The Conservative stance of ‘English votes for English laws’, doesn’t exactly mean what it says apparently:
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary David Liddington has confirmed that the Tories will still allow Ulster MPs the right to vote on English matters for at least two years of a future Conservative government.
Last night the nationalist SDLP and Labour MPs claimed the Tories’ willingness to grant Northern Ireland MPs more voting powers than their Scottish counterparts was part of a strategy to secure potential unionist votes at Westminster if Labour and the Conservatives were neck and neck after the election. (Observer)
The Conservative justification of this is that unlike Scotland, there is currently no devolution in Northern Ireland.
However, in practise this is argument is a circular one, because as the Observer article states, the DUP are stalling on devolution in the hope of holding the balance of power at Westminster after the next election. If they succeed, they will not hesitate to use their vote on English issues as a bargaining chip to secure advantages in the internal politics of the north.
If Scottish MPs lose their votes on English issues, the DUP’s bargaining chip will be correspondingly enhanced.
However, if there is a Stormont executive that bargaining chip will according to the Tories, be lost altogether.
If the Tories had set out to block a Stormont deal, they couldn’t have come up with a better policy. It creates a massive perverse incentive for the DUP to continue their stalling tactics.
The whole episode underlines once again the flaws in the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ proposal.
England’s democratic deficit needs to be resolved in a way that ends the possibility of manipulation either by New Labour using Scottish and Welsh votes, or by the Tories using Northern Ireland votes. That means an English Parliament.