A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 29, 2007

English Parliaments, Fairly Elected

I'm not a great fan of the asymmetric devolution practiced by Labour over the last ten years. Giving different powers to devolved assemblies and parliaments in different parts of the UK, and no devolution in much of England, whilst it isn't the constitutional atrocity the Tories claim, does keep the West Lothian question open and allow charges of intellectual inconsistency to be levelled.

But an English Parliament or English Grand Committee of MPs isn't the answer if that institutionalises the Tory South East dominating the Labour areas of England. That's just an England-only version of the UK situation that created the Scots demand for devolution in the '80s.

Personally I would favour full symmetric devolution with each region and nation of the UK enjoying the same powers that the Scottish Parliament currently has. You might start to see policy innovation and competition to attract investment and migration between regions that would eventually lead to better government nationwide.

As in Scotland and Wales, it would be important that each assembly was elected by an electoral system that prevented the region in question becoming dominated by a single party. Will the Tories be as selfless in giving away power in the south as Labour was in accepting PR for MSPs in the Scottish constitutional convention process?

The 2005 General Election results if reflected in a proportional electoral system would have produced regional assemblies in England looking something like this if each had 100 members and a 5% threshold for getting seats:

East - Con 48, Lab 30, LD 22
East Midlands - Lab 44, Con 37, LD 19
London - Lab 46, Con 32, LD 22
North East - Lab 57, LD 23, Con 20
North West - Lab 50, Con 29, LD 21
South East - Con 51, Lab 24, LD 25
South West - Con 44, Lab 33, LD 23
West Midlands - Lab 46, Con 35, LD 19
Yorkshire - Lab 50, Con 29, LD 21

of course London's Elected Mayor would continue in place but with powers equivalent to Scotland's First Minister. If there was a great urge to have single-party executives in each region, you could have an equivalent to the London Mayor - a Directly Elected First Minister - in each region and nation.


Blogger Merseymike said...

Strongly agree with this. But they have to have teeth, and that was why the NE proposal was voted down - people aren't daft enough to vote for a toothless tiger

But the thought of dominance by the SouthEast would certainly make this proposal far more popular up here.

11:49 am, October 29, 2007

Anonymous jdc said...

I would be nervous of adopting anything which resembles something already turned down by the voters, and doubly nervous of anything which is (I think I'm right in saying) Liberal Democrat policy.

That aside, I just don't think people feel the identity with most English regions that is the case in Scotland, Wales and London, and I'm not sure Parliaments would build that. People do kind of 'get' that the so-called postcode lotter has some basis - Peterborough is a different place from West Berkshire. I'm not sure they'd get it so much if they were told they can't have something because they're in the "East" (say, Canvey Island) that they could have if they were in the "South-East" (say, Gravesend).

I also fear that people would see it as an extra layer of politicians - given the political pain we are taking to reduce the number of layers of government in shire England already, increasing them again would look a bit odd.

11:57 am, October 29, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

I agree with Luke (and merseymike) though I'm not too sure about the idea of all the regions having directly-elected first ministers (though it intrigues suppressed republican urges) - but otherwise, good call.

5:21 pm, October 29, 2007

Anonymous GW said...

Will ye never learn !

Look here to Wales !

I appreciate that there are too many vested interests to allow it to happen but could we please have a referendum to get rid of this expensive, undemocratic waste of space called the Welsh Assembly Government.


6:39 pm, October 29, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Seems to me that in England the city region model is the one to go for. England has several cities large enough to act as the hub of a region. This has the benefit of development based on existing governance models and players.

However, the goal ought to be as Luke says - full symmetric devolution for each English region. Otherwise I just cannot see the Union holding together over the longer term on the basis of the existing dysfunctional setup.

We need to face the reality that the existing weird setup was borne of Scottish Labour's need to 'deal with' the Nationalists. Devolution in the words of some Scottish Labour Minister or other was to 'kill independence stone dead'.

Now from at least two perspectives we have a mess.

From Labour's point of view it has proved a disaster in electoral power terms in Scotland.

From the UK perspective it has left an intractable problem whereby somehow the 'National' parliament at Westminster is also to at times act as a regional (i.e. English) parliament.

This of course doesn't work when your have a (Labour) Government willing to use their Scottish MP foot soldiers to ram through legislation such as student fees that ought to have been dealt with on a purely English voting basis.

Of course, when interviewed at the end of the SNP annual conference last week, Alex Salmond did recommend independence for England as the solution - he said he was confident that England could 'make it alone' even if some others were not sure :)

8:18 pm, October 29, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Scotland has always had a separate education and legal system.

I don't see how such devolution would work. Would each region run their own court systems?

And we would never get rid of grammar schools in Kent and elsewhere.

I agree with devolution but not federalism. Actually I don't see why Labour is so hostile to Scottish independence.

6:07 pm, October 30, 2007

Blogger Dave Brinson said...

Totally agree that we need to get back to talking about regional devolution- possibly as a replacement for County Councils (too big to be "local"; too small to be strategic) and thus getting rid of one layer of politicians and replacing with another more effective one.
We allowed the previous debate on regional government to be tied into anti-European arguments; we need to put a case that they are an effective democratic proposal whatever relationship we have with the EU.

6:31 pm, November 01, 2007

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Might I suggest you have in place a system which could do much for your local democracy, the councils. Give them more powers and they would be in a position to affect their local community, no need for a parliament, a sort of "Municipality socialism".

11:43 am, November 02, 2007


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