Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Resolving the West Lothian question

I think I have to agree with the critics that fixing the anomalous situation of England in Britain’s almost-but-not-quite-federalist arrangements, thanks to the reintroduction of home rule in Northern Ireland and Scotland and the establishment of a Welsh legislature over the last decade, by only allowing English (or, in some cases, English and Welsh) MPs to vote on some things only affecting England (or England and Wales) is probably not really going to work very well in practice, since the whole notion of cabinet government in the UK relies on there effectively being one government supported by a majority of Parliament that can muster majority votes on all issues that come before it. When the “England” majority and the “UK” majority differ, as could easily be the case due to the regional variations in party support in Britain, it seems likely the whole business will become a mess.

Not that many of the alternatives are much better. Labour’s plan for regional devolution was pretty dumb, since few of the “regions” have any historical standing and governing different parts of England under different laws runs counter to the rationale for devolution elsewhere in the UK. A separate, single English parliament seems like overkill, given that most Britons live in England, but in the end it may be the only workable arrangement in a parliamentary framework.