. While the Lib Dems undoubtedly did lose a swathe of protest voters the moment the government was formed, most reasonable people understood that the maths didn't support a hook up with Labour and were willing to give this new-fangled coalition thing a chance.

The real problem dates back further than that, to the infamous tuition fees pledge that Clegg and the rest of the leadership signed in the full knowledge that they didn't believe in the policy and would drop it like a stone during coalition negotiations. You don't get a second chance when you do the dirty on the public like that.

Now a group of Lib Dems are calling for Clegg to be replaced. They are absolutely right that they will not get a fair hearing for as long as he is in charge, and they will undoubtedly do better at the next election if they get their way. I live in a marginal Lib Dem seat held by an excellent MP who has rebelled in all the right places. I for one would be far more inclined to vote for him at the next election if he is not led into battle by the likes of Clegg, Alexander, Laws and all the rest of the economic liberal brigade.

For the greater good of the left, though, I hope Clegg stays on. The only way we will get a left-wing government next time round is if Labour hangs on to its Lib Dem switchers while the right splits between the Liberals, Tories and UKIP. I've previously argued that Clegg is an undercover agent for Labour, and long may he continue his noble calling.

And if Labour really piss me off, well, there's always the Pirates...