So, with one variety of hysteria over and done with, dying as it did on a very dull and largely predictable election night, another begins. The proportional representation luvvies are out in force to demand a system of governance which few of them understand that would make a very minimal change for the worse if anything. I digress.
To me, the most striking feature of the election result is the gaping chasm between voters in England. The devolved nations of Britain- Scotland, Wales and Northern Island- reported almost polar opposite results to that of England. It has already been expressed that had it been for the result of solely England, the Conservatives would have had no problem at all forming a Government. The Conservatives won 297 seats; up 92 seats from last time; Labour achieved 191 seats, dropping 87 from last time; the Liberal Democrats, the party that may well be deciding the future direction of our democracy at this point in time, have only 43 seats, and the Greens have their single seat in Brighton. Comprehensive to say the least.
For a change, the newspapers not only lent this important story some credence and some coverage, but accepted the fact that devolution is an issue growing in importance.
Alan Cochrane from The Telegraph marvelled at the somewhat unsurprising Scottish solidarity with their Scottish Prime Minister, noting that
“As Labour leaders in London surveyed the wreckage of their campaign, their counterparts in Edinburgh were full of quiet satisfaction. Gordon Brown might have been a liability for Labour’s campaign in England, but north of the border he was viewed as a big plus.
In fact, with only one Conservative MP elected north of the border, this election result has produced absolute proof of how dramatically and how completely these two countries are drifting apart. Never have the political tendencies of these two nations, joined in a hugely successful union for more than 300 years, been so completely antithetical.”
In his article, ‘What price an English Parliament’, Magnus Linklater in The Times concurs, suggesting that ‘there is little common ground between’ England and Scotland as a result of the election:
“In Scotland, if David Cameron reaches an accommodation with the Lib Dems, or soldiers on with a minority government, the reaction is likely to be equally indignant. A party rejected by all but one Border constituency will be dictating policy to an electorate with which it appears to have little in common.
In England, of course, the boot is now on the other foot. A Labour-Lib Dem coalition with Mr Brown continuing as Prime Minister would be attacked as unrepresentative and the opposite of what the voters chose: not just a Scottish leader again, but all those Scots Labour MPs, voting on English matters, while English MPs are denied reciprocal rights.”
He’s absolutely right. I can already visualise Alex Salmond’s righteous indignation if the former scenario is played out, and for a change, he would be right to be angry. On the other hand, English voters have already vigorously attacked the prevalence of Scottish MPs and Ministers in positions of high office in the previous government, to say nothing of the atrocious handling of the release of alleged Libyan bomber Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi.
However, this is not a one-sided issue. Some sections of the Scottish press are keen to address the imbalance created by unequal devolution and unfair legislation, as David Maddox calls for an answer to the West Lothian question in The Scotsman. As well as expertly predicting the outcome of the then-undecided election, he notes that possible ‘radical legislation on schools and health’ solely intended for England could still be acted on by Scottish MPs:
“… it seems likely that Labour Scottish MPs, whose constituencies would not be affected at all by that legislation, will have a veto which they will continue to use. They claim that if they did not they would become second-class MPs.”
He is already looking ahead to the potential for a second election in the near future, and opines that
“… voters in many parts of England may not be particularly happy with the implications of a continued unbalanced Union.
An answer will have to be found to the West Lothian question as a matter of urgency.”
Never a truer word spoken. The fundamental inequality of position in MPs from different sides of the border is not going to be reconciled by ‘English MPs voting on English issues’.
It is evident that is not only the voices from the English Free Press that are demanding a change in the manner in which we are governed: it is an issue that is perplexing and preoccupying political analysts across the nation. For all the present fervour for proportional representation, devolution is an issue that cannot continue to be ignored by those in power, irrespective of their party affiliation.