Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Contempt from both sides

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Today we see the three “main” UK party leaders publishing a “Vow” in the Scottish newspapers designed to get Scots to vote “No”. This vow has not been through the House of Commons and there is no evidence that the (English dominated) House of Commons would support further concessions or appeasement (call it what you will) of “rebellious Scots” – particularly without the English getting similar concessions.

The problem is if you gave similar concessions to the English you would undermine the “vow” on offer to the Scots – you can’t give everyone a favourable financial settlement. The whole point of the Barnett formula is that money is taken off the English and given to the Scots – so we can’t all have a Barnett formula.

So what is the status of this “vow”?

It is an un-mandated un-negotiated promise made purely to try to win the Scottish Independence Referendum. A bit like Scotland’s Future is a set of aspirations which have yet to be negotiated between a Scotland headed for independence and the UK that will have just been rejected.

Salmond and Co have this idea that Scotland’s Future will be conceded by the UK as an act of benevolence. This is possibly just as misguided and just as misleading as the three (temporary) amigos’ vow in today’s papers.

Both sides seem to believe the people are stupid. Or is it now just a case of telling “your people” whatever they want to hear in the hope that this will get them out to vote on Thursday?

Whatever happens on Thursday, we now face the forced implementation of change on the UK which may well lack the support of the majority of the UK. This could get ugly.

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5 thoughts on “Contempt from both sides

  1. The problem is that much of the electorate in England is rather stupid in continuing to vote for politicians who are so cavalier in their willingness to provide even more financial sweeteners for Scotland at the expense of England.

    Also we have had mass strikes and demonstrations in the past over far more trivial issue that bribes for Scotland, yet on this issue the population seems to be quiet as a mouse. I would suspect that most people don’t even know about the Barnett formula or the West Lothian question despite the latter being frequently raised in the media.

    Whether the decision is Yes or No, the English will be losing out financially.

  2. The other issue of course is that “the English” do not have an independent voice. When we get to vote, we are voting for a UK parliament (with all that that entails) not for an English parliament.

    I however have huge doubts about an English parliament – or any variations thereon (as suggested by John Redwood).

    Now if England could somehow vote for independence from Westminster, and then have inner London vote for autonomy in a federal structure, things might get interesting. We would have a country with a new parliament and (being separate from inner London) a number of centres of gravity.

  3. What I definitely do NOT want to see are regional parliaments. Even the very word ‘regional’ has now become something of a patronising term to mean somewhere that just isn’t on par with London and needs help.

    Different regions do not have different needs; in fact they all have the same need which is to be free from Westminster, and to receive equal funding to that awarded to London, Scotland and Cardiff (only Cardiff appears to benefit from the net flow into Wales).

    I would love to see London declared an independent state, so it can carry on pushing paper around and gambling money, as long as it makes compensation for every graduate poached from around the country who is forced to work there. Anyone would think (according to ‘city’ types) that the entire wealth making attributed to London is solely dependent on Cockneys, without mentioning the brain drain from the rest of England.

    Perhaps Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Black country and the North East (plus Glasgow if Scotland remains in the UK) should be compensated for all the wealth generated by the industrial revolution and all the mined coal, from which all the profits were systematically directed in a south easterly direction, with nothing given in return.

  4. Different regions do not have different needs; in fact they all have the same need which is to be free from Westminster, and to receive equal funding

    I am not sure (beyond agreeing that all parts of the UK might find “liberation” from Westminster a benefit). Of course it depends how you define “region” – and what future you see for the UK (with or without Scotland – we will know in a little over two days).

    I can’t find enthusiasm for “regional assemblies” as a sort of sub-Welsh level of Government applied to say The North East of England or East Anglia. We rejected such an option in the North East – being able to recognise a “pig in a poke” (but aren’t all proposals put to a referendum pigs in pokes?).

    During the time of the RDAs the North East showed that it struggled to act as a region because Teesside wanted control over its area and resented “Greater Tyne and Wear”. We also note that the Teesside Councils have not joined the North East Combined Authority. The North East is not governable as “a region”.

    The issue then is, if the UK does not totally disintegrate, what shape should it take? We cannot undo Welsh and Northern Irish Devolution and if Scotland stays it looks as if it is getting more devolution according to three “special” MPs (and sod what the remaining 647 think). So what to do about England?

    1. The English situation is democratically untenable
    2. The dominance of London was becoming malignant to the UK – to England it would be even more malignantly dominant.
    3. The Westminster/Whitehall system is broken and/or discredited in the eyes of many (most?) outside of the M25.

    London may squeal, but it is about time that the majority of the UK and the majority of England tried to regain some say. I think that this is more important than any tidy demand for symmetrical devolution to the “regions” of England.

    So an initial carve up:
    1. Create a federal capital territory (like Washington DC or Canberra ACT) consisting of the City of Westminster and the City of London.
    2. Create a semi-autonomous zone “Boris-land” no bigger than the old inner London Boroughs. Any bigger and it may be uncontrollable – it needs to be reliant on the rest of the British land mass for much of its Labour, its water, its food, its waste disposal, its airports (London City excepted).

    Then we need to develop the rest of England, which includes developing one or more competitors to London. The most “obvious competitor” (at least to me) would be a three centre metropolitan region consisting of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. (Each alone is too small to compete with even a cut down London.) This does not mean one massive linear city, but three centres protected by Green Belt, but linked by high speed rail so that they can operate together just as effectively as Docklands, City of London, Westminster and Heathrow linked together by slow underground and soon slightly quicker Crossrail.

    Something similar may be possible in the English Midlands and to a degree is already happening in the Edinburgh – Glasgow corridor.

    If the UK is to retain an identity, I think it stands more chance if it has a number of strong centres (like many other countries – Germany being the most obvious). However the existing settlement structure of our land mass means that we cannot effectively “regionalise” based on such centres plus hinterlands. You cannot for instance lump Cornwall in with the West Midlands and what happens with the Outer London boroughs and the Home Counties? We need a more flexible asymmetric solution and one that can address the different needs of different parts of the country – plus the general need to get a country where power is more evenly spread.

    The needs are different:
    over-population / under population / seasonal population
    youth under-employment / worker shortages / elderly dominated
    industrial decline / industrial development / self sustaining
    big agriculture / rural custodians / farm-steading
    etc.
    The country also has parts that are very different:
    Metropolitan / Urban / suburban / rural / remote etc.

    We need to find a structure of Government that can meet these needs – at the moment the only emerging consensus seems to be that the current Westminster / Whitehall system is not the answer.

  5. Pingback: London media and Scottish Independence | Outside the marginals

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