Tuesday, May 04, 2010

England Hung Out To Dry

Voters in England could be sleepwalking into democratic disaster with the spectre of a hung parliament set to spark a constitutional crisis. A nation held to ransom by MPs from outside England?

The future of the nation is at stake as a badly hung parliament looms on the horizon and Westminster parties play the post-election end-game.

The election campaign kicked off with a debate on getting the country out of the economic Brown mess. Now the race has degenerated into a squabble and muddle as riders jockey for post-election position in a post-election race.

The Orange Party is fearful of the dangers and perils a hung parliament poses for democracy, triggering a constitutional crisis in England.

The current state of opinion poll play points to a Tory minority government with deals struck in a hung parliament. Such a scenario will have profound implications for the way England is governed.

The power bases of the two main Westminster parties are split between a blue 'Tory England' with urban red Labour pockets on the one hand and a 'Celtic fringe' of a Labour Party, LibDems and nationalist parties on the other. The election will change the colour of some bums on parliamentary seats but not significantly the overall colour of the geographic map.

Tories are certain to win the majority of English seats but not so elsewhere. A working majority in England but short of an overall UK majority.

The result would be an unpredictable and potentially devastating destabilisation of democracy.

A Tory-LibDem deal is possible but short-lived. Any hint of a deal over voting reform or Europe would tear Tories apart and put the Dave Party at war with true blue Tories.

Any Tory majority government looks set to rest on a deal with Ulster's Unionists. Ulster MPs who ganged up with the Tories and were the bugbear of Wilson's tiny majority government.

Clegg's social democrat "progressive" faction of the LibDems and New Labour have a lot more in common than they let on. The price of a brokered deal could be Brown's head. But a Lib-Lab alliance too would lack a majority in England.

A Lib-Lab deal would have to use its non-English MPs to help push through its programme for - England. Tories could haggle and struggle on using the 'confidence and supply' route to push through an emergency budget and Queen's Speech. After that all political hell would break loose.

Whoever is in power, a constitutional crisis is on the cards. Other parties would use their non-English MPs to veto and block policies that only apply in England.

The stage is set for a likely scenario where whatever government takes the reins they could be held to ransom by MPs from outside of England. Non-English MPs called on to govern England.

The Westminster government doubles up as a government for England. The country will face the farce of non-English MPs deciding the fate of English policy.

As the race enters the final furlong, it comes as no surprise Cameron is in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, making a final pitch to voters outside England to paint Tories as a UK-wide party.

But Celtic nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland will put the interests of their nations first and will fight Westminster's legitimacy to govern Scotland every step of the way. Salmond's SNP may well strike a deal or vote on each issue as it comes along but that will come at a high price for England.

A hyped-up hung parliament or a European-style coalition with rag, tag and bobtail alliances is a disaster waiting to happen.

A Tory government could be formed with little support outside England. Or a Lib-Lab coalition that depends on Scottish and Welsh MPs to govern England.

The country's salvation rests with a strong, stable government capable of taking tough decisions not the wishy washy muddle with a two-bit party calling the shots. But the election campaign has degenerated into the farce of fawning media luvvies and a Westminster elite chasing the coat-tails of Wonderboy Clegg and chasing a hung parliament rabbit down the hole of chaos.

Voters deserve a better deal when the future of the nations is at stake. To set conditions with pre-election foreplay is an insult to parliamentary democracy. But a strong government to get to grips with the pain of the economic mess is playing second fiddle to post-election posturing.

Even New Labour’s strength in the 'Celtic fringe' is a sham, distorted by the first-past-the-post electoral system which also screws the Tories. But like it or not, the country is going into the election with the current 'constitutional arrangement' rigged to New Labour's advantage.

Celtic nationalists have found an invigorated voice, not so in not-so-merry-England, brow-beaten into false Britishness.

A radical shakeup of the current voting system to make it fair alongside a shake-up of currents seats with hugely disproportionate numbers of voters is one solution. But then a naturally 'Tory England' and the 'Celtic Labour fringe' would be replaced with a federation of national parties working in a United Kingdom.

That would require a party to speak up for the English. A champion along the lines of the Welsh and Scottish nationalists parties.

The wheels of democracy turn very slowly. The Orange Party can live in hope but won't live to see that day. Until that time the 'English question' may come back to haunt a hung parliament and bite with a vengeance.

Mid pictures: Predicted results - Geographic map, The Times. Cartoon - Peter Brookes, The Times.


1 comment:

Chris Smith said...

Talking about 'celtic fringes' (I don't know what that phrase is supposed to mean) and using that image of the UK map is pretty misrepresentative.

The Tory's natural power base is rural and large constituencies, so on a map like that, they look like they dominate England and most of the UK. If you use a map where all constituencies are the same size (see the BBC/Guardian) then it paints a much clearer picture.