- Fri Feb 03, 2017 12:27 pm
A few years ago I wrote down some proposals for something which I thought would work. Never got beyond the "letter to the Guardian" stage but reading it back through it's hard to imagine how anything over the last few years has radically proven this to be any worse an idea.
Since the Scottish referendum a couple of weeks ago the key word on everyone's lips has been “devolution”, and more specifically how to deal with the supposed “West Lothian question”. Several suggestions have thus far been proffered, none of which would seem to be satisfactory, and all amount to either gerrymandering or simply kicking the issue into the long grass. I have been giving this some thought and I believe that I have come up with what should be the ideal solution.
Essentially, it uses the Scottish model as an example. Scotland has the extra powers as promised by the Westminster parties devolved, and this should be a relatively quick process. My thinking is to take this and transpose it onto the other three member nations of the Union. For Wales and Northern Ireland this ought to be a relatively straight-forward exercise with some tinkering, beefing up and so on. But England would need to start from scratch.
So, establish an English parliament, with an electoral system based on the Scottish system, which governs the same matters for England. Crucially, and I feel this is a vital step for this to work, this Parliament needs to be based outside London, preferably somewhere in the north. Manchester would seem to be the obvious location. London is a great city with a lot going for it, but many successful nations find it a good idea to split their financial and political epicentres. I would recommend this be made up of approximately 400 MPs. This would mean slightly larger constituencies, there are currently approximately 530 English constituencies, but with a large scale political renewal such as this moving a few constituency borders ought to be relatively problem-free. It would also help alleviate the problem of almost perpetual Conservative rule in England, it should not be that we simply set something up knowing in advance that one party will dominate it.
Having said all of the above, I would not remove the Westminster Government entirely from the equation. The four regional Governments should have some accountability, and I would retain a UK-wide Westminster Government dealing with the issues which cross those internal borders, such as defence, the economy, foreign policy and the like. This would see a dramatically reduced House of Commons from 650+ to around 200 (say 201 to mean there’s a majority one way or another) UK-wide MPs. Unlike now, these will not be constituency MPs, they should be elected on the basis of a List system of PR (each party submits a list of MPs and if they get 20% of the vote they get 20% of the seats, filled from 1 to 40 on their list). Proper PR and allows those in the UK-body to get on with their job without dealing with local issues. This body would, however, still have to get some measures passed by national Governments, such as declarations of war or the like. Everyone is accountable to everyone else, meaning everyone has to pull together.
As a final thought, the House of Lord’s, which has been an anachronism for a century, would be abolished. I would replace this with a chamber made up of representatives elected by business and other bodies (such as Trade Unions) to act purely in an advisory capacity, not in a way where they can vote on, raise or block legislation. This would also replace the current select committee system. After all, I’d rather have the future of the NHS scrutinised by people who work in the NHS, rather than a group of MPs who think they know what they’re talking about! I’d also remove the rubber-stamping element by the monarch from this, lead to a proper separation of church and state.
"They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say...let 'em crash."
- "Counter Point", Airplane! (1980)
Things can only get better.