An article in the Independent yesterday set out what Gordon Brown’s agenda will be if he succeeds Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
Top of the list apparently is a written constitution, a very welcome idea in my view, but one that raises a number of interesting questions.
Firstly, will it simply codify the existing supremacy of the Crown in Parliament, or will it vest sovereignty in the people?
Secondly, will a written document make it more difficult to finesse the anomaly of Scottish MPs voting on English laws, with all that implies for Brown’s own position?
We may not have to wait for a Brown premiership for the Westlothian Question to come to the fore if the Sunday Herald is right:
Scottish Labour MPs are going to be very popular in Number 10. They can expect lots of special audiences with the PM and many flattering hand-written notes. This is because the 40-odd Scots MPs outnumber the serial rebels on the Labour backbenches and therefore could decide the fate of much of the Prime Minister’s remaining legislative programme – and the fate of his very administration, if we are to take the PM’s aides’ words at face value.
It would indeed be ironic if Scottish Labour MPs were to be decisive in introducing the PM’s reforms in health and education for England. These matters are of course devolved, and the Scottish Executive has ruled that the competitive road is inappropriate to Scotland. It is the West Lothian question in spades. In 2006, Tam Dalyell may end up having the last word after all. (Sunday Herald)
The other person who could decide the fate of Blair’s programme is David Cameron, who is busily chiselling away at the wedge between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
The emergence of an apparent Brown manifesto certainly lends credence to reports of renewed tensions between him and Blair.
The passage of the education bill, to be published in May, will be a key moment. If he Government loses, or wins only with Tory backing, Blair’s days could be numbered.
The Lib Dems may have turned in on themselves for the moment, but Westminster politics still looks being a three way battle in 2006.