This is in danger of becoming an unholy mess. Cameron’s policy-on-the-hoof is cynical and manipulative because English votes for English issues was certainly not a condition of devo max. It’s just a typically opportunistic piece of policy making, a PR stunt from the PR Prime Minister, this time intended to denude the power of the Labour Party and its ability to govern from Westminster.
But to a lesser degree, I think Miliband is wrong too. I understand why he doesn’t want to lose the votes of 40-odd MP’s in Scotland. His concerns about English MPs from London voting on issues affecting the wider UK that are devolved in the capital are valid. But I think there has to be some kind of constitutional settlement in the North of England and for other regions that want it.
In the end, It appears that majority of Scots chose to stay in the UK because of a mixture of economic uncertainty and sentiment. But for the last 30 years, they have shown themselves to be hostile to the self-centred, privatising, corporatist, Eurosceptic core of latter day Toryism. The Conservative ‘brand’ is dead in Scotland and pretty much so across the whole of the North. The ‘No’ vote in no way endorses those conservative values.
In the 2015 election, it’s likely there will once again be hardly any, if any, Conservative MPs in Scotland. I believe much the same is true of the North, a region of England that even after thirty years away, I still identify with, feel proud of, love even. The ideals of social justice, fairness, community and belief in public services are just as strong as they are in Scotland. One of the tragedies of this parliament is that the towns and cities of the North have born the brunt of austerity policies – the privatisation of the NHS, the bedroom tax, tuition fees – that they certainly did not vote for but which have affected them the most. They have been the victims of an Etonian experiment instigated by a ruling party that has no mandate over their region and no empathy or understanding of their communities. In short, they have been shafted.
So the notion that devolution for the English starts and stops at the West Lothian question is completely missing the point. But it’s also wrong to avoid the inevitable truth that you cannot hand greater powers to a Scottish population that feels alienated from Westminster whilst witholding the same right of self-determination from an equally estranged North of England.
Cameron, as usual, is just plain wrong. Miliband, whilst he is right to call foul on the Tory right’s land grab for constitutional supremacy, is also misjudged if he thinks he can stall what seems like an inevitable move towards a greater sense of regional autonomy that reflects values as votes. We can’t go on with elections where people decisively reject a party but are forced to lump it as a government owing to peculiarities of the voting system and the arbitrariness of electoral boundaries.