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UK threatened by rule from the English shires

Tomorrow we face the very real danger of deciding the United Kingdom should be ruled by the English shires.

If the predictions are anywhere near right Labour will strengthen its dominant hold on London (an underreported topic in the campaign) and will remain the biggest party in Wales by a big margin. English parties do not contest seats in Northern Ireland, while the Conservatives were virtually wiped out in Scotland some time ago.

That leaves the prospect of the Conservatives, with Liberal Democrat allies, forming a government totally dependent on the English members from outside the capital.

We would not be in this position if both Conservative and Labour parties had not totally mishandled the Scottish independence referendum. First devomax was ruled out as a question on the ballots, then it was effectively promised in order to get a “No” vote.

In the aftermath of the vote, the Conservatives demanded English votes for English laws, which would create two classes of MPs at Westminster.

Scots, not surprisingly, were angry and are expected to vote solidly SNP tomorrow. Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out calling for a new referendum in the next parliament, although I feel she could reasonably go back on this if there is a UK referendum vote to leave the EU. She is campaigning for a distinctly Scottish voice at Westminster.

The Scottish Labour party will not be wiped out tomorrow: it will still have 38 seats in the Holyrood parliament and will still fight for Scotland to remain in the UK. That is an argument they stand a very good chance of winning as there is evidence that attitudes on independence have changed little since the referendum. It is only the maladroitness of English parties which will change this quickly.

But the entrenched positions taken during this campaign means Labour has some difficult decisions to make if it wants to be the next UK government. Miliband and Labour can hardly row back and go into coalition with the SNP which has wiped out Labour representation at Westminster.

It should accept that an effective Scottish Labour party which has 38 MSPs must be given independence to fight the SNP in Holyrood with a Scottish voice. It could still support an English and Welsh labour party as does the SDLP in Northern Ireland.

With independence kicked into the long grass for the next five years and Labour actively campaigning for the UK in Scotland, Milband could enter into an informal partnership with the SNP at Westminster and not have too much egg to wipe off his face. The two parties share much more than separates them.

It would not be easy for him, but it could save the UK. An English nationalist Conservative party trying to force through a referendum on EU membership and English votes for English laws would surely end the union.

Owen James has a good piece on this theme in today’s Guardian, English nationalism is out of the bottle, whoever wins.

Let the debate begin. But that will only happen if the Conservatives do not form the next Government.

 

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  1. UK will be ruled by Tories from southern English shires | Wordblog revived says

    […] Tuesday I painted a picture (UK threatened by rule from the English shires) of the United Kingdom ruled by a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition dependent on MPs for the English […]