Monday, November 23, 2009
Yousuf yesterday blogged about the latest opinion poll saying how it could lead to a hung Parliament. He also pointed to his post from Friday about how only, in his eyes, a vote for Labour would deliver Home Rule as laid out by the Calman Commission.
Now I'm not someone you whose eyes you can easily pull the wool over so lets look at the facts. Yes Labour brought us devolution, but the main goal wasn't so much to give Home Rule to Scotland and Wales, it was a way they saw to deal with the Northern Ireland situation and a small price (even smaller in Wales's case) to pay. You only have to look at how committed some of the same Labour MPs who were still sitting on the green benches when Tony Blair pushed through the devolution Acts were to the no campaigns in 1970 to see how deep their commitment was. The party was split on the issue in the 1970s. As I've blogged before both here and on Malc's 'vacationing' blog the Lib Dems or their predecessor parties really are the party of Home Rule, with over a century of talking about it, bringing bills before Parliament and attempting to make it happen.
Not convinced then you only have to look at how much central control the Labour Westminster administration has taken in, even with varying degrees of devolution in some of the outer reaches. They are trying to micromanage education (12 different Bills in 12 years), health, crime etc from London instead of letting the local authorities have responsibility for their own regions. Where a bespoke approach based on central tenants is what is needed, Labour have offered the regions of England and to a lesser extent the devolved parts an off the peg answer.
Look how the greater power that has been given to the Scottish people, the variable tax raising powers given to Scotland were not a Labour initiative but came from the other members of the Constitutional Convention. Fairer votes for Local Government came from the 2003 Partnership agreement with the Lib Dems. Indeed so did much of the policy differences they brought in, some of which like a personal care-lite they announced in the Queen's Speech. They are not a Home Rule party they are a centrist party, always have been and continue to be so.
However, Yousuf is right to mention about the only way to ensure Home Rule in a post titled Hung Parliament. If either Labour or the Conservatives were really committed to Home Rule they would have brought legislation ages ago to bring it about. After a 75 year gap from the previous Bill for Scottish Home Rule the Scotland Act came before Parliament. However, when they are safe they don't think about such things, the 1970 Scottish referendum came about because Labour needed the backing of the Liberals the help them through tough waters. It was another Scottish born Labour MP, George Cunningham, who set the bar high enough for the referendum to fail. Indeed it was only the threat of a hung parliament in 1997 that made Tony Blair let Robin Cook sit down to discuss electoral reform, Lord's reform and devolution with the Lib Dems.
So therefore if you want you see Home Rule in Scotland the best way for any move to come is liable to be through a hung Parliament, not an overall majority for either of the parties that are backing away from the Calman Commission's report. Then the power to help see it through will lie in the Liberal Democrats, not that I'm advocating a hung Parliament, we'd get a far more sensible, sane and progressive agenda carried out under a Lib Dem majority, than either of the other two.
Posted by Stephen Glenn at 4:14 pm