English votes for English laws: the step towards federalism and conservatism

By Chris Rogers December 16, 2014 12:01 pm

If you thought the vote against Scottish independence earlier in the year preserved the status quo, then you’ve been sadly mistaken. We’re instead on the road to the federalised United Kingdom.

With the ‘Better Together’ campaign teetering on the verge of defeat less than three months ago, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg united to offer Scotland greater powers. But the last ballot had barely been counted and the result announced before the Prime Minister was stating that, while Scotland would get new powers, he was determined that English MPs should have similar autonomy.

In doing so, according to today’s Guardian, he ignored the warning of ‘Better Together’ leader Alistair Darling, who claimed such a move would give the SNP an opportunity to recover from their referendum defeat.

William Hague today presents MPs with a range of options to ensure ‘English Votes for English Laws’. He’s unable to present a recommendation because the main political parties are so far apart on the issue. David Cameron believes in it fervently, but equally recognises the opportunity to retain the support of militant Tory backbenchers and outflank both UKIP and Labour. Labour believes it will result in two classes of MPs. The Lib Dems see the issue as a lifeline to the Scottish Nationalists, who look set to make significant gains in the General Election.

Political strategists suggest that any solution will be tough to get through Parliament. But the range of options presented by Mr Hague will leave plenty of room for horse-trading and compromise, so there will be some form of solution. And this will fundamentally change the running of the UK.

Labour will face significant difficulties. Not only are they likely to struggle in Scotland in the General Election, they might well struggle for the number of MPs to either pass or block English legislation in the future. We could well be looking at not only the federalism of Britain, but also a fundamental shift to at least the centre-right in English politics.

It will be several months before a decision is reached. But one thing is clear. The referendum did not save the status quo. Better Together? Don’t count on it.

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