PR in UK national elections is a measure that could go a long way to addressing the grievances of English voters resentful at the way the Scottish and Welsh people have been allowed proportionally elected parliamentary bodies to govern their domestic affairs, while this has been denied England – while at the same time, decisions affecting England are taken by an unrepresentative government whose artificial parliamentary majority is bolstered still further by Scottish and Welsh MPs whose constituents are not directly affected by those decisions.
An ‘English Grand Committee’ whose composition reflected the actual share of the votes obtained by the parties at the last general election would not have differed greatly from the composition of the UK parliament as a whole as elected under PR. Admittedly, Labour would have been entitled to seek to assemble a parliamentary majority for the UK government (having obtained more votes than any other party across the UK – though not a majority); and the Tories would have carried more weight than Labour (but only just) in the EGC. But in both cases, neither of the two largest parties would have commanded an overall majority, and the Lib Dems would have held the balance of power.
Such a ‘solution’ would not really address the case for an English parliament, which rests on the right of the English people to have a parliament that gives expression to their national identity and political choices – if is is their democratic will to have such a parliament, which the Scots and Welsh have been allowed to choose in a referendum. Nonetheless, if supporters of the EGC compromise solution (really, a non-solution) to the English Question were keen to avoid the accusation of partisanship and gerrymandering, then they should back PR. It’s only under the present first-past-the-post system that potential conflicts between a Labour majority or minority UK government and a Conservative-controlled EGC could arise. Give us PR, and then there would be far less conflict and much more co-operation between the government and the EGC. And, what is more, both bodies might actually reflect public opinion (heaven forfend!).
Tell you what – rather than beating about the bush for the next two or three years until GB [Gordon Brown] can pick his moment to cheat the majority will of the British and English electorate for another four or five years, why don’t we set up an EGC now that is picked on a proportional basis: 35.7% Tory, 35.5% Labour and 22.9% Lib Dem; not sure what to do about the 2.6% UKIP, though! Then the three main parties might actually have to work together and make deals to get the parliamentary business done.
God, no! Far easier to abuse an unrepresentative absolute majority enhanced by Scottish and Welsh MPs to push English matters through!
But is PR, which neither Labour nor the Tories wish to discuss in this context (since they dream of absolute UK and English majorities) in fact the only radical measure that could save the Union? Give the English people representative democracy and the growing calls for independence suddenly lose much of their force. Come on then, GB, the Defender of the Union: how about PR in your new constitutional reform measures?