Another weekend in this long election campaign and the waters are looking increasingly stagnant as the opinion pools show no significant change. It is going to take a very bold move to break the logjam.
With economics and spending options limited by the positions taken by all the parties having failed to give any clear advantage, immigration nastily tied up with proposals for an EU referendum and limited scope in foreign affairs, there is little left other than the constitution.
The prospect of the SNP taking almost all the seats in Scotland in this first-past-the-post election, means the time for a more proportionate coming system may have arrived. It would mean a loss of Westminster seats for the SNP, but they could hardly object to a system more akin to that used to select MSPs.
For Labour it would promise more Scottish representation at Westminster. The Conservatives are bound to suffer from the current single seat constituency boundaries which give a mathematical advantage to Labour, so there is an advantage for them too.
Both Ed and Dave should promise that their first Queen’s Speech should include a commission on a more equitable voting system.
Allied to this Labour should promise that whatever the outcome of this election, its Scottish wing would have a relationship with the England and Wales party more like that it has with Northern Ireland’s SDLP. The aim would be to detoxify the brand north of the border and allow it to provide stronger opposition to the SNP.
The biggest constitutional change would be to accept that the United Kingdom is on its way to becoming a federal state. Ed Miliband should promise that if he was Prime Minister he would include in his first Queen’s Speech a constitutional commission on federalisation. He has nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
For David Cameron this step would be harder as he has already promised English Votes for English Laws. But it is not too late to row back from this mad suggestion that Westminster should have two classes of MPs, a divisive message if there ever was one.
These proposals would probably be seen by many as kicking the issues into the long grass. Yet if the next fixed-term parliament could achieve a national consensus of governance it could yet go down in history as a great parliament.
Here are some links to thoughts on a federal UK. The topic has been missing from the election debate and only the first link is to an article published during the campaign:
Conservative Home: It’s a federal Britain or bust
Huffington Post: What’s the Problem With a Federal UK? England!
New Statesman: Union does not mean uniform
The Spectator: A federal UK? Home Rule all round? We have been here before.
The Atlantic: Should the United Kingdom Become a Federal State?
The Federal Trust: A federal way forward
Daily Telegraph: Keep Scotland in the UK – and give all the nations much more power
London School of Economics: A federal future for the UK: the options
Conservative Home by Peter Duncan: It’s a federal Britain or bust