Representing England

The Scottish independence referendum debacle highlighted the long-running canker at the heart of British politics – the fact that England, despite vastly exceeding the other British nations in population, is relegated to a junior role in which it (rightly) has no say in issues that only affect Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but the MPs representing constituencies in these nations can have a say on issues affecting just England. Thus we have a situation where the English alone within the EU must pay tuition fees in Scotland, whilst paying tuition fees in England thanks to Scottish MPs having backed Labour on their introduction, or suffering the dismantling of the NHS in England thanks to those same Scottish MPS, whilst the Scottish Parliament fights to protect the NHS in Scotland.

Such a state of affairs is untenable, but there is little political will to tackle the problem, not least because Labour is scared of being rendered impotent in England without the support of their Scottish MPS. Numerous half-baked excuses are trotted out to oppose or delay reform. The most amusing have to be the twin claims that it is a complex problem that will require years to resolve and that it is a problem that has been discussed for 400 years without resolution. Given that the issue itself is incredibly straight forward and that its flipside in the case of the other nations was resolved years ago, this tells us more about the incompetence, laziness and vested interests of the political classes than it does about the complexity of the issues involved.

Then, there is the excuse that any quick-fix would leave unanswered the question of the English regions. This is like a Doctor saying he won’t treat your cancer because he hasn’t got time to treat your stomach ulcer. Let’s resolve the major political injustice, then we can look to other questions.

An obvious solution would be to allow only English MPs to vote upon English issues, at least as a temporary solution whilst the plausibility of an English Parliament or English Regional Assemblies are investigated. But, cry the vested interests, this would reduce the Scottish MPs to the status of second-rate MPs and that wouldn’t be fair – as if the current second-rate status of English MPs was fair! (Isn’t it interesting how everything is about the Scots – do the Welsh and Irish not matter?) Then, suggest others, there is the question of London, which also has devolved powers and whose MPs would then be voting on issues that wouldn’t affect them, whilst Scottish MPs are barred. Apparently suggesting that London MPs not be allowed to vote upon issues that do not affect London (and the existence of Welsh and Irish MPs) is too much for the brains of the average MP or civil servant to comprehend. Which probably explains exactly why this country is in a mess.

Despite the claim that not a single member of the Political Class has managed to find the solution to the conundrum in four centuries nor is likely to in the next four, the answer is in fact incredibly simple, especially given the fact that many of the Welsh (and, I daresay, Scots and Northern Irish) find their Assembly to be a waste of money better spent elsewhere than on the salaries of second-rate politicians: abolish the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies as separate bodies with their own MPs and allow MPs to sit in Westminster on UK-wide issues and in their own national parliaments on nation-specific issues. That way, there would be no MPs with reduced power and no need for two sets of MPs. Likewise, regional assemblies could be created in England (and even Scotland and Wales) in which only the MPs from that region would sit (or, if the numbers were felt too few, MPs and local councillors). Such a reform would be cheaper than adding a new cluster of MPs for England and its regions and would mean Scotland and Wales would no longer require two sets of wages for essentially the same job, as well as being equitable and fair to everyone involved.

Of course, that’s probably too much commonsense for the MPs and civil servants to cope with…

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