No longer a United Kingdom: the history and politics of Britain’s identity crisis



thank you so much everyone for coming to our public lecture tonight I really appreciate it I know it's the beginning right after the inter semester break and everyone's very busy and whatnot but win for what I think is going to be a very exciting evening and we have a little bit of time for questions and answers afterwards so my name is Julie MacArthur and I'm a lecture in politics and international relations and the masters of public policy program here at the University of Auckland one of the reasons I'm so excited that the New Zealand rhodes scholars association has actually brought the cruise to New Zealand and host of their visit is because a lot of what we do obviously in politics and I know some of you aren't in this field is look at the constitution of political units how they change the dynamism the evolution and whatnot and so what with what's been going on in the UK over the last number of years and particularly with the referendum earlier this year I think this talk is really going to stimulate some discussion so I'm very excited about that so I'm going to keep these opening remarks short so we put the twitter feed up on the powerpoint slide so for any of you who haven't come to our speaker series before i would like to be notified you can also come and talk to me after if you're not on Twitter which is absolutely fine no judgment there at all and give me your email address so without further ado I'm also delighted that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland has also actually come to introduce us her ivers talk this evening so bit further ado Stuart McCutchen Thank You Julian good evening ladies and gentlemen I sure probably forgetting in the spirit of openness by admitting that I'm not on Twitter or Facebook thank you see I appreciate the applause that's very much appreciated it's my pleasure tonight to introduce our speaker saraiva crew Master of University College Oxford and to welcome you with Julie to this public lecture hosted by politics and international relations and the Faculty of Arts sir ivor is the chairman of the Higher Education Policy Institute and advisor to the office for fear axis he's written extensively on elections public opinion and party politics in the United Kingdom his books include decade of D alignment SDP the birth life and death of the Social Democratic Party and the blunders of our governments and reviewing the most recent of these the blunders of our governments which was written with Anthony King the Guardian commented as follows this book will make you gasp in disbelief and stamp your feet and rage and quite frequently reduce you to help us laughter it will also make you tremble and terror at the realisation the people in charge of our destinies are in many respects idiots I'm happy to be able to assure sir ivor that none of that applies in New Zealand it is a dress tonight sir ivor we'll discuss why one of history's most successful political unions is under threat and what could be done to restore it and if I can quote from the flyer that accompanied this program the may 2015 general election in the UK revealed a country more divided about its national identity and destiny that in any time since the rise of Irish nationalism over a century earlier each of the 4 nations of the United Kingdom is dominated by a different party and the winners of the election the Conservatives have a significant presence only in England they must resolve to challenges the prospect of an independent Scotland and the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union and it's suggested by the next election and 2020 the united kingdom may be unrecognizable as such survivors address is less entire hood as you'll see on the board no longer a united kingdom the history and politics of Britain's identity crisis that isn't give him and the please join me in welcoming so I've approved Vice Chancellor ladies and gentlemen thank you it's a is a great pleasure to be here and to have an opportunity to give this lecture at about eleven o'clock in the evening on the twenty-fifth of October 1951 Winston Churchill settled down with a brandy in the study of his Hyde Park home it was the knowledge of the general election at which he had led the Conservatives in a bid to return to power he switched on the radio and soon after the first declaration of the night came in from the marginal constituencies billericay a commuter town north east of London the Conservatives had taken it from labor with a small swing Churchill then went to bed we are back he told clementi he was right they were he knew that they were because he knew that as went billericay so would go bristol in the south Birmingham in the Midlands Radford in the north and barrick sure and bam sure in Scotland he knew that there would be what political scientists call a uniform national swing the country would vote as one nation in the 1950s the conservative and labour party's book over ninety percent of the vote and all but six of the 630 seats across the country they were serious contenders for election in every nation region of the United Kingdom and they were the only serious contenders in that same here in the 1950s the different constituent nations of the UK retained strong separate identities shaped by their particular histories and institutions and social make up the peoples of these nations thought of themselves as both Scots or welt or else Thurmond and British Northern Ireland had its own Parliament the Stormont with devolved paths with administration but not of revenue or spending as a result of the 1920 Act following the petition of Allen their relations between the minority Catholic and dominant Protestant communities were marked by segregation suspicion discrimination and occasional violence Scotland kept its own legal and educational systems after the 1707 Act of Union and presbyterianism as distinct from Anglicanism remained the established church a Protestant Catholic cleavage originating in the savage suppression of the Jacobite rebellions and reinvigorated by Irish immigration in the late 19th century was important in Scotland but it took a weaker form than that in northern ireland wales welsh was the first language for a significant minority and the basis of a distinct culture the predominance of heavy industry in both the Scottish and Welsh economies created a large and militant trade union movement which coloured the political cultures of both those countries but none of this with the important exception of the Catholics in Northern Ireland found expression in separatist nationalism anti-english sentiment was reserved for rugby and football matches when a tartan or taffy army of well-lubricated supporters descended on London for the day all the nations were content with United Kingdom's England dominated and London centred arrangements now fast-forward more than 60 years through the recent general election held in may this election determined who would govern the United Kingdom turned out with the Conservatives with a slim but unexpected majority but not and whether they would still be united kingdom to govern by the end of the Parliament elections held in mirror to the body politic and may 2015 revealed a country less United than at any time since at least the armed insurrection zin Ireland before and during World War one the party system has fragmented 2015 five parties each commanding at least a fifth a five percent of the national vote contested every constituency the conservatives and labour of course the Liberal Democrats who were the conservative current partners the greens and the recently formed United Kingdom Independence Party you kick an English nationalist party campaigning for withdrawal from the EU tank controls an immigration and an English Parliament with the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties Scotland and Wales were contested by six parties one voter in three chose a party other than the conservatives and labour and elected 87 MPs from outside the two main parties and a further third of the registered electorate chose not to vote at all in the 1950s when turnout was much higher three-quarters of the total registered electorate voted conservative or labour in 2015 well fewer than half or two four percent this is the electoral expression of profound social changes from a society block a of organised occupational classes to a culturally and geographically splintered society in which entrenched tribal party allegiances have been replaced by volatile dual choice the bridden of the 1950s influenced Maurice de vache the French political sociologist who formulated what for decades was widely regarded as one of the very few iron laws of politics plurality look rule elections held in single-member constituencies or what you call it Lecter 'it's tend to produce a two-party system and single part in the douro Therrien government proportional representation in multi-member electorates tends to produce multi-part ISM and coalition's everybody who took political science 101 knew that so how's the iron law rusted to nothing well not quite in recent British elections to party competition has continued but with different pairs of parties in different nations and regions conservative and labour still in much of middle England conservative and liberal Democrat in rural and affluent suburban areas Labor and Liberal Democrat in inner metropolitan areas labour and you Kip in poor white economically disarmed disadvantaged areas and most important of all labor and the Scottish nationalists in Scotland so there is no longer a single front but a number of battles in regional enclaves fought by different armies as a result different parties are predominant in some nations or regions and almost entirely absent from others in 2015 each of the 4 nations was for the first time in British electoral history dominated by a different party in Northern Ireland by the Ulster unionists representing the lawless community in Wales by labor the ascendant party for a century in Scotland the first time by the Scottish nationalists and in England by the Conservatives moreover each of these parties lack presence in a number of other nations and regions within England for example the geographic cleavage with wider than ever before the servitors failed to win a single seat in any major city outside London labour failed to win a small town suburban or rural seat and only 8 of the 200 seats in the south east and south and southwest of the country the outcome in Scotland was momentous at the previous election the Nationalists 16 of the 59 seats on twenty percent of the vote in Scotland this time they won 56 of the 59 seats on just over fifty percent of a nationalist tsunami washed away the granite labour citadel of the dorf label was left with a single seat all of its leading Scottish politicians were felled on huge swings by young near facts there had already been signs of movement in Scotland's tectonic plates in the independence referendum held the previous September and in the Scottish Nationalist gaining of an absolute majority in the Scottish parliamentary elections of 2011 on which more later the current indications and that's all they are are that they will sweep to victory again in next year's Scottish parliamentary elections Scotland has become a democratic one-party state and the SNP is the hagerman now how did this transformation in Scotland's politics and by extension in the future of the united kingdom come about most nationalist movements seeking independence and either secession from or the overthrow of the existing sovereign power derive their energy from the cultural distinctiveness of the nation differences of language religion and ethnicity are the basis of nationalist movements economic inequality and exploitation provide reinforcement advances in literacy and mass communication accelerate the mobilisation of popular support and the organizing and rhetorical skills the movements leadership in combination with the response of the sovereign power are the contingent factors that determine the historical course of the nationalist program that has been free work for understanding most European nationalist movement in the 19th and 20th century the nationalist eruption in Scotland cannot be explained in these conventional terms the cultural particularity zuv Scotland are today by historical standards week the number of Gaelic speakers is tiny fine for the western islands and highlands Scotland like the rest of the UK is largely secular Protestants and Catholics are increasingly integrated and the old orange green conflict has not translated into a contemporary unionist nationalist division it is true that Scotland was particularly badly hit by the decline of heavy industry in the 1970s and 80s for which the predominantly Conservative government's of the time were widely blame but that was 40 years ago and labour not the nationalists were the political beneficiaries since then energy financial services and high tech have revitalized the economy Scotland is not in particularly bad economic shape GDP per capita even excluding oil receipts is closer to that of london and the south and it is to its neighbouring english regions in the north this urgent Scottish nationalism can only be understood as a civic and political phenomenon and by that I mean two things firstly the Nationalists objective is self-government for the purpose of better closer government not for the furtherance of the idea of a nation nor for cultural revival or religious rebirth or ethnic dominance and secondly its impetus and power comes from the political constitutional arrangements that have been put in place for the governing Scotland since the 1990s and from the political dynamic that has resulted from that the design of political institutions of electoral systems of referendums of Parliament's of devolved powers matters one political institution which has unexpectedly promoted Scottish nationalism is the electoral system for UK general elections first-past-the-post as it is very inaccurately because in fact there is no fixed post or more accurately the single member simple chirality system which Zealand used to have and has reformed first-past-the-post I'll still call it that as is well known does not produce proportional outcomes it own rewards parties who support is geographically concentrated and under rewards parties whose support is geographically dispersed and this disproportionality can be very marked and very arbitrary as the 2015 elections showed for example you Kip took twelve percent of the UK vote but elected only one MP the Scottish Nationalist took four percent of the United Kingdom vote and elected 56 MPs in Scotland itself this translated into ninety-five percent of the seats for fifty percent of the vote the Conservatives who have regularly when a sixth of the vote in Scotland since the 1990s which under a PR system would have delivered about ten seats have never produced more than one MP since that time they were the local joke went and more endangered species in Scotland than giant pandas of which there were two in Edinburgh Zoo more seriously from Westminster they governed a nation in which they had virtually no presence so in a unitary state governing one nation of different peoples a first-past-the-post system nudges voters across the land to fall in and cluster behind the two large governing parties but in a quasi federal state governing a union of different nations each with its own identity in institutions first-past-the-post distorts political representation exaggerated split achill differences exacerbates conflict and threatens national youth to understand how the Scottish nationalists pole vault it's so high above the other parties were need to go back to the 1970s when oil began to be extracted from the North Sea off the Scottish coast in October 1974 when both main parties were unpopular in the global downturn the Scottish nationalists campaigned on the slogan it's Scotland's oil and took thirty percent of the vote and 11 seats the then labour government taking fright at the prospect of losing its Scottish base introduced proposals for a limited devolution of powers to Scottish and Welsh assemblers but these were heavily defeated in a referendum in Wales and supported by two slimmer majority in Scotland that passed the threshold of forty percent of the electorate the Scottish nationalists bitterly blamed labor for the forty percent threshold proviso and allied with the opposition in a successful vote of no confidence Parliament was dissolved and the subsequent election ushered in 18 years of conservative government and the Margaret Thatcher and Dawn major who opposed any measure of devolution and I think it's fair to say showed little understanding of Scottish sent him during those long wilderness years in opposition in the 1980s and 90s the Labour Party both at Westminster and in Scotland and Wales gradually committed itself to a major measure of devolution in Scotland and Wales as always the momentum behind its embrace of constitutional reform was not Democratic principle but maneuvering for party advantage it needed to blunt the Nationalists appeal so on returning to office in 1997 the new labour government led by tony blair held pre-legislative referendum on the establishment of a parliament and an assembly proposals passed by a large majority in Scotland and a very small one in Wales the conversion of so many to the cause of devolution since the 1970s owed much to its endorsement by the Scottish Labour Party but also to the unpopularity of conservative governments in particular the unpopularity of the quintessentially southern English Margaret Thatcher in particular her anti-state free-market policies and her experiment with a flat rate property taxes so-called poll tax in Scotland the 1998 scotland act that was instituted by the Labour government constituted in the words of one of the magnet England's foremost constitutional authorities the greatest voluntary handover of power by a national government to a sub-national body within its own borders in modern times the Act established a unicameral Scottish Parliament elected by the additional member system of PR with the First Minister a cabinet and an executive administration but what powers would they have well a critical test of how much central power is shed in any legislative measure of devolution is whether the at lists and thus limits the powers reserved the devolved parliament or lists and thus limits the powers reserved to the central parliament in this case a limited number of power admittedly critical powers over foreign policy and national security macroeconomic policy and Social Security benefits were reserved for the Westminster Government but everything else health care all levels of education housing transport lease courts local government economic development the environment agriculture fisheries and much more were ceded to Edinburgh Scotland's government would have the power if it wished to abolish the National Health Service to build airports and motorways to sell or spam public housing to raise or abolish University tuition fees to subsidize or neglect none carbon energy generation and a great deal else the act effectively made Scotland semi-independent another critical test is whether the devolved government is fiscally autonomous does it raise its own revenue through taxes and borrowing and take responsibility for balancing its budget or does it rely significantly on subvention from central government the arrangement in Scotland's case was that its government would have significant powers to spend but his powers to tax would be limited to varying the england pats raped by three percent in other words Scotland's government could decide how to divide the cake but the UK government decided how big the cake would be now the Westminster Parliament retained these powers for reasons of macroeconomic management it didn't want the UK economy to be distorted by uncontrolled and potentially higher levels of taxing spending and borrowing in Scotland but less recognized is that it also wanted to ensure that it could attend to the social needs of Scotland and indeed Wales and Northern Ireland Scotland tax base was insufficient to support the historic levels of public expenditure in Scotland which reflect the particular needs both of its impoverished old industrial areas and of the sparsely populated Highlands and Islands the UK government determines the amount of public money spent on the devolved nations by a formula known as the Barnett formula after the Treasury secretary who invented it in 1978 I when I was writing this letter I wondered whether there was any way in which I could avoid having to tell you what the Barnett formula is because I knew that I did it would make me sound like a really nerdy anorak but I have to write you cannot understand the politics of Scotland unless I evening drastically simplified form tell you about the Barnett formula because it is central it's hideously complicated it lacks any coherent rationale and it has nothing to commend it other than the fact that nobody can agree on any alternative but simplifying drastically it does two things firstly each year taking 1978 the year of its invention as a baseline it adjusts public expenditure per capita in Scotland by the percentage change in per-capita spending in England so if it goes up two percent of England it goes up two percent the capital stock but secondly because in 1978 per capita public spending in Scotland was so much greater than anywhere else in the United Kingdom the Barnett formula aimed to tweak this protractor adjustment so that per capita expenditure very gradually converged to the same across the United Kingdom over the long term well we should return to the Barnett for the 1997 devolution of power to Scotland was intended to tame the nationalist beast but instead it fed and emboldened it as the independence referendum a year ago and general election in May amply demonstrated the assumption was that proportional representation would prevent any party with a possible exception of labour from forming a Scottish government on its own and as it would forestall an SNP administration from holding and winning a referendum for independence but in the event the Scottish nationalists won a small but absolute majority in the 2011 parliamentary elections the assumption was that the devolvi significant powers and the generous financial settlement was too good a deal to risk by taking such a leap in the dark as of dependence survey after survey suggested that only a quarter and never more than a third of Scotland's voters wanted full independence the majority wanted Home Rule which is what the Scotland that gave them but in the event forty-five percent voted for independence and were a second referendum to be held now there is a distinct chance I would say a probability that a slender majority would prob would vote for it back to an outside observer the home rule that was brought in by the 1998 act was and remains a jolly good deal Scotland's government controls fifty percent of all public spending in the country and public spending per head has consistently been about twelve percent higher in Scotland than the UK overall Scotland is permanently subsidized by the taxpayers of London and the affluent South Scotland's administration's that were first led by labor from nineteen nineteen ninety 2007 and then by the SNP from 2007 until now have had the freedom to governor well to the political left of the labor and conservative governments at Westminster for example they have left the old struct of the health service intact while in England the National Health Service has been subject to two major structural changes to incorporate an internal market Social Care the elderly is free in Scotland but not in England so our university tuition fees in contrast to England where government grants for teaching have been replaced by tuition fees and loans of up to 9,000 pounds a year the scottish government spends a great deal more on economic development and inward investment and so forth i could continue the list so none of this would appear to be particularly fertile ground for the flowering of an independence movement scotland was getting most of the benefit of independence without the economic risks of full sovereign state but for the first eight years until 2007 the parties an alignment of Labor Government's in Scotland and at Westminster defused the inevitable conflicts between Edinburgh Westminster especially over central funding it helped that so many of Labour's leading ministers at Westminster the chance of the expected Gordon Brown the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook the Home Secretary John Reid they all represented Scottish constituency's it couldn't be said that they didn't understand or know or care about Scotland new labors of debt adoption of market-based reforms of public services was less readily accepted in Scotland and England but then Scotland's government didn't have to copy them only one major decision made at Westminster planted seeds of nationalism and that was the invasion of Iraq which was more widely opposed in Scotland than elsewhere some argue that they didn't wish to belong to a state it was a poodle of the United States this was enough together with the inevitable short-term dissatisfaction with the incumbent party to catapult the SNP into office as a minority government in Scotland in teeth out and 7 an important step in the growing credibility of the nationalist position was the record and the deportment of the SNP administration of 2007 the SNP MPs who became ministers were completely untried it turned out to be in the main more competent than their labour predecessors more accommodating to other parties until the organized lobbies less prone to personal scandal or petty corruption they were younger better educated more sympathetic to business and without ties to the trade union movement the quality of their leaders was higher because they were politicians whose primary interest was Scotland not the UK labour by contrast always fielded their second 11 for the Scottish Parliament because their best talent was bound for Westminster the second boost to the nationalist position was the formation of a conservative-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats following the 2010 general election in the midst of the global recession the Conservatives came back to office on the back of a huge swing from labour in England 7.4 percent but Scotland moved in the reverse direction and the Conservatives still toxic in Scotland barely lifted their vote they were the party of England in particular of the South of England only one minister in the conservative cabinet had any Scottish antecedents of any kind Scotland was already taking a distinctive position on how the government should respond to the UK's fiscal deficit and level of boro now the coalition government's austerity strategy for dealing with the budget deficit comprised 80% public spending cuts twenty percent tax rises here comes the Barnett formula this was converted by the Barnett formula into reductions in the Block Grant allocated Scotland no matter that Scotland was still heavily subsidised by England the subsidy would be less the SNP administration in Edinburgh could blame any cuts it made to services or grants on the Conservatives in London who having virtually no representation in Scotland had they claimed no mandate to dictate to Scott the government of an independent Scotland untrammeled by Westminster the nationalist claims would have dealt with the financial crisis by job generating investment in infrastructure and better protection of the vulnerable from welfare cuts in other words by a traditional Keynesian Social Democratic program a year into the coalition government in 2011 the SNP won an absolute majority and its manifesto included a referendum on independence if it won a majority the ensuing negotiations about the referendum between the SNP administration and the coalition government which was handled personally by David Cameron demonstrated two things firstly repeat my earlier point the design of institutions matters critically and secondly that the conservative leadership so geographically and politically removed from Scotland were profoundly ignorant with the Scottish impulse to self done David Cameron had read the polls and assumed that no more than a third of Scots supported independence the majority hadn't the heart for it and would balk at the large risks entail he would call Alex Salmond Bluff Alex Salmond was the leader of Scottish nationalists salmon suggested a tripartite question voters would be asked to choose between full independence an extension of the existing devolution to include fiscal autonomy and the status quo he assumed that the plurality would plump for devo max the middle option which would be a stepping stone to eventual independence Cameron refused and insisted on a straight choice for or against independence he called Salmons bluff but he accepted as the wording of the question should Scotland be an independent country arguably slanted more positively than some plausible alternative verdicts of the questions such as should Scotland leave the United Kingdom to become an independent country or should Scotland remain a member of the United me well Scotland did not as you know in the end vote for independence but the yes vote at forty five percent was very much higher than expected a buoyant campaign succeeded in converting large numbers of skeptics and doubters particularly labour supporters the late campaign pearls portrayed such a tight race that the three Westminster party leaders pledged out of panic to introduce the devo map that had been left off the ballot paper Scotland remained in the UK after the result the yes campaigners act as as if they had one not lost it was if the runner-up in the Olympics marathon went on to run a lap of honour around the stadium to thunderous applause before stepping up to the podium to receive the gold medal membership of the SNP double its supporting the polls cert at Labour's expense and it went on to its clean sweep of Scotland at the general election now some have characterized the relative success of the S campaign as another populists insurgency against the political establishment struggling to deal with the 2008 recession a bit like podemos in Spain or thigh Riza in Greece certainly protest against austerity strategy of a distant Conservative government played a part but protest does not capture the style and appeal of Scottish nationalism it has developed since it came to office and was on display during the referendum campaign at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 the then First Minister Donald Dewar who was on a nationalist quoted the opening lines of Walter Scott's patriotic poem breathes there the man readers there the man was soul so dead who never to himself has said this is my own my native land whose heart is there within him burn as home his footsteps he of turn a poem a lot of Scottish children but contemporary Scottish nationalism is not the nationalism of blood and soil of Abraham Lincoln's mystic chords of memory it is inclusive own devices and ecumenical based on residents in Scotland not on DNA in the referendum negotiations salmond made no claim those of proven Scots heritage resident outside Scotland who I imagine there are large numbers in this country should be entitled to vote much to the dismay of the Scots diaspora in the rest of the United Kingdom so a recently arrived Polish plumber could vote a tenth generation Glaswegian plumber who'd lately moved to London could not in the referendum it offered national self-belief the conviction that Scotland had the capacity to prosper the politics of Hope or as the doubters argued of fantasy but if it was fantasy it was a modest and moderate one moral Don the small social democracies of northern Europe Iceland Denmark Norway Sweden open and modern rather than protectionism traditional the pro unionist campaign appealed to voters caution and aversion to risk project fear the Nationalists calling it asked legitimately and reasonably how Scotland could sustain itself without the English subsidy whether it will retain sterling at its currency and if so how this could be squared with independence how it would manage as nationalists appear to promise to combine Scandinavian levels of welfare with Irish levels of business taxes necessary to attract foreign investment what contingency plans it had for a plunge in oil prices or the exhaustion of the oil fields and how it would cope with its initial and perhaps long-lasting exclusion from the EU in other words it made the negative case against Independence that Scotland is incapable case brushed aside is humiliating rather than the positive case for Union yes voters were passionate positive and confident no voters were pragmatic and skeptical but few had a visceral belief in the Union itself a second referendum before the end of this Parliament in 2020 cannot be ruled out if a seems very likely the government of Scotland remains firmly in atlas hands it will demand another referendum if the constitutional status of Scotland has changed if for example the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in the referendum promised on that no later than 2017 but the majority in Scotland voted to stay in which is quite a possible outcome in what is expected to be a closely balanced vote a second referendum on Scottish independence would be triggered and quite probably one latest polls put the vote fifty three percent to forty seven percent in favor irrespective of the EU referendum result if the Conservatives are returned to office in 2020 but the SNP a game sweep Scotland a second referendum would be impossible to resist the leadership of the established UK parties do not wish the United Kingdom to lose Scotland despite the cost of the subsidy and in the case of conservative electoral advantages a diminished united kingdom would carry less weight in the EU with united states and in the united nations where its permanent status on the Security Council would be in jeopardy it would lose its nuclear submarine base in Faslane and have a 400-mile land border to maintain with a difficult possibly hostile nation to its norm labored would lose permanently it's past power base which it still believes to be retrievable in the long term and it would lose a prospective coalition partner in the SNP the Welsh might start to get ideas of their own no government wishes to be remembered for the loss of territory so prospects were a Velvet divorce of the kind the checks agreed with the slow backs in 1993 are slim so what might the government do to mobilize support for the union on both sides of the border what is the positive case for a united kingdom in the 1950s when the tiny numbers of Scottish and Welsh nationalists were regarded as romantic cranks the answer was simple and stop it was global power Empire welfare and still then the Protestant descendants the united kingdom was a bulwark against fascist and communist totalitarianism the British Empire provided a market for Scottish business bitches state needed Scots recruits for its Armed Forces and overseas administration the UK offered opportunities for impoverished workers for bankrupt farmers and for ambitious professionals alike the post-war welfare state created equal rights to health care pensions and benefits to all citizens of the Union it was a club worth belonging to an independent Scotland let alone Wales could not have provided the same security opportunities or benefits these advantages have largely faded away or at least are perceived to have done the UK is a diminished power even if it still punches above its weight the EU of which it is a semi-detached member as we placed the Empire over at which it once presided as trading area and labour market the welfare state has been contracting since the Thatcher years and at an accelerating pace since the global recession the benefits of the Union are less obvious the government's response to the nationalist insurgency is the offer of full devolution of tax raising powers and greater control over some welfare benefits and this might by itself be sufficient to postpone another referendum in Scotland for a few years but it is stirred up a the growing resentment among English MPs against the anomalously privileged position of Scotland in the Constitution the problem is known as the West Lothian question so called because it was the Labour MP for this Scottish constituency that first persistently raised the issue in its modern form the granting of devolved powers to a Scottish Parliament means that a Scottish MP at Westminster for example the mp4 West Lothian may vote on legislation that affects England such as the health service while an English MP cannot vote on equivalent legislation that affects Scotland it means that Scottish nationalists MPs can vote on laws that apply to a country in which they have no representation and from which they wish to separate but cannot vote on laws that affect Scotland which they represent when do evolution was of limited scale objections to the anomaly were muted it was just one of those things that you have to accept in the Constitution but the commitment to extend the devolved powers to Scotland has turned it into a major constitutional question after the referendum the Prime Minister mindful resentment amongst his own backbenchers under swelling of English now represented by you kit promised to change parliamentary practice and guarantee english-only votes in Parliament for English laws the idea was that the speaker or a parliamentary committee established for the purpose would determine which laws apply to England alone and a grand committee comprising all English and peas or smaller standing committee representatives the party strength of English mp's meeting in the Westminster Parliament would debate and vote on the bill this is a Pandora's box it will not work but it'll have far-reaching and detrimental consequences for one thing England only laws are fearsomely difficult to define there are very few laws about England that do not involve a cut or increase in public expenditure that any such change with feed through to the government's invention to Scotland via you've got it the Barnett formula and thus not be English only laws MPs would not have equal rights nor know for certain when they could or could not vote well why not instead significantly reduce the number of Scottish MPs on the grounds that with so many significant powers devolved to Scotland the nation of Scotland doesn't need proportionately as much representation as in the West no lothian anomaly would remain but it would be to in sequential inconsequential to bother about but the week of the representation of Scotland at Westminster when Westminster retains control of foreign affairs defense and macroeconomic levers the week of the incentives for Scotland to remain in the UK alternative more thoroughgoing constitutional reforms have been proposed for incorporating extensive devolution to Scotland while addressing English concerns one model is home rules for the Four Nations Parliament's and devolved powers not only for Scotland Wales and Northern Allen put for England with powers over foreign policy and defence and currency and interest rates in other words strategic powers reserved through a UK parliament meeting in a second chamber and for disputes between the UK Parliament and the Four Nations settled by a constitutional court the drawback is that unlike the federal systems of the US and Austria Canada and Germany one of the constituent elements England with eighty-five percent of the UK population on an even larger proportion of the UK's GDP overwhelmingly dominates the others and given that different parties are in the ascendant in the different nations it would be quite possible in a closer and election for one party to command a majority in the English but for another party the commander majority in the United Kingdom pub for example the Conservatives in England and labor with SNP support in the United King and this would produce two prime ministers leading different parties and different governments the second model designed to circumvent these problems is a Federation of regional Parliament's so that England does not dominate but in England regional identities are generally weak and there is no appetite for regional Parliament's in a referendum held in 2004 in the Northeast bordering Scotland and conscious of Scotland's privileges the proposal to establish a regional Parliament with heavenly defeated by four to one for seeing the breakup of the United King that the community of constitutional experts and political commentators are calling for a national constitutional convention which would head off Scottish independence by entrenching devolved powers across the UK in a written constitution with an elected UK Parliament replacing the unelected House of Lords radical constitutional reform on this scale is unlikely constitutional change is usually the outcome of incremental changes the part is an advantage lot of a grand national design and even if it did occur it would not by itself address the challenge posed by Scottish nationalism namely the purpose and benefits of the union it would be putting the constitutional horse before the political car what is needed is a coherent vision of the advantage of union in the 21st century based on values common to the Four Nations and whatever solidarity can be created between them that defines the union's place in the world the union would need to be instituted in the formal constitution which devolved power and guaranteed rights and fair representation under the crown but it would need to guarantee social and economic and digital rights not just civil and political rights and reserved to the UK those elements of the welfare state and of the redistribution of wealth that are deemed so fundamental that they cannot be decentralized this will be a very difficult feat to pull off and I am not holding my breath there's been a debate about electoral reform well as long as I can remember in the United Kingdom and it is being confined to supporters are or largely confined to supporters of those parties that were benefit from it and they inevitably are at the moment out of power I don't think there's any that that debate will continue and it will fill the small journals of constitutional experts and political scientists and supporters of minority parties but there is no interested portal representation on the part of the Conservative Party which after all mandas quite nicely under the current system and there has never been more than minority support for it in the Labour Party even when the Labour Party has been in opposition for a long period of time in the coalition government of 2010 2 2015 the Liberal Democrats did extract as part as part of their agreement to serve in that government a referendum on the introduction of the alternative vote the alternative voted not assisting with the portal representation it's the it's the transferable vote within a single member constituency but it probably would have made the results less disproportional than under the first part of her system that referendum was lost by two to one with all of the Conservative Party virtually and significant parts of the Labour Party and their press supporters most of their press supporters campaigning against it I think the Liberal Democrats missed a trick which was not missed in New Zealand they should have in fact asked for a referendum on the principle of the fourth Loretta not a referendum on a particular system electoral system and if the country had voted for the principles of corporal representation I'm not saying it would have done but i think the vote would have been more balanced then it could have set up a commission to examine various forms of proportional representation there is proportional representation in the in the elections for the national parliaments Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales a formal representation for London election for representation Scottish local election and a proportion and a transferable vote system for the election of the London man impede for the mayors of those other cities that have got so proportional representation is beginning to seep into the body politic but I see very little prospect of it being introduced for Westminster elections until such time as a major political party has lost so many elections in succession that in order to win a Westminster election it puts it in its manifesto I my rule of thumb is that are that a major political party has got to lose something like five elections on the top before though stop doing that well as you've probably read in the newspapers or seen online very recorded has been elected leader the Labour Party I think this is the most bizarre extraordinary election of the leader of a major political party in the history of the UK if the story of his election had appeared in a novel I think the publisher would have spiked it before actor publishing it because it it's such an unlikely sequence of events but he has been elected and he's been elected by a very large majority of not the parliamentary Labour Party almost none of whom supporting but of the Labour Party in the country that is to say labor labor party's members its trade union affiliated members and a new category called registered supporters these are people who claim to support the aims and values of the Labour Party and who pay approximately eight new zealand dollars for the right to vote in the election of a labor leader and the result of this has been the given me if i am telling you what you already know the election the of as leader of a member of parliament whose 30-year korean parliament has been on the extreme left fringe of the party he is an old-fashioned I mean he's his politics and his rhetoric and his outlook of those of a can student socialist radical of the 1980s and it's as if he still that man so he leads in socialist economics he's an admirer of the economies of Venezuela and Cuba he's a pacifist he what you think NATO should be dismantled he think Britain should be later he is vehemently fiercely anti-american garden activators great and fearless Satan he believes in central economic planning large-scale public ownership and nationalization very much higher taxes printing of money he is the old socialist other things quite rightly neo-marxist but the old socialist father now and he is appointed to his shadow cabinet we see today and a number of the very small rump in the parliamentary Labour Party who have like-minded views he also carries a lot of embarrassing I think to the advancing baggage in his apologia for organizations that are generally regarded as terrorist organizations around the world IRA Hamas Hezbollah answer on the grounds that they are engaged in an antique through this struggle um I do not think there is the remotest chance of the Labour Party winning an election under very important I very rarely make statements quite as emphatic as that over the years I've learnt to qualify everything I say with words like with the weasel words like probably normally I would not expect and I would be surprised if I'm quite happy to go on record and say Labour Party cannot possibly win an election with a leader whose only appeal will be to student radicals public sector trade unionists and some organized ethnic minorities the Muslim minorities that's those three constituencies are not big enough to win an electrical come anywhere close to winning an election I it's very difficult to see how the positions that Gordon takes assuming he takes a Labour Party Labour Party moves towards these positions can win an election in a country that it does not have a socialist culture or does not really have a service not a sponsored less traditional it is a England have a conservative moresee conservative political culture so what will the impact of this be on the 10 things I've been talking about well the SNP will be thrilled because what it means is that Conservative government's about much more likely in 2020 and to that matter 2025 and those are the grounds on which the SNP and appealed and Scottish people and say are going to be conservative governments for the foreseeable future the Conservatives do not represent Scotland they have almost no representation Scotland why be continuously ruled by Conservative government's we have collected for that be very pleased you Kip will also be very pleased because you clip appeals to small see conservative socially conservative nationalistic white working-class on the whole not very well educated or highly educated i should say people living in the more disadvantaged economically large areas of the country it appeals to those who resent immigration both white immigration from eastern europe as part of the new and immigration from further afield and who on who don't have what you might call metropolitan london liberal and socialist values and i would have thought that this is an opportunity for you kit which is now the main challenger to labor in in white economically disadvantaged areas of the country with a large number this is an opportunity for you clip to make inroads and it will of course thrill the Conservative Party because it will make them more confident that they will have time to implement they're really very ambitious strategy of shrinking the state cutting public expenditure to pre World War two levels and lowering taxes um even if the Labour Party was to replace Corbett of the leader before the next election I think the fact and manner had his election will have any way done considerable damage to the Labour Party's reputation round if you like you've network in the short and medium term Labour Party won three elections in the 1990s and 2000's under Tony Blair because he succeeded in persuading the public moderate central opinion that the Labour Party was a different party from the party that they haven't voted for before that has been modernized and that is replaced 1970s socialist ideas with a so-called third way which balanced market forces with targeted state intervention to address the those consequences of market forces that for particularly heavily on relatively vulnerable insecure and low-income citizens that new labor brand was destroyed this weekend and people would not think that the Labour Party is that or could be that in the foreseeable future and I think that will make it much more difficult it would anyway have been very difficult for label to win the next election but they're so far behind the Conservatives because they don't be boundary changes which will work very much against them because the demographics are beginning to work against them though all kinds of reasons why it would anyway be very difficult for them to win the next election but this makes it I think impossible of course hope the arts events and I

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