Trimble on the West Lothian Question

I’ve just come across an interesting speech by the recently ennobled Lord Trimble. Although it’s a couple of months old I thought it was worth highlighting here, as it points to what may be a significant divergence of interests between the Ulster Unionists and their traditional allies in the Conservative Party.

It must be nice to be told there is this important issue named after part of Scotland. Some are sentimental about Tam Dalyell. He is a fine man, virtually a Parliamentary institution. But that does not mean he is right. In fact in his splendid Parliamentary campaigns he is more often wrong than right.

Superficially he appears right when he says that it is wrong that a Scots MP can vote on English matters but an English MP cannot vote on Scots matters. But if we look more closely it is a different matter. It is all a result of the rather curious way government is structured. (UUP)

Any attempt to deal with the West Lothian question would deprive the unionist contingent at Westminster (now mainly Paisley’s DUP rather than Trimble’s UUP) of some of its negotiating leverage. The Tories conversely would benefit as their parliamentary strength is concentrated in England, which, not coincidentally, is the one part of the UK which has not been given devolved Government.

Given the Trimble was trying to persuade his audience to acquiesce in a New Labour gerrymander against their own interests, its not surprising that some of his arguments were somewhat lame:

this leaves out arguments about two classes of MP and reference to the debates on the various Irish home rule Bills where this issue was debated ad nauseam and settled, except for those who have forgotten about them.

If you want to know precisely how the issue was settled back then, there’s a Ken Loach film you might want to see.



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