The Party of the Union

Gareth Young points us to the Daily Telegraph, where Jack Straw has some advice for the Conservative Party:   

In the 1955 general election the Conservative party
not only won a majority of seats in Scotland but a majority of the
votes – the only time that has been achieved by any political party
since the war.

Today it is impossible to imagine
such an outcome. The Conservative party is in danger of becoming a
party of narrow English nationalism.

it prepares for its annual conference in Blackpool next week, it must
come to terms with a stark reality: it is no longer the party of the
Union. (Telegraph)

There are a couple of elements to this, one is the familiar Brownite theme of Britishness, which is partly sincere, but also partly a calculated attempt to ward off any challenge to Brown’s legitimacy based on the West Lothian Question.

The other is the attempt to stake out traditionally Tory territory that dominated the Labour Party conference.

The Tories’ commitment to English votes for English laws can easily be portrayed as anti-British, not least because it is an incoherent policy that is open to a number of legitimate questions.

It seems to me that the Tories and indeed the Liberal Democrats have two options on the West Lothian Question. One is to endorse the current settlement, with all its iniquities. The other is to support an English Parliament.

This might be an easier move for the Lib Dems than the Tories, given their tradition of constitutional reformism. Indeed, it was the Liberals who produced the Home Rule All Round proposals which Straw mentions in his article.

Gareth is no doubt right that the Irish home rule debate of the Nineteenth Century was a very different issue from those facing Britain today. One thing it isn’t though, is a precedent for the idea that constitutional anomalies can be ignored indefinitely.







3 responses to “The Party of the Union”

  1. DougtheDug avatar

    “…narrow English nationalism.”. A similar phrase was used against Scottish nationalism until very recently. If you’re against the Union, you’re, “narrow”, or, “parochial”.
    It’s interesting to see that phraseology used against English nationalism, it’s similar to the tactics used against the SNP and their supporters in Scotland.
    Perhaps Jack Straw should take a closer look at the decline of the, “Conservative and Unionist”, party in Scotland. They were the party of the Union and now they’re just a shadow of their former strength. The Labour party is now openly the party of the Union in Scotland and could risk the same fate.
    The Conservatives are between a rock and a hard place with the West Lothian Question and an English parliament. One the one hand they are genuine issues that they could focus on to hammer Labour and Brown with, on the other hand both lines of attack will further weaken the Union.
    It comes down to a simple choice for the Conservatives and Cameron. Are they willing to take another electoral kicking with no guarantee that the next elections will be any more successful or are they willing to risk the Union for the party?
    The Liberals in Scotland, and I include Ming Campbell in that definition, are very, very Unionist and the idea that they would propose an English parliament is just pie in the sky for any hopeful English nationalists. They won’t risk the Union when Ming’s in charge. Like Brown but unlike Cameron his loyalty is the loyalty of the outsider to Britishness.
    Another plus point for Brown if he goes for a GE now is that an English Parliament, the West Lothian Question and English votes for English Laws can be sidelined along with the Conservative party for another 5 years. In parliamentary terms, indefinitely.

  2.  avatar

    The above post by Dougthedug if this one loses my name again.

  3. Tom Griffin avatar

    “The Liberals in Scotland, and I include Ming Campbell in that definition, are very, very Unionist”
    I don’t know. Their policy on fiscal autonomy makes them out as the odd one out of the unionist parties. I agree that they have not really followed through on the logic of that under Campbell, but if there is an early election, he might be gone sooner rather than later.

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